Experience Sitecore ! | All posts tagged '103'

Experience Sitecore !

More than 200 articles about the best DXP by Martin Miles

Sitecore Edge considerations for sitemap

A quick one today. We recently came across interesting thoughts and concerns about using Sitecore Edge. As you might know (for example from my previous post), there are no more CD servers when publishing to Sitecore Edge - think of that as just a GraphQL endpoint serving out json.

So, how do we implement a sitemap.xml in such a case? Brainstorming brought several approaches to consider:

Approach one

  • Create a custom sitemap NextJS route
  • Use GraphQL to query Edge using the search query. Here we would have to iterate through items in increments of 10
  • Cache the result on Vercel side using SSG

Approach two

  • Create a service from CM side that will return all published items/urls
  • This service will only be accessible by Azure function which will generate a sitemap file and store it in CDN
  • Front-end would then in this case access this file and render the content of it (or similar)

Approach three

  • Generate all the sitemaps (if more than a single sitemap) on CM, then store them all in single text fields
  • Returned them via edge, using GraphQL the font-end head which handles sitemap.xml

Then I realized, there is SXA Headless boasts SEO features OOB, including sitemap.xml. Let's take a look at what they do in order to generate sitemaps.

With 10.3 of SXA, the team has revised the Sitemap feature providing much more flexibility to cover as many use cases as only possible. Looking at /Sitecore/Content/Tenant/Site/Settings/Sitemap item you'll find lots of settings for fine-tuning your sitemaps depending on your particular needs. CM crawls websites and generates sitemaps. Then they get published to Sitecore Edge as a blob and then it gets proxied by a Rendering Host via GraphQL. When search engines request sitemaps of a particular website, Rendering Host gives them exactly what has been asked. That is actually similar to the above approach three with all the invalidation and updates of sitemaps provided also OOB.

This gives out a good amount of options, depending on your particular scenario.

Sitecore 10.3 is out! What's new?

On December 1st, after more than a year of hard work Sitecore has released its new version 10.3 of XM and XP platforms. 

Please note, that Experience Commerce sales have been discontinued after version 10.2 so unsure if there will be XC releases anymore. Historically XC releases follow up the platform releases with some lag of several weeks.

Let's take a look at what Sitecore put into the latest release.

With version 10.3 Sitecore moved in the direction of unifying its XM/XP platforms with XM Cloud. The two biggest proofs of that are SXA Headless and Integrated Web Hook architecture​ being a part of 10.3 - similar to XM Cloud.

Headless SXA

As you may hear, Headless SXA became a first-class citizen for XM Cloud. Now we get Headless SXA with 10.3 and new Next.js Headless SXA components, such as Container, Image, LinkList, Navigation, PageContent, Promo, RichText, Title, etc. SXA development team made an incredible job aiming to achieve feature parity for their product between XM Cloud and X/XP platforms. 

Because of that, the team sadly had to retire several features that do not fall nicely into a new concept - that's why Headless SXA doesn't use Creative Exchange any longer. The same comes valid for Forms - you will not be able to use them with Headless SXA  out-of-the-box, there is however documentation on how to use forms with Next.js, and is also one can also consider a dedicated forms builder. At the same time, SXA Headless brings some new concepts, like Page Branches and site-specific standard values. You may also want to leverage nextjs-sxa starter template (installs with npx create-sitecore-jss --templates nextjs,nextjs-sxa).

Among the new features, I like the ability to duplicate pages without subpages by clicking a right mouse button at a page, which may be helpful for cloning landing pages having multiple subpages without the unwanted routine of manually deleting cloned subpages afterward. Also, it works well with SEO concepts such as sitemaps, robots.txt files, redirect items and maps as well as error handling (for generating static 404 and 500 pages) - all that is extremely useful for almost any headless site.

In general, if you are planning a new implementation today and feel positive about using SXA, the best advice would be to download 10.3 and use the new headless SXA with it. That immediately brings you into the headless world of 2023 and drastically simplifies the further upgrade options, not to mention the potential migration to the XM Cloud.

Webhooks

That is a new introduction to the XM/XP platforms, while other Sitecore SaaS products which already use webhooks - XM Cloud, Content Hub, OrderCloud, etc. But firstly, what are webhooks? A webhook is just an HTTP request, triggered by some event in a source system being sent to any destination you specify, carrying some useful payload of data. Webhooks are automatically sent out when their event is fired in the source system. Basically, they are user-defined HTTP callbacks triggered by specific events. As per documentation, we are given 3 types of webhooks:

A good example of webhook usage may be validating and further canceling workflow transitions.

GraphQL Authoring and Management API

Another great new feature is GraphQL Authoring and Management API. This API provides a GraphQL endpoint for managing Sitecore content and performing some custom authoring tasks which previously one could do only with Sitecore user interface, almost any function. That means now we can automate operations around items (including media), templates, search as well as managing sites. Unfortunately, user management is not yet supported.

Sitecore Forms

Forms is the feature used on almost every solution I worked on, therefore it is a pleasure to see the new Embeddable Forms Framework. Using it one can add a Sitecore Form to any webpage, including pages that are not running on a Sitecore application - similarly to what FXM allowed doing. The good news is that an embedded form supports custom form elements and will not mess with any existing styles on a page as it is powered with Tailwind CSS. However, to benefit from Embeddable Forms you must have at least Headless Services 21.0.0 in place in order to deal with the Layout Service and also the endpoint for the data submission.

xConnect

There is a new Data Export Tool that exports both contacts and interactions from the data database into files. It supports both Azure Blob and File Storage providers to be used for your deployments, but can also write into a network folder which is helpful for local instances.

Database Encryption

At the storage level, Transparent Data Encryption could be used with MsSQL Server to protect critical data by using data-at-rest encryption. In simple words, the data get encrypted prior to writing it into databases, so that physical SQL tables contain already encrypted data. When read-accessing, the data get transparently decrypted for authorized SQL users. It significantly protects the information, stored prevents data breaches, and complies with regulatory requirements for sensitive data.

What raised the event?

An interesting new feature helps us to identify which database raised a publish:end / publish:end:remote events will simplify updating the cache on remote CD instances.

Sitecore CLI

Version 5.0 of CLI has been around for a while since the XM Cloud release, now with its version 5.1.25 it became also an integral part of 10.3 platforms. It now supports Linux-based environments and features publishing to Edge, and features a few more new commands. It also employs integrated telemetry so that developers can improve CLI even further, however using telemetry can raise some security compliance concerns for governed environments.

What are the additional features we will see with the 10.3 release?

  • With version 10.3 of the platforms, Headless Services v21 comes into play. You may find a new starter kit for your new projects on Next.js 12.3.x over React 18.
  • Sitecore Host (along with components relying on it such as Publishing Service and Identity Server 7) were updated with .NET 6.0 which is an LTS version of a framework and has improved performance.
  • The supported version of Solr is now 8.11.2.
  • Those using EXM may now benefit from OAuth authentication with third-party services for custom SMTP.
  • Horizon, unfortunately, won't get any update beyond version 10.2. Despite technically it still works with 10.3 platforms, Sitecore discourages using it with 10.3 or later.
  • Management Services 5.0 offering publishing to Experience Edge now is capable of publishing a single item, and a few more improvements.
  • Search has got numerous improvements, like searching by ID and path, and searching for non-quotes-enclosed terms returns both exact and possible matches.
  • Windows Server 2022 support was promised but is slightly delayed, until January 2023. I assume support also relates to 2022-based containers in the first place, rather than underlying infrastructure.
  • More than 160 other issues submitted by customers were fixed and released in 10.3!


You can download and install Sitecore 10.3 right now, please feel free to share your thought on it!


Sitecore 10.3 dashboard