Based on the past experiences of handling many transformational projects, application support and Sitecore upgrades, one of the key step in the process of assuming responsibility of an existing Sitecore platform is to complete an in depth platform Inspection. This article comes out of our experience of various such undertakings.
This article covers:
What really is a platform inspection?
What are the considerations while inspecting existing Sitecore solutions?
What are the benefits of platform inspection and what should be the outcome of platform inspection?
Let’s get started
What is platform inspection?
When we say inspecting or auditing the Sitecore implementation, we are talking about going through various areas of the application platform and reporting on whether the application is following Sitecore recommended best practices as well as general .Net application best practices, noting down the areas of concern and prioritizing the issues based on level of importance. It is something that needs to be worked on by the subject matter expert or a Sitecore lead/architect.
Why platform inspection?
What are the benefits or what kind of audiences will benefit from this platform inspection report. It can be used as a benchmark to understand current application health and also act as a foundation for future roadmap/upgrades.
It helps developers/technical leads to understand the overall state of the application. It can be used by account manager/client as a foundation for future roadmaps and also acts as a benchmark for planning and implementing Sitecore upgrades. Also it helps client to understand if they can use all the Sitecore functionality/modules that are given OOTB for the installed Sitecore version. It also helps in understanding the current technical debt on the application.
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Areas to be considered for inspection:
Let’s dive a little deep and go through what are the different areas that we need to consider while doing platform inspection such that implementation is as per Sitecore’s recommendation and following best practices.
While reviewing Sitecore we need to validate that content organization/hierarchy is well organized such that page items and component items are separated out and also site structure is scalable for multisite implementation. As per below screenshot, the site structure should be organized such that global and site specific components are separated out.
Verify if the renderings and templates are following Helix architecture principles such that the templates and organized in feature, foundation and project structure as per below screenshot.
Also if the site is multilingual, multilingual configuration as well language fallback is configured correctly. Ensure that there are scheduled tasks in place to remove the archived and test content as well as clean up the older versions of the item as well as Sitecore recycle bin to free up space.
Inspect if basic experience editor compatibility/functionality is working such that authors can add/edit/modify components using experience editor.
Inspect that media files are organized and also delete the test files and confirm sure that correct media formats are uploaded to media library, as in it is not recommended to upload installer files/software files in media library.
When we are inspecting code we need to make sure that the solution is following Helix architecture principles and also implemented using .Net best practices. Also report if the solution is following MVC principles or if it is based on webforms technology. As per below diagram, validate that features, foundation and project are logically separated out.
Report on all the customizations, pipeline overrides, verify that the overrides are not added directly to the Sitecore configurations but are added as patch files, and are stored separately such that it will not affect the future upgrades. Also, make a note of all third party dependencies and report the findings. Validate that there is no hardcoded Sitecore paths/ids as it could cause issues when the items get moved/renamed or deleted.
Confirm if the server hardware/software is configured as per Sitecore recommendation. Also Sitecore security hardening guide steps are configured. Folder permissions are setup correctly.
While reviewing SEO review, confirm if XML Sitemap is implemented. Also verify that robots.txt, 301 redirects, URL Structure, canonical URLs, 404/500 error pages are implemented and correctly configured. Also if you are having multilingual implementation, make sure that you have SEO strategy in place for multilingual implementations.
Other areas to review:
Along with the above areas, we should also have subject matter experts to review other areas of the application like front end, ecommerce, search, analytics/xDB, etc.
Outcome of platform inspection:
Once we are done with inspecting various areas, we need to report on findings to see if the application is using Sitecore and general .Net best practices. Also we need to identify risks and come up with high priority areas to be fixed, such that application is adhering to Sitecore recommended standards. Also we can use this report to work on planning future road map for the application.
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