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Plan variations

Updated: February 26, 2009

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

Updated: 2009-02-26

In this article:

About variations

Many organizations have a global reach. However, even in domestic markets, organizations must reach a diverse customer base that may speak multiple languages, or that may need to target specific information based on regional differences, various mobile devices, or corporate branding. These types of organizations need Web sites that deliver tailored content to suit different cultures, different markets, and different geographic regions. Producing and maintaining variations of a site can be difficult and time-consuming. To simplify the process for site architects and site administrators, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 uses variations.

The variations feature in Office SharePoint Server 2007 makes the same content available to specific audiences across different sites by copying content from the source variation site to each target variation site. If necessary, the content can then be customized in the target variation site. For example, content in a target variation site can be localized before it is published.

By default, variation sites redirection is based on the language setting of the browser from which the user is visiting the site. For instance, if a user's default browser language is French, Office SharePoint Server 2007 will redirect that user to the French variation site. This behavior can be customized by replacing the default redirection page (VariationRoot.aspx) with a different page. This new page, for instance, can implement logic that identifies the user's preferred language, the user's device, or another basis for varying sites. For more information about customizing variation sites redirection, see the article How to: Customize the Variation Root Landing Logic (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=80449&clcid=0x409).

You initially define variations of a site by creating variation labels, one for each desired variation. A variation label is an identifier that is used to name and configure a new variation site. You select one variation label as the source, which represents the site where most of the new content enters the system. The corresponding variation labels are the target labels, representing the sites to which content is copied. (Office SharePoint Server 2007 supports up to 50 labels.) You create variation sites from variation labels by using the Create Hierarchy command on the Variation Labels page of the Office SharePoint Server 2007 site administration pages.

Only one set of variation labels can be defined for a site collection. The corresponding variation sites can start anywhere in the site hierarchy. The source variation site and the target variation sites are always created as subsites of the variations home site. Users who visit the variations home site are redirected to the appropriate variation site. (An optional Variation Picker control lets users pick which variation site to view by using a menu. You add this control to master pages by using Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007.)

In the simple example shown below, three variation sites — labeled "A", "B", and "C" — are one level below the variations home site, which, in this example, is the top-level site in the site collection. "A" is the source variation site. Pages authored and published (approved as new major versions) in that site are copied to the target variation sites, "B" and "C".

Planning site variations

Each variation site is created by using the same site template used to create the variations home site. If the variations home site has content, such as Web pages or images that you want to include in the variation sites, you must copy that content to the source variation site after creating the variation sites. That content will then be propagated to the target variation sites after it is approved for publication. Similarly, if the variations home site has subsites that you want to also be subsites of each variation site, you must manually create those subsites below each variation site. Pages published in subsites of a source variation site will be propagated to the equivalent subsite in each target variation site.

Variations and content approval

Content approval is the method by which site members with approver permissions control the publication of content. In content approval, content is considered published when a new major version is approved, because major versions are viewable by users with read permissions. Content approval in variation sites requires major and minor versioning in the Pages libraries on the source and target variation sites. For a full discussion of Office SharePoint Server 2007 versioning and approval, see Plan versioning, content approval, and check-outs.

Content approval has unique considerations when planning variations:

  • On the source variation site, when a page is submitted for approval, an e-mail is generated and sent to the owners of the target variation sites. When the page is then approved, it is enabled for copying to the target sites. You can configure the variations feature so that content is automatically copied to the variation sites by a timer job, or you can choose to manually propagate variation content.

  • On target variation sites, a page copied from the source variation site is always assigned a minor version. If the page is new to the target site, it will be assigned version 0.1. If the page already exists on the target variation site, the copied page will be assigned the next available minor version. For example, if a target site has version 2.1 of a page and a new variation of that page is copied to the target site, the page becomes version 2.2.

NoteNote:

   Changes to content originating on the source variation site may replace changes made to the content in the target site. For example, in language variations, if the source site is in one language and the target site is in another, the following situation could occur: An editor changes a localized page on the target site, assigning it a new minor version, 1.1. Then, a writer on the source site changes the same page, which is copied to the target site as version 1.2; this supersedes the version 1.1 changes to the page. In this example, an editor for the target site would have to retrieve the previous version of the topic, accept the new version, or merge the new and previous versions into a new version.

Planning target variation sites

Your planning goals for target variation sites will vary depending on the type of variation sites you are implementing. For example, if the variation sites are based on languages, you may want the pages in the target variation sites to look the same as the pages in the source variation site. If the variations are based on devices, you will probably want the pages in the target sites to look different from the pages in the source sites, so that they fit the devices intended to display them.

You may decide to use custom master pages, layout pages, or style sheets for variation sites. For example, in site variations based on devices, you could define simpler page layouts for those variations that are displayed on devices with limited screen sizes. Master pages, layouts, and style sheets are only managed in the top-level site of a site collection, so you must make all changes to these resources in one of the following locations in the top-level site.

Resource Location

Master Page

Master Page Gallery

Layout Page

Master Page Gallery

XSL styles and cascading style sheets

Style Library

For more information about planning page layouts and master pages, see Plan Web pages.

You must use the same content type (either the Page content type, or a content type based on the Page content type) for all variation sites' Page libraries. The easiest way to do this is to use a content type that is defined in the Site Content Type Gallery in the top-level site.

If you need custom columns for one or more variation sites' pages, add them to the content type you are using in your Page libraries. For example, if the variation sites are based on language differences, you can add a column that indicates if the page has been localized. For more information about planning content types and columns, see Plan content types (Office SharePoint Server).

If the source variation site has subsites with the publishing feature enabled, the subsites' pages will be propagated to target variation sites. This works even if a target variation site's structure has been modified, because the variations feature tracks the source and target sites' Pages libraries locations. However, if you rename or delete a Pages library from a target variation site, the variations feature will no longer work.

In some site variations solutions, it is not necessary to edit or change the content on the target variation sites. For example, if your variation sites are device-dependent, you may want the identical content displayed on all devices but with different layouts and master pages for each type of device. When this is the case, you can simplify your target variation sites by disabling their authoring features, such as the page-authoring console also disabling required check-outs.

NoteNote:

Disable the Office SharePoint Server 2007 authoring console by using Office SharePoint Designer 2007.

Variations and site navigation

If you are using site variations, plan your site navigation experience carefully. In Office SharePoint Server 2007, site navigation links are automatically generated and displayed in the outer frame (the master page portion) of a Web page. Often, site navigation is configured to display links to the current site's peer sites. In variation sites, where the current site's peers are variations of the same site, you may not want to give site users the ability to navigate in this way.

For more information about navigation planning, see Plan site navigation (Office SharePoint Server).

Variations and content deployment

The Office SharePoint Server 2007 content deployment feature copies content from a source Office SharePoint Server 2007 site collection to a destination site collection. The entire source site collection, a subset of sites, or single pages can be copied.

When deploying variation sites, it is best to deploy all sites simultaneously. Because subsites or individual Web pages can be deployed separately, a set of Web pages across variation sites can get out of sync on the destination site collection. For example, if a new page is added to the source variation site and that site is deployed earlier than a target variation site, users redirected to the page in the target variation site (or explicitly choosing the page by using the Variation Picker control) may not be able to view it.

For more information about content deployment planning, see Plan content deployment.

Variations and Web Parts

A Web Part is one of the building blocks of pages based on Office SharePoint Server 2007. Most Web Parts are designed to display a specific type of data, such as text, HTML, or images. Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes a set of Web Parts, and you can also develop or import Web Parts.

Web Parts are propagated along with variation sites' pages. However, depending on a Web Part's functionality, it may not work in the context of variation sites. For example, the List Web Part uses the globally unique identifier (GUID) of a list to reference that list. Because the List Web Part does not update the GUID when the page is propagated as part of a variation site, the Web Part will try to reference the list in the source variation site, which will not be the intended functionality and may not work. To prevent unintended Web Parts behavior such as this, you can configure the variations feature not to copy Web Parts to target variation sites.

If you do choose to copy Web Parts as part of variation sites, make sure that they have been developed for use in a site variations context. For more information about Web Parts development, see the Office SharePoint Server 2007 Software Development Kit (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=71218&clcid=0x409).

Planning your variation sites

Worksheet action

Use the Plan Variations worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=80667&clcid=0x409) to record your variation sites planning decisions:

  1. On the worksheet, record the purpose of the variation sites, such as "device-dependent variation sites."

  2. Record the variations home site's URL.

  3. Indicate if subsites of the variations home site should be copied to the source variation site and, if so, enter the names of the subsites to copy.

  4. Indicate if content in the variations home site should be copied to the source variation site and, if so, describe the content to copy.

  5. Describe how variation sites should be propagated: automatically or manually.

  6. Under "Variation sites," list each variation site in a separate row. Indicate which variation site is the source site.

  7. For each variation site, indicate any custom layouts, master pages, or columns to provide, and supply additional notes as needed.

Worksheet

Plan variations worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=80667&clcid=0x409)

Download this book

This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:

See the full list of available books at Downloadable content for Office SharePoint Server 2007 .

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