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Plan variations (SharePoint Server 2010)

Published: May 12, 2010

The variations feature in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 makes content available to specific audiences on different sites by copying content from a source variation site to each target variation site. If necessary, the content can then be customized in the target variation site. For example, content on a target variation site can be translated into other languages before it is published. Variations can be used only on SharePoint Server 2010 sites that are created with one of the Publishing site templates, or on a site for which the SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure feature has been enabled.

note Note:

Although variations can be used for multilingual solutions, the variations feature does not translate pages. To use variations for creating multilingual content, you can use workflows to route content for translation by another team or third-party vendor after the content is copied to target sites. For more information about workflows, see Plan workflows (SharePoint Server 2010).

This article contains information about important items that you should consider when you are using variations in a publishing site collection, and it describes the tasks that are involved in planning a solution that uses variations in SharePoint Server 2010. This article does not provide an overview of variations, describe how to use variations, or explain how to create variation labels and hierarchies.

For more information about variations, see Variations overview (SharePoint Server 2010).

In this article:

About planning variations

The planning process that is described in this article starts with describing important items that you should consider when you plan to use variations with your SharePoint Server 2010 solution. The remainder of the article describes the steps that are required to plan for using variations with SharePoint Server 2010. These steps include the following:

  • Determine the type of variations that are needed and select the variations root site.

  • Specify the source variation site and plan the target variation sites.

  • Decide how sites and pages will be created on the target source sites.

  • Plan how variations timer jobs will be scheduled.

You can record this information in the Variations planning worksheet.

Important items to consider when planning to use variations

Before you plan to use variations with your SharePoint Server 2010 solution, you should be aware of the interaction between variations and other SharePoint Server 2010 features. This section contains information about important items to consider when you are planning to use variations with your SharePoint Server 2010 solution.

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 who have read permissions. Content approval in variation sites requires major and minor versioning in the Pages libraries on the source and target variation sites. For more information about content approval, see Plan content approval and scheduling (SharePoint Server 2010).

Content approval has unique factors that you should consider when you are planning variations:

  • On the source variation site, when a page is submitted for approval, an e-mail is generated and sent to the contact of the page by using the values stored in the following columns, in the following order:

    • Contact

    • Contact E-Mail Address

    • Modified By

    note Note:

    Starting with the Contact field, each field is checked for contact information to which the notification can be sent. If the first field is empty, the next field is tried until contact information is found.

    After the page is approved for publication, it is enabled for copying to the target sites. You can configure the variations settings so that content is either manually or automatically copied to the variation sites.

  • On target variation sites, a page that is copied from the source variation site is always assigned a minor version number. If the page is new to the target site, it is assigned version 0.1. If the page already exists on the target variation site, the copied page is assigned the next available minor version number. For example, if a target variation 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.

  • If a page is published on the source variation site, when the page is copied to target variation sites, the Approval status is set to Draft. If Content Approval and Document Versioning are enabled in the Pages library on target variation sites, the page must be approved on each target variation site before the page is available to readers.

note Note:

Changes made to content that originates on the source variation site can supersede changes made to the content in the target variation site. For example, in language variations, if the source variation site is in one language and the target variation site is in another, the following situation might occur: An editor changes a localized page on the target variation site, assigning it a new minor version, 1.1. Then, a writer on the source variation site makes different changes to the same page, which is copied to the target variation site as version 1.2. This supersedes the version 1.1 changes to the page. In this example, an editor for the target variation site would have to restore the previous version of the topic from the Version History, accept the new version, or use the View Changes button to view differences between the current version and previous versions of the page, and manually merge the new and previous versions into a new version. For more information about versioning, see Versioning, content approval, and check-out planning (SharePoint Server 2010).

Site navigation

If you are using site variations, you must plan your site navigation experience carefully. In SharePoint Server 2010, site navigation links to the current site's peer sites are automatically generated and displayed in the Global Navigation and Current Navigation menus of a Web page. In variation sites, where the current site's peers are variations of the same site, you might not want to give site users the ability to browse to other sites in this manner. You can use the Navigation Settings page to change the settings of the Global Navigation and Current Navigation menus so that peer sites are not displayed.

note Note:

Changes to site navigation on the source variation site are not copied to the target variation sites. If you want the site navigation on target variation sites to match the site navigation on the source variation site, you must manually make changes to the site navigation settings on the target variation sites.

For more information about site navigation planning, see Plan site navigation (SharePoint Server 2010).

Content deployment

Content deployment copies content from a source site collection to a destination site collection.

We recommend that you disable any content deployment jobs that include the source variations site while Variations Create Hierarchies Job Definition runs. If content deployment runs while the Variations Create Hierarchies Job Definition timer job is also running, a target variation site that is only partially created may be copied to the target variation site on the destination server.

For more information about content deployment planning, see Plan content deployment (SharePoint Server 2010).

Web Parts

A Web Part is one of the building blocks of pages based on SharePoint Server 2010. Most Web Parts are designed to display a specific type of data, such as text, HTML, or images. SharePoint Server 2010 includes a set of Web Parts, and you can also develop or import custom Web Parts.

Web Parts are copied with pages of variation sites. If Update Target Web Parts is enabled, Web Parts are updated only on the target variations site if a page containing that Web Part has been copied to the target variation site. If the Web Part appears on multiple target pages on different target variation sites, all instances of the Web Part are updated when the page from the source variation site is copied to the target variation sites. For example, if a page contains a Media Web Part, and the Web Part is configured to point to video A that is stored on a site outside of the variations hierarchy, when the page is published on the source variation site, the page is copied to all target variation sites. The pages on the target variation sites display video A in the Media Web Part. If the page on the source variation site is updated and the Media Web Part is changed to point to Video B, the pages on the target variation sites continue to point to video A until the page on the source variation site is published and copied to the target variation sites. Also, if readers on the target variation sites do not have permission to view the video file that is stored outside the variations hierarchy, they cannot view the video. To prevent unintended Web Parts behavior such as this, you can configure the variations settings so that Web Part updates are not copied to target variation sites.

Multilingual sites

SharePoint Server 2010 has several features that enable you to support users in different regions or users who speak different languages. You can use these features to create Web sites in different languages and to enable users to view the user interface of a site in a language other than the one in which a site was created. If you plan to use variations with multilingual sites, there are additional steps that you must follow to enable multilingual support for the variation sites. For more information about how to plan multilingual sites, see Plan for multilingual sites (SharePoint Server 2010).

Determine the types of variations needed

Although variations are most commonly used to create multilingual sites, you can also use variations to create sites based on other criteria, such as regional differences, mobile devices, corporate or product branding, or company subsidiaries. Determine what types of variations are needed for your solution, and make a list of the sites that will belong to the variations hierarchy.

note Note:

If you will be using variations for creating multilingual sites, and if you want the site administration pages of the target variation sites to be displayed in another language, you must install the language pack for each language that corresponds to a variations site. For information about how to install language packs, see Deploy language packs (SharePoint Server 2010).

Select the variation root site

The variation root site provides the URL for all variations sites and contains the landing page that redirects users to the correct variations site. The root site can be a site at any level in a site collection, including the top-level site. However, after you specify the root site, you cannot change it after you click Create Hierarchies, and you cannot use variations anywhere else in the site collection.

note Note:

If the root site contains a site hierarchy or content in the Pages library that you want to be in the source variation site, you must manually copy them to the source variations site after it has been created.

Decide what site you want to use as the root site, and record the URL in the variations planning worksheet.

Specify the source variation site

The source variations site is the site where content to be shared by all sites is authored and published, and it is the site that is used to copy changes to the target variation sites. A source variation site is specified by selecting the Source Variation setting for a variation label on the Create Variation Label page in the Site Collection Administration Web site. There can be only one source variation site for a variations hierarchy. After a variation label has been specified for use as the source variations site, it cannot be changed.

Review the list of sites for your variations solution, and decide which site will be the source variation site. Record the source variations site for your solution in the top row of the Sites data sheet tab in the variations planning worksheet. Type the label as you want it to appear in the site URL, the label display name, and the name of the site owner who will be responsible for the site.

Plan target variation sites

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

Review the list of sites for your variations solution, and record each target variation site in the variations planning worksheet. For each site, enter the label as you want it to display in the site URL, the label display name, and the name of the site owner who will be responsible for the site.

note Note:

SharePoint Server 2010 supports up to 50 variation labels.

Plan custom master pages, layout pages or style sheets

You can decide to use custom master pages, page layouts, 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, page layouts, and style sheets are managed only 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

You can also specify that each target variation uses its own custom page layout.

Plan custom content types

You must use the same content type (either the Page content type, or a content type based on the Page content type) for all pages that are stored in the Page library of the source variation site. 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 of the site collection.

If you must have custom columns for one or more variation sites' pages, add them to the content type that 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 whether the page has been localized. For more information about planning content types and columns, see Content type and workflow planning (SharePoint Server 2010).

In some site variations solutions, you do not have to edit or change the content on the target variation sites. For example, if your variation sites are device-dependent, you might want 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 the administration of your target variation sites by disabling required check-outs.

Decide how sites and pages will be created on target variation sites

If the source variation site will have other sites below it in a site hierarchy, you must plan for how those sites will be created on the target variation sites. There are two ways in which sites can be created on target variation sites: automatically and manually. By default, any new sites that are added below the source variation site will automatically be created on all target variation sites. However, if you disable automatic site and page creation for variations, for each new site that you create below the source variation site, you must manually specify the target variation sites on which the site should be created. Although enabling new sites to be created automatically on the target variation sites has the advantage of reducing tasks for the site administrator, the advantage to manual site creation is that you can specify which sites should be created on which target variation sites. This can be useful if you want a site to be included only on some, but not all target variation sites.

Publishing pages can also be created on target variation sites in two ways: automatically and manually. By default, any new pages that are published in the Pages library of the source variation site will automatically be created on all target variation sites. However, if you disable automatic site and page creation for variations, for each new page that you create on the source variation site, you must manually specify the target variation site on which the page should be created, and you can only specify a single target variation site. Disabling automatic site and page creation can be useful if you want certain pages to be included only on some, but not all target variation sites. However, requiring manual creation of pages on target variation sites can be a disadvantage if the source variation site will contain many pages. If you want to create variation pages on a subset of the target variation sites, we recommend that you use automatic creation to create the pages on all target variation sites, and then either delete the pages from the target variation sites where you do not want copies of the pages, or use a workflow to approve only the pages that you want to have copied to the target variation sites.

By default, automatic site and page creation is enabled. You should carefully consider the potential increase in administrative tasks if you decide to disable automatic site and page creation for your variations solution. Automatic site and page creation is configured on the Variations settings page in Site Collection Administration. For information about specifying variations settings, see Turn on variations settings so you can create versions of your site.

Plan variations timer job scheduling

The variations feature uses timer jobs to perform tasks such as creating and propagating sites and pages. A timer job runs inside OWSTIMER, a Windows service for SharePoint Server 2010. Each timer job has its own default schedule for when the job runs. You can change the frequency with which each job runs on the Job Definitions page on the Central Administration Web site.

The following table lists the variations timer jobs and the default schedule for each job:

Job name Default schedule

Variations Create Hierarchies Job Definition

Once a day

Variations Create Page Job Definition

Hourly

Variations Create Site Job Definition

Every 5 minutes

Variations Propagate Page Job Definition

Hourly.

Variations Propagate Site Job Definition

Every 5 minutes

You can specify when each job will run by setting a recurring schedule in minutes, hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly intervals. If you select daily, weekly, or monthly, you can specify a window of time for when the job should run, and the server will randomly select a time within the specified range in which to begin running the job. This option is most appropriate for high-load jobs that run on multiple servers in a farm. Be aware that running this type of job on all servers in the farm simultaneously might increase the server load and affect performance. To avoid this possibility, you can specify an exact starting time for a job.

You should carefully plan when the variations timer jobs should run on your servers, and set the recurring schedule accordingly. For example, to determine how often the Variations Create Page Job Definition or the Variations Propagate Page Job Definition should run and copy pages to target variation sites, consider how many pages will be created on the source variation site, and how often those pages will be updated.

Variations planning worksheet

Download an Excel version of the Variations planning worksheet.

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