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Case Study: Mavention and web content management in SharePoint Server 2013

SharePoint 2013
 

Applies to: SharePoint Server 2013

Topic Last Modified: 2013-12-18

Summary: Learn how Mavention used new SharePoint Server 2013 web content management features when they built their new website.

This case study provides an overview of new SharePoint Server 2013 web content management features, and also how Mavention used these features when they upgraded their website from SharePoint Server 2010 to SharePoint Server 2013.

To view a Microsoft Word version of this case study, see Case Study: Mavention and Web Content Management in SharePoint 2013.

In this article:

Mavention is a Dutch system integrator that specializes in developing websites, portals and intranets using the Microsoft SharePoint platform. The SharePoint solutions that Mavention delivers provide their clients with the ability to deliver high quality information at a lower operating cost.

For more information about Mavention, see http://www.mavention.com.

Since January 2011, Mavention had been using SharePoint Server 2010 for their website. This website had the following drawbacks for Mavention:

  • It did not contain any user-specific behavior, such as the way to display different content to different target groups.

  • It was very difficult for users to read the content and browse the pages of their site via a mobile device.

  • It was available only in Dutch.

Mavention's decision to migrate to SharePoint Server 2013 was influenced by the following factors. They wanted to do the following:

  • Improve the communication with their different target groups.

  • Offer content customized for each target group.

  • Increase the time visitors spent on their site (decrease the bounce rate) by offering recommendations to other content that visitors might be interested in.

  • Have an English version of their website up and running.

  • Optimize their website for mobile devices.

  • Improve their website's SEO features.

  • Minimize the time they spent on content management tasks.

When migrating from SharePoint Server 2010 to SharePoint Server 2013, Mavention implemented the following new WCM features:

  • Cross-site publishing and catalogs

  • Category pages and catalog item pages

  • Managed navigation and tagging term sets

  • Content Search Web Part

  • Variations and translations

  • Image renditions

  • Device channels

  • Analytics processing and recommendations

  • User segmentation

  • Query rules

  • Continuous crawls

  • SEO capabilities

  • Search REST API

To read a general overview of these new SharePoint features, see the following table. To read about how Mavention implemented these new features, see How Mavention uses the new MOSS_2nd_CurrentVer WCM features later in this article.

 

Cross-site publishing and catalogs

Cross-site publishing is a publishing feature that enables you to reuse content across site collections. A catalog is a SharePoint library or list that has been shared as a catalog. You can use one or more site collections to author catalog content, and one or more site collections to display catalog content, and control how the catalog content should be displayed.

For more information, see Overview of cross-site publishing in SharePoint Server 2013.

Category pages and catalog item pages

Category pages and catalog item pages are page layouts that enable you to consistently show dynamically created catalog content across a site. These pages are often used in combination with managed navigation and Content Search Web Parts.

For more information, see Plan category pages and catalog item pages.

Managed navigation and tagging term sets

Managed navigation enables you to use term sets to define and maintain the navigation of your site. When using cross-site publishing, it is highly important to tag your content with terms from a term set. By tagging terms in your content, it is not the physical location in the authoring site that defines the hierarchy of your content, but instead the actual terms that you have used to tag content.

Content Search Web Part

The Content Search Web Part (CSWP) displays content that has been crawled and added to the search index. To display content in a Content Search Web Part, you specify a query in the Web Part. When users browse to a page that contains a Content Search Web Part, the query is automatically issued, and query results are displayed in the Web Part.

For more information about this and other Search Web Parts, see Plan to add Search Web Parts to pages.

Variations and translations

The variations feature copies content from a source site to one or more target sites. When you use machine translation, the content that you copy from the source site can automatically be translated into the language of the target site. If you don't want to use machine translation, you can export translation packages in an .XLIFF format, translate the content, and import the translation package back intoSharePoint Server 2013.

Image renditions

Image renditions are very useful in mobile scenarios. Based on the device that is being used, you can display different sizes and versions of images. This feature enables you to have differently cropped versions of the same image without having to upload multiple images. This reduces the size of the file that is downloaded to the client, and improves the performance of your website.

For more information about image renditions, see Manage image renditions in SharePoint 2013.

Device channels

By using device channels, you can render a publishing site in multiple ways by using designs that are customized for different mobile devices. You can map your content to device channels in a publishing site, and then map it again to different master pages, page layouts, and style sheets, based on the device channel that you are using.

For more information about device channels, see Plan device channels in SharePoint Server 2013

Analytics processing and recommendations

Analytics processing is a feature that automatically tracks how users interact with a page, such as page or document views. This information is used to generate recommendations. Recommendations can be used to guide users to content that may be relevant for them —for example, "Users who viewed this document also viewed these documents."

For more information, see Plan usage analytics, usage events and recommendations.

User segmentation

User segmentation enables you to present different content to different user groups. To use this feature, you have to specify criteria that define the different user groups, and have access to properties that contain these criteria.

Query rules

A query rule is a set of conditions that cause the query to be changed in a specific way. An easy way to understand a query rule is as follows: "if X happens, then do Y." Query rules are used to limit the type of content that appears in search results, and to influence the order in which search results should appear.

For more information, see Plan result sources and query rules.

Continuous crawls

Continuous crawls enable you to specify an automatic crawl of your content at a set interval. By using continuous crawls, your search results are kept fresh and up to date. As a result, a search administrator no longer has to monitor any content changes to the farm.

For more information, see Plan content sources and crawling.

SEO capabilities

Instead of having URLs that consist of strings that do not make any sense to users, you can now create meaningful, user-friendly URLs. For example, http://www.contoso.com/Computers/model101 is much easier to read and to understand than http://www.contoso.com/Pages/Computers.aspx#/ID=453&Source=http%3A%2F1010101.

To create meaningful URLs, you can use managed navigation with category pages and catalog item pages, and build your URLs from the terms that you specify in the term set.

Search REST API

The search REST API is a service that you can use to add search functionality to your website or to your mobile devices. This service uses a technology that supports REST web requests.

When Mavention started to plan for their new website, they did the following:

  • Defined who their website should target.

  • Focused on what to improve on their current website.

  • Identified how to resolve the problems they had faced in the past.

Mavention defined two user groups that their website should target: customers and potential employees. Mavention then defined the characteristics of each group, which would allow them to use new user segmentation capabilities to provide dynamically created content for each target group.

Statistics showed that 60% of Mavention's visitors were from outside the Netherlands. Therefore, they wanted to provide an English version of their website. The variations feature in SharePoint Server 2010 offered support for building multilingual sites. However, the content had to be tied to a top-level domain. The drawback of this was that search engines couldn't show the differences in local search ranking. To ease the effort of maintaining multilingual sites, Mavention decided to manage their content in a centralized content management environment.

The new cross-site publishing feature in SharePoint Server 2013 supports all of these-mentioned requirements, so Mavention chose this solution for their new website.

Mavention had been witnessing a sharp increase in visitors accessing their pages via mobile devices. They wanted their new website to support as many devices as possible with as little effort as possible. As a result, they chose to use responsive web design, where an HTML template adjusts itself to the characteristics of a particular device. The benefit of using an HTML template for all devices is that this method reduces the maintenance of a website, and content is more efficiently indexed by public search engines.

Mavention analyzed which browser their mobile visitors were using when visiting their site. Then they defined screen sizes and screen resolutions to implement for their web pages. The user interface of Mavention's website was created by a design agency. Based on this design, Mavention started to build static HTML pages to see how the user interface blocks would scale with various screen resolutions.

The following figure shows Mavention’s final site architecture:

Mavention’s final SharePoint 2013 site architecture

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The authoring site collection is located on the left side of the diagram. The authoring site collection uses variations, and it is where Mavention creates and manages all of their content. Content is translated from Dutch in to English in the authoring site collection. The authoring site collection is not publicly available.

The publishing site collections are located on the right side of the diagram. The publishing site collection is where Mavention publishes content. The publishing site collections are publicly available.

Language versions
Each language has its own top-level site collection, so variations are not used on the publishing side. Mavention uses a top-level site collection for each language so that the sites are hosted on the top-level domain of the respective country/region code. This enables search engines to show differences in local search ranking.

Storing assets
Although Mavention’s content is translated from Dutch into English, both the Dutch and the English sites reference the same source images. To avoid duplicating their assets, Mavention stored them in a separate site collection.

Given the fact that assets cannot be stored in the search index, and to avoid enabling anonymous access to the authoring part of their site, Mavention decided to store their assets on the publishing part of their site. By doing this, they secured the authoring part of their site, which in turn increased the overall security level of their site.

The following figure shows Mavention's farm architecture.

Mavention's SharePoint 2013 farm architecture

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Mavention uses web servers, application servers, and database servers. The following table explains the roles of the servers and the hardware configuration that Mavention uses.

 

Server Server role Hardware CPU Hardware RAM

Web servers that have two Hyper-V instances

Handles all incoming search requests. Hosts the Managed Metadata Service, the query processing components and the index components.

4 cores

8 GB

Application server that has one Hyper-V instance

Hosts the crawl component, the search administration component, the analytics processing component, and the content processing component.

4 cores

12 GB

Database server with two Hyper-V instances

Hosts all SharePoint databases. This includes the search databases.

4 cores

8 GB

Mavention's current farm architecture is within the limits for handling how much content that has to be indexed, and for maintaining a low query response time for all incoming query requests. Should Mavention experience a large increase in visitors that would increase the number of page views and queries per second, they could easily handle this by scaling out the search topology of their farm. To scale out the search topology, Mavention would have to add to their farm architecture another virtual web server that has a web front-end, a query processing component and an index component.

Mavention does not have a department in charge of authoring and maintaining content for their website. Therefore, one of their goals was to make sure that people had an easy and intuitive authoring experience, even employees who aren't working with their system regularly.

The following figure shows how the Mavention authoring site collection was set up.

Mavention's SharePoint 2013 authoring site collection

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Mavention wanted a rich authoring experience customized for creating articles. Therefore, they decided to use a Pages library for creating and storing their content. By authoring content in a Pages library, they could use the default Rich Text Editor. Another important reason for deciding to use a Pages library was that it could be extended to implement a preview mode.

Mavention uses a Pages library on their source site for Dutch content, and another Pages library on their target site for English content. Now that Mavention is using cross-site publishing, they will be able to add lots of new content to their Pages library in the future without disrupting the navigation structure of their website.

Since cross-site publishing relies on how content is tagged, the structure of the authoring site has no effect on how content is presented on the publishing site. On the authoring site, Mavention created custom site columns and content types at the site collection level so that they could be used on the source site and on the target site. Mavention also created a page layout for each custom content type. The catalog tagging term set was created and translated into English at the site collection level.

By using cross-site publishing and separating the authoring environment from the publishing environment, you gain lots of flexibility for how content is displayed on the publishing site. However, when authors add content to the authoring site, they are unable to see what that content looks like to visitors who will view it from the publishing site. To bridge this gap, Mavention decided to use the new device channel feature that generates a preview mode.

About the device channel
In SharePoint Server 2010, Mavention had a separate authoring and publishing architecture. However they had to write custom code to implement different master pages. In SharePoint Server 2013, it is now possible to implement different master pages by default. The device channel feature is intended to optimize content for different mobile devices by mapping content to different master pages, page layouts, and style sheets. The device channel can also be used to render different previews of the same page. Mavention created a new device channel called "Publishing," to which they associated the master page used on the publishing site. In addition they used a Mobile panel so that only content that should be displayed on the publishing site is displayed in the preview mode.

The following screen shots show several views of the same blog article, all of which were taken from the Mavention website.

The blog article on the authoring site displayed in edit mode.

Blog article on the authoring site in edit mode.

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The blog article on the authoring site displayed in preview mode. Note that the tiles do not have any content in them as they are only displayed to give the author a preview of how the page will look in combination with other page elements.

The same blog article on the authoring site in preview mode.

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The blog article displayed on the publishing site.

The same blog article on the publishing site.

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Mavention has two catalogs: one Pages library for their Dutch content, and one Pages library for their English content.

Mavention created five category page layouts and three catalog item page layouts for their website. Based on these, they created 10 category pages and five catalog item pages. Mavention created many pages because they wanted to have a section where they could insert editorial content. Although most of the content displayed on these pages is created dynamically by using Content Search Web Parts, they still have the flexibility to insert additional static content.

SharePoint Server 2013 has a new Managed Metadata functionality that enables you to share local term sets with other site collections.

Mavention created a single term set on their authoring site by using terms that describe the different types of information that they have on their site, such as news, products or blogs.

Mavention used the Managed Metadata functionality to share the term set that they created on their authoring site with their publishing site collections, www.mavention.nl and www.mavention.com.

All of the catalog items in the authoring site are tagged with a term from the term set. This term set was translated into English. Therefore, a single term set is used to tag all catalog content. The main navigation of Mavention's website corresponds to the different types of information that they have on their site. So they could integrate the tagging term set from the authoring site into the term set that drives the navigation on the publishing site.

The default rendering of the Content Search Web Part occurs on the client side. This helps reduce the load on the servers, and build more dynamic experiences. When building public-facing websites, it is important to control how your website’s content is indexed, and also to make sure that your website is equipped with reading and navigation tools for visually impaired visitors. Mavention decided to use server-side rendering to take this into account. Server-side rendering enables Mavention to have full control of their rendered HTML, and control of how their content is rendered.

Mavention uses translation packages to translate their website content. They export the content from their source site (nl-nl), and send this file to a translation agency. Once the translation agency has translated their content into English, Mavention imports the file back into SharePoint, and the contents are applied to their target site (en-us).

To to make sure that the content on their bilingual website is consistent, Mavention creates a translation package every time that they update or publish new content on the Dutch language version of their website.

Mavention created two image renditions for their website: "tile" and "screenshot." When you create an image rendition, a rendition ID is generated. When you insert an image and choose an image rendition, SharePoint Server 2013 automatically uses the rendition ID to refer to the correct image rendition. This works well in an environment where you have a single site collection for all content. However, because Mavention uses cross-site publishing, where the assets are located on a different site collection than the content, they couldn't use the rendition ID to refer to their images. An alternative way to refer to image renditions is to use the width or the height of images. This is what Mavention did for their website.

Although the device channels feature is meant to be used for optimizing content for different mobile devices, it can also be used to generate different page previews. Mavention created a device channel on their authoring site, which they used to create a preview of how their content would look on the publishing site.

By using a Recommended Items Web Part, two recommended articles are shown below every article on the Mavention website. The article recommendations are calculated by the Analytics Processing Component, which analyzes the content and the way users have interacted with it. Both the Analytics Processing Component and the recommendations feature are available by default in SharePoint Server 2013.

The default Recommended Items Web Part is not mapped to a property in the Pages library. Accordingly, to display recommendations, Mavention had to do some search schema management. By mapping the crawled property that they use for their Catalog Item URL Field to the managed property UsageAnalyticsID, Mavention were able to add the Recommended Items Web Part to their page and retrieve recommendations without any additional configurations.

The following screen shot shows how two recommended articles are displayed below the mail article.

Two recommendations shown for an article.

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Visitors to www.mavention.nl or www.mavention.com are anonymous. To apply user segmentation functionality to their website, Mavention had to do the following:

  • Build controls that could generate user properties.

  • Define a term set that could be used as user property input.

  • Extend the Content Search Web Part to use user properties.

  • Define query rules to trigger the display of user-specific content.


Controls used to generate user properties
Mavention built the following controls that they used on their master page and page layouts to generate user properties about the profile of a visitor:

  • Counted User Property Set if a particular action has been executed a given number of times. For example, if a user reads three blog posts, this user property is set.

  • Matched User Property Set if a specific condition is matched. Mavention compares the input data retrieved from the UrlReferer (whole URL), the host name of the referring site and the UserAgent string to a regular expression, or to terms within the User Segment Terms (see Term set used for user property input, in the next section) term set.

  • Search Query User Property Set if a user has reached the website from a search results page, for example www.bing.com or www.google.com. In this is the case, Mavention retrieves the query entered by the user in the search engine (q query string parameter from the referrer URL), and try to match that query against terms (parent and all children). If there is a match, the matching term is added to the user properties.

The following figure shows how the MaventionUserProperties are passed on the extended Content Search Web Part (CSWP).

MaventionUserProperties are passed on to the customized CSWP.

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Term set for user property input
The website from where visitors come to either www.mavention.nl or www.mavention.com might give an indication of the user's profile. Mavention wanted to use this as input to their user property. So they created a term set to which they added a term for the two types of sites their visitors could come from: "Business" and "Technical." Mavention then added more terms that were composed of the addresses of relevant websites to each of these terms. For example, if a visitor comes to Mavention's website from www.pinpoint.microsoft.com, the GUID of the term "Business" is passed on as a Matched User Property and used as input to generate the MaventionUserProperties.

The following screen shot shows the term set Mavention used to define websites for the two site types.

Term set used by Mavention when implementing user segmentation

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Extended Content Search Web Part
Mavention extended the default Content Search Web Part by adding user segmentation functionality as follows:

  • In the User Tracking Mode section, Mavention configured the Web Part to track visitors by using Sessions.

  • In the User Properties Variable Name section, Mavention configured the Web Part with the name of the session variable that contains the user properties of the visitor. This variable is called MaventionUserProperties.

    Customized CSWP used by Mavention to implement user segmentation.

    Customized CWSP used to implement user segmentation

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Query rules used to trigger the display of user-specific content
Mavention defined three query rules that are based on the three defined target groups. Depending on the target group in which the visitor is categorized, different content is displayed. The following screen shots show how content is displayed on the homepage depending on the target group.

Mavention home page as shown to default users.

Mavention's homepage as shown to default users

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Mavention home page as shown to users that belong to the customers target group.

Mavention homepage as shown to users in the customers target group.

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Mavention home page as shown to users that belong to the potential employees target group.

Mavention's homepage as shown to users in the potential employees target group.

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When you use cross-site publishing, your content is made available to publishing sites by the SharePoint search index. Whenever a new entry is made on the authoring site, it must be crawled and added to the search index for it to be displayed on the publishing site. To ensure the freshness of their content, Mavention decided to use a continuous crawl schedule. This crawl schedule automatically adds any new content that was created since the previous crawl to the search index. This means that a search administrator does not have to start a crawl manually. By default, a new continuous crawl starts every 15 minutes. Mavention implemented a one-minute interval between each continuous crawl for their website.

When Mavention was using SharePoint Server 2010 for their website, they had to build custom solutions for search engine optimization (SEO) capabilities such as XML Sitemap, robots.txt, meta description, and the displaying of separate titles in the browser title bar. All of these features are available by default in SharePoint Server 2013.

Along with page titles and headings, URLs are one of the most important factors that determine page ranking in search results. To fully optimize SEO for their website, Mavention translated the URLs on which the content is published. By using cross-site publishing, managed navigation, and translation packages, the translation part is covered by SharePoint Server 2013 default functionalities.

For Mavention, the challenge was how to provide visitors with the means of switching between Dutch or English content while remaining on the same page.

Mavention built an HTTP handler that executes a search query for catalog item pages, that looks up the right term in the managed navigation of the target site collection for category pages. By implementing this, the exact location of the target page can be found, and maximum flexibility for content management and SEO of the website is ensured.

Mavention used the search REST API to display additional information based on page properties. Because Mavention use server-side rendering for their Content Search Web Parts, page properties are known only after the page is rendered. By passing page properties on to an AJAX request to the Search REST API, Mavention can display additional information.

The following screen shot shows how the two latest blog posts for a Mavention employee are displayed at the bottom of the page. The blog posts are displayed by using the Search REST API.

Blog posts are displayed using the Search REST API.

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