Several years ago we evaluated almost every CMS product on the market and, after very careful analysis, chose to work exclusively with Sitefinity by Telerik. We saw the Sitefinity CMS as a great fit for associations for a number of reasons including the ease of use, scalability and the fact that its .NET foundation made for easy integrations with the major association management software (AMS) systems. We first started working with version 3.7 and followed Sitefinity through the major overhaul of version 4.0 and the steady improvements of versions 5.x and 6.x.
We evaluate each Sitefinity version before implementing it for our clients to ensure we're offering the most secure, robust and reliable software possible. Like some previous versions of Sitefinity, when version 6 came out last year, we were not convinced that it was a platform that had enough enhancements to warrant upgrading our clients. It was still a good product, but there wasn’t anything particular about it that our clients seemed to need that would justify the cost of upgrading them.
However, the release of Sitefinity 7.0 has changed everything.
This new release is a significant improvement that takes this powerful CMS to a new level. As with any major software release, there are countless new features and functionality. We've highlighted 5 key features that will have significant impact for associations and position Sitefinity securely as an “Enterprise Class” CMS for our association clients.
The biggest enhancement of Sitefinity 7 is the improvement to the Personalization module. This is the next big thing in content management. Sitefinity's user interface is intuitive, flexible and easy-to-use. Web managers can easily segment your visitors into roles, groups or any field or data from the AMS and deliver specific, personalized content to them
Sitefinity describes the process for the Personalization module as follows:
- Segment Your Visitors - Sitefinity has a simple interface for defining segments through various criteria such as where the visitor came from, what they searched for, their location, duration of their visit, etc. You can define custom criteria and have any combination of AND/OR criteria to define your segments.
- Personalize the Presentation - After you’ve segmented your visitors in groups, you need to go through your website and set the pages to serve personalized content.
- Impersonate to Test the Experience - Sitefinity allows you to impersonate any segment and preview the customer experience on any device with the help of the mobile device emulators.
- Measure the Results - Your content can be measured by the conversions and other website KPIs for the different segments compared to the default presentation for non-segmented visitors or to the KPIs prior to the personalization.
eCommerce is a significant revenue driver for every association – and few associations are pleased with the way their AMS handles eCommerce. This module has had the benefit of the most feature enhancements since its first release and has come a very long way over the last 2 years. Commerce can be run independently in Sitefinity or integrated at varying levels with the organization’s AMS to provide a better eCommerce experience for the user and integrated data for the organization.
Responsive Web Design
This isn’t quite a new feature (first appeared in version 5.4) and Vanguard has been implementing responsive web design for quite a while. But there have been enhancements in Version 7 to the module and to the mobile experience especially for eCommerce and Personalization that have taken this module to a whole new level.
Enhanced Google Analytics Integration
Sitefinity has offered Google Analytics integration since the release of version 5.0. However Sitefinity 7.0 introduces a tighter integration using the Google and Sitefinity APIs to make page-level analytics data quickly available to subject matter experts and content owners.
Analytics are available in multiple places including the website manager dashboard (available when you first login), within the page structure as well as the marketing tab of the back-end of Sitefinity. The goal is to give every author and content manager contextual analytics so they have insight into their page performance and can make immediate improvements or refine content to deliver more user/member engagement.
APIs and Single Sign On
Vanguard establishes Single Sign-On (SSO) with the AMS for just about every one of our clients and half of those have at least one additional product in the SSO chain. So while this isn’t necessarily new, the evolution of Sitefinity’s API now allows us to create tighter SSO integrations.
The new open API allows us to collect more data during the login process and we can pull data from just about any AMS field and write it into the Sitefinity user profile including member role, demographic fields and other data including purchase history or event attendance. This ties into Personalization by giving us options and better data to customize the web experience for members.
Additionally, the new APIs allow us to pull other AMS data into Sitefinity including event and eCommerce data that can be written into specific areas of the CMS and used as custom content types.
Of course, these are just the top features in Sitefinity 7.0, which also includes the ability to relate content types, custom data fields in pages and content items, ratings and more (for a full list of this release’s features, see the Sitefinity 7.0 release notes). As we continue to monitor the other commercial CMS products available to our clients, we continue to see how Sitefinity has kept improving and gaining ground in functionality over the competition.
Sitefinity 7.0’s release has elevated this powerful CMS to the enterprise class that is the equal of systems like Sitecore and Ektron and, considering the competitive pricing model and overall ease-of-use of Sitefinity, I believe is a better fit for most associations under 100 staff and/or <$25M in annual revenue. We are excited to start rolling this version out to our clients and putting these great features to work creating engaging member driven websites.
Disclosure: Vanguard works exclusively with Sitefinity for our association clients. We have used Sitefinity on more than 60 websites in the past 5 years and have been a Platinum Partner since 2009. For a demo of Sitefinity, including these new features, feel free to get in touch.