Modern Web Experiences with SharePoint 2013

SharePoint 2013 enables organizations to create beautiful, adaptive, and personalized experiences that can span across different channels and markets. My name is Josh Stickler and I’m a Program Manager on the SharePoint team. In this post, I’ll provide a high-level overview of what’s new and improved in SharePoint Server 2013 as it relates to enterprise websites.

Over the coming weeks leading up to the release of SharePoint 2013 and beyond, you’ll read about what’s new in specific features, best practices, and opportunities for extensibility, all from the engineering team that built the product. Many posts will follow the story of how a hypothetical customer, Contoso Electronics, might use SharePoint 2013 to host an Internet-facing, product-centric website. While your organization may do business in a different industry, operate in different markets, or host intranet instead of Internet content, our hope is that you’ll see a bit of yourself in Contoso Electronics, since our investments aren’t limited to any particular type of site or vertical solution.

Meet Contoso Electronics

Contoso Electronics is a consumer electronics retailer that operates a chain of stores across the United States and Canada. Contoso Electronics hosts its website in Windows Azure using SharePoint 2013 and offers its product catalog (sourced from Microsoft Dynamics AX), articles about the latest devices and trends in consumer electronics, and a body of “how to” content featuring instructional videos.
This year, Contoso Electronics has set ambitious goals around driving additional business through its online presence. Contoso wants to attract more visitors to its site from Internet search engines like Bing and Google. Once visitors arrive at Contoso’s website, Contoso wants to keep them engaged and ultimately turn site visits into customer purchases. Contoso expects to attract site visitors who use a multitude of devices like smartphones and tablets and speak a variety of languages. The site should automatically tune itself over time to help meet these goals, by promoting and recommending content that is popular and relevant to visitors based on their activity.
Let’s take a tour of how SharePoint 2013 enables Contoso Electronics to design a gorgeous site, efficiently publish content, and engage customers with personalized experiences.

Branding SharePoint sites gets easier and more familiar for Web Designers 

We want any web designer or developer to be able to design a SharePoint site without having to become a SharePoint expert. We’ve made a large investment this release in enabling web designers to create gorgeous, modern websites using the tools they already know, like Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expression Blend. Instead of editing ASP.NET files to create design assets like master pages and page layouts, designers can edit in HTML and SharePoint will convert these files automatically.
More and more people are browsing the web using smartphones and tablets, so we’re introducing the Device Channels feature, which enables designers to tailor a site’s visual design to best fit specific devices. SharePoint can also serve up smaller renditions of images and videos to reduce page weight on limited-bandwidth devices. Finally, we’re exposing APIs to enable developers to build native mobile apps that can read data and interact with your SharePoint site.

Search-driven publishing enables you to re-use content across many sites

Closer integration between SharePoint 2013’s content management and search capabilities enables sites to aggregate and present content more flexibly than ever before. Instead of deploying duplicate versions of content and keeping everything in sync, you can reference content indexed by search using the new Content Search Web Part, even if that content is stored in a separate site collection.
In the past, a site’s navigation structure was defined by where content was stored. Customers often ended up creating lots of subsites to organize content and create search engine-friendly URLs. SharePoint 2013 introduces Managed Navigation, which organizes navigation based on Enterprise Managed Metadata terms. Reorganizing navigation becomes as easy as moving terms around and no longer requires migrating content.
The new cross-site collection publishing feature takes you even further in abstracting how you store your content from how site visitors consume it. You can re-use content like articles and products across site collections; for example, you could re-use content that is the same across multiple brand- or locale-specific versions of your site. Re-used content inherits the branding of the site where it appears and can seamlessly integrate into sites’ navigation.

Engage customers with personalized, adaptive experiences

Contoso Electronics doesn’t just want to drive visitors to its website, it wants to keep them coming back and ultimately make a sale. In the past, Contoso Electronics had to rely on a “one size fits all” approach, grounded in static content. SharePoint 2013’s usage tracking features enable your site to adapt to visitor behavior over time, recommending related products and content based on visitors’ journeys through your site.

SharePoint 2013 integrates FAST search technology to dynamically return content in ways Contoso Electronics can control. For example, Contoso Electronics surfaces its most popular content right on the homepage. Contoso then targets promotions to users based on their behavior on the website. When users search for products on the website, Contoso can promote products it’s most interested in selling higher in results or as featured results. Based on usage data, Contoso can tweak which “how to” articles are displayed to increase the likelihood of a sale.

Bringing it all together

In the coming posts, we’ll show how Contoso Electronics uses SharePoint 2013 to build a large scale, manageable, and great-looking site. We’ll talk about key decisions Contoso Electronics makes around information architecture in the search-driven publishing model, getting the most value out of new features, and maintaining the site over time.
We think SharePoint 2013 will enable organizations to make more efficient use of their content and reduce the overhead of organizing content. We hope you’ll join us for the next few posts to learn more about what’s new. Please leave feedback in the comments selection below; we’d love to learn what you’d like to read next and how you intend to use the product. Thanks for reading!