During Adobe Summit 2015, I had the opportunity to attend a session titled: “What’s new in AEM Sites 6.1: Top 10 hottest features.” I was quite excited for this session so as to see what new features would be coming down the pipeline for Adobe Experience Manager 6.1. Incidentally, AEM 6.1 is projected for release sometime in May 2015. I wanted to take a few minutes to share some of its new features. I will be using their list of top ten items, with some minor commentary from me, and then I will be sharing some other features that I personally am excited about that we have seen from being a part of the Beta program. I encourage you to take an hour to watch the full presentation online. All of these features are technically still in Beta right now, so it is possible that some of them might not get released in May. Thanks to Irina Guseva and Cedric Huesler from Adobe for their presentation.
- Are We There Yet?
One challenge for a lot of people in AEM’s Touch Interface was the number of clicks it takes in order to navigate around. Now, within the Sites section (as well as other places inside AEM), you can use your keyboard arrow buttons to navigate through the various site structures, using the Columns view. You can also use the Search function of AEM and then save that search for use later, as a quick way to find a specific piece of content. Users are also able to open the Page Properties of multiple pages in order for an author to add the same tag (as one particular example).
- Create Continuous Cross-Channel Experiences
AEM is now integrated with Adobe Campaign, such that you can take a piece of content inside AEM (like an email) and use it in Campaign.
- Queue Up Your Translation Savings
AEM is now more tightly integrated with translation services. It allows you to project manage your translation work (managing your queue, prioritization, etc.).
- Make Goal-Driven Decisions
The integration of Adobe Analytics data with the pages of the site gives content authors a quick view of how well things are tracking. You can bring over any metric from Analytics, and have it display in AEM. Complex reporting is still done inside Analytics, but this allows you a quick view to help track KPI goals. There is a built-in search system too, to allow you to see the areas where you did or did not meet goals.
- Build a Journey, and They Will Come
You can now personalize content more, such that, if someone does not buy a product they viewed, you can capture the abandoned product and use that information to help put it front and center the next time that they visit.
- Be on Target
This new feature will allow you to create an activity with variations inside AEM on a per-page basis, just like you would do within the Adobe Test&Target tool. This is pretty slick for an author to be able to create these experiences on the fly within AEM and not have to leave to do it from Target. If you want an example of how the Adobe Test&Target system works, then I would recommend the websites Adobe-Target.com and Demo.Adobe-Target.com, which Axis41 helped build.
- Do More with Apps
Analytics are more tightly utilized and they have added Push notifications to Apps.
- Design to the Web
AEM is integrated with the Creative Cloud more fully. It is possible to load a PSD file from the CC and see general details for style and markup without having to do the manual work itself. It is using the open-source text editor Brackets to do this. It means creating a css file can be much easier. I am not saying that this is a great idea, but it is a step in a good direction. One caveat mentioned was that this is not ready for responsive design yet.
- Are You Truly Responsive
Marketers now have the tools to create responsive sites without a single line of code. Using what is called the “Layouting Mode,” regular authors can control the width of components on a per-device basis. If you make a change for desktop, it won’t affect what appears on tablet or other device types.
This is really a very cool tool, but I won’t lie, this scares the hell out of me. The idea that a regular content author would be able to monkey around with the layout is concerning, despite the various controls put in place by the system. It just makes me nervous, because I have worked with too many untrained and non-tech-savvy content authors.
- Behind the Scenes Screens
They further talked about the advances being made to Sites within AEM, to allow a more integrated screen-to-screen experience.
Here are some other items that I am very excited about, but that weren’t expressly mentioned in the session. Again, some of this comes from what we have seen as being part of the Beta program.
I am very excited about this. Despite the fact that David Nuescheler, when he spoke with us on our podcast back in September of last year, did not expect Scaffolding to return to AEM, we have seen in the Beta system that Scaffolding has indeed made a comeback. We have long used Scaffolding, as it allows the developer the ability to create a more structured authoring experience. Plus, this will likely make the upgrade of sites currently utilizing Scaffolding to the newer version of AEM, and the Touch UI, much more possible. This is a great enhancement.
- Analytics & Target Integration
When you first open up the new AEM, a modal window displays asking you to put in your account info for Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target. I like that it isn’t hidden and they are really pushing the ways that AEM is now more closely integrated with the other AMC products. Obviously it would get annoying to have that open every time, so I am confident that there will be a configuration that will hide this from view if you aren’t using those products.
- Tags in Touch UI
This is now completely integrated within the Touch UI instead of only being in the Classic UI. I always thought it was odd that the Tag management system wasn’t initially brought over to the Touch UI as it was so simple to author, but it is finally here.
- Design Mode
No longer do you have to shift over to the Classic UI in order to use the Design Mode to control the components that are available to the content authors. Now you can use Design Mode right within the Touch UI page that you are on.
- New Header in Page Edit
One of the best features is that you no longer have to guess what some of the icons in the Touch Interface do. In all honesty, there was a lot of confusion when the Touch UI was introduced in AEM 5.6 and even subsequently in AEM 6.0. But now, the names next to each of the icons help dispel the confusion. Also, the edit bar is placed differently to make things a bit easier to find and use. As an example, I think it is now easier to switch between the different modes (Preview, Design, Developer).
The Workflows system is now more fully integrated within the Touch UI instead of only being in the Classic UI.
All in all, AEM 6.1 is poised to have quite a few new and exciting features when it finally releases. We look forward to exploring them further, when it does.