Last year, at Adobe Summit 2015, I was able to attend a session on the hottest features in AEM Sites and it was really good. So I was really looking forward to this year’s session titled, “What’s new in AEM Sites 6.2: Top 10 hottest features,” to see the new features and controls that would be coming down the pipe for AEM 6.2 Sites. AEM 6.2 was released April 21, 2016. Let’s take a few minutes and walk through the finer points of their presentation. I will be using their list of top 10 items, with some commentary from me about each one. I encourage you to take an hour to watch the full presentation online (FYI—the first 8 minutes of the video is almost all dead air). Thanks to Irina Guseva and Peter Krmpotic from Adobe for their presentation.
- Find Anything Anywhere
Adobe has introduced an updated Touch UI. This is actually a great enhancement, but once again Adobe is changing the user interface. It’s hard on authors to constantly need to learn a new way of doing things and navigating around, and it means additional training for people when they upgrade from one version to another. But let’s not get bogged down with negativity. The new update to AEM is called OmniSearch and this is a really decent way of getting around. No longer do I have to do multiple clicks to find my tags. I just type “tags” and then the page loads. It also comes with search suggestions that show you all the possible destinations within AEM and the ability to do filtered searches. Also, they removed the need to go to a “selection mode” to select multiple items (pages, assets, etc.) when you need to activate them or update their properties. That’s great.
- Templates for Everyone
This is the new Template Editor. Last year when they teased this I mentioned how reluctant I was about it. Put the template in the hands of the authors and not the developers, are you insane? I still feel that way, but not as strongly now. An author can still royally screw things up, if you give them the permissions to do so. And that is the key. You can tie down this functionality by only giving it to people who actually know what they are doing. I was able to chat a bit with Gabriel Walt during Summit and that was his big piece of advice. So, we can still be happy, authors can still feel empowered, and developers won’t have to do as much. I had a chance to play around with it a bit in one of the Summit lab sessions and it certainly shows some promise.
- Content Mixology
Content fragments! This is very interesting. You get to treat content as an asset. And that is actually where it is stored as well, within the Assets (DAM) section of AEM. No longer does your content need to be freeform and disconnected. This could become incredibly useful if you need to use the same content in different places, because then you can just edit it once and it shows up everywhere else you need it. This content becomes “channel agnostic”. It also allows you to tie other assets to it, making it easier to find when you want to use an image along with your content. You can make variations of the fragment as well. It is a scaled down and simpler authoring experience, so don’t expect it to have all the AEM bells and whistles. I think this is an innovative idea.
- Social Power
This is all about content reuse. You can use content fragments in Communities as well, and this seems like a cheap new feature since we already learned about content fragments. But, content published in or coming from Communities can become a content fragment. To be clear, this is user-generated content, not content created by AEM authors. So if someone wrote a blog post or posted a comment to a forum, you could capture that piece of content and then move it into Assets.
- Fire Up Content at Scale
AEM is now structured to work with Livefyre to allow you to capture user-generated content from other sources and bring it into your web channel experience. Livefyre components now come as part of AEM, and they bring in content from these other sources. The nice thing is that you choose what content comes in. These assets are stored within AEM Assets. (EDIT 5-4-16: Adobe has now acquired Livefyre. So I expect their to be more integration with AEM to come in the future.)
- Fine-Grained Personalization
Like peanut butter and chocolate, Target and AEM were made for each other. They are now together using the same user interface and code base to run their features. I saw this coming a couple years ago when we were helping the Target team get their Target demo running (demo.adobe-target.com). And now that they are together, it seems like a no-brainer to merge these two solutions. Create your audiences, activities, and experiences for your content and do your testing, all within AEM. Frankly, I always thought Target was much better than the AEM personalization tools, and I usually recommended that to customers. Seeing this finally pay off such that Target becomes the default personalization engine feels like a win all around. Obviously, this change comes with a cost. You don’t get to just use all the features of Target in AEM for free. You’ve gotta pay for it.
- Target Locally, Manage Globally
Using this new part of Multi Site Manager, you can allow geolocated people to modify things to suit them. The global campaign (or Target activity) that was set up can be manipulated at the local level to give it a more personal touch for that language or location. The Target piece gets sent along with the rest of the page info/content.
- Roll with the Masters
If you’ve been using AEM for a while, you know that different parts of the Capability get different levels of attention. One that has been underserved for a while now is the localization features available in MSM, specifically in regards to Assets. In AEM 6.1 and lower, there was no support for localization of Assets—6.2 finally addresses this, bringing the full suite of localization tooling to Asset management. Back in Content Mixology, I talked about content fragments, and how they are—under the covers—represented as an asset. Because of this addition, content fragments are also able to be localized using the same tools as your other content. You can also pick and choose which parts of your content are localized via machine translation, and which parts involve human translation efforts; this can be really handy once you start determining which content is popular in which geos, allowing you to focus on getting the largest benefit for those human translation dollars.
- Back to the Roots
6.2 introduces a new concept called Continuous Publishing, which brings a greater degree of flexibility to control which pieces of content are managed via the AEM Launch tool, and which pieces of content are part of which Launches; the first iteration of Launches was introduced with 6.1, but 6.2 really starts to make this feature a larger part of AEM Sites. The general idea is to control what goes into the publish queue, and at what point in time, and what degree of immediacy it gets.
- Best Practices Bonanza
Now there is a new default site that people can play around with called We.Retail. I’m glad they are updating this to stay with new features and we don’t have to keep talking about Geometrixx, but in the back of my mind the whole time I just kept thinking “great, one more thing I need to make sure and remove, before a site goes live, when we do an implementation for a customer”. I am such a pessimist. 🙂 All the code is in github for you to look at.
Bonus Feature. Connect Clicks and Bricks – Last year Adobe told us about AEM Screens. More progress is being made in this area and it is now part of 6.2. It will allow you to push content through various screens and channels. They really seemed determined to make Screens a part of AEM. It’s certainly another channel for your content, but it still just seems so theoretical. Maybe now that it is more tied in with AEM it will start to show some additional use cases. But when they talk about the capabilities of AEM, I still don’t always see them adding Screens to the list of Sites, Assets, Communities, Forms, and Mobile.
AEM 6.2 has quite a few new features and we look forward to exploring them further. If you’re looking for a more in-depth review of AEM 6.2 Sites, then I recommend you check out the Summit presentation, or look over some of the links below. If you know of any other features that you are excited about in 6.2, let us know via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@axis41).
- Known issues of 6.2 https://docs.adobe.com/docs/en/aem/6-2/release-notes/known-issues.html
- Deprecated and Removed Features https://docs.adobe.com/docs/en/aem/6-2/release-notes/deprecated-removed-features.html
- 6.2 Release Notes https://docs.adobe.com/docs/en/aem/6-2/release-notes.html
- Loni Stark’s blog post about 6.2 https://blogs.adobe.com/digitalmarketing/digital-marketing/adobe-experience-manager-6-2-new-features/