I have attended Adobe Summit for a few years now and easily my favorite session is the Adobe Experience Manager Sites new version sneak preview. I have written about it in 2015 and 2016, for AEM 6.1 and AEM 6.2 respectively. I was part of the 6.3 beta program this year, so most of these new features weren’t a total surprise, however, it was still great to listen to Cedric Huesler and Irina Guseva go through their presentation “Adobe Experience Manager Sites: Top 10 Innovations”. As with before, we will walk through each of the 10 new features that they presented and I will give some commentary about each new feature. I highly recommend that you watch the entire presentation online at Adobe site. The AEM 6.3 release date is expected to be near the end of April (possibly April 25th). Thanks again to Cedric Huesler and Irina Guseva from Adobe for their expertise and the presentation.
- All You Need Is A Plan
There is now a new way to be able to see what is going on with the Projects view. There just wasn’t a great way to see all of the things that were happening with your various project workflows, and where each thing is along the workflow lifecycle. Now they have a great Calendar view to see exactly where things are according to your schedule and who is assigned to which task. It also has the ability to allow you to switch certain tasks to others without much hassle. It is a great enhancement to managing your projects within AEM.
- Love Your Content Marketing
They also improved Content Fragments. Content Fragments is a great way to handle content that gets used in multiple ways and areas in AEM. Now you can add images directly inside the body of the fragment, and not just as associated assets. One thing to consider is that the image is on its own line and not inline to float around the text. I understand the reasoning for this as it allows for the image to be its own element on the page as a parsys is placed between each paragraph element in the fragment. Yet I think that they will possibly need to improve this to allow for inline image usage. Another enhancement was the ability to upload your content from a plain text file on your computer. Lastly, you can now directly add your content fragment into a collection which saves you time in getting things organized. The question is,have they gone far enough? I still think that they need to go further; I know that we were able to add tables into content fragments for one our customers, using AEM 6.2. I’m sure Adobe will continue to iterate on this great feature.
- Flavor Of The Day
When Content Fragments were introduced last year they had the ability to make variations of that content as part of the fragment. Now they have taken it one step further with the use of machine-guided comparison and summarization. AEM will suggest what should become part of the fragment variations. Users can now compare the differences between the master fragment and its variations, using the “Sync with Master” function, if the master has been changed. It recommends what to change for the fragment variation by reviewing what is the primary point of the content in the fragment— and with the click of a button accept those recommended changes. Another feature allows you to create a new variation of the content fragment by using the “Summarize Text” feature. AEM will review your content fragment and suggest what the variation should be based on the number of words you want. This isn’t perfect and should be reviewed by the content authors to ensure it is correct, but this provides a possibly incredibly efficient time-saving feature.
- Layouts Made Easy
Create different layouts on the fly quickly for different channels. There are now more controls to allow authors to manipulate content on the page. As I mentioned above, you can place images inside of a content fragment as its own element, not inline. Not that much to say about this as this is just an incremental improvement on tools that existed before.
- Node the Difference
There has always been a way to review previous versions of the page, and the ability to revert those changes back. Now you can do a diff between the current and previous versions, using the “Compare to Current” button. It works for all components now. Keep in mind that you can only go back and compare things for as far back as you keep versions stored.
- Physically Possible
Sometimes different channels require different systems to manage them all. Once again, they are trying to push AEM Screens. Cedric showed some controls to be able to reuse content, troubleshoot issues with the remote management capability, and manage deployments for your applications, locations, channels, and devices. What feels different is now they seem to be rolling it into Sites. Not sure if there will be licensing considerations for this or not. This feels promising but if I am honest, I am just not that excited by this feature. If you want a walkthrough of this then I recommend watching the video.
- Click + Click = Template
This is great news: Core Components. These will be versioned base components that AEM ships with. As Justin Edelson says “this new initiative is to provide a set of reusable and extensible components that can help projects get up and running in a way that helps to ensure future success.” From one of the other labs I attended at Summit, they plan to initially release 12 components with the promise to release more as the year goes on. They are not making them compatible to Classic UI. These will also be made available in a public GitHub repository: https://github.com/Adobe-Marketing-Cloud/aem-core-wcm-components. Joey and I plan to talk more about this and the lab we attended. There is a component console which lists out all the components in the site. Within each component, there will be documentation about how it can be used or anything you want to add to it for the authors or developers. Within the Template Editor, there is the ability to specify certain controls in a component. I repeat, this is really great news!
- Set The Experiences Free
Now we have Experience Fragments. The idea is that you create a Fragment that is made up of a few different components (simple ex: title, text, image). Authors are then able to create as many of these as they like and then place them onto a page just like a component or content fragment. So this is a higher level piece of content compared to the simple Content Fragment. It can have variations to it. Don’t think of it as complete experience but as a chunk or piece. Think about how this can be used across other sites and channels; because that is where the potential power comes in. I expect there to be more done by Adobe in the future. While I think that this is a good idea, I wonder how much they will actually get used.
- Did It Click?
This is a nice inclusion for those that use Adobe Analytics and Adobe Experience Manager. The Analytics team put together a tool that allows you to see on the page where people are actually clicking, and providing a count. Pretty cool.
- Connected Universe
This is being called Content Services and was originally going to be available only to the AEM Mobile capability but during the testing and beta process, they realized the immense amount of power this could give to all of AEM. This allows you to build applications that consume content. AEM is already very heavily geared to providing content APIs, but until 6.3 these have largely been very focused on directly representing the internal structure of your nodes. Content Services allows you to provide more meaningful and simpler abstractions on top — so that it’s easier to programmatically produce and consume just the parts that are important to your use-case. Their thought was that you could potentially begin to deliver experience to the Internet of Things (cars, refrigerator, kiosks, etc.). The idea is that you, the developer, will have more control to create your own mapping of your own content structure. Or build your own models on top of your content structure. Creating a model that represents that content, rather than content that represents a specific kind of structure, then you decide how it gets exposed. This will not ship as part of AEM 6.3 but as a separate service pack.
As you can see there is quite a lot to get excited about. After AEM 6.3 is released we will probably add a few more details that might be worth noting. In the meantime, hopefully, this will whet your appetite for information about Adobe Experience Manager 6.3 Sites. If you know of any other features that you are excited about in 6.3, let us know via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@axis41).