Sitecore 8 preview: new UI

One of the many changes and new features in Sitecore 8 is the new UI. Gone is the old “XP-style” desktop and it’s replaced by a more “Win8-style” modern UI. Under the hood, since a few versions ago, Sitecore is in the transition of replacing Sheer UI with SPEAK (Sitecore Process Enablement and Acceleration Kit) UI.

Sitecore 8 has a new clean, nice looking login screen. Gone are the hidden “Desktop”, “Content Editor”, “Page Editor” and “Launch Pad” options. It takes you directly to a new launch pad where common tasks are easily available. It’s more focused around editors and marketeers, but administrators still find easy access to the Desktop and Content Editor.

The lighthouse is gone
Firing up the Desktop, you find a “Windows 10-style” (?) desktop. Well, think Windows 8 but with a proper start menu, like the way Windows should have been in the first place. The old default lighthouse background image has also done its job by now and is replaced.

At a glance, the Desktop and Content Editor seems to be replaced by SPEAK, but looking under the hood, it hasn’t. Though I haven’t digged too deep into the internals yet, the components are still the same in the Desktop/Content Editor, but they are re-skinned in such way it looks like the other SPEAK UI’s. This has both pros and cons.

The good thing is that most plugins, modules and other adaptations that you’ve implemented or installed, will probably work without giving too much of a headache. That is, if you haven’t provided your own css’ to your plugin of course.

On the downside is that it isn’t SPEAK. Even though we’ve over time learned how to make changes to Sheer UI in Sitecore 6.x/7.x, it wasn’t really meant to be extended (hope I remember right what Jakob Christensen said on Barcelona). The fact that DataView still returns a set of native Items instead of DTO objects and the controls for editing fields are virtually impossible to reuse in a custom way, is holding me back from creating all sorts of really nice stuff.

A new take on multi lingual sites
To me, the ability to version renderings is one of, if not the most, valuable feature in Sitecore 8. In previous Sitecore versions, the fact that the common Rendering field is shared, quite often becomes a show stopper when aiming for a common site structure. So you were left with the only option of having one tree per market/language and all the problems that comes with it. Well, cloning does help, especially combined with custom tools for managing multiple trees and having them in sync, but usually it still generates a lot of overhead and requires extra thoughts.

In version 8, Sitecore has added a new versioned Final Rendering field. The old shared Renderings field is still there, untouched, so existing code will still work. The Final Rendering fields just adds another rendering delta, so the functionality is the same, well proven one, as is already being used in the standard values and clone inheritance structure.

So what does this mean in reality? In my opinion, it means a lot more than meets the eye. You can now build large multi language, multi market web sites in one shared structure, without having to sacrifice too much functionality. Developers will configure default renderings in Standard values, as we’ve always done. Editors of a master site will, when needed, edit the old shared Rendering filed. Local editors can then be given access to edit only this new Final Rendeing field, so that they can’t mess up other language versions. This also makes governance of multiple markets/languages a lot easier.