Kevin VanEvery

About Kevin VanEvery

Kevin is Matrix Group's Technical Sales Consultant and Sitefinity Product Manager. He's experienced at managing redesigns, migrations to a new CMS, integrations with association management systems, and interactive maps, timelines, etc. In his spare time, Kevin is an amateur polyglot, pugilist, and prestidigitator. He has a severe case of triskadecaphilia.

The Best of the Sitefinity 7.1 Upgrade

Sitefinity logoThe best part about working with an established CMS product like Sitefinity is always the support and upgrades. Every quarter, Telerik releases a new version of Sitefinity with new features and bug fixes. The latest, Sitefinity 7.1, was released at the end of July. You can look at the full release notes here.

But there are a couple items here worth talking about specifically: related content and sitemaps.

Related Content

Related Content is one of the new features that really makes this release an important one. This opens up so many possibilities for contextual publishing that just weren’t possible before.

Consider this simple example: Let’s say we publish a news item announcing our new organizational goals for 2015. We want to reference previous years’ goal documents, as well. In the old versions, we’d have to set up a category just for “Organizational Goals” and use a separate, heavily customized widget to pull news items with the same category onto the page as Related News. Now, if we want to link up two news items so they always display together, it’s as simple as picking the related item out of the list and displaying it. No double widgets, no heavy code customization, no weird categories.

That’s a simple example, but there’s lots of room to explore with this new tool, like:

  • Reuse locations for your events? Create a separate “locations” module and link it to events. Never type in the same address info again.
  • Want to promote a product in a news item? Now you can link directly to the product from the e-commerce section.

Sitemaps

The other key item is sitemaps. A lot of the time, you never notice the sitemap for a website. You navigate using the site navigation and site search. But Google notices your sitemap. Being able to generate a sitemap for all your Sitefinity content is a huge upgrade that will improve your site’s SEO and site search solutions.

On top of all of this are the standard bug fixes, patches, and a significant increase in performance and speed from the admin side. 7.1 is an excellent product release, and we’re helping clients get on it every day.

New WordPress Themes are More Than Beautiful

WordPress calls its 2014 theme a “beautiful magazine theme” and here at Matrix Group, we have to agree. We implement WordPress for many clients, not just for blogs, but also for microsites, campaign sites and publication sites. Here’s our review of the latest and greatest from WordPress.

The best way to look at this is side by side and WordPress keeps demo sites available for their default themes, so let’s take a look.

 

WordPress 2013

 
Twenty Fourteen Home page viewTwenty Fourteen Phone View
The very first thing you’ll notice is pictures!  The 2013 theme looks positively old fashioned, with what has become a very stale image header and then a very plain text over white background content area.  Now look at 2014.  The first thing you see is pictures.  Beautiful, large pictures in high contrast against the black background.  This is what a modern theme looks like.  Audiences react better to images and images really do sell your content.  
 
Where the display really separates itself is when you load it up on your phone.  You can simulate a phone display by shrinking the width of your browser window, or just load up the above link on your phone.  
 
Now, both themes have responsive designs, but you see some immediate differences.  The 2013 theme is just a clean display of the desktop display, but the 2014 theme uses the featured highlight images as big buttons that are easy to see and, more importantly, easy to click.  Using the whole image as the link to the post improves usability for people trying to click small links on small phones.  
 
These changes make the theme more modern, but when you look at it, what really ties this theme together is all the little details.  It’s hard to put your finger on what exactly makes this theme so much nicer and that’s because it’s not one thing, it’s a bunch of little things.
  • Navigation – the new theme puts all the navigation options on the left side, stacking them vertically to allow for as much room as is necessary to add  categories, and links to archives and popular content.  At the same time, it still supports additional utility navigation for pages across the top right of the header.
  • Right rail widgets – widgets have always been a popular part of the WordPress software, allowing a user to put dynamic content anywhere on the page, but the new theme adds a level of polish and emphasis to those elements with helpful iconography and stylized display
  • Footer – the footer adds a lot of utility, expanding out the navigation, tags, and any other widgets you want to add in the available space.
This theme is a huge upgrade over a series of relatively uninspired annual offerings from 2010 – 2013 and I hope people take notice of the updates to the most popular blog software available today.
 
What do you think of the new WP theme?  What theme do you use on your blog?