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Unlocking AEM Excellence: Strategies for Building Outstanding Websites


Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) stands out as a robust enterprise web content management system, offering extensive features to empower content and marketing teams in crafting exceptional digital experiences. 

However, navigating its vast capabilities can pose challenges, as the flexibility of AEM opens the door to numerous customization possibilities. From tailored solutions to aligning with core product principles, the array of implementation options requires careful consideration to avoid missteps.

Drawing on our extensive experience with AEM and enterprise web content management systems, we understand the nuances involved in selecting the most suitable solution. Beyond solution architecture and technical intricacies, factors such as cost-effectiveness, maintainability, and future scalability are pivotal considerations.

In this article, we delve into key considerations essential for successful AEM implementation, shedding light on crucial factors that demand attention from decision-makers.

Crafting Design & Architecture

Two professionals collaborating at a desk with a large display of a website layout, representing havedevs' teamwork in content strategy and SEO optimization.

When you're planning how a website will look and work, the first thing to do is to carefully look at all the things it needs to do and how it should look. This means understanding exactly what the website needs to achieve.

Making a prototype is really important at this stage. A prototype is like a rough draft of the website that you can show to people to get their feedback. It helps everyone understand how the website will look and work before it's fully built. This way, any problems can be fixed early on, which saves time and money later.

It's also important to think about how easy it will be to change and update the website in the future. You need to make sure that the way it's built will allow for this. This means choosing the right tools and techniques to make sure the website can grow and change over time. It's like planning for the future of the website.

Using pre-built features in AEM can significantly speed up the website development process and improve overall efficiency. By leveraging the existing functionalities provided by AEM, developers can save time and effort that would otherwise be spent on creating everything from scratch. This approach not only accelerates development but also reduces the risk of introducing errors or complexities into the system.

For example:

  • The Context-Aware Configuration framework allows developers to customize different sections of the website based on various contextual parameters, such as user location or device type. This enables the delivery of personalized experiences tailored to individual user preferences and behavior patterns, enhancing user engagement and satisfaction.
  • With the Sling Dynamic Include framework, developers can dynamically include content from external systems within AEM pages. This seamless integration of external data sources enhances the richness and relevance of content on the website, while ensuring that the resulting pages remain cacheable for optimal performance.
  • The Sling Resource Merger is instrumental in consolidating and optimizing the use of pre-existing components within AEM. By avoiding duplication of resources and reducing overhead, this framework streamlines development efforts and improves overall system efficiency, leading to a more responsive and scalable website architecture.
  • Opting for internal AEM functionalities over custom responsive CSS solutions can lead to enhanced performance and maintainability. By leveraging built-in responsive design capabilities within AEM, developers can ensure consistent rendering across different devices and screen sizes, while minimizing code complexity and maintenance overhead.
  • Integrating AEM with external microservices enables developers to extend the functionality of the website and access additional resources or services. This decoupling of certain functionalities from the core AEM platform facilitates a more modular and extensible architecture, enabling easier maintenance and future enhancements.
  • Prioritizing cacheability for the majority of requests is crucial for optimizing website performance and scalability. By leveraging caching mechanisms within AEM and implementing best practices for cache management, developers can minimize response times, reduce server load, and ensure a more responsive and reliable user experience.

Leveraging Core Components

A while ago, Adobe introduced a project called WCM Core Components to update their old "Foundation Components," which were getting outdated. The goal was to provide a better set of building blocks for creating websites. These new components are like Lego pieces that you can use to build all kinds of advanced web pages. They're designed to be easy for people who aren't programmers to use, so business users can create and edit web pages without needing technical skills.

In addition to using these Core Components, we've developed our own custom components kits for specific projects. This allows us to tailor our websites to meet the unique needs of each project. We also actively contribute to improving the Core Components by sharing our ideas and suggestions with Adobe's development team.

By using these components in our projects, we're able to create websites with flexible code that can easily be updated and improved over time. Instead of having to overhaul the entire website every time we want to make a change, we can update individual components without worrying about breaking anything else. This makes our websites more adaptable and future-proof, ensuring they can grow and evolve along with our clients' needs.

Implementing Editable Templates

Set of four stylish web design templates showcasing features, about section, and package options, marked with the havedevs logo.

In the past, creating new page templates for websites was primarily the responsibility of developers. Before content authors could use a particular template, developers had to first design and implement it, then deploy it to AEM. This process often took a significant amount of time, leading to delays in getting new templates ready for use, and ultimately slowing down the time-to-market for new content.

However, in recent years, AEM introduced a feature called "Editable Templates" to address this issue and reduce the reliance on IT teams during the page-building process. With Editable Templates, content authors are empowered to create and customize templates themselves, using the intuitive AEM Touch UI interface. This means that instead of waiting for developers to create and deploy templates, content authors can now quickly assemble and customize templates to suit their specific needs, speeding up the overall process of creating and publishing new content on the website.

Adopting Responsive Grid & Styling Framework

Responsive Grids empower business users to manage page layouts and component behavior with flexibility within AEM. Paired with the AEM Style System, which applies predefined styling consistently across pages, these tools offer a comprehensive solution for creating responsive and visually appealing web content.

In the traditional workflow, achieving responsive design required collaboration between designers, developers, and content authors. Designers would create mockups for various breakpoints, developers would implement them into specific templates, and authors would select these templates and input content accordingly. However, with Responsive Grids introduced in AEM 6.3, this process underwent a significant simplification. Now, authors have the autonomy to adjust layouts and responsiveness directly within the AEM interface, eliminating the need for developer intervention or template redeployment. This streamlined approach grants business users greater control and agility in managing their content.

While this newfound flexibility enhances content creation efficiency, it also introduces complexities. Business users now bear the responsibility of managing component layout settings, which can be time-consuming and challenging. To mitigate this, it's essential to strike a balance between fixed and flexible layout settings. By finding the right equilibrium, we can optimize content management workflows to ensure efficiency without compromising design consistency. As experienced AEM practitioners, we can guide you in navigating these considerations and implementing solutions tailored to your specific needs.

Implementing Web Development Best Practices

Infographic illustrating nine best practices for software development by havedevs, including Accountability, Testing, Collaboration, Peer Review, Component Development, Proxy Component Pattern, Documentation, Testing Environment, and Code Quality

In all our AEM projects, we adhere to both general development best practices and specific technical standards to ensure consistency and quality across the board. Here are some key practices we follow:

  1. Accountability: The principle of "Who breaks the build, fixes the build" is enforced to maintain a stable and reliable codebase.
  2. Testing: Unit tests and integration tests are mandatory for every new feature implemented to verify functionality and prevent regressions.
  3. Collaboration: Merge requests must be submitted upon completion of a feature, facilitating code review and ensuring adherence to coding standards.
  4. Peer Review: All code undergoes a thorough peer review conducted by a technical lead to identify potential issues and ensure code quality.
  5. Component Development: Sling Models are utilized for component development, even for simple components, to maintain consistency and leverage the benefits of the Sling framework.
  6. Proxy Component Pattern: The Proxy Component Pattern is employed to streamline component development and facilitate component reuse.
  7. Documentation: Both user and technical documentation must be kept up-to-date to provide comprehensive guidance for users and developers.
  8. Testing Environment: Code is tested not only on AEM but also through the Dispatcher to ensure compatibility and performance in production environments.
  9. Code Quality: Code duplication is strictly prohibited, and SonarQube rules are configured to enforce code quality standards. Additionally, every build triggers a SonarQube scan to identify and address any code issues promptly.

By adhering to these practices, we ensure that our AEM projects are built on a foundation of reliability, maintainability, and scalability, delivering high-quality solutions that meet our clients' needs and expectations.

Achieving Full Automation

To enhance the quality of our work, we focus on maximizing automation. With on-premises installations of AEM 6.5, we employ infrastructure-as-code to automate server setup and local environment configuration. This means that any developer can quickly set up their development environment, closely resembling the production environment. Additionally, we ensure that developers have access to a local Dispatcher instance, enabling us to identify caching issues early on.

For AEM-as-a-Cloud-Service installations, we leverage Adobe's Cloud Manager, which automates upgrades, security fixes, and releases. It also includes predefined and custom quality gates to maintain standards.

Whenever a code change is committed to version control, an automated build process is triggered, alerting developers instantly if any issues arise. Depending on the branch, the changes are deployed to the appropriate environment, ensuring that updates are promptly reflected in the corresponding system.

By adhering to these practices, we have the flexibility to conduct fully automated releases. Deploying to production is as simple as pressing a button, streamlining our release process and ensuring efficiency.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key practices for enhancing Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) website projects?

Key practices for enhancing AEM website projects include crafting design and architecture, leveraging core components, implementing editable templates, adopting responsive grid and styling frameworks, following web development best practices, and achieving full automation.

Why is prototyping important in the design and architecture phase of website development?

Prototyping allows stakeholders to visualize proposed design concepts and functionalities early in the development process. It enables feedback gathering and validation of ideas, facilitating early identification and resolution of potential issues, thereby saving time and costs in the long run.

How do editable templates simplify the website creation process in Adobe Experience Manager?

Editable templates empower content authors to create and customize templates independently using the AEM Touch UI interface. This reduces reliance on developers for template creation and deployment, accelerating the overall process of creating and publishing new content on the website.

What benefits do responsive grids offer in AEM website development?

Responsive grids enable business users to manage page layouts and component behavior flexibly within AEM. This simplifies the process of creating responsive designs, allowing authors to adjust layouts and responsiveness directly within the AEM interface without developer intervention, thus enhancing content creation efficiency.

How does full automation contribute to the quality of AEM website projects?

Full automation maximizes efficiency and reliability by automating server setup, environment configuration, upgrades, security fixes, and releases. This ensures consistency, reduces manual errors, and accelerates the deployment process, ultimately enhancing the overall quality of AEM website projects.

What are some general development best practices followed in AEM projects?

General development best practices in AEM projects include accountability (fixing build failures promptly), testing (mandatory unit and integration tests for new features), collaboration (code review via merge requests), peer review, component development standards, documentation upkeep, testing environment consistency, and maintaining code quality standards.

How do Core Components contribute to AEM website development?

Core Components provide high-quality building blocks for creating advanced web pages in AEM. They offer ready-to-use components that can be customized to meet project requirements, reducing development time and effort. Additionally, Core Components are designed to be user-friendly, enabling business users to create and edit web pages without extensive technical knowledge.

Why is it important to strike a balance between fixed and flexible layout settings in AEM website development?

Striking a balance between fixed and flexible layout settings optimizes content management workflows. While flexible layouts offer autonomy and agility to business users, excessive flexibility can lead to complexity and inefficiency. By finding the right equilibrium, organizations can ensure efficient content creation workflows without compromising design consistency.

What tools and frameworks are utilized for responsive design in AEM projects?

Responsive design in AEM projects is facilitated by Responsive Grids and the AEM Style System. These tools allow authors to manage page layouts, component behavior, and styling with flexibility and consistency across devices and screen sizes, ensuring a seamless user experience.

How does infrastructure-as-code contribute to AEM website development?

Infrastructure-as-code automates server setup and local environment configuration, enabling developers to quickly set up development environments that closely resemble production environments. This enhances consistency, scalability, and reliability, streamlining the development process and minimizing manual errors.

Maryna Pashchenko
Tech Writer
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