Best practice for a Sitecore project
I am rather new to Sitecore and would like to know a bit more about the regular approach to a new project. I'm therefore willing to listen and try out some of the experienced Sitecore developers solutions. I have alot of questions, i won't ask them all. I am just very curious to the approach other people have.
What would be the best approach to start a Sitecore project? How would you set your project up? What will be your approach looking at the recycling of code in future projects?
In short: What experiences do YOU have (if you have worked with or are working on Sitecore projects) and how would you recommend other people to work with Sitecore.
Right now we are busy on building Sitecore blocks that we can just recycle in other projects but i know for sure there are 1001 handy tips and tricks out there. I hope we have some Sitecore pro's @ stackoverflow that could help a bit.
This is, as you said, quite a big question. Here are some of my thoughts:
First of all when I start a new project I install Sitecore on my developing environment and I make sure everything works. Either during installation or after I place the databases on a separate SQL-server and change the connectionstring accordingly.
I open up Visual Studio and create a solution and include the files needed. I create some kind of HelloWorld rendering and try building the solution so that I can verify that everything is working as it should.
When everything is up and running I create a zip-file of the whole solution, including the data-folder. Now it is time to add this to some kind of version control system, in my case Subversion.
I add the zip-file to subversion and also add all files that I think will be changed during the project, usually I tell subversion to ignore the sitecore folder, this speeds up performance drastically when checking in files.
After I perform a commit-action the other team members of my project can check out the code and start developing (after unzipping the zip-file, off-course)
We all work towards the same database although this goes against Sitecore recommendations, we havent had any problems with this approach however items in GUI created/changed by one developer take some time before it is created/changed for all the others.
We could off-course develop several different projects using the same Sitecore installation but since almost all customers use different versions of Sitecore we have found this approach a bit cumbersome.
Often we set up an automated build-server but this is a whole other issue.
Reusable code and renderings
I would like to say that we create neat packages based on the same codebase that gets reused between projects but unfortunately we are not there yet. Today it is a lot of cut and pasting between solutions.
Uploading code to customer
This is done via sitecore packages, normally with some kind of dynamic selection for what files to include, say all ascx-files in a specific folder changed the last 5 days.
There you have it.
Here is some general setup info, based on how we do things.
Subversion This is not Sitecore specific but we set up our repository like this
- branches - This is used for working on big updates to the site that may take a while. Say for example I wanted to update how all of the sidebars on the site worked, and this was going to take a few weeks to complete. What we do is create a new branch, and set up another sitecore instance for this dev branch and do what we need to do. When it is complete we merge it back into the trunk for testing and deployment.
- tags - This is used for keeping a copy of code that will never be merged back into the trunk (that is the difference between this and branches), so for example when we deploy an update to a site we can create a tag of said code so we can go back to it if necessary.
- trunk - The active code, anything checked in here should always be deployable.
The Trunk This is where we are actively developing/fixing bugs, depending on which part of the project that we are on. We set it up something like this (as an example the project is called TheProject)
We keep our solution file at the root of this folder, this will reference the various libraries in the src folder as well as the web project in the website folder.
- docs - A place to put documentation about the site. I strongly suggest that as you complete features/sections you write up a little guide about any special knowledge needed for it to work. So say I am working on a featured content box on a landing page. This box will automatically pull some content unless it is explicitly overridden. What I do when I complete something like this is I write a guide for the customer, using a lot of screenshots. I send the guide to the customer as well as put it in the docs folder. This both helps the customer train their staff, as well as helps new developers come up to speed with how things are done.
- lib - This is where we keep any DLLs we are going to need to reference in our projects.
- test - A place to put unit tests.
- src - This is where we keep our project specific library code. So in here we would have a folder called TheProject.Library, and in there would be the visual studio project for said
- web/Website - This is where we have Sitecore installed and is the root of the site. In here we have a project called something along the lines of TheProject.Web. In the project we add all of the general stuff like the web.config/layouts folder and so on.
General Sitecore Code Library One the best things you can do is from the start setup a general Sitecore library that can be added onto over time. Then when you write any code for a project that is not only applicable to the project, you can add it there. It may seem obvious, but this will really help in the long term. You will end up with much more solid code, see link text .
So when we are done with all this we have something like this as a solution/project structure
TheProject (The solution)
- MyCompany.SitecoreLibrary (our general sitecore library)
Tools This is another general thing, but I find it can really help speed up Sitecore development. If you find yourself doing something over and over in Sitecore, using API write a tool to do it for you. This not only helps with solving whatever problem you are tackling, but also helps to get you more familiar with the API.
Resharper This is more of a general .NET development suggestion, use Resharper(http://www.jetbrains.com/resharper/index.html). I am sort of a a Resharper fan boy, it makes so many things with development easier and quicker. In my mind the biggest advantage though is how easy it makes refactoring code, which is really important to do over time to keep things clean and understandable.
I hope some of this helps.
Take a look at this series.
Especially the component architecture part have increased our level of reusability.
When you create your Visual Studio's project in Sitecore's web root folder and you will keep all Sitecore's dlls files inside bin directory, don't forget to add to project's references all these files:
bin\ComponentArt.Web.UI.dll bin\HtmlAgilityPack.dll bin\ITHit.WebDAV.Server.dll bin\Lucene.Net.dll bin\Mvp.Xml.dll bin\Newtonsoft.Json.dll bin\RadEditor.Net2.dll bin\Sitecore.Kernel.dll bin\Sitecore.Logging.dll bin\Sitecore.NVelocity.dll bin\Sitecore.Zip.dll
Because when you CLEAN your project and you will have reference only Sitecore.Kernel.dll (in most of cases), you will lost most of dlls from bin directory!!