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The new Sitecore 10.1 release: what are the main changes?

  • By 3chillies

Sitecore 10.1 is the first major release since Sitecore 10, which we examined last year in terms of its benefits for both digital marketers and for developers. Like most Sitecore releases, 10.1 takes that “something for everyone” approach, and delivers a range of new features, enhancements and fixes across the platform. Collectively, this moves Sitecore forward and continues the pattern of platform investment that helps to keep it a market leader in the Digital Experience Platform space . 
In this article, we’re going to explore the main changes in 10.1 and share some of our thoughts on each.

1. An easier path for upgrades

Upgrading Sitecore can be a significant project and investment, particularly if you’re currently using earlier versions, and can contribute considerably to your total cost of ownership. While eventually the SaaS model will mean a new paradigm for upgrades, 10.1 introduces a new upgrade methodology covering Sitecore 8.1 and later, with documentation being unified into one upgrade document. An easier path for upgrades is obviously welcome news, and it’s good to see Sitecore responding to a common pain point.

2. A redesign for the launchpad area

Sitecore 10.1 brings a new look and feel for the Sitecore launchpad, with better differentiation of all the different areas including Commerce, Marketing Applications, Content Editing and Access Management. The icons are also better designed, and while the dashboard is less colourful, we think it looks more contemporary and is easier to navigate. Any change takes a bit of getting used to, but we think most teams will like it.

3. Even more enhancements to Sitecore Forms

Sitecore Forms continues to receive more love and attention, following on from enhancements in both Sitecore 9.3 and 10. Using the platform’s built-in forms to drive customer experiences makes sense, and it’s good to see Sitecore trying to improve an area where little details can often dictate whether Forms can be used right out-of-the-box.
In 10.1, you can define a list of CSS classes available on auto-complete right down the field-level, meaning you can achieve more precision on the styling of a form. You can also now send an email automatically from the form when it is submitted (filling an obvious gap) and create custom validation formats for different fields, again giving marketers more flexibility. 

4. Continuing the drip feed of Horizon improvement

The new Horizon Editor was the big draw of Sitecore 9.3, but understandably had limitations on its first release. Sitecore are now adding features in each release, a process which we can reasonably expect will continue in 10.2, and will help to drive adoption. We still can’t see it replacing the Experience Editor for a while, but we can see each release incrementally attracting more users.

In the 10.0 release, Sitecore added features such as multilanguage support and better integration with Sitecore Content Hub; in 10.1, we get:

  • The ability to search within Horizon for both pages and assets
  • More editing options around fields, list dropdowns and more
  • The ability to edit data source items within Horizon
  • The ability to publish items with sub-items.

All these little tweaks make Horizon a better overall experience.

5. Sitecore Experience Database (xDB) Reporting and Management

One area where there has always been the potential for performance issues is the data-hungry Sitecore Experience Database (xDB). When this powers analytics and personalisation, it can take up a fair amount of data. Sitecore 10.1 makes some back-end changes to drive better performance, including separating out content management and STD reporting roles and making some changes to data encryption. It also provides a tool to purge data sets and free up unused space; collectively, this should help minimise any performance-related risks. 

6. Something for the developers

Sitecore has a reputation for being popular with developers, and Sitecore 10.1 throws us a couple of features to keep the geeks (okay, us) happy. We realise that not all of you are going to be that interested in the fact that Sitecore CLI (Command Line Interface) now supports NuGet extensibility and the ability to use package referencing (both NuGet and NPM) to import serialised items, but these things do make a difference, such as by allowing your developers to control plug-ins more effectively.

7. Greater flexibility over caching

Up to now, caching policies within Sitecore have not been as granular as some digital marketers would like, meaning you generally have to either apply caching to a whole page or turn it off completely, when ideally you want to be able to only turn it off for one component. Sitecore 10.1 now provides that granularity right down to the page and component level, meaning you can apply caching to deliver the best possible experience for your site visitors. 

8. New features for the Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA)

The Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) is a framework for rapid site builds which provides the ability to reuse components, layouts and templates. In 9.3, SXA got some important enhancements including better support for developers, and 10.1 adds new features that bring genuine value, including the ability to:

  • Apply themes to components
  • Create page branches that act as templates for microsites which can be reused
  • Utilise HMTL to render assets hosted elsewhere into different themes
  • Use the Horizon editor on an SXA site.

Overall, these new features certainly make SXA a more compelling investment, allowing teams to build rapid microsites, for example.

9. More muscle for email marketing

Like Sitecore forms, email marketing underwent improvements in successive releases, with additional templates in both 9.3 and 10.0. This time around, there are again a couple of additional templates added to the Email Experience Manager around campaigns, alongside some extra tweaks including better support for multi-language email messaging (outside your core languages used). 10.1 also provides the ability to configure the way Sitecore tries to resend emails when there is an error, allowing you to avoid repeating retries which can zap performance.

Email marketing remains an important channel for customers, and it is good to see Sitecore recognising this by continuing to sprinkle enhancements on each release.

10. Other improvements

There are a range of other improvements on Sitecore 10.1, including:

  • Some enhancements to Sitecore Experience Commerce, primarily aimed at driving performance
  • The ability to use GeoIP rules for personalisation
  • Enhancements to digital marketing, allowing you to assign profile cards to multiple items in marketing definition.

Another strong release from Sitecore

Sitecore 10.1 represents another strong release from Sitecore. In terms of the breadth of the additions, we’d probably file it under “Solid” rather than “Spectacular”, but some of the new improvements will have a positive, real-world impact for both digital marketers and IT teams. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of Sitecore 10.1 or chat about upgrading Sitecore, then get in touch

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