2.8.2. Sites

The connotation of a Site varies, but in Sitecore a Site is a concrete context to which different properties can be attributed. Hence a multi-site implementation is an implementation where content can exist in multiple different contexts (for example different channel types, domains, websites etc.). Despite the association with a website, a site can output content and define contexts for a range of channels, web, mail, print etc. and different features and modules (such as for example EXM – Email Experience Manager – and FXM - Federated Experience Manager) can attribute different properties to the site context.

In this perspective, Feature or Foundation layer modules should always be implemented in a multi-site setting, i.e. the business logic in modules has to be context aware. Furthermore, this means that not only can the Feature layer or Foundation layer modules in Sitecore utilise the site definitions in Sitecore to determine context, they can also extend the Sitecore site context with their own properties.

Habitat Example

The Foundation/Dictionary module extends the site context in Sitecore with the ability to configure a site specific dictionary location. This is done by adding an attribute to the Site definition and reading this through the Site context API.

Note also how the Sitecore WFFM module uses the same technique to set the root folder for forms for the site.

<sites>
    <site name="habitat" patch:before="site[@name='demo']"
        database="web"
        virtualFolder="/"
        physicalFolder="/"
        rootPath="/sitecore/content/habitat"
        startItem="/Home"
        dictionaryPath="/sitecore/content/habitat/global/dictionary"
        dictionaryAutoCreate="false"
        domain="extranet"
        allowDebug="true"
        cacheHtml="true"
        htmlCacheSize="50MB"
        registryCacheSize="0"
        viewStateCacheSize="0"
        xslCacheSize="25MB"
        filteredItemsCacheSize="10MB"
        enablePreview="true"
        enableWebEdit="true"
        enableDebugger="true"
        disableClientData="false"
        cacheRenderingParameters="true"
        renderingParametersCacheSize="10MB"
        formsRoot="{4BC8A78C-44A7-46EB-8126-040D3F12CAA0}"
        enableItemLanguageFallback="true" />
</sites>

Most standard modules and functionality rely on the Site definition in Sitecore for context, and it is therefore recommended to use the standard Sitecore API to determine site context in business logic – as opposed to implementing new logic to define the site context. If any additional properties or extended logic are needed on the site context, it is recommended to provide these to the feature modules through a foundation layer module.

Habitat Example

The Habitat example site implements the Foundation/Multisite module that defines multi-site and multi-tenancy specific functionality for the feature modules. The most important feature in the Foundation/Multisite module is the ability for renderings to define site specific datasources. This means that each site can maintain a list of datasource locations for different renderings – which means that for example teasers does not have to be shared between all tenants in a solution, but only between sites within a tenant.

By default, sites are defined in the configuration files, in the <sitecore><sites> section of the web.config, and the site context is resolved as part of the request for each page or context. It is however possible to add site definitions configured by other means, for example the FXM (Federated Experience Manager) feature adds site definitions for each domain matcher defined under /sitecore/system/Marketing Control Panel/FXM, to allow requests from 3rd party sites to be isolated by domain. There are also 3rd party modules which allow you to define new site definitions using Sitecore items (see for example the Multiple Sites Manager in Sitecore Marketplace https://marketplace.sitecore.net/Modules/M/Multiple_Sites_Manager.aspx).

When adding properties to the site definitions and context, consider the separation between configuration and settings (see Configuration and settings). In a standard configuration scenario, site definition additions should be added to the <site> definition in the configuration file. To add editor managed settings to the site, modules should define templates which can be added as base templates to the site root item for the project layer module, or add settings items inside the site hierarchy. Regardless of which of the two approaches you choose in your implementation, be consistent in how you define context specific settings. Also, be conscious that advanced settings might be confusing for the average editor, so consider limiting visibility of and access to these settings to administrative users.

Habitat Example

The Habitat example site generally uses the base templates approach, for example, the Feature/Accounts module defines an AccountsSettings template which is assigned to the Site Root template in the Project/Habitat module.

The module uses the site hierarchy to find the settings items for the module.

public virtual Item GetAccountsSettingsItem(Item contextItem)
{
    Item item = null;

    if (contextItem != null)
    {
        item = contextItem.GetAncestorOrSelfOfTemplate(Templates.AccountsSettings.ID);
    }
    item = item ?? Context.Site.GetContextItem(Templates.AccountsSettings.ID);

    return item;
}

Keep in mind that parts of the site definition configuration or settings can be environment specific, and should the managed with an environments specific perspective (see Configuration and settings).