Become an Adobe Experience Manager power user – 11 tips & tricks

7 mins read

What is AEM?

Adobe Experience Manager is a mighty and powerful tool that combines content management and digital assets organizing, that allows you to create delightful content-led campaigns across multiple markets. The main attraction of Adobe Experience Manager, or AEM for short, is that it enables you to create personalized experiences for numerous audiences and integrated flow across devices. Moreover, it is cloud-native, which allows you to seamlessly scale your project over new markets.

What makes an AEM power user?

If we could narrow the capabilities of AEM down to three main functions those would be: it integrates a powerful content management system, a comprehensive digital asset management tool, and data organizing through forms.

We have been working with Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) on 5 projects across two major industries, for almost 6 years and have developed websites of 300+ pages and subpages. We have witnessed the power of content and asset management first hand and delivered numerous campaigns, landing pages, advanced SEO experiences, and even website migrations. 

Here are 11 AEM tips and tricks that we have picked up over the years and we’d like to share them with you.

Chapter #1 - Understand your sitemap and organize your content

Since the beginning of your project, AEM allows you to develop your sitemap in the form of a tree. Your Homepage will be automatically created as you start the project, then you may easily stack the lower hierarchy pages right underneath it. 

The Content Tree shows all content for a more detailed selection of resources. And the column view allows you to have a clear overview of the path and it’s quite similar to the Content Tree.

Tip: Don’t create a new homepage. This affects the navigation and function of your site. You should only create sub-pages for the site beneath your site name.

Trick: Organizing your pages under categories is a very healthy way to create your website. It is also a good indicator of when to create main pages or child pages. When you build the main pages try to create them as categories

A healthy taxonomy should also help you in this endeavor. For example: under Homepage, build the following pages: Products, Promotions, Blog, Contact, Administrative, Legal + other than your client deems necessary. They will separate the sections of interest on your website nicely and quickly. Sort the rest of your pages under these main pages.

May the force of semi-automation be with you!

Chapter #2 - Page rollout

Roll-outs and inheritances work hand in hand. Here’s how they work: if you have a staging platform and a production platform, they will have the same pages (more or less), linked by inheritances. The Roll-out will duplicate the existing content on the selected page to the Live Copy version. For instance, it will send all the content from a Staging page to its correspondent in Production. Tip: always make all your changes on the Staging platform and then send them out into Production, by Roll-out.

In newer versions of AEM you have two ways to roll-out a page. 

  1. From properties – Blueprint and then Roll-out. 
  2. From the references tab – Live copies and then Synchronize. 

Tip: the second method is the fastest way to roll-out a page in AEM, but if it’s a new page you can’t use this method. When you have a new page on the Staging environment that you need to send to Production, you can only use the first method because you need to create the page, not just synchronize it.

If inheritances are active on a page, it means you cannot make changes on that page. The Production pages are usually “locked” that way because all changes should be made on Staging and then sent out into the world. Tip: If you see a certain Prod page is not updated after the roll-out, check to see if the inheritance is active. Try to not have canceled inheritances on Prod. It can be unpleasant.

AEM also allows you to manipulate inheritances of certain on-page components. Cancel the inheritances if you need to make changes. With some versions of AEM, re-activating an inheritance will revert your content to the original state. Newer versions of AEM allow you to re-activate inheritances, while still keeping the modified content. Reverting to the original content means you must go to the MASTER section, find your content and then roll it out again.

Why are there several options to roll-out a page?

In AEM you will find two options for rolling out a page: Rollout and Rollout page and subpages. The first one is better used when you have single pages with no children. If you have a page with multiple subpages, the second option might save you a lot of trouble. For example, you can use it in case of multi-step forms, just to make sure your success pages are also rolled-out.

To roll-out page and all sub-pages:

1) Make sure all your subpages are published and all the information is validated for public display.

2) Go to the mother page Properties and select the Rollout page and subpages from the mother page. It will roll out all the content from the selected page as well as the children, no matter how many levels there are.

3) Check the roll-outs and activate all the pages and subpages manually.

Trick: If you work with multiple pages at once and want to save time and be more efficient, you can select References. Select your Publish, and then click on live copies

then Synchronize

and Rollout. 

It will save more time, so you don’t have to go all the way to Properties each time. In case you are already on a page, you can publish and Rollout directly from there. Select Publish Page and then Rollout Page.

Chapter #3 - Creating a new page or duplicating an existing one?

It’s surely faster to patch over an existing template, but creating a new page is a cleaner way to go. We always recommend using the Create new page option, but time is sometimes very precious. Tip: If you need to duplicate a page, make sure you change the Alias, before clicking on Create. Changing the Page name is not mandatory but it can lead to confusion if left unchecked. A best practice is to Move the page and obtain the appropriate Page name. Also, don’t forget to check inheritances and change SEO information.

 

Are you a bit confused about some of the terms used here? Let’s explain: 

  • Page title is the one you will see in Admin, it will mostly help you, the editor, but in some cases, it can be visible to the users too. This is one of the mandatory fields when you create a new page. Tip: when you need to add a CTA (call to action) to your page, you will need to click and select the destination page from a large list. Choose an appropriate title for your page to make your life easier.

  • Alias will be displayed in your URL. It is the last part of your URL, right after the last “/”. Tip: It should always be small caps, no cedilla, and use hyphen instead of space. It should reflect the name of your page in your language. Tip: Alias is not mandatory for page creation, but make sure you fill in an appropriate one. If the Alias is missing, the program will automatically display the Page Name, which is in English and not always adapted to your market’s SEO needs.
  • The Page name is the English equivalent of your page. The Name must always be in English, small caps only and no spaces, use the hyphen instead of spaces. Trick: To change the Name of a page, you must Move the page. It takes a while, but it is worth it in the long run. Tip: If you work in an international team, like us, the Page Name is how the support team can identify your page and fix things.

Chapter #4 - Use keyboard shortcuts

Shortcuts are very easy to use and easy to remember since they are displayed on the top menu.

Some other handy shortcuts you can use:

  • Ctrl + Click: to select multiple components
  • Ctrl + C: Copy
  • Ctrl + V: Paste
  • Ctrl + X: Undo last change
  • Ctrl+Backspace: Delete selected components
  • Ctrl+Shift+M: Toggle between Edit and Preview mode

Chapter #5 - Activate multiple pages at once

In older versions of AEM you can Activate (the equivalent of Publish) multiple pages just like in the newer versions of AEM. All you have to do is hold the CTRL key and select the pages you want to activate and then press the Activate button.

7. Try A/B testing

DAM is short for Digital Assets Manager and it is the place where you can upload pictures, videos, and PDFs. In the older versions of AEM, you can access the DAM from the main dashboard. Trick: you can easily switch from AEM to DAM using the icons at the top.

In newer versions of AEM, simply click on the AEM logo at the top left corner, then select Assets.

Trick: Our advice for organizing your DAM is to create (as much as you can) a mirror structure of your page tree from AEM. For example, if your page tree looks like this: Homepage > Products > Product 1, Product 2…. create the same folders in DAM and save all the resources for the corresponding pages there. Another example: create a folder in DAM called Homepage and stack there all the pictures you have used for homepage banners. Do you use the same picture for HB and another page? It’s ok to duplicate the image into a second folder.

Chapter #7 - Redirect is your friend

AEM recommends that you don’t deactivate a page as soon as you don’t need it. Instead, you should create a redirect rule for each page, to maintain your ranking. While the page remains indexed, it takes a while before search engines can tell that the page is no longer available. Tip: we recommend that you set a redirect rule and keep it for about 6 months before you can deactivate that page.

Tip: How to use redirect rules? You can use two types of redirects – 301 and 302. The 301 is a permanent redirect. Use it when you are sure that you will never activate that page again. If however, you have a page that you might activate again after a while, then you should use the 302 rule. 302 indicates a temporary redirect.

Chapter #8 - Which pages are deactivated or redirected

Trick: Do you have pages that you no longer use? Change their Title. Depending on the version of AEM you are using, deactivated pages may or may not be clearly marked. This is why we recommend that you change the page Title to add one of the words “Deactivated” or “Redirect”, something like “Redirect – [Original name]”.

Chapter #9 - Keep consistency in design and wireframing

Let’s say you need to create more pages in a specific section of your website. All the existing pages feature a particular type of sub-navigation. But adding that sub-nav component takes a lot of time to manually recreate on every page. Trick: duplicate components to make pages look like pieces of a set. Select the desired component from the existing page, click Copy, then Paste it into the new page. Tip: keep an eye out for static elements, like links, or CTAs. Dynamic elements will easily adapt to fit the new page but check the static ones.

Here’s a direct tip from one of our collaborators: To be more effective and save time, I usually copy-paste components from a similar page when I create a new one. For example, let’s say I want to create a new blog post/ a new page on a blog. Firstly, I select the page and then build it up with components. So if I have a similar one, I can just copy-paste the components and then change the text/images if needed.

Chapter #10 - Be consistent with design and content

Consistency is a very important tool in design, wireframing, content because it acts as silent guidance for the viewer. It can tell when certain pages are part of a set (indicate a section) or when something needs to stand out. 

Tip: Does your client have a special promotion with an out-of-this-world design? Talk to them about creating a new area for that page. AEM likes categories to look consistent, so it might not provide the necessary components for creating the page design you want. Check with your content strategist and see where to place the new area, as well as how to best link it to other relevant pages.

Chapter #11 - Last but not least: think of the editors who will come after you

Keep a clean slate and your pages organized under categories. A good sitemap structure can speak for itself.

  • Make sure the Names of the pages match the content and the page Title is relevant.
  • Keep a legend: for example, if you have multiple pages for one product, Title them like “Product 1 – Presentation”, “Product 1 – Selling”, “Product 1 – Old” and so on.
  • Take some time every 6 months to clean up the Admin: deactivate pages you no longer need. If the context allows, try to create an Archive and move old pages there. If a page has been deactivated for longer than 1 year, you might consider deleting it. Check these decisions with your client or the decision maker in the project.
  • Versioning. If possible, make a new version of the page every time you make significant changes and leave a small comment to serve as documentation. For example, we have recurring campaigns, which require changes in several places on the website. Make a checklist of all the changes you need to make and save it for the editors who come next.

Whoa, that was interesting!

We hope you think that after reading all these tips and tricks we’ve selected for you! Did you know about these tricks? Is there something you think we missed and would like to find out about?

Of course, there might be many more trade secrets, but keep in mind that each AEM project comes with its own settings and extra integrations. Tip: always make sure to keep documentation and take some time, every 2-3 months to update it. 

How about we set up a meeting?

Our collaborators

Our team consists of four AEM power users who have shared their knowledge and little secrets with you, so here’s a shout out to them:

Elizabeta Virlan – has been working in AEM for over 5 years, for 4 industry-leading clients.

Lucian Rotaru – has been working in AEM for 3 years, for 4 industry-leading clients.

Andreea Sauciuc – has 1y of working in AEM, for a multinational company.

Monica Antici – has 1y of working in AEM, for a multinational company

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