What is Sitecore Helix?

Sep 08, 2020
Oshyn

Sitecore Helix is a set of general design principles and architecture conventions for Sitecore development. Helix offers a starting point for developers and provides a method for implementing Sitecore in a future-proof way.

Helix also provides recommendations for developers that lets them build, test, scale and maintain Sitecore implementations easily.

Why Sitecore Helix?

CMS architecture can sometimes seem complicated for developers who are not familiar with the technology, or for those who are now migrating from another platform to Sitecore. The implementation process can make or break a CMS. It determines whether the CMS becomes the core piece of a business’ marketing technology stack or a hindrance that limits the people who use it.

Sitecore is a powerful content management system and DXP that helps organizations manage content across multiple channels and drive engagement through personalized omnichannel experiences.

However, to realize the true potential of Sitecore and services such as Experience Management, Experience Commerce and more, proper implementation is necessary. With Helix, developers can follow a set of guidelines that ensure a working product and prevent issues arising whether working with in-house developers or a Sitecore implementation partner.

Sitecore Examples

As part of Helix, Sitecore has also provided a repository of examples that demonstrate the various types of sites and tooling that can be built using Helix. These examples were created to provide a more comprehensive demonstration of Helix in different business scenarios.

Sitecore Terminology

Sitecore’s examples provide terrific illustrations of what Sitecore is capable of and ideas for developers to extend. But, for developers and business users to truly understand Helix, then it’s essential to be aware of the unique terminology Sitecore uses in all documentation. This makes it easier to understand the patterns, principles and development lifecycle of Helix.

Here are some of the main terms that can be found throughout Helix.

  • Module: A group of assets related to a business requirement.
  • Solution: The Visual Studio solution or container for one or more related projects.
  • Project: A Visual Studio project.
  • Assets: The output from any process or task in an application lifecycle. E.g. code, files, content, configuration changes.
  • Implementation: The total number of modules, features, and functionalities developed and deployed to solve a customer business problem.

There are also some slight contextual variations of these definitions that can be found and explained within the Helix documentation.

Read More: Sitecore Helix Definitions

Patterns, Principles and Conventions

Helix has a set of design patterns and a component-based or modular architecture that provides a framework for increasing productivity and optimizing workflows. This modular architecture provides simplicity and boosts reusability and speed of development.

Architectural principles in Helix focus on the macro architecture and outline how a solution should be constructed for maximum quality. Sitecore implementations can be used to solve most business requirements, and by following the patterns and conventions outlined in Helix, businesses can easily reuse and distribute development work between multiple projects or developers.

Helix’s modular architecture has three main concepts: Dependencies, Layers and Modules.

Sitecore Helix architecture
Source: Sitecore

Dependencies

Dependencies are centered around how features and functions relate to each other. It is vital to control dependencies in any software to avoid excessive coupling. When too many modules are coupled together or dependent on each other, then it becomes difficult to manage and almost impossible to modify one component without affecting the other.

Layers

Through the use of layers, Helix makes dependency flow clear throughout the solution and all of Sitecore. Layers help to control dependencies and prevent situations where one change affects unrelated parts of the solution.

There are three layers within Helix: Project, Feature and Foundation, and each layer has its own defined purpose. The Project layer will refer to the website built using Sitecore, the Feature layer relates to features and modules that support the website such as a blog, and the Foundation layer refers to foundational code used by more than one feature.

Modules

Modules are business-centric within Helix. They relate technology entities and development tools or methodologies to business objectives.

Development Lifecycle

Managing the development lifecycle depends on the methodology chosen and the phases within it, whether that be Agile, Waterfall or another methodology. Some implementations may be more complicated than others depending on the scope and the team carrying out the implementation.

Helix outlines how implementation teams can set up their development environment, carry out testing and integrate DevOps or another continuous integration and continuous deployment system to maximum effect.

Why Should You Follow Helix Principles?

There are a host of benefits associated with correctly following Sitecore Helix as part of the Sitecore implementation process.

Easier to Add Features

Helix discourages the tight coupling between dependencies that can impact projects down the road. This makes it easier to add new features and extend the capabilities of Sitecore without affecting the entire system.

Faster Time to Market

Any CMS implementation process can be challenging to manage on its own. Without proper guidance, it can be easy to make a mistake that can cause several delays. Sitecore Helix’s set of implementation guidelines will speed up the implementation process, providing adequate direction to help you steer clear of issues that can crop up.

Instead, get Sitecore ready to go for your business and provide your team with a powerful digital experience platform built for all of their needs.

Easier Maintenance and Stability

Just like any other piece of technology, a content management system like Sitecore needs to be properly maintained over the years. If Sitecore is implemented the first time correctly, then there will be less time spent fixing bugs and your business can rely on a stable platform to handle all content needs.

Avoid Technical Roadblocks

Marketers and other business users that rely on their DXP to deliver content to customers across multiple channels can’t afford a scenario where they hit publish, and then nothing happens. Technical roadblocks such as this can happen with any system, but they occur with less frequency once Sitecore has been implemented correctly.

Easier Troubleshooting

When performance issues do arise, then it becomes easier to diagnose the problem and come up with an adequate solution if proper implementation guidelines have been followed.

What Are the Consequences of Ignoring Sitecore Helix?

Just as businesses can realize several benefits once Helix principles have been followed, there are also some potential consequences which can occur if these guidelines are ignored.

Poor Workflow Configurations

Improper implementation can lead to poor configurations that impact the workflows of both marketers and developers using Sitecore. This can result in longer approval processes or difficulty in processing reviews, reducing the speed of both departments and limiting business outcomes.

Underdeveloped Content Frameworks

Poor development practices can lead to complicated content structures and problems with presentations. This puts added strain on both marketing and IT personnel to get things right and deliver content to the right channels.

Poorly Written Code

A botched implementation that doesn’t follow Helix principles can result in a lot of poorly written code littered throughout the software. While this may be initially covered up, it can lead to difficulties adding features, problems scaling, and trouble to locate the right resources to benefit the team.

Implement Sitecore with Oshyn

Following Helix guidelines are beneficial to any organization seeking to migrate to Sitecore or update their previous Sitecore software to a newer version. However, things become much easier with the help of an implementation partner.

Oshyn is a Sitecore partner that collaborates with the best brands to create memorable digital experiences. We provide the technology and expertise to help you get the most out of Sitecore.

View our ebook, Sitecore 9.x Implementation Best Practices, to learn more about implementing Sitecore or get a technical Sitecore audit to discover where to start improving your site.