October 28, 2009

Upgrading WCM Sites

So I'm back from Las Vegas, and finally getting a chance to catch my breath and start looking at the upgrade of our web site to 2010.  One of the very nice features of the upgrade to 2010 is that by default the 2007 user experience is maintained.  You can then preview the site in the 2010 user experience before you commit to moving forward.  Most of the grief you are likely to experience I expect will be with custom master pages and layouts.

Of course our public web site has a completely customized master page and custom layouts.  From Sean’s talk, it sounded like you can go back and forth at will between user experiences.  I started by previewing the user experience, but then for whatever reason I decided to the new user experience, and not have SharePoint ask me again.  Of course the master page blew up, and my site no longer worked.  The admin pages still worked, but I couldn’t switch the experience back.  Sean’s talk had mentioned an admin command to make the switch between version 3 and 4 user experience, but I couldn’t find it in my notes.  After muddling around for a while I decided to drop the content database and start over (which was not that big a deal).

One side note.  Just like in 2007, by default SharePoint does not display informative error messages.  Check out my Seeing full error messages blog for how to change this.  When I switched the user experience, the full error I was getting was “Cannot find ContentPlaceHolder 'PlaceHolderCommentPlate' in the master page '/_catalogs/masterpage/v4.master'”.  What was happening under the hood was that SharePoint had switched my master page to a new v4.master that it added to the master page gallery.  Since our master page had been customized to have a content placeholder for the layout to use, SharePoint was blowing up when it tried to render our custom layout and it didn’t find our placeholder in the new master page.

So where does that leave us?  Well we have what appears to be a fully functional MOSS public web site running in SP2010.  All of the menus, and the page editing experience, still looks the same as MOSS.  There is no ribbon, and I don’t see any of the new SP2010 features.  However this is a pretty good place to start your work on in addressing any of the compatibility issues.

Our next step from here will be to compare our custom master page to the standard MOSS 2007 publishing master page.  We’ve done a lot of work over the last four years with MOSS WCM, and there’s been a lot of learning on how to tweak the master pages.  For those of you that have done this yourselves, you’ll appreciate how easy it was to break SharePoint by editing the master page incorrectly.  I’m assuming the same is true in SP2010, so we’ll need to proceed carefully.  At least we know our way around the URLs better to find the admin pages and ways to undo our mistakes if we need to.  Once we refresh ourselves on exactly what we did to create our MOSS master page, we’ll then have to repeat that process starting with the SP2010 publishing master page.  This should result in a working 2010 master page with the custom look and feel we are looking for, and the full fluent user experience, complete with the ribbon.  Look for more posts as we work through this.

If you’d like to see how this project is coming, you can see our demo site at www2010.envisionit.com.  You won’t see much difference from our MOSS 2007 public site at www.envisionit.com, but I suppose that’s the point.  The real difference is for the content authors.  Later we’ll start playing with some of the cool end user enhancements like rich media support.