One of the most exciting features of SharePoint 2013 is the product catalog template but it tends to be ignored because of its misleading name. So, for those of you whose sites are not product-centric you should explore the opportunity to leverage this great tool.
First, you should know that the product catalog template itself is available only for SharePoint installations which are on premise. It is not yet available in the cloud. However, catalogs can be created manually in Office 365. In both cases, search is at the core as well as a concept called cross-site publishing, which is a scenario where you write content in one place and have it publish somewhere else. This has always been possible, even in SharePoint 2010. But, we couldn’t rely on the previous search engine results to build full solutions in the way SharePoint 2013 can with cross-site publishing.
As you can see in the image to the left, cross-site publishing has nothing to do with actual products in SharePoint. It is about separation of content authoring from consumption. Search drives the whole process. Utilizing the advanced SharePoint search capabilities that are now included gives you the framework for any product catalog. It’s not about searching for content, its about publishing, republishing, and targeting content that has been crawled.
What is so great about it is that you only have to manage lists on the authoring site and a couple pages (categories and items) on the publishing site, and SharePoint does the rest.
This article talks more about the process in detail – An introduction to Cross-Site Publishing
For the most part, online demos that you read or watch will follow Contoso Electronics and show beautiful dynamic pages, created on the fly by SharePoint, based on metadata provided in specific lists and across site collections. But, the demos show “products” only as products and related accessories, when it is easy to see how a “product catalog” template could easily provide for other situations as well. Any circumstance where it is logical to author in one secure site location and then display the content elsewhere in the SharePoint installation is potentially a use case.
For example, one of the most common ways to leverage the product catalog template in a cross-site publishing scenario (and one I have used on multiple occasions) is that of a dynamic news and announcements center.
There are also other common and very suitable uses for the product catalog template that include:
- Job Postings
- Classified Ads
- IT Services
There are many ways to make use of SharePoint’s product catalog feature which are not strictly product-centric.