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Don't let how you're going to consume data influence how you going to manage data! There are many reasons for keeping subsites, libraries, and lists as containers to organize data. Generally, these relate to security and who's managing them. The simpler you make it for management means the less that can go wrong. That's where this post will focus - how to surface or show data contained in subsites within a parent site.
There are several methods for doing this, but this post will discuss the Content Query Web Part (CQWP).
Start with your information architecture plan. That is the relationship of subsites to parent sites and where the data will actually live in the managed versus where you want to show the data. This is your design process.
Eventually you get around to the mechanics of developing it which in this case means configuring the CQWP.
Figure 1: The Page Ribbon and Page in Edit Mode
Figure 2: The Content Query Web Part Tool Pane
Click OK. The Content Query Web Part Tool Pane will close and the new Web Part will be visible on the page.
Let's walk through an example. For an article relating to preschools, the Managed Metadata fields would include related topics, such as "babies," "childcare," and "early childhood education." In your article page layout, you could then have a section with the category tags (in this case, "Preschools"), and another that shows articles with similar or matching tags- your CQWP.
One of the best parts about CQWP is the ability to display queried content on a page; however, most people will want to avoid having to create a new CQWP every time they post new content. To prevent that, you want to create a custom Managed Metadata field for each category of content. These Managed Metadata fields will let you link to the term store, which will create a list of categories for the content creators to choose from. You can also add other fields that will allow queries to be more specific and useful, with the PageFieldValue and PageQueryString tokens to your Managed Metadata. An excellent Best Practice for developing a functional CQWP is to work with the content creators to plan the categories they will primarily be using. By generating a list of potential content topics, you will be able to build the CQWP more easily and save everyone time in the long run.
Content Query Web Part (CQWP) will security-trim search results, so users only see items they are entitled to view. Also, if you cast your net too wide, it will be slow. Plan carefully so you don't create a query that is so large it can bog down your system.
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