Perficient Digital Transformation Blog


Posts Tagged ‘web 2.0’

IBM Digital Experience Conf: Developing Portlets Using JQuery

jQuery is one of the most pervasive scripting libraries in use today. The session “Developing Portlets Using Javascript and JQuery for Engaging Digital Experiences” by Stephan Hesmer, Web 2.0 Architect, IBM and  Jaspreet Singh, Rational Tools Architect, IBM provided good insight as to how to leverage jQuery in IBM WebSphere Portal.

First, a couple of key statistics to indicate why this is important and cannot be ignored:

  • 57.5% of websites use jQuery.
  • jQuery has a 93% marketshare.

WebSphere Portal still includes Dojo but it isn’t required for view mode.  It is required in edit mode however, especially for in place editing.    One key change in portal 8.5 however is when edit mode, the edit panel is now isolated from pages so it will not conflict with the page. Read the rest of this post »

Social Intranet Technologies, Part 1

I’ve been seeing a lot of interest in the concept of a Social Intranet lately.  The intranet is your company’s internal content network.  In many cases, it is nothing more than a series of links to other systems.  In more sophisticated intranets, companies publish corporate news and announcements, departments have their own pages to share information, and people can perform work-tasks in one place.

In the past, companies have asked about adding social capabilities to existing intranet systems.  This might include adding a blog or a wiki.  But now, more and more companies are interested in replacing their old intranet with a new “Social Intranet”.  In this multi-part blog post, I’m going to explain what technologies are involved in a social intranet and then look at how the major vendors are addressing this need.

There are lots of articles on the internet about the human social aspects of the intranet – how to get people to use it, what policies you need in place, etc.  I am not going to talk about those parts of the social intranet.  Instead I’m going to focus on the specific technologies used to build a social intranet.  So lets start with defining what types of technologies are needed in a social intranet.

When you step back a take a holistic approach to a social intranet, you will discover that a lot of different types of software are involved. Social Intranet Technologies

In the picture to the right, you can see the various technologies involved  in a typical social intranet.  Not every social intranet is going to require all these different technologies, but most of them will be required.  Lets start at the top of the circle and go clockwise to see how each technology contributes to a social intranet.

Portal is typically a unifying technology in the intranet.  This is the tool that can display all sorts of information to the user in a secure and personalized way.  If you have  a need to display corporate news alongside a blog or with a user’s activity stream, a portal is a good technology to use.

Content / document management is the system used to manage and publish formal content to the intranet.  By formal content, I mean content that must be controlled by selected groups within the company.  For example, corporate news is a type of content that typically is published by very few people.  Company policy documents are another type of formal content that appears on the intranet.  A content management system allows you to control publishing and formatting of these types of content.

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Mobile Web Apps and Apple iOS 6

Today I updated my iPhone 4 to the new iOS 6 operating system.  It has lots of new features which I’ve just started to play with, including a new version of Safari, Apple’s mobile web browser.   What does this have to do with portals?  Keep reading.

One of my clients just recently (yesterday – the same day iOS6 became available) rolled out a new mobile web version of their portal.  They are really excited because they have been behind their competitors in this area and have taken some hits from clients about the lack of a mobile site.  The new mobile site should bring them to parity with many of their competitors.  The mobile version looks very nice and mobile friendly. (We didn’t build the site for them – they did it internally.)

Since I was excited for them, I thought I’d give the new mobile site a test drive on my iPhone.  Well, I ran into several problems right away.  That was odd, because the site is brand new – surely they had tested it on the iPhone.  I sent them an email explaining the issues I encountered to see if maybe it was just me.  Yes, they had tested in the iPhone and could not duplicate the problems I encountered.

Then I thought, maybe the problem is because of the new Safari browser.  So I tried the site on another iPhone that had not been upgraded.   Yes, it worked fine on that iPhone.  So I tried it using Chrome on my iPhone. Sure enough it worked fine on my mobile version of Chrome.

So, Safari in iOS6 was doing something different than it did in previous versions.  Interesting.  I relayed my findings on to my client and hopefully they will figure out the issue and update their mobile site quickly.

But this experience raises a good point about testing.

When testing your public sites, its not good enough to test on several desktop browsers any longer. Nor is it acceptable to test on a few mobile browsers.  In order to for you to create a great site, you have to test and make your site compatible with existing browsers for desktops, tablets, phones, etc, AND YOU MUST BE TESTING BETA VERSIONS OF THOSE BROWSERS TOO. If you forget to test beta versions of these browsers and devices, you may be surprised too when the latest version of browser comes out.

I’m sure the best web site developers understand this point, however, many people do not.  When discussing cross-browser testing strategies with my client, their strategy was to test every other internal release against two browsers at a time.  So for the first release, they’d test on IE and Firefox.  For release two, it was Chrome and Safari.  They figured that they would cover all the browsers by the time a new feature made it to production.

When asked why not do all browsers at the same time, they claimed that funding issues limited them to this approach.  Yes, it is expensive to run the right kind of testing process because of all the various browsers and devices.  As shown by my story above, their strategy would probably result in a failure.  If you don’t take the right approach and put in the right effort, your site visitors and your reputation will surely suffer.



WebSphere Portal 8: New Modular Theme Framework

IBM has been reworking WebSphere Portal themes for a long time now.  The feedback I get on themes in Portal 7 is they are too complicated, too slow, and not well documented.  With WebSphere Portal 8, IBM is addressing these concerns with a new theme architecture.  IBM is touting the new theme as very modular, which should lead to a flexible framework that improves download times and minimizes the number of requests going from the browser to the server.

In my last post about Managed Pages, I said that I had received some errors when creating a page.  I had built a blog page and wanted to include a tag cloud on that page.  When I dragged the Tag Cloud portlet to the page and saved my changes, I received the following messages:

Profile Errors

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Initial Impressions of IBM Portal Mobile Experience

IBM released the new Portal Mobile Experience theme a couple of weeks ago (see Jonathan Distad’s post).  I decided to install this new theme to see what a Portal Mobile Experience is like.   In the first screen shot, you see the standard Portal Administration page from a desktop browser.

Portal Administration Page image

Portal Administration Page

There is a navigator on the left containing links to all the pages within the administration section.  To the right is a description of each of the links in the highlighted section.  This is a pretty standard looking portal page.


The second screen shot is from my iPhone and is the same page with Portal Mobile Experience applied.  You can see the Portal header across the top of the screen.  In the new mobile experience, the navigator now takes up the entire screen and the descriptions of each link are listed right there.  This is an efficient use of the small screen on the iPhone.

Portal Mobile Experience is a theme that installs into WebSphere Portal 7.  You have to make sure you are at the correct fixpack level to use the theme:  IBM WebSphere® Portal + Cumulative Fix 7.

Portal Mobile Experience image

Portal Mobile Experience

You install the Experience using the Portal Installer system that is now available with Portal. Portal Installer runs through the ConfigEngine command and takes care of the entire process. Installation instructions are included in the download.   The files are available on the IBM Solutions Catalog.

You should consider Portal Mobile Experience as a starting point for delivering your Portal to a mobile device.  IBM has done a nice job of making lots of features available, but you will still need to do work on your part to make your site shine.  For example:

  • There are three different navigation styles available – carousel, scroller, and drill down. So you must pick which of these three best suites your page.
  • There are four page layouts available – accordion, carousel, swap, and mobile select. Some layouts don’t work on certain devices, so you need to decide which layout is best for your pages and devices.
  • Dojo is intentionally limited in the installed version. If you want to take advantage of all Dojo features, you must uncomment some code in the theme files.
  • Portal Mobile Experience only works with devices that support WebKit-based browsers, so it won’t work on all phones.
Here is a link to the documentation where you can get more information:


WebSphere Portal Version 8 Beta

On 9/15/2011 I attended a great session from IBM on the IBM Customer Experience Suite, WebSphere Portal and Web Content Manager Version 8 Beta given by Lauren Wendel, Brian Chaput, Nicole Carrier and Thomas Stober of IBM.  They gave some great insight into what new capabilities will be coming in Q3 in the upcoming beta.

Four Key Investment Areas

There are really four key investment area IBM is making and these align very well with what we see in the industry with our customers.

  • Content
  • Mobile
  • Analytics
  • Social


One of the new additions in Q3 2011 is a new Content Template Catalog.  This includes a new set of templates and pages that you can copy an modify to really jump start your content delivery.  Often one of the most time consuming parts of a WCM project is creating the libraries, base work-flows, sites, templates, etc.  Having something usable that you can just modify instead of starting from scratch can save significant time.  The general direction is to integrate content easier and more seamless so instead of having content as a portlet, you will have content as a site.


Mobile comes up in almost every conversation with every customer at some point.  One of the new capabilities available in Q3 is a new mobile theme which targets the WebKit based browsers which have essentially become the de facto standard mobile browser.  There is also an update to the mobile portal accelerator if you still need to support thousands of legacy devices for your mobile delivery.  I could go on for many, many paragraphs here but I’ll leave that of a post on its own.


Understanding how your users utilize your portal and what they do while active, and then adapting to their behaviors is really at the heart of analytics.  Analytics goes well beyond just capturing what pages have been viewed.  Portal really enables this through multiple analytic integration points and support for leading analytics tools such as CoreMetrics, Unica, Omniture, and WebTrends.  These integration points allow you to see in real time and in context  how your portal is used and understand your users’ behaviors.


I’m not going to spend a lot of time here but IBM is pushing hard to integrate portal and Connections closer so that they are truly a seamless experience.  This is evidenced by their community pages which integrate with Connections blogs and profiles.  There are many more integration points on the horizon too.

One of the complaints I’ve heard over the years about IBM products is that they don’t really integrate well.  That is not the case anymore.  IBM has listened and is clearly executing on their promise to bring their product line of portal, social and mobile tools together.

Omnifind 9.1 – a brand new search

Admittedly, search hasn’t been IBM’s game for a bit.  Slowly over the years we have seen their search product, Omnifind, come together and now with 9.1 it all changes – for the better.   I have reviewed pretty much every major player in the search market from Autonomy to Google to Endeca to Lucene and previous versions of Omnifind.  Sadly over the years, Omnifind fell off many comparison lists.   It has changed so much I had trouble as to where to start because it is such a huge product change.  So lets start at the beginning: Installation


One day, if you stretch it.  (pause to allow you to pull yourself off the floor).  Yes, no kidding.  The install goes smooth and rather quick.

What’s new for the user?

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20 reasons NOT to collaborate – #1 You are a traditionalist

A few months ago I wrote up this list and will begin to address ways social champions can address the 20 reasons NOT to collaborate.

shutterstock_244614601These are the good old days.  Just a new version of the good old days.  Remember how the internet was going to replace the person and the businesses (.com’s) that were built around this?  Some of them boomed ( and some busted (  But companies like IBM and Microsoft slowly,  and often to the scorn of analysts for being way too slow, saw this and began to shift, develop and repurpose existing products to meet this shift in how people were working.  And not to plug any particular brand but early on the IBM Lotus brand was touting collaboration in the workplace quite successfully.

What we have today is the return of business being personal again.  Oddly the recent economic dip actually made collaboration and social business tools again rethink how they sell web or enterprise 2.0 – the rebirth of the social worker.  Today we have services like, LinkedIn and internal social networks to help people do business better, find the best people and create successful outcomes faster than they may have been able to in the past.  My grandfather grew up in the Rotary, martini lunch and dinner party era where I still have memo pads from his company that says, “Its best put in a memo” – today that true but our memo is(was) email and now is(going to be) your status update on your social network, twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.  The premise and outcomes are nearly same.

12 Things You Shouldn’t Do on a Portal Project: #10 When Web 2.0 is 2.Much

Ajax is a good thing, right?    Well, not always.

What Happened

A financial company had a content based intranet and the implementer decided that absolutely everything should be done using Ajax.   The home page had about a dozen portlets on it.  Some were personalized but most simply displayed non personalized content which did not change often, perhaps  hourly at best.  Some content even changed less than once a day.  The fundamental problem with this approach is that an Ajax request incurs at least a 1/10 of a second overhead in simply establishing an HTTP connection.  Given that a browser typically can only handle 4 simultaneous HTTP requests, all these request fire off synchronously, plus they also incur an heavy load on client side processing.  As a result of all this, page load times were about 15 seconds in single user scenarios.  Under load, page load times rose to over 30 seconds.


What Should Have Happened

Any portlet which simply serves content should never be implemented with Ajax.  This is especially true if the content is shared across multiple users and can be cached.  Cached portlet content can be retrieved in milliseconds where retrieving the same content (even if cached) with an Ajax based approach will take over 1/10th of a second.  If you multiply this times the number of portlets on your page times the number of page hits, it is easy to see the magnitude of extended wait time Ajax introduces into the portal.  After converting a majority of the portlets on this customer’s home page to not use Ajax, the page load times were reduced to less than 4 seconds under load.  The figure below shows the typical lifecycle for an Ajax call on a portal page.

WebSphere Portal Ajax Lifecycle

Ajax of course is extremely powerful and can create great user experiences; however, it must be used in appropriate situations.  Here are a few guidelines for when using Ajax is appropriate in portal.

  • A portlet will take longer than a second to render
  • The content of the portlet is not common between users
    • Portlet takes longer than a second to render
  • Content may change often and is minimally cacheable
  • A portlet will likely be interacted with
    • In place refreshes save entire page refreshes
    • Better user experience
    • Better performance
  • When a portlet connects to a system which may be unreliable
    • Prevents portal from hanging if system fails
    • Lets user interact with remainder of portal

One other word of advice about Ajax.  When web pages are assembled vial client side aggregation, the information which is rendered with Ajax typically cannot be indexed by search engine crawlers such as Google.  So, if you have a public site and you want it searchable, it is imperative to evaluate how Ajax is used.

Previous Installments

  1. Where’s My Homepage?!?
  2. The Business Asked for It
  3. Methodology for Methodology’s Sake
  4. The Never Ending Strategy
  5. I Built It But Now I Can’t Support It
  6. We Can Get Big ROI From a Portal
  7. Is Best of Breed Always Best?
  8. When Developers Can’t Develop
  9. When Not to Use a Portal

Join us this month on Wed, June 29th for our Perficient Perspectives webinar in which we explore the 12 Things You Shouldn’t Do on a Portal Project in depth.  More Info / Register

Mobile Portal 7

In Q3, IBM will be shipping their Portal 7 Mobile theme (insert applause).  This powerful theme takes advantage of the almost-ubiquitous used mobile web-kit.  This compliments IBM’s Mobile Portal Accelerator (MPA) which provides a much broader solution for multiple mobile device support.  The Mobile Theme provides a lightweight toolkit for extending portals to Android, iPhone and Blackberry (web-kit enabled) phones.

When to use Mobile Theme vs MPA?  It is pretty simple in my mind: when you have to support a very broad range of phones from your basic feature phone to the most complex web-kit smartphones and pads – MPA is your choice.  The downfall of MPA is that you have very little customization/modification abilities.  Otherwise, if your business drivers are to get acceptance with the iPhone/Android/Blackberry market (75-80% of all phones) the Mobile Theme is a pretty good choice.  I should note that there are a few more options such as native app development and rich-web apps.

IBM has done a really nice job in designing this theme to allow full developer extensibility.  The code is lightweight and is agnostic from a JS standpoint with no JQuery or DOJO dependencies – but allows developers to use dijits and other libraries on top of or in replacement their theme and framework.  (see below)

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