by September 18th, 2014
In this series, I’m showing how Portals don’t have to be heavyweight. In Part 1, I wrote about how to make the infrastructure lighter by using cloud or IBM’s Pure System. In Part 2, I introduced the concept of using IBM’s Web Content Manager system to build very simple portlets.
Final Appointments Portlet
A typical web page or application consists of several sections:
- Links to external files
- HTML body
In WCM, we can create an authoring template that contains four HTML fields, one for each of the sections described above. The authoring template also has a workflow associated with it so we can control the publishing of our code.
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by July 22nd, 2014
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 »
by July 21st, 2014
Eric Morentin and Nick Baldwin spoke about WCM Patterns that should be used in content management development in IBM Digital Experience. Patterns of course are a “canned” way or even best practice for implementing solutions. There are four themes of patterns they talked about:
- Better content / component model
- There are different types of content and Content Manager build a content page by pulling various types of content. Types can include things like slide shows, lists, blocks, highlights, teasers, etc.
- A good first pattern is the List Content Component. Use a WCM Component to build the list. The end user only has to select what list to display and perhaps customize the query to define the list. Within content manager, lists are composed of Navigators and Presentations. The navigator component is the query tool to select items for the list and the presentation component is how you display the results.
- In general, then a good content/component model will let you create special purpose components and then combine them into business level tools that the content authors can easily incorporate onto a page. Special purpose components such as lists, blocks, carousel are higher-level components than what come out of the box with WCM, but are built-up using those out of the box components.
- More reuse
- Build a library of standard components that can be reused. In IBM’s Content Template Catalog, they have many reusable components built on component elements like field design, fragments, inline editing controls, etc.
- You could have reusable component headers, designs and footers that get referenced by the higher-level components like the Slideshow mentioned above.
- As an example, in the header, you could have common tools like the inline edit code. This same header can then be used on all your components so you can manage or change the inline edit code in one place.
- There are also good patterns and tools available like SASS – Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets to help you with creating reusable CSS.
- Better site model
- Sites connect pages and content. Pages provide the navigation model in portal.
- The Page Content Structure pattern shows how you structure a site. The content site contains just content. There is a content item created for each “component”. Teasers live in their site. All these sites can roll into a common site based on the page.
- This results in a lot of site areas.
- Split content, design, navigation, configuration and code or separation of concerns.
- The component model pattern helps with this concept.
- You should split design libraries from content libraries.
- They suggest a Design library, a Content Library and a Process Library. The process library and design libraries can be referenced from the various sites.
Other best practices/patterns:
- Workflows can also benefit from good patterns. One pattern is to use custom workflow actions to perform dynamic tasks such as picking the appropriate approvers based on an author’s business unit.
- For Access Control, don’t explicitly define all access rights; instead use inheritance whenever possible. In 8.5, reviewer and draft creator (replacing Approver) can be inherited. Explicit access control also impacts performance.
- Don’t have content items with 40+ fields. Look for the ability to use custom fields to merge
- In place edits in non-projects – consider using a plugin to hide in line editing if no project is selected.
- Multi Language – enable this upfront rather than wait. Even with just two languages, use the MLS plug-in
Eric and Nick used the IBM Content Template Catalog as examples of patterns that you can implement. They made the point over and over again that CTC is set of examples, so there are probably more components in there than you may actually every need. You should take the ideas in CTC and make your own components based on the patterns. You should not really expect to install and use CTC right out of the box.
by July 17th, 2014
I came across the article Google: Reasons Why Nobody Uses Your App in my favorite iPhone app Zite. The article is about a presentation given by Tomer Sharon, a user researcher at Google, at Google’s I/O Conference. I embedded the video here for you to view.
Tomer identifies reasons why nobody uses your app. I want to extend this to your web site, your portal, or whatever because these six reasons apply beyond an app.
I’ll summarize the reasons below, but there were two reasons that really caught my attention because they are spot on with my experience consulting with many, many companies over the past 18 years.
The first reason that caught my eye was “You didn’t test your riskiest assumption.” Many times clients look to companies like Perficient to reduce risks in their projects. We have deep expertise in a product they want to implement or build upon. But we don’t always have expertise in the exact problem that is the riskiest. When we don’t have that expertise, our value can be in how we approach the problem and how we draw on experience in similar areas. However too often, clients don’t want to test their riskiest assumptions first, but instead, want to dive headlong into a large project. Part of the reason is because they they can only get funding one time – so lets ask for the most we can get and then start moving. Another reason for this is that spending on these kinds of projects – experimentations, proof of concepts (POC), etc – are viewed as wasting money. But getting a solution to the trickiest part of your project early on is absolutely critical to overall success.
The second reason that caught my attention was “You listened to users instead of watching them.” Companies have spent boat loads of money gathering requirements by asking users what they want in a system. Users are more than willing to talk about what they would do with a new system. But too often what a user says they will do doesn’t match what they really will do. In the video, Tomar talks about a UK Research Project where the researchers asked people whether they washed their hands after using the restroom. 99% said of course they did. When the researchers put equipment into the restroom to monitor hand washing, surprise, surprise, less than 80% actually washed their hands. So when building systems, it is important to get something built quickly – a prototype or POC – and observe how people actually use the system.
Here are the reasons why people don’t use your app, your web site, or whatever. I encourage you to watch the video to get all the details.
- You didn’t understand the problem your were solving
- You asked your friends (or co-workers) what they thought
- You listened to users instead of watching them
- You didn’t test your riskiest assumption(s)
- You had a “Bob the Builder” mentality
Let me know what you think or if you have other advice.
by June 6th, 2014
Next week, on June 12 at 1 pm CDT, I will be presenting a free webinar on Going Mobile with Liferay Portal. Below is a description of the webinar and a link to register. If you have Liferay Portal or are considering it, you will want to see what are your options for making sure that your mobile experience is a pleasant one.
Going Mobile with Your Liferay Portal
Mobile technology is expanding, and many marketing and IT organizations are working to catch up with their customers’ mobile demands. Customers expect to download your app, login, submit their order, deposit a check or even schedule their yoga sessions — all while picking their kids up after school or relaxing in the evenings.
The consumer-driven nature of mobile leaves many companies struggling to develop, enhance and provide the functionality needed to compete in today’s environment. Liferay Portal is one of the most aggressive open source portals available.
In this webinar, we will:
- Review top mobile developments
- Demonstrate why Liferay is a good open source option for portal development
- Identify the options available to bring your Liferay portal to life on mobile devices
- Review best practices for creating, supporting and deploying a full-mobile strategy
Click this link to register: Going Mobile with Your Liferay Portal
by May 28th, 2014
IBM announced the release of IBM Digital Experience Suite 8.5 on earlier this month. Today, I had the chance to download the software images from and I am writing this as I install WebSphere Portal v8.5 Extend edition on Windows 7 OS. I went ahead with the Extend edition because I wanted to get a hold of all the features that WP has to offer.
Downloading the Installables
IBM made it easy for me to search for WebSphere Portal v8.5 installables and find all relevant e-Assemblies. The only thing that I find slightly irritating is that the relevant WebSphere Portal v8.5 e-Assembly was right at the bottom of the page. No worries – a quick browser text search for got me to the right e-Assembly.
Expanding the eAssembly – you can immediately see that IBM has change the packaging a little bit. The e-Assembly only has WebSphere Portal images.In the past, you would have to wade down through a whole list of other supporting software components (TDS, DB2, etc.). This has confused users (both new and old) in the past. No longer the case this time. The right step towards a simpler “Digital Experience” perhaps? Excellent!
- You will have to download the image for WebSphere SDK JAVA edition v188.8.131.52. I don’t think I have downloadedthis in the past but this time around I had to download it (even though it says “optional” during the installation).
- No support for 32-bit Windows architecture (I found this out the hard way)
- The remote search server is truly optional (and is not required especially for a local install)
As from past installations of WP, I unzipped the downloaded zip files – taking care to ensure that I unzip all the files into a single folder. Total size of the downloaded zip files and the unzipped images together is about 19GB. Simple enough so far.
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by February 16th, 2014
When migrating to SharePoint 2013 older assets may need serious modification to gain from the benefits of the new, lightweight, fast, and fluid user interface. These benefits come from new CSS styles, themes, and master pages.
Thus, you must re-create your custom branding by using the new styles, themes, or master pages available in SharePoint 2013, and then apply the newly re-created design to the upgraded site collection.
You can read more about the details from a Microsoft support article which outlines the approach for migrating custom UI artifacts to SP2013.
Some of the common approaches suggest creating an evaluation site collection and then, making specific modifications depending on the artifact:
- Custom CSS – use that site as the environment where you can identify the new SharePoint 2013 styles that you need to override. Create a new CSS file for these styles, and then apply that CSS to your upgraded site.
- Custom theme – re-create the theme by using the new theming features in SharePoint 2013.
- Master pages – re-create the master page in the SharePoint 2013 site. After you verify that the new master page works as expected, move the master page to the new site collection and apply it to the site.
- Custom content placeholders on a custom master page – create an evaluation site collection that is also a publishing site, and then set the master page to the out-of-the-box SharePoint 2013 master page. If the site still renders, you don’t have this issue.
Microsoft recommends that you do not add custom content placeholders to your custom master page or page layouts.
In conclusion, I hope this helps with your planning when considering either new initiatives on older releases of SharePoint (i.e. SP 2010), or when migrating to SP 2013.
by January 30th, 2014
Maria Rauba from Asponte presented how she implemented a multifaceted search using IBM Web Content Manager in Portal. Faceted search is an often requested feature and is not something that comes out of the box in WCM. Components used:
- Custom JSP
- Custom Search Seedlist
- WCM Search component
JSP component was used instead of Taxonomy fields because the taxonomy field is sortable only one way – alphbetical.
Search Component & Search Collection. They used one search component for each language. In the search component you can specify the sort order. Out of the box you can select sort by relevance, date and none. The search collection was scheduled to run every night, but you can schedule the crawler as often as you want.
Custom Seedlist was necessary to support the many levels in the taxonomy. Out of the box seedlist only looks at the last level for the search and does not include the full taxonomy hierarchy. Also many times category names are repeated under different taxonomies, so you have to use a unique identifier (UUID) to make sure the search finds the right categories.
Some issues that were faced:
- Dojo performance for sorting wasn’t as good as it could be, so they reduced the number of items in the list. In the end, the sort time was unacceptable, so they went back to the default sort provided by WCM instead of using the custom sort.
- Caching was an issue when the advanced cache was turned on. They ended up turning cache off for this feature.
- When there were a lot of check boxes, the ran into url length issues.
As a summary, Maria’s solution was
- Fully multifaceted
- Used only WCM
- Provided a custom sort
- Allowed content authors to manage the content and feed the search appropriately
Overall Maria’s solution was a good way to use out of the box features with some simple customizations.
by January 28th, 2014
IBM Tealeaf is a tool that can help you optimize customer experiences with your website. Here are a couple of examples of where Tealeaf can be used:
- A customer has an issue with the website and calls your service center for help. Rather than have the customer relive the poor experience, Tealeaf allows the CSR to see what happened and take corrective action.
- Customers are not responding to your marketing offers. They get part-way through the desired interaction, but don’t finish. Use Tealeaf to see what users are doing on the site and maybe discover an error popping up.
With Tealeaf you can passively capture all actions, all interactions, and all customer experience obstacles. Since Tealeaf is passive, you don’t have to alter your code to start working with it.
Here are some results that Forrester found with Tealeaf:
- 3.5% increase in conversion rates
- 1% improvement in customer retention rates
- 80% reduction in investigative time
- 249% ROI
- 7.3 months payback
Tealeaf also includes built-in analytics, including a Struggle Score. Here you can tweak the analytics to alert you when Tealeaf perceives a customer is struggling. Using the analytics, you can drill down into the data and find out who succeeded vs failed in attempting an interaction.
You can also set up “known obstacles” so you can track specific problem areas. Say you have a known issue with a recent update, but its not bad enough to fix it right away. These known problems can then be separated from “unknown obstacles” so you can identify new, unknown issues.
Oh, and all this works with mobile web clients too. You can track zooms, swipes, pinches and more. If you have mobile apps, you can use a Tealeaf SDK to integrate Tealeaf capabilities into the app itself.
Data entered by the user is stored in a secure way by Tealeaf and sensitive information can be obfuscated for specific roles of people who need to access the user data.
Finally, you can use the analytics provided by Tealeaf to assess the impact to your business. This can help prioritize issues, or help sell the need to address problems.
Tealeaf really provides a lot of insight into your website that traditional web analytics tools can’t match.
by January 28th, 2014
Rob Will, Chief Architect at IBM, presented the future vision for Portal and WCM today. He started out talking about how the concept of customer experience has been evolving over the past few years. A core shift has been to enable non-technical users to do more and more with less reliance on IT.
A slight change with profound implications has been the change from a Web experience to a Digital experience, which implies support many more devices and output streams. Portal and WCM has always been about web sites, not mobile applications. Portal is now in the mobile web site business to enable multi-channel web site business. Portal is still the integrating platform for content, applications, etc. Everything done in Portal and WCM is now done with mobile in mind.
IBM Worklight is the hybrid application platform that integrates with Portal and WCM. Worklight enables access to all the mobile device features through portlets. Its easy to create a Worklight adapter to grab content from WCM to display in a native application. WCM’s personalization engine can also be leveraged from Worklight so you see the same promotions on the web as you see in the mobile app.
- Improving integration to support device classes
- Fine tuning seamlessness of the theme integration
- Co-deploy Worklight on Portal
Content and Rich Media
- More and more convergence between portal and content management
- Projects and Templates (in Portal 8) are heavily relied on in future releases
- Content Template Catalog 4.1.2 came out last week – uses latest CKEditor for inline editing
- Vanity URLs- in beta now. You can completely control the URL. URLs are stored in WCM to support Syndication. This feature will deprecate URL Mappings in Portal.
- WCM Content Security is more seamless with Portal.
- Attribute based security means you can control access to content based on Attributes.
- Project templates make it easier to set up projects, including predefined workflow
- Now everyone is entitled to EditLive! Enterprise version
- Customers on 184.108.40.206 have entitlement to WebRadar which is content reporting and analytics
- Cross Version syndication is supported to ease content migration. You can syndicate from WCM 220.127.116.11 CF26 or higher to WCM 18.104.22.168 CF09 or higher
- Syndication – improvements in error messaging, error handling, more retry capabilities. Also in the Authoring UI, you can see a status of each object’s syndication.
- Rich Media Edition seamlessly integrates with MediaBeacon.
- Deliver and Stream HD Videos – this includes integration with BrightCove
Personalization and Targeting
- In 8.0 IBM added in-context rules editing. New minor enhancements are coming here.
- Marketing Management is more of a focus for a richer experience, including Unica Marketing Center and IBM Interact.
- New Portlet allows user to enter a few details about the spot and the portlets does all the work to bring in offers from Interact. This reduces the rules that you have to write in portal.
WCM and Commerce
- This is available now.
- You can link content from WCM directly into a commerce site. This also includes preview capability
- Social rendering in 22.214.171.124 takes content from connections and delivers them inside portal mixed with other content and applications. WCM presentation templates are used to make the social content look like other content on the page.
- In the next version, IBM provides a bunch of enhancements. Discussion threads hosted on IBM Connections, but linked to WCM content. Here the visual experience of the discussion is controlled by WCM.
- Now you can Like, create posts, comment, etc right in line.
- Dynamic filters for social lists – these lists cooperate with other page components to filter content and drilling down in lists.
- This is all available in mobile web too.
For a sample of how well Portal, WCM and Connections are integrated together, take a look at the Connect 2014 Site:
- News and updates are blogs in Connections
- Events are in WCM.
- Session info is in WCM,
- Speaker profile is in Connections.
- Downloads are in Connections Files.
- Session add is a DB2 application
Digital Data Connector (DDC) – this is a new concept and we’ll more information on this shortly.
- Extends social rendering and WCM to any type of data source.
- Can take most data source and bring into Portal through social rendering
I had to leave this session early, so I will follow up with another post on the rest of the new features coming in the future.
A beta version of Portal is now available if you want to try out some of these features.