Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Using Magnolia's inplace-templating for hot-fixes

I just realized that we forgot to provide a mechanism for the Google-Site-verification meta-tag when we migrated our corporate homepage to Magnolia 4.2 two months ago. For those not acquainted with the subject-matter: this is a way to prove to some third-party service you actually own the site (as in "have the right to modify content"). There are various ways to do so, but the fastest and least intrusive is to add a meta-tag to your html-head section like so:

<meta name="google-site-verification"
Now, in previous versions of Magnolia that would mean I have to grab a developer, explain what I need and hope she finds time for my request within her tight schedule. Even if she wouldn't be overly busy, starting up a development environment (IDE), checking out the project sources, adding the needed functionality, testing, and then deploying to a live instance (which more likely than not involves someone from operations, too) would be a matter of least an hour, but more likely a week would go by before you see the change in production – plus it is definitely not worth the effort for such a small and single change.

So, after this somewhat long introduction to the issue at hand, Magnolia has a solution that is simple enough for me to use. It is the "inplace-templating" module, which we install by default with Magnolia STK (but STK is independent). It simply allows to edit Freemarker templates directly in the browser, and then enable and activate them.

Here are the simple steps:

1. find the main template in the Templating Kit menu:

2. Open the editor and add the missing meta-data field

3. Check enable template (see above screenshot)
4. Activate the template

You can check the site's html source to see the change:
So not only is it really trivial to adapt your templates on the fly (BTW, you can also map the templates repository to your filesystem via WebDAV and use your favorite text-editor to change the templates); the real benefit is that you can use this mechanism to do urgent hot-fixes without involvement of anybody else.

Once things work as expected, simply notify your developer and she will roll the hot-fix into the next regular release. This way, nothing gets lost, and the whole process is highly efficient.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Magnolia's Standard Templating Kit reduces project risk

Today, basic web content management functionality has become a commodity readily available in a thousand shades. Where does Magnolia CMS provide value not available elsewhere? It depends on your specific use-case. To some people, Magnolia's usability is key. Others need Magnolia's flexibility, the ability to easily integrate and adapt to any business requirements or Magnolia's outstanding scalability.

However, no matter what your use-case is, to provide value, your website will typically be custom-built on top of what any "commodity CMS" provides. And it is here that Magnolia CMS provides unique benefits not found anywhere else, as you'll see in a minute.

With version 4, Magnolia CMS has introduced a ton of functionality for the front-end (publishing side) of content management. The "Standard Templating Kit" is a powerful framework to create your own custom sites. It provides:
  • core logic to make custom templating easier and more powerful than ever before
  • support for accessibility, SEO, multi-site and multi-language content
  • about 50 production-ready content types ("paragraphs")
  • nearly 20 production-ready page templates based on typical use cases (e.g. home page, section, article, event, news etc.)
  • a configuration framework that allows you to extend, replace or customize any aspect of STK
To showcase its functionality, a complete production-quality website is provided as an example that can be easily adapted to your needs and provides an excellent starting point to define your requirements.

As should be clear from the above list, the STK provides significant value in itself. Consider the following graph. It compares the functionality provided by a demo site, a kick-start-kit or Magnolia's Standard Templating Kit (STK):

We know that the STK provides you with a significant head start, because so much of what you need is already provided. The next graph shows the effort remaining to build your custom website given the previous examples:

Compared to other options, the Standard Templating Kit significantly reduces the effort to build your custom website. Less effort generally means you will be faster, but more importantly, it means your project will be much more predictable. You have less unknowns. And for project managers, "unknowns" means project risk.

This is why ultimately, Magnolia's Standard Templating Kit greatly reduces the likelihood of a CMS project failure.