Keep Your Adobe AEM Project Out of Deep Sh*t

My grandpa once told me a story about the County troublemakers who lived in his boyhood town in rural Illinois. One unusually humid midwest summer, for five nights in a row, the troublemakers ran down the hill near the family outhouse,  rammed their bodies into the outhouse at full speed, and knocked it to the ground.  The next morning, my grandpa and his dad would have to reposition it back over its putrid sewage hole.

hi52f53e80We have to move it,” his dad said.

And they did. But, they didn’t move it far. He and my grandpa repositioned the outhouse only 3 feet in front of the existing sewage hole and covered the exposed area with sticks and straw. That evening, they hid in the shadows and waited for the troublemakers to arrive.

Just as expected, the troublemakers assembled in the darkness at the top of the hill and quietly giggled, “Charge!”    They rapidly descended towards the bottom of the hill,  ready to tackle the outhouse again. But, before they reached their goal, they fell feet-first into the exposed hole and were covered in sewage.

Why am I telling you this story on an Adobe AEM blog? Because it’s funny.  But there is a moral: If you don’t expect change, you’ll end up in deep sh*t.   

Customers are great at changing their minds.

 

I was recently asked how to convert an existing Adobe AEM site to be responsive to accommodate mobile devices.  The business leads initiating the project had not considered mobile during the initial discovery and development, but they changed their minds and now they want it. Surprise!

Unfortunately, converting an existing desktop-only site to be a responsive, mobile-optimized site is much more difficult to retrofit after it has been developed than anticipating change and planning for it in the beginning.   If your mark-up is well structured, it could just be an exercise of adding additional CSS and Javascript to support the new additional breakpoints. But that’s highly unlikely.  It’s much more realistic that you will have to modify mark-up in your components and templates to properly render in the new devices.

A generous estimate to make a site responsive by planning for it upfront is about 20% more in development time over a pure desktop experience.  This includes creating the mark-up, CSS, Javascript, and various image sizes to support two additional breakpoints: tablet and mobile phone.

Now compare this 20% to approximately 40% -100% additional development time to retrofit a site to be responsive. This includes auditing each component and template to ensure the mark-up is well-formed and ready to be styled for tablet and mobile phone, as well as the additional regression testing you’d have to do to re-verify the original desktop experience when mark-up and scripts change.  You could almost argue that this time could be increased even more by having to modify images in the Digital Asset Manager to support the new image sizes optimized for the various screen sizes.

What can you to today to keep out of the deep stuff?

As you plan your development for your desktop experience, assume the client will change their mind and prepare your site to be responsive, even if you don’t create the additional CSS and other coding necessary for the other platforms now (because you will). Structure your mark-up and CSS as if you’re coding a site to be responsive, but only fulfill the desktop requirement now.   Spend the time today and lay the groundwork so completing the tablet and mobile phone use-case costs only 10-15% to complete the remainder of the work, as opposed to the 40% retrofitting costs to implement.

 

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