How To Evaluate Your Adobe AEM Project Success (Before You Start)

Check out the big brain on Brad

 

A long time ago in a school system far, far away (Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be exact)…

I spent the first ten years of my school life in accelerated programs and split classrooms. I had off-the-charts test scores, attended special schools for academically talented students, and hated every second of it. In the paraphrased words of Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction, I was a smart mofo. In 9th grade, I transferred to a public school and discovered the magical art of complacency and laziness. It was all downhill from there.

Since I was new to the school, breaking into the already-established social groups was a slow process. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the various social groups in a typical midwest American high school (sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, and dickheads), you would find me sitting smack-dab in the middle – in the Venngina, as I like to call it. I didn’t fit into one particular social clique because I was a little bit of everything – an amalgamation of all. I normally sat the back of the class with the Metallica potheads, goth girls wearing black wedding dresses, and other clock-watching loners who counted down the minutes until 4:20 PM. No reading, writing, and arithmetic back there, just puff, puff, give.

To say that my high school grades sucked because of my complacency is an understatement. I went from being the next Doogie Howser to barely scraping by. I got straight C’s and D’s my senior year in one of the worst schools in Michigan. My high school has only a 55% graduation rate, my history teacher is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of a prostitute, and we made national news when a basketball player dropped a sack of weed onto the court during a game.   When you barely graduate from a school like this, you’re a dumb-ass. Even Joe Gunchy, the world’s worst Adobe Architect, could graduate with honors from here. To me, high school was a four (nearly five) year sentence that I had to serve because my parents and Michigan law forced me to attend.

Related: MEET ADOBE AEM’S BIGGEST ENEMY – JOE GUNCHY

Sometimes in class (when I wasn’t skipping), we were allowed to trade papers with our our neighbor to grade each other’s tests, reports, or quizzes. When that happened, no matter who in the Venngina I sat next to, I magically got all A’s.  Other times, we were allowed to grade our own papers. When that happened, I got A+’s!  The rest of the time, our papers were graded by the actual teachers (the ones who weren’t in jail). When that happened, I got F’s.

But, then I got wise…

Instead of reading books, I learned to read people. Instead of studying the subject, I studied the teachers themselves.  Understanding how a teacher prepared their lectures and graded material provided great insight into how to prepare for quizzes, tests, and exams to achieve top scores.  It isn’t cheating, it’s simply understanding the evaluation criteria and details of what good looks like before doing the work.  When I figured out this secret, my grades changed drastically. I spent less time doing unnecessary B.S. and had more free time to do more important things in life – like mope around, play Hacky Sack, and listen to The Cure.

Checkin’ Homework

Why do you suppose my self-evaluated grades differed so greatly from my instructor-evaluated work? According to me and my lenient peers, I was on course for an Ivy League life.  But, according to 100% of the Michigan colleges that didn’t agree with my D’s get degrees philosophy, I was on course for a life as a Walmart cashier.  The difference is, as a self-reviewer you have personal stake and pride-in-ownership which leads to overlooking the small details and errors. These ultimately add up to large errors when aggregated and break the proverbial camel’s back. This is why having an impartial reviewer is important.

Related: YOUR BABY IS UGLY: HOW EXPERIENCE, CANDOR, AND EMPATHY CAN SAVE YOUR ADOBE PROJECT

As consultants, we’re often called upon to evaluate a client’s Adobe AEM platform to determine how flexible, scalable, and (re-)usable it truly is. We effectively get to grade their homework and we need to do it thoroughly and impartially. Unfortunately, this engagement usually happens after the fact, when the platform is already live in production. So, the remediation of the findings often remain unattended, or fixing them causes significant refactoring of code and regression testing of the platform until it becomes entirely unusable, unmaintainable, and is scrapped entirely.  

Start. Right. Now.

What if you knew the grading criteria of a best-in-class Adobe AEM implementation before you began? That is, what if you knew the definition of good as defined by industry best practices, my kick-ass blog, and Adobe then designed your platform to those standards right from the start? This article does just that.  I will show you the evaluation criteria I use as well as additional input from Adobe to ensure you start your project the right way.

Evaluation Overview

I’ve broken down the evaluation into three major sections: Component and Template Reuse, SEO Best Practices, and the Authoring Experience. We will do deep dives into each section in future articles.

Only use this evaluation if the following statements are true:

  1. You renounce the idiot Adobe ArchitectJoe Gunchy and all his work and ways (and all his empty promises) and surrender yourself to the Adobe Best Practices Gods
  2. You are creating a reusable platform consisting of templates, components, and services to be used by more than one brand or business unit to create independent websites or micro-sites
  3. Your platform will provide the flexibility for a brand to create a best-in-class unique site, while keeping within enterprise standards and guide-rails. Play with whatever you want, as long as you stay in the yard, if you will
  4. The primary user of the platform will be a brand manager or business-level user, not a nerdy developer
  5. Your SEO mojo needs help and you want to improve your ranking, easily

Component and Template Reuse

You will review component and template documentation, architecture, and code to validate its capabilities for reuse and ensure the platform’s readiness for the creation of additional sites.

  • Verify proper use of component inheritance for maintainability and extensibility
  • Verify proper use of composite design in component architecture
  • Verify components and templates are void of styling in the markup

SEO Best Practices

You will review template dialog options for the integration of SEO Best Practices.

  • Reconcile inventory of templates and components against a checklist of brand-specific SEO recommendations to ensure inclusion of Schema Markup, canonical tags, social integration, and more.

Authoring Experience

You will find opportunities for simplifying the Authoring experience.

  • Ensure proper use of contextual help, field labels, dialog field validation rules, component and template naming conventions, paragraph system, and more.

Evaluation Execution

Again, I will dive into the details of each in future articles. For now, munch on this:

Component and Template Reuse

To ensure the platform templates and components follow best practices for creating reusable, extendable components and services:

  • Verify there are no styles, colors, or brand-specific functionally embedded into the components that cannot be re-configured without custom component development efforts.
  • Verify proper use of composites in component and template design to maximize reuse and simplify the extension of the components for brand-specific functionality that deviates from the platform baseline functionality.
  • Verify no embedded site-specific labels or copy are used in templates or components that cannot be changed through properties or placeholder labels and values
  • Verify proper use of overlays for overriding platform functionality that will not affect other sites hosted in the environment
  • Verify ability to display custom, site-specific error and exception pages independent of other sites hosted in the environment
  • Verify supporting Java models are void of brand-specific functionality or configurations that would require code changes to incorporate into a new site
  • Verify components do not duplicate functionality for ease of maintanance
  • Verify use of Touch UI, versus Classic UI for editing pending deprecation of Classic UI in 2018 (and deprecation of Coral UI 2.0)
  • Verify proper use of the paragraph system in templates to maximize flexibility
  • Verify consistent authoring experiences across components
  • Verify flexibility of AEM Tagging hierarchy for use on other brands
  • Verify flexibility of workflow processes for other brands

SEO Best Practices

To ensure the platform templates and components incorporates industry SEO best practices into the framework:

  • Verify ability to auto-generate site-independent dynamic sitemap XML
  • Verify ability to customize page URLs
  • Verify ability to include Canonical tags into pages
  • Verify ability to include Meta description and custom Meta tags into pages
  • Verify images include Alt Text
  • Verify ability to include Schema markup (JSON-LD) in pages
  • Verify ability to include OG tags in pages
  • Verify ability to easily adjust page Redirects
  • Verify ability to include Meta robots tags into pages
  • Verify platform follows best practices to reduce Page load time
  • Verify ability to generate Robots.txt
  • Verify ability to display custom, site-specific 404 , 500, and general exceptions pages
  • Verify ability to include Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools integration

Authoring Experience

To ensure the platform templates and components incorporate industry authoring best practices and integrations into the framework:

Evaluation Categorization

The output of the evaluation should label its findings into categories to simplify future prioritization of the recommendations to enhance the platform for more flexibility or reusability. I use a high, medium, and low scheme:

  • High – Immediate need to modify or update platform functionality to accommodate additional brand sites into the platform. Failure to modify or update this feature would not allow additional brand sites to leverage this feature.
  • Medium – Limitations of platform functionality that require future modification or update to accommodate addition brand sites. Workarounds or simple configuration exits for the interim until planned updates can occur to update the component or template.
  • Low – Simple recommendations such as Authoring inconsistencies that still allow platform adoption by other brands, but limit usability.

Adobe Best Practices

Adobe has a ton of information on development and implementation best practices. Start reading the links below to get you on your way.

https://solutionpartners.adobe.com/home/enablement/training/aem_training.html 

Implementation Guides

Step-by-step technical guides to help implement a single Adobe Experience Cloud solution.

Implementation Best Practices

 

Laziness and complacency forbid me from writing conclusions. Therefore:

If you like this blog, leave a comment or SHARE it on your social channels.

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Free Adobe Training Resources (for the People)

If you know me at all, you’d know that “free” is my second favorite F-word.  So what could be better than some effing FREE Adobe training?  Nothing legal, that’s what.

Check out these helpful links for getting up-to-speed on Adobe’s platforms.

free

AEM Community 

The Adobe Experience Manager Community is a place to ask questions and learn from Adobe’s experts, customers, and expert developers. It is a platform to connect with your peers — quickly seek out answers to get the support you need, talk with other developers, exchange examples, discuss the best practices, share experiences, useful blogs (like this one) and get help from the Adobe experts.

See https://blogs.adobe.com/experiencedelivers/experience-management/aem_community/

AEM GEM Sessions

Gems on Adobe Experience Manager is a series of technical deep dives delivered by Adobe experts. This series is a complement of the product documentation and of all the other technical channels, allowing developers to get in touch with one another and have deep-dives on specific topics.

See https://docs.adobe.com/content/ddc/en/gems.html

AEM Ask the Community Sessions

Ask the Community Sessions are monthly webinars hosted by Adobe/Community members for the community on the topics asked by YOU.  Topics vary from how to study for AEM ACE exam to deep technical topics like configuring a Dispatcher.

See https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/topics/ate-sessions.html

 

AEM How-to articles

Super useful articles on how to do everything from using HTL to creating a throttled Twitter component. Tons of content here.

https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/topics/how-to.html

AEM 6.3 New Features and Help Videos

If fancy book learnin’ isn’t your thing, then how about watching some safe-for-work (SFW) videos for once?  Check out these links to helpful videos:

Assets: https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/kt/assets/index/aem-6-3-assets.html
Sites: https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/kt/sites/index/aem-6-3-sites.html
Project & Collaboration: https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/kt/platform-repository/index/aem-6-3-projects.html
Platform: https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/kt/platform-repository/index/aem-6-3-platform.html
Forms: https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/kt/forms/index/aem-6-3-forms.html

AEM Cross Solution Help Articles

I’ve been preaching Multi-solution Architecture for a while now. If you haven’t heeded the warning, you need to start learning how to integrate AEM with other solutions.

Start here:

https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/using/integrate-digital-marketing-solutions.html
https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/using/aem_campaign.html
https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/kt/forms/using/user-profile-data-integration-feature-video-use.html
https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/kt/assets/internal/livefyre-integration-user-experience-improvements.html
https://helpx.adobe.com/experience-manager/kt/forms/using/user-profile-data-integration-feature-video-use.html


Cross Solution Recipes

I refer to these slides often when working through multi-solution integrations. These get into the value proposition of connecting two or more solutions as well as how data is exchanged across the platform.

See: https://helpx.adobe.com/marketing-cloud/how-to/use-cases.html


AEM Community YouTube Channel

You won’t find any Harlem Shaking, ice bucket challenges, or mall hauls here. Just a one-stop shop for information about the AEM Community.

This video sum up everything about the AEM Community.

IMMERSE 2018

IMMERSE is a global virtual conference for the Adobe Experience Manager developer community held in May. You missed the 2017 conference, but you can get on-demand only access to the 2017 sessions and Adobe is making the 2016 sessions public this week!

Stay tuned for a 2018 link, but get great IMMERSE content here:

https://docs.adobe.com/dev/products/aem/events/0416.html

Big thanks to Kautuk Sahni, Scott MacDonald, and Charlie Shafton at Adobe for helping me compile this list.

Adobe offers Multi-Solution Architecture Training Options

Adobe is now offering multi-solution integration training courses to the partner training inventory.   Currently, there are two sessions available from instructor Varun Mitra for AEM to Campaign integration for simplifying email creation and Target to AEM integration for personalization. Both are common use cases and you should attend to start your Multi-Solution Architect training path.

Follow this link to the Partner Portal: Gain Multi-Solution Expertise with AEM Technical Integration Training

Gain Multi-Solution Expertise with AEM Technical Integration Training

Customers are tackling complex challenges, sometimes best solved by more than one solution. Developers and Architects are invited to register for an upcoming Adobe solution integration training designed to introduce the fundamentals along with guided instruction and hands-on exercises. Two sessions are now available, with more to come.

The courses are free to Adobe Partners. Again, if you’re not currently a partner, you should enroll with your company as a Community Partner. After approval, you’ll be granted access to the training, news and presentation material online.

Adobe Solution Partner Portal link here.

 

Jumping into Adobe AEM Development

Got a great note from a reader asking advice on whether he should dive in and learn AEM development:

I am a User Interface Designer with minor Front End Developer skills. I was recently hired by a major eye wear company  for the sole purpose of migrating a version of one of their Native Apps over to AEM. I have no real experience with AEM Development, but I am a fast learner and I already have the AEM portal experience mastered (along with creating articles, collections, layouts, etc..)

My question is: Do you think it is viable/worth it for me to dive head first into AEM Development and try to learn the various languages/frameworks necessary to be able to customize an AEM app? Or is it something that would take years to understand and a complete change of my skillset?

Kind of a random question, I know… but your article was great so I thought I would reach out for advice. Thank you Mr. Meehan!

Seemingly Unrelated Story Time…

I grew up in a stereotypical, plain vanilla American suburban neighborhood – complete with station wagons, paper routes, penny loafers, Golden Retrievers, the works. There was even a pool up the street where you could pay 50 cents to swim all day.

I didn’t know how to swim until I was almost 11 years old, and none of my friends knew it. I could have won an Oscar for Best Actor for the work I did in that pool. I had all the individual skills to be a swimmer, but I never put the pieces together. If I held onto the side of the pool with my hands, I could float and kick my legs – no problem. When I was away from the wall, I would just walk with my feet touching the ground and paddle my arms so it looked like I was swimming. But, once I felt the curvature of the floor move towards the deep end, I would turn around and go back the other way because I knew I would be over my head.

Fast forward one muggy Michigan summer…

Somehow my ultra-conservative mom made friends with a backwoods, country bumpkin lady who had just moved to Michigan from a little town in West Virginia. She looked exactly like Willie Nelson in drag. I can’t remember her name, but it was one of those redneck stoner names where two regular stoner names are mashed together to make it even more rednecky, like “Misty Sue” or “Deena Jo”.

One day we were at the pool (or “swimmin’ hole”, as she called it) and she saw me walking in the shallow end, paddling my arms. She knew I couldn’t swim and I knew she was about to expose my secret as soon as she finished the Virginia Slim cigarette dangling from her lips. She paced back and forth along side the pool like a junkyard dog, watching me. I knew I was doomed, so I stayed in the pool until my hands and feet were as pruned as a crocodile’s scrotum. Yeah, I said it.

When I finally got out of the water, she took the last drag from her cigarette, dropped it into a can of warm Shasta soda and shook it.  Ssssssssssst.  She slowly walked over to me, grabbed me, then said, “Ya know what time it is, hound dog? …It’s swimmin‘ time!”

At first,  I thought it was weird that someone just called me, “hound dog”. Then, I was relieved because I thought she was going to say, “Hey, everyone! This kid can’t swim!”  Then, I realized “swimmin‘ time” loosely translated to “throw me in the deep end”.

I tried to scurry away and break her grip, but I couldn’t. She had me a crazy country wrestling hold I called, The Full Willie Nelson.  The more I struggled, the more my sunburned back scraped across the stubble on her leathery legs, until I could take no more. I conceded and wilted onto the scalding concrete.

fullnelson

She lifted me up over her head and threw me into the middle of the diving pool, which was the deepest part of the L-shaped pool. I sunk down about three feet, panicked, and started kicking my legs until I got to the surface of the water. I kept kicking my legs and flailing my arms and realized that the more I kicked and flailed, the more I moved closer to the safety of the wall. “Holy sh*t, I’m swimming!,” I thought.

I spent the rest of the day jumping into the deep end on my own and swimming back to the wall, all while Mrs. Willie Nelson smoked and watched from the edge.

Get to the Point…

Adobe is selling the hell out of AEM right now. Internally, they simply don’t have the capacity to keep up with all of the services opportunities to stand up, develop, and manage the platform, so they’re turning to partners to do the work.  If you’re hiring, you’ll be lucky to find a single AEM developer just sitting on the bench. And, if you do, they won’t be there long.

Time to jump in!

You already have some of the individual skills required to start developing in AEM. Most importantly, you’re already familiar with the tool. If you do this now, you can ride the demand wave for the next four years or so until the market evens out.  By then, you’ll be leading your own team.

The easiest way to learn it is to just jump in and do it.  Learning to code is the easy part. Since Sightly, we’ve enabled most of our front-end developers to create templates and components on their own without much back end coding. Template and component development is a good place to start.

Don’t get over your head!

You don’t need formal training,  but you do need a mentor who can take a look at your design and code to make sure you’re developing using best practices. Most of the clean-up work we do is directly related to a client hiring a development team who oversold their capabilities, didn’t follow any standards, and left the client with a non-scalable platform littered with hundreds of templates and components. Hundreds!  Don’t be that guy.  If you don’t have a mentor, get involved in the Adobe developer forums. There are some incredibly talented men and women on there who were once in your shoes and will answer any question you have.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Helen Hayes, whoever that is…

“The expert at anything was once a beginner.”

-Someone named Helen Hayes

Jump in the pool, hound dog. It’s swimmin’ time.

 

Adobe AEM Implementations …from Hell

I am a single dad with three kids: Sophia (10), Connor (13), and Ariana (15). Together our initials spell, “S.C.A.B.s”.  As Team S.C.A.B.s, we love to embark on regular adventures, such as weekend getaways to Chicago, hiking through trails where Jesse James and his gang hid from the law, or just exploring the great city where we live.

This fall we decided to do something I enjoyed as a kid: visiting a haunted house. But we didn’t just select any haunted house, we chose The Edge of Hell, one of the top-rated haunted houses in the country located in one of the many vacant buildings in the forgotten part of the city. As we waited in line to buy our tickets, we were greeted by rat-eating monsters, a galloping headless horseman, and fire-breathing, tattoo-covered hipsters in desperate need of a tetanus shot.

20141025_195201

I paid for four tickets into The Edge of Hell which cost me $25 a piece plus tax for a grand total of $117. NO REFUNDS.  Honestly, the receipt alone scared the hell out of me, but I’m cheap.  The kids seemed to be in brave spirits, so we assembled in a standard conga line in order of age: I led first, Ariana was behind me holding my shoulders, Connor held onto Ariana, and little Sophia held onto Connor with her eyes closed tightly.  We ascended the stairs near the entrance and our adventure began as the door and our last glimpse of light disappeared behind us.

conga_line-gettyimage_0

The first thing we encountered in The Edge of Hell was a pack of large mechanical dogs (or “Hounds of Hell”) that popped out of a wall and barked rabidly at Team S.C.A.B.s.   Instantly, I heard Connor yell from behind me, “Daaaaaaaaaad!  I want to leave!”

“Connor, we just got started. Where are you going to go?” I asked.

Right on cue, an acne-covered teenage monster emerged from the darkness. “Chicken Exit,” he said, pointing to a steel door to our left. Before he even finished his sentence, Connor’s hands released from his sister’s shoulders and he walked towards the Chicken Exit.  Sophia, not realizing where Connor was leading her, followed him with her eyes still shut tightly. Before I could object, the door slammed shut behind them. “NO REFUNDS” echoed in my head.  The S.C.A.B.s were now reduced to just “A” and “B”.  Thanks a lot, Teen Wolf.

HM-Chicken-Exit-Med

Ariana and I continued on. We finished the tour and we found Connor and Sophia waiting near the exit with the other chickens. Connor was staring off into space, still grappled with fear.   As we approached, Ariana folded her arms and said with her Big Sister attitude, “I think Connor should have to pay you back the $25.”

Connor paused, then stoically said, “Make it an even $30.”

“What’s the extra $5 for?” I asked.

“New underwear,” he muttered.

Why am I telling you this story on an AEM blog? Because it’s my job as a loving father to take every opportunity to embarrass my kids. But there is a point…

Fear is a powerful emotion and is amplified by surprise and the unknown. When you don’t know what’s hiding ahead, your senses are heightened, your pulse races, and the slightest deviation from ‘normal’ is enough to ruin your day (and likely your pants).

My kids have never been through a haunted house, but I have.  Imagine if I could tell them what was around every corner before we reached it? Or even better – what if I could guide them through the haunted house with all of the lights on?  I could take the fear of the unknown and every element of surprise out of the equation.

That’s your job as an architect or technical lead; that is, to help guide your clients through their digital transformation or AEM implementation with the lights on. This is likely their first foray through this process, but not yours. They have questions, they have concerns, and you have answers. Guide them.

I’ve recently been selected to take on a new role called the “Global Adobe Alliance Manager.”   It’s my job to act on our clients behalf to help guide them through the entire life-cycle of their digital transformation using Adobe’s offerings.

Your company might not have a dedicated person for this role, but there are some things you should be doing to help guide your clients through this process from start to finish:

  • Web Context Experience Management (WCXM) system evaluation and platform recommendation – If the client has not yet selected a platform, it’s your job to help provide them an unbiased recommendation to satisfy their business and functional requirements. You’ll likely be reviewing three to four platform options and providing a gap analysis of each. You may even help them define the platform selection criteria. Your recommendation should also consider their in-house technology expertise. Are they primarily a Java shop or .NET? If the vendor themselves (Adobe/Sitecore/Acquia/Whoever) responded to the evaluation, you can help the client vet their responses or translate WCXM geek-speak into something their business leads can understand.
  • Procurement and licensing negotiations – You should have a clear understanding of the architecture of their proposed system as well as the basic user journeys of the visitors to help determine how many (and what type of) licenses to purchase. You will also help determine the level of effort to develop features or functionality that are not part of the out-of-the-box offering. This all contributes to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the platform and must be considered.
  • Architecture reviews – Did the client themselves or another agency define the architecture?  Review it. Does the client have their own hosted environment? Do they partner with a hosting provider like Rackspace? Do they know about Adobe’s Managed Services offering? Have they considered security, Single Sign-on options, or a robust caching strategy using a CDN?  Is there dynamic data? How is it being retrieved? How often is that data updated? Can that be cached, even temporarily? You need to call these things out when you’re doing a review.
  • Best practices recommendations – Does the client want something that goes against usability or the platform’s best practices? Are they asking for guidance on governance, mobile, personalization, globalization, or digital asset management? More importantly, are they not asking about these things? It’s your role to provide them the thought leadership in these areas and they must be considered at the beginning of the project.  They don’t know what they don’t know. Bring these topics to the table early.
  • Code reviews – Has your client decided to take on the development of the site in-house and it’s their first attempt at developing and AEM project (see also: the idiot Joe Gunchy)? Or, is your client working with a different implementation partner and they want a third-party agency to act on their behalf to do a review of what’s being developed?  These are perfect candidates for formal code reviews. Even if it’s your agency doing the development, you should be doing code reviews internally with your team and including the client’s technical leads, giving them full insight into what they will be taking over when the project development is complete. Even though you’re developing it, it’s their code and they will ultimately own it. If you have apprehensions about showing them their code, let’s be honest – something’s wrong with it.
  • Continuous integration recommendations – You must have an established, repeatable build process for compiling, and deploying both your code and content packages to the various environments.  If you don’t, you’re wasting the client’s time by doing these repetitive tasks that can and should be automated using free, open-source tools like Maven, Jenkins, and Puppet. True, there are some upfront costs (hours) associated with setting this up, but I challenge you to compare this to the time spent manually deploying to the various environments over a week, a month, or even a year. The return on your initial investment greatly outweighs that time and continuous integration is a must-have for every project.
  • Training and enablement – Once development is complete and you hand the ‘keys to the site’ over to the client, are you confident they know how to use each component, template, or even the AEM interface itself?  At minimum, you should provide an AEM overview and a site-specific training to the client to include each component, template, scaffolding page, workflow interface, etc.  Don’t show them the out-of-the-box Adobe Geometrixx demo unless they actually work for a company that sells shapes. C’mon, man. Show them their site using their stuff.
  • Support and documentation – The client will have questions, even after you’ve trained them and they’ve taken control of the site.  Be a good partner, be available, and answer their questions.  I’m not a big fan of printed, formal documents. Instead, I prefer to create a page (or pages) hidden from the site navigation within the tool itself with supporting documentation, useful links, and support contact information the client can refer to as they use the tool. If they find more efficient ways to use a component, they can update this page themselves thus alleviating another obsolete, printed document.

 

If you find this information useful, please share a link to my blog. If there is a topic you’d like to discuss, please use the comments below.

 

Reusing Tabs or Fields From an Existing Dialog

Joe Gunchy is a dummy!  (read more about Joe here. He’s an idiot) He has 7 different components that all have a a group of fields he named, “Link Properties”.  Link Properties allows a content author to include a button (or text link) on a page with a name, color selection, link URL, ‘open in new window’ selection, and the ability to attach a downloadable content from the DAM. 

The Dialog creation and validation for the first one took about an hour to complete.  Then, he delegated the creation of the other 6 components to the developers on his team.  He told them what fields should be on the Link Properties dialog and which fields were required.  All 6 developers spent an hour and a half on theirs (after all, there is a learning curve to all of this).  All of the fields are represented in their Dialogs, but the names of the labels, the order the fields appear in the Dialog, and the validation messaging is different for each variation of the component.  Some put all of the fields on a separate Tab (which they named “Tab 1”), while some just appended the fields to the bottom of a really, really, really long Tab. 

What if you could create the “Link Properties” Tab once, then reuse it with, say, two lines of code?

“Whatever. You get what you pay for.” – Joe Gunchy

This is perhaps one of the most useful AEM tips I’ve learned.

Once you’ve defined a field that is used on an component Dialog, it isn’t necessary to recreate that field every time you need a similar field on another component. You can easily reuse the field and all of its properties like its labels, help text, and validation rules. For example, if I continually include a field on a Dialog for an “Approved By” name, I can create this field once and reuse it by taking advantage of AEM’s “everything is a resource” rule. That is, every piece of content in AEM has a path and can be retrieved and displayed. In this case, we want to retrieve a JSON representation of the field we want to reuse.

Here’s how…

  • Select the component widget you want to copy into your new component’s dialog.

Navigate to the parent component dialog and find the field you want to copy. In this example, I want to copy the “playSpeed” field from AEM’s out-of-the-box carousel component.

Path: /libs/foundation/components/carousel

1

  • Copy the path of the widget as shown in the address bar beneath the menu items. In this example, the playSpeed widget has the path:

/libs/foundation/components/carousel/dialog/items/carousel/items/playSpeed

This path will be pasted into a property on your new dialog with the extension “.infinitiy.json” added to the end. For example:

/libs/foundation/components/carousel/dialog/items/carousel/items/playSpeed.infinity.json

  • On your new component, create a new widget by selecting CREATE > CREATE NODE.

In this example, I named the field “playSpeed” to match its parent. However, you can name the field anything you want. Select cq:Widget as its type.

Create a new Widget

Create a new Widget

Define the name and type

Define the name and type

In the properties editor, add the following properties:

Name Type Value
xtype String cqinclude
path String /libs/foundation/components/carousel/dialog/items/carousel/items/playSpeed.infinity.json
4

/libs/foundation/components/carousel/dialog/items/carousel/items/playSpeed.infinity.json

/libs/foundation/components/carousel/dialog/items/carousel/items/playSpeed.infinity.json

Note the value of the path property is the path copied from Step 3 with .infinity.json added to the end.

Save your work.

You will now have a field on your dialog with the same values as its parent, including its label, description, and validation rules. This gives the content author a consistent, familiar authoring experience across multiple components.

Usability Tip: Use Edit Bars instead of Roll-over Editing in Your Adobe AEM Project

The world’s worst developer, Joe Gunchy (read more about Joe here)  is at it again.  He created a new component to give content authors the ability to add rich text onto a page.  The content author loves this idea and wants to try it out.  They dragged the component onto the page, but there is no indication that the component is on the page and ready to edit.  The content author is confused, so they drag another component onto the page. Still, nothing shows up.

 

Where are the components?

 

They drag another onto the page, then another, then another.  Nothing is displayed. Now the content author has five instances of the component on the page that they don’t know about, forcing the content author to drink from a flask hidden in their bottom desk drawer.  Joe Gunchy laughs at the content author.  Joe Gunchy is an idiot.

 

“Content authors are so dumb.” – Joe Gunchy

 

Demo_Targeted_Content_-_2014-05-27_10.56.12

Five instances of the component

Component Editing

There are a few ways to edit content in a component. Some components contain an “edit bar” to show the editor dialog, while some use “rollover” editing.  The component below shows an edit bar above the component with options to add, edit, but, copy, and paste. If you want to edit the content of the component, you click the “Edit” button which opens the editing dialog. Easy.

 

Edit Bar to launch the dialog

 

When there is no edit bar, the author must click on the component in the page until they see the green boundary box appear. This is referred to as “rollover editing”.  Once that’s selected, you can either double-click within the box or right-click to launch the dialog editor. Joe Gunchy’s component used ‘rollover’, but when there is no content in the component, there is no way to tell the component is on the page.  You can mitigate this in the component source code by checking to see if you’re in EDIT mode, then add some default text to the component to show it’s editable. Also, in many cases, it is difficult to click if you do not place your mouse at the precise point within the box to open the dialog, or even worse – components overlap each other and you can’t click them at all.

 

Roll-over editing (no Edit Bar)

Roll-over editing (no Edit Bar)

 

Use the Edit Bar

For better usability and consistency across the editing experience,  use the Edit Bar on your components and never mix Edit Bar and Rollover on the page.  That’s a horrible authoring experience.  The Edit Bars below clearly show the author how to edit content on the page and when used exclusively, gives the author consistency when authoring a page.   It’s clean, has clear calls-to-action, and doesn’t require default text to know they’re on the page.  By adding a few options to the edit bar configuration, you can click on the “Cut” button and easily move them around the page.

 

Marketing_Automation_Software_Oracle_Marketing_Cloud_Oracle_Eloqua_Products_-_2014-05-27_10.58.08

To add the edit bar to your component, create an ‘cq:editConfig’ node of type cq:EditConfig under the component. This link shows the various properties to add to the component.  Adding cq:actions to the properties allows functionality to move the component around the page.

The table below from the CQ documentation shows the different options for the edit bar.

Property Value Description
text:<some text> Displays the static text value <some text>
Adds a spacer
edit Adds a button to edit the component
delete Adds a button to delete the component
insert Adds a button to insert a new component before the current one
copymove Adds a button to copy and cut the component

 

Here are some typical properties to allow editing, moving, and deleting the component from the page. You must have “insert” selected if you want to move the component around the page and replace it between two components.

 

CRXDE_Lite_-_2014-05-27_14.32.13

 

Additional Tip: Remove the Wrapper

AEM adds wrapper containers around components to allow either clicking on the component on roll-over, or around the component tool bar when using the EDIT BAR. These additional DIVs tend to negatively impact the style of the component because of the extra container that the developer was not anticipating.

There is an easy way to force CQ to remove the wrapper when in any mode but EDIT mode.

Add the following snippet at the bottom of your component:


 <%
 //This code will only add the surrounding DIVs for the editbars when in EDIT mode only
 if (WCMMode.fromRequest(request) != WCMMode.EDIT && WCMMode.fromRequest(request) != WCMMode.DESIGN) {
    IncludeOptions.getOptions(request, true).forceSameContext(Boolean.TRUE);
 }
 %>