I have been working with WCM & ECM for over 7 years. Designing and developing solutions for my customers. I have worked with customer of all sizes from large corporate and fortune 100 companies, to Federal Agencies, and smaller companies. This blog will be dedicated to helping others in the CMS industry find solutions that are sometimes outside the box. Having worked for a large ECM vendor for several years it has been nice to not be as restricted in the solutions that I provide.

About Me

Saturday, January 27, 2007

So Who Does Testing Anymore?

In the last few years I have noticed that less and less web developers do enough testing on their content. Since a lot of us are responsible for the content management why should we care.

The answer is simple. It is very easy for them and others to mistake what a CMS system does in the form or an xform, or templated content instead of something with their page. If you add that to the fact that we are all responsible for the sites under our control what can we do to help.

We have all seen the issues, and reported them to the developer only to be told any one of the following:

"It looked good in Firefox"
"I tested it in I.E. 7"
"You know XP displays things differently"
"Who uses a MAC?"

So to start off : I really like Firefox as well, and use it all the time, but the reality is for most of the sites that I manage Firefox is still not used as much as I.E, so looking at something mainly in Firefox is a bad idea, and I do try to point that out to the developers when this happens.

I.E. 7... ok this is new, and a lot of people are using it. Some by choice, some with just how Microsoft does the updates. With this said both browser handle certain things differently and again you need to make sure your developers who give you the base pages for you to create templates or xforms from have tested in both.

XP handles things differently? I've heard this and ones like it, and I know that on different operating systems there can be differences but again if they know something does not work in an OS or has been known to fail then I have a great idea "Don't do that!"

Who uses a Mac... Well I agree! Who does... well the problem with this is that usually the companies that have settled on a Mac try to only work with other companies and sites that look good with what they have. It only makes sense. So when possible if there is a chance someone with a Mac is going to hit your site then again have the developers test in it.

With all of the above said as we manage sites we are going to have to deal with this as best we can. So what I have found that may help you are to find out from the site owner(s) what their target audience is, and then try to have a testing environment that can test in all of the different browser versions, and operating systems. Tools like VMWare and others can help with this, or even the old dual boot on a test machine to give you multiple OS's could help.

For xforms and template development what I advise doing is to verify before you get into building the presentations that what you are working with has been tested. It does not take long to know.

I realize that changing a presentation and re-generating a page/site, or a css change is not that complex but it will help you when you hear from someone who is not the web developer that a page created with your xform looked bad.

With the above said I use linux so my blog looks good to me, and who out there does not use linux! So no complaints on the format of the blog ;-)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What is the best way to do headers and footers in a CMS system?

What is the best header and footer method? I have had this question put to me in various ways in my CMS career, and have answered in as many ways that supported the CMS vendor I was working for at the time, but I never though of it from the purely non vendor related CMS solution. Other customers would already have a method in place and simply want to make sure that the CMS system that they had just purchased would support their current method. I am proud to say that we were able to satisfy the clients requirements when this did come up, but still what is the answer?

What is the best header and footer method? Perl! That's the answer...

Ok a little humor there, and by no means do I believe that this post will solve this question, but rather give us all something to think about the next time the question comes to us so that we can better analyze the requirements.

Size Does Matter


If you have a small site, in my opinion you do not need to separate the header and footers. This is assuming that your site is small, and will not change or grow very much or often. Believe it or not I have seen customers use Enterprise level CMS systems for 20 pages, granted that was way back when, but I'm still sure some of them are around. So if you have something with less that 10 pages and it will not change very often simply creating a static html page that you use as a template will suffice.

Medium & Beyond

Once you get beyond the 20 or so pages it often becomes a pain to update a phone number change, the header graphic or what have you. So you should look at the other factors.


How many customers do you have visiting your site, and what happens when there is a surge. I have seen advertisements on TV and heard the next day that people went to the site after and it was down. If you ever have anything like this happen to you, check out akamai.com for one, and also look at how your site is configured.

Frequency of Updates

When thinking about headers and footers we also have to think about how often do they change, and who has the rights to change them. We also need to make sure that there is a process involved in this as well.

Now back to CMS

Ok the above are by no means the only factors, but in my mind they are some of the big ones. I almost mentioned technology available, but if you think of it if you do not have the right tools available and you base your decision on what's available vs what's the best solution you really have not served yourself or your client well. I do understand that a lot of times that is what we have to do, but for now let's assume your client say "Hey buy what works!"

So what is the best method...

I really still don't know from the above list. Let me point out some that I don't think work for most situation.

- Database driven : I have never liked purely database driven site. Having a web site that has to make a request from a database each time, and especially for header and footer do not work when you try to expand. If you get 10 million hits in the next hour will your database be able to handle it?

- Static Pages: I covered this earlier, but it is worth saying. If you have any size to your content at all static pages do not work.

- Header/Footer driven by template or forms engine: I have seen sites that use templating or forms to capture the content, and then they generate the static page with the header and footer included. I have never been a fan of this. The main reason is that if the header and footer change you have to re-generate the entire site. So add that to what if some of these are in a CMS system where the files are locked or otherwise in a workflow and you can have nothing but trouble.

So what works? If you won't say the best method.

- Server Side Includes: I have seen server side includes using shtm, and jsp includes. Depending on the content type you have there are other include methods that work on the server and these function very well. The main benefit of these that I see is that they allow you to separate the content contributors from your site designers. You can separate them by workarea/sandbox etc, and even have that content go through a separate workflow.

- Edge Side Include: Like server side includes these are includes that work with Akamai, and these allow you similar functionality.


If you have a method that works for you that I do not mention here please do shoot me an email or post a comment to the blog.

In another post I will try to show some examples of the above methods with Alfresco as I go further with their Beta!

Whoops I did forget we could do the headers and footers in frames :-)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Alfresco Content Load


This article continues my demonstrations of the user interfaces for Alfresco at their current build state. This demonstration is with revision 344 using the command line SVN client. This post will demonstrate the following:
- Bulk import of web site
- Individual file import

This demonstration assumes that a test web project already exists, you have logged in and navigated to the project space.

Bulk Import

1) Select the appropriate user sandbox. For this I selected the admin sandbox by clicking the browser link.

2) From the admin sandbox: Select the create: bulk import in the upper right hand side of the screen.

3) From the Bulk Import: Click Browse to navigate to a zip file containing your web site.

4) From the file browser: Navigate to the zip file containing the web site and click open.

5) From the Bulk Import screen: Click upload to upload the zip file to Alfresco

6) From the Bulk Import: Click OK to have Alfresco crack open the zip file and insert the content in the sandbox.

7) From the Bulk Import: Notice the status lights.

8) It may be necessary to stop and start the virtual server using /alfrescohome/virtual_stop.sh, and virtual_start.sh to enable the new area to preview properly. This could just be an issue with the build I have, but it may be necessary when first creating a space.

9) Content from import is displayed

Individual File Import

1) Navigate within a sandbox to the directory you would like to import content into. For this demonstration we will assume we need to add a new page under company.

2) From the sandbox in teh company directory: Select create, and add content.

3) From the add content screen; Browse for content, and click upload to upload the file to Alfresco.

4) From the Add Content Screen: Verify the file uploaded successfully, and that the correct content type is selected, and click OK.

5) The system returns you to the sandbox where you can see the file imported.

6) To preview content from the sandbox click the eye icon across from the content you would like to preview. This will open a new browser window to display the content in context.

This should help you see how to do a bulk import of content. This could be for the first initial load of content or for a load of a large content set. I know from my work with some other CMS systems that often the import of content beyond the sales person's speak of "Oh it's drag and drop" a utility like this can come in handy.

My next article will deal with the question of what is the best method to do include files. This will not be something focused solely on Alfresco, but I will take the time while demonstrating a method we are using with Alfresco to show that interface as well.

For further information or questions please email me: dmusser@eyestreet.com

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Create an Alfresco Web Content Management (WCM) Project
Alfresco is the leading open source alternative for enterprise content management. This open source alternative will allow companies to take advantage of Alfresco's engineering expertise while utilizing an open source product.

At Eye Street we have been working closely with Alfresco on training, alfresco.com, and on other initiatives. Part of our work with them has let us to becoming involved in the development of a content deploy application. Part of this development has required that we move past the preview release and utilize the repository Alfresco has set up to allow us to do frequent builds.

Create Web Project
This post is based on Build 291:

1) Login to alfresco: http://servername:8080/alfresco

2) From the My Alfresco Screen click: My Home (located at the top left)

3) From My Home click: Web Projects

4) From Web Projects click: Create Web Project

5) From Step One - Web Project Details enter the following information then click next to continue:
  • Name:
  • DNS name:
  • Default Webapp:
  • Title
  • Description

6) From Step Two - Configure Web Content Forms click add to list, to add existing web forms to the web project, or click create web form to create a new form. For this example I will click add to list for Body Content and Job Listing.

7) From Step Two - Configure Web Content Forms click next

8) From Step Three - Configure Workflows click add to list to add existing workflows to the project, and click next.

9) From Step Four - Add users search on the user name you wish to add, highlight that user, and their role, and click add to list.

10) From Step Four - Add Users after adding all users and setting their roles click next.

11) From Step Five - Email Users, fill in required information, change the radio button to yes (if smtp server configured) and click next, otherwise leave no selected and click next.

12) Review Summary and click finish.

13) From Web Project Page see your click on your new project's name or world icon to navigate into your project.

14) From project page notice the staging sand box, user sandboxes and all the other options available.


This should help you get started with Alfresco WCM. My next post will continue along this lines and demonstrate loading of content, preview of content, and basic xforms and workflows.

For further information or with questions or comments please email me: dmusser@eyestreet.com.