Creating new publication with Escenic Content Engine

01.08.2012.

One of very important aspects of Escenic Content Engine (that is the central part of Vizrt Online Suite) is the time and the resources needed to create new online publications with minimal development and administration effort. ECE is a content management system that is usually initially installed and configured in the hosting infrastructure for a “flag-ship” news portal that attracts the majority of visitors and the traffic. With time, such news portal also introduce users to various affiliated sites, dedicated to special events (such as Olympic Games, World Championships, general elections or major disasters) or specific user groups that are more interested in a specific type of content (for example business only news, automobiles, showbiz, regional portals etc.). Such separation can increase user traffic and improve advertisement effectiveness, while reusing the same content on more than one portal. Thus it can significantly increase advertisement revenues.

Such new publications will typically have just a fraction of the traffic for the flag-ship portal, so it is important that the total costs of establishing and operating new publication are minimized. Due to the multi-tennant architecture of Vizrt Online Suite, creating additional publications (sites) with Escenic Content Engine 5 and Widget Framework is pretty straight forward and requires a minimal development and administration effort.

“The Escenic Widget Framework is an add-on product for the Escenic Content Engine that greatly simplifies the process of designing publications. Without the Widget Framework, publication design requires considerable HTML and JSP programming skills. With the Widget Framework, publications can be designed using a drag-and-drop interface in Escenic Content Studio (the Escenic content editor).” – Widget Framework User Guide.

Of course, some restrictions apply like page layout (960px wide), image sizes – 13 out-of-the box sizes, available widgets, their functionality and configuration (39 core widgets, 13 community and 16 mobile widgets). Lets assume that the Editor-in-chief asks for a new publication targeted to a specific population (lets say tourists in a specific region). There are several assumptions that can be made:

  • the IT infrastructure has been properly sized to handle additional traffic (this is usually the case, since ECE is primarily optimized for high-volume sites with frequent content changes)
  • web design (styles, images, header and footer) has already been prepared
  • administrators have experience with setup process (since here we are addressing additional publications on the existing infrastructure)
  • at least part of editorial staff have been properly trained in using Escenic Content Studio (it is not mandatory that all of them have full training, since it is rather easy to learn on the job).

If these requirements are met (and they usually are because we are talking about additional publications), the question is how much time, money and effort is required? Well, here is the summary:

  • no additional cost for software, hardware or network connectivity (since this case really reuses the existing infrastructure)
  • two days of effort for system administrator(s)
  • two days of effort for the web designer (excluding the preparations of visual proposals, sketches etc.)
  • two days of effort for the editor
  • results available in one week time-frame.

Requirements (for Widget Framework 2.X)

  • Escenic Content Engine 5.4
  • Forum (3.1 or later)
  • Menu Editor (2.1 or later)
  • Poll (2.2 or later)
  • Geo Code (2.4 or later)
  • Analysis Engine (2.4 or later)
  • Viz Community Expansion (3.7 or later)
  • Viz Mobile Expansion (3.1 or later)

Steps for creating publication

  1. Creating a new publication with Escenic widgets
  • This is done by configuring local maven repository for the widget framework (core, community and/or mobile) and running ‘mvn install’ command
  • Then the final publication war file must be built using Escenic Assembly Tool (running ‘ece assemble’)
  • Escenic Content Engine must then be redeployed and the new publication created using Escenic Admin web application

2. Configuring new publication

  • Caching layer (usually running Varnish) must be configured to allow ESI (Edge Side Includes) for the new publication URL
  • Load balancer (usually Apache or a commercial, standalone load balancer like F5 BIG-IP LTM) is configured to balance requests for the new publication
  • Application Server (actually the servlet container like Tomcat) needs to be configured to support ROOT context for the new publication
  • Also mail, in-page editing, statistics, etc. must be configured with Escenic properties and section parameters

3. Creating sections and configuring widgets

  • Desired sections can then be created and constructed using widgets

4. Implementing desired design using Style widget

  • Using Style widget customer can override default escenic CSS and images
  • If advanced design implementation is required, customer can provide Escenic theme that will be available to publication

5. Go-live support

As described above, additional publications can be built and deployed on the existing infrastructure with the Widget Framework with quite a small effort related mainly to a system reconfiguration and the new site design. Out-of-the box features are easily upgraded by overriding Escenic code or developing new widgets, but these features require extra development depending on editor requirements.

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