Sunday, April 14, 2013

SDL Tridion and Rich Text Fields

In the past year we've been asked a few times how to add support for non-XHTML tags to Tridion Rich Text Fields (if you want to know how, check here, here or here) and this usually gets followed by a discussion with questions along the lines of:

  • Why do you want to do that?
  • Why is it not there out-of-the-box?
  • Is it supported?

So, here's my take on why you're doing it for the wrong reasons. Yes, you can modify the rich text settings to allow entering any possible tag, but everytime you do this you are breaking the experience of your content editors for the sake of making your html markup work on your site.

When editors must create content that includes non-standard XHTML tags they will have to edit the html source of their content and add the tags themselves - guess how much of that will work when using Experience Manager? When implementing Tridion (or any other WCM) you may be tempted to take shortcuts to implement faster, and also to avoid having to review the HTML/Web app that you intend to use. But if your content editors are expected to edit their source html to insert "data-rule" attributes in links, you just made their life harder.

What should you do instead?

In my view, non-XHTML attributes required on content should be dealt with in the most user-friendly way. If you need to use <article> or <section> tags in your RTF, why not convert <div class="article"> to <article> at publish time? If you need to insert data attributes to links, then do consider a similar approach replacing other, normal attributes (or, at the very least, consider writing an extension that allows to add those tags without editing the html source).
Every time you ask an editor to edit the source of their html to add attributes you are asking them to dislike the system. Consider this when designing applications, making it hard to edit content has never been one of the goals for a WCM implementation project...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

R5 is dead. Long live R5

Today we finished the code base for SDL Tridion 2013 and released it to customer support. Though not a revolutionary release as SDL Tridion 2011 was, it brings a lot of functional enhancements to core Content Management features that our enterprise-level customers asked for, and (the best feature in my view) the ability to use non-Tridion content as "regular" Tridion assets.

(If you want to know more about what's new with SDL Tridion 2013, take a look at the community webinar recording).

A consequence of this release is that, keeping in line with our support policy, support for SDL Tridion 2009 should end in the next 6-12 months (we always support the last 2 major Tridion releases, and offer a "grace" period for the version prior to that), and this means the end of the R5 line.

SDL Tridion R5 was initially launched in October 2002 and introduced a LOT of concepts that were quite revolutionary for the WCM world at the time:
  • Personalization & Profiling via Target Groups
  • Browser-only, fully functional, business-friendly interface with Server-side XML and client side javascript (I guess I can't call it AJAX because AJAX didn't exist back then!)
  • Extensible Event System allowing for implementation-specific automation
  • XML everywhere
  • Support for XSLT templates and VBScript/JScript templates
  • Template Building Blocks!
  • Component-based Content Management!
  • Java & ASP Content Delivery modules
  • Blueprinting!
OK, some of those items above already existed in R4 or even before that, but you get the point. And today, 10+ years later, we're moving away from the brilliant architecture that was put in place to support SDL Tridion's customers through the web revolution and have entered the brave new world of WCM 2.0.

Stop for a moment and think about how much (and how many times) the web changed since October 2002. Now consider that the same core architecture that powered sites in 2002 is still powering major sites today - that's foresight. It shows the designers of the R5 core knew what they were doing, and where the world was moving to. With Tridion 2011 ("R6") we did some much-needed refactoring of the interface (browser support & extensibility being the core new features) but also quite a lot of lower-level refactoring that allowed us to introduce new products quite rapidly after that release: Experience Manager, Online Marketing Explorer, User Generated Content) and finally with Tridion 2013 ("R7") the introduction of multi-item workflow (aka "Bundles") and External Content Libraries.

In other words, we're off to a good start on the R6/R7 dynasty - may it serve us (and our partners and customers) as well as the R5 architecture did.