The Digital Experience Accelerator DXA
- Does your development team let out a collective sigh whenever they’re tasked to develop a new set of templates?
- Do you find SDL Tridion templates slow to develop?
- Do you find that your developers need to attend a series of training courses before they feel confident enough to tackle your site’s templates?
- Are you using Razor or Dreamweaver template syntax in your SDL Tridion Component and Page Layouts?
- Do you develop and rely on your own custom Template Building Blocks (TBBs)?
If you answered, “Yes” to any of the above questions then you’re not alone. The world has moved on and frankly publishing HTML and DCPs from SDL Tridion doesn’t blend well for modern MVC based web site frameworks. Fortunately SDL has acknowledged this shift and have been instrumental in backing the development of an alternative way to develop SDL Tridion sites. There’s a new way to invigorate excitement in your SDL Tridion developers – It’s the Digital Experience Accelerator (DXA).
The Digital Experience Accelerator has also previously been called, “Tridion Reference Implementation ( TRI )“. DXA is an Open Source project which plugs into either .NET MVC or Spring MVC to provide pure delivery side templating for SDL Tridion.
The installer accompanied with DXA adds the necessary structure groups, folders, schemas, components and pages to your publications. What you also get is an MVC webapp with some example pages that showcase the DXA’s “out of the box” functionalities.
OK so I’m not going to delve too deep into the underlying workings of the framework; I do however see merit in highlighting the advantages for adopting it.
- Dreamweaver templating syntax is a thing of the past.
- DXA leverages DD4T as its underlying Content Provider. This means that DD4T is used within Tridion to transport your Tridion managed data to the Content Broker Database. All templates in Tridion (Page and Component) produce XML. This XML is then persisted and retrieved by the DXA in Content Delivery. Those that have used it, know that the Tridion based Dreamweaver template syntax is very verbose and that it is often accompanied by the creation of multiple custom Template Building Blocks (TBB). With DXA all templates and logic resides in your webapp, not Tridion.
- Local debugging of web app is easier
- If you aren’t already using the DXA or DD4T you are most likely using Dreamweaver Tempalting and/or another Tridion Mediator (i.e. XSLT, Razor). With DXA no HTML template code is stored in Tridion. As before you still apply templates to components and pages in Tridion, the difference with DXA is that those templates now produce XML. This XML is what is published to the Content Broker Database.
- All data is retrieved from the Content Broker DB and all template code is stored within your webapp. This means you don’t have to worry about syncing files (DCPs, etc.) to your local webapp when content is published. This minimizes the moving parts of your application and means that you are better enabled for developing and debugging your webapp in your IDE.
- The DXA leverages MVC to its fullest. You have the freedom that comes with creating controllers and views.
- Experience Manager
- You get this out of the box with DXA. All the out of the box pages and views are enabled to work with Experience Manager. This is no small feat and should be a major reason for considering moving to DXA. Experience Manager is a pivotal part of where Tridion is going in terms of editing and reviewing content. It provides a wealth of functionality that is just not available in the traditional Content Manager Explorer (CME) interface. If you aren’t yet using XPM, then you should definitely request a demo from your Account Manager.
- Search Engine Optimization
- The DXA leverages the schemas seen at Schema.org. When fields are displayed on your pages the framework marks up your HTML with this schema information. This has the benefit of improving your SEO. Many popular search engines look for this markup when indexing. If found it’s used to improve the display of search results. Use of schemas tells the search engines what your data MEANS, not just what it says.
- DXA ships with a simple example of a Google Analytics module. This can be used as a reference to create additional modules. There’s also a community Search Module for DXA that’s based on SI4T ( http://si4t.github.io/ ) – (backed by SORL and thus Lucene) – https://www.sdltridionworld.com/community/2011_extensions/search_module.aspx . The hope with DXA is that the community will create and reuse modules – resulting in less development effort for everyone.
- Slacker Learning Curve for Developers
- The DXA view and controller code that’s created isn’t coupled tightly to Tridion constructs. Developers reference models with properties that correlate to properties in an actual schema.org schema. For example you might choose to only use a subset of properties from the Event schema ( http://schema.org/Event ) to represent a company’s events. It means that a lot of the actual coding around views can be done without any knowledge of Tridion.
- No HTML is pushed to the Content Broker DB – just XML. This means that your developers don’t need to worry themselves about creating Template Building Blocks (TBB) or debugging Component and Page templates using the traditional Tridion Template Manager. All code debugging is done within an IDE, where it should be.
- DXA comes with a suite of working pages and templates that showcases the framework. This allows anyone to understand how it all hangs together.
- DXA is fully documented – http://goo.gl/Vfssns (requires login)
- Modern Cross Browser Responsive Front End
- The default install of DXA is packaged with Twitter Bootstrap. This is not a tight coupling and you can choose if you so wish, to not base your site on Twitter Bootstrap. You would still get to leverage other very useful parts of DXA
- If you’re a developer or designer, you’ve almost certainly heard of Twitter Bootstrap. If you’re not then head over to http://getbootstrap.com/ to get an appreciation for the framework.
- The out of the box templates that comes bundled with DXA leverage SDL Mobile and Twitter Bootstrap’s, RESS capabilities. There is functionality in the DXA controllers and views to switch into view certain HTML elements based on the size of device making the request.
- Dynamic Image Delivery
- SDL Mobile’s server-side device detection capabilities are used within DXA to deliver different image sizes based on the device accessing the page. This means that the images served are optimized for the device they’re being served on. This results in faster load times for those interacting with you site on a mobile phone or tablet computer. Upload one large image and have the framework do the re-sizing for you!
- Full power of MVC
- You have either .NET MVC or Spring MVC (to released soon) at you full disposal. That means your hands aren’t tied and you don’t need to re-invent wheels during development.
I encourage you to download the DXA and “kick the tires”. It’s free to download.
I’ve tried to collate a number of community resources covering DXA. This is not a definitive list but it should get you up to speed.
Official SDL Documentation:
- http://goo.gl/85HSYh (requires login)
- Intro to DXA
- An introduction to the SDL Tridion Reference Implementation (aka DXA )
- DXA Extensibility
- DXA Web Application Overview
- Responsive Design in the DXA
- DXA HTML Design
- DXA Useful Features
Videos and Webinars:
- SDL Tridion Reference Implementation Installation
- Nov 2014 Webinar about DXA
Community Support and Blogs:
- Tridion StackExchange
- Blog coverage from Alvin Reyes with lot of links to other DXA material: