Feedback for Liferay 6: Global unified breadcrumb
Company Blogs April 26, 2010 By Jorge Ferrer Staff
This is the first post of what I hope will become a series of posts asking for feedback on some of the new features that will be including in Liferay 6. What we are hoping for right now is comments regarding issues from a usability or functional perspective. We'll be looking for ideas for improvements later, as part of the definition of the 6.1 roadmap, but right now our goal is to focus on polishing the features in 6.0 so that we can release 6.0 GA as soon as possible (hopefully within the next few weeks).
After this introduction I'm going to get to the point of this post: The global unified breadcrumb. This is a new navigation component that is shown in all pages at the top and underneath the page navigation:
Those of you who have been using Liferay for a while know that the product already had a portlet called breadcrumb that allowed for this. So what's really new?
- We have integrated the navigation of the portlets within the breadcrumb of the page. Why? Because as developers we see the portlets as independent components, but to the eyes of a non-technical user, whenever he navigates within a portlet the result is as if he's taken to a new page. Previously we had portlets which had their own breadcrumb but that could get very confusing, because some pages would have 2 or more different breadcrumbs in different positions of the page. Now we've created an API so that portlets could add items to the page breadcrumb as the users navigation through them. We've also modified Liferay's out of the box portlet to make use of this API and have removed their internal breadcrumbs.
- As you probably know, Liferay allows having multiple web sites in one single installation: there is one default site, which is called "Guest" but you can add many more sites per community, organization and user. The issue was that there wasn't any way to navigate between them. While such navigation is very dependent on the specific characteristics of each portal, there are some things that are general to all or most. In particular what we have done in the global breadcrumb is to add also the hierarchy of sites that lead to the current one. To that end we've considered that "Guest" is always the parent of all sites (this can be disabled). Underneath are all communities and the hierarchy of organizations. Users' sites are always shown underneath their organization. Here are some example paths:
- Guest > Organization A > User X
- Guest > Organization A > Organization A1 > User Y
- Guest > Community B
- The global unified breadcrumb is always visible on the screen. This feature actually started as a joke to Nate, to which he answered that would be impossible to acomplish. But some time later he came back saying "Don't trust me again when I say something is impossible"... He had done it! So what is it? Basically, the issue with some portal pages is that they are quite long, so if you scroll down the navigation elements are not visible any more. That is specially annoying in the case of the breadcrumb because it also shows where you are, which is always useful. How did nate fix it. Basically when the page scrolls down to a point where the breadcrumb is going to be hidden it gets attached to the top of the page, as if it was a browser bar and stays there, always visible. Here is a picture showing this behavior, you can see how the breadcrumb has changed the background color from white to black to become more easily visible:
- All of the new features mentioned in points 1 and 2 have been implemented as improvements to the breadcrumbs portlet. But we've also decided that this should always be included by default and thus are including that portlet from the default classic theme. You can of course change this in your own themes, but if you do then you might loose some useful features.
That's mainly it. The best way to understand how it works completely is to download Liferay 6.0 RC and beging playing with it. Try creating several communities, organizations and pages, also add some portlets to it such as blogs, document library with several folders, etc. and navigate through all of it.
We'd love to know how you like it. To make it easier to send your feedback and to allow you to subscribe to the ongoing discussion, I've created a message board post to that end. I've also given some specific points were we'd like to receive feedback. Here is the link: