Models, and Views, and Controllers—Oh My!
When Episerver and Ektron merged early last year, I knew that my world was going to change. When I finally go the chance to work on an Episerver project, I felt just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, more than a little lost in this unfamiliar world, and on the lookout for dangerous animals in the dark forest. But where Dorothy was afraid of the lions, and tigers, and bears, I’m faced with models, and views, and blocks, and don’t even get me started on controllers. This is nothing like the smart forms, XSD files, and super templates that I am much more familiar with from the Ektron world.
But for all of the differences between the two platforms, after a little bit of experience and exploration, I have found, not a scary forest, but a place where things may not be familiar, but aren’t nearly as scary as I first thought.
My Kingdom for Some Structure
While I have been working with the Ektron CMS for almost ten years now, one of the things that took me the most time to figure out was the benefit of using structured content. Now, I think it’s one of the product’s most important features, I just wish that they had taken it a bit further, and made it the default content mode.
Luckily, Episerver provides that structure. I love how we can define the content structure with code, or the Epi interface. This gives us many options to:
– Define the page and block types in code
– Inherit properties from another model
– Define an interface or an abstract model
If I want a similar structure of fields in different content types, I don’t have to recreate them, I can inherit them, opening up a whole world of re-usability that Ektron’s smart forms just didn’t have. This is game changing!
The Building Blocks of a Great Page
I remember thinking that when Ektron first introduced the concept of Page Builder and widgets, that it was pretty cool stuff. Then when I started working for WSOL, and was able to work with their super template, I thought that this was how to do page builder right. But as good as the super template is, Epi does it better.
Never mind the man behind the curtain, the block and content areas in Episerver are the true magic of the page. This is what the Ektron widgets could have been, but never quite achieved. Add a small or large snippet of content onto the page using a defined content structure. Add more than one, and re-order them on the fly. Your content editors don’t have to worry about how it’ll be displayed, they can just worry about getting the right content on the right page. And the icing on the cake—those blocks can be re-used, if needed, or be unique to the current page.
Following the Yellow Brick Road
While I haven’t yet reached the Emerald City by becoming a certified Episerver developer, I am on the path. The forest doesn’t seem so dark now, and I’m excited about all of the Episerver projects that are coming. I love the power that I have while coding the models, the flexibility that the blocks give me, and the structure that is inherent in every page. This is a great platform that I am excited to work on for many years to come.