Percussion's widget builder feature was released to beta this month to a limited number of customers. Below are some examples of what can be done with Widget Builder

Percussion's Widget Builder: Productization not Customization

Wed Sep 11, 2013

Over the last several months, we received a sudden increase in the number of custom widget enhancements.  While we had always been asked by prospects and customers for one enhancement or another, suddenly the volume of these requests shot up. And unfortunately, there were no two requests that were the same.  So how were we going to solve this problem?

Stepping back from the problem, we saw a few things in common among all the requests.

  • Customers and prospects wanted the ability to extend the application to suit their needs
  • They did not have the technical resources available to build these enhancements themselves
  • They did not want custom software. They wanted something out-of-the-box that was ensured to be forward compatible with future releases of our product.

Our first response was to provide access to our internal toolkit that we use to build our application. However, that undermined requirement number two since that required understanding of our data model, java, and velocity. It also gave the possibility to create something that would not be forward compatible.

Our second thought was to deliver a set of APIs. We balked at that approach since again it would put the burden on the customer to have technical resources to build applications.

What we arrived on was a Widget Builder. Users can create custom widgets through an easy-to-use interface to define fields, meta-data, layout and design.  Users only need to have the same knowledge of CSS that they need to generally use the Percussion CMS. With many of our customers, this skill set resides within the Marketing department, reducing the need for IT support.  It also provides the ability for advanced users to insert javascript, make server side calls or integrate with third party REST services to create dynamic content and page.  

Below are some examples of what can be done with Widget Builder:

  • It allows designers to build custom widgets such as panel sliders or tabbed displays that will allow content contributors to easily add content. Content and code/design are separated so that users simply have to plug in their content.
  • It supports the ability to create structured content comprised of multiple fields, similar to a blog post. For example, an Article widget could contain an author field, a title, a release date, a summary and the main body post.  This helps in creating responsive sites as well.
  • It allows for custom integrations.  For example, a content contributor could type in a course ID stored in an LMS, and the widget definition could include a REST call to the LMS to return the course description or schedule.

This feature was released to beta this month to a limited number of customers. Percussion expects to make the Widget Builder generally available in early Q4 of this year.