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Structured Content and Dynamic Pages in EPiServer and Ektron

Structured content - Ektron and EPiServerThe news in the CMS world has been dominated lately by the announcement of the merger between EPiServer and Ektron. The combination of these two platforms provides plenty of discussion about what to expect in the future and how websites operating on either platform will be affected. As developers who build websites using both platforms, we’re especially interested in how the combined platform will operate on the back end. Since the approach to website development can be very different for each platform, we wanted to discuss some of the ways that EPiServer and Ektron differ. Today, we’re taking a look at Structured Content and Dynamic Pages.

What are Structured Content and Dynamic Pages?

Structured Content separates form from content, allowing content editors to fill in the data to be displayed on a page without having to worry about formatting. For instance, when creating a blog article, editors can fill in fields for the name, date, author, the body of the article, and any other fields that have been defined, and the CMS will display the blog article according to the formatting that has been defined by the website’s designers and developers. This provides a way to maintain consistency across all pages of a website, ensuring an optimal user experience.

Dynamic Pages, on the other hand, provides content editors with the capability to easily add content modules to a page, such as a call-to-action (CTA) or a related blog post. There are many possible options available for these types of modules, such as Personalized Content that displays different content for different users based on Marketing Automation data.

Let’s look at how EPiServer and Ektron handle structured and dynamic content from a developer’s perspective:

Ektron: Smart Forms and PageBuilder

Structured content is created in Ektron using Smart Forms, which consist of XML data that is converted into HTML data using either XSLT or Content Types. Developers need to define these Smart Forms within the Ektron workarea.

For dynamic pages, Ektron uses a functionality called PageBuilder, which provides drop zones in which content editors can insert modules called “Widgets,” which are special ASP.NET user controls that developers can define. WSOL’s developers have expanded the capabilities of PageBuilder with the WSOL SuperTemplate, which allows users to choose dynamic page layouts that can be defined at the folder level, providing a great deal of flexibility for how content is displayed.

EPiServer: Page Types and Content Areas

EPiServer handles structured content using Page Types, which are .NET classes that define the properties and attributes of the different fields on a page. Developers can create these classes at the code level, allowing them to easily define the properties and their attributes, specifying settings such as which types of fields are required and which groups of users have permission to create certain types of pages. Defining page types at the code level provides a great deal of flexibility for developers, allowing them to easily reuse classes from project to project.

EPiServer handles dynamic pages using Content Areas, which can be added to Page Types as a section of the page in which a reference to other page and block types can be inserted. For example, in addition to the standard fields like title, date, and main content, a blog article page type could include content areas for CTAs and related blogs. Users would be able to easily drag and drop content blocks into drop zones for CTAs and related blogs when editing the page, and based on the settings that the developers define, the title, summary text, and links or buttons will automatically be included when these blocks are displayed on the blog article page.

In addition, EPiServer uses Block Types, which function as modules that can be inserted into a page. These can be defined globally, allowing a single CTA to be included on a variety of pages across the site; if the global block is updated, it will be updated on every page in which it is included. Or, a page-specific block can be created for a single page and only available for that page.

Blocks can also be used to define the properties of a page type. For instance, a SEO block that includes the title, keywords, and description of a page could be created and added as a property within a page type, and it will be included in all of the content using that page type.

These versatile modules provide a great deal of customization and flexibility for content editors, and they also allow developers to strictly define what types of content are available in each content area, ensuring consistency across the entire site.

The Future?

As news continues to be released about the merger between EPiServer and Ektron, we’ll be watching to find out how the combined platform will handle the way developers define a website’s settings and create the tools that allow editors to manage its content. As developers who have worked with both EPiServer and Ektron, we have a deep understanding of these platforms, and we’re confident that we will be able to provide resources for EPiServer and Ektron users, helping you make sure you are ready for whatever the future may bring.

Do you have any questions for us about how you can make sure your site is ready for this merger? Do you want to know more about implementing structured and dynamic content in EPiServer or Ektron? Please contact us to speak with a Solutions Engineer, or share any other questions you might have in the comments below.

About the Author

Brad McDavid
Brad McDavid
Brad is WSOL's Product Manager, you can read more about him here.