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How to create a composite portal

Summary

A composite portal is built from harness rules, section rules, a skin rule and a portal rule. V5.5 includes two composite portals and several supporting section rules that you can use as-is, or adapt to the needs of your application users.

 

Suggested Approach

Introduced in V5.5, composite portals are easier to tailor and offer greater flexibility in layout and function than the traditional portals introduced in V5.1. (For an introduction to composite portals and their benefits, see About composite portals.)

You can build one or more composite portals for your application users either by adapting and evolving the two sample portals — User and Manager — distributed with V5.5, or from scratch, drawing on the section-level building blocks included with V5.5.

Step 1: Planning

Whether your application is to support just a dozen users or thousands, some may be interacting for hours each workday with the portals you build. For your users, ease of use and productivity are as important in their Process Commander applications as in the other tools they work with. Good design and good implementation can help users achieve the economic or customer service benefits of your application, and will contribute to their job satisfaction.

During the planning step, identify and build a list of the functional capabilities that each user or user role needs.

Identify the roles and responsibilities of subgroups within the user community. Instead of just two — user and line manager — there may be three or five or more. Some examples:

  • Some users may perform "intake" — They create new work objects but never update or resolve them. They never need to view a worklist.
  • Some users may only perform research — They advance existing work objects through a flow but never enter new ones. They do not need to create new work.
  • Some managers may transfer assignments only within their own work group. Other managers may transfer assignments to anyone.
  • Some users may enter work objects only for a single application. They do not need the "application switcher" facility, since they never switch applications.
  • Senior management may specify quality and throughput measures for the business, resulting in new reports or charts.
  • Users may need quick access to certain facts — such as the latest interest rates or exchange rates — that change frequently.
  • Everyone needs the ability to log off.

Step 2: Layout

The next step involves designing a physical layout of the facilities to be available in each portal.

A composite portal is made from spaces, A harnss rule defines the contents of each space . Only a single space is visible at a time.

While the two sample portals User and Manager each have only one space, your application can involve two or more spaces. (Each space must include a button, link, or menu that allows users to navigate from any space to the others.)

ChoicesConsider the screen real estate available for the portal. Do users have 800x1280 displays, or larger displays? Will they work exclusively with the portal, or also need to access other applications such as email or other applications at the same time?

Through the Panel Set control ( Panel Set), Process Commander offers 13 distinct possible layouts for each space. Ultimately, each panel in the panel set must hold a single section, but that section can offer multiple functional capabilities. Consider the physical characteristics in planning what panels are suitable for your portal:

  • The Left and Right panels are tall but narrow
  • The Top and Bottom panels are wide but not tall
  • Both the width and height of the Center panel can be adjusted
  • Users can collapse, or stretch, or shrink, the Left, Top, Right, and Bottom panels at runtime (if this capability is enabled)

You can mock up (and so estimate the physical size of) a section even before the properties are known:

  1. Create a section rule. By convention, use Data-Portal or a class group as the Applies To class.
  2. On the Layout tab, create the layouts — SmartLayouts or freeform layouts — that will hold data values or labels.
  3. Select, drag, and drop a label, text area, input box, select box, or calendar — into a cell. For a Label, enter the label text. For other controls, you do not need to reference a property in your application; you can use the placeholder properties such as .pyTemplateTextArea:

Mock up

The final results of Step 2 are a physical design — for the spaces, panels, and contents of each panel — that provide the functions identified in Step 1.

Step 3: Identify or create the building blocks

The two sample composite portals User and Manager are built from a few dozen standard section rules. Most are true building blocks, in that they operate independently of the others. Together they replicate and extend the capabilities provided by the traditional portals WorkUser and WorkManager.

For example, the Top panel of the User portal contains the section named @baseclass.UserTopPanel. That section in turn contains a logo image and three standard sections @baseclass.Logoff, @baseclass.NewWork, and @baseclass.FindWork.

You can copy and adapt these as necessary for your application needs. Don't make changes that involve CSS styles such as fonts or colors. In almost all cases, such changes are better achieved through the Application Skin wizard.

In cases where no standard section is suitable as a starting point, you must construct the a section that provides the capability. All the power and flexibility of section rules is available to support this development task.

Step 4. Assemble

After you have found or constructed the sections:

  1. Create a harness rule for each space.
  2. Drag and drop the panel set you selected earlier in step 2.
  3. Insert the appropriate section rule into each panel of the panel set.
  4. Save the harness rules.
  5. Create a portal rule. On the Skins tab, set the Type to Composite.
  6. On the Spaces tab, identify the harness rule for each space. The space that presents work object forms must have the name Work.
  7. Use the Application Skin wizard to create a skin rule for the application, including the portal. Initially, you may decide to specify only a few of the most important aspects of the skin. You can rerun the Application Skin wizard at any time later to refine and further evolve the skin.

Step 5: Evolve, test, and test again

Testing should cover not only correct operation, but usability and user productivity. Every keystroke and every mouse click counts when a portal is to be used all day by a large group.

Example

Users in the Intake area at Zeta Co answer incoming phone calls from field sales staff. When the Subscription application is completed, these users will enter work objects that are automatically routed to various other departments for further processing.

As a result of this business process design, the worklists of Intake users are empty. There is e or benefit in presenting a worklist display to such users. Instead, the worklist area can hold a chart or report that is meaningful to Intake users.

Step 1: Identify parts to be overridden

By examining the standard composite portal rule named User, you can determine that:

  • The Work space is defined by a harness rule named Data-Portal.User. (This information appears on the Spaces tab.)
  • The harness rule Data-Portal.User has three panels: Top, Left, and Center. The Center panel holds a section rule named Data-Portal.UserCenterPanel.
  • In turn, the section rule Data-Portal.UserCenterPanel includes a Work Area control.
  • The Work Area control references a harness rule Data-Portal.UserHome.
  • The harness rule Data-Portal.UserHome references a list view report Assign-Worklist.WorkLIstEmbed.

Step 2: Create a section rule to hold a chart

Create an empty section Data-Portal.UserHome in an application RuleSet containing a single, free form cell. Place a chart control in the cell and configure parameters for the chart control, identifying the summary view rule that presents the chart.

In this case, a summary view rule Zetaco-Subscription.ByCreateHour (not shown) shows how many work objects the current user entered during each hour, as a column chart.

Section

Step 3: Create a harness referencing the section

The Work Area control in the standard section rule Data-Portal.UserCenterPanel references a harness rule, not a section.

Create a harness rule named Data-Portal.UserHome containing a single freeform cell. (This rule overrides the standard rule of that name.)

Drag and drop the section created in step 2 above into the cell. Adjust width and height.

Step 4: Test

Create a test Operator ID linked to an access group that references the standard User portal, but that includes your application.

Log in and test the portal. By supplying just a section and a summary view, and overriding one harness rule — Data-Portal.UserHome — the Zeta Co developers have created a custom composite portal that replaces the unneeded worklist with a chart.

Chart

But all other sections and capabilities of the User portal operate unchanged. Users in the Intake department can click the New button to enter new subscription work objects.

New Work

 

Related Topics

Published November 4, 2008 — Updated March 25, 2009


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