BC.NEXT - liquid rendering, JSON, new editing capabilities and increased performance

Cristinel Anastasoaie - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We’ve started this year by announcing the Open Platform, enabling partners to create custom applications on top of Business Catalyst to enhance the existing core functionality and match their diverse customer needs. Shortly after that, we’ve added new responsive templates and updated our support center and documentation, with a dedicated developer section.

We’ve had great feedback on those enhancements, but we were already working on another track that we hope will be even cooler!

As partners started to build more and more complex websites, they’ve been facing a collection of limitations of the Business Catalyst platform and had to use extensive client side coding to get around those. Some of these limitations have been set by the same design that makes the platform easy to use in the first place.

So, with our next release, a public beta in July and a full launch in Fall, we plan to change all that and introduce absolute design freedom when it comes to creating websites on the Business Catalyst platform.

To accomplish that, we’ve focused on three vectors of innovation:

  1. Enhance the rendering engine and the BC mark-up language
  2. Data accessibility and output
  3. Improved editing experience

The next generation rendering engine

With sites growing more and more complex readability of the templates and the used modules becomes increasingly important. The current markup, without any indication on what the parameters are, make it really hard to work with it. Furthermore, current tags allowed limited to no possibilities to format, filter or change the presentation in any way. Partners were always relying on the BC team to release new modules, tags, or filters to better handle data.

Liquid Markup is the way to achieve total creative freedom with Business Catalyst. Bringing full control over generated content, server-side support for conditionals and loops, and more, Liquid markup enables easier building of amazing sites without many of the JavaScript hacks you had to use in the past.

For example, here is an example of how you will be able to check if a GET parameter was passed on to a page and do your own logic accordingly:

{% if globals.get.mygetparam %}
     A GET.mygetparam parameter was passed to the page and it has the value: {{globals.get.mygetparam}}
{% endif%}

In order to facilitate a seamless and gradual transition from the current mark-up to Liquid, you will be able to use both the old tags and the new Liquid tags in module templates and pages. For example, in a news list layout you can use both {tag_announcementid} and its Liquid equivalent {id}}. The same goes for {url}}, {{subject}}, etc.

And of course, we are really trying to make sure the new engine is very fast, so we did a great deal of work to optimize the speed of rendered sites.

For more information on rendering engine improvements, read the BC.Next - New Module/Tag Syntax, Liquid Templating & Improved Rendering Performance article.

Open data access with JSON and REST APIs

Have you ever wanted to filter / sort / display data in other ways than the ones provided by BC tags? Or interact with a third party system? Or wanted to create a different product feed? Or a site map that’s different that the standard one? We know the answer is yes and we know that creating endless views to current data output is not feasible as there will always be a different need.

The new release will enable many of these workflows with simple features:

  1. Ability to generate dynamic .json files with modules (create your own JSON output of a module)
  2. Added module_json that allows using a JSON file as data set and a liquid template
  3. Added a mechanism to export all data used in a page as JSON  by adding a GET parameter to the URL of the page (anypage.html?json=true)
  4. A new engine for REST APIs to allow faster development of OpenAdmin applications

For more about data accessibility, read the BC.Next - Access All BC Data: JSON Output Everywhere, More REST APIs article.

Admin console improvements

We've seen again and again customers trying to change their logo or homepage slider on a website and rarely succeeding. We want to change that and make the first contact with Business Catalyst a WOW experience, helping you close more deals and help your customers manage their content in a better way.

Today, the suggested way to edit a website is by using the "Edit" tab in the Admin Console. However, the current in browser editor is too limited. You can only edit some narrow sections of sites, and never data coming from database. And we all know that the current admin editor has a significant set of limitations.

We plan to change all that! The new rendering engine sets the foundation on which we will be able to enable very usable experiences for both partners and small business owners. First, we’re going to update the admin editor to a more modern and streamlined version which will overcome most of the limitations currently present when editing website content.

And right after that, we’ll release the next generation of the In-Context Editor where you can imagine an interface where you’ll be able to edit static and dynamic text, right in the context where it is displayed.

More about the improvements in the content editing experiences in the BC.Next Admin Editor article.

What’s next

We’re eager to see these changes being used by Partners and looking for feedback that will help tune platform and make it ready for a prime time use. Therefore, we’re happy to announce our public beta version release in July, which will include a working version of the Liquid engine, the new module syntax, updated visual editor and source code editor in admin interfaces as well as caching improvements.

We’ll continue the updates through the Summer and Fall, with focus on additional APIs and a new version of In-Context Editing that enables dynamic data editing.

To see those improvements at work please attend the webinar next Wednesday!

Stay tuned for a great second half of 2014,

The Adobe Business Catalyst Team.