Oracle WebCenter Mobile Development Skillsets

By Mitchell Palski, Oracle WebCenter Sales Consultant

The Important of Enterprise Mobility
Enterprise mobility is a growing area of interest for all organizations – public sector and commercial – mainly because of the widespread use of mobile devices. A majority of users have mobile access to the web and an ever-growing percentage of those users depend on that capability to successfully perform their day-to-day responsibilities. Rather than combat this trend, the burden is on IT development teams to develop user interfaces that enhance the productivity of their workforce and encourage user participation through mobile devices. I wrote a blog in April 2014 called “The Evolution of Enterprise Content in the Mobile Era” in which I talked about the enterprise benefits of mobile access to content. Aside from the benefits to end users, I also noted that organizations can analyze usage analytics from personal devices to gather information about their mobile workforce. The point is this; enterprise mobility isn’t just important to end users’ satisfaction, it’s also important to an organization’s operational awareness.

Developing a Mobile Interface with Oracle WebCenter Portal
Oracle WebCenter Portal is a Web platform that allows organizations to quickly and easily create intranets, extranets, composite applications, and self-service portals. Oracle WebCenter Portal provides users a more secure and efficient way of consuming information and interacting with applications, processes, and other users. Oracle WebCenter Portal provides IT with a comprehensive and flexible enterprise portal and composite applications solution to quickly build portals, websites and composite applications. This common user experience architecture is based on ADF and combines run-time and design time customization of applications in one. 

Oracle WebCenter Portal supports enterprise mobility through several development techniques:
  • Responsive Design – develop an interface that adapts the layout of a website automatically based on the dimensions of the device viewing that site.
  • Device Settings and Page Variants – control how a Portal renders on specific devices or groups of devices.
  • Mobile Applications – provide users with native applications for their iOS and Android devices.
The rest of this blog will be dedicated to explaining the differences between these three techniques, as well as the skillsets that your staff will require to use them.

Responsive Design
1 Responsive design is a client-side strategy that depends on CSS Media Query to carry out the client-side responsiveness. Oracle WebCenter Portal is based on the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF), whose user interface components (rich client components) are based on JavaServer Faces (JSF). When developing a responsive Oracle WebCenter Portal user interface, your development team will have to leverage those ADF components to quickly and easily build interactive user interfaces. When building a responsive user interface layout, developers are not limited to using ADF components – they can also leverage the traditional HTML5+CSS3 technique. Here’s how it breaks down:

Interactive Components  Page Layout
 ADF  Yes  Yes
 HTML5+CSS3  No  Yes

What it comes down to is this:

  • Oracle WebCenter Portal comes out-of-the-box with a plethora of UI components that can be dragged and dropped onto a page. No ADF knowledge is needed to accomplish this.
  • ADF is used for any UI component that interacts with Oracle WebCenter services. This includes anything from an Event Calendar to an Administration link.
  • ADF, HTML5, or a hybrid of the two, can all be used to design the layout of your Portal.
The only other note I would like to make here is that many Oracle WebCenter Portal customers prefer to change the out-of-the-box look and feel of ADF components. Those components generate HTML on the client side that assigns unique CSS classes that HTML. The styles associated with those classes can be altered by using ADF skin selectors2 in the Portal skin.

Oracle recommends the use of JDeveloper to develop page templates and skins for Oracle WebCenter Portal. In JDeveloper, you can build new templates and skins from scratch or refine and further develop existing ones that come with Oracle WebCenter Portal.

Page Variants
Oracle WebCenter Portal includes the capability to recognize which type of device a given request comes from, and to render the portal properly on that device. Portal administrators can use device settings to specify which page templates and skins to associate with specific devices or classes of devices. In addition, administrators can create and edit page variants – alternative pages designed to display on specific groups of devices.

When it comes to developing the actual page templates and skins, the same skillsets described above apply. However, there are two categories of additional skills that Portal developers and administrators should learn; both are specific to Oracle WebCenter Portal:
Managing device groups allows an administrator to assign specific page templates and skins to device types. The value of this feature is realized by standardizing the look-and-feel of a portal across devices within the same group. For example, it may be beneficial to replace flashy image-filled backgrounds with CSS3 gradients to improve page load times. 

The advantage of using page variants is that you aren’t just altering the layout of the page based on a device’s dimensions – you are actually providing an alternate user experience. You are also controlling what content is actually being displayed on that page. You may want to completely re-structure the way that your navigation renders, or which Business Intelligence reports show up on the home page, or provide links that are more useful to mobile workers rather than those in the office. Responsive design can be incorporated into this technique, but the real value in using page variants comes from defining mobile user’s goals and tailoring the interface to optimize their experience.

Mobile Applications for Oracle WebCenter
Oracle ADF Mobile enables developers to build and extend enterprise applications for iOS and Android from a single code base. Based on a hybrid mobile architecture, ADF Mobile supports access to native device services, enables offline applications and protects enterprise investments from future technology shifts.

The Java language is used for developing the business logic in Oracle ADF Mobile applications – a fairly commonplace skillset. This makes mobile app development easy for most organizations because it doesn’t require their Java developers to learn any new programming languages. The Oracle Fusion Middleware stack has a set of APIs for all products, including Oracle WebCenter. These APIs can be used to access Oracle WebCenter security, to display Oracle WebCenter services (i.e. People connections, announcements, events, etc.), to render content from the Content Repository, and perform many other Oracle WebCenter-related actions. Local device services such as camera, phone, SMS, and GPS, can also be accessed through the Apache Cordova platform. ADF mobiles can authenticate against a remote login server and then make the appropriate tokens accessible for further web service calls to data sources.

For developers that already familiar with developing with Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF), the transition to using ADF mobile will be even easier. Developers can still expose Java classes and web services as “data controls”. JDeveloper uses a declarative binding layer and drag-and-drop technology to create forms, lists, charts, and other data visualizations from an application’s data controls. Developers that are already accustomed to building interfaces using these declarative technologies will find ADF mobile easy to use, especially considering that the ADF Mobile components are already designed for mobile devices, allow for additional customization through CSS3, and support touch gestures.

Conclusion
Why is Enterprise Mobility Important?
  • More and more users depend on web capabilities to successfully perform their day-to-day responsibilities 
  • Encouraging user engagement through mobile devices can enhance the productivity of your mobile workforce 
  • Organizations can analyze usage analytics from personal devices to gather information about their mobile workforce
What options does Oracle WebCenter Portal provide for Delivering Mobile Engagement?
  • Responsive design in page templates and skins
  • Apply layouts and skins to the UX for specific devices and device-groups
  • Develop a mobile application using ADF Mobile
What skillsets will are needed by the development staff to build this mobile experience?
Features  Features  Features  Skill-sets  Skill-sets
 Mobile Methodology  Adaptive Layouts  Device-specific User Experiences  Works Offline  ADF Skill-Level  HTML5+CSS3 Skill-Level
 Responsive Design  Yes  No  No Minimal Expert
 Device Settings  Yes  Yes  No Minimal Proficient 
 Mobile App  Yes No  Yes  Expert Proficient 

At the end of the day, there is no substitute for hands-on training and reading the Oracle Documentation. For more guidance on this subject, reach out to your local Oracle representative and open a discussion!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

1Building a Responsive WebCenter Portal Application, April 2014, By JayJay Zheng
2ADF-WebCenter Responsive-Adaptive Design Beyond, By Martin Deh

Comments:

I like the tech point of view of the situation for new Mobile Development Skillsets community, really a good overview.

Posted by Sg interactive Pte ltd on October 09, 2014 at 07:15 AM EDT #

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Oracle WebCenter is the center of engagement for business—powering exceptional experiences for customers, partners, and employees. It connects people, process, and information with the most complete portfolio of portal, Web experience management, content, imaging and collaboration technologies.

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