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The purpose of the Content Layout Engine
To simplify website development and maintenance. Since the design, development and maintenance of a website typically involves many different people and many different tasks, the Content Layout Engine is also designed to fully separate the different tasks.

The three tasks of web-design
Broadly speaking, the website design process can be broken up into three main tasks: content creation, graphical design, and technical implementation. Often multiple people, or teams of people are responsible for each of these different tasks. While the graphical design and technical implementation responsibilities are sometimes outsourced to a web design firm or even a single individual, the basic design process remains the same.

Content Creation: Most websites exist either as information repositories or as a way to provide "anywhere, anytime" service.
Graphical design: complements the content, while providing an aesthetically pleasing and easy to use visual interface.
Technical implementation: ties together the content and graphical design.
Information repositories can consist of both static and dynamic content - that is, content that is posted once and stays the same (such as a press release), or content that changes depending on input from the website visitor (such as results from a search query).
"Anywhere, anytime" services also deal with content. These services allow users to have remote access to a particular service, freeing users from needing to go to a particular location, within a particular timeframe (E.g. Online mail, Central File storage over the Internet, Online Banking…) and automatically conduct a transaction without needing a person to record it (E.g. Purchasing a product over the Internet, online registration for an event, automatically update personal information…)

Overview of what CLE can do
The Content Layout Engine can seamlessly tie together information repositories and "anywhere, anytime" services, allowing content creators to provide content they have in the format they prefer.

The content creator can correct typos and add new content without needing to get caught up in the graphical design or technical implementation components.

CLE frees web designers from making mindless changes such as fixing typos and reformatting content to be "web-ready". Designers can instead concentrate on the really creative aspects of web design, leading to better and more rewarding work.

Even better, CLE provides designers with an easy way to write dynamic web applications. Simple applications need only HTML templates to define the user interface - and CLE to do the rest of the content formatting. More sophisticated logic can be added with secondary programs. The basic premise: to separate programming logic from the "look" of the user interface!

Looking at each web design task

A typical content provider:
  • · Is rarely interested in the technical intricacies of HTML or other Internet technologies.

  • · Often creates a piece of content for several different end purposes, be it a magazine, a newsletter or for the web.

  • · Does not have creating a web-ready version of the content as a primary goal.

Ideally, the content created by the content provider should stay in the original format. Our motto for content creation: Create once; use anywhere.

This involves selecting the broad content categories that should be accessible from the website. Some examples include company contact information, services provided, upcoming activities, or even client-specific reports. Organize all content into logical groupings, creating a set of mini-websites made of content discussing a common theme. For instance, content related to regional area 1, content in English or French, or content relating to a particular product or service.

Where will the content come from? A database? A content provider? A newsfeed?

How was the content created? Was it originally a Word document, an email, a PDF or HTML file?

The answers to the above steps need to be sent to the technical implementation team in order to be implemented. The technical implementation team should implement the website so that content providers have no (or the smallest possible) learning curve to add or maintain content.
A typical member of the graphical design team:
  • · Does not create content.

  • · Is comfortable with HTML and other Internet technologies.

  • · Creates a "look and feel" using aesthetic, rather than technical considerations.

Ideally, the "look and feel" created by the graphical design team should not contain much, if any, actual content, though it must take the required content structure into account.

Phibian Technologies takes an iterative approach to graphics and navigational design, relying heavily on prototyping, a fast, efficient method of incorporating direct feedback from real users into a design.

Paper-based prototyping bypasses the time and effort required to create a working user interface. Since paper-based prototypes are quick, rough sketches, designers can test out riskier design ideas without investing much time or energy. The rougher the design, the more willing users (and designers) tend to be to challenge design assumptions. Phibian designers create quick sketches of each type of screen required by the content categories (splash screen, basic screen, form screens etc). As Phibian mainly uses paper in the accounting department and for copies of legal documentation, we use a digital form of paper prototype method, creating all paper prototypes using a computer. Our programs of choice include Jasc's Paint Shop Pro and TrueSpace. In addition to eliminating excessive paper use, this approach facilitates moving screen elements and making element size changes.

An HTML prototype is a higher-end prototype. Some design elements can be easily drawn on paper, but cannot be easily implemented in HTML. Creating an HTML prototype quickly eliminates infeasible design elements. Sometimes, an HTML prototype provides stakeholders with a template that better illustrates the content layout structure.

Once an HTML prototype has been created, the resulting files are passed over to the technical implementation team. The iterative prototyping approach taken by Phibian Technologies is not required to use CLE. The "look and feel" design method can use whatever approach and whichever programs the graphical design team is most comfortable using.

A typical member of the technical implementation team:
  • · Does not create content.

  • · Is an expert with HTML, and other Internet technologies, including cgi programming.

  • · Is comfortable with graphics design programs.

  • · Focusses on the "behind the scenes" technical details in order to bring together the "look and feel" with the content.

Once the technical implementation team at Phibian receives the HTML prototype, we typically create a preliminary content structure.

We create a directory structure with one directory for each content class, whether the content is to be physically located on the webserver or not.

A configuration file (.conf) allows the technical implementation team to override default values present in CLE. For each directory representing content that will not be physically located on the webserver, a text-based configuration file containing the content location information will be created.

Configuration files can be used to determine which content types will be displayed and which templates are used to display the content.

Templates can be created to incorporate the functionality required to display the content.

If the graphical design team has provided an HTML prototype, the technical implementation team will examine the files to ensure there is little or no overlap in HTML code between files.

Duplicate code should be removed from the files and created as a separate template to be included when required.

HTML should updated to conform to internal technical standards, such as being compliant with the W3C HTML 4.0 standards (see for further information).

The technical implementation team will then add markup to the HTML to give CLE content location information. For instance, a template for a list of manuals would include a line to tell CLE to add all manual files in a particular location to the list.

For complete technical information and step-by-step instructions, please see the CLE user manual located in the Support Center, or contact us for further details.

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