Editable Templates give content authors more independence from developers – If you make the best use of all features. Here's what you need to know.
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The creation of templates within Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) can sometimes be a tedious and time-consuming task for developers. But it doesn't have to be: Meet Editable Templates.
The feature of Editable Templates was introduced already with the release version AEM 6.2, making it a breeze to create new and adjust existing Editable Templates on the fly. Since then, the concept has opened up the world of template creation for content authors, making it not solely a developer's task anymore.
Editable Templates have a lot of potential and can create notable value to the content management process. However, there are a few things to consider when taking the plunge towards the feature. Before we dive in, let's get you acquainted with a few basic functionalities within Editable Templates.
First of all, the concept gives you the option to define content policies. These are small snippets of configuration, where you manage what the allowed components of your template are. It's also the place to define the style variations that can be applied to the component.
The definition of style variations per component gives you flexibility and convenience: You can define multiple policies per component – and choose individually for each template which of those policies should be applied. This gives you the flexibility of allowing one set of styles on a certain component on one template, and different variations on another.
Summed up, the style system allows an author to select a style variation, configured in the content policy, and apply it to a component.
In the Template Editor, or on a page based on your template, you apply a style by clicking on a component, then selecting the pencil icon from the toolbar. The options configured before in the component policy will pop up, and you're able to select one or more styles, depending on the configurations made – as described above.
Last but not least, you should be clear about Template Types: A Template Type is your starting point when creating new Editable Templates. First, you'll have to choose the Template Type you want to start from; it can be completely blank or contain a set of preconfigured components.
Editable Templates: Manageable just like content
In previous versions, a so-called static template was managed on code level by the developers. This implied that every change, be it the creation of a new template, a structural change in an existing template, or an addition to the allowed components, had to go through the whole development and release flow before it could be used by the content authors. Depending on your release flow, this could take up even a few weeks. Editable Templates can speed up these processes significantly.
The structural change: We can see Editable Templates as content. This makes content authors a lot more independent: They're now able to create templates on their own, with simple drag and drop and some configuration.
However, it's still important that the development team remains involved in the template creation, so they're aware of new component requirements that affect the style system. The possible style variations still need to be provided by the developers. Thus, it's crucial to go through the requirements of a new template – or one that needs to be changed – beforehand, to align with the development team on new styles.
Component documentation as a baseline
If your content authors are in the lead of template creation, they have to be aware of the existing specifications of a component, namely of its available style variations.
It's paramount that a solid system for component documentation is in place and, obviously, up-to-date at all times – as it will serve as the main entry point of creating component policies.
Define the owner
As a conclusion of the above, Editable Templates give you the possibility to shift the responsibility of managing templates from your developers to some other profile. Nevertheless, it will still be a joint effort to keep component documentation up-to-date. To avoid confusion, make sure that everybody is on the same page beforehand about who will be considered the owner and create new templates.
Of course, you might as well keep the development team responsible … but it would rather beat the purpose of the newly gained flexibility, as one of the main goals of Editable Templates is to decrease the developers' interference, allowing authors to work more independently.
Don't lock components within multilingual templates
Another great feature of Editable Templates: you can lock content on a template. This guarantees that every page using it will include the locked content. This is great as you can safeguard pieces that need to remain identical on all pages, already on the template level. Thus, you only need to configure this type of content in one place – the Editable Template.
Keep in mind, though: locking content / any component on the template will prevent you from changing It later on any actual page built on that Editable Template. This means your template cannot have any language-dependent locked content – unless you create a duplicate template for each language you support.
To promote re-use of templates, rather don't lock any language-dependent content and add the relevant components as initial content on the template. Depending on your design requirements, this might be considered unwanted behavior, though: When creating a page based on an Editable Template, the initial content is simply copied to the new page – with the downside that the component can still be deleted from there.
Editable Templates in a nutshell
Editable Templates make the process of creating and managing new templates much more time-efficient. It's however very important to streamline the process and define clear roles and responsibilities in your team, to ensure the full benefit of this amazing feature.
Now you're well prepared for all benefits of Editable Templates. You may also be interested in tips that help you get started with the Adobe Experience Platform. And don't forget: if you need support at any stage of your content-related workflows or think of outsourcing the processes to experts, don't hesitate to reach out to us.
About the author
Sander Lenaerts is a Digital Experience Consultant at Amplexor, based in Belgium. He's a full-stack developer with a major focus on Frontend Development. Since he joined Amplexor in 2017, he’s been fully dedicated to Adobe Experience Manager as a content management system solution.