Zen Garden is our site production accelerator and authoring tool and a great extension to Adobe Experience Manager. Although AEM is a flexible and powerful tool in its own right, with Zen Garden, developing content-rich pages becomes even easier and even faster. It allows marketing teams and their agencies to work independently to publish the websites that they need, without relying on IT support or back-end development.
This article is all about how Zen Garden makes life easier for the authors who use tools like AEM for creating sites. The author role is often undervalued because the focus of almost every project is on the end-user experience. Authors have to process huge volumes of data, create multiple pages and therefore have the knowledge to use their software properly. Let’s be honest, none of this is easy. To help authors achieve their goals we create tools specifically designed for them. We've learned through experience that sometimes it's the ‘little things’ that help authors to create great content and we're constantly improving and creating new features that solve author problems. Here's our top five:
1. Extended ‘in-place editing’
With this feature authors no longer need to open a dialog, change a value and save it, only to learn that their new tab name is too long and needs to be changed again. Instead, with a visible character tally, they can choose a name that fits perfectly first time round and save themselves valuable time.
- Editing tab labels in Tabs component
- Editing panel title in Accordion component
- Editing image text in Image component
2. Interactive tabs
When authoring Zen Garden pages, holding the CTRL button hides the authoring layer. This simple trick allows authors to interact with components almost as if they were on a published page. This is a well-known feature of other tools, such as Microsoft Word, where CTRL + click on a hyperlink is used to open a web link. It is really invaluable when configuring components like Navigation, Tabs or Carousel. For example the author can use CTRL + click to select a tab (or slide) he wants to edit. This simple change makes a big difference. The author experience is faster, more natural and more intuitive. No more switching to Preview and back to Edit again.
- CTRL + click on Tabs component
3. Preconfigured Components
When adding a new AEM component to a page, an author has to configure all the required fields in order to see how it looks. This can take some time. Zen Garden components are better, they all come with unique data sets, so once they are dropped on a page they are fully initialized and equipped with default values. Preconfigured components allow for site prototyping and make building a wireframe much quicker. Authors can easily test a few different compositions before they need do any configuration. Additionally, components with repetitive content such as Tabs, an Accordion or a Carousel are configured with multiple items. This feature saves a lot of precious time.
- Rich Text component
- Table component
- Tabs component
- Image Gallery component
4. Quick links
AEM is a complex tool with multiple layers of configuration. Authors often need to remember where to look for a specific configuration. With Zen Garden we’ve added a quick link feature to the component toolbar. This feature will make authoring job much easier.
- Go to asset details page from Image component
- Go to snippet configuration page from Snippet Reference component
- Go to article page from Article List component
5. Reference activation
So an author just finished his work, the page looks great. There is only one thing that needs to be done - publishing. When publishing a page, AEM makes sure that the images used will also be replicated to the publish instance. Zen Garden, however, will expand the list provided by AEM, adding all the configurations that should be replicated in order to display the page correctly.
- Layouts and Templates used by the Layout Engine (tool for creating custom layout system),
- Variants (component look and feel).
- Publish dialog
It really is the small improvements that make a big difference and save time when it comes to software. These small improvements are one of the driving forces behind Zen Garden, our AEM accelerator. After all, software should be built for the people that use it.