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Building mobile browser and hybrid applications with eZ Publish

Thursday 07 July 2011 3:29:13 pm

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eZ Publish is a Web Content Management System that provides a platform to publish content via any channel. Its powerful presentation engine enables you to create websites and pages that display your content in a variety of renderings. Its powerful API directly and simply integrates your content with any web-enabled application on any device, such as the iPad, iPhone, or an Android device, without ever interfering with, or impacting the platform itself.

At the end of this tutorial, you will have learnt the basics of mobile application development for both iOS and Android platforms, consuming content from eZ Publish. CMS-side adjustments for the mobile channel will be acquired too. This cheatsheet will help you leverage the multichannel capabilities of eZ Publish, and its REST API in future projects, in a more systematic fashion.

 

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Introduction

This document focuses on creating a mobile website and extending it to be a hybrid mobile application. The mobile website is accessible via a URL. Hybrid applications access the mobile website through an app, bringing together features of both web and native applications. They are downloaded via an app store and look and feel like a native application, although they are simply displaying the mobile website. The main advantage of a hybrid application over a native application is that a consistent user experience can be enjoyed by a wider audience (via the mobile URL) while still making the most of the marketing opportunities presented by app store distribution. Changes are made on the web application end rather than requiring the user to perform the update manually via the app store.

Native applications are applications designed to work on a specific device such as an iPhone or BlackBerry. Users download these applications from an app store or through an internal enterprise program. The main advantage of native applications is that they offer access to built-in device features such as cameras or GPS functionality. Native applications often perform better than other types of apps, as they live on the device itself. These applications can also present unique marketing opportunities if they are distributed via an app store.

 

Pre-requisites and target population

This guideline is aimed at eZ Publish developers, partners, and integrators who need to enable a mobile web channel for new or existing eZ Publish installations. It outlines general steps required for creating a mobile browser accessible site in eZ Publish and demonstrates how to wrap it in the basic application shell. The instructions described herein assume that you have already set up eZ Publish 4.5 with the Website Interface 1.8. You should also be familiar with some basics about setting up an iOS or Android application, although anybody should be able to copy and paste the code examples to create a working application.

 

What do I need before I can start?

General requirements

  • Web server with PHP
  • Relational Database Management System
  • eZ Publish 4.5 instance with Website Interface 1.8
  • To build the hybrid application: a configured development environment for at least one platform: iOS or Android

eZ Publish Requirements

  • OS: Linux 2.6, Windows 2008 (IIS 7 only)
  • Web Server: Apache 2.2.x (prefork mode), MS IIS 7 (with Microsoft URL Rewrite Module 1.1 )
  • DBMS: MySQL 5.0.x, MySQL 5.1.x, PostgreSQL 8.4, Oracle 11g
  • PHP (mod_php) + PHP CLI + apache: PHP 5.2.1 -> PHP 5.2.17, PHP 5.3.x
  • PHP (FastCGI) + PHP CLI + IIS: PHP 5.3.x
  • Graphics handler: ImageMagick >= 6.4.x, PHP extension GD2
 

General guidelines for mobile web applications

  • List all the features necessary for the application
  • Determine who your users are and define a usage context
  • Re-think and reduce the amount of content and tailor it for mobile consumption
  • Design the web application for the device
  • Create a dedicated eZ Publish mobile siteaccess
  • Create the dedicated mobile web interface as a new design for eZ Publish
  • Consider creating a hybrid mobile application as a basic shell for the mobile site

In this article, we will be covering the last 3 items on the list above.

 
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