In this article, we cut through the hype and get down to brass tacks and share the top features in Liferay 7.1. What does Liferay 7.1 offer up to make an upgrade worthwhile? How about TWO new product offerings in addition to the slew of user experience improvements!?
The whole point of using a technology in business is to either cut costs or drive revenue. Liferay takes a stab at appealing to both sides of the coin with the release of Liferay 7.1. There are many features packed into Liferay 7.1 contributing to the bottom line. New product offerings give you better insights into your users and an easy way to sell your products. And, while services business may not think a commerce offering is a big deal, product companies now have a much more compelling reason to consider Liferay 7.1 as their platform of choice.
Liferay Commerce is an exciting new offering for anyone who has something to sell. This new offering takes advantage of many existing Liferay 7.1 features and provides a lot of new functionality in the areas of catalog management, core commerce, order/inventory/shipping management, and customer care.
Liferay Commerce provides a lot more than building a simple catalog and making products available online. Full management of your real-time inventory, currencies, exchange rates, notifications, order workflows, payment providers, shipping, taxes, searching, and user segmentation is now possible. Static references allow you to relate specific products together to build packages and provide recommendations. You can also take advantage of Audience Targeting to recommend products to your customers based on their personal attributes and behaviors.
Manufacturers and wholesalers have the added bonus of getting up and running quickly with B2B Manufacturing and B2B Wholesale/Distribution site initializers. With so many features, be on the lookout for another post focused specifically on Liferay Commerce.
Liferay Analytics Cloud
Marketing and Corporate Communications are going to LOVE this new product offering! Liferay has always tracked some basic information about users and what they’re doing on your sites. But this data has been buried, not easily aggregated, and generally not useful for higher-level decision making – until now.
The new Liferay Analytics Cloud takes this concept to a new level. Rather than spending the time, effort, and money on integrating a third-party tag management package for analytics, or trying to force-fit Google Analytics to provide meaningful data, Liferay now provides the Liferay Analytics Cloud to give you a full set of analytics around customer profiles, touchpoints, traffic and paths as well as your specific assets.
In the new Liferay Analytics Cloud, you will be able to aggregate customer profile, behavior and interaction data to create a single view of the customer. Critical data can be segmented and visualized to help you discover which elements truly impact audience behaviors. The Analytics Cloud offering also lets you identify your best-performing content, how customers are interacting online, and gain an in-depth understanding of your touchpoints and messaging.
Liferay Digital Experience Platform (DXP)
Now let’s take a look at the noteworthy items that can help you save time and money in the Liferay 7.1 core product. Anyone involved with building and maintaining Liferay sites will immediately notice major changes in their administrative interfaces. Most of the administrative interface has been reorganized into a much more cohesive and intuitive layout.
Although reorganizing the interface may not be a cold, hard feature, it’s definitely a welcomed advancement that’s sure to save you some time and effort (which ultimately translates to a lower TCO, or Total Cost of Ownership).
Content Pages are an entirely new type of page in Liferay 7.1; what used to be called a “Portlet Page” is now termed a “Widget Page”. You can think of this type of page as a more visual way to build and edit your site by adding content directly to a page in a single step. In order to do that, Liferay 7.1 introduces several new “features” including:
- Page Editor
- Fragment Editor
Each of these things work together to make the concept of Content Pages a reality, but each of them are equally noteworthy in their own right.
The new page editor is what you use to assemble a Content Page. It’s quite a bit like building a standard Liferay “Widget” page. Instead of having a menu of applications to add to the page, you have a listing of your Fragment collections. You choose the individual Fragment you want to add to the page and it’s on the page. With this type of page, you will no longer have to add a Web Content Display portlet, go into its configuration, then drill down to find the Journal Article you want to add to the page.
To nitpick this functionality, it would be great to see an inline search box to filter out a potentially large list of Fragments. Anything we can do to make sites easier / more efficient to build and maintain is usually welcomed.
You can also use this Page Editor to create and publish Page Templates. Assemble your fragments or applications into a usable page, then save it as a Page Template for creating more pages without starting from scratch every time. Although the concept of Page Templates is not new to Liferay at all, the Page Editor capability and the reorganized page build interface bring this more functionality to the forefront.
These Fragments can be whatever you want them to be. If you see something cool on codepen.io, you can easily (almost just copy/paste) replicate that within your site. Web Developers can also use their existing tools to develop Fragments, then import them into Liferay.
Since codepen.io has been mentioned, you can envision the Fragment Editor as Liferay’s built-n version of codepen. You get four panes on a single screen:
As you make changes to any of the first three, you see real-time changes to the Preview pane. This preview pane allows you to take a look at different form factors. Most web developers are familiar with this concept. This style of in-page IDE makes it pretty easy to make a bunch of tweaks in a very short amount of time.
This is one of my favorite features of Liferay 7.1. Decoupling menus from page navigation is long overdue, but it is finally done. Navigation is nothing new to Liferay or the web, but it’s been somewhat clunky until now. Legacy Liferay sites often had navigation coded directly into the overall theme of the site and may require a code deployment if you want to change it up.
Liferay 7.1 introduces the freedom to create custom menus quickly and easily so you have full control over how people interact with your site. You can easily manage menu hierarchies in a more drag-and-drop-oriented interface.
This out of the box (OOTB) feature allows you to classify your menus as Primary, Secondary, Social, or Private. You also have the option to let your navigation automatically add new pages as they’re created or allow your menu to remain completely static. As with any other artifacts in Liferay, you can fully permission the Menu just as you would anything else.
The ability to manage pages in Liferay is not a new feature, but the interface did get reworked in Liferay 7.1. For anyone familiar with Mac and Windows, this will be the equivalent of changing from Windows Explorer over to Finder. Although this new presentation is not a “feature” per se, it’s worthy of a notable mention as it is a change that can save scads of time and energy for the site build team on any large, complex, or distributed regional site!
Chances are you have already seen a lot of references to vast changes in Liferay Forms that warrant a completely new separate article to cover them at any length. Well, this post is no different. There were a lot of changes in Liferay Forms that are making this feature a great Low-Code/No-Code solutions for MANY business use cases.
Although a deep-dive into Liferay Forms is warranted, here are some highlights of some new features introduced in 7.1:
- Rule Builder
- Element Sets / Form Fragments
- Multiple new field types (including File Upload!)
In addition to the new features and enhancements, the user interface has been greatly improved, simplified, and reorganized. The entire Liferay Forms capability is much more intuitive, efficient, and easy to use.
Search in and of itself is not a new feature for Liferay 7.1, but what is new is the level of control the site build team has over the search pages, facets, etc. Liferay 7.1 has several new widgets that give you much more control over the presentation of your search without trying to get developers to understand how Liferay has implemented faceted search.
Two new products complement the core Liferay 7.1 digital experience platform with the availability of Liferay Commerce and Liferay Analytics Cloud offerings. Liferay 7.1 demonstrates Liferay’s commitment to improving existing features that lead to a better ROI (Return on Investment) and overall experience for their existing customer base. Customers new to Liferay should be able to hit the ground running with the intuitive user interface changes and reorganization of some complex features.
The biggest ticket items in Liferay 7.1 center around the ability to create and manage sites much more easily and efficiently. Although the Content Pages might not seem like a huge deal for hardcore developers (largely because it’s not for them), they will be a great addition for frontend developers and the site build team. Seeing Liferay double-down on their commitment to Liferay Forms is great to see. As technology in general moves toward Low-Code/No-Code solutions, this move shows Liferay maintains a long-term outlook and remains on the leading edge.