AEM Development Workflow – Part 3 (Coding Old School)

In this series I have been trying to define the various development workflows (that have existed or will arise in near future) and what sort of problems do I see with each of those. We start off by seeing the very first use case that has probably existed for years now “the old school” way of coding in CQ. 


Image 1: Component Breakdown

It is always beneficial to define what the end result has to be so that we can ensure that we have achieved what we set out to do. I had finally received a HTML for a carousel from my Site Development friend (download here) and our job is to take that carousel and a simple page and make it Content Managed in Adobe AEM. For this purpose I am going to use AEM 6.x as we need to use sightly in later phases. As we you see in the Image 1, you will how the carousel should look like. I have broken the page down to 2 parts/components that we will have to develop:

  1. Carousel Component – this is highlighted in blue block and marked #4
  2. Title Component – For the same of this use case and trying to handle how we can reuse 1 component for various displays, I have classified #1, #2 and #3 into “Text” component


CQ Project Structure Setup & Tools

Image 2: Project Structure
Image 2: Project Structure

We are going to use the default CQ structure that allows us to handle components, templates, client libs, etc. I had also setup Eclipse for AEM for development purposed but I was unable to use it to it’s full extend because of the lack of integration and I had to fall back on CRXDE-Lite several times. Following are the details for each of the folders defined:

  • aem6scratchpad: This is the project application folder and is at the root of  everything we would be coding 
  • components: this folder holds all the components that we will create in this series
  • components/page: this folder holds the implementation of the templates
  • install: this is the folder where any .jar files will get installed
  • templates: holds the templates which will be used to create pages


Task: Move Static files in AEM

Image 3: Final Output in AEM
Image 3: Final Output in AEM

Image 3, shows us that I was able to achieve what I started to do as the very first step. I set out to take the HTML that I received and just convert the files into a set of files/components in CQ so that while the content would not be managed, but it would look the same. If you go back to where we started this, this Step is going to make or break how the Development Workflow looks like.

Approach: Like a Novice Developer

Coming into this exercise, I did everything that I see happen between a Site Developer and a CQ Developer. I went ahead a bit and did how a CQ developer would work – just dive into the coding and don’t worry about any standards, unit testing (JIT coding as I have come to call it). I have not coded in CQ for a long time from scratch. I have been reviewing code for best practices but a lot of my time last couple of years has been spent into designing solutions. I have looked at code from time to time, but it was a long time since I had coded a set of components and templates from scratch. For this exercise I believe that me in that situation was a very good thing, because that how our developers go though. Some of them are new to this domain, but even when they are well versed with coding, the approach that is taken is more or less what I ended up doing. 


Journey: Painful

The journey was nothing but painful all along the way. It took me 5 hours to do what should have been a few minutes job. The Site developer had the code up and running in a HTML file in a browser and all I had to do was to make it work “as is” within CQ. It seemed like the Force of Nature were working against me and everything I did, had a problem in it. I finally got it up and running (the designs done match off as is still), but it was excruciating pain. Here are a list of things that went wrong (and don’t be surprised if you find this the same as it happens at the start of every project):

The set of tools which I thought would do a wonderful job did not cut it out

I was so excited to work with AEM development tools for Eclispe. I got it up and running after a bit of struggle, but working in it only helped in coding a bit. A lot of things that had to be CQ specific like creating components, templates, dialogs weren’t doable in Ecliple. I ad to move into CRXDE-Lite to do all of that. The good part was that I didn’t have to worry about vault (vlt). I could easily synchronize between hosted CQ and Eclipse easy. It made it just a wee-bit easy

I had to write repetitive code into components

Image 4: CQ IncludesRecall those famous set of lines that we need in every component which if don’t get copied something will stop working. If you have forgotten those you can have a look at Image 4 or download this gist. Well, i tried the shortcut – the ultra famous shortcut that Adobe also recommend us to take (they like to call is Adapting it from existing component) which is supposed to be easy.

In the CRXDE Lite, create a new component folder in /apps/<myProject>/components/<myComponent> by copying an existing component, such as the Text component, and renaming it.

Well I did that, but seemed I kept picking up a wrong component because something or the other didn’t happen. There were times, when the template will not come up when I wanted to create the page or once i opened the page, the component did not show up in the side kick. Well, it seemed, one or the other properties were wrong. 

Where do the client libs go and where they come from

This is probably was the biggest one. The Site developer has picked up whatever version of client lib he wanted to work with. This was by design – I didnt intentionally tell him what to pick it up. Now when I had to get the JS and CSS into CQ along with the assets I had to ensure what he had picked up worked for me. No surprises there that once i got the carousel in the CQ, the first thing I saw was initialization errors which once solved led into next problem as to not the right JS and CSS were picked up. I finally “as a CQ developer” ended up fixing those and got my Carousel to work just as it was working on HTML. Yes!! all of the interactions were working.


End Result: Not a Production Ready code

I am going to paste snapshots of the files I ended up creating with links to them on GitHub. This code is not final code and does not have 1/10th of the quality standards that I would deliver. But, the code here will clearly highlight how and where the problem starts.


Image 5: Content Page Template Code


Image 6: Carousel Code


In Near Future: This is beyond repair

At this point in time, we have seen how the code from Site Developers starts to get into the CQ and what shape it takes. When you take the above and give it to 10 odd developers on a project before you know you will have 10 different standards (or maybe 5) in a project. All of this happens very fast because all one has to do is to drop in a code and make it work. And then we identify the gravity of the problem when we start doing code reviews and realize that this needs more than just refactoring – more often than not this now needs to be fixed only via rewrite. I have not known many projects who have the time and budget to rewrite code. The project releases (thanks to Agile) come to a point when we get workable demos in front of clients – so it all gets tested and done and dusted. With no automated test cases (unit or integration or functional) the risk of breaking something as we make changes it so high that many will just drop and hope that the next component is fixed per a standard.


Fix Something

Absolutely!! Thats the intent. But, do we really need to fix the technology. Do we really see that technology that was at fault here? If we had a different set of technologies would this problem be solved for us? Or can we solve this in another way? 


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