Content Personalization: Planning and Implementation
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Placeholders

Content placeholders work similarly to selectors except they have only a content query and return only the single most highly weighted content. (Content contributors can manually weigh their content based on its importance.) When a Web page with a placeholder is requested, the placeholder directly goes to the VCR to evaluate the conditions as defined in the content query based on the content metadata defined for each content file. Of all content whose metadata matches the criteria, only the single most highly weighted content is rendered on the Web page. Placeholders work as shown below:

Figure 4
Figure 4: How placeholders work

By themselves, placeholders do not serve up personalized content. But they can be coupled with campaigns for content personalization in much the same way content selectors work.

Placeholders with campaigns

Campaigns provide a broad set of functionality for delivering personalized functionality. They can be used for displaying personalized Web content, triggering email messages, and calculating dynamic commerce discounts. Here I'll just focus on how they can be used to display personalized Web content.

A campaign can essentially assign a user query to an existing placeholder and override its original content query. When you create a campaign, you define a new user query and content query and choose an existing placeholder into which the returning content will be rendered. A campaign coupled with a placeholder works similar to a selector, as shown below:

Figure 5
Figure 5: How placeholders work with campaigns

Campaign user queries can be more advanced than those used by selectors. Whereas selector user queries can operate only on a set of user and system characteristics, campaign user queries can also operate on user events. You can deliver personalized content based not only on whom your users are but also by what they do while interacting with the system. Some of the many conditions you may choose from are shown below:

Figure 6
Figure 6: Using an event to trigger a campaign scenario (click the image for a full-size screen shot)

With WebLogic Portal 8.1 you can know who your users are, what they're doing, and what content you have available. You can tie all that together with content selectors and placeholders or campaigns to deliver targeted content to your users.

Conclusion

Providing users with custom content that is applicable to them based on who they are is invaluable. But it takes planning to tailor content to users based on the characteristics of each if you want to avoid the administrative nightmare of maintaining your user base and content collection. BEA WebLogic Portal 8.1 gives you tools to implement and manage personalized content. Whether you apply personalization with content containers (entitlements/portal resources), the content itself (content selectors, placeholders/campaigns), or a combination of both, you can provide tailored content across a diverse user base. If you know who your users are, and even how they interact with the application, you should reward them with content that is applicable.

Michael Padilla is a user experience design director for Web applications in Philadelphia, where he oversees everything from information architecture to branding integration to rich client UI architecture.