Cloud CMS Blog

Cloud CMS Web and Mobile Forms

One of the things that Cloud CMS does really well is forms - specifically, web and mobile forms.

If you’ve ever worked with the development of forms before, you know they’re pretty tricky to put together. You typically have back-end code that is responsible for taking a data structure, validating it and writing it to a database. And you also have front-end code which does user-facing data validation that is cosmetically appealing (pretty red boxes) and helpful. You need to think about customizing the front-end controls (using JavaScript typically) to offer a compelling end-user experience while also offering an intuitive layout. Form elements need to interact together such that changes to one part of a form automatically update or validate with other parts of the form.

It gets more interesting as the requirements grow. For example, you may be asked to have your form work across multiple pages. Perhaps there is a need for a wizard with previous, next and submit buttons. Or perhaps there is conditional logic such that certain sections of a form only appear if a user selects something. Or perhaps the next button should take you to a different set of pages depending on your form’s data (such as having to fill out certain income schedules for a tax payment submission).

And across all of that, there is the question of validation and making the user interface intuitive to end users as data changes. End users should be informed of when they are allowed to proceed to the next step in a form and be shown what updates are required or how they can fix things.

All of this is usually very challenging to deliver, particularly since it requires so much front-end and back-end code that needs to be kept in sync. As such, it has been a hard problem to generalize until very recently.

In the past few years, we’ve seen some new innovations that have made this easier.

One of these innovations is JSON schema which provides a descriptive way to structure your content. You can use JSON Schema to express forms, their data attributes and how they should be validated. With JSON Schema, you can singularly describe the constraints and validation logic of your form and then have that validation run on both the client and server side. You just write it once and it applies in both places.

Other technical innovations include modularized JavaScript and JSON document databases. Modularized JavaScript and other improvements to JavaScript (including EcmaScript 5 and the pending EcmaScript 6) allow for flexible development of intelligent controls that run in the browser. This effectively allows the browser to be much more intelligent about it’s rendering and enables it to make late decisions about how to lay out the controls onto the page or bind them into wizards. This process can be driven entirely from configuration (also a JSON document) while still allowing for JS controllers and methods (packaged up into AMD modules).

Using HTML injection to build user interfaces or forms has really grown up in the world. Popular frameworks like Angular.js or Ember.js work this way. Instead of generating HTML on the back-end and passing it over to be shown in the browser, the front-end generates its own HTML using JSON data retrieved from the back-end. This allows for really beautiful user interfaces that are customized on-the-fly, per user and per device.

Cloud CMS builds on all of this to deliver really intuitive and easy web and mobile forms. We provide an open-source, JavaScript-based Cloud Forms engine that runs entirely on JSON Schema. It builds forms for you on-the-fly, using a configuration-driven approach. And it saves your form data right into Cloud CMS so that you can collaborate around it, report on it and leverage it within your business.

Several years ago, we decided to open-source our forms engine under the Apache 2.0 license so that anyone could use it within their projects. No strings attached and no funny stuff. We’re big believers in open-source. It’s not just that we want to give back, but we also believe that the open-source process is the best way to build a fantastic product.

The result was Alpaca Forms. We put a web site up and promoted releases, along with documentation, examples and community forums. The result has been amazing! We’ve watched as Alpaca has been used in all sorts of interesting projects, ranging from education and government to the entertainment and medical worlds. We’re so glad that it has helped people to deliver amazing applications!

And beyond that, we’ve really enjoyed working with the community. Such great people with interesting ideas and lots of feedback. We’ve greatly enjoyed being in touch with such a great community!

Cloud CMS continues to build and offer Cloud CMS Forms as part of its offering. Each Cloud CMS subscription comes with a fully-engaged content management system that naturally works with Alpaca’s web forms. We offer technical support, bug fixes and production-level SLA’s for Alpaca within live applications.

If you’d like to learn more about Cloud CMS forms, visit our web site or Sign up for a Free Trial.

Thanks for being part of our community!

Getting Started Videos for Cloud CMS

We are very proud of Cloud CMS and encourage you to see for yourself the potential of Cloud CMS (Free Trial).

To help you get the most out of the trial and knowledge of some of the features, we have recorded a number of ‘Getting Started’ videos showing some basic features, administration, and a ‘taster’ of some of the more interesting advanced features. (More videos to come for the advanced features).

The Getting Started videos:

  1. Create a Project
  2. Add Users to Projects
  3. Upload Content
  4. Add Comments to your Content
  5. Tag your Content
  6. Search for Content
  7. Print Documents

Content model and Forms, Export

  1. Define your own content Types
  2. Create Forms
  3. Export to CSV, PDF, or ZIP
  4. Export with PDF Templates

Administrative Functions

  1. Define your own Roles
  2. Configure an Email Provider
  3. Customize your Theme
  4. Administration Console

There are so many features in Cloud CMS that you may be interested in. We have made a start with these videos and we are planning to do more. Did you find these videos useful? If there is a specific feature or Use Case you would like to see please let us know Contact Us

Introducing Workflow

One of the main themes of Cloud CMS is the ability to help you automate the recurring actions that make up your team’s daily work. Giving you the flexibility to define how your teams collaborate – so that the organization of work is easy and fluid – is what Cloud CMS is all about.

A workflow is a blueprint that defines how your teams work together. It defines a series of steps and spells out who does what and in what order. It also describes a sequence of activities on top of your content, letting you specify the exact editorial flow for creation, approval and publication of your content.

Once you’ve defined your blueprints (or workflow models), you can launch them to control the lifecycle of your documents. Tasks automatically appear within inboxes for your business users, letting them inspect what needs to be worked on and when things are due. From an intuitive dashboard, they can learn about the task and dive down into the documents to get things done.

As tasks are worked on, a full audit-level capture is retained of every change to the workflow’s documents, properties, comments and data. This workflow history is fully searchable, letting your reconstruct the exact flow of a document’s approval, optimizing for bottlenecks and improving your process over time.

The Cloud CMS workflow feature now joins the vast library of powerful features that Cloud CMS offers. It brings the very best capabilities of enterprise class workflow to your business. It implements a powerful and streamlined facility that brings forward our company’s best learning from working with systems like jBPM, Day CQ5 and a variety of BPM engines.

To get started, take a look at the Cloud CMS workflow documentation. This gets down into the details of what workflow is and how it works.

If you’d like to give it a shot, simply sign up for a free Cloud CMS trial subscription or contact us for more information.