Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sitecore SXA, rules engine & containers in partial designs

SXA and partial designs

While working on a Sitecore site with SXA I created several partial designs (as you should when working with SXA). What a partial design is, and how it is used to create page designs that define the layout of your pages in SXA can be read in the official docs.

What you should know about partial designs is that you edit them on the partial design item itself, not on the pages where they are used. On the final page in the experience editor, you can edit the content shown by the partial design but you cannot change the design itself (add, remove or change components or their properties). Still, partial designs are very useful and help you keep the number of components on a page reasonable. On many occasions though, you will want the editors to be able to add components to the page that are not preset in the partial design. This can be done by adding a "container" component in the partial design (note: this is one way - not necessarily the way) on the spot where you want to give the editors a new placeholder (a placeholder is a spot where new components can be added). And so we did...

And then came the designers... and they gave our pages a very nice design. But they had a problem: empty containers!

The containers that were added to the partial design might remain empty. And with our design, this made it hard for the designers to get the required result. So: lets remove those empty containers.

SXA & the Container component

As mentioned, the container component was just added to have a placeholder available. It's a typical "structure" component that adds a wrapper for other renderings.

In the experience editor we want the placeholder to be always available (to be able to add components) but in normal or preview mode we want it gone when no renderings were added. 

The container component generates a placeholder named "container-x" where x is a dynamic placeholder id. 
Hint: when using the container, you should also set the placeholder restrictions for the generated placeholders - as you should do always probably ;)  More info on how to do this with SXA can be found on the official docs.
 To remove the components, I used the Sitecore rules engine. 

Using the rules engine

We want to use conditional rendering to hide the component when the related placeholder is empty. The action to hide a rendering is out-of-the-box available, so we only need the "condition". 

In this condition, we first check the PageMode to make sure we are in normal or preview mode.

We could ask the administrator adding the rule and using our condition to pass the related placeholder as a parameter (the easy way) but we can actually retrieve it.  The rendering (container) has a parameter called DynamicPlaceholderID that contains the generated dynamic placeholder id. In our case we hard-coded the prefix "container-" but you might do something pretty with that as well.

Last thing to do is find out if there is a rendering on the page in that placeholder..  which can be done with a query on the renderings list. 

Let's wrap this up and show the code:
public class WhenPlaceholderIsEmpty<T> : WhenCondition<T> where T : RuleContext
    protected override bool Execute(T ruleContext)
        Assert.ArgumentNotNull(ruleContext, "ruleContext");
        if (!Sitecore.Context.PageMode.IsNormal && !Sitecore.Context.PageMode.IsPreview)
            return false;

 var conditionalRenderingsRuleContext = ruleContext as ConditionalRenderingsRuleContext;
        if (conditionalRenderingsRuleContext == null)
            return false;
        var dynamicPlaceholderId = HttpUtility.ParseQueryString(conditionalRenderingsRuleContext.Reference.Settings.Parameters).Get("DynamicPlaceholderID");
        if (dynamicPlaceholderId == null)
            return false;

        if (conditionalRenderingsRuleContext.Item.Visualization.GetRenderings(Sitecore.Context.Device, false)
            .ToList().Any(r => r.Placeholder.EndsWith("container-" + dynamicPlaceholderId, StringComparison.OrdinalIgnoreCase)))
            return false;

        return true;

To quickly add this to condition to Sitecore, go to /sitecore/system/Settings/Rules/Definitions/Elements and create a new Element Folder.  In the created folder find tags/default and select Conditional Renderings as tag. In the root of the created element folder, add a new Condition. Fill in the Text like "when the placeholder in the container is empty" and add the Type (referal to the class above). Don't forget to publish the created items ;)


Go to a partial design that contains a Container rendering. Open the presentation details (in content editor - you might also use the experience editor) and edit the controls. Use the personalization feature on the Container rendering and add a personalization rule using the newly created condition and the standard available "hide" action.  Save & publish.


Partial designs are a great way to organize your pages in SXA. And yes, they do put have some limitations. But it wouldn't be Sitecore if there was no way to do something about that and the rules engine is a rather powerful tool to help you achieve what is needed.

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