Mobile device families allow you to configure sets of rules to alter the behavior of the portal based on the device being used to access Liferay. The proportion of mobile device users browsing the web has been steadily increasing, so it’s important to be able to handle different kinds of devices appropriately. For instance, you can configure the look and feel of Liferay pages accessed by smartphone or tablet users differently from those accessed by PC users.
Both sites and individual pages can be configured with any number of mobile device families. A family is designed to describe a group of devices. It can contain one or more rules that describe a category of devices, such as all Android devices or all iOS tablets. You can define as many rules in a family as you need to classify all the devices for which you’d like to define actions. Families can be prioritized to determine which one applies to a given page request.
In order to configure mobile device rules, you need a way to find out the characteristics of the device. While some of the characteristics are provided by the device, most are not. For this reason, there are databases that contain information about thousands of devices. These databases make it possible to learn every detail about a device from the device type, which is included in each request sent to the portal. Liferay’s Mobile Device Rules can connect to device databases so that you can use their device characteristics in your rules.
Among the applications available on Liferay Marketplace, you can find the Device Recognition Provider EE application. This app provides out-of-the-box integration with WURFL, an open source database licensed with the AGPLv3 license. Commercial licenses are also available. It’s also possible to develop plugins that integrate with other device databases. Even if you don’t have a device database, you can still set up mobile device rules. They won’t, however, be effective until a database is deployed, because the portal won’t have enough information about the devices being used to make page requests.
To configure mobile device rules, you must install the Device Recognition Provider EE application on your instance of Liferay Portal EE. This app uses the WURFL database to enable Liferay to detect which mobile device or operating system is being used for any given request. To install the app, navigate to the Store section of the Control Panel, located under the Marketplace heading. Click on the Utility section and then on See All. Search for the Device Recognition Provider EE application and click on it. Finally, click on the price tag to begin purchasing the app. Once you’ve acquired the app, you need to download and install it. To do so, navigate to the Purchased section of the Control Panel, find your Device Recognition Provider EE app, and click on Download and then Install.
You can access the Mobile Device Families administrative page from the Configuration section of Site Administration. Make sure you’re on the appropriate site before adding mobile device families via Site Administration. You can also add families for all sites by navigating to the Control Panel → Sites → Global. The Mobile Device Families administrative page displays a list of defined families and lets you add more. To add rules to a family, select Actions → Manage Classification Rules, or click on a family to edit it, and then click the Manage Classification Rules link.
The rules defined for a family, along with the priorities of the families selected for a particular site or page, determine which family’s actions are applied to a given request. From the Manage Classification Rules page for a specific rule set, you can add a rule by specifying an operating system, rule type, physical screen size, and screen resolution. Remember that you can add as many rules to a family as you need in order to classify the devices on which you’d like to take actions. You’ll notice after saving the classification rule that it’s characterized as a Simple Rule. By default, only the Simple Rule type is available. The rules are designed to be extensible, and additional rule types can be added by your developers.
Once you’ve created some mobile device families and added some rules to them, you’ll be ready to set up some actions. The actions defined for a family determine what happens to a particular request when the device is detected and the family has been found to apply.
You can add actions to a family from the Site Pages page of Site Administration. Select either the public or private pages and then look for the Mobile Device Rules link in the right-hand menu. Use the Select Device Family button to select families to be applied either to a site or to a single page. If you select the page group itself from the left-hand menu, the selected family applies to all the pages of the site by default. If, however, you select an individual page and then click the Select Device Family button, the families apply only to that page. You can select multiple families for a particular site or page and order them by priority. The families are checked in decreasing order of priority: the actions defined by the first family that applies are executed.
To add actions to a selected rule group, use the Actions → Manage Actions button and then click Add Action. By default, there are four kinds of actions that can be configured for mobile families: layout template modifications, theme modifications, URL redirects, and site redirects. Layout template modifications let you change the way portlets are arranged on pages delivered to mobile devices, and themes modifications let you select a specific look and feel. If it makes more sense for you to create separate mobile versions of certain sites or pages, you can use a redirect to make sure mobile device users get to the right page. To define a URL redirect, you need to specify a URL. To define a site redirect, you need only specify the site name and page name of the page to which you’re redirecting. Like mobile device rules, mobile device actions are designed to be extensible. Your developers can define custom actions in addition to the four actions provided by default.
To review, if you’d like to configure an action or actions that take place when mobile device requests are received, take the following steps:
Create a mobile device family to represent the group of devices for which to define an action or actions.
Define one or more rules for your family that describe the group of devices represented by your family.
Apply your family to an entire page set of a site (all the public pages of a site or all the private pages) or to a single page.
Define one or more actions for your family that describe how requests should be handled.
To see how this might work in practice, let’s discuss a few examples of how you can use mobile device rules. First, suppose you have a separate version of a site on your portal that’s specifically designed for mobile phones running Android or Bada. For our example, we’ll make a site called Android/Bada Liferay and we’ll configure the default Liferay site to redirect incoming requests from Android or Bada mobile phones to the Android/Bada Liferay site. Our first step is to create the Android/Bada Liferay site: go to the Sites page of the Control Panel and click Add → Blank Site. Enter the name Android/Bada Liferay and click Save. Then, with Android/Bada selected in the context menu selector, click on Site Pages. By default, the newly created site doesn’t have any pages, so click on Add Page, enter the name Welcome, and click the Add Page button. Now our Android/Bada Liferay site has a public Welcome page just like our default Liferay site.
Next, select Liferay in the My Sites tab of the Dockbar, navigate to Site Administration → Configuration, and click on Mobile Device Families. Click on Add Device Family, enter the name Android and Bada Mobile Phones, and click Save. You’ll see the message, No rules are configured for this rule group.
Click the Manage Classification Rules link and we’ll configure our rule group to apply only to mobile phones running Android or Bada. Click Add Classification Rule, enter Rule 1 for the name. Under Operating System, select Android and Bada OS (hold down Control to make multiple selections), select Other Devices under Tablet since we want our family to apply only to mobile phones, and click Save. Now we just need to define the redirect action for our family. Navigate to Pages → Site Pages and click on Mobile Device Rules in the navigation menu to the right.
Click Select Device Family and then click the Android and Bada Mobile Phones device family that you configured. Once you’ve selected your device family, click on your device family or Actions → Manage Actions next to it. Then click Add Action, enter the name Android/Bada Liferay Redirect, and select Redirect to Site under Type. Under the Site dropdown menu that appears, select Android/Bada Liferay and under the Page dropdown menu that appears, select the Welcome page that you created earlier. Lastly, click Save. That’s it! Now Android and Bada mobile phone users are redirected to the Android/Bada Liferay site from the Liferay site.
Let’s look at one more example of using mobile device rules before we move on. Suppose you’d like to create another rule so that when a site is accessed by an Android or iOS tablet, a different layout is used. To set this up, we need to follow the same four steps described above. First, make sure you’re on the Liferay site by checking in the My Sites tab of the Dockbar. Then navigate to the Mobile Device Families page of Site Administration. Add a new device family called Android and iOS Tablets. Add a classification rule called Rule 1, select Android and iPhone OS under the Operating System heading, select Tablets under the Device Type heading, then click Save. As with the previous example, we only need one rule to describe our device family.
Next, click on Site Pages in Site Administration, select Mobile Device Rules, and select the Android and iOS Tablets device family. Notice that you’ve now selected two rule groups for the Liferay site’s public pages and they’ve been assigned priorities. If a device making a request belongs to both of the device families represented by the rule groups, the priority of the rule groups determines which rule group’s actions are executed. Note that in our example, the first rule group contains only mobile phones and the second rule group contains only tablets, so no devices can belong to both rule groups. Now we just need to define an action for our Android and iOS Tablets rule group to use a different layout: On the Site Pages page of Site Administration, click on Mobile Device Rules, and then on Actions → Manage Actions next to Android and iOS Tablets. Click on Add Action, enter the name Layout Template Modification, and select the Layout Template Modification action type. Lastly, select the 1 Column layout template (or whichever one you like) and click Save. Good job! Now the Liferay site’s pages are presented to Android and iOS tablet users with the 1 Column layout template.