The Philosophy and Goals of LEAP™
Unlike most “Content Management Systems,” LEAP™ is designed with two people in mind: the creative professional and the novice computer user. This manual is for the novice computer user. In other words, LEAP™ is structured to allow designers to create skins (“themes” or “looks”) from scratch, using whatever creative inspiration might compel them. Most other systems rely on “templated” looks and feels which have been created for the system, making them boxy, rigid and grossly similar. Then, once the designer has made something that works well, LEAP™ provides an ultra-simple mechanism for changing and managing the content (i.e. the words and pictures which change from page to page).
In addition to this, LEAP’s system is intended to provide structure. Instead of allowing willy-nilly artistic changes to the site by users, once a site is “live,” the system is intended to keep all users within the brand guidelines of the website. Generally, this makes for a much more professional and appealing site through artistic continuity and consistency. It also means that, through simplified structure, administrators focus on the quality of the content, not how quickly they can make the content blink or how pink they can make the content.
LEAP™ is also designed to provide the greatest possible search engine results by being sensitive to the technical considerations of most search engines. LEAP™ provides a number of different metaphors for managing search engine optimization from page level onwards. Everything the system does keeps search engines in mind, meaning that sites using LEAP™ have significantly higher “organic rankings” than most websites on the Internet.
LEAP™ is also very forgiving, allowing it to work hand-in-hand with any other system on the server. If your site has existing dynamic components – even ones using different applications (i.e. php or asp, for example), LEAP™ happily accepts them and picks up where they leave off.
LEAP™ can also be installed on most existing sites. It generally does not require a rebuild of the HTML – if the HTML is built correctly to start with.
LEAP’s job is to dynamically create (X)HTML on the fly from dozens of database tables and create a text document to pass back to the browser. It will often do as many as a hundred database look-ups and writes for one page, meaning everything is exactly as requested and the user is not forgotten.
LEAP™ is designed in “modules.” This means that each page can be built in blocks of content types. Think of LEGO blocks you built with when you were a child. You simply added the next “logical” block of content to the page as you need it. This structure makes it easy to manipulate and dynamically control types of data on the website. Instead of having a bunch of text on a page, you break the page into constituent content types, thus freeing us to do more interesting things with the content later.
For example, a page of FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) can be broken into components as follows:
- A heading
- Some explanation text
- A list of FAQs
- A request form
Each one of these components is a critical type of data which can be further manipulated. For example, we can dynamically grab the heading and put it in the table of contents elsewhere on the site. We can dynamically grab a random FAQ and display it elsewhere on the site. We can change the look and feel of each question if the page grows too long.
The bulk of these modules are usually the most simple: text and image modules. However, LEAP™ provides modules of many different types – from FAQs and testimonials to more complex integrations for Google Maps and Flickr. This breaking down of the content allows administrators to better leverage the value of the site content as the content changes and adapts.
For more information on the modules themselves, please see chapter 5 on “Modules.”
How LEAP™ Works
The basic premise of LEAP™ is simple. LEAP™ can be installed on any popular server architecture, and presumes ownership of any non-existent pages. This means LEAP™ can be installed in conjunction with any other types of pages: ASP, PHP, etc. If the page exists, the page processes and is served as usual. If the page does NOT exist, the web server passes the request to the LEAP™, and LEAP™ dynamically creates the page based on the content required.
LEAP™ requires the Lasso CGI to run. This language is a CGI similar to Coldfusion or PHP but is much more secure, much faster, and can be installed on almost any server operating system.
LEAP™ also requires MySQL to run. This datasource is possibly the most stable and speedy datasource in existence and has the additional benefit of being inexpensive and easy to maintain.
LEAP™ does require some minor modifications to the server settings, but otherwise can be run on any server with Lasso and MySQL installed. As the MySQL datasource can be easily load-balanced, it also means the system is as scalable as necessary.
The content is separated from the look and feel of the site (the skin) completely. This means that the site look and feel (design) can be changed easily, or even dynamically, without rebuilding the site. All types of web-friendly content (such as FAQ’s etc.) can be easily added to the site by an administrator. By breaking the content into appropriate modules, content can be easily managed and updated and dynamically affected (for example, a random, dynamic FAQ on any given page). However, modules maintain a pleasant appearance which can adapt easily depending on the skin.
New pages can be added easily by any administrator with the appropriate permissions. Pages are separated from the site navigation, allowing for novel and interesting site options. Each page has integrated statistics for easy manageability or marketing opportunities, and pages can be easily grouped, managed or secured by administrators.
Each design is divided into layouts. A page can have as many layouts as artistically appropriate. This means, despite the ease and flexibility provided by the structural simplicity of the modular system, the design is not compromised.
As each layout provides the ability to add structured modules to a web page, and new pages are extremely easy to add, any type of page can be added, and content types can be shared and interwoven easily. New modules can even be added and updated easily by a novice administrator.
Modules are broken into three types: kernel, administration, and content. Kernel modules allow the system to be updated easily as needed. Administration modules allow the wide aspects of the site to be managed centrally, from font styles to page languages. Content modules allow any type of content – from text, to pictures, to videos and Flash, to dynamic integrated MapQuest searches.
Administration modules also allow content to be shared site-wide (such as copyright
information, etc.), or managed centrally (such as the menu system). By managing them locally, every aspect of the site, from Search Engine META Tags to Menu links can be dynamically affected (i.e. added, deleted or changed as necessary). This also means regular content (such as a Site Map) can be dynamically added and managed from any page.
Administrators can access the system from any compliant browser, depending on the initial setup of the HTML skin. From a simple hidden password, they can make any changes to content without affecting the look and feel of the site. If security is important, IP addresses can be blacklisted or whitelisted, and various options exist for preventing unauthorized access.
LEAP™ is completely XHTML compliant and offers all known W3C compliant languages.
Custom modules can be created or added easily as needed.