Designing Your App

As a developer, you know that developing any kind of app without an overall design goal and plan to implement it is a recipe for disaster. To avoid this, you need to decide some things upfront. The Liferay Guestbook app needs a straightforward way to do three things:

  1. Authenticate users

  2. Display guestbooks

  3. Display entries

To authenticate users, all you need to do is insert and configure Login Screenlet in your app. Login Screenlet comes complete with its own UI. The design for authentication, therefore, like with Liferay Portal itself, is done for you.

You must, however, create the UI for displaying guestbooks and entries. What sort of UI would be best for this? Although the best UI for any purpose is a matter of opinion, displaying guestbooks and entries in a list is a good choice. Lists are common, compact design elements familiar to mobile users. Since most mobile devices don’t have room to display a list of guestbooks and a list of entries at the same time, you also need a user-friendly way to display and manage these lists. It makes sense to show the first guestbook’s entries automatically after the user authenticates. This is similar to the Guestbook portlet’s design: it shows a list of the first guestbook’s entries by default. When the user selects a different guestbook, you can then use the same UI to show the selected guestbook’s entries instead.

Figure 1: By default, the first guestbook in the portlet is selected.

Figure 1: By default, the first guestbook in the portlet is selected.

You must also decide how the users can select different guestbooks. Showing the list of guestbooks in a navigation drawer that slides out from the left side of the screen is a good choice. A navigation drawer is easily hidden and is a common Android UI element.

To display these lists of guestbooks and entries, you’ll create your own Screenlets: Guestbook List Screenlet and Entry List Screenlet. Guestbook List Screenlet needs to retrieve guestbooks from the portlet and display them in a simple list. Once written, using this Screenlet is a simple matter of inserting it in the navigation drawer. Entry List Screenlet needs to retrieve and display a guestbook’s entries in a similar list. You’ll display the entries by inserting Entry List Screenlet in the UI element where you want it.

Also note that these Screenlets are list Screenlets. You develop list Screenlets by using the list Screenlet framework, which sits on top of the core Screenlet framework. The list Screenlet framework makes it easy for developers to write Screenlets that display lists of entities from a Liferay Portal instance.

Awesome! Now you have a basic UI design and know the Screenlets you’ll create to implement it. But where in the app can you use these Screenlets? The app only contains one empty activity, MainActivity, which you’ll use for authentication with Login Screenlet. To use your custom list Screenlets, you’ll need to create an additional activity and a fragment: GuestbooksActivity and EntriesFragment. You’ll create the activity in a moment.

Figure 2: The Liferay Guestbook apps design uses two activities and a fragment. In this diagram, each activity and fragment is labeled, along with the Screenlets and the navigation drawer.

Figure 2: The Liferay Guestbook app's design uses two activities and a fragment. In this diagram, each activity and fragment is labeled, along with the Screenlets and the navigation drawer.

In addition to showing the app’s components, this diagram shows how the user navigates through the app. After sign in, the user transitions to GuestbooksActivity. This activity uses Entry List Screenlet in EntriesFragment to display the selected guestbook’s entries (the first guestbook is selected by default). Pressing the hamburger button at the top-left of this screen opens the navigation drawer, where Guestbook List Screenlet displays the list of guestbooks. Selecting a guestbook closes the drawer to reveal that guestbook’s entries. Note that you only need one activity, GuestbooksActivity, to display guestbooks and entries. The navigation drawer and EntriesFragment are part of this activity.

Now you’re ready to create GuestbooksActivity. Fortunately, Android Studio has a template for creating an activity that contains a navigation drawer. Follow these steps to create GuestbooksActivity with the navigation drawer template:

  1. Right click the package and select NewActivityNavigation Drawer Activity to launch the New Android Activity wizard.

  2. Name the activity GuestbooksActivity, accept the defaults for the remaining fields, and click Finish.

  3. After Android Studio creates the activity, the GuestbooksActivity class and content_guestbooks.xml layout open in the editor. Close them. You don’t need to edit these files yet.

Great! Now you understand the Liferay Guestbook app’s design. You also have the app structure in place. Next, you’ll authenticate users by adding Login Screenlet to MainActivity.

« Installing the Guestbook Mobile SDK and Liferay Screens for AndroidUsing Login Screenlet for Authentication »
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