LifeRay Enterprise Portal UX Flexibility?

30 Nov 2010 - 2:03pm
5 years ago
3 replies
1580 reads

Anyone have any experience working with LifeRay for an enterprise portal solution--particularly interested in the UX impact point of view? I've been tasked with devising an enterprise portal solution for a media company and need to assess the pros/cons of going with an out-of-the-box versus custom solution.

Other recommendations for Portal designs always welcome. 




30 Nov 2010 - 3:21pm

Hi Kaleb,

I'm currently leading the UX piece on a LifeRay enterprise portal project. We're pretty far through the process so I've had a fair amount of experience with it. I can't speak to the amount of development effort associated with the various portal solutions, but I have worked on portals also utilizing BEA's Aqualogic and IBM Websphere portals.

One thing that I hear in my dealings with portal architects is that portlets can't pass information from one to another. That turns out to be a big struggle as it seems like it affects everything from left-hand navigation controlling the main body content to other seemingly minor design considerations like passing information from one screen to another to be displayed in a new style. Apparently the development team has been able to compromise and make it work but they weren't happy about it.

Websphere has some workaround in-place to pass information between portlets.

Any portal tends to restrict you on visual control as well, if you're trying to have a highly creative design you might be disappointed. You really need to stick to boxes of content, and again, boxes that don't interact in most cases.

Honestly, my experience hasn't been warm and fuzzy. I've proposed a design solution and very frequently have been told we can't do that in our budget so I propose a compromised solution and ultimately what is implemented doesn't always seem to even fit the spirit of that compromise.

I personally think you should perform some Contextual Inquiry/Ethnographic Interviews to find out what your users need then decide if out-of-the-box behavior is going to meet any of those needs. Unfortunately in my case the tool was chosen before I came onboard and it seems as though any site functionality that has any value to the user had to be custom-built, and we're doing a lot of work-arounds to get the desired effect out of a limiting tool.

I've had less troubles with Websphere Portal, and with Aqualogic we stuck pretty closely to out-of-the-box tools because they scoped out the solution well before committing and had established business requirements to utilize some out-of-the-box behavior.

So for me it's been a struggle. I'm not savvy enough on the dev side to know where using the portal solution saves effort, but from a UX perspective I hate portal products and LifeRay is as big a struggle as any I've worked with.


1 Dec 2010 - 12:48pm

I've worked within LifeRay quite a bit over the past few years. I have a similar impression that the framework is hard to work within and is not easily customized. I've had lots of conversations with the dev team on inter-portlet communication (or lack thereof). I've also run into limitations on automatic refresh of portlets, lots of performance-related issues (which in turn have an impact on the user experience), and I've tried to refactor the settings a bit to make them easier to use, but ran into issues there as well. It's probably the story of many frameworks though; one can get up and running with the defaults quickly, but further customization is hard.

30 Nov 2010 - 4:46pm

I haven't used LifeRay, but agree with everything Trump29 said above.  You'll probably be able to make any portal system sing to your heart's content, but they're all expensive to customize, and none of them do everything you need out of the box.

I've worked extensively with Aqualogic, WebSphere and now SharePoint 2007, and have confirmed (with SP) that the above is true.  Rather than forcing a portal solution to follow existing business processes, it's been much cheaper (in both tears and dollars) to tweak processes to align more with out of the box functionality, and make up the difference where the portal utterly fails.

My latest peeve with SharePoint is its inability to share functionality across list types.  Each type has a super-power, it seems, and no list type has them all (mega power?).  Very annoying.

If you have the organizational muscle and funds to customize any portal you get - you're probably fine with the cheaper solution (assuming LifeRay) or the one that suits your development team best.  LifeRay seems primarily Java-based, which makes it tough for a .NET team to customize, and vice versa (for SharePoint).

Best of luck, and thanks for the link to Liferay, I'll check them out =]



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