10 Creating a Look and Feel

The look and feel for Oracle WebCenter Portal: Spaces can be designed using a combination of features, including page templates, navigations, skins, page styles, and Content Presenter display templates. This chapter explains how these features work together and provides tips on using them to their best advantage.

This chapter includes the following sections:

10.1 Technologies Used for Creating a Look and Feel

There are several technologies involved with creating a look and feel:

  • HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the main language for displaying web pages and other information that can be displayed in a web browser.

  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) provide a simple mechanism for ensuring a consistent look and feel or adding style, such as fonts, colors, and spacing, to web documents. CSS allows you to separate content from presentation, improving accessibility, and allowing you to easily render content for different situations (for example, for mobile phones or screen reader devices).

  • JavaScript is a scripting language commonly implemented as part of a web browser in order to create enhanced user interfaces and dynamic websites.

  • Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) provides a range of technologies aimed at making Java EE application development faster and simpler for developers while at the same time taking advantage of proven software patterns to ensure that the developed application is scalable, performant, and the like.

  • Expression Language (EL) provides a shorthand way of working with web application data by providing operators for retrieving and manipulating application data residing in a Java EE web container.

10.2 What You Should Know About Creating a Look and Feel

WebCenter Portal: Spaces provides the following features to control the look and feel of the application, individual spaces, pages, components, and content:

  • Page Templates—define the structure and layout of pages. A page template typically includes a header on top of the page; a navigation structure at the top of the page or in a sidebar to link to important targets; a content area; and footer at the bottom of the page.

    For more information on page templates, see Chapter 13, "Working with Page Templates."

  • Navigations—provide links to access content in WebCenter Portal: Spaces or external resources. For example, WebCenter Portal: Spaces might include a series of tabs or menus along the top of each page, a tree structure or list of links on the side of each page, or a trail of breadcrumbs showing the path a user has taken to reach the current location in WebCenter Portal: Spaces.

    For more information on page templates, see Chapter 12, "Working with Navigation."

  • Skins—define colors, fonts, and other aspects to give individual spaces or the entire Spaces application a distinct personality or to provide specific branding.

    For more information on page templates, see Chapter 14, "Working with Skins."

  • Page Styles—describe the layout of a newly created page and may also dictate the type of content the page supports. For example, the Wiki page style provides an instant wiki; a Blank page style has few restrictions on the types of content users can add to the pages that are based on it.

    For more information on page templates, see Chapter 15, "Working with Page Styles."

  • Content Presenter Display Templates—defines the style and layout for the selected content.

    For more information on page templates, see Section 42.5, "Selecting a Display Template."

10.3 Tips on Defining Page Templates

This section includes the following subsections:

10.3.1 Page Template Layout

The biggest challenge in page template design is how to lay out components, both elements of the template and page content. There are two basic strategies:

  • Flow layout—components have fixed sizes and are arranged side by side. If necessary, the browser displays scroll bars.

  • Stretch layout—components will be stretched to occupy the available space on the page. If necessary, individual components display scroll bars (which might mean that you have multiple scroll bars on one page). Stretching enables you to maximize the usage of the viewable area. Use tabs, accordions, menus, and popups to virtually expand your viewable area.

Because most web sites use a flow layout, you probably also want to use a flow layout as it will likely feel more familiar to your users. However, stretch layouts are good for dashboards and applications that are rich in nature or when you want to mimic a desktop experience. You can also combine flow and stretch layout on the same page.

Depending on the strategy you use, the vertical behavior of the page differs:

  • Flow layout:

    • The header and/or footer might not always be visible

    • The height of the page is calculated based on the components

    • The content is never stretched vertically

    • The browser might display a scroll bar

  • Stretch layout:

    • The header and footer are always visible

    • The height of the page is determined by the browser window

    • The content is stretched vertically

    • The content might display a scroll bar

Depending on the strategy you use, the horizontal behavior of the page differs:

  • Flow layout:

    • If your page includes a side bar (for example, left-side navigation), the side bar might not always be visible

    • The width of the page is calculated based on the components

    • Some components might be stretched to fill up existing space

    • The browser might display a scroll bar

  • Stretch layout:

    • If your page includes a side bar (for example, left-side navigation), the side bar is always visible

    • The width of the page is determined by the browser window

    • The content is stretched horizontally

    • The content might display a scroll bar

There are a few additional considerations when defining your page template layout:

  • As a template developer, you control whether the content facet is in a flowing or stretching region of the page, but you cannot control the content. Therefore, page content creators should be aware of the layout strategy and take that into consideration.

  • Because a page template can be changed, create pages and design custom components that display properly in flowing and stretching context.

  • We recommend you use ADF Faces containers to create page layouts, though you can also use Trinidad or HTML tags. Layout Building Blocks

Layout building blocks (shown in Figure 10-1):

  • af:panelStretchLayout - stretched frame with top, start, center, end, and bottom

  • af:panelSplitter - stretched box divided into two user-modifiable sections

  • af:panelDashboard - stretched, tiled structure of boxes

  • af:panelGroupLayout - series of components - default, horizontal, vertical, scroll structures

  • af:panelBorderLayout - flowing frame with top, start, center, end, and bottom

  • trh:tableLayout, trh:rowLayout, and trh:cellFormat - flowing raw HTML table structure

Figure 10-1 Layout Building Blocks

Layout Building Blocks

For details on what different layout components look like, see the ADF Faces Rich Client demo online tool (http://jdevadf.oracle.com/adf-richclient-demo/faces/visualDesigns/index.jspx). When viewing a component, select Page or Page Template from the View Source menu to see what tags and attributes are used as well as what the component structure looks like for the page. Tips on Creating Stretch Layouts

Creating stretch layouts:

  • Build outer structure with containers that can be stretched and can stretch their children. Use containers such as decorativeBox, panelStretchLayout and panelSplitter inside your document component to create the stretchable outer frame.


    Each layout or panel component's tag documentation identifies whether it is stretchable and how to achieve it in its "Geometry Management" documentation. Some components have attributes to determine whether children will be stretched or not. For example: document has a maximized attribute, showDetailItem has a stretchChildren attribute.

  • Create flowing islands. Inside of the stretchable outer structure, create islands of flowing (non-stretched) components. To make this transition from stretching to flowing, use panelGroupLayout with type="scroll" or type="vertical" since it supports being stretched but will not stretch its children.

  • Do not embed stretching components inside flowing islands.

  • Do not stretch something vertically (by using a height with a percent value) when inside a flowing container.

  • Many leaf components do not make sense in isolation. For example, if you have a series of input components, you would never want to just place these in a panelGroupLayout because it would be much better for usability if you placed them in a panelFormLayout so the labels and fields align.

  • Do not use the position style.


The following components are just some of the components that cannot be reliably stretched:

  • Most input components

  • panelBorderLayout

  • panelFormLayout

  • panelGroupLayout (with layout="default")

  • panelGroupLayout (with layout="horizontal")

  • panelHeader (with type="flow")

  • panelLabelAndMessage

  • panelList

  • Apache MyFaces Trinidad HTML Component - tableLayout

  • JSF HTML Component - panelGrid Tips on Creating Flow Layouts

Creating flow layouts:

  • Use non-stretching containers such as panelGroupLayout and panelBorderLayout. You can use panelBorderLayout to approximate an HTML table component.

  • To avoid multiple scroll bars, do not nest scrolling panelGroupLayout components, instead use type="vertical".

  • Most stretchable ADF components also work in flowing context with dimensionsFrom="auto".

  • To stretch a component horizontally, use styleClass="AFStretchWidth" (instead of inlineStyle="width:100.0%").

To approximate an af:div:

<af:group id="pt_navbarright" rendered="#{securityContext.authenticated}">
     <div id="navbarright" class="floatright">
       right side menu stuff...

The af:group protects the DOM structure. The div lets you apply CSS styling and positioning.

Working with customizable components:

  • In panelCustomizable, use layout="auto" to detect whether to stretch its children.

  • To support flow and stretch layouts, use showDetailFrame with stretchChildren="auto".

10.3.2 Customizing the Appearance of Components

You can customize the appearance of components using the following mechanisms:

  • For custom styling use a declarative approach (theme, hint, or other attribute), for example, make the page dark blue with af:document's theme="dark"

  • Use themed decorativeBox components to organize your page layers with visual distinction and decorative borders as seen in some of the sample skins. Note that not all skins have alternative themes so you may not see any distinction. If your decorativeBox components are not showing up with different colored backgrounds and you know that you are using a skin that has definitions for alternate themes, you might be missing a web.xml context-param setting for "oracle.adf.view.rich.tonalstyles.ENABLED" being set to false.

  • Your document component also has a theme attribute so you can use it to change the main background styling of your page.

  • Use a custom skin for consistently modified appearances if the existing skin doesn't provide all that you need.

  • For instance-specific alternative styling, use the styleClass attribute. Keep the corresponding style definitions in an easy-to-maintain location such as in a custom skin, in the metaContainer facet of the document component, or in a style provided by the resource tag.

  • As a last resort, use component attributes such as inlineStyle, contentStyle, and labelStyle. These are less declarative, harder to maintain, contribute more to the page's raw HTML size, and may not even be needed if one or more of the above mechanisms are used.

    Styles are directly processed by the web browser, which gives you a great deal of power but at the cost of being less declarative and error-prone. The browsers do not support all styles on all elements and certain combinations of styles produce non-obvious results. Here is some guidance on style configurations to avoid:

    • An inlineStyle with a "height" value with "%" units

    • An inlineStyle with a "width" value between "90%" and "100%" (use styleClass="AFStretchWidth" or styleClass="AFAuxiliaryStretchWidth" instead)

    • An inlineStyle with "height", "top", and "bottom" values

    • An inlineStyle with "width", "left", and "right" values

    • An inlineStyle with a "position" value

    • In a child being stretched by a parent component, an inlineStyle with "width" or "height" values

10.3.3 Defining Scrolling

  • You should only have scrollbars around flowing island content. The recommended transition component for switching from a stretching outer frame into a flowing island is the panelGroupLayout with layout="scroll". If the contents of this panelGroupLayout cannot fit in the space allocated, the browser will determine whether scrollbars are needed and will add them automatically.

  • Do not nest scrolling panelGroupLayout components because this will make the user see multiple scrollbars. Also, this should only be used at transitions from stretching to flowing areas and since you should not have stretching areas inside of flowing areas, you would generally never end up with nested scrollbars. It is best to minimize the number of areas that a user must scroll in order to see what he or she is looking to find. Take time to consider what scrolling the user will need. In cases where undesired scrollbars exist, you may want to simply change the layout attribute of that panelGroupLayout to "vertical".

  • There is a known scrolling issue that has been filed against Internet Explorer 7.0.5730.11. The issue is only resolved in Internet Explorer 8 when running in pure IE8 rendering mode. If a scrolling box has contents that are set to be as wide as the containing box and if the contents are large enough to warrant the need for a vertical scrollbar, an unnecessary horizontal scrollbar will be added. The browser is failing to adjust the width of the contents for the presence of the vertical scrollbar and thus a horizontal scrollbar appears. This horizontal scrollbar lets you scroll the small amount of space equal to the width of the vertical scrollbar. With this issue, it is not recommended to specify a width anywhere between 90% and 100%. Smaller widths will generally not encounter the bug. Workarounds (as seen in this page) involve setting the widths of the contents to be smaller than full width so that the browser has enough space for a vertical scrollbar to fit. For your convenience, a styleClass named "AFStretchWidth" is built into the skin to specify that a component with this styleClass will get a reduced width in Internet Explorer 7 or full width in other browsers. If you need a smaller size for an thin auxiliary column, you can alternatively use "AFAuxiliaryStretchWidth" or you may create a similar skin definition in your own skin like this:

    @agent ie and (version: 7.0) {
      .AFIEOverflowWorkaround75 {
        width: 75%;

10.3.4 Defining Margins, Borders, and Padding

  • Due to the browser's CSS Box Model Rules, defining margins, borders and padding on components might be complex. Refer to the Navigation-Master-Detail, Tiled Flowing, and Tiled Stretching layout pattern examples for various mechanisms to apply padding.

  • In many cases, to apply these kinds of styles, you need to use multiple components together. In a scrolling area, adding an extra panelGroupLayout with layout="vertical" with the padding defined on it, inside of the outer layout="scroll" panelGroupLayout, will be required. In a stretching area, you may need to wrap a component inside of a panelStretchLayout with spacers in its top, start, end, and bottom facets for the padding.

10.4 Tips on Defining Skins

When skinning WebCenter Portal: Spaces we can look at it from coarse-grain and fine-grain standpoint. At the coarse-grain level many large elements on the page like the background and the center of the page can use very basic styling techniques to impart a look and feel to particular corporate brand with very little effort. At the fine-grain level we can apply the styling to specific components and controls within the page. The most efficient way to develop your skin is to start by defining the coarse-grain elements and then use fine-grain styling to tune your overall look and feel to be inline with your corporate brand.

In many cases a hybrid model of styling works very well. Taking the coarse-grained elements (page background, main portion of the body, etc) and using traditional CSS approaches with those, but then getting specific using the ADF skinning, will work together to generate the overall appearance for WebCenter Portal: Spaces.

An example of a hybrid approach would be using technology in WebCenter Portal: Spaces to generate a menu that uses unordered lists and list items, then applying traditional CSS to them. Even though you are benefiting from WebCenter Portal: Spaces's navigation models, you are not doing traditional ADF skinning – but instead using standard CSS.

Figure 10-2 Hybrid Example

Hybrid Example

The CSS navigation pictured in Figure 10-2 uses expression language that WebCenter Portal: Spaces provides to place the various items within the navigation into the markup that WebCenter Portal: Spaces renders for the client. We can then apply coarse-grained styling that uses traditional CSS techniques to style our menu.

Expression Language (EL) allows you to access the various objects for navigation within your template design. Looping in EL is simple and coding is done inline with the page template. You can mix regular HTML directly into the looping markup.

10.4.1 Externalizing Static Assets

When using coarse-grained techniques in addition to ADF styling, it is often helpful to hold various styling assets outside of WebCenter Portal: Spaces. To do this we can use WebCenter Content to manage all of the unstructured assets for WebCenter Portal: Spaces. They can include things like CSS and images that we want manage within our environment and provides revision control and workflow. This is a best practice if you want to allow design teams to access and work with WebCenter Portal: Spaces without involving the development team for each and every change

10.5 Optimizing WebCenter Portals for Mobile Devices

Responsive Web Design allows Web pages to flexibly adapt to different form factors. It has caught fire in the Web world as one approach to delivering Web content to desktop browsers, tablets, and smart phones.

These techniques will enable you rapidly go from HTML/CSS markup to a WebCenter Portal with similar look and feel. You will also improve the experience of WebCenter Portal: Spaces when viewed from mobile devices.

To make WebCenter Portal: Spaces accessible via smart phones and tablets you can take several approaches:

  • The simplest solution is to leverage your existing Spaces application with a browser-based option that requires no changes other than ensuring that WebCenter Portal: Spaces renders within native browsers of devices. However, this solution might not provide the best user experience.

  • You can also leverage your existing Spaces application by generating HTML based on device profiles, configuring device-specific templates and pages. This solution might provide a slightly better user experience.

  • For the best user experience, you can create native applications developed using ADF Mobile or native iOS or Android SDK. Although this provides the best user experience, it also requires more up-front development time and more support.

You can use adaptive programming techniques, designing applications to adjust to the available viewport.

When you design your Spaces application, design for a tablet, then scale up the design for the desktop. You should create a separate design for smart phones. Achieve these designs through page templates.

The two most important things to do when designing for mobile devices are:

  • Set the viewport metatag, which causes mobile browsers to set a good initial zoom.

    Add the following fragment to your page template:

              <script type="text/javascript">
                   var metaTag = document.createElement("meta");
                   metaTag.name = "viewport"'
                   metaTag.content = "width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0";
  • Set max-width on images, which causes images to fit nicely on mobile browsers.

    Add the following code to your CSS:

    img, object {
         max-width: 100%;

ADF skins can work with portlets to achieve a common look and feel, but they insert a lot of styles into your HTML, so make sure to create a "reset" skin and use the -tr-inhibit property.

Your Reset skin should look like the following:

body {
     color: inherit;
     font: inherit;
af|document {
     -tr-inhibit: all;
af|commandLink {
     -tr-inhibit: all;
af|goLink {
     -tr-inhibit: all;
af|inputText::content {
     font: inherit;

Set the Reset skin to inherit settings from V1.2 ADF skins as shown in Figure 10-3.

Figure 10-3 Reset Skin Inheritance Setting

Reset Skin Inheritance Setting

CSS3 media queries allow you to write CSS rules specifically for certain situations, such as adapting to small screens or adjusting for orientation. Here is an example of a CSS3 media query:

@media only screen and (max-width: 480px) {
     #content {
          margin: 0;

     #navbarright {
          display: none;

ADF Rich Faces provides the following mobile support:

  • Supports iPad

  • DVT components render via HTML

  • Touch gesture support

  • Page size reduced by up to 20%

Although adaptive techniques allows web and tablet design to work, you need to refine your design for phones. Focus on specific smart phone use cases. Build a separate site and separate templates, then build in code to detect smart phones and redirect them to the appropriate design.

Here is an example of a simple JavaScript redirect that can be added to WebCenter Portal: Spaces's index.html:

     car Browser = navigator.userAgent;

     if (Browser.indexOf('iPad') > 0)
     else if (Browser.indexOf('iPhone') > 0)
     else {

Here is an example of a manual redirect within the application that displays a message providing a link to the mobile version of your Spaces application's welcome page:

#{requestContext.agent.platformName=='windows' ? '' :
'Click <A HREF="http://<host>/myApp/faces/PhoneWelcome.jspx">here</A> to view the mobile site.' }

Here is an example of a redirect within the application that automatically redirects a mobile device to the mobile version of your Spaces application:

#{requestContext.agent.platformName=='windows' ? '' :
'<META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="0; URL=http://<host>/myApp/faces/PhoneWelcome.jspx">' }

10.6 Useful Design Tools

Using visualization and inspection features in chrome and Firefox you are able to work very quickly through the CSS needed to style your work. In addition, CSS3 is very powerful for providing visualizations that previously required images to achieve – like drop shadows and gradients; you can use a CSS3 generator to expedite this type of design. Finally, using something like JQuery we are able to actually manipulate the Document Object Model to achieve any change using client-side technology.

Figure 10-4 shows an example of inspection within Google Chrome. As we hover over the login link in the upper right-hand corner, we are able to get a good sense of which styles are being applied to this particular element of the page. This makes it easy to go back and adjust our skin for a particular component. This is an example of “fine-grained” skinning.

Figure 10-4 Google Chrome Inspection

Google Chrome Inspection