Common gotchas & FAQs

This section tries to present frequent problems Ella users run into. It provides solutions for those problems. Hopefully, it will enhance you understanding for doing the things Ella-way.

Creating site navigation

A common situation. Site needs a global menu which consists of links to categories and/or static pages. The question is: how do we do such a thing in Ella? The answer is suprisingly simple. Use positions mate! Using positions, it’s very simple to implement a site menu that can be edited via admin interface and fast as lightning thanks to caching mechanisms. Have a look at following template:

<!-- in position called "sitemenu" -->
{% load my_tags cache %}

{% cache CACHE_TIMEOUT "mainmenu" request.META.PATH_INFO %}
<div id="menu">
        <li class='home'><a href="/" title="Homepage">Homepage</a></li>

        {% render_menu_part "news" %}
        {% render_menu_part "economics" %}
        {% render_menu_part "regional" %}
{% endcache %}

This snippet can be in position’s text field (so it will be considered a raw html) and renders two-level site menu with highlighting what is currently active. It does so by using category in context and the responsible code for this is custom {% render_menu_part %} inclusion tag. New items can be added very easily. Each link is bound to a Category object using it’s slug.

@register.inclusion_tag('inc/menu_part.html', takes_context=True)
def render_menu_part(context, slug):
    category = context.get('category', None)
    root = Category.objects.get_by_tree_path(slug)

    return {
        'slug': slug,
        'root': root,
        'current_root': category.get_root_category() if category is not None else None,
        'current': category,
        'sub': root.get_children()

Next, create the template for the menu part itself:

{% load my_tags %}
<li{% ifequal current.get_root_category root %} class="active"{% endifequal %}>
    <a href='{{ root.get_absolute_url }}'>{{ root.title }}</a>

    {% if sub %}
        <ul{% ifnotequal current_root root %} class="hidden"{% endifnotequal %}>
            {% for cat in sub %}
                <li{% ifequal current cat %} class="active"{% endifequal %}>
                    <a href="{{ cat.get_absolute_url }}">{{ cat.title }}</a>
            {% endfor %}
    {% endif %}

The last step is to add position to the base template so that it will be shown on each page:

<!-- in page/base.html -->
{% load positions %}
{% block sitemenu %}
    {% ifposition sitemenu %}
        {% position sitemenu %}{% endposition %}
    {% endifposition %}
{% endblock %}

Category-specific sidebars

Sidebars to show information related to the currently active category. This can be a category-related poll, most interesting articles by editors choice or something completely different.

Answer for this question is the same as in previous question. Use positions! If you are not sure how to do it, please refer to Defining positions on the page.

Taking advantage of template inheritance

One of the best things about Django is undoubtedly it’s templating framework. And one of it’s most powerful features is the template inheritance. When building up Django templates, you use so-called blocks which can then be overriden in the child template which inherits from the parent template. When using Ella, it’s very beneficial to take the full advantage of the inheritance concept since the number of templates in large Ella websites can grow up significantly. Using the inheritance, you can very effectively write as little code as possible. Here are some hints you may found useful:

  • Always write the base template for object and category detail pages. Try to put there as much shared code as possible.

  • In you base template, don’t hesitate to define many blocks so the child templates won’t need to override big pieces of code.

  • It often make sense to put almost all parts of the base template into blocks. This applies for titles, descriptions, perexes, comment sections, object tools and so on. The more you allow to override, the smaller the child template will be.

  • When dealing with content used in more than one template type or when it’s hard to keep the inheritance scheme for some reason, use {% include %} and put those pieces of content in reusable snippets in your inclusion_tags template subdirectory. A common use case scenario for this can be a right sidebar. Consider following example of reusable right col template. First, define the base rightcol.html template:

    <!-- in page/inclusion_tags/rightcol.html -->
    {% block rightcol_top %}{% endblock %}
    {% block rightcol_top_articles %}
        ... code showing top articles ..
    {% endblock %}
    {% block rightcol_category_poll %}
        ... code showing poll related to the category ...
    {% endblock %}
    {% block rightcol_bottom %}{% endblock %}

    This template contains the the stuff a sidebar can contain with possibility to add your own stuff to the top and to the bottom of it. Next define child templates of the rightcol.html for homepage and common category:

    <!-- in page/inclusion_tags/rightcol_hp.html -->
    {% extends "page/inclusion_tags/rightcol.html" %}
    {% block rightcol_top %}
        ... some special code to add on top of the right col ...
    {% endblock %}
    <!-- in page/inclusion_tags/rightcol_category.html -->
    {% extends "page/inclusion_tags/rightcol.html" %}
    {% block rightcol_top_articles %}{% endblock %}

    For the purpose of this example, we added a special piece of code at the top of the sidebar in homepage and turned off the displaying of top articles in common categories. In real-world situation, your intents will be probably little different, but for the need of demonstration, this is sufficent. Finally, put following piece of code in your base category.html:

    <!-- in page/category.html -->
    {% block rightcol %}
        <div id="sidebar">
            {% block rightcol_content %}
                {% if is_homepage %}
                    {% include "inc/rightcol_hp.html" %}
                {% else %}
                    {% include "inc/rightcol_category.html" %}
                {% endif %}
            {% endblock %}
    {% endblock %}

    In the main category template, we can easily implement a default behavior without need to duplicate a single line of code.

  • Every time you find yourself duplicating a HTML code, try to think if some kind of inheritance wouldn’t help you avoid doing so. In most cases, this would be true.

Static pages that don’t ever change

Content-heavy websites usually don’t build it’s success on lot of static pages. However, there are always some a Ella is ready to provide effective weapons to get rid of them.

The key here is to use Category and define a custom template, e.g. staticpage.html to use when you need to use the category as static page. The reasoning for this is that categories already have nice, SEO-friendly URLs and it would simply be unnecessary overhead to create a special solution for this. You can put you content to Category.content field which was added for that purpose. Then simply use something like this:

<!-- in page/staticpage.html -->
{% extends "page/base.html" %}

{% block content %}
    <h1>{{ category }}</h1>
    {% render category.content %}
{% endblock %}

Integrating searching

TODO: create ella-haystack and be done with it.