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Hey folks!

I'm happy to finally introduce a project I've been working on for quite a while now: it's called Wireframe, and it is an output framework for ProcessWire.

Note that I'm posting this in the module development area, maily because this project is still in rather early stage. I've built a couple of sites with it myself, and parts of the codebase have been powering some pretty big and complex sites for many years now, but this should still be considered a soft launch 🙂

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Long story short, Wireframe is a module that provides the "backbone" for building sites (and apps) with ProcessWire using an MVC (or perhaps MVVM – one of those three or four letter abbreviations anyway) inspired methodology. You could say that it's an output strategy, but I prefer the term "output framework" since in my mind the word "strategy" means something less tangible. A way of doing things, rather than a tool that actually does things.

Wireframe (the module) provides a basic implementation for some familiar MVC concepts, such as Controllers and a View layer – the latter of which consists of layouts, partials, and template-specific views. There's no "model" layer, since in this context ProcessWire is the model. As a module Wireframe is actually quite simple – not even nearly the biggest one I've built – but there's still quite a bit of stuff to "get", so I've put together a demo & documentation site for it at https://wireframe-framework.com/.

In addition to the core module, I'm also working on a couple of site profiles based on it. My current idea is actually to keep the module very light-weight, and implement most of the "opinionated" stuff in site profiles and/or companion modules. For an example MarkupMenu (which I released a while ago) was developed as one of those "companion modules" when I needed a menu module to use on the site profiles.

Currently there are two public site profiles based on Wireframe:

  • site-wireframe-docs is the demo&docs site mentioned above, just with placeholder content replaced with placeholder content. It's not a particularly complex site, but I believe it's still a pretty nice way to dig into the Wireframe module.
  • site-wireframe-boilerplate is a boilerplate (or starter) site profile based on the docs site. This is still very much a work in progress, but essentially I'm trying to build a flexible yet full-featured starter profile you can just grab and start building upon. There will be a proper build process for resources, it will include most of the basic features one tends to need from site to site, etc.

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Requirements and getting started:

  • Wireframe can be installed just like any ProcessWire module. Just clone or download it to your site/modules/ directory and install. It doesn't, though, do a whole lot of stuff on itself – please check out the documentation site for a step-by-step guide on setting up the directory structure, adding the "bootstrap file", etc.
    • You may find it easier to install one of the site profiles mentioned above, but note that this process involves the use of Composer. In the case of the site profiles you can install ProcessWire as usual and download or clone the site profile directory into your setup, but after that you should run "composer install" to get all the dependencies – including the Wireframe module – in place.
  • Hard requirements for Wireframe are ProcessWire 3.0.112 and PHP 7.1+. The codebase is authored with current PHP versions in mind, and while running it on 7.0 may be possible, anything below that definitely won't work.

A feature I added just today to the Wireframe module is that in case ProcessWire has write access to your site/templates/ directory, you can use the module settings screen to create the expected directories automatically. Currently that's all, and the module won't – for an example – create Controllers or layouts for you, so you should check out the site profiles for examples on these. (I'm probably going to include some additional helper features in the near future.)

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This project is loosely based on an earlier project called pw-mvc, i.e. the main concepts (such as Controllers and the View layer) are very similar. That being said, Wireframe is a major upgrade in terms of both functionality and architecture: namespaces and autoloader support are now baked in, the codebase requires PHP 7, Controllers are classes extending \Wireframe\Controller (instead of regular "flat" PHP files), implementation based on a module instead of a collection of drop-in files, etc.

While Wireframe is indeed still in a relatively early stage (0.3.0 was launched today, in case version numbers matter) for the most part I'm happy with the way it works, and likely won't change it too drastically anytime soon – so feel free to give it a try, and if you do, please let me know how it went. I will continue building upon this project, and I am also constantly working on various side projects, such as the site profiles and a few unannounced helper modules.

I should probably add that while Wireframe is not hard to use, it is more geared towards those interested in "software development" type methodology. With future updates to the module, the site profiles, and the docs I hope to lower the learning curve, but certain level of "developer focus" will remain. Although of course the optimal outcome would be if I could use this project to lure more folks towards that end of the spectrum... 🙂

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Please let me know what you think – and thanks in advance!

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I discovered Wireframe on Sunday after exploring the GitHub repo for the ProcessWire Composer Installer project that you mentioned in the latest PW Weekly. The documentation you've written for Wireframe is just awesome 👍 - engaging, comprehensive and clear.

I have a short question and a long question...

Does it make sense to use Wireframe together with Markup Regions in any way, or would a developer choose Wireframe or Markup Regions but not both?

 

The long question relates to what you said here:

2 hours ago, teppo said:

Although of course the optimal outcome would be if I could use this project to lure more folks towards that end of the spectrum...

I take this to be a reference to the superiority of a MVC approach versus the "default" approach of mixing business logic and UI logic together in a PW template file. I'd like to hear more of your views on this because you didn't talk about it much in the documentation, probably because MVC and the separation of concerns is discussed in plenty of other places around the web. But I was wondering if you think a MVC approach is always the way to go, or if is something you would weigh up the pros and cons of taking into account the parameters of each specific project, e.g. the scale and complexity of the project, if a team will be working on the project, etc.

Personally I use Markup Regions and don't use any separation of business logic and UI logic into different files or folders. From time to time I think about changing to an MVC approach because so many people seem to recommend it, but when I weigh it up I don't see enough advantage versus disadvantage for the kinds of projects I work on. But maybe I'm overlooking something so I'd appreciate your comments.

The main benefits of MVC as I understand it are...

1. If you have a team of people working on a project, maybe with different skill sets (e.g. a front-end dev and a back-end dev), then it lets each person focus on the parts that matter to them. For example the front-end person can focus on the view file without having to see any business logic which might distract or even be unintelligible to them. This totally makes sense to me and if I worked as part of a team this by itself would make an MVC approach worthwhile. But in my case I do everything alone from start to finish - design, front-end, back-end.

2. The business logic doesn't "belong" in the same file as the markup - it's better to keep it separate and it makes it easier to update a site. This seems more contentious to me, and perhaps depends on how much business logic there is. If I have some variable that I'm using within the markup I find it very handy to have the definition/construction of that variable present alongside its usage in output. So I'm not left wondering "what was it that I put into $related_products?" and needing to navigate to some other file to find out.

Now if there were heaps of business logic it might start to feel like clutter within the markup, but when I look at the template files for my projects in most cases there's actually very little business logic present. Maybe that's partly because PW is quite elegant in that you can do a lot with a few lines of code, and partly because most of my projects are not very complex. But even if I do have a lot of business logic I find that placing it at the top of the template file is no problem at all. If I need to work on it I'd rather just scroll up than open another file, and I can use my IDE to collapse any blocks of code that I don't need to focus on. Would you say that MVC is an approach that is more suited to complex projects rather than simple ones?

Things like layouts and partials that are offered through Wireframe are cool, but those are also possible with Markup Regions (layout = _main.php) and built-in PW methods (partials = $files->render).

I have no doubt that Wireframe is a powerful tool, but do you see it as being the right solution for all projects or just some projects? 

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Hey @Robin S. First of all thanks for your thoughtful message! I'll have to get back to some of your points later, but just wanted to share a few initial thoughts 🙂

About using Markup Regions and Wirerame together: I honestly don't know. I'm aware on a basic level of how Markup Regions work, but I've never used it. I will definitely dig into the specifics, though – this is an interesting area. On a more general note I've intentionally kept to the "alternate template file" strategy (instead of hooking into Page rendering or something similar) so that Wireframe can be used for some parts of the site (some templates), while other parts use whatever other approach makes sense.

So yeah, you can use them together, I'm just not yet sure to what extent that would make sense... if that makes sense to you? 😉

I don't really want to preach the superiority of MVC (or any other three or four letter architecture), but apart from some of the simplest sites I've built – isit.pw has one file with one form, so it for an example doesn't benefit from a whole lot of structure – I do generally prefer to separate "code" from "markup". This is a topic I'd love to cover in more detail later, but your two points summarise very well what it is all about. Project scope (and complexity) and working with or without a team are definitely key factors there. After that it comes down to personal preference.

TL;DR: I wouldn't use Wireframe for everything, but I do think that it fits nicely just about any project.

I often end up with multiple "views" for the same data – not sure if this is really a common need, but it has been in my projects, which is another reason to keep the views as basic (and as markup-y) as possible, and instead move all the business logic, data structuring, etc. somewhere else. Overall I've found that this sort of structure helps me keep things neat so that when things eventually grow and scale it doesn't become a mess, and allows me to make changes and additions with little extra overhead once they are due.

That being said, there's a good reason why Controllers – for an example – are actually optional components in Wireframe. Some of my templates make use of the whole package – Controller, layout, view file(s), and partials – yet others have just a single view file, and that's all. I like that I don't have to use more than I really need, but if I do need more later, I can just bolt it in without a whole lot of refactoring 🙂

It's true that you can use ProcessWire's built-in features to do everything that Wireframe does. That's exactly what Wireframe itself does: I've tried not to reinvent the wheel where possible, so the View (for an example) is a light-weight wrapper for TemplateFile, etc. Originally the predecessor of this project (pw-mvc) was all about standardising some best practices so that as we (as a team) build a project after project there's some common ground there. In a perfect world you could jump into a new project you've never touched before and instantly see what's going on in there.

It's a bit more than that now, though.

... and this is the point where I realise that my "few initial thoughts" are already getting quite long-winded 😅

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Thanks @teppo. I'm going to spend some time exploring Wireframe to see how it feels compared to my existing approach - I may yet become a convert 🙂.

Thanks again for creating this tool and doing such a great job on the documentation website.

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I am currently building first site using Wireframe. I really like it so far. I have almost done with the site (pretty simple one) and I didn't use any controllers... until now when I noticed that homepage shows feed that mixes news and events. Usually nothing too complex (just add both templates to selector), but in this case events are from separate system, pulled from REST API. So this was perfect case where I use controller for:

  • pulling data from external API
  • caching that data, so that we fetch only once in hour
  • merging and sorting it to one PageArray with local news items
  • passing that final PageArray to view file for easy rendering

Without Wireframe I would probably build much of that logic into functions, but I really like that there is "documented place where this kind of stuff should live". 

In future if I (or some other lucky fellow) need to make changes to layout - it is simple and one doesn't have to think about that "wow, all kinds of stuff is happening here", maybe remove that events stuff or add even more sources - I can do it easily without messing with layout. Also this model usually helps to produce clearer code: instead of many ifs (showing little bit different data for events vs. news) while rendering, I have that kind of logic separate from actual markup.

One downside is of course that one have to "understand" the mvc-framework and it's logic. You have to know that there might be controller involved and where it lives for example.

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On 7/5/2019 at 10:23 PM, Markus (Blue Tomato) said:

Sounds nice, we built some similar (but highly customised on some special internal needs...). But found many very similar things in it. 🙂

Nice! Would be interesting to hear if you can think of anything particularly cool that your version did and Wireframe doesn't do. Always looking for new ideas 🙂

Small update to the docs site: added a page for patterns and practices. Currently only one page there (utility classes), but will be adding more as I figure out what should be there. Doesn't make sense to bundle everything with the module or even the site profiles, so needed some place to stash this sort of stuff.

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This time you came prepared, @teppo! Great intro post and a cool documentation site. Congratulations!

I did not have time to dig into it (yet). The 1st question that comes to mind is can twig or some other templating language be plugged in for the views?

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Two more)

  1. How is it possible to separate logic for partials from their presentation? I often find the need to prepare content for partials same way as for the views.
  2. Do you have experience of using Wireframe with RepeaterMatrix based content?
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32 minutes ago, Ivan Gretsky said:

This time you came prepared, @teppo! Great intro post and a cool documentation site. Congratulations!

I did not have time to dig into it (yet). The 1st question that comes to mind is can twig or some other templating language be plugged in for the views?

Thanks, Ivan! 🙂

I haven't figured out the details yet, but at some point I'm going to look into adding templating language support. For the time being all options are open, so don't really have anything else to share at this point than "I will look into it eventually".

10 minutes ago, Ivan Gretsky said:

Two more)

  1. How is it possible to separate logic for partials from their presentation? I often find the need to prepare content for partials same way as for the views.
  2. Do you have experience of using Wireframe with RepeaterMatrix based content?

1. Currently partials are intended as simple drop-in (include) files with very little logic. I do have some ideas in my backlog that come pretty close to this topic, but I'll have to give them a bit more thought before implementing. Wouldn't want to put something in now, and then regret it right away... 😅

I've often preferred render functions, i.e. functions that generate markup, in case I need to bake some logic into smaller bits and pieces of the site. A "RenderUtils" class with multiple render methods would be one solution, and of course you can already use ProcessWire's own features to render a partial: $page->renderValue(), $files->render(), TemplateFile::render(), etc. In the long term perhaps we could add some kind of a helper class to the framework for handling these situations – just not quite sure yet how to approach this.

If you could give me an example or two of what sort of situations you tend to run into, I'd be grateful – would be good to know that I'm actually solving the right problem 🙂

2. Not Wireframe specifically, but I did build a few rather large sites with pw-mvc and RepeaterMatrix. In those cases I ended up using field templates (/site/templates/fields/) for the bulk of the RepeaterMatrix stuff. Worked quite nicely, really. I'll add a note to write a bit about this to the "Patterns and practices" page.

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This is just a rough idea, not sure if it's going to go anywhere but I'm actually wondering if I should extend the $partials object a bit?

Currently it's actually a bit silly – basically an "object oriented" way to replace <?php include 'partials/menu/top.php' ?> with <?php include $partials->menu->top ?>. If each property could be used as a function, this would allow us to pass the partial arguments: <?= $partials->menu->meta([ 'description' => 'some text' ]) ?>, etc. Or we could pass in a string, in which case a Controller method would be used to pass the data to the partial.

Again, just thinking out loud here. Not sure if this makes any sense, but I'm kind of liking the idea 🙂

Another idea I've been toying with would be subcontrollers (or child controllers, or partial controllers, or whatever terminology makes most sense). These could solve situations where you end up needing the same stuff from template to template. You can always create custom base controllers and extend them, but this might allow for easier composition.

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      One more small(ish) difference is that MarkupMenu supports overriding default options via $config->MarkupMenu. I find myself redefining the default markup for every site, which until now meant that each site had a wrapper function for MarkupSimpleNavigation (to avoid code / config repetition), and this way I've been able to leave that out 🙂
      Requirements
      ProcessWire >= 3.0.112 PHP >= 7.1.0 If you're working on an earlier version of ProcessWire or PHP, use MarkupSimpleNavigation instead.
    • By Robin S
      After forgetting the class name of the wonderful AdminPageFieldEditLinks module for what feels like the 100th time I decided I needed to give my failing memory a helping hand...
      Autocomplete Module Class Name
      Provides class name autocomplete suggestions for the "Add Module From Directory" and "Add Module From URL" fields at Modules > New.
      Requires ProcessWire >= v3.0.16.
      Screencast

      Installation
      Install the Autocomplete Module Class Name module.
      Configuration
      Add Module From Directory
      Choose the type of autocomplete suggestions list: "Module class names from directory" or "Custom list of module class names". The latter could be useful if you regularly install some modules and would prefer a shorter list of autocomplete suggestions. The list of class names in the modules directory is generated when the Autocomplete Module Class Name module is installed. It doesn't update automatically (because the retrieval of the class names is quite slow), but you can use the button underneath when you want to retrieve an updated list of class names from the directory. Add Module From URL
      If you want to see autocomplete suggestions for the "Add Module From URL" field then enter them in the following format:
      [autocomplete suggestion] > [module ZIP url]
      Example: RepeaterImages > https://github.com/Toutouwai/RepeaterImages/archive/master.zip Awesomplete options
      The "fuzzy search" option uses custom filter and item functions for Awesomplete so that the characters you type just have to exist in the autocomplete suggestion item and occur after preceding matches but do not need to be contiguous. Uncheck this option if you prefer the standard Awesomplete matching. Custom settings for Awesomplete can be entered in the "Awesomplete options" field if needed. See the Awesomplete documentation for more information.  
      https://github.com/Toutouwai/AutocompleteModuleClassName
      https://modules.processwire.com/modules/autocomplete-module-class-name/
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