Three tips for success with Express
Express is an advanced branding capability created by Open LMS that allows beginners and experts alike to completely customize the appearance of their site categories or courses. The benefits of using Express include dynamic information using variables ability to change the design without advanced coding skills real time updates dynamic menus and templates for consistent look and feel.
The two pieces that make up Express are the Express block and the Express theme. Using these together creates a design that can be implemented immediately backed-up for storage or moved to another site for implementation.
Success with Express is easily achieved by following these three tips:
Tip #1 – Use the template design type.
There are two design types to choose from within the Express block: template and manual. A manual design is a design that either has had changes made to the template files on the Manage Designs sub-tab or has been created completely from scratch. A template design on the other hand uses one of the seven default Express templates that are manipulated within the Create a design sub-tab.
When using a manual design type your design does not receive regular updates from Open LMS for new features or bug fixes; therefore you become responsible for the maintenance of the design. The convenience of bug fixes enhancements and new features by Open LMS are all great reasons to use the template design instead.
Tip #2 – Make changes to the CSS using the custom CSS box.
The Custom CSS box in the Create a design sub-tab accepts any CSS and Express variables that you would like to use. Custom CSS is always applied to the HTML last so it takes priority over the CSS of the same class or type from the CSS template file. It also allows you to override or create new CSS without have to edit the template file or download the design.
Additionally custom CSS when added here does not make a design a manual design and travels with the design when backed-up and restored.
Finally using the Custom CSS box allows Open LMS to update or fix any templates without overwriting your changes.
Tip #3 – Use variables not links.
Express variables like %WWWROOT% or %DESIGNDIR% found in the Open LMS Express Manual are used to dynamically add information to the Express design files. So when the design loads an Express design file the variable is replaced with the data from Moodle™ that it represents. For example %WWWROOT% is replaced with the base URL for the site.
Hard coded links e.g. exact URLs such as www.openlms.net in the Express design files will break because Express stores design files in a unique location every time a design is created or uploaded. These unique directories are used to decrease page load speeds by storing Express design files in the user’s browser cache. Best practice suggests using Express variables for a flexible design.
Although the following example shows how a variable is used in a Menu within Express they can be used in Custom CSS and design files.
Basing a design on a template customizing CSS and using variables are all best practices when using Express. If you would like to know more about Express and how to use it sign up for the Branding Your Site with the Express Block webinar.