Magento 2 Webinar On Frontend & Layout Architecture – Part Two – Summary

Sad puppy in a Magento 2 webinar

After the technical hiccups of yesterday, the Magento 2 Webinar On Frontend & Layout Architecture saw its continuation today. With an hour evenly split in coverage of the improved layout structure and a Q&A session, this webinar was quite engaging.

Quick recap

Due to technical problems during the original webinar on April the 8th, it was shutdown abruptly and rescheduled on April the 9th. For those who weren’t there earlier, Elena provided the viewers with a quick recap.

For those interested in reading about it, we did a summary about the abrupted webinar here. Here’s what Elena summarized:

magento_blank - magento 2 frontend technology stack

Magento 2 theme “magento_blank” its technology stack

  • The Magento 2 platform has 6 main goals being:
    1. Updating the technology stack
    2. Streamlining customization process
    3. Enabling easier upgrades
    4. Improving performance and scalability
    5. Maintaining quality
    6. More community engagement
  • Magento 2 will feature major frontend changes. Buzzwords like HTML5, CSS3, LESS, responsive-out-of-the-box, an icon font and SVG support is what Magento 2 is about.
  • magento_blank is the name of the literal blank theme shipped with Magento. Instead of encouraging theme developers to start from scratch, magento_blank is intended to be a proper and sane starting point for theme development.
  • Semantic improvements will play a key-role in Magento 2 its revised frontend. There will be documented data-attributes for Javascript interaction.
  • Magento UI is the name of Magento 2 its CSS framework. Think Bootstrap and Foundation

Layout improvements

After the quick recap, Anton Makarenko picked up where we left yesterday. His main point was that Magento 2 its layout system is thusly improved that everything is simpler and more declarative than in Magento 1.

containers - magento 2 layout architecture

The container concept used for wire framing


New in Magento 2 is the concept of containers. They behave much like aliased wrappers of the layout and word is that they will play a key role in wire-framing pages and eliminating the need of having nested block-elements.

Page types revisited

Another major milestone is that page types have been revisited. Being informally available in Magento 1.X, they will play a more crucial role in Magento 2.

They will serve as abstractions for controller actions. Each page type can be one-on-one resolved to a controller action, now. They can also be used to abstract away recurring UI-elements – like a page type served as a two-column layout.

In our opinion the concepts discussed sounded great but were still a bit vague regarding implementation. This probably has to do with the fact that this is still work in progress.

A more semantic layout architecture

Really stressed in the webinar is that Magento 2 will do away with most if not all of the code execution via XML. Where in Magento 1.X it was possible to invoke class-methods of block-instances, Magento 2 will only support the passing of arguments on a key-value basis.

This way, the layout XML will be a pure description model and frontend developers are no longer required to reverse engineer block-classes to find out which (sometimes undocumented) methods are used for what.

Directives like addChild, append and other layout-injection-techniques have been replaced by the much simpler and generalized move-directive.

Layout files revisited

In Magento 1.X all layout handles are supposed to be configured in a layout file. Magento 2 does away with this and strives to a convention-over-configuration principle where all affected XML files will be loaded by default.

Module-specific layout files are moved to the app/code directory but theme-specific layout files still exist. A new concept called melding (blending?!) will be used to combine XML files.

The Q&A Round

During the webinar, viewers were able to input their questions about Magento 2 its frontend & layout architecture. If they were lucky, they would get them answered spontaneously by the speakers. A few questions were received yesterday, but most of them were processed on demand during the webinar.

The professionalism with which the speakers answered the questions, was quite astonishing and a refreshing take on community input. We have compiled most of the questions answered in a separate post here.

Our opinion

A slide capturing the reasoning behind LESS in Magento 2

A slide fromt the webinar: the reasoning behind LESS in Magento 2

We felt that the concepts discussed during the webinar were a bit vague sometimes. This could be caused by the barrier of comprehension; the speakers probably work with Magento 2 every day during its development. Hopefully a lot of the concepts will see brighter light in a near future.

What we really enjoyed was the live Q&A session. With questions flooding in after the aborted webinar yesterday, even questions submitted during the webinar were answered. We might even go as far to say that next time an entire webinar – say an hour or so – should be dedicated to answering community questions: that could potentially receive a lot of traction.

Overall, we got a bit of a perspective on the new Magento 2 frontend & layout architecture. Hopefully the positive response of the community will lead to more webinars in the future.

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