It’s important to always look out for new development techniques. Whether we’re designing an entire user experience or programming a specific piece of software, the more current our toolkit, the better our ability to innovate. I’d like to share a new development technique we use at TSG: HTML content control.
HTML content control has a few distinct features:
- Variable substitution.
- Supports most of the standard html features (e.g. tables, paragraphs, fonts).
- Allows for designing of layouts that might flow to more than one page.
- Supports embedded variable based logic for inclusion or exclusion of content.
Variable substitution is the main supported feature of the HTML shape. It allows the designer to type in fixed text, and then place tags within the text where a variable value should be used. Examples of this would include any data received during processing of a customer data file (e.g. name, address, phone number, medical plan name, etc.).
With variable substitution, the designer has a lot of flexibility defining the final content of their page layout. With the addition of HTML styles, the designer can mark some variables with different styles to enhance the appearance.
The HTML shape supports most of the standard HTML tags, notably the table, paragraph, span and div tags. Each of these tags allows for various style options, including font family, font size, background color and text color. This gives the layout designer a lot of flexibility in creating their layout—especially when particular words or phrases in a paragraph should be bold.
Our HTML shape now supports HTML content that can flow to more than one page. This allows building multi-page letters that seamlessly flow from one page to the next. Custom tags have been added to allow the layout designer to specify which content should be kept together and moved as a unit to the next page. This ensures the paragraph does not span two pages.
With the recent addition of embedded logic within the layout, we have made great strides in moving from static output to a more dynamic layout. The embedded logic lets the designer use variables and variable logic to define which content appears in the final output. Entire paragraphs can be included or excluded based on logic. This may be useful in cases where—based on a customer’s medical plan—you may or may not want to include some explanatory paragraph of text. Combining this with the pagination feature, we can now render output documents of varying length with varying content.
At TSG, we stay receptive to new ideas and techniques. We often introduce a new technology or workflows as a way of resolving a client’s issue. We can only do that through our ability to adopt new resources and techniques. HTML content control is one of our many development techniques that keep us innovative.