Ploneintranet Prototype

Design First

In Plone Intranet, we take design seriously. Very seriously.

We first do the design. Then the design becomes the development specification.

This puts user experience concerns up front and central. The whole product is centered on providing the best possible user experience. Technical choices and architectures are driven by user experience priorities.

Contrast this with traditional Plone development, in which the backend data structures and form generation constrains much of the user experience.

This design-first philosophy has some very practical consequences:

  • All page views implemented in Plone Intranet have been designed first in the ploneintranet.prototype clickable design mockup.
  • No markup, CSS or Javascript is used in Plone Intranet that does not come from the ploneintranet.prototype clickable design mockup.

In other words: any user-visible change cannot be made by a backend developer, without first consulting the designer and getting a prototype implementation of that change. This provides a major quality assurance on the user experience.

Clickable design mockup

ploneintranet.prototype is a separate package for front-end development on Plone Intranet.

Requirements and bugs on the prototype are tracked on

'Stories in Ready'

The prototype provides a static high-fidelity mockup design workspace, with the following elements:

These resources are copied into the Diazo theme that is contained within the main ploneintranet repository.


You don’t need to install the prototype to run Ploneintranet. You only need to install the prototype if you’d like to change the prototype itself.

Package layout

static high-fidelity mockup design workspace Contains the jekyll templates, style files, media files et al. This is the main working place for designers
Contains the compiled prototype
Custom javascript code (patterns) Also stores the files downloaded by bower in bower_components/ Contains the patterns.js which controls the bundling structure Can also contain all local or legacy js code that is specific to this project

Standalone Installation: using docker

The docker-based installation provided in the main ploneintranet buildout. manages all dependencies for you.

Prerequisites: docker

For example on Ubuntu, install docker:

sudo apt-get install -y
adduser myuserid docker

Clone ploneintranet:

git clone

You need to prepare the container once:

make docker-build

Enter the virtual:

make docker-run

Clone ploneintranet.prototype:

make prototype

Go to the prototype:

cd prototype

Compile the prototype:

make all

Run the standalone prototype:

make demo-run

You can now access the clickable prototype on localhost:4000.

To re-access an already compiled prototype you only need to start docker and run the demo server:

make docker-run
make demo-run

See below under ‘Installation into Plone’ for integration of the theme resource bundles into a Plone installation.

Standalone Installation: without docker


  • node.js >0.10 install from

You can check node is present via:

node -v

If any node.js related problems are encountered during the standalone installation, it is recommended to install nodeenv. Nodeenv is a isolated environment to install node.js packages, nodeenv uses virtualenv:

# in your virtualenv
pip install nodeenv
nodeenv -p --node=0.10.33 --prebuilt env-0.10.33-prebuilt
. bin/activate

On ubuntu:

sudo apt-get install ruby ruby-dev
sudo gem install bundler

Make sure ruby>=1.9.3 (on precise: apt-get install ruby1.9.3).

Now install jekyll itself. The Gemfile is in ploneintranet.theme/prototype and is already up to date:

git clone
cd ploneintranet.prototype
sudo bundle install

Bourbon will be installed as part of bundle install .

We use node, npm and bower to manage the Javascript dependencies of Webwork and build the bundles. You have the option to handle this manually or let the all-round-carefree make handle things for you:

cd ..  # toplevel ploneintranet.prototype

The bundles (minified and non-minified) are in prototype/bundles .

Component Development

Start the jekyll server:

make demo-run

You can now see the current prototype (on localhost:4000) and edit.

Typical development workflow:

  • Wireframe the interactions you want to realize

  • Plan a new component as a pseudocode dom tree using pattern classes, e.g.:

  • Create a new include file eg _inludes/update-social.html

  • Create a new standalone html eg in demo/update-social.html that includes that include. This page should show up in the “Prototype map” on the prototype homepage

  • In the include file, expand the pseudocode dom into actual html markup.

  • Load the standalone demo via the Jekyll server, edit, reload, rinse, repeat.

  • Finally, include the new component in more complex pages like e.g. prototype/workspace_landing.html

Jekyll requires a front-matter in the top of standalone html files, minimally:


Releasing a new version

Releasing an update of the prototype into the ploneintranet Diazo theme is a multi-step process:

  1. Compile and release a new Javascript bundle:

    make jsrelease

    This will upload the bundle to

  2. Commit and push your prototype changes:

    # your git commands here
  3. Go into a ploneintranet buildout and:

    make diazorelease

    This will pull in the prototype (from Github) and the javascript bundles (from and update ploneintranet/src/ploneintranet/theme/static/generated in the main ploneintranet buildout.

Developer’s Background Information

The make process will attempt the following steps:

  • Download backend js libs using npm install for running this
  • Download frontend js libs for later bundling using bower
  • Clone or update the Patternslib master to link it into the custom bundle
  • Apply Prefixfree and uglify the css
  • Create a js bundle of all referenced js patterns and used libs
  • Run jekyll to apply templates and create the prototype directory

If you run into problems

Q: There is some obscure error in some js dependency downloaded by bower. What should I do?

A: There is a fair chance that there was a download error due to timeout or delay in The quick shot is to run again. Do make clean to be sure that all local caches are also emptied and run make again.

Q: What are the stamp* files for?

A: Downloading all dependencies takes quite some time. We use these as flags to indicate to make that these steps don’t have to run again. That also means if you explicitly want to re-run the bower or npm step, you can just remove Theme stamp-bower or stamp-npm file and run make again.

Q: On Ubuntu, I get weird “sh: 1: node: not found” errors.

A: sudo ln -s /usr/bin/nodejs /usr/bin/node

Q: I get Errors in the log of type IOError: Error reading file ‘/++theme++ploneintranet.theme/prototype/home.html’: failed to load external entity “/++theme++ploneintranet.theme/prototype/home.html”. What’s wrong?

A: Your ploneintranet buildout is incomplete. This shouldn’t happen anymore.