Applying Model-Driven Engineering to Development Scenarios for Web Content Management System Extensions
Web content management systems (WCMSs) such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal have established themselves as popular platforms for instantiating dynamic web applications. Using a WCMS instance allows developers to add additional functionality by implementing installable extension packages. However, ext...
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|Web content management systems (WCMSs) such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal have established themselves as popular platforms for instantiating dynamic web applications. Using a WCMS instance allows developers to add additional functionality by implementing installable extension packages. However, extension developers are challenged by dealing with boilerplate code, dependencies between extensions and frequent architectural changes to the underlying WCMS platform. These challenges occur in frequent development scenarios that include initial development and maintenance of extensions as well as migration of existing extension code to new platforms. A promising approach to overcome these challenges is represented by model-driven engineering (MDE). Adopting MDE as development practice, allows developers to define software features within reusable models which abstract the technical knowledge of the targeted system. Using these models as input for platform-specific code generators enables a rapid transformation to standardized software of high quality. However, MDE has not found adoption during extension development in the WCMS domain, due to missing tool support. The results of empirical studies in different domains demonstrate the benefits of MDE. However, empirical evidence of these benefits in the WCMS domain is currently lacking. In this work, we present the concepts and design of an MDE infrastructure for the development and maintenance of WCMS extensions. This infrastructure provides a domain-specific modelling language (DSL) for WCMS extensions, as well as corresponding model editors. In addition, the MDE infrastructure facilitates a set of transformation tools to apply forward and reverse engineering steps. This includes a code generator that uses model instances of the introduced DSL, an extension extractor for code extraction of already deployed WCMS extensions, and a model extraction tool for the creation of model instances based on an existing extension package. To ensure adequacy of the provided MDE infrastructure, we follow a structured research methodology. First, we investigate the representativeness of common development scenarios by conducting interviews with industrial practitioners from the WCMS domain. Second, we propose a general solution concept for these scenarios including involved roles, process steps, and MDE infrastructure facilities. Third, we specify functional and non-functional requirements for an adequate MDE infrastructure, including the expectations of domain experts. To show the applicability of these concepts, we introduce JooMDD as infrastructure instantiation for the Joomla WCMS which provides the most sophisticated extension mechanism in the domain. To gather empirical evidence of the positive impact of MDE during WCMS extension development, we present a mixed-methods empirical investigation with extension developers from the Joomla community. First, we share the method, results and conclusions of a controlled experiment conducted with extension developers from academia and industry. The experiment compares conventional extension development with MDE using the JooMDD infrastructure, focusing on the development of dependent and independent extensions. The results show a clear gain in productivity and quality by using the JooMDD infrastructure. Second, we share the design and observations of a semi-controlled tutorial with four experienced developers who had to apply the JooMDD infrastructure during three scenarios of developing new (both independent and dependent) extensions and of migrating existing ones to a new major platform version. The aim of this study was to obtain direct qualitative feedback about acceptance, usefulness, and open challenges of our MDE approach. Finally, we share lessons learned and discuss the threats to validity of the conducted studies.