Websphere Portal Theme Evaluation

WebSphere portal themes have evolved continuously over time to provide a better end user experience and address issues like performance, complexity of development, maintenance etc. This section gives an overview of the different types of themes that are available in WebSphere Portal.


This theme is available since WebSphere Portal 6.0 and is applied by default for the administration pages in WebSphere Portal 7.0, it supports Server Side Aggregation (SSA). In SSA the entire page rendering happens at the server side, the server sends the complete markup to the client during every interaction. The Portal/IBM theme is developed using JSPs, scriptlets and JSP tags are used to introduce dynamic elements. This theme has a few disadvantages that have been addressed in the succeeding themes:
  • Files are not easily readable for web developers as logic and presentation are combined together.
  • Interactions result in a full page refresh resulting in longer loading time for users.


The PortalWeb2 theme was introduced in WebSphere Portal 6.1, it supports Client Side Aggregation (CSA). CSA is a technique of rendering a WebSphere Portal page that moves the rendering workload from the server to the client. The initial markup download contains the HTML skeleton of the page and a number of markup placeholders. These placeholders are replaced with HTML markup by subsequent AJAX requests. Data is obtained from the server by invoking the Representational State Transfer (REST) services provided by WebSphere Portal. Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations (XSLTs), XML Path Language (XPath) and JavaScript are used at the client side to format and present the data.
The PortalWeb2 theme also supports SSA rendering mode as a fallback in case the page/portlets are not supported. This theme is not supported from WebSphere Portal 7.0, but existing themes developed by customers will continue to work in WebSphere Portal 7.0.

Page Builder

A hybrid theme to incorporate the advantages of SSA and CSA modes resulted in the Page Builder theme, this theme was introduced in WebSphere Portal 6.1.5. As in the Portal theme, page aggregation happens at the server side, inline customizations like creation of a new page, drag and drop of pages & portlets etc are loaded asynchronously on a demand basis, thus providing a more interactive and better user experience. The Page Builder theme provides options to create/customize pages inline rather than having to use administration portlets. It lets you bring in content from a variety of content sources like IBM Mashup Center, Lotus Connections, and other custom sources.

In WebSphere Portal 7.0, existing Page Builder features have been enhanced to support the latest Client Side Aggregation architecture. It provides a well comprehendible programming model, and a user interface that is consistent across other lotus products. It supports both portlets & widgets, and enables portlets to be exposed as iWidgets. Latest CSS3 & HTML5 features have been exploited for better performance and easier customization. WebDAV for WebSphere Portal can be used to administer portal themes and skins, users can create new themes & update existing ones using standard operating system tools.

Which theme to choose?

The decision matrix provided below gives a comparison between the themes available in WebSphere Portal:
Page Builder Theme
Basic type of rendering
How it works
HTML based template, Expression Language + Dojo
JSP based, used JSP tags & scriptlets
Control how the theme is rendered
Theme Policy
Theme Policy
How to define color schemes
Alternate stylesheets
Color Palette
Color Palette
How to define layouts
Layout templates
Using Theme customizer portlet
Using Theme customizer portlet
Most suited for
Web developers.
Customization by end users.
Theme customizer use cases
Pages with complete CSA support

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