My First Crack at Adobe Launch Extension Development
Over the past few months, I’ve been spending more and more time in Adobe Launch. So far, I’m liking what I see – though I’m hoping the publish process gets ironed out a bit in coming months. But that’s not the focus of this post; rather, I wanted to describe my experience working with extensions in Launch. I recently authored my first extension – which offers a few very useful ways to integrate Adobe Target with other tools and extensions in Launch. You can find out more about it here, or ping me with any questions if you decide to add the extension to your Launch configuration. Next week I’ll try and write more about how you might something similar using any of the other major tag management systems. But for now, I’m more interested in how extension development works, and I’d like to share some of the things I learned along the way.
Extension Development is New (and Evolving) Territory for Adobe
The idea that Adobe has so freely opened up its platform to allow developers to share their own code across Adobe’s vast network of customers is admittedly new to me. After all, I can remember the days when Omniture/Adobe didn’t even want to open up its platform to a single customer, much less all of them. Remember the days of usage tokens for its APIs? Or having to pay for a consulting engagement just to get the code to use an advanced plugin like Channel Manager? So the idea that Adobe has opened things up to the point where I can write my own code within Launch, programmatically send it to Adobe, and have it then available for any Adobe customer to use – that’s pretty amazing. And for being so new, the process is actually pretty smooth.
What Works Well
Adobe has put together a pretty solid documentation section for extension developers. All the major topics are covered, and the Getting Started guide should help you get through the tricky parts of your first extension like authentication, access tokens, and uploading your extension package to the integration environment. One thing to note is that just about everything you define in your extension is a “type” of that thing, not the actual thing. For example, my extension exposes data from Adobe Target for use by other extensions. But I didn’t immediately realize that my data element definitions didn’t actually define new data elements for use in Launch; it only created a new “type” of data element in the UI that can then be used to create a data element. The same is true for custom events and actions. That makes sense now, but it took some getting used to.
During the time I spent developing my extension, I also found the Launch product team is working continuously to improve the process for us. When I started, the documentation offered a somewhat clunky process to retrieve an access token, zip my extension, and use a Postman collection to upload it. By the time I was finished, Adobe had released a Node package (npm) to basically do all the hard work. I also found the Launch product team to be incredibly helpful – they responded almost immediately to my questions on their Slack group. They definitely seem eager to build out a community as quickly as possible.
I also found the integration environment to be very helpful in testing out my extension. It’s almost identical to the production environment of Launch; the main difference is that it’s full of extensions in development by people just like me. So you can see what others are working on, and you can get immediate feedback on whether your extension works the way it should. There is even a fair amount of error logging available if you break something – though hopefully this will be expanded in the coming months.
What Could Work Better
Once I finished my extension, I noticed that there isn’t a real natural spot to document how your extension should work. I opted to put mine into the main extension view, even though there was no other configuration needed that would require such a view. While I was working on my extension, it was suggested that I put instructions in my Exchange listing, which doesn’t seem like a very natural place for it, either.
Lastly, while each of the sections in the Getting Started guide had examples, some of the more advanced topics could use some more additional exploration. For example, it took me a few tries to decide whether my extension would work better with a custom event type, or with just some custom code that triggered a direct call rule. And figuring out how to integrate with other extensions – how to access other extensions’ objects and code – wasn’t exactly easy and I still have some unanswered questions because I found a workaround and ended up not needing it.
Perhaps the hardest part of the whole process was getting my Exchange listing approved. The Exchange covers a lot of integrations beyond just Adobe Launch, some of which are likely far more complex than what mine does. A lot of the required images, screenshots, and details seemed like overkill – so a tiered approach to listings would be great, too.
What I’d Like to See Next
In conclusion, my hat goes off to the Launch development team; they’ve come up with a really great way to build a collaborative community that pushes Launch forward. No initial release will ever be perfect, but there’s a lot to work with and a lot of opportunity for all of us in the future to shape the direction Launch takes and have some influence in how it’s adopted. And that’s an exciting place to be.
Photo Credit: Rod Herrea (Flickr)