Custom UI Implementation for Web Search and RSS actions in SUSI iOS Using Kingfisher for Image Caching

The SUSI Server is an AI powered server which is capable of responding to intelligent answers based on user’s queries. The queries to the susi server are obtained either as a websearch using the application or as an RSS feed. Two of the actions are websearch and RSS. These actions as the name suggests respond to queries based on search results from the web which are rendered in the clients. In order to use use these action types and display them in the SUSI iOS client, we need to first parse the actions looking for these action types and then creating a custom UI for them to display them.

To start with, we need to make send the query to the server to receive an intelligent response from the server. This response is parsed into different action types supported by the server and saved into relevant objects. Here, we check the action types by looping through the answers array containing the actions and based on that, we save the data for that action.

if type == ActionType.rss.rawValue {
   message.actionType = ActionType.rss.rawValue
   message.rssData = RSSAction(data: data, actionObject: action)
} else if type == ActionType.websearch.rawValue {
   message.actionType = ActionType.websearch.rawValue
   message.message = action[Client.ChatKeys.Query] as? String ?? ""
}

Here, we parsed the data response from the server and looked for the rss and websearch action type followed by which we saved the data we received from the server for each of the action types in their own objects.

Next, when a message object is created, we insert it into the dataSource item by appending it and use the `insertItems(at: [IndexPath])` method of collection view to insert them into the views at a particular index. Before adding them, we need to create a Custom UI for them. This UI will consist of a Collection View which is scrollable in the horizontal direction inside a CollectionView Cell. To start with this, we create a new class called `WebsearchCollectionView` which will be a `UIView` consisting of a `UICollectionView`.

We start by adding a collection view into the UIView inside the `init` method by overriding it. Declare a collection view using flow layout and scroll direction set to `horizontal`. Also, hide the scroll indicators and assign the delegate and datasource to `self`.

Now to populate this collection view, we need to specify the number of items that will show up. For this, we make use of the `message` variable declared. We use the `websearchData` in case of websearch action and `rssData` otherwise.

Now to specify the number of cells, we use the below method which returns the number of rss or websearch action objects and defaults to 0 such cells.

func collectionView(_ collectionView: UICollectionView, numberOfItemsInSection section: Int) -> Int {
    if let rssData = message?.rssData {
        return rssData.count
    } else if let webData = message?.websearchData {
        return webData.count
    }
    return 0
}

We display the title, description and image for each object for which we need to create a UI for the cells. Let’s start by creating a Custom Collection View cell with the imageview and 2 labels for title and description.

The imageview is given a contentMode of `aspectFit` and assigned a placeholder image in case the image doesn’t exist. The title and description labels are assigned the same font size, the title being bolder and both are center aligned.

class WebsearchCell: BaseCell {

   var imageView: UIImageView = {
       let iv = UIImageView()
       iv.contentMode = .scaleAspectFit
       iv.image = UIImage(named: "placeholder")
       return iv
   }()

   let titleLabel: UILabel = {
       let label = UILabel()
       label.textColor = .black
       label.font = UIFont.boldSystemFont(ofSize: 14)
       label.textAlignment = .center
       label.numberOfLines = 2
       label.backgroundColor = Color.grey.lighten3
       return label
   }()

   let descriptionLabel: UILabel = {
       let label = UILabel()
       label.font = UIFont.systemFont(ofSize: 14)
       label.textAlignment = .center
       return label
   }()

}

Next, we add constraints for each such view adding a title and description label adding a small margin on both sides of the cell for a cleaner UI.

addSubview(imageView)
addSubview(titleLabel)
addSubview(descriptionLabel)
descriptionLabel.numberOfLines = 5
addConstraintsWithFormat(format: "H:|-4-[v0(\(frame.width * 0.4))]-4-[v1]-4-|", views: imageView, titleLabel)
addConstraintsWithFormat(format: "|-\(frame.width * 0.4 + 8)-[v0]-4-|", views: descriptionLabel)
addConstraintsWithFormat(format: "V:|-4-[v0]-4-|", views: imageView)
addConstraintsWithFormat(format: "V:|-4-[v0(44)]-4-[v1]-4-|", views: titleLabel, descriptionLabel)

Now to use this custom cell, we first need to register it with the collection view and then we can use it easily in the `cellForItemAt` method. Since we are using Kingfisher for image caching, we use the `.kf.setImage` method to download the image from a URL and cache it as soon as it is downloaded.

collectionView.register(WebsearchCell.self, forCellWithReuseIdentifier: cellId)
 func collectionView(_ collectionView: UICollectionView, cellForItemAt indexPath: IndexPath) -> UICollectionViewCell {
       if let cell = collectionView.dequeueReusableCell(withReuseIdentifier: cellId, for: indexPath) as? WebsearchCell {
           cell.backgroundColor = .white

           if message?.actionType == ActionType.rss.rawValue {
               let feed = message?.rssData?.rssFeed[indexPath.item]
               cell.titleLabel.text = feed?.title
               cell.descriptionLabel.text = feed?.desc                cell.imageView.kf.setImage(with: URL(string: feed?.rssData?.image))
           } else if message?.actionType == ActionType.websearch.rawValue {
               let webData = message?.websearchData[indexPath.item]
               cell.titleLabel.text = webData?.title
               cell.descriptionLabel.text = webData?.desc.html2String                cell.imageView.kf.setImage(with: URL(string: feed?.webData?.image))
           }
           return cell
       } else {
           return UICollectionViewCell()
       }
   }

We check the action type and assign data based on that. Also, for the images, if they don’t exist a placeholder is added.

Since we are done with the Custom UI of the cell, we need to add it to the chat cell. For that, we add this `UIView` as a subview. For reasons of reusability, the cell was extracted into a separate one and call the `prepareForReuse()` method for reusability. This is followed by adding a subview and setting constraints for each cell and assigning the message object.

class RSSCell: ChatMessageCell {

   var message: Message? {
       didSet {
           self.addWebsearchView()
       }
   }

   lazy var websearchView: WebsearchCollectionView = {
       let view = WebsearchCollectionView()
       return view
   }()

   override func setupViews() {
       super.setupViews()
       prepareForReuse()
   }

   func addWebsearchView() {
       self.addSubview(websearchView)
       self.addConstraintsWithFormat(format: "H:|[v0]|", views: websearchView)
       self.addConstraintsWithFormat(format: "V:[v0(135)]", views: websearchView)
       websearchView.message = message
   }

}
if message.actionType == ActionType.rss.rawValue || message.actionType == ActionType.websearch.rawValue {
   if let cell = collectionView.dequeueReusableCell(withReuseIdentifier: ControllerConstants.rssCell, for: indexPath) as? RSSCell {
       cell.message = message
       return cell
   } else {
       return UICollectionViewCell()
   }
}

This is all we need to add a custom UI to a chat cell in SUSI iOS, very simple and clean.

Check the screenshot below, the app in action.

Resources: