Updating Page Titles Dynamically in Loklak Search

Page titles are native in the web platform, and are prime ways to identify any page. The page titles have been in the web platform since ages. They tell the browsers, the web scrapers and search engines about the page content in 1-2 words. Since the titles are used for wide variety of things from presentation of the page, history references and most importantly by the search engines to categorise the pages, it becomes very important for any web application to update the title of the page appropriately. In earlier implementation of loklak search the page title was a constant and was not updated regularly and this was not a good from presentation and SEO perspective.

Problem of page titles with SPA

Since loklak search is a single page application, there are few differences in the page title implementation in comparison to a server served multi page application. In a server served multi page application, the whole application is divided into pages and the server knows what page it is serving thus can easily set the title of the page while rendering the template. A simple example will be a base django template which holds the place to have a title block for the application.

<!-- base.html -->

<title>{% block title %} Lokalk Search {% endblock %}</title>

<!-- Other application blocks -->

Now for any other page extending this base.html it is very simple to update the title block by simply replacing it with it’s own title.

<!-- home.html -->

{% extendsbase.html%}

{% block title %} Home Page - Loklak Search {% endblock %}

<!-- Other page blocks -->

When the above template is rendered by the templating engine it replaces the title block of the base.html with the updated title block specific to the page, thus for each page at the rendering time server is able to update the page title, appropriately.

But in a SPA, the server just acts as REST endpoints, and all the templating is done at the client side. Thus in an SPA the page title never changes automatically, from the server, as only the client is in control of what page (route) it is showing. Thus it becomes the duty of the client side to update the title of the page, appropriately, and thus this issue of static non informative page titles is often overlooked.

Updating page titles in Loklak Search

Before being able to start solving the issue of updating the page titles it is certainly very important to understand what all are the points of change in the application where we need to update the page title.

  • Whenever the route in the application changes.
  • Whenever new query is fetched from the server.

These two are the most important places where we definitely want to update the titles. The way we achieved is using the Angular Title Service. The title service is a platform-browser service by angular which abstracts the workflow to achieve the title updation. There are are two main methods of this service get and set title, which can be used to achieve our desired behaviour. What title service do is abstract the extraction of Title Node and get and set the title values.

For updation of title for each page which is loaded we just attach an onInit lifecycle hook to the parent component of that page and, onInit we use the title service to update the title accordingly.

@Component({
selector: 'app-home',
templateUrl: './home.component.html',
})
export class HomeComponent implements OnInit, OnDestroy {
constructor(
private titleService: Title
) { }

ngOnInit() {
this.titleService.setTitle(Loklak Search');

// Other initialization attributes and methods
}
}

Similarly other pages according to their context update the page titles accordingly using the simple title service. This solves the basic case of updation of the titles of the page when the actual route path changes, and thus component’s onInit lifecycle hook is the best place to change the title of the page.

@Component({
selector: 'app-home',
templateUrl: './home.component.html',
})
export class HomeComponent implements OnInit, OnDestroy {
constructor(
private titleService: Title
) { }

ngOnInit() {
this.titleService.setTitle(Loklak Search');

// Other initialization attributes and methods
}
}

But when the actual route path doesn’t change and we want to update the title according to the query searched then it is not possible to do it using lifecycle hooks of the component. But fortunately, we are using the ngrx effects in our application and thus this task also again becomes much simpler to achieve in the application. In this situation again what we do is hook up a title change effect to SearchCompleteSuccessAction, and there we change the title accordingly.

@Effect({ dispatch: false })
resetTitleAfterSearchSuccess$: Observable<void>
= this.actions$
.ofType(apiAction.ActionTypes.SEARCH_COMPLETE_SUCCESS,
apiAction.ActionTypes.SEARCH_COMPLETE_FAIL)
.withLatestFrom(this.store$)
.map(([action, state]) => {
const displayString = state.query.displayString;
let title = `${displayString} - Loklak Search`;
if (action.type === apiAction.ActionTypes.SEARCH_COMPLETE_FAIL) {
title += ' - No Results';
}
this.titleService.setTitle(title);
});

Now if we look closely this effect is somewhat different from all the other effects. Firstly, the effect observable is of type void instead of type Action which is the case with other effects, and also there is is a { dispatch: false } argument passed to the constructor. Both these things are important of our resetTitle effect. As our reset title effect has no action to dispatch on it it’s execution the the observable is of type void instead of type Action, and we never want to dispatch an effect whose type is not an Action thus we set dispatch to false. Rest of the code for the effect is fairly simple, we filter all the actions and take SearchSuccess and SearchFail actions, then we get the latest value of the query display string from the store, and we use our title service to reset the title accordingly.

Conclusion

The titles are the important part of the web platform and are used by browsers and search engines to present and rank the relevance of the page. While developing a SPA it is even more important to maintain an updated title tag, as it is the only thing which actually changes about the page according to the context of the page. In loklak search, the title service is now used to update the titles of the page according to the search results.

Resources and Links