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Jun 12 2018
Jun 12

The world’s top news and media networks operate different sites to targeting a wide audience. They know that the only thing better than playing to a niche market is playing to all the niche markets --by running multiple websites tailor-made to fit the preferences of their different market segments, they play to win.

This kind of business model takes effort. Their content has to be distributed in multiple languages and reworked to fit different cultures. Naturally, it takes the right CMS to be able to pull this off while still managing to be user-friendly (after all, new content pops up every hour of a given day).

This article will cover the reasons why leading news and media outlets opt for Drupal 8, choosing the framework for all other alternatives in the market. Read on to find out why Drupal is trusted by 73% of the top news and media networks (including Al Jazeera, the Walt Disney Company, Time Inc., The Economist, Twenty-First Century, CBS, and Viacom) are using it.

 

Drupal 8 is Optimized for a 24 Hour News Cycle

Drupal 8 News Publishing Platform

The news cycle is both the greatest and worst thing to ever happen to news media. On one hand, it guarantees a steady stream of content, and therefore opportunities to earn from subscriptions and ad space. On the other hand, news media practitioners are almost always on the clock.

The freshness of a news item is time-sensitive and highly dependent on presentation (nobody wants to read a poorly-presented article, for instance). This is why a CMS like Drupal 8, which offers core features straight out of the box, is preferred among newsmen. For example, Drupal offers a rich media editor for the content creation stage of editorial work.

Drupal’s functionality also extends beyond the newsroom, with offerings such as monetization tools, social media integration, and near-universal 3rd party integration.

 

Drupal 8 is Easy to Personalize and Localize

Drupal 8 Localization and Personalization

Personalization is the key to engaging with an audience. Users want to see content that appeals to their interests and challenges them to discover new information. Naturally, timing is also a major factor; a news site that is aware of their readers’ most active times can take full advantage of things like push notifications, and special offers to exclusive content.

Beyond this, news agencies need to be able to push content that appeals to a person’s sense of locality --people are naturally drawn to things that might have an impact on their lives directly. While there’s no contesting the average person’s curiosity about distant happenings, top news and media networks know how to tap into the power of the parochial mindset.

Drupal enables personalization through a suite of powerful tools designed by its large community of developers. The platform makes it easy to connect readers to the kinds of content that align with their interests. Likewise, localizing content is a necessity made accessible through the platform --nurturing a loyal following is easier with Drupal 8, which allows your content to be relevant to events that take place in their immediate surroundings.

 

Drupal 8 Allows for Convenient Multi-Site Management

Drupal 8 Multi-Site Management

Running multiple websites is easy with Drupal. The platform allows businesses to run multiple websites grounded in the same code base. In plain English, you don’t need to build websites from scratch every time you want to expand your base of captive niches, and you can apply the same brand of aesthetic and experiential quality to your different digital holdings.

Drupal offers a multi-site management solution, complete with tutorials, that makes the job of expanding a news empire about as accessible designing a blog. Put this together with Drupal’s offer of news and media distribution solutions straight from the box, and sprawling online presences for news agencies can grow virtually overnight.

Drupal 8 is Secure

Security is a natural concern for any organization, and news companies are no exception. Nobody wants to lose credibility in the face of a cyber attack, or worse, have their subscribers’ data leaked.
One of the pivotal reasons why the media prefers Drupal is the long tradition of security that surrounds the platform. Between the swarms of developers working to close every loophole and patch over every possible entry point and the dedicated team of security specialists attached to Drupal, the framework does an excellent job of guaranteeing its users’ security.

 

Case Study: Uber Publisher & Al Jazeera

Drupal 8 Case Study: Uber Publisher and Al Jazeera

We mentioned Al Jazeera among the list of news agencies that rely on Drupal for their CMS needs. They were generous enough to agree to serve as an extensive case study on the official Drupal website, and some of the major takeaways do a good job of proving how the platform is a good fit for the industry.

The case study banks on the news agency’s growth after their tie-in with Drupal. It also describes how the agency met their myriad goals, including the unification of AJMN’s digital assets and workflows into a single interface. All told, the decision to opt for Drupal was a success for Al Jazeera.

Now, what the case study didn’t cover was Al Jazeera’s decision to opt for one Drupal-based solution in particular: Uber Publisher, a sub-profile of Varbase. Uber Publisher is a Drupal distribution that contains over a thousand out-of-the-box features and is continuously funded, supported, and improved by Vardot --and likely a contributing factor to Al Jazeera’s digital success. Its features for media marketing, automated tagging, easy authoring, and SEO make it a potent tool in the hands of a business of any size.

 

Conclusion

Drupal 8 is an optimal solution for news and media networks, regardless of their size. It’s affordable, convenient, and easy to both implement and maintain over the lifespan of a media agency. A good network would do well to tap into the functionality that Drupal has to offer, and a great one would scan the market for tools such like Vardot’s Uber Publisher; with any luck, they’ll meet the same digital success as Al Jazeera and its cohort (or exceed it).

Jun 06 2018
Jun 06

If your business has been around for a while, there’s a fair chance that your site is running on a Legacy CMS. These outdated frameworks were a step above hardcoding (literally writing the entire site using, say, HTML), but don’t do the modern business any favors in the way of swift and cost-effective site design.

The challenge for enterprises still running on a Legacy framework is clear: “Which modern CMS will help us make things easier for ourselves?”

This article will cover what seems to us like the clear contender for the best of today’s CMS solutions --Drupal 8. We’ll cover the ease with which companies can migrate their content to Drupal 8, the thriving community around it, and other reasons why leading companies across various industries trust the platform to power their websites.

 

Top Organizations Run with Drupal 8

Top Organizations Run with Drupal 8

Drupal 8 is the preferred framework for a significant number of the world’s most influential brands. Pinterest, The Economist, Tesla, Al Jazeera --and countless other industry leaders prefer Drupal 8 for its agility and scalability.

If belonging to a wide group of peers isn’t enough to prove the platform’s reliability, then trust in the fact that the open market is more than happy to throw its weight behind the product-of-choice for its biggest spenders. Thanks to its prominence among elite organizations and businesses, over a million developers have flocked to Drupal --making Drupal-based designs highly accessible for those with a relatively smaller pool of resources.

 

Drupal 8 is Supported by a Thriving Community

Drupal 8 Community and Support

Thanks to the framework’s prominence among big businesses, migrating to Drupal 8 means gaining access to a wide network of developers and innovators building additions to a single product. As a result, the options available to a business are staggering: e-commerce sites can choose from thousands of templates for their online storefronts, news sites can integrate chatbots, and services can manage volumes of content across multiple channels.

Since its foundation, Vardot has been an active member of this community. We can say with confidence that the platform has been crucial in our mission: to help the world’s most influential companies accomplish their own missions.

 

Drupal 8 Offers Risk-Free Migration

Drupal 8 Migration

A major concern for people and organizations looking to modernize their digital assets is the fear of losing content while switching to a new CMS. The process is supposed to reduce cost and boost convenience --so it’s only natural to worry about having to restructure an entire network of websites or reproduce existing content.

This concern is a thing of the past for Drupal users since the platform was designed for high flexibility. Essentially, it allows users to import vast and complex site architecture from legacy systems, removing the need to play around with a sales funnel that already works for you, or rebuild your site’s blog from scratch.

If anything, making the move might actually increase the performance of your website. It takes the liberty of mapping out your existing URLs and updating them to meet the standards of the best SEO practices --meaning users will have a much easier time discovering your content and, hopefully, develop into sales-ready leads. Likewise, it eliminates redundant modules left over from your initial infrastructure and offers a clean database system right out of the box, meaning your site load times will be faster than ever (great for SEO, and great for generating conversions!)

 

Drupal 8 Offers Easy-to-Use Solutions

Drupal 8 Solutions

Legacy CMS platforms often demand much from users looking to update their websites. Since most new tools don’t bother aiming for compatibility with legacy systems, organizations looking to take advantage of AI, voice search, and other top-of-the-line innovations will have to build them up from scratch.

Drupal 8, on the other hand, offers plenty of valuable features right out of the box. These core features allow businesses and organizations of all kinds design powerful and functional websites suited to achieve whatever goals they’ve set. Even better, Drupal is open to 3rd party integrations like Salesforce, chatbots, and tools for both social media and customer support.

Businesses shouldn’t have to fall behind in an age when software is growing exponentially. With all the technology available to grow your sales and revenue, you don’t want to lag behind for a second.

 

Drupal is Perfect for Your Non-Technical Staff

Drupal 8 CMS

We’ve mentioned that Drupal is scalable --meaning it can grow as big as your company needs it to grow in as fast of a time as your company needs. The developers you’ve hired are guaranteed a simple time with it, and so are the people responsible for populating your site: your marketers, writers, and designers.

The best websites are mentally and visually stimulating, which is why people pay so much to keep them looking pretty. Migrating to Drupal 8 allows you to scale back on training hours (no more need for your new hires to learn clunky, outdated systems) and put your I.T. team to more productive use.

 

Case Study - American University of Cairo (AUC)

AUC Case Study | Vardot

The AUC website was first to build using the iAPPS CMS: a Sharepoint content hub for microsites OpenAm, and other features. The result was a confusing hodgepodge of unnecessary applications that clashed to produce a fractured website. AUC, as you can imagine, didn’t thrive in the digital world under these conditions.

When Vardot helped AUC migrate from Sharepoint to Drupal, the institution felt the changes instantly. Their website had a much stronger impact from that point forward and stopped being a headache for the university’s administrators to update. In short, migrating to Drupal helped AUC run a much better website.

 

Conclusion

Drupal 8 is, by all accounts, vastly superior to legacy CMS platforms. It’s arguably superior to CMS platforms that came much later --and the thriving community behind it is unlikely to stop broadening the limits of what the framework is capable of any time soon.

For a good investment in your organization’s future, make the move away from your legacy system and switch to Drupal. You’ll find it highly secure, cost-effective, and easy to set up.

Apr 08 2018
Apr 08

Intro

As the old adage goes, the devil is in the details. Websites are complex ecosystems that have many moving parts—it takes more than an eye-catching layout and clever text, as you’ll soon realize as we go through this article.

Here are a few pointers to get you started on the wild web:

 

Drupal CMS

First and foremost, jumpstart your web journey with a great software that allows for a hassle-free content management—easy writing, fast performance, and reliable security.

Drupal, one of the most well-known platforms for web content management easily ticks all the right boxes, creating a strong foundation that will power your venture into digital. Through modular solutions that create integrated digital frameworks, this free and flexible open source platform gives you the power to tailor fit your tools specifically to the needs of your business.

Compared to other platforms which force your business to work around their set systems and tools, Drupal does things your way. Limitless solutions coupled with a flexible content architecture means boundless opportunities for you and your business. Worry not about its capacity to handle heavy traffic, either, as it has proven its spectacular performance with many Drupal-powered big enterprise websites, like General Electric and Pfizer, and high traffic websites, like GRAMMY Awards and NBC Olympics.

As an open source platform, it also undergoes continuous and concentrated innovation from its open source community, making sure that it constantly meets your business’ increasing needs.

Content and Search Engine Optimization

With all the information available on the Internet, it can be difficult to stand out. Websites are a dime a dozen, and people have thousands of options to choose from.

Where to begin?

Build a strong foundation on engaging content and a cohesive search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Find out what people are searching for, and target keywords related to your brand. In addition to that, structure your site so that it is easy to navigate—both for your customers and search crawlers. Lastly, make sure your site is properly indexed so Google can find you right away.

Rather than merely producing content, figure out what content people need (which you’ll find out by doing keyword research) and deliver it. The more questions and queries you can answer, the more likely potential customers will engage you.

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Design Review

More than how a website looks, the focus should be on how a website works. Create a pleasant user experience for your customers by studying how the different elements of your website interact with each other.

To test, do side-by-side comparisons of the proposed layouts and approved designs, and perfect every intricate detail (i.e. fonts, header styles, color schemes, etc.) that could possibly affect a user’s browsing experience.

Another very important element to consider is the images because they play such a huge role in the overall aesthetics and experience of the website. Make sure your images are properly and legally licensed and compress them so that they load quickly.

Always communicate with your website’s design team to iron out details. Talk about any and all matters that need to be attended to before moving on.

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Analytics

Ideally, something as crucial as setting up your website’s analytics should be done right the first time. You don’t want to spend unnecessary time, money, and energy redoing something that will be an imperative part of your platform’s core. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, historical reports that provide valuable insight for future strategic decisions wouldn’t be available for perusal should you make further revisions and alterations down the line.

Google Analytics provides a set of potent tools that should cover all the necessary bases for your website needs.

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Website Browser Testing

Now that you’ve set up all the elements of the website, it’s time to test if it works the way it was designed. Perform tests on each and every website functionality to check for bugs and errors in performance, and adjust the codes accordingly.

Monitor website performance through specialized trackers such as Google PageSpeed and Pingdom Tools to match customer expectations with actual website user experience.

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Final Pre-Launch

Before going live, test the more technical aspects that play an important role in the overall website performance. Go through each one of those aspects because even a small detail overlooked can be a costly mistake in the long run.

Set up all domain registrations and third-party item connections to proper accounts; list down all unmet deliverables and plan for completion; download the current website using WebZip to back up your old site and revert to it if things go wrong; and confirm appointments with your go-to contact person for technical and IT matters.

After ticking all the pre-launch items, it’s finally time to go live and get your website up and running, but make sure not to do it on a Friday.

Post-launch

Once you take your website live, it will undergo a propagation period of a few hours for indexing and updating. While this is going on, what shows up on mobile might not necessarily mirror what your desktop screen displays, but this is nothing to worry about, as all devices will eventually parallel each other’s screens once the propagation period is over.

New Drupal Website Checklist

Announcement and Marketing

Now that your website is finally running smoothly, it’s time to announce this milestone to the public. Hype up your new website and continuously build up interest among stakeholders through constant and consistent promotion in your various consumer touchpoints (i.e. email, social media, newsletters, etc.).

Conclusion

When you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. But when you prepare, you set yourself up for success.

Props to you for doing your proper research on the best ways to launch your new company website. Just remember to go through this launch checklist faithfully and, in no time, sit back and relax as you watch incoming site traffic come in droves and your overall business performance soar.

Feb 15 2018
Feb 15

Omar Alahmed is a Technical Team Lead at Vardot with more than 10 years experience in web development, specializing in PHP and Drupal. Omar has worked with Drupal since 2007 starting with Drupal 5 and has continued along mastering 6, 7, and Drupal 8.

Omar had multiple motivations to earn certifications, which serve to establish his credibility and expertise. He has achieved Zend Certified PHP Engineer in Sep 2013, Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) MySQL 5.6 Developer in May 2014, Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 7 in Dec 2014, and most recently, Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 8 in Jan 2018 and Acquia Certified Back End Specialist - Drupal 8 in Feb 2018.

More importantly, is the added benefit of the time spent reviewing and studying all of the relevant topics and materials that these qualifications are built upon. His deep study of computer science concepts allowed him to step beyond surface-level theory and apply his learnings directly in his application of the code.

We interview Omar about what excites him most working with enterprise Drupal implementations at Vardot.

 

What are the tasks you find most exciting?

I started as a full-stack developer and I always feel that it is the best role for a new web developer. This is because it will introduce you to the broadest view of the web development life-cycle process. Taking this approach will give you exposure and the opportunity to examine what is needed in each phase. However, after getting the needed experience, some tasks may distract you from the deeper technical items. Therefore, I currently prefer to work on more custom tasks, such as using APIs and custom module development.

At Vardot, we follow the Agile methodology in our project development life-cycle. This usually begins with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), dividing the project deliverables into small chunks, and then assigning them to project’s team members. I prefer to work on the more customized tasks, either on the backend or frontend and to guide and train other team members when needed. For our team, this helps us deliver the tasks in a formalized practice and ensures projects to follow the Drupal best-practices, thus contributing to the Drupal project more often in each project.

 

How did you prepare for the exams? What background knowledge does one need to get Acquia Drupal 8 Developer & Acquia Back End Specialist Certified?

When I received the Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 7 certification, I realized that the exam truly validates a Drupal developer experience in mastering a Drupal website in a professional and standardized way. It is not a theoretical exam and cannot be passed simply by reading a study guide. Practical experience in developing web applications, like the work I do at Vardot, is required to succeed.

At Vardot we always strive to follow and endorse the best practices in development and apply it to different types of projects. Given this experience, I didn't find any difficulties during the preparation for the exam. I made sure to review the study guide links that were provided by Acquia and found ways to programmatically apply the topics that I had not worked with before. This allowed me to apply these topics in action instead of only reading about them.

Anyone pursuing this certification would probably agree that programming is an experimental science. In order to obtain the reusable knowledge at hand, you must write code and repeatedly practice. This method will help you expose problems that you may not be been introduced to before. I found that the published Acquia documentation is a good start for module development, as well as the Drupal API documentation.

Particularly:

Don't panic if you don't have an enjoyable experience in the Drupal API or module development resources. The key takeaway is to get an overview of the topics and then apply as much as you can.

Preparing using the above material is very important for both the Developer and Back End Specialist exams. The Developer exam covers advanced topics, but it also encompasses site building skills, such as working with content types, blocks, taxonomies, and views.

The Back End Specialist exam touches everything about Drupal API, performance, security, contributing to the community, and how to apply these techniques in real tasks by giving real scenarios or problems and asking to resolve them in the best way. So make sure to understand Drupal 8 core’s structure, and to do more hands-on practices before taking the exam, especially if you are not familiar with the latest PHP and OOP development techniques such as design patterns.

For further information about the content of the exams, you can check out the study guides for Acquia certification exams and an overview of Acquia Certification Program.

 

What are some tips you would give other developers working on Drupal 8?

As a Drupal 8 developer, you have probably observed that the Drupal community is the most important factor that places Drupal as the top web development platform. Therefore, I would say to try to interact with the community members; don’t work alone, don’t repeat yourself, and be cooperative as much as possible. If you find a bug or need a new feature, feel free to create a new issue in the project. You can also resolve, test and patch it to enable all Drupalers around the world to benefit along with you.

You’re probably aware that Drupal 8 is built on top of many Symfony2 components, like DependencyInjection, EventDispatcher, and Routing, with some customizations to be suitable for Drupal needs. With that in mind, it's a good idea for you to traverse how the core uses these components in order to facilitate and speed up your Drupal development. It’s important to always use the Drupal core code as an example if you need to write custom code because it will illustrate the best way to proceed and enlighten you what APIs are available for use. This helps you learn by example.

Summary

Omar Alahmed gives us a great example of what it takes to demonstrate success as a specialized developer in the Drupal community. Through his exhibited certifications, we can assume Omar's background required many dedicated hours of hard work and study. But we can also see that he was preparing for more than just certifications. Omar shows a passion for web development community at large, offering his advice as a team lead on what it takes to be a successful team player. His method of approaching problems and finding new ways to create solutions using industry best practices and established patterns makes Omar an invaluable member of our development team at Vardot.

Jan 09 2018
Jan 09

The most popular websites know that the secret to maintaining high traffic is audience collaboration: keeping readers or viewers hooked by encouraging them to participate in your site or brand’s day-to-day activity.

By engaging with an audience, you give visitors more reasons to click through pages, explore links, and visit repeatedly.

Here are six of the most effective ways to engage with your audience, chosen for their simplicity and impact:

 

1. Know Your Audience

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Know Your Audience

Proper content planning takes a keen familiarity with your target audience, their habits, and their preferences. Google Analytics and similar marketing tools offer customers vital information about their users: where they come from, what kinds of devices they use, and what they do when they explore your site.


This is a reliable way of mapping the behavior of your average visitor and which pages or types of content are the most valuable. Likewise, knowing what devices your visitors use can give you insight into their preferences and help you assess whether or not your site is optimized for the people who comprise the majority of your traffic.

Audience collaboration is a matter of gathering and using your visitors’ input to improve their experiences with your website.  When you make changes to your website that reflect your audience’s feedback and preferences, they’ll be sure to notice.

 

2. Keep Your Comments Sections Open and Moderated

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Comments Sections

One thing that keeps people coming back to a site is a sense of community. If a website can serve as a gathering place for like-minded people, they’ll be much more likely to make a habit out of checking in.

You can opt for a message board like Disqus, or open each post to community discussion by allowing for comments. Whatever your decision might be, make sure to have a comprehensive set of policies and guidelines to maintain healthy discussion, as well as a dedicated team of moderators online to enforce them. You want to keep your comments section to house your audience’s ideas and opinions, not the ramblings of spam bots and trolls.

 

3. Give Your Audience Plenty to Talk About

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Audience Engagement

To get the most value out of each page, blog entry, or video upload, your content has to be written or designed to generate discussion. Open-ended blog articles that pose questions for your readership are a great example, as are message boards with updated talking points good for a certain time period (i.e. daily or weekly). Don’t believe us? Let us know why in the comments below.

In an age where content spreads like wildfire, you also want to make sure your website pulls all the shares and inbound links it can. After inspiring a discussion, your next best outcome is to encourage your readers to drag your friends into it as well. If a page on your site receives heavy inbound traffic, you know you're on the right track.

 

4. Be Responsive

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Responsive web design

A few points back, we mentioned how community-building is a valid and effective marketing strategy for businesses and content creators alike. However, conditioning your visitors to share their opinions and connect with like minds is only half of the equation; the other half is creating a persona to join in those discussions.

Your website is a personality of its own, and many elements of effective brand communication apply to cyberspace. You’ll want to communicate in a way visitors find interesting, sincere, and reliable.

Just be sure to keep a cool head and learn to deal with disruptive commenters. As we’ve said before, the internet can be a very frustrating place; take the worst of it in stride and don’t ever lose your head when engaging through your brand’s account.

 

5. Get With The Times

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Audience collaboration

 

The best content creators know how to use popular culture to their advantage. Although content creation is about making something original and unique, the best websites balance this with appeals and references to things that modern audiences already appreciate, from casually mentioning recent blockbusters or hit TV shows, to breaking the clinical and professional tone to deliver a well-timed joke.

This makes both your persona and your website feel more relatable and convinces your audience that your core messaging is relevant to their interests.

6. Learn from What They Love

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Audience Engagement

Let’s face it: yours isn’t the only website your audience visits. Odds are your target demographic subscribes to a handful of other websites out of habit, and, sometimes, they love those websites more than they love yours.

Don’t let this fact get you down, but let it inspire you. Find out what websites your demographic visits most frequently, and take a page from their book. Take note of how they designed their site, how their writing looks, and everything you feel as you pass through their visitor experience. All of this should give you some idea of your audience’s preferences, as well as give a strong benchmark against which you can compare your own website.

 

Conclusion

Your visitors are the foundation of your website’s success. Take every opportunity to hear what they have to say, and adapt accordingly--you’ll be glad you collaborated with your audience when the ad revenue and sales come rolling in.

Dec 26 2017
Dec 26

A kick-off meeting with clients can set the tone for an entire project, along with setting up everyone’s expectations. It’s a big deal! And you want to do it right. Your kick-off meeting needs to be a success because you want your project to be a success.

Read on to learn a little more about how to prepare, what to do in advance, where you need to find agreement with the client, and how you can set and meet goals presented by the team.

 

1. Be Prepared & Know Who Will Attend the Meeting

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting


You and your clients are excited, and there is a great deal to discuss. There are steps you should take before you meet them in the boardroom.

First, familiarize yourself with the client. Who is the stakeholder? Who will be in the room, and what role do they play? What do you need to obtain from each of them? Take the time to review every single participant, so that you can anticipate their questions, too. To start off the meeting, let everyone introduce themselves.

Speaking of questions, it is smart to have clearly-defined questions ready. This will establish the role you are playing, which is the role of Expert. Nothing that comes out of that meeting can surprise you if you do your research properly.

Research should involve past projects, too. Have you worked on anything similar? What was the client worried about in those situations? What did they focus on? Go through past notes and address similar concerns so that you can move past them quickly this time around.

 

2. Set a Clear Agenda

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

Having an agenda to refer to will help you save time in the long run. It will also keep you from derailing off-topic and going off on a tangent. Include brief breaks if you need to, especially if the meeting is going to go long. Your audience will be grateful that you set aside time to allow them to gather their thoughts and to make queries.

Send the agenda to the client well ahead of the meeting. They will be grateful to receive a clear outline of expectations and deliverables for the meeting. They can also do their own preparation before coming to the table.

Make sure the meeting is going to take place face to face. If you cannot be in the same room as your clients, set up a video conferencing call. Do not rely on the phone. There will be more of a connection this way.

 

3. Set the Tone

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

Prepare the room and all of your equipment ahead of time. Make sure reception knows who to expect, and prepare refreshments. Print out your agendas, and create visual tools to get the conversation flowing. A one-on-one conversation with a client before the meeting can also help you get to know the people you will be working with and will help create jumping-off points for discussion.

You likely have a presentation style, and it’s a good idea to review that now. Will this be an appropriate space for sharing your own industry knowledge? Perhaps a collaborative discussion or a brainstorming session makes more sense than a rapid-fire proposal.

If you fear there may be opposing viewpoints in the room, have a plan for drawing out and addressing tension. Finding your method of approach can result in more credibility for you and your team, and will help you build enthusiasm for the work ahead.

Read more: Project Manager’s Guide into Breaking Down a Drupal Site for Incremental Delivery

 

4. Define the Next Steps Together

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

By the time your kick-off meeting ends, what needs to be completed? What needs to be agreed-upon? Whether you are working with a single entrepreneur or a corporation, write down their list of demands or expectations. Plan to discuss them one by one before the meeting ends. Use their own verbiage to show that you are A) listening closely and B) capable of getting the work done.

 

5. Establish a Communication Plan

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

Do not end the meeting without reviewing the ground rules. How will you communicate in the days and weeks ahead? Come to a conclusion with your clients about the goals of the project, and how you will meet them. Answer the who, what, where, how, and why of those deliverables in detail.

Your client may prefer collaboration throughout the project, while others prefer to circulate results internally and then transfer feedback later on down the road. Know what to expect when you hear back from them.

Make sure you know whether the client wants to be communicated with constantly and see incremental deliveries, or if they simply want to receive the end result.

 

6. Set Realistic Expectations

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

The worst thing you can do is set client expectations too high, and then fail to follow through. Be realistic about your capabilities, and timing and delivery of the project. This is the only chance you will have to convey a timeline to your client and help them understand how the process works.

When you discuss deadlines, be brief and concise. Your client likely does not want to hear about every little thing you will be doing to meet their expectations. After all, that’s why they hired you!  

 

In Conclusion

By taking these steps to prepare for and rock your meeting, you will be in good shape for meeting client expectations and hitting them out of the park. Project scope often adjusts as you move forward, but if you follow this guide closely, it will deviate very little from the original plan. Your team and their team will be enthused, motivated, and ready to get to work!

Dec 13 2017
Dec 13

An earlier post presents what we believed were the top 10 free Drupal themes at the time.

This post is an update of the previous post with two important changes to the evaluation criteria. First, the previous list includes themes for both Drupal version 7 and 8; the new top 10 list consists of free themes for Drupal 8 only. While Drupal 7 is still the most used Drupal version today, Drupal 8 is by far the most popular, and when it is finally time to upgrade, the vast number of Drupal 7 sites will need to replace their existing theme with one that supports Drupal 8.

 

Themes for Drupal 8

The second reason for updating the list is that Bootstrap has emerged as the industry-leading front-end framework for developing responsive mobile-first websites. In fact, recent web analytics indicates that 16.3% of all websites are built with the Bootstrap framework. Bootstrap for Drupal is a base theme which implements the Bootstrap framework on the Drupal technology platform.The Bootstrap for the Drupal base theme has gained wide adoption and support in the Drupal community, including Tag1 Consulting, its maintainer.

Numerous Drupal modules have been implemented to enhance site building using the Bootstrap base theme. For instance, Views Bootstrap and Bootstrap Layouts are 2 modules that support site builders with theme component creation and layout respectively.

Vardot‘s own Drupal 8 distribution, Varbase, also supports the Bootstrap base theme. In addition, Vardot has contributed 2 modules to support the creation of View modes, Layouts, and Paragraphs using Bootstrap: Varbase Bootstrap Paragraphs and View Modes Inventory - Bootstrap Ready

In summary, to be considered for the new top 10 theme list, a theme must be: Free; Supported on Drupal 8; Bootstrap-based; General purpose - instead of industry-specific; and Responsive.  

 

 

1. Creative Responsive

Creative responsive

Creative Responsive occupies the top spot on the top 10 list with respect to the number of deployments on Drupal 8 websites as of November 2017. This theme supports the display of web contents in 3 columns: the main column, a left, and a right sidebar. Also, you can configure up to 16 block regions to organize information on a webpage. Last but not least, built-in support is provided to integrate with popular social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.

If you are looking for a reputable general-purpose theme with a modern look, Creative Response is a very strong candidate.

 

 

2. Business Responsive

Business Responsive Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

Business Responsive and the aforementioned Creative Responsive are 2 themes created by the same parent company, Zymphonies.

Despite being the slightly older and scaled-down version of Creative Responsive, Business Responsive makes up for the lack of finesse by just working reliably. As an added insurance, you can purchase premium support for the theme from Zymphonies. If you want a no-frills corporate theme that just works out-of-the-box, you should definitely consider Business Responsive.

 

 

3. NewsPlus Lite

NewsPlus Lite Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

NewsPlus Lite is the free version of the NewsPlus Premium theme. The premium version is essentially a Drupal distribution which includes the free NewsPlus Lite theme.

Despite its name, this theme is at par feature-wise with the other top free themes. For some features, NewsPlus Lite is even better, e.g., it supports the 3-column layout. What sets NewsPlus Lite apart is the up-to-date online documentation database which is maintained by MoreThanThemes, its parent company, and a reputable Drupal theme vendor.

If you are building a news magazine website, and don’t have a lot of prior experience doing so, NewsPlus Lite is well worth your consideration.

 

 

4. Bootstrap Mint

Bootstrap Mint Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

Bootstrap Mint boasts the most flexible layout among the top 10 themes. It can lay out web content in up to 4 columns and 25 regions. Given that only higher screen resolutions can support the display of 4 columns, this theme is best viewed using a desktop or laptop. If the majority of your web audience visit your website via a desktop or laptop, you should definitely consider using this theme for its layout capability.

 

 

5. Showcase Lite

Showcase Lite Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

Showcase Lite is the free version of ShowcasePlus Premium, both created by MoreThanThemes which also owns the aforementioned NewsPlus themes. The Showcase Lite theme is designed with the creative enterprises in mind. Specifically, this theme supports the use of video galleries and sliders, critical features for a design studio business. If you are building an image-intensive website and require corporate technical support, Showcase Lite is not to be ignored.

 

 

6. Ice Magic

Ice Magic Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

Ice Magic distinguishes itself among the top 10 themes by being the most color configurable. Most free themes only offer a very limited color scheme (e.g., 3 colors) that you can apply to a fixed set of theme elements. Ice Magic, on the other hand, includes a color module which allows you to specify colors from a color spectrum. Ice Magic should be on your radar if you are meticulous about color options on your website.

 

 

7. Robotic

Robotic Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

Robotic is a highly customizable theme for even the technically challenged. You can customize the carousel, social media icons, and the interface colors. If you require the ability to fine-tune the look-and-feel of your website all without coding, you should look into Robotic.

 

 

8. Magazine Lite

Magazine Lite | Themes for Drupal 8

Magazine Lite is the free version of the Premium Magazine+ theme distribution. It is a theme custom designed for news and magazine websites. If your goal is to build a stylish news and magazine website with a clean uncluttered look, Magazine Lite should be on your short list of themes.  

 

 

9. The One

The One | Themes for Drupal 8

The One is unique among the top 10 themes in that it supports the seamless single-page website design. Not everyone is a fan of the single-page design, but if you are, look no further than The One.

 

 

10. SOLID

SOLID | Themes for Drupal 8

Despite its name, the SOLID theme is one of the more visually appealing themes in the top 10 list. It’s simple but elegant and functional which makes it a multi-purpose theme suitable for general deployment.

 

 

Summary & Conclusion

Are you operating a Drupal 7 website, and planning an upgrade to 8 in the near future? Part of the upgrade will involve picking a theme that supports Drupal 8. If your requirements are well satisfied by a free theme, you should definitely consider selecting a Bootstrap-based theme from our top 10 list. Note that Varbase, Vardot’s custom Drupal 8 distribution, supports all themes on the top 10 list. If you have requirements that are beyond the capability of free themes or you need customization, please contact Vardot's professional services to inquire about the Varbase distribution.

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