Feb 07 2019
Feb 07

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog.

I'm frequently sent examples of how Drupal has changed the lives of developers, business owners and end users. Recently, I received a very different story of how Drupal had helped in a rescue operation that saved a man's life.

The Snowdonia Ultra Marathon website

In early 2018, Race Director Mike Jones was looking to build a new website for the Ultra-Trail Snowdonia ultra marathon. He reached out to a good friend and developer, Rob Edwards, to lead the development of the website.

A photo of a runner at the Ultra-trail Snowdonia ultramarathon

© Ultra-trail Snowdonia and No Limits Photography

Rob chose Drupal for its flexibility and extensibility. As an organization supported heavily by volunteers, open source also fit the Snowdonia team's belief in community.

The resulting website, https://apexrunning.co/, included a custom-built timing module. This module allowed volunteers to register each runner and their time at every aid stop.

A runner goes missing

Rob attended the first day of Ultra-Trail Snowdonia to ensure the website ran smoothly. He also monitored the runners at the end of the race to certify they were all accounted for.

Monitoring the system into the early hours of the morning, Rob noticed one runner, after successfully completing checkpoints one and two, hadn't passed through the third checkpoint.

A photo of a runner at the Ultra-trail Snowdonia ultramarathon

© Ultra-trail Snowdonia and No Limits Photography

Each runner carried a mobile phone with them for emergencies. Mike attempted to make contact with the runner via phone to ensure he was safe. However, this specific area was known for its poor signal and the connection was too weak to get through.

After some more time eagerly watching the live updates, it was clear the runner hadn't reached checkpoint four and more likely hadn't ever made it past checkpoint three. The Ogwen Mountain Rescue were called to action.

Due to the terrain and temperature, searching for the lost runner on foot would be too slow. Instead, the mountain rescue volunteers used a helicopter to scan the area and locate the runner.

How Drupal came to the rescue

The area covered by runners in an ultra marathon like this one is vast. The custom-built timing module helped rescuers narrow down the search area; they knew the runner passed the second checkpoint but never made it to the third.

After following the fluorescent orange markers in the area pinpointed by the Drupal website, the team quickly found the individual. He had fallen and become too injured to carry on. A mild case of hypothermia had set in. The runner was airlifted to the hospital for appropriate care. The good news: the runner survived.

Without Drupal, it might have taken much longer to notify anyone that a runner had gone missing, and there would have been no way to tell when he had dropped off.

NFC and GPS devices are now being explored for these ultra marathon runners to carry with them to provide location data as an extra safety precaution. The Drupal system will be used alongside these devices for more accurate time readings, and Rob is looking into an API to pull this additional data into the Drupal website.

Stories about Drupal having an impact on organizations and individuals, or even helping out in emergencies, drive my sense of purpose. Feel free to keep sending them my way!

Special thanks to Rob EdwardsPoppy Heap (CTI Digital) and Paul Johnson (CTI Digital) for their help with this blog post.

Jan 25 2019
Jan 25

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog.

Do I build my website with Drupal's built-in templating layer or do I use Drupal's decoupled or headless capabilities in combination with a JavaScript framework?

The pace of innovation in content management has been accelerating — driven by both the number of channels that content management systems need to support (web, mobile, social, chat) as well as the need to support JavaScript frameworks in the traditional web channel. As a result, we've seen headless or decoupled architectures emerge.

Decoupled Drupal has seen adoption from all corners of the Drupal community. In response to the trend towards decoupled architectures, I wrote blog posts in 2016 and 2018 for architects and developers about how and when to decouple Drupal. In the time since my last post, the surrounding landscape has evolved, Drupal's web services have only gotten better, and new paradigms such as static site generators and the JAMstack are emerging.

Time to update my recommendations for 2019! As we did a year ago, let's start with the 2019 version of the flowchart in full. (At the end of this post, there is also an accessible version of this flowchart described in words.)

A flowchart of how to decouple Drupal in 2019

Different ways to decouple Drupal

I want to revisit some of the established ways to decouple Drupal as well as discuss new paradigms that are seeing growing adoption. As I've written previously, the three most common approaches to Drupal architecture from a decoupled standpoint are traditional (or coupled), progressively decoupled, and fully decoupled. The different flavors of decoupling Drupal exist due to varying preferences and requirements.

In traditional Drupal, all of Drupal's usual responsibilities stay intact, as Drupal is a monolithic system and therefore maintains complete control over the presentation and data layers. Traditional Drupal remains an excellent choice for editors who need full control over the visual elements on the page, with access to features such as in-place editing and layout management. This is Drupal as we have known it all along. Because the benefits are real, this is still how most new content management projects are built.

Sometimes, JavaScript is required to deliver a highly interactive end-user experience. In this case, a decoupled approach becomes required. In progressively decoupled Drupal, a JavaScript framework is layered on top of the existing Drupal front end. This JavaScript might be responsible for nothing more than rendering a single block or component on a page, or it may render everything within the page body. The progressive decoupling paradigm lies on a spectrum; the less of the page dedicated to JavaScript, the more editors can control the page through Drupal's administrative capabilities.

Up until this year, fully decoupled Drupal was a single category of decoupled Drupal architecture that reflects a full separation of concerns between the presentation layer and all other aspects of the CMS. In this scenario, the CMS becomes a data provider, and a JavaScript application with server-side rendering becomes responsible for all rendering and markup, communicating with Drupal via web service APIs. Though key functionality like in-place editing and layout management are unavailable, fully decoupled Drupal is appealing for developers who want greater control over the front end and who are already experienced with building applications in frameworks like Angular, React, Vue.js, etc.

Over the last year, fully decoupled Drupal has branched into two separate paradigms due to the increasing complexity of JavaScript development. The so-called JAMstack (JavaScript, APIs, Markup) introduces a new approach: fully decoupled static sites. The primary reason for static sites is improved performance, security, and reduced complexity for developers. A static site generator like Gatsby will retrieve content from Drupal, generate a static website, and deploy that static site to a CDN, usually through a specialized cloud provider such as Netlify.

What do you intend to build?

The top section of the flowchart showing how to decouple Drupal in 2019

The essential question, as always, is what you're trying to build. Here is updated advice for architects exploring decoupled Drupal in 2019:

  1. If your intention is to build a single standalone website or web application, choosing decoupled Drupal may or may not be the right choice, depending on the features your developers and editors see as must-haves.
  2. If your intention is to build multiple web experiences (websites or web applications), you can use a decoupled Drupal instance either as a) a content repository without its own public-facing front end or b) a traditional website that acts simultaneously as a content repository. Depending on how dynamic your application needs to be, you can choose a JavaScript framework for highly interactive applications or a static site generator for mostly static websites.
  3. If your intention is to build multiple non-web experiences (native mobile or IoT applications), you can leverage decoupled Drupal to expose web service APIs and consume that Drupal site as a content repository without its own public-facing front end.

What makes Drupal so powerful is that it supports all of these use cases. Drupal makes it simple to build decoupled Drupal thanks to widely recognized standards such as JSON:APIGraphQLOpenAPI, and CouchDB. In the end, it is your technical requirements that will decide whether decoupled Drupal should be your next architecture.

In addition to technical requirements, organizational factors often come into play as well. For instance, if it is proving difficult to find talented front-end Drupal developers with Twig knowledge, it may make more sense to hire more affordable JavaScript developers instead and build a fully decoupled implementation.

Are there things you can't live without?

The middle section of the flowchart showing how to decouple Drupal in 2019

As I wrote last year, the most important aspect of any decision when it comes to decoupling Drupal is the list of features your project requires; the needs of editors and developers have to be carefully considered. It is a critical step in your evaluation process to weigh the different advantages and disadvantages. Every project should embark on a clear-eyed assessment of its organization-wide needs.

Many editorial and marketing teams select a particular CMS because of its layout capabilities and rich editing functionality. Drupal, for example, gives editors the ability to build layouts in the browser and drop-and-drag components into it, all without needing a developer to do it for them. Although it is possible to rebuild many of the features available in a CMS on a consumer application, this can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

In recent years, the developer experience has also become an important consideration, but not in the ways that we might expect. While the many changes in the JavaScript landscape are one of the motivations for developers to prefer decoupled Drupal, the fact that there are now multiple ways to write front ends for Drupal makes it easier to find people to work on decoupled Drupal projects. As an example, many organizations are finding it difficult to find affordable front-end Drupal developers experienced in Twig. Moving to a JavaScript-driven front end can resolve some of these resourcing challenges.

This balancing act between the requirements that developers prioritize and those that editors prioritize will guide you to the correct approach for your needs. If you are part of an organization that is mostly editorial, decoupled Drupal could be problematic, because it reduces the amount of control editors have over the presentation of their content. By the same token, if you are part of an organization with more developer resources, fully decoupled Drupal could potentially accelerate progress, with the warning that many mission-critical editorial features disappear.

Current and future trends to consider

A diagram showing a spectrum of site building solution; low-code solutions on the left and high-code solutions on the right

Over the past year, JavaScript frameworks have become more complex, while static site generators have become less complex.

One of the common complaints I have heard about the JavaScript landscape is that it shows fragmentation and a lack of cohesion due to increasing complexity. This has been a driving force for static site generators. Whereas two years ago, most JavaScript developers would have chosen a fully functional framework like Angular or Ember to create even simple websites, today they might choose a static site generator instead. A static site generator still allows them to use JavaScript, but it is simpler because performance considerations and build processes are offloaded to hosted services rather than the responsibility of developers.

I predict that static site generators will gain momentum in the coming year due to the positive developer experience they provide. Static site generators are also attracting a middle ground of both more experienced and less experienced developers.

Conclusion

Drupal continues to be an ideal choice for decoupled CMS architectures, and it is only getting better. The API-first initiative is making good progress on preparing the JSON:API module for inclusion in Drupal core, and the Admin UI and JavaScript Modernization initiative is working to dogfood Drupal's web services with a reinvented administrative interface. Drupal's support for GraphQL continues to improve, and now there is even a book on the subject of decoupled Drupal. It's clear that developers today have a wide range of ways to work with the rich features Drupal has to offer for decoupled architectures.

With the introduction of fully decoupled static sites as an another architectural paradigm that developers can select, there is an even wider variety of architectural possibilities than before. It means that the spectrum of decoupled Drupal approaches I defined last year has become even more extensive. This flexibility continues to define Drupal as an excellent CMS for both traditional and decoupled approaches, with features that go well beyond Drupal's competitors, including WordPress, Sitecore and Adobe. Regardless of the makeup of your team or the needs of your organization, Drupal has a solution for you.

Special thanks to Preston So for co-authoring this blog post and to Angie ByronChris HamperGabe SulliceLauri EskolaTed Bowman, and Wim Leers for their feedback during the writing process.

Accessible version of flowchart

This is an accessible and described version of the flowchart images earlier in this blog post. First, let us list the available architectural choices:

  • Coupled. Use Drupal as is without additional JavaScript (and as a content repository for other consumers).
  • Progressively decoupled. Use Drupal for initial rendering with JavaScript on top (and as a content repository for other consumers).
  • Fully decoupled static site. Use Drupal as a data source for a static site generator and, if needed, deploy to a JAMstack hosting platform.
  • Fully decoupled app. Use Drupal as a content repository accessed by other consumers (if JavaScript, use Node.js for server-side rendering).

Second, ask the question "What do you intend to build?" and choose among the answers "One experience" or "Multiple experiences".

If you are building one experience, ask the question "Is it a website or web application?" and choose among the answers "Yes, a single website or web application" or "No, Drupal as a repository for non-web applications only".

If you are building multiple experiences instead, ask the question "Is it a website or web application?" with the answers "Yes, Drupal as website and repository" or "No, Drupal as a repository for non-web applications only".

If your answer to the previous question was "No", then you should build a fully decoupled application, and your decision is complete. If your answer to the previous question was "Yes", then ask the question "Are there things the project cannot live without?"

Both editorial and developer needs are things that projects cannot live without, and here are the questions you need to ask about your project:

Editorial needs

  • Do editors need to manipulate page content and layout without a developer?
  • Do editors need in-context tools like in-place editing, contextual links, and toolbar?
  • Do editors need to preview unpublished content without custom development?
  • Do editors need content to be accessible by default like in Drupal's HTML?

Developer needs

  • Do developers need to have control over visual presentation instead of editors?
  • Do developers need server-side rendering or Node.js build features?
  • Do developers need JSON from APIs and to write JavaScript for the front end?
  • Do developers need data security driven by a publicly inaccessible CMS?

If, after asking all of these questions about things your project cannot live without, your answers show that your requirements reflect a mix of both editorial and developer needs, you should consider a progressively decoupled implementation, and your decision is complete.

If your answers to the questions about things your project cannot live without show that your requirements reflect purely developer needs, then ask the question "Is it a static website or a dynamic web application?" and choose among the answers "Static" or "Dynamic." If your answer to the previous question was "Static", you should build a fully decoupled static site, and your decision is complete. If your answer to the previous question was "Dynamic", you should build a fully decoupled app, and your decision is complete.

If your answers to the questions about things your project cannot live without show that your requirements reflect purely editorial needs, then ask two questions. Ask the first question, "Are there parts of the page that need JavaScript-driven interactions?" and choose among the answers "Yes" or "No." If your answer to the first question was "Yes", then you should consider a progressively decoupled implementation, and your decision is complete. If your answer to the first question was "No", then you should build a coupledDrupal site, and your decision is complete.

Then, ask the second question, "Do you need to access multiple data sources via API?" and choose among the answers "Yes" or "No." If your answer to the second question was "Yes", then you should consider a progressively decoupled implementation, and your decision is complete. If your answer to the second question was "No", then you should build a coupled Drupal site, and your decision is complete.

 Permalink

Jan 16 2019
Jan 16

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog.

Eighteen years ago today, I released Drupal 1.0.0. What started from humble beginnings has grown into one of the largest Open Source communities in the world. Today, Drupal exists because of its people and the collective effort of thousands of community members. Thank you to everyone who has been and continues to contribute to Drupal.

Eighteen years is also the voting age in the US, and the legal drinking age in Europe. I'm not sure which one is better. :) Joking aside, welcome to adulthood, Drupal. May your day be bug free and filled with fresh patches!

Jan 09 2019
Jan 09

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog.

Last year, I talked to nearly one hundred Drupal agency owners to understand what is preventing them from selling Drupal. One of the most common responses raised is that Drupal's administration UI looks outdated.

This critique is not wrong. Drupal's current administration UI was originally designed almost ten years ago when we were working on Drupal 7. In the last ten years, the world did not stand still; design trends changed, user interfaces became more dynamic and end-user expectations have changed with that.

To be fair, Drupal's administration UI has received numerous improvements in the past ten years; Drupal 8 shipped with a new toolbar, an updated content creation experience, more WYSIWYG functionality, and even some design updates.

A visual comparison of Drupal 7 and Drupal 8's administration UI

A comparison of the Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 content creation screen to highlight some of the improvements in Drupal 8.

While we made important improvements between Drupal 7 and Drupal 8, the feedback from the Drupal agency owners doesn't lie: we have not done enough to keep Drupal's administration UI modern and up-to-date.

This is something we need to address.

We are introducing a new design system that defines a complete set of principles, patterns, and tools for updating Drupal's administration UI.

In the short term, we plan on updating the existing administration UI with the new design system. Longer term, we are working on creating a completely new JavaScript-based administration UI.

A screenshot of the content administration using Drupal 8's Carlo theme

The content administration screen with the new design system.

As you can see on Drupal.org, community feedback on the proposal is overwhelmingly positive with comments like Wow! Such an improvement! and Well done! High contrast and modern look..

A screenshot of the spacing guidelines of Drupal 8's Carlo theme

Sample space sizing guidelines from the new design system.

I also ran the new design system by a few people who spend their days selling Drupal and they described it as "clean" with "good use of space" and a design they would be confident showing to prospective customers.

Whether you are a Drupal end-user, or in the business of selling Drupal, I recommend you check out the new design system and provide your feedback on Drupal.org.

Special thanks to Cristina ChumillasSascha EggenbergerRoy ScholtenArchita AroraDennis CohnRicardo MarcelinoBalazs KantorLewis Nyman,and Antonella Severo for all the work on the new design system so far!

We have started implementing the new design system as a contributed theme with the name Claro. We are aiming to release a beta version for testing in the spring of 2019 and to include it in Drupal core as an experimental theme by Drupal 8.8.0 in December 2019. With more help, we might be able to get it done faster.

Throughout the development of the refreshed administration theme, we will run usability studies to ensure that the new theme indeed is an improvement over the current experience, and we can iteratively improve it along the way.

Acquia has committed to being an early adopter of the theme through the Acquia Lightning distribution, broadening the potential base of projects that can test and provide feedback on the refresh. Hopefully other organizations and projects will do the same.

How can I help?

The team is looking for more designers and frontend developers to get involved. You can attend the weekly meetings on #javascript on Drupal Slack Mondays at 16:30 UTC and on #admin-ui on Drupal Slack Wednesdays at 14:30 UTC.

Thanks to Lauri EskolaGábor Hojtsy and Jeff Beeman for their help with this post.

File attachments:  drupal-7-vs-drupal-8-administration-ui-1280w.png carlo-content-administration-1280w.png carlo-spacing-1280w.png
Dec 12 2018
Dec 12

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog. Unfortunately Dries' blog does not allow for comments at the moment, feel free to post them here.

At Drupal Europe, I announced that Drupal 9 will be released in 2020. Although I explained why we plan to release in 2020, I wasn't very specific about when we plan to release Drupal 9 in 2020. Given that 2020 is less than thirteen months away (gasp!), it's time to be more specific.

Shifting Drupal's six month release cycle

A timeline that shows how we shifted Drupal 8's release windows

We shifted Drupal 8's minor release windows so we can adopt Symfony's releases faster.

Before I talk about the Drupal 9 release date, I want to explain another change we made, which has a minor impact on the Drupal 9 release date.

As announced over two years ago, Drupal 8 adopted a 6-month release cycle (two releases a year). Symfony, a PHP framework which Drupal depends on, uses a similar release schedule. Unfortunately the timing of Drupal's releases has historically occurred 1-2 months before Symfony's releases, which forces us to wait six months to adopt the latest Symfony release. To be able to adopt the latest Symfony releases faster, we are moving Drupal's minor releases to June and December. This will allow us to adopt the latest Symfony releases within one month. For example, Drupal 8.8.0 is now scheduled for December 2019.

We hope to release Drupal 9 on June 3, 2020

Drupal 8's biggest dependency is Symfony 3, which has an end-of-life date in November 2021. This means that after November 2021, security bugs in Symfony 3 will not get fixed. Therefore, we have to end-of-life Drupal 8 no later than November 2021. Or put differently, by November 2021, everyone should be on Drupal 9.

Working backwards from November 2021, we'd like to give site owners at least one year to upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9. While we could release Drupal 9 in December 2020, we decided it was better to try to release Drupal 9 on June 3, 2020. This gives site owners 18 months to upgrade. Plus, it also gives the Drupal core contributors an extra buffer in case we can't finish Drupal 9 in time for a summer release.

A timeline that shows we hope to release Drupal 9 in June 2020

Planned Drupal 8 and 9 minor release dates.

We are building Drupal 9 in Drupal 8

Instead of working on Drupal 9 in a separate codebase, we are building Drupal 9 in Drupal 8. This means that we are adding new functionality as backwards-compatible code and experimental features. Once the code becomes stable, we deprecate any old functionality.

Let's look at an example. As mentioned, Drupal 8 currently depends on Symfony 3. Our plan is to release Drupal 9 with Symfony 4 or 5. Symfony 5's release is less than one year away, while Symfony 4 was released a year ago. Ideally Drupal 9 would ship with Symfony 5, both for the latest Symfony improvements and for longer support. However, Symfony 5 hasn't been released yet, so we don't know the scope of its changes, and we will have limited time to try to adopt it before Symfony 3's end-of-life.

We are currently working on making it possible to run Drupal 8 with Symfony 4 (without requiring it). Supporting Symfony 4 is a valuable stepping stone to Symfony 5 as it brings new capabilities for sites that choose to use it, and it eases the amount of Symfony 5 upgrade work to do for Drupal core developers. In the end, our goal is for Drupal 8 to work with Symfony 3, 4 or 5 so we can identify and fix any issues before we start requiring Symfony 4 or 5 in Drupal 9.

Another example is our support for reusable media. Drupal 8.0.0 launched without a media library. We are currently working on adding a media library to Drupal 8 so content authors can select pre-existing media from a library and easily embed them in their posts. Once the media library becomes stable, we can deprecate the use of the old file upload functionality and make the new media library the default experience.

The upgrade to Drupal 9 will be easy

Because we are building Drupal 9 in Drupal 8, the technology in Drupal 9 will have been battle-tested in Drupal 8.

For Drupal core contributors, this means that we have a limited set of tasks to do in Drupal 9 itself before we can release it. Releasing Drupal 9 will only depend on removing deprecated functionality and upgrading Drupal's dependencies, such as Symfony. This will make the release timing more predictable and the release quality more robust.

For contributed module authors, it means they already have the new technology at their service, so they can work on Drupal 9 compatibility earlier (e.g. they can start updating their media modules to use the new media library before Drupal 9 is released). Finally, their Drupal 8 know-how will remain highly relevant in Drupal 9, as there will not be a dramatic change in how Drupal is built.

But most importantly, for Drupal site owners, this means that it should be much easier to upgrade to Drupal 9 than it was to upgrade to Drupal 8. Drupal 9 will simply be the last version of Drupal 8, with its deprecations removed. This means we will not introduce new, backwards-compatibility breaking APIs or features in Drupal 9 except for our dependency updates. As long as modules and themes stay up-to-date with the latest Drupal 8 APIs, the upgrade to Drupal 9 should be easy. Therefore, we believe that a 12- to 18-month upgrade period should suffice.

So what is the big deal about Drupal 9, then?

The big deal about Drupal 9 is … that it should not be a big deal. The best way to be ready for Drupal 9 is to keep up with Drupal 8 updates. Make sure you are not using deprecated modules and APIs, and where possible, use the latest versions of dependencies. If you do that, your upgrade experience will be smooth, and that is a big deal for us.

Special thanks to Gábor Hojtsy (Acquia), Angie Byron (Acquia), xjm(Acquia), and catch for their input in this blog post.

Dec 10 2018
Dec 10

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog. Please leave your comments on the original post.

This week I was in New York for a day. At lunch, Sir Martin Sorrell pointed out that Microsoft overtook Apple as the most valuable software company as measured by market capitalization. It's a close call but Microsoft is now worth $805 billion while Apple is worth $800 billion.

What is interesting to me are the radical "ebbs and flows" of each organization.

In the '80s, Apple's market cap was twice that of Microsoft. Microsoft overtook Apple in the the early '90s, and by the late '90s, Microsoft's valuation was a whopping thirty-five times Apple's. With a 35x difference in valuation, no one would have guessed Apple to ever regain the number-one position. However, Apple did the unthinkable and regained its crown in market capitalization. By 2015, Apple was, once again, valued two times more than Microsoft.

And now, eighteen years after Apple took the lead, Microsoft has taken the lead again. Everything old is new again.

As you'd expect, the change in market capitalization corresponds with the evolution and commercial success of their product portfolios. In the '90s, Microsoft took the lead based on the success of the Windows operating system. Apple regained the crown in the 2000s based on the success of the iPhone. Today, Microsoft benefits from the rise of cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service and Open Source, while Apple is trying to navigate the saturation of the smartphone market.

It's unclear if Microsoft will maintain and extend its lead. On one hand, the market trends are certainly in Microsoft's favor. On the other hand, Apple still makes a lot more money than Microsoft. I believe Apple to be slightly undervalued, and Microsoft is to be overvalued. The current valuation difference is not justified.

At the end of the day, what I find to be most interesting is how both organizations have continued to reinvent themselves. This reinvention has happened roughly every ten years. During these periods of reinvention, organizations can fall out of favor for long stretches of time. However, as both organizations prove, it pays off to reinvent yourself, and to be patient product and market builders.

Dec 05 2018
Dec 05

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog. Please leave your comments on the original post.

Last week, WordPress Tavern picked up my blog post about Drupal 8's upcoming Layout Builder.

While I'm grateful that WordPress Tavern covered Drupal's Layout Builder, it is not surprising that the majority of WordPress Tavern's blog post alludes to the potential challenges with accessibility. After all, Gutenberg's lack of accessibility has been a big topic of debate, and a point of frustration in the WordPress community.

I understand why organizations might be tempted to de-prioritize accessibility. Making a complex web application accessible can be a lot of work, and the pressure to ship early can be high.

In the past, I've been tempted to skip accessibility features myself. I believed that because accessibility features benefited a small group of people only, they could come in a follow-up release.

Today, I've come to believe that accessibility is not something you do for a small group of people. Accessibility is about promoting inclusion. When the product you use daily is accessible, it means that we all get to work with a greater number and a greater variety of colleagues. Accessibility benefits everyone.

As you can see in Drupal's Values and Principles, we are committed to building software that everyone can use. Accessibility should always be a priority. Making capabilities like the Layout Builder accessible is core to Drupal's DNA.

Drupal's Values and Principles translate into our development process, as what we call an accessibility gate, where we set a clearly defined "must-have bar." Prioritizing accessibility also means that we commit to trying to iteratively improve accessibility beyond that minimum over time.

Together with the accessibility maintainers, we jointly agreed that:

  1. Our first priority is WCAG 2.0 AA conformance. This means that in order to be released as a stable system, the Layout Builder must reach Level AA conformance with WCAG. Without WCAG 2.0 AA conformance, we won't release a stable version of Layout Builder.
  2. Our next priority is WCAG 2.1 AA conformance. We're thrilled at the greater inclusion provided by these new guidelines, and will strive to achieve as much of it as we can before release. Because these guidelines are still new (formally approved in June 2018), we won't hold up releasing the stable version of Layout Builder on them, but are committed to implementing them as quickly as we're able to, even if some of the items are after initial release.
  3. While WCAG AAA conformance is not something currently being pursued, there are aspects of AAA that we are discussing adopting in the future. For example, the new 2.1 AAA "Animations from Interactions", which can be framed as an achievable design constraint: anywhere an animation is used, we must ensure designs are understandable/operable for those who cannot or choose not to use animations.

Drupal's commitment to accessibility is one of the things that makes Drupal's upcoming Layout Builder special: it will not only bring tremendous and new capabilities to Drupal, it will also do so without excluding a large portion of current and potential users. We all benefit from that!

Nov 14 2018
Nov 14

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog. Please leave your comments on the original post.

After months of hard work, the Drupal Governance Task Force made thirteen recommendations for how to evolve Drupal's governance.

If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Drupal exists because of its community. What started from humble beginnings has grown into one of the largest Open Source communities in the world. This is due to the collective effort of thousands of community members.

What distinguishes Drupal from other open source projects is both the size and diversity of our community, and the many ways in which thousands of contributors and organizations give back. It's a community I'm very proud to be a part of.

Without the Drupal community, the Drupal project wouldn't be where it is today and perhaps would even cease to exist. That is why we are always investing in our community and why we constantly evolve how we work with one another.

The last time we made significant changes to Drupal's governance was over five years ago when we launched a variety of working groups. Five years is a long time. The time had come to take a step back and to look at Drupal's governance with fresh eyes.

Throughout 2017, we did a lot of listening. We organized both in-person and virtual roundtables to gather feedback on how we can improve our community governance. This led me to invest a lot of time and effort in documenting Drupal's Values and Principles.

In 2018, we transitioned from listening to planning. Earlier this year, I chartered the Drupal Governance Task Force. The goal of the task force was to draft a set of recommendations for how to evolve and strengthen Drupal's governance based on all of the feedback we received. Last week, after months of work and community collaboration, the task force shared thirteen recommendations (PDF).

The proposal from the Drupal Governance Task Force

Me reviewing the Drupal Governance proposal on a recent trip.

Before any of us jump to action, the Drupal Governance Task Force recommended a thirty-day, open commentary period to give community members time to read the proposal and to provide more feedback. After the thirty-day commentary period, I will work with the community, various stakeholders, and the Drupal Association to see how we can move these recommendations forward. During the thirty-day open commentary period, you can then get involved by collaborating and responding to each of the individual recommendations below:

I'm impressed by the thought and care that went into writing the recommendations, and I'm excited to help move them forward.

Some of the recommendations are not new and are ideas that either the Drupal Association, myself or others have been working on, but that none of us have been able to move forward without a significant amount of funding or collaboration.

I hope that 2019 will be a year of organizing and finding resources that allow us to take action and implement a number of the recommendations. I'm convinced we can make valuable progress.

I want to thank everyone who has participated in this process. This includes community members who shared information and insight, facilitated conversations around governance, were interviewed by the task force, and supported the task force's efforts. Special thanks to all the members of the task force who worked on this with great care and determination for six straight months: Adam BergsteinLyndsey JacksonEla MeierStella PowerRachel LawsonDavid Hernandez and Hussain Abbas.

Nov 12 2018
Nov 12

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog. Please leave your comments on the original post.

Layout Builder, which will be in the next release of Drupal 8, is unique in that it can work with structured and unstructured content, and with templated and free-form pages.

Content authors want an easy-to-use page building experience; they want to create and design pages using drag-and-drop and WYSIWYG tools. For over a year the Drupal community has been working on a new Layout Builder, which is designed to bring this page building capability into Drupal core.

Drupal's upcoming Layout Builder is unique in offering a single, powerful visual design tool for the following three use cases:

  1. Layouts for templated content. The creation of "layout templates" that will be used to layout all instances of a specific content type (e.g. blog posts, product pages).
  2. Customizations to templated layouts. The ability to override these layout templates on a case-by-case basis (e.g. the ability to override the layout of a standardized product page)
  3. Custom pages. The creation of custom, one-off landing pages not tied to a content type or structured content (e.g. a single "About us" page).

Let's look at all three use cases in more detail to explain why we think this is extremely useful!

Use case 1: Layouts for templated content

For large sites with significant amounts of content it is important that the same types of content have a similar appearance.

A commerce site selling hundreds of different gift baskets with flower arrangements should have a similar layout for all gift baskets. For customers, this provides a consistent experience when browsing the gift baskets, making them easier to compare. For content authors, the templated approach means they don't have to worry about the appearance and layout of each new gift basket they enter on the site. They can be sure that once they have entered the price, description, and uploaded an image of the item, it will look good to the end user and similar to all other gift baskets on the site.

The Drupal 8 Layout Builder showing a templated gift basket

Drupal 8's new Layout Builder allows a site creator to visually create a layout template that will be used for each item of the same content type (e.g. a "gift basket layout" for the "gift basket" content type). This is possible because the Layout Builder benefits from Drupal's powerful "structured content" capabilities.

Many of Drupal's competitors don't allow such a templated approach to be designed in the browser. Their browser-based page builders only allow you to create a design for an individual page. When you want to create a layout that applies to all pages of a specific content type, it is usually not possible without a developer.

Use case 2: Customizations to templated layouts

While having a uniform look for all products of a particular type has many advantages, sometimes you may want to display one or more products in a slightly (or dramatically) different way.

Perhaps a customer recorded a video of giving their loved one one of the gift baskets, and that video has recently gone viral (because somehow it involved a puppy). If you only want to update one of the gift baskets with a video, it may not make sense to add an optional "highlighted video" field to all gift baskets.

Drupal 8's Layout Builder offers the ability to customize templated layouts on a case per case basis. In the "viral, puppy, gift basket" video example, this would allow a content creator to rearrange the layout for just that one gift basket, and put the viral video directly below the product image. In addition, the Layout Builder would allow the site to revert the layout to match all other gift baskets once the world has moved on to the next puppy video.

The Drupal 8 Layout Builder showing a templated gift basket with a puppy video

Since most content management systems don't allow you to visually design a layout pattern for certain types of structured content, they of course can't allow for this type of customization.

Use case 3: Custom pages (with unstructured content)

Of course, not everything is templated, and content authors often need to create one-off pages like an "About us" page or the website's homepage.

In addition to visually designing layout templates for different types of content, Drupal 8's Layout Builder can also be used to create these dynamic one-off custom pages. A content author can start with a blank page, design a layout, and start adding blocks. These blocks can contain videos, maps, text, a hero image, or custom-built widgets (e.g. a Drupal View showing a list of the ten most popular gift baskets). Blocks can expose configuration options to the content author. For instance, a hero block with an image and text may offer a setting to align the text left, right, or center. These settings can be configured directly from a sidebar.

The Drupal 8 Layout Builder showing how to configure a block

In many other systems content authors are able to use drag-and-drop WYSIWYG tools to design these one-off pages. This type of tool is used in many projects and services such as Squarespace and the new Gutenberg Editor for WordPress (now available for Drupal, too!).

On large sites, the free-form page creation is almost certainly going to be a scalability, maintenance and governance challenge.

For smaller sites where there may not be many pages or content authors, these dynamic free-form page builders may work well, and the unrestricted creative freedom they provide might be very compelling. However, on larger sites, when you have hundreds of pages or dozens of content creators, a templated approach is going to be preferred.

When will Drupal's new Layout Builder be ready?

Drupal 8's Layout Builder is still a beta level experimental module, with 25 known open issues to be addressed prior to becoming stable. We're on track to complete this in time for Drupal 8.7's release in May 2019. If you are interested in increasing the likelihood of that, you can find out how to help on the Layout Initiative homepage.

An important note on accessibility

Accessibility is one of Drupal's core tenets, and building software that everyone can use is part of our core values and principles. A key part of bringing Layout Builder functionality to a "stable" state for production use will be ensuring that it passes our accessibility gate (Level AA conformance with WCAG and ATAG). This holds for both the authoring tool itself, as well as the markup that it generates. We take our commitment to accessibility seriously.

Impact on contributed modules and existing sites

Currently there a few methods in the Drupal module ecosystem for creating templated layouts and landing pages, including the Panels and Panelizer combination. We are currently working on a migration path for Panels/Panelizer to the Layout Builder.

The Paragraphs module currently can be used to solve several kinds of content authoring use-cases, including the creation of custom landing pages. It is still being determined how Paragraphs will work with the Layout Builder and/or if the Layout Builder will be used to control the layout of Paragraphs.

Conclusion

Drupal's upcoming Layout Builder is unique in that it supports multiple different use cases; from templated layouts that can be applied to dozens or hundreds of pieces of structured content, to designing custom one-off pages with unstructured content. The Layout Builder is even more powerful when used in conjunction with Drupal's other out-of-the-box features such as revisioning, content moderation, and translations, but that is a topic for a future blog post.

Special thanks to Ted Bowman (Acquia) for co-authoring this post. Also thanks to Wim Leers (Acquia), Angie Byron (Acquia), Alex Bronstein (Acquia), Jeff Beeman (Acquia) and Tim Plunkett (Acquia) for their feedback during the writing process.

Nov 09 2018
Nov 09

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog. Please leave your comments on the original post.

If you are still using PHP 5, now is the time to upgrade to a newer version of PHP.

PHP, the Open Source scripting language, is used by nearly 80 percent of the world's websites.

According to W3Techs, around 61 percent of all websites on the internet still use PHP 5, a version of PHP that was first released fourteen years ago.

Now is the time to give PHP 5 some attention. In less than two months, on December 31st, security support for PHP 5 will officially cease. (Note: Some Linux distributions, such as Debian Long Term Support distributions, will still try to backport security fixes.)

If you haven't already, now is the time to make sure your site is running an updated and supported version of PHP.

Beyond security considerations, sites that are running on older versions of PHP are missing out on the significant performance improvements that come with the newer versions.

Drupal and PHP 5

Drupal 8

Drupal 8 will drop support for PHP 5 on March 6, 2019. We recommend updating to at least PHP 7.1 if possible, and ideally PHP 7.2, which is supported as of Drupal 8.5 (which was released March, 2018). Drupal 8.7 (to be released in May, 2019) will support PHP 7.3, and we may backport PHP 7.3 support to Drupal 8.6 in the coming months as well.

Drupal 7

Drupal 7 will drop support for older versions of PHP 5 on December 31st, but will continue to support PHP 5.6 as long there are one or more third-party organizations providing reliable, extended security support for PHP 5.

Earlier today, we released Drupal 7.61 which now supports PHP 7.2. This should make upgrades from PHP 5 easier. Drupal 7's support for PHP 7.3 is being worked on but we don't know yet when it will be available.

Thank you!

It's a credit to the PHP community that they have maintained PHP 5 for fourteen years. But that can't go on forever. It's time to move on from PHP 5 and upgrade to a newer version so that we can all innovate faster.

I'd also like to thank the Drupal community — both those contributing to Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 — for keeping Drupal compatible with the newest versions of PHP. That certainly helps make PHP upgrades easier.

Jun 01 2017
Jun 01
Every spring, members of Acquia's Product, Engineering and DevOps teams gather at our Boston headquarters for "Build Week". Build Week gives our global team the opportunity to meet face-to-face, to discuss our product strategy and roadmap, to make plans, and to collaborate on projects.
Mar 16 2012
Mar 16

It's that time of year again where we are gearing up for another great DrupalCon. Next week, 3000 Drupalists, including more than 70 Acquians, will be migrating out west to the Rocky Mountains for an action packed week filled with sessions, stickers, beer, and lots of face time with the best open source community on the planet.

There is one remarkable event that caught my attention and that speaks volumes about an important trend we're seeing: the Higher Ed Drupal Users meeting on Wednesday.

Why is this so interesting you ask? Well ... it all started with one of Acquia's team members reaching out to a couple of universities from Canada to organize a meeting at DrupalCon where they could connect and share insider tips for what works for them at their respective university. However, it turned out they were already talking on a regular basis and what they really wanted was to talk to others from universities outside of their immediate circle. Word spread, and now what began as a lunch meeting has turned into a meet-up with approximately 50 Higher Education Drupal users coming together to talk about how they can grow Drupal on their campus and overcome the common challenges they are facing. This is what DrupalCon and the Drupal community are all about!

As Drupal adoption has grown, so has adoption in Higher Education. We recently found that out of 3260 universities that we tracked, over 35% of them are using Drupal including 71 of the top 100 universities like Harvard, Duke, MIT, UPenn, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Stanford, McGill, and many more. That is pretty amazing!

But it makes sense because Drupal provides significant advantages to universities, including support for large scale mulit-site deployments, fit with centralized IT organizations, low end-user training requirements, lower costs, appeal among digital natives and young developers, support for integration with campus authentication and authorization systems, and strong content relation capabilities - particularly taxonomy support for libraries.

I look forward to meeting with this unique group of Drupal users as they learn from each other, and undoubtedly teach us more about the specific needs in higher education. DrupalCon here we come!

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web