Jul 20 2018
Jul 20

Usain Bolt, in his last appearance at the World Track and Field Championships in 2017, stood third by a narrow defeat in the 100m race leaving behind a yawning gulf. Bolt finished the race just a hundredth of a second later than his fellow competitors.

Every (nano)second counts!

Four sprinters crossing the finishing line with crowd cheering them on in the background


Such is the importance of speed that even a three-time Olympic gold medallist, Usain Bolt, had to bear the brunt of those nanoseconds. Someone might ask “How do I get started learning about web performance?”

Visualise that it is the Mega Book Sale Day and the bookworms are thronging the best performing online stores that are selling the books of renowned authors. Coping with such a colossal turn-up, a site with much faster page load speed would be preferred over the ones that are a bit sluggish. Drupal offers a superb platform for an effective website performance optimisation thereby making it faster and user-friendly.

The Significance of Website Performance Optimisation

Web performance optimisation involves monitoring the performance of web application analysing and assessing it, and identifying the best practices to improve it.

Web applications are a combination of server-side and client-side code. To improve the web performance, both the sides need to be optimised.

The client-side optimisation relates to the initial page load time, JavaScript that runs in the browser, downloading all of the resources etc. that are seen in the web browser.

The server-side optimisation relates to database queries and other application dependencies to check how long it takes to run on the server for executing requests.

Performance optimisation is significant because of the following factors:

User retention

BBC found that they are losing out of 10% of users for every extra second their website took to load. Also, DoubleClick by Google found that if the web page took more than 3 seconds to load, 53% of mobile site visitors tend to abandon the page.

Infographic showing statistics on the importance of performance optimisation for improving user retention

 

We all strive to make our users engage in a meaningful interaction with what we have built for the web.

So, if it is an online store, you would like to see a prospective audience turning into buyers. Or if it is a social networking web application, you would want your online visitors to get ensconced in an arresting interaction with one another. High performing sites play a vital role in engaging and retaining users.

An increase in user retention by 5% can result in increased profits by up to 95%.

It costs 5 to 25 times more to attract new customers. So, even a 5% enhancement in customer retention can lead to increased profits of 25%-95%.

By redesigning their web pages, Pinterest combated a 40% reduction in perceived wait times and witnessed a 15% increase in their search engine traffic and sign-ups.

COOK, a provider of high-quality frozen meals, was able to address the average page load time and cut it down by 850 milliseconds which resulted in 7% in conversions, 10% increase in pages per session and 7% decrease in bounce rate.

Improved Conversions

User retention ultimately leads to better conversion rates. Slow sites can have huge repercussions on the business revenues. Better performance of sites can be highly profitable to shore up revenues.

Graphical representation depicting conversion rate and bounce rate with respect to page load timeSource: Hubspot

According to 2016 Q2 Mobile Insights Report by Mobify, 1.11% increase in session-based conversion was seen for every 100ms decrease in homepage load speed. Moreover, a 1.55% increase in session-based conversion was noticed for every 100ms decrease in checkout page load time. The outcome was an increase in the average annual revenue by approximately $530,000.

Also, AutoAnything revved up their sales by 12-13% after decreasing their page load time by half.

User experience

When sites ship tons of code, underwhelming performance persists as the browsers chew through megabytes of it on snail-paced networks. 

Infographic showing statistics on importance of web user experienceSource: Impactbnd

Even the devices with limited processing power and memory can find it hard to cope up with the modest amount of unoptimised code. With poor performance taking centre stage, application responsiveness and availability diminishes.

Better optimised code lead to high functioning and better-performing sites which in return alleviate the digital user experience.

Strategising the web performance

Formulation of strategies to improve web performance can be done in two ways:

Bottom-up strategy

Also known as performance-by-design, the bottom-up strategy is the preferred approach to integrate performance as a core development principle. In this strategy, the performance optimisation principles are framed, applied and maintained. This is done right from the application design phase. 

The key stages that are involved in this approach are stated below:

  • Performance principles are laid out.
  • The key pages/transactions are identified, optimised accordingly, and then performance principles are executed.
  • Performance SLAs (Service Level Agreement) are monitored and maintained.

Here's a chart by Infosys which explains it best: 

Illustration showing the key stages involved in bottom-up strategy for improving the web performanceKey stages involved in bottom-up strategy

Top-down strategy

If an existing application needs to be optimised for performance, top-down strategy comes into play. This is a preferred option only when the legacy applications are being optimised for high performance. Also, this is not cost effective and the optimisation options are limited.

Steps involved in this strategy are as follows:

  1. Factors that are contributing to the page performance are assessed using tools like PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest etc.
  2. Activities that would lead to maximum performance improvements are optimised.
  3. Other optimisations with subsequent releases are iteratively implemented.

In addition to these strategies, one must consider an important methodology called ‘Performance Budgeting’. It means setting a performance threshold that you aim to stay within. You can safeguard your site speed and detect any regression in the performance by setting up a performance budget to ensure continual eye on performance.

This is how we do it!

Expected load time and Google page speed score, as shown below, is the core of our perpetual and iterative development process.

Illustration showing the key processes involved in the performance budgeting methodology 

The above chart shows that, while applying performance budgeting methodology, we take note of:

  1. Average load time of 2 seconds or less
  2. Defined maximum limit on page size and number of HTTP requests
  3. Verification of all server site tuning for an efficient and responsive site
  4. Google page speed performance grade of above 90
  5. Implementing performance optimisation

How to Speed up My Drupal Website Performance?

How to speed up my Drupal website performance? Drupal is loaded with an enormous amount of features which, when implemented smartly, can lead to superfast page loads. There are several techniques to make your website faster by leveraging the amazing features of Drupal.

Keeping your site and modules updated

Outmoded modules can deter your efforts in speeding up your website. Thus, it is important to update every module enabled on your Drupal site.

Uninstalling unused modules

Like those outdated modules, it is significant to keep a tab on least used or no longer used modules. The number of Drupal modules installed on the site is directly proportional to the time taken for code execution which affects page load time. Uninstalling unwanted modules can alleviate execution time.

Moreover disabling the modules also adds to the execution time of the code. So, a complete removal by uninstalling the unused modules can speed up the Drupal site.

Optimising Cache

Optimisation of native cache system ensures that all the web page components are stored in an easily accessible location after a user visits your site for the very time. So, whenever the user visits your site again, the page elements are loaded from the cache which leads to increased page load speed.

Drupal has the provision of advanced caching with a great set of modules:

  • Internal Page Cache module helps in caching the web pages for anonymous users to increase the speed for subsequent users.
     
  • Dynamic Page Cache module caches web pages for the anonymous and authenticated users and is recommended for the websites of all screen sizes.
     
  • BigPipe module allows your users to quickly see the unchanged, cacheable page elements while the personalised content is exhibited next. This technology was inspired by Facebook. Drupal 8’s much improved render pipeline and render API is of huge help.
     
  • Redis module helps in integrating Drupal with Redis key-value store thereby providing a robust cache system for static pages.
     
  • Varnish module lets you integrate Drupal sites with an advanced and fast reverse-proxy system - Varnish cache -  to serve static files and unknown page-views quicker and at high volumes.

Optimising database

Website coding is not the sole thing that can be optimised. Optimising database by regularly cleaning up the data and removing the unwanted piece of information.

Memcache API and Integration module, help in the integration of Drupal and Memcached. It stores your data in active memory for a limited period of time thereby making it faster to access. 

So, instead of making queries to the database constantly, the information is readily available. Such a system also works on the shared web hosting plans.

Incorporating a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Components like CSS, JavaScript and media are hosted by CDN and served to the online visitors from the nearest location. This can help in mitigating the page load time by rapidly delivering web page components.

Drupal module, CDN, helps in the integration of Content Delivery Network for Drupal websites. It changes the file URLs so that files like CSS, JavaScripts, images, videos, and fonts are downloaded from the CDN instead of your web server.

Optimising bandwidth

Aggregating all CSS and JavaScript files to make them load together is what bandwidth optimisation refers to. Such a parallel processing ensures that all the page elements can be seen by the users almost immediately.

Optimising images

Drupal 8 core is loaded with image optimisation feature to set the compression ratio of the images and fine-tune the page performance.

Moreover, the size of the images for screen sizes of different devices can be optimised in Drupal 8 to enhance the page load speed.

Handling 404 errors

Whenever something on the website breaks to cause a 404 error, it can lead to sluggishness. For instance, a failed image can damage the performance of the site. Drupal 8 provides a module called Fast 404 which utilises the resources better and whitelists files and verifies pathways of problem.

Managing the use of CSS and JavaScript

CSS and JavaScript provide wonderful methods for customisation and flexibility. But, too much of good things can be troublesome for your websites. Avoiding excessive use of CSS files and JavaScript use and keeping the code to a minimum can improve performance.

Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation, Drupal module, can help in keeping a tab of your front-end performance by aggregating CSS and JavaScript files to improve speed.

Using lazy loading

Lazy or on-demand loading is a perfect way to optimise your site’s performance. In this method, you split your code at logical breakpoints and then load it once the user has done something that requires a new block of code.

Basically, in traditional websites, all the images and content are preloaded into the web browser when someone accesses the site. Lazy loading loads these elements as soon as a user scrolls to view a content.

Blazy, Drupal module, provides the functionalities of lazy loading and multi-serving the images to save bandwidth and server requests.

Better web hosting

It is of consummate importance that, while implementing every possible tips and trick and utilising the Drupal’s amazing features, you chose the best web hosting provider that will decide your site’s ultimate speed, stability and security.

Case Study

The Drupal website of the Farm Journal’s MILK was optimised for high performance and better search engine rankings with a help of carefully drafted audit report by Opensense Labs.

In this section, we will focus on how we used our Drupal expertise to resolve the performance issues.

Project highlights

Previously segregated CSS and JS files cached separately which escalated the page load time. We aggregated all these files and put them in one place which assuaged the page load time.

Moreover, we used Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation Drupal module to minify CSS, JS and HTML and reduce load time.

In addition to these, we enabled Redis, used as a database, cache and message broker, so that it can be used as the backend instead of MySQL. This allowed cached items to be retrieved swiftly and improved performance.

Project outcome

On testing the performance metrics on tools like PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom, we witnessed significant improvement.

PageSpeed Insights

  • Result on handheld devices
Google pagespeed insights result for mobile devices before implementing performance enhancement in the sitePre-implementation (Live Instance)

 

Alt text: Google pagespeed insights result for mobile devices after implementing performance enhancement in the sitePost-implementation (Live Instance)

 

  • Result on Desktop
Google pagespeed insights result for desktop before implementing performance enhancement in the sitePre-implementation (Live Instance)

 

Google pagespeed insights result for desktop after implementing performance enhancement in the sitePost-implementation (Live Instance)

 

Pingdom

Pingdom scores on different performance metrics of site before implementing performance enhancementPre-implementation Pingdom Score (Live Environment)

 

Pingdom scores on different performance metrics of site after implementing performance enhancementPost-implementation Pingdom Score (Live Environment)

 

Conclusion

Speed can be the determining factor in the amount of time an online user spends on your website. It’s important that you remove the sluggishness from your website and inculcate betterments in its performance. Drupal 8 can help by incorporating wonderful features to make your site a high performing space.

Feel free to reach us at [email protected] for developing a high performing Drupal website.

Jul 05 2018
Jul 05

When you want to buy a new shirt from an emporium, you look for the best shop that can exhibit different pieces of nicest clothes for you to choose from. Not much has changed with the emergence of the online stores. You still strive to buy the best thing available on the best e-commerce site. Drupal Commerce and Magento offer an amazing e-commerce platform for the digital businesses to establish themselves as the best in the industry.

An illustration showing a shopping cart and 6 people sitting or standing in and around it using their phone or laptop


Drupal Commerce and Magento have different features and specifications. Determining which one is the most suited for your organization’s needs is a matter to be pondered over. To yield the best crop, comparing both of them side-by-side can give you a better picture.

A brief look at Drupal Commerce and Magento

Drupal Commerce

Logo of Drupal Commerce showing a shopping cart and Drupal Commerce written on right

With more than 60,000 sites powered by Drupal Commerce, a module, it is one of the most flexible e-commerce solutions for websites and applications of all sizes. Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 are the versions to be maintained and supported for the years to come. While building an online store in former will require Commerce 1.x, and for the latter Commerce 2.x.

Drupal Commerce is meritorious in various ways bringing e-retailers more traffic to drive more results.
graphical representation of usage statistics of Drupal Commerce from 2013 to 2018Usage statistics for Drupal Commerce from Drupal.org
  • Easy usage: It helps in the development of administration system and customised business workflow. Hence, even a person without the technical expertise can make alterations and do the testing which makes it a marketing driven commerce.
     
  • Digital experience: It enhances digital experience by incorporating commerce, content and, community and brings e-retailers more traffic.
     
  • Business-centric: It gives you the structure that you need for your online store without setting preamble and assuming your business requirements. Simply saying, it is the king of customisation.
     
  • King of content: Built on top of enterprise CMS, it offers a commerce platform to intertwine content and products seamlessly, thereby driving both online and offline sales via a wonderful UX, optimised merchandised tools, and efficient SEO techniques.
     
  • Easy configuration: With its robustness and flexibility, it is configurable to fit right for your enterprise’s needs. It is great for any sort of physical and non-physical items that demand payment models like recurring, licensing or subscription.
     
  • Cost-effective: Being an open source software, it is an affordable solution.
     
  • Adaptable: It allows third-party integrations and enhancements in the features and functionalities to adapt the changing needs of a business. Be it Authorize.net, Braintree, PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay and a lot of other payment gateways, it provides many integrations. Thus, it is highly extensible.
Homepage of ObermeyerThe Drupal project of Obermeyer had to encounter a lot of challenges with 3 different websites for 3 distinct audiences in addition to autonomous ERP and B2B ordering systems. Their objective was to optimise the digital processes of Obermeyer and provide an excellent digital experience through a centralised platform. By leveraging the benefits of Drupal 8 and Drupal Commerce 2.x, they built a robust enterprise ecommerce solution that could offer friction-free online shopping experience to their B2B, B2C and VIP audiences.

Magento

Providing a flexible shopping cart system, Magento is another e-commerce platform that is offering online merchants a robust solution and the control over the appearance, content and, functionalities of their e-commerce websites. It provides tools for a powerful marketing, SEO and, catalog-management. Ranging from small-scale sites to the large-scale enterprise SaaS-based systems, it has wonderful platform to accommodate the needs of business requirements.

Graphical representation of usage statistics of MagentoUsage statistics for Magento from BuiltWith.com

Some of the highpoints of Magento where it is advantageous is mentioned below:

  • Installation: It is very simple when it comes to installation and features additional layouts and plug-ins.
     
  • Affordable solution: It offers an efficacious and cost-effective solution being an open source software.
     
  • Payment gateways: Some of its worldwide available payment gateways are PayPal, Authorize.net, CyberSource etc.

Drupal Commerce vs Magento. Which one is the better e-commerce platform?

An exhaustive and side-by-side comparison of Drupal Commerce and Magento needs to be hammered out to see where they score higher.

Metrics/Platforms

Drupal Commerce

Magento

Installation

Easy installation from the scratch

Easy installation from the ground up

Usage

Easy to learn

Steep learning curve

Content management

Can create complex content relationship

Has a basic content management system

Catalogue management

Dynamic addition or removal of products possible

Conventional way of displaying products

Mobile responsiveness

Fully responsive

Fully responsive

Features and functionalities

Great for complex online stores

Good only for simple shopping carts

Multilingual

Has in-built modules to create multilingual site

Multiple Store Views helps in building multilingual site

Administration interface

Easily customisable

Difficult to customise

Cost constraints

Being open source technology, it is absolutely free to use

Shown identity shift with newer modules not free to use

Business-driven

Can be easily integrated with multiple ventures of your business

Would require two or more independent systems to integrate with multiple ventures

SEO tools

Plethora of modules available for enabling SEO

Built-in SEO-friendly tools available

Skills required

Required minimal coding skills

Requires advanced coding skills

Integration scope

Third party integrations possible

Provision for third party integrations available

Security

Most security focussed

Relatively less secure

Installation

illustration showing a man using a machine to place engine in a car and engine installation written below it

Drupal Commerce allows developers to install from the scratch. An installation package has to be downloaded and installed. It requires you to install Drupal CMS and then enable the Drupal Commerce module or use an installation profile to automatically enable it.

Magento allows developers to install from the ground up by providing installation package to be downloaded, loaded and installed.

Verdict: Match is drawn. No side wins this contest. Both of them offer a wonderful platform for the installation.

Usage

A laptop with mouse and keyboard with the screen of laptop resembling an open book

Having a site running on Drupal and familiarity with the Drupal features and functionalities would make your life easier in learning how to use Drupal Commerce.

Although Magento gives complete control to the users and comes with some amazing features, Magento professionals are required to fully extract its potential and use its functionalities to the fullest. Someone new to Magento may lead a tough learning curve initially.

Verdict: Thus, it has the advantage over Magento as you do not have to consume a lot of your time in learning its functionalities. Being adept with Drupal helps in learning Drupal Commerce in no time.

Content Management

A laptop at the centre is being used and five different graphical task sheets connected to it

Built on top of Drupal, Drupal Commerce permits you to endlessly create content types with custom fields and attributes, and cool media tools, thereby improving the editing experience. Its provision for content relationships helps you in forming a listicle consisting of related products and blog posts. Also, you can customise your landing page with optimised product lists. It is great for businesses who consider providing content as the fulcrum of their growth.

In contrast, Magento has a very basic content management system. It only allows you to add pages, some content to different categories of pages and attributes to the products. Other than this, you will step into its custom domain. This incurs heavy costs and increases ongoing support.

Verdict: Drupal Commerce is, obviously, miles ahead and hugely beneficial in this arena.

Catalog Management

A finger tip is clicking on an icon displayed on a tablet and many different icons connected to the tablet from the outside

A product can be dynamically added or removed from the product list automatically in Drupal Commerce. You can develop a traditional catalog-like experience and it automatically follows the way you have organized your products and uses attributes associated with them. Be it tables, grids, or lists, products can be exhibited on your website in any pluggable style with each having their own appearance and feel. This immensely helps in building user engagement.

Magento has a very conventional way of how products are organized and added to the list. You build a set of classifications in a catalog root where the products can be included. A product can fall into multiple categories depending on their type and how the users are trying to find these products. But Magento follows a strict provision for displaying products on the site. For instance, only lists and grid views are available for product listings.

Verdict: Drupal Commerce, apparently, has the upper hand in this area.

Mobile responsiveness

A laptop, a desktop, a tablet and a phone is displayed and responsive web design written below it

Drupal Commerce offers screen flexibility for building the most powerful and versatile business engine in today’s market. Drupal themes help in lending a fully responsive design for the ecommerce website.

For instance, SShop is a bootstrap based Drupal 8 theme with out-of-the-box support for Drupal Commerce. It provides multi-level responsive header menu, slideshow on the homepage, and a custom layout.

Corolla is another stupendously stylised colorable Drupal theme that comes with 6 preset colour schemes, custom colour options, mobile responsive features, and box shadow and background texture options among others.

eStore is a fully responsive, bootstrap-based Drupal theme that comes with cool functionalities like product layouts collection to scan through and choose from, slider content types, custom field additions to the Default Product Type, content types included in the configurations etc.

Magento is not far behind. It adopts responsive web design approach to craft websites that provide an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices. For instance, the out-of-the-box Magento Blank and Luma themes offer a fully responsive design.

Verdict: Providing a beautiful design to the site and making the responsive across devices, both the platforms are equally beneficial in this area.

Features and functionalities

a magnifying glass with the word 'features' written over the glass

One of the foremost advantages of Drupal Commerce is that it has a huge and a growing list of modules for enabling customised features and functionalities. Building a custom application and providing a wonderful digital experience thereby incorporating features that are beyond commerce, it is adaptable to changing times and business needs. Whether you need to add web services or forums, it gives you the space for adding a functionality which is entirely new.

Magento comes with a nice set of features which is really good for your online store. If you are looking at a product on the basis of its published feature set, then Magento is good for you. So, in simple words, if you just need to develop a shopping cart, opt for it.

Verdict: Hence, unlike Magento, not only a simple shopping cart, Drupal Commerce can customise your online shopping site for a wide array of needs.

Multilingual capabilities

'I love you' written in many different languages clustered together

Drupal 8 comes with out-of-the-box modules for translating the content on the website. Its built-in language handling abilities help in delivering localised digital experiences by letting you choose from 94 languages.

It also offers the individuals who work on the site - site administrators, content editors, and translators - the choice of their own language. From pages to the taxonomy terms, it can translate everything. Even the configuration of the site like blocks, panels, views etc. can be translated.

With every Magento theme, you can incorporate a multilingual storefront without a lot of trials and tribulations thereby allowing the user to switch between languages with ease.

Store Views are the store instances in the Magento platform. So, if you are running a ecommerce website with a single language, single Store View is required. For multilingual sites, it allows you to have multiple Store Views.

Verdict: Both the platforms share this arena equally and lets you run a great multilingual online store.

Administration interface

9 different icons arranged in an order with each showing administrative tasks of an user

Without even making changes to the code, you can customise the admin interface as per your needs in Drupal Commerce. It lets you create screens for specific users with certain administrative actions.

Magento gives you a structured and properly defined way to govern the entire store. If you are complacent with its built-in admin interface functionalities, then it’s good for you. But if the need arises for some more features, then a lot of development effort is required to make customizations.

Verdict: With provision to choose from a huge list of Drupal modules to make the admin UX better, it should be a no-brainer of a choice that points to Drupal Commerce.

Cost constraints

a hand clasping cash notes

Drupal is an open source technology. So, it is absolutely free to use.

In contrast Magento is showing an identity shift according to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce in 2018. It states that some newer modules in Magento are not being offered as open source. Moreover, the prospects drawn to Magento because of its strong reputation in the open source community should be careful of this tectonic shift and determine whether or not they are comfortable with this.

Verdict: Being an open source technology, Drupal Commerce clearly excels in this category. 

Business-Driven

Different people standing over unresolved puzzle of an arrow symbol

Drupal Commerce can help make a site with any of these functionalities or all at once: a multilingual site, a multisite, community forum or an online store. So, it can integrate with multiple business platforms under one umbrella.

To integrate Magento with any other part of business ventures like forums or subscriptions, you will have to confront with two independent systems working with each other. This calls for third-party solutions to keep data between several systems in sync and up-to-date.

Verdict: Drupal Commerce clearly wins this race by miles with a wide pool of benefits for your business.

SEO tools

A laptop displaying the word 'SEO' and the terms 'keyword' and 'result' connected to it.

You can enable SEO through superabundance of modules in Drupal like Pathauto, XML Sitemap, Redirect etc.

With Magento’s out-of-the-box SEO tools, you can easily adjust URLs, meta information, and verify search terms and ranking through Google integration.

Verdict: Both of them offer a perfect platform for making the site search friendly.

Skills required

An illustration showing the word 'Skill' in the centre with may different icons surrounding it.

Without much coding experience, you can easily pick the basics quickly in Drupal Commerce. For someone with minimal coding knowledge, it offers modules like Views, features etc to power user interface. Even for a code genius, aforementioned modules can be really helpful.

With heavy usage of objects, inheritance, and programming concepts, someone with minimal experience of coding, may find it tough in Magento to get to the scheme of things quickly. Also, understanding and detecting Magento extension clashes can be tricky. It has an okay documentation available but active Magento community and a wide range of training and support offering can be pretty useful.

Verdict: With an active, engaging and responsive Drupal Community and a plethora of training and support services available, Drupal Commerce should be the default choice.

Integration scope

Different coloured and non-coloured circles connected to one big circle in the centre

Drupal Commerce can seamlessly integrate with third-party tools. Some of the examples are: 

Magento offers support for third-party integrations too. Some of the example categories are:

  • Magento theme or template integration allows you to use third-party themes from Themeforest or TemplateMonster.
  • SMS gateway integration with third-party service providers like Kapsystem is possible in Magento
  • It also allows Payment Gateway integration with Paypal, Amazon Pay etc.
  • Magento API integrations can be done with Xero, Salesforce, Box etc.
  • It can also be integrated with leading CMS like Drupal.

Verdict: Both the platforms offer third-party integrations.

Security

A house lock

Statistically proven, Drupal is the best security focussed CMS among the major CMS platforms like Wordpress, Joomla and Magento. Both the infected websites and the infection rate of Magento were much higher than that of Drupal in the Hacked Website Report from Sucuri.

Comparison from previous report in Q3 2016 to 2017 for the top four CMSSource: Sucuri.net

Verdict: Drupal is the most secure CMS and should be prioritised over Magento.

Conclusion

For the best e-commerce site, digital firms have to thrive on the e-commerce platforms for a unique and a masterclass of a website. Drupal Commerce and Magento provide a platform for setting up an e-commerce site efficiently. To understand what suits your organisation’s needs, you have to properly understand their features and functionalities to choose wisely. A side-by-side comparison delineates that Drupal Commerce has the clear edge over Magento and comes out as the winner.

We provide Drupal Commerce services to help you scale up. Contact us at [email protected] to gauge which platform would be the best for your enterprise needs.

Jul 02 2018
Jul 02

Governance plays a pivotal role in the business workflow and is significant for the smooth functioning of an  organisation which is expanding at a steadfast pace. In this digitised world of organised chaos, demand for agile marketing has resulted in the accretion of digital assets to such an extent that some of them seem superfluous. Digital Asset Management (DAM) and Drupal can come together to smartly strategise the way enterprises handle unimportant assets.

Drupal governs the content on the website whereas Digital Asset Management manages creation, assessment and approval of digital assets.
Illustration showing a laptop in the centre and icons of video recorder, camera, notepad, folder and smartphone surrounding it

A superabundance of assets clog up our devices and blot out the productivity. Digital Asset Management can help enterprises in eclipsing outmoded asset management processes and take back control of their digital files. Therefore, it helps in optimising content processes and makes life much easier.

Decoding the Digital Asset Management

What is involved in digital asset management? DAM is a content management and branding automation system which uses the centralised mode of storing and governing voluminous digital files. It accredits enterprises to connect, control, and centralise both the local and the global access to digital files thereby ensuring that digital assets are accessible to everyone whenever they have the dire need of them.

Infographic showing statistics on percentage of users implementing digital asset managementSource: Cognizant

Grid, The Guardian’s image management system, is a very good example of an open source digital asset management system. Its team used pragmatic agile processes to build it quickly. It is now incorporated with its print workflow and is used for almost half of the images used in their digital content.

[embedded content]


Does it ring a bell? Definitely! Content Management System (CMS) like Drupal also has its foundation in the provision of a centralised mode of content dissemination. So what’s the difference between CMS and DAM?

Difference between DAM and CMS

Content Management System and Digital Asset Management are two systems that work brilliantly with the digital content but are designed for different tasks.

Digital Asset Management Content Management System

Central repository for handling digital assets

The central system for governing content on the website

Example: Acquia DAM

Example: Drupal

In general, Content Management System, for example, Drupal, is the entire foundation for governing content on the website. The term ‘content’ means anything that is displayed on your site and not just blog posts which are managed by CMS.

In contrast, a Digital Asset Management manages more than just your website. It powers the entire sales and marketing organisation. It acts as the central repository for the approved assets. Moreover, it is the collaborative workflow engine between marketers and designers for the creation, assessment, and approval of those assets.

A Plethora of Benefits

With a superabundance of benefits, Digital Asset Management enhances productivity, improves brand consistency and boosts team collaboration.

An illustration showing benefits of using a DAM namely findability, collaboration, security, time saving, access, user experience, brand growth, and speed.Source: Webdam
  • Cuts business costs: It can improve your ROI through quicker creation, retrieval, and dissemination of company content. Do-it-yourself design templates for business cards, banner ads etc. cut both internal and external admin, design, and production costs.
     
  • Security: It provides collective security measures built around your data’s needs and adheres to strict digital rights management (DRM) guidelines. For instance, be it navigating outmoded sharing methods, or supporting teams to establish effective user access permissions, it maps the usage rights vis-à-vis your digital assets. Internal management of brand’s corporate identity: By paving the way for corporate identity guidelines and numerous on-brand digital assets, it offers secure global access to approve useable content.
     
  • Integration scope: It seamlessly integrates with your existing infrastructure. It helps you in improving project management, delegating resources and roles, optimising and targeting assets, and identifying top-performing content by working with CMS, customer relationship management (CRM) and several other marketing, sales and IT solutions.
     
  • Efficient file management: It eliminates the need to find and deliver assets via multiple locations thereby removing any costly errors and inefficiencies incurred through clumsy file management.
     
  • Time-Saving: It provides 24X7 access to company collateral from anywhere. Thus, it removes the need for time-intensive file searches and avoids the need for recreating missing assets.

Choosing the Best Digital Asset Management for your Business

So, how to strategise in order to choose the best Digital Asset Management? It is important that you understand your prerequisites before making the decision of selecting a Digital Asset Management. 

Understanding DAM capabilities

An illustration showing different capabilities of DAM namely asset repository, asset creation and asset creation

 

  • Repository: One of the first things that you need to consider is a core digital asset repository. A centralised asset repository should on the top of the priority list for efficacy in controlling and governing the assets.
     
  • Creation: Through workflow and collaboration tools,  can help with the creation of assets. If you have multiple departments or have agencies working together to create digital assets, it can make the process of creation of assets faster and makes its easier to assess and approve them. It also ensures that everyone uses the same transparent process. Workflow management tools pre-defines stages and roles so that you can know the status of every asset and their requirements instantly.
     
  • Consumption: It depends on people and systems to determine how these assets are being used. Your Digital Asset Management should be able to provide a way for employees to search for and download assets on their own.


Understanding your Goals

Illustration showing the word goal written in capital letters and a man aiming an arrow on his bow at the target kept at a distance
  • It should simplify the production of digital assets.
  • It should improve the quality, consistency, and on-brand of assets being created especially in the enterprises with global digital marketing teams.
     
  • It should be able to allow the organisation to keep a record of all the assets without leaving a question mark on where to add them or their approval status.
     
  • It should alleviate manual requests that are being made by the marketing team to provide specific files to several people and groups like logos, product images, campaign assets, sales collateral etc.
     
  • It must master your brand consistency.
     
  • It should decrease the time taken to integrate assets into digital marketing campaigns and user experiences.

Understanding your Users

  • Develop a list of stakeholders, people in your organisation, and even outside of your organisation who will be interacting with Digital Asset Management.
     
  • Stakeholders include digital marketers, designers, sales, partners, IT etc.
     
  • Understand what their access and roles are with the Digital Asset Management.

Understanding your Requirements

A notepad with a tick mark overlaying over one of its sides
  • Get the feedback from each of your stakeholder groups. Know what are their most common challenges and build a list of requirements. Make sure to understand the use cases so that you can prioritise those requirements.
     
  • Digital Asset Management systems have the capability to fulfill the need of basic requirements of small teams to extremely intricate ones for sophisticated large teams. 

Keep a note of typical requirements of organisations utilising Digital Asset Management as mentioned in the tabular column below.

Requirement Description

Asset Approval

Processes required to create a new asset should be well managed

Asset Review

A collaborative asset review cycle for the people to add comments, markups, and feedback to asset proofs

Asset Access (Internal)

A portal for employees to search and download assets. Access control by region or department would be required

Asset Access (External)

A controlled asset access for the external users paving the way for secure sharing of assets with partners, contractors, agencies etc.

Branding guidelines

A self-serve access point to get the approved branding guidelines like product images, logos, color palettes etc.

Structured assets

Assets should be placed in the folders

Keywords/Tags

Assets should be assigned with keywords and tags

Customer fields

Custom metadata fields should be assigned to assets

Reports

There must be reporting and assessment on asset usage

Direct access for marketing system

There must be provision for utilising approved assets for creating web banners, blog posts, email marketing campaigns etc. directly from the Digital Asset Management

Understanding your Deployment Options

Deployment options for Digital Asset Management constitute on-premise, private cloud, and Software-as-as-Service (SaaS). To understand what works best for your business needs, let’s look at the merits and demerits of these deployment options.

On-Premise Private Cloud SaaS Merits
  • Flexibility in integration
     
  • Local performance
     
  • Great for heavy customisations
     
  • On-premise control of data
  • Low costs
     
  • Data in cloud
     
  • Accessibility
     
  • Lessens dependence on IT
     
  • Moderate customisations possible
     
  • Security/control
     
  • Somewhat scalable
     
  • Very basic resilience/failover
     
  • Quick implementation
  • Data in cloud 
     
  • Comparatively fast to implement
     
  • Low Cost
     
  • Low risks involved
     
  • Great multi-location performance
     
  • Resilience/failover
     
  • Scalable
     
  • Good integration scope
     
  • Automatic upgrades
     
  • Least requirement of IT dependency
Demerits
  • Huge risks involved
     
  • Not cost effective
     
  • Not scalable
     
  • Very limited accessibility
     
  • Responsible for upgrades and maintenance
     
  • Dependence on IT
     
  • Time-intensive during deployment
  • Dependency on web
     
  • Usually, web hosting requires third parties
     
  • Responsible for maintenance and upgrades
     
  • Data off-premise
  • Dependency on web
     
  • Very limited customisation
     
  • Data off-premise

Drupal modules for DAM Integration

Acquia DAM offers a centralised cloud repository to keep all creative assets systematised, tagged and searchable throughout the lifecycle of those assets. Its easy-to-use workflow and collaboration capability lets digital marketers and designers search, review, approve and publish assets faster

Administrative interface of Acquia DAM showing how it manages digital assets


It allows seamless integration with Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 for delivering a wonderful digital experience by incorporating captivating rich-media assets for centralised management.

Media: Acquia DAM, Drupal module, helps in the integration of Drupal with Acquia DAM. The integration helps Drupal content editors to browse the Acquia DAM repository using their own credentials via an entity browser plugin. They can search by keyword in order to find the right assets for the usage. WYSIWYG editor allows content authors to add assets easily. The assets marked for the usage are copied to Drupal and are stored as Media Entity references thereby rendering image styles.

Through a cron job, these assets are kept in sync between Drupal and Acquia DAM. Updates made to the assets are automatically reflected in Drupal.

This module provides a media entity provider for importing asset metadata into fields on your entities. Users can view the metadata directly in the entity browser without having to import the assets. It also provides a usage report of an asset within Drupal.

Another very useful digital asset management solution is Bynder which is a cloud-based platform for digital marketing teams to create, find, and use digital content.

Bynder integration Drupal module aids in the integration of Drupal with Bynder thereby providing seamless access to asset bank on your website. Users can import assets from and upload assets to Bynder. Image styles imported from Bynder can be displayed to match the derivatives created.

Bynder logo with the text 'Integrating Bynder DAM systems with Drupal 8' written beside it


A digital agency integrated Bynder with Drupal using modules like Entity Browser and Media Entity.

Media entity module made it possible to represent Bynder assets in Drupal without actually copying them over. Its powerful metadata API helped in exposing and using all the information about them in the context of a Drupal website. It offered a central management of assets and their full availability on sites which consume them.

Entity browser module helped in implementing a user-friendly interface for letting the users browse their Bynder assets from the editor’s node of their Drupal site.

DropzoneJS driven widget helped in uploading the right assets into the Bynder DAM directly from the Drupal site.

Case study

Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel aka Sardar Patel was India’s first Deputy Prime Minister and played a pivotal role in India’s freedom movement. The Sardar Patel website, built on Drupal 8, showcasing information about him gathered from numerous libraries.

The digital assets of more than 2000 content records related to the man events in the life of Sardar Patel can be viewed in the Sardar Patel website.

homepage of sardar patel website with his image on the right


Objectives

The main goal behind building a dedicated site was to access books, texts, videos, audios, and similar content about him in multiple languages. By gathering and standardising the available digital assets, everything about him would be present in an easily searchable form. This would, thus, help in preserving the history of India’s influential freedom struggle through digital content for the generations to come.

Drupal 8 to the rescue

  • The scalability of Drupal 8 helped in migrating 2000+ content from several different sources under a single umbrella.
  • It also lent a mobile-first user experience.
  • Drupal’s out-of-the-box capabilities for building a multilingual site helped in translating the content into multiple languages.
  • Moreover, being the most security focussed CMS, it turned out to be the best choice for the website.

Result

  • 1 TB of data comprising of 1000 images, 800 textual content, numerous audio and video recordings were added as content in addition to keeping the site navigation simple and easy. Most importantly, importing of content in bulk was possible with Drupal 8 thereby streamlining the content migration process and saving a lot of time.
  • For easy access, the website content was sorted and arranged by the main events or themes in addition to the chronological order of events that transpired in his life.
Thematic Collections section of the Sardar Patel website showing different stories of Sardar Patel on the basis on different themes.
  • The site has easy search capability with filter options enabled to zero in on a particular subject.
Search option feature of Sardar Patel website with filters enabled

What the Future holds for DAM?

Mobile applications would be at the epicentre of Digital Asset Management in the coming years. Native applications offer a seamless user experience both online and offline. Connected directly to your asset bank, they provide a mobile marketing portal and interactive features that help in creating, handling, and using the digital content on the fly. No matter what is the location of the user and whether or not they are near their laptop or desktop, they can always work with assets.

Bar graph showing number of mobile phone users worldwide from 2015 to 2020 in billionsNumber of mobile phone users worldwide from 2015 to 2020 (in billions) from Statista

Artificial Intelligence technology is becoming more mainstream, affordable and accessible. Digital Asset Management can leverage the benefits of AI for automating processes and centralising tasks. Also, features like facial, location, and image recognition variables; geospatial technology, and deterministic reasoning capabilities will be the key to utilising AI.

Parabolic graph representation showing hype cycle of emerging technologies in 2017Machine learning, as shown in this graph, would require 2 to 5 years for mainstream adoption from Gartner

Machine learning algorithms can be of great use for Digital Asset Management in the future. It can recommend assets for a particular channel or task within a campaign based on analytical data. This would help you in promptly selecting the best asset swiftly without wasting the time thinking over which video, image or banner will best serve your digital marketing pursuits.

Conclusion

With the rapid expansion of businesses, digital assets like images, videos and company documents are piling up to an unimaginable extent. It is imperative that a proper governance is incorporated to handle these increasing digitised assets. Drupal 8 can be a wonderful option to integrate Digital Asset Management to manage your organisation’s increasing online presence and its ever-growing digital assets.

Drupal development is our key service where we are excelling since our birth as a company. Ping us at [email protected] to instill the best asset management solution for your enterprise using Drupal 8.

Jun 22 2018
Jun 22

Reading a fantasy book, envisaging yourself living in an imaginary world, and identifying yourself with your favourite character - such is the feeling of reading a book full of imaginations which stays with you for a long long time. We all try to visualize something far from the reality and technological advancement has made it possible to not only imagine things but to actually see them right in front of our eyes. Augmented reality is the futuristic tech marvel that can be integrated with Drupal to build a tech genius.

A graphic showing a pair of shoes, free weights, water bottle, and smart watch are placed over a smart phone

So, what is Augmented Reality (AR)? Gartner defines AR as the real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements integrated with real-world objects. It is this “real world” element that differentiates AR from virtual reality. AR integrates and adds value to the user’s interaction with the real world, versus a simulation.

The evolution of AR is staggering and interesting at the same time.

How did Augmented Reality come into being?

The user of one of today’s visual displays can easily make solid objects transparent - he can “see through matter!”
- Ivan Sutherland 

Today informational overlays layered on top of the physical world is the talk of the town. Back in the 1960s, 1965 to be precise, Ivan Sutherland talked about immersive displays in an essay and created the first-ever head mounted display in 1968.

timeline of Augmented reality from 1965 to 2018Timeline of Augmented Reality 

Krueger demonstrated collaborative interactive overlays of graphical annotations in 1978. Fast forward to 1990s, we would witness plenty of research works and prototypes. In 1992, terminology called Augmented Reality was for the first time seen in a research at Boeing. Subsequent discoveries like KARMA in ‘93, first medical AR application in ‘94, Studierstube in ‘96, The Touring Machine in ‘97, and ARToolKit in ‘99 paved the way for many complex innovations post the millennium.

The launch of Pokémon Go had almost 45 million users at its peak in 2016. More recently, in 2018, Google displayed AR street view mode to help you in the real time in addition to personalized recommendations to discover new places around you.

A smartphone showing Google Map's augmented reality featureA smartphone showing Google Map's augmented reality feature

Today, AR developers have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to software platforms dedicated to AR. But these inventions had a lot to offer in terms of guidance and model.

Types of Augmented Reality

AR did come a long way to go for commercial use. There are different classifications within AR.

  • Marker-based AR: It is also known as image recognition AR is the easiest to implement. It used a trigger object to display content. Google Goggles, Popcode, and ScanLife are some of the examples.
     
  • Markerless AR: It is more versatile than the market-based AR. In place of trigger object, it uses cameras, GPS and accelerometer information to track the user location and offer them relevant content. Examples of markerless AR include ARIS and Layar.
     
  • Projection-based AR: It projects digital images directly onto a surface within the user’s surrounding. Disney theme park has employed projector camera toolbox that builds 3D objects to enhance theme park experience.
     
  • Outlining AR: It uses image recognition to outline shapes and boundaries. It can be used to help drivers see the edges of the highway in dim light for safe driving.
     
  • Superimposition-based AR:  It uses object recognition to replace an object within the user’s surrounding either partially or fully with a digital image. For instance, a surgeon can use such technology for adding digital x-rays over a part of a patient’s body during a surgery.

Applications of Augmented Reality

Whether it’s transportation or sports, AR has a lot to offer for different industries. Let’s see all of them.

Retail industry can reap the benefits of AR to a great effect. IKEA has an AR application called IKEA Place which allows customers to preview thousands of virtual furniture in the actual room within their home.

Infographics showing statistics on augmented reality in the retail sector with an image of cash notes inside itSource: Entrepreneur

Transportation sector can also explore AR to simplify their work. Aero Glass have created AR headsets that can display airports, navigation points, terrain features etc. for the pilots.

AR can be a big boon for the sports industry. Stubhub developed a feature on their mobile application that would allow ticket buyers of the Super Bowl to see a virtual 3D model of the stadium and the surrounding area.

It has immense potential in the education sector as well. An application like AR Flashcards Animal Alphabet can help children in learning alphabets easily by bringing flashcards to life.

Healthcare industry promises to be one of the most important areas for AR to be explored with a vast potential. AccuVein uses AR technology to help nurses find veins more easily while inserting IVs.

Infographics showing statistics on augmented reality in healthcare sector with two images of cash notes and one image of a man being diagnosedSource: Hackernoon

Marketing sector can’t be far behind. In 2014, by installing outward facing cameras in a London bus shelter and projected UFOs, robots, balloons, and tigers, Pepsi took the promotional campaign to a whole new level.

Working Principle of Augmented Reality

AR is great on so many levels for a multitude of industries. How does augmented reality work?

Sensors can be found on the outside of the AR devices that gather data regarding user’s real-world interactions and process them.

Cameras, also located on the outside of the AR device, scan the surrounding area and uses this information to determine the appropriate output.

Projection based AR works through miniature projector which is found in an outward-facing AR device. They can turn any surface or object into an immersive environment. The data collected by the cameras is projected onto the surface through projection-based AR devices.

AR devices are like mini-supercomputers that require a great deal of computer processing power. They use many of the same components that the smartphones do which includes CPU, GPU, flash memory, RAM, Bluetooth/Wifi microchip, GPS microchip, etc.

AR devices can also use mirrors for reflection to help in viewing the way our eyes view the virtual image. While some AR devices may use an array of small curved mirrors, other AR devices can use a double-sided mirror with one surface that reflects incoming light to the camera which is side-mounted and the other surface would reflect this light to the user’s eye.

Drupal and Augmented Reality Use Cases

A Drupal agency built a chatbot prototype which assisted customers to select recipes based on the health constraints and their preferences. Interactive experience with the chatbot could make their life easier and forbade them from intensively researching for their grocery shopping. To improve it further, they tried to integrate AR in Drupal.

[embedded content]

The demonstration shown in this video displayed a shopper interacting with the AR application. The mobile application of Freshland Market (a fictional grocery store), built on Drupal 8, guided the shopper through her shopping list.

It also assisted her to make better decisions while shopping through AR overlays. It superimposes relevant details like price, product ratings, and recommendations over the shopping items detected by the smartphone camera. The mobile application personalised the shopper’s experience by displaying the products that were best for her dietary restrictions and her preferences.

Flowchart showing the working of Freshland market AR mobile applicationSource: Drupal.org

Drupal’s web services support and JSON API module helped in serving content to the mobile application. The Drupal 8 site of Freshland Market stored all the product related information including price, dietary constraints, and reviews and ratings. If Drupal content for one of the products is edited to show the item as being on sale, it automatically reflected in the content superimposed through the mobile application. In addition to this, the location of the product was also stored on the site to guide the shopper to the product’s location in the store.

The application was developed using AR library, Vuforia, which identifies pre-configured targets like images of product labels. For instance, in the demonstration, it identifies tomato sauce and cereal labels. Each of these targets was given a unique ID to query the Freshland Market’s Drupal 8 site thereby finding the content related to those targets.

Another use case is the Lift HoloDeck prototype which was built using commercially available technologies like Drupal(content store), Acquia Lift(a personalised engine), Vuforia(AR library) and Unity(3D game engine).

[embedded content]

Lift HoloDeck team built a mobile application that superimposes product information and smart notifications over real-life objects that are detected on the smartphone’s screen. It could change the way customers interact with brands and improve the customer experience.

Let’s say a user informs about his purchases to a coffee shop through this mobile application. When he enters the shop, he would show his phone screen displaying “deal of the day”. The application superimposes dietary information, directions on how to order, and product information on top of the beverage. By going through the nutritional facts, he would order his preferred choice and would receive notification that his order was ready to be picked up. 

Future of Augmented Reality

Graphical representation showing the hype cycle of emerging technologies in 2017Source: Gartner

What is the future of augmented reality? Gartner Hype cycle discovery in 2017 suggests that it will take another 5 to 10 years for the mainstream adoption of AR.

Bar graph showing the market size of augmented reality and virtual reality worldwide in billion US Dollars from 2016 to 2022Forecast AR & VR market size worldwide from 2016 to 2022 (in billion US dollars) Source: Statista

The graphical representation, mentioned above, clearly states that AR is going to be a force to reckon with in the coming years. The market share of AR is going to witness a dramatic transformation in the coming years.

 

Infographics showing statistics on future of augmented reality in different industries with an image of bar graph inside it.Source: Hackernoon

By 2025, the biggest industries for AR, as shown in the graph above, will be the gaming and the healthcare industries followed by the engineering, real estate, and retail sectors.

Conclusion

The world is changing. And it is changing at an unimaginable pace. Technologies like augmented reality were once a part of our huge list of fantasies. Many of your fantasies can come true with this awesome piece of disrupting technology. With Drupal as a content store, designing an AR-driven web and mobile applications can be highly rewarding for your organization.

Talk to Drupal experts, ping us at [email protected] to get the best of Drupal and augmented reality for your future businesses.

Jun 08 2018
Jun 08

Content is the fulcrum of any enterprise that gives them the tensile strength to build a robust online presence. Having the right approach towards delivering astounding content involves plenty of effectual content strategies in place. Drupal 8 is your one-stop destination for building an efficacious content strategy with its out-of-the-box capabilities.

An illustration showing a crown placed on a palm with premium content in itSource: Getty Images

According to a research by LinkedIn, 72 percent of the digital marketers have a content strategy in place of which 30 percent are the documented and the rest non-documented.

Before we look at the ways of forming a blueprint for content distribution, let’s see what are the various models of disseminating content.

Content dissemination

Every organisation has a different need for content distribution plan and requires different kind of content dissemination. An organisation may have a primary global site that contains the most of the content. This might have to be distributed to different secondary sites if it is a large organisation with a global presence. Even some external sites might be receiving the content from the primary site. It is also possible that these secondary sites would be sharing the content with each other through a peer-to-peer network.

Primarily, organisations adopt either of the top content distribution models namely, centralized and decentralized models.

Centralization

This involves a primary site that acts as the main activity hub when it comes to content production. Large enterprises would have the dire need of such a website which would pass on the content to its global sites or product sites. Thus, this helps in maintaining the brand consistency during cross-channel marketing campaigns.

A flowchart showing the centralized content flowSource: Acquia

It is possible that one of the secondary sites may have a relevant information on the subject. Primary site may need to import important information from its sub-sites so that it can then distribute it to the other secondary sites. In any case, in the centralized model of content dissemination, content is propagated through a primary site to the global sites.

For instance, the website of United Nations is powered by Drupal. It has a global presence with member nations from across the globe. To meet their needs, it has dedicated country sites that comprises of unique digital marketing teams. So, if a new agreement has been signed on by influential nations on combating climate change, a digital marketer can push the information out to the secondary sites via a primary site thereby publishing the content to both primary site and its secondary sites spread across the nations.

Another very good example is the Planet Drupal, which displays the aggregated list of feeds about Drupal posted around the globe. Drupal.org, Groups.Drupal.org and several other sub-sites may find several absorbing contents fit into its topical sections. Planet Drupal provides the platform to share interesting, relevant and highly useful Drupal-related informative blogs.

Decentralization

It is not always the case where a primary site would be distributing content to additional sites. What if there is no such main site to propagate the information to the secondary sites? Independently run sites can share content with each other through a peer-to-peer model of content dissemination.

Flowchart showing decentralized model of content flowSource: Acquia

For instance, an organisation from media and publishing industry can have several regional sites. So, in a country like India, with a diverse and multi-linguistic culture, a digital media might have independently run regional sites. If a regional site in Chennai, a metropolitan city in India, is running a cover story of the citywide celebration of a festival, their national television channel can reuse that coverage of festival to be posted on its site.

It is doubly important to choose the right model of content distribution for your organisation’s needs and its success. It is also significant to have the best content strategies in place in addition to the continuous flow of wonderful content.

Constructing effectual content strategies

Infographic showing the state of content strategy, describing the percentage of businesses with a content strategySource: Contently

A question on Quora reads, “How do I develop content strategy?”. It involves identification of roles and workflow to find out who does what, formulation of standard guidelines to be followed by content producers, repurposing available content on your site, and using the best tools and technology available.

Infographic showing the importance of documented content strategy with percentages and piecharts.Source: Contently

Hammer out the finer details of your objectives

Before you commence with the proceedings involving content production, you need to be smart and have the right set of goals and plans for the creation of superabundance of content.

  • Being succinct: Make sure that what you plan is precise, specific and succinct.
  • Relevancy: Your objectives should be relevant to your business. So, if you are a Drupal agency, in addition to Drupal related content, you can explore many other technologies that can work together with Drupal.
  • Being realistic: Setting goals that are attainable would serve you the purpose better. If your Drupal agency has been churning out 30 blogs per month, setting 100 blogs per month would be too drastic.
  • Trackable: Your objectives should be measurable. So, if you want to boost your social media presence, formulate a goal that focuses on increasing it by X percentage so that you can measure your achievement rate.
  • Time constraints: You should have a goal that is time-bound. You should be able to adhere to the timeline set for the particular task.

Define your target audience

A proper persona research would help immensely to build content that is ideal for your users. For the creation of optimal content, you should know who your customers and prospects are, what are their interests and concerns, and what sort of content do they want to consume.

Graphic describing what buyer persona is and why it is important.Source: Online Marketing Institute

Start off by developing the persona research for existing user base. Pen down user profiles like their name, job role, industry information and demographic details. Once you do so, try to gauge what information are they searching for, their needs and challenges.

Assess your content

Performing a content audit would help you in re-organising your existing content. Always review your existing content to see what can be repurposed or reused.

Instead of spending a lot of your time in creating or recreating something, content assessment can help in identifying gaps in the existing ones.

Choose the right Content Management System

Selecting the best CMS to power your website can pay dividends. Drupal 8 should be your goto CMS when it comes to choosing the best content-friendly framework.

Infographics showing the features of a CMSSource: Bluehost

Its amazing themes offer the best UX to the content editors. A plethora of custom and contributed modules assist in customization of your site as per your needs and help hugely in content publication. It can of great use for content analytics. For instance, Real-time SEO for Drupal recommends automatic alterations that can boost the SEO of the content that is going to be published.

Prepare a super list of topic buckets

Brainstorming on content ideas can be effectively done through tools like Buzzsumo, Feedly, Semrush and many more. Once done, start preparing a topic cluster to construct a super list of relevant content based on the parameters like search volume and long tail keywords.

Rummage through the content types

A plenitude of content types can be derived, after the super list has been prepared, to work upon. Determining the sort of content you should be using would depend on different stages of buying cycle of the prospects.

  • Brand awareness: The prospects would rummage through your products and services, understand your brand value and try to gauge whether they have the need for your product.
  • Identification of problem: Prospect might figure out the problems and start researching about the possible solutions thereby coming across your products.
  • Comparing available options: Prospect can compile the list of vendors and validates these options.
  • Decision-making: After the comparison of different options, the prospect can start deciding which one to choose from.

Once the different stages of buying cycle are figured out, it is time for mapping what sort of content type would suit best for each of the stages. An illustration below shows the types of content that can be identified with different stages.

Flowchart showing different stages of buying cycleSource: Hubspot

Drupal can be of great use to build these content formats. Let’s see some of them.

Posting blogs: Posting blogs on your website on a regular basis is of utmost importance. Blog posts should provide valuable information to your readers ranging from long form to short form blog types. Drupal provides options for posting different types of content on your website. Whether it is business-centric article or an interview of a CEO from a renowned company, Drupal has the provision for posting different sorts of content.

Administrator view of opensenselabs.com with drop down menu of content.

Developing infographics: Another great way of producing content is the infographics that provide graphical information to convey an information clearly and quickly. Drupal offers a lot of modules that can help in embedding images with infographics in your blog posts. For instance, colorbox, a Drupal module, can help in displaying an image by overlaying it above the current page.Graphic describing the importance of infographics with a laptop and thumb on the left side.

Embedding videos:  A research by Hubspot, as can be seen in the stats below, shows that video is increasingly becoming the most influential and preferred medium of content. Drupal has plenty of modules that can be used for producing videos and embedding them in the blog posts. For instance, CKeditor Media embed module can help in embedding videos, images, tweets that are hosted by other services.Statistics showing percentage of different forms of content that people want to consume in future

Creating Podcasts: Edison research, in one of their studies, reports that 57 million people listen to podcasts every month.  If you have interesting presentations, want to share the latest information on your products and services, or have some amazing conversation with industry leaders, podcasts are the way to go. Drupal 8 module, RSS SimplePodcast, lets you create simple podcast RSS.

Content Governance

Governing the publishing of content is one of the foremost things that content editors need to take care. Having the provision for publishing the content should be hassle-free. You should not only be able to publish your blogs posts but also be able to schedule it as per your organisation’s workflow and your convenience. Scheduler, Drupal 8 module, helps in publishing or unpublishing a content at a particular date and time.

Content editors should also have to administer the publishing of content other than their own sites. Creating original content for an online content portal like Medium would be really helpful in spreading the content to bigger and relevant audience. Also, publishing the content on social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn etc. can help in targeting more eyeballs.

Conquering challenges

Strategizing the content flow can be rewarding but it does have its fair share of hurdles.

  • Construction of right content for the audience can be hassling.
  • Churning out the right amount of content can be tricky.
  • Looking up for a specific content from the wealth of content on website can be strenuous.
Pie chart on the challenges faced with different content marketing strategiesSource: Hubspot

Drupal 8: Ultimate choice for content strategy

It is of paramount importance that you choose the right CMS for your business when it comes to producing a great content efficaciously. Drupal offers the belligerent support needed for content-heavy websites.

APIs as a core feature

Business enterprises can choose Drupal as the central content repository getting the best out of its rich content structuring, content creation, and administration provisions. Drupal provides the best way to curate, build, and publish content through APIs as its core feature. It makes multi-channel content distribution much easier.

Web personalization

Drupal has the means for enabling web personalization that helps in understanding the interests of the users, tailoring the website to accommodate their profile and, offer them the best content that is relevant to them.

infographic on importance of web personalisationSource: WhiskData

Acquia Lift Connector, Drupal module, helps in the unification of content and the insight collected from several sources about the customers for delivering in-context and personalized experiences across multiple platforms.

Intelligent content tool module, supported by Opensense Labs, helps in auto-tagging, text summarization and finding content duplication.

Multilingual capabilities

Drupal 8 has out-of-the-box multilingual capabilities that help in building websites in more than 90 languages. With in-built modules for language handling, interface translation, configuration management, content translation, Drupal 8 can of great help in building multilingual sites easily. This helps in tailoring user experiences by translating the content in their own language.

Mobile-first approach

Drupal 8 is responsive out-of-the-box. That means the mobile-first approach is a core part of the Drupal framework. It comes with a plethora of fully responsive themes that enables it to work efficiently across platforms. Your content would look exactly the way you want on computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Content strategy project for Drupal.org

Drupal.org Content Working Group met for a two-day workshop in 2014 to get the team from Forum One, content strategists and user experience designers, to build a content strategy for the official Drupal website.

Why is content strategy formulation needed?

Drupal.org is the hub of Drupal and its community. It is the main source of code, Drupal-related information and collaboration among the community members. From project managers to web developers, everyone contributes towards its development and betterment. Organisations from a wide array of industries like governments, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies have been using Drupal for their business needs.

What were the objectives of this initiative?

One of the first things that they wanted to improve was the quality and the relevancy of the content available on the Drupal.org website. They also planned to reframe it around all the user roles and proficiencies to address all the audiences. Moreover, their objective was to develop a content governance for the site and improve user engagement within the Drupal community.

What were the steps taken to improve content strategy?

Content Working Group and Documentation Working Group of Drupal identified some gaps and put forth some fixes as part of their content strategy for the site.

  • With over a dozen content types, more than a million pieces of content, much more taxonomy terms and views that represent displays of data, thousands of forum topics, projects (including modules, themes and distributions) and issues associated with these projects, Drupal.org had a lot of content.
  • They took steps to break down these content types into more meaningful content types. For instance, a book page content type can be anything ranging from documentation to resource guides. Thus, this had to be broken down into relevant content types so that the new users can find information more easily.
  • Moreover, a dearth of marketing materials was noticed. They pledged to create content to promote Drupal 8 among the likes of CIOs, CTOs, managers, and business decision-makers.
  • A content audit was needed to be performed regularly. They zeroed in on what sort of content could be archived, what can be removed, and what can be updated. Content mapping was done as well to figure what content they have on the site and what sort of content would they need that would assist in building better information architecture for the new users.
  • They analysed and tested the user experience for creating and maintaining the content on the site.

Tools and technology for content strategy

Understanding the significance of formulating a master plan for producing content on your website can have dramatic metamorphosis for your business. Now, that we have understood the importance, we need to look for the right technology stack that can help out attain our goals.

Integration of CMS and DAM

Content Management System (CMS) like Drupal is primarily designed to build, publish and handle the content on your website. A Digital Asset Management (DAM), in contrast, is highly useful for governing the digital rights and the storage of media content like photos and videos. Integrating DAM capabilities into the CMS can be a big boost for your content endeavours. For instance, integration of Drupal with Acquia DAM, a cloud-based DAM, cam improve brand consistency with the usage of rich media content.

Project management

Usage of project management tools like JIRA, Workbench or InMotionNow can help in imbibing an agile approach to your content workflow, incorporate editorial calendar for effective content management and also help in the proper planning of content production.

Content analysis

Integrating business intelligence and analytics tools like Tableau and Google Analytics would help in compiling reports on your content marketing efforts and assist in the assessment and measurement of your website content.

Future of content strategy

With an enormous presence of disrupting technologies promising to streamline the way existing technologies manage our workflow, curating and distributing content on your website can benefit from some of the future technological advancements.

Virtual reality

A Statista report states that by the year of 2022, the market size of virtual reality would amount to 209.2 billion US dollars. Virtual reality can be a great option to produce immersive content for your content marketing campaigns. For instance, IKEA introduced their customers a way of virtually exploring the living room rather than just looking at their products at the store.

A fictional site of Massachusetts State University was built on Drupal 8 that would help students to take a virtual tour of the University from their website.

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Artificial intelligence

To make your content production more predictive, personalised and relevant, AI can be of great help. For instance, Amazon Rekognition helps in integrating photo and video analysis in your application and lets you identify which influencers are generating more user engagement vis-à-vis various product categories.

Native advertising

You might have noticed some form of paid advertisement while reading e-newspaper where the content seems similar to the native content of the platform. Native advertising can play a big role in the content marketing tactics in the future. Almost 60 percent of US digital display ad spending would be done through native advertising.

Live streaming

Another form of content dissemination is the live streaming which will grow immensely in the coming years. It is more like a real-life conversation where audience can pose questions and get responses in real-time thereby increasing user engagement. Viewers spend 8 times longer on a live streaming video content than the on-demand videos.

Conclusion

Creating cornucopia of content is a great deal of work. Producing content smartly by devising right strategy to disseminate content across channels is the way to go. Drupal has been pioneering in the effective distribution of content and can be a great option to embed your website with the best of content.

Ping us at [email protected] to implement the best content strategies for your Drupal site.

May 31 2018
May 31

You might have listened to the new album of your favourite band on a music application. Or, you would have streamed a critically acclaimed movie on a video streaming platform. In both cases, you will notice suggestions curated especially for you based on your choice of music and movies. Personalized content is the way to go for providing the better user experience. Drupal has provisions for building personalization features into your site to tailor the content as per the interests of the user thereby enhancing user engagement.

personalizationSource: Getty Images

Proper analysis of web personalization criteria and strategies should prove vital for the digital firms. According to a research from Econsultancy, 94 percent of the in-house marketers agree that web personalization is really significant for the current as well as the future growth of their business.

What is web personalization anyway?

comparison a website before and after web personalizationSource: Marketo
Web personalization implies that on the basis of attributes like profile, behaviour and the location of the internet users, you should create dynamic and personalized content to provide them with the relevant website experience.

It refers to understanding the interests of the users, tailoring the website to accommodate their profile and, offer them the best content that is relevant to them.

Due to intricacies and traffic volume of some websites, digital marketers may find web personalisation as convoluted and may think that it will occupy a lot of their time. And they may also think that it is for large enterprises who have enormous presence globally, have a huge team, and can sustain increasing budget. But, with right tools and strategies, it can be incorporated into every website no matter what sort of business they do thereby making the website efficacious and skyrocketing the return on investment.

How is web personalization meritorious?

Experian marketing services statistics

Digital marketers constantly work on personalizing the way they interact with the customers and attain their objectives through customer satisfaction and retention. There are various ways you can reap the merits of web personalization.

  • Strengthens customer’s loyalty to your brand: You can use it to firm the grip on how the customer thinks about you and your brand. A research from Invespcro stated that 45 percent of the online users are more likely to shop on a website that shows personalized suggestions. You can compile the data collected from a user’s interaction with your website and curate messages for your cross-channel marketing. Hence, it helps in developing a brand value and customer loyalty.
  • Enhances lead generation: A Hubspot research found that personalized calls-to-actions (CTA) can assist in generating leads. CTAs that were targeted for specific users had 42 percent higher view-to-submission rate than the ones that were same for every user.
  • Offers insight into online visitor’s preferences: You can get a deep insight into who your online users are, what they prefer and, lead to higher conversion rate. You can then channelise your messages based on what certain user might want to know.statistics on shopping interests
  • Shores up sales and revenue: Through loyalty programs, it can help in accentuating your sales. It is not just restricted to offering discounts and merchandises to the customers but promotes more user engagement. For instance, you can send alert to the customers when a product is back in stock or encourage them for future purchases by sending them notifications when a brand new product is launched. A report by Mckinsey and Company states that acquisition costs get reduced by almost 50 percent and business revenue increases by 5-15 percent.
  • Increases conversion rate: Web personalization can help track demographics and the behavioural patterns and convert an anonymous user into a potential customer.Statistics on conversion rates
  • Improves user engagement: Engagement and acquisition are two of the important terms that digital marketers adhere to. Personalizing the website lets you cultivate user engagement through steps like cross-sell, upsell and, customer loyalty. The E-Tailing Group says that increasing the personalisation to multiple channels can increase the customer spending by 500 percent.
  • Disseminates targeted ads: It helps in broadcasting targeted cross-channel promotional campaigns. Through the compilation of user preferences and the advertisements which they click on, your website can spread targeted messages to enhance user engagement. Constellation Research says that lack of content relevancy would lead to 83 percent lower response rates than the average promotional campaigns.

Web personalization with Drupal

Drupal 8 provides the perfect foundation for incorporation of technologies to enable personalization from marketing automation to web analytics. Drupal 8’s web services initiative has streamlined the process of sharing meaningful information with external systems. There is no circumscription on which marketing tools you apply as the Drupal managed content can be turned into standardized data sharing formats.

DrupalCon New Orleans 2016 threw light on how Drupal can be effectively implemented in your Drupal site to increase the user engagement.

This DrupalCon session talked about how Drupal module Acquia Lift can delineate unprecedented insight into what customers want and don’t want to serve them personalized content. With such a system incorporated into the site, digital marketers get more control over automation, testing and measurement of marketing activities.

Acquia Lift module helps in the unification of content and the insight collected from several sources about the customers for delivering in-context and personalized experiences across multiple platforms. It has functionalities like drag-and-drop user interface for targeting messages, syndicating content, behavioural targeting, A/B testing, unifying customer profile, and combining anonymous and known online visitor profiles.

Let’s see how can we strategize the integration of web personalization into the Drupal site.

How to implement web personalization?

1. Understand the classifications of web personalization

  • Feedbacks: Implicit and explicit feedback can be used to send personalized messages to the target segments. A data is said to be implicit when an inference is taken from user interactions with the website. Assessment of their page visits, response to CTAs, behavioural patterns with menu navigation etc. gives you an implicit data about user behaviour. When you use Google analytics data to know the geolocation, browser or the device of the user. Or, when you ask a user to fill out a form, it comes under explicit data.
  • Data sources: You can gain an insight into user behaviour from first-party data sources like user interactions with the website, email marketing, and marketing automation. Second-party data sources include the first party information that is known to a different entity. You can get this information out from trusted partners who are ready to enclose the data with some kind of agreement. Third-party data sources are the external data providers who can come handy in extracting user profiles.
  • Identity: Attributes like IP address, location, device, and browser of a user are automatically detected non-personal identification traits. A user’s age, gender, interests belong to personal identification traits.
  • Online visitor profile: User’s interaction with the website like the onsite searches, date and time of site visits, response to online forms etc. helps in building their user profile.

2. Creation of a content plan

  • Segmentation of audience: It is very much evident that personalizing your website lets you target your messages accordingly. Having content that requires being sent to different sort of audience calls for segmenting the audience type. You might be having a lot of whitepapers, case studies, ebooks, etc. on your website that can be useful for B2B marketing. Or, you might be having a lot of advertisements promoting slashed rates of popular products that are helpful for consumer marketing. So, sending the right content to the right audience is of paramount importance.
  • Efficacy in mapping out content: Once you have decided the segment of the audience that you are targeting, it is important to figure how to effectively map out content. For instance, in B2B marketing, you can consider building on metrics like awareness, interest, evaluation and commitment through infographics, case studies, live demos, and advanced solutions respectively. And in consumer marketing, you can build on metrics like awareness, interest, and decision through product highlights, videos, and special offers respectively.
content mapping exampleSource: Marketocontent mapping exampleSource: Marketo
  • Betterments with the existing content: Smart calculation of dissemination of the content is very essential. Creation of cornucopia of content won’t solve your trials and tribulations. Personalized advertorial campaigns may require you to develop new content but it is also imperative to improvise the content that is already existing on the site. Repurpose the content according to the segmentation of audiences. Revisit the titles and the CTAs to make it appropriate as per the segments. Add the industry-specific research studies that resonate with your content. Convert your large reports into short ebooks, infographics etc.
  • Choosing the right place on your website: You can customize your homepage based on the region from where the user is accessing your website. Sometimes, an internal page with product details might be having higher SEO rankings than the homepage. So, it is fruitful to personalize that page with some live demos that is relevant to them.Stats on types of personalized content

3. Testing the web personalization efforts

  • A/B testing: In other words, it is also known as split testing. This process refers to the comparison of more than two versions of promotional campaigns or advertorial messages through cross-channel marketing to understand which method is working and which isn’t.
  • Importance of A/B testing: Not only it helps in enhancing the engagement of online users and efficacy of promotional campaigns but also improves digital marketers’ awareness and expertise when it comes to understanding user preferences.

4. Measuring the success rate

Sca;e representing stages of personalization successSource: Marketo

You would notice the early signs of success through the increase in time on site, amount of content consumed and the return visitors. Thereafter, contact quality gets better. Finally, you see improvement in return on investment.

Stats on measuring web personalizationSource: Marketo

Case study

Drupal has a proven track record in the healthcare industries. “What does it mean for content to be “personalized”?”. Humana, which finds a place in the list of Fortune 500 healthcare company, personalized their Drupal microsite for one of their customers with the help a digital agency to deliver relevant content.

The objective was to send out targeted content to the users and find their interests. Humana wanted to personalize their website based on the data including demographics and click path of the users. They pushed their existing online users to a personal wellness analysis that provided them with the insight into their behavioural patterns and their interests.

Website of Humana's micrositeSource: Acquia

When the users clicked on this personal wellness registration forms, Humana got their demographic details. Users could also manually edit the settings through some sliders. This enabled them to see the type of content that they wanted to see on the website. Thus, it paved the way for mapping users with similar demographics and preferences.

Website of Humana's micrositeSource: Acquia

They could disseminate the content by constructing different segments like health, finance, etc. For instance, in the health segment, they could categorise on the basis of attributes like demographics (gender and age) and site activity (users who mostly clicked on the content related to health factors).

Conclusion

Content strategies that prophesize the one-size-fits-for-everyone would make your site banal, trite and shorn of any fanfare. Digital strategies have come a full circle and have clung on to web personalization tactics to provide relevant and meaningful content to the users. Drupal 8 provides a magnificent platform for personalizing the website. With right strategies and plans in place, you can build a bonhomie between the online users and your website.

Ping us at [email protected] to personalize your site and build a colossal online presence.

May 17 2018
May 17

A black spot on a white sheet of paper can be found with a quick glance. What if you have to search for a black dot with certain radius among the cluster of dots on a large sheet of white paper. Such is the need of the hour where you have to intelligently search for a piece of information from a cornucopia of data in your system. Cognitive search is revolutionizing the process of retrieving the files.

There is a diminishing trend of manually searching for a document stored somewhere in your system. Large enterprises are the ones who are showing their dire inclination towards this disrupting technology.

Before we move on to how large organizations are looking to extract the merits of cognitive search, let’s understand what it is.

What is Cognitive Search anyway?

Graph showing evolution of cognitive searchSource: Forrester

Forrester, research and advisory firm, defined cognitive search and knowledge discovery as “the new generation of enterprise search solutions that employ Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to ingest, understand, organize, and query digital content from multiple data sources”.

That is the best definition one can give to describe a cognitive information system. In short, it can extract the most relevant piece of information from large sets of data in their work context.

Platforms enabled with cognitive computing abilities can interact with the users in a natural manner. With experience, they can learn user preferences and behavioral patterns. This helps them establish links between related data from both internal and external sources.

How Beneficial is Cognitive Search?

So now we have an understanding of what it is and how it works. How can it turn out to be a great asset?

Tapping into large sets of data sources

  • To fetch the best piece of data out of voluminous sources of data can seem tiring. Cognitive search can work wonders in extracting the most valuable piece of information from large sets of intricate and varied data sources.
  • Whether it is internal or external, it peeks inside everything that is available in your entire enterprise. It also touches searches through structured and unstructured data and lends deep and insightful search capabilities to your organization. This helps in making better decisions in the business.

Providing relevant knowledge

  • It comes packed with a lot of functionalities that leads us to find meaningful and relevant information. Doing a search across the enterprise data may seem daunting, but it does that with ease. 
  • Using NLP, it can gauge and get to know the scheme of things vis-à-vis text content like email, blog, report, research work, and document and also media content like meeting videos and its audio recordings.
  • Once it is done with the understanding part, machine learning algorithms help it do deeper research and come up with insightful information. Company dictionaries and ontologies help with understanding the terminologies and their relationships.

Enhancing search results

Machine learning algorithms help in providing better search results.

  • To help digital marketers predict if the advertisements designed by them is going to work or not, a supervised learning algorithm called Classification By Example can help. For instance, it can help them judge how people reacted to particular ad campaigns in the past to help them come up with something better this time around.
  • Marketers can ascertain a particular group of people and target them for their upcoming marketing campaigns. Clustering, an unsupervised learning algorithm, helps them in the process.
  • To understand the relationship between input and output variables and do the prediction, regression algorithm comes handy. For instance, it can be used to build applications that determine the road traffic based on the present weather situations. Also, based on various economic factors, it can help predict stock prices.
  • Similarity algorithm can help you appoint an expert team for a business project based on their skills and competency levels in the previous projects.
  • Personalized recommendation based on the interests of the users can be done using Recommendation algorithm. Based on the previous history and usage patterns, it can recommend content which a user would most likely want to consume.

How did Cognitive Search come into existence?

It is a valid question. One would ponder whether this was developed in a short span of time or did it involve some amazing technologies behind the scenes. It was, of course, a very long roadmap which had to be traveled to reach this tech marvel.

By now, you have already noticed that, as the definition mentions it, machine learning and artificial intelligence are the frontrunners in leading up to this masterpiece.

Almost all the search methods that exist today are some way or the other related to Google. Leverage Marketing came up with an interesting study. When Google first created a search engine in 1996, there were already several others in place. But Google’s search was different. While other search engines delivered search results only if they could find an exact keyword in the search box, Google had a different algorithm.

Google gave a value to certain keywords. So, keyword frequency determined the search results which led to irrelevancy in terms of content that it showed on top. So, in the 2000s, Google devised several improved search techniques. It, finally, incorporated machine learning into their search engine in 2015. That means Google would not just read what you have written in the search box but interpret what we really mean when we type that.

By developing its cognitive learning search method, Google’s search algorithm could understand keywords and provide rankings, past search results, browser history, user location and other such parameters. This was their major leaning towards artificial intelligence.

This is how Google standardized the internal search. Office network developers contemplated developing search methods for their business needs. Their pursuit of search method development was based on Google cognitive search and machine learning techniques. That is how cognitive search came into existence and did a splendid job in improving the search experience.

Challenges that lie ahead...

Three-pronged approaches to look at the challenges that it might encounter and how to tackle them:

  • Expertise: Shortage of personnel required to develop and maintain this budding technology can be one of the main challenges that have to be overcome.
  • AI implementation:
    • Supervised machine learning helps in recognizing user patterns over time. Providing sufficient labeled training datasets from which these systems can learn is a huge challenge.
    • Unsupervised machine learning identifies existing user patterns. Systems with this capability face a major hurdle. Sufficient data with intervention for proper guidance and interpretation to train the system is a challenge.
  • Goal formulation: There has to be clear goals and outcomes formulated. For instance, in reinforcement learning, systems perform several attempts and learn from the outcome of the trials to take better decisions. The biggest task is to provide clear-cut goals and enough practice to the systems in a challenging environment.

How can Cognitive Search improve Enterprise search?

Large enterprises are having this question as this will make life easier. We have seen that relevancy, meaningfulness, and completeness are required to get the better search results. But they should also have the enterprise qualities.

  • Understanding data: It should understand any data that an enterprise would fling at it. It should browse through the plenitude of data sources, understand both structured and unstructured data to come up with better enterprise search results.
  • Scalability: It should be able to scale with the ever-increasing density of enterprise data. Large enterprises have hundreds and thousands of applications with several bytes of data stored in the cloud or on-premises. Cognitive search solutions should deliver better quality search results.
  • Manual fine-tuning: It uses natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to understand data, do the prediction of user’s search patterns, improve the relevance of search results and automatically tune them over a period of time. Cognitive search solutions should provide tools for administrators to manually tune search results. After all, AI is not perfect.
  • Building search applications: It should help developers to develop search applications. Instead of incorporating simple text box search methods, business enterprises should be able to build an application that works like virtual digital assistants such as Google Now and Siri.

Use Cases

Sinequa, which provides cognitive search and analytics platform for over 2000 organizations, has a great cognitive computing solution. As a matter of fact, it is recognized as the leader in the Gartner 2017 Magic Quadrant for Insight Engines and the Forrester Wave™: Cognitive Search and Knowledge Discovery Solutions Q2 2017.

Sinequa partnered with content platform firm Box to enhance cross-platform enterprise search and analytics.

  • The Partnership between Sinequa and Box helped in leveraging the aggregation of human-generated data in an enterprise, exploring information, and apply them in a business decision makings. This integration not only lets customers mine their Box content but also allows to search across other organizations’ repositories. This increases the value of the information searched by linking them with related content across different sources which was previously affected by standalone silos.
  • Sinequa offers more than 150 connectors to its various data sources. And with this partnership, the relevancy of search results for the enterprise data corpus has only got improved. Individuals can do the enterprise search across platforms for contextually relevant search results across platforms from a single interface. Hence this shows that their partnership has promoted the enterprise cloud-first philosophy that is becoming the norm of the industries.
  • From the angle of information management, the partnership is significant with both the companies having a huge presence among the large enterprise clients. Box provides the user-friendly cloud file sharing and sync functionalities. It decided to embed enterprise governance features for the content by building tools for reports, access controls, workflow, securities policies etc. Partnering Sinequa further strengthened the voluminous knowledge base content of Box by allowing it to maintain control settings on data while the content is being searched and assessed on Sinequa.
  • Native security and permissions settings of connected repositories are preserved to a great extent with this integration. Users can search the Box environment without bothering the native control settings on the respective platforms where the information is located. That means Sinequa search interface allows users to endlessly search for the content and the granular security and permissions settings of the Box remain intact.
  • 360-degree view of the customer is attained through this partnership. Sinequa’s natural language processing and machine capabilities, powered by Apache Spark, and its more than 150 connectors to content sources let it form compound results of the enterprise search for detailed understanding by humans. If a user is searching for a specific subject in Box, he or she can view most contextually relevant results from email, Salesforce, on-premise file shares and other such sources. This mitigates the time and efforts required to find the right actionable insight. Thus, this improves yields from certain initiatives like gaining a 360-degree view of the customer.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), multinational enterprise information technology company, has its own cognitive computing solution. Delivering natural language based systems to meet the ever-increasing needs of users, providing answers that are precise, relevant and trustworthy is important. HPE IDOL Natural Language Question Answering is one such solution that comes with natural language processing enables features for large enterprises.

  • Accurate response: IDOL Answer Bank feature helps in providing accurate and curate responses to the predefined reference questions. For instance, It can be programmed to give you instructions on configuring a smartphone.
  • Fact-based answers: IDOL Fact Bank feature helps in providing answers based on proper facts. For instance, it can give the stock price details through structured data sources. Or it can provide company's annual report through unstructured data sources.
  • Text-based overview: IDOL Passage Extract feature helps in giving you an overview. For instance, you can see the latest financial services and their rules and regulations or the news events.
  • Assessment questions and data sources: IDOL Answer Server feature assesses the questions and various content sources to provide the best possible answer.

Cognitive Search solution providers

Forrester research showing cognitive search solution providersSource: Forrester

Forrester, in their research study for Cognitive Search and Knowledge Discovery Solutions, compiled a list of high performing vendor solutions.

  • HPE IDOL: This solution is built to analyze everything that is searched using it.  With HPE’s intentions apparently not restricted to unstructured text, its cognitive computing platform also does a deep analysis of speech, images, and video. It includes capabilities like gauging a question and optimally answering that can help developers in developing chatbots or virtual conversational assistants.
  • Coveo: Its major focus lies in contextual and relevant search results. It uses advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to return the most contextual results for the queries made by the user. It has also integrated with Salesforce using its cloud-based model.
  • Sinequa: It gave importance to natural language processing for the better understanding of search queries and relevance of content discovery. Moreover, incorporating Apache spark, its analytics platform has got a further boost.
  • Attivio: It is suitable for most complex search applications. It offers knowledge management, anti-money laundering, customer 360, and other such features. Developers can use the structured query language to search the index.
  • IBM: It has leveraged the utilities of Watson Explorer by incorporating it in IBM’s Watson Developer Cloud. Watson explorer can be deployed in the cloud or on-premises. It is very helpful for customer 360 search applications, enterprise search, and claims processing.
  • Lucidworks: Their solution called Fusion has fantastic enterprise search features, 40 prebuilt connectors to applications like Salesforce and Slack, better administration tool, and out-of-the-box machine learning algorithms to come up with better knowledge discovery.

Summary

Cognitive search has emerged as the default standard for enterprise search. By analyzing a search query, using its AI capabilities, to give most relevant and contextual output, it has led to a volte-face in the thinking of large enterprises.

Using internal and external content sources to provide the most relevant knowledge and enhance search results, it has been a huge helping aid in the smart cross-platform search.

Google’s search engine integrated it in their algorithms to understand user’s behavioral patterns and show results. This is how cognitive search came into existence in the enterprise world.

It has to break through the straitjackets of few challenges to come out as an improved technology in the coming years.

With a deep understanding of data, scalability with challenges and manual tuning by administrators etc. it can improve enterprise search.

Leaders in cognitive search solution providers like Sinequa, HPE, Attivio among others have amazing platforms where customers can reap the benefits.

Opensense Labs love this tech genius. Contact us at [email protected] to understand more about this remarkable piece of technology.

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