Aug 17 2018
Aug 17

It's a robust, flexible and admin feature-packed CMS, there's no point in denying it. And yet: Drupal (still) lacks a modern UI that would make building rich web content —  such as landing pages — a breeze. But there is hope: the Gutenberg editor has been ported over, promising a better editing experience in Drupal 8.

The team behind this daring project? Frontkom, a Norwegian digital services agency that:
 

  • refused to just sit and wait (for a year or two) for the in-progress initiative of modernizing Drupal's admin UI to grow into a core solution
  • decided to capitalize on their experience in working with the Gutenberg page builder 
  • … and on this content editor's open source nature, too
  • … to bring it over to Drupal 8
     

Now, if you're determined to improve the editorial UX on your Drupal site, to “spoil” your editors with a modern, intuitive and flexible admin UI, keep on reading...
 

1. The Drupal Gutenberg Project: Aiming for a Modern Admin UI in Drupal 8

And by “modern” I do mean the opposite of the Panels & Paragraphs & Layout combo solutions currently available for editing text in Drupal.

Solutions which only manage to make the entire workflow... discouragingly complex.

Especially if it's rich web content that editors need to create via the Drupal admin UI.

And this is precisely the context where the Drupal Gutenberg project was born: Drupal desperately needed/needs a modern, JavaScript-based admin UI.

With WordPress 5 users already enjoying this fancy content editor and the Frontkom team's having gained experience in using it, the idea of porting it to Drupal started to form:

"Why wouldn't we make it possible for Drupal users, too, to benefit from this content editor?" 

And here are some of the original Gutenberg project's features that lead them into thinking that, once ported, the editor would significantly improve the editing experience in Drupal 8:
 

  • it's (highly) decoupled
  • it's open source
  • it's React.js-based 
  • it provides a simplified, smooth and cool functionality-packed admin UI
  • it's Medium and Squarespace's inspired
  • it turns the creation of complex landing pages into a breeze
     

Page editing in Drupal 8 wasn't going to be the same again!

Their initiative turned into a Drupal 8 module —  Gutenberg Editor —  currently still an experimental one. 

Curious enough?

The first step to satisfy your curiosity is to take a look at their live demo: an interactive glimpse into the Gutenberg text editor implemented in Drupal 8.
 

2. The New Gutenberg for Drupal: Top Features Improving the Editing Experience in Drupal 8
 

2.1. All the Page Elements Are... Content Blocks

That's right, the team behind this project capitalized on the “everything is a block” Drupal 8 concept when adapting the Gutenberg UI to Drupal.

The result?

Both the Drupal core blocks and 20+ Gutenberg blocks are available in the resulting admin UI.

Basically, a Drupal 8 editor can insert into the web page that he/she's creating any of the core Drupal blocks and of the Gutenberg blocks of choice.

Speaking of which, let me point out just a few:
 

  • Heading
  • Image gallery
  • Auto embedded social posts
  • Buttons
  • Custom Drupal blocks
  • Layout blocks
     

Needless to add that you're free to enrich this list with your own custom blocks, too.
 

2.2. Easy Switch from Visual to Code Editor

That's right, the Gutenberg UI enables you/your editors to quickly switch to code editor —  opening up a neat markup —  and to apply any needed tweaks on the output.
 

2.3. Positioning Content Is Straightforwardly Intuitive

Editors get to select precisely where they want to position different types of content on a page.

And the very same results that they generate while in the Gutenberg admin UI get instantly reflected on the live web page, as well.

And there's more! More great admin features improving editing experience in Drupal. For instance:

Full control over font sizes and colors; tweaking them becomes a breeze with the new editor.
 

2.4. There's a Blocks Search Box

And not only that:
 

  1. using this search box you can track down precisely those content blocks that you need to add to your page
  2. but you can access them inline, as well, using “/”.
     

2.5. Full Control of the Layout

Another great thing about the content blocks available in the Gutenberg UI is that: they can have child block, too!

This way, it'll get unexpectedly easy for your editors to split their used blocks into columns on a grid.
 

2.6. Auto Embedded Social Posts/Videos

And all it takes is pasting their URL.
 

The Story of a Real Challenge: Making Gutenberg CMS-Agnostic

Open source, but not fully CMS-agnostic... 

The team behind the Drupal Gutenberg project had to come up with a suitable solution for this challenge. And they did come up with a multi-step solution to make the fancy text editor work in Drupal 8, as well:
 

  • first, they created a fork and removed the WordPress specific features
  • they used the Gutenberg editor as a dependency at first
  • next, they set up a standalone NPM package
  • then they built the Gutenberg Editor module
     

In short: a fork of the initial Gutenberg project is still maintained while being used as a dependency of the new Drupal 8 module. Therefore, each time Gutenberg gets an updated, the corresponding Drupal module, too, gets a new release.

Now, digging deeper into the project's architectural design, we discover 2 elements that the team had to re-write for Drupal:
 

  1. the URL defining the editor routes (edit page route, new page route, preview page route)
  2. the api-request, now configured to “talk to” Drupal (instead of the WordPress API)
     

How does the new module work?
 

  • as a text editor, which can be easily enabled for each content type
  • all it takes is a long text field for it to work: it replaces the node edit UI for that specific content type
     

Note: the Frontkom team also “promises” us to re-use as many Drupal-specific styling for the editor's UI elements in order to add a familiar Drupal feeling to it.
 

What Next? What's The Project Roadmap

Ok, so what we know for sure now, regarding this ambitious initiative turned into a Drupal module is that:
 

  1. the Drupal Gutenberg module is downloadable, yet still experimental (for developer use only)
  2. the team's still working on the project, implementing new features and functionalities aimed at making it feel more... Drupal native
  3. the final version will be presented to the eager/intrigued/curious/skeptical Drupal users and developers in the coming months
     

The END! Can't hide that I'm more than curious what you think about this contrib solution for improving the editing experience in Drupal 8:
 

  1. Are you looking forward to using it, hoping that this editor would make up for the inconveniences of working with Drupal's current admin UI?
  2. Are you skeptical about the perspective of being tied up to a WordPress page builder?
Jul 04 2018
Jul 04

I'm a woman of my word, as you can see: here I am now, as promised in my previous post on the most effective ways to secure a Drupal website, ready to run a “magnifying glass” over the best Drupal security modules. To pinpoint their main characteristics and most powerful features and thus to reveal why they've made it to this list.

And why you should put them at the top of your own Drupal security checklist.

So, shall we dig in?
 

It's only but predictable that since the login page/form is the entry to your Drupal site, it is also the most vulnerable page there, as well.

Therefore, secure it!

In this respect, what this module enables site admins to do is :

  • define a certain number of login attempts; too many invalid authentication attempts will automatically block that account
  • block/limit access for specific IPs
     

Moreover, you get notified by email or via Nagios notifications when someone is just username/password guessing or using other kinds of brute force techniques to log into your Drupal site.

In short: the Login Security module, through its variety of options that it “spoils” you with, empowers you to set up a custom login policy on your site. To define your own restrictions and exceptions.

As already mentioned here, on this blog, when we've tackled the topic of Drupal security:

Keeping your Drupal core updated is that easily underrated, yet most powerful security measure that you could implement!

Now what this module here does is assisting you in keeping your Drupal codebase up to date: safely patched and having all the crucial upgrades.

And I don't need to remind you the security risk(s) that all those site owners ignoring the latest patches to Drupal core expose their websites to, right? 
 

Captcha is one of the best Drupal security modules since it's one of the most used ones.

And no wonder: could you imagine submission forms on your website with no Captcha? The age-old system is one of the handiest ways to keep spammers and spambots away.

So, having this module “plugged in”, providing you with the needed captcha support, becomes wisely convenient.
 

The module enables you, as your Drupal site's admin, to define specific rules for “wannabe users” to follow when they set up their account passwords.

From constraints related to:
 

  • special symbols that those passwords should include, to ramp up both the given account's and your own site's security
  • to uppercase letters
  • to numbers...
     

… once you plug in this Drupal security module in, it's you who gets to set up the policy for creating account passwords.
 

5. Security Review, One of the Best Drupal Security Modules

The Security Review module is that “Swiss knife” that you need for hardening your site's shield.

Meaning that it's an all-in-one tool. One that comes with its own Drupal security checklist that it regularly goes through and sets against your website, detecting any missing or improperly implemented security measures.

Moreover, it automates a whole series of tests for tracking down any signs of exploits and brute-force attacks:
 

  • arbitrary PHP execution
  • XSS exploits
  • SQL injection
  • suspicious PHP or JavaScript activity in content nodes
     

Once it identifies the vulnerabilities, it “alerts” you and gives you the best recommendations for mitigating those security risks. All you need to do is follow the suggestions.
 

Another module that “empowers” you to take full control over the security strategy on your Drupal site. To set up specific options for minimizing the chances of exploitable “cracks” showing up in its security shield:

For instance, it could recommend you to set up HTTP headers on your Drupal site.
 

Here's another one of those best Drupal security modules that's also one of the widely used ones.

Why is it a must-have on your own Drupal site? Because it enables you to set a limit to the number of simultaneous sessions per user, per role.

This way, you trim down the chances of suspicious activity being carried out on your site and eventually leading to brute-force attacks.
 

Another module that's a must on your Drupal site:

It basically enables you, the site admin, to define a policy that would log out users after a specified time period of inactivity. 
 

LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook are just some of the big names that have adopted this user authentication method for security reasons. So, why shouldn't you, too?

Especially when you have a dedicated module at hand, Two Factor Authentication, to:
 

  • provide you with various methods to select from: pre-generated codes, time-based one-time PINS or passwords, codes sent via SMS etc.
  • give you full freedom in defining that two-factor authentication strategy that suits your site best
     

The principle is as simple for the user, as it is effective for your website, from a security standpoint:

The user gets a security code that he/she'll then need to use for logging into your Drupal site.
 

A command-line tool, with IDE support, that gives your codebase a deep scan and detects any drift from the coding standards and best practices.

Why has it made it to this exclusive list of 15 best Drupal security modules? Cause vulnerabilities might be lurking right in your Drupal code, not necessarily in your users' weak passwords or unpatched core modules.

Having a tool at hand that would identify and notify you of all those weak links in your code, where the best practices aren't being followed, is just... convenience at its best.
 

Another key module to add to your Drupal security checklist. 

For you do agree that email addresses are some of hackers' easiest ways to infiltrate into your website, don't you? 

Now what this module here does is obfuscate email addresses so that spambots can't collect them.

Note: a key strength of SpamSpan is that it uses JavaScript for this process, which enhances accessibility.
 

12. ACL      

“A set of APIs” This is how we could define this module here, which doesn't come with its own UI.

Its key role? To enable other Drupal modules on your website to set up a list of users that would get selective access to specific nodes on your site.
 

Why is Paranoia one of the best Drupal security modules?

Because it will end your “paranoia” — as its name suggests — that an ill-intentioned user might evaluate arbitrary code on your site.

The module practically identifies all those vulnerable areas where a potential attacker could exploit your site's code and blocks them.
 

Limiting or blocking access to key content types on your site is no more than a common-sense security measure to take, don't you agree?

Therefore, this module here's designed to assist you throughout this process:
 

  • as you define detailed permissions on your site: to view/edit/ delete specific content types
  • … by user role and by author 
     

Word of caution: do keep in mind that, since Content Access uses Drupal's node API, you shouldn't enable other modules using the same endpoints on your website!
 

A module that ramps up not just your site's security, but also its accessibility.

Just think about it:

Nowadays anyone has at least one Google account. Therefore, “anyone” can easily log into your website using his/her own Google account credentials.

Once, of course, you will have installed and turned this Drupal module on.

END of list! These are the 15 best Drupal security modules worth installing on your site. 

Scan them through, weigh their key features, set them against your site's specific security needs and make your selection!

Jul 02 2018
Jul 02

Save the date(s): 10-12 August! And join us for a 3-day conference on building with Drupal, driving this open-source technology forward and strengthening & growing the community behind it: Drupal North Regional Summit 2018

You'll find us in our booth at the Toronto Reference Library's exhibit hall, to be more specific, since this year OPTASY's a proud gold sponsor of the fourth edition of this event: 

The biggest annual summit in Canada focused on promoting Drupal. 
 

Why Would You Attend Drupal North Regional Summit 2018?

That's right: why would you pack your bags and get en route for Toronto's Reference Library when summer is at its peak and everyone's looking for a place in the sun?

For a bunch of strong reasons, actually:
 

  • first of all, if you're already living in Canada, why would you want to miss the biggest annual event in North America promoting Drupal?
  • no less than 300+ individuals and organizations will be attending it
  • if you're a Drupal developer, this is a once-in-a-year opportunity to grow and to... outgrow yourself; the event's schedule is “overcrowded” with sessions covering a variety of Drupal-related topics, with “can't miss” keynote sessions and networking opportunities
  • … grow your profile by sharing your knowledge and expertise all while enriching it as you learn from other Drupalists attending the event
  • as a Drupal-powered organization, Drupal North Regional Summit 2018 is a great chance to recruit new talent (and this is the event's key “mandate”: to showcase Canadian Drupal talent), to make connections with other Drupal-fueled businesses...
     

Whether you're:
 

  1. in the government, nonprofit, education, business field
  2. a freelancing Drupal enthusiast looking to keep his/her knowledge up to date

… don't miss the largest summit in Canada promoting Drupal!
 

It'll be a win-win-win type of situation:
 

  • you (the Drupal developer) get to keep your knowledge up to date
  • you (the organization) get to dig through a pool of Drupal talent and also to network with other key decision-makers from some of the most notorious companies in Canada running their businesses on Drupal
  • and it's a winning situation for Drupal itself: all the individuals and companies attending the summit will help to extend its reach to more people and more businesses 
     

OPTASY Proudly Supports Drupal and the Drupal North Regional Summit 2018

Why? What's in it for us? Why are we so proud to be one of the gold sponsors of this Drupal summit in Canada?

Because we like to practice what we preach:

To give back to the (Drupal) community, what the community gave to us for free. And along these +15 years years since we've been developing in Drupal there's been plenty of work done by all those developers contributing to Drupal and moving this open-source technology forward that we leveraged in our own projects. It's only but common sense to give something back now and to contribute ourselves, too.

And sponsoring Drupal events is one way that we can do that.

But there are other reasons, too, why we decided to support the Drupal North Regional Summit 2018 as a gold sponsor. All of them deriving from the above-presented reasoning:
 

  • the 3-day conference makes the perfect “lab” where brilliant solutions to well-known issues in Drupal get identified and shared with the community, new Drupal modules get put into the spotlight, new ways of innovating this technology get presented
  • in other words: investing in this Drupal summit we invest in us, as a team and as a company, and implicitly in our own clients, as well
  • ... all the knowledge and “steamy-fresh information” that we get from this conference will then be put to use when working on our clients' future projects
  • it's also a great place to network with existing and potentially new Drupal-using companies
  • and an opportunity for us to “expose” the key advantages that set OPTASY apart as a Drupal agency: +15 years hands-on experience, proven Drupal expertise, pure passion for what we do, a strong work ethic and stellar communication skills confirmed by our clients
     

So, are you curious about Drupal's main strengths as a technology of the future? Interested to discover what precisely helps it stand out?

Are you looking for a Drupal partner with both the proven experience and the proper “weakness” for innovation to turn your ideas into digital reality? Stop by our booth then, in August, and let's talk Drupal, growth opportunities and everything in between!

Jun 28 2018
Jun 28

You have patched your Drupal website, haven't you? If so, then that critical 3-month-old security flaw, Drupalgeddon2, can't get exploited on your site. Even so, with the menace of a cryptocurrency mining attack still lurking around the unpatched websites, you legitimately ask yourself: what are some quick and easy ways to secure Drupal?

“Which are the most basic steps to take and the simplest best practices to adopt to harden my Drupal site's security myself?”

Now, using keywords such as “security measures”, “quick”, “easy” and “handy”, I've come up with a list of 7 basic steps that any Drupal site owner can (and should) take for locking down his/her website.

Here they are, in no particular order:
 

1. Keep Your Drupal Core and Modules Updated 

Not only is this one of the simplest ways to secure Drupal, but one of the most effective ones, as well.

Even so more now, with the Drupalgeddon2 Drupal security threat still fresh in our memory, ignoring the regularly released security updates for both Drupal core and its modules is just plain recklessness or... self-sabotage.

Keep your Drupal version updated: apply security patches as soon as they get released, avoiding to leave your site exposed and exploitable. As simple as that!

And where do you add that this is one of those Drupal security best practices that's the easiest to integrate into your routine. Since to run the latest updates you only need to:
 

  • sign in to your Admin panel
  • go to “Manage” 
  • scroll down to “Reports” → “Available Reports”
  • click on “Check manually”
  • if there are any critical security updates that you're advised to run, just click “Update”
     

This is all it takes for you to:

  1. seal any security loopholes in your Drupal core
  2. prevent any identified vulnerability from growing into a conveniently easy to access backdoor for hackers to get in
     

2. Install Drupal Security Modules 

Strengthening the shield around your Drupal site with some powerful Drupal security modules is another both handy and effective measure that you, yourself, can easily implement.

Luckily, you're definitely not out of options when it comes to good security modules in Drupal.

And I'm only going to run a short module inventory here, since I'm already preparing a blog post focused precisely on this topic. Therefore, I promise to delve deep into details about each one of the here-listed modules in my next post:
 

Downloading, installing security modules on your Drupal site is both:
 

  • quick and simple to do
  • highly effective 
     

And they serve a wide range of purposes, from:
 

  • enforcing strong password policies
  • to monitoring DNS changes
  • to locking down your site from security threats
  • to blocking malicious networks
  • to turning on a firewall on your site
     

As for their selection, it depends greatly on your list of priorities when it comes to improving your site's security. Take some time to weigh and to compare their features.
 

3. Remove Unused Modules: One of the Easiest Ways to Secure Drupal 

Being the “easiest” security measure to implement doesn't make it also “the most popular” among Drupal site owners.

Owners who more often than not:
 

  • underrate the importance of running a regular module usage audit on their sites
  • ignore the Drupal security threat that an outdated piece of code (or an unused module) could turn itself into, once exploited by an attacker
     

So, don't be one of those site owners! Are there modules on your site that you no longer use? 

That have grown outdated and that are just... lingering there, using your site's resources and risking to grow into an exploitable backdoor for hackers?

Identify them and remove them! It won't take more than just a few priceless minutes of your time.
 

4. Enforce a Strong Password Policy

Since it's not just the admin (you do have a smart username and password for logging into your admin dashboard, don't you?) that will log into your Drupal site, but users, too, implementing some strong user-side security measures is a must.

In this respect, creating a strong password policy — one that would enforce the creation of complex, “hard-nut-to-crack” type of login credentials — is one the best and the easiest ways to secure Drupal on the user's side.

Come up with a policy that defines specific requirements for setting up passwords of high enough entropy (letters, uppercase/lowercase, symbols, different characters combos).

And don't hesitate to rely on dedicated Drupal modules for enforcing those requirements defined in your policy:
 

5. Block Access to All Your Sensitive Files

I bet you don't want important folders, core files — upgrade.php., install.php, authorize.php, cron.php —  to be easily accessible to just... anyone, right?

So, how about limiting or blocking access to them?

And you can easily do that by configuring your .htaccess file —  it's the one containing details of crucial importance regarding your website access and credentials to specific parts and core files on your site:

Just specify the IP addresses allowed to access those core folders, files and subdomains.

Here's one “enlightening” example:

<FilesMatch "(authorize|cron|install|upgrade)\.php">
Order deny, allow
deny from all
Allow from 127.0.0.1
</FilesMatch>


Note!

Now speaking of limiting access, don't limit your restrictions to your core folders and files. Remember to restrict/block access to your web server, to your server login details, as well.

How? By adding a basic layer of authentication limiting server access and file access usage.

Also, do remember to cautiously manage access to certain port numbers that your site/app might be using.
 

6. Back Up, Back Up, then... Back Up Some More 

You can't anticipate brute-force attacks, but you sure can “land back on your feet” if the worst scenario ever happens.

And you can only do that if you have a clean and recent backup at hand to just rollback and restore your website.

In other words: back up regularly! 

And remember to always back up your files and MySQL database before any update that you run on your Drupal code and modules. It is one of those common sense Drupal security best practices that should be included in any basic security checklist!

Where do you add that you even have a dedicated Drupal module —  Backup and Migrate — to assist you with this process.

Some of the back up “burdens” that this module will take off your shoulders are:
 

  • backing up/restoring code and multiple MySQL databases
  • integrating Drush 
  • backing up files directory
  • setting up several backup schedules
  • AES encryption for backups


7. Review All User Roles and Grant the Minimum Permissions Necessary

How many user roles are there assigned on your Drupal site?

If you don't quite know the answer, then it's obvious:

You must give your entire user role system an audit!

And to stick to this habit, one of the simplest ways to secure Drupal, after all.

Review all the user roles and, most of all, review each one's set of permissions and make sure you trim them down to the minimum necessary for each role. 

This way, you'll also limit access to critical files for those users that shouldn't have the permission to download or visualize them.

And speaking of permission, do keep in mind to review all your file permissions, as well!

See which user roles are granted permission to access key directories or to read, write or modify certain files on your website and block/restrict access where necessary.

The END! Of course, this isn't even close to a complete list of ways to secure Drupal. If it had been an exhaustive one, it would have continued with more Drupal security best practices, such as:
 

  • getting the SSL Certificate
  • securing HTTP headers
  • using secure connections only
     

Etc. etc. I've only focused on some of the easiest and quickest measures that anyone, with little, close to no technical know-how at all, can implement. And I feel like stressing out the term “practice” here:

Securing your Drupal site is a constant process; a series of persistent efforts and not a one time thing. Remain vigillant and cautious and don't rely on just a one-time, multifaceted security hardening “marathon”.
 

Jun 11 2018
Jun 11

There's no way around it, not anymore: with Google's index now mobile-first, adopting a mobile-first approach when building a new Drupal site (or redesigning a legacy one) is… a must! It no longer depends on a specific project's needs or on the used technology. The need to develop a mobile-first content strategy has gone from particular to universal.

And facing the challenge of:
 

  1. (re)creating
  2. optimizing
  3. structuring
     

… content on your Drupal website means conforming to those specific patterns that mobile users have developed for reading content on their smartphones.

In short: developing a fully responsive Drupal site comes down to centering your mobile content strategy around the idea that:

It's for the smallest screen sizes that you should plan your content for, first things first … then scale it up from there.

Now, let's see precisely what it takes to develop a mobile-first content strategy. What focus points and must-have components to include:
 

1. Take the Smallest Screen Size as the Starting Point

In other words: think mobile-first!

And by “mobile” I do mean “smartphones” — the smaller the screen size, the better. 

This way, you'll be adjusting your content so that it makes the most of the smallest interface. Starting “small” is the best way to stick to the “keep it simple” approach:

Thinking through every content-related decision in the light of the viewport size challenge will constrain you to keep the truly essential content elements only.

Hence, this “spartan” way of eliminating the unnecessary will reflect on your site's desktop design, as well: 

It will turn out cleaner and lighter.
 

2. Use Visual Content Wisely: Weigh Your Choices of Images 

The golden rule when it comes to the imagery that you'll use on your responsive website is:

If an image doesn't enhance and complement your content, then you're better off without it!

And I know what you must be thinking:

“But people remember what they see far more easily than what they read.”

True, you need to keep in mind that visuals do come at a cost, though:

Those stunning, visually-arresting images on your website risk to divert your users' attention from the message itself.

And still, probably the most heavy-weighing reason why you should use images wisely when you develop a mobile-first content strategy is: weigh.

Visuals risk to take up valuable screen space and thus:
 

  • outshine your calls to action themselves
  • impact your site's overall performance (leading to frustration)
     

Now that doesn't mean that you should strip your content off ALL the visuals! Absolutely not!

Just to be cautious and weigh your every choice, think through your every decision involving the usage of an image. 

Once you've selected the truly essential ones, keep in mind:
 

  1. not to no resize them (or optimize them in any other way) before uploading them to your CMS: let Drupal do the heavy-lifting here 
  2. to leverage the Responsive Image module's (Drupal 8) capabilities for resizing them to fit the given screen sizes
     

3. Content Before Design

This is the right sequence to follow when you're designing (or re-designing) your Drupal site with mobile users in mind:

First, you create and strategically organize your content and upload it to your Drupal 8 CMS. It's only then that you focus on styling and developing a responsive and visually-striking web design.

If it's legacy content that you're dealing with, trying to convert it to mobile, the very first step to take when you develop a mobile-first content strategy is:

Removing all the design elements from your written content.
 

4. Create a Hierarchy of Your Calls to Action

Making the most of a small interface means also setting your priorities in terms of calls to action:

Pair each one with a corresponding objective, evaluate them all wisely, then select THE call to action that's most critical for you and place it — and it alone — above the fold.
 

5. Organize and Optimize Your Content for Mobile Devices

I'll briefly list all the key requirements that mobile-friendly content should meet — aspects to pay attention to when writing content for mobile devices — for I'm sure they're nothing new to you:

  • the phrases should be kept short and concise, thus eliminating the burden of “never-ending-scrolling”
  • the content should be sharp, targeted and skimmable, so users can easily “digest” it and modular, so that users can swiftly browse through it
  • “modular” meaning made either of multiple clear paragraphs — each one standing for one thought — or chunks of 3 paragraphs at most 
     

6. Optimize Media, too, When You Develop a Mobile-First Content Strategy

And there are a couple of essential steps that you mustn't overlook when it comes to mobile-optimizing your media:
 

  • always go for thumbnails instead of video players that your users would have to load and thus strain on your site's valuable resources
  • don't ever use autoplay on your audio and video content 
  • optimize your sound, image and video files both for large and small devices
     

7. Trim Down Your Navigation Menu

In other words: when you develop a mobile-first content strategy, consider simplifying your navigation to its truly essential links.

No user would gladly scan through a “beefy” navigation menu taking his device's entire screen:
 

  • flatten your navigation: stay away from the technique of piling up submenus, layers and navigation points
  • feel free to place the links that you'll remove on other places on your website (or even to turn them into calls to action)
     

8. Convert Your Legacy Content to Mobile-Friendly Content 

If it's a legacy Drupal website that you need to restructure and to adapt to your mobile users' specific patterns for browsing through and consuming content on their smartphones, then it's time you:
 

  • dug into your static HTML
  • … and cleaned it up
     

And by “cleaning it up” I do mean:
 

  • removing inline media
  • removing the fixed-width tables
  • eliminating floats with content 
  • breaking it down into skimmable chunks of content
     

… that can be easily structured into content fields.

The END! These are the 8 main aspects to focus on when you develop a mobile-first content strategy. 

Now time to test the “saying” that:

“Creativity strives under constraints.”

… and to make the most of those small interfaces.

May 29 2018
May 29


Content is a way too valuable asset not to handle it with utmost care — from its creation to its revision, all the way to its... distribution. And with utmost efficiency, as well! But how do you choose the business software to “orchestrate” your entire content workflow? Since, on one hand, you have the top enterprise content management systems in 2018 and, on the other hand, you have... Drupal?

And the dilemma that you're facing right now could be summed up like this:

Choosing between a complex ECM system with a load of powerful tools that comes at a cost and a feature-rich one — already famed for its robustness and customization options — with no price tag on...

Now to ease your decision-making process, let's compare these enterprise information management solutions, the top rated ones, to Drupal, by weighing their feature loads and costs.
 

1. But What Is an Enterprise Content Management System More Precisely?

First, let's try to define what we mean by “content” in relation to a content management software:

Content is all the written pieces of information entering and “moving about” your organization. It comes in the form of:

  • internal process documents
  • content for your company website (or blog)
  • sales-focused content
  • targeted, custom content available to paying cutomers only
  • ... and the list goes on.

As you can see, I've intentionally left out graphical and audio-visual content. And this because it's only text-based digital content that a CMS would handle.

Now, coming back to our initial question:

An enterprise content management system is a software geared at managing all the processes in your content's lyfecycle: creation, revision, publication, distribution to multiple channels, promotion etc.

Packed with different sets of tools designed to automate all your content-based processes, an ECM system is a... “Swiss knife” type of business software.

The one you'd use to streamline your content workflow(s).
 

2. M-Files, One of the Top Enterprise Content Management Systems in 2018

Introducing the enterprise-leveled information management solution of the year: M-files!

The promise that it makes? 

To break the “siloed information” pattern and enable users to access specific content from any buiness system, any device.

… to easily access it, but also to organize it, to manage it, to identify particular information/documents, to set up custom workflows and even to manage document reviews. 
 

Top features
 

  • version control 
  • automated workflows
  • pre-built search engine: you get to track documents by type, name, keywords; it provides within-text search features as well 
  • notifications: users get alerted whenever they'll need to review or approve changes made to documents
  • approval processing 
  • permission management and offline access 
  • integration capabilities: it easily integrates with Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, SAP, Salesforce 
  • document collaboration tools: co-authoring features and check-in/check-out tools 
     

Price


Mi-files is one of those enterprise content management vendors that leverage the quote-based method for pricing their services.

Basically, there are no standard prices, as there are no standard packages that they offer, only tailored content management solutions.
 

Cons

The great majority of negative user feedbacks revolve around the M-Files mobile app's limited functionality.
 

Another one of the top enterprise content management systems in 2018 is OnBase:

An all-in-one software coming “equipped” with:

  • business process management tools
  • integrated document management tools
  • records management tools

And before I “expose” to you its most heavy-weighing features, I feel that I should put the spotlight on its versatility feature first:

You get to easily configure your OnBase ECM system to fit any environment of choice.
 

Top Features 
 

  • approval process control
  • indexing
  • version control
  • built-in search engine
  • document management
     

Cons

Do expect a steep learning curve! So, be prepared to invest a significant amount of time in growing comfortable with using it.

In learning to “juggle” with all its apps and functionalities.
 

Price

You'll need to contact the OnBase team for a custom pricing plan.
 

Box is a cloud content management platform built to assist you with:
 

  • online sharing your files
  • storing your files
  • integrating content across your entire “infrastructure” of digital tools via open APIs
  • collaborating within your team
     

Top Features 
 

  • granular access permission
  • easy integration with other platforms 
  • advanced security capabilities: device trust, watermarking, data governance
  • easy integration with other platforms
  • collaboration tools: a document management system that enhances collaboration among end-users on various file types and devices; tools which also enable them to choose the right storage place, to set up metadata-driven content workflows etc.
     

Cons

Even top enterprise content management systems manage to collect their own “pile” of “bad reviews”. What users reproach OnBase here, for instance, is its user-based pricing model. 

In other words, if you have +100 people in your company, expect to get charged separately for each email domain... and thus to overstretch your budget over time.
 

Price

Box pricing plans start from €4.50 per user/month (we're talking about a starter business plan here) and can go up to $500 per month or more if it's a “build with BOX platform” plan that you'll select.
 

And now that we've put the top-rated ECM systems in 2018 into the spotlight, let's see what Drupal here has to offer. How it can counterbalance all these heavy loads of tools, features, and functionalities.
 

Drupal's Key Features 
 

  • advanced integration capabilities: Drupal “spoils” its end-users with conveniently accessible API, backed by a rich collection of modules built precisely for 3rd party integrations
  • no maintenance effort required: since it runs in Acquia Enterprise cloud, Drupal gets automatically updated; maintenance is already included in the Enterprise support costs plan
  • feature richness: and we're talking here about features, plug-ins (thousands of them) and content management tools that you get right out of the box
  • modular architecture: which goes hand in hand with the unlimited freedom of customization that you'll get to leverage
  • high performance: Drupal's already famed for its robustness and capabilities to withstand high influxes of traffic
  • unmatched scalability
  • a full toolbox (contributed modules here included) put at editors' disposal: Drupal's also won its reputation as a CMS that's been constantly improved to enrich the experience; all the in-built content-handling tools speak best of its “empower the content creator/end-user” philosophy
     

Price
 

  • license costs: unlike the top enterprise content management systems previously outlined, Drupal's open source; there are no license costs, only support costs associated with the Acquia Enterprise Platform 
  • vendor lock-in: all modules and plug-ins that you might select and mix and match to custom-tune your CMS are free
  • development costs: Drupal resources are available to anyone who wants to build and then to custom tune and scale up its CMS
     

In conclusion...

… Drupal comes feature-packed and, moreover, it “spoils” you with unlimited freedom of customization. And all this without putting a price tag on.

On the other hand, some of the top enterprise content management systems do tempt you with their feature richness, but at a cost. One that can go up precisely if you feel like customizing your ECM solution or scaling it up sometime in the future. 

In short: you do get your share of customization freedom... but not for free.

So, it's not really an “apples vs oranges” type of dilemma that you're facing, but rather an:

Apples vs Apples with a price tag on

Apr 05 2018
Apr 05

Who are your visitors? Where do they come from? And what do they do precisely during their visits on your Drupal site? How long are their visits? What content on your site do they linger on and what content do they “stubbornly” ignore? Needless to say that for getting your answers to all these questions you need to set up Google Analytics on your website.

Since:

“This data--aka analytics--is the lifeblood of the digital marketer.” (Jeffrey Mcguire, Acquia, Inc. Evangelist)

The good news is that integrating it is nothing but a quick and simple 3-step process. And the great news is that:

Drupal's got you covered with its dedicated Google Analytics module, geared at simplifying the otherwise tedious and time-consuming process.

So, shall we dive into the installation guide?
 

1. But First: Why Web Analytics? And Why Precisely Google Analytics?

In an UX-dominated digital reality, that takes personalization to a whole new level, user behavior data turns into... superpower.

And by “user behavior data”, I do mean web analytics.

Therefore, injecting a web analytics service into your Drupal site is like... injecting true power into its “veins”.

But why precisely Google Analytics?

Why set up Google Analytics on your Drupal site instead of another web analytics tracking tool? Is its popularity a strong enough reason for you to jump on the trend?

To answer your question, I do think that its own key features make the best answers:
 

  • audience demographic reporting: discover where your site visitors come from, their native languages, the devices and operating systems they use for accessing your website...
  • goal tracking: monitor conversion rates, downloads, sales and pretty much all stats showing how close (or far) you are to reaching the goals that you've set for your website
  • acquisition reporting: identify your site's traffic sources; where do your visitors come from exactly?
  • on-site reporting: gain a deep insight into the way visitors engage with specific pieces of content on your website, so you know how to adjust the experience your deliver them on your site/app to their specific needs 
  • event-tracking: tap into this feature for measuring all activities carried out on your Drupal site
     

And the list of features could go on and on. Providing you with a high-level dashboard and enabling you to go as deep as you need to with your “data digging”.

For Google Analytics is only as powerful as you “allow” it to be. It empowers you to dig up both surface and “in-depth data”.

Moreover (or better said: “thanks to...”), being such a feature-rich tracking tool, Google Analytics's highly versatile, too. From email marketing to social media marketing, to any type of marketing campaign that you plan to launch, it's built to fit in just perfectly.

To power all forms of marketing strategies.

And where do you add that it's been a while now since we've been having Google Analytics for mobile apps and the Google Analytics 360 suite, too! 2 more powerful GA tools to add to your web analytics “tracking arsenal”.
 

2. The Drupal Google Analytics Module and How It Will Make Your Life (So Much) Easier

Let me try a lucky guess: 

Your Drupal site has... X pages (have I guessed it?)

The “standard” way to add Google Analytics to your Drupal site would involve:

Copying the tracking ID that Google Analytics provides you with and pasting it on each and every page on your website.

A hair-pulling monotonous and time-consuming process, don't you think?

And it starts to look even more cumbersome if you think that you have the alternative to set up Google Analytics on your Drupal site using the dedicated module.

But how does it streamline... everything more exactly? 

You'll just need to paste that Google Analytics javascript snippet for tracking data right to this module's Configuration page and... that's it!

The module will take it from there! It will distribute it itself to all the pages on your website.

Less effort, less time wasted for carrying out in a tedious and repetitive activity. And more time left for customizing all those statistics features to perfectly suit your goals and your site's needs.

How to Set Up Google Analytics on Your Drupal Site: The Google Analytics Drupal Module

Luckily enough, the Drupal Google Analytics module puts an admin-friendly UI at your disposal precisely for that:
 

  • use it to track down key data 
  • use it for tailoring your web analytics-tracking activity to your needs: by user role, by pages etc.
     

3. Set Up Google Analytics on Your Drupal Site In Just 3 Simple Steps 

As promised, here's a “dead-simple 3-step guide on how to add Google Analytics to your Drupal site (“leveraging the power of the dedicated Drupal module here included”)
 

Step 1

The very first thing you'll need to do is sign up for a Google Analytics account if you don't have one already. And then to add your Drupal site (obviously!).

And here are the quick steps to take:
 

  1. go to www.google.com/analytics
  2. hit “sign in” (you'll find it in the top right corner) and select “Google Analytics” from the unfolding drop-down menu
  3. click “Sign Up” and just follow the given steps for setting up your new account
  4. next, follow the instructions for setting up web tracking
     

Now you should be able to see your Drupal site displayed under your account, on your admin page in Google Analytics.

And it's now that you should be able to retrieve your site's “Tracking ID”, as well. You'll find it in the “Property Setting” section.
 

Step 2

The next major step to take as you set up Google Analytics on your Drupal site is to actually go back to your site and... install THE module itself.

Since I've already praised its “superpowers” and how they “conspire” to make your life easier, I'm not going to point them out once again.

Instead, I'll go straight to the steps to take once you've enabled the module on your website:
 

  1. access its configuration page (you'll find the “Configuration” tab on top of the page, “flanked by” the “Modules” and the “Reports” tabs)
  2. there, right under the “General Setting” section, just enter your “Web Property ID”
  3. … which is precisely the Google Analytics tracking code that you've just retrieved at Step 1
     

And this is precisely the “magic trick” that's going to add the Google Analytics tracking system site-wide. A monotonous, multiple-step process turned into a one-step operation.

This thanks to the Drupal Google Analytics module!
 

Step 3

Here you are now, ready to save your settings and to officially harness the power of Google Analytics on your website!

Normally you should be just fine with the default settings that the service provides you with, right out-of-the-box.

Yet, if you need to “refine” your searches, your entire tracking activity, feel free to do that. To explore all the options stored in the “Tracking Scope” tabs for you.

Speaking of which, let me give you just a few examples of how deep you could narrow down your “investigations” and customize the modules:
 

  • roles: a setting which lets you define which user roles to track (and which roles the system should ignore)
  • domains: indicate whether it's a single or multiple domains that you need monitoring
  • privacy: it enables you to make visitors' IP addresses anonymous
  • pages: indicate precisely which pages on your website you need to track
  • messages: track and monitor the messages displayed to your site visitors
  • search and advertising: keep track of your internal site searches and AdSense advertisements; do keep in mind, though, that some additional settings might be needed!

And... more! You actually get even more power for configuring your JavaScript setting and adding custom variables.

The END! This is how you set up Google Analytics on your Drupal site in 3 dead-simple steps, a streamlined process powered by the dedicated Drupal module.

Mar 10 2018
Mar 10

Price, level of expertise and estimated time! These are the 3 main criteria that any organization planning to have a mobile app built use to evaluate potential mobile app development services providers, right?

And yet, the cost of development sure isn't just about the money. Take time factor and commitment, for instance! They, too, get reflected in your bill. A suspiciously short time estimate might be a signal for you that they'll be skipping a crucial step or two from your app's development process.

Also, a “large” team might be a numerous team of enthusiastic and hard-working... junior developers only. 

So, how do you properly evaluate your potential mobile app development partner? How do you know for sure whether their services and level of expertise are enough to help them deliver you a mobile app that meets your requirements entirely?

Gaining in-depth knowledge about their team members and collecting reviews from former clients are just some of the key steps to take during your “investigation”. 

And since no other “evaluation method” could beat an open face-to-face talk, here are 9 essential questions to ask your potential provider:
 

1. "What's Your Specific Workflow?"

In other words: how do they usually approach their mobile app projects?

What's their work strategy? What key phases does it include (or exclude)?

Everyone's “boasting” with their adoption of the agile development these days, right? Make sure you go beyond the standard talk about the agile approach and ask them to name the specific phases included in their process flow. 

A good workflow would need to include at least these 5 crucial steps:
 

  1. preliminary research on the type of app to be built, along with all its particularities and specific functionalities to be implemented (analyzing the target audience here included)
  2. a feasibility study
  3. the prototyping phase
  4. the UI optimization phase
  5. the MVP building phase
     

Do dare raise an eyebrow if your potential “partner in crime” strives to convince you to go straight to MVP.

It's an alarming sign that they're not the professionals that you might want to handle your brilliant app idea.
 

2. "What Technologies Does Your Team Have a Deep Expertise In?"

Another crucial question to dare asking your potential app development services provider whether:
 

  1. you've already started working on your app and you're now just outsourcing some aspects of your project; it's vital that this team should be proficient in that particular technology that you're currently using in your project
     
  2. you haven't yet started your project and you haven't yet chosen the mobile app development technology(s) that will be powering it either; it's crucial to know then how easily this team of mobile app developers can adapt to a new technology along the way
     

3. "How Many “X Technology” Developers Are On Your Team? Juniors or Seniors?"

Expertise, hard to quantify, but crucial for ensuring that the resulting app will live up to your standards!

Therefore, once you've dug through their never-ending list of technologies that they have a hands-on experience of, go deeper with your “investigations”. Identify just how many developers are familiar with your required technology.

Are they mostly junior or experienced developers?

And, most of all, do dare to ask for some sort of proof of their seniority levels. Some “blind” CVs or even samples of older code would be perfect.
 

4. "What Would Be Your Time Estimation on My Project?"

And time sure is money!

Do keep in mind that the average time invested in a mobile app development process is of 4-6 months.
Compare the time estimate that this potential mobile app development services provider gives you with this “average time” for developing an... average mobile app.

Next, ponder on their estimate a bit:
 

  • if they commit themselves to delivering you your app faster than their competition, then you might want to put their offer on top of your list
  • if their shorter development time is counterbalanced by a higher price, don't rush to take them off your list!
     

A higher price might as well be a proof of the seniority level in their team. As well as of an efficiency-boosting workflow that they may be leveraging within the company.
 

5. "Does Your Portfolio Include Any App Development Projects Similar to Mine?"

And by “similar” I definitely do not mean “identical”. Are they familiar with your industry?

Have they implemented the same functionalities in some of their previous app development projects? Such as integrating a particular payment gateway, for instance?

Have they been working mostly with start-ups or enterprises? 
 

6. "Any Former Clients' References for Your Mobile App Development Services?"

Why should your “research” be any different than that of a potential customer? Someone looking to make a purchase, who usually conducts a multi-leveled research: forums, customer reviews etc.

Therefore, one of the key criteria when evaluating your mobile app development services provider is their former clients' references.

Dare to ask for such recommendations and read client reviews on research company sites, such as Clutch.co, for instance. They do a wonderful job combining multiple evaluative metrics for identifying the leading companies in various industries (interviewing former clients being their no.1 research technique)

 Ask questions about some of their past projects: the challenges they faced, solutions that they've come up with, time invested in those projects etc.
 

7. "How Much Will My Project Cost? And What Does The Price Tag Cover?"

For putting a price tag on is equally important as knowing from the very beginning precisely what services your “bill” would include.

Speaking of which, here are some of the fixed aspects that you should make sure that will get included in that price estimate:
 

  • research & preliminary consultancy
  • UX prototypes, mockups
  • design
  • mobile app development
  • project management
  • all infrastructure costs
  • guarantee
  • licenses
     

Also, a key parameter to use when you're “weighting” their cost estimate is the seniority level of the developers that will be assigned to your project. 

Since their proven experience and expertise would automatically influence the price.

If the given price is suspiciously low, you might want to question those developers' overall level of expertise. Which, in the end, might lead to longer development times.

So “cheaper” might turn out to be... more expensive actually.
 

8. "What Files Will I Be Given Access to During the Project?"

Transparency is a strong indicator that this might just be the mobile app development company that you want to partner with.

Don't hesitate to ask about the files that you can access during the project. Wanting to know what's going on, at every stage of your future app's development process, is only legitimate.

And speaking of the files that you should be entitled to have easy access to, let me mention just a few:
 

  • time reports
  • weekly updated staging and production environment
  • source code
  • test environments/demos
  • the project management's dashboard itself (whether it's Jira, Taiga or maybe Trello that they're using)
     

The more involved you'll be in the process, the quicker you'll detect issues that you dislike or simply specifications that you'd like to create. And the more chances will be for the final product to meet your requirements entirely!
 

9. "How Do You Communicate With Your Clients Throughout The Projects?"

And probably this is precisely the question that you should be starting your “interview” with.

Knowing what:
 

  1. communication tools they'll be using (Slack, Rocket)
  2. what project management boards
  3. what time you can contact them at, their overall availability and response times
  4. the calls' frequency' how often you'll be getting in touch with the team working on your project


… is vital. Zero or poor communication and timeliness risks to turn all expertise, efficiency-enhancing workflow, conveniently low price and short development times into... nothing but “details”.

What if you want to make some recommendations? Or to inform the team about some late scope changes?

What if the team itself needs further clarifications from you?

Now it's the perfect time to express your expectations when it comes to this part of your future collaboration: communication.

And also, to have your doubts if the potential app development services provider doesn't seem too open to implementing your suggestions. To committing itself to frequent calls and so on.
 

The END! These are the 9 crucial questions to ask or the 9 things to look for in a new mobile app developers company that you consider collaborating with.

Would you have added a few more? If so, what other questions?

What is your own criteria when you're evaluating potential development teams in order to assess if they're the right fit for your app project? 

Mar 07 2018
Mar 07

Oops!...We did it again! We've got awarded 4 spots in Clutch's latest research highlighting the top-performing development companies in New York. It's in 4 of the industries included there that OPTASY's got recognized as one of the top developers in New York: Drupal development, PHP development, e-commerce, Shopify and web development.

Moreover — as if just being listed there, among all those leading development firms in New York, hadn't been enough — we got ranked #2 as Drupal developers, respectively #3 as PHP developers.

And, ranked top 15 in three other industries, as well!   

Now with the risk of showing lack of modesty, we have to admit that we had been starting to feel quite “at home” on Clutch's matrices. Those highlighting the leading web development companies in Canada, in various industries.

But to be recognized as one of the top developers in New York is simply an... overwhelming surprise!

And it's almost an organic process if we come to think of it: it's our clients' encouraging feedback that made us open an office in New York, too (besides the one in Oakville, Canada). And it's their feedback, again, that reassures us now that we've made the best decision.

We help our clients grow — powering their own ideas with our expertise and experience —  and, in return, they fuel our own growth plans.

As natural as that.

And this is precisely why we're particularly honored not just to be recognized as one of the top developers in New York, but to get ranked as a leader by Clutch itself.To get listed as a leader on any of their researches is already an honor for us.

This because the Clutch team doesn't apply “just” the conventional evaluative metrics when analyzing the “candidates”. Metrics such as industry experience or market presence. 

And it's not just data-driven content that they support their selections and hierarchies on, either. Instead, they actually interview both past and current clients of the given companies in order to identify both their strengths and weaknesses.

In other words:

First it was our clients that named us one of the top leaders in New York, then the Clutch team came to pinpoint their recognition. 

See why we're overly honored whenever we get listed on Clutch? Why we can't thank our clients enough for sparing some of their time to answer Clutch's questions; to put their experience with our team and their opinion on our work into words? 

Having our passion for what we do reflected in our clients' feedback is such a confidence-booster for us!

And receiving, once again, a Clutch recognition can only confirm to us that:

our client-centered approach and commitment to excellence make the best long-term strategy.

And that we should stick to it.

A big “Thank you!” to all our clients for their recognition and a big “Thank you!” to the CLUTCH team for the dedicated efforts put into each one of their famous researches.

Feb 14 2018
Feb 14

I am a woman of my word and so, as promised to you in yesterday's post, I'm back now with a handful of Drupal SEO best practices to follow this year.

Best practices, valuable tips & tricks and key Drupal SEO modules waiting for you to unlock their optimization power and “inject” it into your website...

All which, once put together, will give you a significant boost in (Google) ranking. So, shall we?
 

5. Build Your Keyword List, One of the Drupal SEO Best Practices to Stick to

So, you've given your links a “deep clean” (as seen in Part 1), turned on your Google Analytics “tracking” power and your Drupal SEO Checklist's engines, too. What next? 

Putting together your targeted keyword list!

And this is one of those Drupal SEO best practices that can either “turbocharge” or turn your entire site optimization strategy into worthless effort. That if you underestimate its “superpower”.

And here are the tools to rely on when you go “keyword hunting”:
 

Google Keyword Planner
 

  • it shows the no. of searches for each potential keyword that you could rank for
  • so you'll know whether it's worth adding it to your list or not, depending on the traffic that it can generate
     

Google Trends:
 

  • it gives you an insight into how a specific keyword has “performed” over the years 
     

Moz:
 

  • a whole SEO toolkit put at your disposal, including tools for keyword research, link building, site auditing, reporting, you name it...
     

WordTracker
 

  • it puts a whole “ecosystem” of keyword-identifying tools at your disposal
     

6. From Lifeless Keywords to "Living", Keyword-Optimized Content

Now it's time to sprinkle your keywords across your website. And not just anyhow, but... strategically!

Your “battle plan” should include the following content optimization steps:
 

  1. create (if there isn't one already) one page for each target keyword 
  2. consider removing certain keywords from your list before designing new keyword-optimized pages; some keywords may just not be suitable for your particular business
  3. write custom page descriptions, page-focused titles, add page-relevant keywords
  4. … and make sure to optimize the content on each one of these targeted pages, pulling off a proper keyword density 
     

7. Add 2 More Essential Modules to your Drupal SEO Toolbox

2 Drupal 8 SEO modules, to be more specific: the RDF UI module and the Linkit module (available in Drupal 7, as well).
 

RDF (Resource Description Framework) UI:
 

  • it's built, from the ground up, with the idea of empowering you to (seamlessly) integrate Schema.org with your Drupal site (whether during or after the development process)
  • … another one of those Drupal SEO best practices with a clear impact on your Google ranking
  • with this on-page markup “on”, it will be fairly easier for search engines to “understand” what each page on your site is about
  • … and thus deliver richer search results
     

Linkit:
 

  • it “spoils” you (or I'd better say your content team), with a convenient UI for easily setting up links right in the WYSIWYG, using the autocomplete field
  • it sees that they're properly formatted, that they use the right path and that they're up to date, as well
     

8. "Fast" Is Just Another Word for "Optimized"

As fast as your budget allows! Fast-loading pages will:
 

  1. have a huge impact on the overall user experience
  2. “please” the search engines and signal them that your site's optimized for speed and thus for enhancing UX
  3. and implicitly give you the boost in rankings (the reason why you've put together this whole Drupal SEO strategy in the first place, right?)
     

From the dozens of techniques, tools & modules at your disposal, that you can leverage for optimizing your website for high speed, I outline just one: the Google AMP module.

Integrating it with your Drupal site you'll be killing two birds with one stone:
 

  1. you'll give your site a massive performance boost
  2. you'll make it mobile-responsive 
     

A Note of Caution as a Conclusion

Focusing on your links and forgetting all about the right keyword density across your site's content. Or injecting high speed into your website and forgetting to setup Google Analytics for your website. 

Or undermining the meta tags' critical role and focusing exclusively on building your target keyword list, won't give you that boost in ranking that you're aiming at.

Make them ALL work together!

Take these 8 Drupal SEO best practices as a clock mechanism: in vain do 7 parts get all your attention. If you neglect just the 8th component, the whole mechanism/SEO strategy won't work /won't give your site that boost in ranking that you're expecting.

Feb 13 2018
Feb 13

Aiming high? Do you have big plans for your Drupal site? Maybe even propel it right to the front page of Google? Well, you're already one big step closer to your goal: you've chosen Drupal, a content management system geared at granting you unparalleled functionality and flexibility to optimize its every node, snippet of code and view. But which are the essential Drupal SEO best practices to adopt in order to harness this SEO machine's full potential?

Which are the right Drupal modules for SEO, the updated tips & tricks: the SEO essentials of 2018 for optimizing your Drupal website?

For Drupal (and even so more Drupal 8) might be "spoiling" you, the marketer, with an ecosystem of SEO-focused tools and modules to “fuel” your optimization strategy with. Yet, you can't actually rock Drupal SEO if you don't know exactly:

  1. which of them are the truly "can't live without" ones
  2. how to put them all together and (most of all) make them all work together... to your site's advantage

In short: what precisely do you need to set up and tweak on your Drupal site to give it a mega boost in rankings?

And this is why we've put together this step-by-step guide on how to use Drupal's out-of-the-box potential for SEO to the fullest. 

Here's your list of 8 tips, tricks, Drupal SEO best practices for 2018:

1. Start By Giving Your URLs a "Deep Clean"

Enabling clean URLs on your website should be on top of your Drupal SEO best practices list!

Why?

  1. first of all, because all Drupal URLs get unique IDs instead of meaningful names
  2. secondly, because readable, clean URLs wearing the pages' titles, enhance both the search engines' crawling and the overall user experience

And although in Drupal 8 you get clean URLs by default, there still are 2 particular scenarios that call for special Drupal SEO modules:

  1. when you move a piece of content to another section of your site and change its URL (Drupal won't automatically remove the old path and you run the risk to end up with duplicate content on your website)
  2. when you're facing the cumbersome SEO chore of manually naming each and every URL on your website

Introducing the Redirect and Pathauto Drupal modules!

Redirect:

  • it creates 301 redirects which... redirect (obviously!) from the old URLs to the new ones
  • it guarantees you that the links on your site preserve their value even when you apply changes to your Drupal content 
  • it pretty much takes the burden of fixing every broken link, manually, off your shoulders

Pathauto:

  • it automatically creates SEO-optimized URLs based on the content that you, yourself, define
  • for instance, you can set the URL for your blog posts to always have the following path alias: /blog/[blog title]
  • also (and this is a huge SEO factor) if you have ideally keyword-packed page titles, the Pathauto-generated URLs will automatically contain all those valuable keywords, as well 

2. Install The Drupal SEO Checklist Module: One of The Very Best Drupal SEO Modules 

And, implicitly, the very first one to install before you go ahead and add any other Drupal tool or module to your SEO essential kit.

Drupal SEO Checklist is the most powerful Drupal module that "does nothing.” Robert Shea, IBM.

And this says a lot, yet... not everything.

For it's true, the Drupal SEO Checklist module doesn't show you how to optimize your website, yet it delivers you a full list of Drupal SEO best practices to adopt. Or a to-do list of actions you should take, modules you should consider implementing if you prefer.

One covering several key sections on your site to focus your SEO efforts on:

  • title tags
  • paths
  • content
  • and more ...

3. One of The Key Drupal SEO Best Practices: Adding Meta Tags to Every Web Page

"Letting Google (and other search engines and social media sites) know what the content on your web pages is all about", this is how we could sum up the meta tags' role.

They're snippets of text that not only that:

  • let Google know what each one of your web pages is all about
  • but also indicate how you want the content of each page on your site to be described on other websites.
     

Now, can you imagine the arduous task of manually adding a custom browser and page titles, descriptions and keywords to every single page on your website?

No need to, for you can always install the Metatag module, one of the must-have Drupal SEO modules to add to your toolkit!

Here's how it works:
 

  • it enables you to add all the needed meta tags automatically, to each page on your Drupal site
  • it places both the meta tags and the meta title in the pages' headers, which translates into less code to write for you and faster rendering
     

And since we've reached the meta tags "chapter" on your Drupal SEO best practices list, let's put another key module into the spotlight: the Alternate Hreflang Module!

A particularly vital module if it's a multilingual Drupal website that you're about to optimize:
 

  • it adds hreflang tags to every page on your site
  • alternative hreflang tags that search engines can then reference in order to serve the right language/regional URLs in their SERPs
     

Pretty convenient, don't you think?
 

4. Set Up Google Analytics for Your Website & Other Must-Have Drupal Modules to Enable

"Help them help you!"

Ease search engines' "job" of crawling and indexing your website, by making your website... easy to crawl into and to index (obviously!). 

And by tapping into all those Drupal SEO tools put at your disposal for better “communicating” with them (the search engines).

… for gaining a deep understanding of where your site's standing when it comes to its relationship with search engines and social media sites.

Which brings us to 3 Drupal modules/tools that can intermediate (and enhance) your site's communication with the search engines: Google Analytics, XML Sitemap and Cron.

Google Analytics:
 

  • it automatically adds the more-then-valuable Google Analytics code snippet to your site
  • ... that you can control (deciding how and when it should be used) to your liking
  • it "injects" Google Analytics superpower into your website: priceless insights into your site visitors' behaviour on your site, what keywords they've used to land there, their demographics etc.
  • moreover, the module fixes Google Analytics' known drawback of tracking down ALL visitors, admins here included
  • ... and it does that by showing the code snippet only when "regular" (non-admin) users are visiting the website
     

XML Sitemap:
 

  • it generates an ideally formatted XML sitemap listing the content on your website, that you can submit to the search engines
  • this way, they (search engines) get to crawl in easily and index ALL the pages on your site (all those that you want them to crawl)
     

Cron:
 

  • a system that keeps your Drupal site conveniently updated and "clean"
  • it checks for updates itself, it recreates the XML sitemap if needed, keeping it up to date, it indexes the newly added content...
     

End of Part 1! The second half of this post on Drupal SEO best practices to adopt in 2018 will tackle aspects such as:

  1. building your keyword list and using it to "fuel" your content with
  2. a few more essential Drupal SEO modules to add to your toolbox
  3. valuable tips and tricks on how to speed up your website (since top speed and search engine optimization go hand in hand)

... and more! Stay tuned!

Feb 08 2018
Feb 08

Continuing coverage of our latest recognition on Clutch’s annual report of leading firms in the United Kingdom and Canada, we wanted to dive deeper into what enabled us to achieve this success. While we are proud to showcase our leadership among web, ecommerce, Drupal, Shopify, and Magento developers in Canada, it is important to reflect on the past projects and relationships that drove us to these heights.

LEADERS MATRIX Canada: Top Web Developers

Having evaluated our team across various development sectors, Clutch has taken the time to conduct interviews with many of our clients, framing an accurate picture of what it’s like to work with us; their conversations cover an array of questions regarding the challenges, solutions, and results of our time working together. Dedicating much of our success to our clients, we wanted to look back, not only to share some of the things they’ve had to say about our work, but to share how we’ve become a Canada development leader as well:

“They really know their stuff in Drupal, more so than any other development shop I’ve worked with…their team was essentially available at any time to answer our questions, solve an emergency, or fix a mistake that we made,”

referenced the Director of Design & Development for a digital agency. They went on to describe the measurable impact one of our team’s suggestions had on their project’s success:

“After he made the switch, the site’s response time decreased by 53%. Immediately, the site started working faster. The dependencies that the site relied on went from over 200 to under 125. Overall, his recommendation made a huge impact on our business to the point that at the end of 2014, we grew by 400%. By the end of 2015, we were doing about 12 million pages with the website he developed.”

Additionally, the Technology Coordinator for a school division, remarked on our project management expertise:

“From day 1, the communication has been the hallmark and has been phenomenal. There have been no issues whatsoever with project delivery as a whole. They are far quicker than other services we have been involved in.” 

Another client, the Technical Product Manager of a sports company, spoke on our dedication to the project and beating expectations:

“Considering what we asked of them, and knowing they didn’t receive our mockups and wireframes until 3 weeks out, it was crazy that we managed to launch. They stepped up in terms of commitment.”

To learn more about our clients’ experiences and how we’ve distinguished ourselves as a Canada development leader, follow our Clutch profile here

Feb 05 2018
Feb 05

That we're witnessing a major shift these days — from web apps' supremacy to mobile apps' domination — is definitely no news. It's been a while since it grew from a trifle into a (digital) world dominating... reality. And so, anticipating which of last year's trends will be growing into “megatrends” and which of the newly emerging ones will be the mobile app development trends in 2018 with the highest impact on the digital landscape

… becomes crucial for anyone in the mobile app industry.

Should you continue to bid on virtual reality and cloud technology? Is blockchain nothing but a bubble about to burst this year? What place should wearable apps and IoT have in your mobile app development strategy?

We've done our research, approached the experts and the authority figures in the mobile app development industry apps and here's what we've come up with:

An 8-point list including precisely those high-impact trends to keep an eye on in 2018:

1. Wearable Devices and IoT Are “Exploding”! And So Is Wearable App Development

And I'm sure you, yourself, anticipated this: that IoT devices and wearable apps will go from niche to mainstream.

With more and more industries adding up to the list of IoT adopters — education, smart health, automotive — and with Apple cutting off the price constraint, it's only reasonable to expect wearable devices/apps explode in 2018.

… to expect to see more apps for wearable devices (and not just watches) and an increasingly powerful impact of IoT on mobile app development.

Considering that smartphones are needed for controlling IoT devices...
 

2. Android Instant Apps, One of the Growing Mobile App Development Trends in 2018

It's a fact: Android Instant Apps will be one of those (not so) new trends in mobile app development to be growing like a beanstalk this year!

The reasons behind this anticipated growth have a too powerful impact on the users not to turn from a predicted scenario into a... reality of the digital realm:
 

  1. they're conveniently easy to use: no installation required and yet they're more on the native app's side and they work like websites
  2. they use fewer resources
  3. they can be accessed from anywhere (WITHOUT installation)
     

In other words: the border between the realm of apps and the landscape of websites gets even more... blurrier this year.
 

3. Accelerated Mobile Pages

A huge “hit” ever since its “debut”, in 2016, Google's AMP is definitely on the up and up in 2018, too.

And no wonder why this open-source initiative — accelerated mobile pages — still “runs the show” and continues to “seduce” mobile app developers:

  • it's a publishing technology (HTML's stripped-down version) geared at boosting mobile pages' performance
  • … practically it injects both sites (on mobile devices) and web apps with high speed
  • … keeping the bouncing rate to a minimum

Now, these are strong enough advantages for this trend to be one of the high-impact mobile app development trends in 2018.

4. Predictive Analytics Gains an Increasingly Powerful Influence on Mobile UI/UX

What do you think about joining the “gang” of tech giants in the mobile app industry (Google, IBM, Apple, Facebook) and jump on this trend in 2018?

Why bother? Well, because:

  1. we'll be witnessing a shift from mobile apps as “mere” utilities to apps as integral components of your workflow
  2. this advanced software is the “offspring” of AI and machine learning
  3. … with a major impact on your customer journey via your mobile app's UI/UX
  4. … since it provides valuable predictions related to your business (by leveraging the available data) for you to capitalize on (and to do what it takes to enhance your app users' experience)

5. On-Demand Apps Will Ride The Tide of Popularity

How could they not? After all, they're making people's lives easier by simplifying their day-to-day activities, such as:

  • looking for laundry services
  • ordering food
  • looking for cleaning services
  • looking for rideshare and taxi services

And not only that on-demand apps will be in... high-demand this year. They'll be one of those mobile app development trends in 2018 expected to “bloom” with new cool features and functionalities:

  • business bots
  • UI/UX enhancements
  • predictive analysis
  • m-commerce facilities

6. Blockchain: Newer Mobile App Development Trends in 2018 With Huge Potential

Blockchain has been intriguing, “seducing” and gaining so much good press, that it can't but continue to grow, as a trend, in 2018, too.

And it's no surprise why:

  • it provides companies with a shared, unalterable ledger storing their information (transaction histories or bitcoins) presented in the form of blocks
  • … “unalterable” meaning that the info can't be modified unless all the subsequent blocks get modified; which would automatically lead to the entire network's collision

A principle of “openness” that continues to “seduce” legit businesses. Businesses that do seize the huge potential of providing transparent access to the blockchain.

7. Dare to/Continue to Bid on Cloud Integration This Year

The future of mobile apps and their development is one where the benefits of cloud technology are being (finally) leveraged to their full potential.

And here I'm talking about benefits such as:

  • better storage
  • reduced costs in hosting and equipment
  • improved page loading times
  • streamlined operations
  • increased productivity and collaboration

And nonetheless: developing mobile apps over the cloud will enable them (the apps) to run seamlessly across multiple platforms.

Now that's superpower, don't you think? A huge “leap” into the future of mobile app development software!

8. AR/VR Will Have an Even Higher Impact on App Development Strategies

These 2 technologies are already too well rooted in the long-term future of mobile apps that they can't go anywhere else but... UP.

AR and VR continued to be developers' trump cards for creating jaw-dropping mobile app experiences. Even so more this year, with all the compatible hardware expected to invade the market.

And it's not just the gaming sector that will benefit from augmented reality graphics and videos presented in VR, but others will fall under its “spell”, as well.

Here I can only think of the huge potential that these 2 technologies have in the retail sector.

Speaking of which, are you think what I'm thinking? About Amazon Go and all the doors that it has opened for other similar apps to steal the spotlight this year?

End of list! 

These are, judging by the stats, forecasts and expert opinions that we've analyzed, the 8 high-impact mobile app development trends in 2018.

Also, judging by all the enhancements in hardware:

  • button-less mobile devices
  • more and more powerful chips

… and the emergence of a new level of digital speed — 5G — I can't but be certain that these 8 trends here will get turbocharged in 2018.

Feb 01 2018
Feb 01

How's 2018 treating you so far? As for us, we can't hide it: it has spoiled us big time this first month! A lot of great posts have been released on Drupal planet for us to “feast” on. Skillfully written blog posts, packed with valuable information, conveniently easy to read... So, selecting the best Drupal blogs in January has turned into quite a challenge for our entire team of Toronto web developers.

Since our list of top favorites started to grow like a beanstalk from the very first week of the year, sifting through and selecting “la crème de la creme” has been no easy job.

First, we selected the top 15, then we trimmed it down to 10. Then, as we continued, we realized it was impossible to stick to only 5 posts.

Therefore, it's our top 6 favorite Drupal blog posts this month that we're sharing with you in today's post!

Expect a highly varied list! It includes:
 

  • helpful “how to” tutorials
  • posts targeting both beginners and experienced developers
  • tried and tested tips and tricks
  • behind-the-scenes views on Drupal
  • spotlighted tools built to help you jumpstart your Drupal 8 projects this year   
     

Now let's dive right in:
 

Rich Lawson from Duo Consulting outlines 7 Drupal 8 initiatives with a huge impact on Drupal's progress. And also on the whole community of Drupal developers and site owners: Migrate, Media, Layout...

Yet, not before explaining to his audience precisely how these initiatives resulted in the first place:

and I'm sure you already know that it was Dries Buytaert's “famous” survey that streamlined the whole “movement” of turning Drupal users' complains/suggestions into new features to be integrated into Drupal core.

We couldn't agree more with his and his team's selection of Drupal 8 initiatives.

And we resonate with Duo Consulting's determination to be “vigilant” lest they should miss the very moment when these Drupal8 initiatives turn into core functionalities.

So that they/we can incorporate the newly implemented best practices into their/our workflow right away.

Also, we took the concise, yet complete presentations of these 7 initiatives as some handy reminders of what complaints they're built to solve.

Of what goals they're geared at achieving and what's been achieved already in terms of new features aimed at easing our lives as Drupal users. 

Definitely a Drupal blog post worth reading and adding to your own resource list if you want to stay up to date with what's behind-the-scenes in Drupal world!
 

And this blog post delivers on its promise: it walks you through a surefire and popular method for improving a site's performance, caching.

And specifically caching in Drupal 8.

The blog post is broken down into 2 major parts: 
 

  1. the one where its author clearly explains to you what those key/value pairs in the HTTP header of any request/response actually mean (“Expires”, “Etag”, “Last modified” etc.); crystal-clear, right to the point explanations
  2. the one that's an introduction to cacheability metadata in Drupal 8 and its three main properties: cache tags, cache contexts, cache max-age
     

And that's it! Concise, packed exclusively with useful and usable info (along with a piece of HTTP header code “exposed”, set as an example to be analyzed). 

“Enlightening” for any beginner looking for the right bite-sized, valuable pieces of information on the basics of cacheability in Drupal 8.

Enjoy!
 

The Evolving Web team  — via its front-end lead, Suzanne Dergacheva —  share their list of Drupal 8 modules that they're looking forward to using in their projects this year.

It includes both:
 

  1. the “rockstar” D8 modules that our own Drupal developers here, at OPTASY, “can't live without”
  2. and some newer, yet highly promising ones: UI Patterns, Config Split...
     

With short descriptions, or I better say “motivations” of:
 

  • why they've kept those particular modules on their “top favorites” list
  • why they're excited about taking specifically those new ones for "a test drive”
     

… their selection is:
 

  1. a great overview of the most valuable Drupal 8 modules in 2018 (for our team it's a “sneak peek” into another Drupal agency's “toolbox”)
  2. an easy read
     

Don't miss it!
 

The previously mentioned posts here might be, in our opinion, the best Drupal blogs in January. And yet, the Zivtech team's post wins the title of “the most helpful” blog post of the month.

Useful and usable!

Why? Because it:
 

  1. identifies (and responds to) a concern that we've all had: how to redesign a website without compromising its traffic
  2. is “packed” with helpful and practical advice on how to minimize traffic “surges” 
     

Both Drupal-specific and non-Drupal advice!

I felt like it's important to outline this aspect:

for every Drupal module that he points out to his audience the author gives a non-Drupal alternative, too, that his readers could leverage to avoid traffic drops.

A great read, a more than useful piece of content, a post “loaded” with valuable tips. The perfect example of a Drupal blog post worth to be added to your/our resource list!
 

Or is this post by Ivan Zugec, from WebWash, THE most useful one from our list instead (“instead” of the previously mentioned one)?

Hard to decide and to give a definite answer...

As the name states, it's a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the Bootstrap theme for building Drupal sites. 

One that doesn't delve its audience right into the helpful explanations covering its 3 main “chapters”:
 

  1. Bootstrap theme configuration
  2. Create a Bootstrap sub-theme
  3. Compile Bootstrap locally using Sass 
     

… but that starts “smoothly”, with a short story-like introduction highlighting:
 

  • why Bootstrap is such a popular site-building front-end framework among developers
  • its small inconvenience (you can spot a Bootstrap website from a far distance unless you invest some time in styling it up a bit)
  • and finally, how the Bootstrap theme comes to streamline implementing Bootstrap into a Drupal site building workflow
     

And the tutorial itself only comes to “cement” WebWash's reputation of putting together the most valuable Drupal tutorials on the web:

concise and to the point explanations backed by print screens taken from Bootstrap theme + “enlightening” lines of code

Make sure you add this post, too, to your “must-read” list!
 

We couldn't have left Mediacurrent's guide on using Docksal out of our list of best Drupal blogs this month!

It came as a too valuable set of explanations not to share it with other developers, too. Explanations on why using Docksal and how it can jumpstart a Drupal 8 project.

Basically, Steven, the senior Drupal developer authoring this post, explains to us more than clearly:
 

  • how Docksal works, with a few words about its behind-the-scenes “duo” (Docker and VirtualBox), that helps you get a new project up and running with just a few simple commands
  • why Docksal and not just Docker (&VirtualBox) and Drupal, highlighting the huge advantage of getting your new project set up a lot faster
  • how to install it
  • and finally how to customize the configurations “stack” that it puts at your disposal
     

We definitely recommend it in case you're constantly on a lookout for the perfect tool for jumpstarting your Drupal 8 projects with.
 

The END! These are the 6 Drupal blog posts that have caught our attention and “enriched” our reading list in January. How does your own January selection look like?

Jan 16 2018
Jan 16

It's no longer a matter of “Why?”, but a matter of “How?”. The conversational interface trend isn't going anywhere but... UP.

So, if you want to keep up with the break-neck pace at which your competitors will be launching their own chat-based apps this year, you first need to:

put an end to your “to go or to go conversational?” dilemma. You only have one option...

Then, to start focusing on more pressing issues:
 

  1. what are the user experience challenges to expect when designing conversational user interfaces (CUIs)?
     
  2. what are the best practices to adopt for creating state of art conversational experiences?
     
  3. how do you design a... conversation, after all? One that's natural, seamless, quick and ideally convenient for the user?
     

And once you've pondered on these 3 questions, go ahead and turn the following “enlightening” answers into your trump cards for designing your own rival to Siri, Alexa and or OK Google.
 

1. Put Together An Exhaustive List of Hypothetical Use Cases 

In other words: leave no dead ends in your chat-based app's script. No weak links that could impact your conversation's fluidity.

And how do you get “unpredictability” down to zero? By getting knee-deep in user research work. 

Invest plenty of time and teamwork in identifying all the possible use cases that your chatbot's scrip should cover... impeccably!

How will users react to hypothetical scenario A? And what queries is he/she likely to input in scenario B? What “tricky” request will he/she make?

Once you have THE list at hand, filling in your script with copy will sure feel just like putting the puzzle pieces together. 
 

2. The Onboarding Experience: Be Sure to Give It Special Attention 

The more straightforward your chatbot's onboarding message is, the more chances there are for the user to interact with your conversational interface.

In other words: take no chances, don't try to play smart, resist the temptation to turn your app into a “guessing game”!

Let the user know which are your bot's functionality and key features and how precisely it may serve him/her via:
 

  • a speech bubble
  • an intro message
  • a suggestive animation
     

… from the very beginning.
 

3. Focus on User Convenience When Designing Your Conversational Interface

And convenience in conversational UX translates into minimal user input!

Now here are 2 best practices to consider for achieving the proper level of user convenience:
 

  1. keep your copy crystal-clear and straight to the point: avoid ambiguity at all costs, like giving more than one answer to the same question or answers completely out-of-the-conversational-context, irrelevant to the user's intent
     
  2. keep the user's input to a minimum: the less your customer will need to type in/interact with your chatbot, the better; aim for “yes/no “questions and avoid overburdening them with too many choices to scan through and to select from
     

Extra tip: make your content ideally easy to squeeze through; keep your sentences conveniently short, thus anticipating that the user might head straight to the call to action.

Why should you discourage him/her with an almost impenetrable block of text to keep on scrolling through?
 

4. Set Up Visual Cues-Based Replies to Your Users' Queries

How would you improve readability in “conventional”/non-conversational design? You'd instantly reach out to your not-so-secret trump card — the whitespace — right? 

Well, in case of a conversational design, your trump cards are the visual cues.

Here are 2 examples of how/when you can use them for boosting readability and turning your conversational interface into a truly intuitive AI experience:
 

  1. Use them to assist your customers when in need; for conveying bite-sized information and addressing your users' queries in a highly intuitive way. Maps, charts, infographics images, GIFs will be far easier to “digest” than chunks of text and far more efficient for relaying the message
     
  2. Use them to convey... emotions: whenever words are not enough to convey the feelings you need to convey (e.g. giving them a warm welcome into the app), go with... visual cues; and emoji make the handiest of them all
     

5. Empathy Is Key to Designing a Human-Like Chatbot

A natural conversational interface experience is a human-like one. And a “humanized” AI app is one that easily passes the empathy test. 

Now here are 2 suggestions on how to “inject” empathy into your chatbot:
 

  1. Read the script out loud: how does it sound? Would you say those lines to someone close to you? Do they sound natural enough? Or rather robot-like? Is the conversation fluid enough?
     
  2. Pay attention to context and adapt your script accordingly. Now you wouldn't want your app to give a robotic-like, impersonal reply such as “I hate to hear that” to a user writing: “I feel a bit dizzy”. It goes without saying that you should anticipate all use cases and user queries and have all the context-suitable replies ready (popping up a map showing the nearby hospitals in this case, for instance)
     

6. Embrace the “Less Typing on the User's Side” Principle

For the less they'll need to type, the more fluid the whole conversational UX is going to be.

And, in this case, by far the most popular example to inspire you is Linkedin messager's automated replies. See how it provides users with plenty of choices, right at hand (multiple buttons, “attach a file” option, automated replies etc.)? 

In other words: whenever suitable, automate... everything and aim for user convenience at its best!
 

These are the “tips and tricks” that you may want to consider if you're determined to create a highly intuitive conversational interface experience for your chatbot's users. Ponder on them and see how you can adapt them to your own app's and use cases' scenario.
 

Jan 10 2018
Jan 10

The world's tiniest laptop, the rollable TV, the world's largest wall TV... all the disruptive “superlatives” in the tech industry are being currently showcased at CES 2018 — Consumer Electronics Show —  in Las Vegas (Jan 9-12).

And if you haven't managed to attend the huge tech show and you're in the consumer technologies sector or just an innovative gadgets & technologies passionate, stay assured: we'll be keeping you in the loop! 

Here are the:

  • event's highlights
  • “steamy fresh” info on precisely those gadgets stealing the spotlight as we speak
  • news on the most-talked-about innovative consumer technologies at the show
     

CES 2018: There's Something for Everyone's Taste

That's right, take this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as a “theme park” overwhelming its visitors with its load of attractions.

Its “visitors” being all those with a keen eye for sleek, next-generation gadgets and a guilty addiction for breakthrough innovations in the tech industry:

There is a high tech “ride” for everyone's taste

From wireless headphones to 8k OLED TVs, from electric cars to monster-sized TVs, robots for commercial use, wearables, high-tech hi-fi, to fingerprint scanning-incorporated mobile phones...

And the list can definitely go on: there sure is something to turn anyone's high tech fantasies into reality at CES 2018!

Everyone had been expecting (since it's a 50 years old tech show after all) both the Las Vegas Convention Center's show floor and the Halls of the Venetian to be “piled up” with... jaw-dropping tech innovations!

With tech manufacturing giants — Samsung, LG, Sony, Acer, Panasonic and Big G itself — as "stars" of the show, this gathering can't turn out to be but... overwhelming, for any show attendee.
 

Gadgets and Tech Stealing the Show, The Largest Consumer Tech Show

I bet you'd die to take a sneak peek inside.

And even if it's going to be just an imaginary tour of the exhibits, your time is limited, isn't it? So you want to know which are those gadgets and consumer technologies “basking in a rockstar fame”.

Well, get ready for they're about to step into the spotlight, here below. It's a selection of the consumer electronics products gathering the largest crowds these days in Vegas, at CES 2018:

  1. The headphones equipped with translation capabilities
     
  2. Samsung's monster-sized Wall TV: its 165 inches are getting loads of attention at the tech show, not to mention that the giant consumer tech brand has also unveiled its battle plan of conquering OLED this year
     
  3. Acer's Swift 7, the world's tiniest laptop (so far): it comes with out-of-the-box 4G LTE connectivity to boot
     
  4. LG's latest robots designed to assist customers at hotels and shopping centres
  5. LG's 65-inch OLED rollable Ultra HD TV prototype: the future of technology has the shape of a highly convenient TV that you can easily... roll up, just like a newspaper
  6. Blyton's electric car: which has easily managed to stand out from the crowd of SCI-fi-like TVs, mobile phones, and other next-generation gadgets; CES 2018 is sure to make a fantastic “stage” for the Chinese startup to show off its innovative potential to the world
  7. Intel's CPU's with AMD Vega graphics
  8. Asus's MC mini-like Chromebox 3: since “small” is definitely the new big, Asus, too, unveiled its own small-sized product, equipped with built-in support for Gigabit LAN and dual-band 802.11 ac WI-FI (meaning, of course, that it will stream 4k videos... superbly)

End of... tour! Of course, the lights on the global stage of innovation — CES 2018 — are still on. And they'll be on till Friday, the 12th of January. New “superstars” in terms of gadgets will be rising, so take my selection here as a rough guide only!

Jan 03 2018
Jan 03

“Build the next big thing in terms of AR apps!” Is this goal on top of your New Year's resolutions list? Well, then right now you must be wondering: “With so many tempting augmented reality tools out there to choose from, which one's best for my own AR solution?"

A frustratingly ambiguous answer could be:

"The one that best serves your AR app development needs."

Meaning that whatever AR platform you'll be choosing, it should:

  1. meet your project's requirements
  2. serve the goals that you will have set up for it

And yet, this “matching” of the AR libraries at your disposal with your project's specific development needs is your “mission” and yours only.

Nevertheless, we can still help you streamline your selection process.

How? By shortlisting 6 of the most popular augmented reality development tools in 2017 with a great potential to grow even more influential in 2018. 

Here they come:

1. Kudan AR

An augmented reality SDK that “pioneered” the network intelligent vision (bringing together AI and IoT).

And which sets itself apart from the other augmented reality tools in our short list here due to its robust single-camera SLAM.

In other words: Kudan AR supports mapping tracking and simultaneous localisation.

Built for both iOS and Android-based apps, Kudan AR supports markerless tracking (meaning that it uses features such as edges, corners, and textures) and, moreover, it's designed to recognize an unlimited number of images.

Where do you add that it doesn't get “greedy” using too much of your app's memory to store its files and (big advantage!) it's significantly faster than other AR SDKs.

Summing up its key features and functionalities now:

  • 2D/3D Recognition in the same application
  • supports markerless tracking
  • supports Simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) tracking technology

2. Vuforia, By Far One of the Most Popular Augmented Reality Tools

Call it a "complete tool" for developing AR apps!

It practically “empowers” you to create any kind of AR solution for any type of device, any platform! A visually arresting augmented reality app or game “packed” with cutting-edge functionality. 

Yet, it does have its own shortcomings, too, the most “discouraging” one being that its free version comes with Vuforia watermarks and limited functionality. 

Even so, the balance between great features and innovative capabilities and shortcomings is titled so that it favours the first ones. Let us detail:

  • it's supercharged with smart terrain functionality for reconstructing a terrain and therefore a whole 3D map of the environment in real-time 
     
  • the same, above-mentioned functionality, will empower you (or your app development team) to create some fully interactive user experiences where the app's elements interact with the physical world
     
  • it's extended tracking feature enables your future AR app to deliver a 100% realistic visual experience even when the target elements are out of view (in other words users will be able to simultaneously engage themselves in the gameplay and still visualize the vehicles for instance)
     

And now summing up Vuforia's most notable features:
 

  • it comes with virtual buttons, which allow you to switch between various surfaces, which play the roles of your true-to-life, natural-looking touch screens
     
  • mixed reality and eyewear support (that's right, Microsoft HoloLens here included)
     
  • cloud recognition (and on-device, as well), meaning that it's capable to use either a local or a cloud database during the image recognition process 
     
  • Vuforia Object Scanner
     
  • it comes with Vumarks (Vuforia barcodes), which act both as data encoders and as markers
     
  • it's built to recognize both 2D and 3D objects
     
  • text recognition: Vuforia's designed to recognize over 100.000 words (and, moreover, you're enabled to use your own custom vocabulary, as well)
     

3. Wikitude

The third augmented reality development kit on our list is actually an “all-in-one” platform in fact. One which brings together:

Instant tracking + 3D markerless technology + Geo-location + Object/Image recognition and tracking

And all these top-notch AR features bundled up in one single AR app development kit can only mean 2 things:
 

  1. you get to build both marker AR mobile apps
  2. ... and location-based ones
     

Available for iOS, Android and Glassware, Wikitude is one of those commercial augmented reality tools. It does come in a trial version, as well, but do expect it to “surprise” you with a series of limitations, such as its logo showing up in cam view.

And now, let's go through its attention-worthy features and functionalities:
 

  • it provides you with Wikitude Studio, which makes AR app development a breeze, literally, since it requires no programming skills whatsoever: just drag the elements onto the studio screen and... put together your app 
     
  • Wikitude SDK is currently available for Android, iOS and the Glassware platform
     
  • on-device and cloud recognition 
     
  • instant (3D) tracking (it will display virtual objects and map out environments without using markers)
     
  • extended tracking 
     
  • geolocation support: your AR mobile app can get enhanced with location-based services, as well 
     

4. ARToolKit

ARToolKit is, in fact, a group of augmented reality tools that you can use for building your app.

And its heavy-weighing pro, that helped it make it to our list here, is that it's... an open-source code! That's right, you gain free access to its library, so you'll be able to tailor its source code to your AR app's specific development needs.

Nevertheless, this comes with a drawback: limited documentation! So, do keep this in mind when you're on a lookout for the most appropriate AR platform for your app project.

And now, let's list its other “seductive” features besides its open source nature:
 

  • simultaneous tracking: basically you get to “empower” your AR apps to track multiple objects at the same time
  • both single and dual camera support 
  • integration with GPS (a vital feature if it's a location-based AR app that you're developing)
  • it supports various platforms, ranging from iOS and Android to Windows, macOS, Linux...
     

5. Apple ARkit, One of The Revolutionary AR Frameworks

And it was pretty much around the time when iOS 11 introduced ARKit in the digital arena that app developers' “mad race” to build their own next big thing started.

Did you start planning your own AR solution around the same time?

Running on Apple 9, Apple 10, and A11 processors, Apple ARkit empowers you to create and deliver augmented reality experiences to your users both on iPhone and iPad (obviously!).

Now let us highlight the top-notch functionalities that will empower your app development team to put together not “just” AR experiences, but some truly realistic, immersive ones:
 

  • VIO (Visual Inertial Odometry) combines core motion data with camera sensor data, enabling your future AR app to accurately track the environment 
     
  • it's capable to detect horizontal surfaces (e.g. floors and tables) and objects on smaller feature points 
     
  • it's equipped for plane, scale and ambient lighting estimation
     
  • fast motion tracking
     
  • it can be used with third-party tools such as Unreal Engine and Unity, with SceneKit and Metal
     

6. EasyAR 

Here's another SDK “overloaded” with cutting-edge functionalites on our augmented reality tools list here!

And even if you go with the free version of the EasyAR kit (which won't provide you with certain of its functionalities, such as SLAM, 3D tracking and screen recording), you still get an impressive load of features:
 

  • cloud recognition
  • 1000 on-device targets storage
  • unlimited recognition queries
     

And where do you add that getting it up and running is just a matter of registering your account and generating your Bundle ID's plugin key.

Its list of top features would have to include:
 

  • cloud recognition
  • app cloud packaging
  • 3D object recognition
  • environment tracking
     

The END! These are the 6 augmented reality tools that you should consider selecting from if you're decided to go ahead and build your first AR solution this year. Good luck checking them off your New Year's resolutions list!

Dec 21 2017
Dec 21

Robust, conveniently scalable, fully (and easily) customizable... What else? Oh, yes, it should definitely be a 2-in-1: CMS & e-commerce platform. This is pretty much how your “wishlist” looks now when you're choosing the best eCommerce solution for your website, right? Would you be able to check off all the “wishes” listed there if you want to build a Drupal eCommerce website?

That is the question!

What makes Drupal not just a good choice, nor just the best one, but the most SUITABLE one for your own e-commerce site?

One that would meet all its needs (quick and easy integration with third-party systems, a flexible content editing process, easy to control SEO etc.)?

Well, here's OPTASY team's top 10 good reasons why you should “bet on” Drupal:
 

1. It Shortens Your E-Commerce Site's Development Time

And it's pretty much... self-evident:

Compared to a standalone eCommerce platform (e.g. Prestashop or Magento), with Drupal you get Drupal Commerce built right on top of it!

Built, from the ground up, to seamlessly integrate with your CMS. 

In short: with Drupal (&Drupal Commerce) you get one tightly integrated platform system simultaneously serving as a content management system and as an e-commerce platform.

Save the time you'd otherwise invest in:
 

  1. custom-integrating a CMS with your standalone eCommerce platform
  2. making them “play well” with one other 
  3. “joggling” with 2 platforms (or a 2-platform system, if you prefer) instead of one and investing twice as much time and effort in their ongoing management and maintenance

2. It "Plays Nicely" With Third-Party Systems

And this is not even an advantage, but a vital functionality drawing a line between effective and ineffective e-commerce solutions.

As a (current or future) e-commerce website owner, your “jam-packed” list of specific needs does include integrating systems and apps such as:
 

  • Paypal
  • Verisign
  • Authorize.net
     

… and so on and extending your site's functionality all while enriching user experience, right?

Luckily, Drupal, and implicitly Drupal Commerce, integrates seamlessly with third-party getaways via RESTful API!
 

3. It's Both Free and Open Source

One of the many valid answers to your “Why Drupal for ecommerce use?” could be:
 

“Because it's free to use!”
 

Moreover, by being open source, the no-fee feature doesn't translate into poorly supported modules!

With Drupal, you don't have the “premium plugins” concept otherwise specific to WordPress or Magento, yet you still get to explore a plethora of free modules.

Modules which, moreover, are backed up by a worldwide Drupal community.

In a few words: you get default “premium” modules without the price tag on!
 

4. A Drupal Commerce-Powered Site Is Conveniently Easy to Handle

And this “convenience” derives from 2 major “requirements” that your future Drupal ecommerce website easily meets:
 

  1. that it should empower you and your team to operate with one set of tools only
  2. that this “toolkit” put at your disposal — which you'll be using for carrying out specific admin tasks —  should include flexible and fully configurable tools only
     

Checked, checked!
 

5. You Get a 2-in-1: CMS & Ecommerce Platform

And this might just be one of the strongest arguments to build a Drupal eCommerce website!

Not only that Drupal Commerce
 

  • is built on Drupal, from the ground up, deeply “rooted“ in it
  • which enables it to explore and exploit the CMS's power to the fullest


... but it's actually the ONLY commerce platform built on a CMS!

And this translates into:
 

  1. a unified, rich and seamless user experience 
  2. less development and maintenance time resources for you to invest
     

6. You Get to Leverage Its Granular User (and Role) Management System

And this is, indeed, a superpower that Drupal puts in your hands!

Basically, you're given full control over who's accessing what, over which functionalities and features (from your CMS and your online shop) your:
 

  1. team members (who are granted different user roles and levels of permission)
  2. and your site visitors
     

… gain access to.
 

7. It Streamlines Your SEO Efforts

It's quite obvious that a tightly integrated platform grants you easier control over your entire SEO strategy. As compared to a 2-platform system.

It streamlines your efforts to constantly improve the customer journey on your online store.
 

8. Why build a Drupal eCommerce Website? 'Cause It's Flexible

Needless to stress out this feature even more: Drupal's already way “too” famous for its modular nature empowering users to configure and to “custom-tune” their websites to meet their needs to the slightest detail!

Add on new modules, mix and match them to your liking and use Drupal's modular power to the fullest!
 

9. It's Conveniently Extensible: It Seamlessly Accommodates Sites of All Sizes

Another strong reason for building a Drupal eCommerce website: it seamlessly adapts to all sizes and levels of complexity.

Hence, whether it's:
 

  • a small ecommerce site handling basic transactions
  • or a content-heavy, high trafficked ecommerce website
     

... that you're building, Drupal's got you covered!

It's built to effortlessly power all sites, large or small!
 

10. It's a Content-Driven Ecommerce Solution 

Since Drupal is, primarily, a content management system! 

And content is the driving force of any successful e-commerce site or, better put: all e-commerce efforts are centred on content!

With Drupal and the ecommerce software deeply integrated within — Drupal Commerce  — you're empowered to:
 

  • deliver a rich and unified user experience on your site
  • … by easily linking your products/services to corresponding content (descriptions, banners, icons...) that tells the story behind and creates added value 
     

And it's content that engages your customers, that ultimately drives sales and builds brand loyalty! That builds communities.  
 

END of the list! These are, in our opinion, the 10 reasons strong enough to tip the balance in favour of choosing Drupal for your ecommerce website!

Dec 05 2017
Dec 05

Long gone are the days when AR and VR used to be associated (strictly) to roller coaster simulations, the gaming industry or true-to-life aerial experiences. Today we can be talking about an ever-wider range of innovative use cases for augmented reality in enterprises. 

About a niche technology turning... mainstream and, moreover, going beyond purely entertainment purposes.

Moreover, AR's potential for improving performance, boosting efficiency and enriching customer experience has long ceased to be a “privilege” of the top most valuable brands.

And since it's ceased to be an “exclusive” technology, why not harness its potential? Why not capitalizing on AR's potential in your own organization, too?
 

“What specific use case best suits my particular business needs?”
 

... you might be wondering.

Here are some of the most interesting current uses of augmented reality in enterprises:
 

1. Remote Workforce Supercharged With AR Power 

Just take this scenario:
 

You have two teams working on the same project — an in-house one and a remote one — and you get to leverage AR's power to actually immerse your remote team in the project.
 

… to bring together all your employees, scattered around the globe, in a collaboration enhanced by that strong feeling of “being there” that AR instils.

Or you can go for the second scenario: use AR to easily monitor out of location employees.

And this feature gains a critical importance if we're considering 3 specific types of employees working “off-site”:
 

  • engineers on an oil-rig
  • medical first respondents
  • linesmen on power lines 


2. Step-By-Step Guidance Overlaid on Work Areas via AR Displays

Another one of those efficiency-boosting (translated into manufacturing error rate cut down by almost 90%) use cases for augmented reality in an enterprise is overlaying instructions.

Practically via an AR display the manufacturer — take one manufacturing an aeroplane wing or one assembling an automobile, for instance — gets hyper-explicit guidance overlaid precisely on his work area.

With instructions being conveniently visualized, overlaid right on the work area, the employee practically gets step-by-step guidance for carrying out his tasks of high precision with utmost accuracy.

Where human error possibility should be whipped out of the process, AR comes to bring out-of-this-world precision into the real world!
 

3. Using AR Geared at Improving Warehousing and Logistics Efficiency

A potential that DHL knew just how to exploit to their benefit: streamlining warehouse pick-and-place operations through the use of smart glasses which are pointing out the shorter routes for the employees to take; and implicitly cutting down the error rate, too.

An unbelievable efficiency booster that you, too, can leverage in your organization for cutting down costs on logistics and warehousing resources and reducing human error.
 

4. Enriching Your Design/Engineering Team's Experience 

By their powers combined, AR and VR will help you:
 

  1. enrich your customers' experiences by bringing design concepts to life; take a scenario where a family planning to renovate one of their bathrooms can walk right in its virtual replica and visualize precisely how it's going to look
     
  2. enrich your designers'/architects/engineers' experiences: 3D objects/environments represented on two-dimensional screens vs 3D representations in real size; practically engineers/architects/construction workers/designers get to visualize their work in progress and spot the areas that need adjustments with far more accuracy and in a timely manner
     

It's one of those use cases for augmented reality that will empower you to increase your team's performance and create richer, immersive customer experiences. 
 

5. Real-Time Data Vizualization

… at an enterprise level.

And this is one of those scenarios where you get to turn AR into a... superpower.

Just think about it:

Visualizing data in real-time and, moreover, projecting these data visualizations onto different surfaces will not only:
 

  1. enhance a more in-depth understanding of that specific data
     
  2. ... but even enable larger groups of managers to collaborate far more effectively and make data-driven decisions based on a shared understanding of that data
     

And this is one of those augmented reality business use cases that can go as far as projecting board-room-seized 3 D views of your business! There you can get an even more accurate view of your entire data infrastructure, with all its strong and “sore points” to focus your efforts on!
 

6. Augmented Reality Training: One of The Most Valuable Use Cases for Augmented Reality 

Will you join the AR revolution in staff training and professional development?

And since nothing beats practical examples, here are some current uses of AR as a powerful training tool:
 

  • using AR to quickly empower staff to get a grip on using highly complex equipment, machinery
     
  • using AR to enhance the learning of complex concepts
     
  • using AR to enhance collaboration during staff training via virtual, true-to-life presentations, field tests etc.
     
  • using AR to a supercharge a “learning by doing” type of training, where real-life situations would be too dangerous to (re)create: such as performing surgery or flying a plane
     
  • using AR to recreate specific environments/scenarios/reality augmented workplaces in order to improve your employee's “soft skills” (public speaking, dispute resolution, decision making under stress); you even get to tailor your AR training to each team member's profile 
     

To sum up: using AR in training processes helps you “unleash” all that potential of creativity and efficiency otherwise limited by the “conventional” type of trainings.

Take AR as far as your imagination takes it and create your own use cases for augmented reality suitable for:
 

  1. your team(s)' specific needs
  2. your organization's specific goals for maximizing your team's potential
     

Final Thoughts

Now guess what: all the above-mentioned use cases for augmented reality are not “lab experiments” or “projects about the far future to come”. They're being implemented, as we speak, in real-life workplaces.

AR technology is now commercially available and has become and is continuing to get even more accessible. And its potential for enhancing both the customer and the employee experience is huge.

… you just need to “power” it with content — your unique content — and to harness its potential in use cases of augmented reality perfectly suitable for your own organization!

About Drupal Sun

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