Sep 21 2018
Sep 21

The media management experience had been one of the well-known sources of frustration for Drupal content editors for a long time. For, let's face it: Drupal's out-of-the-box media support was just... basic. But not anymore: there are new exciting features for media handling in Drupal 8.6.0 that will dramatically change the way you manage your media assets on your Drupal website!

Now, let's take a sneak peek at these most-anticipated media handling features that Drupal 8.6.0 comes equipped with:
 

  • adding media from a remote source
  • adding various types of media
  • embedding Youtube and Vimeo videos in the content (via URL)
  • easily accessing and reusing the existing media
  • uploading new media types right out of the box
     

And this is almost... overwhelming:

From almost no built-in media support in Drupal, for so many years, to a whole set of modern, powerful media management options now in Drupal 8.6.0.

But let's not ramble about this topic anymore and dive right in! Into the pile of new features meant to enhance the whole media management experience in Drupal:
 

But First: An Update on The Progress of the Media in Drupal 8 Initiative

The main goal of this media initiative was to:

Add a rich media support to Drupal 8.

One that would empower the content editors to easily reuse existing media assets, add new media entities and to overall gain more control (and meta information) over their media.

And there are 3 core milestones that we can trace while tracking the progress of this initiative for Drupal 8:
 

  1. adding the experimental Media module to Drupal 8.4 in late 2017
  2. leveling up this module from experimental to stable phase in Drupal 8.5.0
  3. turning it into the standard way of storing media in Drupal 
     

Moreover, starting with Drupal 8.6.0 a new key module for handling media has been added to core — Media Library — along with a few more exciting options:
 

  • quick access to the existing media assets
  • oEmbed support
  • a new media type: remote video content
     

Quite a “leap” forward, to a great media management experience in Drupal, I would say...
 

2. Welcome a New Media Type in Drupal 8: Remote Video

Let us list the 4 media types that you could add to your site's content up to Drupal 8.6.0's release:
 

  1. file
  2. image
  3. video
  4. audio
     

OK, now it's time you welcomed a new media type to the group: remote video!

Basically, as a content editor you're now able to add videos from remote sources, as well — Vimeo and Youtube — via their URLs.

Handling Media in Drupal 8.6.0- New Media Type: Remote Video

In short: you're no longer constrained to settle for the default media types in Drupal 8. No sir, now you get to create new custom ones mentioning their media sources.

Summing up: embedding new media to your website content is nothing but a two-step process: Content-Add Media.

Handling Media in Drupal 8.6.0- Add New Media Type


3. Reusing Media Is Now Possible: Media Library

One of the much-awaited features for media handling in Drupal 8.6.0 had been reusable media.

Well, here it is now: Media Library! It's where you can save and store all your media assets to be further reused whenever needed.

Note: do keep in mind that this an experimental module and that you'll also need to enable the Media module first things first.

“And how does it work more precisely?”
 

  1. while in your content edit screen
  2. just browse through all the media assets stored in your Media Library
  3. select the one you need
  4. and simply “inject” it into your page
     

Note: it's the “Media library” widget, added to the Media field, that enables you to scan through all your media entities straight from the content edit screen.

Handling Media in Drupal 8.6.0- Media Library Widget


4. The New “Media” Field: A Quick Way to Embed Media in Your Content

Handling media in Drupal 8.6.0 is as simple as... adding a new field — “Media” —  to the content type in question (be it news, blog post, article and so on).

Handling Media in Drupal 8.6.0- Add a New Media Field

Once the new field is added on, just go through the 5 media types available in Drupal 8.6.0 and select the one you need to embed.

Next, you can simply integrate it into your content, while in your edit screen, positioning it to your liking.
 

5. New Media Handling in Drupal 8.6.0: Youtube & Vimeo Embeds

A new media management tool that significantly improves the whole content editing experience in Drupal.

You're able to embed remote videos from Youtube and Vimeo via URL, thanks to the now added oEmbed media support.

“How precisely?” Basically, you simply:
 

  1. add that new “Media” field to your content type, as previously stated
  2. select the “Remote Video” option from the “Media Type” drop-down menu
  3. enter your video's URL in the “Video URL” field, while in your “Add Remote Video” screen
  4. and click “Save”
     

And voila: you'll have your remote video integrated into your content!

The END!

As Steve Burge from OSTraining would say:

“Finally we're getting somewhere with media in Drupal!”  

What do you think about the new features for media handling in Drupal 8.6.0? What other options and tools are there on your wishlist?

To be able to embed remote videos right from the node create page, maybe? Or to have other video platforms, as well, supported in Drupal?

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 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

Jan 29 2018
Jan 29

We did it again! OPTASY's got featured on Clutch's latest research on the leading Drupal developers in Canada.

And there's more to it!

Being included in this research is already a confidence-boosting honor in itself. Yet... we can't hide that we feel like jumping for joy (literally) right now since we've also got recognized as “leaders” in web development.

Not just for one, but for 2 industries:
 

  1. Canada: Top Web Developers (ranked 7th)
  2. Top Canada eCommerce Developers (ranked 6th)

    OPTASY: A Leading Web Developer in Canada, According to Clutch
     

This is — with the risk of making it sound a bit like an inflated speech —  the most rewarding recognition of our work that we could get! Considering that Clutch's researchers and implicitly its tops, too, are conducted and based not just on the analyzed companies':
 

  • expertise in certain industries
  • presence on the market 
  • ability to deliver high-quality results to clients
     

… but on their past and current clients' feedback (although we're more fond of the word “partners”). That's why we're “overly” honored by this recognition!

For this cannot but certify that yes: we did succeed to live up to our partners' expectations. And so all the efforts that we've put in:
 

  • attracting only one particular type of people into our team: those who're far from “just” knowledgeable in their fields, but... curious and overly passionate about their work 
  • constantly striving to provide irreproachable customer service
  • always tailoring our approaches — to the web development process itself — to each project's needs and to each partner's particular requirements

… have paid off.
 

And have made our clients turn into our... advocates! Their recognition of our work is a huge push forward for us, both as a Canadian web development and as an e-commerce development agency! 

Moreover, seeing our five-star “neighbors” on those 2 Clutch tops has simply overwhelmed us (another big word, yet we cannot help it)...

Drupal development teams that we've been looking up to, that inspire us and challenge us to grow. And we're right next to them, among all these leaders, on Clutch! 

Now since we don't want to turn this post into a boringly long, slightly narcissistic type of award-winning speech, we feel like ending it now with an honest: “Thank you!”.

To all our partnering companies and organizations, who took the time to go on Clutch and to write down a feedback for their overall experience with us. And, of course, to the Clutch team itself for the time and efforts they've invested in this research.

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 04 2018
Jan 04

To go or not to go serverless... This is one of 2018's most asked questions in the IT industry. And it's true that serverless computing has grown from a niche solution, with a somewhat misleading name, into a tech trend guaranteed by all the industry experts.

Yet, you're still a bit hesitant when it comes to replacing your heavy, yet familiar infrastructure with a serverless framework, right? You feel like “dipping a toe into the water” first.

And who could blame you? It's a more than legitimately prudent approach considering the implications of such a switch. 

You shouldn't make a move, not until you have some unbeatable arguments at hand. Until you gain a deep understanding of all the benefits that derive from adopting a cloud-native approach.

Well, this is precisely what this blog post is all about:

pointing out all the strongest benefits that you will reap from taking the infrastructure management weight off your shoulders and going... serverless.
 

But First: What Is Serverless Architecture More Exactly?

First of all, let's get one thing straight: “serverless computing” doesn't mean, by all means, that there isn't a server, out there somewhere, doing its data workload processing work!

It's just that the user (yes, you!):
 

  1. is no longer burdened with all the server (or fleet of servers) management and monitoring ongoing tasks
  2. doesn't know (or care) where in the world his server is located
     

You'd be practically running your code right in the cloud, taking out of the picture the need of provisioning servers on your enterprise's end. 

"But how does the data processing work on cloud?"


A valid question indeed. Basically, you're enabled to set up your individual API endpoints which will fire code and perform certain actions once triggered.

As simple as that.

And if I am to exemplify, probably the best-known example would be the serverless computing AWS: Amazon's AWS Lambda. It has already managed to “seduce” plenty of IT managers in the industry and its popularity is sure to... explode in 2018.

Why? Because it's a serverless computing architecture which:
 

  • scales automatically, granting enterprises the flexibility they need and helping them cut down costs
  • it executes code only when/if certain events occur, when specific endpoints get triggered
     

And it's not a serverless framework without “rivals”. Competition is about to get fierce when other frameworks such as Webtask, Microsoft Azure Functions, Google Cloud Functions, IBM OpenWhisk and Iron.io will start to... take off.
 

It's Horizontally Scalable: Relax and Let It Handle Massive Waves of Traffic for You

In other words: you get to worry less about balancing the heavy load, about the waves of traffic that your site/app might face once certain of your endpoints get exposed. And about rushing in to put together the properly robust infrastructure.

The underlying system will handle it for you!
 

You're Free to Set Up Each Endpoint in the Language of Your Choice

Or simply put: your API endpoints will be language-agnostic!

You (or your lucky team of developers) get to write each endpoint in a different language runtime. So, you're free to use the one that you're most familiar with or the one that best fits our work scenario. 

And this is already a major pro for adopting a serverless computing approach in 2018!
 

You Only Pay for What You Use: A Strong Benefit of Serverless Computing

Here's another “irresistible” benefit that you can reap from going serverless: you only pay for what you use!

So, there's no need (not anymore) to pile up on T2 small instances and auto-scaling groups... just in case. The “case” here being: “if I ever hit a surge of traffic”.

When you're using a serverless architecture all this comes without a price tag on!
 

Worry Less About Managing The Underlying Infrastructure: It's Being Taken Cared Of!

Your serverless cloud provider will be managing the entire fleet of servers for you.

And this “management” includes applying security patches as soon as they get released, as well!

So, take all these monitoring and security-related concerns off your back and... focus more on turning great ideas into great digital products!

And this is — all these resources of time and effort that you'll get to invest elsewhere — the main advantage that you'll leverage from switching to serverless computing!
 

Turn That Great Idea of Yours Into The Next Big Thing Quicker Than Ever! 

Just think about it: going from having a great idea to actually turning it into the next big... app (let's say) will take you a whole less time (and effort).

Serverless computing will smooth the path for you and shorten the process, meaning that:
 

  1. you'll be having your idea production ready a lot quicker
  2. you'll gain more confidence to try on newer technologies, as well
     

Summing Up... Plus a Forecast for 2018

“Serverless IT will move from the niche corners of the cloud estate into the spotlight as it addresses the three key areas that keep IT admins up at night: speed, cost and risk.” (Jason McDonald, President U.S., Contino)

Yet (for there is a “yet”), serverless computing isn't a “one size fits all” type of solution. It won't scale to all app architectures and needs (like the need to closely monitor and to control how things get configured).

Nevertheless, if we:
 

  • go beyond its somehow misleading name
  • see its strong benefits
  • consider it only for those use cases that it's best fitted for
     

... serverless architecture is here to stay and change the way we build software from the ground up!

Nov 21 2017
Nov 21

“By our powers combined...” Let's imagine the representatives from all major web browsers saying this line when they joined forces, in 2015, for creating a whole new format for compilation to the web. When the WebAssembly support “revolution” began.

And there's no one in the digital landscape who can honestly admit that they saw this coming!

That after only 2 years all four major web browsers, Firefox, Chrome — the first 2 to enable support for WebAssembly by default — Safari and Edge — that joined the WASM “gang” the past few weeks — would officially run WASM code on the web.

How did it all begin? How did we get this far and (most of all): what can we dare to expect from a WebAssembly-influenced future of web?
 

An Unexpectedly Promising Start

Let's start with the “I have a dream...” type of beginning!

Work on WebAssembly started in 2015. Its team of engineers' dream (a dream nourished by all other web browsers) was to create a technology/set up a standard (or “format” if you prefer) for rendering application logic as optimized bytecode.

… for compiling JavaScript code into WASM format which injects web apps, even the most complex, “bulky” ones, with high performance and increased security.

With near-native speed!

By the end of 2016 the team of visionaries — the W3C Community Group — had already added the last “strokes of brush” to the new WebAssembly standard's core features.

And only 7 months later, Google, Mozilla and Microsoft were already offering enabled WebAssembly support in their browser previews. 

A major boost and a positive shake-up for the development team behind it, which no later than March 2017 was already concluding work on the new standard. And a consensus of all major browser vendors on the initial version of WebAssmely version was reached.

Then, it simply followed its roadmap and started to stir waves in the digital arena:
 

“Will WebAssembly mark the end of traditional JavaScript-based apps and the new era of native-app-alike... alternatives?” “Is WebAssembly The “Death” of JavaScript?”
 

From then on, in the months to come, WebAssembly support started to be shipped along with the newest versions of all the 4 major web browsers.
 

The WebAssembly Standard: Benefits That You Can Reap

And the valid question that you might be asking yourself right now must be:
 

“And how do I benefit from this new standard? From the WebAssembly support now enabled, by default, in ALL 4 major browsers?”
 

Here's how:
 

  • it will turbocharge your bulky, complex app/modern website with near-native performance (with no need for a plugin); it's proven that the low-level bytecode format that it uses compiles JavaScript code into lighter code: a sustainable use of bandwidth on mobile devices & improved page loading times 
     
  • it “frees” your development team from “JavaScript's tyranny”, so to say; using WebAssembly as a code compiler they're now “tempted” with a collection of languages to write their code it, wider than ever before... code which they can compile straight to wasm, without the need to transpile it to JavaScript beforehand
     
  • the ideally compact WASM format acts as a “turbocharger” which transmits files at high speed over the wire and (most importantly) gets them loaded as JavaScript modules!!!
     
  • not only that WASM “was designed from the ground up to be fast” (Jay Phelps, Netflix senior software engineer, said), but also to guarantee you a higher level of protection: the WASM format code is much safer since it executes within the web browser's own security sandbox
     
  • bytecode, thanks to its conveniently structured data format, is easier for web browsers to read and parse
     

What WebAssembly Support in All Browers Means for Developers?

As for your development team, as already mentioned, using the WebAssembly code compiler opens the gates to a whole new world of options: C, C+, Rust...

With more statically typed language support to come!

Moreover, broad Webassembly support at the web browsers' level can only mean that they're free to experiment. Since the great majority of end users now have WASM support automatically enabled in their web browsers of choice.
 

  1. your team of developers gets to perform their “coding experiments” in a programming language of their choice
  2. compile their code to a bytecode format
  3. … which then the web browser can execute within a virtual machine!
     

Safari and Edge: The Last 2 Browsers to Join the “WASM” Gang

With Firefox and Chrome as the “early adopters” of the Webassembly standard, it was about time that Apple and Microsoft shipped WebAssembly support in their Safari 11.0, respectively EdgeHTML 16 browser versions, too. 

And it's finally a wrap! It's been a few weeks already since all 4 major web browsers are officially capable to run WASM-formated code.
 

What Next? WebAssembly In the Foreseeable Feature 

In other words: what does using the WebAssembly code compiler at its full potential mean? 

It's designed to make it possible for any kind of app (the largest ones, with a high demand of CPU, being the main target) to run on the web reaching the same performance as if it would if it was running locally, on the end user's PC. As if it was a native app.
 
What do you think? Will WebAssembly mark the “birth” of a new kind of native-like apps running on the web instead? 

… and developers' “liberation” from the preconception of a “universal language”?
 

Nov 16 2017
Nov 16

Be there or... be left behind! This is how your invitation to the AI Expo North America should sound like.

It's the world's largest exhibition of next generation AI technologies and conference on artificial intelligence strategies to implement at an enterprise level.

With 4 major AI conferences, sessions covering topics that range from:
 

  • enterprise AI apps
  • to big data
  • to analytics
  • to virtual assistants
  • to AI development


And speakers from companies such as Google, Paypal, Uber, LinkedInb, AirBnB, Kia Motors... the AI-dedicated event in Santa Clara turns into disruptive technologies enthusiasts' and forward-thinking entrepreneurs' global gathering.
 

AI Expo Santa Clara: Why Attend? What to Expect?

To answer your first legitimate question:
 

“Because all the market leaders and forward-thinking brands will be there to reveal to you, in case study-based sessions, how to (and which) implement AI techniques across your organization; how to use AI to market more intelligently and to fuel brand loyalty."
 

Now to give you a more convincing numbers-heavy type of answer: for its 4 AI conference tracks, its 30+ industry-leading speakers and its no less than 300+ exhibitors.

And you should definitely attend it for all the mind-blowing exhibitions of the newest AI technologies that will be showcased at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Look out for:
 

  • the Iot Tech Expo
  • the Blockchain Expo
     

What to expect, you say?

Expect debates sparking around the advancements in the artificial intelligence sector and their impacts on the enterprise & and consumer sectors.

Expect a global gathering of AI evangelists, start-ups and leaders from key industries ready to share with you their AI-centered success stories and, implicitly, some of their revolutionary AI-focused strategies.
 

AI Expo North America: AI in the Enterprise & AI for Developers (Nov. 29)

On the first day of the AI Conference in Santa Clara you'll be given priceless advice on how to harness artificial intelligence's full potential across your organization. Along with information on the impact that AI will have on your workforce.

And we're talking here about:
 

  1. the applicability of AI strategies from an entrepreneur's, a business executive's perspective (the AI in the Enterprise conference tracks)
  2. implementing AI technologies from a developer's standpoint (the AI for Developers conference tracks)
     

Now if we made a must-attend sessions list, it would have to include the following talks:
 

  • AI-Powered Business intelligence: where you'll be learning how to build an AI-first strategy, discovering how capitalizing AI grants you new business value and why you should support your decision-making process on business intelligence analysis
     
  • Big Data: Creating Intelligent Data Models, with prominent speakers from PayPal, Tractica, Ancestry, LinkedIn and Airbnb
     
  • The Application of Deep Learning Within an Enterprise: discover how some of the world's most valuable brands are capitalizing machine learning within their companies
     
  • Connecting Deep Learning With the Internet of Things and Blockchain: learn all about AI technologies' impact on the financial sector and the overall tech system itself; find out why you should and when it's the perfect time to make the move from predictive analytics to deep learning (a session presented by the Vice President of product and strategy, machine learning and AI at BNY Mellon)
     

…. and our selection of must-see sessions at the AI Expo North America could go on with those covering topics such as next-generation cybersecurity and legal advice for avoiding big data discrimination.
 

AI Expo North America: AI in Consumer & Digital Transformation (Nov. 30)

“Customer”, “AI-powered customer experience”, “hyper-personalization”, “predictive customer intelligence” will be the words on all speakers' lips on day 2. A day broken down into 2 major conference tracks:
 

  1. AI in Consumer and Digital Transformation 
  2. Bot and Virtual Assistant Development 
     

And we've striven to pick (not an easy task!) the sessions we would add to our own event schedule as a web development team from Toronto attending it:
 

  • the Geeta Wilson's (Humana) keynote on leveraging AI in digital transformation
  • the panel on chatbots, presented by speakers from TGI Friday's, AIMA, MoneyGram and Foursquare
  • the talk about the role of AI/ML in e-commerce, held by Wayfair’s Associate Director of Data Science
  • the panel on taking customer experience to a whole new level through the use of the latest AI tools 
     

Bottom Line 

Expect a two-day marathon of:
 

  • attending inspiring case study-based sessions
  • one where you'll strive to take a close look at all the exhibits
  • struggle to assimilate as much insightful content as you can
  • ...and to just... be there, joining the AI revolution, right from the center (at least for 2 days) of the world of artificial intelligence

No chance to get bored at the AI conference in Santa Clara, nor chance to leave “empty handed”!

Nov 06 2017
Nov 06

Just a glimpse at the list of speakers who'll be holding the stage at Web Summit 2017 and we get even more pumped up for it: OPTASY will be there, too! Practically all the titans of the web and... us, a Drupal and web development from Canada, will be at the MEO Arena in Lisbon, Portugal, from the 6th to the 9th of November. 

As you can guess, we're already counting the days, literally overwhelmed with excitement!

For it's not "just" leaders in the tech industry who'll gather in sunny Lisbon (Fortune 500 companies and wildly successful start-ups), but "the world's most disruptive technology companies". Leading “minds” and global tech innovators!

And innovation is our own driving force as a company!

It's what helped us grow from a pure web development company into a full-service software provider.

It's our very own “guilty weakness” for emerging technologies the real “culprit” for OPTASY's transformation, over these years (since 2005), from a Drupal solutions provider into a company specialized in full-cycle projects.
We now handle all the phases of complex web projects, ranging from:
 

  • site/app structure planning
  • to custom modules development
  • to creating new functionalities from scratch
  • to theming
  • and post-launch maintenance & support
     

All the talent and energy that we've gathered in our team, over these years, all the creative minds that came on board, speak best of OPTASY's efforts to create a culture of innovation in-house.

And from all the innovation “addicts” (each one in its own field) in our team, it's Serge Karpiuk, our Head of Sales, Business Developer and Drupal Consultant, who'll be packing his bags for Lisbon (lucky guy!)! We, the rest of the “mortals” at OPTASY can't but secretly “envy” him and... relax. For we're 101%  that:
 

  • he'll be “absorbing” and mentally storing EVERYTHING; no groundbreaking news or announcement, no powerful tips or high-impact information shared during the talks will “escape” him (and don't worry, we're not selfish: we'll be sharing all the highlights with you right here, on our blog)
     
  • he's the perfect embodiment of OPTASY; in order words: in case you'll be attending the Web Summit 2017, too, you'll instantly get a clue of how we are as a company: open to change, open to ongoing learning, open to people (and he definitely is, so don't be shy to come out to him), highly passionate about what we do.
Oct 12 2017
Oct 12

Magento's about to step into... the third dimension of e-commerce! 

As you well know, the other 2 are:
 

  1. responsive e-commerce websites
  2. native apps
     

And the e-commerce giant is about to make its glorious entrance by launching its Magento PWA Studio! A suite of tools designed to empower developers to... develop (obviously!) online stores as progressive web apps. 

That Magento has jumped on this trend is really no surprise at all. But the suite of tools that it's now developing is, for sure, a source of ongoing assumptions, skeptic feedback and expectations. 

Here's what we know for sure, right from their post on Magento turning into a progressive web application platform:
 

  • that these tools are aimed to turn into “learning tools” for future Magento PWA developers 
  • that they're designed to enable them to build blazing-fast PWA front-ends for their e-commerce Magento stores
  • that it's a “toolset” which will help them build PWA components and extensions to be reused or even sold on the Magento Marketplace
     

But before we get into this, before we shed some more light onto Magento's new “baby” (that they're developing in collaboration with Google) we should answer the next question:
 

What's a PWA?

“The “eraser” of all clear-cut differences between the mobile web and native apps”. 

Now, in order to give PWAs a less... metaphoric definition, how about “dissecting” the term itself, “progressive web app”, starting from the back:
 

  1. it's an app (not an applet!): since it installs and runs its code on the customer's own device (PCs here included)
     
  2. it's a “web” app: an obvious advantage over native apps, since it's not closely “dependent” on one specific platform and on its specific language; it uses “plain” web languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript 
     
  3. it's “progressive”: meaning that it progressively loads assets and data as the user scrolls down a specific page in the store or goes from one page to another; so, there's no need for those “surfed” pages to reload, since changes and transitioning happen... gradually
     

Summing up, progressive web apps:
 

  • look like native apps (delivering the same app-like and lightning-fast digital shopping experiences)
  • behave like responsive mobile websites, since they run in browsers and are written in standard web languages
  • and yet... they're neither native apps nor JavaScript one-page apps
     

They're... progressive web apps (a no-brainer conclusion, no doubt about it).

And it's those type of digital shopping experiences of the future that the Magento PAW Studio's tools will help developers create.
 

Progressive Web Apps vs Native Apps 

It's a fact: native apps “rule” in terms of conversion rates and in terms of provided shopping digital experiences.

The mobile web stands no chance to compete with that! 

Yet, developing native apps does come with its inconveniences for players in the e-commerce arena (especially for small and medium-sized business):
 

  1. they're expensive to develop
  2. potential shoppers only download and install the apps of those specific brands that they interact with most frequently
     

And here's how PWAs “dare” to challenge native apps' long-time supremacy:
 

  1. they're more cost-effective to build since they're developed on open standards (and even so more now, with the Magento PWA Studio soon to be available)
  2. they're equally fast
  3. they run their code right in the mobile web browser, there's no longer a need for a separate installation
     

Progressive Web Apps vs Responsive Mobile Sites

In short: how are any better (for both online store owners and their customers) than traditional responsive websites?

Here's how/why:
 

  1. they leverage open source technology
  2. they rely on the new API's, Service Workers, integrated now into web browsers, which allow JavaScript to run in the background: boosted speed + improved usability
     

And, deriving from this tiny “detail”, there's a plethora of features that make them a huge leap forward into the future of e-commerce. We've pointed out the most significant ones in this post here on PWA's and how they can benefit your business.
 

What Does The Magento PWA Studio Include So Far?

Now that we've defined PWAs and that we've compared them to the other 2 online shopping channels, let's focus more on Magento's plan to turn into a progressive web app platform.

In this respect, here's what this suite of tools includes for now:
 

  • application shell: a basic PHTML file, created in the early phase of the project, standing for the basis for the HTML responses (coming from all routes)
  • API layer: working on a new style of API and on new API methods, that could provide lighter, more customized responses (compared to those of the REST designs)
  • application framework: the resulting PWA will be interacting with the “headless” Magento store via API calls 
     

Yet, from all the information that the Magento team shared on their blog, the one with the greatest impact has been that: it's React apps that developers will get to build using the Magento PAW Studio.

It's React-powered front-ends that these apps will have.

A great news indeed, for all front-end developers out there, since there's no point denying that React's riding huge waves of popularity these days.

No wonder that the Drupal core committer team, too, is considering to use React JS for building their own administrative user interfaces.
 

What's In It for You, The Magento Store Owner?

Ok, so we've pointed out how much more enjoyable Magento developers' work is going to be, that they'll be enabled to get their Magento PWAs up and running in no time, but... what about you, the business owner?

Let us point out some key PWA features that easily translate into benefits for you:
 

  1. PWAs are SEO-friendly: thanks to their JavaScript architecture PWAs are easy to crawl through (by search engines' bots); also, they're lightning-fast, which makes them SEO-optimized right from the start 
     
  2. PWAs run on desktop browsers, as well: that's right, they're not restricted to the mobile web since Service Workers run on desktop browsers, too
     
  3. PWAs will run on Safari, as well: Apple's planning to “do the necessary” so that PWAs can run on Apple devices, as well, in the near future.
     

The END! For now, at least, since the Magento WAP Studio is still under development, tests are being run, developers' feedback is being collected and closely analyzed.

Are you looking forward to it? What's your opinion on progressive web apps shaping the future of e-commerce?

Oct 09 2017
Oct 09

He proposed it:

“... make some of Drupal's own administrative UIs more powerful and easier to use, I proposed that we add a modern JavaScript to core.” (Dries Buytaert's keynote presentation, DrupalCon Vienna)

... and stirred waves of enthusiasm, of unveiled skepticism and never-ending debates. What would using React JS for Drupal's administrative UIs mean for you?

You, the site builder. You, the content creator?

And this is precisely what we'll try to answer in this blog post as we'll be:
 

  • presenting you the context: why is integrating a JavaScript framework right into Drupal core even needed?
  • pointing our Drupal's long way to becoming “ JS ready”
  • highlighting the reasons why React's most likely to win this “popularity contest” over other JS technologies
  • highlighting the challenges to expect and to plan out for (to overcome) if React is, indeed, the “chosen one”
  • outlining the clear benefits that YOU will get if a JavaScript framework, more precisely if React does get integrated into Drupal core
     

3 Inconveniences for Currently Not Having a JavaScript Framework in Drupal Core

While headless Drupal 8 has proven to be a powerful content repository for front-end apps, not having a JS framework integrated into its very core has been the cause of certain … limitations:
 

  • it kept putting off addressing well-known editorial and site-building UX issues
  • it made it almost impossible to help Drupal core contributors realize how they could leverage certain JavaScript approaches and advanced practices; how they could transpose them into new modules and new Drupal features
  • it has been a break on assimilating more JavaScript experts and JS expertise into the Drupal community 
     

From Improving Its Web Services APIs to Being Ready for Integrating a JS Framework in Core

You're closer than ever, as a site builder/content creator, to using React JS for Drupal's administrative UIs. Yet, this didn't happen overnight:

  1. first Dries Buytaert (Drupal CMS's founder himself) and his team decided to stabilize Drupal's web services APIs
  2. then to step up their efforts even more for improving them
  3. and it's just now that they've decided that Drupal's finally matured and 100% ready for this major integration 
     

Meanwhile, Drupal users have done wonders leveraging Drupal 8's web services APIs:
 

  • front-end apps have been built alongside Drupal, which has been backing them up as their content repository
  • … and modern, JavaScript frameworks have been used for powering these apps' front-ends, with no restriction, whatsoever, on the particular JS technologies that web developers chose to use
     

Now having passed the “decoupled architecture test” and having managed to adapt itself to all JavaScript frameworks used as front-ends, Drupal's ready to...  level up!

To incorporate a JavaScript framework in its core.

And, implicitly, it's time for the Drupal community, as well, to commit to a unique framework that will be used for its administrative front-end.
 

Why React JS?

We'll start by answering the “Why React JS over Angular or Ember?” question:

“Because of its component-based nature.”

And there's a growing “trend” among web developers to create user interfaces by putting together reusable component libraries. Luckily, React makes it easy to build self-contained components and to simply “assemble” them in big-sized apps.

Therefore, the other 2 JS frameworks (focused on MV* specific workflows instead), are off the table.

And now, let's list other reasons for using React JS for Drupal's administrate UIs:
 

  1. it's backed up and constantly updated with new libraries, new tutorials etc. by a worldwide, active community of developers
     
  2. it powers large-scale web projects such as Facebook, Airbnb, WordPress, The New York Times 
     
  3. it's this community itself that bundled up an ecosystem of no less than 16.000 libraries around it
     
  4. its different approach to virtual DOM (Document Object Model): it “detects” precisely those virtual DOM objects that need to be updated and it's strictly those parts of the real DOM that it updates (instead of updating the entire DOM tree); a major performance boost indeed
     
  5. it poses no problems working with it thanks to its rather straightforward programming approach
     
  6. it “plays well” with all the other JS frameworks
     
  7. licensing issues reported in the past have been resolved
     
  8. it's widely used by the JavaScript developers 
     

Expected Challenges of Working With React JS

For there are challenges that the Drupal's main contributors are planning out for when it comes to using React JS for Drupal's core. And so should you:
 

  • modularity, itself, will turn out to be a major challenge to plan out for
  • Drupal will need to “keep up with” React's much more alert release cycle 
  • Drupal theming for decoupled UIs will never be the same again: React's approach will prevail
     

Using React JS for Drupal's Administrative Interfaces: What's in It for You?

For adopting a JS framework for Drupal's own administrative UIs (and React seems to be the winning “competitor), does translate into key benefits for you, as well:
 

  • whether you're a Drupal site builder or a content creator, using Drupal will get much easier (talking about addressing its old UX issues right?) in a reversible, incremental way
     
  • building modern UIs will get a lot more streamlined when you have a modern, JS toolbox right at hand... in Drupal core!
     
  • a JavaScript framework would automatically speed up (“app-like speed”) content modeling, configuration tools, content listing
     
  • if you're a Drupal developer, you can stay reassured that your Drupal expertise will stay relevant in a JavaScript technologies-centered web
     
  • ... that, your future React-focused sills will be future-proofed (thanks to this JS technology's high popularity among web developers)
     

What do you think? Do you find adding a JavaScript framework to Drupal core a good idea or not?

And what about using React JS for Drupal? Would you have gone for another JS technology instead if you could have chosen the one to power your administrative UIs from now on?

Oct 03 2017
Oct 03

Remember when websites used to be the only type of content distribution channels? Hardly, right? For it's been “ages” since we got to “deliver” content alongside entire “constellations” of digital channels: digital signage, kiosks, mobile... And so, this proliferation has made managing all these access channels increasingly challenging. But the Acquia team came up with a solution: they've added Node.js support to their Acquia Cloud.

That's right, now Acqua Cloud, the one providing a cloud-based interface for Drupal developers to use, incorporates Application services for Node.js

This means that:
 

  • your development team can leverage the now fully-decoupled Drupal platform using it as a robust apps repository
  • … in order to distribute content across an entire “network” of new digital channels (without the need of a replatform, just by simply leveraging Drupal 8's in-built capabilities and API-first architecture)
  • … by using lightning-fast Node.js for scripting, for building interactive app-like digital user experiences
     

Headless Drupal and Node.js: Let Their Powers Combine!

… and help you build real-time, network JavaScript apps alongside your robust, scalable Drupal CMS faster than ever.

They're equally popular for building enterprise-specific digital experiences, they're both open source technologies. And now each one of them is a valuable integration of the Acquia Cloud.

Teamed up, they enable you to build and to run your JavaScript apps on top of Drupal.
 

Drupal
 

  • brings in its impressive scalability as a CMS; it turns into that robust shared repository that you'll need for all your future apps
  • is already “turbocharged” with multiple decoupled apps: headless Lightening, Reservoir, Contenta etc.
  • if none of the pre-built distributions suits your needs, Drupal 8's content-first architecture empowers you to build your own custom one!
     

Node.js
 

  • a blazing fast JavaScript framework enabling you to build scalable network JS apps supporting a wide range of front-end frameworks (Angular.js, Meteor.js, Ember.js, Backbone.js)
     

* “Why JavaScript?”, you might wonder. Because it's designed with usability in mind!

With their powers combined, headless Drupal and Node.js:
 

  • enable your development team to easily build decoupled apps with lightweight JavaScript front-end design and to extend them across an “ecosystem” of access channels
  • … all while leveraging Drupal's content management services (which is robust enough to support your “cluster” of real-time, responsive Node.js apps)
     

It's your users that will benefit from this “data and content marriage” in the end: they'll enjoy some interactive digital experiences.
 

Content and Data Under the Same roof: What's In It for You?

For this new way of interacting with your Drupal CMS (exposed as a set of content services now), while leaving the scripting part to Node.js, does translate into key benefits for you and your team:
 

  • Toronto developers within your team get to leverage the advantage of a “single” database, a shared source of content supporting an entire “network” of apps (content and data under the same roof!)
     
  • they gain access to various parts of your CMS (content management, search, security) available to them as a set of APIs now when headless Drupal and Node.js join forces
     
  • developers no longer need to build a Drupal site first and then to separately handle a server for the Node.js app's functionality: the two different environments working in parallel, one for data and one for content, merge into one single development track 
     
  • your development team(s) get to “fully exploit” this new architecture model, by easily mapping the content model to the API, and thus to speed up the whole data-driven apps development process!
     

Overall: you get to leverage Drupal's robustness as a CMS-repository for all your apps! It's there that all the content management and content authoring happens and it's from there that content gets distributed to your entire maze of real-time apps, to the whole network of distribution channels.

The more complex your data-driven app infrastructure gets, the more powerful your repository has to be!

Luckily, managing content and, moreover, scaling itself to an increasing overload of content are Drupal's “specialties”! 

And this is how headless Drupal and Node.js, with their powers combined in Aqua Cloud, will help your development team create decoupled application experiences across multiple digital channels!

How about putting this “happy marriage” of data and content to a test now?

Sep 29 2017
Sep 29

“But am I not there yet? Haven't I already implemented digital transformation within my organization?" The Alfresco Digital Business Platform's release does make you wonder.

Well, now that we've planted “the seed of doubt”, ask yourself these key questions:
 

  • Is your current business platform agile enough to quickly pivot when you need it to, to promptly meet all your changing business needs?
  • Are the programming tools that you're currently using “tying” your business to long development cycles?
  • How fast is your current proprietary business process/enterprise content management system capable to put together workflow applications?
  • Are you currently using the power of task automation to the fullest?
  • How “accessible” is data within your company?
  • Are you leveraging your current digital technology to make information easily accessible?
  • Are people within your company enabled to access integrated data (anywhere, anytime), use it and share it with the utmost ease? 
     

Just be honest with yourself!

Then you'll find out whether you're right there: at the peak of your digital transformation or at the bottom of the hill, still...

And this is precisely what the Alfresco Digital Business Platform helps you with: take big leaps ahead towards digital transformation!
 

What Is The Alfresco Digital Business Platform Exactly?

Well, you could take it as a business process services and an open-source content management system “combo”, topped with a new App Development framework!

Or, simply put: a digital business platform, as its name says it, enabling you, as an enterprise, to create and to deliver digital content experiences via perfectly automated workflows.

In short: Alfresco, once exclusively an ECM (Enterprise Content Management), provides you with an open and agile platform perfectly equipped for enabling fast app development and reiteration!
 

But Which Are the Issues That This New Platform Comes to Address?

Or the “customer needs”, if you prefer, that this new Alfresco release is built to meet?

Here are a few challenges that they (business owners) had to cope with:
 

  • long development cycles that were no longer feasible
  • difficulties in connecting multiple departments and in automating tasks 
  • non-agile content/business processes management systems that wouldn't (or hardly) get “tweaked” in order to adapt to their users ever-changing business needs and goals
     

In short: it's precisely the lack of adaptability and time-efficiency of the “traditional” business process/content management systems that led to the Alfresco Digital Business Platform release.

And it's built to give you a push “push forward” on your path towards complete digital transformation, a path paved with... digital efficiency. Here are a few goals of the “mission” that its development team invested it with:
 

  • to help you create content at high speed by leveraging the due technology
  • to help you “tailor” automated digital business processes, automated workflows fast
  • to help you develop governance apps at high speed, providing you with a dedicated App Development Framework
     

Overall, the platform's built to help you:
 

  1. do things quickly around your organization by automating all the business processes, tasks, and workflows
  2. achieve that ideal “digital flow”
     

… where data's easily accessible to everyone involved (both workers and customers), multiple teams are interconnected and you're free to change this entire “infrastructure” of processes, people, and content to your liking whenever you need to
 

Alfresco Digital Business Platform: 5 Tools and Improvements Worth Your Attention

1. Alfresco App Development Framework (ADF)

The new platform's ultimate goal is to help you speed up app development within your organization!

In this respect, this dedicated framework's supercharged with:
 

  • reusable Angular 2 components
  • Google Material design
     

… to easily “live up” to its goal: enabling your development team to quickly create workflow apps featuring responsive user interfaces adapted to all the devices used across your company!
 

“But I was already able to build my own apps on top of the Alfresco platform. What's changed now?”
 

A valid question, indeed!

Apart from a faster app development process, now you get to actually put together your own engaging and nonetheless responsive UI using the web technology of your choice on top of Alfresco!

Remember how you used to be “tied” to Alfresco's own UI? One that, it's true, you could adapt to your own needs, yet... you still depended on it?

Well, not anymore: not only that it empowers you/your team to actually craft your own user experiences on top of the platform, but it also takes most of the heavy work off your developers' shoulders, speeding up things tremendously! 

The framework provides you with a set of:
 

  • development tools
  • testing tools
     

… along with other new Alfresco tools to add to your handy toolbox for speeding your apps' development!

2. New Open RESTful APIs

That's right, you get a whole new set of APIs along with the Alfresco Digital Business Platform!

They're built to handle:
 

  • nodes
  • renditions
  • versions
     

… and to perform search queries, as well, and all this DIRECTLY.

Practically people in your organization get to easily access the services they're developing on top of the Alfresco platform.

It's all about them being able to quickly access, to use (even use it to innovate) and to share the data flowing within your company, remember?

The new platform just plugs in, via its open RESTful APIs, all those content and office productivity services into your internal workflows. It enables department collaborations and adapts the workflows to those specific environments that your workers prefer.

And when we talk about API integrations, the list of third-party apps is a.... never-ending one:  MicrosoftOutlook, Salesforce, Google Docs, CRM, SAP etc.

Moreover, it gets easier for you, the platform's user, to fully exploit all of the new open RESTful API's capabilities using the API Explorer!

3. Alfresco Search Services 

Digging through the “pile” of search improvements brought to the Alfresco digital business platform we can't but mention a few “highlights:
 

  • it runs on Solr 6
  • it comes with a search term highlighting tool
  • it includes category faceting, document fingerprinting, multi-select facets
  • it enables users to index multiple versions of a document 
  • it's got significantly improved sharding: you get to shard your index by date, DBID, ACL...
     

Do your users have multiple search requirements? This new Alfresco platform comes with multiple search tools so that you can comply with your customers' specific sets of requirements!

Note: probably one of the biggest search services-related news is that they're no longer “piled up” in a WAR file. They make a STANDALONE SERVICE now!

4. Admin Improvements

There are 2 handy new features that will streamline your Alfresco deployment's management and troubleshooting workflow:
 

  1. Trashcan Cleaner, which turns the whole cleaning out of Alfresco deleted items into an automated task
  2. Support tools, ranging from profiling, sampling, gaining easy access to changing log settings and viewing logs, thread dumps, active session monitoring
     

5. Amazon AWS Optimized Deployment

The Alfresco team has optimized the new platform so that it should run smoothly on Amazon AWS. And their efforts revolve around “valuing” your time even better, as they've included Alfresco Quick Start, turning Alfresco deployment from a matter of days into a matter of... minutes!
 

So, have we, at least, managed to stir your curiosity? To at least make you... question yourself whether you're currently embracing digital transformation at the right pace? To make you question yourself what you could do better in order to go from digital to digital efficiency? To shift to automated workflows?

Sep 25 2017
Sep 25

The harvest season, no doubt about it! Autumn (the month of October to be more precisely) is taking us... “Google Chrome novelties” picking! Starting next month Google Chrome will be displaying new “Not Secure” warnings for HTTP pages.

We're talking, in fact, about two additional situations where these discouraging alerts get triggered in users' address bars:
 

  1. when the user is asked to enter his/her credit card information or his password on an HTPP page (so when he's presented with an HTTP form having sensitive input fields)  
     
  2. when the user loads an HTTP page in Incognito mode
     

Note: speaking of the second scenario, the “Not Secure” warning will show up on ALL HTTP pages surfed in Incognito mode.

Take it as Google Chrome's next level in its “campaign” of pushing the web on the HTTPS side. A plan structured into multiple gradual steps aimed at discouraging users from “venturing” on non-encrypted websites. And, implicitly, at “forcing” website owners to do the necessary: move to sitewide HTTPS.
 

HTTP vs HTTPS: Is A Migration Really Worth It?

But first: which are the HTTP protocol's drawbacks? Those that Google Chrome warns users about through its new “Not Secure” warnings for HTTP pages?

Basically an HTTP connection:
 

  • is a non-encrypted one
  • gives visitors no guarantee that once they access a web page they're literally interacting with the “right” website 
  • provides visitors with no protection, whatsoever, against man-in-the-middle attacks, eavesdropping, data modification 
     

On the other hand an HTTPS protocol page:
 

  • is one where the user-website communication is an encrypted one, protecting the former against cyber attacks.
  • keeps data protected from third parties
     

And now to answer your legitimate question, whether switching from HTTP to HTTPS is really worth the resources (of time and money), let us just imagine this scenario here:

“A user walks into a/lands on your website and is ready to make a purchase. A payment form is presented to him and he is about to enter his credit card information when... he gets a warning, in his address bar, that your site is not secure...”
 

2 Updates to Run on Your Site to Avoid The New “Not Secure” Warnings for HTTP Pages 

1. Simply Get to The Root of the Problem and... Resolve It

How? Making sure that Google Chrome will label as “of secure origins” all the:
 

  • inputs marked as credit card fields 
  • all the fill-in forms on your website incorporating <input type=password> elements
     

“Of secure origins” meaning that both the top-level page and the iframe (in case the user needs to enter his/her data in an iframe) need to display the HTTPS protocol.

In other words: if your HTTPS login/payment form is presented to your users in an overlay on top of an HTTP page, then you'll need to either:
 

  1. switch all your web pages to HTTPS
  2. redirect it to an HTTPS web page on your website containing that specific login/payment form
     

Taking the “shortcut”, placing an HTTPS iframe in an HTTP top-level page, is not a solution!

2. Go HTTPS! Switch to Using It Side-Wide Instead

Since the new “Not Secure” warnings for HTTP pages that Google Chrome will be rolling out this October are nothing but another step in its “macro plan” to label ALL HTTP websites as not secure.

So, why waiting for the inevitable to happen? Why should you “mend” when you can go for a long-term, in-depth solution? When you can make the move now and migrate your Drupal website to HTTPS?
 

Bottom Line 

Take Google Chrome's new “Not Secure” warnings for HTTP pages as a new step in its whole master plan towards an HTTP-free web!

It's a plan they first launched in November 2016 and which they're implementing gradually. So that the users grow more and more aware of the risks they expose themselves to accessing HTTP web pages, as the Google Chrome security team confirms:
 

“Studies show that users do not perceive the lack of a “secure” icon as a warning, but also that users become blind to warnings that occur too frequently. Our plan to label HTTP sites more clearly and accurately as non-secure will take place in gradual steps, based on increasingly stringent criteria."
 

There's no way of knowing, for the time being, when precisely Google Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as non-secure. When it will label them all with the red triangle currently indicating broken HTTPS pages. 

What we do know is that this is the ultimate goal of their strategic plan. So, instead of waiting for the confirmation of the date in the calendar, why not gradually prepare your website for this move?

Sep 21 2017
Sep 21

First the launching of Shopify Pay, now this! It's more than obvious: Shopify's constantly striving to enrich its merchant customers' toolset with new and new features. And this time it's all about easy-to-scan, easier to track QR codes. In other words: Shopify launches Shopcodes, a free app downloadable right from the e-commerce platform's store, an app playing the role of a QR codes “generator”.

What does this launch mean for you?

Well, it means that you, the Shopify store owner, get to easily create QR codes (just generate them and then download the graphic files) and then link them to any product page or shopping cart page that you want. This way you'll be:
 

  • enabling your potential shoppers to get extra info about various products while they're in your physical store (they just scan the QR codes attached to your products and voila: they'll be taken right on the products' dedicated pages in your Shopify online store)
     
  • interconnecting your customers' offline and online shopping experiences
     
  • streamlining the whole checkout process (the code can also take your customers right to the checkout page, skipping all the other time-consuming steps to take)
     
  • delivering your clients their desired products without having to keep an inventory on hand; so even if you own a popup store and you're constrained by the lack of space
     

… and the list of benefits can go on and on.

Now let's delve even deeper into details on how to create and place these codes on your products/marketing materials, details on various use cases and on the multiple benefits:
 

How Do You Create These Codes and Place Them on Your Products/Marketing Materials?

Generating these QR codes, then linking them to your product/checkout pages and downloading the graphics files (SVG, PNG) to be placed on your marketing materials /products is nothing but a simple 4-step process:
 

  1. just get the Shopcodes app from the Shopify App Store and have it installed
  2. use the app to generate your first QR code 
  3. link the QR code to the product or the shopping cart page of your choice
  4. print the graphic file to place on your offline marketing materials!
     

Once your offline customer enters your physical store and uses his/her iPhone to scan the printed code added to a certain product he/she can:
 

  • learn more about it, visiting your online shop and heading straight to the product page that he's interested in
  • get straight to the shopping cart page and complete the checkout process, purchasing that specific product!
     

OK, Shopify Launches Shopcodes: But How Do They Work Precisely?

First of all, we need pointing out 2 particularities that set these QR codes in Shopify apart from the “traditional” ones (since QR codes have been around since the 90's):
 

  1. you can generate them exclusively within your Shopify store
  2. they can be used exclusively for shopping purposes
     

OK, now that we've set these key details straight, here's how they work and also how you, the seller, get to harness their full spectrum of functionalities:
 

  • we've already briefly mentioned how they work from the user's perspective: he/she uses his Apple phone to scan the code and gets a screen with additional info about the given product or with a “buy” button instead if you, the seller, will have linked that code to a checkout page
     
  • you, the Shopify merchant customer, get to track down and to monitor those codes (they're not just scannable, but also unique and easily trackable), each transaction made by your customers, right from your Shopify Analytics dashboard; so you'll get a crystal clear picture of where traffic/sales on your online store are coming from 
     
  • you, again, even get to harness a whole set of features aimed at enriching your toolset as a seller: to add discounts to those QR codes (thus encouraging your offline customers to purchase online), to make changes via your Shopcodes app's dashboard (e.g. to add extra information or promotions)
     

Convenience for your customers (and for you, too, since you have your dashboard as your control panel at hand) and a bundle of benefits for you, the Shopify customer!
 

Which Are the Use Cases for These QR Codes?

“Practically you get to use Shopify QR codes wherever you advertise offline”:
 

  • place them on your product packaging; this way your customers can just scan them through and get more detailed information about your products by visiting your online store or go to the checkout page directly
     
  • display them in your brick and mortar shop's storefront window, alongside other products; this way, even with closed doors, after or before your shop's working hours, your customers can still engage in shopping: in online shopping on your Shopify store instead!
     
  • use them in your popup store (or at the events that your company participates to), where you face multiple constraints, such as lack of space and a limited inventory on hand; your visitors can still scan these QR codes and have their favorite products delivered to their homes instead
     

In short: rely on Shopify's QR codes whenever/wherever you're conducting offline marketing campaigns! Use them to stir your offline potential customers' curiosity, turning them into your future online shoppers!
 

Why Should You, The Shopify Store Owner, Be Excited About This App?

“What's in it for you?” In what way does Shopify deliver you, through the launch of its Shopcodes app, (even more) value? 

Let's sum up your benefits and outline the answer to your question:
 

  1. it enables you to turn first-time customers into loyal customers thanks to a much more streamlined checkout process (they just scan the QR codes... land straight on the checkout pages... hit the “buy” button... and that's it!)
     
  2. it helps you turn various limitations (of space, of inventory on hand, etc.), that you might need to deal with, into favorable contexts for directing your potential shoppers to your online store instead
     
  3. from package inserts to storefront windows, to offline ads... practically any offline marketing material can serve as a QR code support, turning itself into a “tool” for your customers to gain quick and easy access to your Shopify online store 

What do you think about these QR codes' comeback that Shopify orchestrates? Do you plan to incorporate them into your own future offline marketing campaigns? 

Sep 11 2017
Sep 11

If the Amazon-Shopify partnership was looking so promising already, things just got better! Better for you, who runs an e-commerce business on this platform! Practically from now on by selling on Amazon via Shopify you'll get a major boost in reach.

With the 7 new product categories (that's right, they did get bumped up from 1 to... 7!) you'll be “drastically” increasing the number of Shopify items that you can sell on Amazon's massive marketplace.

And speaking of these newly added categories:
 

  • Health and Household
  • Beauty and Personal Care 
  • Home and Kitchen
  • Patio and Garden
  • Sewing
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Sports and Outdoors
  • Toys and Games    
     

There's more!

The Shopify-Amazon integration expansion comes “packed” with better support for Amazon's Brand Registry, as well! Basically, if you're currently Brand Registered on Amazon, you won't need to leave your Shopify dashboard to list your Brand Registered products. You can create them right there!

Better said: selling on Amazon via Shopify just got a whole lot more convenient and more advantageous for you!
 

“Specifically, What Do I Gain Out of It?”

“… out of this Shopify and Amazon's strengthened and expanded integration?”

Let us point out, in specific terms, how it benefits you, the store owner using the Shopify platform:
 

  • you'll get to list 7 times more products on Amazon right from your Shopify shop 
     
  • you'll get a significant boost in reach: a new distribution channel, with a loyal and nonetheless massive audience (no less than 300M users only last year)
     
  • you will never have to leave your familiar Shopify dashboard for adding your Amazon brand registered products; just create and manage your listings right there, in your store 
     
  • you'll no longer need to use UPC/EAN codes as an Amazon Brand Registered merchant
     
  • you'll create your product listings on Amazon even easier as a brand owner 
     

Selling on Amazon Via Shopify: One Shortcoming and A Few Predictions

For this sales channel does present a shortcoming: for now, only U.S. Shopify store owners get to leverage the newly expanded integration.

Still, (and here we disclose a key prediction), the Shopify team's already put it on the roadmap. 

They're currently working on giving merchants selling in other regions, as well, the chance of seamlessy selling on Amazon via Shopify. Of creating and managing Amazon listings, of fulfilling orders, managing inventories and so on without (ever) having to leave Shopify.

A challenging task to carry out, if we consider that Amazon operates with separate, per-regions websites and that the Shopify team will need to work closely with all of those teams! 

Moreover, analysts predict that this recently expanded Shopify-Amazon partnership is just one “brick in the wall”, the “wall” being their whole strategy of minimizing friction between storefronts. A strategy that will continuously strengthen these 2 e-commerce giants' influence in the e-commerce platform sector. 

This being said, allow us to end our post with the optimistic statement coming from Shopify's Product Support Network : “... we've got a full roadmap for growth opportunities with Amazon! Stay tuned :)”

Sep 05 2017
Sep 05

Making it significantly easier for developers to build Google-driven progressive web apps! And significantly simpler for users to access services through their mobile phones, as well. This is the 2-in-1 prime concept behind Angular 5!

The latest version of Google's mainstream JS framework for building mobile and desktop applications is soon to be released to production. And its beta version's:

  • bugfixes
  • performance improvements
  • new features

... have already “revealed” the Google team's principle of making progressive web apps accessible to everyone. To take out some of all that discouraging, heavy know-how that developers had to get themselves “equipped with” if they decided to take the dynamic AngularJS development's “bull” by the hornes.

And speaking of Angular 5's announced new features and enhancements, let's highlight the truly noteworthy ones, shall we?
 

New Angular 5 Features to Watch Out For

Here are some of the key features aimed to support the “simpler, faster, smaller” theme of version 5:

  • forms: add options arg to abstract controls
     
  • router: add events tracking activation of individual routes
     
  • compiler: add representation of placeholders to xliff & xmb
     
  • build optimizer: keeps code to its bare essentials, reducing, therefore, the app's size
     
  • integrating Material Design Components and making them compatible with server-side rendering
     
  • simplifying the whole progressive web apps' development process: so that the apps can get cached in the browser
     

Key Performance Improvements 

And speaking of enabling the development of progressive web apps (and implicitly of native-like experiences for the users), we can't leave out the notable performance enhancements brought to Angular 5:

  • abstract class methods & interfaces
     
  • the usage of native addEventListener for faster rendering
     

Google's engineering team's main goal has been to supercharge the fifth version of AngularJS with the needed out-of-the-box enhancements so that developers won't dread using the framework because of all the needed know-how. So that, instead, they should turn it into their first option for building their browser-based apps!
 

And Then... Get Ready to Welcome Angular 6, Too!

… which will step into the spotlight next year, April 16. So, there's a overcrowded (even “aggressive” we could say) release schedule awaiting the Google team.

Meanwhile, what the team developing Angular 6 can “disclose” is that they'll keep walking on Angular 5's path paved with the “easier, smaller, faster” principles. 

And that they'll keep their focus on making developers' “development time” spent building Google-based progressive web apps even more enjoyable: “We’ll continue that theme for version 6, just making [developers’] lives easier, making it possible to deliver apps better for their users” Brad Green, a Google engineering director, said.

In short: progressive web apps will get easier to build, thanks to all the built-in support streamlining development itself and easier (and therefore much more tempting) to use. 

So, now that you have your Angular 5 checklist, including all the key features and performance improvements (and you can find the list of bug fixes right here) save the date in your calendar (September 18) and get ready to... stretch test all these improvements and breaking changes! 

Aug 23 2017
Aug 23

Managing dozens of edits and tones of suggestions! This is just a brief and highly rudimentary definition of project/team management. 

Therefore, it goes without saying that collaboration within the team makes the perfect “shield” against pure chaos, time-consuming version control problems and challenging information tracking issues.

And this is precisely why Google's new G Suite features are “collaboration features” first and foremost and some truly handy, real-time editing features secondly. 

Here's just a quick “teaser” on this update of Google Docs, Sheets and Slides:
 

  • built-in add-ons tailored to your organization's specific workflow
     
  • improved version control management tools
     
  • advanced information tracking, improved search results
     

And now, without further ado, let's put the spotlight on Google's new G Suite features:
 

1. Improved Version Control 

And this is gold when it comes to effective time and teamwork management!

Just try to turn back the hands of time and to go back to that “prehistoric age” when teams used to share docs by email and to pile up a whole load of doc versions, each one having its own name. Each one sent out to all the other members of the team.

Now, come back to the present time when Google's new G Suite features include some well-improved version control management tools! 

Let us detail: now you get to edit a “draft 1” document as many times as you need, Google automatically saves it each time you apply a new change; once you're through with the editing you can go ahead and name it “draft 2”.

Google will promptly store all these multiple versions, that your team can assign custom names to, and so each team member gains access to the whole “version history”.

Just navigate to Select File > Version history > Name current version and keep a close track of and easily manage all your team's edits in that specific document (slide or sheet)! You and your team members can see the entire “work in progress” and access any specific older versions of the same doc.
 

2. One of The Handiest of Google's New G Suite Features: Preview a “Clean” Doc

Here's a new reading experience-enhancing feature that Google introduces in its latest G Suite update: you get to preview a “clean” version of your current document!

Basically anyone from your team can navigate to Select Tools > Review suggested edits > Preview accept all/Preview reject all and see that specific doc either:
 

  1. “clean”, lacking  any of the suggested edits/comments
     
  2. with all the subsequent editing marks added to
     

3.  Accept/Reject All Edit Suggestions With Just One Click

OK, so “collaboration” sure is the keyword to describe Google's new G Suite features, yet there's another one we can add: convenience!

For instance: you get to either accept or reject all the suggested edits at once. With just one click! Simply go to: Select Tools > Review suggested edits > Accept all or Reject all.

This way you're sparing your team members' time. The time they would otherwise invest in reviewing every formatting or punctuation mark edit.
 

4. Suggest Changes On-The-Go, on Android and iOS

Long gone are the days when you could turn on suggestion mode and do your editing exclusively on your PC.

By far one of the much awaited of the Google's new G Suite features is precisely this one: you now get to edit your doc on-the-go, right from your mobile device!

Just hit the “...” placed in the top corner of your document, sheet or slide and turn on the “suggest changes” mode. Talking about convenience, right?
 

5. Promptly Compare Doc Versions and Track Changes 

Along with “team collaboration” and “convenience”, “promptly” is another suitable word to define Google's new G suite features. 

You get to promptly review readlines thanks to the now built-in Workshare and Litera Change-Pro add-ons!
 

6. New Templates With Built-In Add-Ons Tailored to Your Workflow

Why should you have two separate “can't live without” features, when you can... have a powerful two-in-one tool instead? Meaning: why should you have time-saving templates, on one hand, and add-ons loaded with needed functionality on the other?

G Suite now brings you: templates with pre-built add-ons! With customizable add-ons to fit your own company's specific workflow.

For instance, you might depend on a tool like LegalZoom or LucidChart or rather DocuSign. Now you can have your template paired with precisely that add-on!

And there's more! If none of the available templates incorporating “luring” add-ons suits your needs, feel free to... create your own! Pick a template, pair it with the add-on of your choice and voila: custom-fit template integrated with your much needed add-on!
 

7. G Suite Integrates With Google Cloud Search

Can you anticipate how this Google update will impact information tracking within your team?

Let us give you some hints:
 

  • your team members will no longer need to leave the currently opened document whenever they have to scan through all their internal docs searching for a particular piece of information: G Suite incorporates Google Cloud Search now 
     
  • you get a richer set of search results, since the app will list every occurrence of that needed information across all your Google apps
     

In other words: you no longer need to specifically access Google Cloud Search to retrieve needed data! You just open up the Explore tab in your current document/slide and enter your search word(s). A whole list of Google apps (from your G suite) including that specific piece of information will then unfold.

And these are Google's new G Suite features that our team of Toronto developers here (who're “dependent” on G suite) are most excited about!

How about you? Have you had the chance to test any of them?

Aug 01 2017
Aug 01

“The Google search box is great when you’re looking for a specific answer, but there are also moments when you just want to catch up on the latest for topics of interest.“ (Tamar Yehoshua, VP of Product Management). 

And there you have it! The NEED that you might or might not have been entirely aware of! And the fact that Google enhances its search app with a personalized news feed comes to satisfy precisely this need: to enjoy a perfectly tailored, highly customizable experience when searching for content on mobile!

To explore up-to-the-minute info precisely from your own areas of interest!

“How does Google incorporate this personalized news feed section into the search?” Via tappable shortcuts placed right on top of the Google search app or right underneath the search bar (in case of the site's mobile variant).

And now enough with the “teasing”! Let's delve into details:
 

Tappable Shortcuts Now Accompany Google's Mobile Search

“Starting today in the U.S., we’re introducing tappable shortcuts on the Google app for Android and iOS and Google.com on the mobile web that give you easy access to great tools and the ability to explore deeper within topics you care about.” (excerpt taken from Google's announcement on its mobile search redesign)

Practically from now on when you're using Google's search app or Google.com on mobile, you're presented with tappable shortcuts. It's them that enable you to explore Google's personalized news feed.

Once clicked on, they're your free ticket to “steamy-fresh” news in areas such as sports, weather, entertainment, food and drink!

Expect a news feed perfectly tailored to your own topics of interest and preferences (reflected in your previous interactions with Google)! A feed “seasoned” with content related to what's trending in your own area and around the world at that moment, as well.

Need to know whether to take your umbrella with you today? Didn't manage to watch last evening's baseball match and you're dying to find out the score? Are you new in town and you need guidance for finding the best place to eat? It's all there, at a finger tap's distance! All the needed information and the freshest news “stacked” in your handy Google feed!

Moreover: expect your collection of shortcuts to get enriched with new ones standing for all the big events (let's say the Olympic Games for instance) shaping the given present time.

Also, Android users get “spoiled” with a collection of “extra” shortcuts: flights, currency converter, internet speed test, translate, nearby attractions, hotel!

Nothing new under the sun, we could easily say! This so called “new” functionality wearing Google's signature isn't new at all if we come to think of it. Convenience is, in fact, the “novelty” factor here: you get your tappable icons nicely structured into categories such as Tools, Fun, Weather, Lifestyle, Nearby, My Stuff. An organized, tappable interface!

Is there any need to add which is Google's own gain (if you, on your hand, gain loads of convenience)? The company's main objective is to retain its users on its search app!
 

How Will This “Move” Impact The Google vs Facebook Rivalry?

This is the question! 

The fact that Google enhanced its search app with a personalized news feed not only that aligns the giant search company with the “portals' revival trend”, but it puts it in direct competition with another giant: Facebook. 

It was Facebook itself that seized the opportunity of “reviving” the concept of portal-style content! And of launching the concept of portal-like apps where users could find and consume their sports, local, news, weather-related content in the same place.

And yet, Google's social media-style news feed differs! It's the very personalization factor itself that sets it apart from Facebook's!

Google's personalized news feed is custom-fit so that its should reflect users' areas of interests and search histories entirely! 

Whereas Facebook presents its own users with a news feed section displaying content defined by the people they know, by their very own social graph and by that news' popularity itself!

See the difference?  
 

The Editorialized Content Issue

Along with this whole redesign of Google's mobile search comes a legitimate concern: will Google editorialize the content delivered to its users in its news feed section?

Will it manage to entirely avoid the “risk” of editorializing content?

Most unlikely! Reaching and maintaining a level of “pure” objectivity in Google's personalized news feed section will be as likely as an AI making decisions “outside” its coded-in bias. 
 

How Will This Personalized News Feed-Powered Search Impact Us?

“The way we explore and consume content online will never be the same again”. This is our team's here, in our Toronto web development agency, answer to your valid question!

And it's quite obvious in what way! Since now we're presented with Google's personalized news feed before we even get to enter a text search query, we're no longer “constrained” to look only for specific answers to our questions.

We can also just catch up with the latest news from our areas of interest. And we can just dive deeper into the topics that we're interested in.

The END! We're more than curious to hear your own thoughts about this shift: how do you feel about being now “greeted” (or better said “tempted”?) with a set of tappable shortcuts, an integrated part of your whole search experience, instead of that timeless, ultra-minimal design emblematic for Google?

Jul 28 2017
Jul 28

Content is king, yet speed is everything! Or, better said: “content is king, but visual content is... Emperor”!

And since “visual content” means images (and videos), you run the risk to get your precious website bogged down by a too heavy load of (otherwise) visually-striking images.

Trying to impress, you to end up frustrating your visitors due to your site's slowness!

But there's good news: Cloudinary's Website Speed Test Image Analysis Tool! A “refined” tool to add to your web development essential toolbox!

A website performance tool that goes beyond the “you need to re-size your image” advice and empowers you with a whole report on how to:

  • encode
  • optimize
  • re-size images on your website
     

It measures, diagnosis and, moreover: provides you with a “treatment” for your site's poor load time, too!

And now, without any further ado, let's see this tool “in action”:
 

How Does the Website Speed Test Work Exactly?

But first, what would you say about simultaneously trying this Image Analysis tool itself? This way going through our short “tutorial” here will be much more interactive.

Just enter your site's link in the bar there, hit the “Analyze” button and... let the site performance report unfold before your eyes!

a. It Runs an Analysis of The Site's Overall Performance

Can you see the green, oversized letter grade on the top left corner of your screen? Excellent! 

This is just one of the 2 key metrics displayed to you in this section of your report:
 

  1. a letter grade: do keep in mind that the Website Speed Test tool grades your website by the number of detected issues, not by their gravity. So, the more problems/mistakes your inventory includes, the smaller the grade you'll get!
     
  2. an image weight comparison: it counts bytes (not problems) and counts the potential performance gains that your site could be exploiting instead

                               
Website Speed Test: the image weight comparison metrics

b. It Highlights Specific Issues

After you get your short report on your website's overall performance, the tool digs deeper, tracks down and highlights each web page's issues!

Every page-specific report will provide you with actionable information on:
 

  1. your images' current status: how they've been sized and encoded
     
  2. your images' “ideal” performance: actionable information related to their format, dimension, how you could have got them better compressed etc.
     

As you can see for yourself, the on-page analysis, too, displays both grades and a potential gains percentages.

Now, if you get “hungry” for even more actionable data, just dig deeper: hit the “See More” button! 

Website Speed Test: "See More" button

Then you'll get to “satisfy your need” for even more detailed information about every single web page's current and potential performance. A report “split” into 3 main panels:

Current:

  • it grades every element “responsible” of an image's performance: format, fit, compression (yet, it's just these 3 first elements that count in grading the image), color space, color width etc.
     
  • moreover, in the panel's bottom half you'll get a list of solutions for scoring better grades for each one of those analyzed elements; you're being told what you could have done better when you handled you site's optimization (and this is gold!)
     

Website Speed Test: the Optimized Image panel
 

Optimized Image:

  • it's here that you're presented with your image's ideal size and compression (and sometimes even with details on how the Website Speed Test encoded it along with a short description of the image's actual content)
     
  • just download it leverage it!
     

Website Speed Test: the "Optimized Image" panel
 

Format Alternatives:

  • provides you with several alternative options to the single one presented to you in the “Optimized Image” panel
     
  • you get to scan them through and choose the one that best fits your site's optimization needs 
     

Website Speed Test: the "Format Alternatives" panel
 

From Pointing Out the Problems to Listing their Solutions

Tackling the issues highlighted to you in the Website Speed Test report depends greatly on your (your team's) specific workflow. On the web development tools and technologies that you've already integrated into your workflow and that you're already familiar with.

For instance, has this image analysis diagnosed some compression issues? Then it's you to decide whether you get them fixed using a compression GUI or an ImageMagick instead!

The same goes for all the other issues' systematic fixing methods.

Just A Few Extra Details 
 

  • Website Speed Test is result of Cloudinary and WebPagetest joining forces
     
  • it's integrated into the WebPagetest's navigation bar: just look for the “Analyze Images” tab!
     
  • you should incorporate it into your own “arsenal” if, as a web developer in Toronto, you're testing your own websites and you want to get empowered to fix the signaled issues yourself
     
  • in short: Website Speed Test turns a plethora of site performance-boosting details into measurable and (moreover) actionable metrics: into “fuel” for your own site performance-enhancing plan!
     

Have you tried it yet? Do you think that it sets itself apart from other website performance analysis tools that you've used so far? Do share your (first) impressions with us!

Jul 07 2017
Jul 07

The “create once, publish everywhere with close to zero knowledge of Drupal” is nothing but a myth! And you must have surely convinced yourself of that by now! 

This is why harnessing the power of decoupled Drupal has been a discouraging “mission impossible” for non-Drupalers. A “privilege” exclusively for those familiar with decoupled back-ends, for those who do know a thing or two (or more) about each of the Drupal modules' particularities.

Well, it looks like the Drupal community is innovating for a brighter future! One where you, the non-Drupaler, get to leverage the decoupled Drupal 8's power hassle free! 

And this future (which recently turned into present) is called “Contenta”!

What started like an innovative and promising initiative at Drupalcon Baltimore is rapidly developing into a powerful, stable API-first Drupal distribution adapted to the needs of the non Drupal “gurus”. 

How do its initiators plan to do that? By providing the users out-of-the-box Contenta “kits”, with all the needed tools, configuration and demos that they could possibly need to start “fueling” their cutting-edge apps with content in no time (having Drupal 8 as a back-end CMS to rely on)!
 

What Was The Context That Favored Contenta's Emergence?

Two key factors defined this favorable context:
 

  1. The app development process in a decoupled situation itself: for non-Drupalers it could easily turn into a daunting “ordeal” with all the set ups to be made, the tools to be put together, master matching the app's front-end with its Drupal back-end etc.
     
  2. Drupal 8's outstanding capabilities for building decoupled applications
     

A solution had to be found so that everyone should be able to benefit from a decoupled Drupal CMS at its full potential, especially since Drupal 8 already provided a truly powerful “toolset” to be leveraged.
 

What Goals Has The Development Team Set For Contenta?

Now that we've outlined the “problem” that this Drupal distribution comes to solve, how about pointing out the “objectives” that its team has set for it, as well?
 

  • it should be highly accessible to non-Drupalers thanks to the provided “out-of-the-box” kit of tools (or quick installer) they'll need when building their apps (content models, demo content, modules suggestions, example consumer apps, default setup...)
     
  • it should be quick and easy to use (thanks to its “load” of helpful demos and inspiring consumer examples)
     
  • it should also turn into a go-to source of needed documentation
     
  • it should be full-featured, perfectly equipped for powering decoupled projects, irrespective of the used front-end technology: Angular, Ract, Vue, Ember etc.
     

How Do You (Quickly) Install It?

Since we've already mentioned Contenta's “quick installer” feature, it's time we come up with proofs, right?

Here are the simple steps to take for installing your API-first Drupal distribution, so that you can start building your consuming app in no time:
 

  • first things first: install Composer 
     
  • ensure that you have the sqlite-extension installed in your local machine, as well ( sudo apt-get install php-sqlite3 in debian/ubuntu)
     
  • then enter the following command for creating your new project: composer create-project contentacms/contenta-jsonapi-project MYPROJECT --stability dev --no-interaction 
     
  • next, just install Drupal as usual
     

What Type of Demo Content Model Will You Get, Out-of-The-Box?

“A recipe magazine”!

That's right, this is the type of pre-built content model and demo content that you'll get to implement and to work with once you've installed your content API.
 

What Front-End Technology Should You Go For?

“Whichever you prefer”, since Contenta “spoils” you with a whole load of inspiring examples of consumer apps built in different technologies.

And there's no need for you to get “suspicious” once you notice that all these examples feature the same structure.“In real-life” it's the front-end technology that will be powering them that will determine their look and feel (if it will be Angular, then your app will feature that already iconic material design, if it will be Elm, then...)
 

Wrapping Up: Hypothetical Contenta Use Case 

Now, what a more suitable way to sum up our short presentation on this API-first Drupal 8 distribution here than with an hypothetical use case scenario, right? Let's proceed:

“Let's take Matt, our hypothetical non-Drupaler (let's assume that he is a React developer instead). Matt here is in search of a powerful back-end CMS for that impressive app that he's planning to develop. He'll just need to install Contenta, quick and easy, and dig through the out-of-the-box collection of React-powered app examples that Contenta will deliver him, by default.”

This way, via a quick installation process and helpful examples of consumer apps to get inspired by, Matt will be able to develop his React and Drupal 8-powered app in no time!

Now we're curious to read your own thoughts on this initiative! How do you feel about this project? Which are your projections of its future? Are you currently looking forward to using it in your future decoupled Drupal projects?

Jun 28 2017
Jun 28

“Viva la revolution!” Since we keep reading/hearing how AI revolutionizes the way people shop online, the way retailers leverage their user data to personalize the shopping experiences they provide, how AI revolutionizes the entire ecommerce space. So, how are you harnessing the superpower of AI on your ecommerce site?

Your set of options includes:
 

  • chatbots
     
  • virtual personal shoppers
     
  • ultra-personalized shopping experiences
     
  • AI-based search queries
     
  • machine learning-powered search results
     

… and the list is an ever-growing one!

Now you're probably disoriented: how do you know which one(s) of these revolutionizing forms of AI fits your own company's ecommerce strategy? 

Well, let us put each one of them into the spotlight and hopefully help you identify the forms of AI in ecommerce that best suit your goals:
 

1. AI Virtual Shopping Assistant

The “Relax and enjoy your shopping experience!” turns into: “Relax, your virtual assistant will do the shopping for you, purchasing precisely the item(s) you need at the best possible price(s)”.

In short, as you implement this form of AI on your ecommerce site, you're actually leveraging both the valuable user data that you will have collected and the set ups that your customers will make (for instance a certain day of the week/month when he prefers his virtual assistant to “go shopping” for him/her).

Let's fancy this possible virtual shopping assistant-powered scenario:

“you already have a load of priceless data on a customer's preferences and an enabled “sales” alert option. By leveraging this valuable information his online personal shopper can easily purchase that particular product/service precisely the day when the price drops down”.

See the 2 main differences?

The customer:
 

  1. doesn't have to type in a whole string of relevant keywords in the search box on your site, looking for the product he'd like to buy (for his virtual assistant already knows what items he'd like to purchase)
     
  2. won't be constantly notified (and eventually annoyed) whenever prices drop. 
     

The shopping experience without the time-consuming hassle!

Moreover: the AI virtual shopping assistant can curate the products/services your customers would want to purchase, depending on their browsing and shopping histories!

So, we're talking about proactively assisting your customers, ensuring future conversion, too!
 

2. Machine Learning for More Relevant Search Results

Relevancy is key when it comes to search results, wouldn't you agree?

But what if you could reach “the utmost relevancy” in the search options that you deliver to your online customers?

You can reach it: by leveraging the machine learning technology on your Drupal site! 

Instead of relying on the conventional keyword matching technique, you'd better harness the power of machine learning AI and deliver the perfectly adequate search results to your potential customers!
 

3. A New Type of Search Query: AI Processing Natural Language 

Searching for products/services on a given ecommerce website is getting “out-of-fashion”!

AI technology steps on the stage and steals the spotlight as it's equipped with natural language processing capabilites. Capabilities that the traditional way of searching for items on a given online store can't possibly compete with!

Therefore, instead of typing several relevant keywords, which may or may not display the relevant search options, AI can “interpret” customers' natural language. It can recognize and decipher their natural expressions and thus display only the most relevant search results.
 

  1. on one hand we have a series of keywords that get, successfully or not, matched with their corresponding products/services
     
  2. on the other hand with have search results determined by the process of “deciphering” natural expressions
     

See the difference?
 

4. Voice Search: Implement This Key Form of AI on Your Ecommerce Site 

AI-powered voice search has ceased to be a striking novelty for some time now.

It slowly and surely turns into a “must-have” technology for every ecommerce site/app!

Are you ready to leverage this form of AI on your ecommerce site, too?

It's the epitome of convenience: users can just utter the items they want to visualize and eventually purchase and the AI technology implemented on your website does all the rest.

Yet it's much more than “utmost convenience”: it's a way of deep-personalizing your customers' overall shopping experiences on your ecommerce website! By using voice-triggered searches you'll practically tailor, to their own needs, the search options that you'll display.

The “traditional” way of personalizing shopping experiences (to the search terms that users enter in the search box on your site) can't possibly rival with this AI-powered type of personalization, don't you agree?
 

5. Evolving Content 

And we do mean “in real time”!

A whole new dimension for the concept of in-depth personalized content going hand in hand with a perfectly tailored shopping experience.

In other words: what this AI technology does is adjust the content on your ecommerce website LIVE, as the customers navigate through!

The data collecting, followed by the content tailoring is no longer a viable tactic in today's ecommerce landscape.

Content evolving in real-time is the new level of personalized customer experiences! 

And not only that it helps you craft an “ultra” personalized online shopping experience, with a high level of interactivity, but you're actually taking the burden of A/B and layout testing off your team's shoulders.

As you leverage this AI technology, based on evolutionary algorithms, you'll be actually improving your online shopper's experience “on the spot”!
 

And the list can easily go on and on! Visual search would have to be the next AI technology on our list, followed closely by...

Yet, since it's a list that gets constantly enriched, we shall end it here. Do tell us now: have you already leveraged any of these forms of AI on your ecommerce site?

Jun 14 2017
Jun 14

If content is king, then content personalization sure is queen! Which leads us to content globalization, an ever increasing demand that many organizations strive to adapt their marketing technology stack to. Yet manually getting heavy loads of content translated not just in one, but in several languages, and then sending it out precisely to their target audiences, at high speed and ideally scaled, is almost a “mission impossible”. And this is the particular context that the Cloudwords for Drupal 8 was launched in!

It's the answer to organizations' challenge of dealing with users' expectations for personalized experiences while striving to spare their valuable resources of time, as well!

For users do expect to be “served” promptly, you can't compromise on quality (by delivering them poorly translated content) and you surely can't waste their time (delivering them the translated version of the content on your website weeks or months later).

And this complex workflow involving:
 

  • large teams of content authors
  • loads of content being constantly moved in and out of the Drupal website(s)
  • a whole network of translation vendors to send it over to and to receive it from
     

... has its limitations! 

Therefore, integrating Cloudwords with Drupal 8 comes to turn all this from a cumbersome, time-consuming process into a fully automated workflow! 

Now let's get into more details about the “happy marriage” of these two innovative web technologies, Clowdwords and Drupal 8:
 

Why Drupal? Why Drupal 8? What Does This CMS Bring To The Table?

As you probably already know, it's been a while since we've got to use the Cloudwords for Drupal module. Why was Drupal “chosen” for the happy union? It's pretty logical: back then it was and still is large organizations' top favorite content management system! The one “equipped” with all the capabilities (flexibility, scalability, extensibility and all the other crucial “ity”-s) that are crucial for content-packed websites!

So, since now we have Cloudwords for Drupal 8, a more than valid question would be: “But Why Drupal 8 in particular?” 

“Because it's been built with content globalization in mind! It provides companies with multilingual support right in its core!”
 

What is Cloudwords? What Does It Bring to the Table?

Simply put: Cloudwords is a software that automates the entire global content localization process!

Basically what it does is eliminate all those resources-consuming tasks, that are now being carried out manually by “armies” of teams, and deliver a highly enhanced visibility into the projects' statuses.

A “dream come true” for all the digital marketing teams involved in the production and the delivery of personalized content within large organizations. Like yours!

Cloudwords's key role in this integration with Drupal 8 is precisely this one: turning your Drupal website's localization into a streamlined, automated workflow! Far easier to monitor and far easier to handle! 

Workflow automation + Unmatched project management capabilities
 

The Challenge 

More often than not enterprise organizations need their websites' content translated in several languages (not just one or two) and also have not just one multilingual site to manage, but an entire “constellation” of sites.

So, as you can imagine (since you're probably facing the same challenge) monitoring the entire translation process, promptly updating it whenever new content gets added to the website and adding new and new multilingual websites to the group is resources-consuming and prone to error!

And this is the challenge that Cloudwords in Drupal 8 comes to help your own organization respond to!
 

Cloudwords for Drupal 8: A Big Leap Ahead Into the Future of Content Globalization

Now that we've:
 

  1. glided through each one of the two technologies' key capabilities relevant for this integration
  2. pointed out the “problem” that this “union” comes to solve
     

… let's have a close look at this groundbreaking solution, shall we?

First of all, what we can easily state is that it speeds up the whole website localization process. And that it protects it from human error, too, obviously!

Since the entire workflow (implying the creation and the delivery of personalized content) gets automated, living up to higher and higher standards of speed, quality and scaling gets so much easier.

Secondly, we're talking about efficiency in terms of quantity, as well: a high volume of web pages can now get translated at high speed, to more and more users located in different corners of the world and in more and more languages, as well.

In short: accelerating translation at scale, that's what you'll achieve, within your enterprise, once you start leveraging Cloudwords for Drupal 8's capabilities!
 

And How Exactly Does It Streamline Content Marketers' Workflow?

The very first “present” that content marketers get is an increased visibility into their content translation projects! A key benefit coming to complete all the other ones deriving from the fact that all the time-consuming tasks, otherwise manually handled, are eliminated from the whole process.

“Automated convenience”, that's how we could call Cloudwords for Drupal 8 from content marketers' standpoint!

And there's more! The future has in store even more (more or less “surprise) “goodies” for content authors and editors:
 

  • improved multilingual support (since we're talking about Drupal 8, after all)
  • improved content authoring and editing experience 
     

CloudWords for Drupal 8: Features That You'll Want to Use

Now let's outline specifically those key functionalities that you'll be using the most in your translation at scale projects:
 

  • enhanced visibility into each project's status (a feature that we've just talked about)
  • OneReview: in-content review functionality
  • collaboration among all the teams and vendors involded, across departments, too; and good collaboration sure is a touchstone of any large scale project!
     

How Does It Work?

“You simply select the content on your Drupal site that you want to localize and let Cloudwords for Drupal 8 handle the rest!” 

The translation vendor that you'll choose for the job will get the content to be translated, then it will have it delivered into Cloudwords. A step-by-step website localization process that Cloudwords will streamline for you, taking an incredibly heavy burden off your team's shoulders!

Moreover, it will also automatically detect and point out to you those specific translations that are outdated, as well as the new ones.

And this is how Cloudwords for Drupal 8 works! Looking forward to hearing from you your very first impressions once you start integrating it into your organization's translation at scale processes! 

Jun 10 2017
Jun 10

Standard web pages have ceased to be the only data delivery medium available! And there's no way around it. You either respond to users' “pressing” expectations to be delivered up to the moment data, context-based data only, or, well, you'll be left behind! In this respect Drupal-powered digital signage systems might just be the best solution to meet your customers' “new” needs and to remain relevant in your business!

There's no reason to “act surprised” or be skeptical about Drupal being the right technology to go for! You have:
 

  • data rich APIs
     
  • outstanding content management functionalities
     

… so collecting data, turning it into “relevant”, contextual data, detecting a whole network of devices and sending out that data following a certain content model already looks like a plan.

A solid plan for you to build your first digital signage system on!

But let us dive into more details, (hopefully) answer all your legitimate questions and deliver you some of the key information you need for getting started with your digital signs project:
 

Digital Signage Systems: A Few Examples

What forms do these new types of digital experiences take? Where do we interact with digital signage in our day-to-day lives?

Here are some representative examples:
 

  • mall kiosks
     
  • touch screens placed in various means of transportation (planes, cars, trains)
     
  • voice interfaces
     

These are all real-data delivery means! Digital signage solutions that we interact with daily (even if only visually) and which have already become indispensable to us.
 

But Why Drupal? Why a Drupal-Powered Digital Signage System?

… when you have Angular, Node, Amber React and the whole “suite” of cutting-edge, modern technologies at your disposal?

The answer lies in Drupal's whole “culture” of empowering the end-user!

In other words: Drupal provides an improved user experience compared to other modern technologies focusing mostly on enhancing exclusively the developer's experience instead.

As simple as that! You need to build your signage system with your client (his team of content editors) in mind! It's them who will need to be able to grow independent once you pass them over the device; to be able to edit everything about it with the utmost ease.

And Drupal excels at empowering the non-developer, the non-technical user!
 

Real-Time Data Streaming = Managing Content With Great Ease

And Drupal's well reputed for its capabilities as a content management system.

It empowers those “in charge” with content with a whole structure of features and functionalities aimed at better organizing the editorial team, at handling and “refining” the delivered content (making it context-sensitive, as well).

Now, let us point out some of its “star” capabilities:
 

  • its whole “infrastructure of roles and permissions
     
  • its revisioning feature
     
  • its translation functionality
     
  • its content types building tool
     

How Does Drupal Handle External Data?

Having data “flooding in” from “outside” providers is something to consider when you decide to develop your Drupal-powered digital signage system! This data can range from:
 

  • social media
     
  • to weather data
     
  • to stock data
     
  • to news
     
  • to all kinds of crucial (for the passengers) public transportation-related data
     

And the way Drupal 8 copes with this “flood” of data goes like this: the provider API is sent out to collect this data, then Drupal gets it processed according to the content model.

Note: If content is king, then context is queen!

Make sure you contextualize the data you deliver via your digital signs, that you perfectly adjust it to the given context (you don't want to send out information about a train's schedule on the “wrong” platform or data news from Baltimore to people living in L.A. etc.)
 

Getting Started: How to Use Drupal for Powering Your Digital Signs 

Here are the very basic steps to take:
 

  • enter the right command in Drush for collecting your data
     
  • next store your credentials in Drupal 8
     
  • “trigger” caching (yet, be cleverly selective about what you cach, since you can't, obviously, cach everything when it's real-time data that you need to deliver)
     
  • parse your collected data, using Drupal 8 to “spread” it to all the right devices, following the right content model path
     

Getting Data from Drupal to Your Digital Signs: How Does It Work?

Before you go ahead and pick the obvious answers to this question, “pull” or “push”, you'd better consider all the “pieces of the puzzle”:
 

  1. you can't really rely on the pull method since that would put a tremendous pressure on your server's shoulders (and heat up your devices)
     
  2. you can't rely on a “multiple APIs” method either, since real-time data restricts you to a to a highly selective caching (unlike on web pages)
     
  3. you can't reload as many times as needed, like on the web
     
  4. there's limited or no user interactivity involved (the huge blue screen can be viewed by thousands of people and the only thing they can do is just... stare at it)
     

“Can't do this, can't do that: but what is it that I CAN do to make this data transfer work?”

“You use websockets!” It's this solution that will provide you with an almost instantaneous, two-way type of communication for a longer time!
 

It's One of Those Perfect Contexts of Use for “Exploiting” Drupal's Scalability

Apart from being incredibly flexible, Drupal's highly scalable, too! We all know it, even those that don't use Drupal know it!

A Drupal-powered digital signage system is the perfect “context” for leveraging this scalability. And it's going to be of a great help when you think of the whole network of devices involved here!

Drupal's powerful enough to send out the collected data via one of the websocket channels that you'll use for transferring your data to your devices.

Moreover, it can multiple that data for as many devices as your network has. Unlimited scalability!
 

Think Beyond Content Model: Think “Device Model”, Too!

… for Drupal has the right capabilities for collecting, processing data and following the content model, yet you need to “give it some hints” regarding the devices, too. The devices that those digital signs will get displayed on.

Let it know what is it that these devices can do, which messages get “triggered” by which one of the digital signs.

In short: a well structured, crucial information-stuffed device model's needed, too!
 

Overall: What Does Drupal Need to Know?

If you want your Drupal-powered digital signage system to work at its full potential, then you need to “empower” Drupal 8 with all the key information:
 

1. what data goes to which one of your interconnected digital signage devices

2. the format that Drupal needs to display that data in (along with language, size screen, and other related key data)
 

And now in order to “proof” your data, to ensure that it's just your own devices that have access to it, you can:
 

  • whitelist your digital signage system (leveraging the metadata that Drupal can collect for you)
     
  • establish TFA for all the involved users
     
  • ensure that your services of choice (whether it's Google, Amazon or another one) ask devices for authentication
     

How Does a Drupal-Powered Digital Signage System Handle Security?

And this is, indeed, a “sore point” when dealing with digital signs! They're particularly vulnerable in case of cyber attacks.

Now that we've pointed out the “problem”, let's jump to the possible solutions that you have:
 

1. this is a no-brainer and yet, we feel like adding this “rule of thumb”, too: always change the passwords that your devices ship with!

2. consider a restricted access to them

3. ensure that the software you're using comes along with a patch/updates schedule, too, and that you remember to run those updates, periodically

4. secure your source data: get it validated and audited before you “release it out into the wild”

5. use SSL 
 

And now all there's left for us to add is: good luck with your first Drupal-powered digital signage system!

Jun 06 2017
Jun 06

Before we delve any deeper into the topic of progressive web apps, let's highlight the context that “produced” them: the limitations of the web itself (poor internet connection, low performance and so on).

Therefore, a solution was needed so that users (and here we're referring mostly to users from emerging markets, although poor internet connection is a “sore point” for users from other countries, as well) faced with this type of drawback could enjoy some native-ish, app-like experiences, too.

And so, evolving from the “standard” web-hosted apps and “rivaling” native apps in feature-rich user experience, loading speed and (most of all) unmatched accessibility, progressive web apps “were born”!

Now let's get to the bottom of the growing “fascination” for this “new” type of apps, pointing out why they're preferred by developers (front-end developers in particular), by users and by organizations (Google being this web technology's most “notorious” advocate) to the same extent.   
 

But First: What Exactly Are Progressive Native Apps? 

And this leads to another another legitimate question: in what way are they different from “conventional” web apps?

“Web browser APIs”, this is the answer! It's this feature alone that makes all the difference! Progressive web apps are “clusters” of multiple modern web technologies, the great majority of them deriving from the web API's itself.

Basically this opens a whole new web era for developers, an era where they can build powerful dynamic web apps using web APIs. Where they can deliver native-ish user experiences without the need of using hybrid frameworks. 

“Progressive enhancement” (or “brewing” top performance even from the early stages of development), this is how we can call the whole development process that sets this type of apps apart from web apps and gets them so close to native apps.

Developers get to add new enhancements/features progressively, while users get to enjoy some native app-like experience, irrespective of their internet connection's quality or of the mobile browser that they're using. A win-win situation!

And now, let's point out the key “requirements” for a “regular” web app to “level up” to a progressive one:

  • to be responsive: a progressive web app runs on any type of device (any browser)
     
  • to run offline relying on service workers (to be connectivity-independent): one of the main reasons why these apps have gained so much ground so quickly; “poor or no internet connectivity” is the issue that progressive web apps have been created to compensate for after all
     
  • to feature an architecture enabling progressive enhancement (developers should easily add on new features, new functionalities hassle-free)
     
  • to be be easy to install locally, on the user's home screen, on smartphones and tablets
     
  • to be re-engageable: via features such as push notifications
     
  • to be built on HTTP, therefore addressing the security issue
     
  • to be easily accessed via one basic URL
     

And the list could easily go on and on with features deriving from these very “requirements”:

  • they're app-like (with content and functionality playing, each, its separate role)
     
  • they're discoverable (since Google and other search engines can easily track them down identifying them as “apps”)
     
  • they feature dynamic app-like pages with separate URLs, etc.
     

What's most important for you, as a Drupal site owner and as an organization, is the aspect of ACCESSIBILITY! Being responsive, progressive and connectivity-independent, these new-generation type of apps (the “future of web apps”, as many call them) is a huge leap forward into the future of web.

Once there the user's freed from the chains of performance and other types of dependencies (platform dependency, internet connection dependency...)
               

And Again: How Precisely Do Progressive Web Apps Benefit Your Own Business?

Is your organization's future projects include seizing business opportunities in the emerging markets (for, after all, they are “responsible” for 70% of the global growth, according to Forbes)? Markets which are known as having the mobile in their DNA while they face, at the same time, poor internet connectivity challenges?

Then progressive web apps come as a sure “recipe” for your business' growth!

As for your direct customers, it's all the new possibilities that this type of apps, built with unmatched accessibility in mind, unlock. Your users will be able to access your PWAs from any device (PWAs put an end to Android's “dictatorship”), from any network access (or none) and still enjoy a native-ish experience.

They no longer need to limit themselves to “super light” type of mobile apps or to access their favorite apps only for short periods of time.
 
Progressive web apps can be adjusted to these particular customers' context of poor network performance and used devices. An enhancement that will smooth your access through and ensure your business' growth in a 3.9 billion person market.

From our own team of Drupal developers' standpoint: they'll get to focus on configuring your company's web apps for 2G only, thanks to their “connectivity-independency” feature.

Now if we are to point out some business stories of success, we could mention Jumia and Konga. The two companies operating in Africa have both implemented progressive enhancements into their their web apps' development process and they've both succeeded to increase their conversion rater and to reduce data usage.

To Sum Up:

  • your users don't need to compromise a rich native app-like experience in order to save their data or due to a poorly performing network
     
  • you'll make your web apps accessible to everyone (increasing visibility for your own brand)
     
  • you'll manage to cut down your bounce rate (no more “annoyed” users unable to access your app or constrained to access it for a shorter period of time)
     
  • you'll be able to more effectively safeguard your data   

Service Workers: What Are They and How Can They Improve Your PWA?

First of all we feel like adding that: service workers are indispensable when building progressive web apps! They're the JavaScript-like scripts handling everything data-related: where it comes from, how it should be structured and cached in the background, where it should be pulled to etc.

Each time your users perform an action, it's these service workers that makes the right data requests in the database and transmits it between views. They coordinate all the background processes that go from data requests to content delivery.

And speaking of service workers, we need to stress out that it's the Service Worker API that's the truly indispensable service worker that you should be using for ensuring a connectivity-independent PWA.

It makes the very foundation of your progressive web app!

Start with the Service Worker Api and build on it; take it from there and continue to enhance your app!
 
For inspiration, we recommend you to visit Service Workers Cookbook, a great source of “enlightening” demos and great examples for you to learn from! 


A Few Words About The App Shell That Progressive Web Apps Use

If you're familiar with the native app's architecture, then you surely are familiar with app shells.  

They're the pre-established patterns that guarantee the clear separation of the UI from the data and code. It's also the true “culprit” of native apps' high performance, of their undeniable power: the interface remains visible and identical for the user, while different sets of data can load each time.

It can be cached locally, making it easy for it to load with each access of your app, and guaranteeing a dynamic content: data and functionality filling in the views can differ depending on various factors.

And this shell-like structure remains identical on every single page of your app. It's only the data/functionality that vary, creating that sense of dynamics and ensuring the best loading times, too.

And that's it for today! This is our short 2-in-1 presentation and pledge for adopting progressive web apps. What do you think? Are they the future of the interweb or you don't see their potential?
 

Apr 21 2017
Apr 21

 
Still wondering how the weather will be next week in Maryland! It's “crucial” information for us, you know, since these days we're packing our bags for next week's DrupalCon Baltimore 2017
 

About DrupalCon Batimore 2017

Needless to add that the Drupalcon North America is THE “peak” of all the other Drupal-themed meetings, events and camps taking place all over the globe, year-round.

This year it's Baltimore's turn to host the event (and to welcome the no less than 3000 Drupalists and Drupal enthusiasts who'll be attending it), from April 24-28. And for living up to the scale of this event, it's the Convention Center, on One West Pratt Street, that it puts at the Drupal community's disposal!
 

OPTASY at DrupalCon Baltimore 2017

We have exciting news! This year OPTASY'S both one of the attendees and one of the sponsors who'll “power” this mega gathering!

And we have to admit that we're, still, so proud of this opportunity (with the risk of slightly “breaking” the laws of modesty)!

Therefore, do feel free to step by our booth #140 and get to know the OPTASY team! We're ready to answer to all your questions, whether they'll be closely related to our work or to the “must-see” attractions in Toronto.
 

A Multifaceted Event With A Jam-Packed Program

No matter how hard we've tried, we just couldn't put together a hierarchy! A calender, yes, but not a hierarchy.

We'd love to attend all the sessions, ALL the sprints, all the summits all the social events, all the special events (not exactly realistic, we know that)!

In other words, we're looking forward:

  • to Dries Buytaert's keynote, on the 25th of April
  • to attending community discussions
  • to participating to the sprints (oh yes!) and be part of all those knowledge sharing, creative thinking challenging and innovative ideas spreading types of Drupal-y gatherings
  • to attending trainings (so that we can get the bags that we're packing these days loaded with great tips, strategies, trends to watch in 2017, Drupal best practices, know-hows, demos etc. from the Drupal legends themselves)
  • to attending some cool social events (definitely!)
  • to attending community sessions (getting ourselves informed about Acquia's latest products, about its planned roadmap for 2017 and exhanging ideas with members of the community is, after all, one of the reasons why we attend DrupalCons)
  • to attending session tracks on UX, PHP, project management, DevOps and the list of tempting topics can go on and on.

A quick recap

See you next week in Baltimore, at booth #140 and at all the other “can't miss” events listed in the event's jam-packed program!
 

Now, let us continue with our bags packing and weather forecasting...

Apr 03 2017
Apr 03


Google's been not just “a” member of the open source community, but one of its leading members. It's been advocating for the usage of open source as a sure path to innovation for a while now.

This is no breaking news for anyone!

Therefore, hearing that the California-based giant has taken a big leap forward in terms of “openness”, in terms of “exposing “behind-the-scene” details of its relationship with open source software, hasn't surprised us, the OPTASY team, all that much! 

“Not so surprised” and yet: we can't deny that we're still excited about Google's announcement!

It practically opens a large window for us, the “outsiders”, to “peep into” the company's code and other “in-house” code created for developing their open source projects. The website's not just a repository of key information on Google's projects and processes, but it gives away details on how precisely they're being used inside the company. 

The revealed code will co-exist both on Google's own self-hosted git service, as well as on GitHub. And, in this equation Opensource.google.com will play the role of a central directory for them. And “feasting” on the information showcased there is not just for “fun” or for mere curiosity, but you should take it as an opportunity: it actually offers an insight into the best practices when it comes to developing open sources projects!

And this is just the beginning for, Will Norris, Open Source Programs Office at Google declared: “it also contains something unexpected: a look under the hood at how we “do” open source”.

Google's planning to showcase there information about project life cycle and they commit to keep adding new and new details on how they approach open source “in-house”. So, no need to put on your “binoculars” and try “spying” on what's happening “behind the closed curtains”, at Google. No need to strive to get your insights on their open source projects! The future looks bright for you!

For it seems that the company's willing to put its inside information “on a silver plate” for you. Meaning: under one single handy URL!
 

About Google's Own Open Source Philosophy

… revolves around one essential principle: everyone can benefit from open source!

In Google's own “philosophy” open source sets the perfect context for teams to collaborate, to share information and to work together for creating new technologies.

The company sees open source as a sure path to innovation, as we've already stated!

“Collaboration” is, therefore, the main word behind Google's idea of open source. And “collaboration” goes hand in hand with the idea of “community”, with the idea of “the community of developers participating” in developing open source projects together.

In addition to this, Google has revealed its other key principles supporting its open source philosophy: the “more is better” one.

What does it mean? It means that the company's committed to showcasing as many open source projects as possible on their newly launched website. And this because they agree that they do not know, from the very start, which ones of them will have a larger audience.

Therefore, they're decided to keep posting code, this leading to a repository of thousands of open source projects that developers can “scan through” and select the information they need.
 

Opensource.google.com: What's Its Purpose?

One of the clarifications that the Google's officials have made was that their new site isn't designed with a one and only purpose in mind: to showcase the company's open source projects.

It's supposed to be a “tool” that developers can use to discover how these projects are used internally. Both overviews of these projects and explanations on how they're being used are provided there.

Also, another mention they've is that developers shouldn't take their showcased code and explanations on how this is being utilized inside the company as “absolute” how-to guides.They're just “starting points” or “inspiration” on how the company approaches open source. They're aimed at empowering you to venture yourself on the open source-provided path to innovation.

An incentive to collaborate for creating new technologies.
 

But What Type of Information Will Go Public More Precisely?

You're more than entitled to ask yourself right now: “But what type of topics will the information on Google's new site be covering?” And, also: “How will the content get structured on Opensource.google.com?”

In this respect, let us detail a bit. Here's what Google's public collection will include:
 

  • information on how to submit patches to other open source projects
     
  • Google's policies regarding third-party open source projects 
     
  • key information about Google's release processes for its new open source projects 
     

Up to now Google's new site sums up 2000 projects.

When it comes to content structuring and facilitating the user's/developer's access to certain information, a search feature has been added (besides the drop-down menu displaying the categories available on the website). This turns out to be a more than useful tool in case you already know what you need a certain project for, but you don't have your mind set on a specific bit of software.  
 

In Conclusion:

Judging by how other Google open source projects, such as TensorFlow and Kubernetes have evolved (turning into “constellation” type of projects, each with its own set of ecosystems gravitating around it), the documents piled up and made public on this website are a major opportunity from a developer's standpoint. No doubt about that!

It also delivers inspiration for other companies to embrace open source and to showcase their own “behind the closed door” code. 

How about you? How do you perceive the new Google site's release and how do you position yourself, as a company, when it comes to open source? Do you see any opportunity in revealing your internal code to “outsiders”?
 

Feb 22 2017
Feb 22
We just couldn't keep it to ourselves! Especially since we're fully aware that you, our long-time or new partners, are “responsible” for this recognition. Being ranked there, among all the top web development companies in Canada's so competitive digital landscape, is an overwhelming honour for our team. But also an incentive for constant self-improvement and a huge responsibility! No doubt about that!     

Allow us to express our gratitude for your acknowledgment of our work!

Of the expertise and the creativity that we've invested in delivering relevant, adaptive and overall business success-driving digital experiences. Not the “one size fits all“ type, but the one reflecting our customers' visions and geared toward helping them meet their business goals!

We simply love what we're doing!

And we love getting better and better at what we're doing! That's it! No secret “ingredient” in this “formula for success”.

It's our passion for our work that has allowed us to broaden our offer of services from (exclusively) building Drupal websites to developing custom modules, theming, offering maintenance and support and delivering adapted Drupal e-commerce solutions, as well. 

And yet, we did add a not so secret ingredient to this formula for success: “always putting clients first”!

And this prioritization includes both the input that our clients give us during their web projects development, as well as their own visions and goals. For we're never putting together “just” visually-appealing, functional Drupal websites: we develop Drupal websites that respond to our customers' particular needs and which help them achieve their own business goals.

What we're actually trying to say to you is: "Thank you, we take a bow before such a recognition of our work! It's been and will continue to be an honor working with you"!

Another “culprit” of our pure enthusiasm (we won't be getting over this news soon... if ever) is the research company who's put this top itself: CLUTCH!

Worldwide famous for the innovative methodology it uses for conducting its researches, an efficient “blending” of:

  • interviewing both past and present clients of the “target” company
  • evaluating the quality of work
  • evaluating its industry experience
     

... it's become one of THE top go-to resources providing decision-making information to all companies interested in contracting software services providers.

At the end of this news-type of post, allow us to make a “pledge”: 

“Not to rest on our oars, to turn this honor into a responsibility (and thus not to get “intoxicated” by “fame”) and to approach our work with even more professionalism and determination in helping our customers meet their goals!”

Jan 13 2017
Jan 13

How well did you keep up with Google's frequent updates in 2016? Didn't you feel, at some point, that striving to keep the ever changing “rhythm” that Google imposed was like “striving to keep yourself steady on quicksand”?

Preparation is key, right?

So, if you want to keep a steady balance while “walking on wire” this year (whether as a marketer, as a web developer in Toronto or as an online business owner) you need to anticipate the upcoming shifts in the SEO landscape.

In order to lend you a hand with that we have analyzed Google's most significant changes in 2016, read the forecasts of some the most influencing experts' in the field and we're here today, in front of you, ready to empower you with a list of 6 updates in Google's algorithms that you should expect to impact your business this year. 

And here they are! Each one could easily win its own star on Google's “walk of fame”, the one grouping its most impactful updates along the years:
 

1. Google's Index Goes Mobile-First 

In this respect, we couldn't be happier here, at our web development company in Toronto, with Drupal 8's mobile-first features!

Now this Google update is huge! It will most likely shake the entire SEO landscape and will challenge you to reconfigure all your digital marketing initiatives, plans and strategies.

If you have already implemented all the right measures for optimizing your website for mobile, for turning it into a welcoming place for your mobile users to land on, good for you. 

Don't rest on your oars! Keep up the good work: 2017 means higher search ranking for you!

If, for various reasons, you've missed the train, and you stubbornly put all your faith (and therefore your brand's whole future) in your desktop website, “take a cold shower” and then get to work!

ASAP!

The wind of change will blow from Google's direction and might just sweep off your online presence if it lacks a strong foundation!

And that foundation, my friend, is made of mobile optimization-oriented measures.

Just think about it: not only that mobile-friendly will become a ranking signal, but it will be the primary source of ranking!

Google will push forward, right into the spotlight, mobile-optimized websites, while the desktop ones will remain behind, “in the dark”. 

Moreover, it's not just a whole new way of marketing online that you should adopt, but a whole different mindset, too: you need to think mobile, not just to “act” mobile!

We witness the end of an era when marketers geared all their efforts towards making Google happy.

The modern day marketer should first and foremost make his user happy: by crafting the best mobile user experiences!

Here's how:
 

And Google will always favor those who pay attention to and rush in to meet their (mobile) users' expectations.
 

2. Google Will Start an Intrusive Pop-Up Ads “Hunt”

Or better said “Google has started...”, for the announced change came into effect on the 10th of January.

How will this impact your website? 

Well, the proper question would be: are you using interstitials on your mobile pages? 

How much screen space do they take up?

You should know that Google has started to rank lower precisely those mobile website which keep annoying users with interstitials covering most of the content they want access.

Here are just a few of interstitial-related signals that will make Google wave its red flag:

  • a pop-up ad that the user has to close before he's given full access to the main content
  • a pop-up add that covers almost entirely the content the user is reading, the he has to dismiss before (re)gaining access to the main content
  • the usage of a specific layout where the above-the-fold section of the web page is an interstitial, while the main content is moved underneath the fold and thus is hardly accessible to the user

If the above practices sound too familiar to you, you should definitely consider revising your mobile marketing strategies!

Google is sure to strengthen its efforts for tracking down and penalizing those websites that will continue to annoy their users with pesky interstitials contributing to a bad user experience. 

Accessibility, in the sense of easing users' access to that valuable content prepared for them on your mobile site, which goes had-in-hand with a good user experience, is what Google favors.

And intrusive ads are definitely not a means for achieving it!
 

3. Google Assistant Will Outshine the SERP Search

It's true that Google has a lot to catch up for being able to “rival” Siri and Cortana, voice assistants who've had the time to constantly improving their technologies, but we've gathered some really strong signals from this direction.

Can you imagine an SERPless future? 

Google's Voice search technology would then efficiently guide users towards the information they're looking up for!

And, given the long-tail keywords, their whole search experience will get significantly improved: Google will bring the risk of irrelevant search results close to zero.

How prepared are you to reconfigure all the ads on your website, your overall online advertising strategy?
 

4. Google Will Expand Its Use of Rich Cards in Search

In the name of an optimized search experience Google's complimented its snippets with rich cards. It did this last year in May, so no news here.

The news is that Google's strengthening its efforts for adding even more industries to its list of verticals included in its rich card results. And this might impact your business, too, more precisely: the way your brand gets listed in searches, before your future visitors' eyes.

Therefore, even if you're not operating in the movie industry, you don't organize online courses or run a restaurant, mind you don't leave this Google trend out of your sight!

These days Google might add your industry, too, to its list and then you'll be challenged to adapt, quickly!

Get yourself prepared by experimenting various pieces of content presenting your brand and “luring” users in, content that would go in the richer previews enabled by Google.
 

5. Google Will Favor Those Participating in Its AMP Project

Here's another strong signal that Google's moving at high speed towards mobile indexing! 

We've already talked abut Google's Accelerated Mobile Page on this blog, but we'd still like to stress this project's importance.

It's Google's way of encouraging website owners/web developers to focus their efforts on perfecting the mobile web experience for their users.

Expect this open source initiative to become even more impactful in 2017!

And here is how you could benefit from getting involved in this “mobile-friendly environment creating” initiative that the AMP project aims at:
 

  • you improve your users' overall experiences on your mobile website (and this is definitely a benefit for you too: happy users= higher search ranking in Google)
  • improved loading speed for your web pages, which, again leads to a better exposure in search results
     

6. Google Will Start Penalizing Unsecured Websites

It looks like it's “raining Google penalties” this month! 

In addition to the pesky interstitials-related one, scheduled to come into effect on the 10th of January, Google will start to penalize websites that do not run on HTTPS secure browser connections.

Of course, not any sites, but those requiring all kinds of private details from their users: passwords, credit card details etc.

If your website falls into this category, here are the 2 major measures you should take lest you should start 2017 with a Google penalty:

  • install a certificate from a trusted vendor on your website 
  • migrate all the traffic on your website from HTTP to HTTPS

Now that you've taken a peek into the future of SEO, that Google's drafting for you right now, it's up to you to incorporate all these impactful updates into your future digital marketing initiatives.

Dec 22 2016
Dec 22

“Engaging” could easily be called “the word of 2016” in the digital world!

Everything you did, as a website owner, a website developer or a web designer in Toronto has been oriented towards (and will continue to be in 2017, too) getting your audience engaged, right?

Which have been your most efficient “tools” for keeping with your own audience “engaged”?

“Video” and “Visual storytelling!” Bravo! Correct answer!

It's been a while since Adobe allowed you to combine these two powers and to boost all your content marketing plans with the power of video-storytelling.

It brought you Spark Video: the app that helped you engage with your users, inspire them and motivate them through customized animated videos. They used to “tell” your story and therefore to pull your users into the world you created for them and to get your message conveyed to them far more easily.

Such powerful visual aimed at adding meaning and triggering emotions!

Now Adobe strikes again!

It announced on their blog a major update to Spark Video: enabling users to craft beautiful, powerful video clips (that will gradually replace the now “old” animated videos).

Say “Hello!” to a new era of video-storytelling!

Say “Hello!” to a new wave of traffic on your website and not just any type of traffic, but one made of loyal users, “seduced” by and committed to your brand thanks to "the power of video clips”.

Before we go on with the step-by-step guide on how you get to create video-clips in Spark Video, let's sum up, very briefly, what you've been able to create and to share with this app up to now (when it got seriously upgraded):

Animated videos featuring:

  • icons
  •  text
  • narration                                            

In a nutshell: you've been able to breathe life into your animated videos by adding all the features specific to immersive, interactive visual storytelling.

Now here's how you can flesh out stunning video-clips that will help you “lure” new users, bond with your users, engage them and keep them engaged to your brand, using Spark Video:
 

1. Add Your Video Clips Faster Than You Say “Spark”

Adding a new video clip is nothing but a sequence of two quick steps:
 

           1. you first add a slide to your Spark Video projects

            2. you browse through the video collection on your device and pick your target one

A way too tempting feature: as compared to “standard” video editors, using Spark Video you get to cut your video into a series of slides varying in duration times.  
 

2. Make a New Point Over The Same Video Clip

How? Nice and easy: you simply click on the “continue” button and select a new slide, then you coat it with your visually-pleasing icon, with your compelling text and with narration and it's now that you can adjust the volume, too.
 

3. Trim It To Your Liking 

Get the most out of Spark Video's one-touch trimming feature for customizing precisely those points where your video clip starts and ends.
 

4. Breathe Life Into Your Video Clip With Narration 

It's now easier than ever to add voices to your video project: just tap on the record button and start telling your story to your audience. Next, with another quick tap you get to align the narration's length to the video's length.
 

Can you already predict your brighter future as Toronto web designer who's been “slaving away” to constantly come up with interactive and engaging web design? A type of design that should “tell” a meaningful story, one that should trigger emotions in the audience?
 

5. Craft The Desired Mood Through Music

“What possibly could be so engaging about a video clip with no music?” your users might ask themselves. 

Therefore, add the background music, too, the one that will help you craft the right mood for your video's watchers.

How? Quick and easy: add either your preferred track saved on your device or pick one of the app's suggestions!

If you really want to go deeper with your video clip's customization through music, get this whole process even more refined: use Spark Video's mini-feature which allows you to highlight and therefore to draw your audience's attention to key moments of sound from your video clip.

Therefore, instead of getting overwhelmed by data forecasting VIDEO-s “dictatorship” in the digital world, you'd better embrace the future of the video: video clips!

Here's how this video-related data looks like now, at the end of 2016:
 

  • it's been proven that if you “upgrade” your landing page with a video your conversion rate will increase by 80%
  • by 2019 video will represent up to 80% of global Internet traffic
  • data proves that in just one month over 3 million small businesses shared a video on their Facebook accounts

So, how about taking the new Spark Video for a “test drive”?

Have some fun, try out all its new features and put together some sample videos clips so that you'll learn to master the upgraded Spark Video and to get the most out of its improved features by the time it becomes a huge trend in web design and development in 2017.

Dec 08 2016
Dec 08

Let me guess: your whole work as a developer (and even more so if you're a front end developer) depends on and relies on NPM, the "Holly Grail" of JavaScript package managers!

How about Facebook's own (not that) recently released package manager?

Has it even stirred your attention, just to see what new features it comes equipped with and how/if it can improve your whole workflow? Or have you stubbornly overlooked it, sticking to your way too familiar, already tested JavaScript package manager?

But what if it actually helps you handle your Javascript files much faster (thus gaining time, which is gold especially when you're dealing with huge web projects)? What if it is more secured? What if you discover that it's a much more simplified version of the standard "monopolizing" NPM?

If you're willing to continue to handle your Javascript frameworks, libraries or plugins in the same familiar pace, no need to continue digging up more info about what Yarn can do for you.

But if you're not too afraid to test and eventually embrace innovation and if you're constantly looking for breakthroughs that could help you get even more efficient in your work, well, then here's why should start using Facebook's Yarn today:
 

1. Catching Mode

Imagine this scenario: you're trying to install a package that you already installed once, in the past, and your internet connection goes down!

Here Yarn comes to your rescue: it practically catches the packages that it downloads and this features allows it to it handle previously installed packages without internet connection.

Could you have imagined this when you were using NMP?
 

2.  Secure and Faster Installs

Security is vital when you're deploying lots of packages during the development process of a big web project!

Stay reassured: Yarn inspects every package's integrity for you, keeping your project protected from any corrupt package that you might need to install.

As for speed (and this is no "small" detail when you need to install lots and lots of JS packages), Yarn becomes a serious competition for NPM: depending on the packages' sizes it can turn an install into a matter of just a few seconds.
 

3. Registry Compatibility

Need to download a package from the NPM repository? Or maybe from Bower or other custom repo?

Yarn "spoils" you with registry compatibility. So, feel free to install and boost your web project with whatever JavaScript package you need!
 

4. Deterministic Install Algorithm

Bid farewell to machine specific bugs! 

For Yarn uses lock files, which allows it to keep the same node_modules directories structure; it practically installs the same dependencies regardless of the types of development environments (that's right,Yarn allows you to install them across multiple machines) that you're installing your JavaScript packages in or of the order in which you install them.

Just imagine: same structure (node_modules directories) for all the "participants" in a large project; close to zero bugs that would otherwise replicate on multiple machines.
 

5. Improved Network Performance 

On a scale of 1 to 5 how frustrated do you get when your package's installation fails more than 2 or 3 times in a row?

Good news: Yarn will make the whole process stress-free. How? It queues up, mitigates and constantly retries the failed requests, thus reducing the no. of installation failures.
 

Does This Mean We're Witnessing The End of NPM?

No, we're not, for one major reason: open-source projects don't work that way. 

The whole community behind it (bringing together Facebook, Google, Exponent and Tilde engineers) see themselves as NPM contributors instead of "annihilators". 

In a nutshell: Yarn is the proof of how a piece of code written so that it should address secific work scenarios better than the generally-used and proven “tool” can turn into a competitive new tool that other teams of developers can deploy, as well.

Note: there still are improvements to be made (but we're talking about Facebook here, so expect the team behind it to work hard to continuously perfect it) and making Yarn capable to help you handle private packages (its main limitation at the moment) is on top of the list!

How can get started with Yarn? Well, it's available on GitHub, under a BSD-2-clause license. Go get it, test it and share your thoughts in the comments bellow! We're more than curious what are your impressions about the new Yarn vs the conventional NPM "competition" (for developers' preferences) are. Happy Yarning!  

Sep 22 2016
Sep 22

Giving back to our communities isn’t a new thing for us. And come Monday, five of our team members will be at DrupalCon Dublin. There will be plenty of Axelerant to go around. We’ve got three sessions, each in a different track, and the official event photography team will be led by Michael, our COO.

But before we get into what we’re bringing to Dublin, we should mention that we started to schedule our meet and greets. And we want you to be one of them. Let’s get together at a local brew pub and talk about Open Source problems and solutions in the community:

Let's connect at DrupalCon Dublin

Now, let’s get into what we’re up to. We’re presenting in Front-End, Project Management, and Business tracks at DrupalCon Dublin, so be sure to add them to your list.

Choosing The “Right Agile Methodology” For Your Drupal Projects

Date: 09/27/2016

Time: 14:15 to 15:15

Room: Liffey Meeting 4 | New Relic

Add this session to my schedule!

Shani and Prabhat will explore and compare different agile methodologies and share tips on how to choose the right one so you can accelerate your Drupal project. In this session, they’ll cover effective uses of CYNEFIN, a popular decision-making framework, to differentiate between Drupal projects and choosing right agile methodologies for the same.

Shani and Prabhat will cover:

  • Scrum
  • Extreme programming
  • Feature-driven development
  • Scrumban
  • Kanban
  • Lean development

Expected Takeaways:

A clearer idea of which methodology is right for each project, considering: project size, team size, iteration length, roles and responsibilities, and distributed team support. They’ll also discuss risk mitigation levels and customer interaction.

Growing Via Strategic Account Management Frameworks

Date: 09/27/2016

Time: 17:00 to 18:00

Room: Wicklow Hall 2A | Druid

Add this session to my schedule!

Piyush will take you through our Account Management practice and share some real-life case studies demonstrating how we hit target sales quota by 2-3x and achieved maximum strategic account objectives within the desired timeline.

Have you connected with Piyush yet?

Piyush will cover:

  • Customer onboarding process
  • Kickoff meetings
  • Routine engagement health check-ins
  • Invoicing and collections management
  • Satisfaction surveys and testimonials management
  • Complaint and grievances management
  • Contract renewals and extensions.
  • Opportunity exploration: researching the client, industry, references, social media, etc.
  • Evangelizing clients via social media, digital marketing, and event participations

Expected Takeaways:

  • What is Account Management?
  • What skills and talents are required to excel in Account Management specific to Drupal
  • What activities must be performed to maximize Account Management ROI?
  • What are some of the accountabilities and performance metrics used?

React Front-End For Your Drupal 8 Back-End

Date: 09/29/2016

Time: 12:00 to 13:00

Room: Wicklow Hall 2B | Platform.sh

Add this session to my schedule!

Aliya and Bassam will give a hands-on session. By the end of it, you’ll have learned how to build a decoupled website using React ecosystem on the front-end, using Drupal 8 as the content management system (and a data source).

Aliya and Bassam will cover:

  • How to configure Drupal to expose RESTful resources using Drupal 8
  • Enable CORS support for the domains/port running our React application
  • Authenticate requests using JWT
  • Consume data on front-end using Redux store
  • Pass data from Redux store React components

Expected Takeaways:

  • Be able to build a RESTful API using Drupal 8
  • Use any backend with react front-end

Covering DrupalCon Dublin

Michael has a knack for capturing Open Source events around the world as a way of giving back. He’s been leading the photography for two DrupalCons now: DrupalCon Asia and DrupalCon New Orleans.

He’s coming fully equipped to help the Drupal Association immortalize DrupalCon Dublin for all of us, and you can help. If you’d like to contribute to this process, there’s still time to join the “Official Photography Team.”

And while he’ll be running around the event like a paparazzo, Michael would still like to connect with you one-on-one to answer any questions you have about Axelerant. Be sure to take him up on the offer if there’s something you feel we can help you accomplish.

Want to chat about something? Parth Gohil

Parth Gohil

Parth is Axelerant's Community Manager hailing from Surat. He loves supporting open source communities, piloting single-engine aircraft, and being a Cha-Cha Productions actor.

Jun 14 2016
Jun 14

Your very own digital assistant

Google offers two new services for its enterprise customers, the most notable being Google Springboard – your very own digital assistant especially designed for enterprise companies which use Google’s services for business purposes.

Springboard has been in testing with a small number of customers until now but it’s been finally released so you can enjoy more power at your fingertips.

Google Springboard features a single search interface which uses artificial intelligence to gather and sort information from Google’s other products such as Google Docs, Calendar, Gmail, Google Drive and more. Prabhakar Raghavan, VP of Engineering for Google Apps states „the average knowledge worker [currently] spends the equivalent of one full day a week searching for and gathering information.”

Apart from its improved search capabilities, Springboard also provides users with “useful and actionable information and recommendations” which they can use to solve tasks and assignments throughout their day.

Google Sites gets better as well

Google Sites also boasts a new design as well as a few interesting features. Google Sites is Google’s information portal used to house internal company information such as newsletters, reports and so on.

Google Sites users can now use the improved drag and drop interface for easier use and editing can be done in real time by different parties.

Google Sites also became friendlier towards different kinds of screen – now it can support any screen from a 30 inch monitor to a smart phone or laptop.

Conclusions

It will be interesting to see the users’ reaction to these new apps. It remains to be seen if Google’s Springboard can fully replace a personal assistant, but I guess we’ll see the answer to that in the future – Google plans to expand and improve Springboard with more useful features.

Jun 10 2016
Jun 10

Microsoft scientists have demonstrated that by analyzing large samples of search engine queries they may in some cases be able to identify internet users who are suffering from pancreatic cancer, even before they have received a diagnosis of the disease. The scientists said they hoped their work could lead to early detection of cancer. “We asked ourselves, ‘If we heard the whispers of people online, would it provide strong evidence or a clue that something’s going on?’” Dr. Horvitz said. The researchers focused on searches conducted on Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, that indicated someone had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. From there, they worked backward, looking for earlier queries that could have shown that the Bing user was experiencing symptoms before the diagnosis. Those early searches, they believe, can be warning flags. While five-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer are extremely low, early detection of the disease can prolong life in a very small percentage of cases. The study suggests that early screening can increase the five-year survival rate of pancreatic patients to 5 to 7 percent, from just 3 percent. The researchers reported that they could identify from 5 to 15 percent of pancreatic cases with false positive rates of as low as one in 100,000. The researchers noted that false positives could lead to raised medical costs or create significant anxiety for people who later found out they were not sick. The data used by the researchers was anonymized, meaning it did not carry identifying markers like a user name, so the individuals conducting the searches could not be contacted. A logical next step would be to figure out what to do with that search information. One possibility would be some sort of health service where users could allow their searches to be collected, allowing scientists to monitor for questions that indicate warning flag symptoms. “The question, ‘What might we do? Might there be a Cortana for health some day?’” said Dr. Horvitz, in a reference to the company’s speech-oriented online personal assistant software service. Although the researchers declined to offer specific details, Dr. White is now the chief technology officer of health intelligence in a recently created Health & Wellness division at Microsoft. They acknowledged that health-related data generated from web search histories was still new territory for the medical profession. “I think the mainstream medical literature has been resistant to these kinds of studies and this kind of data,” Dr. Horvitz said. “We’re hoping that this stimulates quite a bit of interesting conversation.” The new research is based on the ability of the Microsoft team to accurately distinguish between web searches that are casual or based on anxiety and those that are genuine searches for specific medical symptoms by people who are experiencing them, he noted. Both a computer scientist and a medical doctor by training, Dr. Horvitz said he had been exploring this area in part because of a phone conversation with a close friend who had described symptoms. Based on their conversation, Dr. Horvitz advised him to contact his doctor. He received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and died several months later. The availability of vast sets of behavior data based on individual web queries using the search engines offered by companies like Google and Microsoft has for a number of years been seen as a potential indicator of health-related information. In 2009, Google published a research paper that explored the potential of early detection of flu epidemics based on statistical analysis of web search logs, though the results of that effort ultimately fell short of what had been hoped. More recently, Microsoft researchers have had significant success in finding early evidence of adverse drug reactions from patterns observed in web logs. In 2013, they detected unreported side effects of prescription drugs before they were found by the Food and Drug Administration’s warning system. The researchers are exploring evidence related to a range of devastating diseases. They also said that unlike the drug interaction data, which would be of direct value to the F.D.A. as an early alert, it was possible that symptom alert data might be made available as part of a broader online health service that a company like Microsoft might offer.
Source: http://www.nytimes.com

Jun 09 2016
Jun 09

Card based design is growing more and more popular and now Google wants to get in on the action as well. Google wants to switch its mobile search results to a new design called „rich cards”. The new design is a direct successor to Google’s already popular rich snippets feature. But the makeover doesn’t stop there – Google’s planning to redesign desktop search results with a completely new layout.

Google Search Gets a Makeover

Rich snippets are search results composed from a preview of the page’s text as well as small pictures. Google doesn’t intend to replace rich snippets but only complement and build on them in order to improve user experience.

Rich cards will be displayed in a carousel format which is easy to navigate by simply swiping right or left. The carousel can show cards from different sites or the same site.

Webmasters are excited about Google’s makeover since it allows them to stand out in the search results and market their products more effectively. This new design based on rich cards can also improve organic traffic in some cases. Currently, Google is implementing the new layout for just two content categories: movies and recipes.

Content Categories Based on Visuals Will Experience The Change First

 These two content categories are perfect for this change – the visual nature of these categories will increase organic traffic for websites. Food site owners can create rich previews of their website’s content by featuring appealing images for each dish or recipe. The same applies to movie sites with graphics and posters.

The main difference between the original snippets and Google’s upgraded rich card snippets is simply the number of images which webmasters can features. Rich snippets were released 6 years ago and could feature just one image in search results. Nowadays webmasters will be able to feature a series of images with the carousel system.

Before you go mobile to check out Google’s new layout keep in mind that right now only people using the English mobile version of Google can see the rich cards layout. The new layout will also experience multiple changes and improvements as Google is experimenting with new ways of providing richer previews in their search results and it’s only a matter of time before other types of content will benefit from rich card snippets.

Google Webmaster Tools Gets Upgraded

Google also offers integration with the Google Search Console, also known as Google Webmaster Tools – site owners will be able to see data related to their rich cards. This will help them monitor search performance more closely. If you want to check out how the rich cards work in Search just head on to Google’s Search Gallery and see screenshots of mark-up type samples and cards.

Another interesting change is Google’s Knowledge Graph – this is the system that collects information about people, things and places in order to understand how they are all connected. Knowledge Graph cards will be placed inline, effectively prioritizing them over competing website. This leads to a more cleaner and simplified look for Google’s search results.

The new desktop search design has practical features as well – now users have to scroll down to see more results – Knowledge Graph cards for locations can take up a lot of space.

Here is the list of changes for Desktop Search Results:

  • Wider tabs for News, Images and All tabs
  • Sub-links will show up under the main result, in a group with the same cards
  • Stories from the „in the news” list will appear in the same card
  • The „people also search for” list will show up at the bottom of the search results page and not in the sidebar

Google’s new experimental layout will surely help site owners get noticed much easier in mobile search results and receive more organic traffic. It’s likely that the carrousels will replace written text more and more and the movement towards rich, image-based snippets as opposed to simple text content is obvious.

Jun 06 2016
Jun 06

Back in the day projects featuring crazy sound effects, animations and interactions were all the rage. These effects created intense user experiences hence is why they became so popular – most of these projects were built using Adobe Flash.

Flash is close to death and the era of rich multimedia platforms has come to an end but there’s good news – a fresher successor will replace Flash. Three.js and WebGL technologies are growing very fast, allowing developers to create projects similar to those built in Flash but without any security issues. The Three.js and WebGL combo is one of the most powerful tools you can use to create immersive UX.

WebGL and Three.js

WebGL is the foundation that provides developers with ways to manipulate interactive 2D and 3D graphic elements. It allows users to mix elements with HTML and combine them with other constituents of the background or page.

On the other hand, Three.js is a Javascript library with a long list of features which allow developers to operate with geometry, lights, cameras, scenes and more. Three.js helps unlock WebGL’s true potential by adding extra functionality options. With these two in place, it’s very easy to create 3D animations accelerated through GPU without needing any browser plugins.

Compatibility issues  

When different technologies get combined, dilemmas appear – should you create a “one size fits all” project that can run on different devices and offer consistent experience or risk it all and impress the audience you can reach. When working with Three.js and WebGL it’s the same. Most mobile browsers can be a real hassle especially since many users are stuck with legacy browsers – full compatibility can be tricky to achieve. The good news is that support is growing and the technologies are developing fast – as long as you don’t use Three.js and WebGL for any critical part of your project, you should be fine.

Jun 03 2016
Jun 03

Eye tracking technology has been in the research phase for quite a while now but the good news is that this new software opens the door to it for anyone with a website. Just about any website owner can use Webgazer to optimize their content and graphics.

WebGazer – where it all began

WebGazer.js was developed by the scientists at Brown University – it’s very easy to implement and can be added to any site in just a couple of minutes with a few lines of code. The software runs on the website visitor’s browser, effectively turning the webcam into an eye tracker which can see where the visitor is looking on the page. The idea behind this is to help developers make websites more user friendly by optimizing content.

Once the software is embedded onto a website, WebGazer will ask users for permission to access their webcams – once permission is given, WebGazer will use face detection software to locate the user’s eyes and face. The program will then convert the image to black and white in order to clearly distinguish the user’s eyes and iris. Once the iris is located, the system uses a statistical model which is calibrated via the user’s cursor movements and clicks. This model works by assuming that a visitor looks at the spot where they just clicked and each click tells the model where the eye looks when it’s viewing a part of the page. Reasonable calibration is achieved in around three clicks and after that WebGazer can accurately guess the viewer’s gaze in real time.

Alexandra Papoutsaki, a graduate student from Brown University states: “We see this as a democratization of eye-tracking. Anyone can add WebGazer to their site and get a much richer set of analytics compared to just tracking clicks or cursor movements.”
 

Privacy and experiments

There’s no need to worry about privacy when using WebGazer as no video is shared through the software – only the user’s gaze is reported back to the website. Alexandra P. performed a few experiments in order to properly test and evaluate the system – results show that it can infer gaze location in 100-200 screen pixels. While this may not be as accurate as commercial eye tracking software, it’s still a good estimation of where your users are looking.

WebGazer could help developers optimize their pages, create more eye catching content or plan their prices space accordingly. Not only that but in the future we might see WebGazer being used for accessibility reasons or eye controlled gaming. WebGazer’s code is currently available for free use by anyone interested.

 It will be fascinating to see how WebGazer will evolve and change the way we view the web.

Jun 02 2016
Jun 02

Google recently launched a new tool which aims to help business owners determine their website speed and mobile friendliness on tablets and smartphones.

Mobile searches recently surpassed desktop searches and since more and more people surf the internet through mobile devices it’s critical for webmasters to check if their website is performant, functional, accessible and mobile friendly.

Google’s New Tool

Google’s new website testing tool is very simple and user friendly – you don’t have to be a technical person to try it out. Just type in your website’s address and the tool will analyse your site, scoring it according to certain requirements. The tool offers more detailed reports as well as suggestions on how to fix things – you can then use this information yourself or pass it along to your webmaster.

Google offers plenty of testing tools for sites, including the Mobile Friendly Test, PageSpeed Insights and PageSpeed Tools but most of these tools are aimed at users with some technical knowledge – the new testing tool is aimed at business owners and non-technical users simply through its ease of use.

Faster results

The tool shows scores in green for good, yellow for fair and red for poor. The user interface is greatly simplified as well. That being said, the new tool is powered by PageSpeed Insights – the idea is to get a fast overview of your website’s speed, mobile friendliness and performance at a glance.

Google has increased its effort on mobile web where it created new technologies such as Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP – these pages load much faster than web pages and use much less data. Google’s search algorithm has also been updated and having a mobile friendly website is more important than ever. More and more users shift to mobile devices and Google is paving the way to a more pleasurable user experience for all parties involved.

May 30 2016
May 30

Fog Creek Software is a New York based company best known for Trello and Stack Overflow. They recently announced the release of HyperDev, an online playground used for developing and deploying web apps. The open beta service is currently available to anyone willing to try it out.

HyperDev is in Open Beta

Previously users had to ask Fog Creek for permission to access HyperDev’s private beta. HyperDev is interesting because it can handle many of the steps necessary to get a Web app live and update it. Simply go on to HyperDev’s website and you can get your app live and complete with a proper URL as well as an environment for editing server and client side code. You can also invite other people to work on the code with you and if your project is worth implementing, you can save the code to your GitHub account.

Hyperdev automatically makes all changes to your app – there is no “deploy” button. You can see any code your team members are adding live just like in Google Docs. If a user is looking at the app through the URL, they will see it change live without needing to refresh.

The Google Docs of App Development

Fog Creek co-founder Joel Spolsky states “Literally as you type each keystroke, it can be rebooting, the whole server gets deployed,” - “We hope to get it down to like 100 milliseconds, ultimately.”
 

Keep in mind that HyperDev is not a full flexible cloud infrastructure or a standalone platform as a service or PaaS. This means that it won’t be the ideal hosting for every application but it will be ideal if you want to try small bits of code to see if they work properly.

HyperDev is currently free for publically visible projects. In time the service will most likely offer a service to keep projects private for a fee, just like GitHub.

JSFiddle is a service very similar to HyperDev – it allows users to edit and deploy code. Other similar services also include Stack Snippet. But neither of these services allow users to run live websites.

HyperDev only works with JavaScript in its current build. Python support as well as other languages will be added in the future.
Fog Creek co-founder Joel Spolsky is a software development wizard but he’s not above googling for bits and pieces of code. Recently he built a podcast feed during a 5 hour plane trip from New York to San Francisco – the project was built in HyperDev. The for-loop portion in the app “was the most cut-and-pastey code I had ever done in my life,” Spolsky said. HyperDev is perfect for this type of quick programming.

May 25 2016
May 25

Brendan Eich is one of Firefox’s key figures and a web pioneer, but that’s not all he’s known for – he is the man behind a new start-up called Brave Software.

Brave Software recently released a beta version of the Brave browser – this new software can work on OS X, Windows, Android or iOS. The idea behind this browser is to shield users from intrusive ads, effectively allowing it to run much faster than its rivals.

Brendan Eich is known for bold and exciting ideas – He invented the JavaScript programming language and co-founded Mozilla which built the Firefox browser – one of the most popular browsers in the world. He left Mozilla in 2014 and started working from his new start-up, Brave Software with a team of 10, hand-picked specialists. The San Francisco-based company wants to rid the world of intrusive ads or harmful advertising all together.

The idea behind it

Brendan Eich states: "We have to disconnect the bad system, I talk about putting chlorine in the pool”. Apart from the huge speed boost Eich promises privacy protection as well. The new browser should load pages two to four times faster than rival smartphone browsers and 1.4 times faster than PC browsers.

But it’s not all smooth sailing - the Brave browser faces huge challenges such as gaining publishers support and convincing users to change their browsers. If Eich succeeds in his bold move, it could mean the end of ad blockers and improved privacy for consumers.

Currently, online ads support a huge number of free services such as Yahoo mail, Facebook and Google searches but this situation creates a problem since publishers have reasons to intrude in your personal life – their ads sell much better when publishers know details about you – or as Apple’s CEO Tim Cook states “When an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product”.

The Brave browser strips out ads and in the future it plans to allow a certain ads with a limited amount of personal data shared with advertisers. The browser also removes online tracking elements which slow down browsing speed. In the end, the Brave browser wants to achieve a balance between fast browsing speed and keeping a handful of actually useful ads.

How is that possible?

It sounds like a good idea but how can it be done? The browser uses your history to see what you’re interested in and shares industry standard categories with publishers which in turn can place appropriate ads without knowing any personal information about you. Brave Software states it doesn’t want to know any information from its users. Currently the Brave browser is ads free, with a few empty patches where ads will be placed in the future.

Once it has a large number of people using it, publishers will start supplying ads based on the information Brave shares. This will be Brave’s revenue source for the time being – "We're going to have to prove ourselves to get that payment," Eich says.

Get some profit as well

Once the Brave browser has over 10 million clients, Brave Software plans to offer its consumers some revenue in return for using the product. The revenue can be used for subscriptions to pay publishers in order to remove certain or all ads. Eich and his team built their browser in Chromium – the base of Google Chrome, meaning all the security support and development will be done by Google.

But why not use Firefox as a base for the Brave browser? Eich explains "Chromium is the safe bet for us," – Chrome is much more popular among developers who want to test websites, it’s a better tested and safer choice.

It remains to be seen if the Brave browser becomes a big player like Firefox and Chrome. Currently it seems that it has all the assets necessary to do so and the revenue sharing scheme is brilliant.

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