Jun 20 2018
Jun 20

SharePoint is Microsoft’s entry in the crowded Content Management Systems (CMS) market. As a Microsoft product, SharePoint is tightly integrated with Windows and the .NET framework. It has enjoyed considerable success in the intranet world, but as a public-facing enterprise website builder, not so much.

The first part of this post discusses the migration of corporate websites from SharePoint to Drupal 8. The second part addresses the role that SharePoint can play post-migration, in a co-existing relationship between SharePoint and Drupal.

 

Migration Benefits

Moving from Sharepoint to Drupal 8 | Benefits

 

For organizations that currently deploy SharePoint as a CMS over a public-facing enterprise website, migrating to Drupal have the following benefits.

  1. Improved Customizations.
    While SharePoint is bloated with out-of-the-box features, customizing it to satisfy unique enterprise requirements has proven to be difficult. In particular, the customization of the look-and-feel of the website for corporate branding purposes (“theming”) takes considerable effort.

    Drupal, on the other hand, provides a core out-of-the-box framework which you can enhance with the help of its many contributed modules in order to satisfy your specific functional and branding requirements.

  1. Cost Effectiveness.

SharePoint has 2 broad-based pricing options: Online and Server. SharePoint Online is the cloud-based version which targets intranet or portal use only. SharePoint Server is the on-premises version for hosting your enterprise website. A SharePoint Server solution requires that you pay software license fees, not just for SharePoint itself, but also for the Microsoft technology stack including Windows Server, SQL Server, as well as Visual Studio which you use for coding.

In contrast, Drupal is open-source with no license fee for the core as well as contributed modules. In addition, Drupal can be deployed on the free and open-source technology stack, highlighted by the Linux operating system and mySQL database. You can also develop PHP-based Drupal solutions using free PHP Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) such as Eclipse.

  1. Fast-to-market Innovation.
    One of Drupal’s competitive advantages over proprietary CMS vendors is its vibrant and diverse user community. The community functions as an excellent brain trust and source of both feature and technology innovation. In addition to regional meetups, social media, and online forums, Drupal marketers and developers alike come together annually in DrupalCon, the main event for product planning, networking, collaboration, and training. To bring innovative features to market quicker, Drupal 8 delivers minor feature releases every six months in addition to the monthly bug fixes.

Migration Challenges

Moving from Sharepoint to Drupal 8 | Challenges

Drupal’s strength is its flexibility, power, and scalability. The challenges of migrating to Drupal usually revolve around the transfer of existing web assets from the old to the new system. The challenge is exacerbated when the website is big, with thousands or even tens of thousands of pages comprised of various content types, media, and users. More specifically, the migration challenges from SharePoint to Drupal are as follows:

  1. The export of HTML-formatted body contents.
    SharePoint allows you to export web pages to CSV or XML files. The problem with the  SharePoint export is that the output body sections are of plain text format: all HTML tags, as well as embedded image and URL links, are stripped. For a website of any meaningful size, manually re-inserting the formatting tags and links is simply not an option.

    The good news is that there is a program solution to extract the SharePoint contents with HTML intact. A programming script can be written to retrieve the body content from each web page via the SharePoint web service API. This requires coding skill but is very much feasible.
     

  2. The retention of SEO page ranking.
    The SEO ranking of existing web pages is a valuable enterprise asset that must be protected in the migration process. Failure to protect SEO assets may likely result in the decrease of internet traffic to the new website. Because the URL structure in Drupal and SharePoint are different, the migration process must include the setup of redirects from old URLs to new URLs, hence protecting their SEO value. Drupal handles redirects very well if the old URLs were migrated properly to Drupal.

 

AUC Website Case Study

 

  1. New skill sets required.
    Both SharePoint and Drupal are complex systems that require extensive product knowledge to reap full benefits. Migrating from SharePoint to Drupal entails that a whole new skill set must be acquired for the site-building team. If Drupal expertise is not readily available in-house, external professional help is needed. The challenge then becomes how to select qualified Drupal professionals to make the migration project a success.

    The fact that Drupal is built on the PHP open-source platform can be a double-edged sword. While the absence of license fee is undeniably a positive, the general availability of the technology makes it much harder to differentiate true professionals from mere PHP hackers. In seeking outside help, it is recommended to look for an organization that has full-cycle Drupal implementation experience from planning, design to development.
     Middle East #1 Drupal Agency

 

Migration Steps

Moving from Sharepoint to Drupal 8 | Steps

The following is a high-level description of the steps needed to migrate your enterprise website from SharePoint to Drupal.

  1. Take inventory of current web content assets.
    Moving to a new CMS offers the organization the perfect opportunity to take stock of their current web contents, filter contents that are outdated or least viewed, and include only those assets that are worth moving to the new website.

  2. Design the structure of the new Drupal website.
    Drupal 8 offers a powerful content modeling and structuring modules and tools, which allows you to build flexible content types, host structured media from various sources, and organize web contents using organization-specific vocabularies. Now that you have taken inventory of your existing web pages, it is time to decide how the contents should be re-structured and re-categorized in the new website.

  3. Write SharePoint web services script to export legacy web pages to XML files.
    Automation is the key to extracting contents from SharePoint while keeping existing formatting information intact.

  4. Prepare Drupal test website.
    Set up Drupal 8 on a test machine, and configure Drupal as designed earlier. In addition, prepare the HTTP redirect module that will map the old SharePoint URLs to the new Drupal URLs.

  5. Import SharePoint XML files into your new Drupal website.
    Drupal 8 has a core module named Migrate which is a framework for importing web contents from another CMS. Migrate provides the underlying API for migrating configuration and content from any source to Drupal. You may need to extend the module to import content types that are not automatically imported. Make sure to import old URLs into their redirect rules to retain SEO page ranking.

  6. Review the new Drupal website and make the adjustment.
    Transferring data from a legacy website to a new website is a complicated and error-prone process. Now is the time to review the results, and make the adjustment to the export and the import scripts to eliminate any errors.

 

Drupal Coexisting with SharePoint

Drupal Coexisting with SharePoint

Many organizations are deeply entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem, particularly in the areas of document management and collaboration. SharePoint is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office Suite with which internal users are typically well trained. For organizations that have invested heavily in SharePoint in both financial and social capital, simply discarding it for another (albeit more suitable) CMS for their enterprise CMS may be a difficult choice. The good news is that SharePoint can still play an important role in the enterprise’s IT infrastructure post-migration to Drupal.


Organizations can still leverage their prior investment by continuing to deploy its intranet portal using SharePoint. In this way, internal users can still use their existing Office tools and a familiar workflow for internal collaboration, communication, and document management. At the same time, the public-facing enterprise website is powered by Drupal with its broad range of powerful functionalities. By having the two systems working hand-in-hand, the organization reaps the maximum return on investment from SharePoint, while empowering the enterprise website with greater Drupal-based functionalities.

The challenges for the coexistence of Drupal and SharePoint are twofold. First, organizations must define a content strategy to avoid duplication of contents and maintenance efforts. Second, content feeds must be established from Drupal to SharePoint and vice versa.


 Migrate Sharepoint to Drupal 8

 

 

Conclusion

Drupal 8 is a top-notch enterprise site building software platform. Organizations that have outgrown their existing non-Drupal CMS should consider migrating to Drupal 8. Migrating to Drupal 8 has its own unique challenges, including data migration and SEO retention. Vardot is an award-winning Drupal web solutions provider that can help you navigate through the process of migrating to Drupal. For more information, please contact Vardot.

Jun 12 2018
Jun 12

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

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

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

 

Drupal 8 is Optimized for a 24 Hour News Cycle

Drupal 8 News Publishing Platform

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

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

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

 

Drupal 8 is Easy to Personalize and Localize

Drupal 8 Localization and Personalization

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

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

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

 

Drupal 8 Allows for Convenient Multi-Site Management

Drupal 8 Multi-Site Management

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

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

Drupal 8 is Secure

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

 

Case Study: Uber Publisher & Al Jazeera

Drupal 8 Case Study: Uber Publisher and Al Jazeera

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

Jun 06 2018
Jun 06

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

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

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

 

Top Organizations Run with Drupal 8

Top Organizations Run with Drupal 8

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

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

 

Drupal 8 is Supported by a Thriving Community

Drupal 8 Community and Support

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

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

 

Drupal 8 Offers Risk-Free Migration

Drupal 8 Migration

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

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

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

 

Drupal 8 Offers Easy-to-Use Solutions

Drupal 8 Solutions

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

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

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

 

Drupal is Perfect for Your Non-Technical Staff

Drupal 8 CMS

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

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

 

Case Study - American University of Cairo (AUC)

AUC Case Study | Vardot

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

Apr 08 2018
Apr 08

Intro

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

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

 

Drupal CMS

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

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

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

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

Content and Search Engine Optimization

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

Where to begin?

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

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

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Design Review

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

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

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

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

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Analytics

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

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

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Website Browser Testing

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

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

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Final Pre-Launch

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

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

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

Post-launch

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

New Drupal Website Checklist

Announcement and Marketing

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

Conclusion

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

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

Feb 15 2018
Feb 15

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

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

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

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

 

What are the tasks you find most exciting?

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Particularly:

Coding Standards: https://www.drupal.org/docs/develop/standards

Block API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/api/block-api

Form API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/api/form-api

Cache API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/api/cache-api/cache-api

Routing API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/api/routing-system

Theming API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/theming

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Summary

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

Feb 15 2018
Feb 15

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

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

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

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

 

What are the tasks you find most exciting?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Particularly:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Summary

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

Jan 09 2018
Jan 09

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

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

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

 

1. Know Your Audience

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Know Your Audience

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


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

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

 

2. Keep Your Comments Sections Open and Moderated

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Comments Sections

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

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

 

3. Give Your Audience Plenty to Talk About

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Audience Engagement

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

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

 

4. Be Responsive

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Responsive web design

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

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

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

 

5. Get With The Times

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Audience collaboration

 

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

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

6. Learn from What They Love

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Audience Engagement

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

Dec 26 2017
Dec 26

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

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

 

1. Be Prepared & Know Who Will Attend the Meeting

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting


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

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

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

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

 

2. Set a Clear Agenda

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

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

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

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

 

3. Set the Tone

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

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

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

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

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

 

4. Define the Next Steps Together

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

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

 

5. Establish a Communication Plan

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

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

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

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

 

6. Set Realistic Expectations

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

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

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

 

In Conclusion

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

Dec 13 2017
Dec 13

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

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

 

Themes for Drupal 8

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

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

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

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

 

 

1. Creative Responsive

Creative responsive

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

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

 

 

2. Business Responsive

Business Responsive Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

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

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

 

 

3. NewsPlus Lite

NewsPlus Lite Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

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

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

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

 

 

4. Bootstrap Mint

Bootstrap Mint Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

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

 

 

5. Showcase Lite

Showcase Lite Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

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

 

 

6. Ice Magic

Ice Magic Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

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

 

 

7. Robotic

Robotic Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

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

 

 

8. Magazine Lite

Magazine Lite | Themes for Drupal 8

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

 

 

9. The One

The One | Themes for Drupal 8

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

 

 

10. SOLID

SOLID | Themes for Drupal 8

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

 

 

Summary & Conclusion

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

Dec 06 2017
Dec 06

 

Global e-commerce sales topped 1 trillion US dollars in 2012 for the first time in history. Industry estimates projected that sales will reach 4 trillion in 2020. As more enterprises conduct their core businesses on the Internet, Drupal has evolved from being a pure content management system to a full-fledged e-commerce site-builder. While e-commerce is not (yet) part of Drupal's core, support for it comes in the form of contributed modules.

Read more: 9 Reasons why Drupal Is Dominating the Market

A quick search on Drupal.org for stable actively developed e-commerce modules generated 330 hits. Many such modules are optional for your online storefront. For example, AdSense, Affiliate Store, and Amazon Store are of no interest to you unless you want to monetize your website through advertising and affiliate marketing. Some modules such as Barcode are only relevant if your storefront requires that specific functionality.

 

In this post, we describe a set of 7 best-of-breed e-commerce Drupal modules which together implement the core functionalities of an online storefront. These modules focus on enterprise mission-critical operations that drive business results and have a direct impact on the bottom line.

7 E-Commerce Modules that Every Drupal Website Must Have

So let's not keep you in suspense for too long and list e-commerce modules that we at Vardot think are essential for every online shop built with Drupal:

  1. Drupal Commerce vs Ubercart

  2. Commerce Recommender / Ubercart Recommender

  3. Commerce Upsell / UC Upsell

  4. Invoice

  5. Commerce Shipping

  6. Mailjet / MailChimp E-Commerce

  7. Currency

Now let’s discuss each of the modules in particular and see why it is so great.

 

Drupal Commerce vs Ubercart

 

Drupal Commerce vs Ubercart

 

As I mentioned before, e-commerce is not a built-in core feature of Drupal. The easiest way to add e-commerce functionalities to your website would be installing one of 2 competing Drupal modules: Drupal Commerce vs Ubercart. The 2 modules are often described as e-commerce ecosystems or frameworks which depend on third-party modules to make them feature-complete.

Drupal Commerce and Ubercart are both excellent e-commerce frameworks with their own active developer community. Ubercart is known for being easier to configure, and being more ready to deploy out-of-the-box. In contrast, Drupal Commerce is designed to be customizable and can scale up to support large enterprise e-commerce operations.
 

If you operate a small business with modest e-commerce requirements and a small I.T. budget, Ubercart is a good choice. Medium to large enterprises should consider Drupal Commerce because it is flexible enough to satisfy more complex requirements and scalable enough to support future business growth. One caveat is that you need to possess technical expertise and be prepared to spend considerable time and resources to extend Drupal Commerce to do exactly what you want. You can find a more detailed comparison of Drupal Commerce with Ubercart in this article.

 

 

Commerce Recommender/Ubercart Recommender

 

Commerce Recommender / Ubercart Recommender

 

To optimize revenue growth in e-commerce, enterprises need to find ways to boost revenue per order. Cross-selling and upselling are 2 key techniques to achieve revenue growth objectives. Commerce Recommender and Ubercart Recommender are 2 Drupal modules you should install to enable cross-selling on the Drupal Commerce and Ubercart platforms, respectively.

Both modules make personalized recommendations for your web users. The recommendations are based on the user’s current order and any previous purchases.

If the user is a new customer, the lack of a prior purchase history limits the recommendations that the software can make. In such a scenario, the cross-selling module analyzes the purchase history of other users who previously bought the same product in the current order, and recommends products which these users also ordered in the past.

 

 

Commerce Upsell/UC Upsell

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: Commerce Upsell / UC Upsell

 

Upselling is different from cross-selling in that the former entices the customer to upgrade to a more expensive product with a better profit margin, while the latter is about buying additional products such as an accessory. For upselling, Commerce Upsell and UC Upsell are the respective modules to install on the Drupal Commerce and Ubercart platforms.

The 2 modules allow site builders to define related products for upselling purposes. During a customer checkout, the software recommends product upgrades based on what products are in the shopping cart.

 

Invoice

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: Invoice

 

Invoice is a Drupal module which generates sales invoices for your online business. You can customize the format as well as the content of your invoices using template files. After instantiating your sales invoices, you can view them online as well as output them in PDF or HTML format.

 

Commerce Shipping

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: Commerce Shipping

 

Your online customers can place their orders from any country in the world. Before they purchase your products, they want to know the shipping options and their associated cost. Commerce Shipping is a shipping rate calculator. It is designed as a shipping calculation platform which depends on third-party carrier-specific modules to provide the actual shipping rates. For instance, it supports UPS, FedEx, and USPS through the modules Commerce UPS, Commerce FedEx, and Commerce USPS, respectively. Using rules, site administrators can configure which shipping services are available on a web store and how they are charged, including flat shipping rates.

 

 

Mailjet/MailChimp E-Commerce

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: MailChimp E-commerce, Mailjet

 

Despite the phenomenal growth in social media, email marketing remains an integral part of any online marketing plan. Marketing and sales campaigns are regularly conducted by sending email to people on subscription lists. The Mailjet module supports email marketing on Drupal Commerce. Alternatively, MailChimp E-Commerce supports both Drupal Commerce and Ubercart. One e-commerce best practice is to offload email sending to third-party cloud-based email service providers.

Mailjet and MailChimp E-Commerce integrate with the Mailjet and MailChimp email service providers, respectively. To use either module, you need to first sign up with the respective company.

The services are free if email volume is kept below a certain threshold. Both modules enable site administrators to create email campaigns, personalize the marketing message, and track campaign effectiveness.

Read more: How to Choose the Right Open Source CMS for Your Website (Infographic)

 

Currency

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: Currency

 

E-commerce reels in online customers from the farthest countries of the earth, together with their different local currencies. The online store must be able to convert product prices from the enterprise’s own preferred currency to the local currency of each customer. In addition, the newly converted local amount must be presented in a format that conforms to the customer’s regional convention.

Currency is a Drupal module that specializes in converting world currencies based on stored exchange rates. In addition, this module can automatically customize the display format of price information based on the locale of each online shopper.

 

 

Summary & Conclusion

 

E-commerce is the key to unlocking revenue generation potential of an enterprise Drupal website. Drupal provides excellent e-commerce modules under two main technology ecosystems, Drupal Commerce and Ubercart.

While integrating the right modules is critical to providing the necessary e-commerce functionalities, site builders also need to pay attention to other important factors such as SEO and site security. SEO will bring more visitors and potential customers to a website, and site security will protect them against hackers when they transact business online. For more information about essential Drupal modules, please refer to our earlier blog posts: 5 Security Modules for Every Drupal Website and 10 SEO Modules That Every Drupal Website Must Have.

The building of an e-commerce website, that is SEO-friendly and secure, requires expertise that may be beyond the capability of many enterprises. If you require professional Drupal assistance, please contact Vardot.

Nov 06 2017
Nov 06

Drupal continues to grow in popularity every day. Many users opt to adopt a Drupal distribution: a full copy of Drupal along with additional software. In general, you will see two types of Drupal distributions. Complete solutions, otherwise known as full-featured distributions, and quick-start tools.

A Drupal distribution is collection of Drupal and other software components built, assembled and configured so that it can be used essentially "as is" for its intended purpose.

Software Distribution

Software distribution gets software from the manufacturer to the end user. It is extremely familiar to those who utilize open-source software because a software distribution is as close as most of us can get to free, "finished" software. Software distributions often refer to software made up of open-source components, ready or nearly ready for use.

Let’s talk about some of the most famous examples of Drupal distributions, beginning with Commerce Kickstart. It is an "out-of-the-box" iteration of Drupal Commerce that is a way to skip weeks of configuration, as are the rest of our distribution examples. It's packed with features and supported by an active developer community.

Working solutions can be built on Drupal using the Lightning Drupal distribution. Editorial teams love its functionality and ease of use. Higher education is elevated with OpenEDU, a sub-profile of Lightning. It is a popular composer-based project. There is also Thunder, which makes it possible for publishers to connect and put great work out into the world.

Varbase is another Drupal distribution example you need to know about. Adaptive functionalities and essential modules are packed into this distribution powerhouse. Development can be sped up by leaps and bounds, and hours that could be spent on customization can be spent in the trenches, utilizing the program. Take advantage of Drupal core modules. Use pre-installed and preconfigured tools. Leaders in industries across the globe take advantage of Varbase to create work backed by Vardot, an award-winning enterprise web solution provider.

Read more: Essential Things To Know About Varbase

What is a Drupal Distribution, and Why Do You Need It

 

Starting with a Drupal Distribution

You may still be wondering why a distribution is a way to go. The biggest advantage is the amount of time you save, and we all know time = money.

Normally, you would need to download and configure Drupal core, and then select your modules. There are tens of thousands of them, so as you can imagine, this can take weeks to get right and explore properly.  

Or, you can jump straight ahead to a preconfigured site. Each option is already packed with the essentials, contained in a single download. In addition to the famous examples, we listed above, Vardot also contributed its own modules to Varbase SEO and Varbase Media.

Launch time goes from days or weeks to hours with the help of a Drupal distribution. Enterprise leaders love the time-to-value ratio and the customization options for industries including higher education, media, publishing, commerce and more.

Read more: Need Better Website Performance? It Starts with a Drupal Site Audit

 

Starting a Drupal Project on a Distribution vs. Without

What is a Drupal Distribution, and Why Do You Need It

Let’s look at the differences in time-to-market when you are using a Drupal distribution versus building your website from scratch. Perhaps you are new at this, or you are eager to go live and establish an online presence. Drupal is a powerful content management system (CMS), and you will need to educate yourself on it to use it to its full potential. Once Drupal is downloaded, you have access to core modules. Anything beyond that will require an additional download.

Then there is the Drupal distribution, which will include both core and peripheral modules in a single download. Social collaboration applications come with all the social modules needed. University and college teams can locate and download higher education distributions that create turnkey educational resource websites. The list goes on and on. Where there is a need, a Drupal distribution exists to fill it.

In other words, utilizing a Drupal distribution consists of three steps:

  1. Selecting the correct Drupal distribution.
  2. Installing the distribution.
  3. Configuring and enabling it.

The advantages of working with a Drupal distribution continue well past initial installation. Maintenance is also a breeze. When you create a website born out of a distribution, all modules and features are integrated and tested together. When updates are required, it is a single update, as opposed to hundreds.  

Here at Vardot, we specialize in open source solutions. Along with comprehensive Drupal consulting and training services, we can assist with launching your Drupal Project. Get started by clicking below.

Oct 12 2017
Oct 12

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) might not be the first thing you think of when designing a new website, but building an optimized framework from the start will help you drive traffic to your site and keep it there.

With our Drupal SEO-checklist in hand, you can build an excellent website that draws customers from launch day. Briefly speaking, here is a bullet list of what to check before the launch day. Below we’ll speak at each point in more detail.

  • Check that all web pages have unique titles using the Page Title module

  • Check if XML Sitemap and Google News Sitemap are configured properly

  • Check if Redirect module is enabled and configured

  • Check if Global Redirect module is enabled and configured

  • Check that .htaccess redirect to site with/without www

  • Check that the homepage title includes a slogan, and is descriptive for the function of the site

  • Check if Meta Tags is filled with descriptive information

  • Check that OG tags are filled correctly and with descriptive information.

  • Check if site's information appears well when shared on Facebook

  • Check if Path aliases patterns are meaningful

  • Check if Google Analytics is enabled and configured

  • Check if Page Title module is enabled and configured

  • Check if Google News Sitemap is enabled and configured

  • Check if Site verification is enabled and configured

  • Check if Search 404 module is enabled and configured

Drupal SEO: 13 Things that Will Improve Your Site's Ranking

 

1. Check that all web pages have unique titles

 All of your pages should be easily identifiable to the end user. Not only should they have unique titles, they should have meaningful titles.

Having multiple pages with the same titles (like “Get in touch”, “Contact us” and “Make a booking”) will simply confuse your end users and search engine crawlers.

Not only do good page titles help customers who are already on your site, but they help with social sharing, and picking your site out of search engine results.

Titles are the first element that any user will see, whether they come directly to your site, find it in a search engine, or see it shared on social media.

Writing good titles is extremely important, and having keywords in your title that match a user's search greatly improves the chances of them clicking on your page.

Ensuring all your pages have a unique name will help users navigate, boost your SEO ratings, and increase the chances that someone will type the right keywords into a search engine to bring them to your site.

You can set up unique page titles much easier if you install the Drupal Page Title module.

 

Read more: 10 Drupal Modules that Will Boost Your Website’s SEO

 

2. Check if XML Sitemap and Google News Sitemap are configured properly

The XML Sitemap module creates a robot-friendly map of your site that Google and other search engines can crawl to categorize your website.

There are a few settings you can alter your site at admin/config/search/XML sitemap and you can view the sitemap from http://yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.

You should configure XML Sitemap early in your site build for the best effect, but you can also alter the settings later on if needed.

Google News Sitemap offers a similar but different service that creates a Google-specific map - as suggested in the name. These two modules work nicely side by side to make your site easy for search engines to crawl and index.

Please note that if your site contains AMPs, there is no need to create sitemaps for them. The rel=amphtml link is enough for Google to pick up on the accelerated mobile page version, which means you can easily gain traffic from Top Storie's carousels and mobile search. Creating AMP on your Drupal site became easy with our step-by-step guide.

 

SEO ChecklistSEO Checklist

 

 

3. Check if Redirect module is enabled and configured

Redirect is a handy module for making sure users always make it to your site. It uses case-insensitive matching to help catch broken links with redirects and tracks how often users are hitting those redirects.

You can use redirects to capture any broken links, set up promotional links, or simply capture typos users are entering when trying to access your site.

 

SEO Checklist

 

4. Check if Global Redirect module is enabled and configured

If you’re using Drupal 8 you can skip this one because the functionality has been rolled into the redirect module. Otherwise, install Global Redirect to work in tandem with Redirect to catch any broken links.

Global Redirect will test all links with and without a trailing slash, ensure links are case-insensitive and if a link is truly broken it will return a user to your home page, rather than an ugly 404 page that decreases the position of your site in SERPs.

 

SEO Checklist

 

5. Check that .htaccess redirects to site with/without www

Some users attempting to visit your site will navigate to www.yoursite.com, while others will simply type yoursite.com. By setting up your site to handle either request you can be sure you won’t miss any visitors.

 

6. Check that the homepage title includes a headline, logo and primary image and is descriptive for the function of the site

The headline, as well as the slogan, represent who you are as a business. Make your first impression a good one as this will also be visible on search engines.

This is a good opportunity to stack your website with SEO friendly keywords, but don’t go overboard and sacrifice your image for it - keyword stuffing may not only decrease the trust index of your site but also its conversion rates.

 

SEO Checklist

 

7. Ensure Meta tags are filled with descriptive information

Writing SEO-optimized metatags is highly important because they remain one of the top on-page ranking factors. Make sure to install the Metatag module on your site to have an easy, user-friendly interface for updating metadata.

With the module installed you can easily populate metadata with keywords, page descriptions, and more.

The Meta tag module will also give you extra control over how your site appears when shared on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Read more: SEO tips for your Drupal site

 

8. Check that OG tags are filled correctly and with descriptive information.

OG tags are meta tags specifically designed to ensure your site communicates nicely with Facebook. By setting these tags correctly you will be able to control exactly how your site appears on Facebook, including what images and what taglines are used.

 

9. Check if site's information appears well when shared on Facebook and Twitter

After configuring the metatag module and OG tags, pop over to Facebook and make sure that your site shares the way you would like it too. It’s important to test this out now before users start sharing your site around.

Similarly, try tweeting a couple of your pages to see how well your Twitter Cards come through. If you don’t want to show your site to your audience until you are sure it is set up properly, you can check Twitter Cards using the Card Validator.

For more information on configuring Twitter cards, check out the Twitter user guides.

10. Check if Path aliases patterns are meaningful

By default, Drupal will set your URLs to node/123 - while this works great for the database backend, it doesn’t work well for your end users, or for search engines.

You can use the Pathauto module to create rules and patterns for your URLs that will significantly cut down on your maintenance times and simplify your site navigation.

 

SEO Checklist

 

11. Check if Google Analytics is enabled and configured

While having Google Analytics configured won’t improve your SEO, it will give you all the data you need to understand where your users are coming from and how they behave once they hit your site.

Installing the Google Analytics module makes setting up and configuring Google Analytics a breeze.

 

12. Check if Site verification is enabled and configured

The Site verification module makes it easy to check the boxes that tell search engines that your site is truly yours.

Having your site verified will improve how search engines crawl your site, and for Google will allow you to access private search data. With site verification, you will receive better data and better search engine rankings for just a few minutes work.

13. Check if Search 404 module is enabled and configured

The Search 404 module is a saving grace for reducing your bounce rate, your SEO and improving your customer experience. Instead of your users finding an ‘Error: Page not Found” in place of the content they were hoping for, they will be offered a search of your site based on the URL string.

For example, if “www.yoursite.com/great-seo-tips” doesn’t exist, use this module will automatically search your site for ‘Great SEO tips” and show the users the results.

 

Bottom line

While SEO may seem like a tricky subject to wrap your head around, the basics are easy with the right modules and the right guidance. Drupal is a great content management system for building search engine optimized websites.

With our SEO checklist you can get off on the right foot, and here at Vardot we love educating our customers to build top quality websites. If you’re looking for even more ways to improve your sites SEO, have a look at SEO articles on our blog or get in touch with us.

Sep 30 2017
Sep 30

Drupal professionals have to constantly upgrade their skills to keep up to date with technology. The good news is that much of the knowledge now is available online, and there is no more need to spend hours in the library looking for resources that can give answers to your questions. In the 21st century, most of the topics are covered in different blogs.

Vardot was featured as one of the top 20 Drupal blogs for Drupal developers. In this post, we recommend several resources (in addition to the one you are reading now of course) for you to subscribe. We believe that these resources will give you an excellent overall picture of what is happening in the Drupal community.

 

Drupal Blogs You Should Be Reading in 2017

Dries Buytaert blog

Dries' personal blog offers a glimpse of his work at Acquia and his views on Drupal and open-source software, in addition to general news and his opinions about the Drupal community.

If you are looking for low-level Drupal tips from the grand master himself, this is not the source of it. Instead, you will find a high-level and strategic perspective of where Drupal has trekked before and where it is heading, from none other than its creator. It will keep you well-informed of Drupal trends.

In our opinion, Dries’ blog is simply the best online resource for catching Drupal trends and formalizing your Drupal strategy.

 

Acquia blog

Acquia is the company that Dries Buytaert co-founded to provide cloud-based Drupal services, and according to a recent report, the number 1 organization for code contribution to Drupal in the 12-month period ending on June 30, 2017. The Acquia blog publishes posts by Dries, other Acquia insiders, and guest bloggers about 4 times a week.

This blog is the mother lode of knowledge about all things related to delivering Drupal enterprise solutions. You will find posts on best practices, architectural considerations, marketing trends, etc, on full-cycle Drupal commercialization.

Developers should take note of posts from the Acquia Developer Center.

If you want to learn more about delivering enterprise Drupal solutions, the Acquia blog is a great resource.

Vardot is proud to partner with Acquia to deliver professional hosting and training services.

 

Lullabot blog

The Lullabot blog averages about 2 new posts per week, and its target audience is enterprise Drupal developers. Building a modern enterprise Drupal website involves integrating multiple open-source technologies that must work well together. Consequently, enterprise developers must be well-rounded in various open-source technologies in addition to Drupal. The Lullabot blog has an excellent coverage of the entire Drupal technology stack.

One great feature of this blog is that it also features a library of podcasts on various Drupal topics. If you have a long commute, these Drupal podcasts are a great means for making good use of your time. (Another good source of Drupal podcasts is DrupalEasy.)

If your interests are entirely developer-centric, you may want to subscribe to the Lullabot feed.

 

Drupalize.Me blog

Drupalize.Me, a sister company to Lullabot, runs a website dedicated to Drupal developer training. It is made up of 2 main components: a blog and a series of technical guides/tutorials. The Drupalize.Me blog mainly posts Drupal community news and announcements about new Drupalize.Me guides. A small proportion of the guides are free (samplers), while the rest are available for a monthly membership fee.

Despite the paid subscription model, Drupalize.Me offers arguably the most systematic approach for Drupal developers of all skill levels to upgrade their Drupal expertise online. The guides are categorized into topics: an introduction to Drupal (including Drupal 8), site building, theming, module development (including API), site administration, and backend and infrastructure. The guides cover multiple Drupal versions, including the latest Drupal 8 as well as the older Drupal 6 and 7.

Drupalize.Me is a good investment for Drupal developers for continuing their Drupal training because of its breadth of topics and its depth in skill level. For a detailed list of the main online resources for learning Drupal, please consult this Vardot guide.

 

Volacci's Drupal SEO blog

Volacci's Drupal SEO blog, as its name suggests, targets marketing professionals rather than developers. Marketing has become a critical component in the Drupal community as evident in the recent DrupalCon Vienna 2017. DrupalCon hosted the very first Drupal Marketing Sprint in the DrupalCon Vienna program. So, we include Volacci’s high-caliber Drupal SEO and marketing blog on our recommended subscription list.

This blog is updated with a new post about once every 2 weeks. It covers Drupal industry news, SEO techniques, and best practices. Ben Finklea, CEO and the primary author of the blog, is a world-renowned Drupal SEO expert. He was also the presenter for the Drupal 8 SEO hands-on seminar at DrupalCon Baltimore 2017.

If you are strictly interested in the SEO and marketing perspectives of Drupal, this is a blog that you should definitely follow. For additional quality SEO-related posts, please refer to the SEO tag on our blog.

 

Don't want to read too many Drupal blogs at the same time?

No problem, there are several resources where you can find the latest news about Drupal from all over the world. Honorable mentions of blogs worthy of your subscription are listed below.

 

Planet Drupal

This is the official Drupal blog. It aggregates posts from a pre-approved list of Drupal-related blogs. The volume is quite high, about 40 posts per week. The scope spans a broad spectrum of development as well as business and marketing topics.

 

Reddit Drupal

Reddit Drupal is another high-volume website that covers anything Drupal-related. Because it is being hosted on the Reddit platform, you will find the website more interactive than the other Drupal blogs. You can ask questions directly on Reddit or search through the existing posts for possible answers.

 

The Weekly Drop

This is a handcrafted weekly digest of the best Drupal-related blog posts from each week. If you find following multiple Drupal blogs too time-consuming, you should consider subscribing to the Weekly Drop which can keep you up-to-date with a minimal weekly drop of relevant articles.

 

Drupal Association Youtube channel

If you could not personally attend a DrupalCon conference, the best consolation is to watch the video recordings of its always educational workshops on Youtube. The Drupal Association Youtube channel has been updated with the workshops presented at the recent DrupalCon Vienna 2017.

To keep abreast of developments in the fast-changing Drupal community, we recommend that our readers subscribe to the above Drupal blogs in addition to Vardot’s own. And what is your favorite Drupal blog?

Sep 25 2017
Sep 25

Introduction

Varbase is a custom Drupal 8 base distribution developed by Vardot, a leading Drupal solution provider headquartered in Amman, Jordan with regional offices in Santa Clara, USA, and Cairo, Egypt. It is a software product embodying years of experience from building Drupal-based websites for high profile customers such as Al Jazeera, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Why Varbase?

Drupal is an industry-leading website building platform, renowned for its rich feature set and the ability for users to customize and extend core functionalities to satisfy their unique requirements. Its flexibility is due to its modular design, that is, Drupal functionalities are implemented in a large number of relatively small core and contributed modules, rather than in a single enormous blob object. One key element for a successful Drupal project is to start it off in the right way: namely, select and configure the best modules to do what you want, or as close to what you want in order to minimize the customization work.

This can be a daunting task for most Drupal newcomers. For developers who have done this before, the task can quickly become a repetitive chore, as the same procedure is required at the beginning of each project.

Varbase offers Drupal site builders the important benefit of time-saving. As a Drupal base distribution, Varbase makes available, in a single download, Drupal core modules, as well as best-of-breed, contributed modules, themes, and pre-defined configurations.

Instead of starting from scratch, Varbase site builders leverage pre-installed and pre-configured industry-proven tools and modules. In addition to using the best modules that others had written, Vardot also contributed its own optimized modules to the distribution, for instance, Varbase SEO and Varbase Media.

From now on you can start building and customizing your website right away, instead of wasting valuable resources in 'reinventing the wheel'.

The new distribution was the direct result after many hours of interaction between Vardot developers and web editors, specifically to find out how to make the editor's job easier and more efficient. Varbase users benefit from that editorial experience as the knowledge was subsequently codified into the design of Varbase modules.

Committing to a base distribution and a website building platform is a long-term investment in user organizations. To protect their investment, users look for a base distribution that is being actively developed and supported long-term by a quality organization. Varbase as a product is fully backed by Vardot, an award-winning enterprise web solution provider. Since 2011, Vardot has been applying its Drupal expertise to build enterprise websites spanning many industries, including corporate, non-profit, news/media, and higher education vertical industries. You can view the past history and the future roadmap of Varbase on-line.

In addition to this, we've created a Slack channel where you can quickly get any information regarding the distribution or get our support in a timely manner.

 

Features

Mobile ready

If a mobile visitor browses your website, only to find web pages served up using an oversized desktop resolution, it is very likely that the visitor (and potential customer) will bounce off and never return. Varbase prevents this event from happening by prepackaging custom responsive themes built using the industry-standard Bootstrap framework. The use of the carefully selected responsive themes guarantees that visitors will experience your website in a screen resolution that best fits the actual devices.

The distribution also provides site editors with the ability to preview web pages on their mobile phones. As a result, editors can examine a page using the same screen resolution before releasing it to the target mobile user base.

High scalability

As your website gains readership over time, the user experience of the site must not degrade because of the additional load on your Drupal platform. Specifically, the page load time must remain fast during peak hours in web traffic and also when your website experiences temporary spikes in traffic.

Varbase is designed to be highly scalable in order to deliver the performance required to withstand a steady climb as well as a spike in web traffic.

Easy media management

 

varbase

 

The distribution offers optimized HTML5-compliant media management via the Varbase Media module. Support is built-in to upload, via drag-and-drop, photos, images, videos, and even documents to an online media library.

Uploaded images and videos in the library can be assembled into sliders or carousels and displayed on your website. Varbase Media is designed to enhance both the aesthetic and the SEO performance of your media resources.

SEO ready

With a built-in SEO modules, search engine optimization is no longer hit-and-miss. Varbase provides a powerful SEO engine to grade the SEO readiness of your website, and to recommend on-page areas for improvement based on its vast SEO knowledge. Varbase enables the specification of meta tags and markups to describe your web contents. Furthermore, to further increase the visibility of your web pages, Varbase supports the generation of XML sitemaps.

If you are migrating your website to Drupal 8, Varbase can import all web pages from your legacy website, and set up page redirects from the old URLs to the new ones on the Drupal 8 platform.

Social media savvy

If visitors like your web content, you want to gently encourage them to share it with their social media contacts, essentially creating a viral effect. Varbase makes the integration of social media within your website as easy as just choosing the target social networks, which automatically enables the corresponding social media plugins.

In addition, Varbase enables you to syndicate selected web contents to various social media networks, thereby maximizing their exposure and reach.

 

Summary & Conclusion

Varbase embodies the principle and practice of Don't Repeat Yourself (or DRY). It is a shortcut to developing your Drupal 8 website using out-of-the-box, best-of-breed modules, themes, and tools. Varbase is made available to the general Drupal community as a free and open-sourced software. Varbase users can download and modify the base software without incurring any licensing cost.

For organizations that require professional services, note that Vardot offers full-cycle Drupal services ranging from implementation, customization, support, training, to hosted management. Please don’t hesitate to contact Vardot if you have any questions regarding our work!

Sep 18 2017
Sep 18

There is a great deal of enthusiasm surrounding chatbots in the Internet technology world today. Fanning the flames were the news that the White House had created a Facebook chatbot using Drupal. This post explains what a chatbot is, its current status, and how it can benefit business enterprises.

What is a chatbot?

Chatbots are software agents which communicate and collaborate with human users through text messaging using a natural language, say English, to accomplish specific tasks. Examples of common tasks in a business context are product inquiries, ordering, and troubleshooting.

Chatbots holds the promise of being the next generation of technology that people use to interact online with business enterprises. From a historical perspective, the first generation of customer contact technology involves websites. Users open the company website within their browser, navigate web pages to get the information they want and to trigger various e-commerce transactions, such as ordering a product.

Next up are mobile apps which users can download on their smartphones or tablets. The problem with apps is that people have to manually download and learn to use each of them. Chatbots lead the way for the next wave of technology.

With chatbots, there are no new apps to download. This is because most users already have at least 1 instant messaging application installed on their communication devices, e.g., SMS, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Kik, etc. Another advantage for chatbots is that, because chatbots communicate using a natural language, users don't need to learn yet another new website interface and to get comfortable with the unavoidable quirks.

The chatbot interface is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. AI is tasked to understand the text that users enter and pass on the knowledge to the backend for processing. Another benefit of using AI is that the chatbot will learn over time to better understand user preferences and as a result, deliver better and faster services.

Why are chatbots important to enterprises?

It was reported that, in 2016, for the first time in Internet history, there were more people using messaging apps than social media. It follows that chat has outpaced social media to become the de facto standard in how mobile users want to make contact.

Mobile users are known to be an impatient bunch, ready to abandon any website en masse if they are made to wait for mere seconds after their initial request. Is your business staffed properly to handle this 24x7 onslaught of customer product queries, sales orders, and support requests?

 

Chatbot Technology

 

Image Source: Business Insider

Chatbots can be programmed to monitor and respond to those chat sessions that fall within their domain expertise, such as troubleshooting, return merchandise authorization (RMA), sales inquiry, etc. For chatbots to do their job, enterprises first need to capture the aforementioned domain knowledge in a knowledge base. Once the knowledge becomes accessible, chatbots can staff the all-important corporate functions 24x7.

By deploying chatbots, a business can save money by easing the staff headcount while guaranteeing good service response time. Besides its always-on feature, another major advantage of using chatbots is the consistency in how your business processes are applied: chatbots will execute the business logic consistently in all customer contacts.

Chatbots advanced that it is, is not the panacea for all enterprise customer service problems, nor does it completely replace the entire human workforce. Human agents are still required to solve the more complex problems that are beyond the ability of chatbots. While chatbots can resolve the most basic troubleshooting tasks, second-level support technicians are still required to tackle the complicated product issues.

State of the union

The chatbot technology is still an emerging technology. There are many components that have to work together to make chatbots work. As of today, the technology stack is not standardized, and a clear market leader has not yet manifested itself.

Just as there are many messaging apps, there are as many, if not more, chatbot building platforms, each designed to work with a subset of specific messaging apps. Some messaging app vendors, such as Facebook and Telegram, also provide their own official chatbot building platforms. Besides those, there are other third-party chatbot platforms that support multiple messaging apps.

For instance, Chatfuel is a chatbot platform that supports both Facebook and Telegram. The Microsoft Bot Framework supports Facebook Messenger, Slack, and SMS.

Most chatbot building platforms claim that chatbots can be developed in minutes with no coding required. While creating a chatbot may take only minutes, making it do something useful involves customization including configuring the AI front-end engine, the e-commerce and payment processor backend, etc.

Given the myriad technical choices and possibilities, it is best to leverage professional help to guide the development of chatbots for your business enterprise.

Chatbots and Drupal

Many businesses have already crafted their online presence in the form of a website using an enterprise-class CMS technology, for instance, Drupal. The good news is that you can add chatbot technology to your existing technology infrastructure, rather than starting from scratch.

If you have already built an enterprise-class Drupal website, you are a one-step ahead of everyone else. The Drupal infrastructure is essentially a portal that captures your business logic, including the backend portion that interfaces with your e-commerce and other back-office systems.

Adding chatbots to your overall technology stack involves adding the proper middleware to connect your chatbot frontend with your Drupal-based business logic backend.

As stated in the previous section, chatbots itself is an emerging technology that may be outside the scope for most in-house development expertise. Adding the middleware to join together chatbots and your Drupal backend is an extra level of software complexity.

This middleware framework is available from the Drupal community but is currently in a very early stage for commercialization. To ensure success for your chatbot project, professional consulting is highly recommended.

If you require professional services, whether to build from scratch an enterprise-class Drupal website with chatbot integration or to add chatbot capabilities to your existing Drupal platform, Vardot is pleased to offer such services from its Jordanian headquarters or its American and Egyptian regional offices. Contact us now for more details regarding your project!

Sep 06 2017
Sep 06

DrupalCon Vienna must be music to the ears of Drupal developers. Every year, Drupal developers flock to DrupalCon to collaborate, network, and learn in a beautiful urban European or North American location, with the objectives of supporting the Drupal community and furthering their Drupal careers. Year 2017 will be no exception. The popular annual European version of the event will be held in Vienna, the grand Austrian capital, September 26-29, 2017. Vardot, a long-time contributor in the Drupal community and sponsor of DrupalCon Vienna will be there.

Why you should attend DrupalCon Vienna

There are many reasons for attending DrupalCon Vienna. If you are new to Drupal 8, you definitely want to come to soak up all things Drupal 8 this year. In fact, Drupal developers have 132 reasons to attend DrupalCon Vienna, one per accepted conference session. The excellent sessions rank high in most developers’ checklist. For the 2017 conference, a whopping total of over 500 session proposals were submitted. Acceptance standards were most rigorous, and only 132 sessions, or 26%, were accepted for DrupalCon Vienna. Attendees will not be disappointed by the quality of the carefully pre-selected sessions.

The accepted sessions together make up 108 hours of quality learning opportunities for attendees. To help you find the sessions that interest you the most, the sessions are classified into 13 tracks, covering the entire spectrum of topics of interest to the Drupal community. The top 4 tracks with the most submitted session proposals in DrupalCon Vienna are: Being Human, Coding and Development, Business, and Site Building.

 

Being human

While 3 of the 4 above mentioned session tracks are reasonably self-explanatory, the Being Human track perhaps needs some explanation. This track covers the human dynamics in a Drupal project and community. Speakers are encouraged to share personal anecdotes to illustrate principles of maintaining a healthy community and project. Leadership, mentorship, gender gap, work-life balance are all key ideas in the Being Human track.

Specifically, three of the sessions in this track draw my attention. Two are related to promoting diversity in the Drupal workspace, and to a large context, the Drupal community. The Debugging the Gender Gap session addresses the current gender imbalance in the Drupal industry, and suggests some solutions to correct the situation. The From a Single Fighter to a Team Player session makes an effort to bridge gaps of a different kind, namely, cultural and language gaps. The speaker relates back to his personal experience as a visible minority in the European tech industry. To paraphrase him, how a job is done is more important than doing a perfect job.

Drupal is different (and better) than a lot of other open-source projects because of its vision and commitment to be an open and inclusive community. These sessions are steps toward fulfilling that vision.

 

Coding and Development

DrupalCon marks almost 2 years since the release of Drupal 8. So, it is not surprising that DrupalCon Vienna sessions, including the Coding and Development track, are almost exclusively Drupal-8-centric. If you are still in the process of migrating to Drupal 8, it is not too late. Migrate Everything into Drupal 8 and Doctor, Will My Drupal 7 Commerce Site Survive the Upgrade? are 2 sessions that you should not miss.

One huge benefit of attending DrupalCon Vienna is to learn the latest practical development tips and techniques. Drupal developers will pick up valuable debugging knowledge from the Wait, there’s more! - Advanced debugging tactics session. I also like 2 other sessions on testing. Improved development process with better QA approach will frame a good overall mindset on testing, while Testing small to medium size client projects with Behat will drill into a specific test tool.

 

Business

Unless you are a pure Drupal hobbyist, sooner or later, you will have to figure out how to make your Drupal business viable. Pinpointing star sessions in the Business track is difficult because it depends on where you are in the life cycle of a Drupal business.

If you are an entrepreneur about to start a new Drupal venture, I’d recommend Co-operative Drupal: Growth & Sustainability through Worker Ownership. Here, you are challenged to make every employee an owner of the company. The coop ownership model is still very much a novelty in the Drupal industry. However, the speaker will argue for its merits, and share personal success stories.

If your objective is to grow your existing Drupal business, then sales and marketing is perhaps your focus in this track. You can weigh whether accessibility is an applicable value that you can sell to your clients, as suggested by the Accessibility as a Business Proposition session. You can also learn valuable lessons on how to build a sales team from the session entitled Is Selling Drupal an Art or a Science?

Last but not least, if you are running a well-established Drupal business and pondering on the next step, then How to go from one to seven companies around the world and how to run them is a must-attend for you. The speakers will present the challenges of diversifying a successful company and how they met the challenges head on.

 

Site building

Decoupled Drupal (aka headless Drupal) has the potential to effect a paradigm shift in how websites are built. Essentially, the idea is to separate content (the Drupal CMS backend) from the display frontend. The Site Building track in DrupalCon Vienna includes 2 sessions which feature the headless architecture: Decoupled site building: Drupal's next challenge, and

Headless, stateless, DB-less: how Kurier.at is transforming digital production with Drupal, NodeJS and Platform.sh. These sessions not only introduce the possibilities and implications of such an architecture, but also point to some working examples. Site builders not familiar with the idea should definitely attend at least 1 of the sessions.

 

Other tracks (and sprints too)

Kudos to DrupalCon Vienna for the breadth of topics covered. Besides the above 4 tracks, developers will also be attracted to the Core Conversations, DevOps, Front End, Performance and Scaling, PHP, and Symfony tracks. And, if you want to step temporarily away from the programming side of Drupal, you will be stimulated by the Project Management, Drupal Showcase, and Horizons tracks.

While the formal sessions are great, you may want to add some activities that are more participatory in nature. DrupalCon Vienna has planned for that as well. Besides the formal sessions, there are also Birds of a Feather (aka BoF) sessions and Sprints.

BoFs are informal gatherings during DrupalCon Vienna on a specific Drupal topic, but without a pre-planned agenda. This allows attendees to collaborate and share their ideas freely and organically on a target topic. BoFs are fun and their outcome often unpredictable. In contrast, Sprints are hands-on sessions to tackle specific focused tasks for the Drupal project. Example activities include bug squashing, specifying a new feature, refactoring a small module, etc. Both BoFs and Sprints are very popular among attendees and can fill up quickly.

 

Have fun

DrupalCon Vienna offers more than just sessions. You can sprinkle DrupalCon Vienna with social events in order to network with fellow Drupal community members. And what better backdrop to befriend them than Vienna, a city of music, art, culture, and fine cuisine.

 

Vardot on DrupalCon

Fellow developers, when you attend DrupalCon Vienna this coming September, drink up on coffee because you are going to need it with so many good activities for your enjoyment and career development. And if you bump into someone from Vardot at the coffee lineup between sessions, don't forget to say hello - we’re always happy to see drupalists around.

 

And what sessions of DrupalCon Vienna are you planning to attend? Which ones are the most attractive for you and why? Share with us your opinion in the comment section below. See you soon in Austria!

Aug 02 2017
Aug 02

The cobbler's children always go barefoot! Is a saying we no longer want to be associated with. As a Drupal-specialized development house, it's no longer an excuse to keep a Drupal 7 website.

You're currently reading this post from our new Drupal 8 website, built using the ultimate Bootstrap distribution available for Drupal 8; Varbase (see project page on drupal.org). We've built Varbase with the basic concept of DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), so that we relieve ourselves from repeating all the modules, features, configurations, best-practices that are included in every Drupal website we built.

Did you know that Varbase is available for free to install and build websites on it yourself? You can test-drive it now on Simplytest.me. Or contact us to build one for you.

New Website Sections

Our new website features our Products in a new section where you can learn more about each product we build.

We also highlight how we deliver business solutions for various industries and verticals, including Higher-ed and SchoolsCorporates and Enterprises, Non-profits and NGOs, and News, Media and Entertainment.

Paragraphs to Build Nice Pages

The new website (and Varbase) uses the famous Paragraphs module, and suite of other modules that we have specifically built for Varbase, such as Varbase Bootstrap Paragraphs.

You can now leverage this functionality with an intuitive page building experience when you use Varbase.

Advanced Page Building Using Paragraphs in Varbase

It's worth noting that it took us 2 weeks to build the new website! Amazing, right? Let us know what you think.

And contact us to discuss your next project.

Aug 01 2017
Aug 01

Dr. Serkan Aygin Clinic is a famous hair transplantation center located in Istanbul, Turkey. The new website of the clinic was built by Vardot using Drupal 8.

Description of the Project

The Clinic's request was to develop a website that will help them to increase the number of visitors and sales. It had to be available in several languages, as well as to give to editors the flexibility in building landing pages for marketing campaigns. 

We at Vardot made sure that the new site contains all the instruments for improving its visibility and enhancing the organic traffic. The team not only designed and developed a modern interface, but also created a flexible framework that will help our client to achieve an effective ROI. Every page of the site is responsive, editor-friendly and can be easily A/B-tested. Vardot also translated the content of the website to Arabic. It will allow Dr. Serkan Aygin Hair Clinic to enter the GULF market and rapidly grow their business in the Middle East.

The outcome of the project

In February of 2017, Vardot completed and delivered the multilingual SEO-friendly website for the Dr. Serkan Aygin Clinic on Varbase, an optimized Drupal 8 distribution. The newly minted website fully supports English, Arabic, and Turkish. The resounding success of the new website was measured quantitatively using objective verifiable web metrics. The new website experienced an 800% increase in organic traffic after the launch. Data analysis further showed that site visitors stayed longer and were more engaged in the new website than the old one. More specifically, the bounce rate dropped from 70% to 26%, and the pages viewed per session increased over 200% from 1.2 to 3.7. Overall, the relaunching of the Dr. Serkan Aygin Clinic website drove the mandated business growth via an engaging multilingual web presence.

If you want to learn more about this project, feel free to read the detailed case study in Vardot portfolio.

Jul 31 2017
Jul 31

You’ve built a brilliant website, you’ve employed a top notch designer and you’re offering well priced, high demand services. Yet for some reason you aren’t getting good traffic to your site. Before diving into an intensive content review and firing your designer, consider that you may have made a great website for people, but you haven’t caught the attention of search engines.

What is Search Engine Optimisation?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a term commonly thrown around in online marketing, but few people explain what it actually means. Briefly speaking, SEO is a focus on improving your website and the content for machine consumption. By integrating keywords, friendly URLs, metatags and deep links search engines with rate your website higher. However overdoing it will lead to search engines penalising your site with a lower your rating – you can’t simply dump a handful of keywords and expect good results, you need strong content as well.

 

Best Drupal SEO Modules to Optimize Your Site 

There are many things your search engine ranking depends on, from metatags to site theming. But one of the first steps you should do when launching your Drupal site is integrating a collection of SEO modules that can help with a higher ranking. In many cases you won’t even have to touch the customer facing part of your website. With a few tweaks and back end administration you can optimise your search engine results, boost the traffic to your website and massively increase your conversion. We recently published an article with must have security modules, and in this one we list the best ten SEO modules that every Drupal website must include - have a look!

XML sitemap

Drupal SEO module: XML Sitemap

Usage: Currently installed on 286,000 sites, downloaded 1.72 million times

The XML Sitemap module automatically deploys a sitemap that meets industry standards and makes your site easier for search engines to crawl and categorise. Typically search engines will crawl and index your site based on external and internal links. XML Sitemap provides a single point of information for search engine bots to refer to and gain a strong understanding of your site.

XML site map will include metatags about your page (if you’ve installed the metatag module listed below, these will be higher quality tags) as well as further metadata such as relative links, the pages last updated time and date, and how often the content is updated.

Pathauto

Drupal SEO module: Pathauto

Usage: Currently installed on 703,000 sites, downloaded 4.45 million times

Pathauto is a great SEO module because it takes a boring, laborious manual task and automates it for you, from start to finish. All you need to do is set up some rulesets and away you go.

Pathauto Tips and Hints

Pathauto gives you a simple way to define URLs that are both user friendly, and lead to stronger search engine optimisation. Drupal will normally give your web pages a url like “yoursite.com/node/12345”. This type of URL means nothing to a user, and even less to a search engine. With Pathauto your can build URLs based on the category and page title. As such you can have URLs like “yoursite/search-engine-optimisation/top-ten-drupal-modules-for-easy-SEO”. This sort of URL is easy for your site visitors to understand, and gives you bonus points with search engines.

The module has been updated for Drupal 8 (with some valuable learning resources) with a new version released late April 2017.

Redirect

Drupal SEO module: Redirect

Usage: Currently installed on 196,000 sites, downloaded 1.28 million times

Among the best Drupal SEO modules you also may want to cosider Redirect. It is an important module for preventing ‘dead links’ inside your website, and for creating short links in advertising materials. Redirect allows you to set rules such as sending users who visit ‘yoursite.com/promo1’ to ‘yoursite.com/seo-course/learn-seo-with-us’.

While this is great for marketing, it’s also great for keeping a high rating with search engines. Having multiple ‘bouncing’ redirects won’t help you, but having dead-links to your site will count against you. If you remove a page from your site, or simply rename it, you can use a redirect to ensure that you don’t lose the traffic that was trying to find the old page.

Redirects is more than just a net for catching missed opportunities. It also tracks how often people are hitting those redirects. This can help you track how popular a promotional link is, or how many people are trying to access a page you have moved or renamed.

Redirect has been updated for Drupal 8, with the latest release coming out in May 2017.

Global Redirect

Drupal SEO module: Global Redirect

 

Usage: Currently installed on 188,000 sites, downloaded 922,000 times

 

Duplicate content on a web site can negatively impact your ranking with search engines. This becomes a problem with modules like Page Title (see below) that give your pages a friendly alias. Unfortunately your page retains its original unfriendly title, as well as the friendly new one - which looks like duplicate content to a search engine.

 

Global Redirect is one of the Drupal SEO modules that solves this problem, as well as capturing a variety of broken link scenarios and returning the user to your homepage - thus improving the user experience and giving you a cleaner record with search engine rankings.

Global Redirect is available for Drupal 7, however if you’re using a Drupal 8 site then it has been bundled up with the similar ‘Redirect’ module.

Metatag

Drupal SEO module: Metatag

Usage: Currently installed on 353,000 sites, downloaded 2.49 million times

The Metatag module allows you to provide extra metadata to your website, generally in the meta description tag, and the meta keywords tag. Both of these are crawled by search engines and you can optimise your results by including words and phrases that people may use to search your site, but don’t explicitly appear in your content. For example, if you have a website about chicken farming, your keywords could include ‘hen’ ‘rooster’ ‘eggs’ even if those words don’t appear on the page.This will give you more chance to match with what a user is typing into their search engine.

Metatag is available for Drupal 7 and 8, with the last version being released in June 2017.

Google Analytics

Drupal SEO module: Google Analytics

Usage: Currently installed on 380,000 sites, downloaded 4.72 million times

Adding the Google Analytics module won’t automatically improve your SEO, but it will arm you with all the knowledge you need to see where your site is succeeding, and where it could do with a little more polish.

The Google Analytics can not be called one of the classical SEO modules, but it will give you the ability to track and exclude users and roles within your site (so you aren’t erroneously tracking your own clicks), track link clicks, downloads, and ‘mailto’ clicks. The module also supports AdSense, as well as a host of other items.

 

With Google Analytics you will be able to see where your traffic is coming from, how long users stay on your pages, and what catches their attention while they are there. With this information you can tweak your content strategy to appeal to your audience, driving more traffic to your site and increasing conversions.

Google News sitemap

Drupal SEO module: Google News Sitemap

 

Usage: Currently installed on 3,000 sites, downloaded 32,000 times.

 

The Google News sitemap module creates a similar but separate sitemap to the XML sitemap in the module above. This one is specifically tailored for Google News and allows you to set caching times, the types of content to include, how recent news should be and to customise tags and keywords.

 

The last updated for Google News sitemap was released in June 2013, however there are considerations to integrate it with the XML sitemap module, giving you two great functionalities in a single module.

Site verification

Drupal SEO module: Site Verification

Usage: Currently installed on 57,000 sites, downloaded 397,000 times

For your site to rank well in search engine results it is important that your site is verified. There are many spam sites on the internet that are set up for a short period of time for nefarious reasons. By having your site properly verified you avoid seeming like one of these sites, even when you are just starting out.

The Site verification module assists with this process by allowing you to upload a verification file, and then managing the authentication process for you. There is a development Drupal 8 version of this module available, or a fully tested Drupal 7 version.

Page Title

Usage: Currently installed on 92,000 sites, downloaded 648,000 times

Having good page titles is essential to search engine optimisation, and in 2006 a module was released with a laser focus on good page titles.

The Page Title module does more than just put a nice heading on the page. Page title hooks into the metatags to ensure that your title is replicated throughout the code in all the essential spaces. These are picked up by search engine bots that are checking your site, and give you extra ticks in the SEO checklist (see the next module). You can tell if you have it set up properly by looking at the top of your web browser, for example the Page Title Module on Drupal.org clearly shows you what page you’re on, and the website name.

While this might seem like a small change, visitors to your site will feel much more confident in the professionalism, and search engines will bump you up in the rankings.

If you are still running Drupal 7 you will need this module, but if you’ve upgraded to Drupal 8 just download the metatag module mentioned above as these two modules have been merged together.

SEO Checklist

Drupal SEO module: SEO checklist

 

Usage: Currently installed on 30,000 sites, downloaded 313,000 times

 

Finally, SEO checklist is another one of those modules that won’t improve your sites SEO, but will equip your with the skills and knowledge to make changes to your site. The SEO Checklist does nothing to your site, except for give you a simple report of what needs to be done, and allows you to check off each task as you work through it. This is a must have for anyone managing more than one site, or if you have multiple people managing the one site.

 

The SEO checklist is updated regularly to keep up with industry standards and the latest techniques. It has a fully supported version for Drupal 7 and Drupal 8.

Conclusion

Drupal is an amazing CMS for search engine optimization, and using the right SEO modules will set you up for success. By preventing duplicate content, filling your content with strong metatags and keywords, using human friendly URLs and having a clean site map your site will rise rapidly through search engine rankings.

At Vardot we pride ourselves on educating our customers, developing brilliant websites and giving back to the Drupal community. By building SEO-friendly websites we aim to satisfy our clients and their customers. Hopefully this article will set you on the right path to a high quality website, but if you need more, check out our article on Optimizing Your Site For Search Engines or get in touch with us.

Jul 24 2017
Jul 24

As of July 2017, there are 1500+ themes registered with the Drupal project. The sheer number of choices makes the selection of a theme difficult for most newcomers to Drupal. Some Drupal themes are free while the rest are known as being premium, i.e., they are available for a fee. Sometimes you can save more money by investing in a paid theme, but this topic we’ll cover in another article. This one lists the top 10 free Drupal themes, each of them in our opinion is a great choice for a beginning sitebuilder.

Are you a Drupal newcomer? Use our learning guide to become a guru!

Best Free Drupal Themes: Selection criteria

The main question when compiling the list of our proposed themes was how to make the comparison fair and objective. After much discussion, we decided that a theme must satisfy the following basic criteria for it to be considered in the list of top 10 Drupal themes:

 

  1. It must be free.

  2. It must run on either Drupal 7 or Drupal 8 (or better, both).

  3. It must be actively maintained and developed.

  4. It must be covered by the Drupal security advisory policy.
    Coverage under the policy does not guarantee that a theme is free of vulnerabilities. Rather, it means that the theme has been reviewed for any publicly known vulnerabilities by the Drupal security team.

  5. It must be for general purpose.
    Some Drupal themes are designed for specific industries, e.g., restaurant. For the purpose of this list, only general purpose themes are considered.

  6. It must be responsive.

A responsive theme adjusts its layout to accommodate different screen sizes and resolutions. This is a basic requirement for today's mobile platforms.

  1. It must run out-of-the-box.

There are themes, and there are theme frameworks (also known as base themes). A theme framework is like a blank canvas with tools which a theme developer uses to build a custom theme. The top 10 list only contains Drupal themes which one can use out-of-the-box as feature-complete themes.

In the course of conducting this study, it was observed that a small number of organizations have each generated a relatively large number of themes, albeit good ones, that are only marginally different. If an organization makes multiple but similar quality Drupal themes, only representative themes may be selected for inclusion in the following theme set. The individual or organization responsible for a theme is identified below in brackets.

Anyway, we have kept you in suspense for too long already. Based on the above criteria, the top 10 free Drupal themes are:

  • BlueMasters (by More than Themes)

  • Corporate Clean (by More than Themes)

  • Danland (by DanPros)

  • Business (by Devsaran)

  • Nexus (by Devsaran)

  • Zircon (by WeebPal)

  • Business Responsive Theme (by Zymphonies)

  • Drupal8 Zymphonies (by Zymphonies)

  • Fontfolio (by Marios Lublinski)

  • Integrity (by knackforge)

Below, we discuss each theme in more detail.

BlueMasters

Best Drupal themes: BlueMasters

 

BlueMasters is a popular WordPress theme that has been ported to the Drupal platform by More Than Themes. We recommend this theme, not just on its features only, but that it is maintained by More Than Themes, a solid well-reputed organization in the Drupal community. The theme supports a maximum layout of 12 regions. A region is the primary layout unit to which a component block can be placed. Therefore, the more regions a theme supports, the more customizable it is. With this Drupal theme, you can display a slideshow on the front page, and partition information into either 2 or 3 columns on a web page. In addition, you can organize and access your contents via multi-level dropdown menus. BlueMasters, however, is only available on Drupal 7.

Corporate Clean

Best Drupal themes: Corporate Clean

Like BlueMasters, Corporate Clean is a theme ported to Drupal by More Than Themes. We recommend this theme because it offers a unique feature that is missing in many free Drupal themes, namely, a color scheme selector. Most free themes have a fixed color scheme which means that you cannot change the color of a button or the page background. With Corporate Clean, you can adjust the color of some screen elements. This theme supports 1-column, 2-column as well as 3-column layout. Multi-level drop-down menus and slideshows are also supported. The Corporate Clean theme only runs on Drupal 7.

Danland

Best Drupal themes: Danland

We recommend Danland because, among the Drupal themes on this top 10 list, it gives you the most flexibility to fine tune the layout of your web page. Specifically, it supports a maximum of 26 regions, the highest number on the list. The layout can have 1, 2, or 3 columns. Danland runs on Drupal 6, 7, and 8.

Business

Best Drupal themes: Business

 

In terms of the major features, the Business theme is at par with other themes on the list. We recommend the theme because of the finer feature details. For example, the slideshow feature allows the display of up to 5 images. Note that some free Drupal themes only allow a maximum of 3. Also, the Business theme has a color module, which is missing in most free themes. You can specify one of 6 fixed colors for web components. The Business theme is available for Drupal 7 and 8. However, the Drupal 7 version is not responsive, and is currently in maintenance mode only. The Drupal 8 version, on the other hand, is being actively developed, and is fully responsive.

Nexus

Best Drupal themes: Nexus

 

Nexus is arguably the most visually appealing theme on the top 10 list. The clean design together with the solid support by Devsaran, its maintainer organization, put Nexus on the list. The theme runs on both Drupal 7 and 8 with the Drupal 8 version being a pre-release version only. The layout can have a maximum of 15 regions, which is average on the top 10 list. You can specify a 1-column or 2-column design on the layout. The slideshow feature supports a maximum of 3 images.

Zircon

Best Drupal themes: Zircon

 

If your Drupal website is rich in images, then you should definitely consider using Zircon as the theme. You will be delighted by its slideshow, slider, as well as carousel features. You can run Zircon on both Drupal 7 and 8. However, the current Drupal 8 version has remained as a release candidate since November 2015. The Zircon layout supports 18 regions in 3 columns.

Business Responsive

Best Drupal themes: Business Responsive

Not all themes on the top 10 list support Drupal 8. Even for those which do, some are in pre-release status only. If you are looking for a stable Drupal 8 theme, you should consider the Business Responsive theme which has reached the 1.0 stable release status. This theme supports 17 regions in 1-column, 2-column, or 3-column layouts. It also has a slider feature, but installing the feature requires some manual steps after installing the theme. This theme supports the use of social media icons for popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. You can install this theme on both Drupal 7 and 8.

Drupal8 Zymphonies

 

Best Drupal themes: Zymphonies

 

If you want a stable Drupal 8 theme that offers more bells and whistles than the Business Responsive theme, Drupal8 Zymphonies comes highly recommended. This theme is, fittingly, only available on Drupal 8. It shares many features with other themes on the top 10 list, such as multi-level menus and 1/2/3-column layout. It distinguishes itself by offering 22 regions for placing blocks, the second highest on the theme list. Also, you can customize the Zymphonies credit link, all supported social media links, and the title and description fields in the main banner.

Fontfolio

Top free Drupal themes: Fontfolio

 

If your website is multilingual, you should definitely consider Fontfolio because it offers easy setup for links to webpages in all supported languages. Like BlueMasters, this theme is a popular WordPress theme that has been ported to Drupal. Fontfolio can run on both Drupal 7 and 8. Note that some existing features of the Drupal 7 version are still under development for the Drupal 8 version. Fontfolio supports a maximum of only 8 regions in its layout, the fewest on the list. Yet, overall, it is a simple but elegant Drupal theme that includes a 2-column responsive design.

Integrity

Top free Drupal themes: Integrity

 

If you want a simple no-frills theme that just works out-of-the-box, Integrity may be your choice. It is a Drupal 8 only theme. Its feature set is, in general, at par with the rest of the themes. Integrity supports multi-level menus and slideshows that display up to 5 images. The layout includes a 3-column design. The theme has defined 17 regions into which Drupal blocks can be placed.

Summary & Conclusion

Drupal has a wealth of good free themes. Each of them is ideal for Drupal users who have relatively simple requirements and want to try something other than the default theme. If a free theme cannot fully satisfy your particular requirements, then you may want to use its premium alternative or even to hire a professional Drupal agency that can assist you with your needs.

 

Which theme do you like the most among our top 10 choices? Perhaps, you have your own favourite theme that is not on our list. What are the goals of your project and what kind of theme are you looking for? Share with us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Jun 27 2017
Jun 27

Background

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a web mobile technology specifically designed to tackle unresponsive web pages on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The challenge of poor mobile user experience due to slow loading of web pages is not new. Rich media contents, including ads, often in the form of videos, images, and audios, have made the web unbearable for mobile users. So much so that, as early as 2010, Google designated the load speed of a website as a rank factor in its search algorithm. In 2014, Google added the mobile usability report to its Webmaster Tools. Running this new report identifies specific mobile usability issues on a given website as detected by Google. With the availability of this reporting tool, it was generally speculated that mobile usability would one day become a ranking factor. Speculation turned into reality in 2015 when Google announced that mobile usability is officially a rank factor in its search. Despite earlier signs and warnings from Google, this event still created quite a shock among webmasters, and was nicknamed Mobilegeddon for its magnitude of impact. In a nutshell, if a web page is deemed mobile-unfriendly by Google, (and there is no middle ground), it will be ranked lower even if its content is exceptional.

The case for mobile pages with fast load times makes business sense, and is backed by industry research statistics. About half of Internet shoppers expect a web page to load within 2 seconds. Furthermore, studies showed that 40% of desktop users would abandon a slow loading web page, while mobile users were abandoning at even a higher rate (50%), according to Consumers in the Micro-Moment, May 2015.

As a direct response to the mobile web speed challenge, Google introduced the AMP project in 2015. Gary Illyes, webmaster trends analyst at Google, reported that AMP web pages load 4 times faster than the average. Jon Parise, technical architecture lead at Pinterest, cited test results that show AMP pages use eight times less data than traditional mobile-optimized pages. Better user experience with AMP pages correlates with improved user engagement: 90% of publishers net higher CTR, while 80% of publishers are getting more page views.

 

Technology overview

In a nutshell, AMP leverages existing web technologies, and can be readily deployed on existing web infrastructure. Specifically, AMP pages can be uploaded to and served from existing web servers without custom server configuration.

AMP pages are built using AMP HTML and AMP JavaScript. AMP HTML is a subset of HTML 5 and is styled in-line by CSS 3. The design of AMP is guided by the principle that features that may hinder fast page loading are banned. Not all HTML tags are supported by AMP, e.g., frame and frameset are prohibited. In addition, some HTML 5 media tags (such as img, video, audio) are replaced by the corresponding AMP HTML tags (amp-img, amp-video, and amp-audio). The loading of AMP pages is managed and optimized using the AMP Javascript library. This JS library enforces the performance-enhancing best practices for page rendering. To further improve page loading performance, AMP pages can be cached on network proxy systems such as the Google AMP Cache.

Web applications

Although AMP, as a technology, is only 2 years old, it has been deployed successfully with well-documented case studies from web publishers, advertisers, and e-commerce websites.

It is no surprise that, because of its origin as a Google initiative, AMP pages are featured prominently in Google Search results. AMP-enabled news stories are displayed in the AMP carousel at the top of mobile search results pages. Although AMP is not yet ubiquitous in the mobile web, it is gaining traction by being supported on LinkedIn, Medium, Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, WordPress, and Drupal.

Drupal is a CMS that many web publishers and e-commerce vendors use to build their websites (learn here why). If you are a Drupal developer, AMP is a technology that you should definitely consider using. To make AMP adoption easier, Drupal has developed an AMP module to automatically convert regular pages into AMP pages. The rest of this article shows how to enable AMP support in the Drupal environment.

 

Install Drupal AMP support

Overview

AMP support on Drupal requires the installation of the following components.

 

  1. AMP module
    The AMP module manages the conversion of regular Drupal HTML pages to AMP-complaint pages. The URL of AMP pages ends with the string '?amp'.

  2. AMP PHP library
    The AMP PHP library is the engine behind HTML conversion. It validates user-entered HTML against the AMP standard, and makes the necessary corrections to ensure compliance.

  3. AMP theme
    The AMP theme consists of the AMP base theme and the ExAMPle sub-theme. All Drupal AMP pages must be displayed using a sub-theme of the AMP base theme. You can create a new AMP sub-theme from scratch, or modify the default ExAMPle sub-theme.

Both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 support AMP. The following illustrates how to setup AMP support for Drupal 8 on the Linux platform.

 

Install procedure

The prerequisite is that a working Drupal system is already in place. The following install procedure uses the command-line tools Composer and Drush. If these tools were already installed on the Drupal system, they do not need to be re-installed. Unless specified otherwise, the following steps should be performed using a non-root account on a Linux system.

 

Download and install Composer

Composer is the dependency manager for downloading PHP packages. Download and install Composer using this command:

curl -sS https://getcomposer.org/installer | php 


Move the installed program to a system directory that grants you execute permission, e.g., /usr/local/bin.

mv composer.phar /usr/local/bin/composer

 

Download AMP module

Download the AMP module and its dependencies, including the AMP PHP library, using the composer command below. Note that the composer command must run inside the web server's document root directory. The exact document root directory location depends on the web server and Linux distribution. For this example, the document root is /var/www.

cd /var/www
composer require drupal/amptheme

 

Download AMP theme

Download the AMP theme including the default ExAMPle sub-theme to the document root directory (e.g.,  /var/www).

cd /var/www
composer require drupal/amptheme

 

Enable AMP sub-theme

An AMP sub-theme must be enabled before enabling the AMP module. For this example, we enable the default ExAMPle sub-theme (ampsubtheme_example). Alternatively, you can enable a custom AMP sub-theme.

If Drush, the command-line shell for managing Drupal, is already installed on your system, you can enable the sub-theme using the following Drush command. Note that the Drush command must be executed inside the document root directory.

cd /var/www
drush en ampsubtheme_example

You can also enable the sub-theme through the Drupal web interface using the following procedure:

  1. Log in as a Drupal administrator.

Installing AMP on Drupal: Log in as a Drupal administrator.

        2. Select the Appearance page.

Installing AMP on Drupal: Appearance page
  1. Locate the ExAMPle sub-theme in the Uninstalled themes section, and click Install.
    There are 2 Install options available: Install, and Install and set as default. Select Install. The sub-theme should only be used on AMP pages, and therefore must not be set as the default theme.

Enable AMP module

The AMP module can be enabled using Drush or the Drupal web interface.
To enable the AMP module using Drush, execute the Drush command below inside the document root directory:

cd /var/www
drush en amp

 

To enable AMP using the web interface:

  1. Log in as a Drupal administrator.

        2. Select the Extend page.

  1. Scroll down to the Other section, and select both the Accelerated Mobile Pages(AMP) and Token modules.

  2. Click Install.

 

Configure AMP

Before AMP pages can be displayed, AMP needs to be configured using the web interface.

  1. Log in as a Drupal administrator.

  1. Select the Configuration page.

  1. Click AMP Configuration in the Content Authoring section.
    The AMP configuration page is displayed.

subtheme.jpg

  1. Select ExAMPle Subtheme as the AMP theme, and click Save configuration button.
    The top of the AMP configuration page lists the AMP status by content type. Initially, AMP is disabled for all content types, e.g., article and basic page.

customdisplay.jpg

  1. Enable AMP for a content type, e.g., article, by clicking the corresponding Enable AMP in Custom Display Settings link.
    The Manage Display page is displayed as a result.

savedisplay.jpg

  1. Click to open Custom Display Settings.

  2. Select the AMP view mode, and click Save.
    Saving the setting returns you to the AMP Configuration page.

configviewmode.jpg

  1. Click Configure AMP view mode for the content type you've just AMP-enabled.
    All fields available to display for the content type are listed.

formatfields.jpg

  1. Specify AMP format for fields, and click Save.
    The fields available depend on the content type. For the Body field, select AMP Text as the format. For Image, select AMP Image.

structure.jpg

  1. Select the Structure page.

  2. Click Block layout.

blocklayout.jpg

  1. Select the ExAMPle Subtheme tab.
    This tab lists the blocks available for the sub-theme, e.g., Search, Breadcrumbs.  You can move specific blocks to different regions on the page, or remove them altogether. After you make the modifications, click Save blocks.

Now, you are ready to view the AMP pages. You can view an AMP page using either of the following methods:

  1. Edit the page.
    Edit the page under Drupal, and instead of selecting Save and keep published, select Save and view AMP page.

preview.jpg

  1. Append AMP suffix to URL.
    Browse to the regular non-AMP version of the page.  Manually append the suffix '?amp' to the end of the page URL, and hit Enter. For example, http://localhost/node/2 becomes http://localhost/node/2?amp.

 

Summary & conclusion

Despite tangible results, AMP is but 1 of several mobile web technologies aiming to decrease page loading time. Its competitors include Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News. AMP distinguishes itself by being the only open-source platform among the three.

Why Open Source Technologies will Dominate the Market

The decision of which technology to adopt will influence the bottom line of a company. Below, we list the advantages and disadvantages of AMP.

 

AMP advantages
  • SEO    
    Although AMP per se is not a rank factor in Google searches yet, AMP pages, by virtue of faster loading time, contributes to better SEO results for mobile searches. Better search engine visibility, lower bounce rates, and higher click-through rates are all achievable benefits of AMP. Tips on how to optimize a Drupal website for SEO can be found here.

  • ROI       
    The cost of adopting AMP is generally lower than competing technologies because it leverages, not disrupt, existing web infrastructure. The return is a much better user experience which translates to improved mobile conversion rates.

  • Better behaving ads             
    Advertisers are an integral part of the AMP ecosystem. AMP ensures that ads displayed on AMP pages load quickly and do not detract from overall user experience.

  • Less stress on web servers                  
    AMP pages take up less data space, and can benefit from caching on AMP Cache servers. As a result, the stress on web servers is proportionally reduced.

  • Potential solution for smaller sites         
    Smaller websites may not have the IT budget to tackle speed challenges on mobile web. AMP provides a viable solution, especially for websites hosted on a CMS such as Drupal and WordPress. AMP support on Drupal eases the conversion of regular web pages to AMP pages.

 

AMP disadvantages
  • Complexity
    An AMP-enabled website typically has both AMP pages targeting mobile users and regular web pages targeting desktop users. This is an added level of complexity for webmasters and search engines. The 2 versions of a web page must both be visible to search engines, but, at the same time, not viewed as duplicates. Given the newness of AMP, in-house AMP expertise may not be available for most businesses. For professional consulting, feel free to contact Vardot.

  • Customization
    AMP HTML restricts the types of HTML tags that can be used on an AMP page. All is well if an AMP page passes AMP validation. Otherwise, considerable web development expertise is required to make the necessary adjustment to pass the validation without sacrificing what you actually want to achieve. Even with the help of a CMS such as Drupal, customizing the look and feel of an AMP page requires in-depth knowledge of the AMP theme and how to craft sub-themes.

  • Uncertain industry-wide adoption
    AMP enjoys support from a growing number of platforms, vendors, and partners. However, given the competition from industry heavyweights such as Facebook and Apple, industry-wide domination is far from certain. With the backing of Google, AMP can potentially become the industry-standard format for mobile search pages, or, like Google Authorship, just another Google experiment that does not reach its full potential.

And did you try to set up accelerated mobile pages on your Drupal site? Share with us your experience in the comments section below.

Jun 27 2017
Jun 27
AMP up your Drupal site with Google's accelerated mobile pages Developing AMP pages in Drupal

Background

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a web mobile technology specifically designed to tackle unresponsive web pages on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The challenge of poor mobile user experience due to slow loading of web pages is not new. Rich media contents, including ads, often in the form of videos, images, and audios, have made the web unbearable for mobile users. So much so that, as early as 2010, Google designated the load speed of a website as a rank factor in its search algorithm. In 2014, Google added the mobile usability report to its Webmaster Tools. Running this new report identifies specific mobile usability issues on a given website as detected by Google. With the availability of this reporting tool, it was generally speculated that mobile usability would one day become a ranking factor. Speculation turned into reality in 2015 when Google announced that mobile usability is officially a rank factor in its search. Despite earlier signs and warnings from Google, this event still created quite a shock among webmasters, and was nicknamed Mobilegeddon for its magnitude of impact. In a nutshell, if a web page is deemed mobile-unfriendly by Google, (and there is no middle ground), it will be ranked lower even if its content is exceptional.

The case for mobile pages with fast load times makes business sense, and is backed by industry research statistics. About half of Internet shoppers expect a web page to load within 2 seconds. Furthermore, studies showed that 40% of desktop users would abandon a slow loading web page, while mobile users were abandoning at even a higher rate (50%), according to Consumers in the Micro-Moment, May 2015.

As a direct response to the mobile web speed challenge, Google introduced the AMP project in 2015. Gary Illyes, webmaster trends analyst at Google, reported that AMP web pages load 4 times faster than the average. Jon Parise, technical architecture lead at Pinterest, cited test results that show AMP pages use eight times less data than traditional mobile-optimized pages. Better user experience with AMP pages correlates with improved user engagement: 90% of publishers net higher CTR, while 80% of publishers are getting more page views.

 

Technology overview

In a nutshell, AMP leverages existing web technologies, and can be readily deployed on existing web infrastructure. Specifically, AMP pages can be uploaded to and served from existing web servers without custom server configuration.

AMP pages are built using AMP HTML and AMP JavaScript. AMP HTML is a subset of HTML 5 and is styled in-line by CSS 3. The design of AMP is guided by the principle that features that may hinder fast page loading are banned. Not all HTML tags are supported by AMP, e.g., frame and frameset are prohibited. In addition, some HTML 5 media tags (such as img, video, audio) are replaced by the corresponding AMP HTML tags (amp-img, amp-video, and amp-audio). The loading of AMP pages is managed and optimized using the AMP Javascript library. This JS library enforces the performance-enhancing best practices for page rendering. To further improve page loading performance, AMP pages can be cached on network proxy systems such as the Google AMP Cache.

Web applications

Although AMP, as a technology, is only 2 years old, it has been deployed successfully with well-documented case studies from web publishers, advertisers, and e-commerce websites.

It is no surprise that, because of its origin as a Google initiative, AMP pages are featured prominently in Google Search results. AMP-enabled news stories are displayed in the AMP carousel at the top of mobile search results pages. Although AMP is not yet ubiquitous in the mobile web, it is gaining traction by being supported on LinkedIn, Medium, Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, WordPress, and Drupal.

Drupal is a CMS that many web publishers and e-commerce vendors use to build their websites (learn here why). If you are a Drupal developer, AMP is a technology that you should definitely consider using. To make AMP adoption easier, Drupal has developed an AMP module to automatically convert regular pages into AMP pages. The rest of this article shows how to enable AMP support in the Drupal environment.

 

Overview

AMP support on Drupal requires the installation of the following components.

 

  1. AMP module
    The AMP module manages the conversion of regular Drupal HTML pages to AMP-complaint pages. The URL of AMP pages ends with the string '?amp'.

  2. AMP PHP library
    The AMP PHP library is the engine behind HTML conversion. It validates user-entered HTML against the AMP standard, and makes the necessary corrections to ensure compliance.

  3. AMP theme
    The AMP theme consists of the AMP base theme and the ExAMPle sub-theme. All Drupal AMP pages must be displayed using a sub-theme of the AMP base theme. You can create a new AMP sub-theme from scratch, or modify the default ExAMPle sub-theme.

Both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 support AMP. The following illustrates how to setup AMP support for Drupal 8 on the Linux platform.

 

Install procedure

The prerequisite is that a working Drupal system is already in place. The following install procedure uses the command-line tools Composer and Drush. If these tools were already installed on the Drupal system, they do not need to be re-installed. Unless specified otherwise, the following steps should be performed using a non-root account on a Linux system.

 

Download and install Composer

Composer is the dependency manager for downloading PHP packages. Download and install Composer using this command:

curl -sS https://getcomposer.org/installer | php

Move the installed program to a system directory that grants you execute permission, e.g., /usr/local/bin.

mv composer.phar /usr/local/bin/composer

 

Download AMP module

Download the AMP module and its dependencies, including the AMP PHP library, using the composer command below. Note that the composer command must run inside the web server's document root directory. The exact document root directory location depends on the web server and Linux distribution. For this example, the document root is /var/www.

cd /var/www

composer require drupal/amptheme

 

Download AMP theme

Download the AMP theme including the default ExAMPle sub-theme to the document root directory (e.g.,  /var/www).

cd /var/www
composer require drupal/amptheme

 

Enable AMP sub-theme

An AMP sub-theme must be enabled before enabling the AMP module. For this example, we enable the default ExAMPle sub-theme (ampsubtheme_example). Alternatively, you can enable a custom AMP sub-theme.

If Drush, the command-line shell for managing Drupal, is already installed on your system, you can enable the sub-theme using the following Drush command. Note that the Drush command must be executed inside the document root directory.

cd /var/www

drush en ampsubtheme_example

You can also enable the sub-theme through the Drupal web interface using the following procedure:

  1. Log in as a Drupal administrator.

 Log in as a Drupal administrator.

        2. Select the Appearance page.

 Appearance page

  1. Locate the ExAMPle sub-theme in the Uninstalled themes section, and click Install.
    There are 2 Install options available: Install, and Install and set as default. Select Install. The sub-theme should only be used on AMP pages, and therefore must not be set as the default theme.

Enable AMP module

The AMP module can be enabled using Drush or the Drupal web interface.
To enable the AMP module using Drush, execute the Drush command below inside the document root directory:
cd /var/www
drush en amp

 

To enable AMP using the web interface:

  1. Log in as a Drupal administrator.

 log in

        2. Select the Extend page.

 Extend page

  1. Scroll down to the Other section, and select both the Accelerated Mobile Pages(AMP) and Token modules.

  2. Click Install.

 

Configure AMP

Before AMP pages can be displayed, AMP needs to be configured using the web interface.

  1. Log in as a Drupal administrator.

 log in config

  1. Select the Configuration page.

 configuration page

  1. Click AMP Configuration in the Content Authoring section.
    The AMP configuration page is displayed.

subtheme.jpg

  1. Select ExAMPle Subtheme as the AMP theme, and click Save configuration button.
    The top of the AMP configuration page lists the AMP status by content type. Initially, AMP is disabled for all content types, e.g., article and basic page.

customdisplay.jpg

  1. Enable AMP for a content type, e.g., article, by clicking the corresponding Enable AMP in Custom Display Settings link.
    The Manage Display page is displayed as a result.

savedisplay.jpg

  1. Click to open Custom Display Settings.

  2. Select the AMP view mode, and click Save.
    Saving the setting returns you to the AMP Configuration page.

configviewmode.jpg

  1. Click Configure AMP view mode for the content type you've just AMP-enabled.
    All fields available to display for the content type are listed.

formatfields.jpg

  1. Specify AMP format for fields, and click Save.
    The fields available depend on the content type. For the Body field, select AMP Text as the format. For Image, select AMP Image.

structure.jpg

  1. Select the Structure page.

  2. Click Block layout.

blocklayout.jpg

  1. Select the ExAMPle Subtheme tab.
    This tab lists the blocks available for the sub-theme, e.g., Search, Breadcrumbs.  You can move specific blocks to different regions on the page, or remove them altogether. After you make the modifications, click Save blocks.

Now, you are ready to view the AMP pages. You can view an AMP page using either of the following methods:

  1. Edit the page.
    Edit the page under Drupal, and instead of selecting Save and keep published, select Save and view AMP page.

preview.jpg

  1. Append AMP suffix to URL.
    Browse to the regular non-AMP version of the page.  Manually append the suffix '?amp' to the end of the page URL, and hit Enter. For example, http://localhost/node/2 becomes http://localhost/node/2?amp.

 

Summary & conclusion

Despite tangible results, AMP is but 1 of several mobile web technologies aiming to decrease page loading time. Its competitors include Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News. AMP distinguishes itself by being the only open-source platform among the three.

Why Open Source Technologies will Dominate the Market

The decision of which technology to adopt will influence the bottom line of a company. Below, we list the advantages and disadvantages of AMP.

 

AMP advantages

  • SEO    
    Although AMP per se is not a rank factor in Google searches yet, AMP pages, by virtue of faster loading time, contributes to better SEO results for mobile searches. Better search engine visibility, lower bounce rates, and higher click-through rates are all achievable benefits of AMP. Tips on how to optimize a Drupal website for SEO can be found here.

  • ROI       
    The cost of adopting AMP is generally lower than competing technologies because it leverages, not disrupt, existing web infrastructure. The return is a much better user experience which translates to improved mobile conversion rates.

  • Better behaving ads             
    Advertisers are an integral part of the AMP ecosystem. AMP ensures that ads displayed on AMP pages load quickly and do not detract from overall user experience.

  • Less stress on web servers                  
    AMP pages take up less data space, and can benefit from caching on AMP Cache servers. As a result, the stress on web servers is proportionally reduced.

  • Potential solution for smaller sites         
    Smaller websites may not have the IT budget to tackle speed challenges on mobile web. AMP provides a viable solution, especially for websites hosted on a CMS such as Drupal and WordPress. AMP support on Drupal eases the conversion of regular web pages to AMP pages.

 

AMP disadvantages

  • Complexity
    An AMP-enabled website typically has both AMP pages targeting mobile users and regular web pages targeting desktop users. This is an added level of complexity for webmasters and search engines. The 2 versions of a web page must both be visible to search engines, but, at the same time, not viewed as duplicates. Given the newness of AMP, in-house AMP expertise may not be available for most businesses. For professional consulting, feel free to contact Vardot.

  • Customization
    AMP HTML restricts the types of HTML tags that can be used on an AMP page. All is well if an AMP page passes AMP validation. Otherwise, considerable web development expertise is required to make the necessary adjustment to pass the validation without sacrificing what you actually want to achieve. Even with the help of a CMS such as Drupal, customizing the look and feel of an AMP page requires in-depth knowledge of the AMP theme and how to craft sub-themes.

  • Uncertain industry-wide adoption
    AMP enjoys support from a growing number of platforms, vendors, and partners. However, given the competition from industry heavyweights such as Facebook and Apple, industry-wide domination is far from certain. With the backing of Google, AMP can potentially become the industry-standard format for mobile search pages, or, like Google Authorship, just another Google experiment that does not reach its full potential.

And did you tru to set up accelerated mobile pages on your Drupal site? Share with us your experience in the comments section below.

May 23 2017
May 23

Drupal 6 kicked off way back in 2008. For the time it was a major breakthrough in technology, and the platform supported many major websites including whitehouse.gov. Over its lifespan Drupal 6 had more than 700 contributed modules and 600 custom themes. It boasted a nicer menu structure and an easier installation process than its predecessors, as well as improved security and a handy drag and drop menu. Drupal 6 was well ahead of its time. Now it is unsupported, outdated and frankly, old. It’s time for you and your website to move on.

The complete history of Drupal

What’s new in Drupal?

Drupal 8 (released November 2015) comes with a whole set of new built-in gadgets, including mobile responsive themes, built in web services to make it an API-first CMS, improved editorial experience, accessibility, powerful multilingual tools (at last), improved performance, HTML5, and better SEO and analytics tools. With over 18 months since releasing, it has become reliably stable, secure, and ready for you to make the switch.

Check out our 7 Reasons why Now is the Right Time to Move to Drupal 8

Why Drupal 6 isn’t a safe bet anymore

Without support from the community, Drupal 6 is going to be opened to more and more security risks. It’s modules will become outdated and unwieldy, and users will struggle to be able to get the performance they’ve come to expect with modern websites. While upgrading may seem like a daunting task, the business risks of remaining with Drupal 6 are far higher.

Migrations - easier than you think?

 

Believe it or not, Drupal 8 is stacked full of migration modules and toolsets to help you move your content from one platform to another. While many of these focus simply on moving a site between completely different platform, there are some that are designed to assist with moving between versions of Drupal. Depending on how your website was developed these can be tricky to use, and can lead to many hours of rework ‘rebuilding’ your website at the other end. If your website is stacked full of custom features, you may find that stock migration modules don’t quite provide the service you need.

Partners in Migration

If you’re a tech-wiz with a small website and plenty of time, you might find migrating your site on your own an exciting and economically sound venture. However, Drupal has become such a user friendly platform that many of its users skillsets are in marketing, communications and social relations. If that’s you, perhaps the thought of trying to move all your web content to another platform is so daunting you’ve been carefully looking the other way while Drupal 8 was released and took the world by storm.

With our assistance, your migration can not only be smooth and painless, but an opportunity to resolve some of those niggling website issues, and take a step forward into greater customer engagement. A shift to Drupal 8 can help you improve your conversions whilst making site maintenance easier.

Vardot - Drupal experts since 2011

Here at Vardot we’ve been supporting people since 2011. With our specialist team of Drupal experts we’re prepared to help migrate anything from a small two-page website, to a large scale page with multiple custom modules and integrations. Working with our team you’ll be on first name basis with our staff, and there is no shuffling between departments.

We believe in empowering our customers and our community - by giving back to the open source community. We promote a vibrant culture that benefits everyone involved. Working with us goes hand in hand with giving back, and you can be sure we’ll equip you with the skills and knowledge you need for the day-to-day management of your website moving forward.

If you have a site that needs migrating, or just a refresh, get in touch with us, we can’t wait to hear from you.

Apr 21 2017
Apr 21

Today’s top CMS platforms all offer their own unique flavor for users trying to get their website up and running. All of them have their own strengths and weaknesses, but for complete and total flexibility, Drupal is the best choice. While it requires a strong grasp of web development, the level of customization it offers is far beyond its competition.

Join us as we look at some of the top reasons to use Drupal, followed by an infographic that breaks down today’s top three platforms.

The Top 3 Reasons to Choose Drupal For Your Website

While there are plenty of articles about Drupal, and numerous reasons to use it, let’s take a look at the top three picks:

1. Agile Web 2.0 Development

Drupal embraces the best parts of agile web development. From the moment you install it, you have clean markup code, page and blog publishing, content management, search, polls, forums, user login modules, and plenty more. It cuts your development timeline down to mere days, as opposed to weeks of getting everything ready.

2. Thousands of Modules

Modules allow you to quickly add functionality to your website. With over 16,000 to choose from, this number is only growing. From additional security, to social media, to SEO, and backups, you can do just about anything with these additional tools, and provide your users with an excellent experience.

3. Ultimate Scalability

Drupal is insanely flexible. You can start with as little as 10 pages on your site, and move up to 10,000 posts without ever changing a thing. Performance and security can be easily modified through the Admin console. Perhaps this is why some of the world's biggest websites like the White House, Nascar, and the Grammys all run on Drupal.

If you are still unsure why Drupal is the best, read this article with more reasons that will convince you.

Breaking Down Today’s CMS Platforms (Infographic)

Below you’ll find an infographic that compares Drupal to the other platforms you’ll find in your search. For the reasons above, however, our team of OnBlastBlog recommends Drupal wholeheartedly.

And which platform do you use? Let us know in the comments! 

Mar 27 2017
Mar 27

After fifteen years of going from strength to strength, it’s a great time to look back on the Drupal that was and how it became a powerhouse of the open source content management world.

Way back in May 2000 the Drupal project was born. In December 2000 Drupal 1.0 was named and since then it has taken over 33,000 commits to build Drupal as we know it today. Thanks to a dedicated community backing and flexible technology, Drupal is now a stable modular platform that is used by over 1.18 million websites. Did you ever think how Drupal got so big? We’re going to take you through this journey right now.

Why Drupal is the Best CMS for Your Website

Drupal 1 (Drop)

Drupal 1.0 contained a mere 18 core modules, each driven by a php file. The system relied heavily on SQL to manage and modify content, themes, layout and more. Pre-loaded themes gave web developers a jumping off point, and Drupal allowed developers to hook into existing code and tweak colours, layouts and functionality to their liking. The original system came with some nice basics like a search function, comment fields and a diary/blog functionality.

 

Drupal 2

Drupal 2.0 was released shortly after and come packed with translation features. Developers could now build or translate their sites by altering the database, a feature which opened up Drupal to a global community. 2.0 also brought in improvements to user ratings, stories and a whole host of additional fine tuning to the user access groups, allowing greater control over site development and stakeholder interactions.

 

Drupal 3

Drupal 3.0 saw the introduction of the concept of ‘nodes’, taking over the common idea of web pages. Nodes increase flexible for creating and displaying content. All kinds of content, whether a web page, blog article or news item were managed by the node module. Comments and actions were attached directly to the node which increased flexibility in site building and later changes. The use of nodes instead of pages has become commonplace in mobile development, ten years after Drupal embraced the concept.

 

Drupal 4

At this stage, six months had passed, and Drupal had grown to 26 core modules. In June 2002 Drupal 4.0 was released. Almost 100 major sites were built with Drupal, and a wide community of developers were contributing to the project across Europe and the United States.

Drupal 4.0 introduced the Taxonomy module, taking over from the meta module and giving site builders an entire new toolset for categorising, sorting and marketing their content. With a friendly user interface and a strong community of contributors Drupal 4.0 had moved away from its humble origins and taken a place as an enterprise quality Content Management System.

At this stage Drupal moved to a slower release schedule, with Drupal 4.1 not being released until February 2003, eight months later. Drupal 4 lasted until January 2007, with seven releases over four years.

Drupal 4’s releases saw a massive expansion of capability, including its first e-commerce module in 4.4. It also introduced its first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, opening doors for web-writers without a coding background, and offered much more flexible theming options. Drupal saw a massive surge in usage when presidential candidate Howard Dean launched a multitude of interlinked campaign sites using Drupal.

 

Drupal 5

In 2007 Drupal took another huge step forward and released Drupal 5.0. At this stage there were over 492 contributors and a massive 1173 patches. While Drupal 5.0 only had 29 core modules, more than 2500 contributed modules were available for site builders to inject into their sites. Drupal 5.0 was the first version to feature jQuery, a JavaScript library that greatly increases a web developers’ capabilities while cutting down on development time and stress.

Drupal 5.0 also came neatly packaged in a web based installer saving users from manual database manipulation and allowing the creating of custom packages pre-filled with contributed modules and themes. The backend was tidied up with a whole new file structure, and css files were automatically compiled and compressed, greatly reducing site loading times. Site builders were given the ability to control caching and create custom content types leading to greater performance and customisation.

 

Drupal 6

Drupal 6.0 was released in February 2008 and supported until just last year. At the time that support ended there was an estimated 120,000+ websites still using Drupal 6.0. With 34 core modules, over 7000 contributed modules and 600 custom themes the modular genius of Drupal was undeniable. This new release contained a completely new menu structure that had been written from the ground up, and a friendlier installation process. The community also increased security, brought in more user friendly elements to the User Interface (such as drag and drop administration) and upgraded the language support to handle right-to-left languages.

Drupal 6.0 remained for three years. During this time it was used to host Whitehouse.gov, one of the largest profile websites at the time. Whitehouse.gov is still using Drupal to this day, although they have updated to Drupal 7.0

 

Drupal 7

In 2011 Drupal 7.0 was released and by this stage it is being used by web developers from all walks of life. Small business owners, large corporations, bloggers and government agencies are all using Drupal for its flexibility and ease of use. At this stage there are over 11,000 contributed modules and 200 distributions available, though Drupal Core is kept slim with just over 40 core modules.

Drupal 7.0 saw even greater flexibility with interaction between nodes and modules, allowing any module to call, alter and display any node. Every item in Drupal 7.0 became an individual entity capable of being manipulated and displayed to the user to create a vast flexible website.

 

Drupal 8

Drupal 8.0 was officially released on the 19th of November 2015. It has since been running on a six-month update cycle, meaning we already have access to Drupal 8.3. It comes bundled with over 60 core modules, and one of the most popular contributed modules ‘Views’ is now part of that core module set. Drupal 8.0 users over 60 database tables, but includes smarter tech like BigPipe to keep site load times to a minimum.

7 Reasons Why Now is The Right Time to Move to Drupal 8

Bottom line

Drupal has been running ahead of the curve since the beginning, and with a strong community backing it won’t be stopping any time soon. Drupal’s evolution has always emphasised ease of use, quick site adjustments and a brilliant modular design that means no two Drupal sites are alike. It’s been a long ride to get here, but you can be sure that Drupal will be leading the way for years to come.

Bonus: What Drupal means to us - the community speaks about its favorite CMS

Feb 12 2017
Feb 12

How times have changed. In the old days, an article about open source software (OSS) typically starts off by defending OSS as a viable alternative to proprietary software. To make its argument, it would defer to the Apache web server and the Linux operating system, both OSS centerpieces. Back in those days, OSS is almost synonymous with nonprofit organizations such as the Apache Software Foundation, the Linux Foundation, and the Free Software Foundation. To justify the adoption of OSS to the skeptical world, one would focus on the return of investment and argues how OSS lowers the total cost of ownership.

This article is about the dawning of the new OSS generation. We argue that OSS will dominate the market, which is a far cry from just being a viable alternative.

A whole new horde of world-dominating OSS software has entered the picture. The new faces of OSS are Drupal and WordPress, LibreOffice and OpenOffice.

 

Open source software in 2017

New players have since entered the OSS market. The 2016 Future of Open Source survey, conducted with 1,300 companies across 64 countries, indicated that 65% of the respondents had increased the use of OSS in the past year.

World-class, for-profit companies, such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter, are now major users and contributors to OSS. This is unthinkable back in the old OSS days, much like the teardown of the Berlin wall. These companies have open-sourced their own products, with the most notable being:

These 3 products share some common characteristics:

  1. They are all software frameworks.

A software framework is the software infrastructure for solving a general class of problems. Unlike Drupal and LibreOffice which are application programs, the aforementioned new OSS are software frameworks, specifically in the area of pattern recognition. Amazon uses DSSTNE to provide product recommendations for its online customers. Google and Microsoft use their respective products in speech recognition, text understanding and photo recognition.

  1. They are all core and mission-critical with their respective owner companies.

For an online retail business, product recommendation is unequivocally mission-critical. Yet, Amazon opted to open-source its product recommendation engine, DSSTNE. Not to be outdone, Google open-sourced TensorFlow, the pattern recognition component in its search engine business. Similarly, Microsoft open-sourced CNTK, the speech recognition engine that powers Windows and Skype applications.

  1. No feature or licensing handicap.

The pressure is on for software vendors to release OSS that is uncrippled, fully functional, and freely distributable. The first open-sourced version of TensorFlow did not support distributed processing: it can only run on a single host. Google subsequently released another version of the software that can run in parallel across multiple hosts. The first version of CNTK that Microsoft open-sourced was restricted to only non-commercial use. Later, the restriction was removed to allow commercial exploitation of the technology.

If the aforementioned products are core to their underlying businesses, we have to ask why their respective companies have chosen to open source them. The rest of this article elaborates on the benefits and the future of this new breed of open source software.

Open Source Software: The Ultimate List

 

Benefits of open source

 

Lowering cost is no longer the number 1 benefit. The new buzzwords for OSS are innovation, quality, and speed of adoption. If helpful, we will illustrate using the example of Drupal, an open source Content Management System (CMS).

Why Drupal is the Best CMS for Your Website

Innovation

By definition, the source code for OSS is made available to everyone. This attracts a large, global community of committed contributors who share the passion and want to make the software better. The Drupal community claims to have over 1 million "developers, designers, trainers, strategists, coordinators, editors, and sponsors."

In traditional proprietary software development, one person (or a small group) determines the vision and direction of the software. In contrast, OSS is characterized by the free flow of ideas among members of a large community with diverse skillsets and experience. End decisions are made based on merit, not seniority. As a result, OSS is a much better nurturing ground for innovation than its proprietary counterpart.

 

Quality

Given that the source code is open, and that a large pool of developers is available to work on it, the development cycle for OSS is typically shorter. Product features are rolled out and bugs are fixed in frequent software updates. With more eyes on the problem, security holes can be spotted earlier and fixed sooner.

Members in the community who are not developers can contribute in their own ways to make a quality product. Writers and editors contribute by writing documentation. Everyone in the community is presumably a user, and can provide feedback to the team, and answer questions in the support forum.

Companies can customize open source software to satisfy their unique requirements. Subsequently, they can contribute the code back to the community to make the product even better. Drupal 8 represents the quality end result of work done collaboratively by 4,500 individual and corporate contributors. It has over 200 new and improved features, and is made available in 100 languages.

 

Cost

Most OSS is royalty free: you are not charged any money to use it. However, there are several different OSS licenses in the market. So, you must read the licensing terms carefully.

OSS is generally free because it is developed and supported by a community of volunteers. Drupal has a large repository of free modules (30,000+) and themes (2,000+). The development cost is close to nothing, unless you decide to customize a module or theme yourself.

Many companies do customize OSS to satisfy their own unique requirements. This adds to the total cost of ownership for OSS. Yet, the cost is largely constrained because you are not starting from scratch.

When you buy proprietary software, you are locked in to that particular vendor, and become susceptible to its pricing changes. For OSS, you can choose from a sufficiently large supply of contractors who do custom work for OSS. Because the source code is opened, you gain the freedom to switch vendors.

Overall, the total cost of OSS is still lower than that of proprietary software, making it more affordable.

 

Speed

If you use proprietary software, you are tied down by the company's product roadmap which may cater more to the fiscal reporting periods than to its technical merits. With its open platform, OSS development accelerates at Internet speed. The developer base and the installed base are distributed around the world. This means that requirements are gathered around the clock, features are designed and coded 24x7, and bugs are squashed non-stop.

Not only is OSS being developed at a breakneck pace, the scale of its adoption is nothing but phenomenal. Take Drupal and CMS as an example. Drupal has an installed base of over a million websites. With this many websites, a would-be customer can look at any number of them to find the right features to use in his own website.

 

Future of open source

Cloud computing

The future of OSS is in the cloud. 76% of all respondents in the above cited 2016 survey claimed that they had plans to use containers. The cloud is not just a repository where OSS contributors network and store their code and document artifacts. It will become the deployment platform of choice for open source software.

 

Commoditization

OSS is becoming a commodity in the world of software development. Companies will expect more and more enterprise software to be OSS. They will expect OSS to remain free and be of the highest quality. They will expect their ideas and feedback to be heard in the larger community, and readily included in the constant software updates which will continuously benefit them.

 

Open source is playing a bigger and bigger role every year, and there is no doubt that its future is full of possibilities. And which open software do you use? Share your thoughts with us in a comment section below.

Feb 02 2017
Feb 02

January is always a time of conclusions. We evaluate a past year, remember its best moments, and hope that the new year will bring us even more positive moments. It’s also a time of different rankings. We at Vardot decided to contribute to the good vibe of the community by going through the best articles of the last year according to BuzzSumo and choosing those ones that had a better feedback from you. The blog post you read now lists, in ascending order, the 12 most shared articles about Drupal in 2016.

 

On Drupal's 15th birthday, the community celebrated with an infographic that reminisces about the significant events and achievements in the past year. No open source project can survive and

even thrive for so long without a vibrant community. Scroll through the article and you will feel the urge to attend that next DrupalCon in some exotic location.

 

Celebration of the past 15 years aside, Dries Buytaert is never complacent with his brainchild. He is already thinking ahead and inventing the next-generation web user experience. To that end, Dries set up Acquia Labs to engage in R & D. If he has his way, the web of the future won't be browser based, and page views will be a thing of the past. The next generation of user interaction will be voice-controlled, visual in the style of VR (Virtual Reality) or AR (Augmented Reality), and adaptable to user situations.

 

The success of the open-sourced Drupal project hinges on the collaboration of a large community of developers to enhance and customize the product. Drupal developers collaborate by writing and sharing code. When an upstream developer modifies code that has been previously forked, the changes often need to be propagated downstream in a controlled manner. This article is a brief introduction on pull requests created from a fork. You will find the link to a longer guide at the end of the original article.

 

The Panama Papers refer to 11.5 million private financial documents which were leaked from a Panamanian law firm. These documents collectively implicate 72 current and former heads of state in fraudulent activities such as tax evasion. The leak was caused by vulnerabilities in Drupal and WordPress, two leading content management systems (CMS). Drupal site administrators did well for heeding the call of this article to patch the known vulnerabilities.

 

This is a blog post written by Dries Buytaert on the day of the 15th anniversary of releasing Drupal 1.0. It gives us a glimpse, from the firsthand perspective, of the path the Drupal project has taken over the years. Dries even recounted some product decisions he made, both rightly AND wrongly, over that time period. He shared about his own professional development as a result of this journey, and his renewed commitment to building a better and safer web for all.

  

The author of this article plays the role of investigative reporter on the Panama Papers leak. It discusses 2 possible entry points for the intruder (or intruders) into the Panamanian law firm's computer systems: a public WordPress website and a customer-only Drupal portal. Both installations were running outdated and unpatched versions of the respective CMS software at the time of the leak. The author advocates keeping your systems up-to-date in this article. He praises WordPress for automating security updates, and then chastises Drupal for lagging behind in this crucial process.

 

It is very difficult to pinpoint, without access to the system log files, how an intruder hacks into a web system. But, that does not stop the author of this article to put forth hypotheses in the Panama Papers leak, even identifying the plugin that may be the culprit. Site administrators should read this article for the long list of things that the Panamanian law firm did wrong, so that they can avoid making the same mistakes.

 

This is the Wired magazine's report on the Panama Papers leak. The article distinguishes itself from other similar reports because it conducts its own primary research. Specifically, it cites both named security experts and anonymous sources alike. It is obvious that this article does not target a technical audience. However, it compensates for the lack of technical depth by offering breadth in its research. It covers some lesser reported probable causes for the leak, including the possibility of it being an inside job.

 

The Forbes article tells a great story, not on what can possibly cause the Panama Papers leak, but rather on what actually happens after the leak. After the hacker with a pseudonym of John Doe handed over the papers, the journalists had a huge problem in their hands: one with a volume of 11.5 million documents and 2.6 TB in size. The huge database had to be encrypted for confidentiality, and, at the same time, be accessible to a horde of journalists around the world. In addition, powerful text analysis tools were required to help make sense with that many documents. This article is a good read to find out how the journalists solved their big data problem with open-source solutions.

 

This article lists 5 ways to optimize the speed of a Drupal 8 website. Many of the tips are new and specific to Drupal 8 installations.

 

WordFence is a leading web security company, and this article is their take on the Panama Papers leak. It illustrates how an intruder can potentially hack into the unpatched WordPress server hosting the Panama Papers, and from there, gain access to the corporate email server. It also summarizes how the outdated Drupal installation makes it easy for hackers to break into Drupal and steal documents.

More to this topic: 5 security modules that every Drupal website must have

 

The most shared article about Drupal in 2016 explains the parameters required to configure Drupal 8 on the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform.

The end of 2016 marks the first full year of Drupal 8.0 after its official release. With the buzz surrounding a major new release and some high-profile security flaws, the Drupal community was very active during the year. We are looking forward to more interesting blog posts in 2017. Don’t forget to share those ones you like most!

Nov 10 2016
Nov 10

TLDR;

  1. Add "Reverse order in admin view" option: https://www.drupal.org/node/2478685
  2. Fix a problem that causes the queue to be always required when using "Limit to a specific entity queue": https://www.drupal.org/node/2821631
  3. Add a tab for Entityqueue on content types: https://www.drupal.org/node/2145441
  4. Make "Contextual links" work for views using Entityqueue: https://www.drupal.org/node/2825773

When using the Entityqueue module in Drupal 8 as a tool for editors and site admins to order content, you will end up working on the following use cases:

  • Use case 1: Use Entityqueue as a filter: shows only the items chosen in the queue.
  • Use case 2: Use Entityqueue as a loose sorting tool: does NOT limit the items based on queue, but prioritizes the items chosen in the queue to be displayed first, then shows the rest, perhaps in a reverse chronological order.

These are the most common use cases we use at Vardot for our clients when we build a site.

Use case 1 works perfectly if you use Entityqueue as is.

However, use case 2 does not work properly. Therefore, we have contributed (or contributed to), two patches that would make life easier to build a solid experience using the Entityqueue module in Drupal 8.

Added to that, we also patched two missing features that existed in Nodequeue, and should now exist in Entityqueue for Drupal 8.

Note: this post was written in November 10, 2016, which until this date, these patches are not yet committed to Entityqueue. Please review the patches, we hope that they get committed and become part of the next Entityqueue release.

1. Queue is always required when using "Limit to a specific entity queue"

Issue link: https://www.drupal.org/node/2821631

Needed for use case 2, you will most likely need your view to limit results to only items in the entity queue your joining in.

 

2. Get the good old "Reverse order in admin view" option

Issue link: https://www.drupal.org/node/2478685

For use case 2, this option will come in handy, since you will be sorting in reverse chronological order after the items in the queue are shown first.
Therefore, this nice workaround allows you check "Reverse order in admin view" to ensure the items in queue appear first in view when you sort.

 

3. Get the good old Nodequeue tab to appear along with content tabs

Issue link: https://www.drupal.org/node/2145441

If I'm an editor or a site admin, it wouldn't make sense to me to see the queues that I can add a piece of content to.

This tab has been missed from Entityqueue, now it comes back.

4. Get Contextual Links to send you directly to the queue edit page

Issue link: https://www.drupal.org/node/2825773

Plans for this is to integrate with the new outside-in approach of Drupal 8.2 using the Settings Tray module.

This patch provides you as an editor or site admin, to go directly to the queue from the front end using the contextual links, instead of searching for the queue by its name from the admin view.

Let's hope these patches get committed and pushed to Entityqueue module.

This tab has been missed from Entityqueue, now it comes back.

Nov 10 2016
Nov 10

TLDR;

  1. Add "Reverse order in admin view" option: https://www.drupal.org/node/2478685
  2. Fix a problem that causes the queue to be always required when using "Limit to a specific entity queue": https://www.drupal.org/node/2821631
  3. Add a tab for Entityqueue on content types: https://www.drupal.org/node/2145441
  4. Make "Contextual links" work for views using Entityqueue: https://www.drupal.org/node/2825773
UPDATE July 30, 2017
3 of the 4 patches are already committed and included in the dev version of the module. The only left patch #3, Add a tab for Entityqueue on content types.
You might as well check the Entityqueue Form Widget for better user experience when adding content to queues.

When using the Entityqueue module in Drupal 8 as a tool for editors and site admins to order content, you will end up working on the following use cases:

  • Use case 1: Use Entityqueue as a filter: shows only the items chosen in the queue.
  • Use case 2: Use Entityqueue as a loose sorting tool: does NOT limit the items based on queue, but prioritizes the items chosen in the queue to be displayed first, then shows the rest, perhaps in a reverse chronological order.

These are the most common use cases we use at Vardot for our clients when we build a site.

Use case 1 works perfectly if you use Entityqueue as is.

However, use case 2 does not work properly. Therefore, we have contributed (or contributed to), two patches that would make life easier to build a solid experience using the Entityqueue module in Drupal 8.

Added to that, we also patched two missing features that existed in Nodequeue, and should now exist in Entityqueue for Drupal 8.

Note: this post was written in November 10, 2016, which until this date, these patches are not yet committed to Entityqueue. Please review the patches, we hope that they get committed and become part of the next Entityqueue release.

1. Queue is always required when using "Limit to a specific entity queue"

Issue link: https://www.drupal.org/node/2821631

Needed for use case 2, you will most likely need your view to limit results to only items in the entity queue your joining in.

 

2. Get the good old "Reverse order in admin view" option

Issue link: https://www.drupal.org/node/2478685

For use case 2, this option will come in handy, since you will be sorting in reverse chronological order after the items in the queue are shown first.
Therefore, this nice workaround allows you check "Reverse order in admin view" to ensure the items in queue appear first in view when you sort.

 

3. Get the good old Nodequeue tab to appear along with content tabs

Issue link: https://www.drupal.org/node/2145441

If I'm an editor or a site admin, it wouldn't make sense to me to see the queues that I can add a piece of content to.

This tab has been missed from Entityqueue, now it comes back.

4. Get Contextual Links to send you directly to the queue edit page

Issue link: https://www.drupal.org/node/2825773

Plans for this is to integrate with the new outside-in approach of Drupal 8.2 using the Settings Tray module.

This patch provides you as an editor or site admin, to go directly to the queue from the front end using the contextual links, instead of searching for the queue by its name from the admin view.

Let's hope these patches get committed and pushed to Entityqueue module.

This tab has been missed from Entityqueue, now it comes back.

Oct 31 2016
Oct 31

IP geolocation detection works through well-known databases that map IP ranges to countries. For example:

  • an IP range of 5.83.240.0 to 5.83.255.255, means that it came from Ireland.
  • an IP range of 46.23.112.0 to 46.23.127.255 means that it came from Jordan.
  • an IP range of 86.36.0.0 to 86.37.255.255  means that it came from Qatar.

and so on.

Major and credible IP mapping databases are MaxMindip2c.org, and IP2Location.

The problem with using a database lies in performance. Each request to view your website, will generate a request to the IP database, to determine the country.
If you get 5 requests per second, this means 5 queries to your IP database, to determine the country.

Therefore, you will need to rely on a very fast, highly optimized, database engine to carry the load of IP-to-country queries.
This database must not be your website's database.

And therefore, for faster performance, and to not overwhelm the site's servers with IP-to-countries queries for each page view, we can have the following implementation options:

Through a Third-party

Having the detection from a third-party is easier to setup, and requires you to pay for the service of the third-party only. No extra setup or maintenance is required from you.

  1. CloudFlare IP Geolocation: CloudFlare applies a layer between the visitor and the servers of your website. CloudFlare supports GeoIP location detection, and is embedded in that layer without any extra effort. Your website must be using CloudFlare CDN and "IP Geolocation" option must be enabled at your CloudFlare settings.
    CloudFlare's Pro subscription requires your DNS zone file to be managed from CloudFlare which is not a good option for some organizations.
    See pricing here: https://www.cloudflare. com/plans
  1. MaxMind GeoIP2 Precision Web Services: MaxMind provides reliable GeoIP detection. By using the paid service (not the database), the load is managed by MaxMind's servers and not your site. A user ID and license key is required here. You will need to buy one of their services and they will provide you the login details. You can view your user ID and license key inside your MaxMind account.
    See pricing here: https://www.maxmind.com/ en/geoip2-precision-services
    If you opt-in for Country-level detection (costs $0.0001 per query), and your site gets 200,000 visits per month, you'll need to pay $20/month.

Through Homegrown Solution (Using Databases)

You can use the available databases (MaxMindip2c.org, or IP2Location) to build your own detection. However, a high-performance setup is required here to handle high traffic. Also you should consider the maintenance costs, and manual database updating (which usually needs to be updated every week).

Assuming that you have access to your servers (a.k.a hosting  with a VPS or Dedicated Servers), this setup can be done through:

  1. Using Same Servers or Reverse Proxy: You can install MaxMind DB Apache Module, which allows for IP-to-location queries to MaxMind database from Apache, thus getting the information faster from querying your site's database or application.
  2. Setup a Node.js Server with MaxMind Database: You can install a pure JavaScript module for Geo IP lookup using MaxMind binary databases. This provides very fast look up using Node.js. Remember you'll need to maintain this setup, and keep updating the database manually.

 

Recommendation

If you're looking for faster time to market, and less maintenance overheads, go with one of the third-party implementations. You'll get more reliable and accurate service.

The homegrown solution will provide cheaper solution, but will be on the expense of maintaining it. That is of course of you have the ability to perform this setup.

Oct 17 2016
Oct 17

The DrupalCon in Dublin is over – and now it’s officially. We all had fun, enjoyed sessions, sprints, visited all the booths, collected prizes, and had a lot of great talks with drupalists from all over the globe. All the expectations we had before this event came true, and now it’s time to make some conclusions.

But instead of writing a long recap, we at Vardot decided to remind you about the coolest moments of the conference in one short video. It's  better to see once than hear a hundred times – so enjoy!

[embedded content]

Did you find yourself in a video? If not, how would you describe Drupal with one word? Your opinion counts. What were the most exciting moments of the conference for you? Share your emotions in a comments section below and see you next year in Vienna!

 

Oct 05 2016
Oct 05

Drupal as a Content Management System (CMS), is known for its versatility and power. Unfortunately, it is also known to have a steep learning curve. The task of mastering the building of a Drupal-powered website can be quite daunting to novice users. The good news is that many online resources are available to help you overcome the learning challenges.

This article is your guide to the main online resources for mastering Drupal. Some resources are generally applicable to any modern Drupal releases, others are specific to Drupal 8 (the most recent release), or Drupal 7.

 

General resources

Acquia Academy

 

 

Acquia is a company specializing in using Drupal to build enterprise websites. Drupal's original creator, Dries Buytaert, currently serves as Acquia's CTO. Acquia Academy is the training division within Acquia. It provides both free and paid training services.

The free training component comprises of videos as well as instructor-led online courses. If you want a quick introduction to Drupal 7 or 8, watch the videos. If you want a more formal course experience with exercises and reading assignments, you can take the online courses.

Drupal learners need a live Drupal website so that they can practice their skills. The Acquia training materials include instructions on how to obtain free trial access to the Acquia Drupal platform. This is a bonus to those learners who are not ready to install and run Drupal on their own machines.

 

Drupalize.me

 

 

Drupalize.me is a paid Drupal training website created in 2010 by Lullabot. After you become a paid member, you will have access to a library of 1,400+ Drupal videos. You can watch the videos in any browser on your desktop or mobile device, but you cannot download them. They don't offer a free trial. However, a small subset of the videos are free for you to sample.

 

BuildAModule

 

 

BuildAModule is another membership-based, paid training service. It has 1,900+ Drupal videos. A very nice feature is that their videos are displayed with a clickable transcript. The transcript makes following and navigating a video much easier.

The introductory chapters in their videos are often free for you to sample. With a paid membership, you can watch, but not download, entire videos on their website.

 

Drupal Answers

 

 

Drupal Answers is a community-based, question-and-answer database for Drupal developers and administrators. The database contains answers to 63,000+ questions. Because of the target audience, the questions are technical in nature, and often involve how to accomplish particular tasks in Drupal. Many technical questions that Drupal beginners ask are answered there.

Drupal Answers is hosted by StackExchange, and sign-up is free.

 

Drupal Forums

 

 

Drupal Forums is the official Drupal.org question-and-answer database. In addition to technical, "how-to" support problems, this forum covers news and announcements about the Drupal community. Sign-up is free.

 

Drupal 8 Links & Resources

 

 

Drupal 8 Links is an aggregator website which collects links to Drupal-8-related resources. It has 120+ links to code examples, blog posts, videos, and podcasts. This is a great resource for Drupal 7 practitioners who want to update their knowledge to Drupal 8.

 

Beginner’s resources

Drupal First Time User Guide

 

 

If you are a first-time Drupal user, this user guide is a great starting point. It is a community-maintained document. So, don't be surprised that this document is written with varying levels of details on a variety of topics. Some topics are substantiated with original text while others are links to external webpages.

You will find well-formed opinions from people who had done it and are now contributing back their experience in the form of best practices. For instance, you will find publishing workflow suggestions as well as a list of which contributed modules to learn.

 

Drupal Installation Profile and Distributions

 

 

Drupal beginners are often confused about which contributed modules to use and how to configure them to implement a particular type of service, e.g., e-commerce. The good news is that you can download pre-packaged Drupal distributions that are tailored for some common services. This article provides details on how to create installation profiles and distributions for Drupal 7. Although beginners may not need to package their own distributions at the early stage of learning, you will find the overview useful, especially the link to existing distributions that you can install and try out.

 

Exploring Themes in Drupal 8

This article explains how to create a starter theme in Drupal 8. It begins with an overview of starter themes and learnes you to work with libraries.

 

Site builders' resources

What is a Drupal Site Builder?

 

 

This podcast explains the basic roles in Drupal development, namely, site builders, front-end developers, and back-end developers. It also explores the basic skill requirements for each role. If you are new to Drupal development, this will help you plan your career path.

 

Basic Site Building Concepts

Before you actually start developing a Drupal website, it is highly recommended that you read this article to get familiar with the concepts and terminology of Drupal. This article is especially helpful if you have some previous background in WordPress. You already know about modules, pages, and posts. But, with Drupal, you need to learn some new concepts such as nodes, content types, blocks, views, hooks, and articles.

 

How to Build a Website with Drupal

This article does not teach you how to create contents for your Drupal website. Instead, it focuses on how you should do the initial setup and configuration. For example, you will learn how to customize the title and slogan for your website, change the theme, and import basic contributed modules. This article was written for Drupal 7.

 

Developers' resources

Drupal API Reference

Drupal is highly extensible. You can use the Drupal API to customize its most minute behavior.
All Drupal developers should bookmark the official API documentation portal. The documentation there is generated directly from the comments embedded in the source code. It is the most up-to-date and accurate source of information about the Drupal API.

 

What is a Drupal Developer?

 

 

This article is a perfect, written companion to the aforementioned podcast "What is a Drupal Site Builder?" It discusses the 3 main roles in Drupal development (site builders, front-end developers, and back-end developers), and the corresponding skill sets required. In addition, it introduces the non-development roles which you will see in a large Drupal project. Examples are system administrators, testers(QA), project managers, and user-experience (UX) designers. Toward the bottom of the article, you will find some good advice on growing your Drupal career.

 

Become a Drupal Developer

This article is best described as a lesson plan on how to become a Drupal developer. You will find links to video tutorials on Drupalize.me.  Note that only some of the videos are free.

The emphasis is on back-end PHP development. Drupal 7 information is presented in the beginning of the article; Drupal 8, near the end.

The plan to become a Drupal developer includes the learning of PHP coding fundamentals as well as the Drupal APIs. Also, it advocates the learning of tools to increase productivity and promote teamwork. The tools include git, Drush, and Composer.

 

Guide to Theming in Drupal

This guide is your launchpad for learning how to change the theme of a Drupal 7 (or 8) website. It contains links to both Drupal.org as well as third-party resources. The guide is community-maintained.

 

Introduction to Drupal 8 Configuration Management

This article first explains what configuration management (CM) means with respect to a Drupal website. Then, it expounds on the changes introduced by Drupal 8 to CM. You will find the CM video embedded in the article very useful.

 

Custom training resources

Private training is available if you want a training program that is customized to your specific Drupal needs and requirements. Vardot is an Acquia Training Partner which delivers customized professional training.

Sep 18 2016
Sep 18
Drupal + SEO: Optimizing Your Site for Search Engines SEO for Drupal sites

A few month ago when I wrote my first article about Drupal, some people noticed that for listing essential security modules one should have more development experience. It’s true, when I’ve started working at Vardot, I had to interview many developers and site builders before writing every single blog post, but the topic I’ve chosen this time is my favorite. This topic is something (beside basics of Russian language) that  I’m teaching my colleagues, but not learning from them. And this topic is called search engine optimization.

 growth of organic traffic

Vardot boosted its organic traffic up to 202% during last 6 month, and in this article I’ll share with you our best practices - use them to increase search engine ranks of your Drupal sites, too. So how to take the most of search engine optimization when it comes to Drupal? Here are our answers.

1. Pay attention to UX

UX design covers any touch point that the user can have with the organization. This means that a better UX-design leads to happier customers, and a bad UX-design works as a customer repellant. If your product is marketed through word of mouth publicity, than more and more people start searching for it; Google understands that it is a very positive trend and increases your organic visibility. However, latest Google searching algorithms analyze not only the popularity of your brand, but also the behavior of your site visitors. Search engines calculate the amount of time people spent on a webpage, number of pages viewed per session, and bounce rate as an indicator of customer satisfaction. Below you’ll find UX factors that are critically important for developers.

 

If a website attracts a good amount of traffic, but users are not able to find what they are looking for, Google is decreasing the position of the website on search engine result pages. An unattractive design or a slow website make users close it, which affects your SEO. Therefore, UX is becoming one of the important ranking factors.

 

  • Site structure

Website structure is an organic process that starts with an initial design and undergoes a number of tweaks and redesigns as it starts taking shape. In relation to SEO, the structure of a website plays a crucial role. There are mainly three aspects for site structuring: Site Navigation, Internal Linking, and URL structuring. When it comes to navigation, make sure you avoid the kind that makes it difficult for the search engines to crawl through your website’s pages. Secondly, it would be a good idea to create internal links which offer an opportunity to create and use keyword rich anchor texts. Finally, URL structuring gives that added and a very important benefit of integrating your company’s target keywords with its vital navigation area.

Link Structure: Analyzing the Most Important Methods

 

  • Proper code

There’s a concept in coding known as the time-space tradeoff. This means the complexity of a code can reduce its size but will increase its processing time and vice versa. The key here is to establish the right balance.

Also, it’s equally important to keep testing your code for bugs. They affect the bounce rate of a website as nobody likes to read a page that has loading or any other issues. Remember, it’s not always about crawlers - it’s much more about customer satisfaction.

 

  • Improve Site Speed, Performance and Raise Application Performance Index (Apdex)

Apdex measures the ratio of satisfactory response time and unsatisfactory response time against a set threshold. Last investigations show that websites with a load delay of a few seconds have 7% more bounce rate than the others. Make sure to check-list everything that can help you to make your site faster.  

 

  • Prevent Duplicate Content

Nothing kills a website faster than duplicate content. You need to have original and unique texts that convey your message effortlessly. In case you need to copy and paste an article as it is from somewhere else, make sure you add a canonical URL to let Google now that you’ve mentioned the original source and not plagiarized it.

 

  • Remove 404 (content-not-found)

Content-not-found occurs on the client side when a given web page is deleted or moved to another location and the new URL is not updated. A big number of broken links on your site can affect its PageRank and decrease its visibility in search engines. Make sure time to time to crawl your website using tools like SEMrush and remove links pointing to inactive or non-existent pages.

 

2. Tell search engines what is your site about

  • Title tags

 adding title tags

 

Title tags are among the most important aspects for efficient SEO of any web page, and it is highly important to include your main keywords to the title of the page. Google are (or is?) following the approach of repeating your title tag information in the search engine result page (SERP), so it also affects the clicking rate. A well crafted tag is easy to read and gets more clicks. The rule of the thumb is to write like a copywriter or write it in a way so that it can also be used on an advertisement brochure. Make sure that you have only one title tag per page. Keep things short and crisp. A title tag is more like a punch line: if you need to speak more about it, change it. Title tag should be of 60 characters in length and should include the main keyword. For more advice, check this amazing article.

 

Correct use of Meta Tags increases your website’s search rankings. They can be found in the head of every page i.e. between the HTML tags. If you consider the statistics, 90% of users look only at the top 20 to 30 search results, so your goal should be to land somewhere in this range or higher. The top search engines today use meta tags to index your pages, therefore it goes without saying how important it is to use them to get your site indexed and increase its rankings. There exists a range of meta tags that Google understands - use them all.

 

  • Meta Description

 adding meta tags and descriptions

 

Meta description is a brief description of the page, basically piece of code situated in the header. There you can include extra details. To make it worth for your SEO efforts, there are some rules that you can follow. Keep your description restricted to a range of 135 to 160 characters and don’t forget to include keywords in it. Keep the form of the subject active and actionable which simply means use sentences that drive the reader to click on your link. Make your description unique, structured and a reflection of what your content is about and also at the same time containing the focus keywords. Search Engine Land gives you more advice to the topic.

 

  • Open Graph

This will provide social identity to every page of your website. One of the key roles of Open Graph is that it adds a snippet that appears automatically when an article is shared. The amount of traffic you attract and clicks you get is proportional to how engaging your OG snippet text is. Facebook established it in order to improve the presentation of pages on their social network. By using this protocol, your webpage will become a part of their social graph. The protocol is to supply accurate information required by the search engines. This increases the SEO rankings of your pages because search engines like Google are optimized to detect these Open Graph Meta Tags. You can integrate the Open Graph Protocol in your web pages to boost the SEO rankings. Facebook also provides Open Graph Testing Protocol which can be used to check the information that will be presented. You can say that this is the new way to represent the data on the internet.

 

  • ALT Tags for Images

 adding ALT tags

 

It’s more difficult for search engines to recognize images as compared to texts, and alt tags are used to explain crawlers what is the content of the page about. Search engine queries with respect to your image will be exponentially enhanced if you follow best policies to generate your alt tags. Moreover, for images that are linked, alt tags work in a similar manner as anchor texts for text links. Using alt tags on all your images may consume a little more time than what you originally planned, but remember that this does provide its share in increasing your rankings. Above all, for a better performance of your content make sure to include keywords to your image descriptions.

 

3. Create friendly environment for Crawlers

  • Search Engine Friendly URLs

Let me illustrate this with an example. Here are two sample URL’s for you “http://example.com/index.php?page=gall_&ry” and “http://example.com/gallery”. Which one do you find easier to read and understand? The same goes for SEO as well. Friendly URLs explain the path to a search engine in a way which is easy to understand and call. In the example we mentioned, it is the latter that will be easily called by search engine bot.

 

  • XML Site-map

XML sitemap is a document that allows a website’s webmaster to inform Google and other search engines about your website and lets them identify and understand each and every URL that helps in a better crawling. XML sitemap contains information like when was the webpage last updated, how often the website undergoes changes and information regarding relevance and importance of a given page in relation with other web pages. XML sitemap also lets you exclude some pages from bot’s crawl.

 

  • Add Site Theming

Imagine a web-crawler trying to go through your web page with “divs” everywhere. It would be hard for them to differentiate between the part of the document meant for navigation and the main article. They can analyze your document composition using some hints, like a “ul” list of internal links can mean page navigation. On the other hand, if a “nav” element is used instead of “ul”, the crawler will understand right away that this is for page navigation. H1 heading contains the category name or the product name. H2 is used for subheadings and to segregate content into segregated blocks which are easier to scan. H3 doesn’t hold much information, and they are mostly used for closing the post heading.

 

4. Help people find you

  • Site Verifications

Site verification on Google, Bing, Yandex and other major search engines lets them know that you are the actual owner of the given website. Once your ownership is verified, Google lets you access the private Google Data, which can improve a spider bot’s crawling abilities on your website.

 

  • Resource Description Framework (RDF)

Make sure your site interface includes world-wide accepted standards for Resource Description Framework (RDF) that enhances metadata description for the web.

 

  • Google News Site-map

The Google News sitemap contains a lot of benefits in comparison to merely numbering the URLs of every page of your website. With proper titles and publication dates tagged on a sitemap, crawlers are able to categorize your content more accurately. Moreover, you get the facility to comments on your content with keywords, stock tickers, and other metadata.

 

  • Multilingual content

If your site supports multiple languages, you can surely talk to more potential clients on the internet (check the statistics here). To increase the traffic of your site, translate it to different languages and make it valuable for many people.

 

  • Social Media integration

Social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc generate more traffic and give you additional mentions on the web. Although Google doesn’t consider shares as high as normal backlinks, crawlers still measure the visibility of your site. If people keep talking about it in social networks, your rank in search engines will grow. Produce more valuable content that will be shared by people!

 

5. Analyze your results

  • Google Analytics Integration

Usually people can not predict everything, that’s why testing has the same importance as an actual development. The best instrument to understand what your site visitors like and what they dislike is Google Analytics. Use it to monitor and analyze the traffic and the performance of your website.

 

Conclusion

It’s true that Drupal is one of the best CMSs in terms of SEO: it helps you to generate a clean code, prevents duplicate content and spam, easily integrates with third-party tools and is very user-friendly and configurable. However, I’ve seen many Drupal sites that are not optimized at all and as a result they don’t get much organic traffic from search engines.

It is very important to remember that our responsibility as Drupal community members is not only to create an SEO-friendly framework for our customers, but also to educate them on how to get the most of it. I hope this article will help you to build websites that rank high by search engines and prove that Drupal is one of the best available CMSs for SEO.

Jul 27 2016
Jul 27
CKEditor Anchor Link for Drupal 8 CKEditor Anchor Link

We all are excited about Drupal 8 - there are many articles explaining why we shouldn’t be afraid to migrate to it. Briefly speaking, D8 is more mobile-friendly, multilingual, robust, and makes it easier to edit content by including several must-have modules to the core. However, since the new Drupal version was released not a long time ago, there are still many things left in the CMS that require from developers more effort when using Drupal 8. Some of the CKEditor plugins like CKEditor's AutoGrow will be integrated into D8 in the nearest future, but some plugins still have no integration or at least a plan of integration.

Working on the last project with our Drupal team at Vardot I’ve realized that there is a basic feature in D7’s CKEditor that is missing in D8, that is: Anchor Link. Basically this is the background of how the new module was created.

CKEditor Anchor Link

CKEditor Anchor Link allows content editors to insert links and anchors using multiple protocols. The possibility to link content was integrated to the core of Drupal 8, however as we can see from the screenshot it didn’t provide users the option to create flags within the document they are editing.

CKEditor Anchor Link in Drupal core

The ability to jump from one part of the page to another was critical for our client, and in Drupal 8 we had to go an extra mile and code it instead of just installing a module like in D7. CKEditor Anchor Link solves this problem and adds the new icon just in a few minutes. Moreover, it adds to the standard link icons their alternatives that provide site editors with more options of setting up the URL.

Upgraded CKEditor Anchor Link installed with a module

Installing CKEditor Anchor Link on Drupal 8

Below you can find a quick guide of how to install this module:

  1. Download CKEditor Anchor Link from drupal.org

  2. Enable the CKEditor Anchor module.

  3. Go to Configuration -> Text formats and editors.

  4. Select which text format you want to add the anchor button to. For example “Basic HTML”.

  5. Add the Link, Unlink, and Anchor, which came from CKEditor Anchor Link module.

  6. Manually remove default link and unlink command buttons, which came with Drupal 8 Core.CKEditorAnchorLink.gif

  7. Save the settings for the “Basic HTML” text format.

  8. Try to add new content, for example Basic page or Blog post, then in the body select the “Basic HTML” text format, then you should see the flag icon in the CKEditor tool.

Usage statistics for CKEditor Anchor Link 

The module is pretty new, and the number of users is not very big yet. The good thing however is that it's constantly growing and promises to reach a good level in the future (this blog post is to increase the visibility of CKEditor Anchor Link Module).

CKEditor Anchor Link usage statistics from drupal.org

Bottom line

For many editors the ability to quickly jump within the page they are editing (link, unlink, and flag it) is one of the top editing priorities. Since the goal of Vardot distributions Varbase and Uber Publisher is to make Drupal as more editor-friendly as possible, CKEditor Anchor Link seems to be an important addition to our products. If you find this module valuable, please feel free to install it, share this article with others and of course provide me your feedback about the module.

Jul 14 2016
Jul 14
DrupalCon 2016 preview: 4 reasons to be excited DrupalCon Preview

End of the summer is a special time for all the Drupal community members in EMEA, because we start preparing to the new DrupalCon that is coming in September. Do you remember the wonderful sunny time that we’ve spent in Barcelona last year?

 

DrupalCon 2015 in Barcelona attendees

Vardot to Represent the Middle East's Drupal Community at DrupalCon Barcelona 2015

 

This year we expect to see even more people, to attend even more sessions and to have even more fun. 2016 becomes a year to add to reasons to love Dublin another one - around 2500 members of the Drupal community from different countries will come to the capital of Ireland to learn, collaborate, and network.

We’re gonna see a huge spike

This DrupalCon will be the first European DrupalCon since the release of Drupal 8 - one of the longest project in the history of this CMS. According to Dries and his case study, 38% of the developers that didn’t switch to D8 yet are still just trying to learn it. DrupalCon seems to be the perfect place for removing the lack of knowledge and addressing your questions directly to the best industry experts and opinion leaders.

 

 huge spike

By the way, if you still didn’t migrate your site to Drupal 8, this article will convince you.

Record-breaking number of session submissions

Although the ability to meet and communicate with hundreds of colleagues is something that we all are very excited about, sessions remain the central part of DrupalCon. This year European Drupal community set a new record by submitting 621 topic proposals (which is probably related with the release of D8). The names of winners are not published yet, but we all can be sure that we will have a list of hot and extremely up-to-date topics and must-visit presentations. Yuuum!

Tons of souvenirs

Souvenirs & giveaways of DrupalCon

T-shirts, stickers, badges, green bags, paper planes, calendars, t-shirts again - if we’d capture all the giveaways and swag that will be brought from all over the globe to DrupalCon in Dublin, the picture could be even bigger than the one of the conference attendees that I’ve used in the beginning of this blog post. Today at Vardot we were checking souvenirs from Barcelona ’15 and had a big nostalgia about the last year’s event. However, the exhilaration about the upcoming conference is even bigger. We know you all are preparing a lot of interesting stuff, and we are very excited about it. And of course we are preparing ours!

Giving back to the community

Open Source is an awesome way to benefit by giving more. Vardot always strives to support the Drupal project, Drupal Association and DrupalCons through sponsorship. We believe that such investments make both the business and the community stronger, and we are really thankful to DrupalCon organizers that they use our support to make this event one of the most affordable tech conferences comparing to others and allow students to attend it with big discounts. Making the community bigger, more passionate, and more professional will make Drupal and our products stronger.

See you soon at DrupalCon!

We will be happy to see everyone of you. Pass by our booth, participate in our activities and grab our souvenirs (we’ve prepared a lot this year). We are looking forward to meeting you!

Bonus. 7 useful links for attendees

Plan - DrupalCon Dublin Sponsor Calendar

Communicate - List of DrupalCon‘16 Attendees

Know - 11 Cool Facts You Didn’t Know About Dublin

Live - Official Hotels of DrupalCon’16

Prepare - Current Local Time and Weather in Dublin

Eat - Telegraph Guide to the Best Restaurants in Dublin

Go out - How To Enjoy Dublin Without Visiting a Pub

And what are you excited about? Share your expectations, questions and thoughts in comments. 

Jun 26 2016
Jun 26
Most Popular Drupal University Websites in the Middle East Most Popular Drupal University Websites

There are several interesting rankings of top government sites built with Drupal. However, Drupal is good not only for Ministries and NGOs - it is also a great choice for schools and universities. Harvard, Yale, MIT and many other of the most prominent schools worldwide choose Drupal as a CMS for their sites because of its scalability, flexibility and security.

Complete list of Drupal advantages

But what about the Middle East? Do Arab universities and schools realize the benefits that Drupal can give them or do they still use cheaper solutions? Only a deep dive into the knowledge pool of various universities’ websites can help us reach a conclusion. Thus, we made a detailed study into the same and prepared the list of 10 most popular Arabic educational Drupal websites according to Alexa global rank.

Being formatted in ascending order, the list contains the basic introduction about each university, its Drupal version, Alexa global rank and the general features of its website witnessed by a common visitor. Here are the top 10 universities located in Middle East.

10. Princess Sumaya University For Technology

 Princess Sumaya University For Technology

Alexa Global Rank: 293,597

Drupal Version:  7.3x

 

Founded by the Royal Scientific Society in 1991, Princess Sumaya University for Technology is actually the most prominent Applied Research Center situated in Jordan. It is a non-governmental and non-profit university that offers Bachelor & Master programs in all the engineering disciplines. Apart from this, the university offers higher education programs in Business Management as well.

Princess Sumaya University for Technology consists of four schools; each school delivers quality education in its specialized discipline. This means Computer Science, Engineering, Business Management, and Research each have their own specialized school at the university.

The university website is a unique blend of creativity and technical capabilities. The design itself displays an excellent thought process utilized in its development. The usability, user experience and easy navigation are the features this website contains. The high definition pictures of the university kept in homepage slide add a feather to the cap of this user-friendly website.

A homepage in 5.97 MB size takes only 4 seconds to load shows its feature of speed friendly website. Rather than filling the homepage with so many elements, the most prominent features such as e-services, e-learning, media, video gallery, sitemap etc. have been given a highlighted space. All other informative links have their perfect position in the header and footer.

9. German Jordanian University

 German Jordanian University

Alexa Global Rank: 276,566

Drupal Version:  7.3x

 

German Jordanian University, founded in 2005 in Mushaqqar, Jordan comes on 9th position among top 10 Universities in Middle East. The university was established with a motto of enhancing knowledge transfer between Jordan and Germany by blending together their best educational models.

Currently, the university is offering 20 undergraduate and graduate programs to approximately 5000 students in which female students are almost the half. The university has its own specific curriculum different from all the other Jordanian universities, because it has been developed in relevance to the German Applied Sciences model.      

Just like its unique curriculum and rich education methodologies, the Website of the German Jordanian University is also a unique one in its thought process. The best designed and the easiest usability makes it better than all the previous options. The homepage slide containing the real pictures of university students and campus displays everything you want to know about the university. The color theme, graphics and other technical elements are excellently utilized and thus, make it a user-friendly website.

The Homepage is 4.1 MB, but still takes only 3.34 seconds to load. Both the header and footer contain links that directly navigate you to the information you are looking for. Thus, the usability, user experience, and speed are better than your expectations. See the announcements slide below the university pictures. You are kept updated with all the latest announcements on the Homepage itself.

8. University of Bisha

 University of Bisha

Alexa Global Rank: 202,495

Drupal Version:  7.4x

 

The eighth position among top 10 universities in Middle East has proudly been secured by University of Bisha located in Saudi Arabia. Founded only a couple of years ago the university has achieved a worldwide recognition by offering quality higher education. Certain features such as quality education, modern infrastructure, students’ friendly campus especially for girls and latest educational & technical amenities are responsible for giving the best learning experience to students, here, at University of Bisha.

‘Simplicity dipped into soberness’ is the easiest phrase to describe its website in short. The homepage itself exhibits the uniqueness of thought process, utilized while developing the website. The very first positivity that hits a visitor is its multilingual accessibility. The website is accessible both in Arabic and English language making it easy for non-Arabic visitors to find the information they need.

Apart from this, the header is designed with a feature of easy navigation, especially for the students and faculty. Here the students and employees are given an easy navigation to the links they need as the information in these links each have its specific page. And in the footer every link has been individualized with a specific logo.  

When we look into the technical features of the website, we find it perfect here also. The homepage is made of 7.8 MB size that takes only 6.50 seconds to load making a speed-friendly. In a nutshell, the university website has all the features to recognize it as a user-friendly website.  

7. Gulf University for Science & Technology

 Gulf University for Science & Technology

Alexa Global Rank: 155,830

Drupal Version:  7

 

Founded in 2002, Gulf University of Science & Technology (GUST) commonly known as Gulf University is a private university located in West Mishref, Kuwait. It seems really surprising that a young University that celebrated its first commencement ceremony in June 2007 stands on the 7th position among the top 10 universities in Middle East.

Currently, Gulf University has been inculcating capable professionals in various technical and professional disciplines. Approximately 145 well-known academic faculty members from 31 different countries have been saturating their meticulous knowledge and skills to thousands of students.

The blue and white color combination of the website makes it catchy and attractive. The website has been developed in relevance to the usability and user experience. Though the heavy homepage of 2.4 MB slows down its speed as it takes 7.61 Seconds to load yet the easy navigation and smooth functioning makes a visitor forget the speed issue. And also, the website is available in English version only, it sometimes creates language problem for Arabic native speakers.

Simple but impressive exhibition of all the website elements and relevant links makes it a user friendly website. There is no hustle-bustle of content, sections, or links on the homepage. You will find only the required information on it. Thus, it can be called a cutting edge website that has the capacity to grab good reviews from the visitors.

6. Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University

 Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University

Alexa Global Rank: 38,831

Drupal Version:  8

 

Among top 10 universities in the Middle East, Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University owns the proud position of being on the sixth rank. Formerly known as Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz University or the University of Al-Kharj, Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University was established in 2007 in the city of Al-Kharj, Saudi Arabia.

The current name of the university was adopted in the beginning of 2015. Currently, the university is delivering higher education to approx 30,000 students in 80 different programs. It is only the quality education that has brought various national and international accreditations for different programs.

The university has an excellently designed website that is built with the latest Drupal 8. It greatly speaks about the university, its features, academic programs, and guidelines for a new visitor. The header in the website contains everything in a nutshell. Whatever information is required related to administration, courses, jobs, research programs, and more, the header will provide a direct link to the same. Thus, the website features an easy navigation for a visitor.

Main reasons to migrate to Drupal 8

The homepage that acquires a size of 1.1 MB takes 4.2 seconds to load. It designates the website to be speed-friendly. The social media platforms of the university have been given a place at the right top. All the other useful links have been placed in the footer. The website, thus, provides a user-friendly experience as well. So, the overall experience of the website is very positive.

5. Majmaah University

 Majmaah University

Alexa Global Rank: 37,501

Drupal Version:  7.4x

 

Founded in 2009 in Al Majma'ah region, Majmaah University can be regarded as one of the youngest universities located in Saudi Arabia. Having a total number of 13 academic schools, the university has been established with a motto of expanding higher education around the region and providing quality education to the growing number of young graduates in the Middle East.

It is one of the only perfect utilization of educational resources and the unified efforts of management, faculty and students established just within 7 years; Majmaah University stands tall on the fifth rank among top 10 universities in the Middle East with Drupal website. Currently, the university offers diploma, bachelor, masters, and research programs in various disciplines.

The university website has also played a major role in bringing the university to its heights. The Website of Majmaah University is an outcome of rich creativity and professional capabilities. The beautiful layout of the website, the extraordinary color combination, and unique design concept is really a treat to the eyes when visited for the first time. The high definition picture on the homepage showing students from various streams brings an artistic touch.

In technical terms, the website is capable enough to provide an excellent experience to its users. A size of 1.5 MB takes only 1.28 seconds for the homepage to load. The header has all the sections and subsections with links that take the visitor directly on the page he/she wants. So the navigation feature of the website is just as a user likes. Thus, the website contains all the features of being speed-friendly and user-friendly.

4. King Khalid University

 King Khalid University

Alexa Global Rank: 30,282

Drupal Version:  7.4x

 

Being established in 1998 in Aseer region, KKU has evolved into a premier institution in Saudi Arabia just within a short span of time. The various factors such as modern infrastructure, latest educational amenities, a wide gamut of undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate programs, a large number of disciplines, meticulous faculty and much more have elevated the reputation of the university throughout the Middle East.

Recently, King Khalid University (KKU) has secured the 604 rank among top 700 universities in the world and also achieved a prominent position among the best universities in the Middle East. Inculcated from the merger of two schools, King Khalid University also enjoys the designation of the biggest academic institution saturating quality higher education to approx 72000 students.

The university website exhibits really a different design and thought process. The whole website designed on a white background looks so beautiful in the first look. The pictures have been utilized on the website just in accordance to the theme of the page.

The website’s homepage having a size of 3.0 Mb is overfilled with the informative links yet it only takes 5.36 seconds to load. And also, the visitors find it easy to operate due to its well designed header & footer. Thus, the website is sure to get good reviews from the visitors in relevance to the user experience.  

3. The University of Dammam

 The University of Dammam

Alexa Global Rank: 26,233

Drupal Version:  7

 

The third rank among the top ten Middle East universities goes to the University of Dammam located at Dammam, Saudi Arabia. The university that was established in 1975 with two colleges – College of Medicine and College of Architecture has now expanded into 21 colleges in the Eastern province. From graduate to research programs, the University of Dammam is providing quality education to approx 45000 students. Currently, the University has been offering a broad spectrum of bachelor, masters, and research courses in Medicine, Engineering, Science and Management and Arts disciplines.

The university website has been developed and maintained meticulously. The very first advantage of the website is its rich content framework. Every section, every landing page contains a rich informative content. Secondly, the color combination of the website is really fantastic. The beautiful combination of blue, white and cream colors make it look more beautiful. And the multicolored main menu on homepage looks like a rainbow on a white sky. Thirdly, each page link is available on the homepage that makes the website navigation an easy task. The header and the footer have all the required links that make it easy to navigate to the required page.

The website homepage takes only 3.20 seconds to load due to its speed-friendly size of 585.6 KB. Therefore,, the website is not only easy to operate but provides a speedy navigation as well. Thus, the website provides a better user end experience.

2. The American University in Cairo

 The American University in Cairo

Alexa Global Rank: 22,309

Drupal Version:  7.4x

 

Being established in Egypt in 1919, The American University in Cairo was founded by Charles A. Watson. Though AUC was the first English-University in the Middle East, yet it was established with a motto of contributing to the intellectual, social and cultural growth of the Arab World. In the beginning, it was both a preparatory school and a university with only men allowed to get admission.

Since its inception, AUC went through various changes and advancements that shaped it into the 2nd most famous university in the Middle East. Currently, AUC is spread in 260 acres having 25 departments and institutes, and offering approximately 36 undergraduate, 44 masters, and two research programs.

When it comes to the AUC website, the very first thing that strikes in a visitor’s mind is that the university website is so simple and sober. A beautifully designed yet an easily accessible website that makes a visitor grab his/her required information by going directly to the specific link. Both the main menu navigation and the footer have all the required links to navigate on the specific page you require. You can also see all the social media symbols on the footer that will direct you on the social platforms of the university.

The website saturates a pleasing user end experience due to its perfect design, impressive landing pages, good speed, and easy navigation. The home page is so impressively designed that it attracts a visitor to explore more into it. The real pictures of the university add beauty to the website. And mainly the homepage that is of 1.0 MB takes only 2.11 seconds to load. Thus, in terms of speed and navigation, the website is really user-friendly.

Vardot Introduces the American University in Cairo's New Website

 

1. King Saud University

 King Saud University

Alexa global rank: 6,098

Drupal version: 7.43

 

Established in 1957, King Saud University owns the pride of being not only the first but also the most famous University in Saudi Arabia. In 1953, Abdulaziz al Saud announced to establish the first higher education institution in Saudi Arabia to enhance the cultural and scientific knowledge in the country along with spreading Islamic faith among the coming generations. Subsequently, King Saud University was founded in Riyadh.

Today, the university has been accelerating higher education in all the streams such as Engineering, Medical Sciences, and Humanities and so on. Being a premier institution with 24 colleges, King Saud University has been ranked no. 1 in the Middle East. The greatest feature of the university is that it has separate colleges for girls just to initiate higher education among girls in a country where girls don’t enjoy much freedom in their social life.

The Website of King Saud University presents an actual display of the university itself. The very first feature of the university website is its compatibility in English language along with Arabic. It enables the visitors throughout the globe to find the information they require. Secondly, the website has been designed and executed in a way that stresses more on giving the detailed knowledge into everything rather than focusing on designs only. Thirdly, each informative topic on the website has a different page for it and is easily accessible for a visitor to find his/her relevant information.

If we talk about the user end experience, everything on the website such as design, speed, content, and information is capable enough to grab good reviews and a five-star rating from its visitors. The homepage size is only 1.3 MB that just consumes 3.50 seconds to load.  

Conclusion

As promised, we have presented a deep insight into every university’s basic information. Though all the information is just true as it is taken from reliable sources yet only the figures may differ sometimes according to the changing trends.

Although the most of these websites are relatively new, they have achieved great popularity and high rankings. On one hand their popularity depends on high academic level and number of students, but on the other hand Google doesn’t rank high websites that have problems with the code and are not SEO-optimized. The success of sites listed in this article is also achieved with their powerful CMS.

Drupal is the latest Content Management System in vogue these days. Having various versions, Drupal saturates the achievements for a website far above the expectations. And that’s the reason why most of the academic institutions or schools in the Middle East prefer Drupal distributions when building their websites.

If you have plans to build a site and achieve highest rankings, Drupal is the right fit for you. For assistance migrating to Drupal or building a modern website for your university, contact Vardot.

Jun 19 2016
Jun 19
New Drupal 7 & Drupal 8 module: Facebook Comments Block Facebook Comments Block

In this article I’d like to share with you a module that I’ve recently created for Drupal 7 and 8 called Facebook Comments Block. It gives visitors of your website the opportunity to comment on your site’s content using a widget that is directly integrated with Facebook. Here is the screenshot showing you how the commenting box will be displayed on your website:

 

Facebook Comments Block appears on Drupal website

 

What was missing in other Drupal commenting modules?

The historical background of my contribution to the Drupal society was pretty easy. While working on Vardot’s distribution Uber Publisher our main goal was to make Drupal as user-friendly as possible. One of the increasing users’ convenience factors was a maximal easiness in adding comments on the website, and one of the main satisfaction criteria from the user's perspective is the number of clicks and the total time needed to proceed with a request.

The big UX disadvantage of popular solutions is that users are required to create an account on a new website. The number of services we are using is increasing every year, and managing, remembering passwords or even logging in to all of them becomes very time-consuming. As a site visitor I’d prefer to be able to comment on posts without signing up, because otherwise, if I read several blogs, I waste too much time for nothing.

Another important disadvantage of commenting widgets I worked with (this time more for a developer and site owner than for an end-user) was that most of them were based on URL aliases. As a result some of our clients were facing the issue when they were losing all comments after changing the URL of the page or its title (in Uber Publisher short SEO-friendly URLs are generated automatically based on the title of the post).

What are the advantages of Facebook Comments Block module?

Addressing issues that were described above, and adding some new benefits, I’ve made a list of reasons why you may go for the Facebook Comments Block module:

  1. Facebook Comments Block relies on a node ID

The widget minimizes risks of changing the URL, because it relies on a node ID that is always constant. As a result, even if you rewrite the title of your article or the link of the page, comments that were added before won’t be lost.

 

  1. Facebook Comments Block allows for the main domain configuration

If you have multiple domains associated with your website, you can configure the module to recognize the main domain and share comments across all domains. For example, we have two URLs for the same site - www.example.com/article-title and www.myexample.com/article-title. Configure Facebook Comments Block to use www.example.com as a main domain, and comments of the main domain will be shared to and from www.myexample.com.

  1. Facebook Comments Block uses basic configurations

It doesn’t have dependencies which makes it easy to install and use. Just go to "Admin" -> "Structure" -> "Block", and you’ll find "Facebook Comments" settings. Choosing “Configure” you’ll see the menu with options to customize the widget:

 

Facebook Comments Block's configurations: application ID, main domain, color scheme, width and number of posts

  1. You don’t need to log in

Most of the site visitors are already logged in with their Facebook profiles. As a result, they comment using their real social media (Facebook) account and don’t need to make additional clicks to be able to comment. The idea of this widget is to be organically implemented to the page and be percepted as its natural part, so the visitor doesn’t even realize that there is a special block for commenting that is connected to an external service.

 

  1. Facebook Comments Block is easy to integrate with other modules

The widget uses Drupal block API, so it can be easily integrated with most of the Drupal modules that support blocks (i.e. Rules, Context, Panels, …etc.). The integration is straightforward and doesn’t require any additional development efforts or customization.

Porting Facebook Comments Block to Drupal 8

Facebook Comments Block was a new step in my developer’s career, because it introduced me to the world of Drupal 8. After D8 release I’ve decided to learn it by porting this block, and use Drupal 8’s new block API, block configurations and the new twig templates to apply changes to my new module. Now the widget is available in two latest Drupal versions - D7 and D8. It can be used by site owners that already realized benefits of Drupal 8 as well as by site owners that prefer to wait, evaluate, and choose.

Bottom line

The usage statistics of the widget shows that the number of people installing it is constantly growing and reached 380 sites by the beginning of June:

 

Facebook Comments Block's usage statistics is growing on Drupal sites

 

Drupal modules are developed by community and grown by community. If you’d like to try the Facebook Comments Block, feel free to download it from drupal.org. To report any bug issue, support or feature request you can fill a new ticket on Drupal issue queue. And of course I would be really thankful if you share this blog post in your social networks, so more interested people could learn about the widget and try it out.

Jun 09 2016
Jun 09
Rights and Liberty on Your Screen: New Website of Al Jazeera Media Network Al Jazeera Public Liberties and Human Rights Center

The Public Liberties and Human Rights Center was founded in 2008 as a "desk" within Al Jazeera. Today it is staffed by a diverse team which works across different areas of the network. The editorial team operates on all of Al Jazeera's platforms and in all of the network's languages. The journalists produce original stories and content examining human rights issues around the world, complementing the network's hard-hitting news. Their website contains information about initiatives and events organized by the Center as well as many images and videos related to their projects. In 2015, Vardot developed a new website to bring together all the work Al Jazeera does regarding human right through all its platforms to one hub.   

Goal of the project

The goal of Vardot was to build an editor-friendly distribution that will also bring visitors a seamless user experience. The mission was to launch a modern multilingual SEO-optimized website that will be integrated with social networks and have the ability to handle a high traffic.

The right CMS for media networks

Vardot already partnered with Al Jazeera to develop other AJ websites such as  Sharek, Forum, Stream and Cafe. All these sites were built on Drupal because the client was looking for a CMS that will be able to handle high traffic, different permission levels, a large number of subpages and at the same time be secure and flexible for users. For the AJ Public Liberties project, we used our very own Drupal 7 distribution, Uber Publisher, that in our opinion ideally meets the needs of the Media producers and Online News Publishers.

The idea of this distribution is easy: most of news websites require the same package of features such as the ability to upload and edit text quickly, create roles and permissions for a better security, add taxonomy terms to organize the content in the convenient way, handle  high traffic and more. Uber Publisher does just that. It is a combination of  modules, configurations, settings and custom development for online publishers.

Why our customers always choose Drupal

Uber Publisher as a competitive advantage

Having the “foundation” of the website ready, our team was able to  concentrate on the  uniqueness of the Liberties website without wasting time for a basic coding.  As a result, the work on the new website of Al Jazeera Public Liberties & Human Rights Centre took less than one month.

Furthermore,  we were able to to provide Al Jazeera  with many different ways to change the display of content listings to meet their needs at any time. Depending on what Al Jazeera content managers wanted to showcase, the site allows them to feature one main article or multiple articles to tell a story and promote the most important news first.

Building a good website in just one month is very impressive, but we are looking forward to be able to work even faster. After updating Uber Publisher and making it more universal for any kind of online publishing company we expect to decrease not only the time of the development, but also the average total cost of ownership of news websites.

Bottom line

Building sites for enterprise companies always means accepting a big challenge, but our team likes to exceed expectations. Working with Al Jazeera before we’ve learned a lot about our client’s assumptions and ways of working, and this time we’ve just used the experience collected before and made a high-quality website in less than one month. Like Al Jazeera Public Liberties & Human Rights Centre contributes a lot to the awareness of humanitarian organizations, Vardot is happy to add some improvements to Drupal and share our experience with you.

Jun 01 2016
Jun 01
Taste of Drupal: New Al Jazeera Cafe Website developed by Vardot Al Jazeera Cafe website

In April 2015 Al Jazeera, the biggest media network in the Middle East, opened a new restaurant in Doha where everyone can easily experience the news-making process and interact with Al Jazeera stars. About a month after the opening of Al Jazeera Cafe, its manager of enterprise and merchandise Mohammed Al Rumaihi said in the interview to Doha News: “We didn’t want to be the ‘typical’ channel who reaches out to its audience through social media or TV. We wanted to have a direct physical interaction with our audience in a softer (environment)”. Today Al Jazeera Cafe is a famous place in Qatar where food zone is combined with an interactive media studio, a live broadcast unit and museum exhibit. The media network got very close to its audience, and one of the important steps forward to them was launching the Al Jazeera Cafe website developed by Vardot.

Another Drupal website of Al Jazeera

If you read our blog often, you know that Vardot has a rich background in creating educational websites and sites for media companies. Nonetheless, knowing our technological expertise Al Jazeera approached us to build a web experience for their new modern cafe and we were up for the challenge. We developed a web experience that not only represents the cafe, but also combines the best of media, cuisine and technology. The design of Al Jazeera Cafe website is similar to other Al Jazeera sites. Moreover, we used the same CMS as in all the previous projects to give our client a convenient editing experience. More and more websites of the media network are managed in the same way - it makes change-, process-, and knowledge management easier within the organization.

Drupal ideally fits to our customer’s requirements - the website is built according to highest security- and technical standards, allows site admins to manage content with a few clicks, can handle a high traffic and stay extremely quick:

 site speed report

 

Why Drupal is always a win for you

UX & SEO

We also kept in mind the latest User Experience and SEO trends: the first thing you see on the website is the video captured by our colleagues from Al Jazeera. It corresponds on one hand with one of the main web design concepts of 2015, and on the other hand with SEO-predictions for 2016. This video as long as many high-quality photos are definitely the strong point of this web page.

The motto of the Cafe is “Experience a taste of Al Jazeera”, and we did our best to make you start tasting before even going to the restaurant. The media helps you to feel the atmosphere of Al Jazeera Cafe from wherever you are. Using #AlJazeeraCafe in Instagram, Facebook or Twitter you can see visitors presenting news in front of cameras inside of Cafe and after clicking on Menu it’s impossible not to feel hungry. Although the media network became popular first of all because of the news articles, this site is less about words and more about images.

The website contains everything you might wonder about: information about the Cafe and its events, news, contacts, map, menu, lots of beautiful images and social sharing buttons. And of course as always to guarantee the visitors an exceptionable browsing experience our team made sure that the page looks perfect on devices of all types - from regular desktops with a different screen resolution to mobile phones and tablets.

Bottom line

This project showed that Drupal is maximal efficient not only for educational, eCommerce and media companies, but also for restaurants and cafes. It allows to create a user-friendly interface for cafe visitors and easily manage a specific content like menu section etc. Anyways, better to see once than to hear hundred times. Check the new website that links the Al Jazeera Media Network with its audience here!  

Apr 21 2016
Apr 21
Project Manager’s Guide into Breaking Down a Drupal Site for Incremental Delivery

TL;DR. Jump to the free template: Standard Drupal Work Breakdown Structure Template.

Building a new site on a content management system has always been a tricky project to manage for a project manager, when compared to building a site on a framework or from scratch. That is because you are dealing with building blocks that are provided as a standard from the CMS. A project manager should have the necessary knowledge of the CMS’s building blocks to be able to manage a successful project.

Put this in context of today’s Scrum management approach (an agile way to manage a project, usually software development) and you’ll end up with a puzzled project manager with several questions such as:

  1. What can my team deliver in the first sprint?

  2. How can I breakdown the project’s deliveries into sprints?

  3. What expectations of deliverables should I set with my project’s stakeholders (product owner, business owner, client)

  4. When do I deliver the homepage for my stakeholder to look at?

  5. Are we supposed to deliver on page by page basis?

 

Drupal disrupts the “page” methodology that we are used to thinking of. One naturally tends to think of a website as a folder, with sub-folders, and pages (.html) inside those folders. That’s the 90s. We’re in 2016. Drupal is a database-driven CMS that takes a content-first (or content-out) approach of building rich web experiences, instead of a page-first approach. See “Drupal is content first, and that's good” and “A Richer Canvas”.

Drupal is Content-First or Content Out

Due to this approach of how Drupal works, we at Vardot have came up with a framework of planning the phases of building a Drupal site, to lead to an incremental development that can be broken down and fit into Scrum sprints. This will apply to almost all Drupal projects.

This standard way we'll call: The Standard Drupal Work Breakdown Structure

Why Do I Need a Breakdown of Work for Planning My Drupal Site?

Because this what project managers do. I have seen in the many Drupal projects that I was part of, that project managers (and/or coordinators) must understand how Drupal works, how the development process goes, and how do we get 80% of the site done in 20% of the time.

A work breakdown structure will help you (as a project manager) to understand how a Drupal site is built. It will also ease the process for getting high quality incremental deliveries to fit in your sprints. In this post, I will walk you through the high-level breakdown for any Drupal site.

Most importantly, the goals and outcomes of a breakdown are for you to understand and communicate to your project’s stakeholders your timeline of deliveries, and to be able to fit these deliveries into sprints.

To summarize, these goals are:

  1. Breakdown of deliverables. Define needed outcomes of initial sprints

  2. Provide a holistic view and analysis of the site’s functionality and its building blocks

  3. Remember, we are building a CMS, not a website. Therefore you need to architect your “CMS solution”, and not your “website solution”

Let’s Start With The How

Now we enforce these goals by implementing the The Standard Drupal Work Breakdown Structure, that will fit for almost all of the Drupal projects you will work with.

These phases will be divided into:

  1. Initialization Work Breakdown Structure: This phase is the cornerstone phase for starting right, it’s most probably a typical standard way that you should do in every project.

  2. Project’s Epics Work Breakdown Structure: Careful analysis of the site’s components and how it will be developed in the CMS will be implemented here.

  3. Finalization Work Breakdown Structure: This is the ending phase, where you make sure your site is ready for launch. Final preparations, tuning, and tweaks are carried out in this phase to prepare for your big day.

Note that you will be able to deliver something for your stakeholders to look at, in the “Initialization” phase.

This breakdown must happen after high-fidelity wireframes are done, or if you have the full visual mockups of a Drupal site done for your key pages.

It’s important to note that the visual mockups should use and adhere to Drupal’s design language and patterns. But what is Drupal’s design language and patterns? That’s for another article to discuss.

Standard Drupal Work Breakdown Structure - DesignNow that we have designs handed to us with a clear communication of how the new website will look like. We are ready to breakdown our Drupal site for a successful delivery.

The Work Breakdown

Disclaimer: the terminology that I’m using below to name some components that make up your site is not an official Drupal language”. No worries if you stick with the same terminology or use your own names, what really matters is just the breakdown structure.

So I’m categorizing what makes a (Drupal) site into six components:

  1. Wrapping components: Header and Footer.
    These are the components that provide your site with a wrapper for all your next components. Start with these as soon as you install Drupal; it will help you get through the easy stuff that makes up your site.
     
  2. Global components: Page title, Breadcrumbs, Tabs (a.k.a menu local tasks), System messages ...etc.
    These are the components that make up the uniformity of a CMS. These are your next target.
     
  3. Site-unified components: Ad blocks, Newsletter subscribe block, Social media feeds or “follow us” blocks, Static “about us” block ..etc.
    These are the components that most likely appear in the same style across multiple pages in the site.
     
  4. Full nodes and entities: Your “Full content” node/user/entity pages.
    Getting back to “content-out” approach, always start with the full-node or entities completion.
     
  5. Views, view modes, and other content: Views of recent content, Featured content, Node pages, Feeds integration, CRM integration, Single Sign On integration, ...etc.
    This is the major work; components that define your site.
     
  6. The annoying 20% of the site: This is where the built 80% of your site gets the final hidden work, iterative tweaking and enhancements to your site, whether it is requested by your QA team, the client, or the product owner.

In light of this breakdown of CMS’s categories, here’s an animated illustration of how a site can be made possible when following the flow of development based on the components above:

The Standard Drupal Work Breakdown Structure - Animated

In this order, you can now think of a Drupal site to be developed according the following steps:

Initialization Work Breakdown Structure

  1. Delivering “1. Wrapping components”

    1. Install Drupal (or the distribution you want to use), setup the development environment ..etc.

    2. Populate the things that make up the “Wrapping components”: Menus, logo, search ..etc.

    3. Create your theme, and theme the “Wrapping components”

  2. Delivering “2. Global components”

    1. Just populate then and theme them.

  3. Delivering “3. Site-unified components”

    1. Create and populate the things that make up your “site-unified components”

    2. Theme them

Project’s Epics Work Breakdown Structure

  1. Outline your content types starting from the “Full node” view modes. Identify other view modes for your content types. Start creating those into “Tasks”

  2. Do the same for other Drupal entities: Entities, Files, Comments ..etc.

  3. Deliver “4. Full nodes and entities”

  4. Deliver “5. Views, view modes, and other content”

  5. Deliver “6. The annoying 20% of the site”

Finalization Work Breakdown Structure

  1. Final overall testing

  2. SEO, Printability, Performance, Security, and Accessibility tuning and configuration

  3. Your pre-launch checklists

  4. Go live!

FREEBIE: The Standard Drupal Work Breakdown Structure Template

Our Standard Drupal Work Breakdown Structure Template provides an outline of these phases and detailed tasks to be done that we use for every Drupal project. This template is made to be easily imported to JIRA. It contains:

  • a master sheet that aggregates the standard epics, tasks and stories to be easily imported to JIRA.

  • a sheet for defining the project’s own epics and stories

  • the standard Initialization and Finalization work breakdown structure that must not be missed for any project

All of this helps to reduce discrepancies in developing each project, not to miss important tasks and also allows our team to deliver a project fast, and incrementally (delivering in the first week of development).

Using The Template

The template is a Google Spreadsheet that you can easily clone and customize. To do so:

  1. Open the sheet and copy it to make it yours.

  2. Feel free to edit the sheet to make it your own. There are some instructions on how to use the sheet to make it yours.

  3. Follow the instructions on what to edit. We recommend that the “Initialization WBS” and the “Finalization WBS” stay intact (you can edit them once to your standard flow, then replicate for all projects).

  4. For each project, you will want to copy your template to customize the “Project’s Epics WBS” as per the project. The template has some samples for you to consider.

  5. Once done, export the “Master WBS” sheet to CSV. So you can import to your JIRA project.

  6. Map fields to your JIRA. See sample [image to illustrate mapping]

  7. That’s it!

Conclusion

Two things have helped us to standardize our work process when developing a Drupal site, and insure consistency and quality:

  1. Starting a project by finishing up components-first approach, not page-first approach.

  2. Documenting our recurring tasks and processes in a Template that uses this approach. This template makes applying this process easier for you.

Next time you start a Drupal project, consider this approach and let us know how this would help you in the comments section below.

Note: This does not depend on a specific Drupal version, this methodology works with Drupal 6, 7 or 8. It depends on Drupal’s conceptual building approach.

Pages

About Drupal Sun

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

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

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web