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Jul 09 2021
Jul 09


Imagine there is a project that only has one person working on it. All the developments and challenges are going to be performed and overcome by him. Nobody can say that the project would not be successful, it very well can be.

Now compared to the previous project, think of a second one. This has a whole bunch of people working on it. The solutions aren’t coming from a single brain, but from loads of expert brains. 

So, if we had to judge the success rates of these two projects, on which would you place your bet on? For many of us the answer would be the second project with a massive team of experts, who’d be able to come up with more solutions and developments than a single person ever can.

And that is open source software for you. It is a platform wherein, one person creates a software, and other developers have an opportunity to read his source code, to use it, to modify it and redistribute it with the modifications. Open source software makes it possible for people to come together and work magic with their intellect and skills.

However, with that kind of liberty in development, there are often times when people after modifying an open source make it a proprietary software. Sometimes an open source developer wouldn’t mind it, but there is also the chance that he’ll feel misused. To overcome these scenarios, a solution was thought and that is what we are going to be discussing today. So, let’s begin.

How Open Source Licensing Came to Be?

A broad timeline is shown depicting the emergence and the current status of open source licensing.


You would be surprised to know that the origins of open source licensing can be traced back to a consent decree issued by the United States Government. Yup, you read it right. This was back in the late 60s and early 70s, when the Unix operating system was emerging, being the first general purpose operating system. 

The US government barred AT&T, the founders of Unix, from engaging in any commercial activity outside of their primary field of operations, which was telephone services. So, what did AT&T do? It did the next best thing, given the decree. 

Making Unix a commercial software was out of the question. So, AT&T gave away its source code to be modified and shared. Of course, this was done under a set of terms and guidelines, but computer scientists of that period didn’t mind that, nor would the computer scientists of today mind it. This open source code made Unix extremely popular. 

If we look at this scenario carefully, it is essentially an open source license by definition. Let’s see how.

So, what is an open source license?

Open source licensing is a system that dictates the terms and conditions of the use, modifications and distribution of the software code by people other than the originator of the software. It essentially includes the permissions and rights that would be required to use or repurpose the code for building newer applications with it or adding it into existing projects.

Now, can you possibly tell me that what Unix did was any different? I don’t think so. 

Open source software licenses indeed go back to the late 60s, however, its more formal use was witnessed in the 90s with the introduction the GNU project thanks to Richard Stallman. He later created the GNU GPL license. The terms of this license were that anyone could redistribute software, provided that the source code was open and not as secret.

Then with the advent and popularity of the Linux operating system and its adoption of the GNU GPL license, open source licensing became the norm.

According to the Open Source Initiative, today there are about 80 approved open source licenses. And you yourself can create one for your software, the Open Source Initiative would make you go through its license review process. You can very well do it, however, not many would recommend it.

So, in essence open source licenses are contracts for open source projects, which are as legal as they are binding, between the authors of the software and the people who would use its components.

To highlight the importance of an open source license, I’d say that it is these that actually make software development become aligned with open source. Without an open source license, the software cannot be used and redistributed by anyone, despite the fact that its source code is publicly available. And they are similar in cost as compared to OSS, so, when asking, are open source licenses free, the answer is yes, much like the software itself.

How are Open Source Licenses Distinguished?

Now that  the meaning of open source licenses is explained, let’s move further along. What started out as a single license by Stallman has become a standard practice in the open source community. I mentioned earlier that there are about 80 open source licenses available today, however, if these were to be categorised, you would only be able to get two. And these two mark the distinction in the form and application of the said licenses.

And here are the open source licenses by category:

The two categories of open source licenses are highlighted in a diagram.


Permissive Licenses 

Upon looking at the definition of the term permissive, you’d find words like liberal, excessive freedom, non-restrictive and my favourite, open--minded. And these words just about define the scope of these licenses. 

As their name implies, the permissive open source licenses provide more freedom to use, to modify and to redistribute software. You can do anything you want, even using the software for proprietary purposes is not off the table.

The only aspect on which these licenses have a restriction on the acknowledgement of the author. What this means is that you have to adhere to the copyright notice and keep that in place when you are distributing your own software. As long as you do that, anything goes here. Even if you do not want to share the source code of the modifications, it is totally alright.

Copyleft Licenses 

As far as free softwrae licenses go, copyleft license is at an 180 degree angle from permissive. If one is the North Pole, the other is the South Pole. 

Why?

It is because, while permissive licenses boast freedom and liberty, copyleft licenses are the epitome of restrictions. When a copyleft license is issued on a program, other developers can use it, modify it and redistribute it, however, the redistribution has to be aligned with the copyleft license terms. This means the modified program has to make the source code publicly available, just like the original program. And there is no going about it. 

The GNU GPL license, now on its third version, is the paradigm here. Stallman did not appreciate companies using his software and then closing it off as proprietary. And that is what this license prevents.

So, what happens when a proprietary software uses a program with a copyleft license in its source code? 

It would have to make it public and possibly release the entire software royalty-free, since it would be under the stringent terms of the copyleft license. The risk of exposing your intellectual property comes inherent in these licenses.

Furthermore, you cannot place any more restrictions on the licensee’s way of exercising his license. You could say that the phrase, anything goes, doesn’t come close to the definition of a copyleft license.

Let’s Look at Some of the Popular Open Source Licenses

After the categories of open source licenses, the next thing to know is the licenses that have been issued under them. I wouldn’t be talking about all 80 of the licenses approved by OSI, that would take ages for me to write and you’d get bored halfway through the read. So, I have a list of 9 of the most used open source licenses. 

So, let’s begin looking at open source license examples based on the category they fall under. 

Permissive licenses 

The examples of permissive licenses are shown in a diagram.


Apache 2.0

Being a liberal license, the Apache license 2.0 allows the freedom of using, modifying and distributing any of its products. The requirement here is to include the license notifications and copyrights on the distributed code or like a notice in the software itself or both. 

Under this license's terms of service, it is not mandatory to release its source code upon distribution, be it a derivative work, a larger project or basic modifications. All of these can carry different licensing terms. 

MIT

The simplest type of license of them all, named after the famous university, it’ll only take me a single sentence to explain it. MIT license is the license that allows you to do anything with the original code, with no restrictions on distributions, as long as you keep the original copyright and license notice in the distributed source code or software.

Berkeley Software Distribution

The BSD license, like the other two permissive licenses, lets you freely modify and distribute the software contingent upon you keeping the copyright notice, following the list of conditions along with the disclaimer. 

It has three categories to it; 

  • The 4-clause BSD was the original and first BSD license and had an advertising clause and a non-endorsement clause; 
  • The 3-clause BSD was the modified version without the advertising clause; 
  • And the 2-clause BSD, also known as FreeBSD, further removed the non-endorsement clause, making it almost similar to MIT in simplicity and use.

Copyleft licenses

The popular examples of copyleft licenses are shown in the image using a diagram.


GNU GPL 

GNU General Public License is by far one of the most popular open source licenses, being associated with the free software foundation, and pioneer of the copyleft licenses, being the first one to be OSI approved,. It was established to prevent your software from becoming proprietary. 

The GNU GPL license states that any software using a GPL component, despite its proportion of use, has to make its source code publicly available upon distributing. You are going to be passing on the same rights you received through the license to the person adopting your software, meaning if your source code is in the public domain, anyone using your component has to do the same. This makes the GPL license the strongest copyleft version.

At present, GPLv3 is the version that is being widely adopted.

Affero GPL

You would think that the GPL license must be full-proof without any loopholes, but there is one. The GNU GPL license only works when the software developed using a GPL component gets distributed. However, when the same is made available over a network, there aren’t going to be any red flags. 

To counter this predicament, the Affero GPL license comes in, it essentially monitors the distribution over networks, even remote ones, and sends the right alerts to the GPL license. This makes the AGPL quite important for many.

Lesser GPL 

The LGPL license is another variant of the GNU GPL license. There aren’t any more loopholes that it would cover up. It offers much the same license notifications and copyright protection. The only difference here is the size of a project can change the license terms. 

For explanation, a smaller project under a larger project would not have to comply with the larger project’s licensing terms. And a smaller project accessed as part of a larger project would not be asked to share the source code of the larger project. I’d say LGPL makes the GPL licenses seem a little liberal.

Mozilla Public License 

The MPL, maintained by the Mozilla Foundation, is as liberal a copyleft license as they come. The reason lies in its distribution protocol. As a copyleft license, the MPL does mandate that the modified code of its component be made public, however, this public sharing is only applicable to the modifications that have the licensed components and not the entire software. The stipulation is to store the MPL code in separate files and make that openly available.

The license is compatible with GNU GPL, given its enforced copyright notices and patent grants. Nonetheless, it is often considered to be a balance between permissive and copyleft licenses. 

Common Development and Distribution License

Often referred to as the cleaned up version of the MPL, CDDL has much the same attributes of the former. Given the fact that it was inspired by MPL, that comes as no surprise. 

Upon distributing the software in executable form, it is mandatory that you make the source code available. However, if your contributions aren’t part of the original software and are separate files, you are not required to make it public by releasing it under CDDL. A lot similar to MPL, right?

With this license, you will have the liberty to modify and distribute the original or derivative works of any CDDL software. The only stipulations are on changes to copyright, patent or trademark notices of the software along with keeping on the contributor acknowledgements and license notices.

Eclipse Public License 

Founded by the Eclipse Foundation, the EPL has certain requirements on the distribution of an EPL component. However, these vary given the circumstance of the modified code’s distribution patterns. 

  • Modifying and distributing an EPL component in the source code of your project mandates you to disclose the modified code under the EPL;
  • While modifying the and distributing the same in the form of object code would mandate you to make the code available upon request. Further, you would also be asked to disclose the way in which the source code can be requested. 

What is more is that individual program components, including EPL, non-EPL and proprietary code, can be clubbed together and sub-licensed. All you would have to do for that is ensure that the non-EPL elements are separate objects.

A Quick Look at Open Source License Example Through Drupal

Is Drupal free to use? Yes, it is.

Is Drupal free for commercial use? Yes, it is.

Why? 

Drupal is an open source CMS, that is why. And to call itself open source, it had to be registered under a license. And of course, it is. Drupal is licensed under GNU GPL Version 2 or later. All the contributed files that are hosted on Drupal.org are licensed under the same. 

The logo of Drupal 9 and GNU GPL can be seen on a dark background.


You can freely download, reuse, modify and redistribute any component of a Drupal.org project under the terms of the GPL license, that we talked about earlier. The core software on Drupal can also be run and licensed in combination with a version 2 or 3 compatible license. Saying that Drupal projects can very well depend on or be linked to GPL incompatible non-code assets, however this relies on the maintainer possessing the rights to distribute the non-code assets.

Let’s now look at the specific aspects of Drupal and how they are licensed. 

  • The files, be it PHP, JavaScript or images, being a part of a Drupal project are licensed under the license as Drupal.
  • The modules and themes are considered derivative works and so are to be distributed under the GPL version 2 or 3. 
  • The content, however, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
  • The sample code follows the same GPL licensing terms.

Considering all of these, who would you guess holds the copyright of the code in Drupal?

The answer is its hundreds and thousands of contributors, who agree to release their code under the same license. However, if a contributor has created a patch, but isn’t willing to license it under the GPL, he should probably not submit it and the point of retaining a copyright on the same would be moot. 

Learn more about open source here:

Perks of being an open source contributor
Impact of large enterprises on open source
Open source leadership
How open source remains recession-free
Impact of open source during Covid-19 pandemic
Diversity, equity and inclusion in open source
Open source security

Conclusion 

When I started writing this blog, I considered the copyleft licenses to be rigid and unattractive. However, realising that its pioneer is the license behind Drupal made me change my perspective. Drupal has helped a community of close to a million come together and build and distribute their work and that would not have been possible or even beneficial, had the source code not been publicly available. 

So, open source licenses as per their meaning can be liberal and rigid, but I personally feel that the rigidness serves more purpose than the liberty ever could. 

Jun 15 2021
Jun 15

Imagine you created something and that something is a software. You wanted your creation to be used by as many people as possible, you wanted to make it universally accessible. So, you did just that, you made the software source code accessible so that anyone could inspect it, modify it and enhance its capabilities.

This is the scenario that makes an open source software what it is; a publicly accessible tool that is all for the community. It honours open exchanges, collaborations, transparency and perpetual development that is community-centric. These principles have made open source software become immensely popular today. And here is proof of that. 

The percentage of active public repositories that use OSS is shown through a graph.Source: Github

Many of the public repositories, like PHP, Java and .NET, use open source software and in heavy numbers. If we look at the revenue open source software is deriving, the numbers are again quite impressive.

The projected revenue of open source services can be seen in a graph.Source: Statista 

All these numbers speak volumes to the efficiency of open source software. However, if there is one aspect of open source software that needs some kind of assurance, I’d say it’s open source security. The reason is probably the fact that OSS is completely open for everyone, so it is assumed that something with this level of openness cannot be secure. 

In this blog, we’ll try to find an answer to the question, ‘what is open source security’ and see whether it is actually secure or not.

What Is Open Source Security?

Today, businesses try to leverage multiple software in their efforts to move forward in technology and open source is one software that is omnipresent in these efforts, be it just for its code. 

A graph shows an increase in the use of open source components per app.Source: Synopsys

The reasons for this elevated usage of open source components are plenty. 

The fact that you get to try the software before you buy it; 
The fact that support is free; 
The fact that there would be fewer bugs to deal with and faster fixes; 
The fact that software security would improve; 

To know more about the power of open source, read about the perks of being an open source contributor, leadership in open source, why are large enterprises investing in open source, why is open source recession-free, impact of open source during Covid-19 pandemic, and the significance of diversity, equity and inclusion in open source.

All of these account for open source to become a software that is quite pleasing to the eye. The last point that I mentioned may be the most pleasing factor of them all. But why? What is open source security? Is open source insecure? Let’s understand just that.

Like any other software out there, the OSS also goes through two main stages, the development and the production. And open source security works in both of them, managing and securing the OSS at all times by using certain tools and processes; all of this usually done through automation. 

Talking about the Software Development Lifecycle, open source security has three main responsibilities;  

  • It identifies open source dependencies in your applications; 
  • It provides critical versioning and usage information; 
  • And it detects and warns about any policy violations and its consequent risks. 

Moving on to the production phase, open source security continues to work diligently. Its main duties at this point are to focus on any and all open source vulnerabilities. It does so by; 

  • Monitoring vulnerability attacks; 
  • Blocking vulnerability attacks, if possible; 
  • And most importantly, alerting you for the same, thus making you ready to take action against them.

Be it a community driven open source or a commercial one, open source security works in much the same way. 

Delving a little deeper in open source security, is there an initiative or a body that is accountable for it. This was one question that I found myself asking while researching about this piece. And there is, it is The Open Source Security Foundation. It helps organisations relying on open source software to understand their responsibilities in terms of user and organisational security and verify it. 

The initiative focuses on aspects like vulnerability disclosure, security tooling and best practices, identification of threats and even digital identity attestation. All of these only aid in securing your projects, critical and otherwise, in a much better and efficient manner.

Is Open Source Good for Security?

The answer to the question ‘How does open source security work?’ is not a linear one. But if I had to answer it, I’d say open source security is nothing at all like Microsoft, which should provide a lot of clarity to you and instill a sense of faith in OSS.

According to Snyk’s The State of Open Source Security 2020 report, 

Open source ecosystems have expanded by a third in 2019; 
Open source security culture is focusing on shared responsibility; 
Open source vulnerabilities have reduced by a fifth.

A survey analysis is shown that depicts who the respondents thought was responsible for open source security.Source: Snyk

On top of this, the vulnerabilities that were found in open source as most reported weren’t high impact on software projects. 

These facts were enough for me to believe in the capability of open source security. However, for you, I am going to provide four more reasons.

Security that is transparent

The main benefit of open source security is that it is transparent. What I mean by transparent is that its source code is open. You can get information about the code base and potential bugs.

People can sift through the source code of any open source project and improve any imperfections, which would not have been possible if the source code wasn’t open. This further means that there won’t be any surprises as the chances of any malicious functionality would be quite slim with this level of scrutiny. 

Security that is reliable 

This advantage is relatable to the previous one. OSS openness has made it possible for its code to be continually tested. 

The online community, which is responsible for developing the code, is behind these tests, making the software more reliable and trusted. The software developed on such trust would most likely never crash and fail.

Security that provides quick catches and fixes 

After transparency and reliance comes the benefit of quick fixes. The open source community is again to be thanked for this. The many contributors of open source make it possible to detect any bugs and flaws and quickly patch and fix them, without any elongated downtime for your applications. 

Security that is sustainable 

Open source software isn’t going to go anywhere and would open source security become antiquated. The reason would be its growing community that would continue to expand indefinitely. Therefore, the platform would continue to improve and you would have the assurance of better security means as time continues to move ahead.

At the heart of every benefit of open source security is its openness and community. Is open source a security risk? Not really. Is it a full-proof solution? Again not really. Yes, open source security cannot provide you the guarantee of being full-proof at all times, but the fact that the open source security at least provides a better chance of being secure is enough to make it advantageous for us; after all, are there really any guarantees in life?

Are There Challenges That You Need To Overcome?

Moving on from the pretty picture of open source security, let’s focus on the dark side of the concept. Open source security isn’t always full of the joys of spring, there are certainly challenges that need to be overcome. Since open source has become prevalent in every business sector, so have the open source security vulnerabilities. 

The percentage of open source vulnerabilities in different business sectors are shown.Open source vulnerabilities by business sectors | Source: Synopsys

Ironically, most of the challenges coincide with the openness of an OSS, so the benefits become the drawbacks. Let’s take a look at them.

The openness isn’t without vulnerabilities

Much like any software out there, open source also comes with some vulnerabilities. Yes, the open source community aids in the remediation of these flaws, but they tend to widen the difference between open source safety and open source attacks.

A table elucidates OSS vulnerabilities.Vulnerabilities reported in OSS | Source: WhiteSource Software  

Yes, open source security issues come with their fair share of vulnerabilities, from XSS to information exposure, there is everything and these vulnerabilities keep on changing year after year. 

However, there is a silver lining in this challenge and that is the impact of these vulnerabilities. 

A graph reports open source vulnerabilities and the number of businesses they have impacted.Source: Snyk

XSS is one of the most reported vulnerabilities, however, it only impacts a low number of projects. This can be considered as a positive outcome of this particular challenge.

The openness lures attackers

The OSS code is open for everyone and so its vulnerabilities; and we certainly know that everyone includes people with malicious intent as well. So, open source vulnerabilities become an easy target for attackers.

The National Vulnerability Database, which is a platform providing information about the open source vulnerabilities that too publicly isn’t helping this challenge much. Don’t get me wrong, such platforms are indeed helpful in identifying the problems, but considering they are public and open, the attackers get their arsenal for the next target.

You may think that the known vulnerabilities should get fixed before the attackers are lured in by them. But that is easier said than done. The problem here is that the open source vulnerabilities are published at multiple platforms, thus tracking them becomes difficult. Even if they have been located, updating, patching or fixing can require some time and during that phase, you’d be at risk.

The openness might overlook quality 

There are a number of people who contribute to open source security and you cannot be sure that all of them would be security experts. Everyone in the community will not have the same level of skills and expertise. Therefore, the way they would create a piece of code would be different. This makes quality assurance a task that could almost be impossible to take on. Furthermore, the fact that there are no set standards for the quality of open source code makes it all more convenient to overlook quality.. 
 
All of this means that the quality might be overlooked and even compromised. The fact that only 8% of the WhiteSource survey respondents were concerned about the quality is a testament to this challenge.

The openness comes with licensing risks 

OSS may be free to use, but it does come with a number of licenses that need compliance; 110 licenses to be exact, according to the Open Source Initiative. These act as the guidelines for OSS source to be used.

With these many licenses, there is bound to be a risk of compatibility. Let’s understand this, some licenses are compatible, this means you can use them together. However, some aren’t, which means that using them together would put you at risk, like the Apache 2.0 and GPL v2 license.

What’s more is that, if you do not comply with the licensing guidelines of open source, you’d be making yourself open to a lawsuit. While I know this isn’t the kind of security concern we've been talking about so far, it is a security concern all the same.

Can You Overcome the Security Challenges?

The major challenge in open source security are the vulnerabilities. Detecting them and resolving them has to be the priority, if you want to overcome the challenges. Given the fact that open source vulnerabilities have risen in 2020, you need to be sure that you are not at an elevated level of risk.

A bar graph shows open source security vulnerabilities from 2009 to 2020.Source: WhiteSource Software 

Let’s see how these vulnerabilities can be caught in time, so that they do not affect your business by implementing some of these open source best practices.

Prioritising security, always 

The first part in overcoming open source vulnerabilities is to always prioritise security. This starts with the choice, whenever you choose an open source component to work with, security has to be one of the considerations in the choice. 

Usually, functionality comes as the main reason for choosing an OSS. However, just focusing on that can put you at a disadvantage. Think of it this way, an open source component that does not require any integrations with your codebase would remove any and all security risks, along with reducing the complexity of your source code.

Prioritising automation as a means to detect and monitor vulnerabilities 

Next comes the detection of the security vulnerabilities and automation comes quite handy here. Organisations, especially large ones, have a pretty massive codebase and going through it would be a mammoth task, if not automated. Detecting susceptibilities is already quite a lengthy process, even with automation.

You have to identify which packages are being used; 
You have to pinpoint the vulnerable functionality in your code; 
You have to map out the way that particular vulnerability is impacting; 
And then you have to work on rectifying the findings.

Such a process may only include four steps, however, it isn’t a trivial task.

One of the problems in overcoming the vulnerability challenge is that organisations, sometimes, have no clue that they are actually susceptible. The fact that the open source community has an extensive amount of data means that the vulnerabilities would be spread across that expansiveness. So, running automated scans for identifying vulnerabilities would never let them go unidentified.

Taking help of automation tools would not only help you get to the problem areas faster, but also keep doing it continuously. When you enforce automated tools to continually monitor security problems, you come closer to protecting your project and taking control over the open source components you are using.

Prioritising the involvement of the team in security

The last point to cover in order to overcome the open source challenges involves your team. There is a high likelihood that your developers would not be experts in security. And the people you may have in security would be lost in the developers’ realm. Since open source vulnerabilities require you to be efficient at both development and security, there has to be some training involved.

The ways to track open source dependencies are shown.Source: Snyk

Such a response for detecting open source dependencies is not ideal. So, aim for cross training your staff, the developers should be able to at least identify certain security vulnerabilities and the security team should have some understanding of the development process. 

If you think that isn’t a possibility, you can hire outside help to assist you in overcoming the challenges posed by the open source components. 

The Verdict 

OSS is on the rise and it will continue to grow in the future, there isn't any doubt about it. Along with that open source security will also strive to improve. Yes, there are issues that surround open source security, it isn’t perfect. I think that’s a good thing, because perfection cannot be improved upon and that means open source security has a lot of strides to make. 

Open source security operates on visibility and openness, and it also teaches its adoptive organisations to preach the same. Aiming for visibility in your source code would always keep you ahead of the vulnerabilities you might have. It would also provide you with knowledge of your dependencies and a clear understanding of your code. 

So, in that sense, open source software would be a great low cost addition to your project and open source security isn’t something that would ever hold you back. With the amount of open source security tools available today, that’s almost a guarantee.

Jun 11 2021
Jun 11

Is it possible for us to finish everything we start? Is it possible for us to achieve every milestone that we set for ourselves and stick to every new year’s resolution we make? In a perfect world it would be, but sadly we do not live in a perfect world. 

And it’s not necessarily a bad thing to take a step back from a project you know you won’t be able to finish. I started painting my room when the pandemic began as a way to waive off the boredom, and half-way through I realised painting wasn’t for me. It was too exhausting and I wasn’t even good at it and most importantly it made me lose focus from my actual paying job. You can write a lot when you have paint all over your work desk, trust me. 

So, these unfinished projects have to be taken on by someone else, right? You can’t leave the room half painted, that would be a look the 21st century isn’t ready for. So what happens? Do you hand over the paint and the brush to the person taking over and forget about it? Not exactly. 

There are a whole bunch of things that you have to relay during the handover and keep a diligent eye on the new person to ensure that he is taking the project into the desired direction. You have to have the room painted as you had initially planned, you can’t expect a subtle lavender theme to turn out to be a neon orange at the end; that’d be a catastrophe of the highest order.

Now, we won’t be talking about painting rooms throughout this article. No, what we will be talking about is the way project managers handover business projects that are work-in-progress. What are aspects they focus on during the transition of duties, so that they do not affect the project’s completion? And does the transfer actually become fruitful for the project? Finally, I’ll share some instances from OpenSense Labs, wherein our project manager had to handover a project. So, let’s start.

The Handover Begins With Knowing the Company

If we look at project handovers, there are two scenarios that basically decide how much work it is going to take from the project manager himself. 

  • One of them is when a project is being transferred to a PM who is already a part of the organisation. 
  • And second is when a new project manager is hired within the organisation to take over an already in-progress project.

The first step we are going to discuss isn’t really necessary for the first scenario, but quite crucial for the second. And that is the knowledge of the company, its mission, its way-of-conduct and its overall cultural dimension.

Someone who has been a part of the organisation, even if it is for a little while, would already be familiar with it; however transferring project ownership to someone new would have to go through an acclimation process and that is what this step of project ownership transfer is all about.

Why is this acclimation important?

Because it provides perspective 

Being familiar with the organisation’s vision gives a perspective on things for the PM that he otherwise may not get. This perspective is important for things to sail smoothly throughout the remaining life of the project since it’d provide you with a purpose along with an overview.

Because it helps in communication 

Every organisation has its own culture. At OpenSense Labs, we follow the opposite of a traditional work culture with stringent rules and regulations that limit the scope of projects and employees. Liberty, openness and equality are some adjectives that would describe OSL’s office regime. This culture is directly related to how communications go down the hierarchy. Being familiar with it helps new PMs to fit in with the team and take things forward in a way it is used to.

Because it helps in decision making 

When you study the company you are going to take a project from, it would help you make better and more informed decisions without any disruptions.

A table is comparing a company's local process to global processes.Source: Toptal

The above image talks about some of the daily decisions a PM has to make, and knowing how to make them would make his/her work a lot easier.

Familiarising Yourself With the Nuances of the Actual Project Is Next

Now, you know the company, but do you know the project and what place it has in the company’s revenue stream? Knowing that is the next stage of project ownership transfer. This is also referred to as the knowledge transfer or at least its beginning.

Your organisation is going to have a number of projects running at all times, they could be about helping small entrepreneurs become more successful, however, all of these projects cannot be at an equal level of prominence. Some would be high priority and some would be on low. Identifying the significance of your project is what you would need to do first.

Once you have done that, you can start looking at your own project with a fine tooth comb. You would need to know everything about it to ensure that the outcome is what is expected. Start with the generic nature of the project. 

What is the project type, in-house or external?
What does the target audience look like?
What is the marketing strategy?
What are the competitors providing?

An answer to all of these questions will help you get a better understanding of the project. When you have that, then you have to dig deeper into the transition and learn about the change, everything preceding it and everything that has to follow.

What kind of progress has been made in the project?
Which aspects of the project are outstanding?
What tools and processes were being followed?
What are the restrictions and blockers holding that project back?

These questions are extremely important to ask as they would help you in knowing the deadlines and reaching them on time. Being familiar with all the issues hindering the project completion, be it about the team or client communication, won’t let you get blindsided, which can happen after a takeover.

Then You Get Acquainted With the Stakeholders and the Team 

In every project transfer, there are people who play a significant role in its completion. These are the people who are essentially responsible for all the work that goes into the project and its consequent success. As the new project manager, you ought to become acquainted with them from the very first day of the ownership transition because acclimating to people is the most difficult task of any process.

The Stakeholders

Starting with the stakeholders, these people are the ones who are going to directly benefit from the success of the in-progress project. It can be the client and his organisation and it can be people within your organisation, if it’s an in-house project affecting them.

Talking about the client, the focus is to make him comfortable with you and you being comfortable with him. During the entire transition, the client has to be kept in loop. Even if the previous PM had been fired, the client has the right to know. 

At OSL, we introduce the new PM to the client in phases. After some time, the new PM is involved more by making him prepare meeting agendas and answering client questions.

At OSL, we introduce the new PM to the client in phases. We ensure that once the former introduction has been completed, the new PM is always present in client calls even if he/she is not contributing anything. Even without the contributions, they’d be learning and that is what the transition is all about. After some time, the interaction is made more frequent and the new PM is involved more by making him prepare meeting agendas and answering client questions. During this time, the old PM is always there to handle any mishaps. Once those mishaps are no longer happening, it means the comfort is achieved and the new PM is given the command.

For an in-house project, the stakeholders would be the people using the end-product. Because they need it they’ll become your project’s advocates and in turn yours too. You have to capitalise on that. You should make yourself acquainted with them and get their feedback on the project you are delivering by testing an early version of the project on them as an option. 

Every stakeholder of the project would always want it to be successful and it is up to you to get them involved to improve your chances of success.

The Team 

Then come the people whom you would complete the project with. There are three things you have to be mindful of. 

  • One is the team’s structure and hierarchy, if there is any. You should know how they operate and what is the working dimension, remote or co-located or both. 
  • Second is to dig a little history and know about any grievances they might have had with the previous manager or even among themselves.
  • Finally, you need to know whether the team you have is of the right size, you could be understaffed or overstaffed.

These help you become one of them and make everyone feel included by eliminating any kind of friction between you and them. Having the old PM with you during the transition can help make the acquaintance process go by faster because you’d know the kind of authority and system the team is used to making the transition easier for them. Of course, if the PM has already been fired or there was no PM at all, it might be a possibility.

Understand how human psychology works in the project management here.

Knowing Exactly What Is Required of You 

Now comes the part you will play in the project. Of course, you are going to be handling it, but where would you start delivering?

Here the first important thing to know is the reason you are taking over. The previous manager could have left the organisation or he could have been made to leave. The former scenario doesn’t really have any relation to the project itself, but the latter could and you ought to know that. If a PM was removed or fired, there has to be a reason, right? He may not have done the job in the appropriate manner or he may have mismanaged the project and even the team, whatever the case, learn about it and start rectifying from the get go. Trust me that is the first plan of action expected from you.

You can only do that once you know what exactly the role of a PM is in the organisation. By this, I mean a few things.

  • You need to be aware of the way you are going the handle the client and the team;
  • You need to be aware of the extent of your duties and whether they go beyond the scales of the project;
  • You need to be aware of the procurement process as well as vendor selection as you may have to do it at some point;
  • You also need to be aware of the way your performance is going to be evaluated, how and who is going to review it.

A knowledge of all these aspects will only help you perform your duties better and get the project completed without any impediments.

Read our blog ‘Feature Prioritisation in Projects: How It's Done Right?’ to know more about project management and the feature prioritisation that goes in it.

The Final Handoff 

The above mentioned project handover necessities actually sum up the entire process and usually most of it is mentioned in the handover plan or document, which the old PM goes over with the new PM in due diligence. 

And it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes from a couple of weeks to a month, the gradual nature of the handover is what makes it fruitful for the project. Taking a few steps a day by breaking the transition into pieces that are easy to comprehend at a time is essential. Another aspect that is essential is you being shadowed, be it by the old PM or the team, that is what’ll help you learn the ropes faster.

You wouldn’t take the reins at once, it would come in increments of each step we discussed. 
You won’t be expected to answer the client worries from the get go;
You won’t have to deal with the developers from day 1;
You wouldn’t be expected to make a low performing project turn around at once. 

Everything would happen gradually. Once you have the apprehension of the company’s vision, the project itself, the stakeholders and the team along with everything that is expected of you, you’ll be ready to wear the PM hat and take the project on yourself. And the final handoff would be complete.

The Other Side of the Handover: OSL Handover Manual  

OpenSense Labs have successfully completed many projects in its life, however, sometimes these projects have been the rewards of more than a single project manager. There isn’t a particular reason for that. Sometimes the project manager had to hand over their work because he was leaving the organisation and sometimes it was because he was overburdened and couldn’t give his complete attention to the project. 

While researching this blog I talked to two of our project managers, Yash Marwaha and Abhijeet Sinha, to get a better understanding of project handover. Project handovers are a two way street, up until now we have discussed the side of the PM who will take the project forward, now let’s look at the other side and delve into the project transferer’s perspective.

Yash and His Handover Precision 

Yash is all precision and accuracy with a set system to make the handover as smooth as possible. The first thing he does is identify the type of project, which could be a long term engagement or support and maintenance. For him, this identification decides the timeline of the transition.

The steps that he follows usually go like this.

  • Creating a handover document and going over it with the new PM; 
  • Informing the client; 
  • Planning induction sessions with a handson walkthrough; 
  • Introducing the new PM to the client; 
  • Being available on calls between the new PM and the client until a comfort level is reached;
  • Finally changing the ownership when that happens.

This is a great system to follow for a handover, yet Yash has had to take over a project even after the handover has been completed. The reason was the new PM not being comfortable with the client. Even after doing everything by the book, things can still not go as smoothly as you may have wanted. You cannot control all the variables, let’s learn that from Yash.

Abhijeet and His Handover Diligence 

While Abhijeet follows much the same steps as Yash, he doesn’t focus too much on the time, rather he focuses on diligence. What I mean is he doesn’t feel that a handover has to be confined to a specific timeline. A similar project could have been handed over in a week, but that doesn’t mean that the current ownership would go the same way. For him, when you rush things, diligence goes out the window and chaos ensues.

He has two project transfers to prove his point. 

  • He had to hand over a project, redressal of a major tourism website in Kansas City, to Yash. The handover happened within 3-4 days, pretty quick, right? The reason was that Yash was already in contact with the client making the transition as smooth as smooth could be.
  • Then there was Earth Journalism, wherein an all new PM had to be assigned the ownership. He kept her in the loop for the client and the developers. He helped in removing the friction between the new PM and the developers, which happens in every transition, at the same time he ensured that she knew the contextual needs of the project. This transition took about a month. Learn more about the work done on Earth Journalism Network by OpenSense Labs here.

Project transfers can be a tricky business. There are a lot of parties involved and all may not welcome the change. As the project transferer, you have to be patient with everyone. You have to ensure that everyone involved is in favour of the new person, if not the final handover would not be the end of it. 

There is another thing that the OSL team shared with me and that is never ever transfer ownership of a three-month project mid-way. If you are to do it, do it in the beginning itself. There is no point in bringing a new PM after two months, it’s not going to benefit anyone.

Whether you are taking up a new project or getting a handover of an ongoing one, learning through Drupal website projects can be very handy. Learn what are the infinity stones of Drupal development, how to start the Drupal project the right way, how to manage your development workflow for Drupal project, and why product mindset should be preferred over project mindset.

Conclusion

In the end, all I want to say is that people have a tendency to take time to learn things and perform them in an efficient manner. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? So, what needs to be done during a project handover is valuing the learning curve. It’s going to take time and patience to make it fly. The kind of details an on-going project can have are quite diverse and making the new project manager get a hang of them is what matters. And that requires time from the organisation given to the new PM and his efforts in making that time worth it. 

May 18 2021
May 18

A computer is a marvellous creation, it can be used to build and execute any number of software and instructions that we may want. What is even more marvellous is that it understands exactly what we want it to do. And this extraordinary task is possible because we have programming languages that speak in computers. 

One of them is PHP or Hypertext Preprocessor. It is an open source programming language that runs on a web server, which has been popular throughout its life cycle being the go-to language for web development.

PHP with its server-side scripting together with HTML and its execution in the browser are immensely popular especially when creating dynamic websites is in question. Majority of Drupal sites are built on it, the entirety of Drupal is written in PHP, I think that should be proof of the language’s epic capabilities. 

A graph represents the market position of PHP.Source: W3Techs

The above image further clarifies the doubts about PHP’s capabilities and well, its popularity. 

There are numerous adjectives that I can use to describe PHP’s competencies, however, the one that is appropriate for how the language is going right now would be ‘behind schedule.’ And sadly this adjective isn’t for the language itself but for the websites and developers using it. The reason is the delay in its update. 

Today we’ll try to understand the language in regards to its versions and the capabilities that come with each of these versions and then we’ll get to the important question as to why PHP is not being updated and what you stand to lose, if you keep delaying. 

Let’s start by understanding PHP’s Life Cycle

Like everything else in this world, PHP also comes with an expiration date. Each of the PHP versions has a fixed life cycle, beyond which using it can be detrimental. Usually this life cycle is around three years, once those three years are completed the version becomes unsupported, you can still use it, at your discretion though.

When a PHP version is released, it is actively supported for the next two years. This active support entails the frequent fixing of bugs and security issues and their consequent patching. The third year, sometimes even fourth, will only entail releases pertaining to critical security issues. This is also the time when the next version becomes available. 

Once these three years have been completed for that particular version, it becomes unsupported. There won't be any fixes or patches, not even for security and using such a version would mean you are making yourself vulnerable.

As of now, 

Version 5.6;
Version 7.0;
Version 7.1;
Version 7.2;

Have reached their end of life, meaning they are no longer supported, yet many sites are still on them. So, which are the versions that are supported and should be ideally used? The answer is 7.3 and above. 

The image includes a table and a graph, both depicting the supported versions of PHP.Source: php.net

Any version that is still actively supported would be the only one ideal for your web projects. Talking about projects under the Drupal flagship, the same three supported versions are the only ones recommended by the CMS; proving that there is truth to what I am saying. This is exactly also why Drupal is able to avoid the misconception that it is difficult to use and has stayed relevant with changing times.

Versions of PHP supported by Drupal are listed in a table.Source: Drupal.org

Taking the supported PHP versions under the microscope

I have said a number of times that using a supported version is ideal, now let’s understand the why. Yes, they would get new updates, fixes and patches quite frequently, but that is not it; these versions are also perfect to use because they have features that are unfound in the previous versions. It’s like being on Android 9, you are missing out on a lot of features that Android 10 is powered with and there is no advantage in that. 

Let’s look at each of the supported PHP versions to understand this. 

Version 7.3 

The third version of PHP 7, version 7.3 was released in December, 2018 and is said to be faster than its predecessor. There weren’t changes in this version, but the improvements that were made proved quite helpful. 

  • The 7.3 came with more flexible heredoc and nowdoc syntaxes; 
  • The 7.3 came with multibyte string functions; 
  • And the 7.3 also had Argon2 password hash enhancements; 

All of these made this release better than the last.

Version 7.4 

Released almost an year after the launch 7.3, PHP 7.4 brought along significant in two key areas; 

  • Performance, by adding the preload functions to speed up loading significantly; 
  • And code readability, with features like typed properties and custom object serialisation. 

PHP 7.4 also marked the end of PHP 7 as this was the last version before 8 came along.

The Newest Kid on the Block: PHP Version 8 

PHP 8.0.0 is the latest version of the scripting language. Released on 26 November, 2020. This was a major release for PHP coming almost three years after version 7 was released. Although there are a lot of new features added to this new release, speed optimisation that was introduced in PHP 7 will continue improving on it. 

JIT Compiler, union types, type annotations and reflection signatures are some of the new features found in this release. Here is a video highlighting and explaining the prominent new additions in PHP 8.

[embedded content]

What will the update mean for you?

Up until now, you must have gotten a fair idea that updating PHP will be beneficial for your web project. Yes, sometimes updating can seem like a mistake, but that isn’t the case with PHP, not in the least. 

There are the additional features that were lacking in the preceding version of the update, you definitely benefit from that. Apart from that bonus, three discernible reasons to update PHP that should make the process all the more worthwhile.

Heightened Security 

The paramount benefit of always updating PHP is security. With every update, you’ll be more secure in the site because that running version is going to be fully supported and patched frequently for any and all security vulnerabilities. 

As we’ve already discussed, as versions come to their end of life, they do not get patches and fixes, making your project unprotected from threats. 

A graph illustrates the security vulnerabilities of PHP from 2000 to 2019.Source: CVE Details

Looking at this graph, it is clear that PHP experiences security vulnerabilities, with 2016 being the year marking the highest level at 106. 

A line graph depicts the types of security vulnerabilities in PHP.Source: CVE Details

Talking about vulnerabilities by type, denial of service, overflow and execute code are the ones topping the ranks. An update is what will prevent these security threats from being a threat and if you don’t update, you’ll have to be extra diligent about them. Is that something you want to do instead of working towards achieving your goals? I doubt it.

Perpetual Support

Then comes support, which becomes almost absent in older versions of PHP. Much like every other advancement we see, whenever a new one rolls by, interest in its older version starts diminishing and it is understandable. For PHP, this diminished interest means that the preceding versions would not get the kind of support from the community that it used to and its compatibility would lessen.

Think about it from the developers’ perspective, since they are the ones creating plugins and themes for every version. When they can devote their entire time and attention in creating something wonderful for a new version, do you think they’ll be interested in doing the same for something that is almost antiquated? I do not think so. 

There is also the concern of time, developers become occupied with the newer versions, so they do not get the time to oversee support for the older versions, making them somewhat incompatible for newer browsers and general development. 

So, when you keep updating PHP, you will continue to get support for it in the form of new plugins and themes and any issues you may face will be resolved quite quickly. You won’t ever see a 2000 comment thread for an issue in a new version, since there will be perpetual support to fix that.

Superior Performance

New technology will always outshine old in terms of performance, right? The same is true for PHP versions. When you update, security and support benefits would be there obviously, however, the more apparent benefit would be the one related to performance. You will be able to tell the difference almost immediately. 

Things that you had to work for diligently to achieve will come out of the box. From better latency rates to being able to handle more requests per second, everything would improve when you update.

Here are two images that show PHP Benchmarks for performance in version 5.6 and 8.0 and the improvements in performance are more than evident between the two versions.

The performance analysis of PHP 5.6 is shown.The performance analysis of PHP 8.0 is shown.Source: PHP Benchmarks

Then, why are the older versions still active?

When an update brings along such benefits, it should be a no brainer. Yet there are umpteen sites that are still on the older versions of PHP. 

The usage statistics of PHP versions are shown in a bar graph.Source: W3Techs

The fact that more than one-third of PHP sites are still on version is kind of sad and hard to digest even. I mean version 5.6 reached its end of life on 31 December 2018, almost two and a half years ago, yet it is still active without any support.

So, why is that? Why are these sites keeping themselves vulnerable when they can be secure? Let’s try to understand the reasoning. 

The obliviousness about the update 

The foremost reason for not updating is the obliviousness surrounding the update itself. The thing about web projects and websites in general is that, although they are built by developers, the people running them on the daily may not have knowledge about its technical sides. All they are concerned about is the fact that the site is running and functional and that it looks good. 

For these non-technical site owners, updating PHP isn’t something to be concerned about. Half the time they are oblivious about the fact and even if they do know it, they’d not pay much heed to it. Many a time, it is the developers and web hosts, who have to push the site owners for the update and they don’t always win that battle based on the W3Techs statistics.

The investment of time

If we talk about updating PHP to version 8.0.0, it is fairly easy to do so. However, that ease is contingent upon the code being updated. If the code is up-to-date, you’ll have an easy-breezy update. If not, you’ll be looking at a huge investment of time and resources. And that is the second reason why sites don’t update.

  • Developers who have older plugins and themes will have to put in a lot of time and effort to update their code because the newer version would not be compatible with an outdated code. 
  • Then comes the testing that needs to be done to ensure the compatibility of the update, which is quite extensible because there will be a great deal of plugins to test.

The apprehension surrounding the update’s effects

Lastly, it is the apprehension that comes with the thought of the update that makes site owners immensely hesitant about updating. 

What if the update breaks the site?
What if the update results in additional support tickets?
What if the update makes the site stop functioning altogether?

These what if pose a massive roadblock even before the road to update has begun. Fortunately, all of them are unwanted and misguided. 

Remember the previous reason, it talked about updating the code before updating to a newer version. If you update without making the code compatible your site will break, there isn’t a shadow of doubt about it. 

Apart from that the update won’t affect your site in a negative light. Upon updating PHP on a site built on a CMS like Drupal, you’ll instantly see an improvement in performance and that isn’t something to be apprehensive about, rather you should be looking forward to it. Learn more about how keeping the dependencies like PHP has helped Drupal 9, the best version of it so far, to make upgrade from previous version simpler.

How do you go about the update?

Now that we’ve discussed everything concerning the PHP update and have established that it is more than imperative to keep PHP updated, we have come to the final aspect of the process, which is how to update PHP.

The update is done in two parts, one is a prerequisite and the second is performing the actual update itself.

Checking PHP version compatibility

The first part of the PHP update is to check whether your site is even compatible with the version you are trying to update to, in regards to the themes and plugins, they should be updated to their latest version. This is also one of the reasons I mentioned in the previous section as to why sites don’t update PHP.

You would need your developers for this, since they’d be the ones who would add or fix support for the version to be updated. There is also the option of choosing alternate plugins, if that is what you prefer. 

Once your themes, plugins and current code is updated, you’ll be ready to perform the update. 

A little side note; You should remember though, that updating the staging site before updating the production site is the better way to go. This is because if you do encounter any mishaps during the update, you’ll be able to fix them on the staging site without any effect on the live site.

Choosing the suitable way to update 

The actual update can be done in three ways depending on the build of your site and the kind of tools you have access to.

Through the cPanel 

If you have access to a cPanel or your host provides access to the same, you can simply go to the control panel, log in and change the version of PHP to the one you want; it’s as simple as that.

Through your own server 

You can update PHP using the migration guide provided by php.net, that is if you are the administrator of your own server. This guide covers the migration procedures from version 5.5 to 8.0 and clarifies all the details related to the update from new features to backward incompatible changes and deprecated features.

Through a web host 

If the aforementioned ways don’t work for you, that is you don’t have access to the cPanel and you are also not the administrator of your site, then you can simply ask your web host to perform the update for you. 

Conclusion 

There comes a point in life when you have to say goodbye to what has been normal for you because something else has taken its place. And it’s almost never a bad thing. Has anyone ever felt sad after updating their iphone? I don’t think I know anybody who has, maybe a little upset about the hefty bill, but never about the product. 

The same is the story with PHP updates. It may seem like a daunting task to undertake, much like paying a thousand dollars for the iphone, but in the end, it’ll be you, who’ll be basking in the benefits of the update. Is that not something you’d want?

May 10 2021
May 10

Digital experiences have become an integral part of everyone’s life today. Be it the provider of the experience, being the businesses or the receiver of those experiences, which would be the users; both benefit a great deal from a sound and seamless digital experience. 

For the business to provide an impressive digital experience and the user to enjoy it, a DXP or a Digital Experience Platform is somewhat necessary. Through the software’s management of multiple channels, devices and every user touchpoint, it is able to provide personalised user experiences. Its forte is its ability to converge multiple technologies to provide the best possible experience to the user, making their journey a memorable one. With the use of the latest technology, the people building the experience are also pretty gleeful since they get to explore whatever is new.

So, if I had to define a DXP, I’d say it is a platform that is equipped to handle and deliver all the digital experiences of an organisation and perpetually work towards enhancing them. And if I had to mention DXP’s formal definition, I would quote Gartner

A DXP is an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery and optimization of contextualized digital experiences.

In this blog, we’ll be talking about these Digital Experience Platforms and all that they come equipped with, however, we’ll be focusing on a particular category, which is open source DXPs. Before I get into that it would be more appropriate to compare open source DXPs to their counterparts, which would be proprietary. Let’s get started.

Open Source DXP in Comparison with Proprietary DXP

There is a table that shows different aspects of digital experience.Source: Infosys

Based on the above image, you can clearly see that a DXP encompasses every aspect of the digital experience that an organisation may want to be taken care of. 

From user touchpoints to targeted campaigns; 
From content services to social services; 
From commerce to searches; 

DXPs are pretty versatile in their offerings. 

Now that we have a basic understanding of what a DXP is and what it does, let’s look at two of its major classifications, being open source and proprietary software. 

In essence, the difference between open and closed source software lies in the ownership. Open source by definition means a platform that is open to everyone, everyone can use it and anyone can contribute to it and there are no restrictions in the form of licencing fees or other charges. On the contrary, proprietary software, or DXP in our case, would be closed in plain terms. It’s a software that would be used by people who pay for it and the majority of the development comes through the proprietor himself.

Talking in terms of DXP, there are three main differences between an open source and a proprietary DXP apart from the licensing fees and charges. Let’s look at them. 

Parameter  Open Source DXP  Closed DXP  Licensing fees Not required, it is free to use Mandatory Choice  Abundance of choices; you can pick and choose the features you want to use The choices are limited; you have to use the DXP in areas that were already optimised Integrations  Integrates seamlessly with other software Integrations are minimal  Growth  Has a faster growth rate due to heightened flexibility  Fast, but not as fast as the open source


Open VS Closed Choice

The first major difference between these two categories is the level of choice they offer. If I talk about the open source DXP, the choices are plenty. You’d never be locked inside the software. You do not even have to use the entirety of the software, you can simply select the aspects which require improvements and leave the rest. There is also the option of customisation, you can build on top of the DXP you are using without anyone questioning you. You could use it for one of these or all of them.

Web content management; 
Web personalisation; 
Data and analytics; 
Marketing automation.

Now taking the closed DXP into consideration the choice is pretty limited. You choose a closed vendor and you are locked inside of their software. There isn’t much or even leeway to explore outside that locked space. You are all in. 

Open VS Closed Integrations 

Next difference is in regards to the integrations. An open source DXP can also be described as a combination of multiple products provided by multiple vendors. Using a DXP like Drupal, which is open source, you can integrate your digital experience with a platform like SalesForce with ease.

For the closed DXP, the story is a little different as the integrations are pretty limited as it is a one stop destination. You will find the majority of the services a DXP can provide, but they’ll be from that one vendor only.

A closed DXP is like one single brand, wherein you’ll find the products and services of that brand only, while the open source is like a supermarket, wherein you can find the products of almost all the major brands.

Open VS Closed Growth 

Finally, the open and closed DXP’s growth also paces at different rates. This is because of the kind of flexibility and contributions they have respectively. 

The open source DXP would be immensely flexible because of its open foundation. This means that it’ll always be open for adaptation as per the changing market requirements and its growth seamless and quick. Add to this the fact that there is an entire community to contribute and make necessary improvements into the software. 

In comparison, the closed DXPs also continually evolve. There are certainly improvements made to the software. However, because it's not open, its level of flexibility isn’t as high as its counterpart. Perhaps that is why the open source software DXP is making strides in the closed spaces as an alternative to them.

Why should you choose Open Source DXP?

So, you know that an open DXP is quite different from a closed one. Since you can only choose one of them for your organisation’s digital presence and consumer experience, you will have to pick one. Based on the previous section, I am sure you would have come closer to a decision. To make it even easier, let me tell you about all the benefits of an open source DXP.

Open Source is malleable to the future 

The only thing we can say for certain about the future is the fact that it is uncertain and that there is high plausibility of change. Future cannot be predicted, so we should not even try. However, what we can do is make ourselves malleable enough to adapt to whatever the future might hold. 

And that is what open source DXP entails with its API-first infrastructure that has the ability to integrate with the future. Of course, by future I mean the tools and frameworks that would reign in the future. Open DXP’s technology stack is indeed ready for the future because it is always ready to adapt. 

An open source DXP’s malleability also helps in improving consumer experience. This is because it makes it easy for businesses to create solutions in accordance with the changing consumer needs. The said solution would provide the most optimal results if it is created with speed and here the open architecture comes extremely handy.

Finally, with open source DXP you have the power to eliminate and replace certain parts of the platform that either do not align with your strategy or are hindering your growth. This makes it highly efficient in the worst of times. To know more, read about the impact of open source in Covid-19, how open source remains recession-free and why large enterprises are leaning towards open source.

Open source lets you innovate to your heart’s desire 

Collaboration; 
Partnership; 
Shared goals; 
United ambitions; 

All of these mean mutual success, all of these mean more power for better innovations and all of that is what open source stands for. Open source is where innovation thrives. Let’s understand the why. 

Have you heard of JAMstack? It stands for JavaScript, APIs and Markup. Back in 2018, it made quite a noise in the realm of marketing site theming. Ever since then it has become the go-to design stack for developers. This stack of modern technologies gives the developer the room to innovate and spurs them on constantly, the results enhanced developer velocity. It creates just the right environment with its new tools and quickness for more innovation. 

If I were to talk in plain terms, I'd say that because open source does not confine the developers with one vendor and only its resources, there is a lot of freedom to innovate. It creates an open culture that allows the people in it to build as much as they want individually and with partnerships through the open connections of open source.

Open source elevates consumer experiences 

Today consumers do not have just one single touchpoint with the business. They can connect to it through mobile applications, IoT, voice assistants and even chatbots. And the consumer expects context awareness in all of these. So, what is the solution?

With an open DXP, you can deliver content that is created by content authors without special emphasis on the channel it’ll be used on. This sounds bad, but it, in fact, is a good thing as it allows content creators and front-end developers to create pieces that are aligned with the target audience’s needs.

Once a piece of content is created, it can be repurposed for the platform and its context can also be altered and further delivered across various channels. This eases the complexity of working with an open framework and makes content quite composable. Moreover, the open APIs make the centralisation of content consistent throughout the channels and devices. 

The result is a holistic consumer experience that has the consumer in control of his interaction with you.

Open source empowers consumer data 

Every time a consumer interacts with you, he leaves some information behind. It’s like meeting someone in real life, with every encounter you will get to know the person more and not the other way around, you can’t be asking the person to introduce themselves every time you meet, that’ll be rude on so many levels. Yet this is what happens when your digital presence has consumer data that is scattered in various departments in data silos that are often inaccessible.

An open source DXP comes equipped with an open Customer Data Platform, which would help you capitalise on the consumer information you already have with you. Consumer data from e-commerce, from customer support systems and CRMs gets accumulated and organised at one place, so that you can actually utilise the information you have about your consumers. These consumer insights are immensely helpful in building forward and an open DXP helps in that. 

Open source has room for microservices 

Imagine a suite of lightweight mechanisms like an HTTP resource API that would be responsible for running many small services within an organisation as one single application. This is called a microservices architecture and it is provided by the open source DXP.

You might think what is the point? 

The points are three benefits you will get from this architecture. 

  1. You’ll get a better handle on your technology solutions; 
  2. You’ll be able to enhance your productivity because of that; 
  3. And you’ll also be able to achieve better scalability as the architecture will fit perfectly to your long term organisational goals. 

Open source caters to commerce needs 

For the gazillionth time, because an open source DXP is open, it can better cater to your commerce needs. Let’s understand this with a comparison to its closed counterpart. 

A closed DXP would have an already established, integrated and rigid commerce platform that you cannot mess with, while an open source DXP could integrate itself with any commerce platform that you want based on your needs. 

So, when the need to add a commerce capability to your digital platform arises, which it will, you would be glad to have chosen an open source DXP. This is because open source is never tightly coupled, so, you wouldn't have to compromise and adjust to the rigidness of a particular platform, rather you can stand your ground on your needs and capitalise on the platform that aligns with your needs.

Open source offers better security 

Security breaches and data leaks are far too common for anyone’s liking. And when you consider a software that is open to everyone, the threat of these security attacks should be all the more obvious, right? Wrong. 

Open source DXPs are far more secure than closed DXPs and the only reason for that is their openness. With an open DXP, you would always be aware of the vulnerabilities and can take action to improve on it, while a closed DXP, being a proprietary software would consider not telling about those vulnerabilities merely because it’d lose money. You decide, which is better?

Open source saves money 

When you choose an open source DXP, you choose to save money. This is because of two reasons. 

One is because it acts as central management tool that helps you manage multisite as well as give you flexibility, security, control and efficiency it needs. Once you get that, there would be minimal chances of duplicacy of resources, be it in IT or marketing. And that is going to be a worthy investment.

Secondly, an open source solution is a combination of microservices and SaaS, which essentially translates to you paying for only the services you choose and not a penny more.

How does Drupal fair as an Open DXP?

We know what a digital experience platform is, we also know what an open source digital experience platform is, now we’ll talk about a particular DXP that is open source and its Drupal. Having worked with Drupal myself, I can say for sure that it is up there in the list of most impressive DXPs and being a fan, I have to talk about it.

An open source platform that has been around for two decades and is still running strong, Drupal is meant to create the most amazing digital experiences and the support and contributions of its vast community makes that a possibility every day. 

If I had to compare Drupal to the benefits of open source DXP that we discussed in the previous section, I’d say that it fairs pretty well. Drupal as an open source DXP is always to work. Let’s see why. 

API-first build  

The best part about Drupal as an open DXP is its API-first architecture. This makes the creation of multi-channel experiences quite fulfilling. With an API-first approach, Drupal can decouple itself and provide room for new technologies like Vue, React and Angular. You will have the option of selecting the best-in-class products to integrate and build your digital infrastructure, adding the freedom of innovation for your developers. 

Extensible 

Drupal can very easily accommodate your needs and goals and that is what makes it extensible. You can have a small organisation or a global one, Drupal will be able to help you architect your digital presence the way you want, build it and expand it until you keep growing. 

Drupal’s modular architecture makes it all the more extensible. With upgrades being equivalent to installing a new module, building and improving a Drupal site’s digital experience is never going to be a mountainous task. 

Then there is the fact that Drupal, as an open source, allows customisation. You can very easily build your own DXP on top of Drupal. There are umpteen open source DXP vendors, who have actually done that. 

Community 

Drupal has a community of over a million and growing. With that many Drupalists in the world, you can be assured that there would be an answer to any Drupal conundrum you may be stuck in. Upon raising an issue, you can always expect the Drupal veterans and contributors to respond and help you out. The contributions from the Drupalist not only make Drupal a successful DXP, but also ensure that it is reliable. 

Here is a video that will help you understand the role of Drupal as an open source DXP. 

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Nobody can deny that Drupal is a powerful DXP, however, denying that it doesn’t have any flaw would be unfair too. 

  • Certain advanced features like creating customer profiles or building a neural network become a difficult task; 
  • A/B testing and introducing personalisation is also something Drupal isn’t renowned for; 
  • CDP, an important practical capability for a DXP is one that is missing from the DXP.

I wouldn’t say that these features make Drupal unworthy or hard to work with, not in the least. However, they are something that need to be mentioned. 

Conclusion 

Having a digital presence has become pivotal today. However, having a digital presence that does not leave its mark on your consumer is as good as not having one. A DXP is what will help you leave that mark and lure your target audience towards you. And if that DXP is open source that mark would be all the more deeper and you’ll be all the more delighted because of it and I am pretty sure you’d like that.

May 04 2021
May 04

The world we live in is pretty dynamic, it keeps evolving. Talking strictly in the technological sense, things that enjoy immense popularity today stand a chance of being considered obsolete tomorrow. Then there are the advancements in popular trends, which happen to be eminent today and tomorrow, but the eminence is enjoyed by its newer version.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you don’t consider the acclimation period, which can become tiring, but once that is out of the way, we are almost always thankful for the change. 

Take Drupal 8, for instance, upgrading from its previous version was a massive undertaking, and the fact that Drupal 8 was a whole other ball game than Drupal 7, made the acclimation process quite difficult to be honest. However, D8’s new features and capabilities made the difficulties worth it. Having worked on D8, I am speaking from personal experience. 

2021 saw the emergence of some of the most astounding technological advancements that deserve to be awed at. So, today we would be discussing some of these that come as popular trends in technology and change the way we do and see things. Being from the Drupal community, I would also be co-relating these advancements with Drupal and see how we can amalgamate the trend and the CMS and make it work for us, as Drupalists. Drupal, being an open source software, is extensive by nature and making it scope wider to align with the latest trends is a challenge that not many would be opposed to. So, let’s begin getting familiar with the trends and see if Drupal can be used to capitalise them. 

The Remote Environments’ Charm 

The first trend I will be talking about is one that has affected all of us. The phrase ‘remote working’ used to seem like a far-fetched idea in the pre-pandemic times, but now it has become a reality, a reality that would be here to stay for much longer than we anticipated.

Remote environments have become the trend in the tech industry and the fact that these are beneficial to everyone involved in working, the boss, the employee and the customer, is the reason for its longevity. Collaboration strategies massively change in remote environments and work pretty well for the organisation as it improves productivity.

Let’s start with the bosses of the tech industry, the first hard hitting fact of the pandemic for this sector was the realisation of the inadequacies of its digital infrastructure. The initial phase of remote working saw the employers rushing to provide even the most basic of infrastructural needs. The digital cracks that were hidden in the past became quite blatant in the pandemic. From dealing with heightened consumer traffic online through scaling and building resilience to adding features and getting them into production, every business aspect has been made possible through remote environments. 

Employees are happy that they are able to avoid the hour-long commute, as many as 70% will continue to work remotely on a permanent basis.

As for the clients, they are able to reap the benefits of the global technological network from their homes. The barriers for digitally gaining access to industry experts are no longer visible and the customers are capitalising on that. Getting an expert on a virtual call is so much more convenient for both parties than a physical meeting, the chances of which would have been slim, regardless of the pandemic.

Then there are the virtual tech conferences that are a win for everyone, the consumers, the employees and the bosses. Talking from personal experience, I was pretty upset when I couldn’t go to the DrupalCon Amsterdam 2019. So, when the first ever virtual DrupalCon was announced in July 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, I was beyond thrilled, because I was able to take part in it from my home. 

Of course, there are also the environmental and social benefits of remote working. Less carbon emissions, more renewable resources, less traffic and consequently less number of road accidents, all say that remote environments’ charm cannot be taken lightly.

In MIT Professor Tom Malone’s words, 

The current crisis has accelerated us forwards a decade in terms of acceptance of remote working, and there is no going back.

What’s Next in Cloud?

Cloud isn’t a new trend in the market. AWS, Azure, AliCloud and GCP have been the flag bearers in this domain, making the transition to cloud quite seamless. Servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and intelligence, everything is provided for on the cloud. With a lion’s share of organisations using cloud based services, its eminence is staring at us glaringly. 

There are two trends in the cloud domain that deserve attention. 

Infrastructure-as-code 

To define infrastructure-as-code simply would come out as the automation of infrastructure and the consequent management of the said automation. In a broader sense, it would be defined as the practice of configuring and managing infrastructure such as networks or machine readable files. 

Through this concept, developers are able to supply IT environments with multiple lines of code and also gain the ability to deploy in minutes, rather than the ages it used to take manually. 

With recent improvements in IaC, it is more likely to deliver better outcomes as its ecosystem is growing. However, being a relatively new technique, it has certain disadvantages including inconsistencies in its tooling along with paradoxical approaches. New ideologies are still surfacing around it, infrastructure as software by Pulumi or infrastructure as data by Hightower are two of them. The way IaC will come out in the future is highly anticipated. 

Pipeline-as-code

Coming to pipeline-as-code, which essentially means defining the deployment pipeline through code, rather than the configuration of a running CI/CD tool. With organisations moving towards automation in all across their environments, especially the development infrastructure, pipeline-as-code would become a need. 

LambdaCD, Drone, GoCD and Concourse act as resources to make pipeline-as-code work for you. 

I’ll culminate this trend with Drupal. In DrupalCon Vienna 2017, a session took place that talked about using Drupal to capitalise on infrastructure as code as well as pipeline as code. In a session during the event, the implementation of Continuous Delivery pipelines in immutable infrastructure was discussed. DevOps and general tools like Docker, Packer, Terraform and Ansible amongst others can make that possible. And all of this can be achieved by extending Drupal. You will find a lot of interesting details in this video.

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The Realisation of Data and Analytics

Data has become one of the most important commodities for businesses and the analytics to understand and generate lucrative insights from that data is even more important. 

When we consider data and analytics, predictive analytics is often an integral part of it. Building websites that are able to capitalise the notion and create dynamic content which operates on the user's browsing history and site relative behaviour is garnering a lot of interest. The thing is building such a site requires a host of software to work together. R, Google Analytics along with Drupal can make that happen. For ‘the how,’ you would have to watch this video.

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With a majority of the CIOs believing that data and analytics will start shaping their business in the future, it won’t be wrong to believe that many trends of today are also in line with this concept. Big Data and AI have become crucial for sectors like finance, wherein the assessment of potential loans and investment is done through the analytics. It is suffice to say that today, businesses, from private to government, are becoming more data-driven by the day. To make data safer, data residency, privacy and its usage are accounting for a regulatory environment that is both dynamic and complex in its mandates, making organisations steer in the right direction. 

Associated with data and analytics are concepts of surveillance capitalism and surveillance state, which use surveillance and manipulation to drive power and profits. With COVID-19, such surveillance technologies have been adopted by many countries including China and Israel. Once the pandemic is clear, there is a high chance that these emergency measures will remain. Learn more on how better data strategies can help capitalise on consumer behaviour.

The Modern and Updated Core 

At the heart of a consistent output of every business, you’d find its core processes. So, saying that they are important would be understating them. Having core processes that fairly rudimentary is not going to be enough in 2021. 

With a heightened level of digital transformation, more expectations from our users and an increased use of data-intensive algorithms being implemented in the core systems everywhere, be it the front, middle or backend, there is progression towards uplifting the core from being basic. 

Core modernisation is quite discernible as a trend in 2021, and the development and delivery of the advanced ERPs and legacy programs is its proof. To further substantiate it, think of the kind of interactions the consumers want, instantaneous and tailored would be the words used to describe them. That is why core modernisation has become a need, not only for consumer relationships, but also for digital finance and real-time supply chains. Refreshing and reengineering ERP and legacy systems are the first step towards achieving this. Doing this would allow you to get to new levels of agility, automation, scalability and security.  

The Rise of Digital Reality Technologies

Digital technologies are becoming more real with the passing time. AR/VR, voice interfaces, speech recognition, ambient computing, 360° video along with immersive technologies have enabled businesses to provide a more real user experience. 

Terms like natural, intuitive and imperceptible are used to describe these technologies and their consequent engagement with the users.

Being able to experience a situation without actually being in that situation has become possible through virtual reality. The Massachusetts State University’s VR tour is one example of virtual reality and Drupal combo. A react front-end, Drupal backend and JSON API made that possible. Look for yourself.

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The same can be done for your employees and workers, wherein AR and Drupal can provide the workers a 3D view of the procedure, leading to an elevated level of productivity. Imagine a shopping application that becomes your assistant inside the store, from telling the route to reaching the products you want to scanning them and telling you the price, that’s augmented reality in its prime. With Drupal 8, building that application becomes a possibility.

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The reality of digital experience in 2021 is deepening with emotional connections with consumers and employees alike. This brings to the next  trend, which is the human-factor of these experiences achieved through AI.

The Humanness of Artificial Intelligence

The term artificial intelligence is not something that many of us haven’t heard or even experienced ourselves. It has been a concept that has been around for a while and we have seen its marvels and have been impressed by them. 

In the context of Drupal, the digital sphere has numerous plausibilities with regards to Artificial Intelligence.

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And there is more; 

But what’s more? These aspects, although impressive, don't excite us or our consumers anymore. To bring back the excitement, the concept of driving human emotions, feelings and moods into AI has become a trend. 

This AI approach emphasises on designing for humans, meaning the focus would be one human and emotion-led experiences, which would then be curated through AI technologies; a total 180 from the traditional designs. Human emotions like empathy, trust and feeling complex emotions would be the star of human experiences. 

For this, 

  • Neuroscientific research would be conducted, including EEG, eye tracking, facial coding and implicit association testing amongst others.
  • Human centred design would be implemented, which would focus on the human, his beliefs, values, feelings and ambitions along with ethnographic research and neuroscience to understand the human’s needs and wants on a deeper level.
  • Cognitive and affective technologies would come to play, to stress ethical considerations of the design and align it with the organisation’s values.

Vision systems, voice recognition, natural language generation, natural language processing, voice stress analysis and sentiment analysis are some of the AI technologies being used to deliver human experiences. With these at work, a phone call to the automated-caller would only placate the consumer/employee and not agitate him/her further. 

The Next Gen of User Experience

When a user interacts with us, there are certain actions that make it possible. Clicking, pointing, swiping and scrolling are some of them. As you may have experienced yourself, these mediums of interactions are evolving. A user can experience what you want him to without these actions, speaking and gesturing are what I am referring to. And with advancements, thinking would become a part of it too. This technology is referred to as ambient user experience. 

It is when technology is used in accordance with consumer data to provide a seamless interaction for the user, which may not be dependent on human touch. 

With new and improved devices being launched every second, the user has become somewhat dependent on them. This dependence would only grow with time and devices would have to provide more. 

  • The future would look something like this; 
  • More prominence would be given to technology, all the while making devices smaller, yet more powerful. 
  • Proactiveness would signify all consumer interactions. 
  • Neurofeedback technology would become ubiquitous, making direct brain and neural interactions an everyday occurrence.
  • Devices in general would be more connected and context-aware at home, office and everywhere else we go.

The Transactional Blockchain 

In 2021, blockchains and their use is going to gain traction. The reason being the numerous benefits these digital ledgers come with.

Improved transparency; 
Better security; 
Accurate traceability; 
Reduced costs;
And enhanced speed being just a few of them.

Blockchain initiatives are advancing in every sector of the business world. It is not just limited to financial services and fintech companies anymore, rather from government to life sciences and healthcare, from technology to media and telecommunications, every major sector is trying to lead in blockchain development. 

Blockchain are usually fully decentralised p2p architectures, however, there is another architecture that is being explored. A semi-decentralised architecture, with the same benefits of trusted transactions can be built. Here Drupal can provide assistance, its User Accounts can be used for that.

Talking further about Drupal, its Ethereum Blockchain Module that integrates with Ethereum, an open source blockchain platform programmable through smart contracts, has made the CMS leverage this technology. Watch this video to get more insights on both the Drupal aspects in Blockchain technology.

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The Method of Agile and DevOps

The way businesses operate is also changing and 2021 is bringing with it the convergence of technology and business strategies. This has brought on the trend of development methodologies like Agile and DevOps. 

Today, providing operational excellence has become equivalent to driving value creation. Businesses are doing one to achieve the other. There is a tangible shift in priorities from delivering projects to the results that project would bring. Hence, the adoption of methods like Agile and DevOps has become pivotal.

Version control, automation and testing tools, backup and disaster recovery along with sound security practises are just a few of them. All of these make the management of servers and other infrastructure pretty convenient as part of an organisations daily operations.

The best part about these DevOps techniques is that they can be used with other web applications and Drupal is one of them. If you are looking to widen your knowledge span of DevOps and its use alongside Drupal, this video would be the one to watch.

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The Physics of Quantum

Quantum is not just a physics concept anymore, it is being used everywhere or more like quantum computing is being leveraged in every corner of the business world. 

Be it producing breakthroughs in science; 
Be it implementing machine learning to get to illnesses sooner; 
Be it creating devices and structure that are far more efficient than in the past; 
Be it promoting financial strategies that will be helpful until a person retires; 
Or be it generating algorithms that would enable the resources to at our disposal quickly; 

Quantum computing is becoming omnipresent and its ability to process information and execute computations that are not only unhackable, but also have the ability to concentrate tech is probably the reason for it being in vogue.

With quantum computing, there won’t be any technical constraints that often hold back both data and material scientists. Unlike the traditional computing’s use of 0s and 1s, quantum computing relies on its own quantum bits to propel change through manipulation of single particles, which would have the potential of solving highly complex problems. 

The Accessible Version of Programming 

Let’s look at numbers, there would be billions of people using the web and all of its offerings and by offerings I mean the numerous websites and applications we, as users, use. Now, what do you think would be the number of expert developers and programmers making these experiences for the user? That number would be much-much lower than users. 

The talent pool required to build programs is scarce to be honest. If we were to be dependent on it to create everything we have on the web, we might not actually have it. So, how come we do? The answer lies in accessible programming. 

If you have heard of spreadsheets and low-code platforms, you will have a fair idea of what I am going to say. These are means for novice programmers or even non-programmers to create, store and manipulate data without the need for a long development process involving the scarce talent pool I just mentioned. The pre-built components and configurations help in future accelerating the development process without the need of coding. 

You might think that this is a great new trend, empowering non-programmers to tap into the programming world and create something on their own, and it truly is; however, I wouldn’t say that it is a new trend. 

  • Back in the 60s, when COBOL was created as a programming language, it was made to resemble the english so that the non-programmers could work with it. 
  • Then there is Drupal with its D7AX, which is a community of sorts, wherein developers pledge to create modules that adhere to accessibility standards and by simply installing them, you can create a truly accessible web experience. Learn more on Drupal’s web accessibility provisions here.

Although these two examples are fairly different in regards to accessibility, they do promote it in their own way, making the work of programmers and developers easy. 

With increasing awareness about this, this trend of making development accessible is sure going to pick up pace in 2021. 

The Reign of Programming Languages

Programming languages are the sole connection between the computers and the programmers, making both understand each other. To make that understanding as seamless as possible, there are tons of programming languages available, some more advanced than others and some more convenient than others. There are the ones that we, as developers and programmers, use everyday and then there are the ones we wish to use. We’ll talk about both. 

A raph shows the list of languages that are the most loved by programmers; Rust tops the list, making it one of the popular macro trends.Source: Stack Overflow

At the top of the most loved languages since the past half decade is Rust and with good reason. It is a language that delivers an impressive performance and is memory safe along with that its robust expressiveness also works in its favour. The fact that it is being used for big data and machine learning further adds to its lovable attributes. 

Talking about the language that the programmers covet would be Python, followed by JavaScript and Go. While Rust lands at number 4 in this category, it does show that the loved language is garnering more and more interest each year. 

A graph shows a list of languages based on their desirability for the programmers.Source: Stack Overflow

The Pivot Towards Visualisation Tools

It’s safe to say that a good picture can speak with more clarity than words ever could. Perhaps that is why visualisation tools, that equip the developers with the ability to create good images, are becoming prominent. These images are concentrated in every realm of web building from architecture to code complexity and up to system performance, visualising data and making your work easy. 

Frameworks like Tableau, IBM Cognos Analytics and Microsoft Power BI are the front-runners in this domain, becoming feature packed data studios in themselves. However, this year there has been an emergence of up-and-coming visualisation tools that have proven to be as good as the rest. Dash, Streamlit, Sisense, Kiali and Infogram are some of them.

From providing custom reports and dashboards for machine learning apps to observation tools and capturing distributed traces and metrics, these visualisation tools will remain in vogue because they take data and make it seem simple enough to explore your own health and structure as well as provide flexibility, customisation, version control on top of automated deployment.

The Browsers Going On to Full-Blown Applications?

A browser can do a number of things. If we compare an app to its browser site, you’d find a lot of similarities. Chrome and the Google app have that. At my work, I have Google Docs, Gmail, Slack and Zoho all working throughout the day on Google Chrome with Zoom calls popping in a couple of times, so, yes the browser can achieve some semblance of the functionality an app can achieve. But was it meant to be? Was a browser supposed to become an equivalent of an app? 

There isn’t an accurate answer to this question. Maybe it was the addition of HTML 2.0 and instigated the browser war between Microsoft and Netscape or maybe it was just coincidence. Nonetheless, nobody can deny that the browser has become a more complex and versatile platform with an ecosystem of its own. With polyfills and a JavaScript ecosystem make it both easy and complex for the developers to navigate through the browsers. 

Yes, browsers have transcended the expectations their users once had of them, but they still have a certain way to become a full-blown application. Take automated testing for instance, the tools browsers have for that are as good as ancient in comparison to the applications, which have the same as a first-grade objective. 

Despite this fact browsers are and will continue to evolve, this is true because browsers as code platforms are gaining traction and the tech community is making strides towards improving the overall browser experience. And to think all of this started with the addition of the ‘submit forms’ features, kind of surreal, isn’t it?

Conclusion 

And there you have it, all the popular technology trends that 2021 has to offer us. Many of them are not new of us in the tech industry, but the advancements being made in them called for their mention. Be it cloud technologies or the visualisation tools or even the ambient experience, every macro trend in 2021 is unique in itself and its outcome and that is what I think will make this year unique too.

As for Drupal, it is an old CMS, yet at 20, it’s still going strong. The most discernible reason for that is its versatility. Drupal has many out-of-the-box features that make it great, however, it hardly had any that I mentioned above. Despite that fact, it is able to provide its users the benefits of using these macro trends because it is extensible. Drupal can be used and integrated with the technologies that you want it to work with and that makes the CMS advance right along with the changing macro trends each year. 

In the end, I hope this article is as enlightening for you as it was for me. Good luck following trends and making new ones! 

Apr 23 2021
Apr 23

Have you ever wanted something, merely for the reason that it was in trend? And because it was in trend and everybody seemed to have it, you had to follow the trend? If you ask me, I would have to answer yes to this question. I have done things and bought things, just because everybody else was doing and buying them and not because I actually had a need for them. 

Now, let’s take this situation from our everyday life to the world of web development, do you think it’ll be applicable there? It would and I’ll tell you why. 

When a web project is underway, there are tens, if not hundreds of scenarios, that can turn out to be the outcome. It is up to the project managers to steer the project into the direction that is the most suitable for the goal that was decided in the planning stage. However, there are times when the project goes adrift.

How can that happen?

People, when developing a project, often aim to make it the best. Nobody aims for a substandard result. So, in the chase to become the best, they try to pack the project with as many features as possible and lose sight of the initial target. 

The client has asked for it, add that feature; 
A stakeholder vehemently disagrees with a valuable feature, leave it; 
The competition had added a specific feature, we have to add that too; 

Decisions like these are a major reason as to why projects do not achieve what they intended to. It is also why project managers have to take on the burden of choosing what to incorporate in a project and what to leave behind for now or for good. 

This practise of choosing the appropriate roadmap for a product and acting upon it throughout the development phase with the help of a well-defined strategy is often referred to as feature prioritisation. It essentially draws out the order of features that would find their way into the project and the time as to when they would. There is a lot that goes behind feature prioritisation and market research is the beginning of roadmap development. 

Upon asking a group of project managers about the biggest challenges pertinent to their workload, here is what they had to say. 

A survey is displaying the results of the challenges faced by project managers.Source: Mind The Product 

Feature prioritisation is by far one of the most challenging aspects of a project manager’s job profile. Today, we will find out why that is the case by understanding how this concept usually works, what are the flaws that accompany it and also the suitable strategies that work in the favour of feature prioritisation in project management. So, let’s begin.

The Everyday Feature Prioritising Process 

Feature prioritisation is a process that can be a tad strenuous to achieve. A major factor as to why I used that adjective is because it is a process involving people, their ideas and their feelings attached to those ideas. Building a web project requires work, but involving people and opinions and trying to reach a consensus for each development in the project would require work and give you a headache. Ask any project manager, an aspirin would be a common dietary supplement that comes with the job. It is, after all, a job where emotions perpetually run high. 

Let’s have a look at how feature prioritisation is done on an everyday basis. 

Focusing on the bigger goal 

Before the PM gathers evidence to back a feature and have all of the lengthy discussions based on the evidence trying to convince every person the team that it would work and is a must have, the PM has to make everybody see the bigger picture and focus on just that. 

The development team is going to be diverse, there are going to be people who are pros at what they do and these people are going to want to have their way because they think they know best. And maybe they, but being expert in one area does not give them a say in deciding what is right for the project, wherein several other aspects also play. 

Therefore, the understanding of the end goal by every person on the development team is crucial, if a sense of consensus has to be achieved. Of course, there aren’t always going to be unanimous decisions, and when that happens, team members shouldn’t resent the decision, they should be able to comprehend the reasoning behind it by focusing on the bigger goal. 

Prototyping for evidence 

Now, comes the part of accumulating evidence in support of a feature that should be implemented. And prototyping is the means to go here. 

For instance, you have a theory that you know is going to work in favour of the end goal. However, there is some apprehension about it. What do you do then? You prototype. You will try to develop a testable hypothesis, run it, get the results through the proper execution of the testing cycles and get your proof. 

This proof would help the team alleviate their doubts about an approach, even if it is you. The same can have negative results, meaning the test outcome could be unfavourable. In that case too, you would have the evidence to not seek a particular line of action.

Valuing the hierarchy or not?

When prioritising features, you will have a clear roadmap, you will most likely have a semblance of understanding as to what you want and what you don’t. However, all of that can go in vain, when a high level idea pops into your planned course of action. 

Denying an executive his request can be a problem for many. The perfectly curated project plan can land from a high chance of success to high chance of failure because a stakeholder decided to imbalance the project features with his request. 

Remember the prototyping we discussed in the previous point, put that to practise and save your project from being jeopardised. And that is how you must value hierarchy.

Seeing the future through the present

At the end of the day, feature prioritisation and even the entire development process is pursued for a goal that should be fulfilled in the future. And it would only be accomplished, if you put in the efforts today. 

Seeing the future means that you know how the dots will connect to make a perfectly straight line. This is done by thinking practically about the path to take and filtering out the meaningful from the meaningless.

You, as a Project Manager, have to make your team understand the reasonings of the present for the build that would get implemented in the future, If people know what they are doing today is going to serve a great or even a small purpose, like providing online education to the lower income households, they would most definitely put their best foot forwards; making feature prioritisation less of headache for the PM.

So, how would you define feature prioritisation? 

According to one of our Project Managers, Abhijeet Sinha, feature prioritisation cannot be put into a mould to have a rigid definition that would stick to every scenario. He considers the process to be purely contextual and thus, its meaning and implementation becomes quite dynamic. The only thing that persists in feature prioritisation is balance, a balance between the needs of the stakeholders and the feasibility of those needs. You can’t deliver the moon and stars on every occasion, the sky would lose its brilliance then. And I am 100% in accordance with him.

The only thing that persists in feature prioritisation is balance, a balance between the needs of the stakeholders and the feasibility of those needs.

During my discussion with Abhijeet, we talked about one particular project, wherein prioritisation was more difficult than others because priorities and feasibilities were clashing at massive proportions. 

This happened in the Thinkin Blue revamp project.

Thinkin Blue is one of OSL’s most prominent project; it involved the progressive revamp of its site. The client wanted the existing theme of the site to remain the same, the revamp would involve a change in the templates, all of this seemed feasible. The problem came in the homepage, wherein two themes had to be involved, the existing one along with the new one, which was essential for the revamp to look like a revamp. 

However, the developers were apprehensive about it, because building a homepage on two themes was going to be a massive challenge, and complicated would not even begin to describe it. 

The client wanted one thing and the developers thought it was too complicated, the project was in a deadlock. Abhijeet, being the PM, tried to reason with both the parties and in the end, the developers compromised and the home page was built on two themes. 

The same happened for the headers, the client wanted global headers, while the developers didn’t think that was the correct way to go for the home page because of the new theme. One of them had to give some leeway to Abhijeet to make the project roll forward and this time it was the client. 

Do you see what Abhijeet did? He didn’t let the stakeholders reign everywhere and neither did he allow the developers to issue all the commandments. He always listened to both sides, he thought rationally about the practicalities and wherever he thought he could push, he did. When he had to accept the client’s needs over the developers, he did and vice-versa. There was always a balance. And that is how projects succeed, Thinking Blue is a testament to that. Being stuck in a deadlock would only cost you money, time and efforts, and if compromising can avoid that, then you, as project managers, should start working on it.

So, What Should Be the Hard Hitting Prioritisation Questions To Ask?

In the previous section, we talked about feature prioritisation and how it usually goes around. The involvement of ideas, emotions and hierarchy is inevitable. Regardless you have to persist to get to the suitable features for your project without going on a crazy rampage of unwanted attributes that you will most definitely regret later. 

Here are some questions that will help you to avoid going astray.

Think about the users

Feature prioritisation starts with the users, it is them for them all of the efforts are being made. Therefore you must ask yourself; 

How many users would the proposed feature impact?
How many users would be able to use the feature without finding it complex or confusing?
How many times will the user be using that particular feature in a day?
How many users would feel as if they are empowered by the feature, would its value resonate with the users?

The higher the answers to these questions, the better the feature would turn out to be. For instance, adding various accessibility features that aid the use of a screen reader on your web project would benefit the visually impaired a great deal. With as many as 285 million users being visually, I’d say the odds of such a feature passing prioritisation are quite high.

Think about growth 

After the users comes the growth potential. Growth is a pretty broad term. It could mean bringing in new customers through an invite feature and it could also mean eliminating a feature that acted as a deterrent in luring the competitor’s market. You have to be familiar with all of your feature’s growth aspects and then ask yourself; 

Would the feature aid in your growth?

Think about efforts 

Building something that solves a problem is indeed going to require some effort from your effort. So, to ensure that your efforts get their rewards, ask yourself these three questions.

Does the feature require to be developed from scratch or does it just need some fine-tuning to perform better?
Does the feature require a lot of resources for its implementation, if so do you have a plan for delivering those resources?
Does the feature raise the level of building and using complexity for the developers and the end users and will it be worth it?

Then, think about yourself 

After all of that, you think about yourself, your goodwill and your market position. The kind of features you provide in a product speak to the kind of values you have as a brand. A brand prioritising accessibility would resonate as a brand aiming for social inclusion and that would be wordlessly spoken through the features it pumps into its products. And I do not have to tell what the value of a positive brand image is. 

So ask yourself, how well is the feature suited to your brand’s vision and its market position?

The Flawed Kind of Feature Prioritisation 

Now that we have a fair understanding of the do’s of feature prioritisation, it’s only fair to peruse the don’ts as well. These certain things and aspects of selection that may seem totally fair to you, but in reality can hamper the entire process; so, you really have to be mindful of them.

Prioritising one opinion over getting diversified notions 

One consumer feedback, one analyst opinion, one ROI report on that one feature; what do all of these have in common, the adjective one. They are proposed by an isolated person or report, and because of that, you cannot pay too much heed to them. It’s like not voicing your opinion because one person told you to shut up. 

You have to look at diversified notions. 

  • If a number of consumers are dissatisfied with a particular feature, then consider fixing it. 
  • If an analyst is able to back his claim with up-to-date data and not antiquated reports, then consider implementing his opinions. 
  • If the company ROI and consumer value is on the table along with the ROI of the feature in focus, only then consider any course of action.

Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting valuable time, efforts and resources and I’m pretty sure doing that has been in your don'ts list since such a list was conceptualised.

Prioritising gut over rationale 

There are features that we love and there are features that are necessary. Both of them could be the same and benefit the brand and the consumers alive, however, there is also a chance that they might not. 

If you or let’s say your boss thinks that a particular feature would add immense value to the project because she loves it and her gut tells her that this is what the project has been lacking, you can’t listen to that. She could be right, but following the gut is a big no-no in feature prioritisation. 

There has to be a proper rationale behind every selection, every addition and every decision made. 

You also need to know that you cannot always ensure that everybody on the team is making a rational decision, cognitive biases are a real thing and you can try to negate them, but being 100% free of them in the selection process is not a guarantee.

Prioritising an interpretable measurement system over a solid one 

In a group with a divided opinion, how do you come to consensus? The answer is through voting. And that is an important part of the selection process in feature prioritisation. These votes become the unit of measurement, based upon which a feature is selected or discarded. So, it has to be a solid system, right?

Yes, it should be full-proof without a shadow of doubt, however, it may not be and that happens when the units of measurement are open to interpretation. 

When the value of business is given a two star rating, can you be absolutely sure of what those two stars signify? 

Does that rating denote a sub-standard value? 
How does it translate to business profit? 
How do you reach five stars? 

For one person, the value may be clear, but for another it may be muddy; the reason being the difference between people’s perception and there are the cultural differences that also come to play while interpreting. 

Prioritising every vote at the same level 

Continuing on the voting discussion, it is often said that every vote is valued at the same. However, if the person voting is clueless about the feature he is voting on, should his vote have the same as that of a specialist in that area? Think about that for a minute.

Every team has a diversified skill set based on its members. There would be people with technical backgrounds like the developers and there would be people with a not-so-technical background like the marketers. Now you tell me, should a marketer be given the same voting rights as the developer, when the vote is about a technical feature? 

What About the Time and People Constraints?

Like it or not, many a time a feature is shelved not because it was ill-suited, but because the team did not have the time to build it or it did not have the right people to do it. Something like this has happened in every organisation at one point or another. 

Such an incident, when you do not have the right people to execute a feature that you know would do wonders for your project is going to be frustrating, which is understandable. You can’t do anything about it; you can hire a new person, but that could be a whole other task in itself. 

You can think of these constraints as negative or you can look at the silver lining and think of them as another filtering agent helping you prioritise further. Since I am the glass half-full kind, I’d say it is a good thing. 

If you plan out everything in an organised way and your process is full-proof, you have won half the battle. Carrying out its proper implementation would help you over the time and people constraints. If your team agrees to the plan and knows it, your chances of success increase immensely. This also means that the team is able to identify the priority tasks over the non-priority ones. 

The end goal of every project is improvement and it is research and prototyping that make it possible. So, if you have a process to implement those two, no amount of constraints will be able to hold you back. And just maybe, these two constraints help you in avoiding over-reaching?

What are the Ideal Strategies for Feature Prioritisation?

We have learnt everything we can about this concept, now it is time to learn some about the strategies that help project managers implement it. There are a few feature prioritisation frameworks that deserve mention. 

The KANO Model 

The KANO model helps you in understanding the consumer’s needs and wants and base your features on them. This is done through questionnaires and consumer feedback. Although it is a time-consuming process, it does give you a clear picture of where the consumer stands in terms of product features by classifying them. 

A graphs illustrates the four parameters of the KANO model.


According to the KANO Model, the sure thinks in four ways. 

  • For one, he wants excitement. These features add no value of the product or service, but their presence is enough to excite the consumer and lure him in.
  • Second, he wants an elevated performance. The better the performance of the feature, the better the consumer satisfaction and vice-versa. 
  • At number three, he wants the basics. There are certain that have to be there, despite them not providing any excitement to the user, you could refer to them as the threshold.
  • Finally, he becomes indifferent. This indifference is towards features, the presence or absence of which does not affect the consumer.

All four of them, with their different satisfaction and functionality levels help the project managers know the strengths and weaknesses of the project.

The MoSCoW Model 

Must-haves; 
Should-haves; 
Could-haves; 
Won’t-haves;  

These four sum up the meaning and the reasoning behind the MoSCoW model. All of them categorise features based upon their importance to the project. Going from the top; 

  • Features that have to be in a project to make it complete are the must-haves and should be prioritised over anything else. 
  • Features that should be included in the project, but can be delayed for the time being are should-haves, much like green vegetables; you should eat them, but you can survive without them for some time. 
  • Features that could be included in the project or could not be included in the project without having any impact on the overall functionality are the could haves. It’s good to have them for higher consumer satisfaction, but their absence won’t be blatant to the consumer.
  • Features that are won’t have are the ones that are not at all crucial for the project at the moment and would only cause additional stress on the resources at hand. 

The thing about the MoSCoW model is that it lets you know what kind of features you can bring to the table in the feature. This is because priorities never remain the same, a feature that was shelved for requiring too much work and having too little impact could become a Must-have in the future.

According to OSL's project managers, the success of any given project is primarily determined by the intelligent prioritisation of various tasks. Choosing the right high-priority feature may seem to be daunting, but for successful and timely delivery of the project, this is a must. Neha Grover, one of our Project Managers, feels that during instances in projects when you have the list of work packages, which need to be prioritised and moulded into a work breakdown structure(WBS), the PM has to play a key role in getting the stakeholder's and dev team's expectations and priorities to be on the same page.

"I follow the MoSCoW prioritisation technique in my projects, as this is quite simple and less time-consuming and it focuses on both customers and stakeholders."

The Cost of Delay Model 

It is often said that you can't put a price on time, it is indeed priceless; never to come back again once it is gone. Saying that, if you happen to have the right matrix to work with you can actually value the cost of time or more like the cost of delaying. And that is what this feature prioritisation framework is all about. 

The COD model calculates your losses for delaying the development and implementation of a particular feature. Based upon that cost, you will get an idea as to the importance of that feature and prioritise its build accordingly. 

For instance, 

Say there is a feature that would take 30 days to build and every day it’ll cost the organisation $1000. Then there is a feature that would take the same amount of time to develop, however, it is costing the organisation more than double in comparison every.

In such a scenario, which feature would you prioritise? The answer is simple, the one that is making you lose more money. Building that first would stabilise your losses more than the other as the cost of delaying that was more than the other. 

Prioritise what saves you more money by reducing the cost of delay.

The Value Model 

Businesses develop features because they think the said features would prove to be valuable for them. To get that value, they endeavour to build something good. What if that value isn’t as impressive as the business, the project managers and the developers had thought to be. This is why the value model becomes an important strategy to implement during feature prioritisation. 

The purpose of the value model is to reap the highest value of a feature for the business through its two facets.

Value based on cost 

Cost doesn’t necessarily mean money, it could be interpreted as efforts as well or even complexity. The model states to simply prioritise the tasks with high value and low cost first, then move onto the features with high business value and high cost. If you wish, you can take on the low value-low cost features, but most definitely avoid low value and high cost features. 

A graph shows the functionality of value vs cost model of feature prioritisation.


Value based on risk

From cost, we come to risk, which is another metric to be mindful of while prioritising features. It more or less works in a similar fashion to the value and cost model, it's just instead of the cost, you’d be focusing on the risk. 

A graph is explaining the way value and risk model works.


The higher value and low risk features would be prioritised over everything else, while the low value and high risk features would be avoided altogether. This helps in enduring that you are not going to end up building something that is unnecessary or even something that is too simple by playing it safe.

The Financial Model 

An income is what everyone is after and feature prioritisation operates in the same notion as well. The purpose of increasing revenue and reducing costs is omnipresent in all the business decisions and choosing features for a particular project falls under that umbrella. 

So, thinking about the financial side of the features is what the essence of this model is. 

Whether you will be able to generate new income; 
Whether you will be able to enhance your operational efficiency and reduce costs; 
Whether you will be able to lessen the amount of consumer turnover;
Whether you will be able to gain an additional income from the consumers you already have; 

All these are important scenarios to consider in the financial model for feature prioritisation. 

Then there is the actual money metrics to pay heed to in the selection process, which includes three important dimensions. 

  • One is the focus on the Present Value of money. What you have invested today and the return you will get from it five years down the line would not be in the same value of currency as it keeps changing. So, making a projection based on the Net Present Value formula is a wise choice. 
  • Second is to calculate the Internal Rate of Return, which is essentially a percentage value of returns for a project and how quickly they might increase.
  • Third is to focus on the running total of the discounted cash flows to get an overview of the time it would take to get the investment back. This is also referred to as ‘the Discounted Payback Period.’

The Opportunity Scoring Model

For every feature in every product, there are two attributes that usually stand out apart from the financial aspects of that feature. And these are; 

How important the feature or its outcome is to the consumer?
And how satisfied is the consumer with the provided feature?

Take the answers to these questions and start pointing them out in a graph and you will end up with something looking like this. 

A graph is illustrating the way opportunity scoring is done.


So, the scoring makes it easy to prioritise by using visuals and categories simultaneously. The features that are important to the consumer, but aren’t very satisfactory would be priotises more than the features that are satisfactory for the consumer, but not very important. 

The RICE Model  

The RICE Model gives you an in-depth understanding of each feature you wish to implement based upon four parameters that some of the other strategies are unable to. 

Reach 

Reach refers to the number of people the feature would reach and affect. These numbers are calculated on real matrices like ‘customers per quarter’ and ‘transactions per month,’ thereby removing all forms of personal bias from the equation. The higher the resultant number, the further the feature’s reach.

Impact 

The I is for impact, meaning the kind of impact the feature would have on individual users as well as the goals and     objectives of the business as a whole. This is ranked from minimal to medium to high to massive impact based on points from 0.25 to 3.

Confidence 

Now that you have the numbers for the reach and impact of the features, comes the moment to test your confidence in them, that is what the C denotes. Using a scale with 100, 80 and 50 points referring to a high, medium and low confidence level, you will start scoring. Remember to always provide evidence in the form of data for every score you give.

Effort

In the end, the E is for Effort in terms of time and people. Questions like how much time would it take to build the feature. How many people would be required to make it, how much time would one person have to shell out in a day for the build are to be asked and answered in this parameter. 

The RICE formula, a framework for feature prioritisation, is depicted.


Once you have the results for all the parameters, you will use this formula and will be left with a number that would denote the total impact of time worked. This number is what would help you prioritise. 

The Voting Model 

This is not a well-established model, but it has a lot of merit in its implementation. Based on two different aspects of feature selection, here is how it is used. 

Annotation 

When you are voting for a feature’s implementation, you would be stating whether that feature should be high on priority or even low, you can’t just say those two simple words; there won’t be any clarity in that. If you are saying that a feature is high impact, then you must state why? It could be any reason, an admin panel with a particular feature could have a massive impact because it would help the stakeholders in completing their primary tasks with ease. A comment can truly make a difference in the perception of a feature and thus, aid the selection process.

There is table showing how a feature is prioritised based on its impact on the stakeholders.


Diversification

The second part of the model is to diversify the voting team as much as possible. Include experts in the domain as well as non-experts. This would give you a more concise picture as to the popularity of the feature amongst a wider range of people. However, do remember that you separate the experts' votes from the non-experts clearly, because even though diversified voting helps get a better perception on the proposed features, the expert opinions would weigh more. You can even segregate the votes based on departments, like votes from the finance department’s votes could be one category and marketing people could have a different category. 

Now that you have explored various approaches of prioritising features in a project, read about the right way to start a Drupal project, standard development workflow for a Drupal project, best project management techniques for complex Drupal projects, difference between product mindset vs project mindset and human factor in project management for effective project management.

The Bottom Line 

There are numerous other techniques and strategies that can be implemented for feature prioritisation. You can use all of them or just a couple, that is totally up to you. However, you have to remember that a feature is not just for the consumer and not solely for the business. 

Both the consumer and the business have different reasons for using and building a particular feature. The consumer wants the feature to fulfil a need, while the business wants the feature to bring an increased revenue. So, you have to endeavour to strike a balance between the two. This can be done through choosing strategies that are both business-centric and consumer centric, like the Cost of Delay model or RICE. 

In the end, I just want to say that feature prioritisation is a never ending process much like development. As long as you will keep developing, you would have to choose certain features over others to prioritise. So, mastering the prioritisation technique would serve your interests well. 

Apr 20 2021
Apr 20

If there is one thing that is in abundance today, that’d be competition. It starts as soon as a child is born and ends when he takes his last breath. It’s not just people who have to face the gruelling reality of perpetual competitiveness, it’s also the non-living objects who compete. 

Tell me, can you possibly buy the new Adidas Aerobounce 2 without checking what the competitors have to offer? And can you really buy that shoe without comparing the prices on the online and offline stores? I am sure not. 

This is why brands and businesses try to be the best in catching the eye of the consumer and presently the best way to do that and beat the competition is through Digital Experience Platforms.

Today’s consumer doesn’t connect to a business through medium, there are a number of touchpoints in play and integrating all of those together to engage your consumer base is what a DXP does. This helps businesses to not only build and deploy digital experiences, but also improve them continuously across your websites, portals and mobile applications. All of it accumulating to a wholesome user experience.

The various features of a DXP are represented in the image in the form of a diagram.Source: Bloomreach

The diagram above is the sum total of a DXP’s powers, which are pretty versatile, as it combines all of the various aspects of online businesses, be it social media or personalisation and targeting, and lets you deliver a seamless digital experience. 

Digital Experience Platforms provide an edge to a business that CMSs and WEMs cannot and that is why they are becoming popular by the day. Their advantages back this claim. 

  • The ability to manage the bazillion consumer touchpoints is the paramount merit, be it FAQs or chatbots, there is an answer to everything.
  • Then is the ability to connect your business’ various aspects at one place, from sales and commerce transactions to instilling loyalty amongst the consumers through in-house programs. 
  • The ability to be flexible is inherent in DXPs as well. You can build it on your rhyme and rhythm, there won’t be any objections. 

Let me also give you a few statistics to understand the rage DXPs are becoming in the present and what their future looks like.

Future projections of the DXP market is depicted.Source: Markets and MarketsThe market of DXPs is shown based on geographical regions in a bar graph.Source: Markets and Markets

Based on these figures, I have to ask, when are you switching to a DXP? If the answer is right about now, you have landed yourself in the right place because I am going to be talking about all the things you would have to consider before choosing the right and most suitable DXP. So, let’s begin our DXP checklist. 

What tools and integrations are you using and plan to use?

The foremost question to ask relates to technologies you are using and plan to use in the future. You can document these technologies based on your consumer’s journey. This would allow you to create the most optimal digital experience for your users because you would have worked on the gaps and weaknesses of the journey. 

From that first step, you have to move onwards and upwards and focus on all the tools and integrations you would need to work with your chosen DXP. Let’s take a look at them together. 

Data Analytics 

Every organisation has a data warehouse, however, it’s proportion does vary. This data might as well be responsible for shaping your strategy. Therefore, you have to consider your analytical requirements before taking on a DXP. 

Remember that you can always come to Google Analytics for any analytics, even after choosing a closed DXP. To know more on how data driven strategies can help understand consumer behaviour, read here.

Digital Marketing Tools 

The DXP you choose should be able to integrate with various marketing tools in the market. Look for integration support with a keen eye, it could be out-of-the-box or an extension, but it has to be there with a side of third-party marketing automation at play.

Conducting a thorough review of the MarTech stack is also recommended here, find out what is being used and where it is being used before going any further.

Digital Asset Managers 

If you have a digital asset manager, you should consider one thing and that is its integration with other downstream systems. This would ease the flow of images and assets through your organisation. Everything about digital asset management (DAM) here.

Backend Integrations 

Then is the question of backend integrations, you could have a CRM or an EPR working at your backend. If that is the case, you ought to start finding them out and assess their compatibility with your DXP provider.

What are your notions about decoupling?

Nobody likes being constrained, the joy you find when you are free to do as you want is unlike anything else. That is pretty the scenario with decoupling or going headless. You could have a strong monolithic architecture now, but in the future that could change, because what works today may not work tomorrow. Therefore, you should think about choosing an Open DXP, if you are indecisive about decoupling today.

Your projects could need microcontent; 
Your content could need to be published on multiple channels; 
Your developers could ask to go headless because there is so much to explore; 

All of these scenarios are real possibilities and you must consider them before making firm decisions on decoupling and DXPs. There are plenty of these platforms that support going headless and having that room to explore can’t be bad.

What are your plans for commerce?

Commerce is another important aspect you need to consider before choosing a DXP. Having all the right features to look for is crucial here. You have to ensure that the DXP’s commerce strategy actually aligns with your commerce needs and at the same time gives you room to be better. 

  • Assess yourself first, know whether your needs are just browse and buy or are they more than that.
  • Assess whether the DXP should be able to work with different commerce technologies to get you what you want.
  • Assess your Stock Keeping units and let their count decide the kind of robustness you would need in your DXP. 
  • Assess the kind of data model you need based upon the working of your team and its present and future needs. 
  • Assess the importance of content in commerce, more like search it up and integrate it without any hesitation. This would create a much more effective experience for the user.
  • And assess whether going headless is worth losing the commerce extensions that come along with the platform.

Once you have an answer to these, you’ll become a step closer to the perfect DXP for you.

What are your editorial needs?

After technology, comes the part your content writers and editors play in the DXP decision. You have to understand that the more writers and editors you have, the more complex the editing experience would become and you would need a DXP that can handle it.

In this regard you have to consider three things before making a decision. 

Cache Manipulation 

Cache manipulation features allow you to sync your developers’ caching strategies with the user's needs. This helps in making you content appear quickly to the users and a perpetual communication in your cache layers.

Review Needs 

Sometimes your content needs to be reviewed by people within the organisation before it goes live. These could be your legal department or even project managers. If that is the case, you need to look for a DXP that is equipped to handle this kind of editorial needs.

Multilingual Requirements 

Finally, many sites today are operating globally, this means they have to change to the local language. For that your DXP needs to have impeccable translation needs, with understanding of the various dialects of the said language. You can’t be using American English on a Scottish website, it won't be wrong or unethical, just inappropriate and your audience might not be able to relate.

What is the value of security for you?

Security is another major criteria that has to be given its due importance. Making a fully-functional site with all the right features, but lack of security would make all your efforts go in vain. That’s why you have to look for the right security features in a DXP to avoid the unfortunate fate.

  • The foremost feature to want should be an integration to Varnish and a CDN along with free-flowing interactions between the DXP and cache layers. 
  • Then you should think about securing your network nodes that are outside your network core. This is done through edge protection services provided by top DXPs, so make that a mandate.
  • Distributed Networks Attacks can be quite harmful, so ensure that the DXP you choose can prevent and counter them.

Also remember that you need to let the experts do the decision making in this regard because you cannot afford to go wrong here. 

What about government regulations and stipulations?

There are a number of rules and regulations that your digital experiences have to adhere to with a super glue consistency. A DXP that makes that easy for you is always going to be a winner; you must know what happens when you go against the law.

Here are the paramount regulations that you have to stick to.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA;
  • General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR; 
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPPA; 
  • Family Education Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA; 
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG;

These are a must when building digital experiences, so grill your prospective vendors about them and if possible, ask for case studies.

Apart from this, Personally Identifiable Information should be a factor in your choice. The way it is collected and stored should be compliant with the GDPR regulations.

What are the financial implications?

When you would be looking for a DXP, you will certainly want one that will favour all the technologies that you want to incorporate into your organisation’s digital platforms. Am I right? So, you will be aiming for the best out there. However, what if the best is not within your price range. Do you settle then? No, of course not. You choose what is the most suitable for you and whatever ticks the most boxes. 

So, before or even during the selection process of a DXP, you need to allocate the budget you are comfortable with. It could be less than a hundred grand or close to a million dollars, that is on you. 

Remember that just because a DXP is expensive, doesn’t mean it is the best. Whatever your budget may be, you could still get what is best for you.

Finally, what do you want the future to hold for you?

Life is often regarded as transitory and it really is; what is important today may not be important in future and what may seem trivial today may become the next big thing. 

The same is true for DXPs and your digital experiences; they will evolve with time. Therefore, when you choose an agency remember to not let it make you inflexible. You would need to keep an open mind about the future and your digital experiences should have the same openness in their build. 

  • Look for future scope in the DXP; 
  • Look for extension of current technologies like marketing automation; 
  • Look for an open DXP architecture with flexible APIs.

You certainly cannot be sure of the future, but what you can be sure of is the fact that the future is going to change and you would have to change with it. 

Bottom Line 

As Steve Jobs said,

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology- not the other way around.”

There is real meaning behind that statement, all of your digital experiences start with and end with the consumer, so why not prioritise them over everything else. 

So, how to choose a DXP? By assessing your past, present and future in accordance to your consumer experiences. You must want to create a fulfilling digital experience for your users, for that you have to have a fulfilling digital experience platform that guarantees to check every and all of your necessities. The questions I talked about above would help you kick start your DXP journey. OpenSense Labs continues to build amazing digital experiences with Drupal that endeavor to provide all of what we discussed, so you could, maybe, start looking here to build a Drupal-powered DXP. 

Apr 13 2021
Apr 13

Drupal has been in the content management game for over two decades. That is a long period of time and in that time span the CMS has accomplished a lot. It’s community of over a million Drupalists is just one part of it. With 20 years gone, Drupal is still running strong and its latest update is proof of that. 

Yes, in the June of 2020, amidst the pandemic, Drupal 9 was launched and it was my only sunshine at that time and I am sure many of my Drupal friends would agree with me. Drupal 9 can be deemed as one of the best offerings of Drupal, not there were many that were anything but great.

Job done easy: Drupal 9 upgrade

The latest version meant we had to take it on, why be comfortable with the past when the present can offer more comfort, right? However, the mammoth task that was the Drupal 8 upgrade, you must remember that, made many of us apprehensive and rightfully so. And that is where we were surprised, pleasantly might I add, by Drupal. 

“Easiest upgrade in a decade.”

This is how the Drupal 9 upgrade is being described and it is because you won’t have to replatform your site, you’d only be updating. It's like taking a connecting flight from London to Paris rather than leaving the airport and taking a train from the station. Connecting flights are easy.

The timeline of Drupal releases in shown. Timeline of Drupal 9 future releases | Source: Drupal.org

Considering the fact that Drupal 9 is not a migration, the upgrade is a breeze. With the addition of new features like Olivero and Claro, being built and stabilised respectively, the new versions of Drupal 9 will become all the more appealing and a release can be expected half yearly much like Drupal 8. So, can we afford to sit back and not take the step towards upgrading our Drupal sites. The fact the Drupal 7 and Drupal 8’s end-of-life has been decided has given us all the more reason to make the upgrade. Read our complete guide on Drupal 9, Drupal 9 FAQs, must-have modules to start your Drupal 9 website, configuration management strategies in Drupal 9 and web development strategies for Drupal 9 website to know more about Drupal 9 and its usage.

To help you in finding the answer to the popular question of “How to upgrade Drupal 9?”, here I am with an all inclusive checklist for this massive step you are about to take. So, let’s begin.

Is the upgrade different for Drupal 7 and Drupal 8?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions for Drupal 9 upgrade. There are still a lot of Drupal sites that are still operating on the 7th version, so it is understandable to want to know whether ‘the easiest upgrade of the decade' is applicable to them or is it different. 

Drupal 9 upgrade is different for Drupal 7 and 8 sites. This is mainly because Drupal 8 was a whole other ballgame than Drupal 7, while Drupal 9 is just a new and improved version of Drupal 8 with no deprecated APIs. Therefore, the upgrading process was bound to be different.

Let’s see how. 

Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 

Support for Drupal 8 will end on 2nd November, 2021, it will receive patch releases, but there won’t be any major updates in its feature simply because we have Drupal 9. Therefore, upgrading to the newer version is the better option. 

To upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9, 

  • You would have to see that all your projects are Drupal 9 compatible; 
  • You would have to see that your codebase is free of deprecated APIs; 
  • And then all you would have to do is run update.php. 

It sounds simple enough, right? That is because it is. Of course, you would have to perform some more steps than these three and there would be a number of tools that you would have to use for them. However, it is these three steps that are essentially the crux of upgrading from Drupal 8 onto 9.

Drupal 7 to Drupal 9

Drupal 7’s support is said to end on 28th November, 2022. Although your D7 site has quite some time ahead of it, you still have to start thinking about the upgrade as the process is not as easy as the D8 to D9 upgrade. 

You can take two routes here; 

  • You can first update to Drupal 8, avail functionality from all the modules that are yet to come in Drupal 9 and then take the easy route of upgrading to Drupal 9; 
  • Or you can directly upgrade to Drupal 9 and skip the 8th version. This would be ideal because your upgrade would have a much longer lifespan.

For the upgrade from Drupal 7, you would need three modules; 

These three do everything from data and content migrations and checking the availability of modules to scanning them and updating them for the upgrade. 

So yes, the Drupal 9 upgrade from Drupal 7 and 8 is different, simply because they are very different versions of the CMS. 

Now that we have this notion clarified, let’s move on to all the nitty-gritty details of the upgrade.  

What tools would you need for the Drupal 9 upgrade?

Can you cook without the right ingredients? Can you make the perfect lasagna without the melt-in-the-mouth pasta? I know you know the answer to these two questions and that’s a big fat no. 

Therefore, the incredible journey towards the Drupal 9 experience has to start by talking about the tool you would need for it, the ingredients that’ll make the upgrade all the more appetising. I’ll stop with the cooking analogy now and come to the point. There are two mandatory tools that you will be needing.

Upgrade Status 

Upgrade Status is a module that prepares your site for the upcoming upgrade you are planning to execute. It is a pretty versatile module that does all the grunt work required before making the leap to D9. 

  • Your site has to be the latest version of Drupal, that is Drupal 8.8 or 8.9, so the first thing this module does is inspects whether you are on that version, if not, it’ll tell you to update.
  • Your system needs to meet Drupal 9’s set requirements for the upgrade to go on smoothly, so the next thing it does is check if you meet them.
  • Your contributed projects also need to be updated and be compatible with Drupal 9. If they are Drupal 8 compatible, there is a high chance they’ll be for Drupal 9. So, Upgrade Status works with Update Status to ensure every project is in sync.
  • Your site needs to be compatible with Drupal 9 in other ways as well, so that is also checked and verified through phpstan.
  • Your system’s integration drush is also taken care of here.
  • Your system might have deprecated APIs, Upgrade Status finds, although there are any fixes provided; for that you'll need another tool.

Upgrade Status’ enchantment doesn’t end here, there is more to this module yet. 

  • I’ve told you that it prepares your Drupal 8 site, but it also gives you the leeway for downloading it with and without the Composer. 
  • It is also available in Drupal 7 and this version would help you in preparation for the Drupal 9 as well as Drupal 8 upgrade, if that is what you want. 
  • Now, the most alluring part, once you’ll upgrade to Drupal 9, it’ll start preparing you for the Drupal 10 upgrade! Yes, you read it right, Drupal 10 launch is in the works and you can be ready for that when it happens with this module.

Deprecation Check

Remember I mentioned deprecated APIs above, well, there are more than APIs that can be deprecated and that needs your attention before you start creating the upgrade environment for your site. That is why, Deprecation Checking and Correction Tools become a necessity.  

All in all, there are five tools for your help. 

  • The first one is an IDE or code editor, which comprehends deprecation to kickstart the process. 
  • Then there is the Drupal-check, this one performs a PHP run and let’s you know whether deprecated code is used and where.
  • Third is the Upgrade Status I talked about above, which essentially scans your entire system and finds deprecated code for you. 
  • The Drupal.org Testing System also supports deprecation inspection.
  • Finally, the Upgrade Rector Contributed Project provides a solution for all of the checking done above and that too in an automated manner.

What are the environment requirements for Drupal 9?

When you are roasting the perfect chicken, the temperature in the oven has to be just right, the timing has to be just right and the flavours have to be just right to make it come out all juicy and succulent. I know I have started with the cooking analogy again, but this is the best comparison I could think of. 

Like that perfect roast chicken, Drupal 9 also needs just the right environment from you and your system to make it work. And this involves; 

Web Servers

Drupal 9 can be run using two different web servers and you need to have the latest versions of these two.

  • For nginx, you have to have the version 0.7.x or above; 
  • And for Apache, it has to be at least 2.4.7.

PHP 

PHP is the language Drupal is built on, of course you must know that. What you may not know is that you need PHP 7.3 for operating Drupal 9. The latest version 9.1.0 supports PHP 8.

Database and Hosting Structures 

Drupal 9 has specific requirements for its backend database as well as its hosts. These are; 

  • Version 5.7.8+ for MuSQL or Percona; 
  • Version 10.3.7+ for MariaDB;
  • Version 3.26+ for SQLite; 
  • Version 10 for PostgreSQL; 

And if you are planning to use Drush to build your interfaces, go for version 10, since only that is compatible with Drupal 9.

Have you prioritised the update of the core codebase?

Drupal 8 was the last major release before Drupal 9. Like any Drupal version, there are a number of minor releases being launched and you must keep up with them. If you have done so, your core codebase would be up-to-date and you’d be all set for the upgrade. 

One of the Drupal 9 upgrade requirements is that your site be updated to Drupal 8.8 or 8.9 for you to be prepared for the easiest upgrade of the decade. 

What happens if you are on a version older than 8.8?

What’ll happen is the upgrade won’t go through. Now you might ask why? I’ll give you an analogy, can you skip a few grades and land from 6th grade directly to high school? Even if you could, would you say that getting the hang of the classes you’ll have be quite arduous? It most definitely will be. So, like you can’t skip grades and you can’t skip the minor releases of Drupal 8 before going on to Drupal. Because Drupal 8.9 and Drupal 9 are somewhat similar the upgrade is a breeze, however, Drupal 8.4 and 9 do not share that kind of similarity and you might need to upgrade fast. 

From upgrades in PHP to core modules, from themes to contributed modules and from path aliases and database, almost every aspect requires updating to be compatible with Drupal 9. And only Drupal 8.8 and 8.9 have that level of API compatibility. 

How to upgrade if you have a Drupal version that precedes 8.7? 

For a version older than Drupal 8.7, you would have to perform some small code changes and database updates that are not very complex. An update to the latest version of the core would be required, and this would make the database and contributed modules ready for the 9 upgrade.

You can use Upgrade Status to ensure that all of what you just did is compatible with Drupal 9 or not. 

Then you’ll have to check for deprecated code, like we discussed two sections above. Thereafter, you become ready to update your core codebase to Drupal.

How to upgrade if you have a Drupal version that succeeds 8.8?

If you are already on Drupal 8.8, there isn’t much you have to do in order to prepare yourself. The only task to perform is running the Upgrade Status and checking compatibility. 

There is one more thing that you will have to do. And that is what your existing site is based upon because that will decide how the actual upgrade will flow. 

Your site could be based on Composer or it could be based on Tarball. Make sure you keep that in mind before starting the upgrade, as both work on different upgrade mechanisms. While the former has its own list of steps to follow, the latter is upgraded using Drush.

What about updating the custom code?

After upgrading the core codebase, you would have to pay close attention to your custom code. There is a high chance that your project will have custom modules and themes, these mean a custom code would also there and it is your responsibility to update it. 

You wouldn’t need new tools and techniques to help you here. 

  • Upgrade Status will scan all the projects for custom code deprecations; 
  • Upgrade Rector will fix any minor deprecations by itself. 

Updating the custom code is not that big a task, so it is often neglected and overlooked. However, it is important enough to hamper the entire upgrade. So, don’t skip it.

Can the contributed projects be neglected?

If you have taken care of the core and custom projects, you can’t think about leaving the contributed project without any attention. So, updating them is the next agenda on the Drupal 9 upgrade checklist. 

The reason for updating the contributed projects is the same as the core and custom projects, to check the compatibility of the projects with Drupal 9. And you must know by now, since I am repeating it for what feels like the 100th time, Upgrade Status will help you in the compatibility check.

You must know that even though a module is Drupal 9 compatible, there is the off chance that it can be a version of a major release that’ll bring API changes along with it. You have to be mindful of these modules because they can be detrimental to your site’s health. API changes that you are not prepared for can’t be efficacious by any means.

But what if a module is not Drupal 9 compatible?

There are, of course, not many of them, however there are some and you must know how to handle them. You can do any of these two things in this scenario.

  • Creating, you can create a custom code to update it;  
  • Or waiting, you can wait to see if it gets updated by the time you are ready for the final upgrade;  

What about the contributed modules with patches, do they need attention?

There are situations where you may want to update a contributed module, but an update is not in the picture, rather you have patches available and sometimes, not even that. What would you do? Pay attention to the patches, that is what.

Usually if a patch is available for a module, Upgrade Status would inform you about that and you can implement it. 

Then there is the scenario, when a contributed module has neither an update and nor a patch. For such an instance, the combination of Upgrade Status and Upgrade Rector will have you sorted. You can also check Drupal’s Contributed Modules Guidelines to help you further. 

Have you examined your content and field types thoroughly?

Auditing for site building is a must. Adding fields and customisations in Drupal is quite easy, anyone can do it. This is both good and bad. Good because anyone can do it leading to less dependence on developers, bad because anyone can do it meaning there might be redundant field types and outdated content. And in this step, you check for just that. 

  • Check and eliminate fields that were created for a once-in-a-lifetime event; don’t let them sit and waste away.
  • Remember those content types you created to add content later, well, you haven’t done that yet, so they have to go as well.
  • Update the help text; this might seem trivial to you, but being someone who relied on that piece of text to perform all my initial duties instead of pinging my manager every minute, trust me, it is important. If it is outdated, it is useless and why would you want something useless on your upgraded Drupal 9 site?

Customisations are only great until they don’t start bloating your site causing regression. You do not want that, so don’t just keep all your focus on the code, modules and themes, give some time to the content as well.

How do you become sure that your upgrade is successful?

You will execute the upgrade to make your site better than it already is, that should be the aim, right? However, despite you doing everything to the T, there is a chance that you may go in regression. Your upgrade may be doing everything that it is supposed to, but still your site’s performance can be slower than it was. 

No one wants that scenario to become their reality, so how do you avoid that? How do you ensure that the upgrade is successful? There is certainly a way to ensure that and that’s through testing.

When you perform tests, you get to know what is truly happening with your site. Where you went wrong and what you did right won’t be hidden under a veil. For instance, performing a test to check the administrative and editorial working of the site is ideal. On paper, everything may appear sound, but in reality your editors could be struggling to make even the smallest of edits. And it is only through testing that you’ll be able to find that out. 

You can start at a smaller level with a hello world test and gradually scale up to examine the major aspects of the upgrade. 

Another thing that’ll help you in making the upgrade a success is going slow. Yes, upgrading to Drupal 9 is deemed as the easiest update of the decade, but it is still a huge task to take on. Just the sheer number of modules that wild require updating can become overwhelming, so go slow, update a few modules at one time. This is the chances of errors would be slim and the chances of success would be quite high. 

The Bottom Line 

Drupalists from across the globe had been awaiting the release of Drupal 9 for a long time, now that it is here, there is nothing holding us back from taking the upgrade leap. If I am to be honest, I’d say that I was fearful of the upgrade process. However, when Dries Buytaert say that one of the fundamental issues to address in the Drupal 9 release was the ease of installation, you cannot do anything but believe him. That’s what we should do. 

Apr 06 2021
Apr 06

Do these numbers seem shocking to you? They certainly were for me. And the more unfortunate fact is that these numbers will only grow in the future. So, what should be done? We cannot stop people from getting a disability, that is in no one's hand. However, we can ensure that that disability should not hold them back. We should endeavour for inclusion, wherein every person on this planet gets an equal opportunity, disability not being a criteria impeding on their life experiences. 

To that accord, accessibility was designed, for inclusion, for equality and for making the differently abled feel that their voices and their feelings value. Accessibility has expanded as a concept since its inception and now, it is also being rigorously practised on the web.

The web or the internet is for everyone, you cannot say that it was designed with a particular demographic in mind because it simply wasn’t. From 5-year-olds watching YouTube videos that are making them prepared for school to 70-year-olds watching a YouTube tutorial on how to update their WhatsApp status, the internet is for everyone and web accessibility ensures that it can be accessed by everyone without difficulty. 

This brings us to the meaning of web accessibility, which is to design something on the web that includes the needs of the differently abled. People with auditory, cognitive, visual and speech disabilities amongst others should be able to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web with ease. You should remember that accessibility is not just limited to people with disabilities, it also transcends to other aspects of life that may affect one’s ability to perceive what is right in front of them. Old-age, bright sunlight, the size of the device being used and the person’s mental and physical state at one point, all are included when we talk about accessible design on the web. Therefore, when businesses and organisations are able to build such experiences that cater to all of what I just mentioned, only then would they be truly accessible. 

With Tim’s words at the back of our minds, let’s find out what the fuss about accessibility is for. Here are three reasons that sum up the crux of accessibility and why it ought to be practiced down to the very of the web business.

The paramount reason for practising accessibility lies in the numbers we talked about in the introduction. The close to one billion differently-abled people in the world would be able to access your web project with ease. They won’t feel frustrated or undervalued by your business model, if it is accessible. And can you guess what that means? Yes, you’ll be able to target a market that your competitors might have overlooked. And that is enough to get you the revenue you endeavour for.

You know the United Nations? I’m sure you do. And when the UN says something is important and needs to be followed, you follow it. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities clearly states that access to information and communications technologies is a basic human right. And when you make websites that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities, you are going against the UN and you won’t want that.

Even in the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act also establishes grounds for web accessibility and adherence to those guidelines is important to stay on the good side of the law, don’t you agree?

Then, there is the concern about brand image. If I had to describe accessibility’s essence, the only thing that would do it justice would be social inclusion. Including every section of the society and every scenario that may hamper their web experience, and building a web project that takes into account all of that would most definitely get positive feedback from the audience using it. And that is how you build a positive brand image. 
 
Now, tell me are you not on the side of accessibility? Are you not craving to make the entirety of your website truly accessible to the users, whoever they may be, whatever their physical or mental condition be, and wherever they may be? 
 
If that is the case, continue reading because I am going to be talking about accessibility tools that are found in Drupal, a leading CMS, so that you can use those tools and modules to make your site the epitome of accessibility.

Drupal has certain checklists that are used to evaluate the competence of a particular aspect of your project, these are called Drupal Core Gates. There are six in total, ranging from Content to Frontend and testing. And you would be glad to know that accessibility is one of these six parameters, this alone is explanatory enough to let you know how much Drupal prioritises this part of web designing. 

All of these are proof of Drupal’s compliance with accessibility, meaning that Drupal is incomplete without it. With the additional WAI-ARIA support, Drupal is becoming all the more proficient in building projects that are accessible and rich internet applications. 

With that said, let us look at the accessibility-centric features found in Drupal. 

The addition of WAI-ARIA landmarks, live regions, roles and properties has equipped Drupal to provide more semantic HTML5 elements that can be leveraged by assistive technology.

Let’s try to understand this, when an assistive device scans a web page for information, it extracts the data about the Document Object Model (DOM), or the HTML structure of the page. No further information is read by the screen reader.

Often these assistive devices only allow a user to select to read the headings on the page or only the links. It prioritizes according to the hierarchy in which the headings and links are presented making browsing easier for users of assistive devices. So, HTML and WAI-ARIA help in achieving screen-friendliness and making the UIs more interactive.

Aural users play a major role where accessible design is concerned. To that accord, Drupal.announce() has been made a part of Drupal core so that timely messages can be delivered to these users relying on a screen reader with different tones as well; you can be assertive or polite, it is up to you. This is the Aural Alerts feature.

Users that are visually impaired and the ones who cannot operate a mouse can opt for the Tabbing Manager. This is a feature that would essentially become a guide for these users, so that they are able to access all the salient features and that too in a logical order. 

Your content can be displayed in multifarious ways; it is up to you to decide how you want it. With Drupal’s CSS classes, you can control the way your content is hidden or not. Would certain screen readers can view it or all of them, would hidden, visually hidden or focusable or entirely invisible, you would get to decide every single nuance.   

This is due to the centralised alternative to CSS display:none; and the standardisation of the HTML5 Boilerplate naming convention. 

It is important to provide the necessary feedback to users about the results of their form submission. Both the times when successful and when not.  This incorporates an in-line feedback that is typically provided after form submission.

Notifications have to be concise and clear. The error message, in particular, should be easy to understand and provide simple instructions on how the situation can be resolved. And in case of successful submission, a message to confirm would do. 

Drupal forms have turned out to be impressively more open to the expansion of available inline form errors. It is now easier for everyone to identify what errors they might have made when filling in a web form.

Fieldset labels are utilized as systems for gathering related segments of forms. Effectively implemented

label gives a visual diagram around the shape field gathering. This can, to a great degree, be valuable for individuals with cognitive disabilities as it viably breaks the form into subsections, making it easier to understand.

Drupal presently uses fieldsets for radios and checkboxes in the Form API. This helps towards additionally upgrading forms in Drupal. This feature is also being used in the advanced search option. 

The Alternative Text 

People with good eyesight can see the images, but what about the visually impaired? They won’t be able to see the images. And images are important in context to what you want to portray in your content. So, what is the solution?

It is an alternative text, this text describes everything going on in the picture, so that the people without sight are able to understand what the picture is about. 

Drupal has alternative text as default to make the content accessible to everyone and content creators understand its importance. However, the default can be overridden through CKEditor or Image Fields, if that is what you might prefer. 

The Bartik 

If you think about it, a link is like any other piece of content on a webpage, yet it is different because it has the power to take you to a different page for more information. This power should be highlighted properly. And Bartik is here to help in that. A Bartik underlines a link, which basically highlights it and makes it easily identifiable, aiding to enhance accessibility further. 

The jQuery UI 

Drupal’s autocomplete feature is quite useful and jQuery UI is helping in elevating its usefulness. Being implemented in Views UI and in other places, it is improving Drupal’s accessibility standards. With the involvement of jQuery UI community, the benefits are being experienced by both the projects in leaps.

Drupal Accessibility Also Transcends to Developers: D7AX

When we hear accessibility, we always go to the users. Accessibility has to be about them, right? We must ensure that everything on the site is totally accessible to every user, regardless of their physical condition. 

This notion is true, yet it is only half true. Yes, the majority of the accessibility guidelines focus on the users, however, the developers, the people who actually build a project from the ground up also need to prioritise in terms of accessibility. So, the development process has to be accessible for them to build something great that they are fully capable of doing.

And Drupal provides this as well. Drupal has focused on accessibility for developers and that is what makes me as a Drupalists proud of this platform. Developers can depend on Drupal for support when they are creating accessible sites and projects. 

The D7AX is shining glory of Drupal in this accord. It makes it extremely convenient for developers to find contributed modules and themes that support the development of accessible websites. 

So, what is D7AX? 

It is a kind of platform that lets other developers know that a module has been designed after following all the resources for developing accessible modules. When you see a hashtag saying D7AX on a module page, know that it is accessibility friendly. 

Whenever you use a D7AX module, you are contributing in making that module a success. Using it would mean any issues that were overseen before might be caught by you and resolved, making you a D7AX developer as well and a contributor in Drupal accessibility, 

What about themes? 

D7AX is not just limited to modules, it also works to resolve the accessibility challenges found in the theme layers. It works in similar fashion to that of modules and the hashtag lets the users know that a theme is compliant to the accessibility guidelines. The Accessibility handbook will help you further in this regard. 

Is there an accessibility group?

Yes, there is and it is the Drupal Accessibility Group. It would answer all your questions about Drupal accessibility and make accessibility come alive on your fingertips. With regular sessions and talks, you’ll get to know all the hints, tips and tricks about it. 

Your feedback is always going to be valued at Drupal, the accessibility group is no different. Even if you have concerns about Drupal lacking in an aspect of accessibility, you should raise it. Who knows maybe you end up making Drupal even better. 

This is the kind of indulgence by developers as part of one community that makes Drupal an ideal place for developers to build something that is universally accessible because they have access to the ideas and work of other developers and that gives Drupal an unparalleled edge. 

Modules Making Drupal Sites Universally Accessible

Knowing that Drupal caters to accessibility for the administrators and developers as well as the visitors does give a sense of relief that we are going on the right track with Drupal. However, is that enough? I don’t think so. 

Until you know how to effectively implement the aforementioned accessibility features into your project, you can’t sit back and relax. To help you in executing accessibility to the T, here is a list of the modules that will enable you to deploy a universally accessible project. 

#1 The CKEditor Family 

You cannot talk about Drupal accessibility modules without talking about the CKEditor. It is a WYSIWYG module that provides umpteen features like structured content and clean markup and convenient drag and drop features based on its UI along with pretty secure safety guidelines for your content creators.

The CKEditor in itself is pretty powerful when it comes to accessibility, however, when you bring five of its variants into the mix, it has the potential of making Drupal even more accessible. Let’s have a look at them now.

CKEditor Accessibility Auditor 

The HTML_CodeSniffer Accessibility Auditor comes in the package of CKEditor Accessibility Auditor with a button for the same that audits the source code of your current content. 

If you have a specific error; 
If you want a success criteria and suggestions of techniques; 
If you want to know what triggered the error; 

Everything would be found by these modules and the results will be in front of you almost as soon as you run the auditor.

CKEditor Accessibility Checker 

The CKEditor Accessibility Checker provides a plugin with a creativeness for accessibility inspection of your WYSIWYG body created in the CKEditor itself. Of course, the inspection would lead on to immediate solutions of any problems found. You should know that this innovation plugin is the Accessibility Checker, hence the name of the module.

CKEditor Balloon Panel 

This module is used in relation to the previous one to create floating panels that have accessibility tips. These floating panels are a courtesy of Balloon Panel plugin that make it possible for you to present as content at whichever specific position you want to, 

CKEditor Abbreviation 

The CKEditor Abbreviation’s purpose is quite simple. If you want to add a button to the CKEditor to help you insert and edit abbreviations, it will do that for you. The addition of a link to edit the abbreviation is an added bonus.

USWDS CKEditor Integration

Like the name says, the USWDS CKEditor Integration module integrates the US Web Design System to the CKEditor, which has become a requirement for government websites. You can use the USWDS classes and components and inject them into the CKEditor, all without opening the source even once.

#2 Automatic Alternate Text 

Did you know that there is an API that can actually process images through its state-of-the-art algorithms and return with an output that is quite on point? It can sense the content of the image, its maturity levels and even the prominent colours in it. 

The Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services API is able to do this with ease. Drupal’s Automatic Alternative Text module utilises the competence of this API and provides alt text to images your users did not. 

However, you must be aware of the fact that the way we perceive images and the technology would perceive it may not be similar, so the produced alt text can be different to what you may have expected. 

#3 A11Y:Form Helpers 

Remember the accessible forms I mentioned as a Drupal feature, the A11Y: Form Helpers helps in achieving that. It aims to fix the accessibility issues found in Drupal forms. 

This module’s features are quite impressive. 

  • You do not require any HTML validation; 
  • You can include readable inline error messages for screen readers; 
  • You can even put in pre-filled attributes to certain form elements, which is always a winner.

#4 Block ARIA Landmarks Role

People usually prefer when you come straight to the point and skip all the small talk. And ARIA landmarks are just the means for that; it allows users to skip the unnecessary and switch to the main content. 

With the Block ARIA Landmarks Role, you can add extra elements to the block configuration forms and users can allocate an ARIA landmark role or label to a specific block. Having been created with inspiration from the Block Class, this module does cater to accessibility.

#5 Editoria11y

Editoria11y is a module that caters to the accessibility needs of the content creators and editors. Being a user-friendly checker, it focuses on the accessibility concerns of content authors and rectifies them. 

  • It ensures that speckcheck is always on and corrects the content mistakes as and when they happen.
  • It ensures that errors never happen in relation to Views, Layout Builder, Media and similar modules. This is because it runs in context with them and its checkers are always running.
  • Lastly, it ensures that content issues get fixed by prioritising them. Its exclusive focus on them ensures page editors don’t miss anything that is easily fixable by them.

#6 Fluidproject UI Options 

A web page has a lot of different elements that might need modifications to make them aligned with the accessibility standards set by Drupal and W3C. The Fluidproject UI Options tends to make these modifications easy for you. 

Be it; 

  • the page’s font size;
  • the page’s font style; 
  • the page’s height; 
  • the page’s contrast ratios; 
  • the page’s link style; 

everything can be sorted and the changes can be retained using cookies. However, it does come with certain limitations, using CSS gradients for contrast settings is one of them. 

#7 High Contrast 

You will have a theme that you are currently using, then there will be a theme that would be a high contrast version of the same. Reading this along with the name of the module, you must be able to guess what this module is all about. 

With High Contrast, you will be able to switch between your theme and a high contrast version of the same. All you would need to do is press tab on the keyboard after installing the module and you’ll get the high contrast pop-up link on your screen and the work is done.

#8 Siteimprove

Aiming for high quality content along with higher traffic and a higher level of digital performance is not unreasonable. And doing all of this by adhering to the regulatory compliance is what Siteimprove is known for. 

Being a comprehensive cloud-based Digital Presence Optimisation software, it offers a smooth integration through its Drupal module, wherein  you can capitalise Siteimprove efficiency in content creation and editing process.

Be it testing the content; 
Be it fixing what was found; 
Be it optimising the perpetual work; 

You will have the analytics and content insights at your disposal to make this happen. Siteimprove’s plugins ability to lessen the gap between Drupal and the software’s Intelligence Platform is the sole reason for these amazing benefits. 

#9 Style Switcher 

Have you ever found yourself in a conundrum wherein creating themes and building sites seems like a mammoth task? If you have, you most likely would have been facing issues with the alternate stylesheets. 

The Style Switcher module makes all of this a breeze by focusing on the themer as well as the site builder. It provides an alternate stylesheet for both in the admin section. These styles are presented in a list of links in a block to your site visitors. 

And there is more, with the module making use of cookies, these styles are always remembered and when someone returns to a page, he is welcomed by the same style he chose in his previous visit. Pretty amazing, right?

#10 Text Resize 

Have you ever squinted your eyes to read a piece of text that is too small? Did you get frustrated by it? Now, imagine you have a weak eyesight and focusing is always an issue. Would you be able to read a small font size? I don’t think you will and now you know how the visually impaired feel.

The Text Resize module helps in making the visually impaired feel less frustrated. Using jQuery and jQuery Cookie, it creates a Drupal block that allows users to change the font size of the text, making your pages more accessible. You would be glad to know that it can also resize images. However, you have to remember to enable the Text Resize block of your theme, only then would the block appear. 

#11 Civic Accessibility Toolbar  

Civic Accessibility Toolbar has a pretty similar principle to the previous module. Unlike the Text Resize module, it not only aids changes in the font size of the text, but it also helps users in switching to a theme version that has a higher contrast. 

Now, much like Text Resize, this module also operates on the creation of blocks for the utilities being implemented for accessibility with the visually impaired in mind. 

Bartik, Garland, Zen Starterkit, Stark and Oliveiro are all the themes in which the Civic Accessibility Toolbar has been trialed and tested.

#12 HTML Purifier

Auditing your site with a thorough and secure whitelist as well as ensuring that your documents are compliant to the standards of W3C’s specification will keep you on the good side of accessibility. Drupal’s HTML Purifier module does just that through the HTML filter library of the standard stringent HTML Purifier

With this module you can say goodbye to all malicious code.

Custom fonts; 
Inline styles; 
Images and tables; 
Restricted tags; 

All of these are possible when you combine the HTML Purifier with your WYSIWYG editors. You will hit the standard compliant ball out of the park with a home run through this module. 

Now that we have discussed all the necessary modules that aid in making your Drupal site universally accessible, let’s listen to what one of our frontend developers at OpenSense Labs has to say about Drupal and its part in accessibility.

“Drupal Core on its own takes care of the accessibility in the site. Since many accessibility challenges are confined to Frontend (Theme) Layer, it is better to have good practices in place for frontend development to ensure accessibility compatible sites.” 

I personally feel that he is right. There are hundreds of modules in Drupal and you can use as many of them when building your site. With so many modules at work, your site is bound to be extremely functional and impressive. However, it still might not be accessible, if you don’t keep accessibility as an imperative parameter during the building process. 

I’ll explain this with a few modules for better understanding. 

If you look at all of these modules, they are not blatantly related to accessibility, but all of them are somehow adding to your site’s accessibility appeal. Now, if you developers are constantly building with accessibility at the back of their minds, they would use these modules without any hesitation. 

Therefore, like our frontend developer said, Drupal accessibility is all about good practices throughout the building process and throughout the life of the web project. 

Are You Certain Your Project is Accessible, Let’s Review!

Up until now we have discussed the accessibility features found in Drupal and the modules that support the implementation of those features. Do you think that is enough? Do you think the installing and running a bunch of modules makes all your accessibility work done and now you can sit back and relax? If you think so my friend, you are utterly wrong. 

By running modules, you cannot be certain that your site is truly accessible, that it checks all the accessibility boxes. You have to run a thorough review on all the parameters that can affect your site’s accessibility and after reviewing the results and rectifying them, you can sit back and chill as much as you want. 

So, let’s start the review.

Review through Automation 

You need to start your reviewing process with Drupal’s automated tools that are designed to assess your project’s accessibility levels and issues arising out of it and consequently resolving them. 

Some of these tools are; 

WAVE;
Tenon;
Accessibility Insights;
Google Lighthouse;
Siteimprove;
And Siteimprove Accessibility Checker.

With axe-core, you can automate some of them and sit back while they do their work.

Review the Keyboard

Keyboard navigation is of great significance when it comes to web accessibility, so you cannot afford to go wrong with it. Everything and every element on your screen must be accessible through a keyboard and with a tab order that makes sense.

When making your assessment, look for things like these; 

  • The tab should work forwards and backwards; 
  • The interactive elements should be highlighted from others; 
  • The document object model should be followed in the tabbing progression, making it natural; 
  • The skip option is available for content that is repeated; 
  • The user should be able to skip overlays, modals and autocomplete widgets; 
  • The hovering mouse content should be accessible through the keyboard as well. 

Pointers like these amongst others would make your project keyboard friendly. One more thing, you should remember to review this on mobile and tablets as well to avoid any responsive breakpoints.

Review the Colour and Contrast 

Next comes the colour and the contrast, which should be prioritised too. The foreground and the background need to be quite distinguished from each other. 4.5:1 is the ideal ratio of text to the background. Anything lesser than that would be in direct contradiction to the accessibility guidelines. 

You also need to remember that colour cannot be the only way to relay information. Think of your audience, who might be colour blind; would they be able to gather what you are trying to say?

There are two boxes with the same kind of figures differentiated with colour, but the second has the addition of numbers as a desciption


The second demonstration in this image is what you should always go for. 

Review the Content 

You also need to review your content. By content, I don’t exactly mean the words you use, although the language should be easy to understand. 

Apart from that, there is also the changing content such as the list of search results, which keeps updating all the time. This is called the dynamic content and you must announce these changes through assistive technology; ARIA Live Regions help in this regard.

Headings are a part of the content as well. In this regard, you have to make sure that your headings are not only prominent enough, but also descriptive enough to ensure that something reading it understands its entire context. 

Then there are the icons, which cannot just be the icons because the users would not be able to know their functionality without a proper description. Give labels to all your icons, if you haven’t already. 

Review the Sound and Video 

This one is for the deaf community and people who have hard hearing problems. The elements on your site that are relaying information through sounds and videos should have accompanying textual transcripts and captions so that people who cannot hear what is being said and read it. This would automatically make your site more accessible. 

I used both captions and textual transcripts because this review also focuses on the users with visual impairments. This is because for a complex video, captions alone may not be enough. There may be a need to textually describe the scene to people who cannot see what is happening and captions would only provide context to some degree. 

Review the Animations and Autoplay 

There is a high chance that your project might have animations, audios and videos. Obviously, there would be a purpose for their presence on your site, but you have to consider the user as well and that means avoid autoplay. 

Videos that autoplay and don’t pause by themselves are a nuisance to me, frankly, if I want to watch, I’ll press play myself. So, you should also turn the autoplay option off and even if it is on, the animations, audios and videos should stop playing after a couple of seconds. 

You should also think about adding easy controls to play and pause these media items. 

Review the Screen Reader 

You are going to have users that would completely rely on a screen reader, so ensuring that there are no issues with that has to be on your review checklist. 

For this, 

  • You should assess that the same information is being relayed to users using assistive technology and the sighted users. 
  • You should check the flow of information, ensuring that it is logical much like the tabbing order in keyboard accessibility. 
  • You should see that all your links make sense; something like ‘click here’ won’t really help the screen reader user. 
  • Finally, you should ensure that all the images have alternative text describing them in a clear and concise way. 

Conclusion 

Web accessibility has become quite popular today. If you adhere to the W3C’s guidelines on accessibility, you could achieve wonders for your brand image and enhance your consumer base to a great deal. However, if you do not, your image would downgrade and so would your revenue. The aim of accessibility should be to create a web project that is accessible to someone without any disability, someone with a physical disability and someone with cognitive disabilities on an equal without a shadow of bias.

Accessibility features in Drupal are so comprehensive and whole that they would not let the latter outcome be even an option. I have tried covering all of Drupal’s accessibility modules and tools and I really hope that you will take a note of them and build a project that gets universal attention. Good luck!

Mar 22 2021
Mar 22

I was scrolling through my Instagram last night and I saw an advert that was pretty appealing to my taste. It was an ad for those flared jeans that are so popular today. And like any other fashion loving person, I clicked on it and it took me to the website of the brand. Cut to half an hour later, I was a proud owner of a very flared, wide bottom pair of denims with a super high waist line and I was pretty happy about it. 

This is a scenario which isn’t uncommon in the times we live in. If you ask me, I find this trend to be utterly appealing, utterly clever and utterly persuasive. 

I say this because if you think about it, I wouldn’t have ever landed on the product’s actual site, not by any chance. So, the seller’s plan to become a part of social media and sneak into people’s feed with such tantalising videos and pictures of the product, that they have no other option than buying is indeed a masterstroke, if there was one. 

And this is what marketing is all about. It does involve the more technical aspects of designing, production and packaging, however, making the product come in contact with the consumer is like the finale of the marketing film. And to ensure this contact is a memorable one, the marketers make it ubiquitous. Now that I have bought that one pair of jeans, I’m sure my Instagram and Facebook are going to be inundated with similar products and brands in the near future, because if I have bought it once, I might buy it again.

So today, we are going to be talking about an emerging vogue in the ever so evolving realms of marketing and that is Marketing Automation. Let’s get on with the marketing automation guide. 

When the Marketers met Automation

Marketing Automation is a concept that is all about making the work of the marketers a tad bit easy. The automated technology takes the load off of the marketer’s shoulders and onto its own.

At the heart of the concept of marketing automation is the consumer. Every nook and crevice of this concept recognises consumer as the boss. Let’s take a look. 

Understanding consumer behaviour; 
Identifying potential consumers; 
Creating consumers leads; 
Effectively nurturing the consumers leads; 
Personalising the marketing strategies for the consumers; 
And converting consumers into buyers.

These six points can sum up the entire working of marketing automation and consumers are everywhere. Yes, at the end of it, you, as a businessman would benefit from it, but you need consumers for that first. 

If I had to define marketing automation, I would say it is a concept that uses software and technology to ease all marketing tasks, especially the repetitive one. Those social media posts that have to be posted every Monday at 5 on the Twitter handle can be easily automated. The result would be better consumer engagement and increased efficiency, which means more revenue. 

Marketing automation is a pretty broad term that has numerous aspects and functions involved in marketing. 

Sending marketing messages using a trigger; 
Sending personalised emails to keep the consumer in the loop; 
And sending Facebook, Instagram and Twitter stories and posts for perpetual engagement; 

These are three of the most popular ways automated marketing strategies that help marketers generate leads from everywhere and convert them into sales. 

Now that we have covered the general concept of marketing automation, let’s look at some statistics that will give us a picture of its use in the business world. 

A chart depicts the percentage of organisations using marketing automation tools.Source: Regalix.com

The above picture shows the findings of a survey performed on a sample group. With close to a fourth of the surveyors answering an affirmative to using marketing automation, the concept seems to be a hit. 

The image is a combination of a pie chart and a bar graphs showing figures about the perception of marketing automation of businesses.Source: Dun & Bradstreet

Another survey shows the extent of marketing automation at work, with close to half of the surveyors using it extensively. 

A bar graph shoes the trends related to marketing automation in present with future predictions up to the year 2027.Source: Grand View Research 

Now, this one shows how marketing automation is going to progress in the future. Every sector, be it healthcare or education, is expected to enhance its size in marketing automation in the US. It would possibly double in comparison with 2016. So, if anything is going to boom in the future, it’s going to be marketing automation.

Marketing Automation and Its Achievements 

Marketing in general has numerous benefits that not a single person on this planet can deny. Likewise when marketing automation is concerned, the benefits still persist. There is a lot that can be overcome be it reducing costs, increasing efficiency or making you richer by the date and all of that starts with one lead generated by marketing automation. 

Let’s have a look at all the achievements of this marvelous concept. 

Automation saves time 

The main difference between doing something manually and automatically is the amount of time it takes to complete it. When you automate simple marketing tasks like figuring out the seriousness of a lead or sending emails, you free up a lot of your time. And that time can be used for more meaningful tasks like converting leads. 

Automation increases income 

A major benefit of automation in marketing is generating leads, which later helps in creating higher conversion rates and lower abandonment rates. What do you think would be the result of this? More sales, which simply means more income. 

There is also the perspective that marketing automation reduces costs because with automated processes, you would need less manpower and hence, lower costs. 

Automation eases scaling

Every business is meant to grow, so a marketing strategy that takes into consideration the present scenario along with every possibility that the future may hold should be the right choice. Marketing automation is that choice. This concept grows with you, regardless of the pace you have. Look at Tesla’s stock prices in 2020, that could happen to your business as well and marketing automation would be right there with you. 

Automation enhances user understanding 

Marketing automation is also responsible for making you understand your demographic better. This is achieved by tracking and monitoring every contact the user makes with your business and where they stand on the purchasing decision, you could say that marketing automation is essentially behavioural tracking of the consumers. The outcome of this level of user understanding is that you can make a few tweaks here and there based upon user patterns and thereby compel him to make a purchase.

Automation evaluates your successes concisely 

Marketing automation tools are a part of it and these tools have the capability of measuring all the right numbers for you. You’d be glad to know these numbers are not just pertinent to your consumers, but you as well. Assuming you automated an online campaign, once it is complete and even during it, marketing automation tools will have recorded its performance down to the T. This way you would know how you performed and what you need to work on.

Making Marketing Automation Work

Next comes the part, where we understand the workings of marketing automation. Yes, marketing automation is becoming increasingly popular. Yes, there are numerous benefits of this concept, but if you do not know where to start its implementation, then what is the point really? 

So, here are a few pointers that will give you an idea of how automation in marketing works, more like how you can make it work.

Do you know your needs? 

When thinking about marketing automation’s working, the first question to ask is what do you need it for. You can’t make it work, if you do not know what to work for. Is it lead generation or you simply want to ease the pressure of marketing by scheduling things and events instead of always worrying about the upcoming ones?

This concept can achieve so much, but only if you know what those achievements will look like. Create a workflow and start following it. 

Are you understanding your consumers?

Marketing automation helps you in understanding your consumers, but the more important thing is what you do with that understanding. Yes, you know what your target audience looks like, which geography you are targeting and what the psychology of the users is. But what then? When you have an answer to that, you’ll hit the automation homerun.

Are you using the right tools?

This concept is nothing without the right set of tools. Automation relies on technology and technology means tools and software that will make marketing a walk in the park. Drupal, a leading open source CMS, for instance, has numerous third party tools that allow its sites to capitalise the automation vogue. More on this in the next section. 

Are you building relationships or retaining them?

Marketing automation will target a whole new section of consumers. This would be a long and expensive process. So, just building new consumer relationships isn’t the right way of marketing automation. It would only be right when you focus on retaining the past consumers and cinching them to you with loyalty. How? That you have to think on.

Does the outcome seem too-automated? 

Marketing automation can seem a little too impersonal to the consumer. If it does, you are on the wrong track. To make the concept work, you must focus on personalising every consumer interaction. Make your brand something to remember. Reminding a consumer, who hasn’t been active based on your data, that their empty cart is missing them with a popup in their notification bar will compel them to have a look at your new catalogue. Hook, line and sinker, but with a personal touch.

After you have the clear cut answer to these five questions, it would be wise to know four more aspects that contribute to making marketing automation work for you. 

  • You must always remember to specify things and criteria you are working for along with the outcome you aim for. This is because all of this would need to be interpreted by the software at work and that would in turn be stored and executed to make you get what you wanted. 
  • You must leverage cookies, because it is these stored inside the visitor’s browser that let you know his behavioural patterns, track them and issue scores as well. 
  • You have to generate leads as a marketer, and forms with valid contact information of the customers is one of the best ways of doing that and further qualifying these leads.
  • Finally, you must have a plan that combines both inbound and outbound strategies. This helps marketers make out the difference between strong and feeble leads. 

One of the prime purposes of marketing automation is generating leads and these four points effectively achieve that. 

Making a Play at Marketing Automation with Drupal 

We have already discussed the priceless value of marketing automation in the business world, going without it is no longer an option. To that sense, Drupal has come out as a pretty valuable asset, having tools and modules that cater to each and every marketing automation need and then some. 

With the very appropriate motto of “Drive Your Strategy Forward,” Drupal indeed helps businesses in moving forward by attracting, engaging and delighting your consumers with personalised content and services. 

  • Be it real-time sales alerts; 
  • Be it managing your consumer data in bulk; 
  • Be it streamlining your workflows;
  • Be it tracking your site’s traffic down to the conversion rates; 
  • Or be it advanced email reporting; 

Drupal is equipped and ready to let you take advantage of the automated marketing strategies down to their very core.

Now, let’s focus on the specific tools that make the Drupal motto on marketing automation come alive. 

#1 Marketo MA

The Marketo Marketing Automation (MA) module helps your website by allowing it the ability to track like Marketo and capture lead data during user registration and form submission.

Mareketo’s Munchkin adds certain features to this module like tracking code to pages and capturing lead data using it’s JavaScript or API integrations. The lead capturing, being the highlighting feature, can be done during user creation, update and/or login; all you have to do specify the user actions. 

It can also very conveniently integrate itself with other marketing automation modules found on Drupal to give a better execution experience.

#2 Pardot Integration

A big part of marketing automation are the online marketing campaigns; they are essentially responsible for substantially increasing the revenue. 

Pardot Integration is a module that helps your marketing departments to not only manage these online campaigns, but also to create and deploy them. There are umpteen CRM tools that Pardot can integrate with to make the marketers tackle lead nurturing, scoring, and ROI reporting. 

Salesforce.com 
NetSuite 
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 
SugarCRM are a few of them. 

#3 HubSpot 

A renowned inbound marketing software famous for attracting, converting and closing customers has integrated itself with Drupal to form the HubSpot module, which comes with an embedded HubSpot JavaScript tacking code.

The HubSpot API and integration to Webforms which are directly submitted to HubSpot’s management system, makes this module work pretty smoothly, be it for tracking customers through signups or unleashing your existing email campaigns for the said customers. 

The fact that Webform 3.x is used makes building virtually any kind of form and embedding them anywhere possible.

#4 Poptin 

Poptin is a module that helps in creating popups, optins and forms in minutes. By showing these popups to your visitors at the right moment, you will be able to keep them engaged and minimise the chances of abandonment. The result is better sales and more revenue. 

All of the work that Poptin does is dependent on consumer behaviour, an insight to which will allow you to dole out the most irresistible popups for the consumers. You can customise the popups for your brand keeping in mind its aesthetic and vibe.

The inclusion of advanced triggering options like; 

  • Exit intent trigger; 
  • Display after time spent on website; 
  • Display after website X pages visited or X number of clicks; 
  • URL targeting; 
  • Device targeting; 
  • And traffic sources amongst others make this module more than appealing to the marketers.

#5 Mailchimp 

Mailchimp is an email delivery service. With emails being an important part of marketing automation, the Mailchimp module provides seamless integration with this particular service of the same name. 

The Mailchimp features include; 

  • directly connecting email entities to its lists; 
  • creating forms for easy signups; 
  • creating, sending and viewing campaigns and its statistics; 
  • being able to see to all the past activities on Mailchimp; 
  • and finally, triggering automated emails for defined events. 

#6 Salesforce Suite

Salesforce is a customer relationship management service platform with a side of marketing automation for customer service. Drupal’s Salesforce Suite allows to reap the full competency of the platform to propel the marketing strategy forward. 

Being a suite, this module has a range of Salesforce modules that integrate themself with the software and synchronise Drupal entities with Salesforce objects and push and pull data from each other. 

  • Salesforce Integration 
  • Salesforce Mapping 
  • Salesforce Mapping UI 
  • Salesforce Push 
  • Salesforce Pull are some of the modules in this vibrant suite.

#7 Webform 

Like the name says, the Webform module helps in creating form and surveys. These are forms that will tick all the right boxes for an enterprise grade form made using an enterprise grade form builder and the versatility of Drupal.

Once the forms are created and submitted, customisable e-mails become an option to be sent to admins or submitters or both and results are often exported to spreadsheets. Once that is done, the modules continue to work to provide a statistical review. You can also add other extensible features, if you like. These include encryption, antibot, the use of Captcha and MailSystem to name a few.

#8 CleverReach

The CleverReach module combines the efficiency of Drupal and CleverReach and makes marketing seem easy. With CleverReach’s email marketing software at work, you will be able to create, send, measure and manage your email campaigns. 

Together with the CleverReach API, this module can do a lot. Before that you would have to do two things. 

  • One is to import your CleverReach- Groups & Attributes or fields; 
  • Second would be to create a block for every group. 

These blocks would basically be newsletter subscription forms and the attributes would be the form fields. Once you have done that, subscriptions would automatically be sent to your CleverReach account. 

#9 Google Analytics

Google Analytics isn't unknown to anyone, least of all today’s marketers. Being an eminent marketing platform that allows marketers to measure everything from advertising ROI to site traffic and tracking social networking applications and sites. 
 
The Google Analytics module lets you integrate the platform’s web statistics tracking system to your Drupal site. 

  • Tracking single, multi or cross domains;
  • Tracking certain users, roles and pages and even excluding them; 
  • Tracking links and monitoring the types that are being tracked;
  • Monitoring the kind of files that are being downloaded; 
  • Tracking URL fragments that are changing; 

And so many other features that are incorporated into Google Analytics will be at your doorstep with this module.

#10 Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg is a popular website optimisation platform that specialises in heatmaps. With its integration with Drupal, all those heatmaps would become accessible for you in your marketing automation strategy. All you need is your Crazy Egg account details, enter them and you’ll be all set.

The Crazy Egg module comes with additional features on top of the heatmaps. These include; 

  • Knowing where your visitors scrolled through scrollmaps; 
  • Knowing exactly how you users interacted with your site through session recordings; 
  • And performing A/B tests to run two versions of your site simultaneously.

#11 Cloudwords for Multilingual 

Marketing isn’t confined by geography or language anymore. Global campaigns are being run everyday from anywhere in the world. This mandates that campaigns and marketing be accommodating to multilingualism because someone in Indonesia would never be able to relate to American Content. 

Cloudwords for Multilingual helps in this regard, being the fastest and most flexible way of making your website become localised. Cloudwords is built for marketers and by marketers, it is one of the most popular ways of running global sites. Its integration with Drupal makes both the software run to their maximum benefits and your campaign will definitely benefit from that.

#12 Mautic 

Mautic is an open source marketing automation service, which gives businesses the opportunity to integrate and personalise every digital property and channel they might have, so that the consumers receive a seamless experience every time. 

The Mautic module integrates itself with this platform, and the results are campaigns and content performing at a higher level to attain better leads and conversions. Choosing multiple authentication methods and selecting forms from a particular Mautic instance for display are two of its most used use cases.

Conclusion 

Marketing automation is gaining grounds by the day. An organisation that isn’t taking it up would somehow be lacking in its marketing game. Remember the end goal of any business is just one, to get to the desired revenue figure, no matter the path it may have to take. Marketing automation one path that makes that figure seem almost tangible. So, why not take it up. With Drupal marketing automation is a breeze, so again, why should we not flow with the wind?

Mar 15 2021
Mar 15

‘Retail therapy,’ an extremely common phrase in today’s era, can work wonders on lightening a person’s mood. The new 1000-thread count Egyption sheets, when wrapped around you, can make the gloominess seem distant. The new Clavin Klein perfume can actually make your day seem more fragrant. And the new smart watch you just saw on Amazon has the potential of making you as fit as you want.

So, retail therapy is quite up there on the pedestal of making people feel great about themselves. And retail therapy, if done from the comfort of your couch while watching a Friends’ episode is all the more beneficial. And that is what we are going to be talking about today, the online retail market or ecommerce, if you prefer. 

Buying things with a few clicks on your computer screen used to seem like a novel idea close to a decade ago, but now it is an everyday occurrence. The ecommerce industry has boomed exponentially and these numbers are proof of that. 

Statistics on ecommerce are mentioned.Source: StatistaGlobal retail ecommerce sales figures are presented.Source: eMarketer

3.53 trillion USD is an exorbitant amount and that is the value of online retail sales globally. If a pandemic couldn’t stop ecommerce from flourishing, I am certain nothing can. 

Now let’s come to matter at hand. The point of this blog isn’t to tell you the value of ecommerce per say, rather I am going to be focusing on one emerging aspect of ecommerce that has made it quite different from the past, and maybe even a little intriguing and that is content. How content has played a role in ecommerce, why it’s important, how it is being used, does it actually have an effect on sales, and finally how does Drupal come into the equation? We’ll find answers to all of these questions. All you have to do is continue reading.

Content and Commerce: Understanding the Dynamic 

Words are a powerful thing. It’s words that can make a person the wisest and the most stupid. The right words can have such a profound effect on its reader that it might even change their way of thinking. With such a profound effect, it was only a matter of time that the power of words was being utilised in commerce in the truest sense. This is essentially the meaning of Content-driven Commerce. 

If you look at the traditional sense of advertising, you would find it flawed to a great deal. Those TV commercials, the cleaning ads and those ludicrous weight-loss adverts, all of them have hardly any truth to them and the viewers know it. Perhaps that is why they no longer resonate with their target audience. People have become far more difficult to please now than the past.

Cut to the emergence of Content-driven Commerce, with its realistic outlook and clutter-less approach. If I talk about myself personally, I find the incorporation of content in marketing strategies, the best kind of, well, marketing strategy. 

Look at this screenshot for instance. 

A screenshot of Amazon's product page can be seen.Source: Amazon

Upon searching for nuts on Amazon, you will probably end up on this piece of article in the screenshot above. Now, not only is this article advertising Amazon products, but it is also informative and enlightening. And the latter fact is what makes it a masterstroke of marketing. Someone reading it would have learnt something new and that knowledge is going to spark a craving that would require satiation upon every purchase journey. 

Content commerce isn’t just related to writing blogs and articles. You might have thought so, since that is the only thing we go to when we hear the word ‘content.’ This concept is broader than that. It includes everything from infographics to videos, from podcasts to webinars, anything that can instill interest in the buyer and be informative can be considered as content.

The Science of Content Commerce 

Content commerce has a lot of thought put inside it. You can just bombard the buyer with one piece of content after the other and expect that he’ll admire them all and be ready to click on that buy now button with a massive cart waiting to be delivered. Nope, that’s not even close. 

Consumer data; 
Consumer shopping behaviour and patterns; 
And industry trends; 

These are the three aspects that sum up the science of content commerce. When you know what your customers want, what patterns of behaviour they follow and how your competitors are taking action on that, you will have the most sound content commerce strategy; that would be  personalised to the T.

For instance, 

At present, being a minimalist is in vogue, with a subtle emphasis on the key features of the products that would be enough to inform, educate and inspire the visitor. With a touch of personalisation, a splash of fun through quizzes and a hint of what’s more to encounter through catalogues, the visitor is more or less hooked. This coupled with customer testimonials and case studies pushes the visitor one step closer to the purchase. 

This is how content commerce is being done today and it’s working. The result is better and more interactive and informative consumer experiences.

A venn diagram of content and commerce is depicted.Source: Pimcore

So, you tell me is Content-driven Commerce a trend that would make people fall in love with advertising and make their buying experience something to remember. If you ask me, I’d most definitely say yes. There are many like me who believe that content driven marketing is going to pick scale and boom in the future. 

A pie chart shows the popularity of content-led marketing campaigns.Source: eMarketer

Why champion Content driven Commerce?

At the end of day, the consumer would only come to your business only when he’ll find you different from the others, when he thinks that you have more to offer than the rest. And content commerce is the best way to make that happen. You can build your brand’s identity based on the kind of content you deliver on your site and outside it. When people would actually associate you with providing meaningful and rich contextual experience, would your goodwill not enhance? I think it will and that is why Content Commerce has become such a big deal. It allows brands and businesses to leave a strong impression on the audience. 

A travelling documentary that was posted on a tour and travel site as a testimonial on its home page could actually make many wish to experience the happiness and exhilaration that the video boasts on and on about, much more than any TV commercial or newspaper ad would ever be able to. That’s the power of content combined with commerce.

In Comes Drupal: The Perfect Blend of Content and Commerce 

So now you know the power content has, but how do you leverage it? Having resonating content and having the ability to showcase it are two different things. The former is all you, while the latter mandates the decision of making a choice amongst the varying options. Having worked with Drupal, I know the answer to the leveraging dilemma is Drupal itself. 

You must wonder why?

Drupal is a powerful CMS, which is renowned for its ability to handle any kind of content without any glitches. Drupal has a solution for every kind of content type you can imagine, making your experience of content authoring easy and flexible.

  • Easy Content Authoring: Intuitive tools for content creation, workflow and publishing make it easy for content creators. User permissions, authentication help manage the editorial workflows efficiently. Previews help the editors access how the content will look on any device before the users approve and publish.
  • Mobile Editing: Team members can review, edit and approve content from mobile devices, to keep content and campaigns flowing, regardless of where they are and what device they’re on.
  • In-place Authoring: The WYSIWYG editor in Drupal to create and edit content in-place. 
  • Content Revisioning and Workflows: For a distributed team Drupal enables a quick and easy way to track changes, revisions, and stage. It tells you who did what, when, out of the box. Also, it lets you manage custom, editorial workflows for all your content processes. Content staging allows you to track the status of the content - from creation to review to publication - while managing user roles and actions, automatically. 
  • Content Tagging and Taxonomy: Beyond creating content, Drupal’s strength lies in creating structured content. This comes when you define content elements, tag content based on their attributes, create relevant taxonomy so it can be searched, found, used, and reused in ways that satisfy the visitors.
  • Modules for Multimedia Content: Entity browser, paragraphs, pathauto, admin toolbar, linkit, blog, meta tag, and other content editing modules give the extra lease of life by extending and customizing content features and capabilities. They allow you to choose what features you want for your site.  
  • Yes, Drupal is great for content, but it is equally great with commerce. It’s because Drupal has the innate ability to to integrate content and commerce. It can manage every single aspect of a commerce site, be it its products, carts or financial transactions and then integrate all of it with content and media. What’s even more fascinating is the fact that Drupal helps you build an application that is a perfect fit for your needs today and tomorrow because when times change, Drupal changes too and its third-party integrations are the reason for that.

Let’s now look at Drupal’s commerce centric features to understand its compatibility even more.

Drupal Commerce 

When we talk about Drupal and ecommerce, the conversation cannot begin or end without the mention of Drupal Commerce. It is one feature that makes Drupal outshine all other CMSs in the market because it promotes innovation and growth through standards that make you take advantage of everything Drupal has to offer. 

With Drupal Commerce, the possibilities are limitless because that is how it is designed; to help you build what you want not be confined to what it can do.

  • From product types and descriptions to diversified product pages; 
  • From payment gateways to tax calculations; 
  • From organising promotions to managing orders; 

Drupal Commerce can do it all for your ecommerce business digital channel. 

Decoupled Drupal Commerce

Decoupling works by separating your commerce site’s front end from its backend. You can take up JavaScript for the presentation layer to make it more interactive, while all the backend aspects would be handled by Drupal. All of the benefits of decoupling would be enjoyed without parting with Drupal Commerce.

You will end up with a site;

  • that is faster and more engaging;
  • that is richer and more interactive;
  • that is easier to update and modify, without one end affecting the other; 

All of this because you won’t be confined to Drupal to build your frontend, you can take up any of the available frontend technologies. More on decoupled Drupal Commerce here.

Drupal APIs

Where there is Decoupled Drupal, there are APIs, which streamline the separation of frontend and backend as well as provide the connective thread. With the robust Drupal APIs, it becomes all the more easy to integrate Drupal with other services.

Again Drupal Commerce plays an imperative role here, by providing additional modules that extend REST APIs in Drupal. These are; 

These result in better functionality for your retail site as well as make it work with far more tools than otherwise would have been possible. More on different Drupal web services implementations here.

SEO Benefits 

When we think about content-driven commerce, we have to consider content as much as commerce. Writing blogs and articles is all good and fine, but how do you make them shine on the search engines, that is where SEO friendliness pops in and Drupal is best friends with SEO. There are numerous SEO modules in Drupal that will help in everything you might need, from keywords to tagging, Drupal will have you sorted and ensure that the educational pieces you wrote do just what they were intended for.

Out-of-the-box Benefits

And there is more. Drupal has several other out-of-the-box features that make it totally compatible with ecommerce sites, especially handy, if you are going to be running your site in multiple states or even nations. 

  • Be it multilingual support and translations; 
  • Be it handling multiple currencies;
  • Or be it the management of multiple stores from one place; 

Drupal will have you sorted by providing the right module for the right need. Plus, the superabundance of themes available in Drupal will ensure you get the desired modern look and feel for your ecommerce website.
 
On top of these, the fact that Drupal helps you deploy your ecommerce site built with Drupal Commerce within hours is the only silver lining left to make you cave in to Drupal.

For a comprehensive guide on Drupal’s offerings for an enterprise-scale ecommerce site, read here.

Drupal at Work in the Ecommerce Industry

Now that you know all that Drupal can accomplish, let’s look at some of the e-commerce businesses that have successfully been able to leverage the prowess of Drupal in this domain.

Timex

The screenshot of Timex's website is presented with a number of watches from the catalogue.


Timex is an American watchmaker, you most likely have heard of it. It wanted two things out of its retail site and these were; 

  • A unique site for personifying what the brand identifies itself as, its own style had to be incorporated into the site’s design. This also meant that product, social and editorial content had to be combined to deliver an impressive visitor experience.
  • Secondly, the Timex team wanted independence, meaning they wanted to be able to create, manage and update content as and when required without a developer. 

Drupal effectively checked both these requirements and helped create the perfect Timex site.

Cannabis Yukon 

Two screenshots of Cannabis Yukon's shopping cart are shown before and after the changes.


The legality of cannabis is still a contentious issue all over the globe. Therefore, when the Government of Yukon had to build their cannabis retail, their paramount concern was to protect the privacy of its users. That is why Drupal was chosen, to have total and complete control over the consumer data. This along with Drupal Commerce and the fact the Government of Yukon website was already on Drupal, the decision was final.

LUSH 

The screenshot of LUSH's homepage can be seen.


Being a popular cosmetics company in Britain, LUSH had a massive following of users. That meant when it delved into the digital space, there were a lot of clicks per minute, especially during its Boxing Day sale. When its site ended up crashing with such a load of users, it decided to switch to Drupal, which can handle any amount of traffic thrown at it. With Drupal, the code and architecture was rethought and the site made impressively scalable. 

King Arthur Baking Company 

The screenshot of King Arthur Baking Company's website is shown.


King Arthur Baking Company is known for its mouthwatering recipes. It switched to Drupal for its transition to the digital space and was able to provide personalised experiences to its audiences, be they pro bakers, first-time novices or climbing the ladder of baking. With the additional support of experts available through expert bakers the site was indeed a success.

Conclusion 

Every site that is built has a purpose behind it, for e-commerce sites that purpose is deriving sales. Today, achieving that is no longer a walk in the park. You have to leave a mark on the user’s mind and personalised and informative content is the way to do that. 

With Drupal Commerce and Drupal’s impeccable content management system, that aim of higher conversions and better brand loyalty is no longer distant. That’s the Drupal factor in content-driven commerce.

Mar 12 2021
Mar 12

Whenever we build something, we always ensure or at least hope that it doesn’t get damaged. Take our homes, for instance, we have more than a few locks at our places to protect and keep it secure. The same goes for our gadgets, our vehicles and most importantly our livelihoods. 

This brings me to the world of website development, wherein security is a major issue. An ill protected site is all but setting its demise, bugs and hacks will become its doom eventually. So, what should be done about it?

I have an answer and that is Drupal. 

Drupal, being a content management software, comes with an array of tools and features that protect its sites from every security breach. You will have to optimise Drupal properly to make that happen.

Drupal is one of the safest open source CMSs out there

A pie chart depicts of results of sample group survey for security of various CMSs.Percentage of security issues in a sample group. Source: Acunetix

These numbers are proof of the competence of Drupal's security measures. The entire responsibility of ensuring optimal security lies on Drupal security modules. And that is what we are going to be talking about today.

With the launch of Drupal 9, security has become all the more important. So, we’ll be discussing all the essential modules required for this task. I have taken the liberty to segregate the modules into eight categories, which will cover all the aspects of security that need to be looked into and protected to make a full-proof site. 

Let’s delve right in.

Seven parameters for Drupal Security modules are quoted in seven squares.


Tackling Brute Force 

A user logs onto your site, he has a strong enough password to protect his credentials, yet there are people who will keep trying to break that to gain access to your site. When these bad actors do that, you have to protect yourself from their Brute Force. If they gain access to your site, your entire project would be compromised and that would be an upsetting scenario. 

Tackling brute force starts with user registration, Drupal’s User Registration Password module allows users to register with a password while filling out the registration form, with a verification email. This module together with Password Policy ensures that the passwords set uphold the ideal standards with uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols at work.

What if your user wants to remain logged in?

That is an option with Persistent Login’s ‘Remember Me’ feature. However, you as an administrator can control how long those ‘Remember Mes’ live; meaning you could make a user sign in again after some time. You can also control which pages these users can and cannot access. 

There is also the option of Automated Logout, wherein an administrator can log a user out who has been inactive for quite some time.

Moving on, Secure Login is a module which ensures that the user logins and other forms are securely submitted without any transparency. With Login Security, you can protect and secure your site further with access controls. For another layer of security of individual pages, you can use Protected Pages, this module can secure any and all pages on your site with a password. 

Finally, you can also restrict the number of sessions by a user at one point, using Session Limit.

All of these together can make your website or application a force itself, which no brute can think of targeting.

Handling Authentication 

From brute force let's move onto authentication. Did you know that authentication is very different from authorisation? Authentication is the former step, wherein a user is identified and validated in regards to his claim over the site and its access points. The above talked about passwords are one way to authenticate a user. 

Once the authentication is done, authorisation swoops in. You know the person is an administrator, but what’s his grade? Can he be entrusted with sensitive information? Giving him the rights and liberties to access pages, data and any and all information is what authorisation is all about. 

How does Drupal handle it? 

Through its umpteen modules of course. Like I said before, a password is one of the best ways to authenticate, however, adding another layer of authentication with it becomes the best option of them all. Two-factor authentication and Google Authenticator Login provide you just that. While the former sends a code to the user’s mobile number, the latter works on a Time-based One-time password. Google Authenticator/ 2 Factor Authentication also provides similar functions. There is also the option of choosing Require Login, a module that aids in making user authentication on pages a mandate. 

If a user is authenticated with an external site or service and its authentication details are stored there, he can be logged in or registered with External Authentication. With Social Auth Google, users are authenticated using their Google accounts to your Drupal site. JSON Web Token can also be used as a factor to authenticate users through JSON Web Token Authentication. Drupal OAuth & OpenID Connect Login - OAuth2 Client SSO Login is a module that would allow any OAuth or OpenID Provider resident user to log in to your Drupal site. 

The authentication powers of SAML, OpenID Connect and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol can also be implemented with Drupal. SAML Authentication, SimpleSAMLphp Authentication, OpenID Connect and LDAP help in that respectively.

Social API is another module that can integrate with external services through a Social API. Using it would mean you can integrate modules for every authentication task.

What about IP addresses, is there any module pertaining to them?

Well, yes. You can very easily block access or simply ban certain IP addresses, if you want. Automatic IP ban and Advanced ban accomplish this feat conveniently, the former even has a watchdog table.

Finally, what about malicious attempts at authentication? 

Drupal has you covered there as well. There can be instances wherein certain bad actors try to identify valid usernames. This is called Username Enumeration and often leads to credential stuffing. However, Username Enumeration Prevention helps in avoiding that by stopping these anonymous users in their tracks.

Controlling Administration 

User access and authentication reminded me of the administrators and the role they play in accessing a site, which brings me to the next classification of security modules. Just like users can’t be granted access to everything on your site, the people building it also cannot be given total and complete reins over it. As there are permissions and restrictions for users, there are also for administrators. 

Let’s see what Drupal has to offer the administrators in terms of permissions and roles. 

Firstly, there is Permissions Filtered by Modules, this provides a filtered list of modules and roles at the top of the permissions page making management a breeze regardless of the number of roles. Then there is Administer Users by Role, which fine grains permissions even more to the level of sub-admins.

Next come the specific permissions and roles; Block Region Permissions and Block Permissions not only allow you to control access to administer blocks, but also pave way for finer grained validation in managing blocks, respectively. For adding, modifying and deleting items, an administrator can be given the permission from Menu Admin per Menu, specific to certain menus, or he won't be able to do that. You can also set permissions to fields related to authoring information and publishing options through Override Node Options

If you wish to disable User 1 to remove the administer user’s permissions, which allows them to edit their username and password, you can do it with Disable User 1 Edit.

Drupal also has another quite charming module, which I personally love. This is the Masquerade module, as the name suggests an administrator gets the power to switch users and surf the site as the switched user and without the need to enter a password. This helps a great deal in knowing the site’s outlook from the eyes of a client.

I would like to talk about Role Delegation here as well, it is a module that allows site administrators to assign roles to further authorise roles to users. 

Should we talk about user permissions and administrators control them? 

Yes, we should. There are two specific modules I want to mention here, one is View Unpublished. This allows an administrator to give access to user roles to view certain unpublished nodes. 

Second would be the Menu Item Role Access, which makes it possible to restrict certain items on a menu without the need for creating separate menus altogether. Isn’t that just great?

Intercepting Content 

Now it’s time for the content, who can access it, how it should be accessed and what should be accessed and what needs to remain restricted. 

Your content can be as secure as you want on Drupal. With its modules, you can easily manage your content without any worry of it reaching the wrong hands or eyes. Content Access will help you to manage access permissions. It's both flexible and transparent and would let you classify the permissions as ‘view all’ or ‘view own.’ Node View Permissions also works similarly with the same exact permissions.

Field Permissions helps site admins to set field level permissions for editing, viewing and creating fields for any kind of entity.

What about blocking content from certain users or admins?

There is a lot to talk about here as well. Let’s start with hierarchy, Workbench Access is a module that would allow you to create editorial access controls and guess what these controls would be based on? Yes, it's the work hierarchy. 

Then there is Block Content Permissions, with this you can control access to administer block content types and create, update and delete them whenever you want. There is also the option of blocking a node from being edited by two users at the same time, this can be done through Content Locking

You can also add a filter that would exclude pages from certain blocks, after or even in between a wildcard with Block Exclude Pages. If you are thinking about granting access to certain users so that they can view unpublished nodes and media, Access Unpublished can help you with that.

Another clever module is the 403 to 404, which displays the 404 error when a user tries to access a page that he doesn’t have the permission to access.

Implementing Encryption 

The majority of the files and messages on a website or its server are usually encrypted. This is done so that the unwanted eyes do not reach them. Can Drupal modules be serving this purpose? Of course. 

Your database is going to have several field values stored inside it, with Field Encryption module, you can store these values in an encrypted manner of your liking. You create your own encryption method with this. 

What about the key?

There is a module with the same name. Key helps in managing all sensitive keys including APIs and encryption keys, of course. You, as an administrator, can take command over how and where these keys would be stored, making the security of the same pretty efficient. 

Is there a module that does both? Encryption and decryption?

There certainly is. You can perform symmetric and asymmetric encryption with Drupal. You can integrate modules to perform encryption and decryption in a standardised way. You can also have any number of encryption profiles used by any number of modules. And you can do this with the Encrypt module. 

You can also use the power of AES encryption with the Encrypt module. For that, you would have to combine Real AES with the former and gain access to Defuse PHP-Encryption Library.

Fighting Spam 

Unwanted and unsolicited is what spam is. It may seem like nothing beyond a nuisance, but it can become more if the web builders become complacent. Spam is capable of infecting your site with malicious software and you must know that that can never have a positive outcome. Lucky for you, Drupal is capable enough to never let that outcome take place. 

When we think about spam, a few things instantly pop up in our minds, these would be emails, comments, registrations, messages, feedback and contacts. Usually getting all of these is a good sign for your growth, but when it's spam written all over them, the good doesn’t take long to go bad. 

Honeypot and Antibot are two of the more popular modules for eliminating robotic form submissions with close to 150,000 and 33,000 Drupal sites using them for this purpose. 

Drupal modules like Spam Master, Protected Submissions, Anti Spam by CleanTalk, Check DNS, Drupal Perimeter Defence, Spambot and Spamicide, also aid in deterring the intrusion of spam on your site. Talking about Spamicide, which is pretty clever in itself, it’s a module that adds a field to forms and then hides them. So, when a bot is filling that registration form, it’d probably fill in that field and when that happens you simply discard that form and rid yourself of its nuisance. 

For email obfuscation, SpamSpan Filter and Obfuscate come in handy and prevent spammers from collecting them. E-mail No-Reply is also a great module that allows you to create a field with no reply addresses, yet still, receive important notifications from Drupal. 

What about the troubling IP addresses?

Flood Control is a Drupal module that allows you the functionality of an interface that makes it very convenient to remove IP addresses as well as user IDs from the flood table.

Can we really talk about Spam and not mention CAPTCHA?

Today, almost every web form has a CAPTCHA challenge at the end right before the submission is final, only to trick the spammers and bots. A CAPTCHA would be very easy for a human, but very confusing for a bot. This is an age-old trick to manoeuvre spambots entry to your site. Drupal has both CAPTCHA and ReCAPTCHA modules available for the taking.

CAPTCHA and ReCAPTCHA are the front runners here, equipped with the right challenges to handle spambots.

Simple Google ReCAPTCHA with its checking the ‘I’m not a robot’ box is pretty good as well. Google ReCAPTCHA v3 provides you with a score for those requests without any friction. Recaptcha Element provides further integration with Google reCAPTCHA v3.

There is also hCaptcha, a module that helps in labelling large proportions of data within a stipulated time as well as being affordable and reliable.

Attacking Hacks

Your website is somehow going to end up being a target for hackers and you can’t avoid that from happening. All you can do is make sure that it is protected to the nth degree when that happens. 

Using Drupal’s Security Kit is the first step in hardening your security. It protects from various security threats and keeps your vulnerabilities at bay from exploitation. Cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, clickjacking and SSL/TLS are some of the attacks prevented by this module. Content Security Policy works on a similar principle; it informs browsers of trusted sources to mitigate hacks and add an additional security layer on top.

If you want a reverse proxy and firewall for protection against hacks, then CloudFlare would be the right choice. 

System Status is another module that does everything from eliminating security vulnerabilities to performing necessary upgrades to keep your site hack-proof.

Dealing with the Rest 

Up until now, we have covered all the major aspects of security, from permissions and authentication to spam and hacks, yet there are still some modules left to discuss that have a role to play in Drupal security. We’ll discuss that now. 

Let’s start with the laws. General Data Protection Regulation sets the guidelines that govern how data is protected as well as the privacy of the users in the EU. Drupal’s GDPR module provides helper tools that in turn aid your sites in becoming more compliant with this law. Cookiebot further aids in tracking your use of cookies and GDPR and ePR compliance. Then there is TacJS, which helps your sites in adhering to the European Cookie Law with the user of tarteaucitron.js.

Moving on, to ensure that all uploaded files are sound and secure, you can use File Upload Secure Validator, which does exactly what its name suggests; validating the security of the uploaded files on the server-side. ClamAV further ensures that those files are not infected by any virus by integrating Drupal with the virus scanner of the same name.

For headers and referrers, there are the Remove HTTP Headers and No Referrer modules. While the former removes the HTTP headers from the configuration, the latter ensures that no referrer information is leaked.

Security.txt helps in implementing the security.txt standard, which ensures the proper documentation of your site’s security contacts and policy. There is a module to avoid stale IP addresses clogging up your database and protecting user’s privacy, this can be done through IP Anonymize

Finally, to ensure that your site is at the prime of its health, you can opt for Health Check, which would enable you with an endpoint for the load balancers. 

Conclusion 

So, there you have it, the majority of the Drupal security modules that would make your Drupal site watertight. I wouldn’t say that there aren’t any other modules for security, there certainly are and you would be wise to use them as well. 

In the end, I’ll just say that security is always going to be a primary concern when websites are built and made operational. Drupal isn’t a software that would be described as lacklustre in terms of security and with the launch of Drupal 9, security has become all the more efficient at Drupal.

Mar 09 2021
Mar 09
The Drupal 9 logo can be seen on the left, while on the right, there are three logos of React, Vue and Angular.


The 21st century is a pretty marvelous time to live in. There is so much that can be achieved today with limitless possibilities. There aren’t any inhibitions found in people. If we want it, we get it. I mean the 21st century folks have landed on Mars, so is there anything that we can’t do? I think not. 

If you look at all of our accomplishments, you’ll find that technology is at the root of it all. It is the advancements we have made in science that has allowed the present time to be as marvelous as it is.

Talking about all of these technologies would take as long as a year, even if I do it succinctly. So, I’ll not get into it. However, I will talk about one segment of tech that has had a profound effect in the way we surf the web. And it is the web development process. 

To be concise, I want to discuss a trend in web development that has aided the developers, designers and project managers to build to their heart’s desire without having to rely on one specific technology, which used to constraint them. It is a trend that eliminates restraint and promotes innovation. 

Let’s find out what it is. 

The Drupal Prequel

Before I get to the main agenda of this blog, I felt like I needed to talk about the underlying technology, which is Drupal. Being a content management software, Drupal ticks all the right boxes when it comes to building versatile web experiences. 

To build websites from the ground up and being completely responsible for all of the site’s aspects is deemed as Drupal being traditional or monolithic. What it means is that Drupal would have total control over a site’s technological stack. The front end and all the presentational aspects along with the back end and all of its data layers would fall within the realms of Drupal. Such use of Drupal is quite sufficient for standalone websites and applications, where editorial needs surpass developers' needs and the former seeks complete control over all the visual elements of the page. With Drupal offering features like in-place editing and layout management, I don’t disagree with wanting such control. 

However, what happens when the developers want to start implementing the current technology on the front end? What happens when the site needs more interactivity than before? Wouldn’t React or Angular seem like a better option to achieve that? 

I think they would and that brings me to the trend I was talking about in the introduction, being Decoupled Drupal.

Unfettered innovation and Decoupled Drupal 

Decoupled Drupal essentially removes the link between the frontend and backend and makes the developers free to do what they want with the presentation layer of the site. The reason for this separation is the flexibility it gives to the architectural development, empowering the front end developers to have total control over the projects’s rendered markup along with the user experience.

It’s not just the control over the frontend layer that motivates developers to push for decoupling, there are plenty of other benefits that make the feat of decoupling too good to give up. 

These include; 

  • Building impressive features through server-side rendering or Node.js; 
  • Securing data through a publicly inaccessible CMS; 
  • Publishing your content on all forms of IOT devices; 
  • Increasing the speed and efficiency of work with a clear separation of concerns and duties, less interdependence and less hassle; 
  • Updating the software becomes quicker too, without any impact on the working of the other end;
  • Finally, being able to take advantage of the rich JavaScript framework or a static site generator of your choice for an immaculately interactive site. 

All of these advantages of decoupling have made the trend to follow. Depending on your need, decoupled Drupal has the potential of building your project with its inbuilt web services and APIs. REST, JSON:API, and GraphQL are the prominent contenders in this regard so that the flow of information from the front to the back is seamless.

With decoupling, it is also easy to find the right personnel for your project. When you are building a frontend with JavaScript, you would need developers fluent in JS, and it is a well known fact that there are far more JS developers than Twig.

However, decoupling Drupal can also leave you in a bit of conundrum as well. The thing is when you decouple Drupal, you are saying goodbye to many of the out-of-the-box features Drupal offers such as layout and display management, content previews and certain security features. Some of these can be written from scratch by your developers, but there are more than a few that cannot be compensated for. 

So, in a situation like this how do you lessen the losses? How do you ensure that you get the unfettered innovative edge on the front end and still be able to reap the benefits of Drupal’s frontend capabilities? 

The Middle Ground: Progressively Decoupled Drupal

How to decouple Drupal? There is a perfectly reasonable answer to the decoupling dilemma and it lies in its categories. Decoupling Drupal can be achieved in two different aspects. 

  • The first one is when you decouple completely, totally extracting the frontend from the backend. This is called fully decoupled Drupal architecture. It can be done for dynamic sites using JavaScript or for static sites by relying on static site generators like Gatsby and Metalsmith
  • In the second approach, you will separate the presentation and data layers, however, there won’t be total interdependence between the two. By this, I mean some aspects of the front end would be developed outside of Drupal and the remaining would house inside of Drupal. This is called progressively decoupled Drupal architecture. 

In the first approach, with a total separation you would have to part with Drupal’s out-of-the-box features on the frontend, there is no going around it. However, when you take up the second approach, which is to progressively decouple Drupal that won’t be the case. You would get to play with other front end technologies, yet enjoy all the functionality Drupal has to offer. More on best frontend technologies for decoupled Drupal here.

You must be wondering how that becomes possible, and let me tell you that. 

When progressively decoupled Drupal is in the picture, you get to build a frontend using Drupal and all its out-of-the-box features. Once you have done that, then you can layer a JavaScript framework on top of the layer you have built. 

The difference between traditional Drupal architecture and progressively decoupled Drupal architecture is hown through a diagram.


It is important to understand that in progressively decoupled Drupal, it is up to you and your needs to decide the kind of responsibility you are to dole on JavaScript. The JS layer on top of the Drupal frontend could be responsible for rendering an independent block or component on a single page or it could go as far as to render every single aspect of that page. 

The kind of progressive decoupling you would do, would have a direct impact on the kind of control your editors would have. More JavaScript rendering would mean less editor control because Drupal’s administrative capabilities would diminish on the frontend, while less JS rendering would automatically mean more room for Drupal’s administrative capabilities and more power to the editors.  

Progressively decoupled Drupal is indeed the perfect balance between advanced frontend technologies and the powerful capabilities of Drupal. You would not need to compromise on one to get the other. The reference of the middle ground for web development in the decoupled sense is an accurate description of the progressive architectural approach.

But how do you decide whether taking up progressive decoupling is the better choice. The question progressively decoupled Drupal or fully decoupled Drupal can often prove to be quite difficult to answer, yet we have to try. So, let’s do just that.

Think of the Editors or the Developers?

For any web project, be it a site or an application, there are two important players. These are the people who bring the project alive, being the developers, and the people who become the voice of the project, being the content authors and editors. So when deciding whether to go for coupled, fully decoupled or progressively decoupled Drupal approaches, you have to keep them in mind. 

For the editors, you have to think about; 

  • The kind of ease they would need in manipulating page content and layout; 
  • The kind of in-context tools they would require; 
  • The kind of accessibility they would need in Drupal’s HTML by default; 
  • And the kind of previews they would be in need of without custom development

For the developers, you would have to think about; 

  • The king of control they want over the frontend presentation; 
  • The kind of server-side rendering they want; 
  • The kind of APIs they want to write JavaScript;
  • And the kind data security they want.

Assuming the editors want it all, an ease of manipulating page content and layout, tools like in-place editing and contextual links, the ability to preview unpublished content and a constant access to content. Now, assuming that the developers also require the same kind of ease, with control, with the ability to choose between server-side rendering and Node.js built features, with JSON:API at work and a publicly inaccessible CMS. 

If that is the case, progressively decoupled Drupal architecture would help you give the best to both your developers and editors. The developers would be able to adopt JavaScript for portions of the pages and satiate their appetite for interactivity and advanced development. At the same time, the editors would be able to work without any blocks with all of the Drupal features they always wanted. A win-win situation for the crucial players. 

OSL and A Progressively Decoupled Drupal Project

We, at OpenSense Labs, have worked with a global brand, Produce Market Guide (PMG) to cater to a specific need by performing progressive decoupling. 

PMG is a leading name in the market for producing commodity information, trends and data analysis. A part of the Farm Journal family, but aimed to provide an advanced and enriching experience to its users. However, because of a slow search feature that was becoming impossible. 

The picture shows a screenshot of the search bar of the Product Market Guide's site, which was built using Progressively Decoupled Drupal Architecture and React.


Other than that, the site was functioning pretty well with Drupal. So, in order to rectify the slow search feature, a progressively decoupled Drupal approach was implemented by OSL. using React and elastic, the new search function was built and this improved the time it took to present the result to mere seconds. Look at the detailed case study for PMG for a clearer picture of the project. 

This was one project that made our developers understand decoupled Drupal a lot better. The fact that you do not have to build an entire front end from the ground up is a prominent benefit of the progressive approach. Using JS for just one function, making it as advanced and interactive as possible, and calling it a day is essentially how progressively decoupled Drupal works. And I think there are very few architectural approaches better than this one.

The Final Verdict 

I want to conclude by giving you another example. 

“Imagine you have a site that needs a lot of interactive elements that would encompass user choices and give the user the option of getting a personalised experience based on his history, with future recommendations. Also, imagine that your site has a lot of traffic and a lot of content to manage for which you are bound to need highly competent content management and site building tools.”

For such a site, neither the coupled Drupal architecture would work, nor would the fully decoupled architecture work. It needs a balance of the two. 

Why?

Because Drupal alone cannot build a highly interactive site like this one, it would have to rely on JavaScript and the likes. However, with high traffic, a lot of the data is often cacheable and Drupal is equipped to handle that very well. If the content isn’t handled properly, the performance of the site would be affected drastically. That is why a middle ground has to be chosen and progressively decoupled Drupal is just that. I wouldn’t be totally wrong in saying that the future of decoupling Drupal could lie in doing it progressively. Do you agree?

Mar 02 2021
Mar 02

Today, there are a bazillion options available for us to choose from, be it restaurants, clothing brands, gadgets or software. We, as users, may have difficulty in choosing the best, but never in finding the options. The options may confuse us, but we are going to be bombarded with them nonetheless. 

This brings me to the question of choosing the right option amongst the lot; how is it selected? For me, one of the most important criteria is usability, if I am not able to understand the usage of a product, I’d rather choose the next one. I am sure usability must be an important factor in your decision as well. 

Now, coming onto the product that I would be talking about today, Drupal. It is one of the most renowned open source content management systems out there. If you are reading this blog, you would definitely be aware of Drupal and all of its brilliance. Despite its eminence and versatility, it is still marred by a slightly unjustified rumour based on its use. Yes, as the title suggests, Drupal is often considered difficult to use and as a result many shy away from using it. 

Today, we will try to understand all the aspects of Drupal that could account for this claim and see if it is really true. Can a software that is meant to be free for anyone to use be so difficult that it become inaccessible to a major lot of its audience? What would be the point of it then? You think about that while I begin with the individual of Drupal’s so-called complexities. 

A Glimpse at Drupal’s Market Share 

Drupal is one of the leading CMSs in the market. Its ability to build powerful web experiences is the paramount reason for the same. So before I get into the nitty gritty details of Drupal's ease of use, I wanted to highlight its popularity. 

A line graph is showing Drupal usage statistics. Source: BuiltWithA table is showing the number of sites using Drupal at different points of time.Source: Drupal.org 

These numbers clearly show that Drupal is being used by a considerable number of sites worldwide with as many as a million Drupal sites operational at one time. This proves the answer to the question ‘Is Drupal in demand’ is going to be an affirmative.

A graph shows how many sites use Drupal in comparison with other CMSs.Source: W3TechThere is a list of the most high traffic sites using Drupal.Source: SimilarTech

Is Drupal still relevant? I’d say it is primarily because it isn’t just the numbers that make Drupal impressive, but its performance as well. The above images depicts Drupal’s competency at handling high-traffic sites. Drupal is a software for which millions of visitors aren't daunting as proven by its clientele.

Two pie charts are showing various changes in business and projects handles by it.Source: Drupal.org 

Moreover, in a survey to understand 2021’s business outlook, Drupal found out that the majority of its users felt that the new year would mark a growth in their prospects. With Drupal’s presence in a wide range of industries, the profitability of the CMS is impressive too. Sectors like education, charities and nonprofits, government, IT and even media have experienced more profits with Drupal as per the findings of Drupal Business Survey 2020

Drupal has proven its worth in every aspect, be it the number or the performance. The only thing that mars its impeccable record is that it is difficult to use, which isn’t technically the case. I’ll start answering the why with the next section.

Let’s move on to the programming language 

PHP or Hypertext Preprocessor is the programming language Drupal is built on. And PHP is a language that is often considered to be part of its complexity. I would say that it is not accurate. 

PHP is one of the best programming languages and has landed itself in the top 10 best languages to learn in 2021 by many surveys; Simplilearn and Hackr.io are two of these reports. With that kind of efficacy, the language cannot be considered to be problematic.  

Further proof of PHP’s popularity is in the number of websites and applications that use it, which isn’t a lowly figure. Look at the graph below for proof. 

A graph is showing the popularity of various programming languages.Source: W3techs

And these reports and figures aren’t antiquated, rather are as new as the year itself. So, PHP must be a worthwhile language, even if it isn’t the easiest of them all. 

However, PHP isn’t the only language Drupal works with. It has other dependencies as well. These include; 

Symfony; 
Twig; 
CKEditor; 
jQuery and jQuery UI. 

All of these only mean that Drupal is versatile, it isn’t a software with one side. Its multifaceted programming aspects only add to its appeal. It may seem like a lot at first, but it is necessary and doesn’t add up to Drupal’s difficulties, rather it eases the task of web development.

Moving on to the beginner’s conundrum 

When we start something, more often than not, we feel overwhelmed with it. Since we are not accustomed to the newness and it’s nuances, that is understandable. And Drupal ensures that it takes into consideration the novice developers. 

Until Drupal 8, beginners have reported difficulties with the installation and evaluation of Drupal. But after the release of the eighth version, things are more streamlined with the beginner’s needs and expertise. 

Drupal has also brought on new themes to make its experience more flattering for the beginners. For example:

Umami in Drupal 8.6 
Claro in Drupal 8.8 
And Olivero as an experiment in Drupal 9.1

All three themes have made Drupal more accessible, responsive and simple for its users, if we are to rely on user feedback. If I talk about Olivero specifically, it is the new beta experimental frontend theme, which is both modern and concise, and will take over Bartik as Drupal default theme. Its simplicity and professional look make it a perfect pair for beginners.  

With Drupal 9, there isn’t much that has changed. If you are comfortable with Drupal 8, you would be able to ease into the 9th version with a breeze. Although there are indeed differences between Drupal 8 and 9, these are not as stark and have made development not seem like a daunting task. 

And there is more. 

The Drupal Community, always helping out!

Drupal has a community of over 1 million people and 100,000+ stories to tell. From putting your skills at work to acquiring new skills to work, the Drupal community is known for upliftment of the software and the people using it. 

Any questions a beginner may have will be rightfully answered. You can easily find mentors, who are Drupal veterans and will gleefully help you become an expert like them. You can practise, practise and practise some more to get to the level you want to be at. Being part of the Drupal community, you will be able to hone your skills unlike anywhere else. 

You would not feel like an outsider, meet people with similar interests and similar geography as you at Drupal Groups. Since the best way to learn Drupal or anything really is to be immersed in it, the Drupal community is just the place for learning and mastering.

And, there is a constant endeavour to help underrepresented groups from the Drupal Community. Diversity, inclusion and equity is at the heart of the community.

So, there isn’t much room for the beginner’s conundrum at Drupal.

Then there are the notorious Drupal upgrades

Upgrades are necessary, but they don’t necessarily have to be an insurmountable task, which frankly speaking was the case for Drupal. Upgrading till Drupal 8 could not be described as being easy and quick. They required a lot of work and it was difficult, as there were major fundamental changes in the software. However, there was no other way to go about it. If you wanted the added functionality and support that new version would have, upgrading was the only choice.

However, that isn’t the case now and thank goodness for that. 

With the launch of Drupal 9, upgrades have become less notorious and more accommodating. The Drupal 9 switch has been deemed as the easiest upgrade of the decade and that is saying something. This is because unlike previous upgrades, Drupal 9 does not change the entire CMS on a fundamental level, there is no reinvention, but it is still unique. It is a new and improved version of Drupal 8, with deprecated APIs and updated dependencies.

Here is an illustration that will help you understand what I have been saying about fundamental changes.

Different train tracks are used to describe the difference between various Drupal versions.Source: Drupal.org 

With a four step process, you can make your Drupal 8 sites ready and waiting to be upgraded into Drupal 9, if that is difficult, I wonder which adjective would be appropriate for the previous ones. You can also directly upgrade from Drupal 7, if you wish to. Access this complete guide to Drupal 9 to know everything about Drupal 9 upgrade and migration.

Yes, Drupal upgrades were difficult, but they aren’t now. So, does this fact make this pointer for Drupal moot? I think it does.

Coming on to the workflow 

For content management systems, content is the integral. The way it is created and managed essentially decides whether the life of developers and content creators is going to be easy or not. If you are using Drupal correctly, I can assure you life is going to be a breeze.

I say this because in terms of editorial workflow, Drupal has a lot to offer and not much is complicated, with structured tools equipped to define the same.

Here is an overview of some of them.

Workspaces is one tool that helps in defining the staging environments, previewing content changes, all the while deploying these to a live environment.

Transitions is another tool that makes it easy to control content States, which have their own attributes. It allows state changes to become restricted by roles and permissions along with allowing users what content to be put through them.

Then, there is the eminent Views module. This is one unique to Drupal and its highlighting feature in terms of content. It gives the power of creating, managing and displaying lists of content to administrators and site designers. It is these lists that are called views, while what the portray in the form of blocks or pages is the display, it can be one or many.

A screenshot of Drupal's Views module can be seen.Source: Drupal.org 

One of Drupal’s most fulfilling editorial tools is the Layout Builder. It allows editors to create a publishing piece that is more than flexible to their needs. Any kind of layout is possible with this module.  
 
All of these support the editorial needs of the many content authors who will be populating a platform and the better part is they would not need the guidance of the developers every of the way or any at all.

The new-age of Headless CMSs 

As times change, the things that satiated our needs no longer do so. The same is true for CMSs. Looking back, it is evident that site builders and developers were quite satisfied with nestling an entire project inside one CMS, which would have acted as the provider of the frontend and the backend needs. However, with the advent of multitudinous frontend technologies, that satiation is no longer achievable. 

Hence, the new-age of CMSs emerged, which is essentially without a head, that is the presentation. Unlike the monolithic architecture, the headless approach separates the frontend development from the backend, making the developers happy by leveraging other technologies.

Drupal is a pro at the headless approach. Its monolithic architecture is also used by sites with simpler needs, however, it does give them the option to decouple or go headless, if they wanted to. 

  • You could choose to decouple partially, this would be the progressively decoupled approach
  • You could choose to go all the way, with the fully decoupled approach with JavaScript framework of your preference taking care of the frontend or you could choose static site generators as your frontend.

Be it React, Angular, VueGatsby or Metalsmith, Drupal can work with all of the major frontend technologies and make the project a success with it acting as the content repository.

Drupal’s work isn’t finished yet, it also provides robust APIs to streamline the connection between the presentation and the content layer. Built on the API-first approach, Drupal offers all of its application functions as APIs. This is done through its web services including RESTful web services and JSON:API along with API extensions with GraphQL

Drupal can create its own flexible and structured presentation layer, there isn’t a doubt in it. Regardless of this, when it is decoupled, it performs with equal efficiency to create API endpoints, which basically make room for content consumption and display in the headless application.

And this new-age of CMSs is gaining ground each day, and Drupal, with its own web services at play, is making the transition quite easy.

Fusion with Emerging technologies

I mentioned in the previous section that with time things change and so does their to us. Today, technology is a major part of that change. I remember a time not long ago, when a single camera setup on our smartphones was enough for us. Now, my phone has three, still I envy my husband, whose smartphone has a quad camera setup. Who could have imagined that? 

The same is true for CMSs, when we look at them, we don’t just want a simple site building tool. We want innovations, enhancements and upgrades that will stun us in the most positive way. And CMSs have started providing that. 

Taking Drupal into focus, it has had a revolutionary impact on the market by integrating itself with futuristic technologies.

Drupal has proven to be both reliable and reaching in its fusion with emerging technologies and that has led to an improved digital experience, both for the developers and the users. Read our blog Unleashing macro trends in technology with Drupal to find more about this topic.

It all comes down to continuous improvement in focus

A horizontal bar graph shows the various reasons people opted for Drupal.Reasons for people choosing Drupal. Source: Drupal Business Survey 2020 

The most common reason for people using Drupal is because they have already used it and because of that familiarity, it becomes easy to use. However, ease of use is not amongst the top reasons for taking up Drupal. 

Probably that is why, when Drupal 10’s 2022 release was announced during DrupalCon Global in 2020 by Dries Buytaert, its ease-of-use was addressed as one of the most impactful aspects. And Drupal 10’s development is proof of that.

In Dries speech, he emphasised the ease of use quite a lot. He talked about five crucial steps that were taken to simplify Drupal even more. 

  • Improving third party components even after their EOL to enhance Drupal 10 readiness; 
  • Improving Drupal’s ease-of-use further, Drupal 9 was a great step in this direction;
  • Improving frontend themes; 
  • Improving updates by making them automates, this would work best for security upgrades; 
  • Improving on Drupal technology by implementing JavaScript components in the UI. 

For all of these, the efforts are being made by the entire community. 

Yes, it would be faster, better and more innovative, but it would not be difficult. Like I mentioned before in this blog, we should not expect many overhauls to the software that would make our eyes pop and heads hurt. 

There are going to be improvements, there would at least by four versions of Drupal 9 before the arrival of 10. However, this continuity in advancements does not have to affect the way Drupal is seen by its users. It needn’t be the forbidden fruit that everybody wants to taste, but scared to do so. Drupal is an open source software, it is meant for everyone and that means it isn't too difficult. I wouldn’t deny that wasn’t complex at one point, but that point of time is long gone. What lies in the future is a version of Drupal that is as easy to use for a beginner as it is for an expert developer.

The Bottom Line 

I’d like to answer the question ‘How hard is it to use Drupal?’ with a direct from one of our developers.

“Being from a technical background and having PHP development experience before diving into Drupal gives me an upper edge during the journey. Being into Drupal development for around 3 years, I can say it’s all about learning the architecture of Drupal (such as entities, configs and forms) and how the code executes (sequence of functions calls). The earlier you understand these, the easier the Drupal journey would be for you and it would help you to debug faster and select the best approach for the requirements. Plus having a great community and open contribution platform helps you learn better and faster. Drupal is like a Lego, you can build it to your liking but, at a certain point of customisation, it is like a box with thousands of pieces and not all of them fit together.” - Anmol Goel, Senior Software developer at OpenSense Labs

For Anmol, Drupal experience made the journey easier. It requires you to get a hang of things, once you do that, there isn’t much that you’d find difficult, and your Drupal development experience would be a walk in the park; at least most of the time. And like he put it so eloquently, who could find a game of Lego difficult? All it is about is building something new every time, be it today or tomorrow and that’s Drupal for you.

Feb 22 2021
Feb 22
The Drupal and Contentful Comparison: Open Source vs Proprietary Software Gurpreet Kaur Mon, 02/22/2021 - 16:16

Today, everything is being done online. If you are not online, you just might be considered antiquated. From social media to e-commerce, every aspect of the online world is, thus, improving by leaps and bounds. We are benefiting from these advancements, so no complaints there. 

All the advantages that we are able to reap from the online world, from the websites we so eagerly use, are dependent on a particular system. This is the system that they are built on, the more versatile it is, the better the website’s versatility is going to be. And this is exactly what we expect from our web experiences and the system provides almost every time. 

Drupal and Contentful logos can be seen together.


It is the Content Management Software, I am raving about. There are plenty available for the developers to choose from. However, we’ll be talking about two of them in particular, comparing them actually as they are strangely a bit alike and a bit different too. These are Drupal and Contentful. So, let’s begin.

Parameter

Drupal   Contentful Market Share  Founded in 2000, Drupal has a substantial market presence, with a million sites using it  Launched in 2013, Contentful’s market share is impressive too Decoupled Architecture  Drupal offers efficient decoupling with an API-first infrastructure  Decoupling features are similar to Drupal

Performance and Scalability 

If optimised properly, Drupal provides impeccable performance and limitless scalability  Contentful offers great performance too, however, it poses technical limitations Security  Quite reliable and the most secure open source CMS with a proactive community constantly working on issues  Good, however, bugs can be a common occurrence Content Workflow  The content modelling and editorial experience is wholesome for the authors, Views system being the highlight Contentful works differently, but offers an equally wholesome experience to content authors Pricing  Free to install and configure, there can be other costs depending on the scale of the project  Not free, being a proprietary software, has a standard monthly cost to be paid Third-party Integrations  Integrates seamlessly with third party tools and application  Matches Drupal in this regard Community  The Drupal community is over a million and growing  Contentful does not have such a wide community, but its Community Plan is a step towards it Migrations  Difficult in the past, but a breeze with the launch of Drupal 9 The CLI tool helps in migrations, making them automated Responsiveness  Designs, themes, images and tables, everything is mobile-friendly with Drupal  The responsiveness to mobile devices is quite impressive as well. Multilingual  Translates content, configurations and interfaces in over 90 languages Offers translation services similar to Drupal, but in 30 languages Accessibility  Drupal follows WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0 guidelines for accessibility  Contentful follows WCAG 2.1 guidelines SEO  Drupal has a module for every SEO need, be it keywords or links Contentful also supplements SEO needs, but it is dependent on the creation of dedicated content types

Understanding the CMSs and their abilities 

Drupal, leading as an open source  

Drupal has been around for two decades. The 15th of January 2021, marked its 20th birthday, being around for this long, it has mastered all the nuances of content management and digital experiences. It is a digital experience management system that has the potential of driving web content onto multiple platforms to provide personalised experiences that would allow your users to connect with your organisation.

The kind of content management tools Drupal comes with are not only sophisticated, but also stimulate perpetual innovation. The great thing about Drupal isn’t its numerous modules, themes and templates, even though they are great too, but it is the fact that Drupal is open source and accessible to far more people than a proprietary software would be. 

A line graph is showing Drupal usage statistics. Source: BuiltWith

 

A table is showing the number of sites using Drupal at different points of time.Source: Drupal.org

Contentful, not the conventional CMS

Contentful was founded in 2013 by Sascha Konietzke and Paolo Negri in Berlin. It hasn’t been around as long as Drupal, but it isn’t the new kid on the block as well. In simple terms, Contentful is a content infrastructure, a platform that would allow you to create, manage and distribute content to any platform. 

This pretty much sums up the definition of a CMS. So, why did I say Contentful was not conventional?

Other CMSs, Drupal included, come with out-of-the-box content models that you have to choose from. However, with Contentful you have the liberty to create your own content models and you get to decide which content you want to manage. The RESTful APIs provide you the ability to deliver your content across multiple platforms, including websites, mobile apps, be it iOS, Android or Windows. From Google Glass to infinity, it is your pick. You can utilise the potential of Contentful on your own or a team. The uncluttered UI makes assigning custom roles and permissions a breeze. Contentful is a modern content platform that paves the way for faster launches.

A bar graph shows the market share of Contentful in different countries since it was founded.Source: BuiltWith 

Drupal vs Contentful: Putting them under the microscope

How efficient is decoupling? 

Usually a CMS is equipped to manage content in the backend and push it to the front-end templates that essentially provide the desired user experience. This meant that a CMS served as an all-in-one system that provided for all the development needs. However, that is changing with decoupling, where-in the frontend and the backend are two different entities, independent of each other.

Drupal 

With Drupal, you can decouple the frontend from the backend where you want to, making the content become reusable chunks that are independent of the presentation layer and always prepared for delivery to as many sites and apps.

When you decouple, you get the benefit of Drupal’s presentation-neutral content. The REST API, GraphQL, JSON:API and all the different alternatives that you get in decoupled Drupal ecosystem to build a front-end as you want, with any technology you want, is amazing

These are a few of the tools and frameworks that decoupling Drupal would allow you to take up and build interactive sites and apps. You can get the complete insights on what frontend technology to use with decoupled Drupal architecture here.

You also get the opportunity to future-proof your project by refreshing designs without re-implementing the entirety of the CMS.

Contentful 

Since decoupling is dependent on one principle, that is the separation of the frontend from the backend, I wouldn’t say that Contentful is all that different from Drupal in this regard. 

  • It is an API-first content infrastructure.
  • It makes front-end layers less rigid and more versatile, with a number of tools and frameworks.
  • It acts as a content repository delivering your content.

All of this is achievable through Drupal as well. What is different are two things;

  • It has its own Contentful API, delivered through a CDN, while Drupal operates on RESTful APIs, JSON and GraphQL. 
  • Next is the fact that Contentful uses an approach known as JAMstack, JavaScript, APIs and Markup; while decoupled Drupal uses MERN, MangoDB, Express, React, NodeJS.

There are also chances of API requests turning wrong. When that happens, the Contentful server will automatically create an error, with an appropriate HTTP status code in the header along with a JSON response in the body. 

How reliable is the performance and scalability?

Drupal 

Drupal comes equipped to handle any and all performance scalability needs an organisation might have. However, it would only be able to do that if you optimise it properly, that is a contingent for scalability. 

For instance, sites operating on Drupal 8 and later versions come with tools that will allow you to scale on the frontend and the backend. 

Blazy
Content Delivery Network 
Server Scaling 
Site Monitoring tools 

All account for a better performing Drupal site that is always ready to accommodate for traffic spikes and content growth making your site always available. To know more, read these comprehensive guides to Drupal performance optimisation techniques and scalability provisions.

Contentful

Contentful was made to scale to compensate for your site’s growth much like Drupal. It has taken into consideration all of the dimensions of growth that a site or app may face and categorised them into seven categories.

It is prepared to handle 

  • heightened levels of traffic, data and usage; 
  • the addition of more projects, products and channels; 
  • an increased level of complexity and sophistication in use cases;
  • an expansion in global markets; 
  • an elevated number of internal users; 
  • an enhanced pace of development; 
  • and cater for an advanced level of security for business perpetuity.

At the end of it all, Contentful comes with certain technical limits upon the infrastructure. These are enforced to mandate a lack of interruption on the shared-service infrastructure functions, however, they are limits all the same. Reading them before using Contentful would be wise.

How sufficient is the security?

Drupal 

In terms of security, Drupal is on the higher level of sufficiency, if not the best. The kind of features it comes equipped with make it a frontrunner. A Sucuri’s report even showed that Drupal is amongst the most secure open source CMS out there.

Drupal security is very competent because of; 

  • Its expert security team, adhering to the guidelines set by Open Web Application Security Project; 
  • Its community, being proactive and analysing any security issues; 
  • Its implementation of a secure access through strong passwords that are even encrypted;
  • Its secure codebase; 
  • Its control over the most trivial user access; 
  • Its encrypted database; 
  • Its APIs, ensuring validation of data and preventing malicious entry. 

Contentful 

Contentful almost competes with Drupal in terms of security, I have used the term almost because there is a catch. 

Talking about the positives, Contentful’s security infrastructure is based on Amazon Web Services, making it quite impressive. 

  • It has ISO 27001 compliant data centres; 
  • It comes with data storage, that is encrypted at rest along with an encryption of all forms of communication in transit; 
  • It comes handy with a web application firewall, brute force prevention, data retention policy, threat detection and two-factor authentication along with security audits. 

Despite all of these measures, Contentful isn’t totally secure from hacks. There are bugs and fixes that are often highlighted, and with a large codebase like that of Contentful, it is almost understandable. Therefore, its Bug Bounty Program was launched to reward hackers for finding these issues and vulnerabilities. 

How streamlined is the content workflow?

For a content management system, the content is the most essential part, its creation and management to be streamlined for the CMS to be successful.

Drupal 

In terms of content modelling and the editorial experience, Drupal’s abilities are more than impressive. 

  • Drupal offers numerous field types like boolean, comments, date, email, links, timestamp and numbers, inclusive of decimals, integers and floats. 
  • Drupal’s Field Group module enables you to custom group fields, allowing easy customisations for your editors.
  • The Views system helps in creating an experience that has enhanced uniqueness because it gives you the power to add any field to the view, pull relationships as well as executing many operations at once.
  • Then there is the Content Moderation module along with the Workflows module that can define an innumerable count of arbitrary publishing states and workflows. You could have a largely diverse team, and still be able to map out your preferred workflow before implementing it.

Majority of these are unfound in Contentful, however, it does have its own share of tools accounting for a streamlined workflow.

Contentful 

Contentful doesn’t really fall behind Drupal in content workflow by a substantial margin. Its abilities are almost as good as that of Drupal’s. Contentful’s default editorial experience is extremely easy to understand and use. However, when you decouple it, say using React, you would have to part with the default features. 

  • Contentful offers field types as many as Drupal’s, however, it doesn’t highlight specific format types like email and links and physical addresses. But then it has a JSON object, which Drupal is missing out on. 
  • Contentful uses widgets to define each field type. 
  • Default content views make viewing and filtering content very easy. 
  • Contentful also has easy field restoration with a referencing experience for searching and creation of entities, both of which aren’t found in Drupal.

Contentful’s content modeling and editorial workflow are quite different from Drupal, but effective all the same.

How pocket friendly is the pricing?

Drupal 

Being an open source software, Drupal is free to install and configure. If you have the right human resources, it is absolutely free. However, if you don’t, then it is going to cost you. And these costs depend on the kind of site you are building.

Costs would be dependent on; 

  • The size of the site you are aiming for, the bigger the project, the higher the cost; 
  • The kind of complexity it is going to mandate in relation to workflows, integration and multilingual sites;
  • The timeline and the team you would be relying on; a bigger project would need additional team members like project managers and quality assurance personnel;
  • Then there is the question of the Drupal agency to do all of this for you, if you cannot, which is going to cost you.

Contentful 

Contentful isn’t associated with being free like Drupal. It has different pricing models for different needs of developers and organisations.

  • If you are looking to build a personal site as an individual developer, Contentful would be free for you.
  • If you are looking to power a modern stack site or two with enhanced authoring roles and technical support, you could take up a free trial and then subscribe to Contentful starting at $489 per month.
  • And if you are looking to build hundreds of digital experiences while scaling your content platform, you can get a custom plan from Contentful for your specific needs.

I wouldn’t say Contentful is too heavy on the pocket as is, but including the cost of hiring developers and staff and it would become more expensive than Drupal. 

How effective are the third party integrations?

Drupal 

Drupal is renowned for its abilities to integrate itself with third party tools and applications. Be it analytic platforms, e-commerce verticals, ERP systems or email and marketing systems, Drupal works well with all of them.

Its API-first focus, like Contentful, makes it essential for finding connections to make content reach to other sites and apps. And third-party integrations are just the way to do that.

Contentful 

Contentful comes with UI extensions that are able to integrate themselves with external APIs and third party data. From e-commerce sites to YouTube to local translators, Contentful can merge itself with a number of tools. 

There is also the fact that Contentful has successfully integrated itself with Gatsby and Metalsmith as its official projects proving its abilities further in this regard. Drupal and Contentful aren’t all that different in terms of third party integrations.

How helpful is the community?

Drupal 

Drupal is a large platform, operational all over the globe. This means that its community is also spread throughout the world. And it has, the Drupal community has over a million users in as many as 230 countries, isn’t that an achievement in itself?

People from different backgrounds, different skill sets and different perspectives come together to improve Drupal and enhance its community ties. Perks of contributing to open source are immense and this guide to Drupal contribution will shed more light on the advantages that you get.

Contentful 

Contentful does not have a community as wide as Drupal’s. However, it is making strides towards building one. It has devised and launched a Community Plan that would empower individual developers to build as they like, without incurring any costs as opposed to its 14-day free trial. 

The community also provides technical support through its slack channel, where thousands of developers are active and ready to help.

How seamless are the migrations?

Upgrades and migrations are inevitable when it comes to web development. Usually developers do not look forward to the hassle they bring along. So, do Drupal and Contentful bring on the hassle or eliminate it?

Drupal 

With Drupal 9 having launched last year and Drupal 10 on the horizon, there is a lot of anxiety amongst the Drupal 7 and 8 using folks. The primary reason for the anxiety being the looming EOL dates and the heavy-duty upgrades. 

However, the anxiety isn’t necessary at all.

Talking about the switch from Drupal 8 to 9, as per the makers, this upgrade is considered the easiest in almost a decade. By following a four-step guide, you can have your current site ready for the functionality and better security standards of Drupal 9 by using the Upgrade Status

As for the upgrade from Drupal 7 to 9, easy is not a term that would be used to describe it. The migration will overwhelm you, but all the advantages of Drupal 9 will make it seem worth it. Developers can make the upgrade themselves with the help of Upgrade Status and Drupal Module Upgrader. These help in letting you know whether your themes and modules are competent for Drupal 8/9 and converting your custom code respectively. Explore the ultimate guide to Drupal 9, all the burning questions that you may have about Drupal 9 and the must-have modules to start your Drupal 9 website to know more

Contentful 

Contentful has a tool that helps in the migration process, making it rather easy by using CLI. The Contentful migration CLI helps developers to script changes to the content model with a fine-tuning that wasn’t possible before. Using continuous integration services along with it will also help you in validating the deployment before it hits production. 

Installation and configuration of the Contentful CLI; 
Writing of your own migration script; 
And applying the migration with CLI, is all you need to do to make it happen. 

The result would be getting documented and versioned content types along with automated and predictable migrations that can be repeated in other environments.

How versatile is the responsiveness?

Drupal 

In terms of responsiveness to devices, Drupal is a pro. Providing an optimal visitor experience is one such feature of Drupal that makes it worth everyone’s while and responsiveness is its core. 

Drupal offers; 

  • Responsive designs;
  • Responsive themes; 
  • Responsive images and breakpoints; 
  • And even responsive tables; 

All of these enable Drupal sites and apps to identify the width and height of any device and adapt itself accordingly, making it mobile and user-friendly at the same time. 

Contentful 

Contentful is often referred to as a mobile content management system, meaning it was built keeping in mind the fact that developers and authors would want to publish content on the go through a smartphone or tablet and Contentful makes that work seamlessly.

It optimises mobile performance with three features; 

  • Selective sync;
  • Image auto-compression; 
  • And providing support for offline persistence.

This makes it as good as Drupal in responsiveness.

How fluent are the multilingual sites?

Drupal 

Another one of the benefits of Drupal is the fact that it caters to a multilingual audience very well. With inbuilt language handling abilities, it provides localised digital experiences that are both fast and easy to get.

  • It can translate content, configurations and interfaces. 
  • It can be run in 90+ languages.
  • It also provides an overview screen for translators, making their work easier.  

Access this guide to Drupal’s multilingual capabilities to know more.

Contentful 

Much like Drupal, translations in Contentful also take place in-house. It has a six-step process to make translations happen, which isn’t very complex or rigid. You can add and delete the locales (languages) from the settings as and when you wish, provided you have administrative access. 

The only aspect that pales Contentful in front of Drupal is the number of languages supported. Sadly, Contentful only offers translations in 30 languages. 

Contentful uses locales to define the varying languages a site might use. This allows you to define localisations of content easily enough. However, when you have to work with multiple locales, it can become confusing for your authors. That being said it is an insurmountable task, organisations have worked with as many as 30 locales at once. 

How universal is the accessibility?

Drupal 

Drupal follows the WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0 guidelines to make its projects accessible to people with disabilities. 

Features for screen readers are a major part of it, with the inclusion of drag and drop functionality, colour contrast, image handling, form labeling and exclusion of null tags, to name a few. 

Drupal accessibility also transcends from the users to the developers, with themes, modules and community sites making an inclusive developer environment. 

Contentful 

Contentful also offers similar features and functionalities for accessibility like Drupal. The only major difference is that it adheres to WCAG 2.1 guidelines, which are more recent. 

Building sites that are easy to adapt, navigate, have distinguishable elements and are keyboard accessible are some of Contentful’s accessibility principles. It also implements automated accessibility testing to check whether the project is compliant with the set standards or not. 

How friendly is the SEO?

Drupal 

Drupal has powerful SEO tools that can enhance your site’s visibility by a landslide. When I say tools, I mean modules, the use of which can make you a pro at SEO. 

Mastering the keyword game through Real-time SEO for Drupal; 
Mastering the linking game through Linkit module
Mastering the duplicacy predicament through Redirect module

Drupal can and will keep you at your A-game in terms of SEO. The Ultimate Drupal SEO Guide will help you become acquainted with all the right SEO modules. 

Contentful 

When you use Contentful as is, there aren’t as many SEO privileges to enjoy. For instance, a media page would only have a title and a description. That’s not to say that Contentful doesn’t provide for SEO. 

It does, however, for that you would need to provide more information. This means you would need to create a dedicated content type for the media files you will have. 

Once that is done, you Contentful will enable you to; 

  • Take command of the SEO; 
  • Put in the right tags (which are only used for organising and searching content, sadly); 
  • And add alt text for your accessibility. 

The change in the content type helps you to create whatever suits your needs and preferences, which is a good thing. There is one thing to remember that the extended metadata for these media files would be stored in the content tab, rather than the media tab, where the actual file would be located. This can be a little confusing. 

The bottom line

In the end, I wouldn’t say one is definitely better than the other. There are aspects wherein Drupal prevails over Contentful, like security and performance; however, there were also areas, wherein Contentful gave Drupal a run for its money, like accessibility and responsiveness. I’d say that both are great at what they do and saying one is entirely better than the other wouldn’t be appropriate. So, I’ll leave it to you. 

blog banner There are two chicks standing side by side. blog image A balancing scale can be seen. Drupal Contentful Blog Type Articles Is it a good read ? On
Feb 16 2021
Feb 16

Every morning we get up and something big has happened somewhere in the world. Sitting in the capital of India, we get to know how the inaugural ball went on in the capital of the United States. And how are we able to get this knowledge?

It is the media and publishing industry that constantly reports all the national and international happenings to our households. From getting to know about election results to knowing the extent of natural calamities and political unrest, we know it all. 

The role of the media is all the more important today, it has essentially become the voice of the voiceless all over the world. With such a magnitude of responsibility, the media and publishing businesses need to be at their A-game all the time. 

Today, we’ll try to understand how they can enhance their online presence for a rich user experience with the help of Drupal. Before doing that, let’s shed some light on the changes in this industry and understand the consequent change in their web needs. 

What changed over the years?

Time changes everything and everyone. People change their appearances, their style and their thought processes over time. Something that may be important for them is highly likely to become trivial in the distant future. This is what happened to people’s perspective towards the media and publishing industry and the change in point of view led to a substantial change in the running and management of this industry. 

Think of a decade ago, were we as dependent on smartphones and other mobile devices as we are now? The answer is no. However today, from teenagers to the elderly, everyone is glued to their third limb, being the smartphone or smart devices in general. Look at the usage in the graph below to get a clearer idea.  

A bar graph shows the global monthly data consumption on various smart devices .Source: Deloitte.com

Once reading a news article on a smart gadget was a novel thought. However, today it is an everyday occurrence. And that is the pivotal shift that the media and publishing has had to take. The readers are more inclined to reading news updates on their phones. And that is why, this sector has had to transcend from print and paper and provide their audience with digital platforms that are easy to access anytime, anywhere and on any gadget.

What the change comes down to is the delivery mechanism. The media and publishing outlets are performing their duties much in the same way. They are reporting much in the same way. The stories that need to be told are being told and the questions that need to be raised are being raised. However, all of this is happening on digital platforms and it happened in four phases. 

A circular diagram is showing the four waves witnessed by the media and publishing industry.The four waves of the media and publishing industry. Source: Weforum.org

I wouldn’t say that the physical medium of media has become antiquated, not by any means. I still see my dad having his morning tea with a side of the front page news of The Times. However, he also gets constant updates on his phone about the world happening without having to wait for the next day’s paper. 

And that is the change that has happened, that is how the evolution of the media and publishing industry took place, with the core values still remaining the same. 

Look at this report by Statista to understand the emergence of digital media platforms. With such a substantial amount of revenue, I’d say it has come out with a bang.

Revenue statistics for digital media and publishing industry are shown in the US.Source: Statista 

What do media and publishing houses seek today for digital presence?

Like we just discussed above, the media and publishing houses have transformed a great deal in the way they relay information to their audience. Today, there isn’t just one kind of audience and you can’t just build your entire persona around that one category. From young people perusing news on their smartphones to the minority population fluent in their own regional language, the media and publishing industry has to be able to provide for the diversity they have in their audience.

With the move towards digitalisation, we are going to take a look at the needs and requirements of this sector as they are in the present day.

Ease of publishing 

The primary purpose of a media and publishing business is to provide its audience the content that they need. This purpose mandates that the site has an enhanced ease in editing and publishing content, be it blogs, articles or press releases. These content pieces should not be limited to text, images, audios and videos are as equally important as the powerful words of a news writer, and that is the first requirement of this sector today. Faster production and publication of content across multifarious channels is key. 

Friendliness towards the search engines

Now that we have published the article with ease, the next major requirement is to ensure that it reaches the audience it was intended for. If I talk about myself, I always end up at Google whenever I want to read about a major or even minor happening in the world. This is true for most of the readers out there. That is why, Search Engine Optimisation is essential today. 

Producing SEO friendly content would help your content become all the more visible to a wider audience and garner organic traffic for your site. With over 3.5 billion searches everyday on Google, I’d say there isn’t any harm in taking advantage of SEO by adding the necessary words and phrases to your articles. Everything about SEO and its implementation can be accessed here.

Amiability to social media 

Social media is a game changer for the media and publishing industry, allowing it to take its content across the globe in mere seconds. Therefore, social media integration is key, with Facebook becoming the front runner, being that it is the largest platform. 

Having a social media handle, providing sharing options on your articles and creating custom posts of your social media handles, all three of these would lead to a streamlined integration with social media channels. With over half the world population using these platforms, it is only wise.

Responsiveness of design

Next major requirement for the media and publishing industry in going digital is the need to be responsive. Websites that can only be browsed efficiently through a desktop are essentially doomed for failure. Being responsive to all sorts of mobile devices, especially the smart phones, is integral to media outlets. Accelerated Mobile Pages are a trend that more and more websites are following. These help in delivering a smooth experience of browsing for all your users across all the touchpoints. Here is your complete guide to web design.

Warmth of personalised experiences

Coming to the final requirement, which is personalisation. Every web user today is treated differently, since they have different taste. We, as web developers, become aware of these tastes through web cookies. Therefore, as a media and publishing site, you have to become aware of your audience’s likes and dislikes and provide a personalised experience for them that they end of loving. Informational noise and never-changing ads need to be left in the previous decade. Your complete guide to web personalisation is available here.

Why is Drupal great for the media and publishing industry?

Sports, FMCG, Food, FinTech, Elearning, Government, healthcare, nonprofit, travel, or whatever website you need to build and whichever industry segment you belong to, Drupal has just the right ingredients to build your digital presence. Media and publishing industry is no different.

Drupal is an open source Content Management Software that has a worldwide presence and is renowned for its efficiency in managing content. It has clientele from multitudinous trades and businesses. And with a community of over a million, it is indeed a force. It is a force that is equipped to provide digital experiences that enable you to connect with your audience no matter where they are.

I would not get in every minute aspect of Drupal, because that’ll make this blog quite lengthy and nobody wants that. Rather I would only talk about those aspects of Drupal that make it extremely compatible with the media and publishing industry. So, here goes.

Drupal eases content management and distribution 

The thing about media sites is that they are not limited to just one, they have a huge family with many subsidiary sites. The higher number of co-dependent sites means that you would have to have a lot of content to deal with. Drupal comes quite handy here, as it acts as a single home for all the sites. 

And the amount of content that results in would not be bother as well.  Be it photos, videos, audios, podcasts or graphs and analysis. Everything would be seamless in terms of production, management and distribution with Drupal. Have a look at an example of how content authoring can be performed at ease with modern solutions like Layout Builder module in Drupal core.

Drupal eases the mobile transition 

I believe I am going to be mentioning this one for a third time now, but mobile responsiveness is pretty high on the priority list so it deserves another mention. When we talk about user engagement, a modular design is key and when that design is flexible to respond to any device the engagement soars. Drupal provides a number of modules to achieve the same.  To know more, read about mobile-first approach and Drupal’s provisions for building mobile solutions at scale.

Drupal eases multilingualism

With media sites catering to a large number of audience worldwide, language can become a problem. Drupal provides multilingual support that makes publishing the same content in different languages an ease. Drupal offers translations in as many as 94 languages. More on Drupal’s multilingual capabilities here.

Drupal eases profits and lessens costs  

Drupal is equipped to make you money as well. Advertisements, promotions, subscriptions and one-purchases, all are inclusive in Drupal modules that result in media outlets being more profitable. 

Then is the fact that Drupal is open source, which means it is free of cost. There isn’t any licensing fee required to be paid. All you need to do is install and configure it and you’ll be ready to go. Learn more about the perks of contributing to an open source CMS like Drupal and being a part of a growing open source community here.

Drupal eases the security concerns   

Drupal security is one of the best in the market. With modules for authentication, password protection and encryption, your data is always going to be safe. Open Source security isn’t anything to be taken lightly and Drupal has proven that. Here is a survey to prove that. 

There is a pie chart depicting the percentage of security issues in various CMSs, Drupal being one of least of them all.Percentage of security issues in a sample group. Source: Acunetix

With this level of ease, you can become relaxed and bask in the efficiency of Drupal and become free of the burdens of running a media site that you might have to endure otherwise. However, you would have to write stellar pieces that are able to resonate with the audience and accomplish what they were set out for. That is a burden you would have to bear, Drupal wouldn’t be able to do so.

Here is a glimpse of Drupal at work with digital media houses

Drupal has indeed proven to be one of the best CMSs for the media and publishing industry. I don’t just say it for the sake of it, I come bearing proof. OpenSense Labs has worked with many media and publishing houses to build impressive experiences for their web portals with Drupal and here are some of these sites. 

Men's Health 

Men’s Health magazine is a global brand, which publishes in close to 60 countries. It required a software that would provide an ease of management for the content authors, with an adaptable content architecture that would be responsive and browser agnostic. It also required to balance the performance and images conundrum without trading off on either of these. And Drupal was able to fulfil all of these requirements and an impressive digital experience was created. 

Read the complete case study of Men’s health to know more.

Earth Journalism 

Earth Journalism Network is a leading non-profit environmental new network that aims to improve the quality and quantity of environmental reporting. With such crucial work, it required the best. Drupal provided ease in publishing and managing varying categories of content types with a heightened flexibility. Drupal also had the right kind of core and contributed features that allowed for better design scope and ability to handle enormous amounts of content. 

Here is the detailed case study of Earth Journalism Network.

Farm Journal 

Farm Journal is a leading US publication site for agricultural news with a host of subsidiary sites serving varying sectors of this industry. With such a magnitude of services, its content needs were becoming a challenge. Drupal was able to overcome this challenge with ease. Customer sites were enhanced, upgrades were made faster and convenient, the architecture was made scalable and modular in nature and most importantly, the content journey, from the editors hitting save to the consumer clicking read, was reduced to mere seconds.

To know about everything that went on in the Farm Journal project, read this case study

AgWeb 

A part of the Farm Journal brand, AgWeb was able to improve its brand identity as well as user engagement with Drupal’s help. Being an agricultural news site, AgWeb needed to improve its web performance, at the same time the site’s SEO needed to be kept intact, while improving the site’s web SERP rankings. ReactJS was also implemented as part of progressive decoupling for a better frontend experience.

Take a look at the AgWeb case study to understand the project better.  

All of these are a blatant proof of Drupal’s efficiency in this constantly evolving domain of publishing and you would be wise to choose it.

Conclusion 

The news, newspaper and article sites are growing at an impressive pace. Therefore, having a CMS in your corner that is powerful enough to let you scale in accordance to the growth rate is ideal. Drupal is just that, it can do and achieve things for a media site that other CMSs may not be able to. And we at OpenSense Labs have actually witnessed that with all media projects. So, trust me when I say that you cannot go wrong with Drupal. For any doubts you may still please feel free to contact us.

Feb 09 2021
Feb 09

A myth is a pretty powerful thing, especially if you end up believing it. Even if you don’t, it does dampen the prospects of whatever it is associated with. It’s like if someone told you that the latest smartphone, which is exorbitantly expensive, is not worth the price. In such a scenario, even if you had the means of buying it, you would end up thinking twice. And you don’t even know whether the myth is true or not. That is how powerful a myth can be. 
 
A myth, a misconception, a false belief, whatever you call it, follows as many things as you can imagine. It follows you and me, and it also follows the inanimate objects, making their abilities seem weaker than they actually are. 
 
And it is one such thing that we are going to be discussing and try to debunk the falsified claims that have been following it for a long time. The thing I would be talking about is actually a software, a Content Management Software by the name of Drupal
 
Drupal is used to build websites, websites that are feature packed and give a powerful performance, yet there have been many claims made that try to show Drupal in a bad light.
 
Today, you and I will get into all of these and ensure that all the myths associated with the name Drupal are busted so colourfully that they can never ever be claimed by anyone. So, let’s start with the most common misconceptions about Drupal.

# Drupal tends to be difficult to use

Any software or system that you may end up using, the foremost aspect that you would look out for is its usability. It might be able to provide you with a ton of features and functionality, but if you cannot figure out how to use it, all of that would be a waste. So, on the same note, let me tell you the first Drupal myth. 

The most common myth about Drupal is the fact that it is very difficult to use by all the parties involved. Developers find it tedious to work with, marketers can’t get a hang of it and the content authors and editors, well, they feel that they are way out of their element. 
 
This myth is not true at all. Drupal is a little complex to use, at least in comparison to its competitors. However, it requires that level of complexity to be able to do its job properly. For instance, Drupal provides umpteen number of modules, all of which are able to provide you with any kind of functionality that you may be on the lookout for. Selecting from these could be a daunting task, but it is also a necessary one. 

Let us look at some of the Drupal complexities to understand why they are mis-conceptualising an easy-to-use CMS.

  • Drupal’s large codebase seems intimidating, but the system only loads what you need, so the point is basically moot here. 
  • Drupal uses more memory, so it is perceived that if there is an out-of-memory error, it would become very difficult to solve, making the experience pretty complicated. 
  • Then, there is the fact that Drupal is built on PHP. Since that is a language many developers lack experience with, the myth of difficulty in use prevails all the more.
  • The last one would be the lousy UX experience Drupal provides to the non-technical users. Being a content editor myself, I would say that this isn’t true at all. I have been able to use Drupal with ease to edit and publish my content and so far the experience hasn’t been lousy in the least. 

That is my take on Drupal ease-of-use. There is an acclimating period required, but that is true of any new technology. More on the misconception of Drupal being difficult here.

# Drupal migration and upgrade tend to be an insurmountable task

Migrations and upgrades are an inevitable part of website development. There will come a point when the version you have built your site on is going to become so basic and on the verge of being obsolete that you would need to upgrade or migrate to something new and better. 
 
With Drupal, the story is the same. From the first version of Drupal that was launched almost two decades ago to Drupal 9, which is the current version, there is a stark difference that is too obvious to ignore. 
 
The myth going on is that these migrations and upgrades of Drupal are very difficult, complex and will most likely give you a headache. The truth behind it is quite the opposite. 
 
I would be wrong to say that Drupal migrations do not require any work because they do. Imagine moving from your home in India to the US, there would be work required and lots of it too. However, the work won’t be too much to make you rethink the move because the other side is too special to give up. 
 
Coming back to Drupal, the upgrades are usually seen from Drupal 7 to 8, 8 to 9 or directly from Drupal 7 to 9. All of which are possible scenarios for your site and its enhanced functionality. 
 
Drupal 7 users can first upgrade to Drupal 8 and then move on to Drupal 9. Or, they may choose the best route by going directly to Drupal 9 to ensure that the upgraded site has maximum expected life.
 
For the Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 upgrade, there are six steps involved; only 6 and not a bazillion.  

  • First, you would need to ensure that your hosting environment aligns with the platform requirements mandated by Drupal 9.
  • Then you would need to update to Drupal‘s more current versions, it could be Drupal 8.8.x or 8.9.x. 
  • Once that is done, you would need to ensure that all your contributed projects are compatible with Drupal 9 by simply updating them. 
  • When that is out of way, you would be required to build custom code that is also compatible with Drupal 9. 
  • In the penultimate step, you will be asked to update the core codebase of Drupal 9. 
  • And as the final step, all you have to do is run update.php and that is it. 

There is also a step by step guide in the upgrading section provided by Drupal to help in the transition process with all the details you may be looking for. 
 
It is true that upgrading from Drupal 7 to 8 or 9 can be pretty intricate. Drupal Community took cognisance of this matter and made sure upgrading to Drupal 9 would be the easier you can get. As a matter of fact, the upgrade to Drupal 9 has been deemed as the easiest upgrade of the decade. This in itself should have been enough to pop this myth there and then. Access this ultimate guide to Drupal 9 to know more. You can browse through our complete list Drupal 9 FAQs that answers every burning question that might have regarding Drupal 9.

# As Drupal 9 rolled out, Drupal 7 and 8 tend to be less efficient

Since we just talked about the upgrading to Drupal 9, I felt this myth that has been for a while now needed some straightening too. 

The myth is that since Drupal 9 has launched and is the most advanced and feature-packed version of Drupal, the earlier editions of Drupal, namely 7 and 8, are simply no longer viable. 

This is not by any means true. It will come true at one point of time, but that point is very distant in the future; not according to me, but the makers themselves claim so. 

  • If I talk about Drupal 8, which is reliant on Symfony 3, it would be supported by Drupal until the 2nd of November, 2021, since that is how long the life of Symfony 3 is expected to be.
  • Talking about Drupal 7, its community support was earlier marked to end by November, 2021. However, with COVID and the consequent crisis, that has been extended to by a year. So, Drupal is expected to be supported by the Drupal community until 28 November, 2022

This support is proof that Drupal 7 and 8 would still be fully functional for a couple of years, and their efficiency is not going to be marred by any way. The sites and projects reliant on them will continue to bask in all the glorified features of Drupal. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Dries Buytaert, the founder and project lead of Drupal, takes pride in continuing to care for old software. Drupal 7 released almost a decade ago and continues to get the sort of care and attention from the Drupal Community it requires to function well. He wishes more and more software is well-maintained like Drupal is.

Another thing that I want to add is that even if the community support dies down, there is still the vendor support that lets the project be efficient. For Drupal 7 sites that support is extended to 2025. Let me also tell you that there are still many Drupal 6 sites which are performing efficiently through the vendor support. 

Yes, the end of life would come for the older versions sooner than the later versions, but that is how life in general works, don’t you agree?

# Drupal tends to be heavy on the pocket

Financial considerations are one of the major aspects to pivot someone’s intentions towards taking up a project or software. The same is true for Drupal as well, taking us to the next myth.

It is perceived that Drupal is extremely expensive, making it hard for smaller organisations to take it up as a software to build their websites.

Drupal is an open source software, which means it is free of cost, so this myth is a little funny to say the least. Yes, open source software is not entirely free or rather its implementation and maintenance is not free. It would definitely cost you to hire Drupal developers to make that happen. From maintaining Drupal modules and updating your digital properties to migrating Drupal to the most current version requires skilled developers who are not always economical. However, these costs are not exorbitant, at least not in comparison to proprietary software, with its licensing fee and other perpetual expenses. 

Then there is the support of the Drupal community, which is always there to help you in any dilemma you find yourself in. Any and all of your questions will always be answered. This also means you get to take advantage of the abundance of experience found throughout the community, you can simply build on solutions that have already been created. 

Apart from this, your non-technical staff, especially your content authors are not reliant on developers to post and edit the content. This frees up the developers, leading to savings. Finally, the migration from one Drupal version to the next is also not expensive at all. So, if you are planning to shift to Drupal 9 from 8, remember the switch from Drupal 8.0 to 8.1, the migration would be that simple. 

Now, you tell me, is this not cost effective?

# Drupal tends to lack in security

For any web application, it is extremely important to be secure. Having security issues often make you vulnerable and prone to hackers and that outcome is never going to be favourable. 

So, this Drupal myth states that the CMS is not secure at all. It is an open source software and that is reason enough to doubt all of its claimed security features. 

Let me start by telling you that Open Source security cannot be taken lightly. Also known as Software Composition Analysis, Open Source Security provides the user an opportunity to garner more visibility for his application. From examining binary fingerprints to using professional and proprietary research and corroborating it with scans is done to build elements and tools that help developers in building safer applications. 

Focusing on Drupal, it is deemed as one of the most secure CMSs in the market, not just in the Open Source market, but the proprietary as well.

A pie chart depicts of results of sample group survey for security of various CMSs.Source: Acunetix

The above image clearly shows Drupal leading the way in terms security, being the CMS with the least issues faced as per a sample group’s findings.

Let’s find out why. 

  • Drupal’s security team works with the community to tackle any security issue as soon as it arises. 
  • Drupal’s API and default configuration is equipped to handle security issues like XSS, injection and forgeries with standard solutions. 
  • Drupal provides a lot of out-of-the-box security features like secure access, granular user access control and database encryption to make it all the more secure. 
  • Then there is the fact that many prominent government agencies use Drupal to build and manage their online projects. This speaks to its security measures. 

So, no Drupal does not, by any means, lack in terms of security, rather its security is almost impeccable and really hard to breach.

# Drupal tends to be unscalable and gives a meagre performance

Despite how great your site is now, there would come a point when its present state is no longer viable with your business goals. And that is when you would need to scale your site accordingly and boost its performance. This leads us to the next myth. 

It is often presumed that Drupal is not very scalable and its lacklustre performance in terms of higher traffic load and more content growth is not appreciable by any means. 

As an answer to this preposterous myth, I just want to say that, if that were the case, why would sites like The Weather Company and NBC, which have a daily audience in hundreds of thousands use Drupal? The justification is the exact opposite of the myth. 

Drupal can handle traffic spikes, it can handle content growth and it can handle an incredibly elevated user count and it can do it all like a breeze. All you have to do is optimise Drupal to its best abilities. It provides a number of features and modules for you to work with to manage your site’s performance and scalability. Be it the Blazy module to provide integration or the Content Delivery Network to offload your site’s delivery, Drupal has you covered.

I think this misconception should be clarified now. These guides to Drupal performance optimisation techniques and scalability offerings would clear the air further.

# Drupal tends to be inaccessible

Web accessibility refers to a website or application being built in a manner that anyone can access it with ease, anyone has a special focus on people with disabilities. The World Wide Consortium has set a few guidelines that web developers have to follow to become universally accessible.
 
According to this Drupal myth, it is assumed that Drupal is not universally accessible. It is not meant to be used by people with disabilities and can cause them harm, if they were to use Drupal sites. 
 
There is absolutely no truth in this misconception. Drupal stringently follows the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and has built its features accordingly.  

  • The Olivero theme for the front end in Drupal 9 is the prime example of Drupal’s accessibility. With focus on colour, contrast and fonts in accordance to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, it is universally accessible. 
  • The use of HTML5 and WAI-ARIA has led to better semantics of purpose and behaviour of the web pages for the screen readers. 
  • The use of alt text in images helps in making them accessible to the visually impaired. 

These are simply a few examples of Drupal’s accessibility features and values. To understand web accessibility completely, read our blog Design Considerations for Accessibility and know that Drupal follows each one of them.

# Drupal tends to be unequipped to handle large site

There are two kinds of websites, the first one is for small businesses and the second one falls under the big business umbrellas. Taking these categories into consideration, we come to the next false claim. 

Many believe that Drupal is only competent to handle smaller sites, when it comes to the larger businesses and their web needs, Drupal may fall short. 

To clarify this bizarre claim, let’s just look at some of Drupal’s clientele. Tesla, Oxford University, European Commission, NBA and the French Government are just a few names that do not need an elaboration, people already know them. With such an elite clientele, is it justified to say that Drupal cannot handle large sites? I think not. 

Drupal is well equipped to provide enterprise grade services and features that include; 

  • Impeccable user management; 
  • Impeccable content management; 
  • Impeccable admin interface; 
  • Impeccably easy coding; 
  • Impeccable technology stack; 
  • And an infrastructure that resounds all the impeccable innovations in it. 

That is a whole lot of impeccable, but that is Drupal for you.

# Drupal tends to be incompatible with mobile devices and unsuitable for mobile solutions

Today, it is the responsive sites that reign over the internet. If you have a site that is compatible with the computer and the mobile phone, you can consider yourself amongst the rulers, metaphorically speaking of course. 
 
Drupal is often understood as a CMS that is not mobile-friendly, which means the sites and applications built on Drupal are not able to support responsive designs. 
 
Again, this isn’t the case. Rather Drupal works on the ideology of building sites that are responsive and creating web applications that provide an enthralling visitor experience, regardless of the device they may be using. This means that Drupal is compatible with mobile devices as well as desktops, since it has the ability to offer a seamless content experience to every user every time. So, the myth is debunked. 

# Drupal tends to be disintegrated with third-party tools

Confining a website to just one tool and software has become a thing of the past. With more technological innovations come more third party integrations. And where does Drupal stand in all of that?
 
According to the myth, Drupal is not at the top of the integrations list. Rather it is assumed that Drupal does not work well with other tools and has an isolated digital marketing philosophy as well. 
 
And there is very little truth in this assumption. In fact, Drupal has the ability to integrate itself with a massive ecosystem of digital marketing technologies and other business applications. It allows you to have the chance of tapping into the most popular tools of the present as well as the chance to do the same in the future. 
 
Drupal also has an API-first rule, which essentially means that your content can easily be connected to other sites and applications. This means your words would resonate with a much wider audience, making them all the more powerful.

# Drupal tends to have an inflexible and uneasy content workflow

Content is basically the voice of your site, so it is wise to choose a platform that makes your voice the loudest and most clear. Does Drupal do that?
 
The myth related to content workflow doesn’t believe that. As per the misconception, it is believed that Drupal is quite inflexible in terms of content and using it for creating, editing and publishing the content is not easy at all.
 
Let me start debunking this Drupal myth with its Admin Interface. This helps you in creating the exact content architecture that you want. You get to display only the content suitable for every context. The use of Drupal efficient display mode tools and Views makes this task all more fun. You can add any media type you want, be it images, videos or pdfs. Then there is the fact that you can customise your menus to make them aligned with the user’s device. 
 
And there is more. 

  • You can create and edit in-place. You can simply browse to a page, click on the content and start editing then and there. 
  • You can edit from any mobile device, iPads, smartphones or tablets, android or iOS, your pick. 
  • You can make revisions multiple times and keep track of all of them even months after. 

Is this what you call inflexible and difficult? 
 
Modules are Layout Builder and Paragraphs are renowned for the ease they provide to editors and content authors.

# Drupal tends to be unfriendly with SEO

SEO and all that it encompasses is essential or more like life-saving for your website and its visibility on the web. Since that is what brings in the numbers, you know how important that should be. 
 
So, the myth that is doing that rounds is that Drupal is not SEO friendly. It does not have the features to heighten the visibility of your site on Google or any of the other search engines.
 
Do you think that could be true?
 
I certainly don’t and neither should you. Drupal has dedicated features and modules that help you get the best out of SEO. Take the SEO checklist module for instance. Being an SEO module, it helps you be on top of all the SEO related tasks and ensures you are reminded of them. It is always being updated with the latest SEO guidelines so that you are aware and ready to tackle all of them. 
 
From modules capitalising on your URLs to tags and onto communication and editing, Drupal will have you covered for every SEO dimension you can think of. Our blog, The ultimate Drupal SEO guide will help you get an even elaborated explanation of Drupal’s SEO capabilities, which by no means are lacking.

# Drupal tends to be incompetent as a headless CMS

Going headless or decoupling has become a trend as it allows the developers to use the different technologies available in the site building process and make it all the more impressive. 
 
With Drupal, it is often assumed that decoupling would mean more work and less benefits. You would have a lot on your plate when you decouple Drupal and the result would be a dysfunctional and mismanaged site. 
 
This is nowhere close to the truth. When you decouple, you would have a separate frontend and backend development and management; both of which will be interdependent and connected through an API. Yes, you would most definitely have to part with some of Drupal’s out-of-the-box features, but that isn’t necessarily bad. 
 
With decoupling, you would be able to build a frontend the way you want to, with whatever technology you want to. Fancy React, go for it. Have a liking for Angular, go for that. You would be using Drupal as a content repository and since Drupal knows its contextual ABCs pretty well, you will be in great hands. You can publish your content across varying channels and manage it from one place. 
When you go headless, you will get to choose from the best frontend technologies and get the best at the backend layer with Drupal. The best of both worlds for you. 
 
Now, do these features portray incompetence to you? 
 
Read about everything you would want to know about Decoupled Drupal, Decoupled Drupal Architecture, how to decouple Drupal and some of the success stories to get an understanding of how competent decoupled Drupal can be.

# Drupal tends to be efficient with multisites

Many organisations have subsidiary businesses for which they need to build multiple sites. They might want these sites to become a replica of each other, offering the same features and functionality, yet be different to each other. 
 
There is a false claim being made that Drupal cannot optimise multisites. It cannot provide the separate individual sites their own database, configuration or even the URL/ domain names .
 
Drupal offers a multisite setup that is pretty efficient and well-equipped to handle all the requirements.

  • You would be able to manage all your Drupal sites running on the same version of Drupal core, which ultimately saves you time. 
  • You would be able to update all your sites simultaneously when there is a  new release because all of them would have one codebase. 
  • You might have some drawbacks through the multisite setup, but by using Aegir hosting system, you would easily overcome them.

Inefficient isn’t a term that should go with Drupal, since it is anything but that. So, manage your sites from across the globe from your laptop while sipping coffee on your kitchen island with Drupal. I consider this pretty efficient.

# Drupal tends to be hostile to multilingual sites

Like I talked about in the previous point, sites today aren’t confined to a region, they are almost universal. An American brand is also famous in India and it gained popularity because it was able to resonate with the Indian audience at a personal level in their language and dialect. 
 
Everybody knows that Drupal can handle multilingual sites, but many believe that Drupal isn’t great at that. Translations and other multilingual features tend to be below average. And that is just a myth.
 
Translations are the most crucial for multilingual sites and Drupal offers not one nor two, but four translation modules in Drupal 8. From content to configuration and interface, everything can be translated to the local language with ease. You can install Drupal 8 in as many as 94 languages without any need for the installation of extra components. Moreover, custom translations are often packaged and deployed on several properties, so you developers have lesser language related headaches. Everything on Drupal’s multilingual capabilities can be accessed here.
 
I would not call Drupal hostile to multilingual sites, would you?

# Drupal tends to only be suitable for a few industries

A CMS builds and manages websites. Since these websites can be for any business and field, a CMS should be able to cater to their industry type. 
 
There is a Drupal myth going around that states that the CMS isn’t meant for every industry. It only caters to a few, and I am not even sure which ones account in those few. 
 
This one is probably the most ludicrous misconception of them all. I can understand that people may be skeptical about open source security, but this is just nonsensical. I mean if a CMS is able to build a site for a retail business, what is stopping it from building one for a blogger? Kind of bizarre, isn’t it?

A list of the many sectors Drupal caters to is shown.Source: Drupal.org

This is a list of industries that has Drupal imprinted on their web services. And the extensiveness of the list is clarification enough for the myth.  From publishing houses and educational institutions to government agencies and charitable organisations, Drupal serves the majority of the industries.

# Drupal tends to become a pain when it comes to support, maintenance, hiring and partnering with digital agencies

Working with Drupal on your own can become challenging. You would need support and expertise of someone who has worked with the CMS and knows its ins and outs with clarity and that is a Drupal agency. 
 
This Drupal myth states that the hiring of Drupal agencies is a blood-sucking task, which would drain you of the same. Add to this the support and maintenance of Drupal and you might just give up on site building altogether. 
 
Let me start with Drupal agencies, there are a lot of them for you to choose from. The good thing about that many agencies is that they try to outweigh each other in terms of the services they offer and you end up with everything you desire. Being a part of OpenSense Labs, I can proudly say that we rank amongst the top 5 Drupal agencies in the global Drupal marketplace.

A list of Drupal agencies is shown with their marketplace rankings. Source: Drupal.org

Talking about support and maintenance, whichever agency you may choose, you are bound to get some very convenient services in this regard. 

These are only a few of the support and maintenance features available and they won’t let you be in any kind of pain.

# Finally, Drupal tends to be incompetent with the emerging technologies

We live in a dynamic world, where everything is transitory, from human life and thoughts to the technologies we have become so dependent on. These changes are basically advancements that aim to enhance our quality of life and all of the experiences in it. So, how does Drupal come into the picture and what is the myth?
 
This Drupal myth states that the software cannot work well with all the new technologies coming on every day and its integration with them is almost impossible. 
 
Do I have to say that this is untrue? I’m sure you know that by now. Drupal and its abundant content-heavy sites mandate that it utilises the latest technologies to make the user experience even more delightful.
 
The use of artificial intelligence in the form of chatbots, cognitive search and digital voice assistants like Alexa on Drupal sites is probably the most justified clarification to the bizarrely unjustified claim. Along with these, the streamlined incorporation of Virtual Reality, with all its realness, IoT and Blockchain into Drupal sites is further proof of the myth being a colossal misconception. Our blog, From conception to reality:Drupal for futuristic websites will shed further light on this notion. 

Conclusion

Drupal is one of the very best content management systems in the market. Its features and abilities are truly astounding. Believing some false claim that says that Drupal is anything but one of the finest would be a mistake you do not want to make. Yes, there isn’t everything Drupal is great at and yes, it may even have some flaws, being perfect is almost impossible after all, but all of Drupal’s imperfections are not enough to dampen its overall appeal. 
 
So, if you have chosen Drupal to provide your site’s groundwork, rest assured that you have made the right choice. We, at OpenSense Labs, have clients from across the globe asking us to build their sites using Drupal and to this day, not a single one of them has gone disappointed. 
 
Finally, the moral of the story is that don’t believe everything you hear, at least not until you have proof of its trueness and I think I have managed to tell you all of Drupal’s truths for you to shun all of Drupal’s myths. Debunking Drupal myths was fun. 

Jan 22 2021
Jan 22

The way websites are perceived has changed a lot recently. The audience has started demanding more and more from the web and web developers have to provide for all the demands. What this has resulted in is the transformation of websites for the better. 

The features that today’s sites are packed with were hardly even imaginable a decade ago. A website, a web application or a mobile application, all can do wonders for the users, satiating them with their experiences. 

So, when building a website, you have to be extremely considerate of the software you use and the technologies that accompany it as it is these that will make an astounding difference in your site’s overall appeal. 

On the same note, I will try to enlighten you about one such software and technology pair that has made websites as appealing as both their developers and users want them to be, and that is Drupal and Angular. So, let’s get right on it.

Drupal’s Essence 

The Drupal logo is seen.

In essence, Drupal is a provider of innovative digital experiences that set your websites apart from the ordinary. 

Being a content management software, Drupal can make websites that actually set standards for others to follow. Convenient content authoring, impeccable performance and outstanding security are some of Drupal’s most renowned features. Whether you want flexibility and modularity or integrated digital frameworks, Drupal can ease your needs. 

With multiple add-ons;
With numerous modules; 
With several themes; 
With various distributions; 
And with multitudinal mix and match options, Drupal’s core abilities are magnified by a landslide. 

Now, the Drupal 9 has paved the way for an even more delightful web building experience. Known to be the easiest upgrade in over a decade, it is going to take Drupal 8’s innovative streak even further. Here’s everything you will want to know about Drupal 9.

NBC, MTV UK, Amnesty International and University of Oxford are some of the elite clientele of Drupal and their websites are a true epitome of Drupal’s abilities. 

“Make something amazing, for anyone”  - a motto of a kind should have been pretty self explanatory of Drupal’s essence, but it has acquired bragging rights and rightfully so. Hence, a little more elaborated boasting was mandatory.  

Taking the Headless Route 

Drupal’s abilities, features and all that it encompasses has made it one of a kind. At the top of the list of its unique abilities is its ‘headlessness’. I know this is going to sound strange, but it is a fact and a very beneficial one at that. 

Like I mentioned above, Drupal has all the features to make a web experience up and running and quite smoothly too. Having so many modules, themes and distributions, web builders would not find any need to look for additional features in their site. The entire web project would be placed inside Drupal and it would be entirely responsible for all of the project's needs. 

However, sometimes developers want to try more and Drupal lets them. It essentially removes its head, that is the presentation layer, to make room for a different one, that is other frontend technologies, and lets the developers only utilise it for its body, that would be its backend capabilities. So, in a truly Headless Drupal architecture, you would only use Drupal as a content repository and nothing else. This is also known as Decoupled Drupal, since you are going to be separating the couple, the frontend from the backend. 

When you go headless, you will be parting with Drupal’s frontend capabilities, but the separation does not have to be final. Decoupled Drupal comes with two options for you to choose from; 

  • One is the fully decoupled Drupal or the Headless Drupal. This completely segregates the two ends of a web project. Drupal takes command of the backend, while other frontend technologies, like JavaScript take hold of the frontend; both being connected by an API for the transmission of the information. 
  • Then there is the less final, progressively decoupled Drupal. In this architecture, you are still left with some of Drupal’s frontend capabilities. This means you can combine other frontend technologies to work with Drupal and get the most for your website, without losing Drupal out-of-the-box capabilities.  

Do you benefit from the going Headless?

Drupal has numerous benefits when you use it as a whole for building projects from the ground up; however, the decoupled Drupal comes with a tad more advantages. That is why it is becoming a vogue today, with several traditional Drupal sites converting themselves into the decoupled ones. 

So, yes, you will indeed benefit from taking the headless route. 

Aids in publishing on multiple platforms 

Going Headless makes it very easy to publish content on multiple platforms, be it your primary website, social media handles, intra sites or even print and media. The write once, publish everywhere features lets you capitalise all the IOT devices and publish on them.

Aids in maximising user experience 

The growth of your online business is directly proportional to the user experience you provide. The better the UX, the higher the conversions. UX is further dependent on your site’s performance. Having two separate ends enhances it, the request time is reduced with a client-side server and your site would be nothing but speedy.

Aids in making your team independent 

When you have a separated front and backend, that means you have the power to work faster. The frontend developers will only be focused on the user interface and the backend developers will only need to worry about those needs. Your teams can even make changes on their respective layers without having to worry about impeding the work of the other. All of this results in faster work speed and increased efficiency.  

Aids in enhancing creativity 

Drupal is a robust software, yet it can be stuff sometimes. You have to follow its guidelines and set standards or the work won’t get done. This hampers the development team’s creative flair. However, by adopting other, more flexible, frontend technologies through decoupling, you can let your creativity run free. 

Aids in faster upgrades 

Headless Drupal separation of concerns makes it simple to upgrade without impeding on your site’s current workings. It also gives you the opportunity to test on a dummy web service, which acts as a mockup, aiding you further in making revisions to your site.

Aids in taking advantage of JavaScript 

The final and probably the most compelling advantage of decoupled Drupal is the use of JavaScript. JS has the ability to make websites extremely interactive, with features like destructed assignment and arrow functions in the latest version. Since site interactivity with the user has taken precedence over anything else, decoupling has become more of a need. React, Angular and Vue are some of the most eminent JS frameworks that are used when going Headless. 

To know everything about headless Drupal and its suitability, read our blog, “When to move from monolithic to decoupled Drupal architecture.”

In Comes AngularJS

Now that we have discussed one part of the title, let’s move on to the second, which is AngularJS. You may know that a major reason behind going headless is the fact that it allows the user to incorporate other frontend technologies into Drupal and get the desired web building experience and the product as well. AngularJS is one such technology. Let’s get into its details.

The logo of Angular is shown.

What is AngularJS?

We ended the headless Drupal discussion at JavaScript, so it is only wise to begin the new one with JavaScript as well. AngularJS operates on JavaScript, being an open-source front-end web framework. It helps you create dynamic web pages through its structured framework. 

HTML’s template language is integral when building web projects. However, there is one problem with its use. HTML has proven its potential for static documents, however, when dynamic views come to play, it becomes lacklustre and chaotic. Now, in such a scenario, AngularJS comes in to save you. It allows you to extend the HTML vocabulary for your project, paving way for your developers to work in an environment that is expressive, readable and fast to develop. 

There aren’t many frameworks that have the ability to solve the HTML conundrum, what they do instead is abstract away HTML, CSS and JS or they might manipulate the DOM. covering up the problem is not really a solution and AngularJS provides an extension of HTML, making it worthy for dynamic views. 

The crowning jewel of AngularJS is its ability to adapt. It can easily be modified or replaced to make it suitable for any of your development needs. Whatever your workflow and feature require, AngularJS has the ability to provide. The fact that it is completely extensive and compatible with other libraries. 

Talking about the technologies Angular belongs to, it is part of the so-called MEAN stack. The MEAN refers to MangoDB, Express, Angular and Node.js. The combination of these four accounts for a firm ecosystem that is also backed by full-stack developers.

Let's look at AngularJS’ market share to understand its prominence even more. 

A list of the top industries using AngularJS is shown.(a)A list of the top websites built on AngularJs is shown.(b)A list of the countries is shown that use AngularJS with the number of websites using it.(c) | Source: SimilarTech

All of these numbers are pretty self-explanatory of AngularJS’ popularity in the market. 

What are the benefits?

Built in 2010 by Google, which is to this date responsible for its maintenance along with an entire community of developers and companies, AngularJS is quite a technology to utilise for your project’s development. It’s numerous benefits will make you believe me even more. 

Angular is flexible 

Angular by nature, or maybe its build, is extremely lightweight and concise. What this translates into is a working environment that is so extensible that you would be able to create things you never deemed possible. 

Angular uses directives 

Like we discussed above, Angular is unique because it is able to extend HTML. And this is possible because of Directives. Through these, special behaviours are assigned to the Document Object Model, which in turn enables your developers and engineers to use HTML and create dynamic and rich content. 

Angular binds your data two ways 

It is a known fact that Angular gives your developers the power of developing at a much faster rate. Multiple views, asynchronous technique, SEO friendly development are amongst a few of the immensely impressive features of Angular. And all these are possible because it works on the MVC architecture.  Because the Model-View-Controller framework synchronises the Model and the View, so when one changes, the other changes automatically. And work gets done faster. 

Angular injects dependencies 

When developers code, all the different pieces of that code have to interact with each other. This interaction also means that they are going to be affected by each other;s changes. This scenario is defined as dependencies. 

AngularJS solves this issue of dependencies in code simply by decoupling them using injectors. A dependency injector has the ability of making individual components easy to manage, test and reuse; maybe even more than before. 

Angular aids testing 

Lastly, AngularJS also makes unit testing pretty convenient for you. It has a built-in setup that makes testing the code much simpler and faster for your developers. 

The things you can do using AngularJS are much more advanced than Drupal’s frontend capabilities. So, combining the two is going to be a partnership that will make work wonders for your web project. 

The best of both worlds

The Drupal and Angular logos can be seen together.

Up until now we have been talking Decoupled Drupal and Angular individually and they have certainly been impressive enough. Both Drupal and Angular are equipped to build projects that will cater to any and all of your needs.

When paired together, they seem to be packing a punch. Your web projects will be able to accomplish so much more. Let’s have a look at some of the most intriguing features.  

Performance that will leave you spellbound 

A site’s performance is what sets it apart from others, it is what will keep your visitors scrolling through your pages and finally clicking on that coveted Buy Now tab. So, how do Drupal and Angular together help in improving your site’s performance?

If I talk about Drupal, it provides functionality in tons. Just working with drupal can make your site perform impeccably. Now, if you combine the Angular technology with it, you will end up with a performance that would be even better. That is because you will be able to offload business logic to AngularJS as it is client-side, you would not be able to do it completely, but even some part of the offload can be extremely effective. 

Furthermore, when you go Headless and take up Angular, you would use the latter for theming and presentation, while Drupal would only be responsible for the backend data source. This would enable you to move the display logic to the client-side, helping you in streamlining the backend. The resultant site is going to end up as fast as The Flash himself, for lack of a better metaphor.

Coding that will free up your developers 

When you use Drupal to build a regular, basic website, you would not need to write a lot of code and the development work would also be quite minimal. Yes, a basic Drupal site would not be feature packed and that is where AngularJS would enter. 

AngularJS will take an ordinary Drupal site and make it extraordinary, so to speak. Angular can make sites more interactive, more dynamic and richer in experience, and complex coding would not be a prominent part of this picture. 

By using directives, HTML, plain objects and other features, the JS framework requires very little effort from your developers in terms of coding. Despite the minimal efforts, you will still end up with the interactive pages that were only possible to get with a complete JS coding. 

Logic that will clean up your code structure 

You remember we talked about the MVC architecture in the previous section? I would have to be redundant and mention it again since it serves a lot of benefits when going headless. 

The Model-View-Controller architecture works on a principle that essentially segregates itself into three parts; 

Business logic;
Controller logic; 
And model logic. 

This results in a separation of your application logic from the user interface. And why is that essential? Because it aids in making the code structure cleaner, without much redundancy and more clarity. 

Imagine if one of your developers has to leave in the middle of your project. This could become devastating for your project, but an isolated code would make it extremely convenient for any other developer to pick up the left pieces and continue with the same effectiveness as before. 

AngularJS and Drupal also work well together because the MVC framework helps in eliminating a lot of backend logic from Drupal. Consequently, your site will turn out to be both extremely lightweight and efficient.

Security that will keep you shielded

Both Drupal and Angular are backed by a massive community. This means that there all the security features are always under scrutiny and the chance of things going sideways is slim to none. 

Add to this the fact the Drupal’s security protocol, if followed to the T will provide you an assurance of safety that not many CMSs can. Further adding to this, the combination of Headless Drupal and AngularJS will enable an extra layer of security to your site because there won't be any direct server-side interaction, the browser will only communicate with AngularJS.

The result of all of this would be that your site will become immune to malicious code that the notorious hackers are known to inject in your databases. And all would be well in the web world.

Everything about leveraging decoupled Drupal and different frontend technologies can be accessed here

Summing Up 

When decoupling is considered, tapping into the available frontend technologies is the paramount concern. JavaScript is most definitely at the forefront of the developers’ mind for the presentation layers. 

Angular is one of the flag bearers of JavaScript, and Drupal is a prominent name in the CMS world. Be it dynamic sites or interactive interfaces, the possibilities of with the combination of these two powerhouses. So, when are you taking them up?

Jan 20 2021
Jan 20

People today do not like to be confined, if I talk about development teams, they would hold up flags stating the same. Since development and innovation go hand in hand and constraint is the biggest enemy of innovation, you can’t tell me they are wrong to have that notion. 

Talking specifically about web developments, there are a lot of areas to explore and a lot of technologies to help you do that. So, why limit yourself, when you don't have to? Drupal has brought such an impressive trend forward that has simply satiated the developer’s desire for innovation and that is the headless approach

Unlike before, when your entire project had to be nestled inside one CMS, Drupal now gives you the opportunity to explore new technologies to your heart’s desire. This is possible because the presentation layer and the backend content become two separate entities. Drupal acts as the content repository and a frontend technology of your liking takes care of, of course, the frontend part of website architecture.

To provide a connection between the separated development aspects of the project, enters the API. An API layer is a necessity when going headless, because it transmits all the information from the front to the backend and vice-versa. 

And the three available APIs in Drupal, REST, JSON and GraphQL, are the reason behind me writing this blog. Although the purpose of all three is the same, they are quite different from one another. Today, we would be highlighting their meanings, their pros and cons and all the visible distinctions they have. So, let’s begin. 

Decoding the APIs 

The logos of GraphQL, JSON and REST are displayed horizontally.


REST, JSON and GraphQL bring in a similar outcome when they are used for decoupling Drupal. Yes, they are different too. And we would get into the difference between REST, JSON and GraphQL soon. Before that it is essential to understand their history, origin and what they were intended for because the differences actually start from there. 

REST 

REST was developed by Roy Fielding in the year 2000, the purpose behind its development was to provide a software architectural design for APIs. In simple terms, it provided an easy path for one computer to interact with another by utilising an HTTP protocol. The communication between the two computers is not stored on the server, meaning it is stateless; rather the client sessions are stored on a client-side server. 

There are six constraints necessary to implement REST in the complete sense. 

  • It needs a separated client and server; 
  • It needs to be able to make independent calls;
  • It needs to able to store cacheable data;
  • It needs to have a uniform interface;
  • It is a layered system; 
  • Finally, it needs a code-on-demand. 

REST offers a great deal of functionality without a lot of effort. For instance, if you are working on someone else’s RESTful API, you would not need a special library or special initialisation. Yes, your developers need to design their own data model using REST, but the HTTP conventions at play make programming a breeze. 

To know how REST plays a key role in decoupling Drupal, read our blog REST APIs in Drupal.

JSON: API  

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. Built in May of 2013, it was designed as an encoding scheme, eliminating the need for ad-hoc code for every application to communicate with servers, which use a defined way for the same. JSON: API, like the name says, is a specification for building APIs using JSON. 

With JSON: API, communication between the server and the client becomes extremely convenient. It not only formats the way a request should be written, but the responses also come in a formatted manner. The primary aim of JSON: API is to lessen the number of requests and shrink the size of the package, all using HTTP protocol. 

Broadly stated; 

  • JSON reduces the number of requests and amount of data being transmitted; 
  • It requires zero configuration; 
  • It uses the same JSON access scheme for every piece of data, making caching very effective;
  • It offers quite a few features and gives you, as the client, the opportunity to turn them on or off. 

To know how JSON:API plays a key role in decoupling Drupal, read our blog, JSON API in Drupal.

GraphQL 

While JSON can work alongside REST, GraphQL was designed as an alternate to it and some of its inconveniences. Built in 2012 by Facebook, it acts as a cross-platform data query and manipulation language. Its servers are available in numerous popular languages, being Java, JavaScript, Ruby, Python, C#, amongst others. 

The features of GraphQL are that; 

  • It allows users to request data from multiple resources in a single request.
  • It can be used to make ad-hoc queries to one endpoint and access all the needed data.
  • It gives the client the opportunity to specify the exact type of data needed from the server. 
  • All of these add to its predictable data structure, making it readable as well as efficient. 

It was in 2015, after GraphQL was open-sourced that it became truly popular. Now its development is governed by The GraphQL Foundation, which is hosted by the Linux Foundation. 

To know how GraphQL plays a key role in decoupling Drupal, read our blog, GraphQL in Drupal.

Now that we know the basics of all the three APIs, let us have a look at their popularity status, before beginning the comparison. 

A bar graph shows the standing of different web services against each other.A glimpse at the popularity of the three APIs. Source: State of API Report 2020

REST vs JSON vs GraphQL 

Now let’s get down to the details and understand why choosing one over the other two could be in your best interest. Let’s start with the differences between REST, JSON:API and GraphQL.

How efficient is the data retrieval?

A distinction is shown between the three APIs, REST, JSON and GraphQL, in three circles with regards to data retrieval..


One of the most important aspects for an API is the way its fetches data. It could require one or more requests. Therefore, this aspect is also referred to as its request efficiency. Getting multiple data responses in a single request has to be an ideal, so let’s see how REST, JSON: API and GraphQL here. 

REST 

The REST API is innately built to capitalise one resource per request. This works perfectly as long as you only need to retrieve a single piece of data like an article. However, if you need more than that, the number of requests you would have to type in separately would be equivalent to the amount of data you need. 

One article = one request 
Two articles = two requests
Two articles and the author information stored in a different field = Two requests for the articles + a long wait for the completion of those requests + two additional requests for the author information. 

This sums up REST’s request efficiency to the T. You require to be equipped to handle a number of requests, which can ultimately stall your user experience, making it seem to go at a snail’s pace. No sugar-coating here, there are going to be a lot of round trips. 

And the problem with a lot of round trips is a lot of extra information you do not even need. This is because there is a possibility that a REST API endpoint might not have the required data for an application. As a result, the said application will not get everything it needs in a single trip, making multiple trips the only option. It's safe to say that REST over-fetches and the verbose responses can be a problem.

JSON: API 

JSON: API does not suffer from the multiple request conundrum. One single request can give you everything you want, be it one article, two or ten along with the author’s information, I kid you not. 

This is possible because JSON: API implements a concept called ‘sparse fields.’ What this does is list the desired resource fields together for easy fetching. You can have as many fields as possible. If you feel the fields are too long and would not be cacheable, you can simply omit a few sparse fieldsets to cache the request. 

Another thing to remember is that the servers can choose sensible defaults, so your developers would need to be a little diligent to avoid over-fetching. 

GraphQL 

Coming to GraphQL, it was also designed in a similar fashion to JSON: API and is competent enough to eliminate the problem of over-fetching and avoid sending multiple requests. 

GraphQL has its own queries, schema and resolvers that aid the developers in creating API calls with particular data requirements in mind. Moreover, by mandating clear-cut additions to every resource field in every query and ensuring the developers cannot skip any of it,  it is able to avoid multiple round trips. Thereby, making over-fetching information a thing of the past. 

The only problem here can be that the queries may become too large, and consequently, cannot be cached. 

How is the code executed?

The distinction between REST and GraphQL is shown with regards to code execution.


Using an API for calls involves the execution of a code on the server. This code helps in computing, calling another API or loading data from a database. All three of the APIs use a code, however, the code is implemented varies a little.

REST 

Route handlers are utilised for execution upon a REST call. These are basically functions for specific URLs. 

  • First the server receives the call and retrieves the URL path and GET; 
  • Then the functions are noted and the servers begins finding the same by matching GET and the path; 
  • After that the result is generated, since the server would have executed the function; 
  • In the final step, once the result is serialised by the API library, it is ready for the client to see. 

GraphQL

GraphQL operates in a relatively similar manner. The only difference is that it uses functions for a field within a type, like a Query type, instead of using functions for specific URLs.  

Route handlers are replaced by resolvers in GraphQL, they are still functions though.

  • After the call is made and the server has received a request, the GraphQL query is retrieved. 
  • The query is then examined and the resolver is called upon for every field. 
  • Finally, the result is added to the response by the GraphQL library and it is ready for the client to see. 

It should be noted that GraphQL offers much more flexibility as multiple fields can be requested in one request, and the same field can be called multiple times in one query.  The fact they let you know where you performance needs fine-tuning makes resolvers excellent trackers as well. 

This is simply not possible in REST and JSON. Do you see the difference in implementation? 

How do the API endpoints play a role?

Many a time, it is seen that once the API is designed and the endpoints are sealed, the applications require frontend iterations that cannot be avoided. You must know that the endpoints aid an application to receive the required data just by accessing it quickly in the view, so you could call them essential even. 

However, the endpoints can pose a bit of a problem for the iterations, especially when they need to be quick. Since, in such an instance, changes in the API endpoints have to be made for every change in the frontend, the backend gets tedious for no reason at all. The data required for the same can be on the heavier side or the lighter side, which ultimately hampers the productivity. 

So, which API offers the solution?

It is neither REST, nor JSON. GraphQL’s flexibility makes it easy for the developers to write queries mentioning the specific data needs along with iterations for the development of the frontend, without the backend having to bear the brunt.

Moreover, GraphQL’s queries help developers on retrieving specific data elements and provide insights to the user as to which elements are popular and which aren’t amongst the clients.  

Why doesn’t REST? 

The answer is simple, REST has the entire data in a single API endpoint. Being a user, you won’t be able to gain insights on the use of specific data as the whole of it always returned. 

How good is the API exploration?

A distinction is shown between the three APIs, REST, JSON and GraphQL, in three circles with regards to API exploration.


Understanding your API and knowing about all of its resources and that too quickly and with ease is always going to benefit your developers. In this aspect, all three perform pretty contrastingly. 

REST 

REST gives a lacklustre performance in API exploration to be honest. The interactivity is pretty substandard as the navigation links are seldom available. 

In terms of the schema, it would only be programmable and validatable, if you are going to be using the OpenAPI standard. The auto-generation of the documentation also depends on the same. 

JSON: API 

JSON performs better than REST. The observation of the available field and links in JSON: API’s responses helps in its exploration and makes its interactivity quite good. You can explore it using a web browser, cURL or Postman

Browsing from one resource to the next, debugging or even trying to develop on top of an HTTP-based API, like REST, can be done through a web browser alongside JSON. 

GraphQL 

GraphQL is indeed the front-runner here. It has an impressive feature, known as the GraphiQL, due to which its API exploration is unparalleled. It is an in-browser IDE, which allows the developers to create queries repeatedly. 

What is even more impressive is the fact the queries get auto-completed based on the suggestions it provides and you get real-time results. 

Let’s focus on schema now 

A distinction is shown between the three APIs in terms of schema using three circles.


Schemas are important for the development team, the frontend and the backend equally. It is because once a schema has been defined, your team would know the data structure and can work in parallel. Creating dummy test data as well as testing the application would be easy for the frontend developers. All in all, the productivity and efficiency levels elevate. 

REST

REST does have an associated expected resource schema since it is a set of standard verbiage. Despite this, there is nothing that is specifically stated in them. 

JSON: API 

In terms of schema validation and programming, it does define a generic one, however, a reliable field-level schema is yet to be seen. Simply put, JSON is basic with regards to schema. 

GraphQL

The fact that GraphQL functions completely on schemas makes it a pro in this regard. The schema used here is Schema Definition Language or SDL. What this means is that GraphQL uses a type system that sets out the types in an API because all the types are included in SDL. Thus, defining the way a client should access data on the server becomes easy. 

To conclude this point, I would want to say that when there is immense complexity in the schema and resource relationships, it can pose a disadvantage for the API.  

How simple is to operate it? 

The operational distinction is shown between the three APIs in three circles.


Operating an API essentially involves everything, from installing and configuring it to scaling and making it secure. REST, JSON: API and GraphQL, all perform well enough to make themselves easy to operate. Let’s see how. 

REST 

REST is quite simple to use, a walk in the park for a pro developer. It is because REST is dependent on the conventional HTTP verbiage and techniques. You would not need to transform the underlying resources by much, since it can be supported by almost anything. It also has a lot of tools available for the developers, however, these are dependent on their customisation before they can be implemented. 

In terms of scaling, REST is extremely scalable, handling high traffic websites is no problem at all. To take advantage of the same, you can make use of a reverse proxy like Varnish or CDN. Another plus point of REST is that it has limited points of failure, being the server and the client. 

JSON: API 

JSON: API is more or less the same as REST in terms of its operational simplicity, so much so that you can move from REST to JSON: API without any extensive costs. 

  • It also relies on HTTP; 
  • It is also extremely scalable; 
  • It also has numerous developer tools, but unlike REST, JSON: API does not need customised implementations; 
  • Lastly, JSON also has fewer failure points. 

GraphQL 

GraphQL is the odd one out here. It isn’t as simple to use as the other two. It necessitates specific relational structure and specific mechanisms for interlocking. You would be thinkin that how is this complex? Let me ask you to focus on word specific, what this means is that you might need to restructure your entire API with regards to resource logic. And you must know that such restructuring would cost you time, money and a boatload of efforts. 

Even in terms of scalability, GraphQL does not fare very well. The most basic requests also tend to use GET requests. For you to truly capitalise GraphQL, your servers would need their own tooling. If I talk about the points of failure here, even those are many, including client, server, client-side caching and client and build tooling. 

What about being secure?

The security distinction is shown between the three APIs in three circles.


The kind of security an API offers is also an important consideration in choosing it. A drastic difference is noted in REST and GraphQL. Let’s see what that is. 

REST 

REST is the most secure amongst the three. The intrinsic security features in REST are the reason for the achievement. 

  • There are different APU authentication methods, inclusive of HTTP authentication;
  • There are the JSON Web Tokens for sensitive data in HTTP headers;
  • There are also the standard OAuth 2.0 mechanisms for sensitive data in JSON structure. 

JSON:API

JSON:API is on a similar footing to REST in terms of security. The reason being the fact that like REST it exposes little resources.  

GraphQL 

It is not like GraphQL is not secure, it is; however, the security has to be manually attained. It is not secure by default and it is not as mature as REST in this regard. 

When the user has to apply authentication and authorisation measures on top of data validation, the chances of unpredictable authorisation checks rise. Now, do I have to tell you that such an event is bound to jeopardise your security? 

How is the API design pinpointed?

The distinction for API design is shown between the three APIs in three circles.


If an API has to perform well for every use case, you have to make it do so. By creating such design choices that are a result of your understanding of the users’ needs. You cannot just go with the flow, evaluating how your users are going to be interacting with your API and getting an understanding of the same is key for your API’s design. 

REST

For REST, this exercise of deciphering the user requirements must happen before the API can be implemented. 

GraphQL 

As for GraphQL, this apprehension can be delayed a little. By profiling the queries, you would be able to tell their complexity level and pinpoint the sluggish queries to get to an understanding of user’s consumption of the API. 

What about their use in Drupal?  

The distinction for Drupal installation and configuration is shown between the three APIs in three circles.


Drupal is an important player when it comes to building websites and managing their content. With decoupling Drupal becoming more and more popular, it has become crucial to understand how the APIs perform alongside Drupal. 

REST 

Talking about the installation and configuration of REST, it can be complicated at best. The fact that the REST module has to be accompanied by the REST UI module does not ease the complexity. 

With REST, the clients that cannot create queries with the needed filters on their own, since the REST module does not support client-generated collection queries. This is often referred to as decoupled filtering.  

JSON:API 

JSON:API module landed in Drupal core in Drupal 8.7. JSON:API’s configuration is as easy as ABC, there is simply nothing to configure. JSON is a clear winner in this aspect. 

Moving to client-generated queries, JSON does offer its clients this luxury. They can generate their own content queries and they won't need a server-side configuration for the same. JSON’s ability to manage access control mechanisms offered by Drupal make changing an incoming query easy. This is a default feature in JSON:API.

GraphQL 

The installation of GraphQL is also not as complicated as REST, but it isn’t as easy as JSON as well. This is because it does mandate some level of configuration from you. 

Similar to JSON, GraphQL also offers decoupled filtering with client generated queries. A less common trend amongst GraphQL projects is seeking permissions for persisted queries over client-generated queries; entailing a return to the conventional Views-like pattern.

In addition to these three major Drupal web services, explore other alternatives in the decoupled Drupal ecosystem worthy of a trial. Read everything about decoupled Drupal, the architecture-level differences between headless and traditional setups, different ways to decouple Drupal, and the skills required to build a Decoupled Drupal web application to know more.

Concluding with the basics 

To sum up, let us look at the fundamental nature of the three APIs, which entails two aspects; simplicity and functionality. 

In terms of simplicity, REST is a winner. A second would be rewarded to JSON, while GraphQL would not and could not be described as simple, complex and that too immensely with major implementations coming your way would be a more accurate description. In terms of functionality, GraphQL does offer the most. If you choose JSON over GraphQL, you would end up parting with some of its features unfound in JSON. 

All three are powerful and efficient in what they can do for your application. The question is how much complexity are you willing to take up with that power?

Jan 18 2021
Jan 18

Websites have entered a new playing field now, at least compared to what they used to be a few decades ago. They are not one-dimensional anymore. They represent a multitude of different business agendas that are essential for growth and visibility.

Websites are not just limited to words, their world has widened progressively. From animations to social media integration, websites today can do it all. A major reason for these advancements in websites and their build is the software they are built on. And that is going to be the highlight of this blog.  

We will talk about the Content Management Systems and the Static Site Generators and shed light on their uses, their suitability and whether they can work in sync or not? So let’s begin. 

Understanding a CMS 

There is a time line showing the emergence of various open source CMSs.Source: Opensource.com

Commencing with the veterans, CMS or a Content Management System have been around for almost two decades (Drupal, one of the world leaders in web content management, was initially released on 15th January 2001). Despite being that old, the conventions they are built on and the features they have been added with over the years have resulted in CMSs being as modern as modern as can be. 

From easing the workload off of the bloggers’ shoulders to making newspaper editors happy; from catering for corporations and their digital marketing team to aiding numerous government departments online and transparent, a CMS has a wide audience. 

If I had to define a CMS, I would simply call it the one-stop destination for all your website’s content needs. It manages, organises and publishes web content. What is more impressive is that content authors can create, edit, contribute and publish on their own, they do not need to be dependent on developers for that. A CMS offers a collaborative environment to build and present websites, allowing multiple users to work with it at once. Terms like Web Content Management and Digital Experience Platform are being thrown around today and they are nothing, but a modern variant of a CMS. 

Getting into the meaning of CMS a little further, you would hear two versions of it and they are essentially its break down. 

  • First would be the Content Management Application. This makes marketers, merchandisers and content creators self-reliant. They can do the contextual heavy-lifting on their own with a CMA without the requirement of a code, so, none of the guys or girls from IT would be needed. 
  • Next is the Content Delivery Application. This is basically the foundation for your content; the back-end aspect that placed your content into templates to be further presented as one website. So, what your audiences see is provided by the CDA. 

Both of these together make a CMS whole for your use. 

Moving further, after the meaning, it is time to get a brief understanding of the various categories of a CMS. Based upon different categorisations, there are seven in all.

Based on the CMS’ role 

Traditional 

Most often, a traditional CMS is used on really simple marketing sites. I have used the term simple to describe it because it is just that, be it the layout or general functionality. You can create and edit your content using a WYSIWYG or HTML editor and it would display the content as per the CSS you have used.

With a traditional CMS, your entire site is encompassed by one software. The frontend and the backend are closely connected through it, hence, it is also referred to as a Coupled CMS. 

Decoupled 

Unlike its traditional counterpart, the decoupled CMS separated the frontend from the backend. This means they work independent of each other and a change in the presentation layer does not necessarily affect the backend repository. Through decoupling, you get the features of more than one software to base your site’s architecture on. 

Headless 

A headless CMS is more or less similar to a decoupled one. When you take up a headless CMS, your content would always remain the same, however, each of your clients, be it an app, a device, or a browser, would be obligated for the presentation of the content. 

The code in this instance is not in the CMS, rather it is an API that is used for communication and data sharing amongst the two software. This way developers can consume content through an API and content authors can start adding content at the same time. If you are looking for the ‘one size fits all’ approach, this is where you will find your answer. 

Based on cost and ownership 

Open source 

Open source CMSs are the ones that are free of cost, at least initially. You do not need to pay for any license fee for its installation; however, there can be costs that you may incur for add-on templates and more such features. 

Open Source CMSs are pretty popular today, the reason being their thriving community of developers. This results in the veterans redistributing and modifying the code, which not only leads to perpetual software improvements, but also helps the newbies in making progress. 

Proprietary 

A proprietary CMS is the exact opposite of an open source CMS, meaning it is commercial and mandates a licensing fee along with annual or monthly payments. In return for the payments, you would get an out-of-the-box system to meet all your companies requirements, continuous support and built-in functionality.

Based on the location 

On premises 

As the name suggests, this is a CMS that has a physical presence within the company’s premises. The high degree of control it offers to its users is the reason for its popularity. However, the humongous investment and the chances of human error dampen its potential. 

Cloud-based 

The name gives it away. Such a CMS is hosted on the cloud and delivered through the web. It is essentially the combination of web hosting, web software components and technical support. It provides fast implementation and deployment along with accessibility from across the globe on any device.

Why choose a CMS? 

Moving further, let’s now delve into the multitudinal features that are packed inside a CMS making it a suitable choice for you and your organisation’s virtual needs.

If I had to broadly categorise all the features of a CMS, I would end up with three major categories, which will sum up the true potential of this software. 

Content and its production needs

Producing content is the primary reason anyone takes on a CMS. It is true if you are a blogger and it is also true if you work for an educational institution and its online persona. It is the content that speaks for itself, when it comes to your site and it needs to be pristine, for lack of a better word. And CMSs help you achieve a level of control over your content production that you desire.

  • Starting with the edits, the WYSIWYG editor could be deemed as the heart and soul of a CMS. It provides you formatted text in paragraphs with quotes, superscripts, underlines as well as images and videos. Your authors would not have to work around codes for sure. 
  • Focusing on the media, images are an important part of it. Every CMS has room for them, they can be uploaded directly from your computer or archives, either within the content or you can add them in the page itself. The same is true for pdfs, animations and videos. Videos also have the option of being embedded through Youtube. 
  • Furthermore, CMSs also support multilingual and multi-channel sites. This eases the pressure off of the content authors and makes localised projects easy to run. 

Content and its presentation needs

Presentation is all about design, how it is done and how it would be showcased to the end user. There are a lot of design considerations that a CMS can help you with. 

  • A CMS would have you sorted with the right font and its size and the right colours and contrast. 
  • A CMS would have your sorted with the right responsiveness for your site. 
  • A CMS would have you sorted with the right URLs and URL logic. 
  • A CMS would have you sorted with the right templating tools to change your layout. 
  • A CMS would have you sorted with the right hierarchy for your site as well as provide the right prominence to the aspects that need it. 
  • Finally, a CMS would have your site sorted for all the right accessibility protocols to make it universally accessible. 

Content and its distribution needs

Once the content is produced, its distribution comes into play. This has a direct impact on your site's visibility. And CMSs ensure that you get the most out of it. 

  • The foremost part of distribution needs is metadata. This helps in tagging, categorising and describing your content. It includes everything from keyword insertion to identifying the distribution channels and placing access restrictions on the content. 
  • Secondly, CMSs also come equipped with automated marketing tools like analytics and A/B testing that help you understand user behaviour and help you capitalise it. You would just have to define the parameters and the automation would do the rest, be it publishing on your site or email marketing. 

Content and its management needs

Then comes the management of your content, it is a perpetual process that helps in providing an ease to the editors and developers that streamlines the builds and updates of a website. 

  • For one, a CMS helps you plan and execute the publishing of your content. You can actually schedule when and what to post and where to post it. You can also decide when something would be available for the audience to see and when it won’t be like an events’ post. Once the event has happened, it won't need to be on your site anymore and a CMS helps with that. 
  • CMSs also help you to figure out user roles and implement them. This helps in ensuring that sensitive information is only accessible to the users who have the clearance. A manager and a director are going to have different roles, so does a premium member and a regular member of your site. 
  • Finally CMS helps you in avoiding instances where you delete something important and its recovery becomes impossible. Version control and revisions are a feature that has to be in your CMS, if you want the powers to bring back the lost content. 

Apart from these main categories, CMSs are also renowned for their security, their scalability and user friendliness. There is one more thing to add and that is the fact that a CMS can go above and beyond it capabilities by integrating itself to third-parties and combining their features with its own, a headless CMS is an example of the same. Drupal is one of the most popular CMSs, when it comes to going headless. Read our blog, Decoupled Drupal Architecture to know more about it.

Understanding a new vogue: Static Site Generators 

Before understanding a static site generator, let’s shed some light on static sites, since these are what it builds. A static site is the one that is designed in a way that it remains static, fixed and constant, during its design, its storage on a server and even upon its delivery to the user’s web browser. This is the attribute that differs it from a dynamic, it never changes, from the developers desktop to the end user’s, it remains as-is.

Coming to Static Site Generators or SSG, in the most basic of terms they apply data and content to templates and create a view of a webpage. This view is then shown to end users of a site. 

Now let’s get a little technical, you know that an SSG will only create static sites, it does so by creating a series of HTML pages that get deployed to an HTTP server. There would only be files and folders, which points to no database and no server-side rendering.

Developers using an SSG, create a static site and deploy it to the server, so when a user requests a page, all the server has to do is find the matching file and route it towards the user. 

If I talk about the difference between an SSG and a conventional web application stack or a CMS, I would say that it is in the view of webpages. While an SSG keeps all the views possibly needed for a site at hand well in advance, a traditional stack waits until a page has been requested and then generates the view.

Why did SSG come along?

Static Site Generators act differently than a CMS, they are more aligned with the needs of static sites. However, their emergence has a bigger story to tell. 

Yes, CMSs are quite popular today, yet there is a drawback to that. With the rising acclaim of CMSs, some of them have become more prone to cyberattacks. The lead in security hacks goes to WordPress, with almost 90% of all hacks being experienced by it as reported by ITPRO reports of 2020. But, Drupal is considered the most secure CMS as can be seen in Sucuri’s 2019 Website Threat Research Report.

Then there is the issue of performance. CMS sites operate mainly upon their servers, meaning they do the heavy-lifting. If a request is sent, it would mean the server taking the charge of the page assembly from templates and content every time. This also means that for every user visiting your site, the PHP code would have to be run to start up, communicate with the database, create an HTTP response based on the recovered data, send it to the server and then finally, an HTML file is returned to the user’s browser to display the content after interpretation. All of this may impede the performance of the site built on CMS when compared to the one powered by a static site generator. But, it’s not like CMSes give you low-performance websites. They do have provisions for delivering high performance websites. It depends upon which CMS you go with. If web performance is your concern, Drupal can be your go-to option.

An SSG is a solution to these two conundrums, hence, it emerged with a bang. 

What can a Static Site Generator do for you?

there is clock in the middle with the benefits of a CMS written around it.

Static Site Generators solve a lot of the issues that a CMS cannot, consequently they can provide you a lot for your site’s well-being. 

SSG means better security 

In an SSG, the need for a server is non-existent and this is the reason it provides more security. As we have already established that an SSG is rendered well in advance and its ready-to-serve infrastructure helps remove any malicious intent upon your site. This infrastructure essentially eliminates the need for servers, they do not need to perform any logic or work. 

Apart from this, with SSG, you would not need to access databases, execute logical operations or alter resources for each independent view. As a result, there is an easy hosting infrastructure as well as an enhanced security because of the lack of physical servers required for fulfilling requests. 

SSG means elevated performance 

A website’s performance is concerned with its speed and request time, and SSG provides in this area as well. Whenever a page is requested, it involves a whole bunch of mechanism to get it displayed for the visitors. There is the distance it has to cover, the systems it has to interact with along with the work that those systems do. All of these take up time, shadowing your performance. 

Since an SSG site does not mandate such a lengthy iteration per visitor request, it reduces the travel time. This is done through delivering the work directly from a CDN, a distributed network of caches, which aids in avoiding system interaction. Resultantly, your performance soars 

SSG means higher scalability 

When an SSG builds a site, it is often considered pre-built. I mean that is what building all the views in advance of an actual request could be defined as, right? So, with a pre-built site, you have less work on your hands. For instance, a spike in traffic would not mandate you to add in more computing power to handle each additional request, since you have already done all the work beforehand. You would also be able to cache everything in the CDN and serve it directly to the user. As a result, SSG sites offer scalability by default. 

When should you choose a Static site generator?

Now that you know how an SSG can benefit you, it is time to understand the scenarios that would mandate taking up a static site generator and all its advantages. 

When building complex site is the goal 

If you want your website to deliver more complexity, in terms of the kind of features it provides, SSG becomes a good choice. There are many that come equipped to provide you client-side features that are ready to go. 

When creating and displaying content is the only goal

Here SSG is a suitable choice because it would generate pages and URLs for you. And these pages would give you a 100% control over what is being displayed, meaning the output would always be in your hands; content pages need that. 

When generating numerous pages is the goal 

A static site generator can create pages at a great speed. It might not be seconds, but it is quite fast. So, when creating websites that would need a lot of pages to be created, SSG’s speed comes in quite handy. 

When templating needs are complex as well 

An SSG is a powerful software, it has the ability to assess your site’s visual style and content along with its behaviour and functionality. This feature becomes fruitful, when building a website with diverse templating needs. Vue and React based SSGs would definitely help you get the versatility you need on your website, along with the standard use of concept of code reuse on your site. 

I would like to add just one more thing, and that is the fact that your team must be familiar with the static site generator that you are going to end up using. There are a lot in the market. If your team is familiar with .net, use and SSG powered with it. On the other hand if it finds JavaScript more familiar territory, go with an SSG based on that. Let your development team be a part of the discussion, when the suitability of a static site generator is being decided. 

Are Static Site Generators always the right option? 

Coming from the suitability, you would think that an SSG is a great choice. Don’t get me wrong, it is. However, it isn’t a universal software. There are instances when it may not be the right choice. So, let’s delve into these scenarios.

Not when you do not have development experience 

Static Site Generators become a tad bit difficult for amateur developers. Your developers ought to have experience to reap all its benefits. The building process is considered to be more difficult than that of a CMS, something that finding plugins for pre-built pages acn become a chore. Furthermore, there isn’t a huge community out there to help you in the development part, if you are a beginner. 

Not when you need a site built urgently 

You have to understand the urgency and SSGs are not the best of friends. From learning the build process to developing the template code, everything needs time. 

There are development scripts to be me made;
There is the complication of customised them;
There is the additional process of creating and setting Markdown files;

All of these account to more time requirements for the development process. Think of it like this, you are going to be doing all the grunt work beforehand, and that would necessitate more time. 

Not when you need server-side functionality 

When partnering with an SSG, you would be parting with some, if not many, interactive functions on your site. For instance, user logins would be difficult to create, so would web forms and discussion forums. However, there are certain options like lunr.js search and Disqus commenting to help you with your sites interactivity. I would say that these options are pretty limited.

Not when your site has to have hundreds of pages

You might think that I am contradicting myself, however, I am not. Static site generators can create a website with a thousand pages, yet the process can become tedious and awkward. For a thousand or so pages, the content editing and publishing would be cumbersome. Along with this real-time updates could get delayed and like I mentioned before build times rise consequently.

Not when website consistency is a priority 

Lastly, SSG sites offer a lot of flexibility. That should be a good thing, however, it does have a side effect and that is on your site’s consistency. This is because anything that is found in the Markdown files can be rendered as page content. Consequently, users get the chance to include scripts, widgets and other undesired items. 

Can a CMS and an SSG work together? 

Yes, a CMS and an SSG can work together and pretty efficiently at that. However, that partnership is only possible in a headless CMS. This is because a headless CMS gives room for other frontend technology to come and play and in this case that technology is found in static site generators. 

A headless CMS is pretty versatile, choosing a static site to go as its head could help you get most of the benefits that both, the static site and headless CMS, come along with. This partnership indeed has a lot to offer. Let’s find out what that is. 

Two hands shaking can be seen on the left, with the benefits of a CMS and static site generators' partnership.

Proffers easy deployment via APIs

SSGs are quite straightforward to use, especially with an API, which is the connecting force between the SSG and the CMS. Pulling data from an API for generating and deploying a static PWA to any web host or Content Delivery Network is a breeze. 

Proffers ease to the marketing team 

When you work only with an SSG, you would face difficulties as it puts a lot of boundations on the marketing team. This isn’t a problem when you partner with a CMS. 

Proffers easy editing and workflow 

Conventionally, SSGs do not have a WYSIWYG editor or workflow capabilities for the tracking and collaboration of content. You might think that it is only needed for dynamic sites, but that isn’t the case. Static sites also need that. Since CMSs have that capability, they become ideal for content before actually running the SSG; the perfect contextual partnership. 

Proffers easy updates to sites 

With a CMS, you can easily change and update the content. With an SSG, the same changes can be pulled up through the APIs and a new static site can be generated every time they are incurred. All the developers have to do is set a tool up for content pulling and generation. As a result, your site would always be up-to-date and the users would not need to be processed whenever they visit your site. 

To check out some examples of how CMS and SSG can come together, read how Drupal and Gatsby can be leveraged for developing blazing fast websites. You can also go through the benefits of going ultra-minimalistic with the combination of Metalsmith and Drupal.

Conclusion 

In the end, all I want to say is that both a CMS and an SSG have their own set of features and capabilities that make them excellent at what they do, making their users more than happy. However, when it comes to getting the best out of both of them, there is only one kind of CMS that can help you reap the benefits of this dynamic. It is up to you to decide whether you want to use them together or individually.  
 

Dec 31 2020
Dec 31

Wouldn’t you say that websites are meant for everyone. If a children’s clothing site is not able to serve the needs of all the parents that fall in its target audience, what would be the point then, right?

We know every person is different, from the way they see things to the way they analyse them. Our differences do not make us less than the next person; web accessibility has ensured that, at least in the web domain. There are people who have certain physical conditions that limit some of their abilities, they are simply differently-abled from the rest of us. 

  • Colour blindness can affect the visual perception of a website.
  • Wheelchair user-concerns can affect mobility. 
  • Hearing problems can affect the auditory elements. 
  • Photosensitive epilepsy can induce seizures in a person through certain elements on the web. 
  • Dyslexia can affect the cognitive awareness of a user. 
  • Sleep deprivation, an incidental issue, can affect your accessibility as well.

All of these and more can impair the user experience for people who are suffering from them. That is where web accessibility comes into the equation. This blog will talk about the ABCs of implementing the best practices when designing for web accessibility. 

What is Web Accessibility?

Where websites are concerned accessibility becomes an important consideration that can actually become their breaking point, if not done the right. Before I start on the long tirade on how to make the web accessible, it is equally important to understand what it actually is. 

Web Accessibility can plainly be understood by its purpose, which is to make websites and their numerous tools and technologies in such a way that people with disabilities can easily use them. It is actually as simple as that; building websites that cater to the differently abled people. 

A more thorough definition would point towards making websites that; 

  • Can be perceived by people with disabilities;
  • Can be understood by them; 
  • Can be easily navigated by them; 
  • Can be interacted with; 
  • And they can also contribute to the web through them. 

This concept or more like a principle takes into account all the disabilities that have an affect on the web user experience, be it auditory, cognitive, visual, speech, neurological or physical. 

You might be thinking that that is all web accessibility is responsible for, to make the web more accessible for people with disabilities, but there is more. 

  • From different input modes to bright sunlight affecting the UX;
  • From transient disabilities like fractured hand to ageing hampering your abilities; 
  • From a slow internet connection to an expensive one; 
  • From people in rural areas to the people in developing and under-developed nations;

Web accessibility is meant for all, it takes into account every aspect that can impede on a person’s web experience, eliminate them and make the web a place that is all-inclusive to the core.

It is a concept that is meant to highlight the web accessibility, that is a given because of its name, at the same time, it is also a concept that works towards usability and inclusion. All three are pretty closely related, perhaps that is why they are considered to be the fundamentals of web accessibility. You know what that means by now, however, with usability, the purpose is to build designs that can be used by everyone, while inclusion focuses on diversity, aiming for the participation of everyone in the experiences the web can offer. 

Do you not think that web accessibility is crucial in the way we design our websites? I am certain you do.

What is the standard for Web Accessibility?

In 2008, the new web accessibility guidelines were implemented and even in 2020, they are still prevalent. These guidelines have set the standards for accessibility that all web experience provides must adhere to. These are the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and they can be summed up in four principles. 

Make websites perceivable 

It is after perception that you actually start becoming involved in something. That is why the first principle of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines is making sites perceivable. How do you perceive something? Using your senses, right? Sight, sound and touch being the players here. So, the elements on your site need to be focused on these senses to be truly accessible. To exemplify, it would help a blind person to hear the description of a video to perceive what is going on in it. 

Make websites operable 

Making a site operable means ensuring that all users can use it with ease, by all, you know I mean including people with disabilities. Operating a website has to do with its navigation and interacting with various components. As per this principle, your site should be equipped to operate well in a keyboard-only navigation without any time constraints along with helping the user out, if he were to make some errors. 

Make websites understandable 

Next is the understanding of a website, your users should not have to spend a lot of time to understand some simple instructions. Therefore, the third principle focuses on using clear terms that make even the complex of issues easy to understand. 

Make websites robust

This last principle is a bit on the technical site. Using a clean code for HTML and CSS that meets the overall standards would make it very easy for other technology, third-party included, to depend on your site. It would make your site more robust and thus, easy to process.

How to design for web accessibility?

Now comes the important part, knowing the semantics of wens accessibility won’t do you any good, if you do not know how to implement them in web designing. It is not going to be a drastic change in the design palette of your existing website, rather some minor, yet thoughtful, changes can go a long way in achieving the accessibility standards. So here they are. 

Aptness in contrast 

I’m going to start with contrast because I feel that contrast is one of the major problems seen in accessibility, despite it being a basic one. The text and the background needs to be in contrast to make the text pop. It could be in images, buttons or plain CTAs. For this reason, WCAG has set certain parameters for contrast ratios that need to be followed to achieve the basic requirements of accessibility. There are three types of text generally seen on websites, and all three need to maintain a separate ratio. 

For body text, the ratio is 4.5:1;
For large text, it needs to be 3:1;
And for black and white text, the ratio is to be set at 21:1.

You may have noticed that the larger text had a smaller contract ratio, the reason is simple, larger text is easy to recognise. A size of 24 pixels or a 19 pixel bold would really be hard to miss. 

The homepage of NBC is shown.


Aptness in colour 

Did you know that one in every twelve men is colour blind? It may seem like a lot, but that is true. The inclusion of people suffering from colour blindness, low vision or total blindness, thus becomes very important, because they account to a massive proportion of web users. 

So, just using colour to highlight a component is a colossal mistake in terms of accessibility. You have to use other ways of highlighting the same component. 

Different coloured shapes can be seen in two boxes, one has number written along them and the other doesn't.

While the first image is a perfect example of what not to do, the second one can be considered as an epitome in using colour and keeping accessibility in the picture. 

Aptness in forms 

Today, you would hardly find a website that would not accompany a form to fill, after all that is their way of connecting with the audience. So, making the forms accessible to all audiences is key. And sufficient labelling is the way to do it. 

Every field that you have in the form needs to have a corresponding label that isn’t too far away from it. Adjacent labels are much better than the ones inside it that disappear after the field has been filled with content. 

You may know that oftentimes a form is filled the wrong way, so letting the user he has made an error is also crucial. This needs to be done using colours and an instruction or some sort of a sign because someone with colour blindness might not be able to see the red that is being highlighted in an erroneous field. 

An incorrectly filled online form can be seen.


Aptness in focus elements 

There are certain elements in a web design that require more focus than others, these are essentially the interactive elements of a site, such as the BUY NOW button. You would have read these two words before even reading the sentence because they are in capitals, meaning they are focused. 

The same ideology has to be followed by you in web designing. You should have a different highlight for when a button is hovered over, when it is reached by the keyboard and when it is touch or click ready. 

A webpage can be seen with one highlighted section to showcase the importance of keyboard focus in web accessibility.


If your focus elements are not highlighted properly, by say a keyboard, can it be possible for the keyboard user to actually get the full experience of your site, I think not. 

Aptness in media

Media is another integral part of your website, some might even say it gives life to an otherwise dull webpage and they are not entirely wrong. To keep the liveliness alive, you have to make the media truly accessible. 

Starting with images, it is extremely imperative that you provide alternative text to the same. Adding a caption and description is equality pivotal for audiences using a screen reader. Almost all the CMSs have a pretty prominent alt text option while you upload an image, ensure that you use it. 

The addition of alternative text in pictures is shown during the publishing process of a blog.An example taken from one of our blogs.

What alt text is for images, transcripts are for the audio elements of a website. For the users with auditory difficulties, transcripts that are the sole medium of inclusion. With videos, it becomes necessary to include an audio version of what is happening in them. Considering explaining complicated graphs and tables is another step closer towards accessibility. 

Lastly, I want to mention autoplaying audios and videos. Nobody wants to listen or see them and they only make the user rush to find the button to stop them. So, as a general rule of them, add audios and videos in such a way that the user willingly plays them. 

Aptness in navigation

A user won’t just access a single page on your site, if he does that, then you won’t ever achieve your targets. To go through all of the pages and potential of a website, a user would need to navigate through it and you have to provide an obvious way to do that. You can do that by multiple ways with the provision of orientation cues, a site map is one of the most common ways. 

All of this depends on the layout and the structure of your website, so ensuring that it is meaningful and logical would go a long way in achieving accessibility. A well structured layout should have a couple of things in order; 

  • It should be flexible and resizable;
  • It should have a minimum of 320 pixels; 
  • And it should be able to zoom upto 400% and in close proximity. 

All three help people with disabilities navigate easily. Imagine you are using a magnifying glass to read through all the content and options on a website, would you not prefer that the things you are looking at are close to each other? You don’t have to tell me, I already know your answer. 

Then come the keyboard users, you have to be mindful of them as well. Without getting into the reason for people using a keyword instead of a mouse, I would tell you that for these people the tab key is the most crucial. You have to keep in mind when creating the order of your design, since you do not want your user to get lost while navigating. 

Aptness in content 

The content on your website is its heart and soul; it is what lets the user know of your intentions and your work. Therefore, being extra diligent with the content and its placement is prudent to avoid clutter. 

Let's start with readability, you cannot write your content like it is Da Vinci Code, yes, some people might still understand it, but that is not the aim right. Use simple language with short sentences, short paragraphs and common vocabulary because if the audience is not understanding it, well then, it’s a moot point. 

Then there is the spacing issue, you need to adequate spacing between paragraphs, lines and individual letters as well. 

It is recommended that the paragraph spacing should be twice the font size;
the line height should be 1.5 times the font size; 
And the letter and word spacing should be 0,12 and 0.16 times the font size. 

A similar content is shown writeen in two different styles to highlight how important spacing can be in web accessibility.The difference between the two is pretty stark. 

After doing so much, also try using a font that is easy to read on multiple devices, Arial and Sans Serif are a couple that are just that. 

Aptness in controls 

Then comes the bit about controls, and what are we controlling? That would be ‘the interactive elements.’ Every website has them, be they in the form of buttons or links, they are going to be there. Accessibility would be achieved when these controls are designed so that every person, despite their disability can use them. 

For instance, a person suffering from tremors might not be able to interact with a really small icon. He would find it very difficult to select or unselect a checkbox, the same is also true for the elderly, who suffer from a reduced dexterity due to age. 

Therefore, the size of a control needs to be 44 by 44 pixels, as per the recommendation of WCAG. However, even the size of 34 by 34 pixels could be deemed acceptable, anything below it would be prejudicial. 

Aptness in feedback 

As a last point, I want to mention your part in the user engagement process. When a user does something, whether it is right or wrong, your website should give him an indication of the same. 

For instance, he has filled a form, then there has to be a confirmation message or if there has been a modification in the page he was using, there has to be a notification to alert him of the same. This is called your feedback to the user and it has to be prominently displayed for the user to really get it. 

Aptness in effects 

Photosensitivity is a disorder that can cause headaches, nausea and make the sufferer dizzy. Photosensitive epilepsy is a disorder that can induce seizures in the patient from just fast flashing lights. Since many websites use effects and hyperlinks that blink rapidly, these people would suffer a great deal if they go on and use the said sites. 

 Therefore, accessibility guidelines mandate that you use animations and effects that do not make people suffering from epilepsy and photosensitivity suffer more. This could be achieved by trying to use; 

  • Animations that are small in size in comparison with the screen;
  • Animations that go in the direction of the scroll and follow its speed;
  • And animations that are not constantly moving or blinking. 

To be on the safer side, try to provide an option to pause or hide them, if the user wants to. Some sites even give the option of slowing them down, now that is a thought. 

Access this ultimate guide to plan for web accessibility. And, for a complete guide on web design, read this.

Conclusion

I want to conclude by saying that designing for web accessibility may mandate that you follow a certain set of principles, but that does not mean that it is inhibiting your innovative streak. Think of it as a chance to transcend your abilities and make your web experiences all the more valuable. 

For that to happen, you would have to constantly evaluate your site, especially in the design and development phase. An accessibility audit would help a great deal in that. It would help you in knowing the areas that need improvement and guide you through the accessibility transformation. 

Dec 24 2020
Dec 24

2020 came in like an uninvited guest and brought along unprecedented conditions that the whole world continues to cope with. We had to cancel our plans, sit at home and adjust to the new normal with a hope that this chaos would clear soon. As this year brought the world to a standstill, it taught us one thing - “When something doesn't go as planned, stopping is the worst thing that you can do.”

This unprecedented time had its impact on OpenSense Labs as well. With the new restrictions across personal and professional activities, we had to take some aggressive yet sustainable steps to fulfil our promises. No doubt we succeeded in doing so and turned 2020 to yet another productive and successful year for the team and the organization.

Let’s have a look at some of our proudest achievements this year, bragging about which is mandatory :D 

The successful completion of 12+ projects 

Despite what we may be facing, life would always keep moving forward. With the same notion, OSL successfully completed 12 projects and counting in the span of this year. Allianz Loyalty Program - an intrasite and StemFuse - an e-learning program, are amongst our most fulfilling projects. 

There are different logos of OSL clients in various rectangular blocks.


Digital transformation fulfilment for 15+ new businesses

Delivering success is not the only objecting we aim for. Our business growth strategies and hard gained credibilities won us 15 new projects across the digital spectrum. The new business allianze from across the globe added up to the confidence and motivation of the team. With this, OpenSense Labs continues its journey to deliver the best in class digital experiences for its clients.

OpenSense Labs' various services are written on a dark blue background.


Stepped into the space of CDP and Mobile Application Development

We initiated our strong roadmap of enterprise solutions by expanding our technology services and expertise in the field of Customer Data Platform and Mobile Application Development. With new projects in these domains, we are continuously gaining valuable experience to bring greater efficiency, ease and power to our clients. 

Community Event : Drupalcamp London 2020

The year began with the Drupalcamp in London, before the COVID-19 strike (oh! the simpler times). A successful session over Federated search solution was addressed by our CEO. Even though later on, OSL could not take part in other virtual Drupal events, we decided to support our community by investing our time and resources heavily on Drupal support forums and projects.

A picture from one of the keynotes during DrupalCamp London can be seen, with the speaker addressing an audience.


Ranked 5th as Global Drupal Service Provider

This year, with around 100 projects and an average of 150 issue credits for every 3-months we ranked 5th as Drupal global service provider. The credit undoubtedly goes to our developers for continuous contribution to Drupal’s Core modules.

The number 5 can be seen taking prominence on a dark blue background.


Our efforts remain to be an active contributor and strive to invest more to the knowledge and support toward our Drupal community.

A better version of OpenSense Labs with website redesign

Our website, which is the base ground of our capabilities, mission and values, all-in-one, went through a redesign. Our new design language personifies our vision, our goals and most importantly, our clients’ successes. We are still the same at core, yet better equipped to understand and interact with you. 

The homepage of OpenSense Labs is shown.


An adaption of work dynamics and culture that enabled productivity

With our offices closed and all the resources operating remotely, we could experience a restricted flow of knowledge, collaboration and communication. But we slowly and steadily accommodate ourselves to this new normal. With the adaptation of new technologies and modification in the process and workflow management we are continuously trying to overcome these hurdles. 

The names of applications used for work from home are mentioned.


Team OSL enjoyed its annual excursion and holi celebration in the first quarter of this year. During the pandemic, team engagement get-togethers were on standstill. However, thanks to our human resource team, we conducted virtual activities to bond and share our experiences.

Three pictures of the OSL team can be seen in the form of collage.


The result of these came in the form of motivation and step by step achievement of our milestones.

Expanding our team - 30 new enthusiasts joined the OSL family

While several companies all over the world laid off employees, OSL takes pride in expanding its team instead. We continued adding new experts to our team from the beginning of the year and throughout the pandemic. OSL even added new departments - AI and Flutter, which opened up a multitude of job and growth opportunities. We believe that we can only work to provide excellence to our clients when we have the right team to do so.

The names of different departments and the number of new employees in them are mentioned.


Aiming to achieve newer heights in 2021

With new business goals to achieve higher organizational growth, we are fully prepared to step into the new year. Here is what 2021 holds for OpenSense Labs -  

  • Launching a new face of OSL with improved design and content. 
  • Becoming a knowledge hub around Drupal and other digital experience spaces. 
  • Catering to technology services around education-tech, AI, Loyalty Platform, content distribution and SaaS. 
  • Proffering products ranging from site audits and personalisation to cloud-based decoupled Drupal. 
  • Adding new capabilities for our client with flutter mobile app development services
  • Expanding our domain in the digital experience platforms and creating an open source community for it - TheOpenDXP
  • Further expanding our team across all the project delivery prepositions

The endless journey

2020 may be ending, but our work and our journey isn’t. This year has been great for OSL, despite its tumultuous nature. But that is life, we have to continue being positive, regardless of what we are facing. Here is to hoping another great year ahead for you and us. 

Cheers to 2021!
Cheers to a better future!

Dec 22 2020
Dec 22

With over a million Drupal sites across the world, it is suffice to say that Drupal has become an eminent name in the CMS market. Not to brag, but it is jam-packed with features, features that can make your website transcend the ordinary boundaries. Due to the many features and modules, both core and contrib, Drupal is sometimes regarded as being slightly complicated and then the question comes, ‘How to start a Drupal project?’ Today, I am going to give an answer to the same question in the easiest way possible. 
 
For you to truly understand and begin a Drupal project, it is important to get the perspective of the people involved in making the project come alive. For it is these people who will be handling the project from the get go, so the tips they give are the tips that would make a difference.

Before I get into that there is one thing I want to mention. Yes, every stakeholder is responsible for his own thing, when starting a Drupal project, however, there is one aspect of the project that needs the contribution of all parties involved. And that is defining the information architecture of a site. 

The IA is basically the organising and labeling of a website. You can call it an art or a science, that is up to you. This is an aspect that does not have one person responsible. From the content authors to the designers and the business analysts, everyone has to contribute their bit to define the IA as clearly as possible. Getting to the minutest details and getting them right from the initial stage goes a long way in achieving the project deadlines and the business requirements as well. Therefore, the involvement of the entire development team and all the stakeholders is the right way to start your Drupal project. 

Now let’s get on with the tips accumulated from the pros themselves. 

There are six bulleted points for your Drupal project's entire team.

The Developer’s Tricks  

Commencing the tips with developers and all of their tricks, since they are responsible for the fundamental makeup of a Drupal project. From a development point of view, you would have to be mindful of a lot of things before starting your Drupal project. 

Developer’s environment 

If a project needs to be at its best, it needs the right environment to grow. By the right environment, I mean three of them, a remote, a live and a local environment. You cannot skip one; if you do so, you would break the workflow, which is essentially described as local leading on to dev-stage and then on to production developers. 

Developer’s consistency 

Continuing the conversation on the developer environment, it is also very crucial for your project that all your developers have a consistent local environment to work with. Let me tell you how such a development environment would benefit you. For one, it is going to help your new developers to get up-and-running in no time and it would also eliminate the need for your developers to keep dabbling in their own local environment. Consistency always pays. 

Developer’s understanding 

How much your developers understand the Drupal ecosystem is another tip to help you in escalating the growth of your project. Discussing the common terminology with the team members helps in keeping everyone on the same page. The basics have to be clear along with a commitment to follow the system. It has been seen that the continuous integration/ continuous delivery trend has picked up a lot, however, if your developers are simply going to ignore it, then what is the point? 

Developers and Git 

You are going to have more than one developer/ programmer and you would want them to coordinate with each other. You would also end up changing your source code from time to time and you would have to keep a track of the said changes. A Git Repository would do just that for you. 

Developers and Codebase 

Moving from code changes to codebase management, Drupal 8 has a Composer template to manage your project’s codebase. This acts as standard in the said management, but there is hope for significant development in the composer projects within the Drupal community. 

Developers and Configuration system 

Drupal has its own configuration system that allows you to push non-code configuration changes between environments pretty easily. This helps in creating a robust workflow amongst developers along with a stimulating environment, wherein the members continuously upgrade and test configurations in a local setting before going towards the remote route. However, all of your developers need to be using the system, or else its benefits would never be reaped. Go through Drupal 9 configuration management strategies to know more.

Developers and auto-deployment 

You should also equip your developers with auto-deployment. The reason would be to fasten the development process and ease the DevOps process. 

Apart from these tips, you have to remember that even though your project is just in its infancy,it would be on the path of growth soon. Therefore, you must keep in mind the future scope of development while designing the architecture. 

The Content Author’s Part 

Well, this one is not really limited to the content authors, but more about their participation in the development process. Hence, it came right after the developer’s involvement. In the introduction, I talked about information architecture and this tip has to do with that. 

Focusing on the content authors first, a content author needs to update the content regularly, so they have to be comfortable with the system. You need to give them the chance to add and edit their content on a prototype site. This can only be done before the site actually goes on the floor. For best content authoring experience in Drupal, check out Paragraphs and Layout Builder modules.

The Project Manager’s Duties 

Project Managers have a leadership role in your Drupal project, perhaps that is why they are called managers. They need to have great managerial skills, after all they are the voice of the project. 

There are two aspects of project management that can make your project a guaranteed success. 

Setting feasible targets 

For one, a project manager should set such targets and milestones that are realistic and fall under the abilities of the team. Yes, pushing the team to do better is always going to be the role of leadership, but pushing them beyond their abilities would just make things a mess. 

Provide clearer targets, for instance, setting a 6-month deadline on the project does not really clarify many things. Try providing specific goals every team member would have to complete by then. For this to happen, you need to listen, more than command. Listen to the needs of the team and become their guide when they need you. You should know that providing training is a crucial part of a project leaders duties. 

Defining work roles 

Using a project tracker and totally committing to it becomes essential when starting a Drupal project. This is because a project tracker helps in ensuring more focus towards the project. However, a project tracker would only work if the work roles are clearly defined for the development team and every other stakeholder, inclusive of the project managers themselves. 

Access the expert insights on project management for complex Drupal projects for a better web development planning.

The Designer’s Role 

You must want your Drupal project to have an interface that is elegant, user friendly and serves all your business principles. This would be easy to achieve, if your web designers are competent enough to fulfil their role. So, when I was trying to find out all the design duties, our in-house designer was a great help and here are the tips he had for you. 

Determining the style guide 

At present, many Drupal sites prefer to create their own custom theme and for that to happen, your designers would need to create a style guide. There is no hard and fast rule to create one, it is entirely up to you to make it simple or complicated. There still are certain things you need to be mindful of. 

  • The style guide you create needs to have a typography and a colour palette. 
  • The typography you choose must be responsive to all devices, think of the H1s, the headers and the footers. 
  • The rules need to be set to ensure how every aspect would look in different screen widths, winging it won’t be ideal here. 
  • The elements you want to be displayed throughout the website need to be defined in the style guide. 

The user does not want your site to make his experience cumbersome, a thoughtful style guide is the way to avoid that and make things comfortable through consistency. 

Determining the wire frames 

A custom theme also means that you would be designing your own signature layout for your landing pages at least. A wireframe is going to give you an idea of how your site’s pages would be arranged and how they would respond to different screen sizes. In simple terms, a wireframe is a template of your webpages. 

Coming to its specific, it is important to focus on consistency. All your pages must follow a similar layout for you to achieve consistency. This would not only help you in reducing costs by avoiding to design one-off pages, but it would also help you in building your brand’s image. The common elements, that I talked about in the previous page, help in making the theming easy for you. 

Determining through testing

You have to test everything before you go on the ground and testing is a major part of the designer’s role. 

First comes the dry testing, which means the testing of the interactive design prototypes and that too on real-time users. If the project fails in this test, a designer would be responsible for accumulating the pain or problem point, fixing them and then testing again. However, if the testing turns out to be a success, then the designers can commence with the UI design as per the design guidelines set. 

Then is the design testing and the real-time testing of the project; it is called real-time because whatever issues are detected end up getting fixed simultaneously. 

Along with these, designers must also be thoroughly involved in defining the Information Architecture and user and market research to always be one step ahead in the designing process.

Read this comprehensive guide to web design for hammering out the right plan for your business.

The QA Engineer’s Tasks 

 A Quality Assurance engineer has a lot of tasks on his/her plate and all of them help in maintaining the quality of the project to the utmost standards. To ensure that a QA engineer should have the basic knowledge of Drupal, especially about the terms and admin portal, which helps in testing. A major part of the job is to test and test each and every aspect of the project, so it becomes helpful. 

Testing for functions

Functional testing refers to testing the functionality of the project. From testing the validation of textboxes and radio buttons to internal, external and broken links and URLs; from web forms and error messages to database and cookies, a QA tests every function, so that nothing goes wrong.

This also includes ensuring that the features built in the Drupal project adhere to the set goals and no extra permissions and settings are given based on the user roles. 

Testing for performance 

Performance testing mainly refers to validating a website’s performance, load and speed. Checking the stress limit and data load of a website. Tools like GTMtrix, YSlow, Pingdom can be used for this. 

Testing for usability 

A major consideration in the usability of your Drupal project is its accessibility and QA’s test for that. Then comes the navigation of your site, which should be easy to find, read and use, for instance by clicking on a company logo, you can reach the home, easy and simple . Finally, it is content, it has to be defined with clear H1s and H2s as well the use of SEO in tags should be optimised. 

Testing for compatibility 

Before going live with your project, you should check its compatibility with different operating systems, different browsers and their versions, different devices and different  networks, environments and hardware configurations.

Testing for security 

Focusing on security can never go wrong, that is why as the last task of a QA engineer, he/she tests the security parameters of a Drupal project prior to it going live. 

These include; 

  • Checking for any URL manipulation; 
  • Checking for Cross Site Scripting; 
  • Checking for Password cracking;
  • And checking for Drupal security updates. 

Read how QA plays an important role in software development projects.

The Business Analyst’s Responsibilities 

Up until now, we have focused on the project side of things, now it is time to focus on the business side of Drupal project and that is the responsibility of a Business Analyst. This position is the bridge between you and your consumers. The fact that effective customer communication can only be achieved through a BA, is proof of that. 

There are two major responsibilities of a Business Analyst, apart from what I mentioned above. 

Understands the project 

A BA has to clearly understand the project requirements and iterate the same to the Project Managers, who would then get the project in motion. So, it is very important to ensure that the requirements are feasible and that would only happen when the Project Manager are part of the discussion. 

Interprets the requirements 

A Business Analyst is also responsible for interpreting the project requirements to the team. What this means is that he would have to convert the business needs of the project into technical specifications. Imagine talking business to a developer, he would be the least interested in it. Therefore, it is the BAs responsibility to convey the business needs to the team in the terms that they understand. 

Brings in value 

Business analysts are known to work with real-time user data and analytics programs. They do so in order to understand and recognise user trends, the functions that are a success with the user base and the kind of problems a user would face while adopting your application. This data and its recognition is crucial for business success and BAs have a great role to play in that. 

A business analyst could be involved just at the front end, while assessing user needs or he could be involved throughout the project implementation, whatever the case, he is an important player in the setup of a Drupal project. 

The Bottom Line 

At the end of the day, a Drupal project is just a medium for you to let you enter the world of business. Your Drupal site would be responsible for generating an income for you or fulfilling your social responsibilities, like the Government of Australia’s website. Therefore, for your Drupal project to be successful, you have to align it with your business needs. When all the stakeholders have a clear understanding of your business and its sole purpose, then there is no stopping you. Saying that, the aforementioned considerations are like the starter pack of a Drupal project and you would be wise to pay heed to them before commencing your Drupal Project. 

Dec 18 2020
Dec 18

The web has become a popular destination today. An average person tends to visit it plenty of times in a single day. From finding out the weather forecast to booking a cab or ordering in, you can do it all by exploring the different aspects of the web and enjoy doing so. However, have you ever wondered how our experience of the web is made enjoyable? A ten-year old and a seventy-year-old can find an equal sense of satisfaction through the umpteen websites they surf through, despite their different intellect, but how?

The answer lies in the web design. What is that? Web design is a process that continues throughout the life of a web project. It starts with planning and conceptualisation of the website, goes on to arrange its content online and continues with the production and maintenance of the sites. 

This blog will try to cover every spec of the concept of web design, from its importance to its universal application to its principles. Before we get into that, let’s delve into the two categories of web design, which are adaptive and responsive websites. 

Adaptive design 

Like the name suggests, this kind of website design adapts itself based upon the device type or browser width. It makes use of a “user agent” that informs the server about the device that is in use, it could be a desktop, mobile or tablet and consequently shrink or enhance the screen size. In a different scenario, the design will use media queries and breakpoints to let the server know the version to implement, namely,1080p, 720p or 480p, offering much more flexibility. 

Responsive design 

The other option is to use a responsive design, which works with the proportion of container space taken up by a single element and shrink accordingly. If a header is at 25% space on a desktop site, it would remain at the percentage even in a mobile device. Like adaptive design, it also uses breakpoints to establish the need for the server and keeps changing constantly. 

With that knowledge, I believe we are all set to commence into our comprehensive guide to web design. So, let’s start. 

The Importance of Web Design 

A chart is shown describing the need for web design.Source: McKinsey & Company 

The image above clearly depicts the importance of design. Web design has to be idolised for business success through leadership, inclusion, continuity and user experience. You cannot confine it, it has to have free reins for it to boom. 

Website design is indeed one of the major contributors in your online revenue. You could say that a good web design is directly proportional to a higher revenue. Now, let me let you why. Like I have said before, the web has become quite popular, people go on it regularly and check your company's online persona to see whether you are worth their time and money or not. If you are able to impress them with your design skills, you are bound to experience an impressive conversion rate. 

In simpler terms, 

  • Design is important because it acts as the first impression of your business. 
  • Design is important because it creates a consistent brand image and encourages the user to put his trust in you. 
  • Design is important because it gives you an advantage over your competitors. 
  • Design is important because it enhances your UX, making the user’s time enjoyable rather than frustrated. 
  • Design improves your performance, reduces the load time and the bounce rate, increases the conversions and amplifies consumer service and satisfaction levels. 

Let me exemplify this, today nobody would want to spend their money on a product that they haven’t researched thoroughly, be it a watch or a car. And where do people go to execute the research? Yes, to your website. So, if you answer all the questions the user might have in your product description and alleviate all the worries, the user will most likely buy from you. And all of this falls under the web design umbrella. 

So, yes web design is critical for your website’s success, for your sales and for the longevity of your business.

The Prerequisites of Web Design

Before delving into the principles of web design, it is important to know how you would prepare for it. There are certain requirements of web design that need to be fulfilled before you can get on the floor with the actual designing. 

Finding the inspiration 

Being inspired is the first step of designing, after all can you design anything without inspiration? I think not. So, explore, research, get to the very basics and see what you like and what you don’t. Go to Pinterest, if you have to, but start looking. This would set a great tone for the entire designing project because you would have some idea of what the end would look like. 

Finding the purpose 

After inspiration, comes the part where to find your purpose. You are building a website, there has to be a reason for that. Identify it and design accordingly. Majority of the time, the purpose of a site is sales, be it memberships/ subscriptions or an actual tangible product. Keep the purpose front and center and design to capitalise it. If indeed you are selling a product, design the pages in a way that each page is an encouragement for the user to click on that buy button. Take Amazon for instance, every time I go there, either I make a long and extensive wishlist for future purchases or actually buy things. That should be the target. 

Finding the needs 

There are also specific needs that a website has before its design process actually begins. 

  • The first would be to establish your space on the internet through a web hosting service. Then you would need to adopt a domain name through which the users will identify you. Along with this, you would also need your domain name and server to be in sync, so that the browsers know where to find you. 
  • Next, figure out what structure your site would have, how many pages would it have, what kind of content those pages would include and which of those are going to be your landing pages for marketing purposes. 
  • Then comes the functionality, you cannot just wing that. Remember we figured out the purpose of your site in the previous point, that purpose would help you in figuring out the kind of features your site should and should not have. For instance, the functionality of an informational site is drastically different from an e-commerce website. All of this is decided before the designers go on the floor with the process. 

Finding the tools 

You cannot work without the tools, so finding the ones most suited for your project is a key requirement of web design. 

If you wish to build a desktop app, then tools like Sketch and Photoshop are perfect for the designers as well as the developers to create the code for the designs. However, if that is not the case and you are aiming to build a site, then you can make use of Website Builders like PageCloud, Wix and Squarespace to name a few. 

Remember to do your research and maybe even get a free trial before committing to any one of them. 

Finding the personnel 

To use the tools, you also need the right team. Designing websites is not a one man job, you need the right mix of skills to get the best possible outcome. 

  • Designers to create mockups of the site;
  • User experience experts to ensure that the mockups align with the target audience’s needs
  • Developers to get the coding out of the way, the front end developers would take up the presentation layer, while the backend developers would work on the background; 
  • Content writers and SEO experts to write for the project and make it visible on the web through searches. 

Now, you are prepared to get into the nitty gritty details of web designing. 

The Principles of Web Design 

Web designing is a long and complex process, there are a lot of considerations to be kept in mind before the process can be considered even half-way through. Here is how we at OpenSense Labs divide the process into different segments of development and ace every one. 

Information Architecture (IA)

Through Information Architecture, designers are enabled to prepare an organised layout of the information that has to be relayed to the visitors; navigation and menus, being the spine of an information architecture. However, it is the user, who is the highlight, it’s his perception and expectation of the information that guides the architect to build the perfect IA. 

Now, how does a designer achieve perfection? This is done by researching the user to the T along with focusing on usability testing. User interviews, card sorting and observing the way a user interacts with your current design through usability testing are the pathways you should be seeking. For instance, when a menu has been decided, a tree test helps the designers know its suitability. And that is IA for you. 

Navigation 

Navigation is one of the most crucial aspects of your design strategy, so getting it right is the first order of business. Navigation refers to the system a visitor follows to get through the various parts of a website. Since the aim is to ensure that the user goes as many pages as possible, it has to be simple, concise and pretty blatant. If a user has to put in an effort to navigate your site, you are certainly doing something wrong. The lesser cognitive load while navigating, the better UX. The visibility of the navigation bar is paramount. 

So, how do you do that? 

By putting the user first 

First, you have to understand the needs of your users, at least a majority of them, and create a navigation bar based upon that. This would also help you get an apprehension of the user’s priorities, like how much he repeats a task. Also, the user must always know where he is, meaning the current page he is perusing through must be highlighted from the rest of the pages. Nobody likes being lost. 

By embracing the search

You must know that many of your visitors come to your site with a specific intention. So, how do they get to that? The search bar is the most obvious answer. It acts as a shortcut for the user to get to what he is looking for. Therefore, it needs to be front and centre. At the top of the page would be ideal, either left or right with a magnifying glass icon for added visibility. Can you imagine searching for a search icon? It also needs one more thing, a decent input size; you have to be able to see what you are typing into it. To get a perfect federated search solution for your website, read about Elasticsearch and Apache Solr.

By valuing the user’s time 

This is in regards to the back button. Imagine a scenario, you were reading an article, a pretty long one at that, and half way through it, you saw an intriguing link, you click on it and upon returning through the back button, you are at the very beginning of the said article. Now tell me, would you be frustrated? I certainly would be. So, ensuring that when a user clicks on that back button, he is back to where he left is quite imperative.

By separating the breadcrumbs

There are certain secondary navigation links, aka breadcrumbs, in every web design, which i sfine. However, they become a problem, when they overshadow the primary navigation bar. Separating each level by using arrowheads or slashes is a good practise. Remember that secondary navigation is only there to support the main navigation. 

By keeping the links in line 

There are going to be external and internal links on your site and you need to provide a distinction between the two for the user. Once a link has been clicked on and visited, its colour must change from the rest. Apart from this, you have to ensure that all the links work, a 404 error is a strict no no. 

The results page is shown after a Google search.The purple links signify that they have been visited. 

By optimising scrolling 

Everybody scrolls, they start doing it as soon as the page loads. So, by optimising on it, you can actually make the navigation experience better. The content and the media is an essential part of it. Write an impressive introduction or add a great visual to intrigue the user and he will start scrolling.

You also need to ensure that the top navigation bar should always be on display. If that isn’t the case, the user might feel lost, especially in pages that are pretty long and that is not an experience a user came to you for.

Page structure 

The page structure is integral in enhancing the visibility of your interface, so that every element is easily found by the user. It is truly up to you to decide the structuring of your pages, however, I would suggest that you follow a grid. Because a rid helps in segregating the different elements of a page at the same time keeping them combined, it makes it easier for the user to understand the logical progression. One of the classic examples of modern day grid-like page structure can be availed through Layout Builder module and Paragraphs module available in Drupal as can be seen below.

The layout of a grid-like structure in web design is shown in pastel colours.


You must also aim for a structure that your target audience is familiar with, assessing your competitors is the best way to do that. Familiarity helps in building the user's experience upwards. 

Visual hierarchy 

After page structure, comes the visual hierarchy of a page. When a user visits a page, there are certain aspects that the designers want them to look at the first glance. Deciding that refers to the concept of visual hierarchy. 

A webpage is shown with different elements being highlighted at different proportions.


In the above picture from OpenSense Labs, ‘Build better, build faster’ is the highlight. A user would read without much effort from his end. The company logo is another important element. Then comes the Drupal 9 bit, being their speciality, they have made it prominent as well. 

So when you design a page, keep in mind the elements that you want to be highlighted and make their size, position and colour prominent on the page. 

It would also be beneficial to capitalise on the user’s natural way of scanning. It could be the F-shaped pattern or the Z shaped pattern. The former works with written content and the latter can be used for the non-textual pages. These further help the user in scanning easily.

A webpage is shown with an F shaped out in the content.An F-shaped pattern. Source: Instapage

Your visual hierarchy process would be easy to build, if you create mockups first. This would help you in knowing where each element would lie and avoid any errors. 

Content 

The content of your pages allows the visitor to understand you and your objective better. The simpler the content would be to read, the better that understanding is going to be. For that, you simply need to implement three things.

  • One is to be a minimalist with your words. Inundating a web page with content will only confuse a visitor. Keep it simple, provide pointers for easy maneuverability.
  • Second would be to keep the language simple, you cannot use highly complex and technical writings on a web page. Yes, there is a possibility that some users would understand it, but are we aiming for some or all?
  • Third is to ensure that your sentences are short, preferably with one idea. Noisy sentences can often baffle the visitors; 20 words or less has to be the target. Also avoid caps lock for everything that is not an acronym.

Moving on from the writing style to the specific contextual elements of a web page, let us understand how you should work with them. 

Filling out web forms

Where user interaction is concerned, web forms are the most integral. The reason being they allow you to know your users’ personal details. Any confusion here, would make the purpose of the form futile. Keep things to the point, ask what is needed with a logical progression in the questions. 

A web form is shown.Source: Bajaj Finserv

Another tip to follow would be to group similar questions in one category. For example, the educational qualifications can come under one heading and the contact information could be a separate heading. 

Tapping the buttons 

Buttons are basically links that are designed as a button to tap on; like the ‘Buy Now’ button on Amazon we love so much. These are essential for a website to enhance its interaction with the visitors. So, you have to be certain that all the buttons are actually buttons with a link taking the visitors to wherever it says it would. A non-functional button is a frustration button. Then you should also remember to aim for consistency while designing these, so that users can easily identify them. 

The most important consideration for buttons is what is written on them because that is the only thing that would attract the user. Be descriptive, be clear, be concise and make it attractive. 

Numerous web buttons are shown to depict how prominent they need to be in a web design. All the buttons here are pretty clear as to what their purpose is. Source: Vecteezy

One of the most important buttons would be the CTAs, the Call-to-Action button. These encourage the user to become a customer and improve your conversion rates. Therefore, a CTA that stands out from the normal text, that is a size different from the normal text, that has negative space to make it even more prominent and that is labelled with encouragements is the CTA that will generate more conversions. 

A webpage with four CTAs is seen.


The above screenshot shows how OpenSense Labs, after having told the visitors all its benefits, lures them to click on the CTA. 

Enunciating SEO 

After doing all of this, you also have to ensure that you follow certain SEO guidelines to enhance your visibility on the web and search engines. By focusing on the title tags, URL structure, HTML and XML sitemaps and making them user friendly can totally elevate your SEO game. 

Media 

Imagine this blog, without a single media element, an image or a video, describing what is written in the text, would that be a great experience? I don’t think I need to elaborate on the answer, you know!

So, how do you work the media in your favour?

Images 

Images are a must in web pages, however, you cannot just add them for the sake of it. The pictures on your website should be related to content on it. They cannot be random images of people or objects that serve no purpose or add any value. Other than that, the pictures should also be of good quality, distorted and blurred images are a big no-no. 

A publishes bog is shown with a customised image.


This is a screenshot from one of our blogs, the image here is simple and concise. One glance at it and you would know what the succeeding information is going to talk about. That should be the target. 

Videos 

Videos have become equally important to images and the internet speed is to blame. They are an easy way to understand a concept of a product, its features or even the message of a brand. However, you need to use them wisely.

  • Do not autoplay videos, if the user wants to see it, he would see it without autoplay as well. And definitely do not have the sound on by default. 
  • Always include subtitles and transcripts for people with disabilities. 
  • Finally, if you are adding promotional videos, which is a great idea, keep them short. 

Animation

Animation is another way to add a pop of interaction on your site, it is easy and it is fun as it breaks the contextual monotony with ease. 

  • You can add animated effects to point out user mistakes like a wrong password. 
  • You can add animated effects to your brand logo. 
  • You can add animated effects to highlight the navigation transitions. 
  • You can also add animated effects to provide visual feedback to the user, like how much percentage has been downloaded. 

Responsiveness to Devices and other Media 

Responsiveness is crucial for your site’s web design, which means that your design should be flexible enough to accommodate any device that the user might be using, be it a mobile or a desktop. Statista reported that as many as 48% users surf sites on their mobile devices. This figure does make the responsive design of essence.

So, how do you achieve the level of flexibility in your design that will help it optimise a desktop and a cell phone equally?

The foremost thing to do would be to focus on your layout and make it a single-column one as it would be easy to go through on the small screen of a cell phone. Since the space on a cell phone’s screen is limited, you can only show information that is absolutely necessary. Here the Priority+ model works really well. You would show the info that is needed and the rest would come under the ‘more’ button. Then, the size of images also needs to be appropriated when designed for responsiveness. 

Apart from these pointers, it is also important to understand that the clicks on a mobile phone are different from that on a desktop or a laptop. So, you need to be very cautious in the size of the buttons and links along with making them prominent from the other text. You can achieve all of this by creating HTML templates that are mobile-friendly or simply going for a separate mobile-site altogether.

Two screenshots of the same webpage are shown, one taken from a desktop and the other from a cellphone.A desktop site vs a mobile site. 

Mobile responsiveness aside, a website also needs to be responsive to other integrations such as cross channel and social media. Linking campaigns and integrating with social media platforms like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn can do a lot to bring in business and generate a higher lead count. 

Load time 

Nobody likes waiting for a site to load, however, in spite of a site possessing great speed, there are factors that make it load slower than the developers wish to. These could be a weak internet network or a heavy site. So, what do you do to ensure that your website does not appear slow to the users? 

The primary thing to do would be to check your site for all the factors that could slow it down, for instance heavy images or having too many HTTP requests, and resolve them. Secondly, you can create an illusion of a faster loading speed for the visitors. This can be done by displaying the structure of the page in question first, thus, giving yourself a few more seconds to load the content. Facebook does it and so does Instagram. 

An unloaded instagram page is shown.


It is important to always keep track of the time it takes to load your content, as that would give you insights about the performance of your site. Remember that every second you delay is a second that would cost you. Nielsen Norman Group agrees with this notion and their three response-time limit should be set as an ideal here. Access the complete web performance guide for your Drupal website here.

Accessibility 

A web design would be considered incomplete, if it is not addressing the accessibility concern. People with disabilities need to be able to access your site without any difficulty. There are certain web accessibility guidelines you can follow to avoid that. 

Contrast 

The contrast ratios should be made keeping in mind people with a weak eyesight. Reading blue  on a black background would be easy for someone with a perfect sight, but not the others. Smaller text needs a 4.5:1 as a text to background contrast ratio, while the larger text can have a smaller ratio. WCAG’s guidelines for contrast would help you in getting to the perfect ratio. 

Colour 

You might be able to tell black from red, but everybody cannot. So, just focusing on colour to point out a feature or a mistake is unethical. You have to use words as well. 

An incorrectly filled online form can be seen.


The colour red is used to highlight the error, along with it a symbol is also used. And when you go to the erroneous column, a dialogue box appears to tell you what the mistake is. This is a perfect example of accessibility. 

Keyboard-savvy 

Motor impairments inhibits people from being able to use a mouse effectively, so they opt for the keyboard instead. So, make sure that your site is keyboard-friendly at least as much as possible. You can achieve this by making sure that all the interactive elements are accessible and the keyboard focus is loud and clear. 

A posted article is shown to highlight the use of screen reader in web design.An example of a prominent keyboard focus. 

Screen-readers 

There are going to be visual elements in your design, that is a given, however, someone blind will not be able to see them. So, for every image, you need to add an alternate text that a screen reader can read, describing what is happening in the image. 

It has also become a trend on instagram as well, with many influencers using alternate texts to describe their posts. 

An instagram post can be seen along with its caption.A caption inclusive of an alternate text.

Testing 

To ensure that your design works well and is equipped to go with your site, you have to test it out and that is the final call, the final piece in the web design puzzle. 

There are two tests you can perform;

  • One is testing repeatedly throughout the designing process. Feedback is pivotal here, it’s similar to constructive criticism. You might feel shattered that your design got such bad feedback, but in the long haul, you would be thankful that it did. Because through that you were able to create something much more powerful. 
  • Second would be A/B Testing, this works best when you conflicted between two designs. So, you run with both of them with separate audiences and see the responses. The one with the better analytics would be the better choice. 

Being original 

Being original goes a long way in creating the identity of your brand and bolstering the image of your company. You have to be creative, you have to think outside the box, you have to step up from the cliches and doing so will compel the visitors to become your customers. 

However, you have to do all of this by keeping in mind that originality does not mean that your visitors have to struggle navigating your sites. The set standard for certain categories of websites, like e-commerce, have to be adhered to. And then there is the contact us page that is an essential element in the design of every website out there. Despite this, you would still find that no two sites would have an identical contact page. That is the kind of originality I am talking about, unique yet not foreign. 

Google's search page is shown. Microsoft bing's serach page can be seen.


Even though Google and Bing essentially perform the same taks, yet their UI is quite different. Same elements, yet different. That is originality for you. 

Being consistent 

Your website is basically your brand and your brand can only have one image to portray. That is why your design needs to be consistent, portraying one single voice. By creating pages with the same colours palette, same typefaces and similar backgrounds, this consistency can be achieved. 

Imagine you are on a site, the landing page is all bright colours and bold fonts. When you move on to a different page, you find that the tone has completely changed, and the colours are muted with a minimalist feel. How would you feel? A little lost? A bit confused? That would be it. 

So, aim for consistency. I am not saying that you have to follow the same layouts, that would be impossible because some pages would have a lot more content than others. Just focus on keeping the same tones throughout. 

A webpage can be seen with different blog posts.A webpage with different team members is desplayed.


Without a second thought, you will be able to tell that these pages are from the same website. Design consistency is what makes that possible. You will see that there are elements that are different, yet there are elements that are similar. That is because every page does not have to be an exact replica of the next for the sake of consistency. 

Being credible 

Lastly, your credibility is what is going to make the visitors put their faith in you. You can work on all of the above elements, but what happens if the user still doesn’t trust you? The users won’t convert.

Long-term conversions and sales are directly proportional to your honesty. When you are honest and clear about what you are selling and that too on your home page, users will start gravitating towards you. Tell them what you are selling, why you are doing and how it would benefit them in the most honest of terms and they will consider you credible and trustworthy. 

Along with this, you can also be upfront about your pricing without any disguises. If you are claiming a cost to be $10, then it should be the same at the checkout. If there are going to be additional costs, mention that along with the $10  price. Trust me, your users will appreciate it immensely. 

The Final Call 

Web design is a continuous process that only ends when a project dies, never before that. This is just the beginning of a long road ahead, adopting the aforementioned guide would certainly be a help to your design process. But the bigger task on your shoulders as a designer. 

I would like to end by adding one more thing. Whatever you are going to design, if you design it by keeping the user and his perspective of the site in your mind, you could never go wrong with it. Good luck. 

Dec 15 2020
Dec 15

Have you ever wondered how websites are built? Sure, there is an entire army, consisting of developers, designers, project managers and business analysts, involved, but is that all? Do they work independently? Do they work day-in and day-out to build the website from the ground up? Do they have some help in doing that? 

If you are a part of the website development army, you might know what I am trying to get at. It is true that websites are built from scratch, but what is also true is the fact that these websites require some help to get the scratch go on to be a fully-functional site and that help comes from a content management system, a CMS to be short. 

There are a few in the market, with Wordpress leading the way in market share numbers, however, we would be talking about the one that is leading the way in functionality and features. And that is Drupal. 

As of November 8, 2020, there are slightly more than 1 million Drupal sites all over the world. This number is a testament to Drupal’s abilities to give your site whatever it wants. 

To that accord, there has been a new vogue in Drupal and the way it is capitalised by its sites. And that is what we are going to discuss, before that let us delve briefly into Drupal’s traditional abilities.

Traditional Drupal VS Decoupled Drupal 

There are four circles showing how the different aspects of decoupled Drupal architecture are interconnected.Source: DZone

Like I said before, Drupal is a CMS, so it is equipped to build websites from scratch. And that is what the traditional/monolithic/coupled Drupal does. From the user interface to the data access code, Drupal caters for all your website needs. Being responsible for the front and backend, the traditional Drupal helps you in building versatile web experiences.

With Drupal’s themes, templates and behaviours, it is extremely easy to create a dynamic presentation layer for your website. The fact the Drupal allows you to build and customise a live site along with providing solutions for any frontend mishaps is another compelling reason to opt for the traditional Drupal. 

Yet there are many who think that Drupal’s frontend capabilities are not as impressive as that of JavaScript. Although Drupal has a JavaScript library in its corner, it does not have the JS framework to work with, so maybe they are right. So, as a solution, the advent of decoupled Drupal architecture was seen.

The Decoupled Drupal has a slightly different story to tell than its monolithic counterpart. You would still have Drupal and its abilities at your disposal, however, you would have a little more than just Drupal to work with. With decoupling, you would simply be saying goodbye to Drupal’s frontend abilities, either completely or partially, that is up to. Drupal would only be used as a content repository and your entire presentation layer will be made up of other frontend technologies; Angular, Vue and React are some of them. 

The Decoupled Drupal has two variants for you to choose from; 

  • First would be the progressively decoupled approach, in which you would be leveraging other frontend technologies and amalgamating it with Drupal’s frontend capabilities. This could be regarded as the best of both worlds. 
  • Second is the fully decoupled web app, in which your presentation layer is going to be handled by a JavaScript framework and will be completely independent of Drupal, and it would only be used for the backend architecture. Fully decoupled Drupal architecture for static sites is another option. In this approach, Drupal acts as a content source for static sites, aiding static site generators like Gatsby to create your site by taking data from Drupal. 

To know more about the working of decoupled Drupal, how it is different from the traditional architecture and what are the specifics of the technologies involved, read our blog Monolithic and Decoupled Drupal Architectures

The Move from Traditional to Decoupled Drupal 

Now that you have a fair idea as to what decoupled Drupal is, it is time to find out when the right time is to make the move from coupled to decoupled Drupal architecture. Let me ask you a question first, have you ever made a business decision without taking into consideration the pros and cons of that decision? I’m certain, you haven’t. So, for that very reason let me tell you why decoupled Drupal architecture is advantageous. 

The motto “Write once, publish everywhere” could be the tagline of decoupled Drupal. It allows you to leverage social media, emails, the intranet, apps, microsites along with your primary publishing platform, so that you can make your content as universal as you want. This is an advantage that makes decoupling the go to option for many. Then there is the fact that through decoupling you can enhance your user experience, get upgraded faster, which would make your team work at an enhanced efficiency, along with this decoupling also provides you the opportunity to become more innovative. The JavaScript framework, which would be at play in decoupling is the icing on top. 

You might think that with these many advantages, decoupling cannot ever be the wrong choice. It doesn’t have to be, if you know what the limitations are and are equipped to combat them. The most blatant drawback of decoupling is the fact that you would be losing out-of-the-box Drupal features, for some this can be a deal breaker. Obviously, since Drupal would not be at play on the frontend, you would have to part with its capabilities; you can’t bake the cake and eat it too, unless of course you choose progressively decoupled Drupal. Another problem that is often seen in decoupling is that the coding becomes a hassle and so does identifying bugs. 

After discussing the benefits of Decoupled Drupal along with its drawbacks, it is time to ask yourself some tough questions. For it is these questions that would help you in the decision to move. 

  • Is your business reliant on multiple channels and microsites to spread and accumulate content to and from? 
  • Is it your opinion that being reliant on one technology for your entire project is not a wise choice?
  • Are you unhappy with the interactivity your website provides to its users and want to capitalise on JavaScript framework to enhance it?
  • Do you have more developers who are experts in JavaScript than Drupal? Are you planning to take advantage of their expertise in JS?
  • Have you not been using all of Drupal’s frontend assets and think they only bring in more work?
  • Is building an app a future goal of yours?
  • Are your editorial needs basic?
  • Finally, do you have the budget to decouple, because Drupal may be free, other frontend technologies aren’t?

Think of your answer to all of these questions and then read our blog When to move from monolithic to decoupled Drupal architecture to understand all the nitty gritty details behind the move.

The Final Call  

In the end, all I want to say is that there are going to be benefits and limitations for your project, in both the coupled and decoupled Drupal architectures. If you want to make a decision, consider your needs over anything else. If you feel that your current architecture is not cutting it for you, the move could then be considered inevitable and prudent. If not, then maybe waiting for a time when there is an actual need would be the sounder choice to make. There is only one answer to “When to Decouple Drupal?” and that is when you have the need. 

Dec 11 2020
Dec 11

To say that a website or a web application is deemed worthy primarily because of its content would not be totally wrong. A website’s performance does play in the equation, but it is the content that seals the deal for the user. Web builders across the world are becoming aware of this fact and that is why the web content management (WCM) systems have become pivotal for websites. 

A WCM helps you in attracting and retaining your clients and ultimately give you the revenues that you had desired from the time the idea of the website came to you. Therefore, choosing the right WCM that is suitable to all your business needs is probably one of the most significant decisions you will take for your website. 

There indeed are numerous options to choose from, however, two of these have been stealing the limelight from all the others in the recent times. And these are Drupal and AEM. So, let us compare these two to make your decision a tad bit easier. 

Parameters Drupal  AEM  Performance and scalability  Ease of expansion; impeccable performance  Growth mandates performance and stress tests Content workflow Flexible  Flexible  Marketing and engineering perceptions Community driven innovations for developers and marketers Little room for leveraging marketing capabilities outside of periphery of Adobe Cost  Free Can be expensive  Security  Extremely secure Highly secure, yet there are vulnerabilities Community  Over a million and counting  Supported by community; but pales in comparison to Drupal Responsiveness Excellent responsiveness; mobile-first approach Excellent responsiveness as well Development  Works on PHP Works on JavaScript  Third-party integrations Impressive  Good, but involves issues to be troubleshooted Upgrades and migration  ‘Easiest upgrade of the decade’ Easy to perform  Multisite Excellent multisite tools  Great multisite features as well Headless approach  Gives options for decoupling  Decouples, but only in one sense  Multilingual  Terrific with multiple languages  Competes in parallel to Drupal  SEO  More SEO-friendly modules SEO is optimised, but on a scale lesser than Drupal

Getting to know the contenders

Websites are dependent on content management systems to enhance their digital experiences. The better the WCM, the better the chances of your website’s digital content. But how do we decide which is better? Let us start by knowing what they personify. 

Drupal 

The picture displays the logo of Drupal.


If you are reading this blog, there is a high, well a very high, chance that you would know what Drupal is. Still I would tell you a little about it. 

Drupal is an open source platform that helps in building web applications and making web projects come alive. It is free to use and is being used by millions of people across the globe. Organisations like Redhat, Timex, University of Colorado are some of the elite clients of Drupal. So, to say that Drupal is a small fish in the pond of WCMs would be a dramatic understatement. 

You can create and publish content without being an engineer. And the fact that your content does not have to be confined to a certain type of layout or a specific number of content fields is just a bonus. It uses the best of PHP along with that it also abides by HTML5 and YAML standards. Twig, jQuery, Symfonyand CKEditor are some of the powerful third-party dependencies Drupal implements. All of these are responsible for making Drupal a powerful web development platform, which cannot be deterred by high traffic. 

All in all, Drupal can help you create web experiences that are both wholesome and unique to lure your target audience and never let them go. 

Up until now, Drupal has had 9 versions with multiple sub-versions of each. Although Drupal 9 is the most recent version, less than half a percent of Drupal websites use it. As many as two-thirds of them are still on Drupal 7, while over a quarter of the websites are using Drupal 8, as per a survey by W3Techs

A horizontal bar graph shows the percentage of websites using the different versions of Drupal.Source: W3Techs

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM)

The picture displays the logo of AEM.


AEM could be deemed as the opposite of Drupal, provided the fact that it is a proprietary software rather than an open source. Built by a leading content management suite, it is a WCM that its proprietor refers to as a powerhouse and given its many features, it is not an inaccurate description. 

Adobe Experience Manager is an all inclusive system for content management that is equipped to build websites, forms and mobile apps. AEM effectively manages your content and your applications in an integrated manner, leading to applications being deployed as conveniently as the content. The result is a streamlined management of your online presence and that is what Adobe capitalises on.

This sounds somewhat similar to Drupal, doesn’t it? That is because at a foundational level, both of these are performing the same work. It is the way they do the work, the means and the features they are packed with that make them different, and that is what we are going to find out today.

Before we get into that, let us have a look at some statistics involving both Drupal and AEM to get a clear picture of their market share. 

There is a pie chart denoting the number of websites for Drupal and AEM.The number of websites for Drupal and AEM. Source: SimilartechThere are two horizontal bar graphs describing the market share percentage of Drupal and AEM. The market share of AEM and Drupal. Source: WappalyzerA graph shows the standing of Drupal and AEM with regards to other WCMs.Comparison of Drupal and AEM with respect to other WCMs. Source: W3Tech

What is the degree of performance and scalability offered?

The performance of a website is probably what makes the user stay on it for a longer period of time. If it is taking more than 2 seconds for a page to load, the user may become inclined to hot hit the escape button and move onto a different site. You know you have competitors and they gain from your loss.

So, the first feature to discuss has to be performance and scalability of Drupal and AEM sites. Let us get on with it. 

Drupal 

You must have heard that on occasion many sites tend to crash, especially when there is bulk traffic on them. With Drupal, you do not need to worry about that. The busiest of sites all across the world are using Drupal to handle their traffic spikes and keep them away from the embarrassment of slow performance.

And it is not just traffic that would be managed by Drupal, it also gives you the room to expand your content as much as you want, with multiple content contributors, without having an effect on the performance.

Therefore, managing site performance and scalability is quite easy and efficient in Drupal. The only thing to remember is to optimise your site well, if you don’t do that, there won’t be any guarantees. 

Drupal provides many tools and features to make that happen. 

Read about Drupal’s performance optimization techniques and scalability provisions to know more.

AEM 

With regards to small and medium based applications, AEM’s default configuration settings do their work without much effort on your part, leading to a streamlined performance for publishing and authoring at the same time. However, the growth of your sites would require a performance and stress test, depending upon the result of these tests, you will be able to comprehend the way to optimise the system. 

The advantage of Adobe Experience Manager is that after the installation and configuration is done, the degree of complexity of your project along with your development team will be the deciding factor for the performance optimisation. Even if your system load and performance profiles change over time, AEM’s performance tune-ups will keep your system optimised. Measurements, analysis, optimisation and validation become a constant part of these tune-ups.

Also, AEM uses files from content, JavaScript and CSS to establish performance standards. It also takes necessary performance action by using caching, load balancing and CDN; almost similar to Drupal.

All in all, Experience Manager can easily scale so that your performance needs are satisfied on the basis of the demand for your digital assets.

To sum up, Drupal offers you room to expand as much as you want without hampering your site’s performance, AEM also does something similar. However, the latter comes with a stipulation of tests to ensure that. 

How smooth is the content workflow?

If performance is the spine of a website, then its content would be the blood in its veins; metaphorically speaking of course. So, it was only wise to talk about the content workflow after performance. 

Drupal 

Drupal is a big name in the WCM market and the way it lets its authors use and manipulate the content across multiple pages is the reason for it. Drupal provides an ease in content authoring that is unparalleled by other systems. It is equipped to provide all the necessary tools required by the authors to create and publish content that is customisable. The WYSIWYG editor personifies Drupal’s flexibility. The workflow and content is easily managed through authentications and permissions. 

With regards to the content architecture, Drupal excels here as well. You can create just the right architecture based on your needs with the help of an Admin Interface or programmatically, the choice is yours. With display mode tools and Views, you can display only the content you want to be displayed based on the context, be it images, videos or even pdfs. Modules, like Paragraphs and Layout Builder, help you get the best out of your content by letting you micromanage the minutest of details. Moreover, Drupal workflows support annotations, it can reuse images in various components and it can easily support several individual fields in a single field with multi-fields. All of these provide a great user experience and the fact that it is equally good on multiple devices is another forte of Drupal. 

Apart from the creation of the content, the way it is stored and accessed is also imperative, after all we are talking about a content management system. In Drupal, the content is stored in a database, in a hierarchy, if you want, wrapped in Symfony. The interaction to the data by Drupal is usually done through MySQL, although there are other databases available as well. 

AEM 

The user experience to content authors provided by AEM is tough to compete with as well, although Drupal does manage that feat. Adobe Experience Manager not only integrates the content with other adobe technologies, but it also provides a high degree of flexibility and drag and drop user interface for almost all tasks, thereby making content authoring a breeze. 

Content in Adobe is not one single body, it is divided into multiple smaller components that in turn provide an immense degree of control to the content author because he can manage the smallest of parts of the content body. The feature of content fragments helps in editing the content to the most granular level with each component, be it text, images or videos given a separate fragment. The pre-existing templates in AEM work in a similar fashion to Drupal’s modules, allowing all the more ease in content creation. However, the fact that these individual components can be reused across multiple articles, makes AEM different from Drupal. 

Coming to content storage and access, AEM stores content as files instead of a database, which are wrapped up in Adobe CRX. And these files are accessed through Apache Sling. This web application framework provides an interface that can be accessed programmatically by developers to retrieve content. 

Drupal and AEM are more or less the same in terms of content, flexibility being the forte of both and the drag and drop feature being the focal similarity. The only difference that is blatant to me in terms of content is the way it is stored and retrieved. Although both use frameworks, the way these frameworks work is quite contrasting. 

How do Drupal and AEM align with your Marketing and Engineering goals?

There are two sets of people who are considered to be the building blocks of a website and it is their input that takes a web project to the next level. These are the engineers and the marketers. So let us understand their take on Drupal and AEM to highlight their difference further. 

Drupal 

Drupal, being an open source platform, comes with a great deal of benefits. The number of open source components found can be overwhelming for your engineers for all the right reasons. The primary one being the fact that Drupal is the synonymous of a developer-centric ecosystem. What this means is that you would be benefiting from the knowledge and expertise of other developers. This encourages learning like nothing else.

As for the marketers, Drupal again provides. For one, Drupal equips the marketers to edit or update page layouts without the presence of a developer. Earlier this feature was only found in AEM, but now Drupal is also packed. Then, there is the fact that Drupal allows the marketers to choose the tools they want to outside the jurisdiction of Drupal. Any leading marketing automation tool you might get compelled by would be perfectly used with Drupal for your gains. 

AEM 

Like I have already mentioned, AEM is a proprietary software, meaning that it does not have any of the benefits of an open source. In terms of an engineer, this can be a major drawback. You must be wondering why? The answer is simple, there wouldn’t be a developer pool, whose knowledge could be tapped into. So, the technical costs become high and you might find yourself solving an issue that has been resolved by numerous developers, but you can’t know that since AEM is not an open source and the locked code prohibits you from knowing. 

Adobe has many fancy, for a lack of better word, marketing tools that can effectively urge any marketer to take it up. The integration with these Adobe tools helps in providing a page building experience that is simply impressive. However, there are two things that make it lag behind Drupal; 

  • For one, only Adobe tools can be used, you cannot access other marketing tools available in the market;
  • And secondly, although agile marketing is provided, the fact that other developers in the community cannot contribute to it can be slightly disheartening. 

This is not to say that Abode is inferior or Drupal is superior, they are just different in the eyes of the marketers and engineers. 

It is pretty clear who is the winner here, a developer would always prefer a pool to stimulate innovation. Drupal's vast community provides that and AEM’s doesn’t.

What are the cost implications?

Whether something fits your budget or not is an important consideration when you are  considering to adopt a practise or in this case a WCM. How do Drupal and AEM fare in this regard, let’s see. 

Drupal 

In terms of costs, Drupal is going to be a clear winner and I think you knew that even before reading this blog. Drupal is an open source software, that means it has zero licensing fee. However, this does not mean that it is free, there would still be money required to build it. This is primarily because Drupal sites are built from scratch. You have to hire experts to take that seed Drupal provides and water it to become a full-fledged tree, you get the metaphor, right? 

When your site is built to be fully functional, then the costs for maintenance would start following, which is understandable. Drupal provides you the advantage of scaling the maintenance and support costs to align with your budget, and that is all we can ask for. I wouldn’t call Drupal to be free, but it is pretty economical. 

AEM

Compared to Drupal costs, AEM travels in uncharted territory. The costs start to pile on from the get-go. Since it is a proprietary software, you have to pay a licensing fee. Add to this the cost of building, including the hiring of developers, and the costs would be substantial. And then there is the cost of maintenance, although for support, AEM does provide a dedicated team, thank goodness for that. The average cost of AEM license and implementation can be around $100,000 to $200,000.

In the times of the pandemic, AEM can be way out-of-the-league for many organisations looking for a WCM.

Drupal is free of cost and this is one fact that would always make it outshine AEM, which, on the other hand, cannot be free, being a proprietary software. 

How good are the security measures?

Everybody has vulnerabilities, humans and websites alike. Our vulnerabilities might take us longer to overcome, however, websites are not that tricky. Security measures that are both sound and effective can help even the most faulty of codes become hack-proof. In this regard, let us try and figure out the standing of Drupal and AEM.

Drupal 

Many think that open source software is more prone to security breaches simply because they are open. However, that isn’t the case. Open source security, aka, Software Composition Analysis helps in giving the users the chance to attain a higher visibility level for their open source applications. For this, a lot of elements come into play. The binary fingerprints are examined, research both professional and proprietary is utilised, corroborating the research with scans and providing all of this to developers in the form of tools. So, no open source by no means can be regarded as unsafe and insecure.

The security elements of Drupal are top-notch and help you overcome the most severe security problems. The proof lies in the fact that numerous government agencies have trusted Drupal to build their sites and Drupal has passed all their stringent standards. Drupal’s Security Team is equipped to address all the security issues that are reported, be it in core or contrib modules. The members of the team are experts in security measures from across the globe, validating the reliability of Drupal in terms of security. 

  • The password policies of Drupal are the first sign of it being safe with minimum length, complexity and expiration. 
  • The limitation of login attempts from one IP address can detect brute force entry. Certain IP addresses can also be banned. 
  • The user roles in Drupal help you control what can be seen and modified by uses on any given page. 
  • The database encryption Drupal provides can be configured to become extremely strong for applications that warrant high security, be it to the whole website or certain parts of it. 
  • The Form API oversees the validation of all data entries into the database by scrubbing them so that XSS, CSRF and other malicious data entries are stopped in their tracks. 

All of these account for a safe and secure system for all your website building needs. 

A pie chart depicts the percentage of vulnerabilities in Drupal and two other CMSs.Percentage of security issues in a sample group. Source: AcunetixA bar graph us showing the comparison between different WCMs' security.Source: Sucuri Blog


AEM

Unlike open source, proprietary software is considered to be intrinsically safe and less prone to vulnerabilities. Again, that is not the case. There are instances when AEM sites have suffered major breaches. Something as simple as forgetting to use “nosamplecontent” during publishing can give just the opportunity a hacker was waiting for. This is because sample content is often under production and many know the user passwords. Saying this does not negate the brilliant security measures AEM does provide, my point was simply to enunciate that proprietary software is not immune to vulnerabilities. 

To say that AEM’s security features are similar to that of Drupal would not be entirely wrong. This is because Drupal has covered all the possible vulnerabilities that need to be prevented and worked the security measures around them. Since AEM wanted to do the same, like it should, the similarities come as no surprise. 

  • The security console to manage user access;
  • The theme language of AEM, HTL, has an intrinsic design to prevent XSS hacks; 
  • The AEM checklist helps in ensuring that all the security precautions are done as needed.

However, take a note of the security vulnerabilities of AEM that were reported in the recent past:

There is table showing the security vulnerabilities of AEM. Source: CVE Details

Do AEM’s security features sound similar to Drupal? I am certain they do. AEM is quite secure in itself, however, it has been reported for authentication bypass vulnerability and cross-site scripting vulnerability which should be taken into consideration.

How well are they tied to the community?

The developer community is vast and extremely supportive of each other, so as the next point of difference, let us look at how community plays a role in Drupal and AEM. 

Drupal 

There are plenty of advantages in contributing to open source. It pays dividends to both the contributors and the open source software itself. The support of the community is probably the best feature of being an open source. And Drupal has a pretty large one, with over one million members. This means the intellect of the million developer minds will be found in the core and contrib parts of Drupal, driving innovation further. Developers from across the globe could provide you a peer review for all your projects. 

Another advantage of an open source community is that it helps you thrive even in the most difficult of times. Therefore, the chances of Drupal going out of business are slim to none. The long term success of Drupal is almost a guarantee with its million volunteers. Learn more on how open source has remained recession-proof and how it has stayed relevant in the times like Covid-19 pandemic.

AEM 

With AEM, the story is different. A proprietary software does not have a community as impressive as an open source’s. There are still many AEM  user forums, but it does not match Drupal. 

The lack of community support somehow inhibits the force of innovation and makes AEM seem a little pale against its counterpart, Drupal. 

How responsive is their web design?

The user is the focal point of any web application, it is he who is at the heart of every decision made for the website. Therefore, a responsive web design that would take into account the user’s needs and his environment is of the essence. On this note, let’s compare the two. 

Drupal 

When responsive web design comes into the picture, the first thing to cross your mind is that it has to be mobile friendly and Drupal sites are just apt with that. Drupal is known for its responsive designs that provide the best experiences despite the device. 

It is Drupal’s aim to support a seamless content experience throughout the lifetime of its websites with its mobile-first approach. The out-of-the-box responsive elements have made it the premium choice of developers and content authors alike.

  • The ability to add and edit on the go is a must have and Drupal provides. 
  • The built-in themes with responsiveness embedded in them allows your webpages to fit all screen types. 
  • The ability to change the width and height of images depending on the device is also provided by Drupal through breakpoints. 
  • Even the tables in Drupal 8 are responsive with high, medium and low priorities available to assign to them.

AEM 

AEM is also up there in the responsiveness game, with many features making it a friend of all the mobile devices.

  • Using single or multi-columns for layout;
  • Manipulating the text size based on the screen size;
  • Displaying only priority content on smaller screens;
  • Providing device-specific tools for access;
  • Taking into account the window dimensions to assess the size of images to be displayed.

When web responsiveness is prioritised, you would not have any qualms about the future of your site because it would be secure leading to boundless capabilities. In this aspect, both Drupal and AEM pass, that too with flying colours.

Are there any development constraints?

Next comes the part where development is concerned, do Drupal and AEM have development issues? Do they limit the developers in their building? Or do they give them proverbial wings to fly on? Let us find out.

Drupal 

Drupal is renowned for building digital platforms that are transcending the boundaries of digital media in the present day. Its LAMP technology stack is the reason for it. Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, all four provide you agility, pace and flexibility to meet your enterprise’s development needs. 

One drawback of Drupal that is often cited by its counterpart is that it's not highly available. The reason being the fact that it does not provide multiple database instances, meaning one change to one database automatically changes all of them. Even though it is true, does it really account as a development constraint? 

Focusing on PHP, it is often considered to be a less advanced version of Java simply because it does not include state memory constructs. Therefore, tracking data separately becomes exhausting.  

AEM 

AEM developers need to be fluent in HTML, CSS, HTL, JavaScript and Java to develop on top of AEM, no PHP required like Drupal. The best feature of AEM development is the fact that it uses HTL instead of JSP for front-end development. This removes the chances of human error leading to XSS and secures your site a little more.

The drawback I talked about in Drupal is not really an issue in AEM, but does that really make it better? AEM is expensive as we have already established, its exorbitant costs are justified by providing an extravagance that may not really be needed. I mean what would globally distributed data centres do for a local website? They do sound appealing though.

AEM has Java instead of PHP and yes, it can do a lot more per process, but this would increase the complexity levels and make the overhead go on the higher side along with the chances for faults.

I would say that figuring out which is better between PHP and Java is a moot point, both have their own abilities. The fact that many leading organisations use them on their websites speaks quite loudly for their capabilities. Don’t you think so? 

How well do they support third party integrations?

Being able to integrate itself with other applications is often regarded as a great feature of a WCM. Both Drupal and AEM are able to do it, however, one of them stands out as the better option. 

Drupal 

Third party integrations have become a rudimentary need for open source platforms. Since Drupal is an open source, it comes with an intrinsic ability to integrate well with other platforms. Drupal was architecturally designed to be both scalable and modular, this makes it competent to allow third party integrations with ease. With the Services Layer and Library API being equipped to handle all the integration needs, the process goes by smoothly. 

Drupal can integrate with numerous analytics platforms such as Google Analytics, Salesforce and HubSpot.  It can make the ecommerce businesses feel connected with all the varying aspects they mandate. For example, Drupal Commerce can integrate with Magento. There are plenty of options for media integration too such as Colorbox and Slick Carousel. If you need an enterprise search solution for your web application, Drupal has got you covered and gives you Search API Solr.

AEM 

AEM is known to have a vast number of tools in its collection, however, it is also able to integrate itself with other applications.

  • Integrating with Amazon web services is easy with Amazon SNS connection;
  • Email marketing becomes convenient with ExactTarget;
  • Capitalising on social networking is also done through integrating Facebook Connect and Twitter;
  • Sales and CRM software are integrated through Salesforce.

There are other integration tools available as well for your convenience.

Despite all of these, AEM has certain issues with integrations which require troubleshooting. AEM does talk about these and mentions ways to overcome the problems as well.

For instance, some integration issues are known in AEM such as the Report Importer causing high CPU/Memory usage or the non-visibility of targeted content in preview mode when using custom page components. 

Even taking troubleshooting integration issues into account, AEM is still quite good with integrations, especially given the fact that it is a proprietary software.

Concluding this point, I would say that both Drupal and AEM have elaborate tools of integration for every field and need of a business. However, when troubleshooting is concerned, it does put a damper on the impressiveness of AEM. 

Are upgrades and migration easy-to-do?

Technology keeps enhancing and new updates keep on coming, so it is a matter of time before the version you are using becomes a thing of the past and something better is on the market. The question is how do Drupal and AEM fair in the upgrade and migration aspect?

Drupal 

Like I have already mentioned, Drupal 9 is the most recent version, yet not many sites have upgraded themselves to become Drupal 9 sites. However, they would have to because; 

as of November, 2021, Drupal 8 would not be supported; 
and after November, 2022, the same would be true for Drupal 7.

So, how do you update them? Let’s talk about the switch from Drupal 8 to 9, as per the makers, this upgrade is considered the easiest in almost a decade. By following a four-step guide, you can have your current site ready for the functionality and better security standards of Drupal 9 by using the Upgrade Status

As for the upgrade from Drupal 7 to 9, easy is not a term that would be used to describe it. The migration will overwhelm you, but all the advantages of Drupal 9 will make it seem worth it. Developers can make the upgrade themselves with the help of Upgrade Status and Drupal Module Upgrader. These help in letting you know whether your themes and modules are competent for Drupal 8/9 and converting your custom code respectively. Explore the ultimate guide to Drupal 9, all the burning questions that you may have about Drupal 9 and the must-have modules to start your Drupal 9 website to know more. 

AEM 

With AEM, the story revolves around a similar terrain, with more steps though. Upgrades from AEM 6.0 to 6.5 involve a lot more work than Drupal would. Separate migration tools are needed for making the entire upgrade a success. For instance, if going from a version older than AEM 6.2, you would need JMX bean to migrate your assets.

However, if we look at the upgrade from AEM 6.3 to version 6.5, the task of migration is totally eliminated. The new format for the SegmentNodeStore is the reason for it. 

The title ‘easiest upgrade of the decade’ has stolen the show, making Drupal upgrades more attractive and user friendly than AEM. 

How do they answer the multisite request?

Having multiple variants of a single website is not an uncommon trend, it is practised by Drupal sites and AEM sites equally. How do they fair then?

Drupal 

Drupal’s multisite setup helps you in gaining the many advantages of having multisite simply because it allows you to save on time and effort by running all your Drupal sites on a single codebase. 

Running easy updates for security issues, saving on hosting expenses, using Simpletest and functional PHP unit-based tests are few of the many use cases for multisite in Drupal

AEM 

For AEM, the Multi Site Management function does all the heavy lifting for you in capitalising the multisite feature. MSM allows you to monitor and control mobile and web properties into one integrated interface for all so that your global presence is defined by its consistency. Live Copy Overview and Blueprint Configuration Management are the two interfaces responsible for making the use of MSM easy for you. 

MSM is a great tool for creating user-friendly web experiences at the same time providing you localised control with regional teams having the power to edit. It also makes recycling your content a breeze. 

Drupal and AEM are not much different in terms of the multisite versatility, both equip their sites to make the most of one codebase or interface, and aim for consistency. 

How fulfilling is their headless approach?

Going headless has become immensely popular today. I mean who would want to pass on the chance of tapping into the latest technology without parting with their trusted WCM. Here is how Drupal and AEM perform. 

Drupal 

In a headless approach, the WCM is merely a content repository and nothing else and Drupal is a fine one at that. The separation of the front from the backend is pretty streamlined in Drupal with REST, JSON:API and GraphQL, being the APIs holding them together. 

Drupal is known for its flexibility and that can be seen even in its headless approach, with three alternatives to choose from. 

  • The progressively decoupled Drupal has a presentation layer that is built using Drupal and other frontend frameworks, like JavaScript.
  • The fully decoupled Drupal completely segregates the two ends of the site and Drupal is just responsible for the content while a JavaScript framework like React manages frontend
  • The fully decoupled Drupal for static sites allows a static site generator like Gatsby to build a frontend by being its source. 

AEM 

A major reason for opting for a headless approach is to publish the content on as many platforms as possible, the web, mobile apps and other channels. With AEM’s headless approach, you can do that. It allows you to “manage and re-use” page elements or the entire experience, if you want, across numerous channels. This is done through grouping content and layout. 

Like it is for decoupled Drupal, AEM also has customisable APIs as a core component of going headless. On top of this, it gives the developers the choice to choose a default or custom JSON output. The AEM HTTP API provides a smooth transition into headless inclusive of content fragments. 

The headless approach for Drupal and AEM have a set of advantages accompanying them. However, the option of choosing the way and degree of decoupling, gives you something to ponder on, doesn’t it?

How do they help sites be multilingual?

We live in a world where diversity is a constant and diversity means being multilingual. Today, more and more sites are trying to be multilingual, so how do Drupal and AEM help them? 

Drupal 

With Drupal, you can create customized sites in any language, web applications in multiple languages and displays that have multiple admin languages. You get to translate your content completely, so that your business has a wider audience. And you also get the option of choosing a language interface for the administrators, content authors and translators. 

Drupal has been designed in a way that it can promote multilingual sites. The four modules, Language, Locale, Content Translation and Configuration Translation, created to ease the language transition are proof of my earlier statement. 

AEM 

AEM has a similar story to tell. It can also support multiple languages and that too with ease. The fact that it provides both human and machine translation workflows makes it a great choice. 

You might be thinking how it supports human translation. It does so the old fashioned way by sending the content to an actual translator and once it is done, the translated copy is sent back to AEM and it works its charm on it. 

The six-step process of translating content does not leave much room for errors and you get a perfect copy of content in whichever language you may need it in. 

Both Drupal and AEM are close to perfect in their multilingual feature and it is safe to say that this one is a draw. 

Finally, can they help you capitalise on SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation helps your site become more visible and visibility brings in traffic and you must know what happens then. 

Drupal 

Drupal is best friends with SEO, that is why it has all the modules required to make the most of its friend. 

You might know that keywords are an essential part of SEO practices, and Real-time SEO for Drupal helps in ensuring that the keywords are there without seeming spammed. Links are equally important in SEO practices, so there is the Linkit module. For duplicate content, there is the Redirect module to help you. And these are just a few, for an entire checklist, read our blog, The Ultimate Drupal SEO Guide for 2020.

AEM 

AEM lets you get the best of SEO and URL management by helping you optimise them. It makes you focus on the minutest of details, so that you never make an SEO error. 

For instance, when you have translated a content, you might forget to translate the URL and AEM’s SEO guide would never let that happen. From configuring the dispatcher to creating and XML sitemap, AEM takes care of all things. 

Drupal might have a tad more SEO-friendly modules than AEM. Although AEM does cover all the essentials, factors like keywords, headers and footers do not take precedence in it like they do in Drupal.

The Bottom Line 

The purpose of this blog post was not to draw out a clear winner because frankly speaking, there simply can’t be one. I might even give you a winner, but then there is a high chance that you might disagree. Taking all the features into consideration, Drupal does tend to come out with better prospects, even if the margin is not that huge. AEM would be close second to Drupal in terms of functionality and features. 

If I had to give you my perspective, for me, the end line is the cost. Since Drupal is free and AEM is not, it would become difficult for me to adapt to AEM and its exorbitant cost implications, at least initially. So, for me the winner would be Drupal. However, for you, it could be AEM and that is fine too.

Nov 30 2020
Nov 30

Building websites that are completely mistake proof is often considered to be a massive undertaking, which many-many times is not properly executed. Since there are so many parameters to fulfil and so many corners to oversee, mistakes tend to happen. You may not even realise that you have done something wrong in the development process, it could be much much later when you actually undergo a website audit that you come across the mistake that has been made.

Drupal websites are equally prone to mistakes. Despite the CMS being one of the best, there are still occurrences when things go wrong and the impact is felt on the engagement, conversions and consequently, the sales.

To not let that happen, I have compiled a list of mistakes that you need to steer clear of when building or working on a Drupal website. These are errors and oversights that many developers and content authors have experienced first-hand and you can certainly try to learn from their mistakes.

So here are the most common mistakes witnessed on Drupal websites.

A pencil is shown after having erased an error on the extreme left and the mistakes to avoid in Drupal are written in bullets in the rest of the space on a white background.


Where can you go wrong with the content? 

A good website is often considered to be the one with outstanding content, since that is what keeps the audience engaged and leads to conversion. Therefore, content is crucial for a website, both for the front-end and the back-end, so content should be one of the priorities in the website designing process. Due to this fact, there are a number of areas where the developers can go wrong with the content. 

The first common mistake witnesses with the architecture of content is using too many content types that you actually do not use. The unused content types are just going to burden your database and I am certain, you would not want an additional table in your database for three content types that you do not even use. Having content types with no nodes will have the same effect. Performing an inventory will help you get the mistake resolved.

Moving on from the unused to the used, content structures are extremely valuable for your editors who are going to fill them up and if they end up confused, what will be the point of it all? Standardising your content types is going to help you a great deal. 

  • Strike off the content types that are similar to each other, like news and articles;
  • Do not add new fields for every content type;
  • And most importantly, plan a structure prior to it, winging it may not work with your website content.

Content types have an effect on the performance of your website as well. So, if you do not want to drain the performance of your site by adding unnecessary complexity, you would be wise to avoid these mistakes.

What about your display mismanagement?

After content comes its display and Drupal is best in that game. With many different features available for use, Drupal can make your display game strong as well, you capitalise it wisely.

Creating a view for every list is both impractical and a waste of time. Focus on reusing Views as much as possible along with parameter based rendering.

Do you use PHP code in your database? If so, avoid doing that, instead you must write all the codes in the modules or themes itself.

Planning, optimisation and segregation are essentially the building blocks of a great website display. 

  • Planning to render the content types you need;
  • Optimising the Views you already have;
  • And segregating logic from presentation.

These three would have a visible effect on the display architecture.

What aspects of functionality can make your site lag behind?

The functionality of a Drupal site depends on the number of modules used and the way they interact with each other. Your code and how much of it you use is a major contributor in that. 

The most common mistake in this sense is the ignorance of code standards. This becomes more of a problem when there are more than one developers and everyone is using a different type of code. In such a situation, not only would the standard be lost,  but it would also become difficult for a developer to understand the other’s code. Therefore, the adherence to Drupal’s Coding Standards becomes a great help to uniformalise the code and make the functionality a breeze. 

Another obstacle in functionality are unorganised patches. Code modifications and bug fixes mandates the implementation of patches, however, they become a problem whenever there is an update. You can forget all about re-apply the patch or forget to change it in accordance with the new version. This can very well affect the functionality of your website, so organising them is essential. 

Having too many modules, too many roles and too much custom code, despite there being contrib modules for the same is bound to affect the functionality as well. Evaluate and re-evaluate your site for its needs to overcome these functionality hindrances.

Is your performance and scalability not up to the bar?

User Experience is directly proportional to the performance of your website; the more streamlined the performance is, the richer would the UX be. 

Here are three scenarios that can impact your performance in all the wrong ways.

  • The foremost is improper JS/CSS aggregation settings. This is supposed to combine and compress JS and CSS files from the modules in the HTML, leading to lesser load times and higher performance. And you will be saying goodbye to that with the improper aggregation.
  • The next mistake is that of inundating your site with too many modules. Drupal may have numerous modules to offer, but you can’t be using too many of them. Doing so would only slow you down and hamper your security as well. Only keep the modules that you would be using, messing up your code, performance, overheads and security is simply not worth it.
  • A sound cache strategy also goes a long way in performance enhancement. Caching too soon, caching at lower levels and not knowing what and when to cache all contribute in a lowered performance.

Drupal websites can be scaled by millions of users within seconds and that is what makes these sites great. Drupal offers many modules to enhance the performance and scalability, Blazy, Content Delivery Network and Server Scaling, being just a few of them. Not installing these could be deemed as a mistake. Access the Drupal performance optimization and scalability provisions checklists to get more insights.

Are you facing possible security breaches?

Security has become one of the major concerns amongst website builders. Therefore, protecting your business from the menace of hackers and all the havoc they can cause is paramount. 

You must have your security measures in place, however, there still may be certain areas where you may have become complacent and that just gives the break the hackers need. 

  • Primarily, you need to keep your website updated, all the core and contrib modules, despite you using or not using them. Updating a module would mean that Drupal’s security protocols are being updated with them and you make yourself secure with that. You cannot have your projects falling behind on various levels of Drupal’s security advisories.
  • Now, you can install the “ Update Manager” module to keep yourself updated. The “Available Updates” will give you a friendly reminder of applying the available security updates.
  • Next on the list of security blunders is not giving the Input Filters in Drupal their due importance. You might have configured the full HTML Input Format to every user or you might have completely disabled the HTML filtering. Both of these instances can give malicious code to enter your website and you know what happens then.
  • Continuing on similar lines, many sites also configure their servers improperly leading to unwanted access to them. On some occasions, servers are seen displaying their version numbers, which is like giving an open invitation to hackers. Server configuration and permissions should be a priority for every site builder.
  • It is also important to ensure that all the users accessing your site by logging into it are the ones you want. By implementing a password policy, removing old users and updating staff roles, you will be taking a step towards better security.
  • User roles are quite important in running a website, however, they can become overused quite quickly too, which not only slows down your website, but if they are misconfigured, it can lead to major security breaches.

Drupal has proven to be one of the best CMSs in terms of its security measures, it has you covered from every corner, but only if you let it. From granting secure access to providing granular user access control along with database encryption and preventing malicious data entry, Drupal will keep your site protected, provided you let it.

Have you made any infrastructural oversights?

The infrastructure of your website is decided by the stacks you have, which includes the server, database and the software layers like Varnish. Going into development with a firm plan for your infrastructure is the only way to go, an oversight in this area can be quite damaging. 

The common mistakes in this area are;

  • The size of the website’s stack is extremely large or extremely small.
  • Not preparing for growth by consistently checking the logs for error and the identification of the weaklings.
  • Having an ideal sized server, but not configuring it properly, which can make the traffic forego Varnish.
  • Allowing remote connections to the server can make the website more vulnerable.

Misconfiguration can be avoided by simply using the right tools for it. MySQLTuner is one amongst many, its performance suggestions help in improving the infrastructure as well.

Are you following your maintenance goals?

Maintenance of a website starts after the development is done and continues for the entirety of the life of the website. Considering this fact, you have to be very diligent with the maintenance process as making the wrong moves can be brutal.

Here are some of these wrong moves.

  • Not following Drupal updates is a more common mistake than you would think. By doing this, you are going to be hampering security and making your site vulnerable to Drupalgeddon attacks.
  • On the contrary, there are also times when we update the modules, but we forget to remove the older versions. This too happens a lot of the time and can cause many problems.
  • It is not just the modules that need to be updated, the development environment should also be up-to-date and friendly for testing.
  • Then there is the code, which is not using the Version Control System like Git, even the deployment of files should come directly from there. Also, using it, but not leaving messages for other developers related to the changes made can lead to chaos. It is, thereby important to always keep the VCS repository clean.

The crucial aspects of maintenance is time and consistency. When you do it timely, only then would it become a worthy practice. The review and assessment of your architecture in timely intervals along with all the logs, be it Apache or Drupal is a great headstart for the maintenance process.

Are you universally accessible?

Websites today need to transcend the parameters that used to confine them and their audience in the past. The sites and applications need to be built on a foundation that would make them fit for each and every user. Drupal has worked for the same, it aims to make websites accessible to all, including people with disabilities, by making itself an all-accessible tool. 

Web accessibility has become of the essence today, and persons with disabilities are at the core of it. Websites need to be designed keeping in mind their needs, be it a broken hand or a temporary sight loss. It isn't just me who believes this, World Wide Web Consortium’s guidelines agree with me as well. W3C two sets of guidelines are ardently followed by Drupal and your website should do the same, thus, support and foster inclusion. 

Despite its importance, many developers tend to overlook the accessibility features and that is where they go so very wrong. 

  • Not focusing on balanced contrast levels that can work under sunlight;
  • Not incorporating a form validation error verbiage to aid the visually impaired; 
  • Not using buttons over CTAs.

These may seem like minor errors to you, but they can go a long way in making your Drupal site accessible to everyone. Read this comprehensive guide to plan for web accessibility to know more.

Is your site SEO friendly?

Being SEO friendly is almost as important as building a website. Search engines bring in big numbers of traffic, so optimising them is crucial; yet we tend to forget to fine-tune the SEO details and focus on all the other aspects. At the end of the day, a website is an online business and business cannot survive without its clients and being SEO friendly is the way to go. Going wrong in this area can be extremely detrimental.

Look at the following aspects of a website and see how many you are and aren’t doing. 

Are your URLs user friendly?
Are your images small in size, with filled out alt texts?
Are you making your paragraphs short to make the text easy to scan through?
Are you using robots.txt for pages that you do not want crawled?
Are you creating an XML roadmap to help Google easily understand the structure of your website?
Are you researching your keywords?
Are you adding internal links to make your less popular pages gain attention through the more popular ones?

A positive answer to all of these means that your SEO game is strong and a contrary answer would let you know your mistakes.

To avoid the contrary from happening, Drupal provides a number of modules to help you capitalise on the SEO front. The SEO checklist module is a proof of that as it helps you by ensuring that you are following through on the latest SEO practices. Then there are the modules that aid your URL precision, like Redirect, Pathauo and Easy Breadcrumbs.From easing the process tags to helping in communication with search engines to providing the essentials for editing, Drupal has all the right SEO modules in its corner and not using these would be a colossal mistake on your part. Read our blog, The Ultimate Drupal SEO Guide 2020, to know more about these. 

Can being multilingual pose a problem for you? 

Today, languages that are regionally spoken have started getting more prominence than ever before, especially in the international community. A french website would not be successful in India, if it is in French, not many people speak that language, so it would have to be in a locally accepted language. Being multilingual also opens the doors for many mistakes to occur. 

  • Using the same URL for all of your multilingual websites; 
  • Not giving the user a chance to avoid a redirect to the international website;
  • Using an automated translator, instead of actually hiring content authors fluent in the language;
  • Foregoing to translate the imbedded parts of the site like meta tags and descriptions;
  • Not focusing on the foreign market trends and the keywords appropriate to it;
  • And lastly, not writing the content in accordance with the local language and dialects. You can’t be calling ice lollies popsicles sticks in India.

You have to be totally attuned with the language of the region that you have followed for the multilingual project to work. Learn more on Drupal’s multilingual capabilities here.

Is having a multisite presence worth it?

Depending on your business and its needs, having multiple sites can be a good solution for you. However, managing then can become a bit of a hassle and often lead to big blunders. 

Some examples of such blunders are;

  • Traffic is one of the major concerns here. Running multiple sites means you have one codebase and many sites on it, so if one is inundated with traffic, all of them could slow down as a result.
  • A mistake in the syntax of one site could mean a mistake in the syntax of all.
  • Updates become a headache as well. For Drupal sites, you have to run an update.php in order to update the site and doing that on multiple sites is going to bring on the headache.
  • And finally, if you do not use Aegir, you are going to regret going multisite.

Is your Decoupled Drupal approach the right one?

Drupal offers an impressive front-end technology to make your presentation layer as good as you want, yet it does not include all the front end technologies there are on the market. Taking advantage of JavaScript and Static Site Generator would mean to decouple Drupal and separating the front-end from it. Even if you want to take on decoupling, it may not want to take on. The decoupled Drupal can bring more drawbacks then. 

  • If you wish to capitalise Drupal’s in-built features, Decoupling would be a mistake, since you would end up parting with them.
  • If your front-end requirements and Drupal’s front-end capabilities are aligned, taking on Decoupling would only be an unnecessary effort on your part.
  • If you do not have either the budget or resources to tap into the hottest technologies, then even if you want them it is not going to be fruitful.
  • If you are only publishing content at one place, you would have no need for decoupling.

For a detailed explanation, read our blog, When to Move From Monolithic to Decoupled Drupal Architecture.

Finally, what about web hosting, are you doing it the right way?

Web hosting services that provide your website its own space on the internet are pretty common. There are far too many web hosts to count, yet the decision to choose one is not easy at all, since there are too many considerations to keep in mind. 

Some of the common mistakes to avoid which signing on a web host are;

  • Testing web hosts is not uncommon, it is the right way to know whether they are valuable. However, testing on your website that is primarily bringing in the traffic could be unwise, especially if you are using a free service. Therefore, not registering with a different party can be colossal.
  • Another mistake is trusting too easily without knowing the host for too long. Therefore, not partnering with one that has a long trial could be a mistake. The longer the trial period on offer is, the more reliable the host is going to be.
  • Taking on a web host is a huge commitment, so you have to be sure that you are in the good. Not doing your due diligence before the commitment is not the right way, comparing the pricing and features along with checking if they have blacklisted IPs.
  • Not tracking your hosting uptime and speed can also be a problem. Also not checking what guarantees for uptime are provided by the hosts for the same would not be wise. If there is a lapse between the guaranteed and actual uptime, keeping a track would give you the opportunity to ask for compensation.
  • Lastly, you cannot afford to not have a backup of your site and that too regularly. You will only have the recent version of your files and assets, if you back them up.

The Bottom Line 

Every aspect of your website is important, consequently, you have to be mindful of them all. If you are not, mistakes will happen and they will cost you your site’s performance, its security and your potential customers and sales. In order to keep that from happening, you have to avoid all of the aforementioned mistakes and ensure that your website is impeccably built and maintained on all platforms. 

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