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Aug 21 2019
Aug 21

Do you like people who are warm and friendly or cold and hostile? You’ve got it right! I’m comparing Interactive to Non-interactive (static) websites here. In this increasingly digital generation, it isn’t sufficient to place some content on your website and wait for it to work its magic. Providing a web User experience without interactivity is like opening a store filled with inventory without a salesperson to interact with. 
When you create an interactive website, you are forming a connection with your audience. It propels a two-way communication on a medium where you cannot directly interact with a user. Studies have proven that people are more likely to convert on, return to or recommend websites that are interactive. Drupal CMS offers a wide variety of interactive themes and modules that can be easily adapted to your website and further customized.

What is an interactive website?

Put simply, an interactive website is a website that communicates and allows for interaction with users. And by interaction, we don’t just mean allowing users to “click” and “scroll”. Offering users with content that is amusing, collaborative and engaging is the essential objective of an interactive website. An interactive website design will not just display attractive content, it will exhibit interactive content. Content that will compel users to communicate and deeply engage with the website. 
 

Interactive website design 
Interactive Website Designs Communicate & Engage with users 

Why do you need one?

Today, all businesses in the digital market are racing to expand their audience. Most of them, however, forget that increasing traffic is simply not enough. Retaining and engaging users is what converts. Engaging your users should be your prime motive and for this you will first need an interactive business website. 

  • Drives more engagement. Interactive business websites can make your website less boring, thus garnering more action. 
  • Users will spend more time on a website that interacts with them. This increases your conversion rate, decreases bounce rate and can boost the SEO of your website.
  • Develops a more personalized user experience that can result in happy users. 
  • Engaged users are more likely to maintain a long-term relationship with websites.
  • Interactive website designs can create lasting effects in user’s minds. This improves your brand awareness and reach. 
  • Interactive websites encourages users to recommend your website and link back to it.
  • More conversions means you have a better chance in making a sale!

How to make interactive websites? 

Creating an interactive website from scratch is easier and more effective as you envision and plan the customer journey from day one. Nevertheless, if you already have a website that you think is static or needs more interactive website features, it is never too late. The first step is to define your business objectives and then identify various touch points from where you can interact with your customers.
If budgets and timelines are constraints you could also look at HTML5 interactive website templates (not recommended if you need customizations).
There are various interactive website features that can increase user engagement but you should pick the ones that suit your business goals. For example, if you are sell financial services, having an interest calculator in your website can prove to be very useful. Nonetheless, the most essential interactive feature that you just cannot ignore is responsiveness. Users will respond to your website on various devices only when it looks and feels presentable.
So what kind of interactive website features or elements can you utilize for your benefit?

  • Social Media Applications

There is no denying that Social media marketing can give you the visibility like no other marketing programs if done right. Provide your users with an option to like and share your content on social media platforms like LinkedIn Twitter or Facebook. Or just to be able to follow your page. You can also display live feed from your social media page to keep users updated. 

  • Simple Interactive Tools

Offer your users with simple interactive tools like Quizzes, short Games, math tools, tax calculators, etc. connected to your business objectives. Integrating simple software tools that can provide your users with instant results have proven to boost user engagement. 

  • Interactive Page Elements

You can enhance your page elements by adding something interesting and attractive to it. For example, colourful and dynamic hover-states on links or images, on-scroll or on-click loading/animation, navigation with clicks on image stories, and much more. Add videos or animations to say more about your business in an interactive way.

  • Forms and Feedback

Allowing users to get in touch with you via a contact form is a great way to connect with them. Not only does it let you increase your database of leads, it is a nice way of saying “We care”. Feedback forms lets you identify your strengths and weaknesses via the best source – your audience! 

  • Chat Widgets

What’s better than a live person chatting with you, answering all your questions about the products or services being offered?! That’s probably the highest level of interactivity you can offer in an interactive business website. If live chat sounds like too much commitment, you could also opt for Chat bots that can be configured to answer predictive questions.

  • User-generated Content

Letting users add their content on your website is a great way to improve interactivity. This can be done in the form of Comments (in your blogs/articles section), inviting them to write guest posts, submit images or even creating a small discussion Forum.

  • Other interactive website Features

You can get creative with the interactive features you want for your audience but here’s a short list of commonly used interactive elements –

  • Google Maps makes you a more trust-worthy brand and provide a great way to improve interaction especially when they are clickable.
  • Newsletters can keep your users coming back to your website for more updates.
  • Voting and showing them results of previous polls helps increase engagement.
  • Search functionalities eases the user from the pain of navigating through your website.
  • Ratings can be a quick and interactive method of getting instant feedback that can improve your products/services/work.
  • Slideshows offer a great way to engage users and can make them want to keep going to the next image.
interactive elements     
           Interactive Website Features and Elements 
                                         

Drupal for Interactive Websites

When you build your website with Drupal, you will come across multiple options in the form of modules and features that can instantly turn your static website into an interactive one. With Drupal 8, responsiveness comes out of the box. Which means that you don’t need any additional modules to make your Drupal website look great irrespective of the devices. In addition there are a variety of modules that encourage interactivity like the Search API, Contact forms module, Social Media module, Slideshow module,  SimpleNews (or newsletters) and much more! 

Aug 20 2019
Aug 20

It is no mystery why Drupal has been the chosen one for over a million diverse organizations all across the globe. Unsurprisingly, the reason behind the success of this open-source software is the devoted Drupal community. A diverse group of individuals who relentlessly work towards making Drupal stronger and more powerful every single day! To them, Drupal isn’t just a web CMS platform - Drupal is a Religion. A religion that unites everyone who believe that giving back is the only way to move forward. Where contributing to the Drupal project gives them meaning and purpose.

Recently, I had the privilege of interacting with a few of the most decorated and remarkable members of the Drupal community - who also happen to be Drupal’s top contributors. I questioned them about the reason(s) behind them contributing to Drupal and what do they do to make a difference. Their responses were incredible, honest and unfeigned.

Adrian_Cid_Almaguer

Adrian Cid Almaguer

Senior Drupal Developer. Acquia Certified Grand Master - Drupal 8

quotes I use Drupal every day and my career in the last years are focused to it, so I want to work with something that I feel comfortable and that meets my needs. If I find errors or something that can be done in a better way in projects I´m using or in the Drupal Core, I open an issue in the project queue and if I have the knowledge and the time, I create a patch for it. This is a way I can says THANKS to the Drupal community.

The strength of Drupal is the community and the contributes modules you can use to create your project, one person can’t create and maintain all the modules you will need, but if several of us give ourselves the task of doing it, all will be more easy, and is not just code, we need documentation, we need examples, translations and many other things in the community, the only way to do this is if each of the Drupal user give at least a small contribution to the community. So, when I contribute to Drupal, I’m helping you to have time to contribute to something that I may need in the future.

I maintain many Drupal modules, so basically the main contributions are create, update and migrate Drupal modules, but I contribute too in other areas. I contribute translating Drupal to the Spanish language and moderating the user translations, I create patches for some projects I do not maintain, sometimes I review some patches in the issue queue, I write and update modules documentation, I make some contributions creating tests for Drupal modules, I give support to the community in the Slack channels and in the Drupal Stack-exchange site and help new contributors to learn how to contribute projects to Drupal in the correct way. And as I’m a former teacher, I participate in regional Drupal events promoting how and why is important to contribute to Drupal projects and how to do it.

I will love to maintain a Drupal core module but I don’t know if I will have the time to do it, so for the moment I will continue migrating to Drupal 8, evolving and having up to date the modules I maintain.

Alex_Moreno

Alex Moreno

Technical Architect at Acquia

quotesContributing to open source is not just a good and healthy habit for the communities. It is also a healthy habit for your own projects and your self-improvement. Contributing validates your knowledge opening your knowledge to everyone else. So you can get feedback that helps yourself to improve, and also ensures that your project is taking the right direction. For example when patching other contributed modules with fixes or improvements.

I enjoy writing code. My main contributions have been always on that direction. Although more recently I have been also helping on other tasks, like Spanish translations in Drupal 8 Umami.

Baddy Sonja Breidert.

Baddy Sonja Breidert

Co-Founder of 1xINTERNET

quotes One of the reasons why I contribute to Drupal is to make Drupal more known in my area, get more people involved, attract new users, etc. I do my bit in contributing to the Drupal project by organising events like Drupal Europe and Drupal Camps in Germany and Iceland.

It is extremely gratifying to see new people from all over the world join the Drupal community - be it as developers, designers, volunteers, event organisers, testers or for example writing documentation. There are so many different ways to contribute!

And what happens over and over again is that people originally come for a very specific purpose, say a project they want to launch, and then stay in the community just because it is such a friendly, diverse and welcoming place! My work in the board of the Drupal Association confirms the old slogan over and over again: Come for the code, stay for the community!

Daniel_Wehner

Daniel Wehner

Senior Drupal Engineer at Times Higher Education

quotesUnlike many other projects the Drupal community tries to create a sustainable environment. Both from the technical site, but probably on the long run more important from the community side. Initiatives like Drupal Diversity & Inclusion lead the foundation for a project which won't just go away like many others

Jacob_Rockowitz>

Jacob Rockowitz

Drupal developer. Built and maintains the Webform module for Drupal 8

quotesContributing to open source software provides me with an endless collaborative challenge. My professional livelihood is tied to the success of Drupal which inspires me to give something back to the Drupal community. Contributing to Drupal also provides me with an intellectual and social hobby where I get to interact with new people every day.

Everyone has a personal groove/style for building software. After 20 years of writing software, I have come to accept that I like working towards a single goal/project, which is the Webform module for Drupal 8. At the same time, I also have learned that building open source software is more than just contributing code; it is about supporting and creating a community around the code. Supporting the Drupal community has led to also write documentation, blog about Drupal, Webform, and sustainability, present at conferences, and address the bigger picture around building and maintaining software

Joel_Pittet

Joel Pittet

Web Coder. Drupal 8 Theme System Co-maintainer

quotesI feel that I should give back to ensure the tools I use keep working. Monetarily or with my time. And with Drupal it’s a bit of both:

I started submitting patches for the Twig initiative for Drupal core, then mentoring and talks at DrupalCons and camps, followed by some contrib patches, then offered to co-maintain some commerce modules, which snowballed into more and more contrib module co-maintaining, mostly for ones I use at work.

I pay the Drupal Association individual membership to help the teams for all the Drupal.orgwork and event work they do.

Joachim_Noreiko

Joachim Noreiko

Freelance Drupal developer. Built and Maintains Drupal Code Builder

quotesI guess, I like fixing stuff, I like to code a bit in my spare time, I like to contribute to Drupal, and as a freelancer, it’s good to be visible in the community.

Lately I’ve actually been feeling a bit demotivated. I’ve been contributing to core a bit, but it’s always an uphill struggle getting beyond an initial patch. I maintain a few contrib modules, and my Drupal Code Builder tool as well.

Joris_Vercammen

Joris Vercammen (borisson)

Drupal developer, Search API + Facets

quotesBeing able to pull so many awesome modules for free really makes the work we all do in building good solutions for our customers a lot easier. This system doesn’t work without some of us putting things (code/time/blogposts/…) back into it. The Drupal community has given me a lot of things unrelated to just the software as well (really awesome friends, a better job, the ability to travel all over Europe, etc.). To enable others that come after me to have a similar experience, I think that it is important to give back, as long as it fits in the schedule.

Most of my contributions are under the form of code. I try to do some mentoring but while that is a lot more effective, it is really hard and I’m not that great at it, yet. I’m mostly interested in the Search API ecosystem because that’s what I got roped in to when I started contributing. A lot of my core contributions are for blockers (of blockers of blockers) for things that we need. I try to focus a little bit on the Facets module, since that is what I’m responsible for, but it’s not always easy or the most fun to do. Especially since I’ve still not built a Drupal 8 site with facets on it.

Malabya_Tiwari

Malabya

Open-source evangelist. Drupal Practice Head at Specbee

quotesCommunity. That’s what motivates me to contribute. The feeling I get when someone uses your code or module or theme is great. Which is a good drive to motivate for more contributions. Drupal being an open-source software, it is where it is just of the contributions by thousands of contributors. So, when we use Drupal it is our responsibility to contribute back to the software to make it even better for a wider reach

Apart from contributing modules, theme & distributions I help in organising local meetups in Bangalore and mentoring new developers to contribute and begin their contribution journey from the root level. This gives me immense pleasure when I can help someone to introduce to the world of Drupal and make them understand about the importance of contributions and community. Going forward, I would definitely strive towards introducing Drupal to students giving them a career choice and bring in more members to the Drupal community.

Nick_Wilde

Nick Wilde

Drupal developer at Taoti Creative

quotesMy main motivation has always been improving what I use - first OS contribution before my Drupal days was a bug-fix for an abandoned at the time project that was impairing my Modding of TES-III Morrowind ;). I like the challenges and benefits of working in a community. Code reviews both that I've done and those done on my code have been incredibly important to my growth as a developer. I also have used it as a portfolio/career advancement method, although that is important it is only of tertiary importance to me. Seeing a test go green or a getting confirmation that a bug is fixed is incredibly satisfying to me personally. Also, I believe if you use an open source project especially professionally, contributing back is the right thing.

My level of contributions vary a fair bit depending on my personal and professional level of busy, but mostly through contrib module maintenance/patch submissions. Also in the last year or so, I've been getting into a lot more mentorship roles - both in my new company and within the broader community. Restarted my local Drupal meetup and am doing presentations there regularly.

Rachel_Norfolk

Rachel Norfolk

Community Liaison at Drupal Association

quotes Contribution for me is, at least partly, a selfish act. I have learned so much from some of the best people in the industry, simply by following along and helping where I can. I have also built up an amazing network of people who, because they know I help others, are more prepared to help me when I need it. Both code and other ways of contributing. I’m occasionally in the Drupal core issue queues, I help mentor others and I get involved in community issues.

Renato_Goncalves

Renato Goncalves

Software Engineer at CI&T's Drupal Competence Office ()

quotesMy first motivation to contribute to the Drupal community is helping others that have the same requirement as mine. To be honest, I get very happy when someone uses my community code in their projects. I'm glad to know that I'm helping people. When I'm developing a new feature I check if my solution can be useful to other projects and that way I create my code using a generic way. - Usually, I'm the first to reuse the code several times. I think this is important to make Drupal a powerful and collaborative framework. I liked my first experience using the framework because for each requirement of my project, Drupal has a solution. I think contributing to the community is important for that. More and more new people are going to use the framework, and consequently new contributors, and in that way, it becomes increasingly powerful and efficient. An example of this is the Drupal Security Team, where they work hard to ensure that Drupal is a secure framework. I'm making contributions at the same time I delivery projects. Today I write my code in a generic way, that is, the code can be reused in other times. A good example of this model is the Janrain Connect project. This project is official in the community (contrib project) and my team and I w hard using 100% of the generic code, so we can reuse this code on other cases.

When we need to make some improvement in the code, the first point is checking a way to make this improvement using a generic solution. Using this approach we can help our project and help the community. In this way, we are contributing to making an organized and agile framework. The goal is that other people don't need to re-write code. It is a way of transforming the framework into a collaborative model.

Thomas_Seidl

Thomas Seidl

Drupal developer, “The Search API Guy”

quotesMy motivation comes from several sources: First off, I just like programming, and while fixing bugs, writing tests or giving support isn’t always fun, a lot of the time working on my modules is. It’s just one of my hobbies in that regard. Then, with my modules running on more than 100,000 sites (based on the report), there’s both a sense of accomplishment and responsibility – I feel proud in providing functionality for so many sites, and while, as a volunteer, I don’t feel directly responsible for them, I still want to help improve them where I can, take away pain points and ensure they keep running. And lastly, having a popular, well-maintained module is also the base of my business as a freelancer: it not only provides marketing for my abilities, but also the very market of users who want customizations. So, maintaining and improving my modules is also, indirectly, important for my income, even though the vast majority of my contributed work is unpaid.

Apart from participating in coding standards discussions, I almost exclusively contribute by maintaining my modules (and, increasingly rarely, adding new ones) – fixing bugs, adding features, answering support requests, etc. I sometimes also provide patches for other modules, but generally only when I’m paid to do so. (“My modules” being Search API and its add-on modules Database Search, Autocomplete, Saved Searches and, for D7 only, Solr, Pages, Location and Multi-Index Searches.)

And Lastly....

It’s not just brands that have adopted Drupal as their CMS – they are the cream of brands. From NASA to the Emmy Awards. From Harvard University to eBay. From Twitter to the New York State. These brands have various reasons to choose Drupal as their Content Management System. Drupal’s adaptability to any business process, advanced UX and UI capabilities for an interactive and personalized experience, load-time optimization functionalities, easy content authoring and management, high-security standards, the API-first architecture and so much more!

The major reason why Drupal is being accepted and endorsed by more than a million websites today is because Drupal is always ahead of the curve. Especially since Drupal adopted a continuous innovation model wherein updated versions are released every 6-months with seamless upgrade paths. All of this is possible because of the proactive and ever-evolving Drupal community. The goals for their contributions may vary - from optimizing projects for personal/professional success to creating an impact on others or simply to gain more experience. Either way, they are making a difference and taking Drupal to the next level every time they contribute. Thanks to all the contributors who are making Drupal a better place.

I’d like to end with an excerpt from Dries - “It’s really the Drupal community and not so much the software that makes the Drupal project what it is. So fostering the Drupal community is actually more important than just managing the code base.”

Warmly thanking all the mentioned contributors for helping me put this article together.

drupal community infographic
Aug 06 2019
Aug 06

Did you know that the term “One-Stop-Shop” is one of the most clichéd marketing taglines to use, according to Hubspot? Thankfully, I came across that article before I sat down to write this one. So, I’m NOT going to say that a Drupal distribution is a “one-stop-shop” for a quick and easy way to launch your website. Let’s put it this way instead – If you want to build a Drupal website and eager to see it go live real quick, while making sure that you want to save time on maintenance too, Drupal distributions are meant for you.  

What is a Drupal distribution?

A Drupal distribution is an all-inclusive package to get your website up and running quickly. This package consists of the Drupal Core (basic features), installation profiles, themes (for customized designs), libraries (consists of assets like CSS or Javascript) and modules specific to an industry. For example, if you run a publishing company, a distribution like Thunder can help you speed up your development process. Here you can find modules like Paragraphs, Media Entity, Entity Browser and features like Thunder admin theme, scheduled publishing and much more – all in one place. 

Why should you use a Drupal 8 distribution?

Let me give you a few reasons for that -

  • You don’t have to scramble your way through thousands of Drupal modules only to find a few that you really need.  
  • Configuring Drupal core is easier too as most part of it comes preconfigured.
  • The features and modules included in a Drupal distribution are time tested, optimized and proven for quality.
  • Maintenance of a Drupal distribution is simpler because updates for all modules and features can be performed on one shot!  
  • Since you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, you save on time. You save precious resource time. Which also means, you save on money! 
  • Now that you have saved some time, you can spend more time on customizing and personalizing these components to tailor-fit your business needs.

Top 15 Drupal Distributions (alphabetically sorted)

1. CiviCRM Starter Kit

The CiviCRM Starter Kit brings together the power of Drupal and the open-source CRM tool – CiviCRM. The popular CRM is used by more than 8000 organizations to centralize constituent communications. Along with core Drupal and CiviCRM, the distribution also packs in CiviCRM related modules like CiviCRM Cron, Webform CiviCRM, CiviCRM Clear All Caches, etc.

 2. Commerce Kiskstart

If you are looking to quickly get your e-commerce store up and running on Drupal Commerce framework, this one’s for you. Commerce Kickstart is a Drupal distribution made for both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 and is maintained by Centarro (previously Commerce Guys). The Commerce Kickstart 2.x version comes loaded with beautiful themes, catalog, promotion engines, variety of payment tools, utility tools, shipping and fulfilment tools, analytics and reporting tools, marketing tools, search configuration, custom back office interface and much more.

drupal distributions

                                Source - https://www.drupal.org/project/commerce_kickstart

3. Conference Organizing Distribution

Creating a website for events and conference gets easier with this Drupal distribution. Conference Organizing Distribution (COD) was made for Drupal 7 but is being actively ported to Drupal 8. With COD, you can -

  • Create/manage tickets for event registrations
  • Create announcements for paper submissions
  • Moderate session selections
  • Provide an option for attendees to vote for their favourite sessions
  • Schedule sessions on any day and place
  • Easily manage sponsorships
  • Event management made easy with a powerful event management dashboard
  • Keep a track on multiple events and sessions
  • Sell tickets with Drupal commerce

4. Contenta

This API-first Drupal distribution provides you with a framework that is API ready. It reduces the complexity and pain of using or trying decoupled/headless Drupal. Contenta also comes pre-installed with code and demo content along with front-end application examples. Even if you are new to Drupal, Contenta offers simple and quick ways to get the Drupal CMS part ready and you can then focus on frontend frameworks you intend to use. If you’re looking for a complete solution for a headless Drupal project, ContentJS is your best bet. Content JS integrates Contenta CS with front-end framework NodeJs for a powerful, high performing digital experience.

5. Drupal Government Distributions (federal, regional, local)

The aGov Drupal 8 distribution was developed to meet the guidelines of the Australian government. It allows government bodies to follow standards like the WCAG 2.0 AA, Australian government Web guide, AGLS metadata and Digital Service Standard. However, the developers of aGov, PreviousNext, no longer develop of support this distribution as they are now focused on the GovCMS Drupal distribution. GovCMS was built on the foundation of aGov to build more secure, compliant and adaptable government websites. 
deGov Drupal 8 distribution was built for German government websites and used Acquia Lightning to offer more valuable features and functionalities. Some features common to all the Drupal government distributions-

  • Meeting all government standards
  • Workbench moderation
  • Citizen engagement portals
  • Responsive design
  • Example content
  • Intranet/Extranet

6. Acquia Lightning

True to its name, Acquia Lightning is a light-weight Drupal 8 distribution that you can use to develop and deploy a website in lightning speed (up to 30% lesser development time!). Developed by Acquia, Lightning aims to provide full flexibility and a great authoring experience to editorial teams and content authors. Built on Drupal 8, it offers powerful features like page layouts, drag and drop of assets using Panels, rich text, media, slideshows, Google maps, content scheduling and much more. You can also streamline the workflow process of publishing, reviewing, approving and scheduling content.

7. Open Atrium

OpenAtrium is a Drupal distribution built specifically for organizations to be able to create a collaborative intranet solution for social collaboration and knowledge management. It offers features like a drag and drop layout, events management (Events), document management (Files), issue tracking, granular access controls, media management, a worktracker (to monitor tasks and maintain transparency), and much more. It is also offers responsive layouts and themes.

8. Open Academy

Built on the Panopoly base distribution, the Drupal distribution is tailor-made for higher education websites which can be further extended and customized. It is an easy-to-use tool that does not need users to be technical. You can have a great website without any customizations too! Open Academy distribution consists of a Drupal 7 installation profile and features meant for managing courses, departments, faculty, presentations, news, events, publications and more. The themes provided are optimized and mobile ready.

9. Open Social

Open Social is a Drupal 8 distribution that allows organizations to create intranets, online communities and other social portals easily. It is being used by hundreds of organizations including NGOs and government bodies to facilitate communication and connection with their volunteers, employees, members and customers. It also has features like multi-lingual support, private file system, social login, Geo-location maps, etc.

drupal distribution social module

Source : https://www.drupal.org/project/social

10. Opigno LMS

Opigno Distribution is a Learning Management System built on Drupal. It is an easily scalable solution built not just for universities but also for organizations looking to create e-learning solutions. It allows to manage training paths that are organized in courses, activities and modules. It also provides with features like adaptive learning paths, management of skill acquisition, quizzes, blended learning (online modules + in-house sessions + virtual classrooms), award certificates, forums, live meetings and more.

opigno lms drupal distributions

                                               
 Source: https://www.drupal.org/project/opigno_lms

11. Panopoly

This is a base Drupal distribution – which basically means it also acts like a foundation or a base framework for many other distros to be built upon. Panopoly Distribution is powered by the magic of the Panels module and its features like In-place editor, Panelizer, Fieldable Panel Panes, etc. The Panopoly package consists of contributed modules and libraries. It offers cross-browser and responsive layouts, drag and drop page customizations, a powerful easy-to-use Admin interface, etc. It can also be extended through many Panopoly apps. 

12. Presto!

Want a Drupal 8 starter-kit that can meet all your content management needs and get you up and running, presto?! Count on Presto! Whats better, you can start using Presto right out-of-the-box! It is power packed with some great content features like Intelligent content editing, Promo bar (inline alerts for news/announcements), Divider (adding space), Carousel (interactive images), Blocks, etc. It also comes shipped with a responsive theme based on Bootstrap framework that can be further customized to add more layouts. It also lets you easily integrate with Drupal Commerce to make selling on your website easier. With Presto, you can reduce the development time by 20%!

13. Reservoir

Like Contenta, Reservoir too is an API-first Drupal distribution for decoupling Drupal. With this tool, you can build content repositories that are ready to be consumed by front-end applications. It is packed with all necessary web service APIs necessary to create decoupled websites. Reservoir was developed with the objective to make Drupal more accessible to developers, to provide best-practices for building decoupled applications and to provide a starting point for Drupal developers (with less or no Drupal experience) to build a content repository. Reservoir uses JSON API (a specification used for APIs in JSON) to interact with the back-end content. It also ships with API documentation, OpenAPI format export (compatible with a plethora of tools) and a huge set of libraries, SDKs and references.

14. Thunder

This Drupal 8 distribution is designed exclusively for professional publishing. Thunder was originally designed for and by Hubert Burda Media. The Drupal distribution is loaded with features meant for the publishing sector like the Paragraph module, drag and drop of content, Media Entity, Entity browser, Content lock, Video embed field, Facebook Instant articles, Google AMP, LiveBlog, Nexx.tv video player and much more. All of this along with Drupal core features and responsive themes. 

Drupal distribution module thunder


Source: https://www.drupal.org/project/thunder

15. Varbase

Are you lost in a mountain of Drupal modules and wondering which one to pick? Looking for a package that can jumpstart your web development process right away? Varbase is your go-to Drupal distribution then! Varbase provides you with all the necessities and essential modules, features and configurations to speed up your time to market. 

Jul 30 2019
Jul 30

Today, User experience (UX) is not just about how a user feels when interacting with your website. In this world of rapidly growing interfaces and APIs, content plays a supreme role in offering your users with exceptional UX. To keep up the pace, you need to adopt hot-selling, fast-moving front-end technologies like Angular JS, React JS, etc. that can deliver your content in an application-like speed.  Headless Drupal (or decoupled Drupal) is one such approach that is gaining much popularity because of its innovative ability to deliver outstanding digital experiences. Bigwigs like Weather.com, The Tonight Show, Great Wolf Resorts, Warner Music Group and many more, have taken the headless Drupal route offering their customers with interactive and unique front-end designs and fast-loading websites.

What is Headless Drupal?

headless drupal

To go headless or not is a rather tricky decision to make in this digital world. So what’s the whole buzz about going Headless? Simply put, in a headless Drupal architecture, the front-end (consumers of content) of the CMS is detached from the back-end (provider of content). 

Conventionally, Drupal websites are meant to multi-task. Which means, Drupal manages both - the back-end content management as well as the front-end rendering of content. There is no doubt that Drupal CMS on its own can deliver a rich user experience to the end user but when it comes down to instantaneous responses for a request, delivering content seamlessly in different interfaces, it does fall short. In a decoupled Drupal architecture, instead of the Drupal’s theme layer, a client-side framework like AngularJS, React or Backbone.JS is used. A user request does not have to be processed by the server all the time, which can drastically improve the speed and UX of your Drupal website.

Technically speaking, a headless Drupal website sends out data in JSON format instead of HTML. A powerful front-end UI framework renders this data in JSON format and delivers the web page.

decoupled drupal                           Headless Drupal Architecture

Categorizing Decoupled Drupal

In a traditional Drupal CMS architecture, the browser invokes a request that is processed by PHP logic which then renders the HTML and sends it back to the browser. Of course, the developer can embed Javascript for some client-side improvements but this can result in a situation where different client-side frameworks are being used for different modules. Thus making it an extremely complex system.

Progressive Decoupling

If you are looking to preserve your Drupal Theme layer and yet be able to provide immediate responses to the browser, the Progressive Decoupling approach is your best move. Here you can have your cake and eat it too! The initial application state is rendered by Drupal which can be then manipulated by client-side coding. Modules can be written in PHP or Javascript while you can avail the powerful performance benefits of Drupal.

This version of decoupled Drupal allows for contextualized interfaces, content workflow, site preview, and other features to remain usable and integrated with Drupal as a whole. While content editors and site assemblers feel at home with this decoupled Drupal version, it also allows front-end developers to pursue their own velocity while keeping site assemblers unblocked, by dedicating a portion of the page to a JavaScript framework.

In short, a progressively decoupled Drupal offers an approach that does a great job in striking the perfect balance between editorial needs like layout management and developer desires to use more JavaScript.

decoupling drupal
A graph illustrating the progressive decoupling spectrum for these examples – Source- Acquia
 

Fully Decoupled Architecture

And then there’s the Full decoupling – where Drupal’s presentation layer is completely replaced with a client-side framework. This version of the decoupled CMS allows an uninterrupted workflow as the client-side framework also acts as a server-side pre-renderer. Drupal CMS is purely used as a content repository that takes care of all the back-stage jazz. When you completely ignore Drupal’s theme functionality you are also letting go of some effective performance benefits that Drupal provides. Also a lot of rebuilding would need to be done to fully decouple the administrative interface and front-end of a Drupal website. Using Javascript on the server-side also complicates the infrastructure requirements.

While a fully decoupled Drupal architecture has gained more attention in recent years with the growth of JavaScript showing no signs of slowing down, it involves separation of concerns between your content structure and its presentation. In a nut shell, creating a fully decoupled Drupal system is like treating your web experience as a separate application that needs to be served content.

Is it a good idea?

Traditionally, Drupal CMS is meant to do both – content management and rendering the front-end for the whole website. A lot of pressure, don’t you think? Drupal experts believe that Drupal’s strengths lies in the power and flexibility of its back-end and that it needs to be service oriented first instead of HTML oriented. Decoupling Drupal means letting some other system manage the front-end while Drupal takes care of the back-end system. Why is it a good idea to decouple Drupal, you ask?

If you want to adopt cutting-edge and modern front-end technologies that Drupal cannot provide you will need a powerful front-end framework like React JS or Angular JS. With a headless Drupal approach, you can have all of this and still maintain your robust backend Drupal CMS.

  • With the Headless Drupal architecture, you can “Write once and publish everywhere”. This system allows content editors, marketers and business owners to create content once and deliver it to multiple interfaces seamlessly.
  • With a decoupled CMS, detaching the front-end from the back-end content management system will allow for more flexibility and efficiency of the Drupal content model. Just like how delegating work decreases your workload and increases productivity.
  • A layered architecture promotes a more secure system. Site admins can restrict access to different areas of the infrastructure. 
  • Headless Drupal allows front-end developers to have full control over the presentation, UI design and UX of the website. The combination of a great client-side framework and a seasoned front-end developer can get you a website with a rich, faster, application-like user-experience, and seamless interactivity.
  • Integrating with third party applications is easier and more efficient with a headless Drupal model.
  • Both the front-end and back-end developers can work independently which can lead to efficient and speedy delivery of a project.
  • If you want to redesign your website, you won’t have to re-implement your Drupal CMS. Likewise, revamping your back-end system can be accomplished without having to alter your front- end.

Is headless Drupal for everybody?

Although decoupling Drupal can help you achieve your goals of an uninterrupted and application-like user- experience, it might not be a good fit for everyone. Here’s why –

  • Websites like News sites or Blogs, that don’t really need much user interactivity, will not benefit from decoupling their Drupal website.
  • When you opt for a fully decoupled Drupal architecture for your website, you are letting go of some of the top (and free) functionalities that come with the Drupal theme layer like the block placements, layout and display management, content previews, UI localization, security features like cross-site scripting (XSS), etc. Some of them cannot be replicated by a client-side framework.
  • If budget is an issue you need to keep in mind about the price you will have to shell out for experienced front-end developers. Also the cost for rebuilding a missing (otherwise freely available) Drupal feature from scratch. 

Who uses Headless Drupal?

Many top enterprises have taken the headless Drupal approach and successfully so! Their websites are fast to load and offer interactive experiences to their users in all devices and interfaces. Some examples are –

  • The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon – uses Backbone.js and Node.js for the front-end
  • Weather[dot]com – uses Angular.js for the front-end
  • Great Wolf Resorts – uses CoffeeScript and Spine framework
  • EC Red Bull Salzburg – uses Angular.js for the front-end
  • Warner Music Group – uses Angular.js for the front-end

…And many more on this list here.

Jul 02 2019
Jul 02

Pull, Fetch, Commit, Push, Merge, Rebase – have these terms have managed to make their way into your everyday lives yet? When Linus Torvalds created his very first version of Git, he described it as “the stupid content tracker”. Fast-forward to today, this free open-source software is now the most popular version control system.

What is Git? 

Don’t you wish you could turn back time sometimes, so you could have made a better decision or done things differently? Well, in the world of technology and coding, you can. Git is an open-source distributed version control system that saves versions of your precious code every time you make any changes/additions to it. So whenever you need to rollback, you just pick the working version and voila! Git also allows disruption-free working within teams as developers work on their individual local copies concurrently. Every change by every team member is tracked, thus maintaining transparency in an organized flow. So what is GitHub then? GitHub is a repository hosting service for Git that also has plenty of features to optimize your version control system. 
Git Workflow

Every organization has a different Git workflow. The most successful Git workflow is the one that gives your team enough space for productivity while maximizing the effectiveness of their outputs. It should be scalable with your team’s size and should minimize the number of conflicts that can arise. The Centralized Git workflow is the base upon which other Git workflows are built, like the Feature branching workflow, the forking workflow, the Gitflow workflow, etc. A workflow should be planned to enhance and complement your organization’s culture. To each Team, their own Git Workflow. 

Why use Git?
 

1. The distributed architecture 

Unlike Centralized version control systems that force developers to access the single central repository to be able to “checkout” and commit changes to the individual files, Git follows a distributed approach. In the distributed architecture, every developer has their own local copies of the entire central repository, allowing them to work offline, access complete revision history and easy branching and merging.

2. Powerful performance

Branching, merging, committing, etc. are really easy and fast with Git workflow because of its intelligent deep knowledge algorithms that understand the access patterns to the T.


3. It is Secure

Git stores all file content including relationships between versions and directories, cryptographically using a SHA1 as its hashtag algorithm. Any accidental or malicious code change is completely traceable.


4. Open-source

Being open-source, Git is free, enjoys good community support, continuously scrutinized for quality and is backed-up with loads of documentation and tutorials for learners.


5. Faster releases

Git’s distributed development and easy branching and creating of new features encourages developers to make more frequent changes in an agile workflow
 

Git - Distributed Architecture                       
                           Git - Distributed Architecture

Best practices for Git

  • New project? New repository

It just makes good organizational sense to create a new repo for every new project you want to start working on. Once done, push it to GitHub.

  •  New feature? Branch out

Now that you have created a new project, how about creating some new Git features? Git Branching lets you create and manage an organized workflow within your repo. Team members can be assigned various Git branches allowing them to work concurrently but in an isolated manner. Always give a meaningful to your git branch so others know what exactly you are working on. 

  • Start your day by staying current

Always “rebase” or get the latest, the most current version of your project (master) before you start working on the features you created/ assigned to you. You don’t want to make changes on outdated files.

  • Have periodic check-points

Don’t save your commits for a big change. “Commit” small changes frequently so the code is easier to comprehend for you and your team members. Reverting back and tracking is also easier when the changes are small and frequent. 

  • Stash your work

Often, you might come across situations where you are working on one Git branch but you have suddenly remembered that you need work on another branch but don’t want to “commit” those half-done changes. Or you might simply want a clean working copy. “git stash” to the rescue. Stashing lets you save your unfinished changes on a stack where you can get back to anytime!

  • Squashing them commits

Having lesser commits in your history makes it easier to monitor and track where you went wrong. If you want to keep a clean commit history, this one’s for you. Squash and merge all your commits into one when the pull request is merged.

  • Commit messages

Always provide clear and understandable information in your commit message. Start by writing a short summary of your changes, leave a blank line and then follow it up with a detailed description of the change. You don’t want your commit history to end up looking like this :/ 

git-commit message                      
                         https://xkcd.com/1296/
  • Don’t change history

Once you have committed your changes the repository, do not go back and change history. Although Git allows you to do that and rewrite pubic history, it is never a good practice to do so. Both for you and your team.

  • Apply a Git patch

At times when you don’t have write access to the repository but you still want to fix a bug – apply a Git patch. Always remember to clone the master repository and then create a branch for the new feature. When you have your .patch file ready, always preview it and do a dry run to check for errors. Git apply the patch (git apply -R path/file.patch) once done. DO NOT forget to test and check for 

  • Don’t leave Pull requests out for too long

An open “pull” request can create conflicts sooner or later. Don’t leave them unattended for more than 2 days. Always review the code and if it is ok to deploy, merge the pull request. This will not only fasten the shipping process but also avoid code conflicts.

  • Better organizing with project management tools

If you have been using project management tools like Redmine, it is a good practice to use it in conjunction with Git to be able to manage multiple team members and their tasks better. Creating your Git branches with the Redmine task as the name is one of the best Git best practices as it allows for better transparency and organizing. 

Git Project Management tools                                                               
                                                                       Task created in Redmine Creating git branch
                                                              Creating a branch with the Task id and name
 
  • GitLab CI/CD

Using a Continuous Integration/ Continuous Deployment tool like this one allows you to test and check for bugs and errors and ensures compatibility with code standards. These jobs are performed after the code is pushed to the staging server.

Gitlab CI
                                                                                GitLab CI/CD list of jobs
  Git best practices infographic

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