Upgrade Your Drupal Skills

We trained 1,000+ Drupal Developers over the last decade.

See Advanced Courses NAH, I know Enough
Dec 17 2020
Dec 17

argument-open-sourceargument-open-source

Recently, Drupal has been on an update rampage. The introduction of the oh-so-beautiful Drupal 9 core has spurred a chain reaction of upgrades across the Drupal platform. Just this week, we’re getting a new default theme (which is hyper-minimalist and easy-on-the-eyes), a 20% reduction in install times, and automated lazy load for images. But let’s talk about the juiciest UI/UX update that came with Drupal 9 — the standardization of Drupal’s Layout Builder.

If you’ve built a pre-Drupal-9 website over the past few years, you probably dabbled with Panels/Panelizer, WYSIWYG templates, or even custom coding to set up your UX/UI. And that works. We did it for years. But you can throw that worn-out Panelizer module in the trash. The times, they are a-changing. Drupal’s new Layout Builder module combines the core functionality of Panelizer with an out-of-the-box WYSIWYG engine.

First hinted at in 2017, Drupal Layout Builder officially left the onerous Drupal testing pipeline last year as part of Drupal’s 8.7 updates. Despite circulating for a year now, the chaos of 2020 has overshadowed this potent and flexible tool. So, let’s talk about it. Here’s what you need to know about Drupal’s Layout Builder.

What is Layout Builder?

Layout Builder is a WYSIWYG page editing engine that lets you manipulate back-end features via an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface. It’s difficult to overstate just how valuable Layout Builder is when it comes to time-savings. You can create templates in minutes, immediately preview and create content changes, and tweak page-by-page UI/UX features to create more cohesive and on-the-fly websites and landing pages.

At its core, Layout Builder is a block-based layout builder. You can create layouts for either a single page or all content of a specific type. In addition, you can jump in and create rapid-fire landing pages based on your existing design theme. There are three “layers” that Layout Builder operates on to help you build out holistic websites.

  1. Layout templates: You can create a layout template for all content of a specific type. For example, you can make a layout template for your blog posts or a layout template for every product page. This template will be shared across all pages, so you don’t have to go in and rebuild for each content type.
  2. Customized layout templates: You can also go in and make granular changes to a specific layout template. So, if you want a certain product page to be different than the layout template, you can make granular changes to just that page.
  3. Landing pages: Finally, you can create one-off pages that aren’t tied to structured content — like landing pages.

Important: Founder of Drupal — Dries Buytaert — dropped a blog post with some use cases for each of these layers.

To be clear, Layout Builder isn’t a WYSIWYG template. It uses your existing template. Instead, it allows non-developers (and lazy-feeling developers) to quickly make per-page changes to the website without diving into code. But these aren’t just simple changes. You can create a layout template for every page type (e.g., creating a specific layout for all the shoes you sell), and you can also dive into each of these layout pages to make custom changes. So, it really lets you get granular with your editing without forcing you to completely retool and redesign pages for each type of content. This gives Layout Builder a massive advantage over WordPress’s Gutenberg — which requires you to go in and re-lay elements for every page individually.

Here’s the kicker: you get a live-preview of all changes without bouncing between the layout and the front-end. Every block and field you place and every change you make to taxonomies or content is visible the second you make the change. The entire process takes place on the front-end, and changes are instantly visible. Remember, Layout Builder is part of Drupal’s Core, so you don’t need to implement new entity types of dig into third-party elements. It’s an out-of-the-box experience.

Advantages of Layout Builder

Last year, we got a gorgeous, picture-perfect demo of how Layout Builder would work. It’s beautiful, fast, and packs a punch that other leading layout builders are indeed missing. So, to help unpack the value of Layout Builder, let’s look at some of the advantages of Layout Builder:

Customization

Beyond Layout Builder’s incredibly powerful and customizable block-based design engine, it offers customization in usage. Let’s say you want to create an amazing landing page. You can start with a blank page that’s untied to structured content, drop in some hero images, a few pieces of text, some content, and a video. Suddenly, you have a custom landing page (complete with modules, blocks, and taxonomy) that exists in a separate ecosystem from your website.

Simultaneously, you can create a template for every blog post, then dive into a specific blog post and make on-time changes to just that page while still being tied to your structured content. Remember, you can make these changes nearly instantly, without touching code. And you’ll see a live preview of every change immediately without switching between interfaces.

Accessibility

Drupal is committed to accessibility. The second principle of Drupal’s Values & Principles page reads, “build software everyone can use,” and this rings true. Layout Builder meets Drupal’s accessibility gate standards (i.e., conforms to WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0, text color has sufficient contrast, JavaScript is keyboard-usable, etc.)

Ease-of-use

Like many WYSIWYG editors, Drupal Layout Builder is all about “blocks.” But these aren’t your run-of-the-mill blocks. There are inline blocks, field blocks, global blocks, and system blocks. Each of these has its own use case, and you can combine these block types to create stellar pages in minutes. For example, global blocks are used to create templates, and inline blocks are used to create page-specific changes that don’t impact the layout. The combination of these block types makes Layout Builder a hassle-free experience.

Additionally, there are plenty of ease-of-use features built into the core. Layout Builder works with the keyboard, has plenty of usability features that tie to Drupal’s value statements, and allows nit-picky setups for customized workflows.

Creating a Drupal Website is Easier Than Ever

With Layout Builder, users can generate valuable content and pages without needing to patch together various WYSIWYG tools or Panel/Panelizer. At Mobomo, we’re incredibly excited for our clients to dive into Drupal Layout Builder and make actionable and memorable changes to their templates based on their in-the-moment needs and experiences.

But Layout Builder isn’t a replacement for a well-designed and well-developed website. We can help you build your next world-class website. Once we’re done, Layout Builder gives you the freedom to make substantial changes without the headaches, back-and-forth, or unnecessary touchpoints. Are you ready to create a customer-centric, experience-driven digital space? Contact us.

Oct 07 2020
Oct 07

argument-open-sourceargument-open-source

Here’s a dirty secret: most businesses are unsatisfied with their website. Research shows that 34% of website owners are unsatisfied with the amount of business their website generates for them. Loudhouse data suggests that 62% of business owners believe a more effective website would increase their sales. And millions of business websites deal with slow load times, inconsistent customer experiences, and problematic UI/UX issues.

There’s a reason that 36% of small businesses STILL don’t have a website. Creating an amazing, design-driven, customer-centric website is challenging. So, what do you do when your website isn’t making the cut? You look towards the source — your Content Management System (CMS). Every year, thousands of private and public entities migrate their website to a new CMS.

But, unfortunately, thousands more don’t. Migration is scary. It’s easier to stay with your current CMS and focus on redesigns or new templates. Here’s the problem: new coats of paint don’t fix broken engines. If you’re thinking about migrating from WordPress or Joomla to Drupal, you’ve probably heard rumors and myths regarding migrations.

Let’s clear those up. Here are 4 myths about migration that need to be squashed.

Myth #1: I’m Going to Lose All My Content/Data

This is, by far, the most common excuse against migrating. You’re worried all of that precious content and data are going to fall off the ship if you switch ports. And, you’re right to worry. It could… if you don’t migrate correctly. But it’s not inevitable. You can prevent data and content loss. In fact, if you lose data or content, we would consider that a failed migration. In other words, successful migrations keep data and content intact by definition.

Here are some handy-dandy steps you can take to ensure that your precious data doesn’t go overboard during your migration:

  • Crawl your site before migration and use the crawl data to check for URL issues. If you check each URL, you should be able to see any missing content (and fix it!)
  • Keep your existing site stable until you’ve fully migrated.
  • When you migrate, check for duplicate content; plenty of site owners run into the opposite of losing content.

Myth #2: I Have to Invest in a Redesign

You’re migrating; you might as well invest in a redesign, right? Sure! You could. But it’s tricky. When you do a redesign and a migration, you’re no longer just matching URL-to-URL and content-to-content, you’re simultaneously rebuilding your website. Don’t get us wrong; there are advantages. It’s a great time to redesign from an SEO perspective (you’re already going to take a small hit during the migration; more on this in the next section), but it also requires significantly more planning, budget, and time.

If you want to do a redesign-migration, we heavily recommend that you touch base with your design company. You want to work through the kinks and create a best-in-class action plan to tackle any issues that may (or may not) pop up. The entire migration will be structured around the redesign, so it’s important to carefully weigh your options.

Myth #3: Goodbye SEO!

From an SEO perspective, migration sounds like a nightmare. You’ve worked diligently to build up your SEO. What happens when you frolic to a new location? Let’s get this out of the way: your SEO will take a temporary hit. But, it shouldn’t last long. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re moving to another platform because it’s better at handling SEO. For example, Drupal has built-in SEO capabilities (e.g., title-based URL nodes, customizable meta tags, etc.) WordPress does not. Obviously, you can get SEO plugins for WordPress that help you build SEO functionalities, but most of those plugins are also available for Drupal — so Drupal gives you a net gain.

Here’s a secret: migration can help your page rank. After the first awkward week (Google has to recrawl your website, recognize that it’s you, and give you back your ranking), migration can help you build a more powerful SEO framework.

Want to migrate without dumping your SEO overboard? Here are some tips:

  • Update your internal links
  • Benchmark your Google Analytics profile and compare it with your analytics post-migration to look for gaps
  • Keep any old domains and redirect your website
  • Check for broken or duplicate content that could tank your SEO
  • Manage your sitemaps
  • Update any PPC campaigns and ad creatives

Myth #4: You Just Have to “Lift-and-Shift”

There are plenty of myths surrounding the difficulty of migration. But there are also a few myths making migration out to be super easy. And, without a doubt, the most prevalent “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” migration myth is the ever-coveted “lift-and-shift.” There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for migrating websites. Sometimes, it can be as easy as lifting content off of one website and putting it onto another website. But that’s seldom the case.

Generally, you need to set up test servers, check to see if website elements function correctly on the new platform, test out and utilize new CMS features, and a variety of other tasks before you can simply drop content from one place to another. In other words, lift-and-shift may work when you’re migrating a cloud environment, but it often doesn’t work with CMS migration.

Remember, just because everything worked perfectly in one environment doesn’t mean it will in another one. You may have to fix some website elements and carefully construct your new website ecosystem. At the same time, you’ll probably be playing around with the new features available to you on Drupal — so the “lift-and-shift” is usually more of a “lift-and-test-and-shift.”

Do You Need Help With Your Drupal Migration?

At Mobomo, we help private and public entities migrate to Drupal environments using proven migration strategies and best-in-class support. So, whether you’re looking to establish your website in a more secure, SEO-friendly environment or you’re looking to do a redesign-and-migrate, we can help you migrate pain-free. Are you ready to move to a brighter future?

Contact us. We’ve got your back.

Aug 04 2020
Aug 04

argument-open-sourceargument-open-source Like many developers, some of our first websites were built on the backbones of WordPress. It’s the hyper-popular king of content management systems. It has name recognition, an overflowing user base, and plenty of third-party integrations that help cut your development time. But, over the years, we’ve migrated almost exclusively to Drupal. So why did we switch? What is it about Drupal that leaves developers drooling? And why would anyone pick Drupal — which has around 1.3 million users — over WordPress —which has over 400 million users? Today, we’re going to compare David to Goliath. Why is Drupal, the third most active CMS behind WordPress and Joomla, a good choice for businesses looking to build a refreshing, impactful, and feature-rich website?

UNDERSTANDING THE CORE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DRUPAL AND WORDPRESS

By far, the most significant difference between WordPress and Drupal is the overall development need. WordPress is simple. There are hundreds of thousands of third-party plugins that you can leverage to build an entire website with virtually no coding or developing knowledge. And, that’s the single biggest reason that WordPress is so massive. Anyone can build a WordPress site. It’s easy. Drupal requires development. If you want to build a Drupal website, you’re going to have to hire some developers. So, naturally, Drupal has fewer overall users. But, it’s essential to make that distinction. Drupal is built for businesses, public entities, and enterprises. WordPress is built for your everyday website. It’s important to keep this main difference in mind. It’s this difference that resonates throughout these core pillars. And, it’s this core difference that creates pros and cons for each platform.

DRUPAL VS. WORDPRESS: SECURITY, FLEXIBILITY, AND SCALABILITY

We consider security, flexibility, and scalability to be the three primary pillars of a CMS. An amazing designer can make a fantastic template or theme regardless of the CMS. And ease-of-use is relative to your plugins/modules, familiarity with the platform, and overall development capabilities. So those are both highly subjective. Security, flexibility, and scalability aren’t subjective; they are what they are.

SECURITY

WordPress has a security problem. Alone, WordPress accounts for 90% of all hacked websites that use a CMS. There’s a tradeoff that comes with leveraging third-party plugins to build websites. You increase your threat landscape. WPScan Vulnerability Database shows 21,675 vulnerabilities in WordPress’s core and with third-party plugins. This security vulnerability issue has been an ongoing headache for WordPress from the start. If we do a play-by-play, year-over-year of WordPress’s history, we see an ongoing and consistent security issue:

  • 2013: 70% of the top 40,000 most popular WordPress websites were vulnerable to hackers
  • 2014: SoakSoak compromises +100,000 websites, a massive DDOS attack hits 160,000 websites, and All In One SEO Pack puts +19 million sites at risk.
  • 2015: A core vulnerability puts millions of websites at risk, Akismet opens millions of websites to hackers, and YoastSEO puts over 14 million websites in hackers’ crosshairs.
  • 2016: At this point, millions of hacks are happening every week across plugins. Check out this WordFence weekly update during this period.
  • 2017: The hacks continue. The average small business website using WordPress is attacked 44 times a day at this point, and WordPress websites are 2x more likely to be hacked than other CMS.

The list goes on. Year-over-year, more vulnerabilities happen across WordPress. And this is an important point. WordPress has subpar security by design. It’s the tradeoff they made to build an ecosystem that doesn’t require development. We aren’t saying that the core of WordPress is inherently security-stripped. It’s not. But, given the scale, scope, and third-party-fanatic nature of the platform, it’s weak on security by nature. Drupal, on the other hand, is the opposite. Websites require development time, each website is customized to the user, and building a website takes time and patience. The tradeoff is better security. Drupal has built-in enterprise-scale security, and you don’t rely on a hotchpotch of third-party applications to build your website’s functionality. There’s a reason that NASA, the White House, and other government entities use (or used) Drupal. It has better security. We want to take a second to make the distinction. WordPress has a secure core. We would argue that Drupal has a more secure core. But the difference isn’t massive. WordPress’s security vulnerabilities are a product of its reliance on third-party applications to make a functional website.

FLEXIBILITY

WordPress is more flexible than Drupal to some users. And Drupal is more flexible than WordPress to some users. That may sound complicated. But it comes down to your development capabilities. Drupal has more features than WordPress. Its core is filled with rich taxonomies, content blocks, and unique blocks than WordPress. But, if you aren’t experienced, you probably won’t find and/or use many of these functionalities. On the surface, WordPress has more accessible features. At the core, Drupal is the single most feature-rich CMS on the planet. So, for businesses (especially public entities and larger enterprises), Drupal has a more robust architecture to tackle large-scale projects that have hyper-specific needs. For small businesses and personal website owners, WordPress is easier to use and requires far less development experience to tap into its functionalities, features, and flexibility.

SCALABILITY

Drupal has better scalability. This one isn’t a competition. Again, this comes down to the dev-heavy nature of the platform. To scale WordPress websites, you add more plugins. To scale Drupal websites, you develop more. There’s a key practical difference here. Drupal modules, taxonomies, and content blocks all exist in the same ecosystem. Each WordPress plugin is its own micro-ecosystem. So, with WordPress, most users are stringing together a ton of third-party ecosystems in an attempt to create one overarching website. Also, Drupal is built for enterprise-scale projects. So there’s backend support and a large landscape of community support around large-scale projects. WordPress is a catch-all CMS that has a little of everything. If WordPress is a Swiss army knife, Drupal is a custom, hand-forged bread knife — explicitly designed to help you scale, slice, and butter larger projects.

ARE YOU READY TO DEVELOP YOUR PERFECT DRUPAL WEBSITE?

At Mobomo, we specialize in Drupal development projects. Our agile-based team of top-level design, development, and support talent can help you launch and scale your website to fit your unique needs. From NASA to Great Minds, we help private and public entities build dreams and execute visions.

Contact us to learn more.

Jul 30 2020
Jul 30

argument-open-sourceargument-open-source Over 500,000 businesses leverage Drupal to launch their websites and projects. From NASA to Tesla, public and private institutions regularly rely on Drupal to launch large-scale websites capable of handling their development and visual needs. But, starting a Drupal project doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, 14% of all IT projects outright fail, 43% exceed their initial budgets, and 31% fail to meet their original goals! In other words, if you want to create a successful Drupal project, you need to prepare. Don’t worry! We’ve got your back. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when starting a Drupal-based project.

1. GATHER REQUIREMENTS FROM STAKEHOLDERS EARLY AND OFTEN

According to PMI, 39% of projects fail due to inadequate requirements. Believe it or not, requirement gathering is the single most important stage of project development. In fact, it’s the first step Drupal itself takes when pushing out new projects (see this scope document for their technical document project). Gathering requirements may sound easy, but it can be a time-consuming process. We recommend using SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, Time-based) to map out your specific needs. If possible, involve the end-user during this stage. Don’t assume you know what users want; ask them directly. Internally, requirements gathering should rally nearly every stakeholder with hefty amounts of cross-collaboration between departments. You want to lean heavily on data, establish your benchmarks and KPIs early, and try to involve everyone regularly. The single biggest project mistake is acting like requirements are set-in-stone. If you just follow the initial requirements to a “T,” you may push out a poor project. You want to regularly ask questions, communicate issues, and rely on guidance from stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) to guide your project to completion.

2. PLAN YOUR SDLC/WORKFLOW PIPELINE

We all have different development strategies. You may leverage freelancers, a best-in-class agency, or internal devs to execute your Drupal projects. Typically, we see a combination of two of the above. Either way, you have to set some software development lifecycle and workflow standards. This gets complex. On the surface, you should think about coding standards, code flow, databases, and repositories, and all of the other development needs that should be in sync across devs. But there’s also the deeper, more holistic components to consider. Are you going to use agile? Do you have a DevOps strategy? Are you SCRUM-based? Do you practice design and dev sprints? At Mobomo, we use an agile-hybrid development cycle to fail early, iterate regularly, and deploy rapidly. But that’s how we do things. You need to figure out how you want to execute your project. We’ve seen successful Drupal projects using virtually every workflow system out there. The way you work matters, sure. But getting everyone aligned under a specific way of working is more important. You can use the “old-school” waterfall methodology and still push out great projects. However, to do that, you need everyone on the same page.

3. USE SHIFT-LEFT TESTING FOR BUG AND VULNERABILITY DETECTION

Drupal is a secure platform. Of the four most popular content management systems, Drupal is the least hacked. But that doesn’t mean it’s impenetrable. You want to shift-left test (i.e., automate testing early and often in the development cycle). Drupal 8+ has PHPUnit built-in — taking the place of SimpleTest. You can use this to quickly test out code. You can perform unit tests, kernel tests, and functional tests with and without JavaScript. You can also use Nightwatch.js to run tests. Of course, you may opt for third-party automation solutions (e.g., RUM, synthetic user monitoring, etc.) The important thing is that you test continuously. There are three primary reasons that shift-left testing needs to be part of your development arsenal.

  • It helps prevent vulnerabilities. The average cost of a data breach is over $3 million. And it takes around 300 days to identify and contain website breaches.
  • It bolsters the user experience. A 100-millisecond delay in page load speed drops conversions by 7%. Meanwhile, 75% of users judge your credibility by your website’s design and performance, and 39% of users will stop engaging with your website if your images take too long to load. In other words, simple glitches can result in massive issues.
  • It reduces development headaches. Nothing is worse than developing out completely new features only to discover an error that takes you back to step 1.

4. GET HYPER-FAMILIAR WITH DRUPAL’S API

If you want to build amazing Drupal projects, you need to familiarize yourself with the Drupal REST API. This may sound like obvious advice. But understanding how Drupal’s built-in features, architecture, and coding flow can help you minimize mistakes and maximize your time-to-launch. The last thing you want to do is code redundantly when Drupal may automate some of that coding on its end. For more information on Drupal’s API and taxonomy, see Drupal API. We know! If you’re using Drupal, you probably have a decent idea of what its API looks like. But make sure that you understand all of its core features to avoid headaches and redundancies.

5. SET STANDARDS

Every development project needs standards. There are a million ways to build a website or app. But you can’t use all of those million ways together. You don’t want half of your team using Drupal’s built-in content builder and the other half using Gutenberg. Everyone should be on the same page. This goes for blocks, taxonomy, and every other coding need and task you’re going to accomplish. You need coding standards, software standards, and process standards to align your team to a specific framework. You can develop standards incrementally, but they should be shared consistently across teams. Ideally, you’ll build a standard for everything. From communication to development, testing, launching, and patching, you should have set-in-stone processes. In the past, this was less of an issue. But, with every developer rushing to agile, sprint-driven methodologies, it can be easy to lose sight of standards in favor of speed. Don’t let that happen. Agile doesn’t mean “willy-nilly” coding and development for the fastest possible launch. It still has to be systematic. Standards allow you to execute faster and smarter across your development pipeline.

NEED SOME HELP?

At Mobomo, we build best-in-class Drupal projects for brands across the globe. From NASA to UGS, we’ve helped private, and public entities launch safe, secure, and exciting Drupal solutions. Are you looking for a partner with fresh strategies and best-of-breed agile-driven development practices?

Contact us. Let’s build your dream project — together.

Jul 10 2020
Jul 10

argument-open-sourceargument-open-source

When you first sit down to create your Drupal website, you have plenty of decisions to make. What are your first blog posts going to be? What kinds of marketing materials do you need to help your website convert? What is your SEO strategy to boost your SERP position? These are all important, and we highly recommend that you consider each point before you launch your first website.

But those are details. The most significant decision you’re going to make is what theme you’ll use. Think of your theme as the building block of your website. It’s how users are going to perceive your site, interpret your content, and engage with your products or services. You want a beautiful, interactive, intuitive, and easy-to-browse website that pushes customers to think, engage, and consume your rich creatives.

Here’s the problem: there are thousands of Drupal themes. When you first look through the avalanche of bright colors, minimal panes, and unique content configurations, it can be dizzying. How do you pick a theme with that certain something that sets you apart? 

Here are some criteria to help you sift through the tsunami of designs on the market.

How Important is Your Drupal Theme, Really?

At some point, you need to pull the trigger. But how soon should you go with your gut instinct? After all, is picking the “perfect” theme really that important? In today’s hyper-redundant theme ecosystem, it’s easy to think that website design is a secondary factor in your website build process. Many websites today have eerily similar themes, and you may be looking to copy-paste that minimalist, white-space-heavy style that your competitors probably use.

Don’t make the mistake of minimizing the importance of the theme. Your competitors may use cookie-cutter themes, but you shouldn’t. Here’s why:

  • 38% of people will flat out refuse to engage with a website if its looks aren’t appealing to them.
  • 88% of people won’t return to your website ever again after a single bad experience.
  • 75% of customers make a judgment call on your brand’s credibility based on your website design.
  • Given 15 minutes to read content, people would rather view something beautifully designed than something plain-looking.
  • 94% of negative feedback regarding your website will be design related.

In other words, your customers are going to judge the efficacy of your brand based on your website’s design. Remember the phrase, “first impressions are everything.” Well, 94% of first impressions are based on design—you want something stunning. Obviously, design is still a highly personal experience. Some people like quirky and weird, some like minimal and smooth, and others like aggressive and animation heavy. It depends on your end user and who you are as a brand.

So how do you go about picking the right one? After all, there’s a lot at stake. Your theme is going to be the first thing customers see when they click on your website. Here are the three core components of website themes you should consider before you make your choice.

1. Your Brand’s Identity

We all know that branding is a big deal. 89% of marketers say that branding is their top goal, and branding is the first thing that 89% of investors look at when deciding whether or not to open their wallets. So, when it comes to your design, brand should be front-of-mind. Who is your company? What does it stand for? And, most all, what does it look like?

Your Drupal theme is a powerful branding tool. Every single component of your website is an opportunity for branding. We could get overly complicated diving into website branding, but we’ll stick with the simple stuff. Let’s talk about color. Seems simple enough, right? Check this out:

  • Color alone improves brand recognition by 80%.
  • 93% of people focus on your brand’s color when buying products.
  • When people make subconscious decisions about your product, 90% of that decision is related to color.

Ok! So color is obviously important. But what about all the other “stuff” on your website? Does the position of content boxes, navigation menu, and blog posts really matter? You bet! Consistent brand representation across content boosts bottom-line profits by 33% on average. And 80% of people think content is what drives them to really engage and build loyalty with brands.

In a nutshell, think about branding when you look at themes. 90% of users expect you to have consistent branding across all channels. If you can’t find a theme that screams, “you,” that’s ok! If you can’t find one, build one.

2. Performance

The theme you choose will have a direct impact on your website’s performance. Unnecessary components, visual clutter, and poor frontend coding can all increase load times and disrupt website accessibility. Obviously, some of your performance capabilities happen on the backend (e.g., caching, DB Query optimization, MySQL settings, etc.) But your theme still has a sizable effect on how your website performs.

Overly large CSS files, redundant coding for modules, blank spaces, and other issues can all increase time-to-load, create visual issues, and create stop-points for your users. To be clear, performance is a significant component in both lead generation and retention:

  • A 100-millisecond delay drops conversions by 7%.
  • Increasing the number of page elements from 400 to 6,000 drops conversion rates by 95%.
  • 79% of shoppers that encounter a website with poor performance will never return.

Always test out themes for performance. The aesthetic qualities of a website are important, but performance is a necessity.

3. UX

We like to call UX the “hidden performance.” It’s how your users will engage with and consume content throughout your website. The theme you pick will dictate a significant portion of your UX. Before you choose a theme, build out your information architecture strategy, create mockups for UI (or at least find UI examples that you enjoy), and plot out your broad content strategy. Then, choose a theme that compliments your strategy and information architecture.

Here’s the most important thing: always evolve your UX. Consider applying agile to your theme building and choosing practices. Even after you select the right theme, constantly make improvements to your UI/UX to breed consistency and customer-centricity. You can purchase a pre-made theme on the Drupal marketplace, but you still need to customize the theme to fit your brand and conform to your UX framework. You don’t want to choose a cookie-cutter theme on the marketplace and fail to maximize its value. Not only will your website look nearly identical to thousands of other Drupal sites, but you also won’t truly build an experience-driven website. Give your customers home-cooked steak and potatoes—not a microwaved frozen dinner.

Are You Looking for the Perfect Drupal Theme?

If you want a theme that’s hyper-branded, built for performance, and created using brand-specific information architecture, you won’t find it on a pre-built theme website. You need to create it. At Mobomo, we help public and private entities create breathtaking Drupal themes specifically for their brand and their users. Let’s build your brand something amazing.

Contact us to learn more.

Jul 08 2020
Jul 08

argument-open-sourceargument-open-source

Businesses and governments build websites for one reason: to provide value to their users. But what if your website was incapable of reaching millions of your users? 25% of Americans live with disabilities. For some of them, the simple act of navigating websites, digesting information, and understanding your content is difficult. Yet, despite brands increasing spending on web design and digital marketing, less than 10% of websites actually follow accessibility standards. Businesses are spending significant money to capture an audience, yet they’re not ensuring that their audience can engage with their website.

It’s a problem—a big one.

You don’t want to exclude customers. It’s bad for business, and it’s bad for your brand. Better yet, accessibility features help improve your SEO, reduce your website complexity, and increase your ability to connect with your loyal audience. But accessibility standards aren’t always baked into the architecture of websites.

Luckily, there are some content management systems (CMS) that let you create hyper-accessible websites without even trying. Drupal comes equipped with a variety of accessibility features — each of which helps make your website more accessible for your customers.

Understanding the Importance of Website Accessibility

Creating an accessible website may sound vague, but there’s already a worldwide standard you can follow. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) — which is maintained by The World Wide Web Consortium — is the global standard for web accessibility used by companies, governments, and merchants across the world.

Sure! Following the WCAG standard helps you reach a wider audience. But it also keeps you out of legal hot water. Not only has the ADA made it abundantly clear that compliance requires website accessibility. A United States District Court in Florida ruled that WCAG standards are the de facto standards of web accessibility. And there are already cases of businesses getting sued for failing to adhere to them.

  • The DOJ sues H&R Block over its website’s accessibility.
  • WinnDixie.com was sued for accessibility, and the judge required them to update their website.
  • The National Museum of Crime and Punishment was required to update its website accessibility.

The list goes on. Adhering to WCAG web accessibility standards helps protect your brand against litigation. But, more importantly, it opens doors to millions of customers who need accessibility to navigate and engage with your amazing content.

One-third of individuals over the age of 65 have hearing loss. Around 15% of Americans struggle with vision loss. And millions have issues with mobility. The CDC lists six forms of disability:

  • Mobility (difficulty walking or climbing)
  • Cognition (difficult remembering, making decisions, or concentrating)
  • Hearing (difficulty hearing)
  • Vision (difficulty seeing)
  • Independent living (difficulty doing basic errands)
  • Self-care (difficulty bathing, dressing, or taking care of yourself)

Web accessibility touches all of those types of disabilities. For those with trouble seeing, screen readers help them comprehend websites. But, screen readers strip away the CSS layer. Your core content has to be accessible for them to be able to comprehend it. Those with mobility issues may need to use keyboard shortcuts to help them navigate your website. Hearing-impaired individuals may require subtitles and captions. Those with cognitive issues may need your website to be built with focusable elements and good contrasting.

There are many disabilities. WCAG creates a unified guideline that helps government entities and businesses build websites that are hyper-accessible to people with a wide range of these disabilities.

Drupal is WCAG-compliant

WCAG is vast. A great starting point is the Accessibility Principles document. But, creating an accessible website doesn’t have to be a time-consuming and expensive process. Drupal has an entire team dedicated to ensuring that their platform is WCAG compliant. In fact, Drupal is both WCAG 2.0 compliant and Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG 2.0) compliant. The latter deals with the tools developers use to build websites. So, Drupal has accessibility compliance on both ends.

What Accessibility Features Does Drupal Have?

Drupal’s accessibility compliance comes in two forms:

  1. Drupal has built-in compliance features that are native to every install (7+).
  2. Drupal supports and enables the community to develop accessibility modules.

Drupal’s Built-in Compliance Features

Drupal 7+ comes native with semantic markup. To keep things simple, semantic markup helps clarify the context of content. At Mobomo, we employ some of the best designers and website developers on the planet. So, we could make bad HTML markup nearly invisible to the average user with rich CSS and superb visuals. But when people use screen readers or other assistive technology, that CSS goes out-of-the-window. They’re looking at the core HTML markup. And if it’s not semantic, they may have a difficult time navigating it. With Drupal, markup is automatically semantic — which breeds comprehension for translation engines, search engines, and screen readers.

Drupal’s accessibility page also notes some core changes made to increase accessibility. These include things such as color contrasting. WCAG requires that color contrasting be at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 7:1 for enhanced contrast. Drupal complies with those guidelines. Many other changes are on the developer side, such as drag and drop functions and automated navigation buttons.

Of course, Drupal also provides developer handbooks, theming guides, and instructional PDFs for developers. Some of the accessibility is done on the developer’s end, so it’s important to work with a developer who leverages accessibility during their design process.

Drupal’s Support for the Accessibility Community

In addition to following WCAG guidelines, Drupal supports community-driven modules that add additional accessibility support. Here are a few examples of Drupal modules that focus on accessibility:

There are hundreds. The main thing to remember is that Drupal supports both back-end, front-end, and community-driven accessibility. And they’ve committed to continuously improving their accessibility capabilities over time. Drupal’s most recent update — the heavily anticipated Drupal 9 — carries on this tradition. Drupal has even announced that Drupal 10 will continue to expand upon accessibility.

Do You Want to Build an Accessible Website

Drupal is on the cutting-edge of CMS accessibility. But they can’t make you accessible alone. You need to build your website from the ground up to comply with accessibility. A good chunk of the responsibility is in the hands of your developer. Are you looking to build a robust, functional, beautiful, and accessible website? 

Contact us. We’ll help you expand your reach.

Apr 01 2020
Apr 01

argument-open-sourceargument-open-source

Back in 2013, when I first joined Mobomo, we migrated NASA.gov from a proprietary content management system (CMS) to Amazon Cloud and Drupal 7. It goes without saying, but there was a lot riding on getting it right. The NASA site had to handle high traffic and page views each day, without service interruptions, and the new content management system had to accommodate a high volume of content updates each day. In addition to having no room for compromise on performance and availability, the site also had to have a high level of security. 

Maybe the biggest challenge, though, was laying the groundwork to achieve NASA’s vision for a website with greater usability and enhanced user experiences. If NASA’s audience all fell into the same demographic, that goal probably wouldn’t have seemed so intimidating, but NASA’s audience includes space fans who range from scientists to elementary school kids. 

Our mission was to create a mobile-first site that stayed true to NASA’s brand and spoke to all of the diverse members of its audience. A few years later, we relaunched a user-centric site that directed visitors from a dynamic home page to microsites designed specifically for them.

Making Space Seem Not So Far Away

NASA.gov includes data on its missions, past and present. To make this massive amount of data more user-friendly, we worked with NASA to design a site that’s easily searchable, navigable, and enhanced through audio, video, social media feeds, and calendars. Users can find updates on events via features such as the countdown clock to the International Space Station’s 20th anniversary. NASA.gov users can also easily find what they need if they want to research space technology, stream NASA TV, or explore image galleries. 

The NASA.gov site directs its younger visitors to a STEM engagement microsite where students can find activities appropriate for their grade level. The site also includes the NASA Kids’ Club where students can have some fun while they’re learning about exploration. For example, they can try their hands at virtually driving a rover on Mars, play games, and download activities. 

Older students with space-related aspirations can learn about internship and career opportunities, and teachers can access lesson plans and STEM resources.

How to Make it Happen

To successfully achieve NASA’s goals and manage a project this complex, we had to choose the right approach. Some website projects are tailor-made for a simple development plan that moves from a concept to design, construction, testing, and implementation in a structured, linear way. The NASA.gov project, however, wasn’t one of them.

For this website and the vast majority of the sites we develop, our team follows DevOps methodology. With DevOps, you don’t silo development from operations. Our DevOps culture brings together all stakeholders to collaborate throughout the process to achieve:

Faster Deployment

If we had to build the entire site then take it live, it would have taken much longer for NASA and its users to have a new resource. We built the site in stages, validating at every stage. By developing in iterations, and involving the entire team, we also have the ability to address small issues rather than waiting until they create major ones. It also gives us more agility to address changes and keep everyone informed. This prevents errors that could put the brakes on the entire project.

Optimized Design

NASA.gov has several Webby Awards, and award-winning web design takes a team that works together and collaborates with the organization to define the audience (or audiences), optimize the site’s navigation and usability, and strike a balance between the site’s primary purpose and its appeal. 

Mobile-First

Because NASA.gov users may be accessing the site from a PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other device, it was also pivotal to use mobile-first design. Mobile-first starts by designing for the smallest screens first, and then work your way up to larger screens. This approach forces you to build a strong foundation first, then enhance it as screen sizes increase. It basically allows you to ensure user experiences are optimized for any size device. 

Scalability

NASA.gov wasn’t only a goliath website when we migrated it to Amazon Cloud and Drupal. We knew it would continue to grow. Designing the site with microsites that organize content, help visitors find the content that is most relevant to their interests, and enhance usability and UX informed a plan for future growth. 

Efficient Development Processes

DevOps Methodology breaks down barriers between developers and other stakeholders, automates processes, makes coding and review processes more efficient, and enables continuous testing. Even though we work in iterations, our team maintains a big-picture view of projects, such as addressing integrations, during the development process. 

Planned Post-Production

DevOps also helps us cover all the bases to prepare for launch and to build in management tools for ongoing site maintenance. 

What Your Business Can Learn from NASA

You probably never thought about it, but your business or organization has a lot in common with NASA, at least when it comes to your website. Just like NASA, you need a website that gives you the ability to handle a growing digital audience, reliably and securely. You’re probably also looking for the best CMS for your website, one that’s cost-effective and gives you the features you need.

Your website should also be designed to be usable and to provide the user experiences your audience wants. And, with the number of mobile phone users in the world topping 5 billion, you want to make sure their UX is optimized with mobile-first design. 

NASA’s project is also an illustration of how building your website in stages, getting input from all stakeholders, and validating and testing each step of the way can lead to great results. You also need a plan for launching the site with minimal disruption and tools that will make ongoing management and maintenance easier. 

You probably want to know you are doing everything you can to make your content appealing, engaging, and interactive. You may think NASA has an advantage in that department since NASA’s content is inherently exciting to its audience.

But so is yours. Create a website that showcases it. Not sure where to begin? Click here and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Mar 12 2020
Mar 12

argument-open-sourceargument-open-source

If you engaged in a word association game, one of the first things people would respond when you say “open source” is that it’s free. If any of those people are in the position of purchasing software licenses for a business or organization, that makes open source (a.k.a., free) definitely a benefit worth exploring. Open source has the potential to save thousands of dollars or more, depending on the software and the size of the organization. 

Even though eliminating a budget line item for licensing costs may be enough to convince some organizations that open source is the way to go, it’s actually only one of several compelling reasons to migrate from proprietary platforms to open-source architecture. 

In a debate on open-source vs. licensed platforms, the affirmative argument will include these four, additional points: 

Development Freedom

When businesses provide workstations for their employees, they choose (often inadvertently) the framework on which their organizations operate. For example, if a business buys Dell computers, it will operate within the Microsoft Windows framework. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A business with limited IT and development resources won’t have to worry about how to keep its operating system working or whether business applications or security solutions are available. Microsoft has a line of solutions and partnerships that can provide what they’re looking for. 

With a system built on an open-source platform, on the other hand, it may take more resources and work to keep it running and secure, but it gives developers the freedom to do exactly what the end user needs. You aren’t limited by what a commercial platform enables you to do. 

In some markets, foregoing the status quo for developmental freedom sounds like risk. It’s a major reason that government users lag behind the commercial space in technology. They’re committed to the old systems that they know are robust, secure, and predictable at budget time — even though they’re outdated. When those organizations take a closer look, however, they quickly realize they can negate development costs through greater visibility, efficiency, and productivity that a platform that specifically supports their operations can provide. 

Open-source platforms are also hardware agnostic, giving organizations more latitude when it comes to the computers, mobile devices, and tools they can use, rather than being locked into limited, sometimes expensive, options for hardware. 

Moreover, development freedom delivers more ROI than merely decreasing current costs. Open-source platforms give developers the freedom to customize systems and innovate. If your system enabled you to expand your reach, better control labor costs, and support new revenue streams, what impact could that have on your business?

Interoperability

Enterprises and manufacturers have traditionally guarded their proprietary systems, which gave them an edge in their markets and control over complementary solutions and peripherals end users needed. Those same proprietary systems, however, could now be a business liability. Many markets are moving toward open source to provide greater interoperability, and businesses continuing to use proprietary platforms will increasingly be viewed as less desirable partners. 

Military avionics is a prime example. This industry is migrating to the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Technical Standard. Administered by the FACE Consortium, this open standard aims to give the U.S. Department of Defense the ability to acquire systems more easily and affordably and to integrate them more quickly and efficiently.  

You’ll also find a preference for open-source architecture in some segments of the tech industry as well, such as robotics. The Robot Operation System (ROS) is a set of open resources of tools, libraries, and conventions that standardizes how robots communicate and share information. ROS simplifies the time-consuming work of creating robotic behaviors, and ROS 2 takes that objective further by giving industrial robot developers support for multirobot systems, safety, and security. 

As Internet of Things (IoT) technology adoption grows, more operations are experiencing roadblocks connecting legacy equipment and enabling the free flow of data — which open-source architecture can overcome. Furthermore, IoT based on open-source components allow networks to expand beyond the four walls of a facility to connect with business partners, the supply chain, and end users. The Linux Foundation’s Zephyr Project, for example, promotes open-source, real-time operating systems (RTOS) that enables developers to build secure, manageable systems more easily and quickly. 

Faster Time to Market

Open source projects can also move more quickly than developing on a proprietary platform. You may be at the mercy of the vendor during the development process if you require assistance, and certifying hardware or applications occur on their timelines. 

That process moves much more quickly in an open source community. Additionally, members of the community share. Some of the best developers in the industry work on these platforms and often make their work available to other developers so they don’t need to start from scratch to include a feature or function their end user requires. A modular system can include components that these developers have created, tested, and proven — and that have fewer bugs than a newly developed prototype. 

Developers, using prebuilt components and leveraging an open source community’s expertise, can help you deploy your next system more quickly than starting from ground zero. 

Business Flexibility

Open-source architecture also gives a business or organization advantages beyond the IT department. With open source, you have more options. The manager of a chain of resorts facing budget cuts, for example, could more easily find ways to decrease operating expenses if her organization’s system runs on an open-source platform. A chain that operates on a commercial platform, however, may have to find other options, such as reducing staff with lay-offs.  

Open source architecture also decreases vendor lock-in. In a world that’s changing at a faster and faster pace, basing your systems open-source architecture gives you options if a vendor’s company is acquired and product quality, customer service, and prices change. It also gives you flexibility if industry standards or regulations require that you add new features or capabilities that your vendor doesn’t provide, decreasing the chances you’ll need to rip and replace your IT system.

The Price of Open Source

To be perfectly honest in the open source vs. commercial platform debate, we have to admit there is a cost associated with using these platforms. They can’t exist without their communities’ contributions of time, talent, and support. 

At Mobomo, for example, we’re an active part of the Drupal open-source content management system (CMS) platform. Our developers are among the more than 1 million members of this community that have contributed more than 30,000 modules. We also take the opportunity to speak at Drupal community events and give back to the community in other ways. 

Regardless of how much we contribute to the community, however, it’s never exceeded the payback. It’s enabled lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for us and our clients, saving millions of dollars in operating expenses. It has ramped up our ability to create and innovate. It’s also allowed us to help build more viable organizations and valuable partnerships. 

The majority of our industry agrees with us. The State of Enterprise Open Source report in 2019 from Red Hat asked nearly 1,000 IT leaders around the world how strategically important open source is to an enterprises’ infrastructure software plans. Among respondents, 69 percent reported that it is extremely important, citing top benefits as lower TCO, access to innovation, security, higher-quality software, support, and the freedom to customize. 

Only 1 percent of survey respondents said it wasn’t important at all. 

Which side of the open-source vs. commercial platforms argument do you come down on?

Contact us to drop us a line and tell us about your project.

Feb 27 2020
Feb 27

You’re having trouble keeping up with demand and need a more powerful and robust website platform.

As business problems go, that’s a great one to have. Especially for enterprise-grade organizations and government entities. The question is: Which website platform is best?

To help you make informed decisions about your platform choice, we’re sharing a look at what Acquia has to offer. In this post, you’ll learn what Acquia is and how it works, who should consider using the platform and who should not. Then you’ll read our thoughts on what should be top of mind when selecting a platform.

Full disclosure: Mobomo is an Acquia partner organization, meaning we help clients make the most of their Acquia technology and services. Far from being a hard sell, however, this post aims solely to provide expert analysis and an honest assessment of the company and its products.

What Acquia Is and How It Works

Acquia is considered a digital experience platform (DXP), which is a collection or suite of products that work in concert to manage and optimize the user’s digital experience. These products can include a CRM, analytics, commerce applications, content management and more.

In its industry report on DXPs, Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms, Gartner defines a digital experience platform as “an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery and optimization of contextualized digital experiences…Leaders have ample ability to support a variety of DXP use cases and consistently meet customers’ needs over substantial periods. Leaders have delivered significant product innovation in pursuit of DXP requirements and have been successful in selling to new customers across industries.”

Organizations use DXPs to build, deploy and improve websites, portals, mobile and other digital experiences. They combine and coordinate applications, including content management, search and navigation, personalization, integration and aggregation, collaboration, workflow, analytics, mobile and multichannel support.

Acquia is one of the major players in this space, and the only one designed solely for Drupal.

Acquia co-founder Dries Buytaert was in graduate school in 2000 when he created the first Drupal content management framework. Buytaert and Jay Batson then established Acquia in 2007 to provide infrastructure, support and services to enterprise organizations that use Drupal.

Features and Benefits of Acquia

Acquia initially offered managed cloud hosting and fine-tuned services for Drupal. It has since expanded on its Drupal foundation to offer a complete DXP, including but not limited to:

  • Acquia Cloud: Provides Drupal hosting, development tools, hosting services and enterprise grade security.
  • Acquia Lightning: An open source Drupal 8 distribution with preselected modules and configuration to help developers build sites and run them on Acquia Cloud.
  • Acquia Digital Asset Management: A cloud-based digital asset management tool and central library for Drupal sites.
  • Acquia Commerce Manager: Provides a secure and flexible platform for content-rich experiential commerce.
  • Mautic: A marketing automation platform that enables organizations to send and personalize multi-channel communications at scale.
  • Acquia Journey: An omnichannel tool that allows marketers to listen and learn from customers to craft a sequence of personalized touchpoints and trigger what they will see next.

Additionally, Acquia provides comprehensive logging, performance metrics, security and Drupal application insights, and uptime alerts organizations need to monitor and optimize applications.

The Acquia platform also shines in its security capabilities, supporting strict compliance programs such as FedRAMP, HIPAA, and PCI, among others. Acquia customers can also internally manage teams at scale with advanced teams and permissions capabilities.

And they’re running with the big dogs. Other DXP companies assessed in the Gartner Magic Quadrants report include Adobe, IBM, Salesforce, Liferay, SAP, Adobe, Microsoft and Oracle.

In that report, Gartner cited Acquia’s key strengths as follows:

  • Acquia Experience Cloud offers a wide array of capabilities well-suited to support the B2C use case. Some clients also use it for B2B and B2E use cases.
  • The open-source community behind Acquia, which is the main contributor to the underlying Drupal WCM system, is highly active and well-supported by the vendor.
  • Acquia’s partner ecosystem continues to grow, offering choices to clients looking for expertise in specific verticals and availability in specific regions.

Who Should Consider Acquia

In a nutshell, Acquia is a good fit for enterprise-grade clients and government entities needing a comprehensive and powerful platform that optimizes the entire user experience while integrating data from multiple sources to support decision-making. Organizations that deploy and manage multiple websites will find Acquia particularly helpful.

One glance at Acquia’s customer page crystalizes the scope and scale of organizations they serve. Brands using Acquia include Wendy’s, ConAgra Brands, University of Virginia, City of Rancho Cucamonga in California and Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy.

According to Website Planet, what sets Acquia apart is their foundation in the open-source Drupal content management framework. Unlike many of their competitors, Acquia allows customers to buy resources and features individually rather than purchasing entire pre-made packages. This can be particularly appealing to organizations who already have a couple of strong individual solutions in place that they want to integrate into their DXP, such as this reviewer in the manufacturing industry:

“A few things drove me to this solution: Decoupled architecture that allowed me to build a completely distributed digital landscape while keeping central control, The Open Platform concept that allowed me to build my own integrations and connect different components of my existing Martech stack without always using the “default” provided options and the comfort/security of relying on a cloud-based solution with full service support on top.

For e-commerce website owners, Acquia’s packages provide a PCI DSS compliant solution that can easily scale to accommodate extensive product catalogs, large transaction volumes and surges in traffic. Acquia’s proprietary e-commerce manager integrates the various content, commerceand user interfaces, allowing you to provide seamless experiences to your customers through a single system.”

Who Should Not Consider Acquia

Acquia is best suited for organizations with both the need for such a powerful suite of tools and the development expertise to easily implement and manage it. Beginners and small businesses lacking the requisite knowledge of programming and Drupal are likely better off with a different provider.

For those who develop their website through an agency, you’ll want to double-check that they will provide developers experienced with Drupal 8. If you do develop in-house, make sure your developers have strong familiarity with it.

Additionally, Acquia’s power comes at a price: Its price point may put it out of reach for small-to-medium businesses.

Acquia: Our Takeaway

As with any other significant investment, the best choice for your organization boils down to your wants and needs of you, the consumer. Keep these points in mind assessing how well Acquia matches up with your master list of must-haves.

  • Determine your desired business outcome. Think about what you’re after in terms of improving the business. What does each DXP offer and can you make the most of every feature you’re paying for?
  • Know your stack. Document your current technology architecture: what do you have, who uses it, for what and how is it connected?
  • Determine use cases. Who will use your technology and how will it make them productive?
  • Prepare your people. Your personnel play a massive role in assembling your digital experience technology stack. Don’t set yourself up to spend time and money on a platform that doesn’t get adopted or used to its potential.

By conducting a thorough assessment of your organization’s needs, capabilities, and goals, you can readily determine whether Acquia is the best fit to help you provide an amazing digital experience for your audience.

Contact us today and find out how Mobomo can help you make the most of Acquia.

Jul 15 2015
Jul 15

Regardless of industry, staff size, and budget, many of today’s organizations have one thing in common: they’re demanding the best content management systems (CMS) to build their websites on. With requirement lists that can range from 10 to 100 features, an already short list of “best CMS options” shrinks even further once “user-friendly”, “rapidly-deployable”, and “cost-effective” are added to the list.

There is one CMS, though, that not only meets the core criteria of ease-of-use, reasonable pricing, and flexibility, but a long list of other valuable features, too: Drupal.

With Drupal, both developers and non-developer admins can deploy a long list of robust functionalities right out-of-the-box. This powerful, open source CMS allows for easy content creation and editing, as well as seamless integration with numerous 3rd party platforms (including social media and e-commerce). Drupal is highly scalable, cloud-friendly, and highly intuitive. Did we mention it’s effectively-priced, too?

In our “Why Drupal?” 3-part series, we’ll highlight some features (many which you know you need, and others which you may not have even considered) that make Drupal a clear front-runner in the CMS market.

For a personalized synopsis of how your organization’s site can be built on or migrated to Drupal with amazing results, grab a free ticket to Drupal GovCon 2015 where you can speak with one of our site migration experts for free, or contact us through our website.

_______________________________

SEO + Social Networking:

Unlike other content software, Drupal does not get in the way of SEO or social networking. By using a properly built theme–as well as add-on modules–a highly optimized site can be created. There are even modules that will provide an SEO checklist and monitor the site’s SEO performance. The Metatags module ensures continued support for the latest metatags used by various social networking sites when content is shared from Drupal.

SEO Search Engine Optimization, Ranking algorithmSEO Search Engine Optimization, Ranking algorithm

E-Commerce:

Drupal Commerce is an excellent e-commerce platform that uses Drupal’s native information architecture features. One can easily add desired fields to products and orders without having to write any code. There are numerous add-on modules for reports, order workflows, shipping calculators, payment processors, and other commerce-based tools.

E-Commerce-SEO-–-How-to-Do-It-RightE-Commerce-SEO-–-How-to-Do-It-Right

Search:

Drupal’s native search functionality is strong. There is also a Search API module that allows site managers to build custom search widgets with layered search capabilities. Additionally, there are modules that enable integration of third-party search engines, such as Google Search Appliance and Apache Solr.

Third-Party Integration:

Drupal not only allows for the integration of search engines, but a long list of other tools, too. The Feeds module allows Drupal to consume structured data (for example, .xml and .json) from various sources. The consumed content can be manipulated and presented just like content that is created natively in Drupal. Content can also be exposed through a RESTful API using the Services module. The format and structure of the exposed content is also highly configurable, and requires no programming.

Taxonomy + Tagging:

Taxonomy and tagging are core Drupal features. The ability to create categories (dubbed “vocabularies” by Drupal) and then create unlimited terms within that vocabulary is connected to the platform’s robust information architecture. To make taxonomy even easier, Drupal even provides a drag-n-drop interface to organize the terms into a hierarchy, if needed. Content managers are able to use vocabularies for various functions, eliminating the need to replicate efforts. For example, a vocabulary could be used for both content tagging and making complex drop-down lists and user groups, or even building a menu structure.

YS43PYS43P

Workflows:

There are a few contributor modules that provide workflow functionality in Drupal. They all provide common functionality along with unique features for various use cases. The most popular options are Maestro and Workbench.

Security:

Drupal has a dedicated security team that is very quick to react to vulnerabilities that are found in Drupal core as well as contributed modules. If a security issue is found within a contrib module, the security team will notify the module maintainer and give them a deadline to fix it. If the module does not get fixed by the deadline, the security team will issue an advisory recommending that the module be disabled, and will also classify the module as unsupported.

Cloud, Scalability, and Performance:

Drupal’s architecture makes it incredibly “cloud friendly”. It is easy to create a Drupal site that can be setup to auto-scale (i.e., add more servers during peak traffic times and shut them down when not needed). Some modules integrate with cloud storage such as S3. Further, Drupal is built for caching. By default, Drupal caches content in the database for quick delivery; support for other caching mechanisms (such as Memcache) can be added to make the caching lightning fast.

cloud-computingcloud-computing

Multi-Site Deployments:

Drupal is architected to allow for multiple sites to share a single codebase. This feature is built-in and, unlike WordPress, it does not require any cumbersome add-ons. This can be a tremendous benefit for customers who want to have multiple sites that share similar functionality. There are few–if any–limitations to a multi-site configuration. Each site can have its own modules and themes that are completely separate from the customer’s other sites.

Want to know other amazing functionalities that Drupal has to offer? Stay tuned for the final installment of our 3-part “Why Drupal?” series!

Jul 07 2010
Jul 07

Alfresco wants to be a best-in-class repository for you to build your content-centric applications on top of. Interest in NOSQL repositories seems to be growing, with many large well-known sites choosing non-relational back-ends. Are Alfresco (and, more generally, nearly all ECM and WCM vendors) on a collision course with NOSQL?

First, let’s look at what Alfresco’s been up to lately. Over the last year or so, Alfresco has been shifting to a “we’re for developers” strategy in several ways:

  • Repositioning their Web Content Management offering not as a non-technical end-user tool, but as a tool for web application developers
  • Backing off of their mission to squash Microsoft SharePoint, positioning Alfresco Share instead as “good enough” collaboration. (Remember John Newton’s slide showing Microsoft as the Death Star and Alfresco as the Millenium Falcon? I think Han Solo has decided to take the fight elsewhere.)
  • Making Web Scripts, Surf, and Web Studio part of the Spring Framework.
  • Investing heavily in the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard. The investment is far-reaching–Alfresco is an active participant in the OASIS specification itself, has historically been first-to-market with their CMIS implementation, and has multiple participants in CMIS-related open source projects such as Apache Chemistry.

They’ve also been making changes to the core product to make it more scalable (“Internet-scalable” is the stated goal). At a high level, they are disaggregating major Alfresco sub-systems so they can be scaled independently and in some cases removing bottlenecks present in the core infrastructure. Here are a few examples. Some of these are in progress and others are still on the roadmap:

  • Migrating away from Hibernate, which Alfresco Engineers say is currently a limiting factor
  • Switching from “Lucene for everything” to “Lucene for full-text and SQL for metadata search”
  • Making Lucene a separate search server process (presumably clusterable)
  • Making OpenOffice, which is used for document transformations, clusterable
  • Hiring Tom Baeyens (JBoss jBPM founder) and starting the Activiti BPMN project (one of their goals is “cloud scalability from the ground, up”)

So for Alfresco it is all about being an internet-scalable repository that is standards-compliant and has a rich toolset that makes it easy for you to use Alfresco as the back-end of your content-centric applications. Hold that thought for a few minutes while we turn our attention to NOSQL for a moment. Then, like a great rug, I’ll tie the whole room together.

NOSQL Stores

A NOSQL (“Not Only SQL”) store is a repository that does not use a relational database for persistence. There are many different flavors (document-oriented, key-value, tabular), and a number of different implementations. I’ll refer mostly to MongoDB and CouchDB in this post, which are two examples of document-oriented stores. In general, NOSQL stores are:

  • Schema-less. Need to add an “author” field to your “article”? Just add it–it’s as easy as setting a property value. The repository doesn’t care that the other articles in your repository don’t have an author field. The repository doesn’t know what an “article” is, for that matter.
  • Eventually consistent instead of guaranteed consistent. At some point, all replicas in a given cluster will be fully up-to-date. If a replica can’t get up-to-date, it will remove itself from the cluster.
  • Easily replicate-able. It’s very easy to instantiate new server nodes and replicate data between them and, in some cases, to horizontally partition the same database across multiple physical nodes (“sharding”).
  • Extremely scalable. These repositories are built for horizontal scaling so you can add as many nodes as you need. See the previous two points.

NOSQL repositories are used in some extremely large implementations (Digg, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Shutterfly, Etsy, Foursquare, etc.) for a variety of purposes. But it’s important to note that you don’t have to be a Facebook or a Twitter to realize benefits from this type of back-end. And, although the examples I’ve listed are all consumer-facing, huge-volume web sites, traditional companies are already using these technologies in-house. I should also note that for some of these projects, scaling down is just as important as scaling up–the CouchDB founders talk about running Couch repositories in browsers, cell phones, or other devices.

If you don’t believe this has application inside the firewall, go back in time to the explosive growth of Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino. The Lotus Notes NSF store has similar characteristics to document-centric NOSQL repositories. In fact, Damien Katz, the founder of CouchDB, used to work for Iris Associates, the creators of Lotus Notes. One of the reasons Notes took off was that business users could create form-based applications without involving IT or DBAs. Notes servers could also replicate with each other which made data highly-available, even on networks with high latency and/or low bandwidth between server nodes.

Alfresco & NOSQL

Unlike a full ECM platform like Alfresco, NOSQL repositories are just that–repositories. Like a relational database, there are client tools, API’s, and drivers to manage the data in a NOSQL repository and perform administrative tasks, but it’s up to you to build the business application around it. Setting up a standalone NOSQL repository for a business user and telling them to start managing their content would be like sticking them in front of MySQL and doing the same. But business apps with NOSQL back-ends are being built. For ECM, projects are already underway that integrate existing platforms with these repositories (See the DrupalCon presentation, “MongoDB – Humongous Drupal“, for one example) and entirely new CMS apps have been built specifically to take advantage of NOSQL repositories.

What about Alfresco? People are using Alfresco and NOSQL repositories together already. Peter Monks, together with others, has created a couple of open source projects that extend Alfresco WCM’s deployment mechanism to use CouchDB and MongoDB as endpoints (here and here).

I recently finished up a project for a Metaversant client in which we used Alfresco DM to create, tag, secure, and route content for approval. Once approved, some custom Java actions deploy metadata to MongoDB and files to buckets on Amazon S3. The front-end presentation tier then queries MongoDB for content chunks and metadata and serves up files directly from Amazon S3 or Amazon’s CloudFront CDN as necessary.

In these examples, Alfresco is essentially being used as a front-end to the NOSQL repository. This gives you the scalability and replication features on the Content Delivery tier with workflow, check-in/check-out, an explicit content model, tagging, versioning, and other typical content management features on the Content Management tier.

But why shouldn’t the Content Management tier benefit from the scalability and replication capabilities of a NOSQL repository? And why can’t a NOSQL repository have an end-user focused user interface with integrated workflow, a form service, and other traditional DM/CMS/WCM functionality? It should, it can and they will. NOSQL-native CMS apps will be developed (some already exist). And existing CMS’s will evolve to take advantage of NOSQL back-ends in some form or fashion, similar to the Drupal-on-Mongo example cited earlier.

What does this mean for Alfresco and ECM architecture in general?

Where does that leave Alfresco? It seems their positioning as a developer-focused, “Internet-scale” repository ultimately leads to them competing directly against NOSQL repositories for certain types of applications. The challenge for Alfresco and other ECM players is whether or not they can achieve the kind of scale and replication capabilities NOSQL repositories offer today before NOSQL can catch up with a new breed of Content Management solutions built expressly for a world in which content is everywhere, user and data volumes are huge and unpredictable, and servers come and go automatically as needed to keep up with demand.

If Alfresco and the overwhelming majority of the rest of today’s CMS vendors are able to meet that challenge with their current relational-backed stores, NOSQL simply becomes an implementation choice for CMS vendors. If, however, it turns out that being backed by a NOSQL repository is a requirement for a modern, Internet-scale CMS, we may see a whole new line-up of players in the CMS space before long.

What do you think? Does the fundamental architecture prevalent in today’s CMS offerings have what it takes to manage the web content in an increasingly cloud-based world? Will we see an explosion of NOSQL-native CMS applications and, if so, will those displace today’s relational vendors or will the two live side-by-side, potentially with buyers not even knowing or caring what choice the vendor has made with regard to how the underlying data is persisted?

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