Oct 28 2019
Oct 28

We’re in an era where so much of our lives is experienced through the digital that it’s become paramount for traditional businesses to transform and to establish a digital presence.

This ubiquity of digital transformation has given rise to a plethora of differently suited digital agencies essentially “lending” their expertise to other agencies with which they work on end-clients’ projects.

So, on the one hand, we have this trend of partnerships with specifically skilled agencies, and, on the other, the trend of doing all the work in-house. Both approaches have their own peculiarities and it is useful for agency leaders to be aware of both. 

In our experience, the first model of strategic agency partnerships is generally the more effective one and yields better results. 

In this post, we’ll discuss why this is so by outlining the main benefits for creative and design agencies of adopting this model and partnering with a development agency rather than doing their work in-house. 

So, why should creative agencies partner with a development agency?

1. Greater focus on the things you excel at

There’s a reason why clients like to work with specific agencies: they trust in the expertise of the partner agency’s team and know they can rely on it. If you run or work for a creative agency, this is the skill your client hires you for. 

Of course, a transition to digital or a website redesign also demand adequate web development expertise. But taking care of all the dev aspects of a project in-house means focusing less on other areas, such as design and marketing. 

And, positioning yourself as an expert in design and/or marketing, you probably don’t want that. 

If, however, you decide to partner up with a development agency and trust them with the project’s development side, you can put a greater focus on the things you excel at - the things your client hired you for and is expecting you to deliver. 

2. Access to the latest trends & technologies in development

This point ties back to the previous one, but looks at the situation from the other perspective. Prioritizing creative work means dedicating less time to researching and learning new technologies and keeping up with the latest trends.

Luckily, this is exactly one of the key benefits that a partnership with a development agency brings to the table. Just as you are the expert in your area, they are the experts in their own area. 

And that means staying on the cutting-edge of software innovations, following development and security best practices, and just generally having an excellent overview of the web development ecosystem. 

In the case of an open-source software project such as Drupal, the agency you’ve partnered with likely has developers actively contributing to the project, meaning they have an in-depth rather than just a superficial understanding of the software. 

Another major benefit that this entails is the ability to make fewer compromises in software capabilities, as your partner agency’s developers will be versed in the necessary technologies and won’t have trouble finding the most suitable solutions. 

3. Access to top industry talent

Web development has grown into an immensely popular field, with the role of web developer becoming an extremely sought-after job, and young people from diverse industries thus transitioning into this one. 

Yet the demand for developer capacity remains unprecedentedly high. One of the biggest challenges for agencies today is acquiring and retaining the crème de la crème of web developers - naturally so, since the competition is downright vicious.

By partnering with a development agency, however, you’re able to bypass the fiercely competitive hiring process - your partner agency will already have taken care of that for you!

And the best thing is - you’re able to quickly and easily determine the legitimacy of their expertise. Most agencies will have a section of their website dedicated to case studies and references, where you’ll be able to explore their successful projects and first-hand client reviews.

4. Help with technical consultancy when pitching & managing projects

As an agency, you should always be consulting your clients and guiding them through the process. 

This is something creative agencies do naturally when it comes to user experience or graphic design, but due to a lack of certain development experience, you will likely need help when it comes to consulting about technical implementation.

In this case, having a partner that can support your team during the pre-sale and project management phases will be a truly treasured asset. 

Experiences that your development partner will have are extremely valuable to your client and, by passing along that information as consultancy, you’ll increase your value to them.

5. Ability to adapt & stay on top of disruptions

The rapid pace of technological innovation makes it extremely difficult to predict the next groundbreaking technology. Paradoxically, this is exactly what leaders in the digital must do to stand out among the competition - they need to be future-ready.

This proves to be quite a daunting task if done (entirely) in-house, especially for smaller creative agencies that lack the development resources to always operate in the now as well as two steps ahead. Besides, as already pointed out, they need to focus their talent elsewhere - this is what their clients hire them for. 

By contrast, development agencies can - and do - focus their attention on the latest trends in software development. They are experts in the technologies they use and follow best security, SEO and accessibility standards along with all the development best practices. 

They’re likely even researching newly emerging and as-of-yet unestablished trends and technologies, often being early adopters and helping with the development of the project if it’s open source. 

This means that, in order to be prepared for future disruptions, your best bet is partnering with an experienced and reliable development agency. 

6. Smoothness of workflow & scalability with no overhead

One of the major - and most immediately evident - benefits of trusting a partner agency with the development of the project is scalability. 

On the one hand, the partnership allows you to allocate more of the HR-related resources to other areas of your business and thus streamline business operations.

More importantly, however, it enables you to get exactly the number of developers versed in exactly the technologies that the project requires. Put the two together and it’s clear how such a partnership makes scaling particularly easy. 

On top of that, since the partner agency’s developers are experts in their respective fields and well versed in best practices, they’re able to integrate themselves into your team without any disruption whatsoever to your internal workflow, especially when they have clear and thorough documentation. 

And this extends to all future projects - the more work you do with a specific agency, the more they will get used to your in-house practices and workflows. 

Opting for a long-term agency partnership thus allows you to scale efficiently without having to make any sacrifices to your established workflow. 

7. 100% control over your project with minimum input

There is one benefit to managing the entire project in-house that really stands out: having complete control over all aspects of the project, and as such being able to dictate the course the project will take.

But this of course requires a lot of input from your in-house team - not just the people directly involved with the project, but also, for example, the HR department who are tasked with recruiting those people.

With project outsourcing, surrendering control over the entire project to the partner team can be quite intimidating. If, however, you decide to team up with a development agency, you get the best of both worlds:

  • You’re able to appoint your own project managers who oversee the project.
  • The bulk of the work is done by your partner’s developers, freeing you from the need to be involved in every single detail of the project’s progress.

This approach permits you to retain complete control over the project, while keeping the input from your side to a minimum.


We hope this blog post has armed you with enough insight into the benefits of partnering with a development agency that you’ll be able to make the best possible choice for your next project. 

If we’ve managed to convince you that such a partnership is your best bet, and you’re now looking for a skilled development agency to partner with, we’d love to help out - feel free to reach out to us and we’ll immediately start working on the best solution to your needs. 

Oct 22 2019
Oct 22

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

This week we talked with Sascha Eggenberger, designer at Unic and member of the Drupal Admin UI and JavaScript Modernization initiative. Check out our interview and learn about the development of the new admin theme Claro, how important it is to design for accessibility from the get-go, and where you can get an exclusive insight into what else is coming for Drupal's administration UX.


1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I am a Zurich based Designer who enjoys to create great user experiences. I started my career as a Frontend Developer but always had my heart beating for design so I shifted my focus more and more to design over the years going through several further education. I’m currently working as a Senior Designer and “Visual” Front-end developer at Unic. Previously I held the position of Lead Frontend & Design at Amazee Labs. I am currently involved in the “Drupal Admin UI and JavaScript Modernization” initiative.

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

Both. I first came across Drupal quite a while ago. I think it was Drupal 5 around 2007. Back then I did some web projects in my free time while studying. But I never completed a project with Drupal because it felt too complicated back then. I gave it another try when Drupal 6 came around but also didn’t pick it up. When I finally joined Amazee in 2012 it was obvious to get started with Drupal. Learning by doing basically.

Since then a lot of time has passed and I do fully believe in the benefits Drupal has. It always amazes me to see what’s possible with it. I also moved my own site to Drupal 8 over from a static site generator a while ago. I often use my site as a bit of a playground to test out new modules, creating patches etc. (Fun Fact: I’m running the dev version of my site on a Raspberry Pi at home). With its solid community and reach Drupal will hopefully grow even bigger in the future.

My first touch points with the Drupal community were at DrupalCon Munich. I was quite impressed by how well organized the event was and was overwhelmed by the thriving community. I would join almost each DrupalCon Europe after this one just to meet up with the community year after year.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

I learned a lot while working on the Drupal Design System. We had a very strong focus on accessibility throughout the whole team – from designing to implementing – and we always have a great team spirit. It’s really inspiring working with so many people all over the planet on the same thing. Also getting constructive feedback is always welcomed. We got a lot of positive feedback on Claro so far which is motivation enough. But of course the best moment so far was a few days ago when Claro was merged into Core.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

To not so technically savvy people I’d explain it in a very basic language, something along the lines of “it’s a software that you can manage your website with”.

To people with technical know-how I would explain it simply this way: “Drupal is an Open Source Content Management System with a thriving community behind it and you should use it.”

I think a lot of people nowadays have heard about Open Source and know what a CMS is for. At work – when we pitch against other competitors – sometimes against proprietary systems like Adobe AEM – I would add this line: “With Drupal we can basically do the project you want with the same budget you spend on a year's license fee. Think about it.”

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

Drupal 8 was (maybe too) long in the making but in the end I must admit it was also worth the wait. It was a huge step forward compared to 7. With better multilingual support in core – which is a very important feature to us in Europe (especially in Switzerland with three main languages), a strong focus on APIs, Symfony, in-place editing, improved mobile support and many more features. It felt like a completely new CMS.

The future will bring a new administration theme named Claro. I’m really looking forward to the feedback when a wider audience will start using this theme. We already have over 700 sites reporting running on Claro which is already quite a lot if you consider that Claro was still in Alpha state back then. Now with Beta 1 we have a more stable release but there is still a lot to do until we can reach stable. So stay tuned and give Claro a try in Drupal 8.8.

The future will also bring a new Frontend Theme called Olivero, check it out, it looks fantastic.

I also started working on the next chapter for the Admin UI. Claro is the intermediate step to apply the newly crafted Drupal Design System and deliver a first change to Drupal Core. A refreshed Seven theme with a strong focus on accessibility basically. But we have bigger plans of course, to overhaul the Drupal admin experience. I will give an insight into the first design proposals, or let's call them early work-in-progress designs, to envision the future of the admin UI at DrupalCon Amsterdam (Designing the future of the Drupal Admin UI).

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

I’m quite proud of what the Admin UI team has achieved in the last couple of months with Claro. There were endless hours invested into this and we always included accessibility core maintainers forefront in the design process – which helped us a lot doing things right from the beginning.

In the beginning I was doing a lot of contribution to the Drupal Design System, designing and specifying components but recently I shifted my focus a bit to envision how the “Next generation Admin UI” will look like. I also try my best being a helping hand for other designers with feedback, reviewing stuff and helping out in the issue queue.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

That’s an easy one. Claro as a backend theme replacing Seven and the Olivero proposal for the new frontend theme replacing Bartik.

But I’d also like to highlight the Entity Reference with Layout (ERL) module as I’m really enjoying using it. It’s using Layout Builder with Paragraphs and gives you a new and very neat content editor experience.

Last but not least Gin, the backend theme we’re using at Unic. It’s basically a subtheme to Claro and uses some useful modifications on top of Claro and integrates well with ERL.

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

Of course. I am also involved in a series of other community activities outside of Drupal. The biggest of them is Front Conference Zurich, a Zurich based conference I co-organise. We have talks about Design, Frontend and everything in between.

I also enjoy the Swiss nature and getting away from my laptop which I for sure use too much lately.

– Sascha

Oct 17 2019
Oct 17

Content is at the forefront of users’ digital experiences. Content marketing is driven by copywriters who need to constantly optimize their content strategy as we move more and more towards multichannel content

But this content strategy typically only focuses on marketing copywriting, while completely discounting another major facet of copywriting - UX copywriting or microcopy, a crucial aspect of any user experience. 

Where longer forms of content, such as blog posts, videos or infographics, work to inform or persuade customers about a product or service, or tell stories and provide an experience in and of itself, microcopy is intended more as a guide that facilitates the use of said product or service, in the same way as an intuitive UI would. 

In this post, we’ll take a look at some best practices of writing microcopy, and we’ll see on the basis of some examples why good microcopy is so important, especially in the negative interactions customers and users may have with your brand.

What exactly is microcopy and how does it differ from traditional copy(writing)?

Microcopy refers to all the little bits of copy that are not content and don’t tell a story of their own. Things like the text on buttons of an interface, in error messages, in forms - all of this falls under the domain of UX writing and requires a different approach than traditional, marketing-oriented copywriting. 

Namely, the psychological process is where the first major difference lies. While it’s true that both require the ability to empathize and put oneself in the user’s shoes, this thought process is realized differently in these two forms of copywriting. 

With content marketing, the greater focus is on the customer - their desires, the problems that they wish to solve with your particular product or service. 

By contrast, microcopy focuses on the user, who is the same entity, just at a different stage of their digital journey. Microcopy steps in once the customer becomes the user and now needs some help with adequately using the product or service and getting their desired benefit out of it. 

Because, as we know, a beautiful UI and cutting-edge technology have little effect if they’re difficult to use and are unable to guide the user to the solution to their pain.

This could be succinctly recapped as: good copy brings the customer in, while good microcopy retains the customer now turned user.

Who writes microcopy?

Traditionally, microcopy has been taken care of by UX/UI designers themselves. Since consistency is as important in the copy as in the visual design, designers are perfectly suited for the role of UX writing, especially if the product or service they’re designing is in their native language.

And yet, writing and language proficiency are not typically something designers should invest a lot in. It’s outside the scope of their expertise and responsibilities, and tasking them with producing stellar copy alongside their design could lead to burnout on the one hand and a subpar user experience on the other, as they would need to disperse their focus. 

This is precisely why we’re witnessing a rise of a new position that focuses exclusively on microcopy - the UX (copy)writer. Whereas the UX designer focuses on the visual aspects of the design, the UX writer takes care of its linguistic peculiarities. 

Logically, it’s very important that the UX writer is included in the project from its very start. They have to be aligned with designers and other stakeholders in order to best capture the essence of the product in words. If UX copy is viewed as nothing more than an afterthought, it’s unlikely to provide a good user experience. 

Error messages and other points of friction

Clear, concise and user-friendly copy is important in all touchpoints users have with your digital presence. Where it’s downright vital, however, is in the negative touchpoints. 

As Tom Wentworth, SVP of Product Marketing at Acquia, points out in their webinar on the Digital Experience Platform, a single bad experience can break a brand in the digital space, and it’s extremely difficult to come back from it.

With that in mind, and also knowing that it’s practically impossible to eliminate all negative experiences for all users, alleviating these negative touchpoints becomes a priority. Luckily, as we’re well aware, words have a tremendous impact and can completely change how we feel about a certain situation.

And the magic of microcopy lies exactly there: it has the potential to turn these negative experiences into positive interactions with your brand. 

Take, for example, an error message such as the “404 - page not found”. Instead of a simple blank page and these three empty words, you can use this page to guide the user to other important pages on your site (e.g. related products in the case of an e-commerce platform). 

Or, perhaps you want to liven the mood and empathize with the user not being able to find what they’re looking for. Staying true to your brand’s tone and voice, of course, you can instill some humor and/or empathy in the “page not found” message, or explain to the user why the error occurred (e.g. “the page you’re looking for may have been removed or its link has been updated”).

Consider this “Access denied” page on Agaric’s website: 

While encountering such a page would typically lead to frustration, the verse from Marvin Moore’s “Green Door” appeases that frustration by self-referencing the page itself with an ironic comment about its “thin” hospitality. The page contains both an apology and humor, which work in tandem to transform the negative touchpoint into a memorable one. 

An area where good microcopy is especially important is e-commerce, which has a lot of potential friction points. Even with its recent rise in popularity and better security, a lot of people are still reluctant to share personal information such as credit card info and spend money online.

Because of this, they may abandon a purchase if the checkout process is convoluted and non-transparent. In order to lead customers to the purchase step and retain them afterwards, you need helpful on-point copy accompanying each step of the process. 

E.g., when an item has been added to the cart, tell the user that this has been successful. After they place an order, tell them that the order has been placed - and when they can expect a reply and/or delivery, for some additional spice to the customer experience.

Examples of good microcopy

One of the coolest examples of good microcopy are Slack’s welcome messages. You’re able to customize them and set your own, but the default ones provided by Slack truly strike a chord with the user. As Slack is one of the first things people check when they arrive at work in the morning, being greeted with such a warm message can do wonders for one’s day.

Here are a couple of these welcome messages that really stuck with us:

Both examples are a testament to how great of an impact a simple sentence or two can have. 

The first one feels as if you’re being greeted by a close friend who’s been eagerly awaiting your arrival. The second one is even cooler and even warmer (pun definitely intended); it plays on the antonymy of the two words, at the same time showing concern for both the mental and physical comfort of the reader in a fun and easy-going way. 

This personal touch in both of these is accentuated as well as justified with the signature “Your friends at Slack” - naturally, your friends are concerned with your well-being and are happy to see you, so this signature is very fitting. 

The rapid pace and the progressively distributed nature of working in the digital often restrict the time we can spend with loved ones and at times altogether prevent us from doing so. This makes thoughtfulness and recognition that much more valuable, in any way we can get them - even if they’re coming from a bot or another automated source. 

More examples of excellent copy can be found in the newsletter messages of best-selling author and entrepreneur Nir Eyal. Even the subscription pop-up itself is very empathetic and answers exactly the questions reluctant new subscribers typically have:

First, the copy is clear, and the benefit the new subscriber will get is clearly outlined in the subtitle. But it’s the innocuous little line at the end that truly shines. In just two short sentences, Nir addresses and appeases two of the major hesitations to subscribing: he promises to keep your email safe from spam, while stressing that you can unsubscribe whenever you wish. 

The latter fact especially serves to build trust with the reader and prevents them from feeling cheated or tricked into opting in. And he keeps his promise - every email you receive contains an unsubscribe link, in plain sight rather than intentionally made barely noticeable.

Making unsubscribing extremely difficult is, unfortunately, a pretty common dark UX pattern, so, those businesses that simplify this process and even point to it automatically get points with the user. This is especially true for users from the EU, who have benefited from more transparency since the implementation of GDPR in May 2018.

The message you get confirming your subscription, then, is even more heartwarming:

The page reads easily, with short sentences and highlighted bits. The second point is very welcoming and promises the reader a positive interaction if they choose to connect, encouraging them to do so. 

But, again, it’s the very last sentence that truly hits the spot - “it’s great to have you here!” This feels perfectly genuine and gives the reader a strong impression that it was written specifically for them, personalized and manual rather than something automated. Even knowing that it is in fact an automated response, you can’t help but feel that Nir is genuinely happy to have you. 

Notice that this last sentence is very similar to one of the previously mentioned Slack loading messages - “You’re here! The day just got better.” Both make the reader feel special and valuable, without having to be super personalized and to solve particular pains. 

Feeling inadequate or incompetent is actually a pain in and of itself, one that a lot of people face daily, and hence such small instances of recognition can truly go a long way towards brightening their day.


We hope this blog post has given you a better idea of what microcopy is and what some best practices for writing microcopy are. Ideally, you’ll start noticing more and more examples of exceptionally good (or poor!) microcopy and, in time, subconsciously adopt some of these practices and incorporate them into your own writing. 

For further reading, we highly recommend the excellent book Microcopy: The Complete Guide by Kinneret Yifrah. It’s truly an invaluable resource for anyone undertaking UX writing and further elaborates on a lot of the points mentioned in this post. 

Oct 10 2019
Oct 10

Project management is a specialized job. It involves planning, coordinating, identifying deliverables, and eventually implementing the job according to client or company specifications. 

The IT manager’s job may involve managing the day-to-day IT needs of an organization, which could include managing computer networks, servers, and ensure the daily efficiency of information technology systems.  

However, an information technology project manager’s job is project-based. Each project is different, and the IT project manager must adapt based on the specific project. Each project has specific goals, and to achieve these goals, the IT project manager must bring together a team of system analysts, software developers and technology experts, and ensure the entire project team is focused towards achieving the project goals.

The manager may need to work with vendors of IT equipment to make sure they keep the project under budget. 

The IT project manager may also play a significant role in the development of training materials to assist employees in making the best use of technology in executing their duties. These materials will offer guidelines on the use of essential applications and how to log into systems.

Educational requirements for IT project managers

Technical experience in the field is helpful but not always required. There are several managers with excellent project management skills who have done well as IT project managers.

However, most IT project managers are former techies who were thrust into the job of IT project manager. Some companies expect candidates to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, with a major in either management of information systems, computer science, or information technology.

A combination of extensive technical experience in the field and a relevant bachelor’s degree are expectations of most hiring managers, but some employers will prefer an individual with a graduate degree, mainly a Master of Business Administration (MBA) specializing in technology. 

An ideal curriculum should include courses in IT strategy, leadership, professional development, managerial finance, corporate decision-making, research and analysis methodology, verbal and non-verbal communication, database management, and network management. Recent advancements in technology have made studying IT through distance learning more accessible.

The day-to-day activities of an IT project manager

The daily activities of an IT project manager vary from one project to another. The IT project manager must work with other senior staff in the organization to recruit new employees in his department. They must also coordinate with other teams to strategize, plan, and implement ICT projects in the organization.

The role of an IT project manager will be similar to those of other managers in an organization, but their scope will focus more on meeting the IT needs of the company. For example, they’ll be handling stuff like database management and programming. They will make sure those tasked with actualizing ICT projects in the organization do their work to perfection.

The IT project manager must have an in-depth understanding of the IT needs of the company and take a leadership role in assembling the team that will develop and implement the desired solutions. 

The primary responsibility of an IT project manager is to maintain the computer network in an organization. Every organization has IT needs. Though the structure and size of an organization will determine its IT requirement, each organization requires the following needs to be met:

  • Installation of network elements which may include laptops and desktop computers, smartphones, PDAs, GPS-based vehicle units, and other electronic devices used in accessing the network. They will grant access to users to access the organization's software and programs besides creating user accounts.
  • Communication with other departments to establish the needs of the organization. This role will include departments to choose hardware and assist coworkers in knowing how to use technology in their daily activities in the organization. For example, the IT project manager must work closely with the finance manager to determine the hardware and software to purchase for the organization.
  • Maintaining the network. The IT project manager will have the responsibility of upgrading and updating software besides troubleshooting. These actions are critical to protecting the integrity of the system and preventing slowdowns and failures that can be financially costly to the organization.
  • Securing the network. Network security is an expansive role that goes beyond installing antivirus software. Security measures that the IT project manager will implement will include determining the employees who’ll have access to confidential information on the organization, monitoring how employees use company internet and equipment, and protecting company information from outside threats such as hackers and other intruders.

The following are the typical duties and responsibilities of IT project managers:

  • Preserving the company assets through data back-ups, information controls, and procedure and data recovery. Using a timesheet app and other similar software to manage ICT projects in the organization.
  • Using IT to define, support, and deliver the company’s strategic plan.
  • Researching emerging technologies and relating them to the organization’s needs. They will use new technology to solve these needs.
  • Analyzing the needs of the company and providing a technical solution and timelines for implementation of the solutions.
  • Effective implementation and detailed timelines for project controls for the company’s software releases.
  • Measuring the effectiveness of the implemented IT solution via systems audits.
  • Participating in hardware and software assessment and maintaining contracts with suppliers.
  • Recommending IT strategies, procedures, and policies by looking at the company’s needs and evaluating the outcomes.
  • Loading the correct software such as the operating systems.
  • Troubleshooting and resolving user problems regarding the organization’s software in time.
  • Administering antivirus and email systems.
  • Participating in forecasting and the preparation of the project budget, analyzing variances, scheduling expenditures and implementing corrective actions to save the company from loses.
  • Enhancing quality service by enforcing the organization's standards.


Technology is an important part of our lives today. An IT project manager is expected to have skills in both IT and project management. 

Author Bio

Maria Espie Vidal writes for Timedoctor.com, a productivity app that helps talents manage their time and work efficiently any time, anywhere.

Oct 07 2019
Oct 07

Missed some of our blog posts last month? Don’t worry - here’s a recap of all our posts from September. Check it out and make sure you’re all caught up!

Interview with Suzanne Dergacheva of Evolving Web: The sky's the limit with Drupal

Our first post from last month is another one of our Drupal Community interviews. In it, Suzanne Dergacheva, co-founder of Evolving Web and member of the Drupal Association Board of Directors, talks about how she first discovered and started using Drupal, her most memorable Drupal moments, the projects and initiatives that she finds the most exciting, and her brand new hobby. 

One of Suzanne’s favorite things about Drupal is helping others to get over its steep learning curve and empowering them to benefit from all of its powerful features. She has conducted several studies on Drupal’s content editing user experience and is one of the initiative leads of Promote Drupal

She believes Drupal will continue evolving and finding new use cases. The main drives for this will be the evolution and standardization of “decoupled” Drupal, and the progress of the community and its events towards more and more diverse and inclusive. 

Read more

Let's talk about localization

It is kind of a general misconception that translating your site’s content is all that’s needed to launch the platform in another language and/or market. This next post, written by our developer Jernej, shows that there’s more to the story by explaining localization, how it differs from translation, and showing some best practices for localization. 

In order to successfully implement localization, you need to be mindful of the target audience’s culture - specifically, their habits when browsing the web, but also more general things such as the meanings of specific colors etc. This may require you to significantly change both the layout and content of your localized site.

Thankfully, there is one website aspect that needs no localizing. Good website performance is something that’s desired across all cultures, so, you need to make sure your website loads fast and doesn’t frustrate the user. One of the smoothest ways to speed up your loading times is image optimization. 

Read more

Must-see Business, Marketing & Industry sessions at DrupalCon Amsterdam 2019

The European edition of the biggest annual Drupal event is just around the corner and, with the diverse selection of tracks featuring an abundance of available sessions, it makes sense to do some planning prior to the event and reserve the time slots for your must-see ones.

We wanted to make these decisions at least a little bit easier and to this end made a list of our favorite sessions to attend from the Business + Marketing and the Industry tracks. We tried to cover as many different aspects as possible: mentoring, accessibility, ecommerce, contribution to open source, etc.

There were too many intriguing sessions from other tracks to cover all of these, and this is why we decided to focus exclusively on these two tracks. Hopefully, this blog post will arm you with the right information to get the most out of your time in Amsterdam. 

Read more

Interview with Lullabot’s Cristina Chumillas, co-organizer of the Drupal Admin UI and JavaScript Modernization initiative

We finish September’s list with another interview - this one with Cristina Chumillas, designer and front-end developer, and co-organizer of the Admin UI and JavaScript Modernization initiative in Drupal. 

In our interview, Cristina recalls how she started getting actively involved in the community and highlights the people who helped her along this journey. She points out that this early contact with community members helped her significantly in her professional career. She has just started her new job at Lullabot and loves the super welcoming attitude of her new colleagues. 

She enjoys enabling people to get involved in the Admin UI initiative. She is especially pleased with seeing so many non-developers help out - content creators, for example - and points out that the initiative needs any help they can get from diverse perspectives. She invites everyone who wants to help out to join the #admin-ui Slack channel and get involved.

Read more

This was it for our overview of the posts we wrote last month. We hope you enjoyed the read, and we wish everyone a smooth transition into the colder half of the year!

Oct 02 2019
Oct 02

September was another exciting month for the Drupal community, with quite a lot of important pieces of news. Our recap of the top Drupal blog posts from last month covers these, as well as some interesting posts by Drupalers concerning the future of Drupal and open source in general. Enjoy!

Drupal Association Announces Newly Appointed Board Members

We kick off September’s recap with a blog post written by the recently appointed Director of Marketing and Outreach at the Drupal Association, Carole Bernard. In the post, she announces the newly appointed board members and welcomes them into the Drupal association. 

These new members are: Grace Francisco, Lo Li, Owen Lansbury, Ryan Szrama and Leslie Glynn who was selected by Drupal community members for the community-at-large seat. The post includes more information about each of them, as well as personal statements where each of them relates what joining the Association means to them. It concludes with a list of other board members and some general information about Drupal and the DA. 

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Balancing Makers and Takers to scale and sustain Open Source

The next post we wanted to highlight is a truly excellent post by Dries - and, according to him, also the longest one he’s ever written. In it, he addresses the challenge of successfully scaling and sustaining open source. 

The post begins with some background, then Dries opens the discussion by defining the “Makers” and the “Takers” in open source. “Makers” are those organizations that contribute meaningfully to an open-source project, while “Takers” only benefit from the open-source code without really giving back.

To bridge this gap between Makers and Takers and balance them out, Dries suggests three ways of scaling and sustaining open source: appealing to organizations’ fairness principle; encouraging end users to offer benefits to Makers; and experimenting with new licenses.

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Healthy Open Source Maintenance

Published on the same day as the previous post, this one by Lullabot’s Mateu Aguiló Bosch touches the same problematic as Dries’ one - healthy open source maintenance, as the title clearly states. 

The success and growth of an open source project relies on a lot of people contributing to it. But, while a lot of them may be sponsored, there’s a huge number of those who are giving their free time without getting anything in return. Yet they are still expected to put in as much effort and deliver the same quality as the sponsored contributors.

Mateu proposes that we implement a “Healthy Maintainer Manifesto” which would allow individual maintainers to specify to what extent and/or in what way they maintain the project. This would take a lot of pressure off maintainers and enable them to continue contributing in a sustainable way.

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Acquia Acquires Cohesion: Enabling The Fastest Drupal Site-Building

We continue with an important piece of news for Acquia and Drupal - Acquia’s acquisition of Cohesion, creators of the low-code DX8 platform. DX8 enables those with little or no coding skills, such as marketers and site builders, to more easily and quickly create immersive digital experiences. This frees up developer capacity and allows developers to focus their attention on more advanced projects.

The acquisition is perfectly in line with Acquia’s goal of empowering their clients by providing them with a diverse set of tools they’ll need in the constantly shifting digital economy. Since a good customer and user experience are crucial to a business’ success, the ability to more easily provide personalized and relevant experiences will be extremely important for any brand.

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Making Sense of the Vista Investment in Acquia for the Future of Drupal

In the fifth post on this month’s list, Phase2’s CEO Jeff Walpole shares his thoughts on another major piece of news for Drupal and Acquia - namely, the $1B Vista investment in Acquia - and what this means for Drupal going forward. 

He speculates on what both Vista and Acquia are planning to get out of this. For Acquia, the investment will allow it to better position itself on the market of DXP (digital experience platforms) as a worthy competitor to leaders in the field such as Adobe and Sitecore.

For Drupal and open source in general, this means more Drupal and Mautic events; increased contribution to open source code; and an improvement to diversity in our communities. 

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How Content Editors Use the Drupal Layout Builder

The Layout Builder is a recently stable and extremely powerful feature of Drupal that allows for easy creation of pages with a drag-and-drop interface. Suzanne Dergacheva of Evolving Web has conducted a study together with her team to find out how intuitive and user-friendly the module actually is to content editors. 

Participants were tasked with creating and editing blocks, as well as editing the layout and sections, with the Layout Builder. They also performed the same task by using the Paragraphs module and WordPress’ Gutenberg editor, respectively. Paragraphs turned out to be less flexible than the Layout Builder, while Gutenberg was quite similar to it. 

Some of the most common problems that several participants encountered were unintuitive terminology, e.g. they would expect to have the option to “edit” rather than “configure”, and the misleading nature of the “Add Block/Section”. Luckily, there’s a lot of work being done on the Layout Builder, so we can expect the interface to just keep getting better. 

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Commerce 2.14 adds Address Book to core

Next up, we have a blog post by Bojan Živanović of Centarro (formerly Commerce Guys), the creators and maintainers of Drupal Commerce. One of the most highly desired features has been storing and accessing customer information in an address book, something that was possible in Drupal 7 thanks to the Commerce Addressbook module.

In Drupal 8, address book is now a core feature of Drupal Commerce. Bojan’s post discusses the features of the address book’s UX, e.g. an “Address book” tab added to user pages and the ability to turn off the collection of billing information. The new interface is more smoothly navigable and easier to use than that of Commerce Addressbook.

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A Partner for European Digital Agencies

We finish with an interesting post by Dropsolid’s Dominique De Cooman in which he explains their vision for Drupal to improve digital experiences by enabling teams and agencies to better connect. He also emphasizes the need for a foundational European agency to serve as a basis and help other European agencies.

Due to their active involvement in Drupal and the many tools they offer, he proposes Dropsolid as this agency and invites everyone to meet up at DrupalCon Amsterdam and partner up. He concludes the post by listing Dropsolid’s sessions for the upcoming ‘Con, each of which is aimed at helping attendees provide better digital experiences to their customers.

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This was our selection of the top Drupal blog posts from September. We have some cool blog posts planned for this month, so, if you enjoy reading our blog, make sure to check back and make sure you don’t miss any of them! 

Sep 27 2019
Sep 27

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

For our latest interview, we chatted with Cristina Chumillas, front-end developer at Lullabot, designer, and one of the coordinators of Drupal's Admin UI and JavaScript Modernization initiative. Give it a read to learn more about Cristina, the supportive and welcoming attitude of her colleagues at Lullabot, and her work on modernizing Drupal's administration UI.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I am both designer and front-end developer, and in the Drupal community right now I’m a core usability maintainer and co-organizer of the Drupal Admin UI and JavaScript Modernization initiative. Apart from that, I’m helping in the local community here in Barcelona; professionally, I work for a Drupal agency as a front-end developer, and then on the admin UI I’m mainly helping out as a designer and managing a little bit.

I actually just started a job at Lullabot about three weeks ago. I previously worked at Ymbra, one of the oldest Drupal companies here in Spain, but now I’ve moved over to Lullabot. I’m really enjoying the kinds of projects and learning how we do everything. I’d been at the same company for 5 years, so any change that I wanted to see I had to do by myself. 

So, right now, it’s really great seeing how other teams get organized; Lullabot is a distributed company, so it’s great to see how they’re super used to these kinds of situations where you don’t really get to get in real contact with people. They have a lot of alternatives to make you feel welcome and to help you get to know other people on the team. 

I have to say that before joining Lullabot I already knew some members of the team, and I knew that they’re very nice people. But now that I started I have to say that most of the people there really take into account that you’re a little bit lost when you’re starting out, so everybody’s super nice. They know how you feel and how to act because they have been in the same situation before. 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I started doing Drupal because I’d been working for a design agency. When I started as a freelancer, I wanted to do my own things - I wanted to do websites as well, and if I was doing the design I had to know how to actually make the website, and as a freelancer I had to do everything by myself.

So I learned how to make websites with Drupal and then after a while I got in contact with the local community; during that time they were organizing Drupal DevDays in Barcelona, it was 2012 I think. It was at that point that I got in contact with the community, I helped organizing the Drupal DevDays just a few months after getting to know people from the community.

And that’s why I stayed, I really liked the community and I just kept moving forward, helping with more things and, after some years, ending up at the company I mentioned before, Ymbra. After that I got in contact with the international community and, thanks to that, I ended up at Lullabot. So, getting in contact with the community has helped me a lot on the professional side.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

One of the people with whom I worked most closely during the aforementioned Drupal DevDays was Pedro Cambra; he was actually one of the people that put me in contact with the Drupal Association when DrupalCon Barcelona was going to happen. They asked him to be the local contact for the community, but since he was moving to - I think - London at that time, he put me in contact with them. 

Thanks to that, I helped first Stephanie, then later Amanda to come up with some things around Barcelona, helping them find locals and places to have parties, these kinds of things - essentially helping with the organization. I would say that DrupalCon Barcelona is one of the happier moments or one of the moments that I remember the most, because Pedro came and also helped during the ‘Con, and after a full year of working with Amanda I finally got to know her. 

Fun fact here: I was talking with her in English and my English at that time was really bad. Before getting to know her in person, I was growing nervous, thinking “Oh my God, this is going to be the moment that I have to speak in English”, but when I got to meet her, she said “Hola Cristina!” - she was speaking in Spanish! At that moment I realized I had been talking in English for a full year with someone that I could have otherwise understood perfectly. So, in a way, she totally helped me take my English to the next level.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

It depends if they’re technical people or if they aren’t in the tech industry. If they are, I just say “an open source CMS” and that’s all. When they don’t know what I’m talking about I usually say “just like WordPress but on a different level”. 

If I’m talking with someone that has no idea about that, I usually say “I make websites, but not the websites for the bar around the corner, bigger websites”, I don’t try to explain more than that. Because you can see websites that take a team of, let’s say, 5 or 10 people working full-time one or two years to complete, and then you have the small websites, e.g. for a small local business. Both are websites - how do you explain that difference to people who aren’t in tech?

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

Looking back to when I started out, I would say Drupal has evolved into something more professional, more high-level or more enterprise (that’s the word!). I actually wouldn’t be able to start with Drupal if I had to take the same path right now. So that’s actually one of the big differences today, the way people start with Drupal, it’s not like freelancing anymore.

And about Drupal’s future, I think just like everything is different today than it was 8, 10 years ago in the website industry, we have a lot of different levels right now that we didn’t have some years ago. 

I see the future of Drupal having to choose which of these next levels we’re going to focus on, because we’re seeing a lot of new technologies and trends; a lot of projects are decoupled right now, the internet of things is something that’s going to be here in no time, and a lot of people expect to have the content everywhere.

So, Drupal will need to put itself in a place that can actually give access to that content everywhere; where exactly is going to be Drupal’s place in this situation, I don’t know. But that’s the need that we’re going to have in the future, so Drupal will have to quickly evolve to make that possible.

I think there are a lot of smart people working towards these features, these needs, e.g. everybody working on the API initiative and other related initiatives. There are a lot of smart people that know how to do these things and I’m pretty sure that if there are such people investing their time, it can happen. It’s just that if we forget about pushing Drupal forward in order to solve these needs, it’s going to be risky as Drupal may start stagnating.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

I’m really happy with the Admin UI initiative and, although I’m not doing everything, I’m helping others getting involved. So, everything I’ve done there from designing to actually helping others getting involved and contributing by themselves, as well as all the UX studies that happened there where I mostly managed rather than did all the work.

I would say getting so many diverse people helping on the Admin UI, that’s something I’m really proud of and happy with. Because most of my time working on the Admin UI is not dedicated to actually getting things done, but helping others getting things done, so I’m happy about that.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

The Admin UI, of course. The admin UI is actually something that I think is really important for Drupal, I think the current admin UI was great at the moment it started, but it’s been many years since then and it actually needs a refresh. I think a lot of people, especially end-users, are expecting that, so I think it really can have a huge impact.

And it’s also a kind of contribution that can be done by people who aren’t specifically back-end developers, but also front-end developers, designers, project managers … We’ve actually even had some users that were content creators helping with the tests that we did at the beginning.

So, we’ve also had a diverse group of people doing user tests, e.g. people from the usability perspective; I think the project has so many professionals involved and so many skills needed that almost everyone that wants to help is welcome. If you’re interested, you can join the #admin-ui channel on Slack, that’s the place where everything is organized. 

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

I like to get involved with other communities and I try to help others. E.g. I’m trying to organize things for DrupalCon, but if I can, I get involved in other local stuff that can actually help others get improved - for example, I’m trying to organize an event to promote open source among women in Barcelona. So, these kinds of things, where I can actually use my skills to help others, it’s something that I really like, getting involved and helping with organizing things. 

Sep 24 2019
Sep 24

The European edition of the 2019 DrupalCon likely features a more diverse and exciting palette of possible sessions to attend than any previous European ‘Con. There are so many of them that it’s not an easy task picking the ones you absolutely don’t want to miss. 

We at Agiledrop are especially excited by the Business + Marketing track. Since it’s practically impossible to cover all the tracks without missing most of the great sessions, we decided to focus on this track, as well as the more general Industry track. 

Without further ado, here are our picks for the must-see business, marketing and industry sessions at next month’s DrupalCon. Hope to catch you at some of them!

Business + Marketing track

The Art of Mentorship

Monday, October 28, 16:25 - 16:45 @ G104

Maria Totova, Drupal developer, trio-group communication & marketing gmbh, Coding Girls
Todor Nikolov, Drupal developer, Tech Family Ventures, Coding Girls

This session will dive into the importance of mentorship and how the relationship benefits both mentee and mentor. Being mentors themselves, Maria and Todor will share their experiences with teaching and give some tips on effective mentorship. 

If you’re thinking about becoming a mentor, but have some hesitations, or if you’re already mentoring someone, but feel like you could use some improvements, this is definitely a session you’ll want to attend.

The Good, The Bad and The Data: Marketing Strategies for Open Source Companies

Monday, October 28, 17:15 - 17:35 @ G102

Felix Morgan, Content Manager, Amazee Group

This is the perfect session for companies working with open source software that are struggling with marketing. Amazee’s Felix Morgan will present some marketing best practices for such companies by covering three different topics: personas and stakeholders; community and narrative; and data.

Winning and retaining long term clients

Tuesday, October 29, 17:15 - 17:55 @ G103

Owen Lansbury, Co-founder, PreviousNext

Acquiring clients is already a major challenge agencies have to deal with. Retaining these clients, then, and turning them into long-term clients is an even greater challenge. Owen’s session will provide insights on spotting and winning over the types of clients with whom you can forge a long-term relationship, as well as then cultivating that relationship.

Women on top: How to get (and keep) women in your leadership roles

Wednesday, October 30, 9:00 - 9:40 @ G109

Shannon Vettes, Factories Program Manager, Acquia
Lindsey Catlett, Drupal architect, Newell Brands
Jenn Sramek, Director of Learning Services, Acquia

It’s no secret that there’s quite a scarcity of women in technology, especially in positions of leadership. But this lack of diversity is actually harmful to business itself; teams with a greater percentage of women and with women as leaders are generally more productive and successful.

This session will talk about the bias towards women in IT and illustrate the challenges they face in this field, while also providing tips to combat this and attract and retain a diverse range of talent.

Industry track

How to start contributing to Drupal without Code

Monday, October 28, 15:25 - 15:45 @ G102

Paul Johnson, Drupal Director, CTI Digital

Non-code contributions to open source are just as welcome as all the code contributions, and often that much more needed. Much too often, however, non-code contributions to open source have gone underappreciated. 

Fortunately, Paul Johnson is remedying this in the Drupal community and encouraging contribution of any kind. His session will serve as a stepping stone for non-developers working in Drupal to get involved and start contributing.

Drupal’s place in an evolving landscape - Modernising your Commerce architecture

Tuesday, October 29, 10:30 - 11:10 @ G106

Richard Jones, CTO, Inviqa

One of the big buzzwords in Drupal right now is “headless” or “decoupled”. Alongside Drupal, another area where the “headless” approach is gaining ground is ecommerce. In his session, Richard will take a look at the evolution of commerce websites, as well as how Drupal can be used in the commerce ecosystem as the content and experience layer.

In Their Own Words: Stories of Web Accessibility

Wednesday, October 30, 15:25 - 15:45 @ G103

Helena McCabe, Technical Account Manager, Lullabot

Even though the situation is improving, accessibility is still much too often considered of secondary importance when setting up a website. During her session, Helena McCabe will share first-person stories of people with disabilities, with the aim of inspiring attendees to adopt a more inclusive and accessible mindset when designing experiences for the web.

4 Keys to a Successful Globalization Strategy and CMS Platform Architecture

Wednesday, October 30, 15:00 - 15:40 @ Auditorium

Ann-Marie Shepard, Domain Architect, IBM
Tina Williams, Digital and Content Strategist, IBM

For a business operating in international markets, it’s no easy task to keep producing relevant content and maintain web platforms for all the different audiences it’s trying to reach. A well thought-out globalization strategy is needed for this. 

In this session, you’ll learn both the business requirements and the technical solution behind IBM’s optimization of Drupal 8’s translation capabilities to support a successful globalization strategy. 

This was our selection of some of the most interesting sessions from the upcoming DrupalCon. Of course, with so many different tracks, there are many more great ones to attend - you can check out the whole day-by-day and track-by-track program here. See you in Amsterdam next month!

Sep 18 2019
Sep 18

So, you’re thinking about starting an international web portal? Or maybe you have a website that is targeted for more than one language? You might have a B2B application and want to expand your market to other parts of the world? Then you should read on ...

Most of you probably think that in order to launch your product, site or service world-wide, all you need is to translate it. Guess again. That’s not enough. 

The world is represented by many different countries and by extension by many different cultures. Each culture has their own “niche” habits, behaviors and even perspectives on things. The same sentence might appeal to someone while offending someone else.

Even the structure of the content can lead to bad conversion rates if it’s not tailored to the target audience. This is where localization comes into play. 

As the name implies, localization means to make something feel local. Something that connects with the audience you are targeting. This means that you need to get your hands dirty and do the research. 

For example, if you want to expand your product to China, make sure to study its culture and their habits. How do most  Chinese sites structure their content? What are the best practices for user experience? How does the navigation look? How big are the images? How do they read the text? Those are just a few questions that you need to answer. 

After you have most (if not all) of the answers, you need to start implementing the solutions. This means that you often need to drastically change the layout and the content of the site. Even changing an image on a blog post can have a positive effect on its performance. 

A great example of good localization is the MSN website. The screenshots below demonstrate the English and the Chinese website. Notice the difference?

English version of the MSN website


Chinese version of the MSN website

If you take the time and visit both msn.com and msn.cn you will see quite a difference in both the layout and the content itself. In comparison, we can deduce that the regular website favors imagery over text, and the opposite applies to the Chinese website. And this is only the homepage we’re talking about!

Another good example is Starbucks' website. Below you can see the comparison of Starbucks.com and the Japanese version. 

English version of the Starbucks website


Japanese version of the Starbucks website

As you can see again, the pages are vastly different. The Japanese website is packed with a lot more information compared to the regular website. Again the trend of large images over text is clearly visible. 

Localization by itself is a huge topic and we won’t cover all of its aspects in this post, but I want to briefly talk about one website feature that doesn't need localization, as it is seen as a best practice in any culture - namely, good website performance. 

Many of you might live in a part of the world where you get quite a decent internet connection. I like to think of internet speed like water. There are places in the world where there are large bodies of water with fast streams, but there are also places where water is scarce. The same applies to internet speed. 

This means that we need to make sure that our websites run as fast and are as optimized as they possibly can be. Not everyone can afford the luxury of fast internet access and if the page loads slowly you’re likely to lose a potential new client or user. Humans are not patient beings that are willing to wait for your page to load. 

One of the things that impact the performance of a website are images. There are a lot of handy ways to optimize images in order to achieve faster-loading websites. If your site is built on the Drupal CMS, however, you don’t even need to do any extra coding - all the image optimization features are available right in the core

If you want to learn about more ways of improving the performance of your Drupal website, Ana has you covered with her tips to speed up your Drupal site

This brings this post to a close, but just to recap: 

  • Translations are not enough.
  • Make sure to study your target audience and their habits.
  • Customize the structure and the content of the website.
  • Make sure to optimize your website for slow internet connections. 
  • Don’t be afraid to drastically customize the layout of the website.
  • Small changes can go a long way.
Sep 13 2019
Sep 13

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

We had a great talk with Suzanne Dergacheva, co-founder of the Canadian web agency Evolving Web and member of the Drupal Association Board of Directors. She's also involved in the Admin UX study and in the Promote Drupal initiative, and is an active member of the Canadian Drupal community. Find out more about Suzanne in our interview.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I started a web agency in Montreal about 12 years ago, Evolving Web, and after about a year we decided to specialize in Drupal; so, I started going to Drupal meetups and got really involved in the local community in Montreal, even organizing DrupalCamp Montreal. 

Then over the years I’ve built up my Drupal team at Evolving Web, kept going to events and got more and more involved, organizing things like codesprints and then getting involved in contributing in small ways - with documentation, etc.

A couple years ago I started getting involved in the Admin UX study for Drupal and I’ve been really passionate about that. It’s an initiative to improve the content editor experience for Drupal. One of the things I’m most excited about right now is actually the Promote Drupal initiative, which I think has a lot of potential to build the market for Drupal.

Last year, I was then elected to the board of the Drupal Association; it’s been a lot of fun just getting right in there and seeing the potential of the communities and all these ideas around growing Drupal. I’m really excited about that too. 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I think the first time I downloaded Drupal was about 6 months before we decided to start using it for projects. My business partner and husband Alex said “Oh, maybe we should try using Drupal!” and I think I went to drupal.org and tried to install it, and I didn’t get very far. That was probably my first encounter.

But the second encounter was when we had a project for a political party in Quebec. Every website here in Quebec has to be in English and French, so they were pretty keen to use Drupal. So we said to ourselves, “Okay, we know Ruby on Rails, we know WordPress, I think we can figure out Drupal. No problem, we’ll figure it out!” 

This was when Drupal 6 had just come out, and there were some bugs in the multilingual system that we found. So, the first encounter with Drupal was a very positive one, but also a challenge, and we got right in there and started fixing things. 

To the question of what convinced me to stay, the software or the community, I would say both. In the last 6 years, I built a training program around Drupal, so I think what keeps me really excited about Drupal is that when I teach people, they feel very empowered. And there is a learning curve around Drupal, but I think when I get to actually help people learn and get over that learning curve it’s very inspiring, and so that’s a big part of what motivates me. 

And what keeps me involved in the community is just how much I can learn from everyone and how passionate everyone is. There are so many examples of people in the community who have really inspired me. That’s what keeps me not just using Drupal but giving back and being involved.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

One of the great experiences I’ve had was I think about 6 or 7 years ago now when we organized a DrupalCamp in Montreal and we decided that instead of just a DrupalCamp we also wanted to organize a codesprint. 

We figured that since we’re in Montreal and we all build multilingual websites, we should organize a multilingual codesprint. This was when work on Drupal 8 was just starting, it was still a long way off and work was just beginning on the Multilingual initiative

Because we decided to do this far enough in advance, we were able to get a community grant from the Drupal Association to help us pay for different people to come from Europe to participate. That meant that we had Gábor come, as well as Francesco Placella (plach__) who created the Entity Translation module for Drupal. 

We had these people coming from Europe to participate and that inspired a lot of excitement in the local community. The developers on our team got really into it; we had a lot of momentum behind this codesprint.

It was just so exciting to see how this local group could create an international codesprint and really get some good work done. Drupal 8 was a long way off, but still we were able to make some good progress that weekend.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

What I would normally say is that when you look at websites, they are really very similar, they have a lot of the same features. You have a menu across the top, you have a logo in the top left corner, so instead of creating a website from scratch you want to use a platform to do it.

What Drupal lets you do is get a lot of these features that everybody uses out of the box, while also giving you the flexibility to customize your website however you want. You can add features, you can add things like event search and ecommerce - the sky’s the limit. Drupal strikes that balance of providing key features out of the box, and also letting you customize everything.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

I see Drupal evolving to become more mature and used by bigger and bigger organizations, which is really exciting. I also hope that Drupal, being such a flexible tool, will still be useful to the organizations that use it today. I think it’s versatile enough that it can be used by many different communities; for example, the higher education and non-profit communities have really embraced Drupal and I see that being a long-term thing.

I see Drupal kind of growing to new places, new applications, especially with the maturing of decoupled Drupal solutions. I think it’s really going to evolve a lot in the near future. We’re going to see more standardization on how to do decoupled Drupal and that’s really going to change the landscape.

I also think that the Drupal community is evolving. At the last DrupalCon, there was a content editors / digital marketers track, and it was really exciting to see people coming from the community who aren’t necessarily developers, but more people on the content and marketing side, people we think of as users.

I think Drupal needs more of that, our community needs to embrace people with a larger set of skills and backgrounds in order to keep growing. We need to have marketers, we need to have UX designers and project managers involved in the project in order for it to be successful. 

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community made by you or other Drupalists that you are most proud of?

There are a couple of things. I’m really excited about things like the Media initiative, which seems like it’s really driven by creating a great user experience. It’s always really positive to start to see development that isn’t just driven by a functional set, but more in terms of “here’s what the users wanted and here’s a picture of what we want to build”, with the focus on a good user experience.

Another initiative that I’m really impressed by is the Layout Initiative. It’s such a mature initiative. The focus on accessibility really shows that Drupal is such a leader in the open source community. The team is creating a tool that’s so flexible and innovative, and gives so much power to the content editor, but at the same time really focused on creating a tool that’s accessible and can be used by anyone.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in the Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

Beyond code there are some of these initiatives that I think are really worth highlighting. I’m really excited about where the Promote Drupal initiative is going and how to get more marketers involved in that. There’s also an event organizers working group that’s being formed to help Drupal Camps come together and share resources. I think both of these have the potential to grow our community.

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

This summer I joined a bike club and that’s been really fun, doing something not in front of a screen and instead just getting outside. And, just like with Drupal, people are really passionate about cycling and welcoming novices like me into the community. So I’m excited about going to DrupalCon Amsterdam in October and cycling around!

Sep 09 2019
Sep 09

We’re back with an overview of the blog posts we wrote last month. If there are some you particularly enjoyed, this is the perfect opportunity to revisit them, as well as catch up on the ones you might have missed.

Recap of Acquia's webinar on the Digital Experience Platform

The first post we wrote in August is a recap of Acquia’s webinar on the DXP (Digital Experience Platform), which was presented by Tom Wentworth, SVP of Product Marketing at Acquia, and Justin Emond, CEO of Third and Grove

They talked about digital experiences in general, then explained what a DXP is, why an open approach is best for a DXP, and how Acquia can serve as the basis for an open DXP.

The high emphasis placed on digital experiences is due to the fact that a single negative one can do irreparable damage to a brand. It is thus important to deliver integrated experiences on a platform that’s future-ready. 

As the only truly open DXP, Acquia’s Open Experience Platform is likely the best choice, as integrations with future technologies will be easier due to this open nature.

Read more

Interview with Ricardo Amaro: The future is open, the future is community and inclusion

Our second post is part of the series of our Drupal Community Interviews. This one features a prominent and prolific member of the community - Ricardo Amaro, Principal Site Reliability Engineer at Acquia and an active member of the Portuguese as well as the broader Drupal communities.

Ricardo has been involved in numerous important projects and initiatives, ranging from more technical endeavors such as Docker and containers, to more community-oriented things such as the Promote Drupal initiative

Apart from that, he has presented at Drupal events and participated in the organization of several of them in Portugal as the president of the Portuguese Drupal Association

He is also a strong advocate for Free Software and encourages collaboration with other projects in the ecosystem. He strives to keep the future of the web and technology in general open and rich in possibilities.

Read more

Top 10 Drupal Accessibility Modules

Even though Drupal is already quite optimized for accessibility, it never hurts to have even more resources at one’s disposal. This was our reasoning behind researching Drupal’s available accessibility modules and putting together this list. 

The modules on the list touch different aspects of accessibility and take into account everyone who interacts with the site in any way: there are modules for developers building the site, those for admins and content editors, and those that are geared towards users of the site (e.g. the Fluidproject UI Options module).

Some of the modules have particularly interesting functionality. Namely, the a11y module provides support for simulating specific disabilities, which helps developers feel empathy for users with these disabilities. The htmLawed module can also be especially useful, as it improves both accessibility and security.

Read more

Interview with pinball wizard Greg Dunlap, Senior Digital Strategist at Lullabot

Next up, we have another community interview, this one with pinball enthusiast Greg Dunlap, Lullabot’s Senior Digital Strategist. Interestingly, his first interaction with Drupal was with Lullabot, the company he’s now working for more than 10 years later!

Greg points out that it was actually Lullabot’s Jeff Eaton who gave him the push to start contributing, and the two became really good friends. He believes (and we agree!) that who you do something with is more important than what you do - very fitting, then, that he and Jeff now form Lullabot’s strategy team.

One of the things he has particularly enjoyed recently was working with the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion group. Since welcoming diverse backgrounds and viewpoints into the community is instrumental to the future of Drupal, he encourages anyone who’s interested to join the initiative.

Read more

Agiledrop recognized as a top Drupal development company by TopDevelopers.co

Our final post from August is a bit more company oriented. In a press release published in early August, the IT directory and review platform TopDevelopers.co listed us among the top 10 Drupal development companies of August 2019.

Of course, we’re very happy with the recognition and, with our diverse contribution to the Drupalverse and the numerous successful client projects, we feel it is well deserved. 

Among the reasons for selecting us, the spokesperson at TopDevelopers.co listed the super fast integration of development teams into clients’ teams, our clear and frequent communication with clients, and our adherence to strict coding and security standards. 

To learn more about our work, you can also check out our portfolio of references and case studies, as well our profile page on TopDevelopers.co, which their team helped us build.

Read more

These were all our blog posts from August. We'll be back again next month with an overview of September's posts. Till then - enjoy!

Sep 04 2019
Sep 04

Well, summer’s officially come to a close. We at Agiledrop were a little bummed about it and decided to try to do something to prolong it, even if just for a bit. To that end, here’s a recap of our favorite Drupal blog posts from the sunny August - we hope you enjoy it!

Agaric’s series of posts on Drupal migrations

We’re kicking off August’s list of top Drupal blog posts not with a single blog post, but rather with a series of posts concerning different aspects of Drupal migrations written by Mauricio Dinarte of Agaric

As stated, this extensive series covers it all, from the basics of the migration process in Drupal, to the more advanced things such as migrating different entities, migrating from different types of source files (CSV, JSON and XML) and managing migrations as configuration entities. 

Since this series spans an entire month, we’re not going to link individual blog posts; see Agaric’s blog for a specific chapter on Drupal migrations. Or you can dive right into the series as a whole, starting with part 1!

Read part 1

Contribution and Client Projects: Part Two

Next on our list is a blog post by AmazeelabsChristophe Jossart which serves as a helpful guide for developers who are just starting out with their Drupal contribution and don’t yet know their way around drupal.org.

The post neatly recaps the documentation for new contributors and educates the reader on working on the issue queue on drupal.org, explaining both creating a patch and contributing a full project.

Christophe then also provides some basic information about next year’s Drupal 9 release and a list of helpful developer tools. He concludes by suggesting other ways to contribute beyond just code, thus supplying any kind of newcomer with the know-how to get actively involved in the community. 

Read more

How to Choose a Digital Experience Platform in 2019

This next post doesn’t address Drupal specifically, but rather the CMS as a system; namely, the last stage in the evolution of the content management system which is already ushering in a new contender - the Digital Experience Platform or DXP.

In this post, Justin Emond of Third and Grove first explains the concept of DXP and what characterizes a successful DXP in practice. He then gives an overview of the top four DXP providers, backed up by Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms and for Web Content Management, respectively. 

Comparing time to market, ease of extension, cost, and commerce capabilities, Justin’s overview is unbiased and thus a great resource for determining the right DXP for a certain organization. 

Read more

Use Taxonomy Terms as Webform Options in Drupal 8

Moving on, we have a blog post accompanied by a video by Ivan Zugec of WebWash. As with all his video tutorials, this one too strikes the perfect balance between informative and accessible, and is thus suitable for both beginners and more experienced Drupalists. 

The aim of this tutorial is to enable content editors to manage Webform options without having to tinker with the configuration. As Ivan points out, the best way is to do this with the Taxonomy system. 

The post and video take you through creating a taxonomy vocabulary and then creating a “Term select” element. For more control over the reference of entities, Ivan suggests using “Entity select” instead of “Term select”.

Read more

Contributing to Open Source, what's your math?

Just like the first blog post on this list, this one again focuses on open source contribution. In it, Baddý Sonja Breidert breaks down 1xINTERNET’s contribution to Drupal in 2018, both in terms of numbers and the reasons why they (and why everyone benefiting from open source should!) invest so much in contribution. 

Baddý’s post divides contribution into three main areas: community work, sponsorships and memberships, and source code contribution. Adding up their contributions in all three areas, she calculates that as much as 7.5% of 1xINTERNET’s annual budget goes into giving back to Drupal. She finishes with a call to action inviting other organizations to do and share their open source contribution math. 

Read more

Component-based theming with Layout Builder

Our previous few recaps of top Drupal blog posts have both included a post about the Layout Builder - rightly and logically so, since this powerful new feature has recently become stable in Drupal. And, after all, as content editors, our marketing team is always interested in new functionalities and technologies that have the potential to facilitate our work.

Continuing with this trend, the next post we wanted to highlight this time is Aleksi Peebles’ Component-based theming with Layout Builder, the straightforward title of which already specifies what it is about. The post describes the steps needed to take to display a simple Code paragraph using the Layout Builder; in case of redundant HTML markup, Aleksi’s own Full Reset module is able to deal with it.

Read more

Drupal Tome + Docksal + Netlify

In the next post on this month’s list, Aaron Crosman describes his proof-of-concept implementation of the Drupal Tome distribution with Docksal and Netlify. Since this was in the context of SCDUG’s competition for the cheapest possible Drupal 8 hosting, Netlify was his platform of choice as he only had to pay for domain registration.

Besides describing the setup, Aaron also tackled getting Drupal’s default install profile Umami onto the newly set-up site. While reliable, this process is a slow one (Sam Mortenson has pointed out that the reason for this is that Umami installs a lot of content which Tome then reinstalls). There are still some problems with the whole approach, such as lack of support for forms, but it works well enough for this purpose.

Read more

Module Mayhem in the Drupal Kitchen

The last blog post to make it on our list for this month was written by Cheeky Monkey Media’s Kodie Beckley and plays upon the metaphor of Drupal as a professional kitchen. Specifically, Kodie compares the abundance of Drupal modules to having too many cooks all working in one kitchen.

The main problems with having too many modules are increased load time, compatibility issues and the fact that a lot of available modules are (or will be) outdated or no longer supported. 

Kodie suggests sticking to modules that are supported and still actively developed, and keeping only those that are truly necessary. For a more thorough insight into the workings of your site, he recommends performing a site audit.

Read more

This concludes our selection of the top Drupal-related blog posts from August. We’ll be doing a similar recap early next month, so, don’t worry about missing some interesting Drupal content - we’ll have you covered!

Aug 29 2019
Aug 29

In a recent press release, TopDevelopers.co declared Agiledrop one of 2019’s best Drupal development firms in the world. With over 10 years of extensive Drupal expertise and several Acquia certified developers, we see this recognition as a true testament to the quality of our work, both with clients and within the Drupal community.

We’re proud to announce that Agiledrop has been chosen as one of the Best Drupal Development companies of 2019! 

For those of you who don't know us - Agiledrop is a web development company specializing in the Drupal CMS. We're based in Central Europe in Slovenia, with headquarters in the capital Ljubljana and offices in several other cities in Slovenia.

Since our beginnings in 2008, our team has grown to over 50 members and we've distinguished ourselves as one of the country's top development companies as well as prolific contributors in the Drupal community, reserving a prestigious position on TopDevelopers.co's list of top Drupal development companies.

As a proud member of the Drupal Association, we’re constantly giving back to the community through code contributions, as well as with frequently organized meetups and free Drupal courses where we train new generations of Drupal enthusiasts. Our specialty, however, lies in helping digital agencies scale up their businesses and take on more work.

Thanks to our 300+ successfully completed projects for a wide range of clients and our 40+ skillful developers, we’re naturally attuned to the needs of particular clients and are able to provide them with the right people for their project in just a few days. Agility is literally in our name! 

Our developers are well-versed in working with Drupal-related services such as Thunder, Drupal Console, Acquia Lightning, Drupal VM, Drush and Open Social. Along with Drupal development, we provide enterprise WordPress development and front-end solutions with modern JavaScript frameworks, e.g. Angular and React. 

We’ve worked with a varied set of clients which includes names such as Ogilvy, UNESCO, Wunderkraut (now Appnovation) and T-Systems - to name just a few. If you’d like to learn about other clients we’ve worked with and what their experience of working with Agiledrop was like, check out our portfolio of references and case studies

And if you're interested in more specific details about our work, such as service and industry focus? Then our profile page on TopDevelopers.co is the place to go; their analysts were super friendly and helped us in building a top-notch profile on their website. 

Of course, we were also very curious to learn how we got chosen among all the amazing and proficient Drupal development companies. When we approached the spokesperson at TopDevelopers.co and asked him about the reasons for choosing us, he was happy to provide us with quite an extensive list:

  • Agiledrop gives its clients only proven Drupal developers who have previously worked on enterprise-level projects, which eliminates the possibility of a bad hire. 
  • Our developers are ready to work on clients’ projects quickly, with individual developers being able to start in only a few days and entire teams being able to start in less than a week, which significantly speeds up the work.
  • We make it a priority to communicate clearly and frequently with clients, no matter the time difference, at least a few times a day, keeping all stakeholders up-to-date on the project’s progress.
  • Our developers adhere to strict coding and security standards, saving costly overruns in the later stages of the project.
  • A lot of Agiledrop’s clients are repeat clients who were so satisfied with our reliability and the quality of our services that they opted for a long-term partnership with us; see our portfolio for their immensely positive reviews.
  • Owing to their comprehensive skillsets, our developers have an excellent grasp of what technologies are most suited to a particular project and are thus able to always choose the most adequate solution to realize the client’s goals and needs.

Who is TopDevelopers.co?

TopDevelopers.co is a directory and review platform for IT service providers. They offer unbiased service to service seekers, by providing them with a listing of genuine and highly professional IT firms, which can help the service seekers in achieving their goals by providing high-quality technical services.  

The research team of TopDevelopers.co chooses the best firms by filtering a vast list of companies and introduces only the competitive names to the businesses, enterprises, and entrepreneurs to partner with. 

The company has a friendly team of researchers and a hassle-free communication system. They provide the listing service for various technologies and services, which makes their platform a one-stop destination to find the perfect technology partner for any kind of project.

Are you just now considering taking on that big project, but lack the development capacity? Contact us at Agiledrop - our A-team will be happy to help you out!

Aug 23 2019
Aug 23

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

This time we talked with Greg Dunlap, pinball wizard and Lullabot's senior digital strategist. We spoke of how satisfying it is to work on interesting things with the right people, the importance of the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion initiative, and the close similarities between the Drupal community and Greg's local pinball community.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I am a Senior Digital Strategist at Lullabot; historically, I’ve been very much involved in the development and technical side of website building, but in recent years I’ve gotten much more into the content, digital strategy and information architecture part, and so that’s more how I do my work these days, sort of dealing with bigger picture problems. 

As far as my participation in the Drupal community, it’s been pretty light these days. I still speak at conferences here and there about various things, but my contribution beyond that has dropped off quite a bit. I’ll pop in in an issue here and there, and I’ve been involved in the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion group and similar projects, but other than that, my participation is pretty light right now. 

I think it’s also been a bit of me taking my life back, I was very very involved in the Drupal community for almost a decade, and so I think a lot of it was also just sort of me taking some time for myself. It’s hard because I built my career through participating in the community, so to some extent that’s necessary, but you really need to find a balance. 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I came across Drupal at an interesting time in my life. It was around 2007, Drupal 5 was out, and I was working for a newspaper in Seattle called the Seattle Times. We were doing a migration to Drupal, and through part of that migration we hired Lullabot to come in and help us out. And that was when I first met Jeff Eaton and Matt Westgate, and it was Jeff Eaton who pushed me to get involved in contributing. I was talking to him about a problem and he said “wow, you should really file a core issue about that”, which I did, and 10 years later it got marked “won’t fix”, so that was great. 

But at the time I was looking for a new job anyway and Drupal was just taking off, so I started getting involved with the local Drupal user group, and through that I met a bunch of really cool people. I also needed to figure out what my next thing was going to be professionally, and so all of this stuff kind of came at just about the right time for me. I was looking for something in Drupal to dig my teeth into, and we were having a bunch of problems around deployment and configuration management at the Seattle Times, and so that kind of just became my niche. 

And through that I met a lot of people who helped and I also wrote a lot of code, and that ended up getting me my first Drupal job, which was at Palantir; then, everything just kind of snowballed after that.

Now I’m basically working for the company that was my first contact with Drupal. And through that Eaton and I became really close friends, and the two of us are the strategy team at Lullabot. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that people always tell you to follow your passions, but I really think that the people that you do things with are much more important than what you do. Because, granted, it’s great to do what you want, but if you don’t have the right people around you, it’s not going to be any good anyways.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

I’m doing a project right now for Lullabot which is involving me going back and listening to a lot of our old podcasts, and one of the things I did was, I went back and listened to my old podcasts (we used to do this series called Drupal Voices and I got interviewed on it a lot). 

And I really noticed as I listened to them, that every year as I was on the podcast, I could hear in my voice my confidence level growing. The first year, for example, was at DrupalCon D.C. and I was very scattered, I could tell I was very nervous; then the next year, I sounded much more confident, and then the year after that when I was at DrupalCon Chicago, I could tell I had really found my steps and stride.

Chicago turned out to be a really formative DrupalCon for me because I gave the very first ever core conversation at a DrupalCon and I was very very nervous about it. And as a result of that core conversation Dries came and asked me to lead the initiative for Drupal8, for CMI. So, DrupalCon Chicago really stands out as a turning point for me in the Drupal community, and where I really hit my stride. I’m just a little upset that the talk wasn’t recorded.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

Even when I explain my job, usually all I say is just “I build websites”, and so I just say that Drupal is software that you use to build websites. Sometimes you’ll meet somebody who actually understands conceptually what a content management system is, but I usually don’t even bother going down that rabbit hole. “I build websites” is close enough for anybody to at least get the idea.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

It’s crazy seeing how Drupal has changed. Returning to the podcasts from question three: the first Lullabot podcast was in 2006, and at that time, while there were a couple of shops doing things, the global economy in Drupal was essentially nothing. Now, it’s grown to billions of dollars in thirteen years, and I think that change has been incredible; not in a good or bad way in particular, it’s just been change. 

For a lot of people who prefer a small scrappy group, it’s probably been a negative thing, but for people who prefer a more mature industry that they can grow into and make a career out of, it’s been a positive change. And I think that, as Drupal grows, we’re going to be seeing more and more focus on that maturity, that focus on stability. One of the things that we hear all the time now in the Drupal community is that we’re much more focused on predictable releases, on backwards compatibility, easier migrations, all of the stuff that you focus on when your focus is much more on stability.

Because, given the kind of industries that we’ve grown into, stability and predictability are super important. And I think that theme is going to continue to grow over the years, not that we won’t have new features, but I think that the turnaround time on them is going to continue to be more stretched out; we’re already seeing this now with Drupal 9, for example.

The experimental modules are also interesting, as they’ve allowed us to get new features into core in the middle of the release cycle, e.g. the Content Moderation came in and Migration and stuff like that. This takes a long time, however; Content Moderation is a functionality that’s been in development for years in contrib, it’s not as straightforward as somebody just writing a patch and whipping that out in 3 months.

Getting new functionality into core is a very long process that demands lots of testing, and even then the module has to have the “experimental” status for 6 months. All these smaller processes make the overarching process longer, but they also make it more transparent, predictable and stable - it’s essentially just a trade-off. 

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

I wrote a lot of code for the Configuration Management initiative, and even though that code ended up all getting thrown away and rewritten, to me the mere ability to put that on a path to getting done is extremely satisfying. I ran it for about 2 years and then I handed it off to Alex Pott who ran it for about 2 years before Drupal 8 got released. 

Getting all of those concepts in place and putting together a team of people to get those concepts in place and get it working and rolling forward is something that I’m really happy with. And it was also really great because it represented the end of a long period for me; I started with configuration management as my niche that I dug into in the Drupal 5 era, and then to see that all the way through to getting done in Drupal 8 was really satisfying for me. 

Recently, working with the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion group has been really satisfying. It’s a truly amazing group of people who are really interested in growing our community in positive ways, and making sure our community is open to everybody who wants to contribute and welcoming to everybody who wants to contribute. 

I think this is going to be more and more important going forward, because as Drupal becomes a global enterprise, we need to be able to bring all of those voices in to speak. Even Dries is starting to talk about how important that is now (e.g. in Seattle in his keynote). 

I think that work is really important and I’m really glad to see more focus on the community management side, because traditionally Drupal has been a place where we bring in contributors and then we kind of burn through them. We need to realize that contribution is hard and takes a lot of time, and focusing on how we can make that contribution cycle more healthy for people is really crucial to sustaining the community - so, in whatever ways that comes in or works towards is really great. 

I think that anything we could do to make the Drupal community more welcoming to people is going to be really important. Obviously, growing the community is important, but so is bringing in different voices and viewpoints, so that we can make the community more open and more interesting and really bring in all of the wonderful differences we have in the world.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

Well, the one that we just talked about, of course! Anybody who’s interested in the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion initiative can join the DDI channel (diversity-inclusion) on Slack. That’s where a lot of that discussion happens; there are weekly meetings on Thursdays, and from there you can get links to their website and other similar resources. 

I’ve also been really interested in the work on the Drupal product side for Layout Manager recently. I was a little skeptical of that when it first came out, but we’ve been using it on a couple of client projects and I’ve been really impressed with it. I think that it’s going to fill a lot of gaps and needs in the Drupal community. 

While the UI is still a little rough, I think that once the usability gets some polish on it, it’s going to be a really important thing for Drupal going forward. I’ve been really really pleased to see how that’s been working, and the clients just adore it; every time we demo it for a client, they completely freak out, so, I’m really looking forward to seeing how that progresses.

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

I don’t get into a lot of technology stuff out of work anymore these days as a hobby. My biggest hobby outside of Drupal is pinball; I’ve been playing it competitively for 25 years and I’ve always been very involved in the local community here in Portland, Oregon. 

I’ve been really involved in that for a really long time - running tournaments and playing in tournaments, I was also the state representative for the group that runs the pinball rankings for many years, and recently I’ve gotten really into fixing up and repairing pinball machines, which has been really cool. It’s very physical and manual, not at all like working on your computer, so it kind of like rubs a different part of my brain than computer work does - and then when you’re done, you have something fun you can play, which is really cool. 

But I will say that one of the nicest things about running tournaments and being involved, similarly to Drupal, in the pinball community, is that you can build the community that you want to see. One of the things I’ve really done in Portland is trying to bring together a different set of voices to help run tournaments, to be the face of the community here, to create welcoming and safe spaces for people. And we have seen, for instance, the number of women that we have competing in tournaments here grow by leaps and bounds as a result of that work, and that’s been extremely gratifying too. 

Aug 19 2019
Aug 19

Making sure your website is accessible is becoming a necessity - and with all the right reasons. The web is for everyone and, as such, everyone should be able to use it effectively, no matter their physical ability. Sites that are inaccessible automatically prevent a large number of people from using them.

We’ve already written a series of blog posts on Drupal and accessibility - you can check them out here: part 1 & part 2. As you can probably glean from these two posts, Drupal offers a lot of accessibility features out-of-the-box, e.g. the requirement of alt text for images in Drupal 8 (another strong case, by the way, for migrating to Drupal 8 ASAP). 

The second part of the series also takes a look at a few contributed modules with which you can further improve the accessibility of a Drupal website. During the time since the blog post’s publication, however, there have been many more accessibility-focused modules contributed to the Drupal project - and these are what we’ll take a closer look at in this post. 

Accessibility toolkit (& Accessibility)

While only available for Drupal 7, the Accessibility toolkit (the a11y module) is an invaluable resource for Drupal developers that are tasked with building user-friendly and accessible sites. It allows for: dyslexic font support, high contrast mode, inverted colors mode and text scaling. 

On top of that, it also provides support for simulating specific disabilities. Since it’s quite difficult for an able-bodied person to put themselves in the shoes of a disabled person, these simulations greatly help developers to feel empathy by reproducing the symptoms of certain disabilities such as dyslexia or colorblindness. 

If you’re looking for a module with similar capabilities that can also be used in Drupal 8, the Accessibility module is the one closest to the a11y module - it’s geared more towards content editors and site maintainers, though. It provides a set of available accessibility tests that check the content published by your editors and other users for any accessibility errors, such as a missing alt text (granted, with Drupal 8 this is already automatic). 

So, for a Drupal 7 site, these two modules can be employed in tandem: one is used for ensuring accessibility in development, while the other is used in the live environment to make sure that the content and design meet accessibility standards. Just a disclaimer, though: the Accessibility module is not covered by Drupal’s security advisory policy, since it uses the QUAIL jQuery plugin which is no longer supported.



Accessibility Scanner

Accessibility Scanner is a relatively new module; the first development version was released in March, while the latest alpha version was released just about two months ago (June 20). With this module, you can use Drupal together with achecker to perform web accessibility scans directly in the Drupal admin interface. 

Accessibility Scanner

Style Switcher

The Style Switcher module provides incredibly useful functionality for visitors that suffer from color blindness. It allows themers to create themes with alternate stylesheets, and site builders to add other alternate stylesheets right in the admin section. 

A site visitor is then presented with all those styles as links in a block, and they can choose the one that they prefer, e.g. one with the optimal contrast for their specific type of color blindness.

The module is available for both Drupal 7 and 8, but the Drupal 8 version is still only in alpha.

Style Switcher

Block ARIA Landmark Roles

This module was already mentioned in part 2 of our series on web accessibility in Drupal; it’s available for Drupal 7 and 8. It allows you to assign ARIA landmark roles and/or ARIA labels to a block, which makes it easier for screen readers and other assistive technologies to identify the type and purpose of a certain piece of content. This greatly simplifies site navigation for visitors using such technologies. 

Block ARIA Landmark Roles

Text Resize

While it’s quite easy to resize the text of a page using the keyboard (‘ctrl’ and either ‘+’ or ‘-’), not everyone browsing the web is aware of that. The Text Resize module, available for both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8, allows visitors to change the font size of a text through a special block. It also comes with a ‘reset’ option which has to be enabled from the admin page.

Text Resize

Automatic Alternative Text

With this Drupal 8 module, you can automatically generate an alt text for an image for which the user hasn’t provided any. This is done using the Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services API.

It provides one or more descriptions of an image which are ordered according to their confidence. The default descriptions are in English, but it is also possible to translate them into other languages. 

Providing an alternative text is crucial for blind or visually impaired visitors using screen readers, as it is pretty much the only means for them to take in the full content of a page. On top of that, images with the provided alt text are more SEO-friendly and thus help with your site's search engine ranking.

Even though Drupal 8 demands alt text by default for content creators, content submitted by users should also include it, and this module enables just that.

Automatic Alternative Text

Fluidproject UI Options

The UI Options module by Fluid enables users to modify a page’s font size, line height, font style, contrast and link style according to their preferences. All changes made are retained thanks to cookies. 

The module does have some limitations, however. Bootstrap themes, for example, need some additional CSS for font-sizing and line heights to work as they should, and elements that use CSS gradients can’t have their contrast settings changed. 

Fluidproject UI Options


This is a very useful module not just in the context of accessibility, but also security. It restricts and purifies HTML code so that it complies with the site administrator policy and standards and security best practices. 

Using this module, you’re able to autocorrect and beautify HTML markup as well as restrict HTML elements, attributes and URL protocols in the input. Moreover, it also balances tags and ensures that HTML elements are properly nested, transforms deprecated tags and attributes, etc. 


HTML Purifier

A very similar module to the just mentioned htmLawed, the HTML Purifier filter library is again perfect for meeting both security and accessibility requirements. It removes malicious code from your website while also ensuring W3C standards compliance. 

HTML Purifier is a great fit for Drupal as it works really well with WYSIWYG editors. With it, you get a lot of options, such as custom fonts, tables, inline styling, and many more. It’s available both for Drupal 7 and 8.

HTML Purifier


This was our list of modules for Drupal 7 and 8 that take care of different aspects of web accessibility. Depending on what security measures you’ve already implemented and what your team’s best practices are, you likely won’t need to employ every single module on this list.

Still, we wanted to give an overview of different options so that you can pick and choose the one that best fits your needs. These modules provide accessibility resources for both developers and content editors, as well as visitors using the site, so you’re sure to find a combination that works for you.

If you're still experiencing accessibility issues or are in need of a complete accessibility overhaul, give us a shout out and let our experienced and proven developers help you make your site accessible to everyone.

Aug 08 2019
Aug 08

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

In our latest interview, Ricardo Amaro of Acquia reveals how his discovery of Drupal has enabled him to work on projects he enjoys and that make a meaningful impact. Read on to learn more about his contributions and what the Drupal community in Portugal is like. 

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

My name is Ricardo Amaro. I live with my wife and 2 kids in Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve been working for Acquia since 2011 and recently promoted to Principal Site Reliability Engineer where we deal with all the challenges of helping ~55k Drupal production sites grow every day.

I’ve been contributing in several aspects to the Drupal Community and sometimes that effort goes beyond. An example of that is the published co-authoring of the “Seeking SRE” book (O’Reilly) with my chapter about Machine Learning for SRE, since that main idea came out of a presentation I did at DrupalCon Vienna 2017 explaining how automation and machine learning could help increase reliability on Drupal sites. 

Other projects I’ve initiated in the past within the Drupal community include:

On the local front I founded the Portuguese Drupal Association 8 years ago and I am its current elected president. That same year we organized our first DrupalCampLisbon2011. Nowadays we organize DrupalDays and Camps all over the country and meet regularly on Telegram and video-conferences. Last year we organized DrupalDevDays Lisbon 2018 which was a really good turn out for the entire community.

My main drivers are a passion for Free Software and Digital Rights. That started back in the 90’s when I found myself struggling with the proprietary/closed software available at the time, and installing Linux/Slackware in 1994 was an enlightening moment to my own question “isn’t there a better option?”. But I only switched all my machines to Linux in 2004 and that’s what I’ve used up to now. Because I think the GNU/Free Software ecosystem, where Drupal was able to grow, is fragile and needs to be nourished by all of us.

I have a degree in Arts and a second one in Computer Science & Engineering and I’m now taking a master in Enterprise Information Systems.

Before Acquia, I worked both in the public sector and in the private sector in Portugal, applying Agile techniques and encouraging the DevOps culture. I’ve managed teams, development projects and operations also in South Africa and around Europe. 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I came across Drupal in 2008, when searching for an OpenSource CMS software in order to create some Media Publishing sites for the company I was working for back at that time. My role as an IT Director was not easy, since the company was struggling with funding, so Drupal 6 was an amazing tool that enabled us to grow several of the sites and particularly create a self service on our main classified advertisement sites.

I found the Drupal Portuguese community at that time struggling to have a legal entity and to be able to grow and organize events inside the country. Portugal has always been mostly monopolized by large corporations like Microsoft and Oracle, while Free software has always been seen as “experimental” solutions, at best.

I took upon myself the commitment to bring the local Drupal community the pride and success they all deserve. I’ve grown a friendship for each and every person in our community and now I couldn't imagine myself without them, as I couldn't imagine myself without Drupal.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Putting it simply: Drupal changed my life! Drupal brought justification to my values and aspirations. I honestly couldn’t have imagined, in a world that is more and more inclined to monopolistic visions, being able to exercise and contribute to the Free Software community and make a living out of it.

The particular moment I felt this more strongly the first time was around 2011 when some decision makers from one of these large corporations asked me if I could bring my Drupal presentation to them at the time, because they wanted to know what this Drupal thing was all about. So I organized a few of my usual slides and took them with me.

This was in a very fancy Vila in one of the most expensive areas near Lisbon. I did my pitch and by the end they seemed very impressed with what Drupal had to offer for free, so many powerful features, so much commitment. Naturally one of their questions was how they could make their proprietary software, that started having a descent curve, embark on this positive wave of growth. My obvious answer was “release your code as open source”. They looked at me in discredit of course and still invited me for a boat ride which I declined politely. 

I went back home and from time to time thought about that episode until it started to look like a mirage in the past. To my surprise, in the most recent years, that same corporation has started releasing open source code, created community projects and apparently changed their minds… 

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

Drupal lets you turn big ideas into digital realities. An innovative web platform for creating engaging digital websites and experiences. Drupal is the world's most popular enterprise-class web content management system. It’s developed by more than 46,000 people that are part of the 1.3 million users registered on drupal.org.

Last year we had about 1,000 companies with 8,000 code contributions and this is reflected in millions of websites with 12% market share, plus an annual growth of 51%. If these people still had some more time I would present them the Drupal Pitch Deck. :)

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

From my perspective Drupal has been always growing and even making positive bonds with other Free Software initiatives out there.  One of the most interesting ones happened last year at Drupal Europe 2018 (11-14 Sept)  where we had the founders of RocketChat and Nextcloud met and they ended up announcing a partnership on the 17th of September…  

We should follow that example and support more interaction and collaboration with other projects in our ecosystem. For starters we should make an effort to use tools like RocketChat (see https://drupalchat.me) and grow awareness that companies like Slack have 0, or even less, to do with our values and we don’t gain anything with crossing our arms and letting people be driven there. The future is open, the future is community and inclusion.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

For sure the ongoing effort that I do on the Drupal Portuguese Association to keep people motivated, things organized and events happening is the first one. The highlight of this was DrupalDevDays Lisbon 2018. The second one was the DrupalCI which was of major impact for Drupal8’s final release.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

I’m most excited about Containers and the power behind them. That is only possible because there is Gnu/Linux operating system supporting them. Kubernetes in particular is also of interest since it follows the reasoning of auto-scalability that we need for distributed systems. Drupal is flying to the future already with its headless/decoupled capabilities. I’m seeing containers even being applied to support machine learning algorithms and neural networks. 

Another thing that I’m particularly interested in is investigating better ways to make communities grow and ensure that they have the necessary tools to make that happen.  

My personal endeavor is, in the end, to see my kids grow in a healthy environment, rich in possibilities, and for that I need to keep information available for them and help the Free Software ecosystem stay alive. After all, what else is there that can guarantee our future human independence from “blackboxed” technology? If you can’t see, study or change the source, what role is left for you? 

 Drupal DevDays Lisbon 2018

Aug 06 2019
Aug 06

At the start of every month, we gather all the Drupal blog posts from the previous month that we’ve enjoyed the most. Here’s an overview of our favorite posts from July related to Drupal - enjoy the read!

5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Site to Drupal 8, then 9

Our July selection begins with a blog post by Third & Grove titled “5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Site to Drupal 8, then 9”. Since the upgrade from Drupal 8 will be a smooth and simple one, the best thing to do is to make the move to D8 now and start benefiting from its superior capabilities, as the author of this blog post, Curtis Ogle, also emphasizes. 

In this post, Curtis thus presents his top 5 features of Drupal 8 that make a very strong case for the upgrade. These are: configuration management right in the core; RESTful APIs; twig templates (his personal favorite one); all the contrib modules from D7; and, lastly, the fact that D8 is future proof, with all future upgrade paths considerably smoother than with previous versions.

Read more

The Top Four Benefits of Building a Site on Drupal 8 

Still very much in line with the previous post, this next one was written by BounteousChris Greatens and outlines the main benefits of choosing to build a website in Drupal 8. With an abundance of different CMS solutions, the ones that hold the obvious advantage are those who offer both excellent authoring and administrative features, as well as development capabilities. 

According to Chris, there are 4 main features that make Drupal stand out among other CMS: flexibility, scalability, security and, exactly as in the previously mentioned blog post, the ability of future-proofing. All of Drupal’s additional capabilities only add to this, making it a viable platform for various use cases.

Read more

Prepare for Drupal 9: stop using drupal_set_message()!

Next up, we have a blog post by Gábor Hojtsy reporting on the most recent state of deprecated code in preparation for Drupal 9, which contains two important findings.

The first one is that as much as 29% of all analyzed instances of deprecated API uses can be attributed to drupal_set_message() - so, basically, no longer using this API means you’ll already be 29% on your way towards Drupal 9 readiness.

Gábor’s second finding is that 76% of deprecated API use (47% other API uses beside drupal_set_message()’s 29%) can in fact already be resolved now, 10 months before the release of Drupal 9. This gives project maintainers and contributors plenty of time to work towards D9 compatibility. 

Read more

5 Reasons to Attend and Sponsor Open Source Events

A really great post from July that had us recall the awesome Drupal community is “5 Reasons to Attend and Sponsor Open Source Events”, written by Promet Source’s Chris O’Donnell. He answers the question “Is it worth to keep sponsoring DrupalCamps and other events?” with a hard “Yes” and five (well, six, actually) supporting reasons.

These reasons are: it’s good for business; you (as a company) owe it to the community; you’re able to find new talented developers at these events; you learn a lot; there are various fun activities; and, the sixth bonus reason, you meet many amazing Drupalists and forge new friendships. This last reason alone is actually enough to justify going to at least one or two ‘Camps a year.

Read more

Drupal + Javascript: Exploring the Possibilities

Hook42’s Emanuel London’s introduction to the exploration of the possibilities of Drupal in combination with JavaScript is another post from July that we enjoyed. Excited as he was about the plethora of emerging JavaScript frameworks and the flexibility they offer, Emanuel was a bit disappointed by the fact that the Drupal community hasn’t kept up-to-date with all these technologies, and thus decided to remedy this in a series of blog posts. 

Future posts in the series will explore some of the tools for native mobile app development, e.g. ReactNative, as well as some Drupal tools, modules and distributions, such as ContentCMS. By the end of the series, we’ll hopefully be better prepared for Drupal-powered mobile app development and maybe even compete with WordPress in that area.

Read more

Eight reasons why Drupal should be every government’s CMS

It is a well-known fact in the community that Drupal is the go-to choice for government websites, thanks in large part to its security and multisite capabilities. Anne Stefanyk of Kanopi Studios further underlines this with six additional reasons why governments should choose Drupal as their preferred CMS.

Besides security and multisite/multilingual support, Drupal’s advantage also lies in: its mobility, accessibility, easy content management, ability to handle large amounts of traffic and data, flexibility, and affordability.

These are all aspects crucial to the experience of a government website. As such, Drupal truly is best suited for this role, as is also evidenced by the over 150 countries relying on Drupal to power their websites.

Read more

Getting Start with Layout Builder in Drupal 8

Nearing the end of July’s list, we have a post by Ivan Zugec of WebWash, essentially a tutorial on using Drupal’s recently stable Layout Builder. It contains all the basics you need to get started with this powerful new functionality. 

The first part of the post covers using the Layout Builder to customize content types, with Ivan working on the Article content type as an example. It details how to create a default layout for articles, as well as how to override it for a single article.

The second part then deals with using the module as a page builder, customizing the layout of an individual piece of content, from creating a custom block to embedding images. The post concludes with links to some additional modules and a FAQ section. 
Read more

An Open Letter to the Drupal Community

We round off July’s list with J.D. Flynn’s open letter to the Drupal community. This is a very interesting post which deals with a recent positive addition to drupal.org and how it can be exploited to “game the system” - namely, issue credits. 

The problem with the issue credit system is that it can be used to amass hundreds of credits with fixes for simple novice issues, which leaves fewer of these novice issues to fledgling developers trying to get their foot in the door, as well as gives unjustified credibility to the person or company in question and demoralizes other developers. 

J.D. presents four possible solutions to this: weighted credits; mandatory difficulty tagging of issues; credit limits; and a redistribution of credits. He finishes with a call to action to new developers to seek out help and to seasoned developers to offer mentorship to newcomers.

Read more

We hope you enjoyed our selection of Drupal blog posts from July and perhaps even found some thoughts that inspired ideas of your own. Don’t forget to visit our blog from time to time so you don’t miss any of our upcoming posts! 

Aug 02 2019
Aug 02

A few days ago, on Wednesday, July 31st, Acquia held a webinar on digital experience titled “Think Bigger: Your Digital Experience is More Than Your Website”. 

The two presenters were Justin Emond, CEO of Third & Grove, and Tom Wentworth, SVP of Product Marketing at Acquia. 

They talked more generally about the experience economy and the recent important changes in digital experiences, and more specifically about digital experience platforms (DXP); namely, why an open DXP is the best solution and how Acquia’s services can serve as the foundation for an open DXP.

As with all Acquia webinars, a recording will be publicly available soon for anyone who wasn’t able to attend it or who wants to revisit certain points. In the meantime, we hope this recap will fill in enough gaps to make the wait easier or maybe even compel you to start rethinking your digital strategy today in preparation for the future.

Experience is everywhere

As Tom states, we are now in the “experience economy”, with 1:1 personalization a necessity for brands that plan to win in this economy. 

Today, everything is essentially an experience; we’re surrounded and bombarded by them. Competition among brands, too, works mostly on the basis of customer experience, which means brands need to constantly focus on delivering the best possible experience if they want to stand out. 

The physical world is full of amazing, memorable experiences (Disney, for example, has decades of them under its belt and is hence able to focus on all their minor details). But - what about the digital? What are our most memorable experiences in the digital sphere?

For both, it holds true that it takes a lifetime of great experiences to create an iconic brand. In the digital, however, you can undo a lot of positive experiences and even destroy a brand with a single bad experience, from which it is extremely difficult to come back. 

Why is it so hard to create great digital experiences?

The recent explosion of channels has made user journeys hard to predict, as they interact with brands through various channels, some of which didn’t even exist a few years ago, while those that haven’t yet been invented will also become touchpoints with brands.

Current martech systems are siloed. They each focus on different parts of the customer journey and, by consequence, each have their own view of this journey. But, not only are the tools siloed - the very organization of the teams is siloed as well.

This kind of organization makes it impossible sometimes to deliver an integrated customer experience. And the problems becomes even worse at scale, with even greater technological and organizational limitations to delivering a great, 1:1 customer experience. 

So, how can you tackle this and win out in the experience economy?

Well, the most important thing is - breaking down the silos, both on the technological and organization level. In order to deliver an integrated digital experience, you need one common view of the customer which is consistent across all channels. 

This brings about obvious advantages: the ability to come to market and take advantage of new channels faster, more consistent user experiences, reusable content, automated decision making, more governance, etc.

In the “old” internet, every brand needed a website - this is also the reason why the CMS was created, as a better way to manage these websites. But, today, a website alone isn’t enough; today, every brand needs a digital experience platform - an open DXP.

Planning your optimal DXP

Well, but, isn’t a DXP essentially the same thing as a CMS? It’s true that a DXP is a product, a platform, a solution - but, at the bottom line, it’s a strategy of how you’re going to interact with your customers to achieve desired goals. 

So, a DXP is a strategic perspective on how to approach this problem, whereas a CMS is a tactical solution. 

Web content management

The web CMS is still the basis for any DXP (“content is king”). The focus, then, should be on specific use cases from which you can work. Some of the most common of these are:

  • Multichannel delivery: this use case rests on the perception of content as a service, content in the sense of enabling people and making their lives easier. An API-first strategy is vital for this, as you need to be open with distributing and sharing content with other platforms.
  • Cross-channel strategy: a bit more complex than the previous point, here the focus is more on mapping the customer journey and figuring out how the customer moves through multiple touchpoints of interaction and what the entire integrated story then is.
  • Campaign management: the most important thing here is to be aware of how the CMS, personalization and marketing tools all interact. They need to work really well together in order to get the most out of the campaign.
  • Commerce: the recent emergence of cloud commerce platforms, such as BigCommerce and Shopify Plus, has made it possible to invest less into the backend (since it’s in the cloud) and allocate a bigger part of your budget to other areas, such as marketing. 
  • Customer data: what you do with data is more important than how you collect it or store it. The question here is: how are you going to extrapolate the insights and how can you best leverage them?
  • Work backwards: the future is uncertain and unpredictable. If you acknowledge that, you can work backwards from it, starting with the realization that your DXP will have to be adaptive to change and new tools; we are in an era of unprecedentedly fast digital innovation, after all.


1. If you want agile marketing, you need high developer velocity.

In software development, agile has completely replaced the waterfall approach. Now we’re starting to see this as a marketing trend as well: small releases, continuous iteration, better insights on the performance of a campaign and consequently the ability to adapt faster. But the catch is - successful agile marketing demands high developer velocity.

2. If you need cutting-edge commerce, you need to be disruption-ready.

With e-commerce becoming the most popular form of shopping, innovations in this sphere will be particularly important for brands, hence they will have to be especially adaptive in this area. Commerce cloud applications mentioned earlier are an example of these very recent breakthrough technologies.

3. If you need a decoupled or headless approach, don’t go with a technology that wants to do several different things at the same time. 

Very likely, such a tool won’t do any of the things as well as you would need it too. Because of this, a microservices approach is becoming more and more popular, using for example a JavaScript framework on the front-end in combination with one (or more) CMS.

Open DXP is the only DXP that has it all

Because of all the considerations and trends just discussed, you need to embrace an open architecture for your DXP, one without the restrictions of a lock-in.

Unified content and data create a seamless 1:1 customer experience. Acquia is helping their clients with bringing together all the data obtained from their customers, connecting all that data together in order for a single, unified view of the customer, and getting the content to the customer through whichever channels they interact with a brand on. 

Acquia Open Experience Platform

The Acquia Open Experience Platform consists of two parts: the marketing hub and the experience factory. The latter is built on the Drupal CMS and then extended with preconfigured features that are ideal for mid-market organizations. 

So, with all the advanced integrations such as Mautic or Acquia Lift, how can you achieve better business outcomes? In what way do they empower you? The answer is: they enable you to connect the right person at the right time with the right content on the right channel.

The “open” refers to more than just open source; it’s about being an open platform. In this context, this means utilizing Acquia’s open DXP alongside competitive products; whatever technology their clients need, Acquia wants to make all these different technologies work better together. 

In this sense, Acquia’s DXP is positioned as an open alternative to proprietary platforms such as for example the Adobe Experience Manager or Salesforce’s Lightning Platform. 

Some additional resources

Q&A session

Q: Can an organization get started with only Acquia Lightning and then add on other services later?
A: Absolutely; there are some foundational investments you really need, such as Lightning. Then you can add on Lift to extend your Drupal site with personalization, then Mautic for marketing, etc. Think of your DXP as a journey, not just as a touchpoint on that journey.

Q: Can Acquia Lift be integrated with other CMS platforms or does it only work with Drupal?
A: Yes, it does work with other platforms; it was designed as CMS-neutral.

Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve encountered when helping your customers move to a DXP?
A: There were two crucial mistakes, actually. Firstly - not accepting that the future is unknowable and that things change; and, secondly - a lack of discovery (the discovery checklist linked above is an excellent starting point).

Q: What does a digital experience look like in 2025?
A (Justin): It’s going to be similar, in the sense that there will still be a website, but also different in terms of the way people will interact. There will be an even greater focus on mobile experience, but voice is more limited in its use cases, so it likely won’t be as important as the hype predicts.
A (Tom): Because the pace of technology has never advanced faster, it’s hard to predict what the digital experience will look like even next year. New platforms are emerging every day and we’ll likely continue to see this; the winners will be the organizations that are able to successfully reach their customers with personalized content across all channels. The most important thing will be constant innovation; it will need to happen on a monthly basis. This is true for both the platforms themselves as well as for the organizational aspect. 


We hope this recap has given you a better understanding of what an (open) DXP is and why a focus on the digital experience will continue to be more and more important thanks to technological advancements. 

A lot of brands already demand a multichannel and cross-channel experience for their customers, but the only integrated solutions are expensive and limited proprietary tools. 

Now, Acquia’s positioning itself as the only open provider of these services has the potential to completely change the name of the DXP game. We’re excited to see how their upcoming tools, e.g. Content Cloud, will act as further disruptors of the industry.

We conclude with the one major takeaway from all this: because the future is uncertain, you need to set a strategy that will allow you to adapt to any new technologies in order to stay in the game.

Jul 30 2019
Jul 30

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

We had an amazing talk with the super friendly Maria Totova, a driving force behind the Bulgarian Drupal community, organizer of various educational events, avid speaker and co-founder of Drupal Girls. Have a read and learn more about her numerous interesting projects and her love for Drupal. 

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

My name is Maria Totova and I am a back-end developer from Bulgaria. I have been using Drupal for the last 4 years and I absolutely love it! I work as a Drupal developer at trio-group communication & marketing gmbh, a leading German brand and communication agency, where we create individualized marketing and business solutions.

I am also a board member at Drupal Bulgaria, a non-profit NGO and the official Drupal foundation in my country, as well as an education manager, community leader & instructor at Coding Girls, a non-profit NGO and an international movement. Last, but not least, I am very happy to be a co-founder of Drupal Girls, a subdivision of Coding Girls, devoted especially to raising the interest towards Drupal and growing a strong and diverse community.

Being part of all these amazing institutions, I have the great pleasure to organize and conduct different kinds of events: meetups, workshops, courses and camps. I do my best to spread some Drupal love in high-schools and universities as well by teaching and mentoring students there. I especially love being a speaker at Drupal conferences and I always try to contribute and share what I have learnt. 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

When I came across Drupal, I was a freelancer using WordPress to build rather tiny websites for small companies. So, I can say that I discovered Drupal at a stage of my life when I was searching for a change, for something more. And I found it. I started working with big brands on larger, more complex projects for great companies.

What I particularly like about Drupal is that it brings many challenges and opportunities. It's never boring. I learn a lot and do different things every day, develop all kinds of various functionalities all the time.

But most of all, thanks to Drupal I have met and continue meeting so many exciting people! I've got amazing colleagues, so smart and really crazy! :) I have found great mentors who have been helping me grow as a developer and I have made friends for life.

Indeed, the Drupal community is full of awesome people, inspiring folks, so open-minded and always ready to help. I love that! I have found the place where I fit in and feel safe and comfortable.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

I remember my first encounter with Drupal. :) It was not really a love at first sight... When a friend of mine, who, funny enough, hates Drupal, mentioned it, I decided to take a look. I visited drupal.org, went briefly through the quite strange, full of unknown terminology D7 docs, thought the themes were not so appealing but still decided to install it and dive in a little deeper.

Then, I encountered the content types and modules, and I was like: “Gee, I want to use this!” :D Of course, I went on learning Drupal, built my portfolio website in the process and a few months later I applied for a Drupal job.

Guess what? They called me and hired me on the very next day! I was over the moon! Since then, I have been absolutely enjoying my work every day at every company! How has Drupal changed my life? Phew, it has turned it upside down and inside out but in a very, very good way. I love it and I am happy. Thank you, Drupal! :)

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

I always enjoy explaining what Drupal is to my friends and students. I start by underlining the fact that Drupal is not only a CMS but also a powerful framework. On one hand, you have the full capacity to structure your data and become a great content modeler without even realizing it.

On the other hand, you can build various complex custom solutions via Drupal APIs. I tell them how easy it is to install it for less than 10 min. Then, you receive a solid base that you can build on with only the functionalities you need, depending on the type of your project and without any unnecessary stuff. I describe what an impressive technology Drupal is and focus on its main features: modularity, security, performance, reliability, flexibility, multilingual support, mobile-first approach and so on.

Of course, I don’t forget to highlight the significance of the Drupal community: all the contributions, support and the amazing events that it brings along. In the end, what persuades them best is simply seeing my enthusiasm and understanding that Drupal brings real fun. :)

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

When I started with Drupal, it was version 7. Previously, I had experience in writing object-oriented PHP using CodeIgniter (they have the best docs ever!) and I loved the MVC pattern. It took me some time to understand the drupalisms but soon I grew fond of the hook system and everything.

However, the changes in Drupal 8 brought pure delight. The OOP paradigm and Symphony have made a huge difference. I am eager to see what the future brings, especially in terms of decoupled Drupal and consumer applications. Having in mind our great community, I am pretty sure that Drupal will continue evolving and shining!

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

The Drupal Girls project is one of the things I am quite proud of. The idea behind it is to promote Drupal among ladies and bring more diversity to the Drupal community. We do this by organizing workshops, events & courses and inviting girls to join us in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment. Our main target group is high-school & university students, but we are also happy to work with teachers, instructors and developers using other technologies.

Since our vision is based on integration, we are always happy to have men at our events as well. We all know that men and women think in a different way and this is actually a very good thing! We find out different aspects while working on projects and complement each other.

In fact, more and more companies are starting to realize how important diversity is and how beneficial it is to their organizations. I am very happy that Trio, the company I work for, supports our mission and provides us with the space and everything we need for our events. I hope that more people and organizations will consider joining our initiative by establishing a local community in their city.

Since we are part of the Coding Girls family, a non-profit & non-government organization, all our work is completely volunteer. Thus, we are constantly looking for more mentors and instructors willing to educate and encourage girls to get started with Drupal.
The Drupal 8 Companion Guide is another project that is part of Drupal Girls and which I presented at Drupal Europe in Darmstadt last year. It has still some work in progress, but I will do my best to publish it soon. It is a structured and portable reference manual to various Drupal materials which both learners and instructors can adopt anytime, anywhere.

It aims to help beginners focus on the important concepts without losing too much time in a prolonged research and before they give up. I have been using it for conducting our workshops and courses as well as for building a curriculum for our Trio internship programs for university students. We are planning to provide it to high schools this autumn, too. Of course, the guide can also be used in a self-paced & self-study manner by newcomers on their journey through the Drupal realm.
In the meantime, I enjoy being a speaker at Drupal conferences and sharing my knowledge, experience or lessons learnt with the folks there. I particularly like the lively discussions at the end of the sessions, and I am always looking forward to them. One of the local camps that is especially important for me is Drupal Bootcamp Plovdiv and I am very proud to be among its organizers.

It is a two-day conference for total beginners that consists of various presentations, discussions, quizzes and workshops. At the end of the conference, every participant has their own project and a good basic understanding of Drupal.

We have been doing it for a third year in a row and I absolutely love to see new eager-to-learn eyes every time! In addition, thanks to the latest changes on community projects on drupal.org, I am also happy to give credits to our great speakers and mentors!

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

Ah, there are so many great Drupal initiatives and projects that I simply cannot list them all. Of course, the first three that come up to my mind are the Drupal 9, the Admin UI & JavaScript Modernisation and the Documentation strategic initiatives. These folks are doing a wonderful job and they deserve our respect.

As a developer, I am deeply interested in the D8DX: Improving the D8 developer experience community initiative. Since I come from a Drupal 7 world, and I remember the multi-language combinations and struggles there, I cannot forget to mention how impressed and grateful I am to the Multilingual initiative!

Finally, the Promote Drupal initiative is really important to us all and should definitely be highlighted!

As for projects, I am particularly fond of Thunder: we have been using it as a foundation for developing our own distribution and I enjoy being one of the devs working on it. I also like Drupal Commerce and I am always happy to see new e-shops built on it. Most definitely, every project on drupal.org deserves a recognition for all the efforts of their maintainers and contributors!

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

When I am not busy with Drupal, I volunteer the rest of my time to Coding Girls as an education manager, instructor and mentor. Coding Girls is an international organization promoting an increased presence of girls and women in technology, leadership and entrepreneurship. We have communities in different cities around the world and are constantly growing.

I am the community leader of Coding Girls Plovdiv in my hometown, where we have been organizing free meetups, courses, workshops and all kinds of tech events for more than two years. Apart from the summer break, we are quite busy as we have an event almost every Thursday. This is how I have gained solid experience in organizing events and I enjoy it a lot!

Besides, now I have the chance to do the thing I love as much as programming – teaching. I know how important mentorship is and I am happy to do it for other people, to pay it forward. :)

Jul 09 2019
Jul 09

Here’s a quick recap of our blog posts from last month. Check it out and revisit your favorite ones!

Interview with Mario Hernandez of Mediacurrent: Contributing to Drupal through workshops and training

We began with another interview in our Drupal Community Interviews series; for this one, we talked with Mario Hernandez, Senior Frontend Developer at Mediacurrent. He was first acquainted with the power of Drupal in 2007 when he was working for the Federal Government.

Even then, during version 6, he was impressed with Drupal’s powerful backend which allowed him to focus on the frontend with which he has more experience. One of his favorite recent developments is the shift from PHP templates to the Twig template engine.

But Mario’s proudest contribution doesn’t have that much to do directly with code - what he enjoys the most is actually providing training and conducting workshops, especially at smaller events where people are very eager to learn. Mediacurrent’s plan is to expand their offerings and start providing custom training that goes beyond just Drupal. 

Read more

Burnout: Symptoms of developer burnout & ways to tackle it

Moving on, we have a somewhat longer blog post that deals with burnout; namely, how to spot the symptoms of burnout when managing a team of developers and what measures to take to prevent burnout from occurring and/or alleviate it when it does occur. 

While burnout is a general problem for workers, it’s especially relevant in the development industry, with higher and higher demands for developers (and from these developers). The first step to preventing it is to be on the lookout for its symptoms, such as lack of energy/motivation, isolation, a decreased quality of work, etc. 

Other preventive measures include a pleasant working environment, enough exercise and motivation, as little overtime as possible and generally a healthy work-life balance. On the individual level, the most important thing is enjoying your work and knowing your limits.

Read more

Interview with Cindy McCourt, Drupal trainer and author

Our second community interview in June featured Cindy McCourt, consultant at IDCM Innovations, Drupal trainer and author. Even when she discovered Drupal in version 4.5, Cindy knew that Drupal was going in the right direction by offering what she calls a data management system rather than a page management system. 

Having managed numerous HTML pages, she knows the importance of code and content reuse, as well as the power of databases and what it takes to integrate websites and databases. Because of Drupal’s powerful capabilities in this area, choosing to work with it was a no-brainer for her.

As a trainer, Cindy emphasizes the importance of good and respectful communication within the Drupal community, pointing out that Drupal is free because a lot of people have dedicated their free time and effort to the project, without necessarily having to. 

Read more

Recap of Acquia's webinar on Content as a Service

The last post we wrote in June was a recap of Acquia’s webinar on content as a service, titled “Shifting from Single Channel to Multichannel Content”. Dries Buytaert and Jake Wilund talked about the challenges of multichannel content and presented Acquia’s upcoming CaaS solution, Content Cloud. 

Since people consume content through different channels across their digital journey, it’s important to produce content that works and is relevant across all these channels. There are three steps crucial to this: standardizing content structures across systems and channels; auditing existing content repositories; and defining the roles and responsibilities involved. 

Some of the features that stood out the most from the Content Cloud demo were API-first, easy inclusion of rich media and easy maintenance of content through multiple systems. If you can’t wait for the official release, you can sign up for beta access here.

Read more

We hope you liked revisiting our content from June. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts, make sure to check our blog every once in a while - we’re sure you’ll find something that interests you!

Jul 05 2019
Jul 05

Just like every month, we’ve been reading a lot of interesting content related to Drupal and have prepared a short selection of our favorite Drupal-related posts from June. It wasn’t exactly a straightforward task, what with so many quality blog posts, but we’ve managed to narrow it down to the following list. We hope you enjoy the read!

Promote Drupal Status Update

The first post on June’s list is an update on the status of the Promote Drupal Initiative from the Drupal Association’s blog, written by Tim Lehnen who has just finished with his role as the interim executive director of the Association in June. 

The post begins with the conception of the initiative, as well as its purpose, which is to provide decision-makers with helpful material for the adoption of Drupal. Then, Tim provides an update on the progress of the first two phases of Promote Drupal which are well on their way to completion. 

Finally, he outlines some next steps of the initiative and finishes the post with a CTA inviting individuals and agencies to dedicate some of their time to participating in the initiative and promoting Drupal.

Read more

Adventures with Drupal's Layout Builder

The next post that stood out to us is Fuse Interactive’s Adventures with Drupal’s Layout Builder. The Layout Builder had been, until the recent 8.7 release, an experimental module that entered the Drupalverse in version 8.5. Now that it’s a part of Drupal’s core, it makes sense to start using it as much as we can to discover all its capabilities. 

In this post, Niall Morgan from the Fuse Interactive team relates their experience with using the module and provides some guidance for setting it up, even including a section on creating your own layout templates. He concludes the post with some points for further discussion, e.g. custom styling to blocks and sections via config options and utility classes.

Read more

Boost your speed with lazy images

Another post that caught our attention was one by James Williams of ComputerMinds on lazy loading images. With such a high pressure on websites to load everything super fast, it’s become crucial to optimize our images for our websites and web applications.

A really efficient way of doing this is making images load lazily. That means that they’re only loaded when the image is scrolled up into the user’s view. This is achieved by first using the data-src html attribute instead of the regular src, then loading the image with JavaScript when it’s observed as being in the view. 

James provides the code for setting up an intersection observer in Drupal, as well as some tips for further customization, such as including placeholder images.

Read more

The distributed CMS: How the decoupled CMS endgame will impact your organization

While not exactly a Drupal-specific post, this next one has such important implications for the future of content management systems in general that we felt it definitely deserves a mention. It was written by Preston So and discusses the fourth wave of content management systems - the distributed CMS.

He begins with some basics concerning the current channel explosion and a brief overview of modern web development, then goes on to explain the decoupled CMS and outlines three reasons for its widespread popularity: pipelined development, interchangeable presentation layers and API convergence. 

Finally, he describes the emerging distributed CMS, or content mesh, in which the presentation layer itself as well as the services within this presentation layer are both interchangeable. A great example of a technology which enables this is Gatsby.

Read more

An Overview for Migrating Drupal Sites to 8

As its title already suggests, the subject of this post written by Lullabot’s Juampy NR is migration to Drupal 8 from previous versions of Drupal (namely, D7 in the examples given by Juampy). 

The post first explains migration files and the different approaches to migrating configuration and content. Migrations can be done in two ways: either by automatically generating migrations with the Migrate Upgrade module or by writing them by hand, which is the better choice when the content model undergoes significant changes. 

All in all, Juampy’s post provides all the basics you need to know when migrating your existing Drupal site to Drupal 8. The Migrate Upgrade module really simplifies this process, so he advises to make use of it even when writing migrations manually. 

Read more

Announcing a private beta of Acquia Content Cloud

Moving on with our list, we have a blog post by Dries announcing Acquia’s new content-as-a-service solution called Acquia Content Cloud. It’s an invaluable resource for marketers and content editors to effortlessly create content than can be reused and published across numerous channels. 

Content Cloud is especially handy for larger organizations with a large number of sites or applications and content creators. It allows for easy governance of these content creators and easy synchronization of content across channels. 

This new product was unveiled at the Acquia Engage conference in London and is currently in beta phase; you can get a taste of it by watching the demo video included in Dries’ post and/or signing up here for the private beta.

Read more

Looking good Drupal, looking good!

Drupal’s authoring experience used to be quite lacking, especially when compared with a CMS such as WordPress where the authoring experience is really intuitive. This changed, however, with the arrival of Drupal 8. 

In this post, Glenn Hodgkinson of Thinkbean looks at the three main areas of the improved AX in Drupal 8: the Gutenberg editor adopted from WordPress, the Layout Builder which has just recently become a part of core, and better management of media entities. 

Thanks to these newly introduced features, content creators now have a lot more control over their content and don’t need to rely so heavily on developers, which brings Drupal’s authoring capabilities on par with its technical capabilities. 

Read more

The Myth of Inaccessible React

Finally, we have a post by Mediacurrent’s Ben Robertson in which he dispels the myth of React having very poor accessibility. It’s a common misconception that JavaScript libraries have accessibility issues and, with React being one of the most popular ones, it often takes the blame. 

However, this is not the case in Ben’s experience. In his blog post, he explains how developers can use the accessibility tools available to React to greatly diminish the number of accessibility errors in their code. Specifically, he takes a look at linting tools, the react-axe library and Storybook. 

If you just want to see first-hand how things work or need to set up a project quickly, Ben also provides a Gatsby starter with all these tools already built in.

Read more

This concludes our list of the top Drupal posts from June. If you enjoyed it, feel free to visit our blog and check out our other posts!

Jun 30 2019
Jun 30

On Thursday, June 27, 2019, Acquia held a webinar on the topic of content as a service, titled “Shifting from Single Channel to Multichannel Content”. 

Speakers Dries Buytaert and Jake Wilund presented the challenges of multichannel content and what a content-as-a-service (CaaS) platform looks like, topped with a sneak peek into an upcoming new feature of Acquia - Content Cloud. 

While the slides and video will be available publicly in the coming days, we wanted to provide a way for everyone who missed the webinar to get some insight into what it was all about without having to wait for said slides and video, or without having to watch the entire video if they don't have the time.

For this reason, we decided to write up a recap of the most salient and relevant points from the presentation and the subsequent discussion. So, if you were unable to attend the webinar or just want a refresher, this blog post is for you.

We’ll make sure to update it as soon as the slides and videos are available so that you’ll have all the information easily accessible from one place (which is very much in line with the topic of the webinar). 

Challenges users face with relation to content

A user experiences a brand and its content through different channels along their digital journey. This means that every touchpoint you have with your customers is a chance to strengthen the relationship they have with your brand - or to weaken it.

Basically, we’ve moved beyond simply the web; we’re now in a multichannel world. Because of this, organizations must deliver great customer experiences across different channels: experiences that are relevant, personalized, easy to navigate and work across different devices. 

Content is the fundamental building block of a good digital experience, so you need to make sure that the content you produce is of a high quality and experientially relevant. 

Multichannel content challenge

A multichannel approach, naturally, demands that more content is created for more channels, and the creation of this content needs to happen at a faster pace. 

Additionally, each new channel means a new system for both authors and developers, which translates into more time and resources needed for onboarding. Because of this, having a single source of truth for the latest content is critical, as is the use and reuse of this content. 

Reducing complexity is a cross-organization problem. With a lot of authors working across numerous sites, it’s hard to keep track of and reuse content, as well as manage all of these content creators across different platforms. 

Working in silos creates disjointed digital experiences. Each time you add a channel, you need a new technology system which supports that channel (e.g. e-commerce -> Magento). These solutions are independent platforms, disjointed already when there’s just a few of them - but what if there are hundreds of these technology systems?

Best practices for multichannel experiences

There are three key steps to starting the shift from single to multichannel experiences from a content perspective. They are:

  1. Standardize content structures across all systems and channels. Experience builders and authors need to have consistency, so make content structures uniform across channels.
  2. Audit your existing content repositories. It’s already been pointed out that content reuse is imperative, but if you don’t know where the content is located, it’s easy to miss it.
  3. Define the critical roles and responsibilities involved in content creation. You need standardization and governance of your content structures, so that you always know who’s responsible for creating and/or publishing content.

Content-as-a-service platform (CaaS platform)

A CaaS platform provides simplified, headless content creation that is independent of delivery channel, which enables organizations to support multichannel digital experiences with the “COPE” model (create once, publish everywhere). 

Structured content is the content that can be used to power digital experiences. A CaaS platform should enable a great authoring experience. 

Sneak peak into Acquia Content Cloud

Attendees of the webinar even got a sneak peek into Acquia Content Cloud, an upcoming new tool for content creators to easily create headless experiences and integrate APIs. 

If you’re eager to give Content Cloud a try, you can apply for a private beta. In the meantime, here are the features that stood out to us from the presentation and the demo video:

  • Marketers can write, edit and approve content, independent of where it will be used.
  • Content can be maintained through multiple disconnected systems.
  • It allows for easy inclusion of rich media: images, videos, animations, etc.
  • API-first means that it supports decoupled/headless experiences on any channel. 
  • It integrates with new and existing Drupal sites, allowing for easy content syndication. 
  • It’s built for teams and enterprises to streamline content creation. Enterprises need a lot of control over who gets access to what content, so governance capabilities are a priority. 

In a nutshell, Content Cloud provides a SaaS-based content authoring experience. It caters to the different desired capabilities of managers, who want governance and insights into authors, and developers, who need to build content-driven applications and need fast headless capabilities. 

Q&A session

Q: Is Content Cloud built on Drupal?
A: Yes, Acquia started investing heavily in headless Drupal, and this investment can be carried forward into this project. But, not to worry - you won’t need to install and set up Drupal when using Content Cloud, you’ll have everything already enabled.

Q: How does Content Cloud support integrations with other channels?
A: Any piece of content authored in Content Cloud can seamlessly flow into any other existing Drupal 8 application - it will provide a central authoring experience. Out-of-the-box JSON:API functionality will be included. The long-term goal is to build more native integrations, but the team must first determine which of these will have the most impact, as maintaining them can be very costly.

Q: Which version of Drupal is Content Cloud built in?
A: It’s built with the newest versions of Drupal - the beta is in 8.7, for example. But, since it’s CaaS software, customers won’t need to worry about the version.

Q: Does Content Cloud replace the need for a CMS for each of your websites?
A: No, Content Cloud is a content repository, but it still needs to be displayed out in the web. It doesn’t replace websites per se, but it does simplify them and makes it easier to maintain them - all the authoring happens in one place, the website then functions only as the presentation and interaction layer. It can also help accelerate new site builds, since configuration is also retained. A channel is essentially a destination for content, and CMS will remain just that.

Q: How will Content Cloud integrate with the personalization solution Acquia Lift?
A: Any piece of content authored in Content Cloud will be stored in the Acquia Content Hub, which is the source of personalization; this means that any piece of content authored in Content Cloud will be immediately available in Acquia Lift. The view mode will also be stored in Content Hub.

Q: What’s the difference between decoupled and headless CMS?
A: Dries uses these two terms interchangeably, though, technically, they aren’t the same thing. Headless means no head, it is an API-only platform to which you need to add the head. Decoupled, on the other hand, means that there is both an API and a head. You can use APIs to build a new head or additional heads. Content Cloud is headless as it has no presentation layer for the content. The newly emerging terms “CaaS” and “Agile CMS” also overlap with these two definitions. 

Q: Will there be a data analytics component to Content Cloud?
A: Analytics is a key piece of Acquia’s vision, they want to give content creators insights into the performance of their content. The long-term vision is to build tools for content creators to create better, more effective content. This doesn’t just include analytics, but also guidance to authors while they’re creating content (real-time suggestions, e.g. if something won’t work well for SEO, or if something is off-brand). The goal is to create an authoring experience that outputs really good structured content, something that is perfect for authors and marketers. 

Q: Can Content Cloud post directly to a Drupal 8 site?
A: Generally speaking, publication will be orchestrated across channels via releases, but technically it can also post directly if the workflow is such. 

Q: Is there a predefined set of content types? Or can you create your own?
A: It will be shipped with some default content structures (primarily a predefined set of media types), but all the other content types are going to be completely customizable.

Q: When will Content Cloud be available to the general audience?
A: The plan is to ship it at the end of the year, but the insights they learn from the beta phase might push back the release date. 


Well, this is it for our recap of Acquia’s webinar. We hope you were able to get a better grasp of the topic and the capabilities of Content Cloud, or rediscovered something that you missed or that has slipped your mind since the webinar. 

The shift to multichannel content is likely to become an important topic as the technologies and devices via which we consume content become more and more diverse, so it makes sense to start planning for it now rather than wait until the last possible moment.

We can probably expect a lot more content on the subject matter. Preston So's idea of a "distributed CMS" is also very much in line with multichannel content and the Caas platform; check out his blog post if you want to find out more about it.

As promised, we'll update this post when the slides and video are available. Hopefully this recap has given you enough food for thought until then.

Jun 28 2019
Jun 28

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

For this week's interview, we spoke with Cindy McCourt, consultant at IDCM Innovations, Drupal trainer, and author and co-author of several books ranging from Drupal to fantasy fiction. Give it a read to see what drew her to Drupal and why she thinks it'll continue to be a great solution to site builders' and developers' needs.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

Professionally, my passion is empowering future site owners to understand their options for creating a Drupal site. Then, if I can’t be in on the front end, I help site owners learn how to use their new site. The books I have authored and co-authored on Drupal reflect my desire to help as well. 

As for the community, I do what others do. I give back using my skill sets. Coders give code. I am a builder, so I teach people how to build sites with Drupal as part of the Drupal Global Training Days

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I discovered Drupal 4.5 when performing an open source content management system review for a client. Of the 20+ systems that I reviewed fourteen years ago, I chose Drupal for my own use. I felt that Drupal offered what I like to call a data management system, versus a page management system. I liked where Drupal was going with this idea and haven't been disappointed. 

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

When I found Drupal, I walked away from HTML pages and Dreamweaver. I’ve never been one that looks for the opportunity to code. It’s just not my thing. I like tools that help me get a job done. 

For example, if you've ever managed hundreds or thousands of HTML pages, like I have, you know that code and content reuse is required if you want to be efficient. Drupal offers that.

Also, if you have ever built an online data management system, you know the power of databases and what's required to integrate web pages and said database (even if coding is fun). So, to have that done for you, for free? To me, selecting Drupal is a no-brainer. 

As for a moment in time that I remember, the day I installed Drupal on my server to test it for my client. That was a game changer for me, as you can guess from my comments. Today's version of Drupal might be light years from D4.5, but even back then Drupal's concepts were where websites needed to be.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

"Drupal is an open source content management system used to build websites and online applications." I assume I heard this somewhere from someone, or something similar. Anyway, I usually get nods of understanding with that statement. 

If someone is interested in knowing more, I let them guide the discussion based on their needs. Given I can fill many pages of a book, I can also go on and on about several aspects of Drupal if you let me.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

Like I mentioned before, I saw Drupal as a data management system and over the years, it has exceeded my expectations. Nothing has happened to make me believe that Drupal will not continue to provide site builders with the micro tools needed to create what they need.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

Compared to the actual coders in the community who enabled Drupal’s success, I have nothing to brag about. I do my best to submit observations when I see something wrong. I try to be respectful when asking for help. And, when I teach Drupal classes, I speak firmly on the fact that there is no room for curt and disrespectful behavior when communicating with the community. Drupal is free because a lot of really smart people have contributed their time and know-how to make it so. They didn't have to.

7. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

I am talking with a developer colleague and friend about writing a Drupal 9 how-to book. 

If we can come up with something fresh, it will be a combination of a planning and click instruction book with insights based on the 20+ cumulative years of experience between the two of us. The development approach being used as Drupal moves towards D9 offers us a chance to plan now for next year.

Jun 21 2019
Jun 21

Burnout is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem, especially in a field as fast-paced as development. With more and more businesses undergoing a digital transformation, the demand for experienced developers has never been higher - and with it, naturally, come higher and higher demands from these developers.

This is further accentuated by the work- and career-oriented mentality we see widespread today. You can frequently spot people on social media either bragging or complaining about how hard or how long they’ve worked, but, even in the first case, such a workflow is certainly not sustainable. 

It’s true that more work yields more profit; but what good is profit when one’s mental health, and by consequence also physical health, suffer on account of work overload?

Another reason for burnout that should also be mentioned, besides excessive working hours, is a general dissatisfaction with how the work is done and a suboptimal workplace experience. 

In fact, we could argue that monotony or having very little control over one’s work is even more detrimental than working really long hours. Put the two together and you’re practically calling for burnout to arrive. 

In this post, we’ll explore how you can spot the symptoms of your developers burning out and how you can mitigate or even prevent developer burnout. 

In the first part, we’ll focus on the symptoms of burnout; in the second, we’ll take a look at how to reduce the risks of burnout as a developer, as well as what measures to take as a manager to reduce those risks in your team and mitigate burnout when it happens.

Symptoms of burnout - and how to spot them

Let’s start with the symptoms of burnout. Logically, it’s easier to spot these through self-reflection (e.g. you notice a lack of energy and/or motivation, you start suffering from headaches, etc.), but it’s even more crucial for managers to be able to spot them in their employees. So, let's take a look at what signs to look for as indicators that your developers are burning out.

  • They’re lacking energy and/or motivation: this is likely the most obvious symptom of burnout, but should nonetheless be mentioned. If you notice that certain developers on your team constantly seem sleepy and unmotivated, especially in a more hectic period, this should be a red flag that something is wrong.
  • They’re frequently late to work: in line with the previous point, sleepiness and late working hours may result in sleeping through morning alarms and consequently arriving late. The first instinct would be to scold or punish the person in question, but a deeper investigation may reveal other reasons for it - especially if they still seem lacking in energy after arriving late, and this happens on a relatively regular basis.
  • They’ve isolated themselves and stopped talking to coworkers: this can be difficult to spot in employees who are more introverted by nature, or those who work on specific projects that don’t require as much collaboration (or even disallow it altogether, e.g. when working under a very strict NDA). This means that you need to be extra mindful of these employees so that potential signs of their burnout don’t go overlooked. 
  • They’ve stopped participating at meetings: this point is similar to the previous one in that it concerns a kind of isolation. If someone is physically present at meetings, but “not really there” in the practical sense, it can either be because they have so much on their mind already, or because they’re too tired to actively participate. Both of these can be signs of burnout. 
  • The quality of their work has decreased: if you notice an increase of bugs and mistakes in a certain developer’s code, or if they take longer than usual to solve relatively simple tasks that involve familiar technologies, this could indicate that they’re suffering from burnout. Make sure to thoroughly explore this possibility before you sanction them.

Granted, some of these are almost impossible to spot if you have a freelancer or a team of developers working for you remotely. In such a case, you should also look for the following indicators: a remote worker fails to do certain tasks, or delivers them very late, they stop responding to calls and direct messages, they fail to track their time, etc. 

A word of warning, though: most of the points we’ve discussed here can be indicators of other issues, not necessarily burnout, but also personal issues such as family troubles and health issues (but, again, these could be the result of burnout, so it’s a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” situation). 

Nevertheless, if you are an open company that has a healthy company culture and a pretty good grasp of the goings-on in the lives of your employees (without being too Big Brother-y, of course), you can assume these are symptoms of burnout - especially if they start appearing in periods that demand more, or more difficult, work than usually. 

As a manager or a CEO of a smaller company, you need to communicate frequently and clearly with your subordinates and establish a trusting relationship with them. This will make it more likely that they’ll be willing to open up to you about their work and any difficulties they might be facing, and getting to know them will help you spot that something is off.

This holds true for teammates as well - be mindful of changes in your coworkers’ behavior that may indicate that they are overworked and on a path towards burnout. It’s much easier to spot something when you’re aware of it and know what you’re looking for. 

A very useful tool for collecting feedback from your employees, which we at Agiledrop also make good use of, is Officevibe. By guaranteeing anonymity, it gives those individuals who don’t want to expose themselves a chance to voice their opinions and/or dissatisfactions. With it, you’ll be able to get honest feedback and therefore a better overview of your team.

How to prevent or mitigate burnout

Well, the first thing you can do to deal with burnout is to know how to spot it - we already discussed this in the previous section. The problem here is that this is only possible once someone is already suffering from burnout, so it’s not really a preventive measure. 

In this second part of the post, we’ll take a look at some ways of effectively preventing burnout and also dealing with it when it does occur. We’ll start with what you can do to prevent yourself from burning out and how to recover from burnout; while this is primarily aimed at developers, it can apply to anyone, in particular everyone working in the digital. 

What you can do as a developer

  • Find a job you enjoy doing at a company which respects you: this is some of the best advice even outside the context of burnout and is as such a no-brainer. If you enjoy your work and get a sense of accomplishment out of it, even longer working hours become less of a problem. In contrast, doing something you don’t enjoy or take pride in will likely lead to burnout even with a regular 8-hour workday. 
  • Understand that some days are harder than others: if you expect too much from yourself and always want to give 110%, you’re setting yourself up for dissatisfaction. Don’t beat yourself up if you perform a little less optimally on certain days. If you maintain an overall high quality of your work, your manager will know that you’ll more than compensate on other days. 
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew: this coincides with the previous point to some extent. If you want to please everyone, people start to take advantage of that, often completely subconsciously. Things then quickly pile up and, before you know it, you’re swamped with tasks that give you less time to do the really important things, resulting in worrying and the inability to separate work from your personal life.
  • Maintain healthy habits: this helps both with preventing burnout as well as alleviating it once it’s already there. If you eat well and get enough sleep and exercise, you’ll be able to start each day fresh enough to tackle your daily tasks even in the more hectic periods. When you feel that you’re already burning out, you can do a lot by reestablishing a healthy sleep cycle and taking a short exercise break during your work. 

The bottom line is essentially this: the better you feel, the less likely you are to burn out. If you take proper care of yourself and enjoy what you do and the workplace experience in general, you’ll have already greatly diminished the chances of burnout occurring. 

Know your limits and remember that your company also benefits from you putting yourself first, so don’t overwork yourself in the belief that it’s beneficial to business. Chronic fatigue can be a very nasty thing - it’s relatively innocuous, but stubbornly everpresent. In extreme cases, it can even lead to short- or long-term illness, paving the way for even more health issues down the road. 

What you can do as a manager / CEO

Ok, we’ve outlined some of the things you can do to prevent yourself from burning out. Let’s now take a look at what measures to take as a manager to reduce the risks of burnout occurring in your team or, if it does occur, how to at least alleviate it. 

  • Provide a good working environment: naturally, employee well-being starts with a pleasant working environment. This includes healthy snacks, coffee, an agreeable atmosphere and good working conditions. A very important thing here is ergonomic equipment, which goes a long way towards improving at least the physical health of your employees.
  • Encourage and allow exercise: unfortunately, even ergonomic desks and eye-friendly displays aren’t enough for someone who has to spend countless hours hunched over their keyboard. You should encourage exercise, in and outside the workplace; it doesn’t have to be long, just something that stretches the muscles (especially the back!) and breaks the monotony. 
  • Allocate certain times of the day for breaks: you can connect this to the previous point - allow for short breaks in the workplace which developers can use either to get coffee, some exercise or for a non-work-related chat among colleagues. This should be available on a daily basis.
  • Organize teambuilding activities that encourage interaction and participation without forcing them: for longer stretches of time, organize events and teambuilding activities that bring the whole team together. We at Agiledrop frequently have common themed lunches, short presentations by developers on specific topics (not obligatory in any way, but always rewarded), group sports and other activities - next weekend, for example, we’re going kart racing! 
  • Motivate your employees with regular constructive feedback and praise for a job well done: lack of motivation in one’s work is one of the major causes of burnout. In contrast, feeling motivated and getting the deserved recognition can help weather through even the toughest days or weeks. If you acknowledge the hard work of your employees, you’re showing them that their extra effort is appreciated and not simply taken for granted. 
  • Reduce overtime and weekend work: in a perfect world, we’d all have weekends to ourselves, reserved for some quality family time or simply a break from a hard week’s work. Sadly, though, industry demands make the total elimination of overtime a hopeful utopia. At Agiledrop, we understand how crucial this time-off is for our employees and consequently to our overall work culture. We try to keep overtime to a minimum; even when it’s necessary, we coordinate it with the developer well beforehand. 
  • Allow for flexible working arrangements: for someone working on-site, the opportunity to work from home every once in a while can be extremely rejuvenating, especially in a period with a lot of work where the commute itself is already exhausting. But, be careful: while working remotely can mitigate burnout, it can also accentuate it, as the lines between work and free time become more blurred, especially for individuals who are very work-oriented. Ben Robertson of Mediacurrent has recently written about his very efficient solution to dealing with this.
  • Ensure a healthy work-life balance of your employees: while a lot of the points in this section are directly tied to this, a healthy balance between work and free time is so vital to preventing burnout that we believe it deserves its own slot. Guaranteeing our employees’ happiness and ensuring this balance are among our top priorities at Agiledrop. We wrote briefly about work-life balance and motivating our team in this blog post


While burnout is admittedly a persistent problem, there exist a number of ways of effectively preventing and tackling it. Being aware of it and implementing preventive measures into your very work culture is already half the battle. 

We hope we were able to shed some light on the issue of burnout and provided some guidelines, or at least inspiration, to counteract it. Have any more ideas on how to deal with developer burnout? Or have you spotted other symptoms of burnout in yourself or your team? If we missed something, please let us know! 

Jun 18 2019
Jun 18

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

Meet Mario Hernandez, Senior Frontend Developer at Mediacurrent. With over 10 years of experience in Drupal, Mario has seen the CMS evolve significantly throughout the years. Read on to find out more about some of Mediacurrent's most interesting projects and what aspect of his work Mario enjoys the most.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I am a Senior Front End Developer at Mediacurrent and the majority of my contribution to the Drupal community is around conducting training workshops and writing blog posts. In the past I’ve contributed to the Out Of The Box initiative and also helped with the implementation of the Simplify Menu module.

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

Back in 2007 I was working for the Federal Government in Los Angeles as a developer and was tasked with building an Emergency Preparedness website which would provide access to resources to employees for disaster recovery in the event of a major disaster. I looked and tested several content management systems and ultimately decided on Drupal as it was the one which provided the most flexibility and ability to scale.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

I believe after building the website I cited above, I realized the power of Drupal. As a Front End Developer with minimum programming experience, I realized Drupal could do all the heavy lifting for me in the Back-End while I focus on my area of expertise, Front-End. Nowadays and for the past 20+ years I’ve been making a living building Drupal Websites for some of the most well known brands in the world.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

First I find out if they are familiar with content management systems at all and tell them Drupal is like one of those but for enterprise level websites. If they know about WordPress or Powerpoint I draw some kind of comparison such as being open source or written in PHP. I also share examples of high profile websites built with Drupal. Best example is The Weather Channel website which most people use and I tell them we at Mediacurrent built it. (shameless plug).

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

I started working with Drupal 6 back in 2007 and it is great to see how far Drupal has come. As a Front-End developer going from PHP templates to Twig was a huge improvement. Mobile first and accessibility have improved drastically from the old days. Other significant improvements are APIs, Layout Builder and Configuration Management. Lastly, the promise of a better upgrade path will be a big win for people building websites as well as site owners when Drupal 9 is released.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

Although I have made code contributions to the Drupal ecosystem, my proudest contribution is being able to provide training and technical resources for others to consume. I personally enjoy conducting training workshops at small camps where people are eager to learn. In most cases this contribution is free of charge but it is the most rewarding experience for me personally.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

Mediacurrent recently introduced our own Drupal Distribution called Rain, which is an Enterprise Distribution. We have worked and continue to work very hard on providing a turn-key solution for anyone looking to build an enterprise level website. In addition to hand-picked modules and functionality, the Rain distribution provides an optional Decoupled front-end which runs on Gatsby. We are very proud of Rain and are excited to see what people build with it.

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

We at Mediacurrent are working hard to take our training offerings to a new level. We have great plans for providing custom training for teams and the community and are very excited to make Mediacurrent the go-to agency for training that goes beyond Drupal.  

Jun 18 2019
Jun 18

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

Meet Mario Hernandez, Senior Frontend Developer at Mediacurrent. With over 10 years of experience in Drupal, Mario has seen the CMS evolve significantly throughout the years. Read on to find out more about some of Mediacurrent's most interesting projects and what aspect of his work Mario enjoys the most.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

I am a Senior Front End Developer at Mediacurrent and the majority of my contribution to the Drupal community is around conducting training workshops and writing blog posts. In the past I’ve contributed to the Out Of The Box initiative and also helped with the implementation of the Simplify Menu module.

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

Back in 2007 I was working for the Federal Government in Los Angeles as a developer and was tasked with building an Emergency Preparedness website which would provide access to resources to employees for disaster recovery in the event of a major disaster. I looked and tested several content management systems and ultimately decided on Drupal as it was the one which provided the most flexibility and ability to scale.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

I believe after building the website I cited above, I realized the power of Drupal. As a Front End Developer with minimum programming experience, I realized Drupal could do all the heavy lifting for me in the Back-End while I focus on my area of expertise, Front-End. Nowadays and for the past 20+ years I’ve been making a living building Drupal Websites for some of the most well known brands in the world.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

First I find out if they are familiar with content management systems at all and tell them Drupal is like one of those but for enterprise level websites. If they know about WordPress or Powerpoint I draw some kind of comparison such as being open source or written in PHP. I also share examples of high profile websites built with Drupal. Best example is The Weather Channel website which most people use and I tell them we at Mediacurrent built it. (shameless plug).

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

I started working with Drupal 6 back in 2007 and it is great to see how far Drupal has come. As a Front-End developer going from PHP templates to Twig was a huge improvement. Mobile first and accessibility have improved drastically from the old days. Other significant improvements are APIs, Layout Builder and Configuration Management. Lastly, the promise of a better upgrade path will be a big win for people building websites as well as site owners when Drupal 9 is released.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

Although I have made code contributions to the Drupal ecosystem, my proudest contribution is being able to provide training and technical resources for others to consume. I personally enjoy conducting training workshops at small camps where people are eager to learn. In most cases this contribution is free of charge but it is the most rewarding experience for me personally.

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

Mediacurrent recently introduced our own Drupal Distribution called Rain, which is an Enterprise Distribution. We have worked and continue to work very hard on providing a turn-key solution for anyone looking to build an enterprise level website. In addition to hand-picked modules and functionality, the Rain distribution provides an optional Decoupled front-end which runs on Gatsby. We are very proud of Rain and are excited to see what people build with it.

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

We at Mediacurrent are working hard to take our training offerings to a new level. We have great plans for providing custom training for teams and the community and are very excited to make Mediacurrent the go-to agency for training that goes beyond Drupal.  

Jun 13 2019
Jun 13

Burnout is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem, especially in a field as fast-paced as development. With more and more businesses undergoing a digital transformation, the demand for experienced developers has never been higher - and with it, naturally, come higher and higher demands from these developers.

This is further accentuated by the work- and career-oriented mentality we see widespread today. You can frequently spot people on social media either bragging or complaining about how hard or how long they’ve worked, but, even in the first case, such a workflow is certainly not sustainable. 

It’s true that more work yields more profit; but what good is profit when one’s mental health, and by consequence also physical health, suffer on account of work overload?

Another reason for burnout that should also be mentioned, besides excessive working hours, is a general dissatisfaction with how the work is done and a suboptimal workplace experience. 

In fact, we could argue that monotony or having very little control over one’s work is even more detrimental than working really long hours. Put the two together and you’re practically calling for burnout to arrive. 

This two-part series explores how you can spot the symptoms of your developers burning out and how you can mitigate or even prevent developer burnout. In the first part, we’ll focus on the symptoms of burnout; in the second, we’ll take a look at how to reduce the risks of burnout as a developer, as well as what measures to take as a manager to reduce those risks and mitigate burnout when it happens.

Symptoms of burnout - and how to spot them

Let’s start with the symptoms of burnout. Logically, it’s easier to spot these through self-reflection (e.g. you notice a lack of energy and/or motivation), but it’s even more crucial for managers to be able to spot them in their employees. So, let's take a look at what signs to look for as indicators that your developers are burning out.

  • They’re lacking energy and/or motivation: this is likely the most obvious symptom of burnout, but should nonetheless be mentioned. If you notice that certain developers on your team constantly seem sleepy and unmotivated, especially in a more hectic period, this should be a red flag that something is wrong.
  • They’re frequently late to work: in line with the previous point, sleepiness and late working hours may result in sleeping through morning alarms and consequently arriving late. The first instinct would be to scold or punish the person in question, but a deeper investigation may reveal other reasons for it - especially if they still seem lacking in energy after arriving late, and this happens on a relatively regular basis.
  • They’ve isolated themselves and stopped talking to coworkers: this can be difficult to spot in employees who are more introverted by nature, or those who work on specific projects that don’t require as much collaboration (or even disallow it altogether, e.g. when working under a very strict NDA). This means that you need to be extra mindful of these employees so that potential signs of their burnout don’t go overlooked. 
  • They’ve stopped participating at meetings: this point is similar to the previous one in that it concerns a kind of isolation. If someone is physically present at meetings, but “not really there” in the practical sense, it can either be because they have so much on their mind already, or because they’re too tired to actively participate. Both of these can be signs of burnout. 
  • The quality of their work has decreased: if you notice an increase of bugs and mistakes in a certain developer’s code, or if they take longer than usual to solve relatively simple tasks that involve familiar technologies, this could indicate that they’re suffering from burnout. Make sure to thoroughly explore this possibility before you sanction them.

Granted, some of these are almost impossible to spot if you have a freelancer or a team of developers working for you remotely. In such a case, you should also look for the following indicators: a remote worker fails to do certain tasks, or delivers them very late, they stop responding to calls and direct messages, they fail to track their time, etc. 

A word of warning, though: most of the points we’ve discussed here can be indicators of other issues, not necessarily burnout, but also personal issues such as family troubles and health issues (but, again, these could be the result of burnout, so it’s a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” situation). 

Nevertheless, if you are an open company that has a healthy company culture and a pretty good grasp of the goings-on in the lives of your employees (without being too Big Brother-y, of course), you can assume these are symptoms of burnout - especially if they start appearing in periods that demand more, or more difficult, work than usually. 

As a manager or a CEO of a smaller company, you need to communicate frequently and clearly with your subordinates and establish a trusting relationship with them. This will make it more likely that they’ll be willing to open up to you about their work and any difficulties they might be facing, and getting to know them will help you spot that something is off.

This holds true for teammates as well - be mindful of changes in your coworkers’ behavior that may indicate that they are overworked and on a path towards burnout. It’s much easier to spot something when you’re aware of it and know what you’re looking for. 

A very useful tool for collecting feedback from your employees, which we at Agiledrop also make good use of, is Officevibe. By guaranteeing anonymity, it gives those individuals who don’t want to expose themselves a chance to voice their opinions and/or dissatisfactions. With it, you’ll be able to get honest feedback and therefore a better overview of your team.


Hopefully, we’ve shed some light on the main signs of developer burnout and how to spot them. If you want to learn more, make sure to check back early next week for part 2 of the series, in which we’ll dive into some ways of reducing the risks of burnout occurring or even preemptively preventing it. 

Other posts in this series:

  • Part 2: How to prevent or mitigate developer burnout (coming soon)
Jun 07 2019
Jun 07

May marked another important month for the Drupal community, with a new minor version of Drupal being released on May 1st and Acquia acquiring the open source marketing platform Mautic. In case you missed any of these important pieces of news, here’s an overview of the top Drupal blog posts from May.

Drupal 8.7.0 is available

Let’s start with the most salient piece of news - the release of Drupal 8.7.0. On the same day as it was released, Gábor Hojtsy already published a blog post presenting the new features of version 8.7.0 which also contained helpful information on what the release means for sites running on older versions. 

One of the most notable novelties in this release is a stable Layout Builder, but the now stable support for JSON:API should also be mentioned, since it’s a key milestone towards making Drupal API-first. Other features include improvements in the experimental Media Library, revisionable menus and taxonomy terms, and a more accessible Umami demo showcasing a greater number of features out of the box.

Read more

API-First Drupal: what's new in 8.7?

This next post is very similar to the previous one in that it presents some of what’s new in the newly released 8.7 version of Drupal. This one, though, written by Wim Leers, focuses more on the improvements in the context of API-first Drupal (as the title already makes clear). 

So, Drupal 8.7.0 has introduced improvements to both the REST and JSON APIs, with the latter receiving more and bigger improvements. One of the things that was fixed in both of these modules were the datetime and daterange fields, which now respect standards. While the REST module is still maintained on drupal.org, new releases of Drupal will only see new features for JSON:API.

Read more

Static searches with Drupal and Lunr

Moving on, we have a post from Samuel Mortenson’s blog on static search in Drupal with the JavaScript-based search engine Lunr. In this post, Samuel describes how he tackled the integration of Lunr with Drupal and what kinds of problems he encountered, one of the major ones being performance issues with large indexes. 

Another usability problem were facets, since Lunr lacks the ability to search by complex conditions and condition groups. Samuel’s solution was to make two separate queries, one for the search terms and one for all the fields, then finding the intersection of both results. The Drupal Lunr integration is now ready to be tested and put to use, and Samuel encourages everyone to try it out.

Read more

Sponsor a Feature

The fourth post on this month’s list is Jacob Rockowitz’s Sponsor a Feature, in which he describes the process of sponsoring features of open-source projects. He starts with the four vital steps: communication, documentation, agreement and payment, and explains each of them in further detail. 

The common understanding of open source as being free doesn’t mean that developers contributing code shouldn’t receive any payment. Sponsoring their work enables a greater number of people to start contributing while also making their work more sustainable. 

Since companies also benefit from open-source software contributed by volunteer developers, it makes sense to sponsor the work of these volunteers. This in turn also strengthens and diversifies the entire community.

Read more

Drupal 8 Configuration

Next on our list, we have a five-part series of posts by Jay Friendly of Morpht exploring the Drupal 8 Configuration API. The posts in the series cover the basics of the API, how it works and how to use it, how to extend it with contributed modules, and how developers can manage, declare and debug configuration in custom modules. 

Because Drupal is much more complex today than it used to be, with Drupal projects now running on multiple environments, consistent code should be used for all the site copies. Jay Friendly’s series gives helpful information on the Configuration API, making this effort easier. (Each post contains links to all the other parts, so we won't link all of them here.)

Read part 1

Why we no longer use Display Suite on new Drupal 8 projects

With Layout Builder becoming stable in Drupal 8.7.0, some previously useful modules have lost some of this usefulness and become a bit redundant. Saul Willers of PreviousNext gives the example of Display Suite, which is mainly used to position fields into layouts. Layout Builder now provides the alternative of using blocks to create layouts.  

As for the use case of Display Suite to control field markup, a good alternative is the Element Class Formatter module used in combination with Twig templates. As such, when starting a Drupal Project from scratch, it makes sense to use Layout Builder together with other solutions instead of Display Suite.

Read more

Acquia acquires Mautic to create the Open Digital Experience Platform

Acquia’s acquisition of Mautic was great news for both Drupal and the broader open-source community. For anyone not familiar with Mautic - it is an open-source alternative to proprietary marketing automation platforms such as Adobe’s Marketo

In this post, Dries stresses the importance of organizations having Digital Experience Platforms rather than simple websites and gives three main reasons why Acquia and Mautic are such a great match. 

Namely, the two platforms share the same technology stack and business model. And, thanks to this acquisition, Acquia can now disrupt the marketing automation market as the only open-source solution. Additionally, since Mautic is loved by both marketers and developers, it’s more open to innovations via integrations, which makes for a better customer experience.

Read more

The Giving Tree Called DrupalCon

The last post from May that we wanted to include is Kalamuna’s The Giving Tree Called DrupalCon. For this year’s DrupalCon in Seattle, they decided to put the money that’s typically used for swag to better use and do something good for the environment instead.

To this end, they partnered up with One Tree Planted and sponsored the planting of 450 trees in parts of California that were damaged by forest fires. They got the Drupal community involved by inviting them to plant stickers on the wall of their DrupalCon booth, and every sticker then turned into an actual tree planted. 

We love seeing examples of how we can make the world a better place by coming together. We wanted to round off this month’s list with one such example. Here’s to hoping that Kalamuna’s efforts inspire more people and businesses!

Read more

This was our selection of the most interesting Drupal blog posts and pieces of news from May. If you enjoy these recaps, make sure to check back early next month for a list of June’s posts. Till then - enjoy!

Jun 05 2019
Jun 05

Missed some of the blog posts we wrote in May? You can catch up on those you missed or revisit your favorite ones in this quick recap that we’ve prepared. We hope you enjoy!

Interview with Tim Lehnen: When you're trying to make a mark in the digital space, Drupal is your best choice

For the latest post in our Drupal Community Interviews series, we got a chance to talk to Tim Lehnen who has just finished with his position as the interim Executive Director of the Drupal Association, letting Heather Rocker assume the mantle. 

Tim believes Drupal has the potential to be used in any kind of ambitious digital experience, not just the web, but also trending new technologies such as VR and AR. This is also due to its leading position among omnichannel and decoupled solutions. Because of this, it will only continue to evolve and improve.

But our favorite part of the interview was probably what Tim remembers as one of the most notable moments within the Drupal community, when the Canadian company Evolving Web used their DrupalCon sponsorship time for a totally different purpose rather than for commercial promotion. Check out the whole interview to see what they did.

Read more

Optimizing Images with Drupal 8 Core Features

Next up, we have a post on optimizing images with the core features of Drupal 8, written by our developer Tjaša. Tjaša encountered the problem of having to optimize some images in Drupal and discovered that not much had been written on the subject. Staying true to the spirit of Drupal, she decided to share her solution with the community in a blog post that anyone can always have on hand. 

Out of the box, Drupal provides a great tool for optimizing images, called Image Styles. An image with the Scale image style assigned to it will load faster than one with no image styles, as the file size will be reduced; but this might also result in some loss of quality on a Retina display. For such screens, we should use an image style that’s twice as big as the first one.

We can achieve even faster loading times by adjusting the image quality. With the Responsive Images module, we can even fit the dimensions of an image to the specific screen type on which it’s served. For some additional optimization, we can also use lazy loading.

Read more

7 questions you're probably asking yourself when considering Open Social

The third post we wrote in May presents the Open Social Drupal distribution created by the GoalGorilla team. Open Social allows anyone to quickly and easily establish an online community, either with the paid SaaS version or the free open-source one. It offers a wide range of features, the usual as well as the more innovative ones, and a number of extensions for the SaaS option. 

The Open Social team provides a lot of helpful material for using it effectively, e.g. a blog section on community management and a free guide. As a user of the software, you even get a say in the project’s roadmap. 

A number of notable businesses are already using Open Social to empower people from the entire planet to collaborate, for example the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). The project’s co-founder Taco Potze excellently sums up what Open Social is all about in a quote that we’ve included - you’ll have to go look at the whole post to see what he had to say!

Read more

Interview with our developer Peter, one of the release managers of PHP 7.4

Our final post from last month is another interview - but this time not a Drupal Community interview. Peter Kokot, one of our developers, is a release manager of PHP 7.4 which is coming next week, and he was able to take the time to answer a few questions regarding the role and the new release.

Having always been interested in computers and related stuff, he felt drawn to open source and discovered PHP very early on in his programming career. Apparently he was doing something right, since members of the community actually nominated him to be one of the two release managers

He presented the responsibilities of a PHP release manager, new features that we can expect in the new release (as well as a spoiler for next year’s 8.0 major release!) and some challenges of this release. He also gave us some insight into the RFC voting process of the PHP community. We suggest you go read the whole interview and learn about the upcoming release straight from the horse’s mouth.

Read more

These were all of our blog posts from May. Tune in again next month when we’ll be doing a similar overview of this month’s posts. Cheers!

May 29 2019
May 29

Our developer Peter is one of the release managers of the upcoming PHP 7.4 release. Even though he has a lot on his plate right now, he was able to take the time to answer a few questions and give us a glimpse into what new features we can expect. Enjoy the read!

1. How did you first get involved with programming, in particular with PHP?

I got involved with programming during my time at university; I’ve been always interested in computers and this hacky, programming stuff. I discovered PHP very soon since it was very popular on the web development scene and so I started building websites with it. 

Back then we were using all kinds of spaghetti code frameworks and some first CMSes such as Mambo (which was then forked and became Joomla!), then we moved to open source frameworks, starting with PHP as early as in version 4. Following that, I started working with PHP more and more - and now here I am. 

With the arrival of GitHub and its impact on open source, I felt very drawn to open source. GitHub allowed people to connect on a totally different level, enabling easier collaboration of people from all over the world; it’s so widespread that people from anywhere on the planet can help and contribute patches to open source projects and this is also how I started contributing to PHP.

This was all on my own initiative; I was very interested especially in the open source framework Symfony which presented a huge leap for PHP and improved the PHP ecosystem drastically. Then I also got more interested in PHP in particular, i.e. the core and what is happening behind the scenes in PHP, and I started submitting patches there as well because I found some bugs and tried to fix them. 

2. How did you then get to the position of a PHP release manager? Did you volunteer?

No, I didn’t volunteer to be one of the release managers. Rather, I got nominated by the PHP internals community members. I do enjoy it, though. This is my first time as a release manager, so I’m still quite a newbie. Some people from the community also jokingly call me “newcomer”.

It’s quite a challenging project. There are established workflows and teams behind it so a lot of knowledge is needed to participate efficiently. On top of that, constructive and quality cooperation to get along with other community members and their workflows is essential.

3. What are the responsibilities and tasks of a PHP release manager?

A PHP release manager works periodically where he or she creates PHP distribution packages (tarballs) for the release candidate (RC) and stable releases every 2 weeks. With each release it needs to be checked if all tests pass and if changelogs are updated, and certain files needed for further compilation from the end users’ side need to be generated. Release announcements also need to be made over the mailing lists with each release. It is a very “long-distance” task, lasting for several years (minimum 3 years for the period of the particular PHP branch support). 

Here, I have to point out that I’m actually one of the two release managers - the other one being Derick Rethans, author of Xdebug, who is more familiar with PHP internals. This week we had our first meeting where we discussed and synced our workflows.

It can however be a very stressful task, since people expect a lot from you for tasks on an open source project. It all depends on people’s free time, because they usually have their daily lives with work and thus need to coordinate their time very well. Of course, the community expects the release to be done on the exact date, and everything needs to work without any problems, so that Drupal and other PHP projects work with the new version as flawlessly as possible.

So, we could definitely say that the role of a release manager entails both the more tech-oriented and the marketing aspects.

4. Did you encounter any challenges with the development of this minor release? What about with version 8.0 which is coming next year?

The 7.4 version is a minor, less important and mostly a boring release - this is good because upgrades will also be very simple from previous PHP 7 versions. The next major release, PHP 8.0, will have a bigger impact but it’s not yet certain which exact new features will be included, because the plan contains many of those which the community isn’t yet familiar with.

For PHP 7.4, however, there have been a lot of new features, e.g. the integration of the FFI (Foreign Function Interface) extension - a completely new extension. FFI opens up a new, broader world to PHP besides web development. For example, machine learning and similar. There are still some bugs though so it is still marked as experimental. It should get stabilized over time before the PHP 8 release.

So, with the current plan, on June 13th we’ll see the first alpha version of PHP 7.4. This one won’t be a feature freeze milestone yet. That one is planned for July 23rd. Up until that point we can include new features, not only bug fixes, but also new functionality.

This is where RFCs (Requests for Comments) come in. An RFC is a document for proposing changes to the PHP language.

The RFC process includes discussing a request on the mailing list and then it goes to a voting phase for 2 weeks if the initial feedback looks promising. So, for example, less than two weeks before the feature freeze we can no longer expect the RFC to appear in the PHP 7.4 version. In this case, it should then target the PHP 8.0 release.

In PHP, while this is an official process, someone who has been involved with a project for a very long time might still veto a certain RFC. This is something that happens very rarely though, but it did happen with one of the RFCs targeting the 7.4 release (deprecation of the short opening tags) - the community might not be super happy about it, but let’s see what comes out of it. There might still be other ways of solving this using a different deprecation way and future changes.

5. Besides the stuff we already discussed, what other new features can we expect in next month’s release? What about in PHP 8.0?

The 7.4 version actually has a lot of new features; they’re also listed here. There are some backwards incompatible changes which means that code will need to be tweaked a little in some cases. Strictly speaking, minor versions shouldn’t contain any backward incompatibilities. These should happen in the major release. However PHP seems to allow minor BC breaks here and there, so the language can progress further.

Besides the previously mentioned new FFI extension, an interesting new feature is preloading. It means loading PHP classes or functions directly into the memory. When you run the program, it works faster compared to usual autoloading approaches. This is a relatively small but important feature as it has long-term potential to be used instead of the autoloading in certain cases.

There are a ton of new features and some extensions were removed since they are no longer properly maintained. Typed Properties is another big thing, very useful for object-oriented programming.

One of the major new features in the next major release PHP 8.0 will certainly be JIT - Just-in-time compiling. It was planned for the 7.4 release but based on the RFC voting it was decided it’s still a bit too early to release it and more time is needed for thorough testing. It’s quite a different concept of compiling PHP code internally and in combination with the FFI extension it enables some really cool stuff because it opens up a whole new world of possibilities to PHP beyond just the web. 

6. What does it mean to you that the community has selected you as one of the release managers for this version?

It’s a very interesting role, so it’s interesting also from the point of view of experience and a chance to see how other open source projects are run, and most of all a chance to directly help out PHP the best I can.

I’m definitely happy with being chosen. In fact, I must admit that in the beginning it was mostly other people that were proud, but I quickly realized that this really is a big thing. You have to put a lot of work into it. Performing a task at specific times of a month is very very very exhausting; luckily, there are a number of people who feel very at home doing this, they can help out or even fill in. E.g. someone who’s an expert in a certain field can step in, so for example a 7.2 release manager can help out with the 7.3 release if someone goes on vacation, has to take a leave or something like that.

The new version has to be released, but there are of course human errors, it takes a lot of synchronization and good communication, as well as getting along with other people working on the project - if you don’t get along, you can’t collaborate effectively. 

7. Now that you’ve broken the ice, do you think the community will nominate you to be the release manager of a future release, maybe even a major one? Do you perhaps even plan on volunteering?

I’ll definitely continue contributing to PHP the best I can. I see PHP’s progress more through the extensions and PHP libraries contributed by the community, not so much through the core. I think the entire community is a vital part of PHP to function as it should and to be a successful language further on.

Oh, next week we’re hosting a local PHP meetup in our offices in Ljubljana, where I’ll also be presenting an interesting PHP topic, i.e. the upcoming PHP 7.4 version - you guessed it, right? :) It'll be a short presentation about the features of PHP 7.4, how to upgrade and what to expect. I’ll also briefly explain some PHP internals things. We’ll do our best to make it fun and interesting. :)

May 24 2019
May 24

There has been a lot of hype recently about emerging innovations in the digital field, with buzzwords such as AI, IoT, blockchain, AR & VR, 5G … and many more. 

But, looking from the other end of this fast-paced digital evolution, there’s another buzzword that’s quickly gaining ground: community.

In an era of ever-greater connectivity, interacting with like-minded individuals from anywhere in the world has never been easier. Some of the major tech giants of today have long since capitalized on our desire for human interaction and forming communities - we don’t even need to call any names (*cough*Facebook*cough*).

The community that’s best known to us is, of course, the Drupal community. Anyone who’s been in contact with Drupal knows at least a thing or two about its community, and has probably heard the now famous saying “Come for the code, stay for the community” (we know, we know, it’s getting kind of worn out - but it's very relevant here!).

Simultaneously leveraging Drupal’s open source code and contributing back to it, it is a very powerful, while also a very welcoming community, one that’s based on inclusivity and acceptance.

But what if Drupal’s versatile CMS could be extended to not benefit only its own community, but any community, anywhere in the world?

Enter Open Social - a Drupal distribution that enables anyone to quickly & easily set up a platform for their own community, no matter its size or needs. It comes out-of-the-box with a plethora of useful features; and, it’s open source, which means that if you’re at least somewhat familiar with development and CMS, it’s practically free to set up. 

1. What will I get if I decide on Open Social?

Open Social offers a wide range of useful features; they are too numerous to list all of them in this post, so we decided to just pick and showcase a select few. You can get more information about all its features on their website. Here are the ones that stood out to us the most:

  • Users can log in via social login, with accounts they have set up on other social networks such as Facebook.
  • Users can enhance their profiles with tags indicating their company and their role within the company.
  • Users can further connect and collaborate through creating events and groups.
  • Site managers can make use of analytics to track users’ behavior; on top of that, integration with Google Analytics is very easy.
  • Community managers can send bulk emails to community members.
  • Users’ email addresses are encrypted on the server, adding an extra layer of protection.
  • Thanks to its advanced risk analysis techniques, an Open Social community is safe from spam accounts.
  • The performance of an Open Social platform and all its pages is super fast (and we all know that the #1 reason for users not using a website is its poor performance!).

Of course, all the essentials, such as management of personal data and social features, are all also present in Open Social. If you go through the detailed list of features that we linked above, you’ll quickly be able to confirm that the team really took every little detail into consideration. 

What’s more, due to the platform’s open source status, you have way more control over yours and your users’ data than when setting up your community on one of the existing social platforms - we’ve all heard of the Facebook - Cambridge Analytica scandal

A bit later on, we’ll see how Open Social is a community effort in the truest sense of the word - and, logically so, since it was born out of a community as inclusive and welcoming as the Drupal community. 

2. How can I get even more out of Open Social?

But its countless features are not at all everything you can do with Open Social - if you opt for the enterprise package, you can customize your platform even more through its extensions. 

Again, rather than just copying and pasting all available extensions (which you can find listed here), we’ll focus more on the ones that appealed to us the most. So, to give you a taste:

  • WYSIWYG for Comments: community members don’t need to rely on markups to stylize their comments, but can instead leverage the what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor, familiar to all who have been working with CMS.
  • Google Translate: thanks to the integration with Google Translate, Open Social is the perfect fit for a multilingual and/or international community.
  • Crowd Innovation: likely the most interesting and innovative of all of these extensions, this feature allows communities to ideate and solve challenges together, through a true collective effort.

As you can probably surmise from these first two points alone, Open Social is much more than just a basic social platform. Its unique features account for every aspect of a great user experience, while at the same time making it as close as possible to a real-life community.

3. So far so good, but ... Is Open Social even the right fit for my community?

Well, based solely on the two previous points, it’d be more difficult to find a community for which Open Social isn’t a great fit. 

Basically, its high customizability makes it ideal for any type of community by enabling its members to exchange ideas, collaborate and ideate together. Open Social efficiently solves a paradox of social networks and online communities: users want the features that they’re used to using, but, at the same time, they want innovation. Open Social delivers in both of these aspects. 

Its wide range of available features and extensions allows you to tailor the platform to the specific needs of your community, while also retaining basic ones such as social sharing. Whether you need a platform for your thriving volunteer community, an extranet connecting stakeholders outside your organization, or a simple social network, Open Social will more than satisfy your needs.

If you’re at least somewhat familiar with development and CMS (Drupal in particular), there’s practically no reason not to give Open Social a shot. The only case where you should consider a different solution is if you lack development experience and/or have a small, self-contained community that isn’t focused on growth and needs just the basic social features.

4. Ok, then it just has to be costly and difficult to set up, right?

Aha - now we’ve come to the salient part that you’ve probably been eagerly anticipating! In this section, we’ll answer questions such as: How difficult is it to set up and integrate Open Social? Is it a long and expensive process? Do I need to be a developer to effectively use Open Social?

Let’s first address the primary concern: no, you don’t need experience with Drupal development if you want to use Open Social. However, the code is open source and is available for free on drupal.org, which means that setting up Open Social incurs no additional costs for those who are versed in Drupal. 

So, if you or your team possess adequate Drupal expertise, you won’t have to worry about monthly fees; you will however need to invest a little bit more into maintenance, since you’ll need to handle all updates manually. 

But not everyone who wants to have an awesome community platform can be expected to know Drupal. Fortunately, Open Social is also available as SaaS, with three very affordable packages:

  • The Basic package offers all basic features and costs €195 a month. You even get the option of a 30-day free trial before committing - no credit card required at this stage!
  • The Premium package, listed as the most popular, is a bit more costly, with €495 a month. Same as before, you get a 30-day free trial, but it also comes with huge benefits of a much larger number of users, as well as the ability to import these users from existing platforms.
  • The Enterprise package is the most expensive, at €1,250 a month. As the name suggests, this is ideal for enterprises who want to build a large global community. With this package, you can have as many users as you want, and even benefit from API integrations as well as all the features and extensions exclusive to this package.

In contrast with the open source solution, by opting for one of the paid SaaS options of Open Social, you’ll only need to worry about the monthly fee - security and feature updates will all be automatic. Owing to this flexibility, Open Social really is a great fit for different needs and backgrounds.

5. Ok, I've set up Open Social, but I'm having some trouble with it - how & where can I get help?

Considering how the Open Social team take every minute detail into account, it’d only make sense if they also provided top-notch guidance and support to anyone who wishes to use the software for their community, right?

Well, you can actually educate yourself on the ins and outs of Open Social before you even have to decide on a package or start your free trial! There’s a standalone website available to help you jumpstart your community, as well as a free guide on their website. Moreover, their blog section contains a lot of content that’s geared towards community management

But, not to worry - you’ll also be able to get help and support once you’ve set it up and started using it. Even the basic package comes with support via email, while the enterprise one also offers support by phone with guaranteed response times. 

If you’ve chosen the path of open source, you can find help on Open Social’s page on drupal.org. You get a lot of information just by visiting the page, but you can also check out the project’s issue queue, where you’ll either find the answers you seek, or be able to contact someone who has worked on a particular issue and get more specific help from them.

6. Alright, I'm almost convinced, it's just ... How can you reassure me that Open Social will be as useful in the future as it is today?

We’ll see your concern and raise you this: not only will Open Social continue to be useful - it’ll only keep getting better and more suited to the wants and needs of its users! 

How so, you ask? Well, you actually get a say in the project’s roadmap! This means that your input and ideas can help shape the future of Open Social. You’re able to make suggestions on which all participants can then vote. Your feedback is thus taken into account when developing new features.

This is all done through Open Social’s Roadmap tool. As you can see, you get a neat overview of what’s planned for a certain period of time and even to some extent track the progress of the suggestions. 

So, even if you disregard the rapid pace of digital innovation (which presupposes continuously better technologies), you can safely assume that this receptiveness to feedback will lead to a software progressively catered to its users’ needs.

7. *sigh* You're really giving me no choice, are you? Alright, final question: who's actually using Open Social?

You can check out a list of showcases on Open Social’s website. Apart from that, there are some additional businesses using Open Social listed on the project’s page on drupal.org. Among the most notable ones are:

Moreover, what served as the initial inception of Open Social was Greenpeace’s Greenwire project. Launched in 2011, Greenwire was born out of the desire to make the world a better place by bringing people together and enabling them to better collaborate. 

Drupal’s open source was thus the perfect fit for an active volunteer community. Based on the platform’s success, the GoalGorilla team realized their solution can help even more communities worldwide, and so Open Social came to be. If you want to learn more about the Greenwire project, you can also check out GoalGorilla’s case study or the one on drupal.com.


We hope we’ve successfully answered your questions. You can always get more specific information by visiting Open Social’s website or by contacting their team - they’re very open and very social (pun definitely intended), so there’s really no need to be shy.

Of course, there’s still much more that Open Social has to offer. The best way to discover more of the platform’s powerful capabilities is to do some exploration of your own, either by opting for the free trial or tinkering with the software downloaded via drupal.org. 

Hopefully, we’ve given you enough of a jump-start to know what to focus on and make the process of exploring a fun one. We wish you lots of success in building and growing your own community!  

May 21 2019
May 21

Images are one of the most widely used assets on the web and with all the right reasons, but they may cause a slow loading time of your website if not included in the right way. There are a lot of things you have to consider while preparing images for the web, and in this post we’ll take a look at what those things are and how Drupal 8 can help you make this process automatic.

Optimized Image

First of all, let’s look at what makes an image optimized for the web. Web as a media is in fact a lot simpler in quality demand opposed to print media but it does have its own specialties. The biggest challenge here is to get the best possible image quality with the smallest possible file size by adjusting image dimensions and quality while also being able to serve each screen type and size just the right image. This may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but keep reading because in this post I’m going to show you how to achieve that step by step using Drupal 8 core features. 

Adjusting Image Dimensions

Out of the box, Drupal offers a really great tool for optimizing images called Image styles. In general, image styles are used to control the size of displayed images, although you can also do other cool stuff with them, such as making images black and white. Drupal allows us to set different image styles which we can then use in different areas of the page.

For example, an Article content type can use a bigger image for a detail page and a smaller one for a teaser display, usually used in the Articles list page. The great thing about image styles is that you only need to set them once and it will automatically display the right image size every time, no matter what the size of the originally uploaded image is.

An image style can be set in the ‘Manage display’ section of the content type setup. By clicking on the gear icon on the image field, the setting will be shown where you can assign any of the previously configured image styles to this field. If the image style you wish to assign is not available, you can create a new one by clicking on the ‘Configure Image Styles’ next to the image style dropdown.

Configure image styles

This will take you to the Image Styles configuration page. Click on the ‘Add image style’ button. First of all, you’ll have to give a name to the new image style. You can choose whichever name you would like but it is recommended that you add image dimensions to it. 

After the name is set up, you can add different effects to the image style. A few effect options are given, but for our purposes, the two most important ones are:

  • Scale: this effect allows you to only specify the width or height of an image, and the one that is not given will be automatically set to keep the original image ratio.
  • Scale and crop: this effect scales an image, but it also crops it so that it always fits the given ratio.

Choose the effect you want for your image style, set the properties and save it. In the example below, I chose Scale effect and only specified a width of 970px (based on the design, I calculated that the image using this image style will never be wider than 970px), letting the height adjust to the original image ratio.

Create image styles

Now the only thing left to do is to assign the new image style to the image field. Go back to the ‘Manage Display’ section of your content type setup, click on the gear icon, choose the new image style and hit save.

To see how much effect image styles have on the actual file size and loading time, we need to do some testing. First of all, let’s see what happens when no image style is assigned to the image. For this example, I used an image with an original file size of 6.7MB, meaning it is way too big to be used on our website because it took 2.08s for this image to load.

No image style

The second test I ran is with image style assigned to the image. The results show great improvement of the file size, as well as loading time, because, using the same original image, the file size is now 956KB and it loads in only 487ms. 

Image style 970

This is all very exciting - but there’s one more question that needs to be answered: did we sacrifice any of the quality to achieve this result?

Image style 970 comparison

I took a screenshot of an image without image style (on the left side) and compared it to the screenshot of an image with image style (on the right side). I noticed that the quality is a bit lower on the scaled image.

The root of this problem, however, is not the image style per se. These tests and screenshots were taken on a MacBook Pro which has a retina display, meaning that one actual pixel of an image is seen as half of a pixel on this device, and this is why the image got upscaled, making it look a bit blurry. To test it out, I created a new image style that is twice as big (Image Scale 1940 x ...). Now we can see that the image using the new image style looks just as sharp as the original one. 

Image style 1940 comparison

This, however, opens up a new question for us. Which image should we use? The first one is smaller and looks great on normal displays but makes images a bit blurry on retina displays. The second one, on the other hand, looks great on all devices but is bigger than the first one. Luckily Drupal 8 has another tool that will help us get out of this dilemma, but before we take a look at what it is and how it works, let’s try to optimize those images of ours a bit more. 

Defining Image Quality

In the first part, we took care of adjusting the image size; but there’s one more thing we can control in order to get the file size smaller - adjust the image quality. Drupal 8 has a perfect tool for that and it is very simple to use.

All we have to do is go to the Admin > Configuration > Media > Image toolkit.
Here we can adjust the quality of the image. The best results are given if the number is between 60 and 80. In the example below, I set the number to 75. In order to see the changes on the previously uploaded pictures, we need to delete all ‘styles’ folder content in the Drupal directory.

Folders that need to be deleted are located in ‘sites/default/files/styles’. Delete everything in there but leave the styles folder. After that go to your Drupal site and clear cache (Configuration > Development > Performance). When the page reloads, all images that you have uploaded before will be regenerated and they will all have the specified image quality.

Now we’re ready to run some tests and see how much of an impact this has on the file size. The first test I ran was using the image style for retina (1940 x …). Before that, the image file size was 3.2MB.

Image style 1940 toolkit

This time around we can see that the file size dropped to 383KB which is a great improvement. Even better are the end results for the image using the smaller image style. Let’s take a look at this one as well. Remember that previously the file size of this image was 956KB.

Image style 970 toolkit

This time the file size is only 126KB and it loads in 35ms. The result is impressive but let’s see what this did to the actual image quality. Let’s keep in mind that these tests are run on MacBook Pro that has a retina display and therefore images need to be twice as big to be displayed as they would have to be on a regular screen. 

Image style 970 toolkit comparison

With the image quality set to 75 we can now really see the difference in the smaller image style. This image would look great on normal displays and the file size is just right but the image still doesn’t look so good on the retina screen. Using the bigger image style, however, we get a better result in the said case.

Image style 1940 toolkit comparison

The file size is now 383KB and the look is almost identical to the original image. Now we can say that images have the optimal file size if we compare them to the actual quality, but one problem still remains - we have two image styles, each one optimal for a different screen type.

Responsive Images

Nowadays we have to consider many things when we’re making a website and amongst them, different screen types and sizes are one of the most important ones. Responsive design has become a standard in today's web development practice and images are no exception. We don’t really need an image that is 970px wide on a mobile screen that is 500px wide, but we do need an image that is 1970px wide on a retina display of a screen that is 1000px wide.

As we can see in the examples above, it really does matter what we serve to what screen - and no, we do not need to load the biggest image on all screens so that the image would look nice and sharp. This would increase the loading time of our website and that is also something we don’t want. What we do need to do is play it smart - serve every screen type and size exactly what it needs to display an image in its best light. Again, lucky for us, Drupal 8 has just the right tool for that and that tool is called Responsive images.

Responsive images are a Drupal 8 core module, meaning that Drupal 8 already comes with it, all you have to do to use it is enable it. To do that, go to Admin > Extend, then search for the module and enable it. We have already talked about how to use this module in this blog post, so I will not go into too much detail here. I will, however, explain how to solve the dilemma with retina displays that we have previously encountered.

Following the instructions in the link above you should be able to change image styles (sizes) or even the entire image depending on the screen size - for example, a mobile display can use a different, smaller image than a laptop display.

This module, however, also lets us set a different image style according to the retina display value. There is one requirement though - the theme you are using needs to have those multipliers values defined in theme.breakpoints.yml file. If the multiplier of 2x is defined for each breakpoint, then you will see it in the backend as an option to which you can assign an image style to.

Retina settings

Here you can assign a retina image style for a specific breakpoint - making the image adjust to a screen size and display type. For the example above it would mean that on a laptop that is not retina, the browser would render an image with Image scale (970 x …) style, but on a laptop with retina display, it would render an image with Image scale (1940 x …), making it truly the optimal choice.

In case you’re wondering - there is no magic to it. This module uses a HTML5 picture tag to change the image src depending on the screen size and type. There is, however, a downside - some browsers, including IE, do not support this HTML5 tag which means you’ll have to use a picturefill solution.


In this post, we’ve taken quite a deep look into how to make image optimization automatic with Drupal 8 and how to successfully decrease an image file size from 6.7MB to as low as 126KB. If a website you’re building has a lot of images per page, then this optimizing process may lower the loading time, but it can still be above the average. If this is the case then I would advise some extra steps to solve the problem, and your best bet in this case would most definitely be to include lazy loading functionality to your website.

May 16 2019
May 16

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

We're very happy we got to speak with Tim Lehnen, the interim Executive Director of the Drupal Association. Tim is honored to be serving the Drupal community for the past 5 years and is looking forward to how Drupal will evolve alongside digital innovations. Read on to revisit a touching moment from a past DrupalCon and find out more about some of the Association's notable recent accomplishments. 

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

My name is Tim Lehnen, and I'm the interim Executive Director for the Drupal Association. Prior to that I was the Director of Engineering for the Association. The board has just recently announced that we've appointed a new executive director - so I'll be happy to be returning to my role on the engineering team in June. 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

I first found Drupal in around 2006, around the time of the Drupal 4.7.0 release. At that time I was a student building websites as a freelancer to help pay for my education. I didn't know all that much about open source communities and collaboration at the time, and my early career actually diverged from Drupal quite a bit. However, even during that time I observed and admired the community the Drupal project had built.

In 2014 when I saw that the Drupal Association was hiring, I jumped at the opportunity to come home. Being able to engage with such a passionate (and compassionate) open source community has been very rewarding - and being able to do it for a living is a humbling privilege. 

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Having spent just about the last 5 years working full time to serve the Drupal community there are many, many moments I could point to. 

In particular, though, I'd like to highlight the #DrupalThanks campaign at DrupalCon Baltimore, where one of our partners and sponsors EvolvingWeb chose to use their sponsorship time at the keynote not for commercial promotion, but instead to give flowers to DrupalCon attendees to present to anyone else in the community that had made an impact on them and say 'Thank you.' 

It's all too easy to get caught up in what is difficult and hard about the work we do, and moments like these are wonderful reminders why it is worth it. 

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

I echo the words of project founder Dries Buytaert. Drupal is a platform for ambitious digital experiences. That doesn't mean it's only for enterprise, or only for large end users. If you are a scrappy non-profit or start-up or really anyone with an ambitious idea for your digital presence - ambitious means you! 

And yes, this means websites, but increasingly it also means other kinds of digital experiences like voice-assistant interfaces, kiosks and information displays, in-flight entertainment - and even AR and VR experiences. 

On the flip-side, Drupal is not a platform for simple blogging or brochure-ware. If your needs are simple, a less sophisticated platform might serve you well. But when you're really trying to make a mark in the digital space, Drupal is your best choice. 

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

I feel that Drupal will continue to hone in on its strengths - its highly engaged and expert community, the quality of its underlying architecture, and its pivot towards web services and decoupled architecture. 

Drupal is years ahead of other solutions when it comes to robust omnichannel and decoupled solutions - and as our digital interaction models evolve further and further away from traditional keyboards and screens, I think we'll see Drupal evolve to be used in ways that couldn't have been predicted when Dries first built the platform in his dorm room 18 years ago. 

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

I've never been more than a mediocre developer, but I've always tried to find ways to contribute my project management skills. My team at the Drupal Association is the best in the world, and together we've done some amazing things for the community. 

I'm particularly proud of the team's work to create the Drupal contribution credit system. It's an industry first in open source, and as far as I know we're still one of the only open source communities that allows our contributors to attribute their work as a volunteer, sponsored by an organization, or on behalf of a client customer. It's given us tremendous insight into the lifecycle of contribution for the Drupal project. 

I'm also very proud of the team's recent work to move the Git tooling for the Drupal project to GitLab. I think that's going to enable a lot of new collaboration tools and reduce friction for contributors to Drupal. 

As far as my own independent contributions, I was very happy to work on defining the JSON feed for the Open Demographics Initiative, to support our work to improve representation on Drupal.org user profiles. 

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

There are few initiatives I'd love to give a shout out to: 

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavor. 

I'm an avid geek when it comes to virtual reality and augmented reality. I think I have four or five different headsets right now. The ability to actually inhabit a virtual world and feel present in it is something I've dreamed about since childhood.

At the same time, it feels like a very dystopian technology, and I can see how people perceive it as being yet another layer of technological isolation and alienation. On the other hand, it also has tremendous potential to help people who might be otherwise unable to travel or even leave their homes take part in new experiences, both solo and socially. 

We'll have to see where it goes! As with every new technology I imagine we'll have to take the bad with the good. 

May 13 2019
May 13

Since last month a lot of Drupalists were busy preparing for and traveling to DrupalCon, we wanted to give everyone a chance to catch up with important news and goings-on in the Drupalverse. To this end, here’s a recap of our favorite Drupal-related posts from last month.

VideoDrupal.org: A new site of Drupal videos tutorials

The first post from April we want to highlight is Karim Boudjema’s introduction of VideoDrupal.org, a new resource for the Drupal community to easily find videos from various Drupal events. The idea for the website was born out of Karim’s desire to give something back to the community who is doing so much, but often has no lasting value to show for it.

VideoDrupal.org is essentially a curated collection of videos found on YouTube that aim at either promoting or educating people on Drupal. To be as helpful as possible both to beginners as well as more seasoned Drupal developers, the site is divided into two sections: one that focuses on the basics of Drupal theming and site building, and one that’s dedicated to more specific topics. 

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A Series Of Unfortunate Images: Drupal 1-click To Rce Exploit Chain Detailed

This next post, written by Zero Day Initiative’s Vincent Lee, relates the discovery of a set of bugs in the recent critical patches for supported versions of Drupal 7.x and 8.x. These two bugs enable remote code execution through uploading three malicious files to the target server and then persuading the admin to click on a crafted link. 

While the exploit is not exactly smooth and involves the attacker(s) having to set up a profile on the site (which means that any site which doesn’t allow visitors to create accounts is automatically safe), it is still interesting and useful to be aware that the possibility of such an attack exists.

(By the way, the song in the video of the two bugs in action is really great - if anyone knows what it is, please let us know!)

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The privilege of free time in Open Source

In the third post on this month’s list, Dries touches upon the problematic of open source contribution of underrepresented and less privileged groups. Because of their social and/or economic status, e.g. women must dedicate a lot of time to childcare and housework, these groups don’t have as much time to do unpaid work on open source. 

In contrast, privileged groups have much more time to contribute, which results in a lack of diversity in tech and open source in particular. But time constraints are not the only issue here; people from underrepresented groups are often subject to hostility and discrimination, which makes them that much more reluctant to continue contributing to open source. 

So, as individuals, we need to be more welcoming and not succumb to our biases. As for organizations, sponsoring your employees’ work on open source so that they don’t have to do it in their limited free time can really go a long way. 

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State of Drupal presentation (April 2019)

Next up, we have another post written by Dries, this one essentially a recap of his annual State of Drupal presentation which he gave at DrupalCon Seattle. The post actually opens with the topic of the previous post mentioned here, that is, fostering diversity and inclusion in open source by giving underrepresented groups better opportunities to contribute. At this year’s ‘Con, nearly 50% of the speakers were from such groups, which shows that we’re on the right track. 

The rest of Dries’ keynote was dedicated to Drupal’s (at the time) upcoming release, the preparation for Drupal 9 and Drupal 7’s end of life. Drupal 8.7, released on May 1st, brought important updates such as a stable Layout Builder and JSON:API in core. With Drupal 9 just a little over a year away, it’s wise to start preparing for the upgrade now - one of the first things you can do, if you haven’t yet, is to upgrade from Drupal 7 to 8.

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A Proposed Drupal privacy initiative and the Cross CMS privacy group.

With privacy becoming a key concern in software development, it’s important for Drupal as well as other CMS to focus on privacy. For this purpose, members of the Drupal, WordPress, Joomla! and Umbraco communities have formed a Cross-CMS privacy group whose goal is to establish a common set of principles that all these technologies can rely on.

In this blog post, Jamie Abrahams of Freely Give discusses the work of the Cross-CMS privacy group, listing a number of the group’s achievements since its formation last year, as well as some points on privacy not just as a legal, but an ethical obligation. Finally, he enumerates the goals of a proposed Drupal privacy initiative and concludes the post with next steps for the Cross-CMS privacy group to take.

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Enabling headless Drupal Commerce while improving its core

In the next post on our list, Matt Glaman of Centarro (formerly Commerce Guys) writes about decoupling Drupal Commerce and how this can actually improve Drupal’s core. The basis for this post is the recent trend of decoupling, or “going headless”, which has been particularly talked about in the Drupal community.

As Matt points out, the work on the API-first initiative and decoupled Drupal is very beneficial to the modules in question and Drupal in general. He gives a few examples, such as a smooth coupon redemption via the Cart API module

This post, then, shows how a decoupled architecture and ecommerce can work perfectly well together. It finishes with some examples of successful uses of decoupled commerce, such as 1xINTERNET’s React-based solution which they presented at DrupalCon Seattle.

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Learn to Theme with Hands-On Exercises

Since part of our mission at Agiledrop is spreading Drupal awareness and training new generations of Drupalists (we just held our second free Drupal course of the year this weekend), we also make it a point to promote other endeavors of educating people on Drupal. 

In this respect, we wanted to highlight this post by Amber Matz introducing Drupalize.Me’s new hands-on workshop for learning Drupal 8 theming. This is a 7-week course perfect for Drupal beginners who want to get practical experience with theming. At the end of each week, participants test their newly acquired skills through hands-on exercises accompanied by helpful videos. 

Another important novelty is Drupalize.me’s partnership with Stack Starter, which enables web-based development environments and consequently allows participants to focus on learning rather than having to set up their own local environment. 

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Drupal Association appoints Executive Director

We conclude April’s list with some important news for Drupal and its community. At the very end of April, Interim Executive Director Tim Lehnen announced in a blog post that the Board of Directors of the Drupal Association have appointed Heather Rocker the new Executive Director of the Association. 

As a former executive director of the Women in Technology foundation and CEO of Girls Incorporated of Greater Atlanta, as well as due to her experience in robotics and other fields, Heather is the ideal choice for leading the organization that aims to increase Drupal adoption and unite a diverse community of Drupalists. 

We’d like to give a warm welcome to Heather and join Dries and the entire community in the excitement of beginning the next chapter of Drupal under her guidance!

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We hope you enjoyed our selection and were able to either revisit some of last month’s blog posts or learn something you may have missed. Tune in next month for an overview of the top Drupal posts from May!

May 08 2019
May 08

Last month, we wrote a neatly diverse selection of blog posts: one related to the Drupal community, one about a major recent change for our company and two that were more business-oriented. In case you missed some of them, here’s a quick overview of all of them to get you up to speed. 

6 remote staffing challenges and how to tackle them

Our first post from April discussed the challenges businesses face when opting for a partnership with a digital agency to increase their development capacity. Of course, we also presented very effective solutions to them, which we have employed to great success.

To recap, these challenges are: communication issues, differences in culture and location, challenges with trust in and monitoring of remote teammates, cost and ROI, and miscellaneous, unexpected issues that are beyond one’s control. 

If you or your company are currently contemplating remote staffing, we suggest you read the entire post more thoroughly and arm yourself with the knowledge to make a more informed decision and effectively manage a remote team. 

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Our brand new Ljubljana office

In case you didn’t know - April also marked our Ljubljana team’s transition into shiny, brand new offices! We seized the opportunity and wrote a short blog post about it, documenting our reasons for the move and the teambuilding-like moving process, as well as looking ahead to what this move means for our company. 

The move into bigger offices was a necessary next step if we wanted to stay true to our vision, grow our team even further and scale our business by working on an even greater number of interesting and challenging projects. 

We’ve already had both AgileTalks and AgileFoods in our new offices, and we’re looking forward to running our first free Drupal course at the new location this weekend.

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Interview with Ruben Teijeiro, Drupal hero at 1xINTERNET and co-founder of Youpal

After almost two months, we returned with our Drupal Community Interviews series! This time we spoke with the lively Ruben Teijeiro, Drupal hero at 1xINTERNET and co-founder of the Swedish Drupal agency Youpal

We loved learning about the meaning and responsibilities of a ‘Drupal hero’, as well as his beginnings with Drupal, when he was deciding between at least 10 different technologies. As soon as he encountered Drupal, though, he knew that the CMS was a perfect fit for him. 

Apart from spreading Drupal awareness and meeting diverse Drupal communities, Ruben is really excited about the JavaScript modernization in Drupal and is looking forward to the initiative bringing together the two communities. 

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5 key benefits of remote staffing

The last post we wrote in April was a sort of parallel to the first one; while the latter discussed the challenges of remote staffing, this one focused exclusively on the benefits of this particular outsourcing strategy. 

Without beating around the bush, the main benefits of remote staffing that we wanted to point out are: scalability, redundancy, flexibility, faster acquisition of developers and the ability to get exactly the kind of skillset that a certain project demands. 

All of these smaller benefits add up to the number one benefit of this type of outsourcing: they enable you to better navigate the constantly shifting landscape of digital agencies and grow your business more efficiently. 

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Well, this is it for our blog posts from April. We hope that you enjoyed them and that you were able to learn something new from them. Make sure to check back for our upcoming posts!

Apr 26 2019
Apr 26

This post is a kind of logical continuation of one that we published earlier this month on dealing with some of the most pressing challenges of remote staffing. If you missed that one, we suggest you go have a look at it, just so you have the most context possible.

Right - now that you’re all up to speed, and probably even more eager to know about the advantages of remote staffing (hints of which you could probably already glean from the previous post), we can begin discussing the factors that make remote staffing such a popular option.

While it’s true that there will be some challenges encountered when working with a team of remote partners, this kind of project outsourcing is also hugely beneficial - even taking into account all the potential issues. 

How is that so, you ask? Aren’t there just more communication issues, bigger costs, more difficulties with monitoring ... essentially more of everything?

Well, no, a lot of these “myths” can be debunked, and we believe we already did a good job at that in the aforementioned post. But, even if they couldn’t be debunked, more of everything also means more of the good stuff, not just the bad stuff. 

Think of it - greater flexibility; the capability to scale only when you need it and when you’re ready for it; a lot of redundancy, a luxury you don’t have when managing a project exclusively in-house; lightning-fast acquisition and onboarding; the capability to get exactly the kind of expertise your current project demands, and likely even skills you don’t even know it will demand later on in its progress ...

All of this adds up to the foremost advantage of remote staffing, that is, the capacity to more smoothly navigate the ever-shifting landscape of digital projects and/or agencies. 

Still not convinced? Not a problem - we can’t wait to dive into specific benefits and discuss them in more detail! After getting through our list, and especially if you’ve read the previously mentioned post on the challenges of remote staffing, you’ll be able to see the whole picture more clearly and always know when this kind of partnership is the right fit for you. 

1. Scalability

One of the biggest questions that digital business leaders of today are asking themselves is: how can we effectively scale our business? 

It’s certainly a question worth asking. One cannot expect a business to truly be successful on a larger scope if it doesn’t grow or scale. However, in a constantly shifting digital environment, which also brings about a fluid scope of work, effective scaling can become problematic.

This is precisely why remote staffing is such a great fit when the need to scale arises. Recruiting and managing in-house employees while also taking care of all of their expenses is not only costly, but also very time-consuming (read: costly2). While this does result in growth, it doesn’t exactly scale your business.

Of course, you also have to take into account the possibility of not being able to find a full-time employee who lives near enough to join your on-site team. With an ever-increasing demand for experienced developers, this is a concern you’ll likely have to address (if you haven’t done so already).

This scenario changes completely when you establish a partnership with an off-site development team. With remote staffing, you can bypass the lengthy recruitment processes and instantly expand your in-house team. 

You get the luxury of deciding how many remote workers you want to hire - and the initial number is not set in stone, either. Once you’ve established a successful partnership, getting additional developers to work on your project will be even faster and safer (there will be a much smaller risk of making a bad hire or at least this risk will not be on you). 

This gives you protection from unexpected changes to the scope of the project. An unplanned increase of its scope is no longer an issue when working with remote partners. At Agiledrop, we are usually able to supply clients with new developers in under a day - or even significantly faster when we already have all the documentation and information related to the project. 

By working with us, you’ll get an instant boost to your workforce for the duration of the working arrangement; you’ll be able to tackle a greater number of bigger projects while keeping your expenses to a minimum.

As such, scalability is very likely the number one benefit of remote staffing. More than that, actually - most of its other benefits are directly or indirectly linked to scalability. These are what we’ll discuss in the following points of this article. 

2. Redundancy

This next benefit is in fact a kind of subset of scalability and a lead into the third benefit which we’ll discuss a bit later on. We’re treating it separately since it looks at growing your team from the other perspective - we’re dealing with redundancy.

In our context, redundancy essentially covers the other side of the fluctuating nature of digital projects, the “down” period where you have fewer projects and less work. 

With an exclusively in-house team, the down periods impede your progress and growth even more than you’d expect. Not only do you have less work and by consequence less income, you have all these employees who were vital to previous projects still on your payroll. This basically means double the cost, with no gain.

And, should you decide to let someone go on account of there not being enough work, you’ll again have certain expenses. Even if an employee resigns of their own volition, this process is not instantaneous, and they keep receiving their salary up until their departure. 

It’s a different - and even more costly - story when an employee is given resignation, especially if the justification for it is “not enough work” (after all, it isn’t and cannot be their fault that you the employer are unable to provide work for them). In addition to their ongoing salary, you’ll also have to cover all the costs associated with their severance.

Moreover, you’ll risk creating a negative atmosphere and sending a negative signal to the rest of the employees, who do have enough work, but may start contemplating other career opportunities on account of that. This may cause you to lose even those employees whose expertise is crucial to your ongoing business.

Very likely, when weighing your two options against each other, you’ll come to the realization that the best solution would nonetheless be to keep your employees on your payroll and wait for more work to arrive. But, logically, you won’t be happy about it. 

One of the magical things of remote staffing, already hinted at before, is the ability to get reinforcements to your team only for the duration of the project. Even if you have to end the contract prematurely, there are no long-term consequences like when you fire full-time employees. While we covered the case of an increase of a project’s scope under the benefit of scalability, the other side is neatly covered by redundancy.

So, not only is remote staffing a great choice of growing your team when it cannot handle the increased scope of work, it also eliminates all additional expenses for the period when the project is finished and the extra workforce is no longer needed. 

A partnership with an agency such as Agiledrop gives you the flexibility (buzzword alert!) to hire and fire as your project demands, with no resentment and no expenses associated with letting people go. You get the developers, the timely quality work, then shake hands and remain friends. 

3. Flexibility

You have to admit - this was a super smooth transition into this next point! The capacity to instantly respond to changes in the scope of your work via scaling and descaling your business can be neatly summed up in a concept that actually covers more than just these two advantages: flexibility.

In fact, flexibility is like an added bonus to the two benefits we’ve just discussed. The ability to get as many developers as your project needs with no obligation to retain them after the project is concluded allows you to be incredibly flexible.

And this flexibility doesn’t just cover unexpected changes issuing from the project itself. Working with partner agencies also provides you with a fail-safe against the plethora of uncontrollable factors that can arise whenever people are involved, such as unforeseen health issues or urgent family matters.

As we pointed out in our post about the biggest challenges of remote staffing, there’s not much you can do when one of your in-house developers has to take a sick leave or any other type of paid leave (some emphasis on paid). 

With remote staffing, however, you don’t need to worry about what to do in such situations. You can count on your partner agency to supply any necessary replacements in case something happens to the original hire. 

But the major benefit of remote staffing in the context of flexibility actually goes beyond just a single project. In the introduction, we already touched upon the constantly changing and by consequence hard to navigate digital sphere. 

Finding the right outsourcing strategy allows you to not only be flexible with regard to the project in question, but actually with regard to your very workflow, making it much easier to handle this shifting nature of the digital. 

This means that the “up” periods aren’t as hectic, while the “down” periods aren’t as devastating to your business development. You’re able to smoothly adapt to market needs as well as keep up with new and emerging technologies, either by not having to focus so much on HR or thanks to the diverse expertise of your remotely working developers (or, most likely, both).

It essentially boils down to this: this flexibility obtained through remote staffing enables you to take on more projects and win bigger deals with more important clients. Additionally, it lets you focus more of your energy and resources on business development and helps you to stand out from the crowd, priming you for growth and success.

4. Faster acquisition

Right, so, the previous three points dealt with what you’ll gain by working with partner agencies. Let’s now take a look at how remote staffing can save you time and resources thanks to the accelerated process of hiring and onboarding.

We mentioned earlier that the recruitment of in-house employees can be very time-consuming and consequently costly. Searching for the most suitable people is just the first step - and, naturally, the more workers you need, the longer it takes.

Then you have to interview all those candidates, likely discounting a decent percentage of them. Those that do make the cut then have to go through onboarding processes - and all the while time just keeps stacking up. We won’t even go into the obvious costs of salaries, travel and health expenses, paid leaves and adequate equipment. 

Luckily, there’s an easy, one-stop solution to all of the above. Yep, you guessed it - it’s a remote partnership! Partnering with an agency and relying on them to provide you with the needed experienced personnel will notably cut down the time searching for developers, as well as most of the expenses. 

Perhaps the best thing about such an arrangement is the sustainability of the relationship. Once you’ve partnered with an agency that you’re satisfied with, it’ll be that much easier and faster to get additional developers from a proven source that you trust will deliver the right profiles based on your requirements.

Another time-saving advantage of remote staffing becomes apparent in the onboarding of newly hired developers and their integration into your existing team. At Agiledrop, all new employees go through an in-house onboarding project, during which they familiarize themselves with all the most up-to-date tools and practices. 

This onboarding is carried out by our highly qualified development leads who also play a major role in selecting the most adequate person for a project. Since they’ve served as their mentors, they’re able to make a very informed selection quickly and efficiently.

What this means for our clients is that we basically cover 100% of the onboarding costs; when you hire one or more of our developers, they can immediately adapt to your workflows, become your temporary teammates and start working on the project.

The end result is that, despite a possibly higher daily rate of a remote hire than that of an in-house employee, the time saved more than pays off for the difference. Add to that all other areas where you are able to cut down on expenses and you can see why such a partnership is indeed a great fit for ambitious businesses that are focused on growth and scaling.

5. Specific, but diverse expertise

The last advantage of remote staffing that we’d like to point out relates to all the ones previously discussed in this post. Actually, it’s very likely one of the key reasons why outsourcing via staff augmentation has been established as such a successful business model: we’re talking about the ability to provide exactly the right kind of expertise for any type of project. 

It is at the same time the reason for and the result of such a business model: agencies started to capitalize on diverse and/or niche market needs, training employees to respond to those needs while acquiring more diversified skills during the process. 

Perhaps a certain project demands, say, a dedicated ecommerce developer that your in-house team lacks. Naturally, you don’t want to turn down interesting work coming your way, but you only need this specific expertise for this one project, not full-time. This is one aspect where you can immensely benefit from a remote partnership.

Having worked on a variety of projects for different international clients, the developers of an agency such as Agiledrop not only come pre-trained with the specific expertise a client’s project needs, but have also likely familiarized themselves with even more fringe cases. 

This enables them to quickly find solutions in similar situations. But, even when they encounter a new problem, it doesn’t mean they’ll get stuck in a rut and waste precious time. The open-minded and solution-oriented mentality they’ve cultivated will allow them to always approach new challenges in a logical and innovative way.

In the case of Agiledrop developers, this is additionally accentuated by our strong promotion of collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Mentoring and being mentored don’t stop once the onboarding is concluded; everyone is encouraged to help out when they can and to likewise seek help from their peers before trying to solve something unfamiliar on their own. 

Because of this, our clients always benefit from our entire team’s expertise, even when only hiring one or two developers. This way, they get more than their money’s worth, making for a much higher ROI (especially when taking into account all the cost reductions mentioned in the previous point).

So, tying back to scalability and redundancy, it’s obvious how valuable it is to be able to get a developer with a specific set of skills. By default, outsourced developers only work for the duration of a project, providing their expertise while not turning into a financial burden once that expertise is no longer needed. Effective scaling - check!

In conclusion

Now that we’ve discussed each specific advantage of remote staffing more thoroughly, we can see how strongly connected they all are. The connection between the first three is particularly obvious, as we already pointed out. 

But there are also others that we haven’t specifically addressed, e.g. fast acquisition of remote hires naturally provides a lot of flexibility thanks to reduced overheads and a hyper-efficient means of scaling. 

It thus seems we’ve come back to and reinforced another claim we already made in the introduction: all of these specific benefits result in the ability to better cope with the constantly evolving digital space by allowing you to keep up with the pace of its evolution, stand out among the competition and secure bigger projects while saving resources. 

Have you found yourself in a situation where you’re turning down work because you lack the development capacity or certain necessary expertise? We’d be more than happy to help you scale your business and win more deals - give us a shout out

Apr 17 2019
Apr 17

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Now you get a chance to learn more about the people behind Drupal projects.

For our latest Drupal Community interview, we had a really great talk with Ruben Teijeiro of Youpal and 1xINTERNET. Ruben revealed to us the meaning and responsibilities of a Drupal hero, a role which has enabled him to spread Drupal awareness all over the world and meet diverse Drupal communities. Read on to find out more about his journey with Drupal and what he's most excited about going forward.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. How do you participate in the Drupal community and what do you do professionally?

In the Drupal community I am participating as a speaker, organizing conferences, for example organizing DrupalCamp Spain at the moment, also collaborating with companies and other communities in other countries. The purpose of this is to make the community bigger and try to identify issues within the project itself, not only technically, but also human issues - basically just trying to be, like, not an evangelist, but an advocate of open source and Drupal specifically. 

That is exactly the definition of a Drupal hero: someone that really takes open source seriously and wants to bring Drupal to every corner of the world. It’s this kind of “sharing is caring” mentality; as I started in open source, a lot of people helped me to get started. So, for me, I need to give something back, because I’m here at the moment because a lot of people helped me during my career. So I guess it’s our duty to help other people during the next stage of our careers. 

So, at the moment I’m working as a Drupal hero for 1xINTERNET, which is a Drupal agency in Frankfurt. I’m actually doing everything that’s needed: helping our development team, helping our project managers, doing sales pitches, attending conferences, you know, this kind of thing. Apart from that I also have my own digital agency, Youpal, in Stockholm, Sweden; as a co-founder I’m responsible for let’s say the company management things. 

2. When did you first come across Drupal? What convinced you to stay, the software or the community, and why?

My first installation of Drupal was 4.6, and then actively working since version 5, it was something like 8 to 10 years ago. I can tell you that before Drupal I was testing 10 or 12 different CMSs and different technologies, such as Java, Python and PHP, and I was really upset about all of them. One of the latest that I used was Joomla!, I was actually working at a company for 3 years. For me it was things such as the code quality, community engagement, these kinds of things that I was missing. 

Then I found Drupal and I started to feel that this was my CMS; proper code quality, code reviews, not anyone can contribute any module unless they follow some programming practices, this kind of thing. 

Apart from that, I attended my first community event and that’s when my mind was blown. Because it’s when you meet the community that you realize that this is bigger than you expected.

3. What impact has Drupal made on you? Is there a particular moment you remember?

Actually I have a special moment, which is when Drupal brought me to Sweden. It was during the financial crisis in Spain, there was no good work stability, and then suddenly because I was collaborating in the mobile initiative for Drupal 8, my name came up in Ericsson, in the company, so they needed a front-end developer. I was not a front-end developer actually, I was working in the mobile initiative to strengthen my front-end skills, but then I was assigned to the intranet project in Ericsson, and then I worked there for 3 years. That completely changed my mindset, my career, my life, everything.

The project itself is based in Drupal 7, integrated with several internal services, using REST and SOAP. They have Apache Solr for indexing the content, really strict single sign-on internally with their computers ... More or less that’s all, it’s just an intranet, so it’s regarding the employee information, documentation, processing and this stuff.

4. How do you explain what Drupal is to other, non-Drupal people?

When I try to explain this to my parents, or with let’s say people that are more into politics or government, or not technical people in general, what I try to use is samples that everyone knows, like, for example, “Do you know what is NASA? Do you know what is the European Commission? So, their websites are running on Drupal, that means there’s this secure infrastructure where you can just have your websites.” So, more or less, that's how I pitch Drupal in the beginning.

Then if you want to go to younger people, how do you explain it to them? So, if they want to use Drupal, I just try to tell them: “Oh, you want to have your own website, to sell your own stuff, this kind of thing? Then with Drupal you can just do it yourself, it’s a matter of clicks.” More or less I try to tell people, if you are able to use Facebook, you are able to build your own website with Drupal. 

With the new generations, such as with teenagers that will get started into technologies pretty soon, it’s best to use examples that they know on a daily basis; those are really easy to link to, what is this and what is the solution that you get, the outcome of it, you know. For instance, the main or the major universities worldwide, they use Drupal, so, Oxford, Stanford, those are good examples, not for teenagers, but for people who are going to university.

5. How did you see Drupal evolving over the years? What do you think the future will bring?

At the moment I guess it’s not only Drupal, it’s just PHP, the PHP ecosystem must evolve, like the Java ecosystem. So in this case I guess Drupal will become more decoupled, meaning that internally in their core they’re going to have more loosely coupled components, and in the end Drupal is going to be an API-first CMS or even framework. 

Because I guess that with a lot of good things that we are doing in Drupal, all the PHP projects could benefit from them. Like, I don’t fully understand why we have for example a user login component in Drupal, but then Magento use their own user login component, Symfony and Laravel, they use their own, which makes it really difficult to maintain because of multiple components that are doing exactly the same task. 

So, for me, unifying this component in one single one for all the PHP projects should be beneficial, and I think that it isn’t that difficult to make it so loosely coupled that we can use it even as an API.

6. What are some of the contributions to open source code or to the community that you are most proud of?

My contributions … My case is, I guess one of the biggest ones is the Drupal Heroes stickers, because I guess they are now all around the world; I have seen them in Saudi Arabia, I have seen them in Africa, I have seen them in India, you know, Russia, United States, South America, so they are going everywhere. So that’s one of the things, it’s just let’s say a pet project that I started with a friend who did the design of the stickers and then I just printed and handed over all of them.

It’s easy to identify through these stickers, because people maybe don’t know me by Ruben, but they know “Ah, this is the guy with the superhero stickers!”, you know, that’s all - an easy way to get spotted and to create brand awareness in Drupal.

That’s one thing, and the other is I guess all the traveling I’ve been doing around Europe, speaking about Drupal, meeting all the communities, I guess I’m pretty proud about having met almost 20 to 25 different communities in different countries. 

7. Is there an initiative or a project in Drupal space that you would like to promote or highlight?

At the moment I’m pretty happy about what we are doing with the JavaScript modernization, since everybody says that Drupal sucks because the UX is terrible, and I guess we all agree that the user experience is really bad; the developer experience is getting better and better, but the end user is where we should work the most. 

Apart from that, it’s as usual a lack of new talent, like, in every not only company, but open source project, you really want to attract new talent to your projects, or you do things differently and you also improve it. So for me the Javascript Modernization initiative is a good one because it’s bringing React developers or JavaScript developers into Drupal in a really easy way. So I guess it’s not my contribution, but it’s a contribution or an initiative that I think is super beneficial, not only technically, but from the human perspective.

The most beneficial thing about this is that everything is going to be API-driven, so all the API features are going to be available for every framework. But the thing is, we should work more actively in the content creation, because at the moment it’s not only the interface that’s important, but actually the content creation process that’s the most important - the editorial experience. That’s the session I’ve been giving at Drupal conferences for the past couple of years. 

So, it’s about the editorial experience, when you create content, why people really hate Drupal, like editors when they create content. Because then in the admin interface you go to the user and permissions page and, probably, you do it twice during the development of the project and then you don’t do it again. So we don’t really need to invest a lot of time improving the user experience of that page. So that’s my thing - we should focus our energy and time into the editorial experience, more than into the admin interface.

8. Is there anything else that excites you beyond Drupal? Either a new technology or a personal endeavorment. 

As I said, I’m really happy to have the React community come into Drupal, at least we are attracting part of it. I guess JavaScript modernization will improve a lot, because in the last JavaScript framework that we included in Drupal, it was Backbone and Underscore during the development of Drupal 8; Ember was considered as well, but there’s a long journey to go to have a proper JavaScript framework in Drupal core. 

Apr 11 2019
Apr 11

Same as every month, we wanted to share with you our favorite Drupal blog posts from the previous month. So, here's a list of 8 Drupal-related posts from March that we found the most interesting. Enjoy!


The first blog post we’d like to point out is a Drupal origin story by Angie Byron, perhaps better known as webchick. The inspiration for her writing this post is a talk she’ll be giving at an upcoming DrupalCamp in Belarus; she wanted to gather stories of people from different backgrounds about how they got into Drupal, and she figured the best way to motivate people to share theirs would be to share hers first.

It was very awesome to learn how Angie discovered Drupal through viewing the source code of the websites she visited. This really shows how starting small out of sheer curiosity can turn into a completely new lifestyle - it seems it certainly was this way for Angie, now employed full-time at Acquia, who has gained numerous invaluable friendships and experiences through Drupal.

Read more

Drupal's Angela Byron On Building A Diverse Community

In line with the previous post, this one is not exactly written by webchick - but it is about her, or more specifically about her role of promoting diversity and inclusion within the Drupal community. 

The article lists 3 of Angie’s core principles for building a more diverse community: the importance of a community-wide code of conduct, the promotion of a more diverse leadership, and the accessibility of a project to diverse groups of users. It concludes with a note on how companies can - and should - contribute to open source by sponsoring their employees’ work on OSS.

Read more

JSON:API lands in Drupal core

Next up, we have a post by Dries together with another one by Wim Leers. We decided to include both of them, since they work in tandem (Wim’s post even advises its readers to go read the one by Dries first - we couldn’t just ignore that suggestion!). In these two posts, an important piece of news for Drupal was announced - the next major release of Drupal, 8.7., will be shipped with JSON:API as a stable module!

This implementation of JSON:API into Drupal core is a huge milestone toward making Drupal API-first, the significance of which Dries already outlined almost 2 years ago. Major thanks to Wim Leers, Gabe Sullice, Mateu A. B. and of course all the other contributors for all their hard work on this module!

Read more

Additional info in Wim Leers’ post

Webform module now supports importing submissions

The purpose of this next blog post, written by Jacob Rockowitz, is to make importing submissions to the Webform module as simple as exporting submissions. The key question that Jacob asks here is how to make it as easy as possible for organizations to make a switch to the Webform module from other form builders. 

His solution is to rebuild an external form, then import the existing data to the form. The best way to import submissions is with a CSV. Don’t worry - Jacob also includes a helpful demo video that will make the entire process even easier. Finally, he gives a shout out to 2 contributors to the module: Kaleem Clarkson, who made this new feature possible, and Michael Feranda, who found a task in the module’s issue queue and simply started working on it.

Read more

Florida Drupal Camp: Sunglasses, Alligators, Community, and Connection

Adam Bergstein aka n3rdstein’s recap of DrupalCamp Florida was an immensely enjoyable read. Three members of Hook42’s team attended the ‘Camp, and the post relates both the impressions from their two sessions, one on Gatsby.JS training and one on emerging technologies, as well as more general impressions from the event of each team member.

As with other DrupalCamps, DrupalCamp Florida 2019 seems like a great event to have attended - especially considering it took place in February, when Florida was likely much warmer than other Camps at that time (Adam even mentions the warmer weather as a big plus, so, there’s that!). 

Read more

Headless Drupal, decoupling Drupal

Another excellent post was one by Josef Dabernig on decoupling Drupal. He provides a short explanation of what “decoupled” means and what the difference between fully and progressively decoupled is. 

The main capability of a decoupled or headless architecture is building more complex web solutions, such as PWAs (progressive web applications) and integrated e-commerce applications.

Of coursing, decoupling is not the ideal solution for each and every possible use case. Josef also lists some key advantages and disadvantages of going headless, as well as some situations where a decoupled architecture makes the most sense. For those wishing to learn more about decoupling, he recommends Preston So’s “Decoupled Drupal in Practice”.

Read more

The Big, Bad Layout Builder Explainer

Even though Drupal’s Layout Builder is currently still an experimental module, it has already proved to be extremely useful, and is to be included in the next major release of Drupal next month

Caroline Casals of Phase2 dives into the ins and outs of Layout Builder and its capabilities in this blog post. According to her, one of the key advantages of this module is that it improves the experience of content editors and developers alike, as it is very intuitive to use (although probably not as much for someone not used to working with blocks).

The post concludes with some thoughts on the potential impact of Layout Builder on Drupal site building, as well as some areas that could still benefit from improvements, such as the module’s UI.

Read more

Saving temporarily values of a form with Private Tempstore in Drupal 8

In the last post on this month’s list, Karim Boudjema tackles the problem of temporarily saving values from a form and retrieving or processing them later in a controller. To do that, he uses Drupal’s Form API and Private TempStore API

The goal of the post is to build a simple RSS reader where a user can introduce an RSS file URL along with the number of items to retrieve from that file. Since the information belongs to a specific user (anonymous or authenticated) and only needs to be stored for a certain period of time, the ideal way to go about it is by using Drupal’s Private TempStore.

Read more

These were some of our favorite Drupal articles from March. This month's list features a healthy balance between community-oriented posts and those that focus on Drupal's open source code. Check back next month for an overview of April's posts!

Apr 09 2019
Apr 09

The last weekend of March, our team in Ljubljana finally made the long-anticipated transition into our brand new offices. 

In this short blog post, we’ll give you a glimpse into the teambuilding-like moving process, as well as explain why we made the decision to move and what this means for Agiledrop.

We knew a move was on the horizon since about the middle of last year. In 2018, we saw our team grow way more than any previous year. This meant that we were able to start working on even more projects for even more diverse clients.

What it also meant, however, was that we would soon outgrow the office we were in at the time. We were recruiting new developers at a lightning-fast pace, and our office’s capacity was quickly becoming insufficient for so many people, with only a few empty desks remaining. 

Furthermore, we also saw a growing interest in our free Drupal courses. If we wanted to accommodate everyone who signed up, we would either need to run these courses more frequently or increase the size of the groups. 

Since the first option would unload even more work on our already busy CTO and everyone involved in the organization of the courses, the second one was much more appealing. And, thanks to our extremely roomy new offices, also much more feasible - we can now host almost twice as many course participants as in the old ones! 

Right, so - we knew we’d be moving soon, but we didn’t yet know when or where. Because of this, it was all still in the air, something intangible and by consequence far away. The cliché expression “out of sight, out of mind” definitely held true here. 

So, when things finally started to move, they moved fast; we only found out about the definitive new location in the beginning of March. And, we were to be completely moved by April 1st! This didn’t exactly give us a lot of time to move.

Conveniently, we had a teambuilding planned for the Thursday preceding the move. We decided to combine business with pleasure, postpone the teambuilding till the weekend and get our exercise in a less conventional way. 

When we started to move, we moved fast. We took some after work hours on Friday to get everything ready and make it easier for ourselves during the actual move. The next morning, we said goodbye to our old offices, loaded our things onto the moving truck, and were off to our new location.

Of course, staying true to our company culture, we also took this as an opportunity to bond and forge new friendships among teammates. We washed down Friday’s recreation with a beer or two, then on Saturday enjoyed our first meal in the new offices after getting everything set.

Now, just over a week later, we’re well on our way to being completely settled in. Having almost a whole floor of the building to ourselves gives us a lot of flexibility. Our new offices thus boast 2 booths for calls with clients, 5 meeting rooms and enough desks for 50 developers, with the bonus of much better parking spaces than in the old ones. 

At the moment, though, the new offices are so much more spacious compared to the old ones that one’s always a bit surprised at how empty they seem; however, we’re still actively looking for new teammates, so that’s bound to change soon.

On top of that, we’re already looking forward to having our first free Drupal course in the new office less than three weeks from now - and then another one soon after!

So, we’re keeping up with the change happening all around us, staying true to our vision and opening ourselves up to new opportunities. 

We can already feel this move has been the start of a new chapter for our company; we can’t 
wait to see what else this year has in store for us.

Apr 04 2019
Apr 04

The digital agency field is one that’s in constant flux. It’s very difficult to predict the scope of your work several months in advance. But, of course, this doesn’t mean that you won’t take on the project, even if your resources are lacking. What are you going to do, then?

One possibility is to outsource the project or parts of it to remote partners. You actually have two options here; you can either hire a freelancer or get your developers from an agency that specializes in staff augmentation. 

Naturally, however, working with remote partners is a different process than managing the entire project in-house. Remote staffing entails its own unique challenges that demand adjusting your approach to some degree in order to get the most out of everyone involved in the project.

But, let us put your mind at ease - even these newly incurred challenges can be managed perfectly well. Lucky for you, we know the ins and outs of remote staffing, and have tailored our workflow specifically to accommodate a team of developers working on projects for diverse international clients.

In this post, then, we’ll dive into the most common remote staffing challenges. Our extensive experience on the matter at hand also enables us to provide efficient solutions to all of the challenges that we’ll enumerate and discuss in this post. After reading it, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to effectively manage your remote teammates without having to worry about all the details of the working arrangement. 

1. Communication

The first and foremost challenge of remote staffing - or any kind of remote work, for that matter - is almost certainly communication. Good communication is an absolute must in order for a project to progress smoothly and launch successfully. We could even go so far as to say that poor communication is what lies at the heart of a lot of unsuccessful projects. 

It’s something that’s extremely important even when managing an in-house team - you can then logically assume that communicating smoothly and effectively with your remote partners is even more essential. 

One of the most frustrating things that can happen when communicating with remote partners is them not responding. Just think of it - hours can go by with you unaware of the progress of their tasks. Naturally, you’ll want some reassurance that you’ll be able to reach your remote workers when you need them.

We at Agiledrop understand how great a concern this is. As such, we make it a point to relay the importance of good communication to all new employees. 

Our developers are always available to the client during their working hours, and they inform the client of any absences (e.g. lunch breaks) they may have. They also synchronize twice each day, once when they begin their day and once when they’re getting ready to leave. 

This way, the client is always brought up to speed on any recent issues and developments, and has a much better overview of the project, as well as a much stronger relationship with the developer themselves. And, as we know, it’s always easier and more satisfying to work with someone you have a good relationship with. 

Another communication-related issue that we need to address is also the remoteness itself. An in-house team is much better at exchanging ideas and sharing their expertise in order to solve problems swiftly and more efficiently; however, a freelancer that you’ve hired, for example, doesn’t have the luxury of discussing things with peers that share a workspace. 

It’s true that the remote workers will usually have access to all of your communication tools, meaning they will technically be able to ask your in-house developers for guidance and/or help. Very often, though, they will instead try to solve the problem on their own - and spend copious amounts of time doing so, resulting in greater costs to you. 

Fortunately, this is rarely the case when working with a team of remote partners such as one provided by Agiledrop. While they will be separate from your in-house team and hence not so prone to exchanging knowledge with them, they will always have their own teammates to turn to and get inspiration from, despite them working on different projects for different clients. 

Therein lies the magic of outsourcing your work to an agency that puts huge emphasis on collaboration and teamwork. Even when hiring just one or two developers, you will benefit from the collective knowledge of their entire team. In this way, you will save both time and money, while at the same time not compromising the quality of the project at all.

2. Culture and location

A challenge that’s still very much tied to communication is the elimination of cultural breach. Logically, it becomes increasingly important the more your remote partner’s culture differs from yours. 

Huge distances between locations - and consequently huge time zone differences - can lead to unwanted hindrances to the project. Fortunately, even seemingly insurmountable cultural differences can be managed perfectly well if you tackle them appropriately. 

The first step in eliminating cultural breach is knowing your remote partner possesses an adequate level of expertise in English. Granted, with English becoming progressively more prevalent and leveraged as a means of international communication (English as a lingua franca), this is likely not something that you’ll need to worry about. 

Very often, a certain level of English is a prerequisite for working at an outsourcing agency. It’s the same at Agiledrop: English proficiency is one of our top priorities when hiring developers. This way we’re able to preselect those that are both fluent in English as well as sociable and outspoken.

With a freelancer, this is slightly different, as there is no supervisor that sets those demands - but, seeing how freelancers are self-managed, you can pretty much expect them to have good communication (and English) skills, since, otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to work effectively. 

Still, it’s wise to get to speak to your remote partner to-be in person, not just via email, but through some form of video chat. Usually, agency leaders will have no problem scheduling a video chat where the potential outsourced developer(s) will also be present. 

However, overcoming cultural breach takes more than just being able to understand one another. A remote worker’s extensive knowledge of English will be of little help to you if you’re unable to reach them. Here, we come to probably the biggest issue in establishing smooth cross-cultural communication: synchronizing both parties and scheduling meetings accordingly. 

This is especially important in the case of large time zone differences, e.g. six hours or more. With an on-site team, this problem wouldn’t even exist; the team share workspaces and, to some extent, also working hours. In this way, even those more spontaneous, unscheduled meetings are possible. 

With a remote worker or a team of remote workers, however, this can prove very hard to achieve. If, for example, your company is based in the US and you decide to outsource a project to a European development agency, you can’t expect the remote developers to be available during the same time slots as your on-site developers.

But what if the needs of your project demand they be present for a meeting that takes place, from their perspective, late in the evening or even at night? You can be almost 100% sure that you won’t get the same quality of input; either they won’t be able to make it to the meeting, or, if they will, their subsequent work may suffer because of a disrupted biorhythm. 

The solution is to coordinate well with your remote partner and establish beforehand what the optimal hours to schedule meetings are. In the case of a large time difference, schedule your meetings for hours which still fall in the scope of your remote partner’s workday. This will give them more than adequate time to both be present at the meeting and continue with their work undisrupted. 

Last, but not least, you’ll probably want to make sure that your remote developers share the values of your in-house team, or at least hold similar ones. Those values can differ greatly from culture to culture, from location to location. Some cultures hold different views on punctuality than others; the same is true for values such as quality and transparency.

The best thing to do is speak with your partner’s leadership about these issues. By learning about the values of your potential partner agency, you’ll be able to select a partner whose vision, mission and values are aligned with those of your organization.

3. Trust

Another major challenge of remote staffing is the inherent uncertainty of it. Ever heard of the expression “don’t buy a pig in a poke”? Well, this is exactly what hiring remote partners can feel like - like buying a pig in a poke, or having no reassurance that what you’re getting is really what you paid for. 

And it’s a perfectly legitimate hesitation. How can you ensure that your remote workers are trustworthy and reliable? How do you know they are as committed to the work and as experienced as your in-house team? Actually - how do you know that your in-house developers are reliable and committed, at that? 

The short answer is that you just have to take their word for it. Usually, you won’t make a final hiring decision until thoroughly researching your new potential employee. But even CVs can be deceiving (pun almost intended) and dishonest. 

You’ll of course have to fact-check the information supplied in the CV. But, even if you find that everything checks out, how can you know that they’re really responsible for, say, the frontend of a website or application? You likely won’t find their signature hiding in the code or even cleverly concealed in the site’s design. 

At least with in-house developers, you’ll get a much better overview of their day-to-day and month-to-month performance. Granted, this will only be possible after they’ve been working with you for some time, i.e. after the investment has already been made. Still, it gives you more power and more control over the progress of the project(s) in which they are involved.

But, with a remote partner, you pretty much have to gamble, right? Well, yes - and, also, no. There might be some risk involved with hiring a freelancer - but you have all their references to check, which will help you make a more informed choice. Also, it’s relatively easy and straightforward to stop working with a freelancer if you’re dissatisfied with their work. 

The biggest risk of hiring a freelancer is actually something else - but we’ll address and discuss it a bit later, when we come to the relevant challenge. Right now, let’s concentrate on how you can make sure that your newly-hired remote partner or team possesses adequate expertise to effectively augment your staff rather than hinder their work. 

Again, this is a concern that we at Agiledrop have already pinpointed and successfully eliminated. Our approach guarantees that our clients always get the best possible people for a certain project; let us briefly describe how we have achieved this. 

The key component of this approach is our very effective training program: all our new developers go through an in-house onboarding project under the supervision of skilled mentors before they start working on any client project. This ensures that they familiarize themselves with all the state-of-the-art tools and practices, and can consequently seamlessly integrate themselves into the client’s team.

Our development leads are the ones responsible for the training of new employees - as such, they are also the ones who can best gauge the competency level and the suitability of a developer for a specific client and/or project. They select the most appropriate person based on actual hands-on experience of working with them, not just on a list of references. 

What this means for you, the client deciding to work with such a remote partner, is that the remote workers’ employers essentially do the fact-checking for you beforehand. All you have to do is check the references of the agency itself, which are quite often much more salient and informative than those listed in a CV. 

And, this agency that others have already been satisfied with then vouches for their personnel - naturally, they would want only competent people on their team, and the careful selection made by the leadership assures that you are provided with only the best of the best. 

The greatest thing about this approach is that it eliminates most of the risk for you. It transforms project outsourcing into an informed purchase rather than a gamble - and, going back to the point made in the intro about the constantly shifting nature of the digital, any degree of reassurance is more than welcome in this era of uncertainty and overabundance of choices. 

Right - we’ve covered the main issue associated with trust, namely, trusting in the competency of your remote partner(s). What about the next step, though - trusting these newly integrated teammates with access to your communication channels, with sensitive private information, trade secrets etc.? 

An employee of an agency will probably have an internal moral obligation to protect the privacy of their enterprise. It’s less likely, however, that their moral compass will be as strict when they work on projects for the agency’s clients. 

Again, the focus shifts to the agency itself: what is their company culture? What values do they hold? Is the importance of privacy clearly communicated to all their new employees? And, are there steps taken to ensure the maximum protection of privacy?

These are all questions you’ll need answers to, especially if the nature of your work demands a very high level of security. It’s vital that you find about out your potential partner’s attitude towards privacy. E.g., if they make their employees sign non-disclosure agreements, this is already a good sign that privacy is something they value. 

It’s even better if they reassure you of their protection of privacy without you having to even ask - if this happens, you can be almost 100% certain that your privacy is in good hands. 

At Agiledrop, newly hired developers sign an NDA pretty much at the same time as their employment contract. Additionally, we handle all our passwords - as well as any clients’ passwords - with password management tools such as LastPass, especially when working from home. And, because of our strong company culture, the moral obligation to our company is extended to all the clients we work with. 

If you want additional protection, you can always add extra security layers to your own channels and services, such as obliging everyone to set up multi-factor authentication or change their password(s) every few months in the case of a longer-term partnership. 

4. Monitoring

This next challenge of remote staffing is actually still tied to trust: effective monitoring of someone who is working remotely. The main difference here is that the meaning of trustworthiness is actually closer to conscientiousness than to honesty; this is why we’re addressing it as a separate challenge. 

Even in the case of international or offshore offices, you’re generally able to monitor all your employees in-house. Having to monitor a team of outsourced remote workers, however, is a completely different beast to tame. 

Without actual physical supervision from your side, how can you be sure that developers working on your project remotely are actually doing the job? How can you know that they don’t just slack off when they turn Slack off? Even with a time-tracking tool such as JIRA or Teamwork, you can never really be certain; and finding out about their inactivity only after seeing a project not completed is not exactly helpful. 

This is likely a bigger issue when hiring a freelancer. Being self-managed, they are left to their own devices, which means you have only negligible supervision over their work. Admittedly, since they are most often experts of a specific field, and since they’re able to work extremely flexible working hours, you can probably expect the work to be done even with very little monitoring from your side. 

Well, but … What if it isn’t? What can you do if the remotely-working freelancer turns out to be a poor investment? Besides already having spent precious resources on them, you will now have to invest even more time and money into rehiring - which will, of course, come neatly packaged with all the hesitations and extra work we’ve outlined before: interviewing, fact-checking, uncertainty - and then some. 

Trying to stay as objective as we can, we believe a better and safer solution would be to partner with a staffing agency. Granted, you’ll face the same issues as with freelancers when it comes to management from your side; but, at the same time, you’ll benefit from the management coming from the agency’s side. 

Of course, your own project managers will be responsible for the project’s smooth progression - but you’ll be able to leave the management of your remote workers to the partner agency. While it’s true that this kind of dual monitoring demands a little extra synchronization, it definitely pays off. And, since the agency’s reputation is at stake, you can expect them to have a well-established system which guarantees the top-notch performance of their employees.

Yep, you guessed it - we have such a system at Agiledrop, and we’re very pleased with its results. The satisfaction of our clients is of paramount importance to us; at the same time, however, we realize how crucial the well-being of our employees is to the success of our clients’ projects. This is why we have devised a company culture that provides only the best for both clients and employees. 

We hold weekly sync meetings and collect feedback from both sides to ensure smooth communication throughout the duration of the project. This also enables us to spot and resolve issues quickly, before they turn into a detriment to the project. If you want to find out more about our company culture, we discuss it in more detail here.

Also, we take the meaning of “remote partners” at face value. After joining your team as a remote teammate, the developer assigned to you will dedicate themselves exclusively to working on your project. As such, you will essentially benefit from their full-time work without the need to micromanage and without worrying about any additional costs.

5. Cost and ROI

This leads neatly into the next challenge that we wanted to point out. While the previous ones were relevant to any kind of remote work, this one is actually more specifically a challenge of remote staffing. We’re talking about the costs incurred by hiring remote teammates via staff augmentation and the return of investment of deciding on this option. 

Here, the questions that you’re probably asking yourself are: how fast will my new remote worker adopt my tools, practices and workflow? How much will I have to invest into them before they are able to do the job that I’m paying for? Will the investment be a worthwhile one - or would I have been better off just growing my in-house team?

We admit that these are indeed important and difficult questions. There’s no universal all-around answer to them, except for “it depends”. As such, we can only speak from our own experience. 

Fortunately, though, experience in this field is something we have loads of. Having worked with a wide range of clients, our developers have familiarized themselves with all the most up-to-date development tools and practices - well, at least with those they haven’t already mastered during their onboarding. 

The entire cost of onboarding is thus already taken care of from our side; all you need to do is to integrate the new developer(s) into your in-house team - but you would’ve had to do this even with a new full-time employee.

What’s more relevant to you, however, is what else you’ll have to take care of when hiring a full-time employee - and, in contrast, what you won’t have to worry about when hiring remote partners. This is likely the main and most attractive reason for outsourcing your work. 

Because, let’s face it - you’ve read through some 2000 words about the challenges of remote staffing - there have to be some glaring benefits to it, too, right? Cause, otherwise, why would so many businesses outsource their work to remote partners?

That’s right - there are obvious benefits! Actually, these are so great that we don’t even have to make a compelling case for them; they just speak for themselves. You probably know what we’re getting at, huh?

While a daily rate for your in-house employee may be lower than that of a remote hire, with the latter this is pretty much the only expense that you’ll have - not as much can be said about the former, though. 

Travel expenses, health insurance, vacation and sick days, the costs associated with onboarding, let alone the necessary equipment… These are just the basics. Don’t forget about teambuildings, healthy office snacks and all the various perks that create a pleasant working environment and take care of the motivation and well-being of your in-house team. It sure adds up - as you’re probably well aware of.

So, your top priority - or one of them, at least - is cutting down on expenses whenever possible; why not go for an option that comes prepackaged with all additional expenses, save the salary, already excluded? 

But wait - there’s more! Referring back to the intro and the unstable nature of the digital - how can you know that you’ll have as much work in, say, half a year as you do now? And, more importantly, what will you do if you don’t?

You likely won’t want to get rid of your talented employees - but, at the same time, it won’t make sense to keep paying their salaries and all their expenses if there’s no work to be done for an indefinite amount of time. 

This will be even more important when you take into account the costs of finding and hiring a full-time employee. Since the demand for developers is already high - and constantly increasing - you can’t even be sure you’ll be able to find a full-time employee in the same area as your offices, which runs the risk of your search being completely fruitless - though no less expensive.

With a remote teammate, it’s a completely different story altogether. Outsourced remote workers are able to easily join your team and just as easily leave it - no hard feelings, no strings attached. And should you ever need to augment your staff again? No problem - agencies usually love working with clients with whom they’ve already established strong, trusting relationships. 

All of this gives you the flexibility to effectively scale when needed, while also greatly reducing most of the costs associated with hiring. And, going back to the “trust” issue, since it’s easier to gauge the competency of the remote hire in such a partnership, this also means that the cost will definitely reflect the quality of the service you are receiving.

6. Unexpected and uncontrollable factors

So far, we’ve covered most of the main questions that likely pop up in your head when deciding for remote staffing. We saved this next challenge for last, though, since it’s a more general one - but, also, just as pertinent. It has to deal with all the various unexpected issues and things that are just, well, out of our control.

For example - what do you do when your newly hired remote worker suddenly falls ill? Or, even worse, what if they’re in an accident? You can’t blame anyone, of course, but the truth of the matter is that your work suffers because of it. 

Here, the distinction between outsourcing work to freelancers versus staffing agencies becomes especially relevant. Remember how we promised to talk more about one of the biggest challenges of hiring a freelancer? Well, since a freelancer is a one-man-band, you’re pretty much screwed if they go on sick leave (or, God forbid, just randomly stop responding - remember how crucial communication is).

When this happens, you need to redo the entire hiring process, which is more complicated and time-consuming with a freelancer or an in-house employee to begin with. Plus, depending on your contract, you’ll probably still have to pay for the freelancer’s incomplete work.

When an in-house employee falls ill or has any kind of medical emergency, it’s also not the best thing in the world for you. In fact, it may even be more costly than with a freelancer - you have to cover their health insurance, as well as pay them the salary during their sick leave. 

And, while you have some reassurance in the fact that they’ll likely get better soon, you still suffer from staff deficit. You can try to patch things up by distributing the person’s tasks among the rest of the team (and even that on condition that the team have the needed expertise), but that will just lead to burnout and a generally poor employee experience.

The best possible solution, then, is definitely partnering with a staffing agency and outsourcing your project(s) to their developers. Since such an agency specializes in staff augmentation, you can count on them to always provide suitable replacements if anything unexpected happens to your current remote hire.

This is exactly the approach we employ at Agiledrop - and it is only made more effective thanks to the onboarding program that we mentioned earlier. The in-depth knowledge of the competency of our developers allows us to not only provide the most adequate person at the start of a working arrangement, but also to ensure that the skillsets of any replacement we have to make match those of the original hire. 

We also do our best to anticipate the unexpected - at least in the realm of what’s under our control. We urge all our employees to notify us of any emergencies as soon as they are made aware of them. In this way, we’re able to remedy the situation and arrange a replacement way before the developer’s emergency can be of any disadvantage to the client. 

This approach eliminates any friction of rehiring, saving cost while not compromising the quality of the services in any way. If you’re able to find a partner agency that can guarantee such a level of aptness and dedication, you’ll know you and your project are in good hands.

In conclusion

There you have it - the six most pressing challenges of remote staffing, coupled with the solutions that agencies which specialize in outsourcing, including Agiledrop, have successfully relied on. We hope this comprehensive blog post has armed you with the necessary savvy to make more informed decisions when outsourcing your work and managing outsourced projects.

Are you currently looking for remote partners to help with your project and this post just sealed the deal for you? We’d be happy to work with you - contact us and we’ll immediately start working on a solution that best fits your needs!


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