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Jan 10 2020
Jan 10

Happy New Year, everyone! If you’re not willing to let go of the holiday spirit just yet, you’re in luck - we’ve prepared an overview of our favorite Drupal blog posts from December. We hope you enjoy revisiting them!

Commerce 2.16 adds Cart Expiration, improves Views integration

The first post on December’s list pertains to the last release of Drupal Commerce in 2019, version 2.16. Bojan Zivanovic of Centarro, the team behind Drupal Commerce, breaks down the new features of this version and announces a different release schedule for this year - quarterly rather than monthly releases.

The new features, meanwhile, are: cart expiration, which had a Drupal 7 module but is now part of core for 8; integration of Views; the ability to set Start / End times of promotions in addition to dates; and product-specific tax rates enabled by the Commerce Product Tax module. 

Read more

Drupal 8.8.0 is available

This next post also touches upon a new version of software - the latest minor version of Drupal, 8.8, released on December 4th. Written by Gábor Hojtsy, it is a combination of an overview of its new features and a helpful manual on what this means for owners of Drupal websites.

Since Drupal 8.9, to be released together with Drupal 9 in June, will be focused on backwards compatibility, version 8.8 is Drupal 8’s last feature release. As such, it brings several important features to core: a stable Media library, a new experimental admin theme Claro, greatly improved Workspaces, and even native Composer support.

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Why You Should Upgrade to Drupal 8 (Even with Drupal 9 on the Way)

The release of Drupal 9 is fast approaching, and this makes updating to version 8 now seem a bit redundant. Ethan Schug of Zivtech shows that this is not the case in his blog post which highlights the benefits you’ll get if you decide to upgrade to 8 today.

Not only does Drupal 8 provide a better developer and editor experience than 7, it is also much more secure and enables much better API integration. 

Since Drupal 7 end-of-life is scheduled for November 2021, upgrading to a newer version will be necessary sooner or later anyway; the sooner you do it, the sooner you can benefit from its more powerful capabilities, and the more thorough the migration can be. 

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Happy Holidays! We got you something nice | Automatic Updates Phase 1 is Complete

Our fourth pick from December marks the first stable release of the Automatic Updates module for both Drupal 7 and 8, and thus the completion of phase 1 of Drupal’s Automatic Updates initiative

While still not applicable to each and every use case and won’t become part of core until phase 2 is complete, the module offers quite a few powerful capabilities, such as automatically updating Drupal core for sites on 7 and 8. 

Author Tim Lehnen finishes the post with some priorities for phase 2 of the initiative and a call to action for sponsoring or otherwise supporting it. 

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Acquia to acquire AgilOne to solve data challenges with AI

The next post on December’s list isn’t a strictly Drupal one, but is nonetheless very important for the biggest company in the Drupalverse - Acquia. In their quest to become the leading open digital experience platform, they’ve already made 2 important acquisitions in 2019 (Cohesion and Mautic), and now the acquisition of the AgilOne CDP has only brought them one step closer to achieving this goal. 

In this post, Dries gives their reasons for choosing AgilOne (one of the major ones being their machine learning capabilities). The end goal is providing top-notch customer experiences, and for this, they needed a platform that will integrate all the relevant data in one place - and AgilOne will provide just that.  

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Drupal Mentoring Gives New Contributors Superpowers!

In the next post, Tara King, Pantheon’s Community Developer Manager, talks about the importance of mentoring to new contributors. She truly hits the nail on the head with her definition of open source: “People working together to make something new, helping each other and learning new skills along the way.”

She was so impressed by this welcoming attitude of the Drupal community that she decided to join the mentoring team and help out others with their entry into open source. Likewise, her company Pantheon is also an active supporter of Drupal and open source. 

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Getting Started: React In Drupal 8

Written by Kemane Wright of Texas Creative, this post is perfect for everyone who’s excited about React and/or decoupled Drupal and wants to take a stab at it. 

Kemane’s post starts off by explaining the concept of “decoupled” and the difference between headless and progressive decoupling, then goes on to guide the reader through progressively decoupling their Drupal site with React. 

The React module then allows you to include highly interactive elements to Drupal and as such improve the user experience of the sites. For those not yet that familiar with React/Redux, Kemane recommends checking out some further documentation and/or Texas Creative’s session from Texas Camp. 

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Drupal 8 migration: why now is the time to upgrade

Finally, we finish with another blog post concerning Drupal 8 migration, this one authored by Inviqa’s CTO Richard Jones (no surprises there, considering Drupal 9 is only 5 months away). 

Richard points to the benefits of Drupal 8 (its ‘API-first’ approach, flexibility and scalability, among others) and supports his argument for upgrading by showcasing some well-known brands already using Drupal 8, such as Arsenal FC

He ends the post with some key considerations for migrating from older Drupal versions to 8, as well as some best practices for launching a site with Drupal 8. 

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This concludes our first recap of the previous month’s blog posts of the decade. We have some interesting things planned for our blog in the coming months - stay tuned!

Jan 08 2020
Jan 08

Happy New Year to all! 2019 was definitely a year we won’t soon forget, as it marked some of Agiledrop’s biggest successes to date: a significant expansion of our team, offices and technologies, topped with an even greater focus on providing the best possible experience for our employees. We are now more than ready to take on not only this new year, but rather the whole new decade.

From 40 to 60 full-time employees

In last year’s review, we announced that our team had grown to 40 full-time employees that year. Well, this number rose quite significantly in 2019 - at the end of the year, the Agiledrop family boasted as many as 60 members, making us one of the fastest-growing development agencies in the country. 

Most importantly, this growth did in no way come at a cost to a great employee and workplace experience: with all the new offices opened and all the perks added to existing offices, our employees are able to work in the best possible environment while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Unprecedented revenue growth

In terms of revenue, we can proudly say that 2019 was a year of unprecedented growth for us. We far surpassed the goals we set for ourselves at the end of 2018, while retaining everything that was already functioning perfectly before: our major clients come from different countries, meaning that we don’t have to rely on a single client or market to keep us afloat.

Moreover, we managed to secure clients both in the agency and end client space, and we are looking forward to continue with this trend in 2020. A notable improvement was also that we started providing more and more managed development teams to our clients, rather than single developers. 

We were really happy with this as we see it as a testament to our client’s satisfaction with our services and knowledge that they can always rely on us. The two also resulted in a number of longer partnerships that no longer feel only as mere business partnerships, but actual strong and sustainable relationships.

We plan on continuing with this trend going forward, while providing our clients with solutions and personnel that are tailored specifically to them. 

New offices

One of the most significant novelties for Agiledrop in 2019 was the opening of two new offices, the expansion of our existing Maribor office and the move of our Ljubljana headquarters to a much more spacious location

We already knew at the end of 2018 that our Ljubljana team would need a bigger office space, and we had also outlined plans to open a second office in the north-east region, in Celje. But, due to the unexpectedly rapid growth of our Maribor team, we also needed to increase the size of their office to accommodate everyone (especially during morning times when developers have their daily update calls with clients).

Another thing that caught our attention was the huge spike in popularity of IT services and development in Novo mesto, the capital of the south-east region in Slovenia, where we also saw a lot of interest in working with us. 

Thus, we killed two birds with one stone with our Novo mesto office: we’re helping the local development community there to evolve more significantly, while also expanding our team to another city and greatly cutting down commuting time for employees in this region. As such, we contribute to the community in Slovenia and also guarantee an excellent employee experience. 

Team activities

We figured out quite a long time ago that our team performs much better when we foster a culture of collaboration and a strong team spirit - a kind of “all for one, one for all” mentality. To this end, we schedule numerous activities throughout the year where we get to better know each other and forge new friendships.

I can safely say that in 2019 we held more of these internal events than any previous year, namely: 

  • Team lunches (dubbed “AgileFood”),
  • After-work sports activities, or “AgileSport”,
  • Internal lectures organized and given by our developers, called “AgileTalk”,
  • 2 larger “teambuilding”-esque events, where the entire team got together and combined several activities - you can read more about them here.

In addition to these, we also held several other internal and external events - e.g. we hosted meetups organized by the local PHP community, and one of them featured our developer Peter Kokot - one of the release managers of the latest version of PHP, PHP 7.4.

New technologies

With a greater number of clients and employees come new requirements and skills. 2019 cemented an observation that we made at the end of 2018 - namely, that we needed to expand our services beyond just Drupal. 

We’re proud to say, then, that we’ve successfully transitioned from being an exclusively Drupal agency to offering our clients solutions in a wide range of technologies. We’d previously worked with the powerful front-end framework Angular only as part of decoupled Drupal projects, but last year we executed a number of projects leveraging Angular alone. 

Similarly with the WordPress CMS - while it is a popular content management system for smaller personal sites, we started working exclusively on enterprise-level WordPress projects where we can truly make the most use of our developers’ skills. 

We plan to focus even more on WordPress and Angular, and have a larger share of our projects this year done with them. This also means that we’ll need to build larger and more dedicated Angular and WordPress teams, in order to also facilitate working more with managed teams rather than individual developers. 

Giving back to the community

Of course, like each year, we didn’t fail to give back to the community - both the global open source community and the local development community in Slovenia. In 2019, we organized the highest number of our free Drupal courses so far, and we plan on taking it even further this year thanks to being present all over the country.

We also sponsored and attended more events than any previous year - the majority were Drupal events, but we also started getting more involved in other open source communities (e.g. WordPress), with an even longer list of events already scheduled for 2020. 

As already mentioned, we also hosted several PHP meetups and were involved in other development-oriented events for fledgling developers. With the opening of our new offices in cities that aren’t as abundant in IT-related job offers, we also helped the local developer communities in those regions. 

Last but not least, we were again very active in contributing to Drupal’s open source code, with 59 issue credits on drupal.org. 

What's next?

With such a successful year behind us, we now have concrete proof that we’re on the right track and we’ll continue moving in this direction. We plan on further growing our team, with a focus on having more development managers and project managers for each individual Agiledrop office. 

Speaking of offices - we already have our sights set on at least one new office, so stay tuned for that. 2020 is looking to be another excellent year; we hope this turns out to be true for everyone! 

Dec 12 2019
Dec 12

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 spoke with Kanopi Studios' awesome CEO Anne Stefanyk, covering everything from her first getting to know the Drupal community to Kanopi's exciting projects and community involvement all through to Anne's love of treehouses. 

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

My name’s Anne Stefanyk and I’m the founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios. Kanopi is an agency that focuses on the full life-cycle of the website, which means we do everything starting with strategy, design, development, through to long-term support. 

And we do it in a really nimble way, where we are able to jump in at any stage of a website and immediately make positive impacts for our clients. It’s because we believe in a continuous website improvement methodology, where we can take small bites that create big wins for clients.

Our sweet spot is actually support: so many agencies do just build, and then are done. But we believe that the first day of launch is really when your site begins! So we’re there to support you as your site grows and evolves.

Beyond owning Kanopi, I am one of the chief cat herders and lead organizers of the Bay Area Drupal Camp. I also help run SFDUG (the San Francisco User Group).

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

I came across Drupal back in 2006 and I was working at an agency, so I was on the client side. I was actually very angry at Drupal; I was coming out of Flash as an agency person, and then all of a sudden I had to manage a website. So I feel very much for Marketers today: they have to manage so much stuff compared to 2006. 

But it was interesting because I started working with Drupal as an end-user, and then things switched where I actually ended up getting a job with an agency that built sites in Drupal. This was after my real estate career came to a crashing halt in 2007.

At first, I was a content editor. My first experience was going to DrupalCamp Victoria in 2006 and I met this wonderful wacky group of people: I met Chris from BuildAModule — he came up for that camp — and I met Shiraz Dindar who’s one of my employees in Victoria now, and I just found this really quirky community.

Then, in 2009, I had the opportunity to go the PNW Drupal summit in Seattle, and that’s where I met Jen Lampton! We met a lot of good people back in the day and I thought, wow, these are brilliant nerds and really fun and easy to talk to. I remember wearing my business attire the first day and not really making as many friends. The next day, I wore my hoodie, my ball cap and my T-shirt, because that was the general vibe and I was super stoked for that.

It was interesting because, coming in on the client side, I was never in the code at all. But I fell in love with the community for their inclusivity and for their uniqueness, and really so many people enjoying Drupal in a social activism way.

So it was really going to DrupalCamp PNW when I discovered there’s this whole group of people that were willing to sit down and teach me about what the heck CCK fields were, or how the user permissions actually work. And that’s when I got really interested in the actual content editing experience of Drupal and learning about it.

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

I remember when I went to DrupalCon San Francisco in 2010, I thought “Wow, people really do this professionally. This is a big thing”. And that’s when I opened my eyes to the opportunity that was beyond my backyard.

I’m from Canada, so it was in 2010 when not only did I fall in love with Drupal in a bigger way, I actually then fell in love with San Francisco. Shortly after, I had a job and a visa, and I was in San Francisco working at Chapter Three.

I really feel like Drupal absolutely changed my life in terms of where I was before to where I am now, because previously I had to have a desk job where I had to go into an office; now, I get to work from home and travel the world with really smart fun people and wear hoodies to work. Life is really good, you know.

I feel like Drupal’s really empowered some really cool stuff in my life just because of the nature of the open source vibe. I really vibe on that open source mentality, “let’s collaborate, let’s share, let’s assume positive intent, let’s make the world a better place, you know, one line of code at a time”. I just think Drupal is a really fun platform to work with. 

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

One of my biggest passions in Drupal is making it easier to understand. So, when people ask what Drupal is, I always say “it’s a tool to build websites, it is cool code that we build websites with.” It’s very basic the way I try to explain it. 

There is brand recognition on WordPress, I’m not going to lie, so I often ask “Have you heard of WordPress?”, and they usually have, and so I tell them “Well, it’s that, but it’s kind of bigger, you can do more stuff.”

So I just try to make it really easy to understand and use plain language whenever I talk about Drupal. Ultimately, I’m a big fan of asking “What are your goals? How do you want to use Drupal? How can Drupal be the tool that makes sure that you achieve your goals?”

It’s context dependent and I try to use analogies. Although we don’t like using the LEGO analogy, sometimes it helps clients understand that you get a base core kit — Drupal core is like your central core kit of LEGO — and then you have all these cool LEGO builders all over the world that build these smaller components that can pop into your master LEGO ship. Except that your LEGO ship’s really your website. 

It’s very helpful for non-technical people to understand the concept of other people contributing more pieces to a bigger, totally custom website experience, because Drupal can really be anything you want it to be.

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

It has been since about 2006 that I’ve been involved with Drupal, so I’ve seen a lot. 

I’ve seen a lot of version changes: from 5 to 6, from 6 to 7, from 7 to 8, and now 8 to 9. And, although I love that Drupal has always reinvented itself to be better, I’m really grateful we’re at a point where we’re committing to backwards compatibility. 

To me that’s really important, because backwards compatibility means that we can really create growth instead of having to rebuild every version. Because that’s been really hard on clients; as an agency owner, I’m noticing that it’s been hard for clients to accept that they need to spend a lot of money over and over again. 

So committing to backwards compatibility is going to just skyrocket our growth, I think, in terms of adoption. Because it’s now also being built in an open object-oriented framework that gives a broader sense of interest from other developers, in that it’s taking this computer stuff a little more seriously in version 8. It’s fantastic from a scalability standpoint.

I’m also really proud, honored and excited about how far Drupal has pushed the needle in terms of accessibility and multilingual in core. I think that’s something that no other CMS can boast, that our whole editing experience is accessible and that we’ve, in a sense, forced the hand to get people to compliant. I’m really excited about that. 

Also there’s been a big shift in Drupal where they have the larger corporate entities that are players in the space, whether it’s Autodesk, Pfizer, or Tesla or whatnot. I’m thrilled to see the movement. 

I’m also excited to promote the movement of getting large corporations to contribute back to open source, and what needs to happen to facilitate that collaboration. Because, without contributions back to the software, none of us would have jobs. 

It’s so important for contributions, and I think for so many agencies or big companies it’s hard sometimes to allocate time, but there are sustainable ways that you can do community work within your regular workflow. 

That’s where I really see the future; if we can continue to foster a real sense of community and foster that within the new corporate entities that are playing in our fields, then we can really get more people to contribute back. 

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

I would say that one of the contributions that I’m personally most proud of is our Community Contribution program at Kanopi Studios. I think we’ve created a sustainable model where it facilitates multiple different initiatives in our business. I want to do a talk at DrupalCon about this and we’ll see how that goes.

First, we have a dedicated Community Ambassador who helps organize commits and run sprints within our workflows to move community stuff along. AmyJune Hineline — who’s our community ambassador — also goes out and facilitates finding other projects that need support, whether it’s the Breadcrumbs module or whether it’s Bootstrap Paragraphs, and that our team is then geared up on sprints to help. 

AmyJune does 50% billable work, that’s how she pays for herself. And then the other 50% of the time she’s focused on community. Through that it’s been so cool because I’m a big community person. 

But, because I can’t code, I’ve never been able to really jump in and get credit on any of this stuff — which is fine. I’ve always just done it altruistically. But it’s great having this new system on drupal.org so we get credit for community work.

I’m really excited that people are actually seeing the business value in community, because there is true business value going to these conferences. AmyJune’s evangelizing our brand and attracting talent. She’s talking to clients who are really interested in contributing; those are our kinds of clients, we want clients that want to pay for the trip.

I’m really proud that we can measure AmyJune’s ROI. I feel like that’s a model that we can then systemize and then take it to every agency and say, “You need someone doing your QA”, “You need someone handling client stuff” . . . that’s what AmyJune does 50% of her time, and it keeps her billable, and everything’s paid for that way. And we then have someone 20 hours a week working on Drupal (and also WordPress!) which, to me, is really exciting.

It’s a total win-win. And we really live by our values; we value community, it’s one of our core values.

The second part is being able, as an organization, to operationalize community contribution. We have time and resources within our workflows to do community contrib. 

Our community contrib program is where employees go on to Slack and they report what they’ve done with just a numeric value, like, “I worked 2 hours on the weekend on this” or “I spent an hour on this”, and it’s good for all the things, so all levels of people can get involved. A lot of people that are community people put the time in regardless, they just will, right? So we wanted to enable them to get recognition for doing that. 

And it’s not like somebody wins, there are different tiers; if you are doing stuff pretty regularly, then you’ll get a whole other conference day added on to when you go. So if you wanted to go to three conferences or four conferences, the people that spend time in the code, in the community, doing the work . . . they are the ones that tend to want to go to the conferences. And this is a good program that enables us to say: “Hey, you did that community work, so then you can go to more conferences.” 

All of the community people, they all want to go and travel to all the events — I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s amazing! But there is that sustainable model that you have to balance when, as a CEO, I can’t just send all the people to all the things all the time. But those that are really jazzed up about it and want to spend some extra time getting there and contributing, there’s an avenue to be able to do that. Basically when you do community contrib, you get extra free time, on Kanopi’s dime, to do even more.

So we make sure that when people are hired, they’re in tune with that. Because I do feel like there are lots of projects, and lots of money out there. But again, if we don’t support and shine the little Drupal drop, it’s going to be tricky for all of us come later on. 

We really value people that are into community. And they understand the balance because we also have to work.

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

It’s actually one that’s not even on Drupal.org because the distribution requirements made it so complicated, but we ran a project called Mukurtu. It’s all run on GitHub. 

I’m really really really honored to be part of that project. It was funded by Washington State University, and it’s a project that a couple of shops worked on beforehand, with Kanopi working on launch version 2.0. 

It’s on Drupal 7 right now and there’s an incredible set of features. Essentially, Mukurtu is a website installation profile that you can spin up using Drupal 7 and Organic Groups, and have a place where you can archive your digital heritage of digital items securely online. 

So it’s great for museums, it’s great for indigenous tribes, and First Nation folks. We have some people at Oxford that are, for example, tracking the migration of different birds. There are so many different applications of this, but it is a place where you can actually use roles and permissions.

Also, it’s really tightly built so that you can partition off secure content, so Google doesn’t just take all your content and now it’s theirs. Especially when it comes to cultural assets from museums or first nations folks. So that is just wonderful. 

It runs on GitHub and it is sponsored by WSU, but we’re one of the four committers and one of the core developers on that, so that’s super fun, I just love that project.

And it’s cool because we built it for around 70-100k at the time and WSU has spun up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of sites using that installation profile. And it runs with features — I’ve never had a site so tight. You know, regression bugs . . . they’re the bane of our existence in Drupal, and Drupal 7 was all featurizing everything, and that was just so tightly featurized that it was so nice. It was a very smooth project.

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

My dogs! I love my dogs; they’re a chihuahua and a chi-wiene, and they’re actually nicknamed “the evils.” 

But I’m really excited about treehouses, I’m a big fan of treehouses. I actually started Kanopi to facilitate that. And, as most entrepreneurs can relate, it’s been one heck of a ride and super busy, so getting to actually building treehouses hasn’t happened. ;)

Now that we have a team of 44+ and we’re getting to the place where we’re really stabilized and we’re building a sustainable agency, now’s the time that we can go build this super awesome WiFi-enabled tree house in southern Costa Rica.

We’re planning on getting that going as part of our company planning for 2020, so I’m really excited about building a treehouse for the Kanopians to go and play in.
 

Dec 09 2019
Dec 09

The year has come to a close - and what a year it has been! For Agiledrop as well as for Drupal, it has truly been an amazing and successful one - and yet, we feel it is only a prelude to all that’s coming in 2020. To properly end the year, here’s a recap of all our posts from last month - enjoy!

International Splash Awards: A celebration of Drupal innovation

Following DrupalCon Amsterdam and the concurrent Splash Awards, which we sponsored, our first blog post in November was aimed at promoting the event and congratulating and showcasing some of the winners. 

For Ronald van Rooijen, Managing Partner at FRMWRK that won the award in the Government and Public Services category, the award is a testament to the successful collaboration between their and SIM’s team, as they were able to quickly replace their existing system (used for over 10 years) with Drupal. 

Daniël Smidt, the CTO at Synetic that won in the Tools & Apps category with their DAM (Digital Asset Management) system, was happy that their work not only provided obvious benefits to their clients in terms of user experience, but that it also meant a significant contribution to Drupal.

Read more

Interview with Alex Moreno López: Materialize your digital dreams with Drupal

Next up, we had one of our Drupal Community Interviews - this one with the friendly Alex Moreno López, Acquia’s Technical Architect. We talked about his beginnings with Drupal and open source, his greatest inspirations and interests in tech, and much more. 

Alex gauged the potential of Drupal early on, already with Drupal 4 / 5, and saw it as having an advantage over the easier to use WordPress. As he brilliantly describes it, “Drupal is a tool that allows you to materialize your digital Dreams in a way that you don’t necessarily need coding knowledge.”

He is excited about a lot of things in tech and open source, both the technologies and the community (the people, speaking at events, etc). He wishes a day had 40 hours, so he’d be able to squeeze in more learning and contributing each day.

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How development agencies can attract & retain clients

Our third post from November was more business-oriented and was aimed at development agencies struggling with properly positioning themselves and hence winning over long-term clients.

In this post, we outlined five proven approaches to attracting and retaining clients. These are: 

  1. Prioritizing the employee experience
  2. Dedicating time to learning
  3. Becoming a partner in the true sense of the word
  4. Aligning with the client’s in-house team
  5. Be transparent from the get-go

As we see, these can mostly be distilled to, on the one hand, understanding the needs and wishes of your employees, and, on the other, communicating well with the clients. The most important thing is to always take into account the human aspect in these relationships.

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A month in the life of an Agiledrop developer

With our last post written in November, we wanted to provide our readers some insight into what a typical month looks like for an Agiledrop developer - their daily and weekly tasks, internal events and meetups, and just the general vibe in all of our offices.

Since we want only the best for both employees and clients, we hold regular meetings to keep each other up-to-date on all current projects and vacations, and we also make use of these meetings to recognize and congratulate our employees for a job well done. 

We also hold a host of activities, ranging from internal ones, such as our AgileSport and AgileFood, to broader developer community events (e.g. open-source meetups). In order to facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing, we work predominantly in the offices, while still maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

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Happy holidays to all our readers - we hope to see you all again in 2020!

Dec 05 2019
Dec 05

For the final time in 2019, we’re back with our overview of the top Drupal blog posts from the previous month. It’s been a great year for Drupal, and we can’t wait for everything that 2020 will bring. So, let’s end this great year with some appropriately great posts!

State of Drupal presentation (October 2019)

What better way to round off the year than with a post by Dries breaking down the state of Drupal at DrupalCon Amsterdam. As it is essentially a recap of his keynote from the event, it is a great opportunity for anyone who couldn’t make it to the ‘Con to get themselves up to speed on where Drupal is by either reading the blog post or watching a recording of the Driesnote which is included in the post.

In addition to recapping what’s new and improved in Drupal 8, Dries also gave an update on Drupal 9 to be released in June and proposed 4 strategic tracks for Drupal 9: reducing cost and effort; prioritizing the experience of beginners; driving the Open Web; and becoming the best structured data engine available. 

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Making Drupal easier for beginners

Coincidentally, the objective of the next blog post we wanted to include is practically synonymous with one of the strategies proposed by Dries for Drupal 9. Manifesto’s Gabriele Maira, the author of the post, even references Dries’ keynote and the difficulty of adoption for beginners.

Gabriele identifies the following steps that are necessary for beginners to embrace a technology: it has to be 1) easy to install, 2) easy to evaluate and 3) easy to adapt to the needs of its users. In order to solve the pain point of a poor beginner experience with Drupal, he proposes a Not-Just-Code initiative, which would focus on local communities and the experience of newcomers.

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Drupal North: Growth of the Drupal Ecosystem in Canada

Moving on, we have a blog post by Suzanne Dergacheva, co-founder of the Canadian web agency Evolving Web, about the growth of the Canadian Drupal community. With active user groups and regular events all over the country, Canada is in fact in 4th place in terms of active users on drupal.org. 

Besides the Canadian government, Suzanne is noticing more and more organizations turning to Drupal for their digital experiences, with a lot of educational organizations also giving back to Drupal, and Drupal being a popular topic even at non-Drupal conferences. 

She finishes the post by encouraging readers to share their ideas on growing the community and inviting them to attend some of Evolving Web’s trainings.

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PreviousNext's Open Source Contribution Policies and Initiatives for the Drupal Community

In the next post on this month’s list, Owen Lansbury of PreviousNext shares in what ways they contribute to the Drupal community. One of the most important steps was reserving a portion of each employee’s week to contribution; the figure they’ve settled on is 20% of a week’s working hours.

The time dedicated to contribution has a lot of benefits to the employees that partake, such as developing communication skills and forging relationships with notable Drupal developers outside their company. What’s more, the contribution benefits not only the individuals, but Previous Next as a whole, as well as their clients who gain both recognition and contribution credit on Drupal.org for sponsoring certain work.

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Drupal Business Survey 2019

The following blog post features the results of the 2019 edition of the Drupal Business Survey conducted by One Shoe and Exove, and was published on One Shoe’s blog, as well as by Lizz Trudeau on drupal.org. 

Some of the survey’s most notable findings include a 50% increase in the respondents’ Drupal project pipelines and a 65% increase in their average deal size. The most popular industry for Drupal projects is Education, with Travel & Tourism growing the most compared to 2018.

As far as Drupal 9 is concerned, the major and most common expectation are easier upgrades. More generally, the number one hope for Drupal is an improved dev/editor/user experience.

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Drupal 9 Planning: A Guide to Upgrading, or Extending the Longevity of your Website

With the arrival of Drupal 9 only about half a year away, businesses are carefully weighing their options in terms of an upgrade. In her blog post, Anne Stefanyk of Kanopi Studios considers each of the three main options - skipping Drupal 8 and upgrading straight from 7 to 9; taking the upgrade path of 7 to 8 to 9; and opting for an entirely new CMS. 

Naturally, there are benefits and drawbacks to each option, and this is why Anne’s extensive breakdown of each of them comes especially in handy. After reading her post, you’ll certainly have a much better idea of where you stand and will hence be able to make the most informed decision possible.

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Be the community

The next blog post that we wanted to highlight is a great community-centric post by 1xINTERNET’s Adam Juran recalling his unconventional (but nonetheless extremely important) Drupal contribution at DrupalCon Amsterdam earlier this year. 

Adam’s unique contribution consisted not of code or sharing his knowledge with others, but connecting and empowering people, one of them being, for example, Aleksi Peebles, who wouldn’t have been able to attend the ‘Con if it hadn’t been for Adam and the people supporting him (namely, Baddý Breidert and Ryan Szrama). 

He finishes the post with a powerful message to all Drupalists - “Be the community.” His contribution is a great testament to what we can achieve by being more connected, and it is through connecting that we can truly strengthen the Drupal community - and, in turn, the individual.

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Custom Layout Options in Drupal 8

Last on our list for November, we have a post by Lullabot’s Jeff Eaton about creating special content types in Drupal 8. In the first half, he presents some (flawed) approaches to this: creating a special content type for each and every use case; including innumerable fields for a handful of content types; and simply giving editors the ability to work with raw HTML.

The second half of Jeff’s post then focuses on what you can do instead of relying on the aforementioned approaches and presents four more viable solutions. These are: template swapping; stacked components; entity embed; and using Layout Builder. Which one to use largely depends on the specific need; larger and more complex sites, for example, often combine several of these approaches.

Read more

Well, this was it for our final recap of the previous month’s top Drupal posts in 2019. We wish everyone happy holidays and we’ll see you all next year!

Nov 29 2019
Nov 29

There’s no denying the fact that our developers are the key to Agiledrop’s success, and accordingly they make up the bulk of our team. It’s only natural, then, that we need to empower them and enable them to grow if we want to sustain this success.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what a typical month looks like for a developer working at Agiledrop: what their daily and weekly tasks are, what fun activities we organize to keep each month diverse and exciting beyond new work challenges, and how we just generally maintain a pleasant office vibe where everyone is welcomed and accepted.

We kick each week off with a short weekly meeting, timed strategically to accommodate even those who are used to arriving later, whether that be due to calls with a client in the evening, or just due to it being Monday. 

During the weekly (as we call it), we do an overview of the previous week’s work, then touch base on what the plans are for the current week, if anyone is on vacation, and if there are any new projects, clients or team members. 

The first week of the month we also hold a longer monthly meeting, which again serves as an overview of the past month’s work, as well as any newly acquired projects and/or new hires. 

More importantly, though, the monthly meetings are a chance to recognize and thank those employees who go the extra mile, either by working overtime to keep a project afloat, or by organizing or helping out at an event. 

Finally, we also do an overview of all of the past month’s events, both in-house events as well as larger Drupal events that we attend or sponsor. The former are especially important to a great team spirit and hence to our team’s efficiency and productivity.

These in-house events vary from month to month, but generally try to follow a predefined course. Each month, we have at least 2 employee-centric events, which we typically hold on a Thursday, the same as the aforementioned monthly meeting. 

The first one is the AgileTalk, where developers can present a topic they find interesting - and receive a hefty financial reward as encouragement for taking the time to share their knowledge and excitement with the rest of the team.

The second one alternates between the AgileSport and the AgileFood, which are both intended as a way to get the whole office together and spend some time without focusing exclusively on work. 

In addition to that, we also support the Slovenian developer community by hosting PHP meetups and other events. This year, we’ve hosted two of these in collaboration with the Slovenian PHP community; and our developer Peter Kokot, one of the release managers of PHP 7.4 which was released just yesterday, was actually one of the speakers at one of them.

But, of course, the bulk of our time at the office is dedicated to working on our projects. We spend our days coding and also helping each other out, with lengthy discussions pervading our development channel on Slack. 

This collaboration is also the reason why we work predominantly in the offices - it’s much easier to share knowledge and help someone out with a particularly challenging task if you’re there physically. 

And it’s something every developer participates in, freshly acquired juniors and veteran engineers alike; our strong company culture enables us to accept and appreciate any kind of input, without viewing it as an attempt of undermining someone.

Because we’re frequently in contact with our clients and their own dev teams, we have soundproof booths and several conference rooms in each of our offices, which allows us to accommodate several developers having calls at the same time. 

In the case of a client with a large time zone difference, and consequently less convenient hours for calls, our developers can finish work early and then do the call from home, which allows them to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

Conclusion

A month in the life of a developer at Agiledrop contains a healthy mix of challenges and team activities. Since employee experience is critical to business success, we strive to make their day-to-day as pleasant as possible and give them abundant opportunities for growth. 

While it’s largely the same as a typical month at most development agencies, we believe our unique set of activities definitely spices things up and helps boost team spirit and forge new friendships. 

Besides these activities, different offices also have different perks - the Maribor team often face off in table football, for example, while our team in Ljubljana can quench our nostalgia by playing some legendary arcade games on our RetroPie.

All of this adds up to each month spent working on interesting and challenging projects, constantly learning and growing, and, most importantly, hanging out and developing new ideas with amazing people. 

Nov 27 2019
Nov 27

We recently wrote a post about the benefits of creative agencies partnering with a development agency rather than doing all their dev work in-house.

That post was aimed at creative - marketing and design - agencies. This one, however, adopts the other perspective - the perspective of the development agency that aims to position itself as an industry leader and attract clients with which it’ll forge long-term partnerships. 

But, with so many development agencies from all over the world catering to the mass need for digital transformation and digital experience, showing your value and attracting big clients can often prove quite a challenge.

So, with this in mind, what can development agencies do to attract and retain clients? This is exactly what we’re going to tackle in this blog post - read on to learn about five proven ways for positioning yourself as a top development agency. 

1. Make employee experience the top priority

In the “future of work” (which we’re in fact already experiencing), a talented and satisfied workforce is immensely important. This is why a good employee experience should be the number one priority of a successful business.

Feeling motivated at work and feeling at ease with the people you work with are some of the most important factors contributing to effective, quality work (thanks to Voranc Kutnik for providing the great article).

Another vital factor to employee well-being is a clearly defined career path. Knowing that they won’t have to be stuck in the same position for years and what their options for promotion are will have a profound positive impact on your employees. 

You should base your business around certain fundamental values - employee-centric, of course. Learning, collaboration and a great work-life balance are, for example, some of our core values at Agiledrop - and, believe us, it truly pays dividends. 

The bottom line is: make sure your employees are happy. A good workplace and employee experience translate into a good customer (or, in this case, client) experience. 

2. Dedicate time to learning & growth

Part of a good employee experience is enabling your employees to grow, to learn new skills and technologies, to work on projects that interest them with tools they’re excited about. 

You never know when a new trend will emerge, or something existing will become the new trend, and your client will want to make use of it for their next big project as the most cutting-edge solution.

By constantly investing in the learning and personal development of your team, you’ll stay on top of competition and always be ready to deliver.

As already mentioned in the previous point, learning is one of Agiledrop’s core values. We frequently hold AgileTalks, where developers can give sessions about the technologies that excite them most lately - and they often also infect their colleagues with this excitement. 

This allows us to always be prepared beforehand when a client is looking for a specific solution - “you want exactly so-and-so JavaScript framework for a feature on your front end? Hey, one of our developers was actually working on a similar project a few months back, so we can definitely emulate the process we used there and make use of our in-house skillset to deliver exactly what you need!”

3. Become a partner, not just a contractor

A contractor is someone that does a certain job on behalf of and under instruction by someone else. A partner, on the other hand, is someone that looks to the mutual benefits of all sides involved and strives to make this relationship a healthy one. 

You need to show your clients that they can trust you - both your development expertise and your business ethics. Communicate frequently, clearly and effectively. Be consistent in your offers and values. Document everything, and ensure your developers do so too. 

Essentially - cultivate the relationship and bring value to it. Your goal is to provide a solution to the partner’s pain, yes - but it shouldn’t be so much a business-centric approach as an ethical one. Think of it as wanting to solve the pain of a good friend - the gain you get out of it is of a more altruistic rather than a self-serving nature. 

If you become a partner in the true sense of the word, by valuing the relationship and producing quality work for the client, it makes it that much more likely that the client will think of you again when they need a similar solution in the future - and, voilà, you’ve potentially earned yourself a long-term partnership!

4. Ensure your developers align with the client’s team

This is something that will probably come naturally when you’re already following points 1, 2 and 3. A well-defined, strong company culture that prioritizes employees will ensure that your developers can assimilate seamlessly into any kind of team they become a part of. 

Moreover, if your aim is to be a partner to your client rather than just a contractor, you’ll want to make sure that the partnership is as frictionless as possible. 

Since your developers will be the ones most in contact with the client’s team, you’ll need to guarantee beforehand that they are familiar with the requirements outlined in the documentation, as well as with all the tools and processes that the client’s team are using. 

A great way to ensure this is by having an internal document with clearly defined guidelines as to communicating with clients and working on their projects. At Agiledrop, we have this sort of “playbook” - you can read more about it in this blog post

The goal is to have your own developers essentially become teammates to your client’s team in every practical aspect of the word. In this way you extend the value from its business side to all layers of the working arrangement. 

5. Be transparent in your offer and communication

One of the most frustrating things in an agency partnership are unexpected issues that arise out of miscommunication. In order to prevent these from happening, or at least keep them to a minimum, you need to be transparent in your offer and all communication right from the get-go. 

Tell it how it is, without trying to sweep certain unpleasant details under the rug in the hope of securing that partnership while ignoring the potential problems this may cause down the line. Your future client should always know what they’re getting themselves into.

Exhibit your trustworthiness by addressing and appeasing your potential client’s possible concerns before they even think of them. This shows both dedication and meticulousness, and is a true testament to your expertise not just on the technology, but also on the business side. 

Ultimately, this ties back to point number three - clear communication and a consistent offer are key to a successful partnership, and these practices should be implemented from the very first contact with the potential client. If you resolve potential challenges beforehand, you’ll guarantee a much smoother execution of the project and greatly increase the chances of it turning into a long-term partnership. 

Conclusion

We were happy to share with you these five approaches which in our experience have proved effective in securing and retaining clients. In the super competitive digital landscape, winning over clients is hard enough, let alone forging long-term partnerships with them. 

Hopefully, we’ve helped simplify this endeavor for up-and-coming development agencies. The practices outlined in this blog post are very effective without being costly or difficult to implement, so they can serve as a great starting point to optimize all your present and future agency partnerships. 
 

Nov 20 2019
Nov 20

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 Drupal Community Interview, we spoke with Alex Moreno López, Technical Architect at Acquia. Alex shared with us his thoughts on the future of Drupal and open source, what technologies he's most excited about, and who has inspired him the most in the tech industry. 

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 Spanish expat living outside of London in a beautiful little town where I have the peace and calm I need to find myself productive, while I stay 20 minutes from London and the same from two main airports for wherever I need to travel for work (which is often nowadays). The last few years I’ve been in different development roles doing PHP, Symfony and Drupal, but also many other things around that ecosystem, like Ansible, Docker, ... and anything I find interesting really.

My recent interests are still around technology, but also about promoting open source and Drupal in circles where we are not normally going to promote it. For example right now I am sitting on a train back from Extremadura Digital Day, where I came to talk about Open Source business models and examples like Red Hat or the Acquia/Drupal environment itself.

I think we have to promote Drupal outside of our own circles, so I am trying to build a plan around that and see where I can get to.

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

Back when I was finishing University I researched a few CMS. I built a phpnuke for the LUG (Linux User Group) that I founded (hey friends at GLUEM :-)). During that period it appeared clear to me that content writing and software Engineering (my degree) were the two things I was most passionate about. Finishing university and starting my own business meant that I had to find ways of building sites and apps to fit different purposes in an efficient way. I had suffered some of the pain of JSP and Java building some things while finishing my degree, so I didn't want to make the same mistakes. 

That was the point I got in contact with Joomla, WordPress and Drupal finally. I built things in all of them, but especially Drupal got me hooked by the power and possibilities that it was already offering. I think it was between Drupal 4 to 5. People were like “wow, why use Drupal when you have Wordpress, so much simpler”. But that was not the point for me, the point was the potential that I saw in there in order to scale and build so many more complex things than you could have thought of initially.

At some point I decided that I was not brilliant at doing business, I was just doing OK but not brilliant, so I decided to move to the UK to learn more about engineering in the real world, teamwork… and not just business. I've been extremely lucky and blessed to have crossed paths with incredibly talented colleagues with some of the biggest and most complex websites in the world, you all know who you are, thank you all. As they say, the rest is history... for me I guess.

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

Drupal has allowed me to travel, to live abroad, but I could probably have done the same in any other technology, as some of my friends have. Who knows. The things I keep closer to my heart and mind are the friends that I’ve made and keep making during that trip along this thing called life.

What any other technology does not have is the sense of community and giving back that the Drupal community has. Open source is going through an important and critical moment.  Add community and together we'll be able to find the path through the problems that we are facing in the whole open source community, like the sustainability of the ecosystem on its own.

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

Funnily enough and as I was mentioning, I think we have to make a lot more effort to visit places where Drupal is not well known, marketeers, business conferences, tech festivals. Places like that where there are a lot of people that would love to see what you can do with Drupal.

How would I explain it to them? I would say that Drupal is a tool that allows you to materialize your digital Dreams in a way that you don’t necessarily need coding knowledge.

This is going to be more and more true and relevant as Drupal 8 and things like Layout Builder mature, and no code or low code is going mainstream. In my opinion if you combine both, the future and possibilities are really exciting, but there is a lot of hard work to do ahead.

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

It's a complex time, with lots of strong competition inside and outside our open source world, but we are in a very desirable position. We have to remember that our competitors are not in our own open source world, but out there, and we should make more efforts to build bridges between the communities. That is already happening, with Drupal and Symfony being the clearest example, but this is just the beginning of what can be an unstoppable force like Linux was at some point in the server market (which now is 90 high percent of that market).

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

I admire people not only exclusively in the open source world that have inspired me to be better in different aspects, like Robert Martin (unclebob), Martin Fowler or Kent Beck for how much they have contributed to software and the agile and craftsmanship movements, but also people like Richard Stallman or Miguel de Icaza in the Linux and open source communities.

Then in our little PHP/Drupal world, I am amazed by people like Jeff Geerling in terms of how much they can get done while life happens for other mortals, or the commitment and passion of people in Drupal core like Gábor Hojtsy, Tim Plunkett, Wim Leers... There are a lot of people in the community that do not get any proper recognition though, but to be fair it would be impossible if you look at what makes Drupal great (see http://drupalcores.com/index.html).

More than 5500 contributors, some of them with a lot of work invested as I already mentioned, but lots more with small little contributions. If you look at the numbers, those core contributors make this thing really work, but they contribute between 0.5% to 3% of the total of commits. That’s open source in its purest state. And yes, I agree that the number of commits is not a very reliable measurement tool, but it gives us an idea of what is going on under the hood.

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

There is a lot going on at the moment. Some people may already know about Acquia BLT, a tool that eases the pain of building artifacts, deploying to cloud, automating tasks like testing etc… I wish I had known about it much earlier, back when we created similar custom much inferior solutions that became a pain to maintain.

The one I am particularly excited about is Acquia Dev Studio, which is in Beta right now but is evolving very quickly. It promises to be the substitute of the fantastic Dev Desktop that a lot of people in the community have used, but taking that idea a bit further. The same reason people are excited about Gatsby or Nuxt.js, because they wrapped in an opinionated way different tools to save you time, Dev Studio does the same wrapping local tools like Lando (and DDEV soon) but also everything you need to go from local to prod, like the CI/CD flow, git hooks to ensure the team follows Drupal best practices…

I also maintain the WebP module. If you are interested in performance and making your site faster (which we all should for our users' sake) then you should have a look at this module.

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

Software craftsmanship as I’ve already mentioned has had a big influence on my way of approaching personal growth and learning new stuff. I am in a moment in my life where dev technology excites me like the first day, but also all other (soft?) skills required for developer relations, project management, public speaking, etc. It also helps me to find the balance between having your head down for hours in code and learning things that are compatible without having your head exploding after too many hours focussed on a thing. 

And of course, who is not interested in all this stuff going on regarding decoupled technologies, React/Angular, etc? I just wished I had 40 hours days to be able to learn and do more, which I appreciate can be overwhelming at times (it does for me at least), and one also needs to find hobbies outside of technology, family, exercise, open air and nature, ...

Nov 15 2019
Nov 15

The 3rd edition of the International Splash Awards, inaugurated at Drupal Europe 2018 as the European Splash Awards, was held in conjunction with the 2019 European DrupalCon in Amsterdam. We were happy to be able to help out with the event by being the “platinum-diamond-main-and-only sponsor”, as the organizers so eloquently put it in the post-event newsletter.

The Splash Awards are intended to recognize and reward companies for their groundbreaking projects in different categories, ranging from strictly digital ones such as design and e-commerce, to broader ones, such as healthcare and non-profit. This year again featured a diverse selection of innovative web projects each outstanding in its own way and deserving recognition.

But, not everyone can take home the trophy every time, as each of the ten categories could have only one winner - no easy task for the jury to select their favorites, and we feel the votes must have definitely been super close.

Taking this into account, the winners, as well as all the nominees, deserve that much more praise and recognition for a job well done - huge congratulations to all, from us and (we’re sure) from the entire Drupal community! You can check out who were the winners of their respective categories here.

We managed to speak with some of them about their winning projects. Here is what Ronald van Rooijen, Managing Partner at FRMWRK, had to say about earning first place in the Government and Public Services category with the SIM platform developed by their team:

And here is a quote by Synetic’s CTO Daniël Smidt commenting on winning the Tools & Apps category with the Digital Asset Management system that they’ve built for Bejo

We’re glad to see the regional Splash Awards, which originally started in 2014 in the Netherlands, successfully transition to the international level. We hope this is only the beginning for their international edition, as they are an excellent way of showcasing and celebrating Drupal’s diverse capabilities and the companies that champion them.

If you’d like to support the International Splash Awards, financially or otherwise, and help secure their sustainability, reach out to the team through the Drupal Slack #splashawards channel to learn how you can get involved. 

Credit for the two winners photos, as well as the group cover photo, goes to Rachel Viersma.
 

Nov 08 2019
Nov 08

Each month, we do a roundup of all the blog posts we wrote in the previous month. So, no need to worry if you missed some of our posts from October - here’s an overview of all of them!

Understanding the job of an IT Project Manager

Our first post in October was authored by Espie Vidal, writer for the productivity and time management app Time Doctor. In it, she takes a detailed look at the job of an IT project manager: how it differs from that of an IT manager, what their educational requirements, responsibilities and daily tasks look like, etc. 

She points out that the job of an IT project manager is project-based, but it also entails taking care of a business’ IT requirements. As far as education goes, the role demands both managerial and technical experience, and a degree in Information Technology is desired by most hiring managers.

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Microcopy: What is it and why is it important

The next blog post we published last month discusses an often overlooked, though no less important, aspect of user experience: microcopy or UX copywriting. As opposed to content marketing, which focuses on the customer, microcopy focuses on the customer now turned user who needs help with using the product or service, and the copy is intended as a guide that facilitates that use. 

One of the areas where good microcopy is vital are the negative interactions with your brand, as it has the potential to transform them into positive ones. Most importantly, however, the microcopy should be well aligned with the overall design - it is the two together that provide the desired user experience.

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Interview with Sascha Eggenberger of Unic: Designing Claro, Drupal's new admin theme

We continued with another post that has a UX feel to it - a Drupal Community Interview with Unic’s Sascha Eggenberger, designer and front-end developer who is also involved in the Drupal Admin UI and JavaScript Modernization initiative

The initiative has been working tirelessly on Drupal’s new back-end theme Claro, but there are other exciting things coming for Drupal’s admin user experience - among other things also a new front-end theme named Olivero as an homage to Rachel Olivero who has recently passed away.

Sascha, together with Cristina Chumillas and Archita Arora, also gave a session at DrupalCon Amsterdam on the future of the Drupal administration UI - luckily, we conveniently published our interview right before the event, hopefully also helping with greater attendance of the session at least a little bit.

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Why creative agencies should partner with a development agency

The last post we wrote in October was more business-oriented and touched upon the dilemma of creative agencies whether to do all their development in-house or instead partner with a development agency.

In our experience, the second option yields better results for a number of reasons, among which are access to the latest technology trends and to top industry talent, as well as a smooth workflow and scalability without any overhead. 

On top of that, a strategic agency partnership also lets you focus on the things you excel at, while allowing you to keep complete control over you project, but with minimum input from your side. 

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We hope you enjoyed revisiting our content from October. Follow us on Twitter if you don’t want to miss any of our upcoming posts!

Nov 05 2019
Nov 05

November has arrived, and, with another successful European DrupalCon in the books, it’s time to start planning for the upcoming big things in Drupal and further developing on ideas the ‘Con has inspired. Before you do, however, take a look at our recap of last month’s top Drupal-related posts for some additional inspiration.

Decoupling the front-end without APIs and JavaScript

Let’s begin with a blog post about a trend in web development that has been gaining a lot of ground recently: a “decoupled” approach to developing websites and applications, which Drupal is perfect for. 

Yet this blog post by Aleksi Peebles doesn’t touch upon decoupling in the traditional sense, that is, by using APIs and JavaScript, but instead proposes a different, lesser known way to decouple your website’s front end from Drupal. 

Aleksi points out that component-based theming with decoupled Twig components allows the theme layer to be largely developed independently of Drupal. Although component-based theming is typically used for bigger projects, it is also perfectly suitable for smaller Drupal projects.

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A decade of Drupal

Next up, we have ComputerMindsJames Williams’ recollections of his ten years of working with Drupal. He takes a look back at the digital landscape when he started out with Drupal and notes how things have significantly changed over the decade that has passed in the meantime. 

One of the most obvious changes that he has witnessed is the transition from smaller to enterprise-level projects. Even though (or perhaps especially because) the word ‘enterprise’ holds a slightly negative connotation in the Drupalverse, the best thing for the community is to embrace this change and be honest about it. 

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Improving Speaker Diversity in Drupal Events

The Drupal community is known for being one of the most inclusive and diverse in tech, but the speakers at Drupal events still predominantly come from privileged groups, and as such, there's still a lot more we can do.

As a very community-centric organization, Pantheon has teamed up with Drupal’s Diversity & Inclusion group and organized workshops aimed at improving the public speaking skills of people from underrepresented groups. 

In her blog post, Pantheon’s Community Developer Manager Tara King invites all Drupal event organizers who want their events to be more diverse to attend a training workshop which will help empower these underrepresented people in their communities.

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Contribution Credit Tune-up

For those who haven’t been following - Drupal’s issue credit system, although an excellent way to recognize and reward active contributors, can be (and has been) exploited to amass a huge number of credits and thus unfairly raise the visibility of both the individual contributor and the company they represent.

This blog post by Tim Lehnen of the Drupal Association then announces a tune-up of the contribution credit system: issues on the more highly used projects are now weighted higher, while those on lesser used projects are worth less. This is just a minor update, and a more complete overhaul of the credit system is planned for the future. 

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Why Kanopi is a Value-Driven Organization

While not exactly a Drupal-specific post, this next one, written by Kanopi StudiosAnne Stefanyk, offers such a great insight into a successful value-driven organization that we just had to include it as an inspiration. 

Kanopi Studios is based around seven fundamental values which aim to provide the best possible experience to both their employees and the clients they work with, truly showcasing how clearly defined - and followed - values result in a successful business. 

It seems, then, that Kanopi has managed to accomplish at least half of the mission initially envisioned by Anne. We hope the other half - the treehouse - is able to be realized one day as well!

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Should You Jump Ship Before Drupal 9?

Moving on, this post by Third and Grove’s Justin Emond addresses and appeases some of the main concerns regarding next year’s Drupal 9 release. Since an upgrade to a new major version of a CMS is considered a difficult endeavor, many people might be considering just migrating to a different CMS altogether - but Justin advises against doing so.

According to him, as well as several other sources (including Dries), the upgrade from 8 to 9 and all subsequent versions will be significantly easier than upgrades between any previous versions. Justin suggests thoroughly assessing your needs before deciding on a new CMS.

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Drupal Migration Does Not Have to Be Scary

Similarly to the previous post by Third and Grove, this one also addresses the concerns readers might have with regards to migrating to a newer version of Drupal. 

In this post, Promet Source’s Gena Wilson outlines which six steps to take to execute a migration as smoothly as possible. These are: auditing existing content; taking analytics into account; auditing modules; assessing the site’s theme; identifying any complexities; and, lastly, determining if an automatic migration tool is a good choice for the website.

Since the Drupal 8 to 9 migration will be focused on backwards compatibility, Gena argues that already migrating to 8 now is definitely worth it.

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What the Heck is ARIA? A Beginner's Guide to ARIA for Accessibility

In the last post on October’s last, Kat Shaw of Lullabot takes on the concept of ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) and discusses how the effective implementation of the WAI-ARIA specification can improve accessibility.

She outlines ARIA’s capabilities and some of its most common use cases, as well as five specifics rules for using ARIA. 

The second half of Kat’s post then focuses on Drupal’s use of ARIA and accessibility, also listing some useful contributed accessibility modules for Drupal. She finishes by addressing some confusions of ARIA use and providing some additional resources to learn more about ARIA.

Read more

This concludes our list of October’s top Drupal blog posts. If you enjoyed the read, feel free to further explore our blog - we cover a lot of different topics, from everything Drupal-related to business, content, UX and more, so you’ll definitely find something for you.
 

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.

Conclusion

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. 

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.


Conclusion

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.

Conclusion

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. 

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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. 

Read more

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. 

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

A11y

Accessibility

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

htmLawed

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. 

htmLawed

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

Conclusion

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.

Trends

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. 

Conclusion

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. 

Conclusion

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
     

Conclusion

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.

Conclusion

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!
 

Pages

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web