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Aug 28 2020
Aug 28

Working in the digital industry has both its perks and its pains. In fact, in the last half a year, even people who haven’t been working in digital have got a taste of what it’s like to do so, some with positive and some with more negative experiences. 

One thing that’s certainly an advantage in digital, however, is the luxury of being able to have a much better work-life balance - if you don’t fall into some of the common pitfalls that come with this luxury, that is. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at some tips for achieving better work-life balance when working at a digital agency, both your own if you are an employee, or that of your team(s) if you are a manager or CEO of that agency.

Additionally, we’ll look at some benefits that come with achieving a healthy work-life balance, and take into account the context of it being 2020, with most of the world already expecting Covid 2.0. 

Advantages of a healthy work-life balance

Let’s start with the benefits of improving your work-life balance or that of your employees. We’ll list 4 of the main ones here.

1. It reduces burnout

Burnout can be quite a problem in the digital industry, more so than in some others, and especially in the field of software development. Employees are often asked to work overtime, or a push to production on a Friday entails a whole weekend lost. 

One of the biggest remedies for burnout is a healthy work-life balance. While burnout can also occur if we are not overworked, due to some other reasons, having a good balance between work and personal life can greatly reduce the risks and/or the severity of burnout.

2. It leaves time for self-actualization

Naturally, having more time for yourself means, well, having more time for yourself - and the things outside work that you enjoy in life. If we remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, its highest level is dedicated to self-actualization. 

If your job is something you greatly enjoy doing, this is somewhat taken care of by your work; but if you have other endeavors and aspirations, taking care to balance your work and personal life is pretty much the only way to dedicate enough time to those areas to truly drive satisfaction. 

3. It leaves time for family and loved ones

This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Having more time outside work means having more time for the people you care about, be they friends, partners or children. 

The recent lockdown due to COVID-19 has made it particularly difficult for parents to have a great work-life balance, due to the combination of working from home and homeschooling their children. We’ll say a few more words on this when we’re discussing Covid-specific considerations.

4. It improves motivation and productivity

This one is a plus for both employee and employer. Feeling unmotivated at work has a direct impact on productivity, which in turn feeds back into the lack of motivation, only perpetuating this cycle. 

By having enough time for yourself and loved ones outside work, you’ll feel more at ease tackling challenges at work and produce better results, which will likely be noticed and highlighted by management, making you even more productive and motivated, and as such perpetuating a healthier and much more positive cycle. 

Do’s & don’ts for a healthy work-life balance

Here’s what you should do to achieve a healthy work-life balance:

  • Get enough rest and exercise. It’s easier to maintain other healthy habits if you’re well rested and physically feeling good.
  • Learn how to effectively manage your time and clearly separate work from personal life.
  • Make sure you do something meaningful after you finish work, something that isn’t work-related, to help with your self-actualization mentioned above.

And here are some things to avoid if you’re striving for a great work-life balance:

  • DON’T let work-time creep into your you-time. Clearly delineate when you’re working on your job and when you’re doing things for personal enjoyment.
  • DON’T let work be the only thing you have going on. If your work is the only thing you drive satisfaction from, you may find yourself feeling lackluster and/or unable to follow the previous point, which is basically a recipe for burnout.
  • DON’T be a perfectionist. If you’re never satisfied with your output, you can never stop worrying about it, and you’re bound to break the time limits you’ve set for yourself by overthinking and/or constantly tweaking things. Another point to note is that perfectionism can often translate into imposter syndrome.

Bonus tip: when working at a digital agency, you typically need to keep up to date with the latest trends and innovations in your particular field. While this can help your work-life balance by offering something to do outside of work, if it’s too closely related to your daily job, it may start to contradict the first two points above, eating into your you-time and making it indistinguishable from your work. 

So, just something to be mindful of; the most important thing here is being aware of this and trying to maintain a balance. 

If you’re, for example, a software developer, of course it’s great if you enjoy working on side projects, learning new things and contributing to the projects you support. But it’s also perfectly okay if you don’t code in your spare time because you have other hobbies, and only dedicate yourself to it while at work. Do what works for you. That’s key. 

Quote: If you’re a software developer, of course it’s great if you enjoy working on side projects, learning new things and contributing to the projects you support. But it’s also perfectly okay if you don’t code in your spare time because you have other hobbies, and only dedicate yourself to it while at work. Do what works for you. That’s key. 

Tips and tricks for business leaders and managers

Now that we’ve covered what you can do on your own to achieve and maintain a healthy work-life balance, let’s take a look at some do’s & don’ts if you’re an owner, CEO or manager. We’ll start with the do’s:

  • Offer remote work whenever needed or desired. This is the number one thing in times of Covid and likely will be going forward. And, in any case, a lot of digital agencies have been offering full- or at least part-time remote work way before 2020, so this should not be an issue at all. 
  • If working from home isn’t possible or physical presence is necessary for a certain time, make sure to enable flexible working hours. In the digital industry, you often work across different timezones, so keeping very strict schedules for everyone will likely not be possible, especially during Covid with many people at home with kids.
  • Provide necessary equipment for optimal work. This includes ergonomic equipment (e.g. chair, mouse, keyboard) and additional monitors for those who need them. In the case of remote work, allow and communicate the option of employees taking the needed equipment home with them or have it shipped to their home. 
  • Be transparent and give praise. Both of these make employees feel valued and part of what’s going on in the company, which improves the employee experience and reduces risks of things such as burnout. Transparency is absolutely key with Covid-related communications, while praise boosts motivation and productivity.
  • Organize team activities to boost team spirit and help people connect. Again, this is even more important during the Covid lockdown; try to replicate watercooler chats virtually, with daily casual check-ins with the team, weekly meetings and other activities. 
  • Foster a culture of learning and knowledge-sharing. The workplace, be it physical or virtual, shouldn’t be exclusively about work; it’s also a place to connect and learn new skills, both soft and hard. Offer options for further education for employees who are on standby, and promote sharing the acquired knowledge with the whole team - this is something which can easily be done via video conferencing, so it can be a way to connect even with everyone working from home. 

Now let’s look at what not to do if you want to help your employees achieve a healthy work-life balance:

  • DON’T micromanage and track employees. You should take other measures to ensure that you can trust them and that they remain productive - preferably ones that benefit rather than hinder them (e.g. praise). They will likely find ways around the stricter measures, but if you approach it correctly, they will instead be more dedicated and make better use of their time.
  • DON’T make generalized rules. Your employees have different needs and different workflows, often also working with different clients in different timezones. Make sure you accommodate and empower those who are working while at home with their kids rather than sanction them if they don’t work on specific tasks to the minute.
  • DON’T under-communicate and make false promises. This ties back to being transparent: make sure to timely and accurately communicate any new measures or demands, and don’t make false promises to clients with regards to employee availability or overtime, nor to employees about a promotion or raise. 

Conclusion

Man in business suit holding rolled up yoga mat

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global lockdown have introduced major shifts to the way we work, significantly speeding up digitalization and necessitating mass adoption of remote work. Both of these trends make a healthy work-life balance even more of a priority when working in the digital. 

We hope this article helps you pinpoint what to do and not to do in order to improve your work-life balance, or that of your employees, and keep it healthy. 

Remember to take into account the potential limitations of working from home and changes to work scope due to certain clients going out of business, while those specializing in, say, e-commerce, suddenly requiring more work. 

If you make sure to foster a company culture that’s people-centric, it isn’t difficult to achieve good work-life balance at your digital agency. It’s a win for the employees, as well as for the business leaders and clients, who all benefit from the employees’ well-being. 

Aug 18 2020
Aug 18

We read a lot of great Drupal content last month, covering a few different topics. Check out our recap of July’s top Drupal blog posts and see which insights we found the most interesting. 

How Drupal manages Accessibility

First off, we have a post by Mobomo on Drupal’s stance on accessibility. With accessibility becoming a crucial aspect of digital experiences, it’s useful to know that Drupal is very accessible out of the box, and can be customized to be made even more accessible. 

Mobomo’s post begins with a short introduction to accessibility - why it matters, some examples of non-compliance, and a list of different forms of disability. Then they move on to the salient part of the post: the accessibility of Drupal. 

The Drupal CMS ensures accessibility in two ways: with the platform’s built-in compliance features, and the community’s support and promotion of accessibility which have resulted in a number of great accessibility-focused modules. 

Read more

Drupal 10 target release date and Drupal 9 end-of-life

Next up, we have Dries Buytaert’s announcement of the release date of Drupal 10 and the end-of-life of Drupal 9. The former is planned for June 2022, while Drupal 9 won’t reach its EOL date until November 2023. 

The two dates were selected because Symfony 4, which Drupal 9 is based on, will reach its EOL in November 2023, and this leaves site owners over a year to upgrade from 9 to the new version in June 2022.

Luckily, Drupal 10 will feature the same upgrade process as Drupal 9, with new features being added in a backwards compatible way, so the upgrade will be just as smooth as between the final minor versions of Drupal 8 and Drupal 9. 

Read more

Pattern Lab and Drupal 9: Prepare your theme for Twig 2

The third post on July’s list was written by Adam Juran of 1xINTERNET and serves to facilitate an integration between Pattern Lab and Drupal 9, which is less straightforward since Drupal 8 used to run on a different version of Twig. The two main changes are thus refreshing your Twig files, and making sure to use Twig 2 with Composer.

Adam provides a step-by-step guide of getting everything updated both on the Drupal and the Pattern Lab side. If you’re still experiencing some issues after completing all the steps, chances are these are due to the syntax differences between Twig 1 and 2 - Adam also includes a great resource for spotting and fixing these.

Read more

Thunder 6 – Ready for Drupal 9

The next post is again about preparing a tool for Drupal 9, this one about the release of version 6 of Thunder, a Drupal-based CMS for professional publishing created by Hubert Burda Media. Due to Drupal’s introduction of semantic versioning, version 4 and 5 were “skipped” to reflect this change in Thunder.

The major change in this version is removing the deprecations and making the necessary module updates to prepare Thunder for Drupal 9. The post contains a disclaimer that the Accelerated Mobile Pages and Facebook Instant Articles modules haven’t been updated, so the Thunder team advises against updating if your site uses any of the two. 

Read more

Drupal Accessibility: Why It's Worth It

We’re following that up with another blog post on Drupal accessibility, this time by Matthew Tift of Lullabot who explores the reasons for Drupal’s prioritization of accessibility rather than the means by which it achieves it. The Drupal community are strong believers in diversity and inclusion, and that means making the platform not only available but usable to all its users. 

Furthermore, they understand the impact of the software and feel a responsibility to build it in a human-centered manner, especially as Drupal is often a choice of governments and educational institutions, and as such has the potential to reach and affect the lives of a huge number of people.

Read more

Open Social raises EUR 1.25M fromPeak Capital and Nimbus Ventures

While still related to Drupal, this post is a bit more specific - it is an announcement of Open Social, the open-source SaaS community building platform, raising a significant investment which will allow them to become a true contender in the field. As the first half of 2020 has shown, there is a great need for online communities, especially ones that are open and transparent, and hence this investment comes at the perfect time. 

As Open Social’s head of marketing, Sjoerd Pijnappel, writes, the EUR 1.25 million investment by Peak Capital and Nimbus Ventures will enable them to streamline their platform with the latest trends, e.g. Drupal 9 and a decoupled approach, forge new partnerships, and further innovate by expanding their team. 

Read more

Declarative components in Drupal:

How Drupal can make true shared components a reality - part 1

Next steps for components everywhere in Drupal - part 2

We continue with a two-part series of posts on shared components in Drupal, written by Preston So with the help of Fabian Franz and Michael Meyers of Tag1 Consulting, which is a kind of continuation of Fabian’s talk from DrupalCon Europe in fall of 2019. 

Part one is more theoretical, basically reflecting Fabian’s further exploration on the matter of components shared between the front and back end, and looking at some other technologies such as Laravel and Web Components to see how those tackle the problem. 

Part two takes a more practical stance, taking a look at what Drupal options are going forward. Projects such as Inertia.js come close to what Fabian envisioned, but tend to only solve part of the problem, so he believes the most important thing for Drupal is to start simple.

Read part 1

Read part 2

Accessible Navigation with Drupal Core’s Menu System

The last post on this month’s list is another one of Lullabot’s, and once again on accessibility in Drupal, specifically the ability to easily create accessible navigation, introduced with Drupal 8.9 and Drupal 9.

This is enabled by a HTML <button> element in a native Drupal menu, which can then be used to toggle secondary menus (as the post’s author Mike Herchel warns, using an <a> element instead is a frequent inaccessible pattern). 

Once you create the needed menu items, you also need to make sure that the menu behaves in an accessible way, i.e. attaching the correct aria labels, and using CSS and JavaScript to show/hide the submenu. 

Read more

Several people all high five-ing at once

We do these recaps every month, so, if you like discovering new content in this way, make sure to recheck our blog early each month for a new round of interesting articles on open source.

Jul 21 2020
Jul 21

By now, the need to make digital experiences accessible to everyone has become one of the main tenets of the digital industry - if not before, then definitely in light of recent accessibility cases (e.g. Domino’s). 

Truth be told, there are a lot of reasons why everyone should prioritize accessibility, if possible from the very start of a project, as it is typically more costly (and less effective!) to make accessibility fixes later on than following accessibility guidelines from the get-go. 

This post, however, will not focus on how to make your sites and applications accessible, or on different types of disabilities and the corresponding measures. Instead, it will present the most important reasons why accessibility is good for business. Let’s get started.

1. Legal

If you work in digital, you’ve no doubt at least heard of the recent Domino’s accessibility case. While physical accessibility has been a legal need for U.S. businesses since 1990, the ubiquity of digital has necessitated that the same laws be applied to digital accessibility as well.

It was, then, the just mentioned case of Domino’s in October of last year which served as the turning point, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Guillermo Robles and declaring that any digital platform which is tied to a physical location providing goods or services should also comply with accessibility standards.

This means that digital accessibility is now a much less ambiguous field, and there can be serious legal repercussions for businesses that aren’t accessibility-compliant. Therefore, you should strive for at least the basic level of compliance if you want to avoid potential risks of legal action.

2. Reputation

Besides the legal ramifications, the new accessibility ruling can also greatly affect the reputation of a business. Just think about it: in the eyes of quite a lot of people, Domino’s will likely forever be remembered as the brand that argued against the basic rights of a blind man - and lost.

Luckily, just as bad accessibility practices damage your reputation, good ones can actually aid it. If you make an effort to go above and beyond to truly serve all of your customers and users, it will make your brand stand out not just in the eyes of the users that directly benefit from accessibility, but also those that most value social impact.

Conveniently, the two audiences that hold a brand’s commitment to doing things right in the highest esteem are exactly the ones that form the biggest proportion of the global consumer base: Millennials and Generation Z. 

As these customers are the ones that are most likely to abandon a brand due to exposed bad practices, delivering subpar experiences potentially means losing out on a significant percentage of customers. 

3. Inclusivity

Closely tied to the previous two reasons, inclusivity is another important factor to the importance of digital accessibility. The beauty and power of the internet lie in the fact that it is - supposedly - for everyone; every user should be able to have access to websites and web applications. 

Just imagine how you’d feel if you weren’t able to do something on the internet, something that likely most of your peers would have no problem doing, simply due to something outside your control which probably also poses certain challenges in other aspects of your life, not just the digital.

In this case, you’d definitely feel welcome and pleased that somebody has made the effort to give you the best possible experience, even if it meant working a little longer or planning a little more thoroughly.

So, in short: we have to internalize the understanding of the web being for everyone, and then design and develop our digital experiences with this always top of mind. Only then can we make sure that we’re really including all of our users. 

4. User Experience

Ultimately, accessibility is about user experience. Where UX is only focused on a user for whom it is assumed not to have any disability, accessibility doesn’t make any such assumptions. It treats all users equally, and understands that features which are intended for users with disabilities actually improve the overall user experience.

And it’s not only that the best user experience is accessible - accessibility is in fact a prerequisite for calling something a user experience. By not making sites and apps accessible, you automatically exclude a large portion of your users by preventing them from having a comparable experience to users without any disability.

There’s an interesting acronym for user experiences that only focus on some users while excluding others: SUX (Some User Experience) - and that’s exactly what it does. It sucks not to be included.

Close-up of an eye with colorful lens/overlay

5. SEO

You probably know that SEO has come a long way from the shady tactics from olden days, e.g. keyword stuffing and the like. Algorithms are constantly being tweaked, and even the SEO experts need to make a bit of an effort to keep up. 

As Google wants to deliver only the best search results to its users, search engine crawlers are also interested in the user experience of your website and rank it according to its usability. And, as we just covered under section 4, you can’t have true user experience without accessibility.

Or, to put it another way: accessibility will boost your UX, which will boost your SEO efforts, which will boost your ranking, which will improve your overall brand. This indicates a direct positive correlation between commitment to accessibility and SERP ranking. 

6. Coding standards

Another benefit of implementing accessibility from the get-go is the fact that it necessitates a strict adherence to proper coding standards. The code thus produced is overall cleaner and more performant, its being accessible is just additional value.

Using semantic HTML, structuring headings correctly, making sure that elements are focusable - these are all seemingly minor things which hence often slip under the radar, but are nevertheless essential to accessibility. 

7. It’s just the right thing to do!

The previous 6 reasons all amount to one main one: building sites and apps that are accessible is just the right thing to do! Just like you would hold open the door for your elderly neighbor who has trouble walking, you’d want to extend that same courtesy to everyone who wishes to enter your digital environment. 

And this doesn’t even have to be for ethical/moral reasons - even if business outcomes are your number one priority, you’d naturally want as many users and/or customers as possible. Preventing people from purchasing your products or using your services would be the near equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot.

Conclusion

This blog post has attempted to show the importance of accessibility and the business value of making it an integral part of design and development, rather than just a necessary but cumbersome afterthought. 

As we have pointed out, there are many aspects in which prioritizing accessibility benefits a business, ranging from legal obligation to basic compassion for other human beings. With a higher and higher focus placed on accessibility, it’s good to also be aware of the value it brings in addition to knowing the efforts and skills required to implement it. 

For those who want to learn more about accessibility standards, types of disabilities and some basic guidelines, we're also sharing the slides from a recent AgileTalk given by two of our accessibility-focused developers.

If your site is built with the Drupal CMS, check out which modules can help boost its accessibility

If you have more complicated accessibility issues you need resolved, contact us and we can craft an accessibility-focused team of developers that will help you take care of these issues.

Jul 16 2020
Jul 16

In early June, the long awaited version 9 of the Drupal CMS was released. Logically, this gave rise to a number of blog posts about the ease of migrating to 9 and what this release means for the open-source project. Revisit some of these in our overview for June!

Drupal 9.0.0 released

Despite the major disruptions of the past 6 months, the latest major version of Drupal, Drupal 9, was released on June 3. As is tradition, Drupal’s founder and project lead Dries Buytaert wrote a blog post for the occasion, providing some basic information about this release and thanking the community for another successful year - this time, especially all the people working on version 9.

The Drupal community is known for being very diverse and inclusive, with Dries leading by example. Contributors from all manner of cultural backgrounds have helped make Drupal 9 a reality, and this release brings the software even closer to its users, with an even greater focus on usability and accessibility. 

Read more

Drupal 9 is Here - Upgrading has Never Been So Easy

In the next post, Stella Power of Annertech highlights the unprecedentedly easy upgrade to Drupal 9. The post begins with a brief look into the history of Drupal version upgrades, which have evolved from a “the drop is always moving” mentality to one which prioritizes backwards compatibility, with biannual feature releases and planned deprecations.

As such, the groundbreaking thing about Drupal 9 is exactly this simplified upgrade path, especially for websites that have kept up to date with the latest versions of Drupal 8, for which the update is much smoother. Upgrading from Drupal 7 to 9 requires more effort, as it is essentially a complete overhaul, so Stella recommends also taking this opportunity to rethink and revamp your entire digital strategy. 

Read more

Migration, Security and More: We Answer Your Burning Questions about Drupal 9

We continue with another practical post on Drupal 9 in which Acquia’s Angela Byron and Gábor Hojtsy answer some of the most frequent questions developers and site owners may have concerning this release.

They include helpful information on migrating from Drupal 7 and its end-of-life, as well as the recommended tools for making the migration. In addition, they also cover the improvements to accessibility and security that come with Drupal 9.

The last few questions are particularly interesting as they pertain to the future of Drupal: what we can expect in terms of headless support and “no/low code” solutions, and more generally about Drupal’s position as the top enterprise CMS.

Read more

Multilingual Drupal - Part 2: Translation Management

This next post is a continuation of one that we included in last month’s recap. In it, Christophe Jossart of Amazee Labs takes a further look at Drupal’s multilingual capabilities, focusing on using the Translation Management Tool (TMGMT) module.

Christophe covers three different use cases: content moderation, paragraphs asymmetric translation, and some experiments to the UX/UI, also diving deeper into each of them, exploring things such as data loss and sending files via email to a translation service.

He concludes his blog post with a list of the TMGMT module’s features not covered more thoroughly already, and some possible next steps such as integration with different software.

Read more

Drupal 8 vs. Drupal 9: More Features for Content Editors

One of Drupal’s main future goals is simplifying the beginner experience and improving the user experience of both key stakeholder groups - developers and, in particular, marketers / editors. As Leigh Ryan of Evolving Web writes in her blog post, version 9 features a lot of functionality tailored to the latter user group.

Among other things, the Layout Builder is now in core and enables drag-and-drop page building. Drupal 9 features better media management and better content moderation workflows, as well as the new and even more accessible back-end theme Claro. Through all of this, Drupal 9 remains an API-first CMS, also staying mindful of the developer experience.

Read more

Caring for old software

Among discussions of updates, migrations and new features, another important piece of Drupal news from June came from the completely other side of the spectrum - namely, the announcement of extending Drupal 7’s end-of-life date, originally scheduled for 2021, for one year, until November 2022. 

In his accompanying blog post, Dries cited the impact of the pandemic on companies’ budgets as the primary reason for extending this deadline, since a lot of Drupal websites still run on version 7. This shows how Drupal really is all about its users, as it takes care to extend support for an old version right after releasing a brand new and updated one. 

Read more

Is it time to give Drupal another look?

Due to it being quite an old technology, Drupal has a somewhat negative connotation within the latest generations of software developers. Tim Lehnen, CTO for the Drupal Association, has recently written a great post for Stack Overflow in which he takes a look at the major changes the software has undergone in the past two decades and dispels some of the misconceptions associated with it. 

Among the most notable changes is Drupal’s new stance on backwards compatibility, taking a kind of middle ground between innovation and easy updates. Tim also points out that a major reason for the big changes in Drupal are a natural reflection of the changes to the very nature of content management, and discusses how Drupal is positioned in this new ecosystem.

Read more

How to Contribute to Open Source: The Ultimate Guide

We finish with a more general post about open source, namely, about contributing to open source projects. One of the individuals sharing their views and experiences is also the author of the previous blog post that we included, Tim Lehnen, from the Drupal community.

As the author of the article, Tatum Hunter of Built In, points out, one of the biggest pains of fledgling contributors is not knowing where and how to get started. 

It’s therefore important to do your research, get familiar with the structure and workflows of the project, while keeping in mind that something which seems insignificant to you may actually be viewed as a very valuable contribution to a more senior and predisposed community member.

Read more

Hands holding up a plant with lights flickering in the background

We hope you enjoyed our recap and/or were able to find out more about the newly released Drupal 9. Learn more about how Agiledrop can aid with your Drupal development, or simply give us a shout out if you want to collaborate. Till next month!

Jun 29 2020
Jun 29

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some different terms related to experience in the digital landscape: the more established and specific Customer Experience and User Experience, as well as the newer and broader Digital Experience.

We’ll briefly explain each term, emphasizing the differences and connections between them, while reinforcing our points with examples as regularly as possible.
 
In the second part of the post, we’ll list and define some of the most frequently used terms related to these different aspects of experience, in order to help you facilitate conversations and collaborations involving them. 

Customer Experience

This is the experience of a (potential) customer in all stages of the customer journey, from their first interaction with a brand or product to actually having made the purchase - if they were satisfied enough with their experience, they may even turn into a loyal and/or returning customer. 

While customer experience refers both to digital and physical experiences, recent global developments have seen a major rise in the demand for digital customer experiences, with e-commerce solutions that are becoming more and more innovative. This post focuses mostly on digital CX, which is also more closely tied to UX.

  • Connection with UX: a customer buys a (digital) product, while a user uses the product. So, the CX of a product would be covered by the marketing around it, and the UX by the development and UX teams. The CX is focused on creating appeal for the product by showing how it solves particular pains, whereas the UX focuses on its usability, enabling the user to actually solve those pains. 
  • Connection with DX: any customer experience that occurs in the digital is by its nature a digital experience. Interestingly, we’re also seeing a blend of digital and physical CX, with examples such as digital displays and AR technology in retail.

-> In the digital word, CX is closely tied to UX.

User Experience

User experience is an incredibly broad field which has intrinsic ties to some of the other most important aspects of digital experiences, such as SEO and accessibility. In short, user experience is the experience of a user of your product or service (especially digital) who is using the said product or service to achieve a certain goal. 

As already mentioned in the CX section, the number one priority of UX is usability - enabling all potential users to easily make use of a product as a solution to a particular problem. This is why accessibility is so important for UX: any kind of user, no matter their disabilities, should be able to use products and services efficiently.

  • Connection with CX: products such as websites and digital applications may contain the ability to purchase other products and services. Here, CX = UX, because you use the features of the product to help you navigate through your customer journey to finally making the purchase. In the context of a single product, CX becomes UX once the product is purchased and now has to be used.
  • Connection with DX: just like with CX, any user experience taking place in the digital is a digital experience. Again, some of the latest technologies blend physical and digital user experience, with examples such as biometric apps and health tracking devices. 

-> Sometimes UX => CX (e.g. you use a website or application to make a purchase)

-> Sometimes CX => UX (e.g. you purchase a product or service in order to then use it)

Digital Experience

Digital experience is a broader term than customer or user experience. It basically refers to any kind of experience in the digital world, whether it’s CX, UX or even, say, the employee experience in a digital-native business. 

Paralleling the recent explosion of digital channels, new terms such as digital experience platform, or digital experience framework, have arisen to reflect the shift from thinking in terms of the web and content management to focusing instead on digital experience management

With the digital becoming a ubiquitous part of everyday life, there is a constant demand for digital experiences, wherever and whenever potential users and customers might be. This necessitates brands to be present and interact with their audiences on every channel they frequent if they want to tap into all of their potential markets.

  • Connection with CX & UX: any customer or user experience that takes place on the web or on a digital device is a digital experience. In light of the whole COVID-19 situation, the lines between CX and UX on the one hand and DX on the other have never been more blurred, as many people have now been relying on the digital for a majority of their experiences. But it is also broader: as their names suggest, CX refers to customers and UX to users, while DX can also include games, movies, music, etc. So, where CX & UX are more related to a digital product or service, digital experience focuses more on the experience part. Of course, UX often remains an essential part of DX - even something as straightforward as watching a YouTube clip requires a basic understanding of the platform’s functionality, while features like personalization also no doubt contribute to the user experience.

-> Since all digital experiences are more or less centered around satisfying certain needs, it can be said that every digital experience is to some extent a digital user experience.

Hand with its index finger pointing at an abstract neural network

Useful terms

To help you get the most value out of this post, and also not assuming that every single one of our readers is 100% familiar with all the common terms related to digital experience management, we’re including a short glossary of 12 useful terms that you’ll frequently encounter in CX, UX and DX in general.

  • Accessibility (UX / DX): digital accessibility basically means usability for everyone, no matter their physical or mental ability, or the device through which they’re accessing a service.
  • API (DX): an acronym for Application Programming Interface. An API defines the interactions between different software intermediaries, allowing for integrations between different technologies (e.g. a front-end and a back-end framework both relying on the same API).
  • Bounce (CX / UX): this is a term commonly used in data analytics. If a user or customer ‘bounces’, this means that they only viewed a single page on your website before exiting it. 
  • Churn (CX): also called ‘attrition’, churn happens when a (usually regular) customer stops doing business with a brand. The most typical example is when a customer cancels their subscription to a service.
  • CMS (UX / DX): an acronym for Content Management System. As the name suggests, a CMS is a system or framework for managing digital content and presenting said content to visitors. Some of the most popular ones are WordPress and Drupal.
  • CTA (CX / UX): an acronym for ‘Call to action’. This is a ubiquitous element of customer and user experience, and typically occurs in the form of links or buttons with an active, user- or customer-oriented copy which prompts them to perform the desired action.
  • Integration (CX / UX / DX): in the context of digital experiences, integration refers to different technologies being able to work smoothly together, since most digital experiences rely on more than just a single framework. For example, you may have a website built with Drupal that uses Magento for the e-commerce component.
  • IoT (UX / DX): an acronym for Internet of Things, a buzzword which is quickly gaining ground as we see more and more parts of our lives becoming digitally enabled. It basically refers to a network of interconnected objects able to exchange information through the internet (think smart cars, smart refrigerators, etc.)
  • Multichannel (DX): similar to omnichannel, multichannel means serving digital experiences on channels beyond just the web, by capitalizing on all the types of devices that today’s consumers use daily: mobile phones, tablets, and even things such as smart watches, digital displays or digital voice assistants.
  • Personalization (CX / UX / DX): this is one of the main trends in digital experience management. It means tailoring a digital experience to a specific individual as much as possible. This is enabled by technologies such as machine learning and realized through the capabilities offered by leading front-end frameworks.
  • Retention (CX / UX): especially in CX, retention comprises all the business activities that are focused around keeping existing customers. Retention is the opposite of churn or attrition, and there’s the constant pursuit of low churn rates and high retention rates.
  • ROI (CX / UX): an acronym for ‘Return on Investment’, which is a measure used to determine whether a particular task or activity is worth pursuing with regards to the expected business value it will bring.

Conclusion

Digitally rendered planet

We hope this post has armed you with a better understanding of the basics of customer and user experience, and how the newer digital experience trend is powering digital transformation on a global scale. 

The past few months have shown us that a digital-first mindset will be the crucial differentiator of success, and those who have digital experience top of mind will be the winners. 

If you’ve also by now realized how important top-notch digital experiences are going to be, but lack the development capabilities to deliver such digital solutions at scale, contact us at Agiledrop and we can supply you with exactly what your next digital experience endeavor needs to succeed. 

Jun 19 2020
Jun 19

With the global crisis establishing digital transformation as an unavoidable strategy, many businesses are now thrown into digitalizing their operations, or suddenly needing to dedicate everything they’ve got into streamlining their digital transformation.

Due to all this, we’re also seeing a growing demand for services provided by digital agencies through outsourcing or staff augmentation. Whether that be design, development or marketing, the ability to rely on the proven expertise of a digital agency sure is a welcome one. 

But with so many agencies now offering and advertising their services, how can you start looking for the right one for you? And how can you know you’ve found the right partner before actually working with the chosen agency?

This is exactly what this post will focus on: how to find a digital agency that will take care of your specific digital experience needs. We’ll define the three most important criteria for determining if you’ve found the right one, as well as let you in on some convenient places to look at in order to check that they meet those criteria. 

How do you find the right digital agency for you?

So, let’s say you’ve found a number of agencies that could meet your digital experience needs, and you’re now faced with choosing one among this (likely large) selection.

The first thing you need to determine is, well, their expertise, industry and/or technology-wise, that is. If an agency doesn’t specialize in the tool/technology you need, or doesn’t follow your desired methodologies, you can safely eliminate it in this initial stage.

But things get a little more tricky when you only know what you need, but not which technology to use to achieve that goal. It certainly helps if you’re at least somewhat familiar with the capabilities and limitations of different tools and platforms.

The best partner agency would ideally also help you make the right technology selection in addition to helping you deliver the project. This also means that the partner will work closely with you, and not just execute the work on their own without any oversight and/or control from your side.

Second, you need to determine if your potential partner’s company culture aligns with your own. What are their mission and vision? How do they treat their employees? If they’re an agency that specializes in open-source software, how active are they in those respective communities?

Due to the globally distributed, remote nature of work having eliminated a lot of cultural and physical barriers which used to hinder effective collaboration, culture fit is much less important than company culture fit. 

So, you’ll want to check out their company culture, their communications (both internal and external), stuff like that. The agency’s blog will typically be a great resource for all of these; blogs often contain posts on different topics, ranging from technology tutorials and industry insights to company-related posts and pieces of news.

At Agiledrop, we even have a Community section of our blog, which is mostly dedicated to interviews with members of different open-source communities and industry experts discussing a variety of topics. 

Another great way to ascertain community involvement is social media. In the tech communities, Twitter is probably the go-to platform, but other giants such as Facebook and Instagram also come into play as more company-oriented platforms, while LinkedIn is a great place to learn about individual team members. These are all places where you can learn a lot about a company through content about their culture, events and contributions.

Some open-source projects such as Drupal have a system set up that allows a company’s contributions to the ecosystem to be recognized and displayed on their official website. A bit of a brag here - over the past few months, our team has done a huge amount of work contributing to Drupal, racking up over 100 issue credits in this short time!

Okay, so, when you know that the agency you’re eyeing specializes in the technologies that you need, or offers to help you determine the right tech stack for your project, and also their values and culture align with yours, what’s the last thing you need to do?

Well, you need to find out if they actually own up and deliver on what they offer. And how do you do that?

A lot of companies will have a Clutch profile with additional information and/or client testimonials. Other platforms such as TopDevelopers also do regular technology-specific lists of top companies in a certain field.

But perhaps the best bet would be to just look at the agency’s website, as most of them will feature case studies and client testimonials right there. 

You can learn about the types of companies they’ve worked with, types of projects they’ve worked on, and even more specific information such as details about developer diligence, for instance, or a testament to your potential partner’s timeliness and/or efficiency in communication.

It can be especially helpful if you discover that the agency has previously worked with companies and on projects that are similar to yours - e.g. you’re an educational non-profit from London, and find out they’ve successfully worked with a higher ed institution from, say, Bristol. 

If you manage to find a company that satisfies all three criteria - so, inudstry/technology expertise, company culture and proof of success - you can rest assured that you’ve found the right partner, either for your next project where you just need to scale temporarily, or a long-term digital partner that you know you’ll be able to rely on for all your future digital needs.

Conclusion

Illuminated lightbulb lying in sand

Finding the right partner agency among a plethora of options can be a difficult task. We hope this blog post has armed you with the right set of tips to make the process of selection at least somewhat easier.

If you’ve checked out our blog and social media, and discovered that Agiledrop would be the best fit for your development needs, reach out to us and we can start talking about how we can help you out.

Jun 17 2020
Jun 17

Last month, the Drupal community was abuzz with anticipation of version 9. Our recap of May’s top Drupal posts, then, features a lot of those related to the release of Drupal 9, from the new Drupal brand to recollections of the Drupal 9 Porting Weekend. We hope you enjoy revisiting them!

New Drupal Brand Ready for Drupal 9 Launch

Let’s start with the already introduced new Drupal brand, unveiled early enough for all Drupal 9 related messaging to feature the updated branding. In this first post, the Drupal Association’s CTO Tim Lehnen introduces the new Drupal logo which aims to reflect the flexibility and modularity of the CMS, and the strength of its connected community. 

The new design, created by the Italian company Sixeleven, prioritizes continuity and is planned on being used for Drupal 10 and beyond. The inner drop idea was inspired by a past DrupalCon logo design. While the new logo has become the standard in all messaging, the famous Druplicon still exists, along with its many variations, of which we’ll likely see more again as the new Drop is reimagined. 

Read more

The bliss of contributing to Drupal 9

The second post on this month’s list, written by Hadda Hreiðarsdóttir of 1xINTERNET, functions kind of as a second part to their post about the Drupal 9 Porting Weekend, with the first post announcing the event and this second one providing a recap of it. 

1xINTERNET’s main goal was providing a stable release for every module maintained by someone from their team. They worked on 46 different projects, produced 15 stable Drupal 9 projects, enabled several first-timer contributions, all while working together in the true spirit of Drupal. 

You’ll also find first-hand recollections from specific team members in the post. Big kudos to the entire 1xINTERNET team for their strong commitment to the project and its community!

Read more

Thanks for making a difference at Drupal 9 Porting Weekend!

Next up, we have another post about the Drupal 9 Porting Weekend on May 22 - 23, this one by the Drupal 9 initiative coordinator Gábor Hojtsy. Following the success of the first Drupal 9 Porting Day Gábor organized in April, he decided to do another event lasting the whole weekend. 

This one turned out to be even more successful, with a large number of people and organizations actively participating and working on over 500 issues during the weekend. The weekend and the days following it also produced more daily Drupal 9 ready projects than any day before. As such, the two events were definitely important last steps towards Drupal 9 readiness.

Read more

Multilingual Drupal - Part 1: The Process

Moving on, we also really enjoyed Amazee LabsChristophe Jossart’s guide to creating multilingual websites and web applications with Drupal. In part one, Christophe covers the basics you need to get started, such as the main considerations and concepts.

He starts off with how to define the right approach to the translation strategy, then continues with some of the most important concepts for multilingual Drupal and the expectations of different stakeholders. 

Next, he gives a summary of the translation features in Drupal Core and some contributed solutions, e.g. Translation Management Tool (TMGMT). He finishes the post with some quick tips and a list of additional resources to check out.

Read more

Accelerating Drupal 9 module and theme readiness with automated patches

We continue with a post jointly written by Tim Lehnen and Acquia’s Ted Bowman. While the update to Drupal 9 is already unprecedentedly smooth, there exists a certain tool that facilitates upgrading even further: Drupal Rector, supplied by Palantir.net and Pronovix.

Using Drupal Rector, developers are able to automatically remove deprecations and make code compatible with Drupal 9. To make this process even easier and less time-consuming, the Drupal Association also introduced the Project Update Bot which provides patches generated by the tool. Still, ultimately, it’s left to project maintainers to decide whether to use the patches provided by the bot.

Read more

Content creators going layout – with Drupal Layout Builder

In May 2019, the up-until-then experimental Layout Builder was included in Drupal’s core and is now included as an out-of-the-box feature with new versions of Drupal. This post by Jan Lemmens of Amplexor takes a look at how the job of content creators and site builders is greatly facilitated thanks to Layout Builder.

The tool gives non-technical users a lot more control over a page’s layout, allowing them to manage the layout of fields or structure the placement of blocks, for example. When comparing it to the more established Paragraphs module, Jan points out that it is more suited towards managing page content, whereas the Layout Builder is for page layout. 

Read more

Assessing your Drupal 9 Readiness, Part I: Estimate, plan and action. Without tears.

Almost at the end of this month’s list, we have a blog post by Manifesto’s Gabriele Maira aiming to prepare users as best as possible for the upgrade to Drupal 9. The key question to ask, according to Gabriele, is: How Drupal 9 ready am I? (If you’re keeping up with Drupal 8.x core releases, you’re already well on your way!)

The first thing he suggests doing is reviewing the usage of your modules and themes, then installing the Upgrade Status module to scan them, beginning with custom code. Then, make sure that the hosting platform requirements are still satisfied and, finally, make a plan for upgrading any custom code you’re using, taking special care with those that depend on contributed projects. 

Read more

A Guide to Preparing for Drupal 9

Last but not least, we have another post concerning Drupal 9 preparation. Its author, Sarah LeNguyen of Forum One, first gives some historical background on the upgrades between major versions of Drupal, then explains how Drupal 9 differs from previous major versions.

Namely, it’s exactly the upgrade process that has been smoothed out, with backwards compatibility; Drupal 9.0 thus only removes deprecations and updates third-party dependencies, while new functionality will come in 9.1 and beyond. 

The second half of Sarah’s post is dedicated to helping people get ready for the upgrade, whether it’s the easier upgrade from Drupal 8 or the more demanding one from Drupal 7. She covers both cases, as well as provides some key information on support timelines.

Read more

Woman releasing multicolored balloons into clear blue sky

At the time of writing and publishing this post, Drupal 9 has already been released, and we at Agiledrop have already worked very successfully with the new version. Reach out to us if you need any help with an upgrade, or with custom development for your new Drupal 9 site.

Jun 04 2020
Jun 04

The Drupal CMS has always been at the forefront of ambitious digital experiences, even when these were confined to the web. As a viable open-source equivalent to proprietary platforms such as Sitecore, Drupal has remained the go-to choice for enterprise users throughout its nearly 20 year long lifecycle. 

Drupal has come a long way since its early days. Each major version represented a significant improvement over the previous one, with Drupal 8 introducing many of the most sought-after features while optimizing the experiences of developers, content editors and site builders. 

The just released version 9, then, represents the most significant shift the CMS has seen to date and paves the way for a new outlook on digital experiences. This post will provide an overview of some of the most notable novelties with Drupal 9 and why they’re so groundbreaking for the digital sphere.

First off - Gartner’s abandoning of the Magic Quadrant for WCM

Gartner's DXP Magic Quadrant January 2020

Gartner's DXP Magic Quadrant (Source: Gartner)

Gartner, along with some other notable people in the industry, was one of the first to realize the shift in the collective mindset from web content management to digital experience management. 

To this end, they abandoned their WCM Magic Quadrant in January 2020, prioritizing instead the DXP Magic Quadrant, where the Drupal-based Acquia is positioning itself as a key player

With the release of Drupal 9 and Acquia’s recent acquisitions, this sets the stage for a new era for digital experiences, Acquia is able to position itself as the leading open-source digital experience platform, competing even with established proprietary solutions. 

New front-end and back-end themes

Not wanting to fall behind with the times, users of Drupal have pointed out its outdated front- and back-end themes. To this end, development of the two revamped themes began, with the Claro back-end theme released in late 2019 and the front-end theme, Olivero, planned for 9.1.

The new themes feature a modern, slick look, which assures a good user experience that never comes at the expense of accessibility. Having a reputation as a very accessible CMS, Drupal 9 retains its commitment to accessibility with the two new themes.

Vetted and tested by a huge community of experts

Incredible amounts of organizations and individuals in the Drupal community have during the past months been busy getting everything set for the release of Drupal 9. Updating and removing dependencies began well over a year ago, but since the start of 2020, we’ve seen many initiatives focused exclusively around getting 9 ready for a stable June release. 

Here are only a few of the most notable people and organizations that definitely deserve a shout-out: Gábor Hojtsy, the release coordinator; Matt Glaman, the author of drupal-check; the 1xINTERNET team for their commitment to the Porting Weekend and the release celebration; and many others dedicating their time to the project.

Such thorough vetting and testing logically also guarantees stability and security, in which previous iterations of the CMS already excelled, but which Drupal 9 has prioritized even more strongly. 

API-first

Drupal has committed to being an API-first framework, and version 9 continues with this trend. The REST API allows it to function as a “headless” or “decoupled” CMS, enabling numerous possibilities for integration. 

These integrations can either be with other web frameworks, e.g. e-commerce and/or front-end, or they can even go beyond the web thanks to Drupal’s powerful multichannel capabilities, which version 9 is likely going to further develop and streamline.

Unprecedentedly easy upgrade path

By now, you might be wondering “But where are all the groundbreaking changes you’ve touted?”. Well, this is exactly what’s so groundbreaking about this major release. As Dries Buytaert, Drupal's founder and project lead, has stated: “The big deal about Drupal 9 is … that it should not be a big deal.” 

Drupal 9 capitalizes on Drupal’s existing strengths, while prioritizing a smooth and easy upgrade process focused on backwards compatibility. Users who make sure to keep their Drupal 8 codebases updated to the latest minor version will be delighted by an unprecedentedly easy upgrade. 

Basically, the main goal of the 9.0 release is helping as many users as possible update to the most up-to-date version, while subsequent minor releases will be able to innovate more and deliver new features. 

Dries Buytaert Drupal 9 quote

Open-source digital experience framework

The release of version 9 truly cements Drupal as a leading open-source digital experience framework, combining all the benefits of open-source software with powerful enterprise capabilities.

Due to the rising need for digital experiences, software needs to at once be future-proof and prioritize innovation in order to still be relevant in light of future trends and disruptions. As a framework that’s only grown more and more relevant throughout the 20 years of its existence, Drupal is sure to remain a key tool in the future of digital experience. 

Conclusion

The release of Drupal 9 represents a major milestone in both the framework’s evolution and in digital experience management. We’re very excited to see what this will mean for the project and its community, as well as the digital industry as a whole. 

If you’re on the latest version of Drupal 8, you can update to 9 completely hassle-free by simply removing deprecations. If you’re still on an older version, or even on a different CMS, you can leverage Acquia’s CMS Migrate tool to migrate smoothly to Drupal 9. 

If you have any trouble migrating, or need custom functionality for your new Drupal 9 site, give us a shout out and we can help you tailor Drupal’s powerful features to your specific needs (we've already migrated a website from Drupal 6 to Drupal 9 before yesterday's official release!).

May 27 2020
May 27

We live in the age of the digital, with digital experiences an intrinsic part of our everyday lives. This means that now more than ever there’s a need for incredible amounts of people who have the skills to craft compelling experiences in the digital. A large portion of them is represented by software developers.

However, one of the main characteristics of the digital is its unbelievably fast pace. There are new trends and technologies emerging constantly, and it’s very difficult to keep up, especially for larger businesses whose digital endeavors are broader and encompass multiple different channels. 

What this means is that all these highly skilled developers need to at once be familiar and experienced enough with existing technologies and prepared for any future trends that might emerge further on. It’s definitely no easy task finding and retaining this perfect blend, especially with the unprecedentedly high demand for developers today. 

In this post, we’ll dive deeper into the importance of a development team that’s future-ready, explain what future readiness even means, and look at some tried and tested methods for acquiring a team of future-ready developers. 

What does it mean to be future-ready?

Future readiness means different things for developers and businesses, so we’ll define each separately. Still, both of them ultimately tie together: due to the need for digital experiences, business future-readiness depends majorly upon developer future-readiness.

Developers

If a developer is future-ready, it means they are familiar with and follow best practices, know and effectively implement accessibility guidelines, and are up-to-date with a range of technologies as well as trends (e.g. web components, lazy loading, etc).

They don’t necessarily have to be experts at obscure emerging frameworks, but they do know enough about the state of the software development landscape that they’re able to adopt a new technology if it turns out to offer a significant business advantage, or a greatly improved developer experience.

When it comes to a future-ready development team, one of the most important characteristics is the developers’ ability to cooperate internally. They are able to complement each other’s potential skill gaps to deliver a cohesive final product. 

Businesses

A business that’s future-ready is not locked into a system that doesn’t allow integrations, or that’s dependent on a lot of other technologies that are outdated. 

It’s built on a platform that can scale and that is owned by the business, not a third party. It has the capability of integrating new technologies, and is optimized for mobile and multichannel digital experiences.

By investing in their employees’ growth, as well as by following industry standards and agile methodologies for swift iteration, it is resistant to disruption and always able to use its familiarity with the digital to its advantage.

Why do you need a future-ready development team?

This is more or less a no-brainer; if you want your digital business to be future ready, the baseline of that business has to be future ready. 

Plus, the future is uncertain - that means, while you can never be fully prepared for it, you have to do what you can to at least be somewhat prepared. There are new technology trends emerging all the time, and if you want to be on the cutting edge, you need to be able to leverage them when you or your clients need them. 

Also, considering the current disruption, the nature and importance of digital experiences are themselves changing - right now, for example, we’re seeing a major rise in e-commerce and video conferencing solutions. Those that respond quickly without having to change course have an obvious advantage in navigating such crises. 

This is where a future-ready development team comes into play. It’s even more convenient if you leverage the expertise of a skilled development agency, as you don’t have to invest a lot of resources into vetting and re-/up-skilling your in-house employees, but rather get a readymade team of developers possessing the exact skill-sets that you need.

If you are, for example, a startup building your groundbreaking tech product, you’ll definitely want to make use of the most innovative technology available to you, as well as make sure you’re working with vetted experts who follow best industry practices. Read here how proven Agiledrop engineers can help you build high-end digital products. 

The future is uncertain quote

What’s the best way to secure a team of future-ready developers?

As with any developer, there are several ways, e.g. outsourcing (to an agency or a freelancer) or in-house. For a future-ready team, however, it’s even more important that you’re able to get exactly what you need without too much additional overhead. 

With everything going on recently, it’s become incredibly difficult to attract in-house talent that fits your needs, let alone vet them and/or invest into up-skilling your existing talent. As stated, your best bet right now would be to partner with a company that’s focused exclusively on development, as you can be sure they’ll invest their energies into being up-to-date. 

For complex projects that require various technologies all functioning together, you’d typically need a full team, not just a single developer. Cherry-picking the team with the exact needed skill-sets from a pool of available freelancers would likely be a very time consuming and costly process - plus, you get no guarantee that these individual developers will work well together.

A development company such as Agiledrop can provide a full team that is used to working together and collaborating on complex problems to deliver smooth and efficient solutions. Our engineers are encouraged to learn about any new technologies that interest them, and to share what they’ve learned with the whole team during monthly AgileTalks. 

As is also obvious from our name, we follow agile methodologies in all our projects, but we ultimately always adapt to our clients’ workflow, adopting their tools and processes. This ensures that, while our clients benefit from our expertise in the latest trends, this benefit never comes at the expense of internal consistency. 

So, if you’re currently in the process of searching for a future-ready development team, you’re in luck - get in touch with us and find out how our skilled engineers can help you deliver just the product you need. 

Conclusion

Man in cloak on a rooftop with orange sunset in the background

The faster the pace of the digital, the more important it is to be future-ready. And, as drivers of digital experiences, developers and engineers are key in guaranteeing digital-based future readiness. 

Future-ready businesses have an obvious competitive edge, but it is not always possible to invest in an in-house team of future-ready developers. In those cases, finding and partnering with a development company that’s able to provide the right skills for your needs is definitely the best bet. 

Ideally, you’d also want that partnership to be long-lasting, so that you don’t have to search for the right partner again during every big project. If you’re able to secure a partner that can accommodate your digital requirements when you need them, you’ll never again have to worry about future disruption - you’ll be future-ready.

May 18 2020
May 18

We recently introduced the concept of digital experience frameworks as the essential tools for creating and managing digital experiences. That blog post covered the basics of DXF: what’s meant by the term, some different types of DXF, and how to choose the right ones for your needs, supported by a short look into the choices for Agiledrop’s own suite of DXF.

This post will then focus more on the advantages of open-source digital experience frameworks and how they can be utilized to streamline operations and drive growth for your business. 

We’ll discuss the main reasons for opting for open-source DXF rather than custom development or proprietary tools, and take a look at the benefits of using them, both for your products/services as well as for your internal operations. 

How can you drive business growth with open-source digital experience frameworks?

Aesthetic photo of man sitting in garage

In the experience economy, websites are just one of the numerous channels with which your customers interact with your business. In order to truly drive business growth, you’ll want to take advantage of all available channels where your target audience spends their time (and money!).

It’s true that with custom development, you’ll get all the customizability you desire and won’t be constrained with certain limitations of specific and already established DXF. However, custom development, especially in the multichannel digital landscape, is not only much more costly, but also much much more time consuming than relying on open-source DXF.

Just think of it - while you may achieve more functionality with custom development, the question arises whether the custom code will be completed at a time when this functionality is still relevant. Chances are high that this won’t be the case.

With SaaS solutions for creating digital experiences, the story is a bit different. They are incredibly time- and resource-efficient, but that’s also reflected in the budget. 

For big companies with a reasonable budget, it might make sense to rely on established SaaS providers - but what about small to medium-sized businesses that don’t have the luxury to afford a premium subscription to, say, Salesforce?

Furthermore, while initial development is faster, the SaaS still likely has certain limitations which can’t be dealt with as flexibly as with a digital experience framework. Plus, if you ever decide to migrate from a SaaS to another solution, you’ll have a very hard time getting all your data - it won’t, technically, be yours.

Luckily, there are a lot of really good open-source solutions - this is basically free software, supported and vetted by a community of experts (with frameworks such as WordPress or React, for example, these communities are downright huge). 

There are 2 crucial things to take into account here:

  • Vetting by experts guarantees a very high level of security. This is especially true in Angular and Drupal: the former is supported by Google, while the latter is renowned for being the most secure open-source CMS and as such a favorite of governments, nonprofits and similar organizations.
  • Wide range of customizable options makes it easier to do personalization well, which contributes to a better customer experience, with higher conversion and lower bounce rates.

All three digital experience frameworks which we utilize at Agiledrop satisfy these two criteria. As the two leading CMS with huge communities backing them, WordPress and Drupal are able to respond efficiently to the ever-changing market demands, both of them introducing sought-after features while allowing for better and better integration with other technologies. 

Both of them can also be used as “headless” or “decoupled” content management systems, relying on a front-end framework such as Angular or React for the presentation of that content.

While both of them offer out-of-the-box support for React, they can function with basically any framework. There have been a few articles recently on using WordPress with Vue, and one of our developers has been working on a project that uses Vue in combination with Drupal. 

Our front-end framework of choice, however, is the TypeScript-based Angular, due to its enterprise capabilities. These especially make it a perfect fit with Drupal, which is also predominantly used for bigger, enterprise platforms. 

Angular is developed and maintained by leading tech company Google, and the TypeScript language by another tech giant, Microsoft. On top of that, the framework’s regular release cycle guarantees constant additions and optimizations to functionality and security. 

All three frameworks provide enough out-of-the-box features, as well as all the plugins, modules and other tools contributed by the community, that you can significantly cut down on costs with them, as you’ll require less custom development to achieve the same functionality. 

What’s more, to cater to the recent explosion of digital channels, they also come with excellent mobile support, as well as the ability to integrate with any kind of channel, allowing your business to leverage all the channels it needs to, from the web to IoT. 

In addition to powering all sorts of digital experiences for your audiences, open-source DXF are also the ideal tools for all of your internal operations, from WebOps to project and resource management. 

WordPress and especially Drupal are perfect for internal platforms where you need good content management capabilities, media handling and well-defined permissions and user roles. 

Frameworks such as Angular or React are then suited towards more specific use cases - at Agiledrop, we recently revamped our resource management dashboards which now utilize Angular, for example. And, as our project managers testify, their day-to-day work has been greatly facilitated thanks to this upgrade!

So, by providing a great experience for both your users and customers, as well as your employees, open-source digital experience frameworks are a cost-effective and future-proof solution for establishing and scaling your digital presence. Leveraging them allows for more innovation and flexibility, enabling you to better tailor your digital experiences to the needs of your audiences.

Conclusion

Blue web of connected nodes

To sum up, open-source digital experience frameworks such as Drupal, WordPress and Angular can be used to power any kind of digital experience, from products to operations, from web to mobile to physical digital display.

They are by their very nature future-proof enough to guarantee business relevance a few years down the line when new trends emerge, allowing you to scale and grow without having to worry about migrating your entire codebase every few years, or losing any user data. 

This is only enhanced with the frameworks’ commitment to backward compatibility, which will make upgrades between future versions even easier. 

If you’re looking for the right suite of digital experience frameworks for your next project, and proven engineers versed in those frameworks, reach out to us and we’ll craft a team with the perfect skill-set for your needs.

Apr 21 2020
Apr 21

There are certain things project managers must keep in consideration when working with a team of developers that will greatly facilitate the work of both stakeholder groups. 

Project managers and developers - these are two totally different stakeholder groups, which nevertheless have to work together and find common ground in order to deliver a project in a way that meets both the objectives of the business and other stakeholders.

I spoke with Ivana, our super capable project manager, who was happy to talk about her efficient process of juggling multiple development teams and client-side stakeholders, and offer some tips and tricks on successfully tackling it all. 

Read on if you’d like to step up your project management game and impress upper management with streamlined operations. 

1. To you, what’s the most important thing when working with a team of developers?

Number one would be providing them with an optimal working environment, where they feel safe and a part of the team. In order to do that, you basically need to be a mindreader; you need to have empathy and be able to connect people to achieve certain goals. 

Because of this, a project manager needs to be honest, direct and a good listener. Diplomacy is key: you need to be a team player who knows how to motivate your team and is calm under pressure. 

Diplomacy is key: you need to be a team player who knows how to motivate your team and is calm under pressure. 

2. What is the thing you’d least want to happen when working with a team of developers?

Being without internet or electricity for a longer period of time - everything else is somehow bearable. As a project manager, you’re in the middle of the stakeholders, project owners and CEOs on the one hand, and the development team on the other hand. 

It’s important to keep the balance between them. You’re in the middle of it all, occupied from all sides, but you need to be able to safeguard your team and provide an environment in which they can be most productive and produce the maximum output. 

3. Can you describe your typical daily tasks and activities?

I’m more of an early bird, so I start in the morning by checking my to-do list and prioritizing my tasks for the day. After that we usually have stand-ups and other meetings, after which I go through and complete my daily tasks.

At the end of the day, I usually talk with developers and do a quick personal retrospective and prepare for the next day. I try to find out what went wrong and where I performed well that day, so I can optimize for the following day. 

4. How do you facilitate communication amongst team members and with external stakeholders?

We have planned standup meetings and other meetings that follow the agile methodology in project management. There are predetermined maximum durations for different types of meetings, e.g. 10 minutes for a daily, up to 4 hours for a retrospective, and up to 8 for a sprint planning. 

All communication must go through a single channel, and all team members must have access to that channel. For example, we use Slack and create channels for specific projects, so that all team members are kept up to date and able to follow. 

Also very important is the documentation - in addition to a good team, a project’s success depends hugely on how well prepared the documentation is. The documentation is the core of everything; it happens more often that a project underperforms due to poor communication rather than due to a lack of skill.

5. How do you resolve a conflict within the team or across different teams working on the project?

Well, I do my best to prevent conflict, to act as a mediator and take preventative measures rather than a curative approach. It’s important that the team feels as one, that all team members are involved in the communication. So, as a project manager, it’s also vital that you aim to reduce distractions as much as possible. 

One of the worst things is when a stakeholder bypasses project hierarchy and gives developers additional work without consulting you first. This disrupts their workflow and causes them to skip certain tasks. Additionally, as soon as you skip someone, the entire system of keeping everyone up to date breaks down. 

On the other hand, a small, healthy conflict is actually a welcome thing, it can be an indication of a well-organized and functioning team. There’s enough psychological safety within the team for members to exchange opinions without worrying about how they will be accepted. 

If everyone is always too friendly and supportive, someone may not even argue with a certain point and instead just agree on the basis of friendship rather than the value of that point. So, if a conflict is done in a healthy way, it can even be beneficial to the team and its work. 

6. What do you do if something goes wrong with the project? How do you mitigate this (especially if the mistake wasn’t spotted immediately, but further down the line)?

I have a story here. During flight training, pilots are told to always sit on their hands when the plane starts to descend, so that they don’t panic and start frantically pressing buttons. 

I’m a big proponent of that when something goes wrong, it’s better to take a few minutes to think it through and then react - still, the reaction then needs to be quick, so that you don’t fall (in the pilot example). 

It’s better to take a second to take a few deep breaths and then react, rather than reacting quickly and then reacting quickly to your quick reaction. It’s similar with a project manager - think first, then react, while keeping in mind that the moment for consideration shouldn’t last a whole week or something.

If you spot a mistake quickly, you can typically solve it faster. If you need to do a complete refactoring, the general message to all stakeholders is “Honesty is always the best policy to practice”, especially for bigger things or during the end of projects. 

It’s key that they are aware of it and that you provide them with data as to why something went wrong, and of course give them new timeframes. The sooner you do it, the better it is. Fail fast and optimize. 

It’s better to take a second to take a few deep breaths and then react, rather than reacting quickly and then reacting quickly to your quick reaction.

7. How frequently do you check up on team members working on specific tasks or parts of the project? How do you guarantee timely delivery?

We usually work within agile frameworks, where we plan sprints with estimates, which are mostly either in time or in story points. These estimates are essential to planning sprints and achieving sprint goals. 

There typically isn’t really any daily checking in the strict sense of the word. You just check if everything is within the planned scope; if it is, you try not to interfere, but if things start to drag, then you try to talk to the team and find out if someone has specific problems with something. 

The catch is, the longer a team works on a certain project, the more accurate the developers’ estimates become. It’s vital that you find the bottleneck in the framework of project management, then follow the flow of retrospective, adapt and apply. 

As for guaranteeing timely delivery, I try to minimize the context switching, so, not constantly giving developers new tasks, but instead allowing them to finish their main ones before unloading new work on them. 

I personally have to do a lot of holding back to not go to them whenever I need something urgent. It would just reduce focus and quality, while putting additional pressure on the developers. 

8. How do you keep stakeholders aligned?

Here I have another real-life example. At a previous job we had a stakeholder who always wanted to be involved and change stuff. So we had to distract him by constantly giving him new versions of the application to test, which allowed him to feel as a part of the team, and he stopped getting involved in everything.

It’s also very important that everyone understands the relations within the team, that a stakeholder has to go through you to reach a developer, and vice-versa, of course.

This is why tools that allow stakeholders to participate (e.g. design systems) are gaining in popularity. But you need to take care that they don’t get too involved and micromanage everything - that’s why they hired you, after all.

It’s crucial that stakeholders are familiar with your project management framework; that they know the difference between waterfall and agile, and which one you use. Then they understand the process better and can follow more easily, they feel more a part of the team and its work. In the end, it is their project.

9. What (project management) tools would you recommend to project managers in this position?

At first glance, they all serve pretty much the same purpose. It’s only when you use a tool for a longer time that you start noticing things that are bothering you or that are difficult to do with that particular tool - I think you can find both of these in pretty much all the better-known tools.

At Agiledrop, we have a really well structured process for onboarding new developers, and we rely largely on Teamwork. We basically follow the same high-level of practice both in the management of external projects as well as in recruiting new employees and integrating them into our workflow and culture.

Our clients typically use JIRA, Asana or Trello, and we adapt to whichever system they’re most comfortable working with. Personally, I like JIRA best, as it also has Confluence and Git integration.

10. How does the project management of developers differ when you have an in-house team as opposed to a remote team? Is there anything specific that you need to be mindful of with a remote team? 

The thing I’d like to highlight here is that an advantage with an in-house team are the coffee maker chats, where you have those casual conversations about a project while you’re waiting for your coffee. However, it often happens that these discussions don’t get documented and thus ideas never get realized. 

With remote work, it’s really extremely important that you have good documentation of everything, and then to also have a single communication channel and to keep all team members informed. 

And when you have good documentation due to the remote nature of the work, it’s much easier to bring new people into the project, because everything is documented somewhere - it has to be, because of the very nature of the project. 

So, to me, there’s no big difference between in-house and remote project management, except for missing out on coffee maker talks. But, as I said, they often go undocumented and forgotten anyway. The documentation itself is then an advantage that remote work has over in-house work; since good documentation is necessary, we’re forced to be more proficient. 

Agiledrop's Project Manager Ivana with developers

Ivana and three developers at an AgileSport - being able to relax together is also a sign of a good team

Apr 10 2020
Apr 10

With the release of Drupal 9 drawing nearer and nearer, there’s been a plethora of Drupal 9 readiness posts recently. With this in mind, you can expect to see several of these make it to our recap of the top Drupal blog posts from March - read on to find out which!

Sustaining the Drupal Association in uncertain times

First up, we have a post by Dries Buytaert calling on Drupal community members to help support and sustain the Drupal Association, which has taken a heavy blow with the current unprecedented situation.

The main issue here, as Dries points out, is the need to postpone/cancel DrupalCon, the biggest Drupal event and the main source of funding for the Association. Some companies, such as FFW, Palantir and Amazee, have decided to not withdraw their sponsorships or request ticket refunds even if DrupalCon doesn’t take place.

Dries proposes two ways for helping out the Drupal Association, in addition to the one already mentioned: making a donation directly to the Association, or supporting it by becoming a member (or upgrading your membership if you already are one).

Read more

Drupal 9 beta release and module compatibility status

This next post is the first Drupal 9 related one that made it on the list. In it, Primož Hmeljak of MD Systems gives an update on the status of Drupal 9 beta and module compatibility. At the time of the post’s publication, a majority of the most widely used modules as well as those that MD Systems help maintain were Drupal 9 compatible.

Since the beta was released just one day after the post, though, and a stable 9 release is fast approaching, even more modules are ready now. If you’d like, you can start testing the beta now; in any case, if your site doesn’t rely on a lot of dependencies, you’ll be able to upgrade to Drupal 9 quite soon after its release in June. 

Read more

Update on the Status of Drupal’s New Olivero Theme

In the third post we wanted to mention this month, Lullabot’s Mike Herchel takes a look at Drupal’s upcoming new front-end theme Olivero. He starts off with some insight into the design process and the proof of concept, then continues with some challenges that had to be addressed and the work done during DrupalCamp Florida.

Mike’s post even includes a short video of the theme in action - and, we must say, it looks absolutely fantastic, smooth, modern, and accessible. Mike also doesn’t forget to credit the contributions from Drupal’s new admin theme Claro and the former default theme Umami. He finishes with some information on when Olivero will be finished and released.

Read more

Is Open Source recession-proof?

Next up, we have another post by Dries which dives into the question of open source’s sustainability in times of recession. He points out that, while the future is unknown, open-source communities have survived many recessions. In fact, a lot of companies have thrived during the Great Recession of 2008 exactly because of open-source software. 

Today, open-source communities are even stronger, with even more companies and individuals working together towards a common goal to produce innovative and secure software, which is on par with proprietary solutions despite being free. We can definitely agree with Dries’s optimism - if anything, the current crisis will only help grow open source.

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A whole new version of the open source "State of Drupal 9" slideshow, present it yourself!

Time for another Drupal 9 post, this one by Gábor Hojtsy. Back in 2019, he created a “State of Drupal 9” slideshow that he made broadly available for anyone to be able to copy and present.

Now, Gábor has posted an updated version of the slideshow which is more practically oriented. He has also already presented using this version, at his remote DrupalCamp London talk (the recording of which you can also find in the post, by the way).

As with the previous version, he encourages others to use it for their own presentations, and even includes a lot of speaker notes to facilitate this. 

Read more

Argument for the Open Source Approach

We continue with another post that’s less Drupal-specific and more about open source in general. Its author, Mobomo’s CEO Brian Lacey, points out that, while most people view its being free as the main benefit of open-source software, there are actually several other compelling benefits of going with open source over proprietary software.

These are: development freedom; interoperability with other systems; faster time to market; and business flexibility. Of course, there are also certain costs associated with open source, as supporting it is the only way to sustain it. However (we agree with Brian here), the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.

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Automated testing in Drupal 8/9

The next post, written by Danny Sipos, is actually an excerpt from his book Drupal 8 module development - second edition. It highlights the importance of doing automated testing in addition to manual testing, and then focuses on the different testing methodologies available in Drupal 8.

Compared to previous versions, Drupal 8 has greatly improved automated testing thanks to PHPUnit. The framework is used for a variety of different tests, namely: unit testing & kernel testing; functional testing; and functional JavaScript testing. In addition to the ones based on PHPUnit, there’s also the former Simpletest, but this is planned to be removed in version 9. 

Read more

Preparing your site for Drupal 9

We finish with a third Drupal 9 post, written by Kim Pepper of PreviousNext. It starts by listing the changes between 8 and 9, then details the steps needed to prepare your website for the upgrade.The main changes are third-party dependencies (i.e. Symfony, Twig and Drush), the removal of deprecated code and platform requirement updates. 

To get your website ready, you need to make sure that all contributed modules are updated to their latest version, as well as prepare any custom modules by replacing deprecated APIs and specify their core version requirements. If you keep everything up to date, you’ll be able to upgrade to Drupal 9 as soon as it’s released without major effort. 

Read more

Solar panels on a field under clear sky

We hope you enjoyed revisiting some of the top Drupal-related blog posts published last month. Make sure to check the rest of our blog for more content on open source and digital experiences. 
 

Feb 13 2019
Feb 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 delightful talk with Taco Potze, co-founder of GoalGorilla, Open Social and THX. Taco revealed to us why his team decided for Drupal among the various possible CMS choices and what Drupal initiative they are most excited about. He thinks open source has the potential to balance out the power of tech giants and give people all over the world equal opportunities. Read on to find out more about his projects and his contributions to the community.

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 Taco Potze, or just Taco usually does it ;). I am the co-Founder of the Drupalshop GoalGorilla and co-Founder of the Open Social and THX projects. I have been on the board of the Dutch Drupal Association for four years and active in organizing various local events such as the DrupalJam. My day to day business focuses on business development for Open Social and getting our latest THX Project up and running. Other than that, I love to travel and take care of our 1-year-old son.

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

I really started working with Drupal when one of our early clients asked us to build their new website. We were mainly working on online marketing, analytics and UX improvement in those days. 

My co-Founder and I have an industrial engineering background, not in coding per se. We searched for an out-of-the-box CMS that was open-source and Drupal made it to our shortlist. The winning reason for doing the project with Drupal 6 was the multi-language capabilities. The project had to be done in English and Chinese. Adding Chinese menus, blocks and content to the websites gives me now, over 10 years later, still nightmares sometimes ;). 

Jaap Jan Koster and I, now our VP of product, got the project done over summer within time and budget and ended up with a very happy client. That triggered us to offer more web development services and soon we were doing lots of projects. We used a variety of open-source CMSs until in 2010 we decided to do projects only in Drupal. 

For us Drupal provided the best framework to do challenging projects and working with only one CMS meant we could really become experts. The early years did not include many Drupal projects, I have to admit. We did not fully understand how important contributions (on all levels) are and lacked some of the skills to make worthwhile contributions. This changed over time when we started contributing modules back and became mature with the Open Social distribution where we have invested 10,000s of hours.

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

One of the best aspects of the community is the Dutch Drupal Community. We have excellent thought leaders such as Bert Boerland and Baris Wanschers that relentlessly push the Drupal community forward.

We’ve had many successful events such as the DrupalJam, Frontend United and Splash Awards. There are informal meetings with developers or members of the board, and cooperation exists in distribution projects such as Dimpact WIM or DVG. Instead of competing with negative sentiment, we are competing but also working together to push our projects and companies forward.

A while ago, I even helped pitch an Open Social project for another Drupal agency (which we won). When I tell other companies about this ecosystem, at times they are skeptical and think that I am overselling or that we don't really compete or cooperate. However, with over 10 years of experience as a community, we have proven we can. The community is growing, Drupal is still winning market share, and companies are flourishing. I think this has made a profound impact on me as an entrepreneur.

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

It depends who you are talking to. At a birthday party, you might want to simplify more than when talking to a potential client that hasn't heard of Drupal yet. I always amplify the message that it's a huge global community all working on the same IT project contributing code, sharing information and meeting at events all around the world.

I might share some of my worries about the power of big tech companies (Facebook tends to be a good example) and how we are trying to balance the scale by being completely open and transparent. I love sharing the idea that work we have done on Open Social gives people all around the world, say in developing countries, the same opportunities to organize and engage and drive their missions as companies with larger budgets.

For me working on open-source is a principled choice. Drupal is one of the projects where the importance of the open-source comes first. If I can make somebody aware of that and the choice they might have in that one day, then it was a good conversation.

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

These next few questions about Drupal I answered with the help from my team.

Our team sees Drupal evolving into an API-first platform, something we definitely applaud when looking at the possibilities out there that are related to this innovation (e.g. Internet of Things). We see Drupal being more open to integrations with other systems so we can provide an amazing cross-channel user experience.

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

Our team works hard to contribute back to the Drupal distribution. It’s actually hard to pick which contributions we are most proud of since every single one of them is something to be proud of. 

However, the contributions we would highlight are all the commits done to Open Social. The fact that we are able to provide a ready solution for everybody to use is very motivating, especially since we can work together with developers from the community who help to make our distribution even better!

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

Drupal has many initiatives that we look forward to. One of our developers, Ronald, especially highlighted the Layout Builder

“I’m really looking forward to using the Layout Builder. We have always struggled with creating a good solution for custom one-off pages with unstructured content, which would provide a lot of flexibility for content managers using Drupal. I think this initiative will produce the “wow factor” to our users and give us the ease of mind by not needing to create difficult custom solutions.” - Ronald te Brake

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

Blockchain technology has been a passion for a while and we are making great steps adding this exciting technology as part of Open Social and beyond with our THX Project. It's important to be able to improve engagement in social communities. 

With THX you can reward your users for valuable actions they take. For example, filling out their profile, adding content, adding code and patches for a community such as Drupal and much more. It also helps transferring reputation from one community to the next and gives a model to measure the value of online communities. If you are interested, we have written a white paper and various blogs on the matter and will publicize more information on the project and our DAICO in the upcoming months.
 

Feb 11 2019
Feb 11

We’re off to a great start of the new year! In January, we wrote some really interesting blog posts; in case you missed any of them, we’ve prepared this overview where you can find all of our posts from last month, neatly compiled in one place. Enjoy!

2018 in review

Our first post in 2019, published just a few days into the new year, was a review of our achievements in the previous year. Not only did 2018 mark the 5-year anniversary of Agiledrop, it will also remain in our memories as the year when we upped our game, scaled our team very successfully and optimized our strategy for the future. 

Of course, we still found the time to give back to the Drupal community, whether it be through open-source contributions or any of our educational events, such as our free Drupal courses. 

Read more

Interview with Shawn McCabe, CTO of Acro Media

We couldn’t properly start the year without continuing with our Community Interviews series. Mere days after our yearly review, we published the interview with Shawn McCabe, CTO of the Canadian Acro Media

Shawn’s love for open source was something that was immediately obvious from our talk and it was extremely interesting to get to know his story about discovering and working with Drupal. Our favorite part is almost definitely how he first met Dries - but you’ll just have to check out the entire post if you’re curious about that! 

Read more

Best Drupal 8 Security Modules

To also cater to the more tech-oriented audience, and to highlight one of the foremost advantages of Drupal (yes, of course it’s security!), we wrote a post about the 5 Drupal security modules that we’ve so far found to be the most useful. 

Even though Drupal is known for being a very secure CMS out-of-the-box, it still never hurts to take some additional security measures. Better safe than sorry, they say, especially with so many cyber security threats reported recently!

Read more

Interview with Gabriele Maira of Manifesto Digital

Next up came another Community Interview - this time we talked with Manifesto Digital’s Gambry, an avid proponent of contribution sprints (definitely not just because he’s responsible for running local Contribution Sprints in London!). He thinks every Drupal developer should attend a sprint at least once in their life, and provides the really on-point reasons for this.

There’s one sentence from the interview that’s really remained with us and fills us with warmth every time we read it: “And instead of being a mortal between gods, I found friends. I found the wonderful Drupal Community.” Ahh … Isn’t it great? Can you feel the warmth? We know we sure do.

Read more

The Story of Agiledrop: Cultivating Strong Relationships with Clients

Our final blog post from January was the 3rd chapter in our latest series of posts, The Story of Agiledrop. In this extensive post, we talked about the steps we take to ensure that the relationships with our clients are always as healthy and strong as possible.

Admittedly, due to our unique workflow, this has proved to be quite challenging. But, because we’ve understood the importance of this from the get-go and have hence made it one of our top priorities, we’re proud to say that our approach is very effective. The result is two-fold: happy clients and a motivated team.

Read more

That’s it for our posts from January - but, don’t worry, we’ll be back very soon with new content, and, if you happen to miss any of our upcoming blog posts, we’ll be doing the overview again in March. So, keep warm and stay tuned! 

Feb 07 2019
Feb 07

A while ago, we wrote a post on the history of the Druplicon. As we pointed out in this post, our beloved Drupal logo, the drop, went through quite a few iterations to arrive at the point where it is today, known by everyone in the community. On top of that, because of the same prolific community, various versions of the logo have been created for special occasions, such as new releases and events, and for different topics and regions.

So, in the 18 years since Drupal’s conception, the community has seen a wide range of different Druplicons. But, unlike for other Drupal-related material, such as modules, there did not exist a unified platform where one could get an overview of the Druplicon’s evolution and all its variations throughout the years.

Druplicon version Delta from 2013

The Official Origin Story 

Officially, this is what sparked the idea of druplicon.org for Vesna, one of our Drupal developers. She was impressed by the large number of Druplicons and wanted to create a website that would display all existing Druplicons in one place. 

In order to bring the Druplicon closer to the community, she decided to gather all the diverse versions of the Druplicon and turn their discovery into something fun and interactive. 
 

... And the Actual One

Well, the origin story above is not exactly untrue; there is more to it, though. Vesna actually revealed the whole story behind what drove her to create druplicon.org - and it’s super fascinating! 

At Drupal Developer Days Milan 2016 she caught a glimpse of someone wearing a T-shirt with what appeared to be a Druplicon in the style of Joan Miró i Ferrà, one of her favorite painters. She isn’t completely sure, but she thinks the logo was that of a Drupal-related event in Barcelona (Joan Miró was a Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona, so there’s the connection). 

Of course, it’s not always easy to approach someone you don’t know and just spark up a conversation. It’s totally understandable, then, that she didn’t go to him to find out about his shirt and ask him if she can take a photo of the Druplicon for Instagram - and it’s even more understandable that she immediately regretted not doing so! 

She went on to scour Google relentlessly, trying to find the lost Druplicon - but, sadly, to no avail. So, she decided to make a database of all existing Druplicons, with the hidden agenda of maybe eventually finding this mythical one.

Memory Game

Visitors to druplicon.org can thus easily explore the icons by different categories, get additional information about them, clearly see which are the newest ones and even play an interactive memory game with the icons.

Due to the abundance of different Druplicons, the game is not exactly an easy one - even when opting for the “easy” mode. Playing it regularly, however, will quickly improve your knowledge of existing Druplicons. 

And, since the game is designed to be educational as well as fun to play, it greatly helps with remembering which Drupal event or aspect of the larger community a specific icon is connected to. 

Whenever you discover a matching pair, you get information about the event or topic that the icon has been used for, together with the link to the event’s or the community’s page on drupal.org

So, attend Drupal events, memorize their logos, get to know the community, then play the game regularly and become a true Druplicon master! (Pro tip: tackling the harder levels on a big screen will make the game much easier).

Druplicon.org memory game example

Staying True to the Spirit of Drupal

There’s another very Drupal-esque aspect of the site - in the spirit of Drupal contribution, users that register to the platform get the opportunity to submit new Druplicons. Because, let’s face it - there are so many versions of Drupal’s logo that it would almost be megalomaniac to think that we caught them all. 

So, if you discover or think of any Druplicons we might have missed, you’re more than welcome to join druplicon.org and add them to the platform - especially if one of them is the elusive Joan Miró Druplicon!

The Power of the Community

Druplicon.org is thus a collective effort in the true sense of the word. Staying true to the all-encompassing nature of Drupal, it’s a site anyone can contribute to and thus connect with members of the Drupal community no matter where they hail from. 

And, fittingly, the site itself is of course built in Drupal 8; it was actually built by our freshly recruited developers as part of their onboarding project (if you want to know more about how we onboard our new developers, take a look at this post on our effective training program). 

Doing so, they got hands-on experience with both crucial aspects of Drupal: coding and giving back to the community. As such, druplicon.org is truly a site by and for the Drupal community, showcasing the power of said community. 

Call to Action

This, then, is the perfect opportunity to try to get the community involved in our search for the lost Druplicon. Remember how we mentioned before that (a major!) part of the motivation behind the creation of the site was finding the Joan Miró Druplicon?

Well, we know that the Druplicon is somewhere out there, just waiting to be discovered. So, now we’re calling on all of you, especially those who attended Drupal Developer Days Milan in 2016, to spread the word, explore druplicon.org and contribute with any missing Druplicons. Together, we can surely find the lost Druplicon and make Vesna happy!

Joan Miró i Ferrà: Zephyr Bird

(If anyone has any information on the icon, but doesn’t want to join the platform for any reason whatsoever, please give us a shout out - any info is helpful!)


 

 

Feb 05 2019
Feb 05

Just like every month, we’ve prepared a selection of the most interesting and engaging Drupal-related blog posts from the previous month. Check out January’s list and make sure you haven’t missed any!

Drupal Pitch Deck initiative update and call for Case Studies

With the Promote Drupal initiative gaining ground, it was high time to get the larger community involved. Since Drupal Europe in September, the lead proponents of the initiative (Paul Johnson, Suzanne Dergacheva and Ricardo Amaro) have been working on the Pitch Deck of case studies showcasing the various benefits of choosing Drupal for a particular project. 

The goal of the document is to have sales material always at hand to help promote and sell Drupal. And, since Drupal has been a collective effort from its very beginnings, this post hence functions as a call to action to anyone within the Drupal community to contribute to the Pitch Deck by sharing their interesting case studies and helping Drupal win more often.

Take a look

Refreshing the Drupal administration UI

Now this is a post that gained a lot of traction - and not only because it was authored by Dries. There have been talks for quite some time now about the outdated look of Drupal’s admin UI and the need to refresh it, especially from the sales perspective. 

Early last month, Dries finally catered to the community by providing a glimpse into the new look of the UI (aptly called “Claro”, meaning “clear” in Spanish). The new design system is already being implemented and an alpha release is planned for next month. Anyone wanting to get involved, especially designers and front-end developers, is of course more than welcome to do so - more details on how to go about it can be found in the post itself.

Take a look

A Step in a New Direction. Farewell from Amanda Gonser.

This next post is quite a bit more emotional - and rightfully so, since it is essentially a farewell letter from Amanda Gonser after stepping down from her role within the Drupal Association

In this post, Amanda revisits the greatest achievements during her 4 years as a member of the Drupal Association, and thanks everyone who was part of this journey. Now she will finally be able to start getting hands-on with Drupal. Good luck, Amanda!

Take a look

6 Tips to Rock Drupal 8 SEO

Ben Finklea, the CEO of Volacci, has written a helpful blog post on how to make your Drupal site as SEO-friendly as possible. The post was originally published over a year ago, but has been updated with more up-to-date information and best practices. 

Since SEO is a field that is constantly changing, site builders have likewise to remain flexible and adapt to emerging trends. But, luckily, in the words of Ben Finklea, “Drupal is phenomenal for SEO”. Taking into account the 6 tips highlighted in this post, you can start taking advantage of Drupal 8’s innate affinity for SEO today.

Take a look

How to decouple Drupal in 2019

Another great post by Dries, this one explains all you need to know when decoupling Drupal in 2019. The post includes a flowchart mapping the perfect decoupled solution based on the needs of your site or app. Here, a balance between developer and editorial needs is crucial.

Accompanying the flowchart are the explanations of the different architectural options as well as a more accessible version of said flowchart in textual form. With the help of this post, you can now easily and painstakingly determine to which extent you need to decouple your Drupal site and plan the project accordingly.

Take a look

Getting ready for the Drupal Global Contribution Weekend

In light of Drupal’s Global Contribution Weekend which took place in late January, Nathan Dentzau of Chromatic wrote a post aimed at new developers who are eager to start contributing to Drupal. 

Nathan includes links to useful resources for new contributors to get started, as well as a short step-by-step guide on how to set up a local development environment with Lando.

Take a look 

Happy eighteenth birthday, Drupal

Contrary to what one would expect after such a hectic end of the year, January was likewise a very hectic month. Amidst all the interesting developments in the Drupalverse either taking place or on the agenda, we also celebrated Drupal’s birthday on January 15. But not just any birthday - it was, in fact, Drupal’s 18th birthday!

With 18 representing the age of maturity in many cultures, we can now proudly say that our favorite CMS has successfully entered adulthood. In his post, Dries looks back on Drupal’s humble beginnings through an emotional video showcasing some of the most powerful brands that have adopted Drupal for their online presence.

Take a look

The Webform module for Drupal joins Open Collective

The last post from January that we wanted to highlight is Jacob Rockowitz’ post on the sustainability of open source. As the creator and maintainer of the Webform module, Jacob has invested a lot of time and effort into said module. 

In this post, he tackles the problem of making open source sustainable. A very good solution he presents is Open Collective - a global platform for the collection and distribution of funds. The Webform module has already joined Open Collective, and so Jacob explores how to best leverage the funds obtained through the platform.

Take a look

We’re off to a great start of the year. The abundance of activity so early on is a true testament to how the Drupal community is always active, never resting. Be sure to check back next month for an overview of the top Drupal content from February. Till then - enjoy!


 


 

Jan 30 2019
Jan 30

In the second chapter of the series, we wrote about the first challenge we encountered when defining our unique workflow, which was establishing a process for training newly employed developers to meet requirements needed to work as part of the client’s team. In fact, this was just one half of something more important that we had to be mindful of - building and maintaining a healthy relationship with our clients. This is what we’ll dive into in this chapter.

The Challenge

The first and foremost thing to keep in mind when providing clients with experienced and reliable personnel is actually having that experienced personnel. However, a strong and healthy relationship with clients also demands continuously ensuring this personnel’s top-notch performance and smooth communication with the clients. 

Since our developers are integrated into various projects for various agencies or simply development teams at, let’s say, a publishing company, and are managed directly from the client’s side, we had to find a way to monitor their work and eliminate any possible friction before it transformed into a major issue for the client.

Playbook

Forming and cultivating strong relationships with our clients is something we encourage from day one. All new employees receive a copy of our “playbook”, a directional document outlining our workflow, best practices and basically everything they need to know when starting their job at Agiledrop. 

This playbook includes a set of guidelines for working as a part of the Agiledrop as well as the client’s team. Before any specific instructions on time tracking, communication, tools or anything technical, though, there’s a helpful introductory principle that they’re familiarized with. We call it SHARD, which is short for:

  • Stop - Take a breath and take a moment to remember that every interaction matters.
  • Hear - Let the client tell their entire story without interrupting them. Sometimes, all we need is someone who listens.
  • Apologize - As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize too much. Even if it wasn’t your fault, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your client feels.
  • Resolve - Resolve the issue quickly and don’t be afraid to ask the client: “What can I do to make this right?”
  • Diagnose - Get to the bottom of why the mistake or issue occurred, without putting the blame on anyone. Instead, focus on fixing the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.

As you can see, we take great care to always provide top-notch services to clients, even if the fault or mistake did not occur on our side, if we are swamped with projects and deadlines, if we are tired and fed up with a specific issue…. We suck it up and put the client first! The entire team is extremely committed and driven to deliver. 

And, even though we operate as remote partners to our clients, we strive to make the relationship feel as personal as possible and to reassure the clients of our online presence. Our developers frequently and conscientiously inform the clients about when they start and get off work, and about any breaks they might have.

We're Your Remote Partners

Since our clients come from various countries, often with different time zones, we had to find a way to always be available for calls and daily standup meetings for clients, but also keep things fair for those working on open source or on projects for clients from the same time zone. 

For this reason, we’ve implemented the rule that our offices are open between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., which altogether comprises 10 hours, while our effective working hours are between 7 and 7.5 per day. 

These flexible working hours allow for at least 2 hours of overlap even with clients with the biggest time difference, such as those from the US. The developers who work on those clients’ projects are hence able to arrive at the office later and don’t have to work overtime just to be present for a call or a standup meeting, whereas the rest of the developers are able to arrive earlier and finish work earlier, but are still available to the client when they are needed.

Such a system also ensures an excellent work-life balance, which in turn also greatly benefits the clients, since our developers working as members of their team are consequently more motivated and perform better - it’s truly a win-win arrangement! 

Motivation is crucial for a strong and successful team, and this is why we frequently organize team buildings, shared dinners and other fun events that strengthen the team, further improve the vibes in the offices and consequently make working at Agiledrop something every team member looks forward to each day.

Another major benefit for clients working with our A-team is that we operate as remote partners to the client’s team. This means that the client essentially gets a boost to their workforce without any additional costs such as recruitment, onboarding and equipment costs, health insurance, travel expenses, etc. 

Furthermore, we spare clients the need to open additional offices in different parts of the world in order to effectively scale - it’s exactly like we’re there with them (except that we’re not, at least physically)!
 

Feast or Famine? Not with Agiledrop

A considerable concern for companies and agencies when it comes to remote staffing is “feast or famine”. This is realized as the need for extra developers for a certain project, whom you cannot hire as full-time employees, since they will turn into unnecessary burdens to your finances once that project is concluded and you will no longer need such an extensive team. 

This is where we offer the perfect solution. Clients can hire our developers for the duration of the project, but, if they happen to need them for an extended period of time or again at a later time, that can be arranged as well. In this way, we can scale your team easily and efficiently, but only when it’s needed.

Usually, when hiring part-time employees or freelancers, your chances are quite limited. If your remote developer falls ill, goes on leave, or disappears in some other, unexplained manner, what can you do, really? Go through the tedious, wrought-out process of staffing a second time? Deliver a not-so-optimized product? Either way, your project and consequently likely your entire enterprise suffer because of this. 

Fortunately, this is pretty much an impossible scenario when working with the Agiledrop team. Our reliable team is led by skilled development experts whose greatest talent lies in the recognition of the talent and skills of others. As such, you can always count on them to provide the people and solutions most suitable for a specific project from about 30 to 40 experienced and proven developers.

If a developer assigned to a certain project falls ill or goes on leave? No problem - we take utmost care to immediately provide appropriate replacements, ensuring that the client’s project is never at a disadvantage because of some uncontrollable factor. With such a diverse team, we can assure we will find the people with the best possible combination of skills and experience for any given project. 

Cultural Breach - What's That?

Even though we come from a small, relatively unknown country in the European Union, our values and traditions are essentially the same as in other Western countries; hence, our developers are able to integrate completely into the client’s team. All of them are fluent in English and are extremely flexible; we can effortlessly and seamlessly adapt to different practices and cultures, and we immediately employ the client’s tools, communication channels and workflows. 

We strive to eliminate cultural breach as much as possible, continuously reassuring the client that the developers working with them are not a separate entity, but rather an equal part of their in-house team. Of course, we also pay attention to respecting specific cultural norms and/or time zone differences. You will never get pinged by one of our developers during your day off!

Your Privacy Is Safe With Us

Besides ensuring smooth project delivery, we’re also dedicated to protecting our client’s privacy and any trade secrets. A very strict NDA is signed with all our clients as well as our employees and we make sure everyone respects and follows it. 

We never reveal our clients’ identity to other clients and we never share the client’s documents outside the team assigned to their project (you probably noticed that we appropriately censored the photo above with the conversation). 

Additionally, we’re extra careful when handling our or the client’s passwords and access to services, etc. - especially when working from home. To add an extra layer of security, we handle our passwords with LastPass or similar tools.

Hire 1, Get Access to 30

What’s also greatly advantageous for our clients is that with such a large group of developers working in the same workspace, the client always benefits from the collective knowledge of the entire Agiledrop team. As we shall see in the final chapter of this series (stay tuned!), we promote and reward knowledge-sharing and support between employees. 

We already pointed out in the first chapter of this series that our workflow demands new employees are supported by their mentors and team leads, helping them with tasks that are beyond their current level of expertise; but this support is not only limited to the probation period or to less experienced developers. 

Anyone can help anyone, as we firmly believe that a unique and fresh perspective can always be beneficial, and we encourage asking for help rather than spending copious amounts of time trying to solve the problem on one’s own. We encourage communication between employees and also with the client’s management team, we peer review our code, we seek and develop solutions together, as a team. 

It’s like those really old commercials or sales offers - remember, buy one, get one free? Well, with Agiledrop, it’s more like - hire one, get access to the skills and experience of thirty!

Unsure about how to most efficiently scale your team? Need to augment your staff, but only for the duration of a certain project? Not to worry - reach out to us anytime and we’ll be happy to lend a helping hand and ensure the success of your project! 

Jan 22 2019
Jan 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.

Meet Gabriele Maira, also known as Gabi by friends and as Gambry by the Drupal community. With over 15 years of experience working with PHP and over 10 working with Drupal, Gabriele is currently the PHP/Drupal Practice lead at the London-based Manifesto Digital. Read about his beginnings with open source and why he thinks every Drupal developer should attend a Sprint at least once in their life. 

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

Hi I’m Gabriele, Gabi for friends and @gambry on Drupal.org. I’ve been working for more than 15 years with Web and PHP and just a bit more than 10 with Drupal.
I work at Manifesto Digital where I am PHP/Drupal Practice Lead, meaning I take care of the quality of the projects, from the code, best practices, standards and security perspective.

I’m an active member of the Drupal London community, I help with organizing local events as well as running Sprints (either Drupal Sprints, Distributed Sprints or Open Source Sprints).

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

My first Drupal installation was with version 5. At that time I was more messing around rather than following the Drupal way. Nasty things like PHP logic in templates and hacking the core

In my life I’ve been involved in a lot of communities more or less connected with FOSS (Free Open Source Software), where the community is always divided into 

  • The top GODs: who know everything and have the last word
  • The rest of mortals: who are normally scared of doing or saying anything and their contribution is often as small as possible, due to fearing the reproof from whoever knows more than them.

And with the same skepticism I’ve never been much involved with the community until Drupal 8 came along.

Drupal 8.0 had just been released, although some of its modules where still in an almost-stable (if not unstable) state. The “date” ecosystem was one of them I required the most, but it had several glitches.

The “date” Drupal subsystem is one of the most fragile and obscure ones for most developers, but it is one I’m confident with so I gave all my expertise and all the time I had to complete 2 of the most important issues still open despite thousands of requests from users (Datetime Views plugins don't support timezones and The Views integration Datetime Range fields should extend the views integration for regular Datetime fields).

And instead of being a mortal between gods, I found friends. I found the wonderful Drupal Community.

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

Drupal for me has always been a trigger for my curiosity. Since Drupal 8 is based on Symfony, I found myself browsing Symfony documentation a lot. If you want to know more about routing, container, services and dependency injection, events and dispatchers, etc., Drupal is just the consumer and the only way to master the topic is to look further and out.

Take for example the issue “Sites named with special characters cannot send mail”, which started as a bug in a client website and ended in a two day long research about email syntax protocol and all RFCs related to it.

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

“It’s a program” - nowadays I call it “App” - “helping you build a website. A bit like MS Word, but for the web”.

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

Drupal’s future has never been so bright as it is now. Drupal 7 was a good product, after the initial skepticism I can now shout Drupal 8 is an even better one, and Drupal 9 - and next versions - have already a defined approach and you can already tell Drupal will grow better and better.

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

The work for the “date” subsystem is the one I’m really proud of. It was my kick-off to the Drupal community and code contribution. And for this I thank mpdonadio and jhedstrom for being so patient and helpful. Something I will never forget.

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

All religions have their “things you should do at least once in your life, to be a good believer”, and I think the Drupal community must have one too: attending Sprints!

Attending a Sprint should be something every Drupal developer should do. By attending a Sprint you:

  • Meet Drupalists like you, creating new friends.
  • Know more about the Drupal community, the WHYs, the HOWs, the WHATs and the WHEREs.
  • Know more about Drupal contribution, either writing code or documentation or reviewing issues.
  • Improve your skills!

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

I’m always being curious about Chatbots and Conversational devices, and how they can improve your everyday small actions… if not your entire life in general.

After some investigation and playing around I’ve published the Chatbot API suite, which creates a common layer to expose Drupal content to conversational interfaces and/or services.


Photo used with permission by NW Drupal User Group (@nwdug)
 

Jan 17 2019
Jan 17

The internet can be a dangerous place, what with so many hackers and people potentially looking to make a quick profit off bad practices. In such an environment, it becomes increasingly important to make your Drupal site as secure as possible. Fortunately, Drupal is well-known for being a pretty secure CMS out of the box. However, it is by no means perfect, and, owing to its flexibility and support for various modules, there are a number of modules you can install to make it a lot more secure. So, in this, post let’s take a look at some of the best security modules that you can download and install on your Drupal site to make it as foolproof as possible.

Login Security

The login page to your site is like the gate to your house. It only makes sense, then, that the first thing to strengthen would be the login process. An excellent module for this purpose is the Login Security Module. It allows you to set a limited number of login attempts, failing which the account will be automatically blocked. In addition to that, it also allows you to block IP addresses as well as sends you alerts via email if there’s a potential brute force attack on your site.

Link

Captcha Module

Quick question: what’s the easiest and most widely used method of keeping spammers away? It is, of course, captcha. With the captcha module, you can integrate captcha on your Drupal site in a couple of minutes and keep those pesky spammers and bots at bay.

Link

Security Kit

A module that’s going to become your best friend on your journey to make you site foolproof, Security Kit is an all-in-one module for your site that allows your to configure, tweak and set up various options in order to minimize the chances of any attacks on your site. On top of that, it also gives you helpful directions such as setting up http headers etc. to make your site as resistant to malicious attacks as possible. A module which is very much worth its weight in any secure Drupal site’s arsenal.

Link 

Password Policy

Setting up a password policy for your site is a good idea, as it not only keeps bots away, but also helps to ensure that users keep a strong password and not just the ‘password123’ type. A strong password helps prevent breaches on your site, making it a lot more secure in the process. The password policy module allows you to do just that by giving you options to define a set of constraints which need to be met by the user before their password is accepted. While the Drupal 8 version is currently in the alpha stage, it works perfectly well, so go ahead and enable it on your site.

Link

Session Limit

As the name implies, this module allows you to configure the maximum number of sessions allowed per user. The number of sessions is the number of browsers a user is logged in at. Using this module, you can also configure various other options such as prompting the user to log out of another session before logging into a new one etc.

Link

Conclusion

Using these modules, you can ensure your Drupal site stays a lot more secure. Since these are modules that anyone can grab for their site, there’s really no excuse not to use them. While there are additional techniques which can be implemented on a Drupal site to secure it, they are advanced techniques. To get started, these modules will do the job nicely. Another thing to note is that with Drupal 8, a lot of security measures have been implemented out-of-the-box, hence it currently sports a smaller amount of additional security modules than Drupal 7.


Are you confused about how to set up security measures for you site? Worried about whether your site isn’t safe enough? Contact us at Agiledrop and let our extensive Drupal experience help you with this!
 

Jan 14 2019
Jan 14

We’ve compiled all the blog posts we wrote in the final month of 2018. Besides continuing with our Community Interviews series, we also introduced a brand new series of posts - the Story of Agiledrop, in which we discuss our work practices and give you a glimpse into what it’s like to work as a member of our A-team. Have a look and stay tuned!

How to Create a Node in Drupal 8 using REST

The first blog post we wrote in December was a short tutorial on creating a node in Drupal 8 using RESTful web services. RESTful web services are the underlying principles that enable the concept of “headless Drupal”, and they bring about a plethora of possibilities for the customization of a Drupal site. This post takes you through the basic function of creating a node using these services and serves as a kind of demo of the feature.

Read more

The Story of Agiledrop: Introduction

Our next post was the first chapter of our new series, the Story of Agiledrop. Here we explained our workflow and the advantages it has had, both for our dedicated team and for our clients. Thanks to such a well-defined workflow, our A-team can keep improving and growing, professionally as well as personally. But, of course, we also encountered some obstacles when defining our workflow and putting it into effect - we discussed these in the series’ second chapter.

Read more

Interview with Kevin Kaland, aka wizonesolutions: Towards a more and more decoupled Drupal

The third post was part of our Community Interviews series. We talked with the digital wizard Kevin Kaland of WizOne Solutions, who revealed to us his thoughts on Drupal’s future as well as some more personal, non-Drupal related bits of information. Besides being actively involved in the community as the maintainer of the FillPDF module among other things, he’s also an avid traveler, hiker and language enthusiast. Take a look at what we talked about.

Read more

The Story of Agiledrop: Our Training Program

Finally, just before the holiday season, we wrote a blog post on our effective training program, the second chapter in Agiledrop’s story. While the first chapter concentrated on our workflow and its advantages, this second one dove into the challenges we faced when setting up such a unique workflow. We deal with the first of these challenges - providing a number of clients with proven and experienced developers - more thoroughly, and reveal how we succeeded in finding a very beneficial solution for it. 

Read more

That’s that for our blog posts from December. We hope 2018 was a successful year and the transition into 2019 a pleasant one for everyone. Check back later this month or keep following our blog for any new content!
 

Jan 11 2019
Jan 11

Values & Principles Committee Update - November 2018

The first post we would like to highlight is Rachel Lawson’s update on the Drupal community’s Values & Principals Committee. Here, Rachel covers the basics of the committee: why it has been put together, how it will function and who its members are. She finishes with a powerful CTA to members of the community to contribute their own stories about Principle 8.

Read more

Drupal's Commitment to Accessibility

Next up, we have a post by Dries on Drupal's commitment to accessibility. He has made the realization that accessibility is not something that benefits only a small group of people and should as such be shrugged off and/or postponed, but rather something that promotes inclusion and can benefit everybody involved. So, the community as a whole should put more effort in making Drupal accessible, consequently benefiting each and every member.

Read more

A Visual Prototype of Drupal.org's Integration with GitLab

Early last month, Tim Lehnen, executive director of the Drupal Association, wrote a piece on Drupal.org's integration with GitLab. In this post, he goes through all the things needed to get the integration working and even includes a video outlining the migration phases for the project.

Read more

A Framework for Progressively Decoupled Drupal

When discussing the future of Drupal, a lot of talk revolves around “decoupled Drupal” or “headless CMS”. Malcolm Young of Capgemini offers his insights on what Dries describes as “progressively decoupled Drupal”, and introduces the so-called SPALP module together with the benefits of using this module.

Read more

The New Layout Builder’s Impact on Drupal’s Evolving Learning Curve

Ashraf Abed and Jack Garratt discuss Drupal’s new layout builder in this blog post by Debug Academy. They compare different ways of creating content and show how site building can be greatly facilitated when using the layout builder. Consequently, it makes Drupal more accessible to content editors and less experienced developers, giving them more reign in creating a website.

Read more

How to Automate Testing whether Your Drupal 8 Module Is Incompatible with Drupal 9?

In this blog post, Gábor Hojtsy takes us through how to automate testing the incompatibility of a Drupal 8 module with Drupal 9. With the release of Drupal 9 only about a year and a half away, it’s wise to check whether your module is compatible with Drupal 9 (or, at the very least, if it’s incompatible).

Read more

Improving Drupal and Gatsby Integration - Part 1 and Part 2

Jesus Manuel Olivas, Head of Product at weKnow, has started a series on improving Drupal and Gatsby integration. In December, he published the first two chapters of the series: part 1 focuses on two contributed Drupal modules that facilitate the usage of Drupal when working with Gatsby, while part 2 explains how you can really take advantage of the two modules using weKnow’s very own Gatsby plugin. 

Part 1

Part 2

Plan for Drupal 9

Last but not least comes a major post from Dries’ blog. He finally announces the release date for Drupal 9, which is planned for June 2020. This gives site owners more than enough time for a smooth and uncomplicated upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9. According to Dries, the upgrade will be easy and should as such not be considered a big deal.

Read more

This concludes our selection of the top blog posts from December 2018. We’re very excited to see what the new year will bring for Drupal; we’ll make sure to keep you informed of all the most important goings-on.
 

Jan 08 2019
Jan 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. 

This time we had a chat with none other than Shawn McCabe, the CTO of Acro Media. In our interview, the avid Drupal contributor talked about his most memorable Drupal moments, his love for open source and his reasons to opt for a more sustainable lifestyle. Have a read!

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

I am the CTO at Acro Media, so I run our product development and R&D, which puts me pretty heavily into contributing to Drupal and working in the community. I do actually get to do a respectful amount of programming myself, which is nice and not something I always got to do as Acro was growing as a company. 

Thankfully now we have a head of operations for development who handles most of the day to day runnings and I get to run wild with awesome new tech while he does most of the actual work.

I also do architectural consulting and sales work for larger clients, a lot of which involves proselytizing about our lord and savior Drupal to anyone I get pointed in the general direction of.

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

I was aware Drupal existed, but my first actual work with it was when I was assigned to do a large Drupal/Ubercart site, back when Ubercart was still just in alpha. At the time we’d just started transitioning from our own proprietary stuff to Drupal. I’ve been an open source advocate pretty much since I got the internet, so I was all for the move in general.

Drupal ended up matching fairly well with my own preferences, it was open source, fairly developer focused and not controlled by a single company. I found it fairly similar to Linux in philosophy and that sat well with me. That whole “come for the code, stay for the community” thing that Drupal has never resonated with me, I keep working on Drupal because I like the direction and philosophy behind it.

Lots of Drupal events seem to focus on non-coding related activities as a big selling point, but I have little interest in doing non-Drupal activities as part of the community. I am not an isolated freelancer, so this isn’t one of my few times to hang out with other developers. I know other people in the community feel differently and we chatted about it on Slack and Drupal was literally the first time a lot of developers had a single other friend who was also a developer.

That’s a really rambly way of saying that I stay for the code, all the core developers are honestly working towards the best decisions for the project and even having larger corporate backers like Acquia I don’t think has affected that. People like Wim Leers, Gabor, Fabianx, Berdir, Daniel Wehner and Bojanz have done a lot of architectural work that I admire. Working with something like Magento I don’t get quite the same experience, they care primarily about only their own use cases and contribution efforts always feel like you’re the little brother tagging along.

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

Haha, I remember meeting Dries for the first time and basically just getting all starry eyed and basically stammering at him. In person I swear he’s like 7 feet tall.

On a less embarrassing note, I was very proud to be on the list of the top 100 Drupal contributors at this year’s Drupalcon, as well as 4 other Acro employees. It’s been my goal to push Acro’s community involvement heavily over the last few years, so to see those efforts pay off was really great. As a company we’re also consistently in the Top 3, which I’d like to think I had a large part in. If anyone from Acquia is reading this, we’re coming for your #1 spot.

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

Ha! Explaining it to people not in the industry is nearly impossible, usually I resort to “I make websites”. Even then people seem to get confused, it’s like “you know websites? You use them every day? Someone has to make those”. Drupal runs like 10% of the sites you go to, even if you don’t know it.

If they know web development I just say it is like wordpress with more flexibility and fewer security holes.

On a more serious note, I tend to pitch the philosophy of open source a lot when I talk about Drupal. I find most people grasp that fairly well and can see the advantages of having control over their own stuff. Somewhat ironically, I find developers who come from the proprietary side of things have the hardest time grasping open source, the concept of opening up the code is strange and terrifying. I’ve had calls with some very large companies who shall remain nameless who had to be given the ‘Explain it like I’m 5’ version of open source, which I found baffling.

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

I am a big fan of the direction of Drupal 8, I love the integration with the community and the adoption of many modern development practices. I think anyone still wishing for Drupal 7 to stay around is doing themselves a disservice instead of growing as a developer along with Drupal. I’ve been working with Drupal since late in the 4.7/early in the 5.x era and I think every version has been a clear improvement over the previous. 

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

I’ve contributed around performance a lot at various times, I like to think those ones are the most useful since they help everyone. Drupal gets this bad rap for performance that I think is totally unjustified, install one bad module or make a poor caching choice and suddenly it seems like Drupal sucks, but it’s just a side effect of how much flexibility it gives you.

I always feel I’m 10 blog articles or videos behind though in sharing information, any time anyone else has to fix something I’ve already solved, I feel like I’ve wasted their time and they could have solved something new instead of the same thing twice. I’m mostly a “self taught” developer, which really means I’ve been taught by every kind soul who wrote a blog article or open sourced a project, which is a debt it doesn’t seem I can ever sufficiently pay back. So I’d guess I’d say I’m also proud of any content I’ve been able to give back, especially completely original work, then I’ve done my tiny bit to push society forward.

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

We’ve done a ton of work on the Commerce POS module that I don’t think gets as much exposure as it should. It provides a wealth of functionality that integrates completely with commerce, providing a fully integrated setup that is usually only an option for expensive or enterprise setups. It even works with hardware you can build yourself like a Raspberry Pi, of which we’ve built some samples of already.

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

I am obsessed with renewable energy stuff lately, I built my own ebike last year and converted a Jeep Cherokee to full electric this year as well. Shameless plug for my youtube channel and blog, except they don’t have near as much content as they should. Our head office is in an area that has suffered from increasingly bad forest fires similar to California, so I’ve tried to take my reduction in greenhouse gases seriously.

I am a fanboy of Tesla for all the work they’ve done pushing the industry forward, but they’re not really my kind of cars as they’re very locked down against customization and filled with unnecessary gadgets, which as you can’t tell from my open source rantings, is pretty important to me. 

I’ve also converted to a vegan diet (aside from the occasional screw up, you wouldn’t believe how much stuff has milk powder in it!) for the same reason. Less for the cute little animals and more so I don’t die in a fire.

I also get super excited about OpenAI’s efforts to build DOTA bots, which seems like a real advancement from comparatively simple games like chess or go. 
 

Jan 04 2019
Jan 04

Happy New Year to everyone! At Agiledrop we’ll remember 2018 as a year of training, mentoring and increasing our A-team. This year was a successful one in itself, but, most importantly, it set us for growth for the upcoming years. Have a look at some of our highlights in 2018.

Agiledrop turned 5 last year

In September, we celebrated the company’s 5th birthday! The history of Agiledrop dates back to our humble beginnings in 2008, when we started out as just a couple of Drupal enthusiasts.

But 2013 was the year that marked the inception of Agiledrop as the company that we know today - and, due to the ever-evolving digital landscape, we are constantly in the process of growing and improving ourselves, expanding the skillsets of our team members and providing top-notch services to our clients.

From 25 to 42 full-time employees

At the very beginning of 2018, we proudly announced that our team grew from 18 to 30 people in the previous year, this number also including contractors. With the opening of a new office in Slovenia’s second largest city, Maribor, and the increase of our team to a whopping 42 members (!), we were able to transition to working solely with full-time employees who work from one of our offices in Ljubljana or Maribor. 

Even though we operate as a remote partner to our clients, we strongly believe that developers working together in the same workspace can provide a better, much more all-inclusive service to our customers. As our motto goes: “When working with one of our developers, you also benefit from the skills of the entire team at Agiledrop.” This is why we shall continue to base our workflow on our developers sharing the same workspace.

26% revenue growth from 2017 to 2018

A huge success in 2018 was growing our revenue by as much as 26%. We managed to acquire clients from different leading countries, dividing our work pretty equally between several minor and major clients. This means we don’t have to depend on only one major client, nor on a singular market to drive our business. Because of this, we were able to achieve stability no matter the market situation.

But growth is not only measured in numbers. Let’s take a look at how our scope has evolved since 2013: we started out as a “digital agency”, then dubbed ourselves “web development agency” in 2014, adding the development of our own product ply.jobs in 2015. It was, then, 2016 that served as the turning point, when we evolved into a “Drupal agency”, only to further specify this in 2017 as “Drupal outsourcing company”. In 2018, it felt like we finally found our calling as “partners to Drupal agencies” - but, the market and the business demand adaptability, so, we’re staying flexible and redefining our focus again. 

Our plans for 2019 are to expand the scope of our services, providing development teams with reliable and proven developers who work alongside their in-house developers as their teammates. 

Drupal courses, internal training and mentoring

In the introduction, we mentioned that 2018 will remain in our hearts as the year of training and mentoring. This comprises the very effective onboarding program for all our newly employed developers, who learn the tricks of the trade through an in-house onboarding project under the supervision of their mentors (if you want to know more about our workflow, you can read about it here). 

But we’ve also dedicated ourselves to helping aspiring coders become fully-fledged Drupal developers - we’re talking about the Drupal courses that we’ve been organizing for the second year now. In 2018, we organized 4 of these courses, one of them being run for the first time in our newly-established Maribor office. And we’re very happy to say that some of the attendants actually went on to join our team as full-time employees!

Giving back to the community

Even though we were busy with all of our ongoing projects and investing into our new employees to help them become Drupal superheroes, we still found the time to contribute to the community. Besides training new developers through our Drupal courses and participating at 6 Drupal events, we also contributed to Drupal core issues with 125 issue credits, ranking on page 1 of the list of several thousand companies contributing to Drupal.

This is only the beginning

We can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring for our company as well as for the Drupal community as a whole. We’re already looking forward to overcoming new challenges and growing as a team. We wish everyone a successful and engaging new year!


 

Dec 24 2018
Dec 24

We want to get you better acquainted with the kind of company Agiledrop is, the practices we employ and the team spirit we cultivate. So, we’ve decided to start a series of blog posts that tell the story of how the company has managed to make a name for itself and form a team that major global agencies can trust and depend upon. 

In the first post of the series, we got you familiar with our workflow and the advantages it has brought for our team as well as for our clients. But defining the workflow of your business is not all sunshine and rainbows, especially if your goal is to be on the cutting edge in your field.

So, as promised in the first chapter, the second post of the series will take a look at the major challenges we faced when defining a workflow as unique as ours. We’ll discuss one of them in detail and present our very efficient solution to it.

The management of a team fragmented over different projects and agencies alongside the rapid growth of the company turned out to be quite challenging. We’ve had to:

  • Establish effective training programs to deal with people’s personal and professional development,
  • Find a way to monitor and control the work of developers integrated into different agencies and managed directly by the clients and their teams,
  • Promote an environment where everybody is encouraged to share their knowledge with each other to limit the skill gaps,
  • Create a system that motivates employees and maintains a strong company culture.

The first thing we had to do was establish a process for training new employees to meet requirements needed to work as independent members of the client’s team.

All freshly recruited developers are first given an initial onboarding project which involves tasks and environments that they will need later on in their work. This helps them get familiar with the practices and modules they will be using when working on actual projects with clients.

Understanding the importance of training has led us to take our best people from their projects and assign them to take over education and knowledge-sharing among new and existing developers. These dedicated mentors are available to new members of the team throughout their onboarding, offering them support and validating their tasks.

Even with such a well organized system, the training of new employees lasted from 3 to 6 months or more; but, in order to provide our customers with experienced Drupal developers, we had to find suitable long-term projects where they could improve their knowledge and skills to the level where we were confident they would meet all the expectations of our clients.

Besides onboarding new team members, the process of improving the knowledge of existing developers is constantly in progress and Agiledrop's investment in education is quite substantial. This helps us maintain the high standards we have set and it has proved to be crucial to maintaining a strong company culture based on personal growth and professional development.

One of the most prominent advantages of our investment in training and education is maintaining top-notch results despite the number of developers increasing rapidly. This has a double positive effect: the clients are satisfied and the developers are able to take pride in their work.

Of course, this was not the only challenge we had to deal with, as pointed out earlier. The next post of this series will talk about ensuring the long-term satisfaction of our clients by continuously involving ourselves in the projects and helping with their maintenance even after their launch. 

Check back early next year for chapter 3 of Agiledrop’s story!
 

Dec 20 2018
Dec 20

First one up is a post that is concerned with an unpatched Drupal vulnerability. In this post, Lindsay O'Donnell of Threatpost reveals how the bug dubbed Drupalgeddon 2 was exploited in a cryptojacking attack that targeted a Make-A-Wish Foundation site and likely a number of other sites as well. Apparently, hackers were successfully leveraging this bug along with an unpatched instance of the Drupal publishing platform to mine the Monero cryptocurrency. 

Next up is Aleksi Peebles’ blog post about Drupal's Layout Initiative and component based theming. He explores the notion of an alternative non-visual UI for Layout Builder, while also reminding that experimental core modules should be limited to experimentation and not find their way into production.

Moving on, we have an extensive post by Hook 42's Ryan Bateman which is in fact a kind of GatsbyJS tutorial for Drupalers. It is intended for people who are already familiar with Drupal, but want to see how GatsbyJS can help with decoupling their Drupal site. It even has a super-short React tutorial hiding within it! (But you’ll most likely need some prior knowledge of React to be able to follow the entire tutorial.)

The fourth blog post that was the most memorable is Samuel Mortenson’s presentation of Tome, a static site generator for Drupal 8. He delves into the challenges he faced while creating Tome’s beta version, from finding his niche to realizing he needs to cater to diverse audiences. He concludes the post with a list of issues he still has to take into account going forward.

The next post we’d like to point out is the introduction of the Drupal Governance Task Force 2018 Proposal by Adam Bergstein, also known as nerdstein, of Hook 42. Due to Drupal’s increasing success, some level of governance is necessary to ensure a sustainable future for Drupal. According to Adam and other members of the Governance Task Force, there are two crucial things to establish: a new community governance structure and a framework for community evolution. 

We continue with Dries’ thoughts on the end of PHP 5. The godfather of Drupal urges everyone who has not yet upgraded from PHP 5 to do so as soon as possible, as security support for the outdated version will cease with 2019. Not beating around the bush, he concludes by thanking both the PHP and the Drupal communities for all the hard work they’ve been doing.

This next post was again written by Dries. It explains how Paychex used Drupal to double its traffic and managed to beat their launch goals. With the help of Acquia, the payroll services company replatformed on Drupal and beat its original launch goal by a long shot. As a bonus, the post also includes a Q&A video with Paychex’s digital marketing manager, Erica Bizzari.

We’re finishing November’s list with a blog post by Suzanne Dergacheva, co-founder of Evolving Web. Together with a group within the Drupal community, Suzanne has been working on researching ways to improve the user experience of Drupal content editors. In her post, she relates the results of the thorough study on content editors’ interaction with different CMS.

Well, that’s it for our selection of November’s blog posts. Not to worry, though - we’ll be collecting the top posts for December as well. :) So, stay tuned and enjoy the holidays!
 

Dec 17 2018
Dec 17

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

Meet Kevin Kaland, perhaps more easily recognized by his Twitter handle wizonesolutions, the digital wizard responsible for the FillPDF module. In this interview, he talks about his first interactions with Drupal and reveals his thoughts on the future of Drupal as a decoupled system. 

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

I’m originally from the US, but I’ve been living in Europe (Norway and Slovenia) for the past 6 years.

I maintain the FillPDF module and run an associated software-as-a-service business called FillPDF Service.

Professionally, I’m a software developer. I develop and maintain websites, usually with Drupal.

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

I first encountered Drupal when volunteering on a nonprofit’s web team. I got familiar with it, and when I started WizOne Solutions, I did a good amount of work with it. I didn’t get involved in the community until Autumn 2010, a little over a year after. The community was welcoming enough that I began attending meetups and conferences regularly.

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

Learning Drupal 8 was fairly difficult at first, but I was impressed that the community managed to release it. It took a long time to come out.

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

I usually avoid trying, haha. But seriously, if they don’t know what it is, I just describe it as a tool for making websites.

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

It’s always hard to say. I have a couple thoughts, though:

  • It will become more and more of a content administration backend coupled with single-page applications on the user-facing side that simply exchange data with Drupal. This is typically called “decoupled Drupal.”
  • If the Promote Drupal initiative is successful, it will be marketed as compliant with legal accessibility guidelines.
  • As ready-made Drupal distributions become better, it will become faster to build effective sites.

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

Code-wise, the FillPDF module :) the Drupal 8 version was released on the same day Drupal 8 came out.

Community-wise, probably my DrupalCon Vienna session. It was my first DrupalCon session, and it went alright. I also made a diagram for it that is now in the Drupal Commerce migration docs.

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

The Promote Drupal initiative! Everything else is dependent on there being enough Drupal projects to pay the bills!

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

I like traveling, hiking, and learning languages. I’m currently studying Romanian on Duolingo in preparation for DrupalDevDays Transylvania.

Dec 14 2018
Dec 14

We want to get you better acquainted with the kind of company Agiledrop is, the practices we employ and the team spirit we cultivate. So, we’ve decided to start a series of blog posts that tell the story of how the company has managed to make a name for itself and form a team that major global agencies can trust and depend upon. 

In the first post of the series, we’ll present our workflow and the advantages such an approach brings, both in producing satisfied clients and in motivating our team to help each of us with our personal and professional growth.
 

The nature of the work at Agiledrop dictates a different approach to resource management. With the help of online tools and at least 2 hours of overlap for daily standup meetings, we have been working successfully with customers from all over the world.

Our clients are mostly Drupal agencies who need to expand their existing teams with experienced Drupal developers or agencies who don’t have their own development department but would like to manage their projects entirely in-house. 

After onboarding, our developers adopt the client’s best practices, tools and workflows. They are present at meetings and daily standups, and work alongside existing teams while being entirely managed by the client’s project managers. As such, they essentially become members of the client’s team for the duration of the project. 
 

What This Means for Our Team ...

The opportunity to work on a variety of projects with teams from all over the world helps our employees with their personal growth and development. It emphasizes their knowledge, experiences, confidence, and, most importantly, it helps them grow professionally.

They have the opportunity to encounter environments with a variety of different workflows, practices and skill sets, and the chance to work with people outside our company makes their work interesting and never boring or monotonous.
 

… And for Our Clients

From the clients’ perspective, they are able to fulfill their resource capacities at any given time without a long and costly recruitment process, which means the pipeline for new projects can be more adaptive. 

The stress typically caused by catching deadlines or by unpredictable events, such as sick leaves of your in-house developers, can be managed more easily or even eliminated entirely. 

Most importantly, the clients can always rely on the collective knowledge and skill sets of the entire Agiledrop team working side by side with the developer they’ve hired.
 

Granted, such an approach is not without its unique challenges. In the next post of the series, we’ll deal with the first major obstacle that arose from our desire to provide only the best for our employees and our clients, and how we managed to very efficiently solve it, even turning it to our advantage. 

Be sure to check back for the next chapter of the series!
 

Dec 11 2018
Dec 11

Drupal 8 brought along with it many notable features which have made it easier to use and develop for the platform. One such feature was the incorporation of RESTful web services in Drupal 8 core for API calls. Using RESTful web services, a host of possibilities for customization of the platform open up; not to mention that these web services are the underlying principles which enable the concept of ‘headless Drupal’. In this post, I’ll start by performing a very basic Drupal function using these web services, i.e. creating a node.

Enable Modules

Start by enabling the following 4 core modules in Drupal:

  • HAL;
  • HTTP Basic Authentication;
  • RESTful Web Services;
  • Serialization.

Download the REST UI module as well, since it allows changing permissions and settings through a simple GUI, negating the need to go into the rest.settings.yml file in order to do the same changes.

Create User and Set Permissions

I’m now going to create a new authenticated user for the site. I’ll be doing this to teach you the kind of permissions that need to be set. Note that if you log in as an admin, all the following permissions will already be enabled.

Now, create a new user and navigate to admin/configuration/web services/REST. Click edit for the content row, since that’s what we will be doing in this article, and then set the permissions as shown in the screenshot below:

Now I’ll set proper permissions for our new authenticated user in order to let the user create, edit and delete content. I do this by navigating to admin/people/permissions. Set the following permissions:

  • Basic Page: Create new content
  • Basic Page: Delete own content
  • Basic Page: Edit own content

Get User’s Token

Before we start creating a node, we need to get our new user’s token in order to pass authentication. This can be done by testing API calls. For testing API calls, I’ll use the Restlet Client – Rest API Testing extension for Chrome. Of course, if you prefer some other method, feel free to use that one instead. 

Now, to test my API calls and get the new user’s token, I’ll first log out of my site as an admin and log in with the new user account. Now, I’ll simply copy the URL of my site, add rest/session/token at the end of it and paste it in the Restlet client’s URL field. Next, I’ll select the ‘GET’ method from the dropdown and send the URL to get the token from the body field. Here’s a screenshot from an earlier call:

Create Node and Test API Call

Now that I’ve got my unique token, I can start creating a node. To do so, the POST method is used to POST the entity/node, and the content-type should be set to application/hal+json. The title and type fields should be declared in the body field like this:

{

 “_links”:{

   “type”:{

     “href”:”http://example.com/rest/type/node/page

   }

 },

 “title”:[

   {

   “value”:”My first page”

   }

   ]

}

The following headers have to be added for this call:
Content-Type : application/hal+json
X-CSRF-Token : ‘The token that we got from the previous step.’

Click ‘Add authorization’ and enter the credentials of the authenticated user to add authentication if required.

This is what it should look like before firing the API call:

Next, go to your Drupal site and navigate to admin/content. Check to see if the node you created is visible on your site. If it’s there, your API call works.

Conclusion

That’s it! You’ve successfully created your first Drupal node using RESTful web services. Note that this is a very basic function of RESTful web services intended to give a demo of the feature.

Having trouble with your Drupal project? Stuck with customizing your Drupal site to your own liking? Lay aside your worries and hand them over to us at Agiledrop. 
 

Dec 07 2018
Dec 07

We’ve collected all of our blog posts from November 2018 to make them even more easily accessible to you! Check them out below.

Our first post from November was a detailed, step-by-step description of creating custom blocks in Drupal 8. It explains what ‘blocks’ are and provides the reader with thorough instructions for both creating blocks through Drupal’s own GUI and for doing it programmatically. Since blocks are a key component of a Drupal site, this post is a useful read for anyone who is just now getting familiar with Drupal as well as for those more experienced developers.

The next blog post was an interview with Agaric’s David Valdez. In this interview, he talks about his mixed early experiences with Drupal and presents Drutopia, Agaric’s project for nonprofits and other low-budget groups. To him, Drupal presented the perfect opportunity to learn a ton of new things, which made him eager to give back to the community. Discover what motivated him to become an active member of the Drupal community and which contributions he is proudest of.

The interview with Adam Bergstein aka Nerdstein provides a very personal aspect, which makes it extremely easy for the reader to relate to him. You can truly feel his passion and get genuinely excited reading about his achievements, and you can’t help but smile at his honest display of love when he talks about his family. In his view, Drupal core should put a greater emphasis on stability than on adding new features. He believes the future of Drupal depends as much on the community as it does on the technology and invites anyone interested in participating in his projects to reach out to him. 

Last but not least came our interview with John Piccozi, co-host of the weekly podcast Talking Drupal. As the Senior Drupal Architect at Oomph, he’s known in the company as the  resident Drupal enthusiast. He kicks things off with an impressive roster of Drupal projects that he’s currently involved in or that he’s worked on in the past, and spices things up with a personal anecdote or two. He concludes with a powerful quote by American scientist Margaret Mead that feels like it was written specifically about the Drupal community. Curious about what it is? Read the interview and you’ll see for yourself!

Well, that’s it for our November blog posts. Keep checking back to never miss an update or a new post!
 

Nov 28 2018
Nov 28

Meet John Piccozi, co-host of the weekly podcast Talking Drupal and co-organizer of the Drupal Providence Meetup and the New England Drupal Camp. John met with Drupal about 10 years ago, and he is looking forward to what will the next 10 years bring.

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

I’m an Acquia-certified Site Builder, Drupal podcaster, and co-organizer of a camp and meetup. I’m the Senior Drupal Architect at Oomph, my claim to fame is being our resident Drupal enthusiast. It's important to me that Oomph be part of the Drupal community here, and at-large, in every way we can. Sharing knowledge, staying curious, and trying new things is definitely the name of the game. My Drupal work includes projects for CVS Caremark, Leica Geosystems, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Marriott International. I am a co-organizer of the Drupal Providence Meetup and the New England Drupal Camp. I also co-host the weekly Talking Drupal podcast with Stephen Cross, and Nic Laflin.

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

Neither, it was my job. Shortly after graduating college I worked for a company that was “building websites”. I put this in quotes because I knew nothing of Drupal or it’s capabilities at the time, I thought I was going to be coding HTML and CSS. After getting hired, I was told they used this content management system called Drupal. At that point it was “sink or swim”. Luckily, Mark Ferree (our senior developer at the time) was an amazing mentor and Drupal coach. After getting a few sites under my belt I was hooked. In looking back at that experience, I would say it was both the software (not having to build it from the ground up) and the community. Fun fact: I worked with Oomph’s current Director of Engineering, Rob Aubin, at that job, pretty sure it was his first interaction with Drupal too!

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

I would have to say my first real exposure to the Drupal Community made a huge impact on me. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was DrupalCon Austin and, unlike more recent DrupalCon’s, travelling with members of the Oomph team, I was flying solo. Lucky for me, I was in a city full of fellow Drupalers and a friend (and former boss) Jason Pamental. I reached out to Jason and he quickly filled me in on all of the social events happening after sessions. He introduced me to people I had only heard about or talked with in the issue queue. We went to the various social events and he even brought me to a few invite only events. It was a whirlwind trip and the experience has stuck with me all these years. So much so that I have been to DrupalCon every year since I made that first trek to Austin and every year it’s amazing to reunite with Drupal Friends and learn from the community.

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

Well, most of the time when people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a Web Developer. Sometimes when I wear one of my many Drupal shirts, someone will ask “What is Drupal?” to which I will tell them it’s a Content management system for their website. Usually, I will get some confused faces, but once in a while someone’s eyes will light up and they will want to know more. I’ll never forget once being in a mall in Massachusetts, going up an escalator, and someone on the opposite escalator said “Nice Shirt.” I nodded and didn’t think much of it at the time. A few minutes later I realized what the person said and what shirt I was wearing (a Drupal shirt of course). It brought a smile to my face. Drupal Rocks!

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

Drupal has evolved greatly in my 10+ years working with it. I started on Drupal 4.7 with Ubercart and saw the release of Drupal 6. More memorable was Oomphs Drupal 7 release party. I remember being excited for the release of Drupal 7 and the improvements that brought. However, all of that excitement and improvement pales to now working on Drupal 8.6 with Commerce 2.x, Core Translations, and the newly added Configuration Management system in core. With the release of Drupal 8 and a firm and frequent release schedule, Drupal keeps improving year after year. Like a fine wine, Drupal gets better with age. I look forward to the coming releases, a finished media system, layout builder, and improvements to the core. Drupal’s future is bright and I look forward to the next 10+ years!

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

I found a core bug last week, that was pretty cool! I spoke at DrupalCon for the first time in Nashville. I co-founded and co-organize the New England Drupal Camp, which is a camp that aims to bring the New England Drupal community together in one place each year. I also co-organize the Providence Drupal Meetup each month at the Oomph, Inc. offices. Oomph is working on a helper module for Paragraphs called Oomph Paragraphs. It’s all pretty exciting and keeps me coming back for more!

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

Well, I work with commerce and translation quite a bit. The advances to those two systems in Drupal 8 has been amazing. I’m looking forward to kicking off a project with the commerce guys in the next few weeks. I have a feeling that will lead to some enhancements to commerce 2.x. On Talking Drupal we talked to many maintainers and co-maintainers in the Drupal community. Recently we talked with  Adam, one of the co-maintainers of the media initiative. In the last few weeks, I have been excited about the improvements to that system over Drupal 7. I also think that the work Jacob Rockowitz is doing, maintaining the Webform module, is inspiring. He is providing great documentation and training, as well as frequent updates to the module. So many cool projects and initiatives in the Drupal space, I couldn’t possibly name them all. 

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

Watching my kids grow and learn is very exciting. My oldest just turned 6 and is turning into a very skilled Lego architect, as well as a soccer star. Then his brother (my one and a half-year-old) is just learning to walk and has some choice words he likes to use – “More More!”. In the tech space, I think we are moving ahead with some very interesting ideas and technology. The internet of things is always amazing to me. The new Apple watch has got me thinking it’s time to replace my analog version. The idea of wearables is great. I am really looking for Apple to come out with glasses. As a lifelong wearer of glasses. It would be amazing to have Siri, headphones, and a phone built into the glasses I wear every day.

In closing when thinking about the Drupal community and answering these questions. This quote from American Scientist Margaret Mead kept coming to mind. I leave you with this: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”.
 

Nov 26 2018
Nov 26

We’ve gathered all the blog posts we’ve written in October 2018, take a look. 

The first blog post was Tips to Speed Up Your Drupal Site. While Drupal isn’t considered a slouch when it comes to performance out of the box, there are some factors which can slow it down and some basic practices which everyone should implement, in order to squeeze more speed out of their Drupal sites. In this post, we highlighted some tips which can help to speed up your Drupal site. 

The second was an interview Jonathan Hedstrom: Drupal is like Lego for adult professionals. He tells us what he thinks has been the biggest evolution for Drupal, what contribution is he the proudest of and what he thinks is the most important about Drupal today.

We continued with a blog post Drupal events in the 4th quarter of the year 2018. We've made a list of Drupal camps and summits that you can attend in the last quarter of this year. There are still a few left until the end of a year.

The fourth blog post was interview Janne Kalliola: Organising CEO dinners, Drupal Business surveys and local and regional DrupalCamps. Janne does not code, but he is a very active Drupal community contributor. Read about CEO dinners he helps to organize, and what would he be working on, if he had an extra day between Thursday and Friday.

The next one was Agiledrop presenting Drupal at the Faculty of Computer Science. We’ve organised a Drupal meetup in Maribor (the second largest town in Slovenia, where Agiledrop has the second office) in cooperation with Student Council of Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Maribor. As a member of Drupal Slovenia, we organised two presentations and sponsored a reception with networking after the event. The event was well received, as was attended by more than 50 people, mostly students of the faculty, interested in starting their career in web development and Drupal. This blog post sums up what those two lecturers were about. 

The last one was Top Tips for Aspiring Drupal Developers. If you’ve decided to join the Drupal community and want to know what are some development tips you should know beforehand, we went through some things you should be familiar with, to get started on your Drupal journey.


Those were our blog posts from October 2018. Looking forward to continuing having you as a reader! 
 

Nov 12 2018
Nov 12

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews.

Adam Bergstein is the maintainer of SimplyTest.me, runs the Drupal Coffee Exchange and participates in the Governance Task Force that just released its community proposal. Learn how Adam, aka Nerdstein, feels about Drupal 8 core development.
 

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

I go by [the nick name] Nerdstein and have been a part of the Drupal community for quite some time. My main contributions are porting/supporting Drupal 8 modules, giving talks at events, maintaining SimplyTest.me, running the Drupal Coffee Exchange and recently participating in the Governance Task Force.

I live in the United States with my wife and two daughters, whom I adore. I currently serve as the VP of Engineering for Hook 42 but had previous roles at CivicActions, Acquia and Penn State University. I have a masters in Information Security, and love working with teams, mentoring/enablement, architecture, security, Agile and DevOps.

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

I started looking at Drupal during an evaluation of a project. This was right around the time that the business/agency ecosystem was just starting to take shape. While I was a bit intimidated by all of the new terminology and my lack of understanding open source communities, we selected Drupal. A vendor and I were impressed by how much progress was able to be made thanks to both core and contrib. 

While that piqued my interest, it still took me a long time to understand the community and to contribute. I attended Drupaldelphia back in 2014. I learned a lot, made several community connections, and really enjoyed it. At that point, I knew I wanted to participate and got the confidence to do so. 

I’ve always valued both, the people and the efforts of our vast community. We have some incredibly unique, fun and talented people that contribute in meaningful ways. I’m routinely impressed by how we face and solve hard problems. There is an incredible impact when we add up our collective efforts. I look at what we do each day and I’m proud to even have a small part in it.

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

It’s made a huge impact. It’s allowed me to grow professionally and provide for my family. All of this while maintaining a feeling that I’m serving clients and for a greater good through the community efforts.

I remember the moment I went to Boston to the interview with Acquia, which was my first Drupal-centric position. I had not travelled much professionally, rarely attended community events, and generally had a sense of imposter syndrome (I shouldn’t even be here, sort of thing). I was surprised at how relevant my Drupal experience was, and knew this was the start of something much larger. 

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

Basically a bunch of really cool people building technology together. People are shocked to learn how a significant number of (mostly) volunteers across the globe are able to come together to build software that is widely adopted. It seems a bit far-fetched at first, but I think people understand there is something larger and impactful happening in our community. I often compare this to proprietary efforts, like Microsoft, and the analogy is better understood. 

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

I actually have a blog post I’ve been drafting for several months on this very topic. I feel like we need to evolve both, the technology and our community. It is non-trivial to answer, and I need to state that this is my opinion. 

Technically speaking, I’d like to see Drupal core slow down on adding new features and focus on stability. The recent additions of Unami, media, layout builder and a stable migrate is incredibly impactful for Drupal as a product. I’d much prefer if we pause, reflect on what we’ve learned and polish what we have. Prioritizing and resolving already known open issues would stabilize Drupal and clean up a lot of the small things people find frustrating. The initiative around Composer-related improvements is a great example of something we learned and need to prioritize. And I sense there is a lot we can clean up in the core, like View Modes and the Block system, that could be incrementally improved to promote usability and consistency between features.

Community-wise, I would simply reference the proposal we have now released from the Governance Task Force. We proposed recommendations to several aspects of the community. A lot of work and deliberation went into the recommendations, and do a much better job communicating them than I ever could myself. 

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

I am very proud of the opportunity I had to serve on the Governance Task Force. I see so much potential to help the community from the work done by the task force. I was so overwhelmingly impressed by my peers on the task force. It was a dream team of some of the most thoughtful, smart and easy-to-work-with individuals I’ve ever collaborated with. 

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

I’ll take the time to highlight three things and would ask anyone who is interested in participating to reach out to me.

  1. SimplyTest.me will be going through some technical modernization that includes a new Drupal 8 front-end and the underlying tools that provision instances.
  2. We’re expanding the Drupal Coffee Exchange to better support international audiences. If you and others in your country enjoy coffee, please sign up! It’s a lot of fun for people.
  3. As part of the Governance Task Force, we publicly released a proposal and created issues for an open commentary period for the community. Get involved. You may have better ideas to contribute or be able to provide additional context to help move the efforts forward. 

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

I always rave about my two beautiful kids, my love for craft beer and my foodie tendencies. But lately, I have been trying to prioritize my physical health by running. Over the last two years, I have participated in over ten races and very recently was able to run a ten-mile run (~15K). For several years I focused on my education, jobs and family needs, while my physical health was not as good as it should have been. I have enjoyed running routinely and shocked by how much it helps relieves stress, gives me some fresh air and helps me remain balanced.
 

Nov 09 2018
Nov 09

First one on the list is Why I am one of the top contributors to Drupal? by Jacob Rockowitz. This blog post was inspired by Dries’ annual Who sponsors Drupal development? (2017-2018 edition) report. Jacob is one of the developers, who contributes the most to the Drupal community. In this blog post, he wants to go a little bit further from the question, who contributes the most - he is answering why is he contributing to Drupal. 

We continue our list with a blog post How Marketers can Benefit from Drupal 8 by Tim Cruse from Duo Consulting. Tim explains that we are witnessing increasing interest in Drupal 8, especially from the marketing department, and that is with a good reason. In this blog post, he looks at the facts that make Drupal so valuable to marketers. 

The third spot is reserved for a blog post Decoupled Drupal Authentication with OAuth 2.0 by Preston So, Director of Research and Innovation of Acquia. Preston explains that the most critical component of the decoupled Drupal architecture is a robust authentication mechanism that protects data transmitted between a Drupal site and API consumers. Drupal contributed ecosystem contains several highly useful modules that leverage more recent authentication standards, like OAuth 2.0, at which he takes a closer look in this blog post. 

Let’s continue with Drupal Strategies: Landing Pages by Cindy McCourt from Promet Source. In this blog post, Cindy looks at five recipes for building landing pages in Drupal: Node page, Node Plus View Block, A View Page Plus a Block, Panel Page and Custom Theme Page, and for each, she is answering how and why.

Our fifth choice is How we are improving Drupal's configuration management system by Dries Buytaert. He explains that configuration management is an important feature of any modern content management system. What will the future bring for Drupal in that area?

The sixth blog post we would like to highlight is End to End Testing With Drupal and Cypress by Edward Allison from Sevaa Group. At Sevaas they started to use Cypress to handle End to End tests for their Drupal sites. The experience was great, thus the process has not been complete without hurdles, therefore Ed finds a few concepts that have been helpful specifically for Drupal sites, he is walking us through. 

The next one is 9 Drupal Websites that Change the World by Vergiliu Hachi from Sooperthemes. In this article they talk about some of the world’s biggest organizations and NGOs who are dedicated to making the world a better place - NASA, Tesla, Doctors without Borders etc. Besides changing the world, all these websites have another thing in common: they all use Drupal.

And the last but not least is a blog post Atomic Design in Drupal with GraphQL & Twig - Webinar Recap, the recap of Philipp Melabs webinar by Daniel Lemon, both from Amazee Labs. Daniel gives us an insight of the webinar, where Philipps focus on building a real-world example website for a fictional web agency called Amazing Apps.

These are our top blogs from October… We will be collecting best Drupal blog posts in November too. Stay tuned.


 

Nov 06 2018
Nov 06

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Learn who are the people behind Drupal projects.

This week we talked with David Valdez. Read about what impact Drupal made on him, what contribution is he the proudest of and what Drutopia is.

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

I’ve been doing web development for fourteen years and Drupal the last eight.

I currently work for Agaric which is a worker-owned cooperative. This allows us to make decisions about the cooperative democratically. Equally important is that we support one another, not just professionally but personally as well. 

Agaric is involved in several Drupal Projects, including Drupal Training Days, Sprint Weekends, and other local events. You can learn more here

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

The first time I used Drupal, I faced the well known steep learning curve. In the beginning, I disliked how difficult the CMS seemed, but later when I started to understand why things were done the way they are, I began to appreciate all the cool things you can do with it, how well thought the subsystems were and how Drupal dramatically improves between one version to the next.

And later, when I had questions about specific problems or bugs, I found many talented people working on the project and giving support. It was amazing and I felt motivated to also contribute back to the community. In this way, I learned a ton of new things, and at the same time, I was helping other people.

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

Drupal gave a new direction to my career. At the time I was working on several different technologies and frameworks. Drupal motivated me to become a specialist, so I left my job and sought out an opportunity to work in a Drupal shop, where I could spend more time improving my Drupal skills.

Having that in mind, I travelled to DrupalCon Austin at 2014 (it was my first time in the USA), and I was convinced, that I wanted to work in a Drupal shop to be more involved in the project.

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

Firstly, I usually try to explain what Free Software is about, how this allows projects like Drupal to become so good and how it helps many people.

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

Drupal has always been considered as a Content Management Framework, and I believe Drupal 8 is following this path to become one of the most solid options to build any project.

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

There are a few contributions at the Core which allowed me to interact in the whole process to fix a bug on Drupal 8. 

For instance, at Drupal 8.1 the permalinks were broken on the comments, so I helped to write the patch, discuss changes and wrote the tests, to make sure this bug won’t happen again. 

I learned by reading the feedback from other, more experienced developers, and at the same time, I understood how Drupal works (at least in the parts related to the bug).

The same happened with a bug in the migrations and the REST module.

And learning from those issues helped me to contribute in fixing other smaller core bugs and fixing bugs in a several contributed modules, from porting small modules as Image Resize Filter, to contribute to well-known modules as Migrate Plus.

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

Yes, we at Agaric have been working on Drutopia (https://www.drutopia.org), which is a series of Drupal distributions for nonprofits and other low-budget groups. 

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

I live in Mexico and I’m a member of a PHP Group (https://phpmexico.mx), where we talk about good practices, help each other improve our skills and keep informed of other cool technologies. 
 

Nov 02 2018
Nov 02

‘Blocks’ in Drupal are pieces of content that can be placed anywhere throughout the site. They are an integral part of Drupal and the way it displays information. While Drupal has a variety of useful blocks out of the box for most scenarios, there might be times when custom blocks are required. That is what I’ll be addressing in this post, by going through how to create a custom block in Drupal 8.

There are two ways in which you can create a custom block:

  • Through Drupal’s own GUI, or
  • Programmatically.

Via Drupal GUI

This method is pretty straightforward and easier than creating a block programmatically. However, it also is less flexible and customizable than programmatically creating a block.

  • Go to admin -> structure -> block layout -> custom block library.
  • Click ‘block types’ tab. Once here, click on the ‘Add custom block type’ button.
  • Enter block label and description.
  • Now, you can add fields, manage display type, manage display etc. for your custom block. Customize the block to your liking and click save.
  • Now, go back to custom block library and click the blue ‘Add custom block’ button, to add the block to your library.
  • The next step is to simply place the block into your desired region by navigating to admin -> structure -> block layout.

Programmatically Creating Block

This method requires a little more understanding of the way Drupal works, however, once you get the hang of it, it gets pretty easy.

Create a module

In Drupal 8, it is necessary to create an info.yml file that contains the metadata for every custom module, theme or plugin you create. Similarly, for our custom block, we will need to create an info.yml file in the ‘modules/custom’ directory. Note that if the custom folder isn’t already created, you will need to create it. For creating a custom block, we will need to make a custom module.

Now create an ‘info.yml’ file such as ‘custom_block_example.info.yml’. Inside this file enter following:

name: Custom Block Example
type: module
description: Define a custom block.
core: 8.x
package: Custom
dependencies:
  - block

You can now go to your Drupal dashboard and enable the custom module we have just created.

Create Class

Now, in order to define the logic of the block, we need to create a class which will be placed under the modules/custom/custom_block_example/src/Plugin/Block directory. 

The class file should contain annotation as well. The annotation allows us to identify the block. Apart from the annotation, this class will contain 4 methods:

  • build() - Returns a basic markup by rendering a renderable array.
  • blockAccess() - Defines a custom user access logic.
  • blockForm() - Defines a custom block configuration form using the Form API.
  • blockSubmit() - Used to save a configuration, defined on the blockForm() method.

Now, this is what the class file should contain in the end:

<?php

namespace Drupal\my_block_example\Plugin\Block;

use Drupal\Core\Access\AccessResult;
use Drupal\Core\Block\BlockBase;
use Drupal\Core\Form\FormStateInterface;
use Drupal\Core\Session\AccountInterface;

/**
 * Provides a block with a simple text.
 *
 * @Block(
 *   id = "my_block_example_block",
 *   admin_label = @Translation("My block"),
 * )
 */
class MyBlock extends BlockBase {
  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function build() {
    return [
      '#markup' => $this->t('This is a simple block!'),
    ];
  }

  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  protected function blockAccess(AccountInterface $account) {
    return AccessResult::allowedIfHasPermission($account, 'access content');
  }

  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function blockForm($form, FormStateInterface $form_state) {
    $config = $this->getConfiguration();

    return $form;
  }

  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function blockSubmit($form, FormStateInterface $form_state) {
    $this->configuration['my_block_settings'] = $form_state->getValue('my_block_settings');
  }
}

Now, go back to your site, and you should be able to see the block you have just created. Simply assign the block to a region of your choice and it should become visible.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, blocks are an integral part of a Drupal site. Learning to customize and play with the blocks in your own way can be a very useful skill.

Having trouble with customizing your Drupal site? Contact us, here at Agiledrop, and forget about having to worry about getting stuck with your Drupal site ever again.
 

Oct 29 2018
Oct 29

So, you’ve decided to join the Drupal community and want to know what are some development tips you should know beforehand? You are in the right place. Firstly, I’d like to welcome you to the most awesome development community out there.

Starting out with Drupal can be a bit daunting, after all, it is quite a bit more complex than other popular CMSs, but it’s also a lot more rewarding, powering all kinds of websites out there.

So, let’s go through what are some things you should be familiar with, to get started on your Drupal journey.

Languages

While you could create a Drupal site without any prior programming languages knowledge, to make anything more than a simple website would most probably require delving into Drupal’s back-end. For that purpose, it helps to know beforehand what technologies Drupal is using and what you’ll be dealing with. To keep this section simple, Drupal utilizes the following:

  • PHP 7 (Symfony Framework)
  • HTML5, CSS3 (Sass) and Javascript (jQuery and recently React)

Getting familiar with core PHP as well as Symfony framework plus front-end skills should get you in a pretty good position for Drupal development.

Front-end frameworks

This point ties into the point above. Read about frameworks, what they are, as well as how they are used. Frameworks are also going to become a lot more important for Drupal, due to the emergence of headless or decoupled Drupal (a concept that allows integration of various front-end technologies such as React, Angular etc. with Drupal’s back-end). This further enforces the importance of familiarity with JavaScript since all of these front-end technologies are built on it.

Twig Templating Engine

Drupal 8’s move to the Symfony framework has resulted in the Twig templating engine being used throughout. Learning Twig templating is an absolute must for any aspiring Drupal developer. The great thing about Twig templating is that it is easy to learn and use.

Command Line Interface (CLI)

Developing on Drupal will require quite a lot of time spent on Command Line Interfaces, in fact, it’s so essential that Drupal has its own CLIs, named Drush and Console. Also with tools like a Composer, you can make it a lot easier for your Drupal development efforts by learning it to get a grip with CLI.

Debugging

Ah debugging. This is an essential skill for any developer. While Drupal has a great built-in error reporting tool, there will be many scenarios where it won’t be able to catch on to problems, and that’s where your debugging skills will come in handy. Any Drupal developer worth his salt should be a good debugger. At AGILEDROP we use XDebug.

How Drupal works

Learning how Drupal works is a crucial step in your Drupal development journey. Learning the ins and outs of the CMS keeps a clear picture in your head and provides a good high-level view of what goes on behind the scenes of a Drupal site. The official Drupal site has a great in-depth section on its working.

Theming

Themes are a basic component of Drupal. They give Drupal site’s their looks and turns them from boring and bland sites to pretty and visually appealing sites. Learning how Drupal handles themes and how they are implemented should be a part of every Drupal developer's arsenal.

Version control

Version control is a form of keeping revisions for your code. This is a skill that every developer should have, regardless of the technologies they work on. Version control also acts as a gateway to collaboration with other devs and the Drupal community. As in many other open-source communities, Drupal developers mostly use Git.

Contribute to the community

Speaking of Community, Drupal is a CMS that thrives on it. Being an open-source software the community is what keeps it thriving. Drupal’s community is widely known as being one of the greatest of all open-source software. Contributing to the community doesn’t only help Drupal to grow, it also helps you to know great people while simultaneously increasing your Drupal development knowledge!

Are you starting a Drupal site and coming across hurdles? Our extensive experience with Drupal here at Agiledrop can be of great use to you! Feel free to contact us.

Oct 25 2018
Oct 25

Last week we organised a Drupal meetup in Maribor (the second largest town in Slovenia, where Agiledrop has the second office) in cooperation with Student Council of Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Maribor. As a member of Drupal Slovenia, we organised two presentations and sponsored a reception with networking after the event.

Are you interested what those two lecturers were about?

Bostjan Kovac: "Introduction to Drupal for Beginners"

Bostjan Kovac, Drupal veteran and Development director at Agiledrop, summed up everything Drupal was and what it is today. Drupal, like any technological phenomenon, began in the room of a student, who wanted to change the world. Initially was thought of as a system for setting up forums, but today it is used by companies and organisations around the world, to build digital experiences for their users and customers. It’s an open source system, based on PHP programming language. It is easily accessible to anyone who wants to develop complex solutions in a simple way.

Mitja Krope: “Simplify Drupal Projects with Distribution”

Mitja Krope, TDX product developer and head of the Agiledrops office in Maribor, revealed that when we decide to set up a new website in the Drupal, we choose between two options:

  • installing Drupal from scratch,
  • installing Drupal using a distribution.

Drupal does not have a large set of functions in its core. However, it is a development framework that can be modified and upgraded unlimitedly. But how to avoid wasting time by configuring and developing the same functionality on different projects all over again? An alternative to this is using a distribution, but none of the existing ones met our requirements. That's why we, at Agiledrop, developed our own. We’ve developed a distribution that allows us to save up to 100 hours of initial development in every project we are working on and bridge the gap between the user experience and the editors. We named the project Tailored Digital Experiences or shorter TDX, and we published it as an open source project, which can be used by everyone. The TDX distribution allows us to build pre-installed components quickly and offers flexibility in setting up complex content types.

Thanks to both lecturers for such interesting presentations, thanks to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for an invitation and hosting, and last but not least to a large number of event attendees. There is another event happening in Maribor this week, a free Drupal course, and we can’t wait.   

Oct 25 2018
Oct 25

Last week we organised a Drupal meetup in Maribor (the second largest town in Slovenia, where Agiledrop has the second office) in cooperation with Student Council of Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Maribor. As a member of Drupal Slovenia, we organised two presentations and sponsored a reception with networking after the event. The event was well received, as attended by more than 50 people, mostly students of the faculty interested in starting their career in web development and Drupal.

Are you interested what those two lecturers were about?

Bostjan Kovac: "Introduction to Drupal for Beginners"

Bostjan Kovac, Drupal veteran and Development director at Agiledrop, summed up everything Drupal was and what it is today. Drupal, like any technological phenomenon, began in the room of a student, who wanted to change the world. Initially was thought of as a system for setting up forums, but today it is used by companies and organisations around the world, to build digital experiences for their users and customers. It’s an open source system, based on PHP programming language. It is easily accessible to anyone who wants to develop complex solutions in a simple way.

Mitja Krope: “Simplify Drupal Projects with Distribution”

Mitja Krope, TDX product developer and head of the Agiledrops office in Maribor, revealed that when we decide to set up a new website in the Drupal, we choose between two options:

  • installing Drupal from scratch,
  • installing Drupal using a distribution.

Drupal does not have a large set of functions in its core. However, it is a development framework that can be modified and upgraded unlimitedly. But how to avoid wasting time by configuring and developing the same functionality on different projects all over again? An alternative to this is using a distribution, but none of the existing ones met our requirements. That's why we, at Agiledrop, developed our own. We’ve developed a distribution that allows us to save up to 100 hours of initial development in every project we are working on and bridge the gap between the user experience and the editors. We named the project Tailored Digital Experiences or shorter TDX, and we published it as an open source project, which can be used by everyone. The TDX distribution allows us to build pre-installed components quickly and offers flexibility in setting up complex content types.

Thanks to both lecturers for such interesting presentations, thanks to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for an invitation and hosting, and last but not least to a large number of event attendees. There is another event happening in Maribor this week, a free Drupal course, and we can’t wait.   

Oct 22 2018
Oct 22

Agiledrop is highlighting active Drupal community members through a series of interviews. Learn who are the people behind Drupal projects. 

This week we talked with Janne Kalliola. Janne does not code, but he is a very active Drupal community contributor. Learn about CEO dinners he helps organize and what would he be working on, if he had an extra day between Thursday and Friday.

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

I’m Janne Kalliola, the founder and CEO of Exove, a digital growth company headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, and offices in London, Singapore, Tallinn, and Tampere and Oulu in Finland. I’ve been coding since 1983 and made my first commercial software product in 1991, while in high school. Before founding Exove, I’ve worked at a university, SSH, Telecom Middleware company, and MySQL clustering company.

Nowadays my coding is limited to a few selected clients of Exove and some hobby projects, due to time limits. Being a father of three adorable children and a CEO of a company is now more important than coding.

In the Drupal community, I focus mostly on the business community composed of various C-level people and directors of companies working with Drupal. I am at the board of both Finnish and Estonian Drupal associations and was one of the organisers of Drupal Europe. Exove and One Shoe from the Netherlands organise annual Drupal Business survey that sheds light on how Drupal companies are doing globally.

I and Michel van Velde from One Shoe also organise an annual Drupal CEO Dinner in every DrupalCon Europe. It has become a tradition of open speech, peer support, and gossiping between CEOs in the Drupal community. Being a CEO can be very easily quite a lonesome work, as you cannot share your worries, vulnerabilities, and concerns fully with the rest of the organisation. Only a person in similar position understands the pressure of the work, and being able to talk about it – at least once a year – is very crucial for the mental wellbeing of company leaders.

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

We bumped into Drupal in 2007, when a partner of Exove asked whether we could help one of their clients with Drupal related matters. I surveyed our staff of seven (or so), and our CTO Kalle Varisvirta told that he had some experience with the system. So, we accepted the gig and built our first Drupal site. The project was a success and could not have been done with WordPress that we already mastered back then – and still do. After the first one, it was quite easy to convince the next clients, and gradually we have become one of the largest Drupal agencies in the Nordic countries.

The “tipping point” for me, in the community context, was the first CXO event, organised by Kristof van Tomme of Pronovix in Brussels in 2010. I met a number of Drupal agency leaders, including Michel from One Shoe, and found out that they are open, focus and compassionate. The event is still one of my fondest memories of the business community, and it made the biggest impact on my company. I am also quite an outspoken person, so I made an impression on others, too. From that event forward, I’ve gained new acquaintances and also friends at such events.

Now I’m preaching about growth to the Drupal companies. You could call it a passion or a mission of mine. Larger and stronger companies can create and sustain the growth of Drupal, as we pay most of the salaries of the community at the end. The better the companies are, the better the situation is for the whole community.

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

On the technology side, I’m constantly impressed on Drupal’s ability to tackle bigger and bigger cases – more information, more languages, more functionality, more people, more servers, etc. – without showing wear and tear. There are numerous other content management systems, both open and closed source, that would break under such stress, but Drupal just keeps on delivering. Further, the versatility of the platform is a huge bonus, too. The open-endedness of the platform allows us to grow it to the exact direction our clients want without causing havoc with the architecture.

Speaking of community, I really love the openness and empathy of the people. There have been some rough times in the past, but the community has come together time after time, resolved the issues and moved on.

The past Drupal Europe conference was the most positive conference I’ve ever experienced, and it sort of encapsulated the positive tenets of the community.

I already mentioned the first CXO event that was a huge experience for me. My first DrupalCon in Chicago 2011 is very memorable and of course, all CEO dinners we have had during the years, have been exhilarating experiences.

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

Drupal, the technology, is a well-balanced combination of a content management system, application platform, and e-commerce framework, that is a great foundation for delivering digital experiences that bring digital growth.

Drupal, the project, is one of the largest open source projects that has produced an enterprise-grade software product while keeping the community engaged and approachable.

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

I think that Drupal is going in the right direction. Drupal 8 was – and still is for some companies – a painful transition, but now we reap the benefits of the change.

I’m most excited about the e-commerce capabilities and the new upcoming administration user interface facelift that changes the way, how we humans interact with the system. The JSON API layer is one of the key components to allow embedding Drupal into larger IT architectures, and also creating huge potential for rich end-user interfaces with modern JavaScript technologies.

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

As said earlier, I don’t code that much anymore. My contributions are thus on the community side. Organising CEO dinners, Drupal Business surveys and local and regional DrupalCamps are the visible highlights of my contributions.

The less visible work is helping other companies, Drupal Association, and the project lead Dries Buytaert with various items – typically related to growth, opportunities, or health of Drupal companies. I do this with one-to-one discussions and participating in BoFs. People already know that I don’t hesitate to say my opinion, and I’m becoming better at listening to others and drawing conclusions to get the momentum going.

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

Drupal marketing, both in global and local context, needs more effort. The system is too good not to be known by a wide range of people. Everyone needs to do better here and participate in the effort to create a positive spiral, that strengthens itself with every cycle.

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

I am blessed with three magnificent children. Seeing them growing and learning every day, makes me so proud and humble simultaneously.

The same can be said about my company. I am blessed to work with such great and friendly colleagues - I learn from them something new every single day.

If I had more time – like an extra workday between Thursday and Friday – I would work more with modern JavaScript. It is moving at the speed of light nowadays, and there are so many great things happening just right now.  

Oct 19 2018
Oct 19

We've made a list of Drupal camps and summits that you can attend in the last quarter of the year. Drupal events are bringing together Drupal developers, site builder, themers, end users and those interested in learning more about Drupal. We are attending Drupal events because of sessions and collaborative discussions.

Bay Area Drupal Camp 2018

The United States, Berkeley, CA University of California 24-27 October 2018

https://2018.badcamp.org/

BAD Camp is just around a corner, and it’s four days of free training, single-track summits, contribution sprints, presentations, sessions and after-hours socials. There will be more than 60 sessions. 

DrupalCamp Ottawa 2018

Canada, Ottawa, ON University of Ottawa's SITE building 26 October 2018, 08:00-18:00

https://drupalcampottawa.com/#/

Drupal Camp Ottawa will have 3 tracks this year: the first one is Code & Development, second is Strategy: Business, Management, Communications, and Content, and the third is Front-End Development & Web Design. 

DrupalCamp Baltics Tallinn

Estonia, Tallinn, 37 Kultuurikatel 2 November 2018, 09:00-18:00

https://www.drupalcampbaltics.com/

It is a non-commercial, annual one-day event with two parallel session tracks, where people share, learn and cooperate. There will be more than 10 workshops and sessions. 

North West Drupal Unconference

United Kingdom, Manchester Federation Hotel 3 November 2018, 09:00-17:00

https://uncon.nwdrupal.org.uk/

Unconference has, unlike conference, no agenda or scheduled sessions. Attendees determine talks on the spot. Everyone is encouraged to bring a talk to the event, with the day having 30-minute slots including time for questions, and time for people to change rooms ready for the next talk to begin. Agiledrop is proudly sponsoring this event!

DrupalCamp Atlanta 2018

The United States, Atlanta, GA Doubletree - Buckhead 8-10 November 2018

https://www.drupalcampatlanta.com/

It’s one of the southeast’s largest annual Drupal events. Featured speakers on this DrupalCamp are Preston So - Acquia, Jesus Manuel Olivas - WeKnow, Jacob Rockowitz - The Big Blue House, and Suzanne Dergacheva - Evolving Web. 

Drupal Camp Oslo 2018

Norway, Oslo 9-10 November 2018

https://oslo2018.drupalcamp.no/

There are tree lecturers announced already: Sally Young, a Senior Technical Architect from Lullabot, Baddý Sonja Breidert a CEO and a Co-Founder of 1xINTERNET, and Stella Power, a Managing Director and a founder of Annertech.

New England Drupal Camp 2018

United States, Manchester, NH Rhode Island College 16-17 November 2018

https://nedcamp.org/

It’s the 5th annual New England Drupal Camp. This Drupal Camp sessions and training will focus on DevOps, anchored with a keynote presentation from Jeff Geerling, the maintainer of DrupalVM and author of Ansible for DevOps. 

DrupalCamp Ghent

Belgium, Gent Campus Schoonmeersen 23-24 November 2018

https://drupalcamp.be/

There will be two keynotes from Danielle Jacobs, a General Manager of Beltug, and Preston So, the director of Research and Innovation at Acquia. There will a lot of sessions about modules, use-cases and business with Drupal. Social activities connected with Ghent's hidden gems are planned.

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About Drupal Sun

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

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  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
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