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Jan 05 2021
Jan 05

In every software development project, we have to make estimates - how long will the project take? How much will it cost?

The truth is, though, that this is not something we’re taught in college, nor in our coding bootcamps, YouTube tutorials or Stack Overflow threads. And once we have to do it, we quickly realize the key thing about it: making accurate estimates is extremely hard.

Let me illustrate the point with a non-development example. Let’s say you’re buying food and drinks for a skiing trip with friends. This is the information you have about the trip:

  • There will be 6 - 10 people.
  • The trip will last 3 - 5 days.
  • People have different food preferences - you need to be innovative and think outside the box.
  • Buy some drinks, but not too many. And don’t forget about tea.
  • Make sure to get the best possible quality for the lowest price.
  • Before you go to the store, tell me the final bill and how much time you’ll be spending in the store.

Seems quite complicated, right? Well, software development projects, depending on their size, often have significantly more moving parts and changes down the road than a skiing trip.

In this blog post, I’ll go through the main reasons why making estimates is so difficult in software development and provide you with essential tips to help you make as accurate estimates as possible.

Why is making estimates so hard?

Front-end and back-end developers have different reasons for having trouble with making accurate estimates.

Front-end developers

  • They only receive wireframes for the design.
  • The designs look easy, but there are no descriptions of animations.
  • They get no specifications for different devices and screen sizes.
  • The client doesn't actually know what they want until they see it.
  • The client assumes that something is easy to achieve if they’ve seen it on another site.

Back-end developers

  • The task description isn’t detailed enough.
  • You’re new to the project, so you’re either missing the big picture or not understanding the overall business logic.
  • The project uses 3rd-party services you aren’t familiar with.
  • The project uses a technology you aren’t that comfortable with.
  • The project’s requirements change as it progresses (holds true for front-end developers as well).

Additionally, and this also holds true for both front- and back-end developers, we often have idealistic views of our own capabilities, which can pose problems when making estimates and in particular following our estimates.

Finally, another underlying reason for making inaccurate estimates has nothing to do with the project, your level of experience or the technologies used. It’s actually an essential human trait: a strong desire to please other people by telling them what they want to hear. 

When making estimates, this desire often translates into providing very optimistic estimates in terms of both time and budget, which more often than not don’t stand up to the test of scope changes, back and forths with the clients, and any other unexpected disruptions. 

Key tips for making estimates

So, with all this in mind, let me reiterate: making estimates is hard! Your best bet is to lean on past experience, but you of course won’t have this option when you’re new to software development and making estimates. 

Here are some essential tips for getting through these initial hurdles and having the right mindset for making better estimates, together with examples of tasks to illustrate this.

1. Break down the work

It’s much easier to estimate smaller activities than larger ones. By breaking down the work into smaller tasks, you’ll get a clearer picture of all the requirements. Consequently, your estimate will probably be higher (read: more accurate), plus you’ll likely figure out that you have additional questions.

Requirement: Build the front page

What you shouldn’t do: “Looks pretty straightforward, a day should be more than enough.” 8 hours.

What you should do: “Let’s break this into smaller pieces:

  1. Create a “CTA” section with a slider and links. 4 hours.
  2. Create a “Latest news” section with a list of news and a link to each piece of content. 2 hours.
  3. Add a “Solutions” section which has an animation for each solution icon on hover, which will need an SVG animation. 8 hours.
  4. Add a “Contact us” form at the bottom of the page. 4 hours.

Total: 18 hours.

As we can see, the estimate is totally different if we break down the task into smaller tasks and thus get a better understanding of all the requirements. 

2. Ask questions, don’t assume

Task descriptions that you’ll get will often be missing vital information. You might understand something differently than the client, and even if you are on the same page, certain things can be done in multiple ways. 

Assuming without asking questions would be almost like playing a version of the telephone game, where the final result is unlikely to reflect the client’s initial need.

Requirement: Each page needs to have a breadcrumb

What you shouldn’t do: “Oh, nice, this is an out-of-the-box feature of the CMS.” 2 hours.

What you should do: ask questions to get as much extra information as possible. Do we follow the menu? Is there a pattern for the breadcrumbs? If so, are there any special pages that won’t follow this pattern? If yes, which ones are they?

By asking questions and getting deeper into the problem, you’ll very likely produce a much higher estimate than by just assuming - but the work will be that much more likely to meet the client’s needs.

3. Propose adjusting the requirement

Maybe there’s an existing solution to the problem at hand, or it could even be a core feature of the technology you’re using. You can spend (or even waste) a lot of time working on a feature that you don’t feel is vital to the project.

By proposing to the client to adjust the requirement, it may open up the possibility for a better solution that even ends up being faster to build. If your solution ends up saving time and money, the client will definitely appreciate it.

Requirement: Every image upload has a mobile image upload (fall back to original if there’s no image uploaded for mobile)

What you shouldn’t do: “I’ll create two separate image upload fields, then write some logic for falling back to the desktop image if no mobile image is present. Should I just print both and hide one with CSS?” (This last one completely defeats the purpose, by the way.)

What you should do: ask the client if the reason for this is just the size of the image, or are they planning on uploading different visuals. Tell them about the responsive images feature your CMS might have, which makes use of the tag and allows you to upload once and select different styles for each breakpoint. It may turn out that this was exactly what the client wanted.

You may have noticed that point number two, asking questions, plays a major role here as well - you cannot propose changing a requirement if you don’t have a deep enough understanding of it. 

Changing a requirement doesn’t mean that the client won’t get the feature they want. On the contrary, it may lead to a solution that’s even better aligned with what they need.

4. Take your degree of confidence into account

Referring back to the reason for making inaccurate estimates that’s common to both front-end and back-end developers, you should take care not to overestimate your abilities or experience. 

Before making any estimates, ask yourself these questions:

  • How familiar am I with the situation?
  • Have I done something similar before or is it something totally new to me?
  • Do I have all the necessary information to complete the task?
  • Am I new to the project or have I worked on it before?

Requirement: We want our users to be able to log in with their Twitter account

What you shouldn’t do: “I just made a Google account login a month ago, it’s probably more or less the same.” 8 hours.

What you should do: “Ok, I’ve made a Google login, but I’ve never worked with a Twitter API. My degree of confidence is low, so I’ll take 8h as a base, then multiply that by at least 2. 16+ hours.

5. Us a sequence

Development teams usually agree on a particular sequence for their estimates, e.g. the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21) or a Fibonacci-like sequence (0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100).

In agile software development, estimates are typically done with story points rather than actual hours. The two story point sequences most frequently used are 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20.

It’s key for all developers working on the same sprint or project to stick with the selected sequence for all their tasks. For example, when you’re using the Fibonacci sequence and know that a task will take longer than 5 hours to complete, choose the next number in the sequence (in this case 8) rather than the next natural number (6).

6. Set a maximum number of hours per task

You (and your team) should set the highest limit for a single task. As we just saw, no task should take longer than 16 hours, or 20 in a Fibonacci-like sequence, for example. If it’s bigger, break it down into smaller parts, as we covered under point 1.

7. Don’t forget about the things we tend to forget about

Finally, we need to mention all the things besides the actual development that you’ll need to factor into your estimates - but which a lot of developers tend to forget about when making them:

  • Communication, meetings
  • Initial setup
  • Revisions
  • Testing
  • Bug-fixing
  • Deployment

These are all key and inevitable parts of any software development project you’ll be working on, so make sure to have this in mind during initial planning and estimating.

How we approach it at Agiledrop

Most of what I’ve discussed in this article is based on the way we’re used to doing things at Agiledrop. We’ve been following these guidelines ourselves and have really improved the accuracy of our estimations over time by doing so.

One thing we do that I believe has really contributed to this is the fact that several different developers often go through the estimates for the same task, which gives us an even better understanding of the task and its potential pain points, as well as helps us be even more accurate in the future.

Conclusion

Whiteboard with multicolored post-it notes

So, to recap, these are the key things to do when making estimates in software development:

  1. Break down the work into smaller tasks
  2. Don’t assume without asking questions
  3. Propose adjusting the requirement
  4. Factor in your degree of confidence
  5. Agree on a sequence for estimating
  6. Set a maximum time limit for each task
  7. Don’t forget about the extra things

I hope these tips will help you in all your development estimates. All of this may take a bit of time getting used to for those who are just getting started with client projects, but the more projects you do, the more intuitive it will all become, and soon you will start feeling much more confident in making accurate estimates.

Dec 29 2020
Dec 29

Looking back at everything that has happened in 2020, it’s impossible not to repeat the thought that we’ve all probably encountered countless times throughout the year: what a strange year it has been!

Even for those more fortunate ones who weren’t severely affected by the pandemic, it has been a tough year. And for everyone working in the digital industry, it has been a very interesting time, with important implications for the future of the industry as a whole.

Different sources cite different timeframes, but no matter the exact proportion, it’s no doubt that 2020 has massively accelerated digital transformation on a global scale. We saw a huge rise in e-commerce and video conferencing solutions, with every business, no matter its size or market, having to transition into the digital.

But now the question is: where do we go from here? Will this acceleration of digitalization continue? What can we expect in 2021 and beyond?

In this article, we’ll go through 5 digital experience trends that we expect to be prominent in 2021 and that will set the stage for the so-called “new normal”.

1. Omnichannel experiences

As the digital becomes an even more ubiquitous part of our daily lives, it’s no longer just something you encounter and interact with on your desktop computer. 

Now, customers move through different devices and different channels on these devices. This may mean using a tablet to buy something through your website. Or it might mean making a purchase through a voice assistant at home after having researched options in a mobile app on a slow public WiFi.

On top of that, the fact that every business now has a digital presence means more competition for your business. With all this in mind, it’s clear how important it is to be able to reach customers on every channel on which they may try to interact with your brand and to provide a great customer experience on each channel.

It’s unlikely consumers will shift back to basic, single-channel online experiences in 2021, even with the prospect of the vaccines promising an end to the lockdowns. So, if you haven’t yet optimized your digital experiences for this omni/multichannel reality, it may be time to do so in 2021.

2. Greater focus on privacy

Not that long before the Covid pandemic hit, we saw important changes in how privacy is regulated online, with acts such as GDPR in Europe and CCPA in California. Then in January 2020, right before the pandemic, Google announced their phasing out of the support for third-party cookies in Chrome by 2022.

On the cusp of 2021, this no longer seems that far off, and marketers will have to start preparing for a complete transformation of online privacy and thus personalization-based marketing and targeted advertising.

What’s more, the digitalization of 2020 has brought a huge increase in online customers and consequently a huge influx in customer data. As services such as digital shopping become the new reality, privacy and security will become even more essential factors of the customer experience.

So, those businesses that are able to adapt to these changes in a way that emphasizes privacy while balancing it with tactfully personalized experiences will be the winners in 2021 and going forward.

3. More headless/decoupled architectures

As digital channels proliferate, it becomes increasingly complex to manage their various front ends or presentation layers. 

While certain so-called “monolithic” frameworks, such as Drupal, are still perfectly capable of handling this, it’s becoming more and more popular to use a separate back-end system together with custom framework(s) for the front-end. This has become referred to as “decoupled” (or “headless”) architecture.

Let’s use the already mentioned Drupal CMS as an example. In a decoupled architecture, Drupal serves only as your data and content repository, which is then paired with one or more front-end technologies such as React or Vue to handle the presentation of that content.

Both React and Vue integrate really well with Drupal, and as two of the top JavaScript-based technologies, they’re optimized for mobile and IoT, which enables much more customizable digital experiences.

An even more recent trend are microservices or microfrontends. This is essentially a decoupled architecture, but with the front end being composed of several, heavily specialized applications, each taking care of a specific task (e.g. a checkout component), which can be built using the same framework or several different ones.

While this isn’t the right approach for every single business or use case, we expect to see decoupled architectures moving more into the spotlight in 2021 as innovation on the front end continues and businesses want to keep up with it.


4. Surge in adoption of latest technologies

Up until 2020, technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence had only begun to get more widespread recognition and adoption. Granted, something like machine learning has been used “behind the scenes” to power some of the most essential digital experiences - but few of those not in the digital knew about it.

The disruption caused by Covid, however, has put an emphasis on thinking fast and taking risks, as opposed to playing it safe by sticking with tried-and-true strategies. We believe this will have a lasting impact on the readiness of businesses to adopt and experiment with new technologies to see how they could best leverage them.

A great example is the use of AR and VR technology in shopping. While previously a luxury reserved for the bigger brands, it is now facilitated by rapid advancements in these technologies and necessitated by the worldwide lockdowns which have eliminated the in-store experience.

With the surge of remote shopping, providing customers with features such as trying on clothes virtually truly goes a long way.

We believe retail brands will capitalize on this new channel while delighting customers who have become used to the boons of online shopping. We also expect to see technologies such as AI used more and more to respond to real-world problems and consequently begin to lose the stigma associated with them.

5. Bite-sized and accessible content

Another trend we expect to continue and become even more pronounced is the popularity of short, bite-sized content that’s user-friendly, accessible and easy to consume.

We’ve already been seeing a shift from long-form, written content to shorter and more visual-based content pre-2020. Infographics, video content and podcasts have become incredibly popular in the last few years. We’ve also seen a rise in ephemeral content, e.g. “stories” which have spread from Instagram to other social media.

With people being confined to their homes for most of this year, there has been a surge in the creation of video content to make up for the lack of physical in-person interactions, ranging from musicians trying to reach fans via streamed concerts to a huge number of people adopting TikTok and helping its snowballing popularity.

We believe this inclination towards short and easily consumable content is a reflection of the mass digitalization and the abundance of available digital content which has to compete for users’ and customers’ attention. 

Today, people are either much more selective about the content they consume, or they skim through content and focus on the most captivating parts. In both cases, it’s essential for the content to be designed with a human-centered approach and optimized for SEO in order to stand out and provide a good experience.

So, SEO will continue to play a key role in the content strategy for 2021. And even search engine algorithms are in fact increasingly favoring the user experience in their ranking, so we’re likely to be seeing more and more content that attempts to serve its audiences in the best way possible - in the way that they want it to.

Conclusion

Hands holding crystal ball showing futuristic city

It’s not easy to make accurate predictions in such times of uncertainty. After all, who would have predicted the current state of the digital industry one year ago? 

Still, we believe these 5 trends are a safe bet for companies to have top of mind going into 2021. Of course, e-commerce and video conferencing are also not going anywhere, but we didn’t focus on them in this article as they are more specific to 2020 and Covid.

All in all, the key thing businesses can do in 2021 is stay agile and flexible, relying on their future-readiness to respond to potential further disruption. If you’re looking for a development partner to help you with that, give us a shout out, we’d be happy to help.

Happy new year, everyone! We hope you’re able to spend these days in the company of loved ones, and we’re wishing you lots of joy and success in the new year.

Dec 15 2020
Dec 15

In early 2020, just before the Covid pandemic struck, Gartner made a groundbreaking move: they abandoned their magic quadrant for web content management, essentially replacing it with the DXP (Digital Experience Platform) quadrant.

In hindsight, this came right at the perfect moment, serving almost as a kind of prophecy of the omnipresence of digital experiences 2020 was to bring about.

With more and more businesses expanding into every digital channel, enterprise digital experiences are also transforming and becoming more clearly defined.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the main characteristics of enterprise digital experiences to see how they differ from traditional digital experiences, and provide some examples of robust platforms and frameworks for powering high-level enterprise digital experiences.

Must-haves of enterprise digital experiences

As opposed to, say, a relatively simple WordPress blog, enterprise digital experiences require more consideration and a much more streamlined, cohesive approach. In this section, we’ll go through the essential characteristics of enterprise digital experiences.

Security 

Of course security is important for any kind of online experience. The larger the business, though, the more devastating an impact a potential security breach can have, even ignoring the multi-layered implications such as audience backlash.

Both internal and customer-facing digital experiences, e.g. respectively staff security protocols and e-commerce check-out processes, need to be optimized for maximum security in order to minimize risks at all touchpoints.

Accessibility

While a personal blogging website may get away with a few accessibility issues, if you’re an enterprise providing essential digital services on a large scale, to a large and varied audience, you must prioritize accessibility - it would be illegal not to. Check out more reasons why accessibility benefits a business.

This is especially important for any company providing a physical service - in this case, every user should get an equal right to accessing your service and receive an equally satisfactory experience. 

Experience - both user/customer and marketer/developer

Another important factor of enterprise digital experiences is, well, the experience itself. The last point on accessibility is related to this, in that the user or customer experiences should always be put first, a kind of human-centered approach.

What’s also crucial here, however, is the experience of those who are creating and managing these user-focused experiences. In other words, all the teams responsible for delivering your digital experiences should be enabled to do so in the best possible way. 

Each department will need the optimal tools and processes for executing their role most effectively. Marketing automation, design systems, DevOps, an excellent content editor experience - these are all essential factors in providing enterprise digital experiences at scale.

Multichannel / omnichannel

Not that long ago, it might have been enough for a business to have a website where they could be reached online - optimized for mobile, if possible. In the post-Covid era, however, it’s become apparent that a website, in most cases, may not be enough anymore. 

With the explosion of digital channels, the abundance of options all vying for users’ attention, businesses must go to great lengths to reach them at all possible touchpoints of their digital journey and stay relevant amid the fierce competition. 

A strong social media presence and mobile optimization are now essential elements for a brand, but options are even more plentiful. Targeted advertising in particular enables companies to stay in touch with their customers as they move throughout the web; and this leads neatly into the next point:

Data-driven

Despite the recent and upcoming privacy regulations, data remains king, likely even more so post- than pre-Covid. For a digitally-first business wanting to deliver exceptional digital experiences, leveraging data in marketing and decision-making is an absolute must.

After all, the best customer experiences, those truly heartfelt personalized ones, depend heavily on data, and with the insane amount of data we have access to, it would be even more insane not to make use of it.

That said, just having data is not enough - you need to know how to make the best use of it, which starts with collecting and analyzing it in the right ways. Moreover, there’s a thin line between great personalization and creepiness, so make sure to keep that in mind as well. 

Integration with multiple systems / APIs

One of the main things enabling effective data usage is integration, the bread and butter of enterprise digital experiences. With platforms often using different services that are tied together, and even those very services depending on different third-party technologies, integrations are literally that which makes everything function properly.

The API connection between your front- and back-end, integrations with e-commerce and CRM - can you even imagine your business continuing operating if all of these things haven’t been taken care of? 

Integrations are becoming the life force of the latest wave of digital experiences, enabling omni- and multichannel experiences through easy data flow and sharing, and resulting in enhanced digital journeys which meet users’ needs and desires. 

Evergreen must-haves

You may have noticed that we haven’t yet mentioned some of the absolutely key elements of digital experiences - don’t worry, we’ll be covering those in this next section, we just wanted to first highlight the ones that are more specific to enterprise digital experiences. 

In contrast with the above list, most of these should be top-of-mind even for more personal digital experiences, e.g. blogging, or small local businesses, as they’ve become a mainstay of experiences on the web and a baseline for users’ expectations. 

Performance 

This is probably the number one thing for any kind of digital experience. We’re sure you’ve heard or read countless times how many seconds it takes for which percent of visitors to abandon your site, so we won’t reiterate on that. 

Just keep the need for speed top of mind, no matter if you sell a global SaaS product or provide local knitting services. 

Content 

Again, this is something that’s common to all sizes of businesses and websites. When it comes down to it, it’s actually all the web is about: content. 

Sure, the nature of content is different with a small personal blog than with a large international business, but in both cases, it’s one of the key elements of a good online experience.

SEO

Speaking of content - what good is good content if no one knows about it? People search for everything on Google, and if your high-quality article is lurking on page 4, that’s essentially the same as it not even existing. 

How deep into SEO you’ll go largely depends on what position in the market you want to achieve, but even if you’re just content with 10 people reading your food blog each month, performing some baseline optimization for search engines definitely won’t hurt.

E-commerce

Being able to purchase things online has become an absolute must for digital experiences - especially post-Covid. No matter what kind of product or service you offer, you’ll want to ensure that your customers can access it digitally.

E-commerce is the one area that really requires a top-notch customer experience in every aspect. And since we’re dealing with financial transactions here, even smaller local businesses will want to ensure a maximum level of security for their checkout processes, for example.

Platforms and frameworks

Warehouse / factory in shade of blue

Next up, we’ll take a look at some digital experience frameworks that are particularly suited towards enterprise digital experiences.

Drupal

Drupal is the leading CMS for enterprise digital experiences, especially with the latest version 9 released in June 2020. It can serve as a robust back-end that integrates with a custom front-end, or a fully-fledged digital experience platform which is optimized for security and accessibility. 

For large businesses, Drupal is definitely the number one choice in terms of a content management, or rather, digital experience management system. It is capable of powering future-proof multisite platforms and introduces streamlined editorial workflows that can be tailored to even the most complex business processes.

It’s no surprise, then, that so many companies and organizations requiring the highest level of digital experience opt for Drupal. This includes a majority of government and educational institutions, but also corporations such as Pfizer, who are both users of as well as heavy contributors to Drupal.

JavaScript

In recent years, JavaScript has transitioned from being seen as a less professional front-end development language to essentially being the language powering digital experiences, with the Node.js runtime enabling back-end JS development and the numerous frameworks allowing for any kind of front-end presentation.

These JavaScript-based frameworks have also made great strides lately, and the competition between them in combination with their open-source nature allows for a high level of innovation.

While Facebook’s React is currently the most popular JavaScript-based technology, Google’s Angular framework is actually the best suited for enterprise use cases. It’s ideal for large-scale business applications, where there is a high priority on security and best practices, as well as often a need for cross-team collaboration.

Laravel 

As far as back-end web frameworks go, you can hardly do better than Laravel. Based on the most widely used back-end language for the web, PHP, it’s by far the most popular framework in that ecosystem, and with good reason. 

Not only does Laravel provide an enhanced developer experience, it’s also optimized for security and very customizable. Similarly to Drupal, it is often seen as part of a decoupled application with React or Vue for the front-end. 

Its biggest benefit for enterprises, however, is the increased speed and consequently reduced cost of development thanks to its streamlining of some of the most frequent tasks in web development, e.g. user authentication and caching.

Spryker

When it comes to enterprise e-commerce, the Spryker Cloud Commerce OS ticks all the boxes, with the latest generation being particularly optimized for enterprise customer experiences.

Not only are digital experiences created with Spryker highly secure, scalable and performant, the framework also enables excellent integration with third-party systems and thus allows your brand to be present and reach your customers on any channel they frequent.

On top of everything, Spryker offers a high level of customization and personalization to cater to the needs of the next-generation digital shopper, thanks to its flexible content management system and API support.

Conclusion

Hand holding up hologram of Planet Earth in front of multiple colorful screens

We hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of enterprise digital experiences, their main requirements and some of the top technologies for crafting them. 

If you’re looking to enhance your enterprise’s digital presence and are looking for a development partner to help you create advanced digital experiences, reach out to us and we’ll help you select the right technology for your business case as well as take care of the implementation.

Dec 07 2020
Dec 07

Check out our recap of our favorite Drupal-related posts from November and stay up to date with what’s going on in the Drupalverse.

Who sponsors Drupal development? (2019-2020 edition)

We’re starting with the latest edition of Dries Buytaert’s “who sponsors Drupal development” blog post. Some of his most important findings are the overall increase in contribution, with an increase in sponsored contributions and a decrease in individual ones, which is very likely a consequence of the Covid pandemic.

The article provides a comprehensive breakdown of Drupal development and contribution throughout last year, complete with a look into the diversity of community contributions, both in terms of company and demographic diversity.

Dries finishes by addressing some of the main limitations of Drupal’s contribution credit system, but also reassures us of how important the recently formed Contribution Recognition Committee will be in overcoming them.

Read more about who sponsors Drupal development 2019-2020

Open Source Sustainability Depends on Recognizing Both Individual and Corporate Contributions

We continue with a kind of follow-up to Dries’s post, this one written by Gábor Hojtsy of Acquia. His post addresses some of the main findings from Dries’s report by going through the observations from a recent Acquia study on the sustainability of open source.

One of the most interesting of these is that community recognition serves as the main motivation for contribution, even greater than monetary gain. Another important observation, also made by Dries himself, are the shortcomings of the contribution credit system.

Probably the most important finding, however, as the title of Gábor’s article already points out, is that the sustainability of open-source projects depends both on individual and sponsored contributions.

Read more about open source sustainability findings

Your essential update on Drupal’s roadmap

The third post we’re including on this month’s list is Cyber-Duck’s overview of important milestones on the Drupal project’s roadmap for 2021 and beyond.

In the first section, they cover the end-of-life dates for Drupal 7 and 8 as well as the reasons for them, then continue with the release schedule for minor versions of Drupal 9 and Drupal 10 in the second section.

They follow that up with some of the features of the latest versions of Drupal that would make migrating from 7 a very wise choice, then finish with a short overview of the top priorities for the next stages of Drupal’s development.

Read more about Drupal’s roadmap

What is a headless CMS and when should you consider using one?

This next post about headless CMS is not specifically about Drupal, but we decided to include it nonetheless due to Drupal’s high-level headless capabilities and the fact that it’s just a great post.

The author of the post, Nomensa’s Kurtis Rogers, begins with a short explanation of what a headless CMS is and then a breakdown of its benefits, the top one being significant performance improvements thanks to fewer requests being made to the server.

In the last part of Kurtis’s post, he takes a look at which use cases benefit the most from using a headless approach, then closes with the flexibility it provides to your content.

Read more about headless CMS

SEO Wins: Embedded Drupal and Angular

Moving on, we have another interesting post, written by Dylan Rieder of Digital Echidna. Dylan discusses an interesting client challenge of their middleware suffering from both poor SEO and a poor user experience.

They managed to solve all of the resulting issues by transitioning from WordPress to Drupal in combination with an Angular front end with search functionality embedded right in the content. This enabled the content to both be searchable on the website itself and crawled by Google algorithms.

Dylan also includes a link to a video recording of their DrupalCon presentation of the implementation, for anyone who prefers watching and getting more in-depth information.

Read more about improving SEO with Drupal and Angular

Drupal 8 to Drupal 9: The Easiest Major Upgrade in a Decade

Another Drupal article we enjoyed reading last month was Acro Media’s Josh Miller’s writeup on the upgrade from Drupal 8 to 9. You first need to know what version of Drupal your site is running on in order to determine how difficult the update will be and when you should tackle it. 

In the second part of his post, Josh presents some reasons for moving to Drupal 9, with the number one being the very straightforward upgrade path. He finishes with three tips for a smooth upgrade: making sure your current version of Drupal is up to date, using Upgrade Status to check if you’re ready, and using Drupal Rector for custom code.

Read more about the Drupal 8 to 9 upgrade

How to Secure Your Website: An Intro to Drupal Security

Next up, this article by Mediacurrent’s Tara Arnold provides a great introduction to security in Drupal. In Drupal’s care, the community is responsible for a large portion of security support. Not only does a high number of active contributors ensure less errors, Drupal even has a dedicated security team that’s focused on resolving security issues.

What’s more, since Drupal is the top choice for important organizations and global enterprises, security must always be kept a top priority. Tara finishes her article with some security best practices for Drupal developers: selecting the right modules, using Drupal APIs and keeping up with Drupal’s weekly security advisories.

Read more about security in Drupal

Don’t Let a Bare-Bones Backend Design Leave Your Site Editors Stranded

Last but not least, we’re including an article by Jim Vomero of Four Kitchens in which he discusses the importance of a good back-end design and hence a good editorial experience for a CMS such as Drupal. 

One of the first points Jim makes is that UX best practices should also be followed when designing the back end of the website, just as much as the front end. In Drupal, you’re able to leverage its flexibility to customize the back-end experience for different user roles.

Still, the most important factor in designing a good experience for site builders and content editors is just working alongside them, acknowledging their feedback and making optimizations according to their needs and pain points.

Read more about good back-end design in Drupal

Mountaineer climbing mountain at sunrise

We hope you enjoyed revisiting the top Drupal articles from November. We’re wishing everyone a pleasant holiday season and we’ll see you all next year!

Dec 02 2020
Dec 02

Outsourcing certain aspects of your business, such as design or development, through staff augmentation or another method is becoming more and more popular. And with good reason - there are many benefits of outsourcing which make it a viable and cost-effective choice for businesses.

Just like with any type of work arrangement, however, there are going to be certain challenges or concerns that come with outsourcing. In this article, we’ll take a more detailed look at one of them: keeping control of your project, specifically when you’re outsourcing software development.

What it means and why is it important

You can be the owner of the product that needs to be built, or a consulting business that provides implementation services to clients. In either case, you’ll of course want to make sure that the development aligns with the goals and mission of your company. At the same time, you’ll also definitely want to keep control of the resulting intellectual property.

By keeping control of the project’s management throughout its development, you’ll guarantee that all its requirements and goals are met. Trust is a key element here, especially with larger teams or when outsourcing larger parts or entire projects. 

Trust enables you to relinquish some of the control because you know your outsourced developers are aligned on your needs and objectives. You’ll be able to keep control without having to micromanage, which will be a win-win for both you and the development partner as you’ll be left to do what you do best.

As for keeping control of your IP - this is just a no-brainer. With fewer people augmenting your in-house team, you won’t need to worry about this. When outsourcing an entire project, however, look for a partner that provides white-label development so you can rest assured that you will remain in charge of the resulting IP. 

Different outsourcing strategies mean different degrees of control

How much control of your project you keep is directly tied to the type of outsourcing strategy you go with - this means that it’s wise to choose the type of outsourcing based on what degree of control you want to keep.

Infographic of differently structured outsourced teams

Managed services

If you don’t have in-house development and you’re happy leaving the project’s development up to the partner, then managed services is probably your best bet. With managed services, the partner will take care of the entire development, both the management and the execution, and you won’t need to get involved during the process.

These types of projects are very often fixed in scope, also called turnkey projects. Make sure that the partner offers white-label services, so that you’re guaranteed to remain the owner of the intellectual property once it’s delivered.

Dedicated teams

This type of outsourcing strategy is a kind of middle-ground - you aren’t just augmenting your team with one or a few people, but rather outsource a whole section of the development, or even the entire development. In contrast with managed services, though, with dedicated teams it is your project management that is in charge rather than that of the partner agency.

This way, you retain control of the overall progress of the project while leaving the technical nitty-gritty to the experts whom you’ve hired for this specific expertise. 

It is ideal both for companies with no in-house development as well as those that do have in-house developers, but lack certain skill-sets, aren’t familiar with a new technology that’s required or would like to form a new team rather than augmenting an existing one.

Staff augmentation / team augmentation

The option where you keep the highest level of control is staff or team augmentation. In this case you only need a few people to boost your in-house development capacity, either to fill a skill gap or because a project needs a large amount of a specific expertise. 

If you only need a single developer, hiring a freelancer is a viable option. As soon as you need two people or more, however, it makes more sense to contact an agency specializing in staff augmentation, so you don’t spend extra resources on several hiring and vetting processes. 

The partner agency will guarantee the quality of their staff and will be able to provide adequate replacements if something unexpected happens with the original hires. 

By augmenting your team this way, you’ll keep control of both the organizational and the technical aspects of the project, and will consequently automatically be the sole owner of the resulting product or service.

What to look for with outsourced development

Here are some of the qualities you should look for in an outsourced development partner that will help you to be satisfied with the level of control you have over your project, no matter what kind of outsourcing strategy you ultimately decide on.

  • Technical expertise: this is another no-brainer. By selecting a partner with verifiable expertise in whatever you’re looking for, you’ll be able to leave even more complex tasks and processes to them without worrying about a low-quality outcome. 
  • Good communication: transparent communication is the number one thing for ensuring trust right from the get-go. If your development partner proves to be a good communicator, you can feel safer leaving certain aspects of your project in their hands.
  • Company culture: if the agency you work with has a company culture that’s similar to yours, it’s easier to determine if they share the same values and will see things the way you do and thus execute them the way you want them to. Again, similar values will result in better alignment and no need for you to manage everything. 
  • Compliance with standards and best practices: by working with an agency or freelancer that has demonstrated their commitment to following standards, you’ll feel safer about their respect of your intellectual property and any potential NDAs involved. Furthermore, it will be another indicator of the final result’s quality.

Looking for a development agency?

We hope this article will help you in selecting the best outsourcing strategy for your needs as well as the right partner to entrust your development with. If you’re currently looking for a development agency to partner with and Agiledrop seems like the perfect choice, reach out to us or learn more about how we can ensure the success of your project:

Nov 12 2020
Nov 12

Like every month, we’ve compiled some of the top Drupal blog posts written the previous month. Take a look at our list for October.

Drupal Association Board Election 2020 – winner announced

The first post we’re covering this month is Pedro Cambra’s announcement of winning the 2020 election for the Community At-Large director position on the Drupal Association board.

Pedro starts off by thanking all participants who voted and inviting those who didn’t to share with him their reasons for not doing so. He then lists his goals for the two-year term which began on November 1st.

These include getting more information on the recent changes in the community and informing the community about them, revisiting the initiatives aimed at engaging with the community, providing a voice for the community, and helping non-native English speakers better engage with the DA.

Read more about the 2020 DA board election

Migrating Paragraphs to Layout Builder in Drupal

Next up, this post by Phase2’s Daniel Sasser shows how you can migrate Drupal Paragraphs to the block-based Layout Builder. He begins with the setup (a Drupal 7 to 8 migration in this case), then covers the different types of Layout Builder’s Section storage as well as the construction of the Section storage. 

In the second half of the post, Daniel gets to the meat of the matter - the actual migration. The first and key step is migrating paragraphs to blocks, starting with building the block structure for the destination site. Once that’s done, you can proceed with migrating the nodes.

Read more about Paragraphs to Layout Builder migration

Web Development Strategy in a Drupal 9 World

June’s release of Drupal 9 represented a truly major change for the platform, paving a new future for Drupal. In this next post, Lullabot’s Matt Robison discusses how development strategies will evolve in this new future for companies relying on Drupal.

The first point Matt covers is establishing a new cadence for your development work. The most important things here are planning out releases, new initiatives and features, addressing technical debt and allocating resources. 

Next is a section on revisiting architecture and content, then finally one about leveraging outside help within this new model. With the latter, it can be either for maintenance and support, to fill in-house skill gaps or increase your development velocity. 

Read more about development strategy with Drupal 9

Drupal 8/9 Migration Performance Tips and Tricks

The fourth post we’re including this month again has to do with migration. In it, Tandem’s John Ouellet provides some handy tips and tricks for optimizing the performance of your Drupal migrations. 

John’s first trick is to use the Migrate Booster module, which nets a decent performance gain by allowing you to disable modules that rely on hooks. The other two more important considerations are database tweaks and batching the migration.

John finishes his post with some other more general tips, such as keeping your site up to date with the latest minor versions of Drupal and running your migration in Drush rather than the UI. 

Read more about migration performance tips

An Absolute Beginner’s Guide: Using a Drupal Core Method in Your Own Code

Moving on, we have Mike Madison’s beginner guide to using a Drupal core method in your code. In the post, he works on the example of the Random::word() method.

He starts by giving a brief description of object-oriented programming and its benefits, then how it fits into the context of the example of patching the Honeypot module to randomly assign a title to a field. 

In order to follow the OOP approach and avoid code duplication, Mike uses the core Word method, but with first instantiating the Random class before using the method. He also recommends using an IDE for this, as they are very useful for catching errors.

Read more about using Drupal core methods

Local Behat Testing with Lando and Pantheon

We continue with a blog post by Zakiya Khabir of Chapter Three on doing local Behat tests with Lando and Pantheon. While very useful, as Zakiya points out the default Behat tests provided by Pantheon may not work properly on a custom site which has made changes to the default Drupal installation.

Zakiya’s post shows how you can remedy that and have your Behat tests run locally by making minor file changes to your Lando-based project: adding a drush alias file, adding Behat-specific config and Behat tooling, and finally running the tests with lando behat. She concludes with some other general tips, such as not foregoing other types of tests because of Behat.

Read more about Behat testing with Lando and Pantheon

Adding a WYSIWYG to text fields in Drupal 8 and 9

In the next post from October, Advomatic’s Heather Wozniak describes how you can add WYSIWYG to a text field in Drupal 8 and 9, which is a very common need for site builders.

Heather proposes two ways to go about it. The first solution is writing an update hook to create a new field, migrating data to it, then deleting the old field as well as reconfiguring. As she states, though, this solution takes much longer and is much more error-prone.

The more efficient way is to add a form alter, then enable the fields to render as formatted text, which can be done with just a few lines of code.

Read more about adding WYSIWYG to Drupal 8 and 9

Debunking 4 CMS Migration Myths

We round off this month’s list with another migration-related article, this one by Mobomo. It's not Drupal-specific, but discusses and debunks 4 common myths of migrating to a new CMS. 

The first one is the fear of losing all data when migrating, which is justified but can be easily resolved by taking the proper steps. The second myth is having to invest in a redesign while performing a migration, which should be approached more thoroughly and holistically.

Third is another well-known fear - that of losing SEO ranking. While you’re likely to have a SEO dip right after migrating, a better optimized site will actually benefit SEO in the longer term. The last myth pointed out by Mobomo is that migration is simply a “lift-and-shift”, which is in reality very rarely the case. 

Read more about CMS migration myths

Statues from Easter Island

We hope you enjoyed this month’s recap and found some useful information for something you’re working on. Stay tuned for more for a new recap next month!

Oct 28 2020
Oct 28

Check out our recap of the top Drupal articles from September and get up to speed with some of the project’s latest developments.

Designing for Chaos: Finding Order for Olivero

We’d like to begin this month’s recap with a blog post by Lullabot’s Jared Ponchot and Jen Witkowski in which they describe the process of creating the new default front-end theme for Drupal 9 dubbed Olivero.

The Lullabots initiating the project, who were also its first stakeholders, set three prerequisites that the new theme would need to fulfill: a fresh new design; support for latest and upcoming Drupal features; and accessibility compliance.

Other key considerations included defining the stakeholders and the audience, and developing Olivero’s visual identity. The authors of the post highlight some of the main challenges with the latter before finishing with a look into next steps for the theme.

Read more about Olivero

Testing Composer 2 RC1 with Drupal 9: huge memory and time savings; and what does it mean for Drupal

The next post is Gábor Hojtsy’s takeaways from testing the release candidate of Composer 2 with Drupal 9. He tests the performance differences between Composer 1 and 2 when installing Drupal 9 and adding/removing a module, with Composer 2 displaying significant improvements in all the use cases, with memory usage dropping to as low as 1% with the latter example. 

In the second part of the post, Gábor breaks down how Composer 2 will impact Drupal. The number of Drupal projects utilizing third-party dependencies is growing, and thus also the usage of Composer. He also points out that one of Drupal’s key initiatives, Automatic Updates, is planning on including Composer 2 compatibility. 

Read more about testing Composer 2

Drupal 10 Is Coming, and Much Sooner Than Expected—But That’s Not a Bad Thing

Moving on with our list, we have Mike Lutz of Four Kitchens giving an overview of Drupal 10 slated for 2022 and why we’re getting a new major version so soon, with Drupal 9 having the shortest release lifetime out of all major Drupal versions. 

Mike starts off with Drupal 7, the recent updates to its end-of-life date, and what this means for site owners. The Drupal 10-specific section then focuses mostly on Drupal 10 readiness, where the key thing is keeping up to date with third-party dependencies, the most important one being the PHP framework Symfony, which receives a major update every 2 years.

Read more about Drupal 10

Running both Drush 8 (for Drupal 7) and Drush 10 (for Drupal 9) at the same time

Fourth on this month’s list, this post by Angie Byron (also known as webchick) shows how you can use two different Drush versions simultaneously to compare the features and performance of a Drupal 7 and Drupal 9 site (the latest Drush 10 only works with Drupal 8.4+, so an older version is needed to gauge the D7 website).

Angie describes how to install Drush 8 globally and how to install Drush 10 as a dependency with Composer. She also includes a “troubleshooting” section in which she addresses some potential issues (e.g. the counter-intuitive fact that installing Drush Launcher causes Drush 8 to no longer work). 

Read more about using both Drush 8 and 10

Books/ Drupal 9 Module Development

Another post from September we’d like to mention is David Rodríguez’s review of Daniel Sipos’ book “Drupal 9 Module Development”. 

David gives some background on Danny and his book, stating right away that, while being essentially the “Holy Bible” of Drupal development, it contains a lot of advanced examples which likely require some prior experience with Drupal, so it may not be suitable for beginners.

Apart from that, David provides some more information on the book, e.g. which APIs are covered in it, and he even includes a short FAQ-like section with some essential bits of information before giving his final rating. 

Read more about Drupal 9 book review

5 Reasons to Use Drupal vs. WordPress

We like unbiased comparisons of Drupal and WordPress, and this one by Mediacurrent’s Rob McBryde fits that description. While the aim of the article is still to highlight the reasons to use Drupal over WordPress, it does honestly talk about the areas where WordPress outperforms Drupal. 

So, the five factors Rob takes into account and discusses are: functionality, flexibility, ease of use, security and cost. He highlights the intuitive editing experience of WordPress, but also that Drupal has been catching up recently. Ultimately, WordPress is an excellent choice for smaller businesses with a lower investment in development, while Drupal is great for more complex enterprise-level projects. 

Read more about Drupal vs. WordPress

Assessing your Drupal 9 Readiness, Part II: Who is afraid of contrib modules updates?

In the next article, Gabriele Maira of Manifesto dives into the topic of updating contributed modules in order to prepare your site for a migration to Drupal 9. 

He recommends spreading out the process between three phases: upgrading the modules within your Composer constraints first, then upgrading the remaining ones which have a Drupal 9 compatible release, and finally fixing everything that’s left after these two steps. 

Gabriele also provides helpful time estimates for each specific phase, further breaking the phases down into tasks. Phase 3 is particularly interesting and requires the most work, as here you’ll likely have to make your own adjustments to modules that are not quite there yet or even write your own custom solutions. 

Read more about Drupal 9 readiness

Thoughts and Reflections on Drupal Association Governance

We finish September’s recap with an article by Palantir’s Tiffany Farriss in which she shares her experience with and reflections on the governance of the Drupal Association and the recent changes that have been spurred on a lot of discussion in the community.  

Tiffany gives background on the DA as an organization, and how it transitioned from the Belgian Drupal VZW to the better-known DrupalCon. As she states, the concept and meaning of “community” were not revisited while undergoing this transition, which is likely among the main causes behind the Drupal community’s reaction to the recent changes. 

She finishes her article with some proposals for next steps to take to improve the governance from the Association’s side and its relationship with the community. 

Read more about DA governance

Bookshelf with differently colored books

We hope you were able to find some interesting reads, especially if you’re still or are about to be again stuck at home. Stay safe and tune in next month for a recap of October’s posts!

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 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 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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