Jul 19 2019
Jul 19

If your website is the hub for your audience to interact with your brand, then presumably you are doing all sorts of marketing tactics to get them there.

Once they are there, how are you tracking them? How do you know your efforts are effective?

There are a few key metrics you should be tracking to help you to optimize your marketing efforts, understand how the site is doing, continuously improve your website, and to allow you to report to others in your company about where the focus of marketing needs to lie.

First off, you need to determine what your goals are per marketing activity. How are you performing on these goals now? What are doing to affect those goals? How will you measure it? Identify not only your main conversions, like a form completion or a purchase, but soft conversions like a newsletter sign-up or a PDF download.

Next, either review your metrics based on these items or put in these metrics to track moving forward. 

Here are some commonly reviewed and important items to track. Most of these will be familiar to you, but #6 can be a game changer!

1. Time on Site

This metric allows you to see an aggregate of how long your audience spends on your site. If your site is centered around exploration and information, you will want this number to increase over time.

2. Bounce Rate

Your bounce rate is the percentage of users who visit your site, but only visit one page and then leave. Google Analytics defines it as the user only visiting the site for 0 seconds, then they exit. This means they see one page of your site, but the analytics does not have enough time to trigger a duration of their session. 

Several reports lean towards an “Acceptable” bounce rate can range between 26 to 70%. But this is a large range across multiple industries. Look deeper to learn what is considered “acceptable” in your industry, because a high bounce rate absolutely depends on your industry and the goals of your site. For example, if you are a restaurant and the visitor simply visits to grab your phone number, then you have reached your goal!

This should be looked at in combination with the other analytics in this article, since looking at the bounce rate alone will not tell you an accurate story. Researching a good bounce rate for your website type and industry is fantastic, but also look to see where you are today and then focus on reducing it (if appropriate).

3. Number of Pages visited

Again, if your site is more informational and built to provide a “next step” for exploration with your users, than you will want this metric to increase. If the number is closer to 1, but you focus all your traffic to a single page, than you should look deeper into that single page’s analytics, before you are concerned with this number.

4. New vs Returning Visitors

In Google Analytics, there is an overlap in these numbers. “New Visitor” is a unique visitor visiting your site for the first time, on a specific device. If you visit a site once on your phone, then again on your desktop, you will be counted as 2 new visitors.

Once the visitor visits your site again, on a device they already used, they will be counted as a, “Returning Visitor” for the next two years (then the clock starts over again).

This could be a great metric to use when you are running a campaign in different areas or industries, for example. If you pay close attention, you can see which campaigns garnered more new traffic.

5. Traffic Sources

Analytics programs will report to you where your traffic is coming from, which illuminates the more and less popular sources. It will also provide you referral sites, which helps you to see your ROI if you partner with others to send traffic to your site.

Seeing how each traffic source performs for you will continue you on the path of honing what works well for you (and what does not).

6. Search

The most crucial advice we provide our clients is to track your in-site search.

This is done as an admin in your “view settings” for Google Analytics. The reason this is so very powerful is it provides you exactly what your visitors want from your site.

A behavioral studies from the Nielsen Group and other research findings show that more than 50% of people visiting a start page on a website go straight to the internal search box in order to navigate. Those figures prove that search box becomes essential navigation tool on every website.

From this data, you can organize, adjust or create your content plan. You can revamp your navigation or the order at which content is laid out on your site. You can write relevant FAQs or shift your focus from one audience group to another. The reason this can be so compelling for your business is because you are directly answering the needs of your audience. 

These will get you started!

Many more metrics exist which can help you to analyze your effectiveness in your marketing tools and traffic sources, but these six are the best ones with which to start. Once you have defined what is important for you, continue to review your analytics over the course of time so you can continually optimize your site’s effectiveness.

Your website is a living and breathing entity that needs nurture and care to continue its growth and work harder for your business. If you need help with a strategy to define your metrics, contact us. We’d be glad to help. 

Jul 19 2019
Jul 19

At Kanopi Studios, we believe that Drupal is an especially strong choice, further validated by the fact that governments across more than 150 countries have turned to Drupal to power their digital experiences. This includes major sites in the United States like The White House and NASA.

What makes Drupal the best choice? Read on for our top 8 reasons why Drupal should be the content management system of choice for government websites.

1. Mobility 

Website traffic from mobile devices surpassed desktop traffic years ago. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, one in five adults in America are smartphone-only internet users, and that number is likely to continue to grow. Government websites need to prioritize a superior mobile experience so they can meet the needs of citizens of all ages and economic levels and allow users to access critical information on the go.

Drupal can help. Drupal 8 was built to scale across devices, load mobile content at top speeds, provide a wide selection of responsive themes, and more. Drupal also allows content editors the ability to add or update site content via mobile, unlocking the ability to make emergency updates from anywhere.

2. Security 

Offering a secure site that protects your content and sensitive user information is critical for maintaining your reputation and public trust. Drupal offers robust security capabilities, from regular patches to prominent notifications about updates to security modules you can install for additional peace of mind. Unlike other open source platforms, Drupal has a dedicated security council that keeps an eye out for potential issues and develops best practices to keep sites stable and secure.

3. Accessibility

A number of federal, state and local laws require government websites to serve the needs of all citizens, regardless of their abilities. Focusing on accessibility compliance from the very beginning of your website project can help your team avoid costly re-work and launch delays.

Drupal has accessibility baked in, with all features and functions built to conform to the World Wide Web Consortium (WCAG) and ADA guidelines, including the platform’s authoring experience. That means that people of all abilities can interact with your Drupal website, whether they are adding and editing content, reading news, filling out forms, or completing other tasks. Drupal allows screen readers to interpret text correctly, suggests accessible color contrast and intensity, builds accessible images and forms, supports skip navigation in core themes, and much more. 

If you’re a content editor, we recently wrote about eight things you can do to make your site more accessible

4. Simple content management

Drupal’s content editor helps busy government website administrators add posts, pages, and resources in an environment that’s nearly as simple and familiar as a Word document. The what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editing mode supports text formatting, links, embedded media, and more.

Drupal also enables administrators to set up customized roles, permissions, and content workflows. This allows any number of team members to contribute to the site while maintaining administrative control of the content that gets through to the public.

5. Ability to handle significant traffic and data

Many government websites store hefty data and resources and see significant spikes in traffic based on seasonal demand, news cycles, and many other factors. Drupal has the power to deal with large databases and intense site traffic with ease.

Drupal’s database capability includes a wide range of ways to sort and organize content via its module system, supporting the needs of almost any content library without the need to create custom code.

Drupal powers a number of heavily visited sites including NBC’s Olympics, The Grammy Awards, and Weather.com, keeping them going strong even when traffic levels are enormous.

6. Flexibility 

The helpful features included in Drupal core are just the beginning. Many, many additional modules have been contributed and tested by the Drupal community and are ready to be added to your site as needed. How many? The Drupal community has contributed well over 40,000 modules, so it’s a safe bet that there’s something already out there that can help meet the needs of your project.

Modules can be added to your site at any time, like building blocks. A few popular examples include social sharing, image editing, calendars, metatags, and modules that support integrations with external systems, from email platforms to customer databases. 

7. Affordability

Government budgets are often tight, with plenty of competing priorities for every dollar spent. With Drupal, you tap into a free, open-source system that’s supported by an enormous community of developers. Building your website on an open-source platform means you can focus your budget on creating an ideal experience for your citizens through professional services including content strategy, user experience, and design rather than dedicating funds to software licensing fees. And Drupal’s flexible modules reduce or even eliminate the need for custom code, helping you save even more.

8. Support for multiple sites in multiple languages

It’s not uncommon for government entities to have multiple websites. Whether your government maintains a few sites or hundreds, building each one individually would require an incredible amount of time and funds. Thankfully, Drupal’s multisite feature allows your site’s code base to be copied and adjusted to create as many new websites as you need, leveraging features that already exist without the need to build them from scratch. To meet language requirements, Drupal offers Content and Entity Translation modules that help content authors translate pages, individual elements, or specific fields into more than 100 languages.

Kanopi Studios loves government website projects

At Kanopi, we’re Drupal experts. We’ve harnessed its power to create citizen-focused sites for the San Francisco Police Department, San Francisco Health Service System and more. We’d love to hear from you, learn about the problems you are trying to solve, and share even more details about how you can put Drupal to work for your government website

Jul 10 2019
Jul 10

Kanopi Studios is honored to have contributed to Mukrutu, a project that offers a powerful example of the importance of putting inclusivity, cultural sensitivity, and user needs at the center of design and development so that technology can be used as a force for good. 

What is Mukurtu?

Mukurtu  (MOOK-oo-too) is a free content management system built with Drupal that helps indigenous communities manage, share, and exchange their heritage in culturally relevant and ethically-minded ways.

“Mukurtu” is a Warumungu word for safe keeping place, a name chosen in 2007 when Warumungu community members collaborated with developers and scholars on the first iteration of the platform to produce the Mukurtu Wumpurrarni-kari Archive.

Surviving cultures risk being drowned out or forgotten by modern society due to dwindling numbers, resources, and legal claim to land and heritage. By sharing their voices, indigenous cultures can preserve their history and way of life, educate others, and seek much-needed support. But by doing so, they run the risk of losing control and ownership of the narrative. The Mukurtu project helps to solve that problem. Mukurtu was created to allow indigenous cultures to share their heritage on their own terms, eliminating the potential for exploitation or misrepresentation. 

The power of Mukurtu comes from its complex and layered permission system that goes far beyond the capabilities of traditional content management systems. The system is purpose-built to allow indigenous people to maintain control over how information is shared, who they share it with, and how it can be used.

Mukurtu and Kanopi Studios

As the program expanded, Kanopi Studios joined the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at Washington State University and CoDA as a development partner. Kanopi led a research-guided approach that included focus groups and surveys with users to inform the project’s technical strategy and development.

Since Mukurtu’s original release, Kanopi has played a lead role in development, adding features based on user requests and ensuring that the system remains easy to use, secure, and scalable. New features include an improved  mobile experience and robust collaboration capabilities with a mobile app coming soon that will allow users to browse and add content from the field, even while offline. 

Kanopi Studios also works directly with clients who want to use Mukurtu, but need to enhance the system to meet unique needs. Custom development examples include a site to help relocate indigenous people in Kivalina, Alaska, another to share the voices of Amiskwaciy people in Edmonton, Canada, and one of our earliest projects with Washington State University.

How Mukurtu can support indigenous communities 

Mukurtu was built to be flexible enough to support diverse communities while remaining easy enough that non-technical users can add and update content and permissions.

Core features include:

  • Traditional knowledge labels allow communities to add labels to content that describe how that content can be accessed, used and circulated, and to whom it needs to be attributed.
  • Cultural protocols allow for finely-grained content access settings that can be customized on an ongoing basis to meet the needs and values of each community, from wide open, to restricted at the individual level. 
  • Community records allow multiple ways to store information about cultural heritage so critical details and diverse perspectives can be maintained. 
  • Data integrity uses file hashes to ensure that files are not tampered with, ensuring that content remains intact over time.
  • Dictionary helps indigenous communities preserve their language, complete with translations, definitions, pronunciations, audio recordings, and other media
  • Collaboration tools allow site members to share events on group calendars and engage in threaded discussions.
  • Unit plans and lessons give educators and students a platform to engage in online and field learning through a Mukurtu site.

Indigenous communities across the globe use Mukurtu to record, preserve, and share their heritage, including the Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, Passamaquoddy People, Catawba Indian Nation Archives, and many more. 

Impacting our future

While indigenous people benefit from sharing their stories, modern society has much to learn from their cultures as well, from our relationship to the land in a time when climate change threatens us all, to staying connected during this time of individualism and political divide. We’re proud to continue expanding Mukurtu as a platform for telling these important stories and hope they will help us build a stronger future for everyone.

Getting started with Mukurtu

If you have technical support and hosting available, you can download Mukurtu on Github and begin using it for free. For clients who need technical support additional customization of Mukurtu, contact us. We’d love to help.   

Jun 13 2019
Jun 13

You’ve decided it’s time to rebuild your website. Research has been done, conversion rates have been analyzed, the team has selected a rebuild over a focused fix, and you and your team are committed to making this happen. One of the easiest ways of ensuring your success is to remain mindful of a few key things as you work your way through this larger process.

Regarding that term, “mindful:” one of the Kanopi team’s favorite authors is Brené Brown. She writes, “Mindfulness requires that we not “over-identify” with thoughts and feelings so that we are not caught up and swept away by negativity.” For the purposes of your website rebuild, I’d adapt this to be, “Mindfulness requires that we not “over-focus” on what we’ve done before, and rather remain aware of what’s important for our success so that we can focus on where we want to be.”

So, let’s get to it and break down what the top five things we need to be mindful of when executing a rebuild project.

1. YOU are the difference! Be engaged.

Stakeholder engagement can make or break a rebuild. But rebuilds are time-consuming, and you and your stakeholders will likely be pulled in several directions as you try to execute a rebuild while balancing other priorities and projects.

Your availability, open communication, and timely feedback is critical to enable your team to create the web presence your organization needs to reach its goals. Be realistic in what time your team can devote to the project so you can be as fully engaged as possible. Define roles and responsibilities early as well so it’s clear who is handling what.

If you need an assist from an outside agency to keep the project moving quicker, be direct with them about your business needs and wants. Help them to understand your users and audiences. An agency will make every effort to dive deeply into understanding your market, but at the end of the day, you and your team are the experts on what you do. So view any outside agency as a partner who can work with you towards success, and stay engaged with them throughout the process.

2. Define success & track it

We cannot know if we’re successful until we have identified what success will look like. For some sites, it’s simply exposure. For others, it’s a need to meet specific goals. Take the time to define what your organization needs to achieve, and which key metrics will allow us to quantify success.

Not sure where to start? Here are common metrics should you benchmark now as you prepare for the rebuild:

  • Users: note how many users are regularly coming to your site
  • Bounce Rate: record the overall bounce rate. Make note if this is at, above or below your industry’s standard.
  • Average Session Duration: how long are users staying on your page?
  • Sessions by Channel: where are your users coming from? How much organic traffic is coming in?
  • Top Keywords: identify what words are being used in the search engines when users are finding you. Are these surprising?
  • Competitor Keywords: are users who are looking at your competitors using the same keywords?
  • Top Referrers: who is sending traffic to your site? Maybe social media is key, or you’re more focused on industry referrals. Determine where you should be in the market.
  • Conversion Rates: what forms do you need users to fill out? What conversions are critical to your business goals? These can take the form of contact or forms from your CRM tools such as Marketo or Pardot, or even visits to a specific page or video views.   
  • Accessibility: does your site meet national or international compliance standards?

In short, benchmark where you are now, and use this data to help round out that definition of success. Then come back a few months after launch to reevaluate and compare so you can quantify the success to your stakeholders.

3. Get your content strategy in order

The old saying “Content is King” is truer today than ever. Users are more educated. Search engines have become smarter, looking for more than keywords — they look for meaning in phrases to help determine the focus of a given page.

As one of the most effective methods of growing audience engagement, developing your brand presence, and driving sales, content marketing is a mission-critical growth method for most businesses. — Hubspot

This is where most people turn to me and tell me they’ll get their team on it so they can move further along in the content process. But don’t underestimate the time and energy content development/aggregation can take, even if your larger project is hiring a copywriter to augment your team. All too often, when content becomes a late-stage endeavor a few things happen:

  • timelines get pushed out, waiting for content to be approved.
  • changes to the previous UX are often required to account for unrealized navigation or calls to action, causing potential budget overages.
  • content is rushed and not in alignment with the overall vision.

To help this process come together for your team, here are a few action items to start with:

  • Audit your content: take a full inventory of your site’s content to better identify:
    • what to keep
    • what to repurpose
      • for example: the video may look dated, but could your team could write a blog post from that material?
    • what should not be migrated to your new site
      • this can be archived to be referenced at a later date
  • Build a sitemap: determine the hierarchy of the content on the new site.
  • Identify missing content: comparing your audit to your sitemap, what needs to be produced?
  • Track content creation: track who is responsible for writing, editing and approving content — and give them deadlines
  • Start thinking ahead: you may need to start planning future content. Developing an editorial calendar will help keep the process moving. Content typically included in an editorial calendar:
    • blog posts
    • social media posts
    • videos
    • infographics

When preparing for a rebuild, your content strategy has to be one of the first things your team takes on. This approach will save you time, headaches, and likely budget moving forward. 

4. Consider your users’ digital experience

By this stage in the process you should know your target market, their buying habits and why your product or service is of value to them. You likely have personas and other data to help back this up. But in the omnichannel world in which we thrive, there is often more to architecting an effective user journey. Understanding the nuances of the devices, the influence of how a user comes to your site, and the overall adherence to best practices are complex. For example, consider the following:

  • What percentage of users are coming from mobile devices?
    • Are you CTAs and main conversion points easy to access on a small screen?
    • Is the user journey simplified?
  • Are you users coming from social media?
    • Is it your blog driving traffic or more word of mouth?
    • Is it positive or negative attention?
  • Have you produced a user journey map to identify the different pathways to conversion?
    • Is your site currently set up to promote these journeys?
    • Are you utilizing personalization to customize that user journey?

You can learn more about how to use user research to gain insight into audience behavior to help you frame your thoughts about your personas overall user journey to conversion.

5. Think about the future of your site

Websites need to evolve and adapt as the needs of your users change over time, but as you rebuild, are you setting yourself up for more incremental changes moving forward? Keep in mind that most rebuilds are focused on the MLP or “Minimum Lovable Product.” It’s the simplest iteration of your site that will meet your current needs with the intent to continually improve it over time. Regardless of whether you’re focused on an MLP launch due to either time or budget constraints, we need to keep these future goals in mind as we progress.

And then there’s the technology side of this: whether you’re looking ahead to Drupal 8 or 9 or the next major evolution with WordPress, consider those needs now to help ‘future proof’ your new site. The web changes too quickly to risk your site being stale when it’s still brand new. Talk this through from the start with your team.

These steps will set you up for success.

Your site speaks to who you are as an organization to your target market. Whether you’re a non-profit, higher education or a corporate entity, being mindful now will set your team’s rebuild up for success. And if you need help with your rebuild, contact us. We’d love to partner with you and help you recognize that success.

Jun 13 2019
Jun 13

You’ve decided it’s time to rebuild your website. Research has been done, conversion rates have been analyzed, the team has selected a rebuild over a focused fix, and you and your team are committed to making this happen. One of the easiest ways of ensuring your success is to remain mindful of a few key things as you work your way through this larger process.

Regarding that term, “mindful:” one of the Kanopi team’s favorite authors is Brené Brown. She writes, “Mindfulness requires that we not “over-identify” with thoughts and feelings so that we are not caught up and swept away by negativity.” For the purposes of your website rebuild, I’d adapt this to be, “Mindfulness requires that we not “over-focus” on what we’ve done before, and rather remain aware of what’s important for our success so that we can focus on where we want to be.”

So, let’s get to it and break down what the top five things we need to be mindful of when executing a rebuild project.

1. YOU are the difference! Be engaged.

Stakeholder engagement can make or break a rebuild. But rebuilds are time-consuming, and you and your stakeholders will likely be pulled in several directions as you try to execute a rebuild while balancing other priorities and projects.

Your availability, open communication, and timely feedback is critical to enable your team to create the web presence your organization needs to reach its goals. Be realistic in what time your team can devote to the project so you can be as fully engaged as possible. Define roles and responsibilities early as well so it’s clear who is handling what.

If you need an assist from an outside agency to keep the project moving quicker, be direct with them about your business needs and wants. Help them to understand your users and audiences. An agency will make every effort to dive deeply into understanding your market, but at the end of the day, you and your team are the experts on what you do. So view any outside agency as a partner who can work with you towards success, and stay engaged with them throughout the process.

2. Define success & track it

We cannot know if we’re successful until we have identified what success will look like. For some sites, it’s simply exposure. For others, it’s a need to meet specific goals. Take the time to define what your organization needs to achieve, and which key metrics will allow us to quantify success.

Not sure where to start? Here are common metrics should you benchmark now as you prepare for the rebuild:

  • Users: note how many users are regularly coming to your site
  • Bounce Rate: record the overall bounce rate. Make note if this is at, above or below your industry’s standard.
  • Average Session Duration: how long are users staying on your page?
  • Sessions by Channel: where are your users coming from? How much organic traffic is coming in?
  • Top Keywords: identify what words are being used in the search engines when users are finding you. Are these surprising?
  • Competitor Keywords: are users who are looking at your competitors using the same keywords?
  • Top Referrers: who is sending traffic to your site? Maybe social media is key, or you’re more focused on industry referrals. Determine where you should be in the market.
  • Conversion Rates: what forms do you need users to fill out? What conversions are critical to your business goals? These can take the form of contact or forms from your CRM tools such as Marketo or Pardot, or even visits to a specific page or video views.   
  • Accessibility: does your site meet national or international compliance standards?

In short, benchmark where you are now, and use this data to help round out that definition of success. Then come back a few months after launch to reevaluate and compare so you can quantify the success to your stakeholders.

3. Get your content strategy in order

The old saying “Content is King” is truer today than ever. Users are more educated. Search engines have become smarter, looking for more than keywords — they look for meaning in phrases to help determine the focus of a given page.

As one of the most effective methods of growing audience engagement, developing your brand presence, and driving sales, content marketing is a mission-critical growth method for most businesses. — Hubspot

This is where most people turn to me and tell me they’ll get their team on it so they can move further along in the content process. But don’t underestimate the time and energy content development/aggregation can take, even if your larger project is hiring a copywriter to augment your team. All too often, when content becomes a late-stage endeavor a few things happen:

  • timelines get pushed out, waiting for content to be approved.
  • changes to the previous UX are often required to account for unrealized navigation or calls to action, causing potential budget overages.
  • content is rushed and not in alignment with the overall vision.

To help this process come together for your team, here are a few action items to start with:

  • Audit your content: take a full inventory of your site’s content to better identify:
    • what to keep
    • what to repurpose
      • for example: the video may look dated, but could your team could write a blog post from that material?
    • what should not be migrated to your new site
      • this can be archived to be referenced at a later date
  • Build a sitemap: determine the hierarchy of the content on the new site.
  • Identify missing content: comparing your audit to your sitemap, what needs to be produced?
  • Track content creation: track who is responsible for writing, editing and approving content — and give them deadlines
  • Start thinking ahead: you may need to start planning future content. Developing an editorial calendar will help keep the process moving. Content typically included in an editorial calendar:
    • blog posts
    • social media posts
    • videos
    • infographics

When preparing for a rebuild, your content strategy has to be one of the first things your team takes on. This approach will save you time, headaches, and likely budget moving forward. 

4. Consider your users’ digital experience

By this stage in the process you should know your target market, their buying habits and why your product or service is of value to them. You likely have personas and other data to help back this up. But in the omnichannel world in which we thrive, there is often more to architecting an effective user journey. Understanding the nuances of the devices, the influence of how a user comes to your site, and the overall adherence to best practices are complex. For example, consider the following:

  • What percentage of users are coming from mobile devices?
    • Are you CTAs and main conversion points easy to access on a small screen?
    • Is the user journey simplified?
  • Are you users coming from social media?
    • Is it your blog driving traffic or more word of mouth?
    • Is it positive or negative attention?
  • Have you produced a user journey map to identify the different pathways to conversion?
    • Is your site currently set up to promote these journeys?
    • Are you utilizing personalization to customize that user journey?

You can learn more about how to use user research to gain insight into audience behavior to help you frame your thoughts about your personas overall user journey to conversion.

5. Think about the future of your site

Websites need to evolve and adapt as the needs of your users change over time, but as you rebuild, are you setting yourself up for more incremental changes moving forward? Keep in mind that most rebuilds are focused on the MLP or “Minimum Lovable Product.” It’s the simplest iteration of your site that will meet your current needs with the intent to continually improve it over time. Regardless of whether you’re focused on an MLP launch due to either time or budget constraints, we need to keep these future goals in mind as we progress.

And then there’s the technology side of this: whether you’re looking ahead to Drupal 8 or 9 or the next major evolution with WordPress, consider those needs now to help ‘future proof’ your new site. The web changes too quickly to risk your site being stale when it’s still brand new. Talk this through from the start with your team.

These steps will set you up for success.

Your site speaks to who you are as an organization to your target market. Whether you’re a non-profit, higher education or a corporate entity, being mindful now will set your team’s rebuild up for success. And if you need help with your rebuild, contact us. We’d love to partner with you and help you recognize that success.

Jun 11 2019
Jun 11

Virtual. Remote. Distributed. Pick your label. This style of organization is becoming wildly more in demand and popular among many agencies and organizations. It saves the cost of office space, allows for hiring the best talent possible regardless of location, can be a huge bonus to employees who require flexibility in their schedules, and saves everyone time in commuting assuming they don’t go to a shared work space. You can even wear what you want (being mindful of video chats, of course).

The flipside? While many folks have gone remote, some people find the experience quite isolating and disconnected. Does remote work make people happier? Does it make them more productive? From my experience running a remote-only agency, the answer is not really. Going for days not seeing another human in person can be extremely isolating and demotivating. And while it seems as though you’d have more time at your computer, and therefore would be more productive, often the opposite is true: it can often be harder to have focused time to work on tasks if you are at home with multiple screens. And even worse if you are distracted by anything at home (deliveries at your door, that laundry in the corner, etc).

It can also be physically damaging: the human body is not designed to sit at a desk for long periods of time, and there’s less incentive to get up and move if you don’t have to move more than a few feet to your computer.

I know I’ve experienced all those issues. So I feel everyone’s pain. Literally.

The main reason Kanopi Studios exists is to support humans in every way.

We support our clients by giving them great work so they can be successful online, but additionally Kanopi serves to support its employees so they are successful in both their work and home lives. We want our people to always be happy, fulfilled, and constantly evolving in a positive way. So it’s critical that we create an environment and culture that fosters practices that provide meaning, collaboration, and happiness regardless of location. It’s also critical that employees feel empowered to speak up if they are feeling the negative repercussions of remote work.

As CEO, it’s my job to give my staff the right tools and systems so that they are as happy and healthy as possible, and to create connectivity in Kanopi’s culture. Building and sustaining strong relationships requires a unique approach that makes use of a variety of tools to create the right work culture to combat the isolation.

There’s a session I give on this very topic, and the DrupalCon video is linked below. I cover how to be the best remote employee, as well as how to support your team if you are a leader of a remote team. I give key tactics to keep you (and all other staff) inspired, creative, productive and most importantly, happy! I hope you find it helpful in making your own work environment as connected and collaborative as possible, no matter where you are.

[embedded content]
Apr 22 2019
Apr 22

Another amazing DrupalCon has passed, and Kanopi had a great time collaborating with the community. Kanopians gave three talks, hosted one summit, participated in two others, led first-time contributor workshops, hosted three BOFs, and two of our engineers (Sean and Jim) passed their Acquia certifications. Our boss Anne even made her first commit.

If you missed our talks, fear not. The recordings are below:

Deep Cleaning: Creating Franchise Model Efficiencies with Drupal 8 

Presenters: Anne Stefanyk and Katherine White

COIT offers cleaning services and 24/7 emergency restoration services and their 100+ locations serve more than 12 million homes & businesses across the United States and Canada. But their own website was a huge mess. In this case study we will cover the more technical parts of this Drupal 8 implementation.

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How to Work Remotely and Foster a Happy, Balanced Life

Presenters: Anne Stefanyk

In this session, we talk about how to be the best remote employee, and provide strategies and ideas if you are a leader of a remote team. We talk about key tactics to keep you (and all other staff) inspired, creative, productive and most importantly, happy!

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Mar 29 2019
Mar 29

DrupalCon Seattle is next week! We’re excited to get together with the community for learning and collaborations.

But first, we have to travel to Seattle. We’re so excited about it that we made a Spotify playlist made up of all Seattle bands.

So much great music has come from Seattle, you’re bound to find something you like.

We’re busy at DrupalCon with summits, sessions, community work, and more. Come visit us at booth #306, or check out where we will be below. Either way, come say hello.

Summits

  • Monday April 8, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm: Anne Stefanyk is joining Pantheon at Selling to the Marketing Buyer.
  • Tuesday, April 9, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm:  Anne will be leading an afternoon breakout session at the Nonprofit Summit,
  • Tuesday, April 9, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm: AmyJune Hineline will be leading the Community Summit.

Community

Our community liaison AmyJune will be staffing the at the Core Mentoring booth on Wednesday and Thursday. She’ll also be doing two workshops:

Sessions

Kanopians are speaking at three sessions:

Birds of a Feather (BOFs)

BOFs are a great way to have intimate discussions on topics, and collaborating with peers is one of our favorite things.

  • Wednesday 11:00 am: AmyJune Hineline is hosting one on SimplyTest.me.
  • Wednesday 4:45 pm: Sean Dietrich is hosting one on Docksal.
  • Thursday 2:30 pm:, Jim Birch is hosting the Drupal and SEO BOF.

Collaborations

Each Kanopian will be collaborating all week long while at DrupalCon! Keep a look out for Jim, Jason, Cindy, Kat, AmyJune, and Sean as they join other Drupalers to help push the Drupal project forward.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Mar 29 2019
Mar 29

DrupalCon Seattle is next week! We’re excited to get together with the community for learning and collaborations.

But first, we have to travel to Seattle. We’re so excited about it that we made a Spotify playlist made up of all Seattle bands.

So much great music has come from Seattle, you’re bound to find something you like.

We’re busy at DrupalCon with summits, sessions, community work, and more. Come visit us at booth #306, or check out where we will be below. Either way, come say hello.

Summits

  • Monday April 8, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm: Anne Stefanyk is joining Pantheon at Selling to the Marketing Buyer.
  • Tuesday, April 9, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm:  Anne will be leading an afternoon breakout session at the Nonprofit Summit,
  • Tuesday, April 9, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm: AmyJune Hineline will be leading the Community Summit.

Community

Our community liaison AmyJune will be staffing the at the Core Mentoring booth on Wednesday and Thursday. She’ll also be doing two workshops:

Sessions

Kanopians are speaking at three sessions:

Birds of a Feather (BOFs)

BOFs are a great way to have intimate discussions on topics, and collaborating with peers is one of our favorite things.

  • Wednesday 11:00 am: AmyJune Hineline is hosting one on SimplyTest.me.
  • Wednesday 4:45 pm: Sean Dietrich is hosting one on Docksal.
  • Thursday 2:30 pm:, Jim Birch is hosting the Drupal and SEO BOF.

Collaborations

Each Kanopian will be collaborating all week long while at DrupalCon! Keep a look out for Jim, Jason, Cindy, Kat, AmyJune, and Sean as they join other Drupalers to help push the Drupal project forward.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Presentation Videos


Deep Cleaning: Creating Franchise Model Efficiencies with Drupal 8

Presenters: Anne Stefanyk and Katherine White

COIT offers cleaning services and 24/7 emergency restoration services and their 100+ locations serve more than 12 million homes & businesses across the United States and Canada. But their own website was a huge mess. In this case study we will cover the more technical parts of this Drupal 8 implementation.

[embedded content]


How to Work Remotely and Foster a Happy, Balanced Life

Presenters: Anne Stefanyk

In this session, we will talk about how to be the best remote employee, and will also provide strategies and ideas if you are a leader of a remote team. We will talk about key tactics to keep you (and all other staff) inspired, creative, productive and most importantly, happy!

[embedded content]
Mar 04 2019
Mar 04

It’s been a lot of hard work and the time has finally come to launch your new website. Congratulations! But before you push that launch button, take a minute to think; are you REALLY ready to launch your website?

  • Multiple rounds of quality assurance testing? CHECK!
  • Cross browser and responsive testing? CHECK!

But is there something else you might have missed?

The items above are some of the more obvious steps a team may go through when preparing a site to launch, but there are some lesser known or sometimes forgotten steps that are just as important to take when launching a new website. So what are they?

  • Set up redirects
  • Check links: Absolute vs Relative
  • Accessibility checks
  • Decide what to do with your old site
  • Decide who will maintain your new site

Set up redirects

Over the years you may have amassed a great deal of content on your old website, and  chances are that in the course of creating your new website you’ve changed how that content is organized. This can lead to content revisions during the process of migrating  that content to the new system. Any team that has gone through this process can tell you that it is a massive effort; even if you’re automating the migration of content in someway. During this flurry of activity in moving content from point A to point B, it’s easy to forget one simple matter: How will users find the same or similar content on the new website?

Creating Redirects ensures that users who arrive at the site via an outdated URL, say from a bookmark or external site, are automatically sent to the appropriate content. Setting up redirects is incredibly important to creating a solid User Experience and it’s good for SEO. Just about every URL on your old site should have a redirect if the URL has changed. This may seem like a herculean effort, but it actually pairs well with the process of moving content from the old to new website.

Check links: Absolute v. Relative

First off a brief explanation of Absolute versus Relative URLs. An Absolutely URL encompasses a URL in its entirety. ie: https://www.kanopistudios.com/about-us. A Relative URL is just the portion of the URL that occurs after the “.com” in the example above. ie. /about-us. In the course of preparing a new website by loading copy and uploading images, you most likely are working from a temporary Development URL. When the time comes to launch the new website, the Development URL will change. When the URL is changed, any links that are pointing to the Absolute Development URL will break. This is a common mistake, and one that can have disastrous results once your new website goes live.

As a general rule of thumb try to avoid Absolute URLs when loading content to any environment. This ensure that if the core URL ever changes, your links won’t break. Leading up to launch, try to work with your Developer to identify and rectify any Absolute URLs.   

Accessibility checks

Accessibility was not exactly a top priority of early website development; as technology catches up, supporting users with impairments is becoming an ever increasing need for any modern website. Accessibility starts early on in a project’s planning, and should be discussed early and often. From Designs to Development there are many touch points where a project team can ensure that the site is compliant with standards.

But what if your site is about to go live and you haven’t considered this? Luckily there are tools like Site Improve that allow you to run automated tests to see where your site may need remediation before it can be compliant. Not only is it good for SEO, but making your site is accessible to the widest range of users ensures you reach a wider audience and that they have the best user experience possible.   

Decide what to do with your old site

In the activity leading up to the launch of your new website, it’s easy to overlook this question. Regardless of how confident you are in the new website, it’s important to have a plan in place for what to do with your old website. Here are some important questions to consider when considering the fate of your old website:

Will you need to reference your old site at any point in the future? Perhaps you weren’t able to move all the content to the new site before launch or maybe there is old content that won’t be migrated, but you still need to reference it in the future. Whatever the reason may be if the answer to this question is yes, you’ll want to keep your site up in some capacity.

Can you afford to host two websites at the same time? This one is a little less straightforward; depending on the size, state, and makeup of your old website, you have options. From a budgetary standpoint, paying for a website that no one will really visit is probably not going to look all that great to accounting. The good news is that with no traffic visiting the old website you probably don’t need all that expensive infrastructure; many enterprise level hosting providers have a free tier that is great for storing a legacy site on.    

Regardless of your situation, you can always find options. What’s most important is that you have a plan.

Decide who will maintain your new site

Building a website is a process; one that requires regular upkeep and ongoing maintenance. Understand that your website is a tool, and built right it should be designed to grow and adapt to the changing needs of your business. This is the philosophy we at Kanopi believe in, and try to instil in our projects. So with that in mind, it’s important to consider who will be responsible for ongoing improvements, maintenance, updates, and bug fixes when the times arise.

While not uncommon for teams to try to take this on internally, it’s important to consider if you have the right skill sets, let alone bandwidth for this to be a viable option. Another solution is to work with an agency like Kanopi to provide ongoing support for your site. An agency will have access to a wider range of expertise and ensures maximum flexibility for the future growth of your site.

Check these off your list, and you’re good to launch!

These items may seem like big additions to your plate leading up to launch, but they pale in comparison to the what could occur if you leave them out. Plan for these early on, and it will ensure your launch goes off with one less hitch.

Feb 27 2019
Feb 27

If you’ve spent time looking for a website support partner, you’ll quickly realize that while there are a lot of options out there, they’re not all created equal. Keeping your goals in mind will help you find an agency with an approach that best meets your needs.

If you’re simply looking for software updates and security patches, there are a lot of options out there. But if you’re looking for a strategic partner to support your site, the search for the right fit can be a bit more challenging.

At Kanopi Studios, we cover the basics, but that’s just the beginning. Our support team focuses on continuous improvement and growth-driven design, ensuring long-term growth for your website. We can jump in at any stage of your site’s lifecycle to make sure you’re meeting your goals and getting the most out of your investment. And when it’s finally time for an upgrade, we can help with that too!

Here are a few details that set Kanopi’s support services apart:

Customer service is our #1 priority.

Our team goes the extra mile to provide stellar customer service. We’re here to make your life easier, regardless of the size of your account.  

Added value and strategic guidance

As part of your monthly support budget, you’ll gain access to experienced designers, user experience strategists, developers and more. When it’s time to go beyond bug fixes, you’ll have experts in your corner to help your site respond to changes in the market or shifts in your business priorities.

You’ll work with real humans!

Our full-time support team manages every detail of your account. We analyze incoming requests, make sure we have the details needed to get the job done right, and respond within an hour, all without a single bot in sight.  

A dedicated, senior-level team

Our support team focuses on support. We know that it takes a different set of skills, energy, and dedication to handle rapidly changing priorities and keep the issue queue clear. Our experienced team has identified and resolved nearly every issue imaginable. We encourage you to check out their bios so you can see their qualifications for yourself!

A partner you can trust

Kanopi Studios supports more than 135 active websites. Due to the great relationships we’ve built, we’re still working with some of the very first clients that signed on for our services. In fact, most of our work comes through referrals from happy customers. We welcome you to check out our five-star reviews and get in touch to learn more about ensuring long-term growth for your website.

Feb 22 2019
Feb 22

Whether you’ve just recently built a new site, or you are in charge of maintaining an existing one, it’s critical to leverage the most you can out that site on an ongoing basis. As the internet grows and audience needs change, your site needs to be maintained and adapted over time. Sites can also be expensive to upgrade if not properly cared for (think of not performing regular maintenance on your car for several years until finally it breaks in an expensive way).

And yet, most organizations don’t have the money to redo a site more than once every three or four years. Sometimes they often don’t have the money to hire someone in-house to maintain the site beyond content updates. Who takes care of your security updates, or changes to modules or plugins so that your site doesn’t break?

That’s where quality website support and maintenance comes in. A good support agency can make your site last a long time past its creation date and keep it fresh until it’s time for the next rebuild and redesign.

Here’s are the top five things to look for when hiring for outside website support:

  1. Make sure they have a dedicated support team or department. Don’t go with an agency that simply pulls people off of regular design or development build projects to do support tickets on the side. Your site won’t get the same attention or care, since they consider support more of a side gig rather than an important part of their business model. Make sure the agency has a dedicated team that is committed to and organized around supporting sites.
  2. Look for transparency in billing. Make sure you understand the billing options. Most companies will offer different levels of packages, each with a set number of hours. If you have a site with a lot of traffic and ecommerce for selling items to customers, you’re going to want immediate service if something goes wrong vs. a site that’s more informational and can wait a few hours before a fix is implemented. Understand the levels of service you’re getting and the differences in costs for the timeliness of the response. Also ask what happens with any unused hours paid for in advance: do they rollover to the next month, or are they “use it or lose it?”
  3. Ask if you can talk to a human if needed. All agencies use (or should use) a ticketing system in order to track support requests. Ticketing systems allow for transparency, accountability, and clarity on what is being addressed and when. While these systems are tremendous for tracking the progress of an issue as it gets fixed, using them exclusively can be frustrating if something is hard to explain via text. Ask the agency if you’re allowed to hop on a call with one of their support staff, or the Project Manager, for advice and guidance. Often you can save time and increase clarity to simply have a conversation with a human. Plus it’s nice to establish a relationship with the person in charge of keeping your site running smoothly.
  4. Check that there’s a diverse range of talent within the team. Most developers can do module, plug in and security updates. But can they do any front-end work? What if the theme breaks, or you need a new page design? You might need more than code updates. Go for a more diverse and creative team that has experience with feature development as well as creative enhancements to cover all the range of items you might need.
  5. Determine how important it is if they work in your time zone. Talented designers and developers are all over the globe, but it can be tough to get fast responses from people in time zones very far off from yours. What happens if you need something right away, but it’s the middle of the night for them? If you’re in Hawaii, for example, you may not want to have an east coast agency handle your support. Ask the agency what their hours are, and try to get serviced in as close to your time zone as possible.

Following these tips will help give you confidence that you are asking the right questions and finding the right support services to fit your organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about Kanopi’s support offerings, contact us. We have dedicated support teams for both Drupal and WordPress, with a diverse staff who can cover anything you need. We also do it very well. Our hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm your local time in North America . . . and that counts for Hawaii!

Feb 21 2019
Feb 21

This is Part 3 of a three part series about choices you can make with the news of Drupal 9’s release. Part 1 is an overview. Part 2 is what to do if you choose to stay on Drupal 7. Part 3 is what to do it you choose to upgrade to Drupal 8. 

If you’re following along in our series about the release of Drupal 9, you understand that there are options for upgrading, each with its pros and cons. At Kanopi, we know it’s not a one size fits all decision. We want to provide you with as much information as possible to help you decide what’s right for your site.

To recap, we shared an overview of all the options in part one, and a deep dive for our clients who plan to stick with Drupal 7 in part two. Here in part three, we share a bit of wisdom for those who are considering moving to Drupal 8.

At Kanopi we support more than 100 Drupal 7 sites. Many of them are well optimized and built to last, which can make it difficult to pull the trigger on a rebuild.  

When we talk to our Drupal 7 clients about migrating to Drupal 8, we typically hear one of three things:

  1. We don’t have the budget.
  2. We don’t have the capacity.
  3. The site looks and works perfectly fine.

Below, I’ll dig a bit deeper into each of these objections.

Budget

An average website lasts 3-5 years. However, many stakeholders aren’t aware that they need to budget for a new site that often, so they are caught off guard when the time comes. There are a few ways to bridge this gap:

Build the business case. A business case compares the challenges of sticking with your current site with the new opportunity and ROI that could be gained by making a change.

To get started, we recommend a site audit and creative strategy session to help identify what’s not working and what might be needed to get back on target. You should also take a look at your organic search performance (SEO), accessibility, speed, and overall usability. All of these factors can reveal where your site may be missing the mark and help to justify an upgrade.

When building your case, make sure that you think through the total cost of ownership for your site so that you can reserve enough budget to get the work done right. For example, if you spent $25,000 on your website in 2013, then made incremental updates over the last five years at $10,000 per year, the cost of your site is $75,000. If you want to preserve all features in your rebuild, you should ask for at least $75,000. While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to ask for 25 percent more than the amount it would take to preserve existing features. The redesign process will inevitably generate new ideas and site improvements that will require additional budget to implement. In this example, we would recommend asking for $100,000 and justifying the cost with a breakdown that takes your total cost of ownership into account.

Here’s another example: if you built your Drupal 7 site in house and worked on it for 24 months using a resource who makes $75,000 per year, the site cost your organization $75,000. Knowing this can help you build a rationale that hiring an agency to build your Drupal 8 site at $75-100,000 within six months is a great deal since the work will have similar costs and take far less time to complete.

Demonstrating where and how a new website could show direct ROI can make all the difference when convincing stakeholders to approve the budget for an updated site.

Consider the costs of doing nothing. It’s also helpful to think bigger than the cost of an upgrade and consider the costs of not improving your website. Lost customers, damaged reputation and missed opportunities can be hard to quantify, but should be considered.

For example, if your website’s contact form currently gets completed an average of 10 times a month and 10 percent of those who complete the form convert to a sale, that means each deal is worth $10,000. What if, through a smart redesign and upgrade, you were able to increase form completions to 15 per month and add content and features that support the sales team, resulting in 20 percent sales conversions?

As you can see, there are many ways to frame your case to support budget requests. Use the approach that will work best to help your stakeholders understand the value of your website project and it’s potential to make a meaningful impact on your organization’s bottom line. Once they see the value, the budget will come much more easily.

Capacity

Today’s working world moves at lightning speed. Most of us end up doing far more than what’s included in our job descriptions, and those full plates can make a website rebuild feel impossible to tackle.

If your stakeholders are concerned about your team’s capacity to handle a rebuild, talk to them about approaching the work in smaller phases. Many of our clients tackle rebuilds one phase at a time, often signing on for smaller, more digestible bites that make up a larger endeavor. This can help make the process feel more approachable and easier for stakeholders to wrap their heads around. Try getting started with a bit of user research. Then tackle design. You can continue from there in small steps until the work is complete.  

Alternatively, this is where an agency like Kanopi Studios comes in. Rebuilding your site on Drupal 8 or WordPress is a lot of work, but an experienced agency can take much of that work off your plate by making the process as smooth and straightforward as possible and keeping the project’s momentum at full swing. That keeps your team concentrating on their day to day work while the rebuild happens simultaneously.

The site looks and works fine

The most common objection we hear from our clients is that their stakeholders don’t see a need to change or understand the point of doing things differently through a rebuild.  

Maybe you already have a beautiful website that is driving strong results. If so, that’s wonderful! However, as time goes on, you’ll find you need to mix things up a bit to keep up with the pace of change and stay competitive. Trends shift, customer behavior changes, and Google likes to keep us guessing with their algorithm updates. Change is constant in all things, and even more so online.

Most websites have room for improvement, even if they are doing well. To ensure your site stays current, keeping your CMS up to date should be part of your roadmap. If you’re planning to make any updates this year, consider upgrading to Drupal 8 as part of your solution.

Remember, the safety zone may feel warm and comforting, but it will never give you the insight and growth that exploring the unknown can provide. Who knows what wonderful things could be in your future?

Need help?

We can help you strategize and build your case for an upgrade to Drupal 8, 9, or even WordPress. When in doubt, get in touch! We can work out the best approach together.

Dec 11 2018
Dec 11

It’s not easy to find a development partner you can trust. Particularly if you’ve never been immersed in the world of web development, it may take you some time to learn the language. That can make it even more difficult to know whether your partner is really staying on track with what you want to accomplish.

Luckily, knowing what to look for in a business partner can save you from all of the potential troubles later on. Ratings and reviews sites like Clutch can help you get there. This platform focuses on collecting and verifying detailed client feedback and then using a proprietary research algorithm to rank thousands of firms across their platform. Ultimately, Clutch is a resource for business buyers to find the top-ranked service providers that match their business needs.

Luckily for us, users on Clutch will also find Kanopi Studios at the top of the list to do just that. Kanopi has been working with Clutch for a few months to collect and utilize client feedback to find out what we should focus on in the coming year. Through the process, we’ve coincidentally been named among the firm’s top digital design agencies in San Francisco.

Here are some of the leading client reviews that led us to this recognition:

“They were fantastic overall. We had great success communicating to their team via video conferencing, and they were able to answer every question we had. They also worked quickly and were very efficient with their time, so we got a great value overall.”

“Kanopi Studios’ staff members are their most impressive assets — extremely intelligent, experienced, and personable. Building a website is never easy, but working with people you both respect and like makes a huge difference.”

“Kanopi Studios successfully migrated our Drupal platform while preserving all the content that we’ve built up over the years. They worked hard to achieve a responsive design that works well on both mobile and large desktop displays.”

Not only have these kind words earned us recognition on Clutch, but we’ve also gained the attention of the how-to focused platform, The Manifest (where we are listed among top Drupal developers in San Francisco), and the portfolio-focused site, Visual Objects (where we are gaining ground among top web design agencies site-wide).

Thank you, as always, to our amazing clients for the reviews and the support.

Dec 04 2018
Dec 04

We are thrilled to have had three of our sessions chosen for DrupalCon Seattle in April 2019. You’ll find us at the booth, in the hallway, and out and about in Seattle, but make sure to visit us in our three Builder Track sessions:

Keep Living the Dream! How to work remotely AND foster a happy, balanced life

Virtual. Remote. Distributed. Pick your label. This style of organization is becoming wildly more in demand and popular among many Drupal shops. While many folks have gone remote, some people find the experience quite isolating and disconnected.

In this session we will talk about how to be the best remote employee, as well as provide ideas if you are a leader of a remote team. We will talk about key tactics to keep you (and all other staff) inspired, creative, productive and most importantly, happy!

Presenter: Anne Stefanyk

Date: Thursday, April 11, 2019 Time: 3:15pm-3:45pm 

Deep Cleaning: Creating franchise model efficiencies with Drupal 8

COIT offers cleaning and 24/7 emergency restoration services. Their 100+ locations serve more than 12 million homes & businesses across the United States and Canada.

It had been years since the COIT site had been updated, and it posed a host of technical challenges. Franchise content optimizations resulted in redundant updates for the SEO team. The mobile experience wasn’t optimized for conversions. There was a mountain of custom technical debt. And despite the current content administrative challenges, the localized experience lacked the level of context-awareness that consumers have come to expect. It was time for COIT to clean up its own mess.

In this case study we will cover the more technical parts of this Drupal 8 implementation: how we kept a multinational but distinctly separate brand presence with geolocative features, maintained custom promotions tailored to each franchise location, and kept the existing hard-won SEO and SEM business drivers intact.

Presenters: Anne Stefanyk and Katherine White 

Date: Thursday, April 11, 2019 Time: 9:45am-10:15am
Nov 15 2018
Nov 15

This is Part 2 of a three part series about choices you can make with the news of Drupal 9’s release. Part 1 is an overview. Part 2 is what to do if you choose to stay on Drupal 7. Part 3 is what to do it you choose to upgrade to Drupal 8. 

With the recent news of the release date of Drupal 9, and that Drupal 7 & 8 will be end of life Nov 1, 2021, our Director of Engineering Kat White wrote Part 1 of a blog post series with an overview of how you should next approach your Drupal site . . . is it best to stay on Drupal 7? Or should I upgrade now to Drupal 8?

In that article, Kat outlined the pros and cons of going from D7 to D9, or upgrading now to D8.

In Part 2 of this series, let’s assume you’ve decided to stay on Drupal 7 for now. What next?

The average lifetime of a website is three years. So if you have had your Drupal 7 site for a three years, hurrah! You’ve done well with your return on that investment. And Drupal 7 is robust and supported enough that there’s still a lot of growth and life in your site. So unless there’s a specific module or item that only D8 can offer, you can feel confident that your D7 site will be solid for a few more years.

But this also means you have about two years to maintain that D7 site: in Fall of 2020, you’ll need to start prepping for that Drupal 9 upgrade (or — gasp! — switching to another CMS). This also buys you two years to secure funding, and get all the stakeholders on the same page for the next upgrade.

Need long-term support for your Drupal 7 site? Contact us

So here are some of the incremental bites we recommend you take over the next two years of maintenance:

  • Review your website strategy: assuming you built your site a few years ago around business goals, how is the site working towards those goals? Have your goals shifted? Does your site still achieve your mission? It’s always good to revisit your strategy to ensure any changes you make are on the right path.
  • Always audit your content: Content has a way of getting out of control quickly if there are multiple editors and the lines of governance get blurred. Archive or delete unnecessary content. Also review it for your authority voice and mobile strategy.
  • Review your SEO: In addition to keywords, make sure your content is mobile-focused, that your URL structures are meaningful, and schemas are used to describe the content of a page.
  • Code Quality: How clean are your code standards? Are the styles that drive the look and feel of the site well-structured and easy to extend? Is there good documentation? Completing a code audit would be smart to make sure your code is as quality as possible and fits your goals.  
  • Optimize your user experience: There are many tweaks that can be made to a site to make sure users are finding things. Can you run a usability test on a red button vs a blue one? How about using heatmap software to see where users are clicking and scrolling, and tweaking accordingly? Between surveys, interviews with users, looking at analytics, and testing, you can constantly improve the user experience of your site.  

If you’re a more visual person, I gave a talk at BADCamp just last month about going from D7 to D9 if you prefer video.

And if you need extra help with nurturing and growing your existing D7 site, we can help. Kanopi Studios has a dedicated Support Team that currently maintains over 75 Drupal 7 sites, and will be taking on new Drupal 7 support clients at anytime. Additionally, we will be an official long-term Drupal 7 support provider once the application on Drupal.org is available.

If you want help or want to talk through anything do with your Drupal 7 site, please call Anne directly at 1-888-606-7339 or contact us online.

Nov 12 2018
Nov 12

The Paragraphs module in Drupal 8 allows us to break content creation into components.  This is helpful for applying styles, markup, and structured data, but can put a strain on content creators who are used to WYSIWYG editors that allow them to click buttons to add, edit, and style content.

The Drupal Paragraphs Edit module adds contextual links to paragraphs that give you the ability to  edit, delete and duplicate paragraphs from the front end, giving editors a quick, easy and visual way to manage their content components.

Installing

Install and enable the module as you normally would, it is a zero configuration module.  It works with Drupal core’s Contextual Links and/or Quick Links module. I did have to apply this patch to get the cloning/duplication functionality working though.

Editing

To use, visit a page and hover over your content area.  You will see an icon in the upper right corner of the Paragraphs component area.   

When you click the Edit option, you are taken to an admin screen where you can edit only that component.

Make your changes and click save to be taken back to the page.

In components that are nested, like the Bootstrap Paragraphs columns component, you will see one contextual link above the nested components.  If you click this, you will be taken to the edit screen where you can modify the parent, and the children.  That is the Columns component, and the 3 text components inside.

Duplicating/Cloning

The term that is used most often for making a copy of something in Drupal is to “Clone” it.  This is a little more complicated because it is technically complicated, but once you get the hang of it, it will become second nature.

Hover over a contextual link and click Clone.

On the edit screen, you are presented with a new Clone To section.  In this section you can choose where to send this clone to, whether that be a Page or a Paragraph.  In this example, I want to duplicate this component to the same page.

  • Type: Content
  • Bundle: Page
  • Parent: (The page you are on)
  • Field: (The same field on that page.)

You can also make any edits you want before saving.  For example, you could change the background color. Click save, and your new component will appear at the bottom of the page, with the new background color.

There are a bunch of possibilities with this way to duplicate components.  To clone to another page, change the Parent. To clone to a nested paragraph component, change the Type to Paragraphs and configure the settings you need.

Deleting

Deleting a component is as you’d expect.  Once you click delete, you are taken to a confirmation screen that asks you if you want to delete.

Conclusion

The Paragraphs Edit module is a simple and powerful tool that gets us a bit closer to inline editing and making our content creator’s lives easier and allows them to be more productive.  Give it a try on your next project and spread the word about this great little helper module!

Need help with your Drupal site? Contact us

Nov 08 2018
Nov 08

Now that the excitement of BADCamp has worn off, I have a moment to reflect on my experience as a first-time attendee of this amazing, free event. Knowing full well how deeply involved Kanopi Studios is in both the organization and thought leadership at BADCamp, I crafted my schedule for an opportunity to hear my colleagues while also attending as many sessions on Accessibility and User Experience (UX) as possible.

Kanopi’s sessions included the following:

The rest of my schedule revolved around a series of sessions and trainings tailored toward contributing to the Drupal community, Accessibility and User Experience.

For the sake of this post, I want to cover a topic that everyone who builds websites can learn from. Without further ado, let’s dive a bit deeper into the accessibility portion of the camp.  

Who is affected by web accessibility?

According to the CDC, 53 million adults in the US live with some kind of disability; which adds up to 26% of adults in the US. Issues range from temporary difficulties (like a broken wrist) to permanent aspects of daily life that affect our vision, hearing, mental processing and mobility. Creating an accessible website allows you to communicate with 1 in 4 adults you might otherwise have excluded.

What is web accessibility?

Accessibility is a detailed set of requirements for content writers, web designers and web developers. By ensuring that a website is accessible, we are taking an inclusive attitude towards our products and businesses. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a globally acknowledged set of standards that help us publish content that fits within the established success criteria. These guidelines are organized into the following four categories.

WCAG Categories:

  • Is your website perceivable? This applies to non-text content, time-based media (audio and video), color contrast, text size, etc.
  • Is your website operable? This ensures that content is easy to navigate using a keyboard, that animations and interactions meet real-user requirements, buttons are large enough to click, etc.
  • Is your website understandable? This means that text content is easy to read for someone at a ninth grade reading level, that interactions follow design patterns in a predictable manner, that form errors are easy to recover from, etc.
  • Is your website robust? This means that content should be easy to interpret for assistive technologies, such as screen readers.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community whose mission is to lead the Web to its full potential. They have also published a checklist to aid our efforts in meeting WCAG success criteria.

Need help with making your site accessible? Contact us.

How can we be successful in making the web accessible?

Industries have varied requirements when it comes to web accessibility. WCAG has three levels of compliance, ranging from A to AA to AAA. A conformity has the lowest set of requirements and AAA has the strictest set of requirements; so strict, in fact, it may be impossible to achieve across an entire site.

Efforts to meet these standards fall on every individual involved in the process of creating a website. Although there are many tools that aid in our journey, we reach accessibility through a combination of programmatic and manual means.

The most important thing to keep in mind is the fact that achieving success in the world of accessibility is a journey. Any efforts along the way will get you one step closer towards a more inclusive website and a broader audience base.

Please Remember: Once Kanopi helps you launch an accessible site, it’s your job to maintain it. Any content you add moving forward must be properly tagged; images should have proper alt text and videos should have captions. Users come to your site because they love your content, after all! The more you can make your content accessible, the more you will delight your users.

Interested in making your site more accessible? Check out some of the resources I linked to above to join in learning from my peers at BADCamp. If you need more help getting there, let’s chat!

Nov 01 2018
Nov 01

BADCamp 2018 just wrapped up last Saturday. As usual it was a great volunteer organized event that brought together all sorts of folks from the Drupal Community.

Every year Kanopi provides organizational assistance, and this year was no exception. We had Kanopian volunteers working on; writing code for website, organizing fundraising, general operations planning, assisting as room monitors, and working the registration booth.

An event like this doesn’t happen without a lot of work across a lot of different areas and we’re very proud of Kanopi’s contributions.

Personally, Kanopi was able to send me down from Vancouver, Canada to spend time doing a day long training course, as well as doing the regular conference summits and sessions.

The course I chose was “Component-based Theming with Twig” which was really informative. We covered the basics Pattern Lab and then worked on best practice methods to integrate those Pattern Lab tools in to a Drupal theme.

Some of the takeaways:

  • The Gesso (https://www.drupal.org/project/gesso) theme is a great starting place for getting Pattern Lab in to your project.
  • Make sure you are reusing all your basic html components and make the templates flexible. Resist the urge to simply copy and paste markup into a new template.
  • The best way to map Pattern Lab components in Drupal is to use Paragraph types and their display modes.
  • To get the most out of Twig template, make sure you are using the module Twig Tweak (https://www.drupal.org/project/twig_tweak)

For the regular conference sessions, the most interest seemed to lie in the possibilities of GatsbyJS (https://www.gatsbyjs.org/). All the developers with whom I spoke are focused on the performance and security perspective, as it can be completely decoupled from Drupal, allowing for fewer security issues. One interesting talk on Gatsby was this one by Kyle Mathews.

Kanopi was also fortunate enough get four sessions selected:

All in all BADCamp 2018 was a great experience. It’s terrific to meet our distributed co-workers as well as see friends from other parts of the Drupal community.

Sep 13 2018
Sep 13

This is Part 1 of a three part series about choices you can make with the news of Drupal 9’s release. Part 1 is an overview. Part 2 is what to do if you choose to stay on Drupal 7. Part 3 is what to do it you choose to upgrade to Drupal 8. 

Yesterday at Drupal Europe, Drupal founder and lead developer Dries Buytaert gave a keynote that outlined the future for Drupal, specifically the release of Drupal 9, and how it impacts the lifespan of Drupal 7 and Drupal 8.

For the TL;DR crowd, the immediate future of Drupal is outlined in the snappy graphic above, and shared again below (thanks, Dries!).

The big takeaways are:

  • Drupal 9 will be released in 2020.
  • Drupal 7 end-of-life will be extended out to 2021, even though Drupal usually only supports one version back.
  • Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 will be end-of-life in 2021.

Wait… what? This proposed schedule breaks with tradition – Drupal has always supported one version back. And this schedule gives D8 users a single, short year to upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9.

So what now? Wait until 2021 to move your site off Drupal 7? Do two (possibly costly) upgrades in three years? Bail on Drupal entirely?

First and foremost, Don’t Panic.

Let’s explore each of the options in a little more detail to help inform your decision making process.

Upgrade from Drupal 7 to 9

When Drupal 8 became available, a lot of organizations using Drupal 6 opted to wait and bypass Drupal 7 entirely. The same is certainly an option for going from D7 to D9.

On the plus side, taking this route means that it’s business as usual until 2020, when you need to start planning your next steps in advance of 2021. Your contributed modules should still work and be actively maintained. Your custom code won’t have to be reworked to embrace Drupal 8 dependences like Symfony and the associated programming methodologies (yet).

Between now and then, you can still do a lot to make your site all it can be. We recommend taking a “Focused Fix” approach to your D7 work: rather than a wholesale rebuild, you can optimize your user experience where it has the most business impact. You can scrub your content, taking a hard look at what is relevant and what you no longer need. You can also add smaller, considered new features when and if it makes sense. And savvy developers can help you pick and choose contributed solutions that have a known upgrade path to Drupal 8 already.

But it isn’t all roses. Delaying potential problems in updating from 7 to 8 doesn’t make those problems go away. Drupal 9 will still require the same sort of rework and investment that Drupal 8 does. It is built on the same underlying frameworks as Drupal 8. And Drupal is still going to push out some updates to Drupal 7 up until its end-of-life, most notably requiring a more modern version of PHP. Changes like this will definitely affect both community-driven modules and any custom code you may have as well.

Upgrade from Drupal 7 to 8 to 9

“Ginger Rogers did everything [Fred Astaire] did, backwards and in high heels.”

— Bob Thaves

Colloquially, the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B is a straight line. Major versions of a platform are effectively a line. In this case, you can think of that “straight line” as going from D7 to D8 to D9, instead of trying to go around D8 entirely.

It’s critically important to understand one unique feature of Drupal 9: It is designed from the ground up to be backwards compatible with Drupal 8.

Angie Byron, a.k.a. Webchick, gave an excellent talk about what this really means at BADCamp last year.

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Again for the TL;DRs — “backwards compatibility” means that code is deprecated and ultimately removed  from a code base over time in a way that provides a lot of scaffolding and developer notice. This practice results in major version upgrades that require very little rework for the site to stay functional.

The backwards compatible philosophy means that the hard work you do upgrading to Drupal 8 now will still be relevant in Drupal 9. It won’t be two massive upgrades in three years. As long as your Drupal 8 site is up to date and working properly, D9 should not bring any ugly surprises.

Have more questions about Drupal 7 vs 8 vs 9? Contact us and we’d be happy to help with your project.

Let’s talk community code

When Drupal 8 was released, one of the BIGGEST hurdles the community faced (and continues to face) was getting contributed modules working with the new version. It required ground-up rewrites of… well… pretty much everything. A lot of modules that people were using as “basics” in Drupal 7 were folded into Drupal 8 core. But a number were not, and people volunteering their time were understandably slow to bring their contributed code over to Drupal 8. As a result, many sites were hesitant or unable to upgrade, because so much work would have to be customized to get them to same place the were on Drupal 7.

So will it be the same story going from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9? Will we have to wait years, in some cases, for our business-critical tools to be updated?

According to Dries’ post, the answer is no. Drupal is extending the backwards-compatible philosophy to the contrib space as well.

… we will also make it possible for contributed modules to be compatible with Drupal 8 and Drupal 9 at the same time. As long as contributed modules do not use deprecated APIs, they should work with Drupal 9 while still being compatible with Drupal 8.

— Dries Buytaert

Assuming  this plays out as intended, we shouldn’t see the same dearth of contrib support that we did when Drupal 8 became a reality.

And yes. There are a lot of assumptions here. This is Drupal’s first pass at a backwards-compatible upgrade methodology. There is inherent risk that it won’t work flawlessly. All we can say for sure is that the community is very hard at work getting to a reliable release schedule. A thoughtful upgrade approach should make the “Drupal Burn” associated with major version upgrades a thing of the past.

So which way should I go?

So which approach is best? For starters, think about whether an upgrade benefits you in the immediate term. Read a little about Drupal 8, audit your site with our website checklist, and if you still aren’t sure, you can start with our quiz.

If all of this feels overwhelming, contact us. Kanopi Studios is known for its great support (if you choose to stay on D7), as well as great design and build execution (if you choose to go to D8). Whichever way you choose, we’ve got you covered.

Aug 30 2018
Aug 30

Pelo Fitness spinning class

Pelo Fitness spinning class

One of the best things about Drupal is its security. When tens of thousands of developers work collectively on an open source project, they find all the holes and gaps, and strive to fix them. When one is found, patches go out immediately to keep sites safe and secure. But a site is only secure if those patches are applied when they are released.

Pelo Fitness is a Marin County-based community dedicated to a culture of fitness. They offer cycling, strength, yoga & nutrition programs customized to an individual’s needs and fitness level. Whether someone is a competitive athlete, a busy executive or a soccer mom (or perhaps all three), their programs are designed to build strength and endurance, burn calories and boost energy.

Yet their site was weak since they hadn’t applied a few major Drupal security updates. There was a concern that the site could be hacked and jeopardize client information. Pelo Fitness customers use the site to purchase class credits and reserve bikes for upcoming classes, requiring users to log in and enter personal information.

Want to keep your site secure? Contact us to get started. 

The solution

Kanopi performed all the security updates to get the Pelo Fitness on the latest version of Drupal. All out of date modules were updated, and the site was scanned for suspicious folders and code; anything that looked suspect was fixed. Care was taken not to push code during high traffic times when reservations were being made, so code was pushed live during specific break times that would allow for the least disruption. Lastly the site was also moved over to Pantheon for managed hosting.

Due to the Drupal support provided by Kanopi, the Pelo Fitness website is now protected and secure. Inspired to make all their systems stronger, Pelo Fitness also switched to a different email system as well so all their tech solutions were more up to date.

How to keep your site secure

Websites are living organisms in their way, and need constant care and feeding. It’s imperative to always apply critical security patches when they come out so your users information (and your own) is kept secure at all times. There are a few simple things that you can do on your Drupal site to minimize your chances of being hacked.

  • Stay up to date! Just like Pelo Fitness, make sure you pay attention to security updates for both Drupal core and your contributed modules. Security releases always happen on Wednesdays so it’s easy to keep an eye out for them. To stay up to date, you can subscribe via email or RSS on Drupal.org or follow @drupalsecurity on Twitter.
  • Enable two-factor authentication on your site. It’s a few seconds of pain for an exponential increase in security. This is easily one of the best ways to increase the security of your site. And besides, it helps you makes sure you always know where your phone is. The TFA module provides a pluggable architecture for using the authentication platform of your choice, and Google Authenticator integration is available already as part of their basic functionality.
  • Require strong passwords. Your site is only as secure as the people who log into it. If everyone uses their pet’s name as their password, you can be in trouble even if your code base is “bulletproof” (nothing ever is). The Password Policy module sets the gold standard for traditional password strength requirements, or you can check out the Password Strength module if XKCD-style entropy is more your thing.
  • Make sure you’re running over a secured connection. If you don’t already have an SSL (TLS, technically, but that’s another story) certificate on your website, now is the time! Not sure? If your site loads using http:// instead of https://, then you don’t have one. An SSL certificate protects your users’ activities on the site (both site visitors and administrators) from being intercepted by potential hackers.
  • Encrypt sensitive information. If the unthinkable happens and someone gets hold of your data, encryption is the next line of defense. If you’re storing personally identifying information (PII) like email addresses, you can encrypt that data from the field level on up to the whole database. The Encrypt module serves as the foundation for this functionality; check out the module page and you can build up from there.
  • Don’t let administrators use PHP in your content. Seriously. The PHP filter module can get the job done quickly, but it’s incredibly dangerous to the security of your site. Think seriously about including JavaScript this way, too. If your staff can do it, so can a hacker.
  • Think about your infrastructure. The more sites you run on a single server, the less secure it is. And if Drupal is up to date, but your server operating system and software isn’t, you still have problems. Use web application and IP firewalls to take your security even further. 

Contact us at Kanopi if you need help keeping your site secure.

Aug 29 2018
Aug 29

Image of a task board with MVP tickets

Image of a task board with MVP tickets

Congratulations! Your Boss just gave you approval to build the website you’ve been pitching to them for the past year. A budget has been approved, and you have an enthusiastic team eager to get started. Nothing can stop you… until you receive the deadline for when the website has to go live. It’s much earlier than you planned and there just simply isn’t enough hours in the day, or resources available to make it happen. Whatever will you do?

Let me introduce you to the minimum lovable product, or MLP.

What is an MLP?

You may have heard of a minimum viable product (MVP). Where a minimum viable product is a bare-bones, meets your needs solution; the minimum loveable product can be described as the simplest solution that meets your needs and is a positive step toward achieving your goals. It’s easy to view every aspect, every deliverable, as being fundamental to a project’s success. But when you actually look at each nut and bolt with a more discerning eye, you begin to realize that each component is not fundamental to the overall product’s success.

So basically the MLP is the sufficient amount of features your site needs to be satisfactory to your business goals for launch.

It’s important to note that an MLP is not necessarily a reduction in scope. It’s more a prioritization in the order for which things are addressed. The project team can circle back on anything that wasn’t part of the MLP. The goal behind an MLP is to deliver a functional product that you’re excited about, within the confines of the project.

When should you consider an MLP?

An MLP isn’t for every project, but is usually best leveraged when there is a restraint of some sort. I used timeline as an example in my opening, but as you know restraints can take many forms:

  1. Timeline: Maybe the deadline you need to hit, simply won’t provide enough time to complete all the work you have queued.
  2. Resource Availability: Perhaps there are scheduling conflicts, or limited resource availability during your project.
  3. Budget Constraints: Another possibility is that the budget just isn’t sufficient to get to everything you have on your list.

Regardless of the restraint you’re facing, an MLP can help you realign priorities, and expectations to compensate. But how do you go about evaluating your project for an MLP?

Need help with defining your MPL? Contact us.

How do you create an MLP

When you’re able to parse the individual elements that are crucial to your website’s success into user stories and features, you’ll have effectively identified your project. But how do you actually go about separating the core building blocks that will comprise your MLP from the bells and whistles?  It all starts with goals.

Goals

Chances are that you already have a set of goals describing  what you’re hoping to achieve with the project. These ideally should be as specific as possible (ie. increase traffic) and ideally measurable (analytics). Without realistic, concrete goals you set the project up for failure. For example if your goal is to make people happy; chances are you’re going to have a hard time measuring whether you were successful. Establishing measurable goals will set the project up for success.

It’s not enough to know your goals, you have to be able to prioritize them. It’s simply not realistic that every goal be top priority. Try to narrow your priorities down to no more than three goals. Goals in hand where do we go from here in our quest to define an MLP?

Definition

Begin by thinking of all the factors that are needed for a User to accomplish a given goal. These could include anything from Layouts, to Features, to Content. Start a list of these factors:

  1. What are the things a User sees?
  2. What copy does a User read?
  3. What actions is a User taking while they navigate through the site?

Everything you write down while asking these questions should be in the interest of one of your priority goals. If an item isn’t directly contributing to accomplishing the goal, then it should not be on the list. If you’re not a subject matter expert that will be directly contributing to the work, you should connect with your team to determine the specific work that needs to be carried out for each of the items you’ve identified. Additional refinement, and further simplification may be needed to compensate for the restraint you’re up against.

By this point, you’ve probably realized that defining the MLP is a difficult task. The choices will be tough, and ultimately everyone is not going to get their way. What’s important is that the work you do strives to meet the goals you’ve set. This sometimes means detaching personal wants from the needs of the company. If you can tie the work back to this core philosophy, you’ll always have a strong direction for your product.

Time to get to work!

All done? Congratulations! You’ve now defined your MLP. Now you’re off to the races. Best of luck on the journey of building out your minimum loveable product.

Jul 09 2018
Jul 09

Strata Center at MIT

Strata Center at MIT

Nestled right off Main Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts lies the Ray and Maria Stata Center on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  This abstract building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry was the perfect venue to house the longest running, front-end focused Drupal conference in the US, Design 4 Drupal.  It demonstrates that the modern and abstract design Cambridge and MIT has seen can work perfectly with the structure needed within.

The Design 4 Drupal conference highlights training sessions and seminars focusing on designing for, and building the “front-end” of websites, or what gets seen and used by end users.  This area of focus encompasses graphic design, user experience, accessibility, performance, tooling, and much more.

Like a lot of our Higher-Ed clients, MIT is a user of Drupal, and is proud to offer this space to the Drupal community to learn and share knowledge.  I was pleased to be asked to present two sessions at the conference, and even more pleased with the knowledge I was able to take away from attending the event.

Meta and Schema: Defining the Content about your Content

The first session I presented focuses on designing and implementing a metadata strategy for your website.  Metadata is the content that describes your content. It is very important in how web pages are found in search engines, and how they are displayed on social network sites.

The presentation is a deep dive into the different specifications for meta tags and Schema.org schemas, how to decide what to markup, and then how to text and validate that you’ve done it correctly.

This session was not recorded due to technical difficulties, but the slides are available at jimbir.ch/meta-schema-drupal

Building a Better Page Builder with Bootstrap Paragraphs

The second session presented reviews the Bootstrap Paragraphs module for Drupal 8 that I developed and how it combines the power of the world’s most popular front end framework, Bootstrap, with Drupal Paragraphs, the powerful module that allows content creators to build layouts and structured pages using content components.

Last session begins for #D4DBoston #Design4Drupal 2018 with @thejimbirch and Lego Uncle Jim explaining the Bootstrap Paragraphs pic.twitter.com/p1zBJv2bMZ

— Dwayne McDaniel (@McDwayne) June 28, 2018

I have been working on this module since I first presented it at the BADCamp 2016 Front-end Summit.  The module installs a suite of components that allow content creators to quickly build out pages.

I love giving this presentation because I always get great feedback from people who use the module; who are going to use the module; or who are going to use my methodology to create their own version that fits their specific needs.  The module currently has over 25,000 downloads, and has had users from all around the world.

You can watch a recording of the session here.

Need help designing your website? Contact us and we can help

The Keynotes

The Building Blocks Of The Indie Web – Jeremy Keith

The conference featured not one, but two great keynotes.  On the first day author and developer Jeremy Keith, who was also in town for An Event Apart Boston, presented a session in which he encouraged a return from social media publishing to independent publishing.  It was a great reminder that the web was ham radio before it was cable, and can still be so.

Learning about the IndieWeb principals from @adactio at @D4DBoston #D4DBoston #Drupal pic.twitter.com/nRDdbCKsld

— Jim Birch (@thejimbirch) June 27, 2018

Exploring the New Drupal Front-end with JavaScript – Dries Buytaert

The second keynote was given by founder and project lead of Drupal, Dries Buytaert.  Dries was the keynote at the very first Design 4 Drupal, so it was a special treat have have him back for the tenth anniversary.  His presentation reviewed the history of JavaScript on the web, API-first vs. API-only approaches and gave behind-the-scenes insights into Drupal’s JavaScript modernization initiative.

Exploring the New Drupal Front-end with JavaScript at @D4DBoston with Drupal founder @Dries #Drupal #Design4Drupal #D4DBoston pic.twitter.com/Eonj7XdAQz

— Jim Birch (@thejimbirch) June 28, 2018

The Sessions

Thanks to Kevin Thull, and the organizers of Design 4 Drupal,  most of the presentations were recorded and are available to anyone at Design 4 Drupal’s YouTube channel.  There was a broad mix of different types of sessions that covered developers, designers, User Experience (UX), Accessibility (A11Y), and Tools.  Below are some highlights of the sessions I went to.

Web Accessibility Tips and Tools – Abby Kingman

Abby gave a session that was near and dear to my heart.  We are always learning about how to make our websites more accessible, and Abby’s presentation covered where to find current guidelines and specifications, and then when onto to review tools for testing.  There are lots of great links to follow from this one.

This session validated the approach we take at Kanopi to accessibility in design and development.  A lot of the tools and testing techniques were all part of our processes, and I look forward to exploring the ones I didn’t know about!

Great detailed presentation reviewing the guidelines, laws, and tools used in Web Accessibility #a11y by @abbykinz at @D4DBoston !#Drupal #design4drupal #d4dboston pic.twitter.com/8QFlI4KFvx

— Jim Birch (@thejimbirch) June 28, 2018

Webform Accessibility – Jacob Rockowitz

Jacob is the current maintainer and a prolific blogger and thought leader in the Drupal-sphere.  We penned an article in advance of this presentation where he reviewed his thought process, and recorded his presentation.  My favorite takeaway from this presentation was:

“Learning about accessibility can be overwhelming. We don’t have to be accessibility experts. We just need to care about accessibility.”

Kanopi has a long history of both building new and retrofitting existing sites to be WCAG compliant.  This presentation showed me that our approach, ongoing learning and iteration have us on the right track.

“Learning about accessibility can be overwhelming. We don’t have to be accessibility experts. We just need to care about accessibility.” – @jrockowitz on working on #a11y in the Drupal Webform module at @D4DBoston #D4DBoston #Drupal #Design4Drupal pic.twitter.com/nEDIMdtyhs

— Jim Birch (@thejimbirch) June 27, 2018

Variable Fonts and Our New Typography – Jason Pamental

I’m a big fan of Jason’s body of work, from his book, Responsive Typography: Using Type Well on the Web, to his blog, and frequent appearances on the Talking Drupal Podcast.

Jason’s deep knowledge of typography truly shows in this presentation that gives a brief history of type, how it moved from paper to the screen, and how the future of digital typography will be with variable fonts.

I look forward to exploring more about variable fonts with the designers at Kanopi.  The design possibilities, and the performance gains make these new tools very attractive.

“Type is never neutral” and “Type is how we hear what we read”. Great thoughts from Variable Fonts and Our New Typography by @jpamental at @D4DBoston #Drupal #Design4Drupal #D4DBoston pic.twitter.com/v7TXhAFXRD

— Jim Birch (@thejimbirch) June 27, 2018

Building a Living Style Guide with Herman – in Your Sass! – Chris Wells

In this technical presentation, Chris Wells, CTO of Redfin Solutions gave a nice overview of Herman, which uses SassDoc to reads comments in your stylesheets to build a static website  that is your style guide. It is not as extensive as a full blown style guide like Pattern Lab, but can be very useful for smaller teams.

This presentation has me researching simple style guide solutions.  Not every project has the budget or need for a solution like Pattern Lab, but since I already try to comment style sheets and templates, it makes sense to do it in a way that something like Herman or KSS Node can parse.

Building a Living Style Guide with Herman presented by @sceo at @D4DBoston @Drupal #Design4Drupal #D4DBoston #Drupal pic.twitter.com/MOMct6Feld

— Jim Birch (@thejimbirch) June 27, 2018

Thanks!

Thanks to all of the volunteer organizers, especially Leslie Glynn, who was my point of contact before, during, and after the event, and in true New England fashion, made sure I took home some famous Boston cannolis for my mother.  Kanopians help organize a few different conferences across the states including BADcamp and MIDcamp, and we know putting on these conferences is a labor of love, so thank you!

Dec 22 2017
Dec 22

Designers mapping out a website.

Designers mapping out a website.

So your site isn’t working the way you want it to. Maybe it’s sluggish, or you’re not seeing the conversions you want, or customers are complaining. Before you drop a huge chunk of your budget on a complete rebuild, consider that there might be a simpler (and more affordable) solution to your website woes.

We see a lot of Drupal 7 and WordPress websites here at Kanopi Studios, and we often discover that it’s more cost-effective for our clients to simply update their sites rather than rebuilding them. Making targeted updates can allow you to focus on addressing a few key issues, while still leveraging the investment of time, energy and funds that went into your site’s foundation.

In this series, we’ll look at three key topics to consider:

1. How do you know when it’s time for a change?
2. Is your website optimally organized and designed to be user-friendly?
3. How strong is your technical foundation?

How do I know it’s time for a change?

Do any of these problems sound familiar?

  • Low conversion rates
  • Site pages take more than 3 seconds to load
  • Site doesn’t work well on mobile or other devices
  • Updating content is a difficult and frustrating process
  • Users struggle to find what they need on the site or have shared negative feedback
  • Site crashes when updating
  • Too many bugs
  • Building new features is difficult or may not even be possible
  • Site is not loading on https and triggers security warnings

If your answer to any of these is yes, it’s time to take action.

But first … is it really that important for me to address these issues?

Yes! A website that isn’t working optimally can dramatically affect your bottom line. An out-of-date or poorly designed website can:

  • Damage your credibility. If your website loads slowly, is crowded with clutter or is just plain not working, you are sending the message that your company is unprofessional.
  • Make you appear out of touch. A dated website tells your customers you are behind the technological times, or worse – you don’t care enough to stay up-to-date.
  • Cost you customers. Every customer who leaves your site in frustration due to broken links, complex forms, slow pages or confusing navigation is a customer you won’t get back. If your competitors offer similar services and have a stronger website experience, your loss will be their gain.

Decision time. If you want to avoid the damage that a dated website can cause, you’ll need to either rebuild your site or update it. If you’re ready to take action, we can help you find the best and most cost-effective approach.

There are two primary things to consider when maximizing your site’s ROI: your user’s needs and the technology that drives your site. If you can identify and fix problems in both of these categories, you can most likely avoid a costly rebuild.

Venn diagram showing optimum website health at the intersection of smart user experience and strong tech foundation.

Venn diagram showing optimum website health at the intersection of smart user experience and strong tech foundation.


Next, we’ll dive a bit deeper into tips to help you level up your user experience and update your website technology without starting over from scratch. Consider it the non-surgical, diagnostic approach to improving your website experience right where it needs it the most. 
Dec 22 2017
Dec 22

Now that you’ve decided that it’s time to take action to improve your website, It’s time to see if any user experience upgrades could help. Take a look through our list of issues below, and the tips to help resolve them.

Having a hard time converting leads or getting sales?

If you’re not sure why you’re not generating business from your website, it’s time to get serious about strategy. Here’s how:

  • Add a survey to your website to understand what users are looking for
  • Take a look at your analytics to understand where you are losing your users. If you don’t have analytics installed, get either Google Analytics or Tag Manager set up on your site.
  • Try an online user testing platform like Hotjar to help you go beyond standard analytics with heatmaps, visitor recordings, conversion funnels and more.
    Complete a User Experience & Conversion Optimization Audit with Kanopi Studios. We can make a whole range of insightful recommendations within your budget. Contact us to learn more.

Does your site take forever to load?

If it takes longer than three seconds, you have a problem.

  • Use Google PageSpeed or Pingdom to test your site’s speed, understand what might be slowing it down and take action to resolve any issues.
  • Make sure you have a reliable hosting company backing your site at the right level for the amount of traffic you receive.

Does your site work on mobile? Is it accessible?

It’s vital to make sure your site is accessible to everyone, no matter what device or screen size they are using. Here’s how to check:

  • Try using your site on a phone or a tablet. If you have to pinch or zoom to interact with the content, it’s time for a responsive design.
  • Make sure you can tab through all navigation and content on your site using only your keyboard, that all images have alt tags, and that you are able to use a voice browser to “read” your pages out loud. If not, you are missing key elements of accessibility.
  • Contact Kanopi Studios about an accessibility audit. We can help you identify the issues and build a plan for how to resolve them.

Is it frustrating – or impossible – to update content on your site?

If it’s a major undertaking to change even the simplest thing, something needs to happen.

  • Define your ideal workflow, then ask an expert to take a look and see how you can optimize the backend.
  • Consider the types of content that your site needs to support. Do you have templates in place that meet your needs? If not, it may be time to consider a bit of design and development time to build additional page types on your site.

Getting negative user feedback?

If the people visiting your site are taking the time to complain, chances are they might also take the time to help you make things better. Here’s how:

  • Collect feedback by sending out a survey, or document your customer service calls.
  • Always thank people for taking the time to help you improve.
  • Look for trends in the information you are receiving from users and build a plan to address any issues to help meet their needs

If none of the issues above apply, congratulations! Your user experience is likely more solid than many of the websites out there! But there are still more things to consider before committing to rebuilding your site. In our next post, we will walk you through a number of common technical issues and some helpful fixes for them.

Dec 22 2017
Dec 22

Website developers considering code.

Website developers considering code.

Now that you’ve considered your user experience, there are a number of possible technical fixes that might help resolve your website problems.

What version of Drupal or WordPress are you using?

  • WordPress 2, while old, may or may not require a rebuild. You might be able to get by with updating and refactoring.
  • If you’re using Drupal 7 or WordPress 3, a rebuild is likely not needed. 
  • However, if you are on Drupal 6, it is at the end of its life, which may make rebuilding more cost-effective and viable for the long term.

Does your site use a lot of custom code?

If so, what does that code do, and are you still using that functionality? Look for ways to streamline where possible.

Is your site’s code a nightmare?

Did you use a professional firm with a North American team? An offshore team? A freelance developer? Or an internal employee who no longer works at your company? It’s a good idea to get the code reviewed so that you can determine its quality and understand whether it will be easy to update or if you’d be better off starting from scratch. Contact Kanopi for a low-cost assessment.

Are you up to date with the latest security patches and updates?

Lapses can expose the site to hacks and backdoors. Often just updating your site and modules/plugins can solve many issues.

Want to learn more about how we can help you understand every aspect of your site and determine if you need to rebuild or update to help achieve your goals? Contact us to book a free 15-minute consultation. Click here to book a time.

Nov 30 2017
Nov 30

Docker and Vagrant logos

Docker and Vagrant logos

If you work on multiple projects at once, or need to collaborate with other developers (as many of us do), then getting your development environment up and running quickly can be crucial to your ability to make efficient progress.

For the past few years, the best tool to help you do that was Vagrant. Vagrant interacts with Virtual Machines. One of it’s greatest features is that most of the configuration can happen in a vagrantfile, which can then be committed to your project. This allows developers to easily clone a project and get a development environment up and running without any special configuration.

Now Docker is the new kid on the playground. Docker provides the ability to have thin containers which focus on a specific service, whether that’s MySQL, Nginx, Apache, or testing applications like Behat, and Selenium. So now we have smaller containers, without the same overhead as that of a traditional Virtual Machine.

Sounds great, right? Well yes, but now your existing tools may need to interact with Docker. Or maybe you’ve run into a need for both Docker and Vagrant to co-exist with each other, depending on your needs. The good news is that there is a solid way of making this happen!

In this post I’ll walk you through installing Docksal and setting it up so that Docker can work side by side with Vagrant. All of the following steps have been tested on macOS going through a command line.

Installing and Configuring

We’ll start with the basics.

Step 1: Installing Docksal

The first step is making sure you install Docksal. To do this, you can use the handy one-liner below.

curl -fsSL get.docksal.io | sh

This line of code will install the Docksal command fin and, if needed, will install Virtualbox. That means there’s no need to go out and install Docker ahead of time. Note: If you already have Vagrant and Virtualbox installed it may be best for you to shut down all VMs as the installation can sometimes hang in the process.

Step 2: Create the Projects Folder to House Development

Next, we have to configure the directory that the Docksal VM mounts for use with Docker. By default, Docksal will attempt to mount just the /Users directory. The problem with this is that if you have a Vagrant VM mounted anywhere within the the same same folder hierarchy then it will cause an error. So, you’ll need to tell Docksal to mount a folder deeper within the structure that isn’t already being mounted.

mkdir -p ~/projects/docksal

For this example, we will place a folder within our user’s home directory labeled projects. Sometimes this folder will already exist. If so, you could just change into that directory.

Create a Docksal directory to house all of the Docksal projects. The name of this folder is arbitrary. For this example we will use a simple name. This folder’s main purpose is to hold all of your Docksal projects. This is also the data that will get mounted to your projects when they are started.

Step 3: Configuring Mounted Path

Once we have created the folder hierarchy for our projects, we have to tell Docksal what folder to mount into the VM, so we’ll have to add the following line to our global docksal.env file which is located in ~/.docksal/docksal.env

DOCKSAL_NFS_PATH=~/projects/docksal

To speed up this process, use the following one-line command:

echo "DOCKSAL_NFS_PATH=~/projects/docksal" >> ~/.docksal/docksal.env

Step 4: Start Virtual Machine

After we’ve added the DOCKSAL_NFS_PATH line, now comes the process of starting our VM. Running the vm start command will make sure that the VM is running. The following command can be run from any folder in a terminal window.

fin vm start

It should result with a similar response:

Starting "docksal"...
(docksal) Check network to re-create if needed...
(docksal) Waiting for an IP...
Machine "docksal" was started.
Waiting for SSH to be available...
Detecting the provisioner...
Started machines may have new IP addresses. You may need to re-run the `docker-machine env` command.
Enabling automatic *.docksal DNS resolver...
Clearing DNS cache...
Configuring NFS shares...
NFS shares are already configured
Mounting NFS shares...
Starting nfs client utilities.
Mounting local /Users/example/project/docksal/ to /Users/example/project/docksal/
Importing ssh keys...
Identity added: id_rsa (id_rsa)

If you happen to get the following message:

Machine "docksal" is already running.

then a restart may be necessary, which can be done using the this command:

fin vm restart

Upon a successful restart, you should see a similar response:

Stopping "docksal"...
Machine "docksal" was stopped.
Starting "docksal"...
(docksal) Check network to re-create if needed...
(docksal) Waiting for an IP...
Machine "docksal" was started.
Waiting for SSH to be available...
Detecting the provisioner...
Started machines may have new IP addresses. You may need to re-run the `docker-machine env` command.
Enabling automatic *.docksal DNS resolver...
Clearing DNS cache...
Configuring NFS shares...
NFS shares are already configured
Mounting NFS shares...
Starting nfs client utilities.
Mounting local /Users/example/project/docksal/ to /Users/example/project/docksal/
Importing ssh keys...
Identity added: id_rsa (id_rsa)

Want to learn more? Contact us.

Testing Configuration

Step 1: Start Docksal Setup

Now comes the fun part where we get to test our new configuration. Was it successful? Let’s see if our work has paid off and get our first Docksal project up and running.

Start by navigating to the project folder that was created in the previous steps.

cd ~/projects/docksal

Then we will clone a basic Drupal 8 project that has Docksal configured,

git clone https://github.com/kanopi/drupal8-composer-docksal drupal8

and change into that project we just downloaded:

cd drupal8

Now, initialize the project

fin init

If you previously had Docksal installed and the following error appears on your screen,

Minimal fin version required is: 1.22.0
Please run fin update and try again

then run the update command for the latest version of Docksal:

fin update

In this project, we have a basic initalize command that will use composer to download all of the libraries. Don’t have composer? Don’t worry, composer will get installed in the container. Drush then runs the site-install command.

Want to know if this command worked properly? Did you get results like this? If so, great!

Step 1 Initializing stack...
Removing containers...
Removing drupal8_web_1 ... done
Removing drupal8_db_1 ... done
Removing drupal8_cli_1 ... done
Removing network drupal8_default
Removing volume drupal8_project_root
Volume docksal_ssh_agent is external, skipping
Starting services...
Creating network "drupal8_default" with the default driver
Creating volume "drupal8_project_root" with local driver
Creating drupal8_cli_1 ...
Creating drupal8_cli_1
Creating drupal8_db_1 ...
Creating drupal8_cli_1 ... done
Creating drupal8_db_1 ... done
Creating drupal8_web_1 ... done
Waiting for drupal8_cli_1 to become ready...
Connected vhost-proxy to "drupal8_default" network.
Waiting 10s for MySQL to initialize...
Step 2 Initializing site...
Making site directory writable...
/var/www/docroot/sites/default/settings.local.php already in place.
You are about to DROP all tables in your 'default' database. Do you want to continue? (y/n): y
Starting Drupal installation. This takes a while. Consider using the --notify global option. Installation complete. User name: admin User password: 7yDUeUyVvH
Congratulations, you installed Drupal!
real 0m22.527s
user 0m6.640s
sys 0m2.980s

Drum roll… Open a browser to http://drupal8.docksal and you should see a freshly installed Drupal 8 site.

Step 2: Confirming Vagrant is Intact

For this step, we won’t be able to guide you through the process since all projects are different. The easiest way to confirm is to navigate to one of your Vagrant projects, then stop and restart the project.

vagrant halt
vagrant up

Running this should not cause any issues with mounting the project, and should start your Vagrant project.

Summary

To summarize, we completed a basic Docksal install. The one liner was installed which can usually accommodate, unless you are also running Vagrant. In that case we modify the folder which mounts to the Docksal VM. The reason for this is that NFS exports can’t overlap. By default, Docksal uses /Users which can cause an issue, as most, if not all the projects a developer does in Vagrant are usually in that User’s directory.

What this also means is that all Docksal projects will have to live within the DOCKSAL_NFS_PATH folder, because when Docksal uses the minimal VM layer on virtualbox it’s only mounting that one folder, whereas Vagrant projects are mounting individual projects to their respective VM.

We also ran a test to make sure we could get a basic Drupal 8 installation. This provides a good starting point when testing development within the Docksal system.

Nov 13 2017
Nov 13

Business people working on project in office

Business people working on project in office

By now you have likely heard quite a bit about Drupal 8. But do you have a good sense of when and why to make the switch?

Switching to Drupal 8 will make new features and functionality available for your site and help you stay current with the latest best practices. But it will take time and effort, and may mean a bit of refactoring as well.

What’s new in Drupal 8?

Drupal 8 adds a number of helpful features into core, making it possible to build fully-featured websites out of the box. Drupal 8 takes care of basic needs, so contributed modules can be reserved for specialized functionality.

There are more than 200 new features in Drupal 8, including built-in support for multilingual and mobile-friendly sites, a simplified content authoring experience with in-place editing, native web services, Views integration into core, stronger HTML5 support and much more.

In addition, Drupal 8 is written in well structured, object-oriented PHP based on the Symfony framework. And it leverages the Twig templating system, making design patterns simpler, faster, more logical and more secure.

Once you are on Drupal 8, you can easily take advantage of minor releases that will add powerful functionality on a predictable schedule, without requiring you to reinvent your site. And the focus on backwards compatibility beginning with Drupal 9 means upgrading between major versions won’t be a massive headache like it has been with past versions of Drupal.

Time to switch?

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding to switch to Drupal 8. In general, the sooner you can bring your site up to the most up-to-date standards, the better. But it’s also important to consider your objectives when deciding on the best time for an upgrade.

If the functionality in Drupal 8 would revolutionize the way you do business, or you are considering rolling out significant new functionality, now might be a good time to switch. But if your Drupal 7 site is running well and there aren’t any solid business reasons to make the switch, you may consider holding off until Drupal 9 becomes available.

To help clarify your decision, we’ve created a quiz to help you determine when it’s time to make the switch.

About Drupal Sun

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

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

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web