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May 05 2021
May 05
“Your time is limited. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Steve Jobs

A personification of this quote is Vinit Kumar, Technical Lead at OpenSense Labs. He had started off as an aeronautical engineer, but life took several turns and he somehow ended up being a Drupal developer! Let’s skim through a story that talks about conventions, ups and downs, and most importantly, following your dreams.

Q : Hi Vinit! So let’s start with talking about your education. Why did you choose aeronautical engineering in the first place? 

A : I had been pursuing aeronautical engineering more for its professional aspect, and always had more interest in graphic designing and consequently, web development. While still in college, I took up a course in graphic designing and also took up some commissioned projects that were offered to me by the teacher himself. While working on these projects, soon I realized that web development and graphics go hand in hand, and started trying my hands on development as well.

Q : I see. Had you ever developed interest in programming beforehand or was it a spur of the moment decision to transform? 
A : It was a rather extended transformation process. Pritam has been my friend since we were in school, and he was the one who was more into web development. During the years I spent being an aeronautical engineer, the aeronautics sector was not looking good - a big airline like Kingfisher was on the verge of closing. It was rather chaotic! Pritam knew about my interest in graphics and web development, and insisted that I pursue that instead - as the web was only going to expand in the upcoming years and moreover, it was something that had spiked my interest since the very beginning. Pritam helped with the basics when I was still a fresher in the domain. Subsequently, I joined a company in Hyderabad as a developer, but left within a month because my skills weren’t competent enough to keep up with the profile. After that, I brushed up my knowledge a bit and joined another company where I worked the night shift for a year. By the end of the year, due to consistent hard work and toil, I made a rather smooth switch and felt that my life was finally getting in order.
 

four pictures place side by side comparing Vinit Kumar's journey from being an aeronautical engineer to a Drupal developer


Q : As you said, you left the first company that you had joined within a month as you lacked the skills to keep working. What made you pursue the field despite not finding success anytime sooner?
A : I think that the approach makes all the difference. I wasn’t bummed by the fact that I didn’t have the supposed skillset but rather took all that as a part of my learning curve. I appeared for numerous interviews and all the questions that I couldn’t answer, I would go home and prepare those. Hence, I accepted that I was still learning. The added bonus was that web development was something that I actually wanted to do - so work never felt like work. It felt like a yearlong training procedure.

Q : That is such a great perspective! While we’re still in the topic of transformation, was there a moment of instigation that prompted you to switch from aeronautical engineering to Drupal development? How easy/difficult was it to take the call?
A : Sometimes, an outsider’s perspective is required to make the picture clearer. While working in Bangalore in a job dealing in technical publication (publication of different kinds of user manuals for the maintenance of aircrafts), I occasionally used to skip going to work as an engineer to stay home and create websites. On one such event, one of my friends realised that I had been sitting creating the website since early morning when he was going to work - and was still on it by the time he returned in the evening. I still remember when he looked at me, a little astonished, and said that I should go on and pursue something that I really wanted to. It was a turning point in my life. I called Pritam that very day and left for Hyderabad - where I took up my first job as a developer.                                                                         

Q : So that is how it started! When I look back at your journey - that has eventually led you to becoming the tech lead, how has the experience with Drupal been so far?
A : It has been working pretty well for me. I still consider myself a student in the domain and focus on learning more than anything else. I have definitely grown a lot in the past 8 years and gathered knowledge in every step - and I want to keep it that way.

Q : Do you ever wonder how different life would have been had you remained an aeronautical engineer? 
A : Quite different. I don’t really have any regrets though, I followed my heart and landed in a decent place. I don’t think that any of the jobs I had taken up in aeronautical engineering really spoke to me as much as Drupal development has done so far. Not once in these years have I been prompted to go back to become an aeronautical engineer.

Q : Glad it worked out for you. Lastly, what would you tell someone who wants to make a career switch like you did?
A : I’ll tell them the same thing that my friend had told me - follow your heart and it will lead you to the right path.

While we may believe that following conventional guidelines is the ‘safer’ way to live life, Vinit also highlights that we can step onto different boats and examine the best one for ourselves while we are still young and agile. There’s a time suitable for experimenting as well - we just need to identify it!

May 04 2021
May 04

The world we live in is pretty dynamic, it keeps evolving. Talking strictly in the technological sense, things that enjoy immense popularity today stand a chance of being considered obsolete tomorrow. Then there are the advancements in popular trends, which happen to be eminent today and tomorrow, but the eminence is enjoyed by its newer version.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you don’t consider the acclimation period, which can become tiring, but once that is out of the way, we are almost always thankful for the change. 

Take Drupal 8, for instance, upgrading from its previous version was a massive undertaking, and the fact that Drupal 8 was a whole other ball game than Drupal 7, made the acclimation process quite difficult to be honest. However, D8’s new features and capabilities made the difficulties worth it. Having worked on D8, I am speaking from personal experience. 

2021 saw the emergence of some of the most astounding technological advancements that deserve to be awed at. So, today we would be discussing some of these that come as popular trends in technology and change the way we do and see things. Being from the Drupal community, I would also be co-relating these advancements with Drupal and see how we can amalgamate the trend and the CMS and make it work for us, as Drupalists. Drupal, being an open source software, is extensive by nature and making it scope wider to align with the latest trends is a challenge that not many would be opposed to. So, let’s begin getting familiar with the trends and see if Drupal can be used to capitalise them. 

The Remote Environments’ Charm 

The first trend I will be talking about is one that has affected all of us. The phrase ‘remote working’ used to seem like a far-fetched idea in the pre-pandemic times, but now it has become a reality, a reality that would be here to stay for much longer than we anticipated.

Remote environments have become the trend in the tech industry and the fact that these are beneficial to everyone involved in working, the boss, the employee and the customer, is the reason for its longevity. Collaboration strategies massively change in remote environments and work pretty well for the organisation as it improves productivity.

Let’s start with the bosses of the tech industry, the first hard hitting fact of the pandemic for this sector was the realisation of the inadequacies of its digital infrastructure. The initial phase of remote working saw the employers rushing to provide even the most basic of infrastructural needs. The digital cracks that were hidden in the past became quite blatant in the pandemic. From dealing with heightened consumer traffic online through scaling and building resilience to adding features and getting them into production, every business aspect has been made possible through remote environments. 

Employees are happy that they are able to avoid the hour-long commute, as many as 70% will continue to work remotely on a permanent basis.

As for the clients, they are able to reap the benefits of the global technological network from their homes. The barriers for digitally gaining access to industry experts are no longer visible and the customers are capitalising on that. Getting an expert on a virtual call is so much more convenient for both parties than a physical meeting, the chances of which would have been slim, regardless of the pandemic.

Then there are the virtual tech conferences that are a win for everyone, the consumers, the employees and the bosses. Talking from personal experience, I was pretty upset when I couldn’t go to the DrupalCon Amsterdam 2019. So, when the first ever virtual DrupalCon was announced in July 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, I was beyond thrilled, because I was able to take part in it from my home. 

Of course, there are also the environmental and social benefits of remote working. Less carbon emissions, more renewable resources, less traffic and consequently less number of road accidents, all say that remote environments’ charm cannot be taken lightly.

In MIT Professor Tom Malone’s words, 

The current crisis has accelerated us forwards a decade in terms of acceptance of remote working, and there is no going back.

What’s Next in Cloud?

Cloud isn’t a new trend in the market. AWS, Azure, AliCloud and GCP have been the flag bearers in this domain, making the transition to cloud quite seamless. Servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and intelligence, everything is provided for on the cloud. With a lion’s share of organisations using cloud based services, its eminence is staring at us glaringly. 

There are two trends in the cloud domain that deserve attention. 

Infrastructure-as-code 

To define infrastructure-as-code simply would come out as the automation of infrastructure and the consequent management of the said automation. In a broader sense, it would be defined as the practice of configuring and managing infrastructure such as networks or machine readable files. 

Through this concept, developers are able to supply IT environments with multiple lines of code and also gain the ability to deploy in minutes, rather than the ages it used to take manually. 

With recent improvements in IaC, it is more likely to deliver better outcomes as its ecosystem is growing. However, being a relatively new technique, it has certain disadvantages including inconsistencies in its tooling along with paradoxical approaches. New ideologies are still surfacing around it, infrastructure as software by Pulumi or infrastructure as data by Hightower are two of them. The way IaC will come out in the future is highly anticipated. 

Pipeline-as-code

Coming to pipeline-as-code, which essentially means defining the deployment pipeline through code, rather than the configuration of a running CI/CD tool. With organisations moving towards automation in all across their environments, especially the development infrastructure, pipeline-as-code would become a need. 

LambdaCD, Drone, GoCD and Concourse act as resources to make pipeline-as-code work for you. 

I’ll culminate this trend with Drupal. In DrupalCon Vienna 2017, a session took place that talked about using Drupal to capitalise on infrastructure as code as well as pipeline as code. In a session during the event, the implementation of Continuous Delivery pipelines in immutable infrastructure was discussed. DevOps and general tools like Docker, Packer, Terraform and Ansible amongst others can make that possible. And all of this can be achieved by extending Drupal. You will find a lot of interesting details in this video.

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The Realisation of Data and Analytics

Data has become one of the most important commodities for businesses and the analytics to understand and generate lucrative insights from that data is even more important. 

When we consider data and analytics, predictive analytics is often an integral part of it. Building websites that are able to capitalise the notion and create dynamic content which operates on the user's browsing history and site relative behaviour is garnering a lot of interest. The thing is building such a site requires a host of software to work together. R, Google Analytics along with Drupal can make that happen. For ‘the how,’ you would have to watch this video.

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With a majority of the CIOs believing that data and analytics will start shaping their business in the future, it won’t be wrong to believe that many trends of today are also in line with this concept. Big Data and AI have become crucial for sectors like finance, wherein the assessment of potential loans and investment is done through the analytics. It is suffice to say that today, businesses, from private to government, are becoming more data-driven by the day. To make data safer, data residency, privacy and its usage are accounting for a regulatory environment that is both dynamic and complex in its mandates, making organisations steer in the right direction. 

Associated with data and analytics are concepts of surveillance capitalism and surveillance state, which use surveillance and manipulation to drive power and profits. With COVID-19, such surveillance technologies have been adopted by many countries including China and Israel. Once the pandemic is clear, there is a high chance that these emergency measures will remain. Learn more on how better data strategies can help capitalise on consumer behaviour.

The Modern and Updated Core 

At the heart of a consistent output of every business, you’d find its core processes. So, saying that they are important would be understating them. Having core processes that fairly rudimentary is not going to be enough in 2021. 

With a heightened level of digital transformation, more expectations from our users and an increased use of data-intensive algorithms being implemented in the core systems everywhere, be it the front, middle or backend, there is progression towards uplifting the core from being basic. 

Core modernisation is quite discernible as a trend in 2021, and the development and delivery of the advanced ERPs and legacy programs is its proof. To further substantiate it, think of the kind of interactions the consumers want, instantaneous and tailored would be the words used to describe them. That is why core modernisation has become a need, not only for consumer relationships, but also for digital finance and real-time supply chains. Refreshing and reengineering ERP and legacy systems are the first step towards achieving this. Doing this would allow you to get to new levels of agility, automation, scalability and security.  

The Rise of Digital Reality Technologies

Digital technologies are becoming more real with the passing time. AR/VR, voice interfaces, speech recognition, ambient computing, 360° video along with immersive technologies have enabled businesses to provide a more real user experience. 

Terms like natural, intuitive and imperceptible are used to describe these technologies and their consequent engagement with the users.

Being able to experience a situation without actually being in that situation has become possible through virtual reality. The Massachusetts State University’s VR tour is one example of virtual reality and Drupal combo. A react front-end, Drupal backend and JSON API made that possible. Look for yourself.

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The same can be done for your employees and workers, wherein AR and Drupal can provide the workers a 3D view of the procedure, leading to an elevated level of productivity. Imagine a shopping application that becomes your assistant inside the store, from telling the route to reaching the products you want to scanning them and telling you the price, that’s augmented reality in its prime. With Drupal 8, building that application becomes a possibility.

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The reality of digital experience in 2021 is deepening with emotional connections with consumers and employees alike. This brings to the next  trend, which is the human-factor of these experiences achieved through AI.

The Humanness of Artificial Intelligence

The term artificial intelligence is not something that many of us haven’t heard or even experienced ourselves. It has been a concept that has been around for a while and we have seen its marvels and have been impressed by them. 

In the context of Drupal, the digital sphere has numerous plausibilities with regards to Artificial Intelligence.

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And there is more; 

But what’s more? These aspects, although impressive, don't excite us or our consumers anymore. To bring back the excitement, the concept of driving human emotions, feelings and moods into AI has become a trend. 

This AI approach emphasises on designing for humans, meaning the focus would be one human and emotion-led experiences, which would then be curated through AI technologies; a total 180 from the traditional designs. Human emotions like empathy, trust and feeling complex emotions would be the star of human experiences. 

For this, 

  • Neuroscientific research would be conducted, including EEG, eye tracking, facial coding and implicit association testing amongst others.
  • Human centred design would be implemented, which would focus on the human, his beliefs, values, feelings and ambitions along with ethnographic research and neuroscience to understand the human’s needs and wants on a deeper level.
  • Cognitive and affective technologies would come to play, to stress ethical considerations of the design and align it with the organisation’s values.

Vision systems, voice recognition, natural language generation, natural language processing, voice stress analysis and sentiment analysis are some of the AI technologies being used to deliver human experiences. With these at work, a phone call to the automated-caller would only placate the consumer/employee and not agitate him/her further. 

The Next Gen of User Experience

When a user interacts with us, there are certain actions that make it possible. Clicking, pointing, swiping and scrolling are some of them. As you may have experienced yourself, these mediums of interactions are evolving. A user can experience what you want him to without these actions, speaking and gesturing are what I am referring to. And with advancements, thinking would become a part of it too. This technology is referred to as ambient user experience. 

It is when technology is used in accordance with consumer data to provide a seamless interaction for the user, which may not be dependent on human touch. 

With new and improved devices being launched every second, the user has become somewhat dependent on them. This dependence would only grow with time and devices would have to provide more. 

  • The future would look something like this; 
  • More prominence would be given to technology, all the while making devices smaller, yet more powerful. 
  • Proactiveness would signify all consumer interactions. 
  • Neurofeedback technology would become ubiquitous, making direct brain and neural interactions an everyday occurrence.
  • Devices in general would be more connected and context-aware at home, office and everywhere else we go.

The Transactional Blockchain 

In 2021, blockchains and their use is going to gain traction. The reason being the numerous benefits these digital ledgers come with.

Improved transparency; 
Better security; 
Accurate traceability; 
Reduced costs;
And enhanced speed being just a few of them.

Blockchain initiatives are advancing in every sector of the business world. It is not just limited to financial services and fintech companies anymore, rather from government to life sciences and healthcare, from technology to media and telecommunications, every major sector is trying to lead in blockchain development. 

Blockchain are usually fully decentralised p2p architectures, however, there is another architecture that is being explored. A semi-decentralised architecture, with the same benefits of trusted transactions can be built. Here Drupal can provide assistance, its User Accounts can be used for that.

Talking further about Drupal, its Ethereum Blockchain Module that integrates with Ethereum, an open source blockchain platform programmable through smart contracts, has made the CMS leverage this technology. Watch this video to get more insights on both the Drupal aspects in Blockchain technology.

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The Method of Agile and DevOps

The way businesses operate is also changing and 2021 is bringing with it the convergence of technology and business strategies. This has brought on the trend of development methodologies like Agile and DevOps. 

Today, providing operational excellence has become equivalent to driving value creation. Businesses are doing one to achieve the other. There is a tangible shift in priorities from delivering projects to the results that project would bring. Hence, the adoption of methods like Agile and DevOps has become pivotal.

Version control, automation and testing tools, backup and disaster recovery along with sound security practises are just a few of them. All of these make the management of servers and other infrastructure pretty convenient as part of an organisations daily operations.

The best part about these DevOps techniques is that they can be used with other web applications and Drupal is one of them. If you are looking to widen your knowledge span of DevOps and its use alongside Drupal, this video would be the one to watch.

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The Physics of Quantum

Quantum is not just a physics concept anymore, it is being used everywhere or more like quantum computing is being leveraged in every corner of the business world. 

Be it producing breakthroughs in science; 
Be it implementing machine learning to get to illnesses sooner; 
Be it creating devices and structure that are far more efficient than in the past; 
Be it promoting financial strategies that will be helpful until a person retires; 
Or be it generating algorithms that would enable the resources to at our disposal quickly; 

Quantum computing is becoming omnipresent and its ability to process information and execute computations that are not only unhackable, but also have the ability to concentrate tech is probably the reason for it being in vogue.

With quantum computing, there won’t be any technical constraints that often hold back both data and material scientists. Unlike the traditional computing’s use of 0s and 1s, quantum computing relies on its own quantum bits to propel change through manipulation of single particles, which would have the potential of solving highly complex problems. 

The Accessible Version of Programming 

Let’s look at numbers, there would be billions of people using the web and all of its offerings and by offerings I mean the numerous websites and applications we, as users, use. Now, what do you think would be the number of expert developers and programmers making these experiences for the user? That number would be much-much lower than users. 

The talent pool required to build programs is scarce to be honest. If we were to be dependent on it to create everything we have on the web, we might not actually have it. So, how come we do? The answer lies in accessible programming. 

If you have heard of spreadsheets and low-code platforms, you will have a fair idea of what I am going to say. These are means for novice programmers or even non-programmers to create, store and manipulate data without the need for a long development process involving the scarce talent pool I just mentioned. The pre-built components and configurations help in future accelerating the development process without the need of coding. 

You might think that this is a great new trend, empowering non-programmers to tap into the programming world and create something on their own, and it truly is; however, I wouldn’t say that it is a new trend. 

  • Back in the 60s, when COBOL was created as a programming language, it was made to resemble the english so that the non-programmers could work with it. 
  • Then there is Drupal with its D7AX, which is a community of sorts, wherein developers pledge to create modules that adhere to accessibility standards and by simply installing them, you can create a truly accessible web experience. Learn more on Drupal’s web accessibility provisions here.

Although these two examples are fairly different in regards to accessibility, they do promote it in their own way, making the work of programmers and developers easy. 

With increasing awareness about this, this trend of making development accessible is sure going to pick up pace in 2021. 

The Reign of Programming Languages

Programming languages are the sole connection between the computers and the programmers, making both understand each other. To make that understanding as seamless as possible, there are tons of programming languages available, some more advanced than others and some more convenient than others. There are the ones that we, as developers and programmers, use everyday and then there are the ones we wish to use. We’ll talk about both. 

A raph shows the list of languages that are the most loved by programmers; Rust tops the list, making it one of the popular macro trends.Source: Stack Overflow

At the top of the most loved languages since the past half decade is Rust and with good reason. It is a language that delivers an impressive performance and is memory safe along with that its robust expressiveness also works in its favour. The fact that it is being used for big data and machine learning further adds to its lovable attributes. 

Talking about the language that the programmers covet would be Python, followed by JavaScript and Go. While Rust lands at number 4 in this category, it does show that the loved language is garnering more and more interest each year. 

A graph shows a list of languages based on their desirability for the programmers.Source: Stack Overflow

The Pivot Towards Visualisation Tools

It’s safe to say that a good picture can speak with more clarity than words ever could. Perhaps that is why visualisation tools, that equip the developers with the ability to create good images, are becoming prominent. These images are concentrated in every realm of web building from architecture to code complexity and up to system performance, visualising data and making your work easy. 

Frameworks like Tableau, IBM Cognos Analytics and Microsoft Power BI are the front-runners in this domain, becoming feature packed data studios in themselves. However, this year there has been an emergence of up-and-coming visualisation tools that have proven to be as good as the rest. Dash, Streamlit, Sisense, Kiali and Infogram are some of them.

From providing custom reports and dashboards for machine learning apps to observation tools and capturing distributed traces and metrics, these visualisation tools will remain in vogue because they take data and make it seem simple enough to explore your own health and structure as well as provide flexibility, customisation, version control on top of automated deployment.

The Browsers Going On to Full-Blown Applications?

A browser can do a number of things. If we compare an app to its browser site, you’d find a lot of similarities. Chrome and the Google app have that. At my work, I have Google Docs, Gmail, Slack and Zoho all working throughout the day on Google Chrome with Zoom calls popping in a couple of times, so, yes the browser can achieve some semblance of the functionality an app can achieve. But was it meant to be? Was a browser supposed to become an equivalent of an app? 

There isn’t an accurate answer to this question. Maybe it was the addition of HTML 2.0 and instigated the browser war between Microsoft and Netscape or maybe it was just coincidence. Nonetheless, nobody can deny that the browser has become a more complex and versatile platform with an ecosystem of its own. With polyfills and a JavaScript ecosystem make it both easy and complex for the developers to navigate through the browsers. 

Yes, browsers have transcended the expectations their users once had of them, but they still have a certain way to become a full-blown application. Take automated testing for instance, the tools browsers have for that are as good as ancient in comparison to the applications, which have the same as a first-grade objective. 

Despite this fact browsers are and will continue to evolve, this is true because browsers as code platforms are gaining traction and the tech community is making strides towards improving the overall browser experience. And to think all of this started with the addition of the ‘submit forms’ features, kind of surreal, isn’t it?

Conclusion 

And there you have it, all the popular technology trends that 2021 has to offer us. Many of them are not new of us in the tech industry, but the advancements being made in them called for their mention. Be it cloud technologies or the visualisation tools or even the ambient experience, every macro trend in 2021 is unique in itself and its outcome and that is what I think will make this year unique too.

As for Drupal, it is an old CMS, yet at 20, it’s still going strong. The most discernible reason for that is its versatility. Drupal has many out-of-the-box features that make it great, however, it hardly had any that I mentioned above. Despite that fact, it is able to provide its users the benefits of using these macro trends because it is extensible. Drupal can be used and integrated with the technologies that you want it to work with and that makes the CMS advance right along with the changing macro trends each year. 

In the end, I hope this article is as enlightening for you as it was for me. Good luck following trends and making new ones! 

Apr 23 2021
Apr 23

Have you ever wanted something, merely for the reason that it was in trend? And because it was in trend and everybody seemed to have it, you had to follow the trend? If you ask me, I would have to answer yes to this question. I have done things and bought things, just because everybody else was doing and buying them and not because I actually had a need for them. 

Now, let’s take this situation from our everyday life to the world of web development, do you think it’ll be applicable there? It would and I’ll tell you why. 

When a web project is underway, there are tens, if not hundreds of scenarios, that can turn out to be the outcome. It is up to the project managers to steer the project into the direction that is the most suitable for the goal that was decided in the planning stage. However, there are times when the project goes adrift.

How can that happen?

People, when developing a project, often aim to make it the best. Nobody aims for a substandard result. So, in the chase to become the best, they try to pack the project with as many features as possible and lose sight of the initial target. 

The client has asked for it, add that feature; 
A stakeholder vehemently disagrees with a valuable feature, leave it; 
The competition had added a specific feature, we have to add that too; 

Decisions like these are a major reason as to why projects do not achieve what they intended to. It is also why project managers have to take on the burden of choosing what to incorporate in a project and what to leave behind for now or for good. 

This practise of choosing the appropriate roadmap for a product and acting upon it throughout the development phase with the help of a well-defined strategy is often referred to as feature prioritisation. It essentially draws out the order of features that would find their way into the project and the time as to when they would. There is a lot that goes behind feature prioritisation and market research is the beginning of roadmap development. 

Upon asking a group of project managers about the biggest challenges pertinent to their workload, here is what they had to say. 

A survey is displaying the results of the challenges faced by project managers.Source: Mind The Product 

Feature prioritisation is by far one of the most challenging aspects of a project manager’s job profile. Today, we will find out why that is the case by understanding how this concept usually works, what are the flaws that accompany it and also the suitable strategies that work in the favour of feature prioritisation in project management. So, let’s begin.

The Everyday Feature Prioritising Process 

Feature prioritisation is a process that can be a tad strenuous to achieve. A major factor as to why I used that adjective is because it is a process involving people, their ideas and their feelings attached to those ideas. Building a web project requires work, but involving people and opinions and trying to reach a consensus for each development in the project would require work and give you a headache. Ask any project manager, an aspirin would be a common dietary supplement that comes with the job. It is, after all, a job where emotions perpetually run high. 

Let’s have a look at how feature prioritisation is done on an everyday basis. 

Focusing on the bigger goal 

Before the PM gathers evidence to back a feature and have all of the lengthy discussions based on the evidence trying to convince every person the team that it would work and is a must have, the PM has to make everybody see the bigger picture and focus on just that. 

The development team is going to be diverse, there are going to be people who are pros at what they do and these people are going to want to have their way because they think they know best. And maybe they, but being expert in one area does not give them a say in deciding what is right for the project, wherein several other aspects also play. 

Therefore, the understanding of the end goal by every person on the development team is crucial, if a sense of consensus has to be achieved. Of course, there aren’t always going to be unanimous decisions, and when that happens, team members shouldn’t resent the decision, they should be able to comprehend the reasoning behind it by focusing on the bigger goal. 

Prototyping for evidence 

Now, comes the part of accumulating evidence in support of a feature that should be implemented. And prototyping is the means to go here. 

For instance, you have a theory that you know is going to work in favour of the end goal. However, there is some apprehension about it. What do you do then? You prototype. You will try to develop a testable hypothesis, run it, get the results through the proper execution of the testing cycles and get your proof. 

This proof would help the team alleviate their doubts about an approach, even if it is you. The same can have negative results, meaning the test outcome could be unfavourable. In that case too, you would have the evidence to not seek a particular line of action.

Valuing the hierarchy or not?

When prioritising features, you will have a clear roadmap, you will most likely have a semblance of understanding as to what you want and what you don’t. However, all of that can go in vain, when a high level idea pops into your planned course of action. 

Denying an executive his request can be a problem for many. The perfectly curated project plan can land from a high chance of success to high chance of failure because a stakeholder decided to imbalance the project features with his request. 

Remember the prototyping we discussed in the previous point, put that to practise and save your project from being jeopardised. And that is how you must value hierarchy.

Seeing the future through the present

At the end of the day, feature prioritisation and even the entire development process is pursued for a goal that should be fulfilled in the future. And it would only be accomplished, if you put in the efforts today. 

Seeing the future means that you know how the dots will connect to make a perfectly straight line. This is done by thinking practically about the path to take and filtering out the meaningful from the meaningless.

You, as a Project Manager, have to make your team understand the reasonings of the present for the build that would get implemented in the future, If people know what they are doing today is going to serve a great or even a small purpose, like providing online education to the lower income households, they would most definitely put their best foot forwards; making feature prioritisation less of headache for the PM.

So, how would you define feature prioritisation? 

According to one of our Project Managers, Abhijeet Sinha, feature prioritisation cannot be put into a mould to have a rigid definition that would stick to every scenario. He considers the process to be purely contextual and thus, its meaning and implementation becomes quite dynamic. The only thing that persists in feature prioritisation is balance, a balance between the needs of the stakeholders and the feasibility of those needs. You can’t deliver the moon and stars on every occasion, the sky would lose its brilliance then. And I am 100% in accordance with him.

The only thing that persists in feature prioritisation is balance, a balance between the needs of the stakeholders and the feasibility of those needs.

During my discussion with Abhijeet, we talked about one particular project, wherein prioritisation was more difficult than others because priorities and feasibilities were clashing at massive proportions. 

This happened in the Thinkin Blue revamp project.

Thinkin Blue is one of OSL’s most prominent project; it involved the progressive revamp of its site. The client wanted the existing theme of the site to remain the same, the revamp would involve a change in the templates, all of this seemed feasible. The problem came in the homepage, wherein two themes had to be involved, the existing one along with the new one, which was essential for the revamp to look like a revamp. 

However, the developers were apprehensive about it, because building a homepage on two themes was going to be a massive challenge, and complicated would not even begin to describe it. 

The client wanted one thing and the developers thought it was too complicated, the project was in a deadlock. Abhijeet, being the PM, tried to reason with both the parties and in the end, the developers compromised and the home page was built on two themes. 

The same happened for the headers, the client wanted global headers, while the developers didn’t think that was the correct way to go for the home page because of the new theme. One of them had to give some leeway to Abhijeet to make the project roll forward and this time it was the client. 

Do you see what Abhijeet did? He didn’t let the stakeholders reign everywhere and neither did he allow the developers to issue all the commandments. He always listened to both sides, he thought rationally about the practicalities and wherever he thought he could push, he did. When he had to accept the client’s needs over the developers, he did and vice-versa. There was always a balance. And that is how projects succeed, Thinking Blue is a testament to that. Being stuck in a deadlock would only cost you money, time and efforts, and if compromising can avoid that, then you, as project managers, should start working on it.

So, What Should Be the Hard Hitting Prioritisation Questions To Ask?

In the previous section, we talked about feature prioritisation and how it usually goes around. The involvement of ideas, emotions and hierarchy is inevitable. Regardless you have to persist to get to the suitable features for your project without going on a crazy rampage of unwanted attributes that you will most definitely regret later. 

Here are some questions that will help you to avoid going astray.

Think about the users

Feature prioritisation starts with the users, it is them for them all of the efforts are being made. Therefore you must ask yourself; 

How many users would the proposed feature impact?
How many users would be able to use the feature without finding it complex or confusing?
How many times will the user be using that particular feature in a day?
How many users would feel as if they are empowered by the feature, would its value resonate with the users?

The higher the answers to these questions, the better the feature would turn out to be. For instance, adding various accessibility features that aid the use of a screen reader on your web project would benefit the visually impaired a great deal. With as many as 285 million users being visually, I’d say the odds of such a feature passing prioritisation are quite high.

Think about growth 

After the users comes the growth potential. Growth is a pretty broad term. It could mean bringing in new customers through an invite feature and it could also mean eliminating a feature that acted as a deterrent in luring the competitor’s market. You have to be familiar with all of your feature’s growth aspects and then ask yourself; 

Would the feature aid in your growth?

Think about efforts 

Building something that solves a problem is indeed going to require some effort from your effort. So, to ensure that your efforts get their rewards, ask yourself these three questions.

Does the feature require to be developed from scratch or does it just need some fine-tuning to perform better?
Does the feature require a lot of resources for its implementation, if so do you have a plan for delivering those resources?
Does the feature raise the level of building and using complexity for the developers and the end users and will it be worth it?

Then, think about yourself 

After all of that, you think about yourself, your goodwill and your market position. The kind of features you provide in a product speak to the kind of values you have as a brand. A brand prioritising accessibility would resonate as a brand aiming for social inclusion and that would be wordlessly spoken through the features it pumps into its products. And I do not have to tell what the value of a positive brand image is. 

So ask yourself, how well is the feature suited to your brand’s vision and its market position?

The Flawed Kind of Feature Prioritisation 

Now that we have a fair understanding of the do’s of feature prioritisation, it’s only fair to peruse the don’ts as well. These certain things and aspects of selection that may seem totally fair to you, but in reality can hamper the entire process; so, you really have to be mindful of them.

Prioritising one opinion over getting diversified notions 

One consumer feedback, one analyst opinion, one ROI report on that one feature; what do all of these have in common, the adjective one. They are proposed by an isolated person or report, and because of that, you cannot pay too much heed to them. It’s like not voicing your opinion because one person told you to shut up. 

You have to look at diversified notions. 

  • If a number of consumers are dissatisfied with a particular feature, then consider fixing it. 
  • If an analyst is able to back his claim with up-to-date data and not antiquated reports, then consider implementing his opinions. 
  • If the company ROI and consumer value is on the table along with the ROI of the feature in focus, only then consider any course of action.

Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting valuable time, efforts and resources and I’m pretty sure doing that has been in your don'ts list since such a list was conceptualised.

Prioritising gut over rationale 

There are features that we love and there are features that are necessary. Both of them could be the same and benefit the brand and the consumers alive, however, there is also a chance that they might not. 

If you or let’s say your boss thinks that a particular feature would add immense value to the project because she loves it and her gut tells her that this is what the project has been lacking, you can’t listen to that. She could be right, but following the gut is a big no-no in feature prioritisation. 

There has to be a proper rationale behind every selection, every addition and every decision made. 

You also need to know that you cannot always ensure that everybody on the team is making a rational decision, cognitive biases are a real thing and you can try to negate them, but being 100% free of them in the selection process is not a guarantee.

Prioritising an interpretable measurement system over a solid one 

In a group with a divided opinion, how do you come to consensus? The answer is through voting. And that is an important part of the selection process in feature prioritisation. These votes become the unit of measurement, based upon which a feature is selected or discarded. So, it has to be a solid system, right?

Yes, it should be full-proof without a shadow of doubt, however, it may not be and that happens when the units of measurement are open to interpretation. 

When the value of business is given a two star rating, can you be absolutely sure of what those two stars signify? 

Does that rating denote a sub-standard value? 
How does it translate to business profit? 
How do you reach five stars? 

For one person, the value may be clear, but for another it may be muddy; the reason being the difference between people’s perception and there are the cultural differences that also come to play while interpreting. 

Prioritising every vote at the same level 

Continuing on the voting discussion, it is often said that every vote is valued at the same. However, if the person voting is clueless about the feature he is voting on, should his vote have the same as that of a specialist in that area? Think about that for a minute.

Every team has a diversified skill set based on its members. There would be people with technical backgrounds like the developers and there would be people with a not-so-technical background like the marketers. Now you tell me, should a marketer be given the same voting rights as the developer, when the vote is about a technical feature? 

What About the Time and People Constraints?

Like it or not, many a time a feature is shelved not because it was ill-suited, but because the team did not have the time to build it or it did not have the right people to do it. Something like this has happened in every organisation at one point or another. 

Such an incident, when you do not have the right people to execute a feature that you know would do wonders for your project is going to be frustrating, which is understandable. You can’t do anything about it; you can hire a new person, but that could be a whole other task in itself. 

You can think of these constraints as negative or you can look at the silver lining and think of them as another filtering agent helping you prioritise further. Since I am the glass half-full kind, I’d say it is a good thing. 

If you plan out everything in an organised way and your process is full-proof, you have won half the battle. Carrying out its proper implementation would help you over the time and people constraints. If your team agrees to the plan and knows it, your chances of success increase immensely. This also means that the team is able to identify the priority tasks over the non-priority ones. 

The end goal of every project is improvement and it is research and prototyping that make it possible. So, if you have a process to implement those two, no amount of constraints will be able to hold you back. And just maybe, these two constraints help you in avoiding over-reaching?

What are the Ideal Strategies for Feature Prioritisation?

We have learnt everything we can about this concept, now it is time to learn some about the strategies that help project managers implement it. There are a few feature prioritisation frameworks that deserve mention. 

The KANO Model 

The KANO model helps you in understanding the consumer’s needs and wants and base your features on them. This is done through questionnaires and consumer feedback. Although it is a time-consuming process, it does give you a clear picture of where the consumer stands in terms of product features by classifying them. 

A graphs illustrates the four parameters of the KANO model.


According to the KANO Model, the sure thinks in four ways. 

  • For one, he wants excitement. These features add no value of the product or service, but their presence is enough to excite the consumer and lure him in.
  • Second, he wants an elevated performance. The better the performance of the feature, the better the consumer satisfaction and vice-versa. 
  • At number three, he wants the basics. There are certain that have to be there, despite them not providing any excitement to the user, you could refer to them as the threshold.
  • Finally, he becomes indifferent. This indifference is towards features, the presence or absence of which does not affect the consumer.

All four of them, with their different satisfaction and functionality levels help the project managers know the strengths and weaknesses of the project.

The MoSCoW Model 

Must-haves; 
Should-haves; 
Could-haves; 
Won’t-haves;  

These four sum up the meaning and the reasoning behind the MoSCoW model. All of them categorise features based upon their importance to the project. Going from the top; 

  • Features that have to be in a project to make it complete are the must-haves and should be prioritised over anything else. 
  • Features that should be included in the project, but can be delayed for the time being are should-haves, much like green vegetables; you should eat them, but you can survive without them for some time. 
  • Features that could be included in the project or could not be included in the project without having any impact on the overall functionality are the could haves. It’s good to have them for higher consumer satisfaction, but their absence won’t be blatant to the consumer.
  • Features that are won’t have are the ones that are not at all crucial for the project at the moment and would only cause additional stress on the resources at hand. 

The thing about the MoSCoW model is that it lets you know what kind of features you can bring to the table in the feature. This is because priorities never remain the same, a feature that was shelved for requiring too much work and having too little impact could become a Must-have in the future.

According to OSL's project managers, the success of any given project is primarily determined by the intelligent prioritisation of various tasks. Choosing the right high-priority feature may seem to be daunting, but for successful and timely delivery of the project, this is a must. Neha Grover, one of our Project Managers, feels that during instances in projects when you have the list of work packages, which need to be prioritised and moulded into a work breakdown structure(WBS), the PM has to play a key role in getting the stakeholder's and dev team's expectations and priorities to be on the same page.

"I follow the MoSCoW prioritisation technique in my projects, as this is quite simple and less time-consuming and it focuses on both customers and stakeholders."

The Cost of Delay Model 

It is often said that you can't put a price on time, it is indeed priceless; never to come back again once it is gone. Saying that, if you happen to have the right matrix to work with you can actually value the cost of time or more like the cost of delaying. And that is what this feature prioritisation framework is all about. 

The COD model calculates your losses for delaying the development and implementation of a particular feature. Based upon that cost, you will get an idea as to the importance of that feature and prioritise its build accordingly. 

For instance, 

Say there is a feature that would take 30 days to build and every day it’ll cost the organisation $1000. Then there is a feature that would take the same amount of time to develop, however, it is costing the organisation more than double in comparison every.

In such a scenario, which feature would you prioritise? The answer is simple, the one that is making you lose more money. Building that first would stabilise your losses more than the other as the cost of delaying that was more than the other. 

Prioritise what saves you more money by reducing the cost of delay.

The Value Model 

Businesses develop features because they think the said features would prove to be valuable for them. To get that value, they endeavour to build something good. What if that value isn’t as impressive as the business, the project managers and the developers had thought to be. This is why the value model becomes an important strategy to implement during feature prioritisation. 

The purpose of the value model is to reap the highest value of a feature for the business through its two facets.

Value based on cost 

Cost doesn’t necessarily mean money, it could be interpreted as efforts as well or even complexity. The model states to simply prioritise the tasks with high value and low cost first, then move onto the features with high business value and high cost. If you wish, you can take on the low value-low cost features, but most definitely avoid low value and high cost features. 

A graph shows the functionality of value vs cost model of feature prioritisation.


Value based on risk

From cost, we come to risk, which is another metric to be mindful of while prioritising features. It more or less works in a similar fashion to the value and cost model, it's just instead of the cost, you’d be focusing on the risk. 

A graph is explaining the way value and risk model works.


The higher value and low risk features would be prioritised over everything else, while the low value and high risk features would be avoided altogether. This helps in enduring that you are not going to end up building something that is unnecessary or even something that is too simple by playing it safe.

The Financial Model 

An income is what everyone is after and feature prioritisation operates in the same notion as well. The purpose of increasing revenue and reducing costs is omnipresent in all the business decisions and choosing features for a particular project falls under that umbrella. 

So, thinking about the financial side of the features is what the essence of this model is. 

Whether you will be able to generate new income; 
Whether you will be able to enhance your operational efficiency and reduce costs; 
Whether you will be able to lessen the amount of consumer turnover;
Whether you will be able to gain an additional income from the consumers you already have; 

All these are important scenarios to consider in the financial model for feature prioritisation. 

Then there is the actual money metrics to pay heed to in the selection process, which includes three important dimensions. 

  • One is the focus on the Present Value of money. What you have invested today and the return you will get from it five years down the line would not be in the same value of currency as it keeps changing. So, making a projection based on the Net Present Value formula is a wise choice. 
  • Second is to calculate the Internal Rate of Return, which is essentially a percentage value of returns for a project and how quickly they might increase.
  • Third is to focus on the running total of the discounted cash flows to get an overview of the time it would take to get the investment back. This is also referred to as ‘the Discounted Payback Period.’

The Opportunity Scoring Model

For every feature in every product, there are two attributes that usually stand out apart from the financial aspects of that feature. And these are; 

How important the feature or its outcome is to the consumer?
And how satisfied is the consumer with the provided feature?

Take the answers to these questions and start pointing them out in a graph and you will end up with something looking like this. 

A graph is illustrating the way opportunity scoring is done.


So, the scoring makes it easy to prioritise by using visuals and categories simultaneously. The features that are important to the consumer, but aren’t very satisfactory would be priotises more than the features that are satisfactory for the consumer, but not very important. 

The RICE Model  

The RICE Model gives you an in-depth understanding of each feature you wish to implement based upon four parameters that some of the other strategies are unable to. 

Reach 

Reach refers to the number of people the feature would reach and affect. These numbers are calculated on real matrices like ‘customers per quarter’ and ‘transactions per month,’ thereby removing all forms of personal bias from the equation. The higher the resultant number, the further the feature’s reach.

Impact 

The I is for impact, meaning the kind of impact the feature would have on individual users as well as the goals and     objectives of the business as a whole. This is ranked from minimal to medium to high to massive impact based on points from 0.25 to 3.

Confidence 

Now that you have the numbers for the reach and impact of the features, comes the moment to test your confidence in them, that is what the C denotes. Using a scale with 100, 80 and 50 points referring to a high, medium and low confidence level, you will start scoring. Remember to always provide evidence in the form of data for every score you give.

Effort

In the end, the E is for Effort in terms of time and people. Questions like how much time would it take to build the feature. How many people would be required to make it, how much time would one person have to shell out in a day for the build are to be asked and answered in this parameter. 

The RICE formula, a framework for feature prioritisation, is depicted.


Once you have the results for all the parameters, you will use this formula and will be left with a number that would denote the total impact of time worked. This number is what would help you prioritise. 

The Voting Model 

This is not a well-established model, but it has a lot of merit in its implementation. Based on two different aspects of feature selection, here is how it is used. 

Annotation 

When you are voting for a feature’s implementation, you would be stating whether that feature should be high on priority or even low, you can’t just say those two simple words; there won’t be any clarity in that. If you are saying that a feature is high impact, then you must state why? It could be any reason, an admin panel with a particular feature could have a massive impact because it would help the stakeholders in completing their primary tasks with ease. A comment can truly make a difference in the perception of a feature and thus, aid the selection process.

There is table showing how a feature is prioritised based on its impact on the stakeholders.


Diversification

The second part of the model is to diversify the voting team as much as possible. Include experts in the domain as well as non-experts. This would give you a more concise picture as to the popularity of the feature amongst a wider range of people. However, do remember that you separate the experts' votes from the non-experts clearly, because even though diversified voting helps get a better perception on the proposed features, the expert opinions would weigh more. You can even segregate the votes based on departments, like votes from the finance department’s votes could be one category and marketing people could have a different category. 

Now that you have explored various approaches of prioritising features in a project, read about the right way to start a Drupal project, standard development workflow for a Drupal project, best project management techniques for complex Drupal projects, difference between product mindset vs project mindset and human factor in project management for effective project management.

The Bottom Line 

There are numerous other techniques and strategies that can be implemented for feature prioritisation. You can use all of them or just a couple, that is totally up to you. However, you have to remember that a feature is not just for the consumer and not solely for the business. 

Both the consumer and the business have different reasons for using and building a particular feature. The consumer wants the feature to fulfil a need, while the business wants the feature to bring an increased revenue. So, you have to endeavour to strike a balance between the two. This can be done through choosing strategies that are both business-centric and consumer centric, like the Cost of Delay model or RICE. 

In the end, I just want to say that feature prioritisation is a never ending process much like development. As long as you will keep developing, you would have to choose certain features over others to prioritise. So, mastering the prioritisation technique would serve your interests well. 

Apr 21 2021
Apr 21

This is the second of the two-part series on ‘Formulating a business case for a new CMS’. The first part debates on open source CMS and proprietary CMS. The second part will discuss various other factors that are to be considered before opting for a new CMS for your business.

A Content Management System is one of those things that we didn't realise we needed until they became commonplace, and now it is near impossible to survive without using, or hearing of one every now and then. In an age where convenience and agility are prioritised, the concept of a CMS holds great merit. It highly simplifies the work of creating a website and expands the use case of technology, making it accessible to a wide range of people - whether technically proficient or not.

Factors to consider while choosing a new CMS

While one CMS may be good for a particular enterprise, it might add no value or even prove to be detrimental to the other. Hence, skimming through important factors is an essential aspect of building a business case for a new CMS. While in part 1 we have discussed multidimensional comparisons between open source and proprietary software, this part is focused mainly on discussing the factors that are responsible and must be addressed before bringing a new CMS to the table. 

Why go for a new cms? 

Before trying to answer questions like why to choose an open source CMS or when to go for a proprietary one, first the need for a new CMS should be justified. Is there aur technology problem that you're facing? Can that problem be solved by undergoing something less monumental than migrating all your content to a new CMS? If yes, should you update, rather than replacing your existing base? 

Once the need for a CMS is mapped out and you are sure that you'll be going through that route, the next step would be to shortlist, analyse and re analyse every aspect of the new technology. You should be thinking as holistically as possible during this phase to eliminate potential issues in the future.

  • The CMS must resonate with your brand image, and facilitate the execution of your agendas. . 
  • You also need to analyse the CMS in terms of the amount of content you’ll be operating on it and whether it will be able to handle that, and if it provides the architecture for you to manage your content methodically.

Listing down both the business related pros and the probable risks of every option would be a good idea before proceeding. 

Primary stakeholdership 

A question pretty important but often ignored while choosing a new CMS is who has the stakes to decide and consider on the different CMS features that are being debated. As your organisation expands digitally and physically, the number of stakeholders starts increasing as well. The various teams dealing with IT, Marketing and Content might see a different CMS each that fits well with their demands. It is, again, a matter of debate to decide which area your company relies more on and is looking forward to invest in. 

SaaS vs Hosted vs On Premise

A SaaS (Software as a Service) CMS is a cloud computing environment with no obligations to install, update or maintain it. In stark contrast to this is an on-premise CMS where a licence is required from the vendor to install the software on your own server, and the provider is also responsible for maintaining the software. In a cloud-hosted CMS solution, a licence is required to install the software, but after that, it works just like an on-premise CMS.

These technicalities also need to be addressed while the discussion for onboarding a new software, so that the team finally ends up choosing the right CMS.

Business impacts

Long-term impacts need to be examined beforehand if possible. CMS platforms categorise into Development Platforms and Solution Platforms - where the development platforms act like a blank canvas one can build anything on, and the solution platform comes largely pre-built with customisable features. If your business banks on a good User Experience and looks forward to personalizing user experiences, a development platform might be a better choice. Similarly, if the focus area is not UX or creativity but content, a solution platform would be a better bet.

Technology Integration

Exhaustive documentation is required to analyse what tools and technologies you are going to use for marketing forms, project management, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), email marketing and even customer support. Does the CMS provide enough flexibility and scalability features to operate each one of these tools efficiently? You don't really need an all-rounder CMS, you just need to figure out what technologies you are going to use and find an associated software product that syncs well with those.

Skillsets

Choosing a good team is way more tedious a task than choosing a good CMS. So now is the time to talk to the team members and discuss their strengths and weaknesses regarding the tools they are comfortable using, or are expecting to be a part of their workspace. Consider your existing IT infrastructure and expertise and analyse whether your team has sufficient time to allocate to installing, maintaining and securing a CMS. Do you have sufficient in-house resources to customise the CMS if needed? It is imperative to answer all such questions before going ahead.  To know more, read what skillsets facilitate traditional and decoupled Drupal development.

Feature bloat vs Feature-rich

Always bear in mind that a lot of features in a CMS require nerve and sinew to make them functional. You need to know the basics of every feature that you are planning to utilise. A software may have immense capabilities regarding personalization and customization, but these won't articulate by themselves. The question here is - do you possess the necessary resources to breathe life into all of this? More importantly, all that sparkles isn't gold. Do you, in fact, need all of this pomp and show, or is most of it going to lie stagnant or cause unnecessary delays due to a heavy system? Do realise that you want a feature-rich CMS, ie, one that has features that you actually need. 

The potential CMS of choice might be great for complex workflows, but the question is do you have or need a complex workflow with multiple approvals on the line to make decisions? It is imperative that you remain realistic about your company’s maturity and roadmap and see if it aligns well with these technologies, hence not overdoing features to the point where they become unnecessary ornaments on the site. Always keep the requirements matrix of your platform in the backdrop while deciding on which CMS to go for.

Product demos

Theory can never be as reliable as practical examples.  An investment as elaborate as choosing a new CMS cannot be planned without taking into consideration various product demos and user reviews. Once the feature requirements have been worked through, develop usage scenarios and conduct initial product research for the next phase of the selection process - which is to document your needs and test the product against these requirements. Try to look for reviews that talk about problem solving, certain encountered issues, software upgrades and other potential problem causing areas.

In this phase, also try to examine whether the product naturally fits the vision of your company, what compromises might need to be made if you choose the product, and more importantly, if the vendor understands your business' work patterns and complements your ideas. Also run a check with your present team on how compatible they are with the platform.

Understanding the product roadmap 

It is imperative that you realize the roadmap of the potential vendors as well. Does it align with the track that you have set for your business? Taking the effort to track the future plans you are thinking of opting for would not be 'going overboard'. Being a little foresighted is an essential quality in a business owner. With new technologies taking over every now and then, the general trajectory might undergo change several times over the years - hence, a good way to track the adaptability of a CMS would be to trace down history and examine how much it has changed in the past to to fit into the ongoing trends, like decoupled architectures, cloud, SaaS etc. 

Cost efficacy

The budget is one of the first things an organisation considers. All kinds of costs - initiation, operation and implementation - need to be considered while chalking out the investment, as we don’t want the plan to turn turbulent at a later date. Software upgrades, maintenance, premiums - everything should be studied carefully in order to comply with your monetary limits. Both proprietary and open source models incur certain kinds of costs but in very different dimensions. Hence, it is upto you to prioritise where you want your money to be spent.

Drupal: An ideal CMS for building a modern web property

Since the choice of a software turns out to be the bedrock of all business activity online, most users try going for reliable options that have stabilized their name in the market by proving to be a resilient business partner over the years. Drupal is one such CMS that has been here for over two decades, and has been powering websites across the globe ever since. Let’s see how Drupal stands against the various dimensions of choosing a new platform.

  • Open source

Drupal is an open source platform with contributors bringing in global, cosmopolitan perspectives to their work each day. Apart from the many benefits of being open source, there's also a social satisfaction that comes with being a member of the community. Hence, Drupal development is free of cost to begin with. Depending on the level of customisation and the number of features you want to use, partnering with a digital agency can of course incur costs.  Learn more about merits of open source by going through the impact of open source during covid-19 pandemic, influence of large companies on open source, the power of being recession-free and the perks of contributing to it.

  • Content authoring

Drupal offers all the high utility tools required for content creation, publishing and the maintenance of a seamless workflow. Authentications and permissions are placed at appropriate levels to help manage editorial management. This means that right content architecture can be created using the admin interface, or even programmed. One can work with granular tagging and mobile editing to create content that is suitable for both websites and mobile applications. Drupal allows content authors to use a WYSIWYG editor to create and edit content in-place, ie, one could browse to a page, click on the content and edit it right there, on the spot. Apart from this, Drupal provides for tracking content revisions, an essential feature is you have multiple editors on board.

Drupal with its powerful display mode tools categorizes and displays only the most appropriate content including an array of media. While the Layout Builder allows content authors to create customisable visual layouts to display content, the Paragraphs module paves the way for an organised, cleaner site by providing pre-defined Paragraph Types for organising text blocks or images in a slideshow. For more on content authoring using Layout Builder and Paragraphs, read here.

  • Ease of use

Drupal's ease of use again depends on the manner in which you are using Drupal. If you are using the headless version to create custom layouts and mobile applications, very easy usability cannot be expected with the additional technicalities involved. However, developers point out that the availability of modules for every functionality on Drupal makes it extremely convenient even for newbies, making the learning curve quite short. Moreover, starting as a Drupal developer requires the least amount of Drupal centric learning and one can even start with the basic programming languages. Read here to know more about how easy learning and working with Drupal can be.

  • Industries suitable 

Since everything in Drupal is extremely customisable, it can be moulded into under requirements of literally any industry, both government and private. Currently Drupal is in use across several industries dealing in digital mediaFinTech, sports,  food, education, and many more as can be seen below.

white graph with blue bars showing the various sectors in which the cms drupal is usedSource : Drupal.org

In terms of security, Drupal emerges as a solid and secure CMS. Being designed keeping robust security in mind, it comes as no surprise that Drupal powers the websites for many leading corporations, brands and governments across the world. While one of the largest open source developer communities in the world ensures a rapid response to any issues, a bunch of problems are prevented solely by Drupal's strong coding standards and a stringent community code review process. No wonder, a report by Sucuri proves that Drupal is one of the most secure CMS among the major open source CMSes in the market.

grey and green bar graph showing cms infections in 4 different cms side by sideSource : Sucuri
  • Scalability and performance

In a case where it is used and optimised appropriately, Drupal can be scaled up to reach millions of people. For instance, the CDN (Content Delivery Network) module helps one integrate their Drupal website to a CDN, which is basically a globally distributed network of proxy servers that increases the reach of your content manifold. If the hardware of your server is giving up, Drupal allows you to scale it either vertically or horizontally - i.e., by either adding more resources at the same server or adding multiple servers to divide the load. Read about Drupal’s immense scalability and high performance offerings to know more.

  • Decoupled Drupal 

Decoupled Drupal comes with a bunch of flexibility. Developers are free to choose any front end tools that they deem fit while backing on Drupal to provide a robust backend. Decoupled Drupal architecture provides the best possible framework for serving content in the form of chat platforms, conversational UIs (User Interface) etc. through a variety of channels like mobile apps, Internet of Things apps, smartwatches and CRM systems. To know more, read about Decoupled Drupal architecture, difference between monolithic and decoupled architectures, when to move from monolithic to decoupled architectures, how to decouple Drupal, and success stories on decoupled Drupal.

Drupal allows for maintaining separate independent sites that branch out from a single code base while having their own separate databases, configuration, files and URLs.

  • Multilingual 

Drupal enables building multilingual websites with its built-in language handling abilities that make it easy to create localised digital experiences. Certain core modules in Drupal facilitate the translation of every element of a website. Explore more about Drupal’s magnificent multilingual capabilities here.

Drupal can greatly aid you in the Search Engine Optimisation of your website, necessary for clients to find you. You can rely on Real time SEO For Drupal to constantly remind you of anything you might have missed in the optimisation process, and work with the Googalytics module to integrate Google Analytics in Drupal, hence keeping in touch with all the current trends. To know more about Drupal’s SEO features and to update yourself on the present and upcoming SEO trends, check this guide on Drupal SEO.

  • Mobile apps

Drupal focuses on mobile first development. It has also come up with a mobile initiative for this, along with multiple device friendliness to bring about community participation in the same. Not only that, the potential for building mobile applications with Drupal is plenty. For example, you can extract the power of Flutter and Drupal together to build an intuitive mobile app. 

  • E-commerce

Using Drupal Commerce, businesses can utilise an open-source eCommerce framework to build flexible eCommerce websites and applications based on Drupal. Drupal commerce aims to make teams more productive by simplifying complex checkout outflows and keeping every feature accessible at an arm’s length for a merchant of any size. One doesn't need to worry about conforming to industry security standards while implementing Drupal, and can easily rely on  Drupal's own best practices.

It also includes provisions for integrating payment and fulfillment tools to strategize the best marketing strategies tailored for your business. The Commerce Kickstart distribution can be used to start the project, as it comes loaded with features that make it easy to use and administer.

For creating a more engaging and interactive website while still staying in touch with Drupal Commerce, headless Drupal could be utilised. To complete this transaction, APIs (Application Programming Interface) act as the bridge to connect the frontend and the backend - with Commerce API extending JSON:API and Commerce Cart API which lays out an interactive interface of the buyer’s cart through REST API.  Read here to know more about content-driven commerce with Drupal.

  • Web accessibility

Drupal has various modules in place to ensure web accessibility guidelines, realising how important it is to make the website accessible to users across the globe. Modules like CKEditor provide a number of features like CKEditor Accessibility Auditor and CKEditor Accessibility Checker to analyse if the overall experience is convenient for disabled people. Keeping accessibility uniform throughout the site, Drupal’s Automatic Alternative Text Module provides alternative texts in all the images where the content author may have missed it. To further your knowledge on how Drupal ensures web accessibility, read here.

  • Documentation

Every little step taken by Drupal or the community  is exhaustively documented for greater knowledge sharing and transparency among the stakeholders and contributors. Dries Buytaert’s State of Drupal presentation in July 2020 and December 2020 includes all the changes and upgrades made in Drupal in the past year. For more proper documentation on everything Drupal, you can check out Drupal’s official documentation page. Whether you may want to try out a Drupal demo site or are ready to build a perfect Drupal-powered site for your business, the curated list of user guide, evaluator guide, local development guide and many more will help you easily start your Drupal website.

  • Agency partner availability

Drupal Marketplace lists all the agencies that are avid contributors to Drupal's modules, distributions and case studies revolving around Drupal projects. Hence, if a business is thinking of starting a Drupal project but doesn't have the required expertise to go about it, they can contact one of these top ranking agencies for Drupal development services. OpenSense Labs ranks in the top 5 and would love to partner to help fulfill your digital transformation dreams. And, if you wish to leverage more resources for your projects, our staff augmentation services would take care of the rest.

  • Support and maintenance

One of the biggest plus points of being an open source platform is that support is highly accessible and maintenance is pretty swift. Since it is such a widely cultivated and utilised platform, there cannot be bug fixes related to important issues lying around stagnant for a large amount of time. The Drupal community is always walking towards resolving issues that crop up from time to time. 

If you have a Drupal website that you require assistance with, we at OSL could help you out with our  Drupal Support and Maintenance  program.

Conclusion

This concludes our exhaustive list of factors responsible for choosing a new CMS, complete with a business case comparison between open source and proprietary models. Hopefully this article helps you in making the correct decision regarding your business' choice of the appropriate digital platform.

Apr 20 2021
Apr 20

If there is one thing that is in abundance today, that’d be competition. It starts as soon as a child is born and ends when he takes his last breath. It’s not just people who have to face the gruelling reality of perpetual competitiveness, it’s also the non-living objects who compete. 

Tell me, can you possibly buy the new Adidas Aerobounce 2 without checking what the competitors have to offer? And can you really buy that shoe without comparing the prices on the online and offline stores? I am sure not. 

This is why brands and businesses try to be the best in catching the eye of the consumer and presently the best way to do that and beat the competition is through Digital Experience Platforms.

Today’s consumer doesn’t connect to a business through medium, there are a number of touchpoints in play and integrating all of those together to engage your consumer base is what a DXP does. This helps businesses to not only build and deploy digital experiences, but also improve them continuously across your websites, portals and mobile applications. All of it accumulating to a wholesome user experience.

The various features of a DXP are represented in the image in the form of a diagram.Source: Bloomreach

The diagram above is the sum total of a DXP’s powers, which are pretty versatile, as it combines all of the various aspects of online businesses, be it social media or personalisation and targeting, and lets you deliver a seamless digital experience. 

Digital Experience Platforms provide an edge to a business that CMSs and WEMs cannot and that is why they are becoming popular by the day. Their advantages back this claim. 

  • The ability to manage the bazillion consumer touchpoints is the paramount merit, be it FAQs or chatbots, there is an answer to everything.
  • Then is the ability to connect your business’ various aspects at one place, from sales and commerce transactions to instilling loyalty amongst the consumers through in-house programs. 
  • The ability to be flexible is inherent in DXPs as well. You can build it on your rhyme and rhythm, there won’t be any objections. 

Let me also give you a few statistics to understand the rage DXPs are becoming in the present and what their future looks like.

Future projections of the DXP market is depicted.Source: Markets and MarketsThe market of DXPs is shown based on geographical regions in a bar graph.Source: Markets and Markets

Based on these figures, I have to ask, when are you switching to a DXP? If the answer is right about now, you have landed yourself in the right place because I am going to be talking about all the things you would have to consider before choosing the right and most suitable DXP. So, let’s begin our DXP checklist. 

What tools and integrations are you using and plan to use?

The foremost question to ask relates to technologies you are using and plan to use in the future. You can document these technologies based on your consumer’s journey. This would allow you to create the most optimal digital experience for your users because you would have worked on the gaps and weaknesses of the journey. 

From that first step, you have to move onwards and upwards and focus on all the tools and integrations you would need to work with your chosen DXP. Let’s take a look at them together. 

Data Analytics 

Every organisation has a data warehouse, however, it’s proportion does vary. This data might as well be responsible for shaping your strategy. Therefore, you have to consider your analytical requirements before taking on a DXP. 

Remember that you can always come to Google Analytics for any analytics, even after choosing a closed DXP. To know more on how data driven strategies can help understand consumer behaviour, read here.

Digital Marketing Tools 

The DXP you choose should be able to integrate with various marketing tools in the market. Look for integration support with a keen eye, it could be out-of-the-box or an extension, but it has to be there with a side of third-party marketing automation at play.

Conducting a thorough review of the MarTech stack is also recommended here, find out what is being used and where it is being used before going any further.

Digital Asset Managers 

If you have a digital asset manager, you should consider one thing and that is its integration with other downstream systems. This would ease the flow of images and assets through your organisation. Everything about digital asset management (DAM) here.

Backend Integrations 

Then is the question of backend integrations, you could have a CRM or an EPR working at your backend. If that is the case, you ought to start finding them out and assess their compatibility with your DXP provider.

What are your notions about decoupling?

Nobody likes being constrained, the joy you find when you are free to do as you want is unlike anything else. That is pretty the scenario with decoupling or going headless. You could have a strong monolithic architecture now, but in the future that could change, because what works today may not work tomorrow. Therefore, you should think about choosing an Open DXP, if you are indecisive about decoupling today.

Your projects could need microcontent; 
Your content could need to be published on multiple channels; 
Your developers could ask to go headless because there is so much to explore; 

All of these scenarios are real possibilities and you must consider them before making firm decisions on decoupling and DXPs. There are plenty of these platforms that support going headless and having that room to explore can’t be bad.

What are your plans for commerce?

Commerce is another important aspect you need to consider before choosing a DXP. Having all the right features to look for is crucial here. You have to ensure that the DXP’s commerce strategy actually aligns with your commerce needs and at the same time gives you room to be better. 

  • Assess yourself first, know whether your needs are just browse and buy or are they more than that.
  • Assess whether the DXP should be able to work with different commerce technologies to get you what you want.
  • Assess your Stock Keeping units and let their count decide the kind of robustness you would need in your DXP. 
  • Assess the kind of data model you need based upon the working of your team and its present and future needs. 
  • Assess the importance of content in commerce, more like search it up and integrate it without any hesitation. This would create a much more effective experience for the user.
  • And assess whether going headless is worth losing the commerce extensions that come along with the platform.

Once you have an answer to these, you’ll become a step closer to the perfect DXP for you.

What are your editorial needs?

After technology, comes the part your content writers and editors play in the DXP decision. You have to understand that the more writers and editors you have, the more complex the editing experience would become and you would need a DXP that can handle it.

In this regard you have to consider three things before making a decision. 

Cache Manipulation 

Cache manipulation features allow you to sync your developers’ caching strategies with the user's needs. This helps in making you content appear quickly to the users and a perpetual communication in your cache layers.

Review Needs 

Sometimes your content needs to be reviewed by people within the organisation before it goes live. These could be your legal department or even project managers. If that is the case, you need to look for a DXP that is equipped to handle this kind of editorial needs.

Multilingual Requirements 

Finally, many sites today are operating globally, this means they have to change to the local language. For that your DXP needs to have impeccable translation needs, with understanding of the various dialects of the said language. You can’t be using American English on a Scottish website, it won't be wrong or unethical, just inappropriate and your audience might not be able to relate.

What is the value of security for you?

Security is another major criteria that has to be given its due importance. Making a fully-functional site with all the right features, but lack of security would make all your efforts go in vain. That’s why you have to look for the right security features in a DXP to avoid the unfortunate fate.

  • The foremost feature to want should be an integration to Varnish and a CDN along with free-flowing interactions between the DXP and cache layers. 
  • Then you should think about securing your network nodes that are outside your network core. This is done through edge protection services provided by top DXPs, so make that a mandate.
  • Distributed Networks Attacks can be quite harmful, so ensure that the DXP you choose can prevent and counter them.

Also remember that you need to let the experts do the decision making in this regard because you cannot afford to go wrong here. 

What about government regulations and stipulations?

There are a number of rules and regulations that your digital experiences have to adhere to with a super glue consistency. A DXP that makes that easy for you is always going to be a winner; you must know what happens when you go against the law.

Here are the paramount regulations that you have to stick to.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA;
  • General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR; 
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPPA; 
  • Family Education Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA; 
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG;

These are a must when building digital experiences, so grill your prospective vendors about them and if possible, ask for case studies.

Apart from this, Personally Identifiable Information should be a factor in your choice. The way it is collected and stored should be compliant with the GDPR regulations.

What are the financial implications?

When you would be looking for a DXP, you will certainly want one that will favour all the technologies that you want to incorporate into your organisation’s digital platforms. Am I right? So, you will be aiming for the best out there. However, what if the best is not within your price range. Do you settle then? No, of course not. You choose what is the most suitable for you and whatever ticks the most boxes. 

So, before or even during the selection process of a DXP, you need to allocate the budget you are comfortable with. It could be less than a hundred grand or close to a million dollars, that is on you. 

Remember that just because a DXP is expensive, doesn’t mean it is the best. Whatever your budget may be, you could still get what is best for you.

Finally, what do you want the future to hold for you?

Life is often regarded as transitory and it really is; what is important today may not be important in future and what may seem trivial today may become the next big thing. 

The same is true for DXPs and your digital experiences; they will evolve with time. Therefore, when you choose an agency remember to not let it make you inflexible. You would need to keep an open mind about the future and your digital experiences should have the same openness in their build. 

  • Look for future scope in the DXP; 
  • Look for extension of current technologies like marketing automation; 
  • Look for an open DXP architecture with flexible APIs.

You certainly cannot be sure of the future, but what you can be sure of is the fact that the future is going to change and you would have to change with it. 

Bottom Line 

As Steve Jobs said,

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology- not the other way around.”

There is real meaning behind that statement, all of your digital experiences start with and end with the consumer, so why not prioritise them over everything else. 

So, how to choose a DXP? By assessing your past, present and future in accordance to your consumer experiences. You must want to create a fulfilling digital experience for your users, for that you have to have a fulfilling digital experience platform that guarantees to check every and all of your necessities. The questions I talked about above would help you kick start your DXP journey. OpenSense Labs continues to build amazing digital experiences with Drupal that endeavor to provide all of what we discussed, so you could, maybe, start looking here to build a Drupal-powered DXP. 

Apr 13 2021
Apr 13

Drupal has been in the content management game for over two decades. That is a long period of time and in that time span the CMS has accomplished a lot. It’s community of over a million Drupalists is just one part of it. With 20 years gone, Drupal is still running strong and its latest update is proof of that. 

Yes, in the June of 2020, amidst the pandemic, Drupal 9 was launched and it was my only sunshine at that time and I am sure many of my Drupal friends would agree with me. Drupal 9 can be deemed as one of the best offerings of Drupal, not there were many that were anything but great.

Job done easy: Drupal 9 upgrade

The latest version meant we had to take it on, why be comfortable with the past when the present can offer more comfort, right? However, the mammoth task that was the Drupal 8 upgrade, you must remember that, made many of us apprehensive and rightfully so. And that is where we were surprised, pleasantly might I add, by Drupal. 

“Easiest upgrade in a decade.”

This is how the Drupal 9 upgrade is being described and it is because you won’t have to replatform your site, you’d only be updating. It's like taking a connecting flight from London to Paris rather than leaving the airport and taking a train from the station. Connecting flights are easy.

The timeline of Drupal releases in shown. Timeline of Drupal 9 future releases | Source: Drupal.org

Considering the fact that Drupal 9 is not a migration, the upgrade is a breeze. With the addition of new features like Olivero and Claro, being built and stabilised respectively, the new versions of Drupal 9 will become all the more appealing and a release can be expected half yearly much like Drupal 8. So, can we afford to sit back and not take the step towards upgrading our Drupal sites. The fact the Drupal 7 and Drupal 8’s end-of-life has been decided has given us all the more reason to make the upgrade. Read our complete guide on Drupal 9, Drupal 9 FAQs, must-have modules to start your Drupal 9 website, configuration management strategies in Drupal 9 and web development strategies for Drupal 9 website to know more about Drupal 9 and its usage.

To help you in finding the answer to the popular question of “How to upgrade Drupal 9?”, here I am with an all inclusive checklist for this massive step you are about to take. So, let’s begin.

Is the upgrade different for Drupal 7 and Drupal 8?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions for Drupal 9 upgrade. There are still a lot of Drupal sites that are still operating on the 7th version, so it is understandable to want to know whether ‘the easiest upgrade of the decade' is applicable to them or is it different. 

Drupal 9 upgrade is different for Drupal 7 and 8 sites. This is mainly because Drupal 8 was a whole other ballgame than Drupal 7, while Drupal 9 is just a new and improved version of Drupal 8 with no deprecated APIs. Therefore, the upgrading process was bound to be different.

Let’s see how. 

Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 

Support for Drupal 8 will end on 2nd November, 2021, it will receive patch releases, but there won’t be any major updates in its feature simply because we have Drupal 9. Therefore, upgrading to the newer version is the better option. 

To upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9, 

  • You would have to see that all your projects are Drupal 9 compatible; 
  • You would have to see that your codebase is free of deprecated APIs; 
  • And then all you would have to do is run update.php. 

It sounds simple enough, right? That is because it is. Of course, you would have to perform some more steps than these three and there would be a number of tools that you would have to use for them. However, it is these three steps that are essentially the crux of upgrading from Drupal 8 onto 9.

Drupal 7 to Drupal 9

Drupal 7’s support is said to end on 28th November, 2022. Although your D7 site has quite some time ahead of it, you still have to start thinking about the upgrade as the process is not as easy as the D8 to D9 upgrade. 

You can take two routes here; 

  • You can first update to Drupal 8, avail functionality from all the modules that are yet to come in Drupal 9 and then take the easy route of upgrading to Drupal 9; 
  • Or you can directly upgrade to Drupal 9 and skip the 8th version. This would be ideal because your upgrade would have a much longer lifespan.

For the upgrade from Drupal 7, you would need three modules; 

These three do everything from data and content migrations and checking the availability of modules to scanning them and updating them for the upgrade. 

So yes, the Drupal 9 upgrade from Drupal 7 and 8 is different, simply because they are very different versions of the CMS. 

Now that we have this notion clarified, let’s move on to all the nitty-gritty details of the upgrade.  

What tools would you need for the Drupal 9 upgrade?

Can you cook without the right ingredients? Can you make the perfect lasagna without the melt-in-the-mouth pasta? I know you know the answer to these two questions and that’s a big fat no. 

Therefore, the incredible journey towards the Drupal 9 experience has to start by talking about the tool you would need for it, the ingredients that’ll make the upgrade all the more appetising. I’ll stop with the cooking analogy now and come to the point. There are two mandatory tools that you will be needing.

Upgrade Status 

Upgrade Status is a module that prepares your site for the upcoming upgrade you are planning to execute. It is a pretty versatile module that does all the grunt work required before making the leap to D9. 

  • Your site has to be the latest version of Drupal, that is Drupal 8.8 or 8.9, so the first thing this module does is inspects whether you are on that version, if not, it’ll tell you to update.
  • Your system needs to meet Drupal 9’s set requirements for the upgrade to go on smoothly, so the next thing it does is check if you meet them.
  • Your contributed projects also need to be updated and be compatible with Drupal 9. If they are Drupal 8 compatible, there is a high chance they’ll be for Drupal 9. So, Upgrade Status works with Update Status to ensure every project is in sync.
  • Your site needs to be compatible with Drupal 9 in other ways as well, so that is also checked and verified through phpstan.
  • Your system’s integration drush is also taken care of here.
  • Your system might have deprecated APIs, Upgrade Status finds, although there are any fixes provided; for that you'll need another tool.

Upgrade Status’ enchantment doesn’t end here, there is more to this module yet. 

  • I’ve told you that it prepares your Drupal 8 site, but it also gives you the leeway for downloading it with and without the Composer. 
  • It is also available in Drupal 7 and this version would help you in preparation for the Drupal 9 as well as Drupal 8 upgrade, if that is what you want. 
  • Now, the most alluring part, once you’ll upgrade to Drupal 9, it’ll start preparing you for the Drupal 10 upgrade! Yes, you read it right, Drupal 10 launch is in the works and you can be ready for that when it happens with this module.

Deprecation Check

Remember I mentioned deprecated APIs above, well, there are more than APIs that can be deprecated and that needs your attention before you start creating the upgrade environment for your site. That is why, Deprecation Checking and Correction Tools become a necessity.  

All in all, there are five tools for your help. 

  • The first one is an IDE or code editor, which comprehends deprecation to kickstart the process. 
  • Then there is the Drupal-check, this one performs a PHP run and let’s you know whether deprecated code is used and where.
  • Third is the Upgrade Status I talked about above, which essentially scans your entire system and finds deprecated code for you. 
  • The Drupal.org Testing System also supports deprecation inspection.
  • Finally, the Upgrade Rector Contributed Project provides a solution for all of the checking done above and that too in an automated manner.

What are the environment requirements for Drupal 9?

When you are roasting the perfect chicken, the temperature in the oven has to be just right, the timing has to be just right and the flavours have to be just right to make it come out all juicy and succulent. I know I have started with the cooking analogy again, but this is the best comparison I could think of. 

Like that perfect roast chicken, Drupal 9 also needs just the right environment from you and your system to make it work. And this involves; 

Web Servers

Drupal 9 can be run using two different web servers and you need to have the latest versions of these two.

  • For nginx, you have to have the version 0.7.x or above; 
  • And for Apache, it has to be at least 2.4.7.

PHP 

PHP is the language Drupal is built on, of course you must know that. What you may not know is that you need PHP 7.3 for operating Drupal 9. The latest version 9.1.0 supports PHP 8.

Database and Hosting Structures 

Drupal 9 has specific requirements for its backend database as well as its hosts. These are; 

  • Version 5.7.8+ for MuSQL or Percona; 
  • Version 10.3.7+ for MariaDB;
  • Version 3.26+ for SQLite; 
  • Version 10 for PostgreSQL; 

And if you are planning to use Drush to build your interfaces, go for version 10, since only that is compatible with Drupal 9.

Have you prioritised the update of the core codebase?

Drupal 8 was the last major release before Drupal 9. Like any Drupal version, there are a number of minor releases being launched and you must keep up with them. If you have done so, your core codebase would be up-to-date and you’d be all set for the upgrade. 

One of the Drupal 9 upgrade requirements is that your site be updated to Drupal 8.8 or 8.9 for you to be prepared for the easiest upgrade of the decade. 

What happens if you are on a version older than 8.8?

What’ll happen is the upgrade won’t go through. Now you might ask why? I’ll give you an analogy, can you skip a few grades and land from 6th grade directly to high school? Even if you could, would you say that getting the hang of the classes you’ll have be quite arduous? It most definitely will be. So, like you can’t skip grades and you can’t skip the minor releases of Drupal 8 before going on to Drupal. Because Drupal 8.9 and Drupal 9 are somewhat similar the upgrade is a breeze, however, Drupal 8.4 and 9 do not share that kind of similarity and you might need to upgrade fast. 

From upgrades in PHP to core modules, from themes to contributed modules and from path aliases and database, almost every aspect requires updating to be compatible with Drupal 9. And only Drupal 8.8 and 8.9 have that level of API compatibility. 

How to upgrade if you have a Drupal version that precedes 8.7? 

For a version older than Drupal 8.7, you would have to perform some small code changes and database updates that are not very complex. An update to the latest version of the core would be required, and this would make the database and contributed modules ready for the 9 upgrade.

You can use Upgrade Status to ensure that all of what you just did is compatible with Drupal 9 or not. 

Then you’ll have to check for deprecated code, like we discussed two sections above. Thereafter, you become ready to update your core codebase to Drupal.

How to upgrade if you have a Drupal version that succeeds 8.8?

If you are already on Drupal 8.8, there isn’t much you have to do in order to prepare yourself. The only task to perform is running the Upgrade Status and checking compatibility. 

There is one more thing that you will have to do. And that is what your existing site is based upon because that will decide how the actual upgrade will flow. 

Your site could be based on Composer or it could be based on Tarball. Make sure you keep that in mind before starting the upgrade, as both work on different upgrade mechanisms. While the former has its own list of steps to follow, the latter is upgraded using Drush.

What about updating the custom code?

After upgrading the core codebase, you would have to pay close attention to your custom code. There is a high chance that your project will have custom modules and themes, these mean a custom code would also there and it is your responsibility to update it. 

You wouldn’t need new tools and techniques to help you here. 

  • Upgrade Status will scan all the projects for custom code deprecations; 
  • Upgrade Rector will fix any minor deprecations by itself. 

Updating the custom code is not that big a task, so it is often neglected and overlooked. However, it is important enough to hamper the entire upgrade. So, don’t skip it.

Can the contributed projects be neglected?

If you have taken care of the core and custom projects, you can’t think about leaving the contributed project without any attention. So, updating them is the next agenda on the Drupal 9 upgrade checklist. 

The reason for updating the contributed projects is the same as the core and custom projects, to check the compatibility of the projects with Drupal 9. And you must know by now, since I am repeating it for what feels like the 100th time, Upgrade Status will help you in the compatibility check.

You must know that even though a module is Drupal 9 compatible, there is the off chance that it can be a version of a major release that’ll bring API changes along with it. You have to be mindful of these modules because they can be detrimental to your site’s health. API changes that you are not prepared for can’t be efficacious by any means.

But what if a module is not Drupal 9 compatible?

There are, of course, not many of them, however there are some and you must know how to handle them. You can do any of these two things in this scenario.

  • Creating, you can create a custom code to update it;  
  • Or waiting, you can wait to see if it gets updated by the time you are ready for the final upgrade;  

What about the contributed modules with patches, do they need attention?

There are situations where you may want to update a contributed module, but an update is not in the picture, rather you have patches available and sometimes, not even that. What would you do? Pay attention to the patches, that is what.

Usually if a patch is available for a module, Upgrade Status would inform you about that and you can implement it. 

Then there is the scenario, when a contributed module has neither an update and nor a patch. For such an instance, the combination of Upgrade Status and Upgrade Rector will have you sorted. You can also check Drupal’s Contributed Modules Guidelines to help you further. 

Have you examined your content and field types thoroughly?

Auditing for site building is a must. Adding fields and customisations in Drupal is quite easy, anyone can do it. This is both good and bad. Good because anyone can do it leading to less dependence on developers, bad because anyone can do it meaning there might be redundant field types and outdated content. And in this step, you check for just that. 

  • Check and eliminate fields that were created for a once-in-a-lifetime event; don’t let them sit and waste away.
  • Remember those content types you created to add content later, well, you haven’t done that yet, so they have to go as well.
  • Update the help text; this might seem trivial to you, but being someone who relied on that piece of text to perform all my initial duties instead of pinging my manager every minute, trust me, it is important. If it is outdated, it is useless and why would you want something useless on your upgraded Drupal 9 site?

Customisations are only great until they don’t start bloating your site causing regression. You do not want that, so don’t just keep all your focus on the code, modules and themes, give some time to the content as well.

How do you become sure that your upgrade is successful?

You will execute the upgrade to make your site better than it already is, that should be the aim, right? However, despite you doing everything to the T, there is a chance that you may go in regression. Your upgrade may be doing everything that it is supposed to, but still your site’s performance can be slower than it was. 

No one wants that scenario to become their reality, so how do you avoid that? How do you ensure that the upgrade is successful? There is certainly a way to ensure that and that’s through testing.

When you perform tests, you get to know what is truly happening with your site. Where you went wrong and what you did right won’t be hidden under a veil. For instance, performing a test to check the administrative and editorial working of the site is ideal. On paper, everything may appear sound, but in reality your editors could be struggling to make even the smallest of edits. And it is only through testing that you’ll be able to find that out. 

You can start at a smaller level with a hello world test and gradually scale up to examine the major aspects of the upgrade. 

Another thing that’ll help you in making the upgrade a success is going slow. Yes, upgrading to Drupal 9 is deemed as the easiest update of the decade, but it is still a huge task to take on. Just the sheer number of modules that wild require updating can become overwhelming, so go slow, update a few modules at one time. This is the chances of errors would be slim and the chances of success would be quite high. 

The Bottom Line 

Drupalists from across the globe had been awaiting the release of Drupal 9 for a long time, now that it is here, there is nothing holding us back from taking the upgrade leap. If I am to be honest, I’d say that I was fearful of the upgrade process. However, when Dries Buytaert say that one of the fundamental issues to address in the Drupal 9 release was the ease of installation, you cannot do anything but believe him. That’s what we should do. 

Apr 06 2021
Apr 06

Do these numbers seem shocking to you? They certainly were for me. And the more unfortunate fact is that these numbers will only grow in the future. So, what should be done? We cannot stop people from getting a disability, that is in no one's hand. However, we can ensure that that disability should not hold them back. We should endeavour for inclusion, wherein every person on this planet gets an equal opportunity, disability not being a criteria impeding on their life experiences. 

To that accord, accessibility was designed, for inclusion, for equality and for making the differently abled feel that their voices and their feelings value. Accessibility has expanded as a concept since its inception and now, it is also being rigorously practised on the web.

The web or the internet is for everyone, you cannot say that it was designed with a particular demographic in mind because it simply wasn’t. From 5-year-olds watching YouTube videos that are making them prepared for school to 70-year-olds watching a YouTube tutorial on how to update their WhatsApp status, the internet is for everyone and web accessibility ensures that it can be accessed by everyone without difficulty. 

This brings us to the meaning of web accessibility, which is to design something on the web that includes the needs of the differently abled. People with auditory, cognitive, visual and speech disabilities amongst others should be able to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web with ease. You should remember that accessibility is not just limited to people with disabilities, it also transcends to other aspects of life that may affect one’s ability to perceive what is right in front of them. Old-age, bright sunlight, the size of the device being used and the person’s mental and physical state at one point, all are included when we talk about accessible design on the web. Therefore, when businesses and organisations are able to build such experiences that cater to all of what I just mentioned, only then would they be truly accessible. 

With Tim’s words at the back of our minds, let’s find out what the fuss about accessibility is for. Here are three reasons that sum up the crux of accessibility and why it ought to be practiced down to the very of the web business.

The paramount reason for practising accessibility lies in the numbers we talked about in the introduction. The close to one billion differently-abled people in the world would be able to access your web project with ease. They won’t feel frustrated or undervalued by your business model, if it is accessible. And can you guess what that means? Yes, you’ll be able to target a market that your competitors might have overlooked. And that is enough to get you the revenue you endeavour for.

You know the United Nations? I’m sure you do. And when the UN says something is important and needs to be followed, you follow it. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities clearly states that access to information and communications technologies is a basic human right. And when you make websites that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities, you are going against the UN and you won’t want that.

Even in the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act also establishes grounds for web accessibility and adherence to those guidelines is important to stay on the good side of the law, don’t you agree?

Then, there is the concern about brand image. If I had to describe accessibility’s essence, the only thing that would do it justice would be social inclusion. Including every section of the society and every scenario that may hamper their web experience, and building a web project that takes into account all of that would most definitely get positive feedback from the audience using it. And that is how you build a positive brand image. 
 
Now, tell me are you not on the side of accessibility? Are you not craving to make the entirety of your website truly accessible to the users, whoever they may be, whatever their physical or mental condition be, and wherever they may be? 
 
If that is the case, continue reading because I am going to be talking about accessibility tools that are found in Drupal, a leading CMS, so that you can use those tools and modules to make your site the epitome of accessibility.

Drupal has certain checklists that are used to evaluate the competence of a particular aspect of your project, these are called Drupal Core Gates. There are six in total, ranging from Content to Frontend and testing. And you would be glad to know that accessibility is one of these six parameters, this alone is explanatory enough to let you know how much Drupal prioritises this part of web designing. 

All of these are proof of Drupal’s compliance with accessibility, meaning that Drupal is incomplete without it. With the additional WAI-ARIA support, Drupal is becoming all the more proficient in building projects that are accessible and rich internet applications. 

With that said, let us look at the accessibility-centric features found in Drupal. 

The addition of WAI-ARIA landmarks, live regions, roles and properties has equipped Drupal to provide more semantic HTML5 elements that can be leveraged by assistive technology.

Let’s try to understand this, when an assistive device scans a web page for information, it extracts the data about the Document Object Model (DOM), or the HTML structure of the page. No further information is read by the screen reader.

Often these assistive devices only allow a user to select to read the headings on the page or only the links. It prioritizes according to the hierarchy in which the headings and links are presented making browsing easier for users of assistive devices. So, HTML and WAI-ARIA help in achieving screen-friendliness and making the UIs more interactive.

Aural users play a major role where accessible design is concerned. To that accord, Drupal.announce() has been made a part of Drupal core so that timely messages can be delivered to these users relying on a screen reader with different tones as well; you can be assertive or polite, it is up to you. This is the Aural Alerts feature.

Users that are visually impaired and the ones who cannot operate a mouse can opt for the Tabbing Manager. This is a feature that would essentially become a guide for these users, so that they are able to access all the salient features and that too in a logical order. 

Your content can be displayed in multifarious ways; it is up to you to decide how you want it. With Drupal’s CSS classes, you can control the way your content is hidden or not. Would certain screen readers can view it or all of them, would hidden, visually hidden or focusable or entirely invisible, you would get to decide every single nuance.   

This is due to the centralised alternative to CSS display:none; and the standardisation of the HTML5 Boilerplate naming convention. 

It is important to provide the necessary feedback to users about the results of their form submission. Both the times when successful and when not.  This incorporates an in-line feedback that is typically provided after form submission.

Notifications have to be concise and clear. The error message, in particular, should be easy to understand and provide simple instructions on how the situation can be resolved. And in case of successful submission, a message to confirm would do. 

Drupal forms have turned out to be impressively more open to the expansion of available inline form errors. It is now easier for everyone to identify what errors they might have made when filling in a web form.

Fieldset labels are utilized as systems for gathering related segments of forms. Effectively implemented

label gives a visual diagram around the shape field gathering. This can, to a great degree, be valuable for individuals with cognitive disabilities as it viably breaks the form into subsections, making it easier to understand.

Drupal presently uses fieldsets for radios and checkboxes in the Form API. This helps towards additionally upgrading forms in Drupal. This feature is also being used in the advanced search option. 

The Alternative Text 

People with good eyesight can see the images, but what about the visually impaired? They won’t be able to see the images. And images are important in context to what you want to portray in your content. So, what is the solution?

It is an alternative text, this text describes everything going on in the picture, so that the people without sight are able to understand what the picture is about. 

Drupal has alternative text as default to make the content accessible to everyone and content creators understand its importance. However, the default can be overridden through CKEditor or Image Fields, if that is what you might prefer. 

The Bartik 

If you think about it, a link is like any other piece of content on a webpage, yet it is different because it has the power to take you to a different page for more information. This power should be highlighted properly. And Bartik is here to help in that. A Bartik underlines a link, which basically highlights it and makes it easily identifiable, aiding to enhance accessibility further. 

The jQuery UI 

Drupal’s autocomplete feature is quite useful and jQuery UI is helping in elevating its usefulness. Being implemented in Views UI and in other places, it is improving Drupal’s accessibility standards. With the involvement of jQuery UI community, the benefits are being experienced by both the projects in leaps.

Drupal Accessibility Also Transcends to Developers: D7AX

When we hear accessibility, we always go to the users. Accessibility has to be about them, right? We must ensure that everything on the site is totally accessible to every user, regardless of their physical condition. 

This notion is true, yet it is only half true. Yes, the majority of the accessibility guidelines focus on the users, however, the developers, the people who actually build a project from the ground up also need to prioritise in terms of accessibility. So, the development process has to be accessible for them to build something great that they are fully capable of doing.

And Drupal provides this as well. Drupal has focused on accessibility for developers and that is what makes me as a Drupalists proud of this platform. Developers can depend on Drupal for support when they are creating accessible sites and projects. 

The D7AX is shining glory of Drupal in this accord. It makes it extremely convenient for developers to find contributed modules and themes that support the development of accessible websites. 

So, what is D7AX? 

It is a kind of platform that lets other developers know that a module has been designed after following all the resources for developing accessible modules. When you see a hashtag saying D7AX on a module page, know that it is accessibility friendly. 

Whenever you use a D7AX module, you are contributing in making that module a success. Using it would mean any issues that were overseen before might be caught by you and resolved, making you a D7AX developer as well and a contributor in Drupal accessibility, 

What about themes? 

D7AX is not just limited to modules, it also works to resolve the accessibility challenges found in the theme layers. It works in similar fashion to that of modules and the hashtag lets the users know that a theme is compliant to the accessibility guidelines. The Accessibility handbook will help you further in this regard. 

Is there an accessibility group?

Yes, there is and it is the Drupal Accessibility Group. It would answer all your questions about Drupal accessibility and make accessibility come alive on your fingertips. With regular sessions and talks, you’ll get to know all the hints, tips and tricks about it. 

Your feedback is always going to be valued at Drupal, the accessibility group is no different. Even if you have concerns about Drupal lacking in an aspect of accessibility, you should raise it. Who knows maybe you end up making Drupal even better. 

This is the kind of indulgence by developers as part of one community that makes Drupal an ideal place for developers to build something that is universally accessible because they have access to the ideas and work of other developers and that gives Drupal an unparalleled edge. 

Modules Making Drupal Sites Universally Accessible

Knowing that Drupal caters to accessibility for the administrators and developers as well as the visitors does give a sense of relief that we are going on the right track with Drupal. However, is that enough? I don’t think so. 

Until you know how to effectively implement the aforementioned accessibility features into your project, you can’t sit back and relax. To help you in executing accessibility to the T, here is a list of the modules that will enable you to deploy a universally accessible project. 

#1 The CKEditor Family 

You cannot talk about Drupal accessibility modules without talking about the CKEditor. It is a WYSIWYG module that provides umpteen features like structured content and clean markup and convenient drag and drop features based on its UI along with pretty secure safety guidelines for your content creators.

The CKEditor in itself is pretty powerful when it comes to accessibility, however, when you bring five of its variants into the mix, it has the potential of making Drupal even more accessible. Let’s have a look at them now.

CKEditor Accessibility Auditor 

The HTML_CodeSniffer Accessibility Auditor comes in the package of CKEditor Accessibility Auditor with a button for the same that audits the source code of your current content. 

If you have a specific error; 
If you want a success criteria and suggestions of techniques; 
If you want to know what triggered the error; 

Everything would be found by these modules and the results will be in front of you almost as soon as you run the auditor.

CKEditor Accessibility Checker 

The CKEditor Accessibility Checker provides a plugin with a creativeness for accessibility inspection of your WYSIWYG body created in the CKEditor itself. Of course, the inspection would lead on to immediate solutions of any problems found. You should know that this innovation plugin is the Accessibility Checker, hence the name of the module.

CKEditor Balloon Panel 

This module is used in relation to the previous one to create floating panels that have accessibility tips. These floating panels are a courtesy of Balloon Panel plugin that make it possible for you to present as content at whichever specific position you want to, 

CKEditor Abbreviation 

The CKEditor Abbreviation’s purpose is quite simple. If you want to add a button to the CKEditor to help you insert and edit abbreviations, it will do that for you. The addition of a link to edit the abbreviation is an added bonus.

USWDS CKEditor Integration

Like the name says, the USWDS CKEditor Integration module integrates the US Web Design System to the CKEditor, which has become a requirement for government websites. You can use the USWDS classes and components and inject them into the CKEditor, all without opening the source even once.

#2 Automatic Alternate Text 

Did you know that there is an API that can actually process images through its state-of-the-art algorithms and return with an output that is quite on point? It can sense the content of the image, its maturity levels and even the prominent colours in it. 

The Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services API is able to do this with ease. Drupal’s Automatic Alternative Text module utilises the competence of this API and provides alt text to images your users did not. 

However, you must be aware of the fact that the way we perceive images and the technology would perceive it may not be similar, so the produced alt text can be different to what you may have expected. 

#3 A11Y:Form Helpers 

Remember the accessible forms I mentioned as a Drupal feature, the A11Y: Form Helpers helps in achieving that. It aims to fix the accessibility issues found in Drupal forms. 

This module’s features are quite impressive. 

  • You do not require any HTML validation; 
  • You can include readable inline error messages for screen readers; 
  • You can even put in pre-filled attributes to certain form elements, which is always a winner.

#4 Block ARIA Landmarks Role

People usually prefer when you come straight to the point and skip all the small talk. And ARIA landmarks are just the means for that; it allows users to skip the unnecessary and switch to the main content. 

With the Block ARIA Landmarks Role, you can add extra elements to the block configuration forms and users can allocate an ARIA landmark role or label to a specific block. Having been created with inspiration from the Block Class, this module does cater to accessibility.

#5 Editoria11y

Editoria11y is a module that caters to the accessibility needs of the content creators and editors. Being a user-friendly checker, it focuses on the accessibility concerns of content authors and rectifies them. 

  • It ensures that speckcheck is always on and corrects the content mistakes as and when they happen.
  • It ensures that errors never happen in relation to Views, Layout Builder, Media and similar modules. This is because it runs in context with them and its checkers are always running.
  • Lastly, it ensures that content issues get fixed by prioritising them. Its exclusive focus on them ensures page editors don’t miss anything that is easily fixable by them.

#6 Fluidproject UI Options 

A web page has a lot of different elements that might need modifications to make them aligned with the accessibility standards set by Drupal and W3C. The Fluidproject UI Options tends to make these modifications easy for you. 

Be it; 

  • the page’s font size;
  • the page’s font style; 
  • the page’s height; 
  • the page’s contrast ratios; 
  • the page’s link style; 

everything can be sorted and the changes can be retained using cookies. However, it does come with certain limitations, using CSS gradients for contrast settings is one of them. 

#7 High Contrast 

You will have a theme that you are currently using, then there will be a theme that would be a high contrast version of the same. Reading this along with the name of the module, you must be able to guess what this module is all about. 

With High Contrast, you will be able to switch between your theme and a high contrast version of the same. All you would need to do is press tab on the keyboard after installing the module and you’ll get the high contrast pop-up link on your screen and the work is done.

#8 Siteimprove

Aiming for high quality content along with higher traffic and a higher level of digital performance is not unreasonable. And doing all of this by adhering to the regulatory compliance is what Siteimprove is known for. 

Being a comprehensive cloud-based Digital Presence Optimisation software, it offers a smooth integration through its Drupal module, wherein  you can capitalise Siteimprove efficiency in content creation and editing process.

Be it testing the content; 
Be it fixing what was found; 
Be it optimising the perpetual work; 

You will have the analytics and content insights at your disposal to make this happen. Siteimprove’s plugins ability to lessen the gap between Drupal and the software’s Intelligence Platform is the sole reason for these amazing benefits. 

#9 Style Switcher 

Have you ever found yourself in a conundrum wherein creating themes and building sites seems like a mammoth task? If you have, you most likely would have been facing issues with the alternate stylesheets. 

The Style Switcher module makes all of this a breeze by focusing on the themer as well as the site builder. It provides an alternate stylesheet for both in the admin section. These styles are presented in a list of links in a block to your site visitors. 

And there is more, with the module making use of cookies, these styles are always remembered and when someone returns to a page, he is welcomed by the same style he chose in his previous visit. Pretty amazing, right?

#10 Text Resize 

Have you ever squinted your eyes to read a piece of text that is too small? Did you get frustrated by it? Now, imagine you have a weak eyesight and focusing is always an issue. Would you be able to read a small font size? I don’t think you will and now you know how the visually impaired feel.

The Text Resize module helps in making the visually impaired feel less frustrated. Using jQuery and jQuery Cookie, it creates a Drupal block that allows users to change the font size of the text, making your pages more accessible. You would be glad to know that it can also resize images. However, you have to remember to enable the Text Resize block of your theme, only then would the block appear. 

#11 Civic Accessibility Toolbar  

Civic Accessibility Toolbar has a pretty similar principle to the previous module. Unlike the Text Resize module, it not only aids changes in the font size of the text, but it also helps users in switching to a theme version that has a higher contrast. 

Now, much like Text Resize, this module also operates on the creation of blocks for the utilities being implemented for accessibility with the visually impaired in mind. 

Bartik, Garland, Zen Starterkit, Stark and Oliveiro are all the themes in which the Civic Accessibility Toolbar has been trialed and tested.

#12 HTML Purifier

Auditing your site with a thorough and secure whitelist as well as ensuring that your documents are compliant to the standards of W3C’s specification will keep you on the good side of accessibility. Drupal’s HTML Purifier module does just that through the HTML filter library of the standard stringent HTML Purifier

With this module you can say goodbye to all malicious code.

Custom fonts; 
Inline styles; 
Images and tables; 
Restricted tags; 

All of these are possible when you combine the HTML Purifier with your WYSIWYG editors. You will hit the standard compliant ball out of the park with a home run through this module. 

Now that we have discussed all the necessary modules that aid in making your Drupal site universally accessible, let’s listen to what one of our frontend developers at OpenSense Labs has to say about Drupal and its part in accessibility.

“Drupal Core on its own takes care of the accessibility in the site. Since many accessibility challenges are confined to Frontend (Theme) Layer, it is better to have good practices in place for frontend development to ensure accessibility compatible sites.” 

I personally feel that he is right. There are hundreds of modules in Drupal and you can use as many of them when building your site. With so many modules at work, your site is bound to be extremely functional and impressive. However, it still might not be accessible, if you don’t keep accessibility as an imperative parameter during the building process. 

I’ll explain this with a few modules for better understanding. 

If you look at all of these modules, they are not blatantly related to accessibility, but all of them are somehow adding to your site’s accessibility appeal. Now, if you developers are constantly building with accessibility at the back of their minds, they would use these modules without any hesitation. 

Therefore, like our frontend developer said, Drupal accessibility is all about good practices throughout the building process and throughout the life of the web project. 

Are You Certain Your Project is Accessible, Let’s Review!

Up until now we have discussed the accessibility features found in Drupal and the modules that support the implementation of those features. Do you think that is enough? Do you think the installing and running a bunch of modules makes all your accessibility work done and now you can sit back and relax? If you think so my friend, you are utterly wrong. 

By running modules, you cannot be certain that your site is truly accessible, that it checks all the accessibility boxes. You have to run a thorough review on all the parameters that can affect your site’s accessibility and after reviewing the results and rectifying them, you can sit back and chill as much as you want. 

So, let’s start the review.

Review through Automation 

You need to start your reviewing process with Drupal’s automated tools that are designed to assess your project’s accessibility levels and issues arising out of it and consequently resolving them. 

Some of these tools are; 

WAVE;
Tenon;
Accessibility Insights;
Google Lighthouse;
Siteimprove;
And Siteimprove Accessibility Checker.

With axe-core, you can automate some of them and sit back while they do their work.

Review the Keyboard

Keyboard navigation is of great significance when it comes to web accessibility, so you cannot afford to go wrong with it. Everything and every element on your screen must be accessible through a keyboard and with a tab order that makes sense.

When making your assessment, look for things like these; 

  • The tab should work forwards and backwards; 
  • The interactive elements should be highlighted from others; 
  • The document object model should be followed in the tabbing progression, making it natural; 
  • The skip option is available for content that is repeated; 
  • The user should be able to skip overlays, modals and autocomplete widgets; 
  • The hovering mouse content should be accessible through the keyboard as well. 

Pointers like these amongst others would make your project keyboard friendly. One more thing, you should remember to review this on mobile and tablets as well to avoid any responsive breakpoints.

Review the Colour and Contrast 

Next comes the colour and the contrast, which should be prioritised too. The foreground and the background need to be quite distinguished from each other. 4.5:1 is the ideal ratio of text to the background. Anything lesser than that would be in direct contradiction to the accessibility guidelines. 

You also need to remember that colour cannot be the only way to relay information. Think of your audience, who might be colour blind; would they be able to gather what you are trying to say?

There are two boxes with the same kind of figures differentiated with colour, but the second has the addition of numbers as a desciption


The second demonstration in this image is what you should always go for. 

Review the Content 

You also need to review your content. By content, I don’t exactly mean the words you use, although the language should be easy to understand. 

Apart from that, there is also the changing content such as the list of search results, which keeps updating all the time. This is called the dynamic content and you must announce these changes through assistive technology; ARIA Live Regions help in this regard.

Headings are a part of the content as well. In this regard, you have to make sure that your headings are not only prominent enough, but also descriptive enough to ensure that something reading it understands its entire context. 

Then there are the icons, which cannot just be the icons because the users would not be able to know their functionality without a proper description. Give labels to all your icons, if you haven’t already. 

Review the Sound and Video 

This one is for the deaf community and people who have hard hearing problems. The elements on your site that are relaying information through sounds and videos should have accompanying textual transcripts and captions so that people who cannot hear what is being said and read it. This would automatically make your site more accessible. 

I used both captions and textual transcripts because this review also focuses on the users with visual impairments. This is because for a complex video, captions alone may not be enough. There may be a need to textually describe the scene to people who cannot see what is happening and captions would only provide context to some degree. 

Review the Animations and Autoplay 

There is a high chance that your project might have animations, audios and videos. Obviously, there would be a purpose for their presence on your site, but you have to consider the user as well and that means avoid autoplay. 

Videos that autoplay and don’t pause by themselves are a nuisance to me, frankly, if I want to watch, I’ll press play myself. So, you should also turn the autoplay option off and even if it is on, the animations, audios and videos should stop playing after a couple of seconds. 

You should also think about adding easy controls to play and pause these media items. 

Review the Screen Reader 

You are going to have users that would completely rely on a screen reader, so ensuring that there are no issues with that has to be on your review checklist. 

For this, 

  • You should assess that the same information is being relayed to users using assistive technology and the sighted users. 
  • You should check the flow of information, ensuring that it is logical much like the tabbing order in keyboard accessibility. 
  • You should see that all your links make sense; something like ‘click here’ won’t really help the screen reader user. 
  • Finally, you should ensure that all the images have alternative text describing them in a clear and concise way. 

Conclusion 

Web accessibility has become quite popular today. If you adhere to the W3C’s guidelines on accessibility, you could achieve wonders for your brand image and enhance your consumer base to a great deal. However, if you do not, your image would downgrade and so would your revenue. The aim of accessibility should be to create a web project that is accessible to someone without any disability, someone with a physical disability and someone with cognitive disabilities on an equal without a shadow of bias.

Accessibility features in Drupal are so comprehensive and whole that they would not let the latter outcome be even an option. I have tried covering all of Drupal’s accessibility modules and tools and I really hope that you will take a note of them and build a project that gets universal attention. Good luck!

Apr 06 2021
Apr 06

SEO is the process of optimising a website's content with the use of certain keywords with the goal of ranking better in the search results of a search engine, for example, Google. SEO is independent of PPC (pay-per-click) results, and focuses on organic rankings. If a business wants to make the most of the web to reach its targeted audience, Search Engine Optimisation is one aspect that cannot be ignored. According to Backlinko, less than 1% of users care to explore beyond the first page of Google.

black and green graph showing the number of people who go to the second page of Google while searchingSource : Backlinko

Website content still relies heavily on SEO for traction, legitimised by a recent survey stating that several bloggers found that SEO was the second most important driver of traffic for their websites.

white and green bar graph tracking the importance of SEO in driving trafficSource : Backlinko

Owing to these parameters, Drupal has taken into account to include several modules to facilitate SEO in Drupal. Not only are there multiple intent SEO friendly features, Drupal also provides several customizations to fit into the trajectories of various kinds of businesses online.

The Drupal SEO Checklist 

Here are some must have SEO modules in Drupal.

For the overall framework

  • Real Time SEO for Drupal acts as a constant alarm clock to remind you of things that you might have missed. Since there are a number of technicalities involved in SEO, one might skip one or two if left unassisted. Real time SEO keeps a track of things like post length, meta description, consistency of the focus keyword and its placement in the appropriate places etc.
  • Drupal’s SEO checklist module makes use of best practices to check your website for proper optimisation.. It automates most of the on page optimisation making use of the latest techniques that are updated in the module regularly. The way it functions is by breaking down the tasks into functionalities like Title Tags, Paths, Content etc. Links to the associated modules are attached against the task. It also keeps a track of the entire SEO history by placing a time stamp next to each saved item. The SEO checklist module, however, is not for newbies as it requires the user to know the basics of SEO to make optimum use of it. 
  • The Require on Publish module is best to use in cases where the content has fields such as tags or SEO data that one doesn't really need to fill in until the content is going to be published. Hence, it marks required only when the fields are actually required in the process, and not before that. 
  • One of the most popular ways of trapping and practicing SEO is to use Google Analytics to look for the trending keywords and then incorporating those in your content. The Google Analytics module allows a number of statistical features to be added to your website like domain tracking, AdSense support, Modal dialog tracking, enhanced link attribution support etc. thus forming an extensive web statistics tracking system for the site. Additionally, you could also use the Googalytics module that provides for integration of Google Analytics in Drupal.

Linking it Right

  • Linkit provides a simple interface for internal and external linking with WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors with the help of an autocomplete field. This module has, by default, support for all types of entities that define a link template, for example, taxonomy, nodes, files, comments etc. Linkit, however, does not have support for link attributes like title, class or target and one would have to use the Editor Advanced Link for the purpose.
  • The Link checker module does exactly what its name suggests. It extracts links from one's content and then at regular intervals, tries to detect broken hypertext links by checking the sites and evaluating the HTTP response codes. If a link check fails, it shows it in the separate section on the content page, hands making it extremely simple to rectify any errors.
  • The Footnotes module creates automatically numbered footnote references in the content, making the article look better structured.
  • The Redirect module provides the user the ability to create manually redirects for all the content, while also maintaining a canonical URL for it - hence redirecting all other requests to that path.
  • Pathauto could also be used in such a case to automatically generate the URL aliases and path redirects, to ensure that the changes in the URL alias do not break the existing links. 

For Navigation

  • The Easy Breadcrumb module is a navigation tracker, which when embedded in your pages, utilises data from the work you have already done to generate your paths' alias. It is a plug and play module that auto generates the breadcrumb by using the current URL. 
  • On the other hand the Menu Breadcrumb module allows the user to use the menu that the current page belongs to for the breadcrumb. It uses the titles of the parent menus to generate the breadcrumbs.

Sitemap

  • Sitemap module helps  make navigation user friendly by providing the visitors a sitemap that gives them an overview of the entire site. It also has provisions for displaying the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds for all the blogs and also for the various categories to explore within the site.
  • To generate a sitemap a Simple XML Sitemap can also be used. The sitemaps generated by this module are compliant to Google's standard regarding multilingual content and are also good with respect to SEO in Drupal.
  • The XML Sitemap module takes into account the sitemaps.org specifications, while creating sitemaps, helping search engines like Google, Ask and Yahoo! to better understand and place the website.
  • Using Menu Attributes, one can specify additional attributes for items in a menu such as ID, name, class etc. The user wants to give the menu and ID so that it is easily detectable using jQuery or when you want to customise the menu. 

For tags

  • Metatag module is quite useful for a methodical Search Engine Optimisation. It auto generates structured metadata like meta tags, meta description and meta keywords that help improve the overall ranking of the website in the search engine results.
  • Hreflang tags are used by search engines to serve the correct language or regional URLs in the search results. Once these tags are generated, the Hreflang module automatically adds these tags to the respective pages. 
  • The Schema.org Metatag module could be used to further extend the Metatag module to display data in a structured format in the head of web pages.
  • The Power Tagging module is used to extract the content of your entity, like node or user, and offer you the concepts and existing free terms that fit best in the context. It has the provision of tagging the entire content automatically via bulk tagging, and also supports multilingual tagging.
  • Similar By Terms brings out the similarities in content items based out of taxonomy terms and links assigned to the content, making the site easily navigable.

Combat Error 404

Instead of displaying '404 page not found', the Search 404 module performs a search on the existing keywords in the URL. This helps retain visitors who might happen upon outdated links.

These are some of the major search engine optimisation modules that help Drupal websites achieve optimum SEO, whether directly or indirectly. While the software is constantly evolving to adapt to the changing norms, SEO remains too dynamic of a subject. And with constant parallel innovation in the terms of technology, SEO also keeps undergoing significant changes owing to these trends. Some Optimisation trends that are projected to stay afloat in 2021 are listed below.

SEO trends in 2021

Looking for user’s search intent 

As User experience expands and seeps into different arenas, its effect is bound to be seen in SEO as well. Google has been pretty mindful about making search intent a top priority, ie, the search engine aims to display results regarding the search intent of the user. To figure out the search intent, it is imperative to examine the keyword. The intent might be informational, transactional, commercial or navigational. For example, a person that searches for 'buy protein bars' has a transactional intent, and tracking this, the search engine is likely to redirect the person to an online shopping site or a grocery store nearby. But if the person searches for 'best protein bars', the search results will greatly vary, leading him to a blog or an informational website.

blue, green and yellow boxes talking about user intent while searching for somethingSource : Search Engine Land

Customer Retention

Not just customer acquisition, but retention also needs to be considered while planning out the SEO of a website. When a visitor turns up, you should be interacting with them, answering their questions, and every need that they are searching for. Each keyword that has been used in optimisation of the site should be justified, and there should be appropriate information about it.

Brand SERP Optimisation

SERP (Search Engine Result Page) tracking is projected to become the norm in 2021. This means that brands will go the extra mile to define who they are and what they offer in accordance with Google's Passage Ranking. The SERP layout is projected to undergo change as well, with businesses switching from creating several verticals within the website for different topics to creating long pages for the entire content, for better ranking in the search results. 

For this to formulate, we may see more personalized research on consumer behaviour in 2021.

Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals include features like page speed, multiple device friendliness, image optimisation in  different devices, compliance to security protocols etc. Google introduced core web vitals as a ranking factor in 2021. Hence, it is another aspect that needs to be considered while optimising a website. SEO now is not just about whether it answers your users' queries but also about how satisfied the user is with that information and also whether the environment in which it is being presented seems trustworthy. 

Importance of mobile SEO

About 56% of global internet traffic in 2021 has been attributed to be coming from mobile devices, hence while planning out optimisation strategies, the primary area of concern should be the performance of your website when accessed from a smartphone. Hence, a bare minimum mobile experience isn’t going to suffice if you want Google to consider your website setting out the ranking.

Web Automation

The quality as well as quantity of AI (Artificial Intelligence) generated content cannot be beaten, and hence it is expected to increase monumentally in the following year. Jesse Mcdonald, Optimisation Lead at IBM, believes that it is going to be one of the biggest SEO trends in 2021 to roll out automated functionalities with respect to optimisation, cutting down manual SEO wherever possible. 

Content is still the king

It has been witnessed that blogs of over 2000 words outperform blogs of 1000 words or less, the former perform better with respect to Google's E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) guidelines. Hence, the long form content trend is to continue in 2021 as well, as most websites try to expand their content to said length.

Content also has immense potential when it comes to expanding the audience base of the article. One sure shot way of getting yourself some subtle marketing is to include some statistics, survey or study that constitutes research related to the topic, as others writing on the same topic will keep linking you in their document while using your research data.

Graphics do the job of grabbing attention really quick, hence visual content should be added at regular intervals for sustaining the reader’s attention. Concept visuals, i.e., visuals that explain tricky concepts are especially helpful and are more likely to be shared and referred to. 

Lastly, all the constant research that is done over topics from time to time can be brought to good use by presenting a bunch of content on a specific topic as a ‘hub’. These work exponentially well for SEO, and also are a form of value rich content that is likely to grab attention in a good way and be shared widely.

Visual Search

With the popularity of Google lens soaring, visual search has been trending throughout the year and will continue to occupy space in 2021 trends as well. Therefore, optimising images on your website has become as essential, as according to Backlinko, as 32.5% pages that ranked in Google Lens had a keyword in their Title tag that matched Google's Vision Label.

Conversational UI: Voice and Video interfaces

Google Home and Alexa how become the new members of most internet connected households today, simply because the added convenience these devices bring with themselves. This is the reason why Search Engine Optimisation for voice search is not an option to consider anymore - it is quite a necessity. With Google and Alexa constantly referring to sites that consist of the user's question and answer both, FAQ lists are becoming more and more important. According to Google, 4 out of 10 US adults perform at least one voice search in a day. 

Videos are a significant element that are driving significant traffic to websites, as demonstrated by the following graph.

white graph with blue bars tracking the kind of media bloggers use for the SEO of their siteSource : Orbit Media Studios 

With a dedicated social media platform just for videos (YouTube), the change is quite inevitable and was bound to happen. Video Optimisation is the future of SEO today, hence keyword optimisation needs to be done in the multimedia of your site as well.

Featured Snippets 

Google's search results have become smart as well. With increased focus on User experience, the search engine realises that it is pretty inconvenient for a user to click on every website to read the contained content. So it displays the related content in the form of a Q&A as a part of its featured snippets.

Backlinks

Creating backlinks can also effectively improve SEO rankings and drive traction to the site, but this can only be achieved when the content is good enough to quote, or already has a good enough SEO or an online presence in order to be tracked by other websites. Guest posting is another way of tapping into backlinks. 

Google Passage Ranking

Similar to Featured Snippets, Google has also started to run specific passages from websites that appear relevant to the search result. Google also specified that this feature does not mean that the passages are assessed independently of their pages, but simply means that specific paragraphs can also be an additional ranking factor from now on. 

Domain Authority

With E-A-T evaluation setting in, domain authority is less about links and more about this part of the guideline now - as Google says that it wants to rank pages that are 'reliable sources' and appear to have content that is reflective of the qualities of 'expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness'. 

  • Creators of the content of the page are taken into account - is the content generated at random by freelancers, or are these people experts in the particular topic? 
  • A suspicious looking website will not rank well on Google's search results, as the notions of transparency and accountability are gaining ground widely.
  • Maintaining a good reputation outside of a website is also equally important. There is nothing worse than your website claiming something and external sources disagreeing with it. Similarly, being cited on other websites on a positive note is considered while ranking as well.

Combating decreasing CTRs

It is common knowledge that organic click-through-rates are down. And yet it comes as no surprise, because it is quite difficult for organic to survive among features like SERP, Ads, and others. There is a way to combat this practice and stand out, even though a little, in this race - and that is by creating keyword rich URLs, as they have been shown to get much more clicks than URLs without the keyword that the user has searched for.

Conclusion

Even after 20 years of its conception, Drupal continues to remain a favourite in website creation, and that is primarily due to its high level of customisation and adaptability to the present trends. Today we see individuals and organisations both contributing to and relying on Drupal because it has a solid foundation of what it takes to stay up to date, even when it comes to SEO - through its extensive modules and distributions. Rest assured, come what may, the community stands prepared to make the most of these upcoming trends.

Mar 24 2021
Mar 24

Distributions are pre-made bundles of utility tools that greatly simplify web developers' work by cancelling out the time spent on creating Drupal websites from scratch. These are complete Drupal copies that consist of Drupal core along with some additional software such as a theme or an installation profile, with a specific purpose in mind.

There are two kinds of distributions -

(A) Full featured distributions that provide everything that you will require for specialised use cases.

(B) Other Distributions comprising quick start tools to simplify the work of developers starting to build a website. 

Why use Drupal Distributions?

Drupal distributions are an extremely convenient way of starting a website, as one does not need to build everything from scratch. 

  • Launching your website becomes a matter of hours instead of weeks. 
  • You don't need a resource with a specific skill set for the different elements of your website.
  • Maintenance on the site becomes even easier as the whole set of modules and on site components can be upgraded in one single Drupal update. 

Major Drupal Distributions 

Let's have an overview of some of the top Drupal distributions and the function that they serve. 

For starting a new Drupal Website

  • Commerce Kickstart is a great distribution for businesses looking to get started with Drupal Commerce, being great for creating online stores. Customised templates, themes and modules in this distribution are specifically set to create an e-commerce website with ease. The new Commerce Kickstart 2.x also provides a demo store to serve as a starting point for new websites, fully stacked with features like search configuration, promotions engine, analytics and reporting tools, marketing tools, payment options and a lot more. 
  • If you are about to work with a lot of repetitive work, consider working with Varbase. Its underlying idea is DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), as it automates a bulk of your work through the use of a vast majority of modules, features and configurations.                                                             
  • One of the best Drupal Distributions that can be used as a base for a Drupal site is Panopoly. It is designed to be a general foundation for site building and also to act as a base framework upon which to build other distributions and components. Open Atrium, Open Church, and Web Experience Toolkit are some major public distributions that are using Panopoly.
  • Base can also be used for a simple installation procedure in a new website. In addition, if you want to relieve yourself of the burden of detecting initial configuration settings, go in with Hostmaster (Aegir) distribution as it does the job for you. DevShop Devmaster can also be used to develop and host Drupal sites.
  • If your website is potentially scalable and you want a distribution that supports the idea, Drutopia would be a wise choice as it supports multiple other distributions. It needs to be built using Composer. Scalability is also provided by Drustack’s highly customisable environment. 

If you’re dealing with Media and Publishing

Thunder and Lightning are distributions meant for the media and publishing industry. Thunder consists of a lot of handpicked publisher centric modules meant for professional publishing. It also offers custom regulations and makes it easy to install and use new functionalities, hence keeping up with adaptability and personalization. Along the same lines, Lightning aims to empower developers and editorial teams to create professional authoring experiences by providing a framework that is both lightweight and documentation friendly for a smooth publishing process. Using Composer is recommended to build the codebase for a project based on Lightning.

For official usage

  • Brainstorm is a distribution best suited for corporate use by companies that wish to display their best features and services to the customers. With its engaging User Interface, it enhances the User Experience manifold. Hence, Brainstorm is perfect for making a good first impression, as one can also upload their portfolio and create blog posts on the site, thereby putting their best foot forward. It performs well across mobiles, laptops and tablets owing to its adaptive and responsive design.

Similar distributions that provide for a digital display of a corporate’s services are Multipurpose Corporate Profile, Corporate Profile and Commerce Profile. Along similar lines, if your company is looking to recruit, the Recruiter distribution is perfect to set up a recruitment platform.                                                                        

  • While Droopler is also meant to provide an enterprise with an all inclusive and attractive corporate website, an additional feature of Droopler is that it can also be used with Drupal commerce to kickstart a related project. It also provides custom theming and colour palettes to suit one's requirements.
  • If you are a startup or a small business, Druppio might be a better choice for you owing to its modern flat design and easy configuration. Seeds is a great starter kit for small and medium enterprises too.  
  • If you have an active client base your business interacts regularly with, you could utilise OpenideaL, which is described as an innovation management system to share strategic decisions regarding one’s future products and services with the clients.

For People’s Participation

  • Open Atrium is one of the best Drupal Distributions if you’re looking for something meant for collaboration and engagement of the community to develop solutions and discuss issues together. In addition to this, Open Atrium also helps systematise bug resolution and other tasks by providing features like document and event management, issue tracking, media management and also a work tracker to monitor everyone's tasks - hence leading to a transparent work culture and accelerated organisational growth. 
  • As Drupal is a community driven software, user engagement holds a significant place in the functioning of the platform. Open social creates digital spaces that enable the members of the community to use the distribution's out-of-the-box feature for knowledge sharing, and discussing ideas and solutions. Open Social is used by governments, NGOs and a number of big and small organisations. Extensions to the distribution that expand the use case even further our Real Time Chat, Webinar, Native App, Forms and Surveys, etc.
  • Alternatively, you could also use Open Outreach for public engagement, as it comes loaded with features like event calendars, image and video sharing, and contact management for better collaboration.
  • If the focus is on a productive social engagement, OpenLucius is a great distribution for the purpose with its utility features like social intranet, collaboration toolkit, document management system, real time chatting, notebooks, etc.The usage for OpenLucius is open to both formal and informal sectors.
  •  If your social or official setup requires frequent conferences, Conference Organising Distribution is great for the purpose as it comes loaded with features like event suggestion, selection and scheduling for the event - and social networking for afterwards.
  • For systematic community engagement, the Local Baha'i Community Website Incubator can be used. Its in built features include a multi user site, wherein each member can have their own profile, a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, a news column and an events calendar. 

For hospitality purposes

Easy Booking offers the user to set up a website that includes every feature that is needed to manage a hotel, inn or a hostel online. Functional both from the owners’ end and towards the visitors' convenience, Easy Booking offers a bunch of options to the guests to facilitate a good User experience like contacting hotel administration, following the hotel's newsletter, or simply being acquainted with all the special offers and discounts. 

For online education

  • The ongoing pandemic has made online learning the new normal, and Opigno is a distribution that works towards bringing to life this new reality. It contains all the features required to create engaging learning paths by first assessing the innate knowledge of the users, and then monitoring their achievements by using reporting dashboards. While ensuring skill addition, Opigno also awards certificates to legitimise the acquired knowledge. Opigno is, hence, a great distribution for universities and e-learning organisations. 
  • Vardoc is another distribution meant for knowledge seeking purposes. It is built using Varbase, and is perfect to host a huge amount of content arranged in a structured manner, streamlining the content in an easily navigable layout. 

Specialised for Governmental organisations

  • deGov is a Drupal distribution meant for addressing the needs of government organisations at different levels. It is used for managing the working of official websites and publishing information. It also provides for citizen engagement portals and civic issue tracking portals for greater transparency.
  • While deGov was developed keeping in mind the needs of the German government, the distribution aGov was created according to the guidelines of the Australian government with the purpose of smooth transition of Federal, State and Local government agencies' websites to Drupal while retaining complete control of their codebase and choice of hosting provider. GovCMS was also created for the Australian government for ensuring a seamless workflow within the government's digital functioning.  
  • Another distribution meant to simplify the working of the public sector is Dimpact WIM. It is used by a municipality to state an online presence and to remain connected to other municipalities of certain regions in The Netherlands, in order to discuss queries and solutions among themselves. This is aimed towards bringing out an integrated public framework. Drupal voor Gementeen is also used by the Dutch government for the same purpose.
  • Also aiming at transparency and citizen participation in organisations is OpenPublic. Open Public makes it convenient for open governments to function with features focusing on providing open government requirements, such as improving citizen services, providing public access to data and providing a public forum for two way communication with agencies, without compromising accessibility, security, or usability. 

For an engaging and innovative website

  • Web Experience Toolkit is a distribution meant to create innovative websites that are usable, accessible and interoperable. It is led by the Government of Canada for free use by its departments, and even external web communities. 
  • Speaking of innovative websites, a responsive, clean and trendy website template is provided by BigVideo Installation profile. The X-factor in this distribution, however, is the ability to attach videos to the background of the site. 

Other important Distributions  

  • OpenChurch is a much thought about distribution that eases the working of churches and ministries by providing them a bunch of utility organisational and developmental tools online. Among the various features of OpenChurch are a blog page, bulletin board, events calendar, and a gallery for uploading pictures on the site. One can also easily integrate the rest of their social media with the website. 
  • farmOS is quite a popular distribution for record keeping and management of farm activities. The modules included in this distribution are efficient in managing all tangible objects in an agricultural farmland - like trees, animals, crops, etc. The functionality of farmOS can also be extended using additional modules
  • Crypto is a distribution for analysing live market market data of over 800 crypto currencies. It uses react.js to list top 4 currencies and coin listing, extracting data from a headless Drupal website. 
  • OpenFed is a distribution created by the Belgian Federal Public Service Policy and Support, as part of the Fast2Web offering. Major functionalities include advanced search, modules for customising layout and modules for enhancing security. 
  • Apigee Developer Portal Kickstart is used to build new Developer portals for Apigee, a platform for managing several APIs. 

All in all,distributions are a great way to simplify one’s work. They also make it much easier to stay up to date with the ongoing trends and developments all around the world.

Mar 22 2021
Mar 22

I was scrolling through my Instagram last night and I saw an advert that was pretty appealing to my taste. It was an ad for those flared jeans that are so popular today. And like any other fashion loving person, I clicked on it and it took me to the website of the brand. Cut to half an hour later, I was a proud owner of a very flared, wide bottom pair of denims with a super high waist line and I was pretty happy about it. 

This is a scenario which isn’t uncommon in the times we live in. If you ask me, I find this trend to be utterly appealing, utterly clever and utterly persuasive. 

I say this because if you think about it, I wouldn’t have ever landed on the product’s actual site, not by any chance. So, the seller’s plan to become a part of social media and sneak into people’s feed with such tantalising videos and pictures of the product, that they have no other option than buying is indeed a masterstroke, if there was one. 

And this is what marketing is all about. It does involve the more technical aspects of designing, production and packaging, however, making the product come in contact with the consumer is like the finale of the marketing film. And to ensure this contact is a memorable one, the marketers make it ubiquitous. Now that I have bought that one pair of jeans, I’m sure my Instagram and Facebook are going to be inundated with similar products and brands in the near future, because if I have bought it once, I might buy it again.

So today, we are going to be talking about an emerging vogue in the ever so evolving realms of marketing and that is Marketing Automation. Let’s get on with the marketing automation guide. 

When the Marketers met Automation

Marketing Automation is a concept that is all about making the work of the marketers a tad bit easy. The automated technology takes the load off of the marketer’s shoulders and onto its own.

At the heart of the concept of marketing automation is the consumer. Every nook and crevice of this concept recognises consumer as the boss. Let’s take a look. 

Understanding consumer behaviour; 
Identifying potential consumers; 
Creating consumers leads; 
Effectively nurturing the consumers leads; 
Personalising the marketing strategies for the consumers; 
And converting consumers into buyers.

These six points can sum up the entire working of marketing automation and consumers are everywhere. Yes, at the end of it, you, as a businessman would benefit from it, but you need consumers for that first. 

If I had to define marketing automation, I would say it is a concept that uses software and technology to ease all marketing tasks, especially the repetitive one. Those social media posts that have to be posted every Monday at 5 on the Twitter handle can be easily automated. The result would be better consumer engagement and increased efficiency, which means more revenue. 

Marketing automation is a pretty broad term that has numerous aspects and functions involved in marketing. 

Sending marketing messages using a trigger; 
Sending personalised emails to keep the consumer in the loop; 
And sending Facebook, Instagram and Twitter stories and posts for perpetual engagement; 

These are three of the most popular ways automated marketing strategies that help marketers generate leads from everywhere and convert them into sales. 

Now that we have covered the general concept of marketing automation, let’s look at some statistics that will give us a picture of its use in the business world. 

A chart depicts the percentage of organisations using marketing automation tools.Source: Regalix.com

The above picture shows the findings of a survey performed on a sample group. With close to a fourth of the surveyors answering an affirmative to using marketing automation, the concept seems to be a hit. 

The image is a combination of a pie chart and a bar graphs showing figures about the perception of marketing automation of businesses.Source: Dun & Bradstreet

Another survey shows the extent of marketing automation at work, with close to half of the surveyors using it extensively. 

A bar graph shoes the trends related to marketing automation in present with future predictions up to the year 2027.Source: Grand View Research 

Now, this one shows how marketing automation is going to progress in the future. Every sector, be it healthcare or education, is expected to enhance its size in marketing automation in the US. It would possibly double in comparison with 2016. So, if anything is going to boom in the future, it’s going to be marketing automation.

Marketing Automation and Its Achievements 

Marketing in general has numerous benefits that not a single person on this planet can deny. Likewise when marketing automation is concerned, the benefits still persist. There is a lot that can be overcome be it reducing costs, increasing efficiency or making you richer by the date and all of that starts with one lead generated by marketing automation. 

Let’s have a look at all the achievements of this marvelous concept. 

Automation saves time 

The main difference between doing something manually and automatically is the amount of time it takes to complete it. When you automate simple marketing tasks like figuring out the seriousness of a lead or sending emails, you free up a lot of your time. And that time can be used for more meaningful tasks like converting leads. 

Automation increases income 

A major benefit of automation in marketing is generating leads, which later helps in creating higher conversion rates and lower abandonment rates. What do you think would be the result of this? More sales, which simply means more income. 

There is also the perspective that marketing automation reduces costs because with automated processes, you would need less manpower and hence, lower costs. 

Automation eases scaling

Every business is meant to grow, so a marketing strategy that takes into consideration the present scenario along with every possibility that the future may hold should be the right choice. Marketing automation is that choice. This concept grows with you, regardless of the pace you have. Look at Tesla’s stock prices in 2020, that could happen to your business as well and marketing automation would be right there with you. 

Automation enhances user understanding 

Marketing automation is also responsible for making you understand your demographic better. This is achieved by tracking and monitoring every contact the user makes with your business and where they stand on the purchasing decision, you could say that marketing automation is essentially behavioural tracking of the consumers. The outcome of this level of user understanding is that you can make a few tweaks here and there based upon user patterns and thereby compel him to make a purchase.

Automation evaluates your successes concisely 

Marketing automation tools are a part of it and these tools have the capability of measuring all the right numbers for you. You’d be glad to know these numbers are not just pertinent to your consumers, but you as well. Assuming you automated an online campaign, once it is complete and even during it, marketing automation tools will have recorded its performance down to the T. This way you would know how you performed and what you need to work on.

Making Marketing Automation Work

Next comes the part, where we understand the workings of marketing automation. Yes, marketing automation is becoming increasingly popular. Yes, there are numerous benefits of this concept, but if you do not know where to start its implementation, then what is the point really? 

So, here are a few pointers that will give you an idea of how automation in marketing works, more like how you can make it work.

Do you know your needs? 

When thinking about marketing automation’s working, the first question to ask is what do you need it for. You can’t make it work, if you do not know what to work for. Is it lead generation or you simply want to ease the pressure of marketing by scheduling things and events instead of always worrying about the upcoming ones?

This concept can achieve so much, but only if you know what those achievements will look like. Create a workflow and start following it. 

Are you understanding your consumers?

Marketing automation helps you in understanding your consumers, but the more important thing is what you do with that understanding. Yes, you know what your target audience looks like, which geography you are targeting and what the psychology of the users is. But what then? When you have an answer to that, you’ll hit the automation homerun.

Are you using the right tools?

This concept is nothing without the right set of tools. Automation relies on technology and technology means tools and software that will make marketing a walk in the park. Drupal, a leading open source CMS, for instance, has numerous third party tools that allow its sites to capitalise the automation vogue. More on this in the next section. 

Are you building relationships or retaining them?

Marketing automation will target a whole new section of consumers. This would be a long and expensive process. So, just building new consumer relationships isn’t the right way of marketing automation. It would only be right when you focus on retaining the past consumers and cinching them to you with loyalty. How? That you have to think on.

Does the outcome seem too-automated? 

Marketing automation can seem a little too impersonal to the consumer. If it does, you are on the wrong track. To make the concept work, you must focus on personalising every consumer interaction. Make your brand something to remember. Reminding a consumer, who hasn’t been active based on your data, that their empty cart is missing them with a popup in their notification bar will compel them to have a look at your new catalogue. Hook, line and sinker, but with a personal touch.

After you have the clear cut answer to these five questions, it would be wise to know four more aspects that contribute to making marketing automation work for you. 

  • You must always remember to specify things and criteria you are working for along with the outcome you aim for. This is because all of this would need to be interpreted by the software at work and that would in turn be stored and executed to make you get what you wanted. 
  • You must leverage cookies, because it is these stored inside the visitor’s browser that let you know his behavioural patterns, track them and issue scores as well. 
  • You have to generate leads as a marketer, and forms with valid contact information of the customers is one of the best ways of doing that and further qualifying these leads.
  • Finally, you must have a plan that combines both inbound and outbound strategies. This helps marketers make out the difference between strong and feeble leads. 

One of the prime purposes of marketing automation is generating leads and these four points effectively achieve that. 

Making a Play at Marketing Automation with Drupal 

We have already discussed the priceless value of marketing automation in the business world, going without it is no longer an option. To that sense, Drupal has come out as a pretty valuable asset, having tools and modules that cater to each and every marketing automation need and then some. 

With the very appropriate motto of “Drive Your Strategy Forward,” Drupal indeed helps businesses in moving forward by attracting, engaging and delighting your consumers with personalised content and services. 

  • Be it real-time sales alerts; 
  • Be it managing your consumer data in bulk; 
  • Be it streamlining your workflows;
  • Be it tracking your site’s traffic down to the conversion rates; 
  • Or be it advanced email reporting; 

Drupal is equipped and ready to let you take advantage of the automated marketing strategies down to their very core.

Now, let’s focus on the specific tools that make the Drupal motto on marketing automation come alive. 

#1 Marketo MA

The Marketo Marketing Automation (MA) module helps your website by allowing it the ability to track like Marketo and capture lead data during user registration and form submission.

Mareketo’s Munchkin adds certain features to this module like tracking code to pages and capturing lead data using it’s JavaScript or API integrations. The lead capturing, being the highlighting feature, can be done during user creation, update and/or login; all you have to do specify the user actions. 

It can also very conveniently integrate itself with other marketing automation modules found on Drupal to give a better execution experience.

#2 Pardot Integration

A big part of marketing automation are the online marketing campaigns; they are essentially responsible for substantially increasing the revenue. 

Pardot Integration is a module that helps your marketing departments to not only manage these online campaigns, but also to create and deploy them. There are umpteen CRM tools that Pardot can integrate with to make the marketers tackle lead nurturing, scoring, and ROI reporting. 

Salesforce.com 
NetSuite 
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 
SugarCRM are a few of them. 

#3 HubSpot 

A renowned inbound marketing software famous for attracting, converting and closing customers has integrated itself with Drupal to form the HubSpot module, which comes with an embedded HubSpot JavaScript tacking code.

The HubSpot API and integration to Webforms which are directly submitted to HubSpot’s management system, makes this module work pretty smoothly, be it for tracking customers through signups or unleashing your existing email campaigns for the said customers. 

The fact that Webform 3.x is used makes building virtually any kind of form and embedding them anywhere possible.

#4 Poptin 

Poptin is a module that helps in creating popups, optins and forms in minutes. By showing these popups to your visitors at the right moment, you will be able to keep them engaged and minimise the chances of abandonment. The result is better sales and more revenue. 

All of the work that Poptin does is dependent on consumer behaviour, an insight to which will allow you to dole out the most irresistible popups for the consumers. You can customise the popups for your brand keeping in mind its aesthetic and vibe.

The inclusion of advanced triggering options like; 

  • Exit intent trigger; 
  • Display after time spent on website; 
  • Display after website X pages visited or X number of clicks; 
  • URL targeting; 
  • Device targeting; 
  • And traffic sources amongst others make this module more than appealing to the marketers.

#5 Mailchimp 

Mailchimp is an email delivery service. With emails being an important part of marketing automation, the Mailchimp module provides seamless integration with this particular service of the same name. 

The Mailchimp features include; 

  • directly connecting email entities to its lists; 
  • creating forms for easy signups; 
  • creating, sending and viewing campaigns and its statistics; 
  • being able to see to all the past activities on Mailchimp; 
  • and finally, triggering automated emails for defined events. 

#6 Salesforce Suite

Salesforce is a customer relationship management service platform with a side of marketing automation for customer service. Drupal’s Salesforce Suite allows to reap the full competency of the platform to propel the marketing strategy forward. 

Being a suite, this module has a range of Salesforce modules that integrate themself with the software and synchronise Drupal entities with Salesforce objects and push and pull data from each other. 

  • Salesforce Integration 
  • Salesforce Mapping 
  • Salesforce Mapping UI 
  • Salesforce Push 
  • Salesforce Pull are some of the modules in this vibrant suite.

#7 Webform 

Like the name says, the Webform module helps in creating form and surveys. These are forms that will tick all the right boxes for an enterprise grade form made using an enterprise grade form builder and the versatility of Drupal.

Once the forms are created and submitted, customisable e-mails become an option to be sent to admins or submitters or both and results are often exported to spreadsheets. Once that is done, the modules continue to work to provide a statistical review. You can also add other extensible features, if you like. These include encryption, antibot, the use of Captcha and MailSystem to name a few.

#8 CleverReach

The CleverReach module combines the efficiency of Drupal and CleverReach and makes marketing seem easy. With CleverReach’s email marketing software at work, you will be able to create, send, measure and manage your email campaigns. 

Together with the CleverReach API, this module can do a lot. Before that you would have to do two things. 

  • One is to import your CleverReach- Groups & Attributes or fields; 
  • Second would be to create a block for every group. 

These blocks would basically be newsletter subscription forms and the attributes would be the form fields. Once you have done that, subscriptions would automatically be sent to your CleverReach account. 

#9 Google Analytics

Google Analytics isn't unknown to anyone, least of all today’s marketers. Being an eminent marketing platform that allows marketers to measure everything from advertising ROI to site traffic and tracking social networking applications and sites. 
 
The Google Analytics module lets you integrate the platform’s web statistics tracking system to your Drupal site. 

  • Tracking single, multi or cross domains;
  • Tracking certain users, roles and pages and even excluding them; 
  • Tracking links and monitoring the types that are being tracked;
  • Monitoring the kind of files that are being downloaded; 
  • Tracking URL fragments that are changing; 

And so many other features that are incorporated into Google Analytics will be at your doorstep with this module.

#10 Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg is a popular website optimisation platform that specialises in heatmaps. With its integration with Drupal, all those heatmaps would become accessible for you in your marketing automation strategy. All you need is your Crazy Egg account details, enter them and you’ll be all set.

The Crazy Egg module comes with additional features on top of the heatmaps. These include; 

  • Knowing where your visitors scrolled through scrollmaps; 
  • Knowing exactly how you users interacted with your site through session recordings; 
  • And performing A/B tests to run two versions of your site simultaneously.

#11 Cloudwords for Multilingual 

Marketing isn’t confined by geography or language anymore. Global campaigns are being run everyday from anywhere in the world. This mandates that campaigns and marketing be accommodating to multilingualism because someone in Indonesia would never be able to relate to American Content. 

Cloudwords for Multilingual helps in this regard, being the fastest and most flexible way of making your website become localised. Cloudwords is built for marketers and by marketers, it is one of the most popular ways of running global sites. Its integration with Drupal makes both the software run to their maximum benefits and your campaign will definitely benefit from that.

#12 Mautic 

Mautic is an open source marketing automation service, which gives businesses the opportunity to integrate and personalise every digital property and channel they might have, so that the consumers receive a seamless experience every time. 

The Mautic module integrates itself with this platform, and the results are campaigns and content performing at a higher level to attain better leads and conversions. Choosing multiple authentication methods and selecting forms from a particular Mautic instance for display are two of its most used use cases.

Conclusion 

Marketing automation is gaining grounds by the day. An organisation that isn’t taking it up would somehow be lacking in its marketing game. Remember the end goal of any business is just one, to get to the desired revenue figure, no matter the path it may have to take. Marketing automation one path that makes that figure seem almost tangible. So, why not take it up. With Drupal marketing automation is a breeze, so again, why should we not flow with the wind?

Mar 15 2021
Mar 15

‘Retail therapy,’ an extremely common phrase in today’s era, can work wonders on lightening a person’s mood. The new 1000-thread count Egyption sheets, when wrapped around you, can make the gloominess seem distant. The new Clavin Klein perfume can actually make your day seem more fragrant. And the new smart watch you just saw on Amazon has the potential of making you as fit as you want.

So, retail therapy is quite up there on the pedestal of making people feel great about themselves. And retail therapy, if done from the comfort of your couch while watching a Friends’ episode is all the more beneficial. And that is what we are going to be talking about today, the online retail market or ecommerce, if you prefer. 

Buying things with a few clicks on your computer screen used to seem like a novel idea close to a decade ago, but now it is an everyday occurrence. The ecommerce industry has boomed exponentially and these numbers are proof of that. 

Statistics on ecommerce are mentioned.Source: StatistaGlobal retail ecommerce sales figures are presented.Source: eMarketer

3.53 trillion USD is an exorbitant amount and that is the value of online retail sales globally. If a pandemic couldn’t stop ecommerce from flourishing, I am certain nothing can. 

Now let’s come to matter at hand. The point of this blog isn’t to tell you the value of ecommerce per say, rather I am going to be focusing on one emerging aspect of ecommerce that has made it quite different from the past, and maybe even a little intriguing and that is content. How content has played a role in ecommerce, why it’s important, how it is being used, does it actually have an effect on sales, and finally how does Drupal come into the equation? We’ll find answers to all of these questions. All you have to do is continue reading.

Content and Commerce: Understanding the Dynamic 

Words are a powerful thing. It’s words that can make a person the wisest and the most stupid. The right words can have such a profound effect on its reader that it might even change their way of thinking. With such a profound effect, it was only a matter of time that the power of words was being utilised in commerce in the truest sense. This is essentially the meaning of Content-driven Commerce. 

If you look at the traditional sense of advertising, you would find it flawed to a great deal. Those TV commercials, the cleaning ads and those ludicrous weight-loss adverts, all of them have hardly any truth to them and the viewers know it. Perhaps that is why they no longer resonate with their target audience. People have become far more difficult to please now than the past.

Cut to the emergence of Content-driven Commerce, with its realistic outlook and clutter-less approach. If I talk about myself personally, I find the incorporation of content in marketing strategies, the best kind of, well, marketing strategy. 

Look at this screenshot for instance. 

A screenshot of Amazon's product page can be seen.Source: Amazon

Upon searching for nuts on Amazon, you will probably end up on this piece of article in the screenshot above. Now, not only is this article advertising Amazon products, but it is also informative and enlightening. And the latter fact is what makes it a masterstroke of marketing. Someone reading it would have learnt something new and that knowledge is going to spark a craving that would require satiation upon every purchase journey. 

Content commerce isn’t just related to writing blogs and articles. You might have thought so, since that is the only thing we go to when we hear the word ‘content.’ This concept is broader than that. It includes everything from infographics to videos, from podcasts to webinars, anything that can instill interest in the buyer and be informative can be considered as content.

The Science of Content Commerce 

Content commerce has a lot of thought put inside it. You can just bombard the buyer with one piece of content after the other and expect that he’ll admire them all and be ready to click on that buy now button with a massive cart waiting to be delivered. Nope, that’s not even close. 

Consumer data; 
Consumer shopping behaviour and patterns; 
And industry trends; 

These are the three aspects that sum up the science of content commerce. When you know what your customers want, what patterns of behaviour they follow and how your competitors are taking action on that, you will have the most sound content commerce strategy; that would be  personalised to the T.

For instance, 

At present, being a minimalist is in vogue, with a subtle emphasis on the key features of the products that would be enough to inform, educate and inspire the visitor. With a touch of personalisation, a splash of fun through quizzes and a hint of what’s more to encounter through catalogues, the visitor is more or less hooked. This coupled with customer testimonials and case studies pushes the visitor one step closer to the purchase. 

This is how content commerce is being done today and it’s working. The result is better and more interactive and informative consumer experiences.

A venn diagram of content and commerce is depicted.Source: Pimcore

So, you tell me is Content-driven Commerce a trend that would make people fall in love with advertising and make their buying experience something to remember. If you ask me, I’d most definitely say yes. There are many like me who believe that content driven marketing is going to pick scale and boom in the future. 

A pie chart shows the popularity of content-led marketing campaigns.Source: eMarketer

Why champion Content driven Commerce?

At the end of day, the consumer would only come to your business only when he’ll find you different from the others, when he thinks that you have more to offer than the rest. And content commerce is the best way to make that happen. You can build your brand’s identity based on the kind of content you deliver on your site and outside it. When people would actually associate you with providing meaningful and rich contextual experience, would your goodwill not enhance? I think it will and that is why Content Commerce has become such a big deal. It allows brands and businesses to leave a strong impression on the audience. 

A travelling documentary that was posted on a tour and travel site as a testimonial on its home page could actually make many wish to experience the happiness and exhilaration that the video boasts on and on about, much more than any TV commercial or newspaper ad would ever be able to. That’s the power of content combined with commerce.

In Comes Drupal: The Perfect Blend of Content and Commerce 

So now you know the power content has, but how do you leverage it? Having resonating content and having the ability to showcase it are two different things. The former is all you, while the latter mandates the decision of making a choice amongst the varying options. Having worked with Drupal, I know the answer to the leveraging dilemma is Drupal itself. 

You must wonder why?

Drupal is a powerful CMS, which is renowned for its ability to handle any kind of content without any glitches. Drupal has a solution for every kind of content type you can imagine, making your experience of content authoring easy and flexible.

  • Easy Content Authoring: Intuitive tools for content creation, workflow and publishing make it easy for content creators. User permissions, authentication help manage the editorial workflows efficiently. Previews help the editors access how the content will look on any device before the users approve and publish.
  • Mobile Editing: Team members can review, edit and approve content from mobile devices, to keep content and campaigns flowing, regardless of where they are and what device they’re on.
  • In-place Authoring: The WYSIWYG editor in Drupal to create and edit content in-place. 
  • Content Revisioning and Workflows: For a distributed team Drupal enables a quick and easy way to track changes, revisions, and stage. It tells you who did what, when, out of the box. Also, it lets you manage custom, editorial workflows for all your content processes. Content staging allows you to track the status of the content - from creation to review to publication - while managing user roles and actions, automatically. 
  • Content Tagging and Taxonomy: Beyond creating content, Drupal’s strength lies in creating structured content. This comes when you define content elements, tag content based on their attributes, create relevant taxonomy so it can be searched, found, used, and reused in ways that satisfy the visitors.
  • Modules for Multimedia Content: Entity browser, paragraphs, pathauto, admin toolbar, linkit, blog, meta tag, and other content editing modules give the extra lease of life by extending and customizing content features and capabilities. They allow you to choose what features you want for your site.  
  • Yes, Drupal is great for content, but it is equally great with commerce. It’s because Drupal has the innate ability to to integrate content and commerce. It can manage every single aspect of a commerce site, be it its products, carts or financial transactions and then integrate all of it with content and media. What’s even more fascinating is the fact that Drupal helps you build an application that is a perfect fit for your needs today and tomorrow because when times change, Drupal changes too and its third-party integrations are the reason for that.

Let’s now look at Drupal’s commerce centric features to understand its compatibility even more.

Drupal Commerce 

When we talk about Drupal and ecommerce, the conversation cannot begin or end without the mention of Drupal Commerce. It is one feature that makes Drupal outshine all other CMSs in the market because it promotes innovation and growth through standards that make you take advantage of everything Drupal has to offer. 

With Drupal Commerce, the possibilities are limitless because that is how it is designed; to help you build what you want not be confined to what it can do.

  • From product types and descriptions to diversified product pages; 
  • From payment gateways to tax calculations; 
  • From organising promotions to managing orders; 

Drupal Commerce can do it all for your ecommerce business digital channel. 

Decoupled Drupal Commerce

Decoupling works by separating your commerce site’s front end from its backend. You can take up JavaScript for the presentation layer to make it more interactive, while all the backend aspects would be handled by Drupal. All of the benefits of decoupling would be enjoyed without parting with Drupal Commerce.

You will end up with a site;

  • that is faster and more engaging;
  • that is richer and more interactive;
  • that is easier to update and modify, without one end affecting the other; 

All of this because you won’t be confined to Drupal to build your frontend, you can take up any of the available frontend technologies. More on decoupled Drupal Commerce here.

Drupal APIs

Where there is Decoupled Drupal, there are APIs, which streamline the separation of frontend and backend as well as provide the connective thread. With the robust Drupal APIs, it becomes all the more easy to integrate Drupal with other services.

Again Drupal Commerce plays an imperative role here, by providing additional modules that extend REST APIs in Drupal. These are; 

These result in better functionality for your retail site as well as make it work with far more tools than otherwise would have been possible. More on different Drupal web services implementations here.

SEO Benefits 

When we think about content-driven commerce, we have to consider content as much as commerce. Writing blogs and articles is all good and fine, but how do you make them shine on the search engines, that is where SEO friendliness pops in and Drupal is best friends with SEO. There are numerous SEO modules in Drupal that will help in everything you might need, from keywords to tagging, Drupal will have you sorted and ensure that the educational pieces you wrote do just what they were intended for.

Out-of-the-box Benefits

And there is more. Drupal has several other out-of-the-box features that make it totally compatible with ecommerce sites, especially handy, if you are going to be running your site in multiple states or even nations. 

  • Be it multilingual support and translations; 
  • Be it handling multiple currencies;
  • Or be it the management of multiple stores from one place; 

Drupal will have you sorted by providing the right module for the right need. Plus, the superabundance of themes available in Drupal will ensure you get the desired modern look and feel for your ecommerce website.
 
On top of these, the fact that Drupal helps you deploy your ecommerce site built with Drupal Commerce within hours is the only silver lining left to make you cave in to Drupal.

For a comprehensive guide on Drupal’s offerings for an enterprise-scale ecommerce site, read here.

Drupal at Work in the Ecommerce Industry

Now that you know all that Drupal can accomplish, let’s look at some of the e-commerce businesses that have successfully been able to leverage the prowess of Drupal in this domain.

Timex

The screenshot of Timex's website is presented with a number of watches from the catalogue.


Timex is an American watchmaker, you most likely have heard of it. It wanted two things out of its retail site and these were; 

  • A unique site for personifying what the brand identifies itself as, its own style had to be incorporated into the site’s design. This also meant that product, social and editorial content had to be combined to deliver an impressive visitor experience.
  • Secondly, the Timex team wanted independence, meaning they wanted to be able to create, manage and update content as and when required without a developer. 

Drupal effectively checked both these requirements and helped create the perfect Timex site.

Cannabis Yukon 

Two screenshots of Cannabis Yukon's shopping cart are shown before and after the changes.


The legality of cannabis is still a contentious issue all over the globe. Therefore, when the Government of Yukon had to build their cannabis retail, their paramount concern was to protect the privacy of its users. That is why Drupal was chosen, to have total and complete control over the consumer data. This along with Drupal Commerce and the fact the Government of Yukon website was already on Drupal, the decision was final.

LUSH 

The screenshot of LUSH's homepage can be seen.


Being a popular cosmetics company in Britain, LUSH had a massive following of users. That meant when it delved into the digital space, there were a lot of clicks per minute, especially during its Boxing Day sale. When its site ended up crashing with such a load of users, it decided to switch to Drupal, which can handle any amount of traffic thrown at it. With Drupal, the code and architecture was rethought and the site made impressively scalable. 

King Arthur Baking Company 

The screenshot of King Arthur Baking Company's website is shown.


King Arthur Baking Company is known for its mouthwatering recipes. It switched to Drupal for its transition to the digital space and was able to provide personalised experiences to its audiences, be they pro bakers, first-time novices or climbing the ladder of baking. With the additional support of experts available through expert bakers the site was indeed a success.

Conclusion 

Every site that is built has a purpose behind it, for e-commerce sites that purpose is deriving sales. Today, achieving that is no longer a walk in the park. You have to leave a mark on the user’s mind and personalised and informative content is the way to do that. 

With Drupal Commerce and Drupal’s impeccable content management system, that aim of higher conversions and better brand loyalty is no longer distant. That’s the Drupal factor in content-driven commerce.

Mar 12 2021
Mar 12

Whenever we build something, we always ensure or at least hope that it doesn’t get damaged. Take our homes, for instance, we have more than a few locks at our places to protect and keep it secure. The same goes for our gadgets, our vehicles and most importantly our livelihoods. 

This brings me to the world of website development, wherein security is a major issue. An ill protected site is all but setting its demise, bugs and hacks will become its doom eventually. So, what should be done about it?

I have an answer and that is Drupal. 

Drupal, being a content management software, comes with an array of tools and features that protect its sites from every security breach. You will have to optimise Drupal properly to make that happen.

Drupal is one of the safest open source CMSs out there

A pie chart depicts of results of sample group survey for security of various CMSs.Percentage of security issues in a sample group. Source: Acunetix

These numbers are proof of the competence of Drupal's security measures. The entire responsibility of ensuring optimal security lies on Drupal security modules. And that is what we are going to be talking about today.

With the launch of Drupal 9, security has become all the more important. So, we’ll be discussing all the essential modules required for this task. I have taken the liberty to segregate the modules into eight categories, which will cover all the aspects of security that need to be looked into and protected to make a full-proof site. 

Let’s delve right in.

Seven parameters for Drupal Security modules are quoted in seven squares.


Tackling Brute Force 

A user logs onto your site, he has a strong enough password to protect his credentials, yet there are people who will keep trying to break that to gain access to your site. When these bad actors do that, you have to protect yourself from their Brute Force. If they gain access to your site, your entire project would be compromised and that would be an upsetting scenario. 

Tackling brute force starts with user registration, Drupal’s User Registration Password module allows users to register with a password while filling out the registration form, with a verification email. This module together with Password Policy ensures that the passwords set uphold the ideal standards with uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols at work.

What if your user wants to remain logged in?

That is an option with Persistent Login’s ‘Remember Me’ feature. However, you as an administrator can control how long those ‘Remember Mes’ live; meaning you could make a user sign in again after some time. You can also control which pages these users can and cannot access. 

There is also the option of Automated Logout, wherein an administrator can log a user out who has been inactive for quite some time.

Moving on, Secure Login is a module which ensures that the user logins and other forms are securely submitted without any transparency. With Login Security, you can protect and secure your site further with access controls. For another layer of security of individual pages, you can use Protected Pages, this module can secure any and all pages on your site with a password. 

Finally, you can also restrict the number of sessions by a user at one point, using Session Limit.

All of these together can make your website or application a force itself, which no brute can think of targeting.

Handling Authentication 

From brute force let's move onto authentication. Did you know that authentication is very different from authorisation? Authentication is the former step, wherein a user is identified and validated in regards to his claim over the site and its access points. The above talked about passwords are one way to authenticate a user. 

Once the authentication is done, authorisation swoops in. You know the person is an administrator, but what’s his grade? Can he be entrusted with sensitive information? Giving him the rights and liberties to access pages, data and any and all information is what authorisation is all about. 

How does Drupal handle it? 

Through its umpteen modules of course. Like I said before, a password is one of the best ways to authenticate, however, adding another layer of authentication with it becomes the best option of them all. Two-factor authentication and Google Authenticator Login provide you just that. While the former sends a code to the user’s mobile number, the latter works on a Time-based One-time password. Google Authenticator/ 2 Factor Authentication also provides similar functions. There is also the option of choosing Require Login, a module that aids in making user authentication on pages a mandate. 

If a user is authenticated with an external site or service and its authentication details are stored there, he can be logged in or registered with External Authentication. With Social Auth Google, users are authenticated using their Google accounts to your Drupal site. JSON Web Token can also be used as a factor to authenticate users through JSON Web Token Authentication. Drupal OAuth & OpenID Connect Login - OAuth2 Client SSO Login is a module that would allow any OAuth or OpenID Provider resident user to log in to your Drupal site. 

The authentication powers of SAML, OpenID Connect and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol can also be implemented with Drupal. SAML Authentication, SimpleSAMLphp Authentication, OpenID Connect and LDAP help in that respectively.

Social API is another module that can integrate with external services through a Social API. Using it would mean you can integrate modules for every authentication task.

What about IP addresses, is there any module pertaining to them?

Well, yes. You can very easily block access or simply ban certain IP addresses, if you want. Automatic IP ban and Advanced ban accomplish this feat conveniently, the former even has a watchdog table.

Finally, what about malicious attempts at authentication? 

Drupal has you covered there as well. There can be instances wherein certain bad actors try to identify valid usernames. This is called Username Enumeration and often leads to credential stuffing. However, Username Enumeration Prevention helps in avoiding that by stopping these anonymous users in their tracks.

Controlling Administration 

User access and authentication reminded me of the administrators and the role they play in accessing a site, which brings me to the next classification of security modules. Just like users can’t be granted access to everything on your site, the people building it also cannot be given total and complete reins over it. As there are permissions and restrictions for users, there are also for administrators. 

Let’s see what Drupal has to offer the administrators in terms of permissions and roles. 

Firstly, there is Permissions Filtered by Modules, this provides a filtered list of modules and roles at the top of the permissions page making management a breeze regardless of the number of roles. Then there is Administer Users by Role, which fine grains permissions even more to the level of sub-admins.

Next come the specific permissions and roles; Block Region Permissions and Block Permissions not only allow you to control access to administer blocks, but also pave way for finer grained validation in managing blocks, respectively. For adding, modifying and deleting items, an administrator can be given the permission from Menu Admin per Menu, specific to certain menus, or he won't be able to do that. You can also set permissions to fields related to authoring information and publishing options through Override Node Options

If you wish to disable User 1 to remove the administer user’s permissions, which allows them to edit their username and password, you can do it with Disable User 1 Edit.

Drupal also has another quite charming module, which I personally love. This is the Masquerade module, as the name suggests an administrator gets the power to switch users and surf the site as the switched user and without the need to enter a password. This helps a great deal in knowing the site’s outlook from the eyes of a client.

I would like to talk about Role Delegation here as well, it is a module that allows site administrators to assign roles to further authorise roles to users. 

Should we talk about user permissions and administrators control them? 

Yes, we should. There are two specific modules I want to mention here, one is View Unpublished. This allows an administrator to give access to user roles to view certain unpublished nodes. 

Second would be the Menu Item Role Access, which makes it possible to restrict certain items on a menu without the need for creating separate menus altogether. Isn’t that just great?

Intercepting Content 

Now it’s time for the content, who can access it, how it should be accessed and what should be accessed and what needs to remain restricted. 

Your content can be as secure as you want on Drupal. With its modules, you can easily manage your content without any worry of it reaching the wrong hands or eyes. Content Access will help you to manage access permissions. It's both flexible and transparent and would let you classify the permissions as ‘view all’ or ‘view own.’ Node View Permissions also works similarly with the same exact permissions.

Field Permissions helps site admins to set field level permissions for editing, viewing and creating fields for any kind of entity.

What about blocking content from certain users or admins?

There is a lot to talk about here as well. Let’s start with hierarchy, Workbench Access is a module that would allow you to create editorial access controls and guess what these controls would be based on? Yes, it's the work hierarchy. 

Then there is Block Content Permissions, with this you can control access to administer block content types and create, update and delete them whenever you want. There is also the option of blocking a node from being edited by two users at the same time, this can be done through Content Locking

You can also add a filter that would exclude pages from certain blocks, after or even in between a wildcard with Block Exclude Pages. If you are thinking about granting access to certain users so that they can view unpublished nodes and media, Access Unpublished can help you with that.

Another clever module is the 403 to 404, which displays the 404 error when a user tries to access a page that he doesn’t have the permission to access.

Implementing Encryption 

The majority of the files and messages on a website or its server are usually encrypted. This is done so that the unwanted eyes do not reach them. Can Drupal modules be serving this purpose? Of course. 

Your database is going to have several field values stored inside it, with Field Encryption module, you can store these values in an encrypted manner of your liking. You create your own encryption method with this. 

What about the key?

There is a module with the same name. Key helps in managing all sensitive keys including APIs and encryption keys, of course. You, as an administrator, can take command over how and where these keys would be stored, making the security of the same pretty efficient. 

Is there a module that does both? Encryption and decryption?

There certainly is. You can perform symmetric and asymmetric encryption with Drupal. You can integrate modules to perform encryption and decryption in a standardised way. You can also have any number of encryption profiles used by any number of modules. And you can do this with the Encrypt module. 

You can also use the power of AES encryption with the Encrypt module. For that, you would have to combine Real AES with the former and gain access to Defuse PHP-Encryption Library.

Fighting Spam 

Unwanted and unsolicited is what spam is. It may seem like nothing beyond a nuisance, but it can become more if the web builders become complacent. Spam is capable of infecting your site with malicious software and you must know that that can never have a positive outcome. Lucky for you, Drupal is capable enough to never let that outcome take place. 

When we think about spam, a few things instantly pop up in our minds, these would be emails, comments, registrations, messages, feedback and contacts. Usually getting all of these is a good sign for your growth, but when it's spam written all over them, the good doesn’t take long to go bad. 

Honeypot and Antibot are two of the more popular modules for eliminating robotic form submissions with close to 150,000 and 33,000 Drupal sites using them for this purpose. 

Drupal modules like Spam Master, Protected Submissions, Anti Spam by CleanTalk, Check DNS, Drupal Perimeter Defence, Spambot and Spamicide, also aid in deterring the intrusion of spam on your site. Talking about Spamicide, which is pretty clever in itself, it’s a module that adds a field to forms and then hides them. So, when a bot is filling that registration form, it’d probably fill in that field and when that happens you simply discard that form and rid yourself of its nuisance. 

For email obfuscation, SpamSpan Filter and Obfuscate come in handy and prevent spammers from collecting them. E-mail No-Reply is also a great module that allows you to create a field with no reply addresses, yet still, receive important notifications from Drupal. 

What about the troubling IP addresses?

Flood Control is a Drupal module that allows you the functionality of an interface that makes it very convenient to remove IP addresses as well as user IDs from the flood table.

Can we really talk about Spam and not mention CAPTCHA?

Today, almost every web form has a CAPTCHA challenge at the end right before the submission is final, only to trick the spammers and bots. A CAPTCHA would be very easy for a human, but very confusing for a bot. This is an age-old trick to manoeuvre spambots entry to your site. Drupal has both CAPTCHA and ReCAPTCHA modules available for the taking.

CAPTCHA and ReCAPTCHA are the front runners here, equipped with the right challenges to handle spambots.

Simple Google ReCAPTCHA with its checking the ‘I’m not a robot’ box is pretty good as well. Google ReCAPTCHA v3 provides you with a score for those requests without any friction. Recaptcha Element provides further integration with Google reCAPTCHA v3.

There is also hCaptcha, a module that helps in labelling large proportions of data within a stipulated time as well as being affordable and reliable.

Attacking Hacks

Your website is somehow going to end up being a target for hackers and you can’t avoid that from happening. All you can do is make sure that it is protected to the nth degree when that happens. 

Using Drupal’s Security Kit is the first step in hardening your security. It protects from various security threats and keeps your vulnerabilities at bay from exploitation. Cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, clickjacking and SSL/TLS are some of the attacks prevented by this module. Content Security Policy works on a similar principle; it informs browsers of trusted sources to mitigate hacks and add an additional security layer on top.

If you want a reverse proxy and firewall for protection against hacks, then CloudFlare would be the right choice. 

System Status is another module that does everything from eliminating security vulnerabilities to performing necessary upgrades to keep your site hack-proof.

Dealing with the Rest 

Up until now, we have covered all the major aspects of security, from permissions and authentication to spam and hacks, yet there are still some modules left to discuss that have a role to play in Drupal security. We’ll discuss that now. 

Let’s start with the laws. General Data Protection Regulation sets the guidelines that govern how data is protected as well as the privacy of the users in the EU. Drupal’s GDPR module provides helper tools that in turn aid your sites in becoming more compliant with this law. Cookiebot further aids in tracking your use of cookies and GDPR and ePR compliance. Then there is TacJS, which helps your sites in adhering to the European Cookie Law with the user of tarteaucitron.js.

Moving on, to ensure that all uploaded files are sound and secure, you can use File Upload Secure Validator, which does exactly what its name suggests; validating the security of the uploaded files on the server-side. ClamAV further ensures that those files are not infected by any virus by integrating Drupal with the virus scanner of the same name.

For headers and referrers, there are the Remove HTTP Headers and No Referrer modules. While the former removes the HTTP headers from the configuration, the latter ensures that no referrer information is leaked.

Security.txt helps in implementing the security.txt standard, which ensures the proper documentation of your site’s security contacts and policy. There is a module to avoid stale IP addresses clogging up your database and protecting user’s privacy, this can be done through IP Anonymize

Finally, to ensure that your site is at the prime of its health, you can opt for Health Check, which would enable you with an endpoint for the load balancers. 

Conclusion 

So, there you have it, the majority of the Drupal security modules that would make your Drupal site watertight. I wouldn’t say that there aren’t any other modules for security, there certainly are and you would be wise to use them as well. 

In the end, I’ll just say that security is always going to be a primary concern when websites are built and made operational. Drupal isn’t a software that would be described as lacklustre in terms of security and with the launch of Drupal 9, security has become all the more efficient at Drupal.

Mar 11 2021
Mar 11

Technical leadership means overseeing a team of technical professionals at a software company. The led teams usually deal with software development and engineering. It is a designation of high responsibility, balancing thinly between being a strong leader figure and being approachable and personable while dealing with the team members. There is also a huge amount of accountability involved in the role with respect to both the organisation and team members, as a technical leader forms the essential link between both and coordinates the overall working of the tech departments to the board, and conveys essential inputs back to the teams. 

Thus, a technical leader ensures that ideas from the top are appropriately represented in the final product and that communication among various groups within the organisation is never derailed. 

The principles of technical leadership

Like any other position of fundamental importance, there are certain principles on which technical leadership basis itself on.

The right technical knowledge

There are multiple roles and responsibilities associated with technical leadership. One of the first things that the leader must be proficient in is a broad knowledge base about his craft. Every member of the team turns to the leader whenever any issue arises, hence the tech lead should always be prepared to review the code, scrutinize the related documents and lastly, code - for one always learns better by example. Knowledge about technologies like PHP, JavaScript, C++ is also quite important. 

The technical leader is also involved in the hiring process of the organisations, hence he should take into account bringing diversity and inclusion into the team while at the same time hiring the brightest minds.

Pritish, Senior Drupal Developer leading multiple projects at OpenSense Labs, asserts that while languages do form a part of the entire learning process, it is more important to be good with object oriented concepts and logical thinking. He also believes that to realise the optimum working potential of the team, it is important to arrive at the solutions together which means that there shouldn’t be rigid demarcation between the responsibilities of the members. The focus should always be on the bigger picture i.e. the perfect outcome.

Exemplary techniques  

As a person everyone in the team looks up to, the tech head should lead by example. Part of the job description is also to provide motivation in the form of utility techniques and acting as a guide to every resource whenever they need assistance.

Proactiveness  

As the leader of the team, a lot of work is dependent on you for clearance and progression. Hence, the leadership needs to be ultra responsive and swift with decision making. 

Ideally, the present state of the project should be at your fingertips at all times, ie, you must always be aware of each little step that your team takes. An even remotely possible hurdle should be brought to your notice in advance. 

Responsibilities of a technical leader

With great power comes great responsibility, and the leader stands accountable at every hour for what the team does. Some areas he must keep track of are - 

The right alignment 

Your thoughts and ideas must always be aligned with the company’s values and ethics, and this underlying bedrock cannot budge. Every action should be analysed keeping in reference the company's norms, which will act as the guiding compass - enabling the leader to navigate their way through. In addition, there might be plenty of problems that wouldn't be laid out by the organisation and be left to the tech lead for identification and resolution, hence keeping the company principles in mind, each possible scenario must be well thought out.

Communication is key

Without a doubt, improper communication can lead to huge fixes in the future. The person in the leadership role is a senior member with the steering wheel in his hands, which means that his repository of knowledge is far greater than the rest of the team. Proper articulation of that knowledge is essential if optimum performance is expected from the team. The mission and the vision should be communicated well, as everybody needs to have the same idea of the end product in mind. 

As a part of his leadership role, the tech lead should understand that communicating also translates to bringing in regular motivation and keeping the team spirit going. For example, take a look at how the right kind of communication between developers and designers can be beneficial.

Being a leader at all levels

Contrary to popular notions, technical leadership includes way too many backend functions to keep the team from derailing. the leader is one who resolves conflict, is constantly involved in constructing and reviewing ideas, and is the first person on the ground to scrutinize a problem when it arises - consequently taking the lead to solve it. 

Even in the tech side, when improvements in UI or an API are made, it is the leadership's job to push those improvements into the lower layers of the stack and adding to the component library. Thus, the tech lead not only paves the way for the rest, but also fosters collaboration within the team to come up with solutions. For instance, check out how collaboration between designers and developers during code review yields great results.

Blue text reading 'being a systems technical leader' and multiple black texts reading the different reponsibilities of technical leadership arising from itSource : ResearchGate


Craftsmanship Pursuit 

The leader should always keep in mind to deploy as many tools as possible to make the job of the team easier. New techniques should always be welcome, for example, if there is a need to to work on data visualisation features, tech like Angular should be brought to use to prototype the features. This significantly reduces the overall time taken to wrap up the project.

Project Management 

Not just the first to arrive, the tech lead is also the last person to leave the ground. Top notch management and leadership skills are needed for not only the end-to-end management of the ongoing project but also for managing potential crises. Identifying core responsibilities, their proper delegation, and punctuality in delivering the project are primary responsibilities of the leadership. Read how human psychology plays a vital role in project management.

This narrative is substantiated by Abhijeet, Project Manager at OpenSense Labs. As homes turn into offices and beds turn into workspaces, he says that there are multiple issues that crop up simultaneously when it comes to managing a team remotely. For instance, direct supervision and short feedback loops go out of the window. With each team member working according to their own convenient timings, blockers need to be identified far ahead in advance, as there isn’t much scope for emergency meet ups to solve problems. Motivation keeps faltering often, and requires regular standup calls to stay afloat. Work overlapping across several departments only needed a walk around the office to conclude, but in remote environments, might even take a day or two.

Overcoming the Challenges 

While a position of such responsibility might look challenging from every aspect, it is best to stay aware of the very imminent ones from the beginning. 

Team building

A challenge that every technical leader is bound to encounter is finding talent suited to one's requirements and also retaining it. Technology keeps changing at the drop of a hat, but relevant skills and workforce cannot appear out of thin air. Hence, the team should comprise members that are at the least are skilled in areas that could see rapid change in the near future, like AI, data science, analytics or software engineering. Team members must be kept motivated and engaged, so that they have more than just monetary reasons to stay. More on team health and productivity here.

Vinit, Senior Drupal Frontend Developer at OpenSense Labs, adds that learning from and recalling one's own experiences is imperative while one works with their team. It is important to realise that every person is different in ability and skillset, and the tech lead must acknowledge that. The person should make it his own responsibility to bring equity on the table by assisting each resource appropriately, as understanding the technicalities of the role might not be easy for everybody to grasp in one go.

From team player to team leader

The transition might look organic, but one is bound to be overwhelmed being in the profile of a technical leader if their previous experience was that of a team member. From walking solo to leading the path, from being accountable for yourself to taking a bulk load of responsibility, the transition is anything but natural. 
Being a constant visionary 

Unlike the rest of the team, the tech lead cannot live in the present. A good leader is not one who delivers just once, but constantly. Every possible outcome of the decisions to be taken must be anticipated by the head before execution to bring out the best in both the short term and the long term goals of the organization.

Managing remote teams

Now more relevant than ever, managing remote teams has emerged to be quite a head scratcher. Wanting the team to move together when each member is set up in a different location can be challenging even for the most experienced of players. Hence, a technical leader is more of an evolutionary role, and requires the person to be able to constantly adapt to changes and implement them too. Read why collaboration in remote working is important.

Stress Management 

The tech sector is widely known for short project cycles and stressed timelines. The tech lead must be prepared to face scenarios of severe burnouts within the team, and that too, regularly. Outlets for letting the stress roll out must also be appropriately discussed as well as practised in case of heavy workloads. Therefore, an essential quality of a technical leader is also to display a certain level of emotional intelligence to get the team spirits up and about during these rough patches.

Anmol acknowledges the problems that remote working has brought, as being a senior software developer at OpenSense Labs he is obligated to take up a managerial role every now and then to act as a mentor for the rest of the team. He states that with challenges like limited visibility of each other’s work timings and schedules, it becomes quite a task to sync the thoughts and channelize the workflow of the team. The key to handling dwindling accountabilities is to always maintain a positive atmosphere in the team, hold healthy conversations, and try to stay as connected as possible despite the distance.

Conclusion

It is near impossible to list down all that might be needed to completely understand the role of a technical leader because of how dynamic the profile is. Having said that, a curious hard worker with a thirst for knowledge is sure to make a great head in such a working environment.

Mar 09 2021
Mar 09
The Drupal 9 logo can be seen on the left, while on the right, there are three logos of React, Vue and Angular.


The 21st century is a pretty marvelous time to live in. There is so much that can be achieved today with limitless possibilities. There aren’t any inhibitions found in people. If we want it, we get it. I mean the 21st century folks have landed on Mars, so is there anything that we can’t do? I think not. 

If you look at all of our accomplishments, you’ll find that technology is at the root of it all. It is the advancements we have made in science that has allowed the present time to be as marvelous as it is.

Talking about all of these technologies would take as long as a year, even if I do it succinctly. So, I’ll not get into it. However, I will talk about one segment of tech that has had a profound effect in the way we surf the web. And it is the web development process. 

To be concise, I want to discuss a trend in web development that has aided the developers, designers and project managers to build to their heart’s desire without having to rely on one specific technology, which used to constraint them. It is a trend that eliminates restraint and promotes innovation. 

Let’s find out what it is. 

The Drupal Prequel

Before I get to the main agenda of this blog, I felt like I needed to talk about the underlying technology, which is Drupal. Being a content management software, Drupal ticks all the right boxes when it comes to building versatile web experiences. 

To build websites from the ground up and being completely responsible for all of the site’s aspects is deemed as Drupal being traditional or monolithic. What it means is that Drupal would have total control over a site’s technological stack. The front end and all the presentational aspects along with the back end and all of its data layers would fall within the realms of Drupal. Such use of Drupal is quite sufficient for standalone websites and applications, where editorial needs surpass developers' needs and the former seeks complete control over all the visual elements of the page. With Drupal offering features like in-place editing and layout management, I don’t disagree with wanting such control. 

However, what happens when the developers want to start implementing the current technology on the front end? What happens when the site needs more interactivity than before? Wouldn’t React or Angular seem like a better option to achieve that? 

I think they would and that brings me to the trend I was talking about in the introduction, being Decoupled Drupal.

Unfettered innovation and Decoupled Drupal 

Decoupled Drupal essentially removes the link between the frontend and backend and makes the developers free to do what they want with the presentation layer of the site. The reason for this separation is the flexibility it gives to the architectural development, empowering the front end developers to have total control over the projects’s rendered markup along with the user experience.

It’s not just the control over the frontend layer that motivates developers to push for decoupling, there are plenty of other benefits that make the feat of decoupling too good to give up. 

These include; 

  • Building impressive features through server-side rendering or Node.js; 
  • Securing data through a publicly inaccessible CMS; 
  • Publishing your content on all forms of IOT devices; 
  • Increasing the speed and efficiency of work with a clear separation of concerns and duties, less interdependence and less hassle; 
  • Updating the software becomes quicker too, without any impact on the working of the other end;
  • Finally, being able to take advantage of the rich JavaScript framework or a static site generator of your choice for an immaculately interactive site. 

All of these advantages of decoupling have made the trend to follow. Depending on your need, decoupled Drupal has the potential of building your project with its inbuilt web services and APIs. REST, JSON:API, and GraphQL are the prominent contenders in this regard so that the flow of information from the front to the back is seamless.

With decoupling, it is also easy to find the right personnel for your project. When you are building a frontend with JavaScript, you would need developers fluent in JS, and it is a well known fact that there are far more JS developers than Twig.

However, decoupling Drupal can also leave you in a bit of conundrum as well. The thing is when you decouple Drupal, you are saying goodbye to many of the out-of-the-box features Drupal offers such as layout and display management, content previews and certain security features. Some of these can be written from scratch by your developers, but there are more than a few that cannot be compensated for. 

So, in a situation like this how do you lessen the losses? How do you ensure that you get the unfettered innovative edge on the front end and still be able to reap the benefits of Drupal’s frontend capabilities? 

The Middle Ground: Progressively Decoupled Drupal

How to decouple Drupal? There is a perfectly reasonable answer to the decoupling dilemma and it lies in its categories. Decoupling Drupal can be achieved in two different aspects. 

  • The first one is when you decouple completely, totally extracting the frontend from the backend. This is called fully decoupled Drupal architecture. It can be done for dynamic sites using JavaScript or for static sites by relying on static site generators like Gatsby and Metalsmith
  • In the second approach, you will separate the presentation and data layers, however, there won’t be total interdependence between the two. By this, I mean some aspects of the front end would be developed outside of Drupal and the remaining would house inside of Drupal. This is called progressively decoupled Drupal architecture. 

In the first approach, with a total separation you would have to part with Drupal’s out-of-the-box features on the frontend, there is no going around it. However, when you take up the second approach, which is to progressively decouple Drupal that won’t be the case. You would get to play with other front end technologies, yet enjoy all the functionality Drupal has to offer. More on best frontend technologies for decoupled Drupal here.

You must be wondering how that becomes possible, and let me tell you that. 

When progressively decoupled Drupal is in the picture, you get to build a frontend using Drupal and all its out-of-the-box features. Once you have done that, then you can layer a JavaScript framework on top of the layer you have built. 

The difference between traditional Drupal architecture and progressively decoupled Drupal architecture is hown through a diagram.


It is important to understand that in progressively decoupled Drupal, it is up to you and your needs to decide the kind of responsibility you are to dole on JavaScript. The JS layer on top of the Drupal frontend could be responsible for rendering an independent block or component on a single page or it could go as far as to render every single aspect of that page. 

The kind of progressive decoupling you would do, would have a direct impact on the kind of control your editors would have. More JavaScript rendering would mean less editor control because Drupal’s administrative capabilities would diminish on the frontend, while less JS rendering would automatically mean more room for Drupal’s administrative capabilities and more power to the editors.  

Progressively decoupled Drupal is indeed the perfect balance between advanced frontend technologies and the powerful capabilities of Drupal. You would not need to compromise on one to get the other. The reference of the middle ground for web development in the decoupled sense is an accurate description of the progressive architectural approach.

But how do you decide whether taking up progressive decoupling is the better choice. The question progressively decoupled Drupal or fully decoupled Drupal can often prove to be quite difficult to answer, yet we have to try. So, let’s do just that.

Think of the Editors or the Developers?

For any web project, be it a site or an application, there are two important players. These are the people who bring the project alive, being the developers, and the people who become the voice of the project, being the content authors and editors. So when deciding whether to go for coupled, fully decoupled or progressively decoupled Drupal approaches, you have to keep them in mind. 

For the editors, you have to think about; 

  • The kind of ease they would need in manipulating page content and layout; 
  • The kind of in-context tools they would require; 
  • The kind of accessibility they would need in Drupal’s HTML by default; 
  • And the kind of previews they would be in need of without custom development

For the developers, you would have to think about; 

  • The king of control they want over the frontend presentation; 
  • The kind of server-side rendering they want; 
  • The kind of APIs they want to write JavaScript;
  • And the kind data security they want.

Assuming the editors want it all, an ease of manipulating page content and layout, tools like in-place editing and contextual links, the ability to preview unpublished content and a constant access to content. Now, assuming that the developers also require the same kind of ease, with control, with the ability to choose between server-side rendering and Node.js built features, with JSON:API at work and a publicly inaccessible CMS. 

If that is the case, progressively decoupled Drupal architecture would help you give the best to both your developers and editors. The developers would be able to adopt JavaScript for portions of the pages and satiate their appetite for interactivity and advanced development. At the same time, the editors would be able to work without any blocks with all of the Drupal features they always wanted. A win-win situation for the crucial players. 

OSL and A Progressively Decoupled Drupal Project

We, at OpenSense Labs, have worked with a global brand, Produce Market Guide (PMG) to cater to a specific need by performing progressive decoupling. 

PMG is a leading name in the market for producing commodity information, trends and data analysis. A part of the Farm Journal family, but aimed to provide an advanced and enriching experience to its users. However, because of a slow search feature that was becoming impossible. 

The picture shows a screenshot of the search bar of the Product Market Guide's site, which was built using Progressively Decoupled Drupal Architecture and React.


Other than that, the site was functioning pretty well with Drupal. So, in order to rectify the slow search feature, a progressively decoupled Drupal approach was implemented by OSL. using React and elastic, the new search function was built and this improved the time it took to present the result to mere seconds. Look at the detailed case study for PMG for a clearer picture of the project. 

This was one project that made our developers understand decoupled Drupal a lot better. The fact that you do not have to build an entire front end from the ground up is a prominent benefit of the progressive approach. Using JS for just one function, making it as advanced and interactive as possible, and calling it a day is essentially how progressively decoupled Drupal works. And I think there are very few architectural approaches better than this one.

The Final Verdict 

I want to conclude by giving you another example. 

“Imagine you have a site that needs a lot of interactive elements that would encompass user choices and give the user the option of getting a personalised experience based on his history, with future recommendations. Also, imagine that your site has a lot of traffic and a lot of content to manage for which you are bound to need highly competent content management and site building tools.”

For such a site, neither the coupled Drupal architecture would work, nor would the fully decoupled architecture work. It needs a balance of the two. 

Why?

Because Drupal alone cannot build a highly interactive site like this one, it would have to rely on JavaScript and the likes. However, with high traffic, a lot of the data is often cacheable and Drupal is equipped to handle that very well. If the content isn’t handled properly, the performance of the site would be affected drastically. That is why a middle ground has to be chosen and progressively decoupled Drupal is just that. I wouldn’t be totally wrong in saying that the future of decoupling Drupal could lie in doing it progressively. Do you agree?

Mar 08 2021
Mar 08

As a business, once you start with something, it becomes almost impossible to retrace your steps and retrospect on your choices or alter the decisions that you took in the past - especially if one little move holds the capacity to affect both you and your audience exponentially. Hence, optimum planning is necessary for each aspect that your organisation is working towards, including web development for your online presence.

To keep pace with the digital world, more and more businesses are showing up online to grab more eyeballs and solidify their market value. A facilitator in this process is Drupal 9 - and a quite popular one at that owing to its flexibility and scalability. Drupal 9 presently is in use across several industry verticals and powers thousands of websites. 

While there’s a lot that goes into the general process of web development, simplifying the process by placing all your thoughts methodically is always possible. This list is intended to serve both as an exhaustive guide and as a checklist representing the correct chronology in which web development needs to be approached.

Defining the Purpose

The very reason that you’re getting into web development is because you have a purpose in your mind, but what’s essential is to define that purpose. This is required both for your future team and for your audience to understand and resonate with your brand better. Your target audience along with your unique value proposition must be clearly outlined along with your short term and long term goals, including both value addition and business targets. The defined goals should be measurable, relevant to your business value, time bound, and lastly, be attainable in the time allocated. While planning the execution, defining ways to measure the success of each campaign is also equally important.

A blueprint will only help you proceed with web development in a defined, synchronised manner - essential for managing future growth and expansion.

Picking the right team

After defining the purpose, the next step in web development planning would be to pick a team that brings these targets to a tangible completion. Depending on your business, the team would vary in terms of manpower and skillset. If your business focuses on UX (User Experience), you would want to have designers on board. If it focuses on sales of a product or a service, more marketers would be required. Nevertheless, the team that you tentatively need would comprise

  • a project manager for keeping things on the track, 
  • content creators to provide written and other media content, 
  • a content strategist/architect to plan priorities organise the site,
  • Designers to plan and design the layout,
  • Developers - both frontend and backend.

Refer to all the different roles and skills integral to building a Drupal 9 website here. And, for the decoupled Drupal project, you can check out all the right skills here.

Building a Brand Image

Once two and two are together, the first thing that you and your team needs to do is to plan out a brand image as this will be the bedrock to the web development process of all your website content, marketing strategies and social media presence. Some important elements to decide on would be -

  • The logo, as this is what most people would associate your brand to. The layout, colour palette and design of the logo should represent the underlying identity of your business.
  • The domain name, essential for brand identity as well as driving traffic to your website. It must be short and easy to pronounce. 
  • Also keep in mind that the advertised USP (Unique Selling Proposition) must also be in line with the brand image, as anything that reaches out to the audience more often is a matter of greater scrutiny.

Planning it out

Now is the time to analyse every nook and corner of the web for competitor research. Ideally, there should be a list of brands that you both consider a competitor but also look up to, preferably businesses operating in the same domain with a similar target audience. Another area of analysis should be the current market standing of the kind of products and services that you’re offering. What are you audience looking for in the present scenario? What is the gap that your product is intending to fulfill?

Here’s what the mind map for your research should look like -
 

Black background with a blue square in the middle reading 'competitors and market trends' and green lines arising out of the box forming rectangles at the end


Post research, comes the actual planning of the website's elements, which will be -

  • The website’s structure. A sitemap can be used for facilitating the layout.
  • Identifying the interests and navigation trends of your audience by deploying relevant tools to do the job, and creation of a users’ persona for better understanding of the market needs. A flowchart software can be of great help in this case, as it lays out the navigation in this manner -
     
black background with green square reading 'home page', with blue lines arising from it reading the navigation map of the page layout, important for web development planning
  • Budgeting. Allocation of money, or a draft blueprint of the same needs to be created.

The layout

For the web development process regarding the website’s layout, elements under consideration should be -

  • Deciding on the colour palette, the font, photography style, spacing - basically everything that your audience interacts on a daily basis with, that could be a potential bottleneck later on if left undecided. 
  • Use of wireframes to preview your website’s layout. A wireframe is exactly what it sounds like - the skeleton of the layout like page contents and their placement without added elements of color and design, for an understanding of the site’s functionality.
  • Quality design is invaluable, as elements in your layout can comprise your  USP as well. The layout should be attractive and convenient enough to navigate for your user to want to come back.

The importance of UX

If a website is too complicated, has lousy speed, has a scattered icon placement or the content isn’t comprehensible, even having a good service delivery will not help. The design of a website holds the capacity to create a bond of trust with the user, and also to establish customer loyalty. Areas of focus should be 

  • Use of simple, lucid language.
  • The content should put across the point instantly without beating around the bush.
  • A well thought out design that visualises the effort that has been put into it.
  • A list of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) makes knowledge sharing about your service even easier.
  • Multiple device compatibility
  • Interactive, responsive UI (User Interface)

The overall look and feel of the website must be professional and should have an elegant touch in the present elements. If a user is by chance tickled off by the design or performance of the website or if he can’t find what he’s looking for, retaining him would not be possible. Read our comprehensive guide to web design to know more.

Choosing the right CMS

A good amount of work is already done just by choosing a good CMS (Content Management System). Some large enterprises are based on CMSes like Drupal and rely on the softwares for their digital infrastructure due to the inbuilt tools and stability that comes with it, excluding the need for being extremely tech savvy. Depending on the amount of features and flexibility that is required by your business, Drupal can be your best bet.

Certain points to keep in mind after deciding to start your web development project with Drupal -

  • Keep up with the frequent updates that the software goes through. It might seem like a simple, matter-of-fact thing to do right now, but if you are not mindful of planning it ahead, you can miss out on many new features and benefits offered by Drupal by lagging in the update cycle. It is, hence, recommended to schedule reminders ahead of time.
  • The architecture of the website needs to be revisited from time to time. Is there any deprecated code that needs to be removed? Or, have your priorities changed over time, and you require different features than the ones already existing? It is imperative that these questions be answered time and again.

Drupal 9, the latest version of Drupal, is always a good option to go for because of the widespread community support and global usage it comes with. With a variety of packages and distributions, web development in Drupal 9 becomes pretty simple even for new developers as there are multiple tools to their aid - the best part being that there’s something for everyone. Updating Drupal is even simpler, a single click upgrading every theme and module on the site. 

blue, green and grey bars placed side by side comparing different features of Drupal 8 and Drupal 9Source : Drupal.org

The correct choice of modules can greatly amplify one’s experience when it comes to web development in Drupal 9. A great choice to make the page layout more methodical would be the  Admin Toolbar module, as it makes the admin toolbar into a drop down menu. A simple XML sitemap module increases the efficiency of SEO by creating multiple multilingual sitemaps along with custom URLs, and a Coffee module greatly enhances the UX by allowing the user to navigate to the admin seamlessly just by using a keyboard shortcut.

To know about the complete list of essential Drupal modules that will help in kick starting your web development project with Drupal 9, read this blog. Access our complete guide to Drupal 9 and go through Drupal 9 FAQs to know more.

Marketing it right

First, a decision needs to be taken on what avenues would be used for advertising and also how these channels will be prioritised, according to the underlying research about one's target audience. Is social media your primary channel to reach your audience? if yes, then which platform fits best with your business model? All these questions need to be answered before hitting the market. Some valuable points to keep in mind are -

  • Search Engine Optimization of all the content on your website is essential to drive more traffic into your website.
  • The URL structure should be logical and also optimised. 
  • Meta description is what a person reads before clicking on the website link, and it should be viewed as an interactive opportunity for a business to make a good first impression. 
  • Targeted marketing like cold emails and DMs might also work for some businesses.
  • The content strategy should be end to end, which schedules in line for planning, creating, executing and measuring it.

Brainstorming sessions with your team about new marketing strategies and ideas are also a good marketing execution method.

Choosing the right agency partner 

Taking expert aid can never hurt. Instances where the work gets too bulky or complicated for you, it is best to delegate it to an agency that knows the job inside out owing to years of experience and varied resources suited to different purposes.

  • An agency not only does your work in a much better and professional fashion, but also acts as a consultancy for any queries that you might have. 
  • Technology is fast evolving, hence, it is best to have a safety net that fills in the gaps in expertise wherever required. 
  • Your development gains maximum momentum with an additional number of hands working towards a specific goal with a focused intent, hence catalysing the development process. 
  • Strategising, design and development are all areas that can gain significantly from an outsider’s perspective. 

If you sync well with your agency partner and are able to make it long-term, a professional advisory would always be at a close proximity. Hence, it is an investment disguised as a partnership. An agency can help you migrate a bulk of content or develop a new website from scratch with ease - using their seasoned knowledge. Often, agencies also provide you post production support and maintenance. If your functional CMS is Drupal and you are unsure about how to incorporate the latest Drupal upgrade, or if you’re a business just setting up their Drupal website, you can well utilise the services of certified Drupal experts at OpenSenseLabs. Or, if you wish to extend your team of Drupal developers, UI/UX strategists and JavaScript developers, our unique staff augmentation model is available for flexible contracts with dynamic availability of certified professionals.

Future Plans

Lastly, everything might be moving on track for now, but that won’t be the case forever. Pre plan safety nets for all possible ups and downs. Also, it is important to not lose track of your long term goals by getting too engulfed in the day to day functioning of the website. A little farsightedness goes a long way.  

Mar 02 2021
Mar 02

The digital sphere keeps changing and evolving at the drop of a hat, technology being the truest representation of the requirements of the present world. Web development is a component of the web that manifests these changes on your screen, which explains why the Bureau of Labour Statistics  projects the demand for web development resources to grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029. But has this equation between the tangible world and the web world always been the same? When the web was formulated, did it mirror us the same way that it does now?

Let’s take a look at how web development has evolved over the years.

Evolution of Web Development

Tim Berners-Lee came up with the World Wide Web  in 1989. He was working at CERN at the time, and his invention was meant to serve various scientists in far off universities by facilitating data sharing among them. The idea was to provide the growing technology of data networks, hypertext and computers a common global, accessible platform. When the web materialised, the code for his web server was set up by Tim on a NeXT computer, the first web page comprising links to the WWW Project, a brief description of hypertext and the details one would need to create a web server.

This is a screenshot of the world wide web browser created by by Lee - 

Black and white web page screenshot of the world's first web page, a landmark in web developmentSource : CERN

As more web servers were created, the links to each of those were added to the first web page by Lee. There was no search engine, the web page consisted of information one might be on the lookout for like CERN Phonebook, guides for using CERN’s computers, etc. Web design was still a fetus concept at this time, HTML’s

Function, that arranged the text into rows and columns, being the closest kin. 

Two years later, in 1991, the first web server came online in the United States. As the web expanded, Lee urged developers from all over to join in and contribute to the web. This is how the journey of the web becoming a global phenomenon began. Design came on the front seat too, as in the same year, the first search engine, ALIWEB, used colour for the first time in the web pages - using yellow highlights to organise the search results. With time when more and more websites cropped up, web designing became an important thing along with web development.

Clearly, we have come a long way. To actually conceptualise how different the times have become, let’s look at what the web development trends looked like ten years ago.

Web development in the previous decade

The past decade succeeded the one with digital revolution, technology occupying the centre stage throughout the years. Like everything else around us, even web development underwent several additions and alterations. The gradual evolution of web development in the preceding decade can be summed up in the following points -  

  • In the 2010s, Ruby on Rails 3.0 was the talk of the town, being an awaited version of the popular Ruby on Rails framework. Javascript had just breathed a new life in node.js framework - an engine high in performance, speed, security and reliance. In addition to these, Microsoft Visual Studio was the chief editing tool used by developers in comparison to Atom and Sublime today.
  • With the first Iphone coming out in 2007, the market a few years later was lined with an array of devices. Smartphones, Ipads, Ebooks were all out for public use and that meant that the web was meant to be an adaptable, fluid thing now. The development and design sphere also underwent iterations with Android OS (Operating System) kicking in. With smartphones showing up left, right and centre, demand for web design grew as well. There were now a plethora of development and designing skills required to keep up with the transforming world.
  • With technology reaching new heights, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality reached the common public’s houses, leaving it on the developers and designers to make it navigable and comprehensible. Later in the decade, even social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat entered the augmented reality market with face filters and the likes. The common crowd began resonating with AR much more, and it started to transition into a commonplace service.
  • The Internet became more and more accessible with each passing day, and greater competition led to heightened focus on User Experience (UX). Websites wanted more animation, greater interaction with their user base. Softwares with in depth design tools starting emerging, with Adobe’s Creative Cloud setting off the dominoes to give rise to competitors like Serif’s Affinity Designer and Procreate.
  • In the 2010s, online communities were also quite a thing. People with similar interests could get on forums and chatting platforms to interact with each other. Some popular platforms during these times were StackOverFlow and Reddit.

Web development has evolved to a point where it has very little in common to its original parent now. In an attempt to culminate this timeline, here’s elaborating on what people and organisations believe will be the upcoming trends in web development.

Projected Trends in Web Development in 2021

Mobile-first development

According to Statista, mobile data traffic is expected to grow at an annual compound growth rate of 46% by 2022, which means that most of the generation has gradually shifted over to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for non official usage. This digital transformation has both altered and expanded the avenues for web development. Now, adaptability to various devices is one of the most important factors to look out for, mobile-first development being primary. 

New architectural styles like micro frontends are also coming up where individual frontend applications are first built and later added into the codebase. 

JavaScript Frameworks

Use of Javascript frameworks will be on the rise, as these provide both animations and a bunch of other functions that make coding much simpler and compact for developers. Frameworks like React and Vue have new features like React Hooks and Typescript that offer Javascript in a more structured, object-oriented form. CSS libraries have also proved to be beneficial to jumpstart front-end development, and hence will supposedly stay trending in the upcoming year too. Javascript frameworks have also been used extensively for powering front ends in a headless CMS, which is another concept to have gained much clout in the previous years. 

With the growing popularity of Javascript, APIs and HTML5, another predicted trend is the rise of JAMstack websites. These websites make use of tools and content dynamically through APIs thus expanding and growing the user base and use case. These features solidify the hold of JAMstack websites in the developer crowd.

No code and low code

Web Standards are predicted to gain momentum not just with respect to tools like javascript frameworks but also in no code and low code space. A no code framework allows you to create content, for example, a design, without the need to code, translating to customisation without the need of expertise. This expands the user diaspora manifold, also opening up avenues for widespread awareness and adoption of web standards.

WebAssembly

Web Assembly (WASM) is a small binary format that creates an environment for web applications to run as a bytecode, thus enabling the application to run much faster inside the browser. It has taken the developer world by a storm, as in complex areas like gaming, music, streaming or video editing, WASM is especially useful. Rightfully so, Web Assembly is becoming increasingly popular by each passing day.

Browsing convenience

Convenience in browsing is a major competitive advantage that websites aim for, which is why Single Page Applications (SPA) and Progressive Web Applications (PWA) are gaining ground. A SPA is an application where all the data is relayed in a single web page, hence completely omitting out the time needed to load different URLs of various segments. Since a solid user base is accessing the web from mobile phones now, SPAs are even more relevant. Accelerated Mobile Pages are also being used specifically for bettering the speed and convenience on mobile pages. Along similar lines, a PWA is a ‘lighter’ version of a bigger app, that is targeted towards customers using limited internet or lower speed internet. With inclusivity being a primary concern, new technologies in the web development industry are all aiming for faster, convenient internet.

Google has taken browsing convenience into consideration too, with their ‘featured snippets’ section not requiring the user to click and visit on every link.

Serverless

Components of a server’s database are predicted to go increasingly virtual in the upcoming year, giving rise to the concept of serverless. In such a scenario, developers would be free to take on a managerial, decision maker role with a difference in the kind of tools they want to work with. A serverless architecture makes a model limitlessly scalable, and expansion to a global level can be visualised. AWS Lambda has shown immense potential in 2020 and is currently the market leader of serverless.

Increasing User Engagement

With user experience on the high tide, focus is on making the user feeling more engaged by using methods like sending push notifications to remind or notify the user about something important, Motion UI (User Interface) to sustain attention, and chatbots for an interactive and convenient session. Chatbots save the time and money usually spent on query resolution by human interaction and notifications can be pretty helpful both for the user and the enterprise - hence these methods are symbiotically beneficial. 

Ghost buttons are also being used increasingly in UX. These are placed for CTA (call to action) and are called so because they’re well blended with the design of the website, portraying their occurrence as largely natural. Their meant usage is primarily for increased interaction and sustaining the users’ attention.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are omnipresent everywhere now - of course these have a part to play in web development as well. Gaining insights about user preferences and subsequent fine tuning is made much more convenient with the use of AI as all the field research is digitised and content is personalised. With components like content automation, fairly accurate customer behaviour analysis, self learning algorithms and enhanced customisation, AI is being used extensively in web development and is projected to stay at the top of the game in the upcoming year as well.

Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) has best materialised in the form of Google Home and Alexa, enabling the connectivity of several devices to execute commands seamlessly. Statista’s research suggests that there will be a threefold increase in IoT devices in 2025 when compared to 2019. Even websites nowadays are opting for voice search optimisation, an IoT component - as you might notice that Amazon has placed Alexa within the Amazon shopping app as well. In the approaching times, devices will listen to their users’ commands and respond accordingly. 

Blockchain

Blockchain has been here for quite a while now and as per 2019 statistics, over 34 million Blockchain wallets were in use globally. In 2021, there is expected to be a wave of software and hardware infrastructure building, litigation and trade regulation for enabling blockchain use in a more comprehensive manner.

Expanding Open source

According to the State of the Octoverse 2020 report, the number of developers on GitHub will reach 100 million by 2025. Hence, we can expect significant growth in the number of open source projects and expansion of the existing ones in the upcoming years.

Being a part of the web development world and also a constantly evolving open source community, even Drupal has seen massive growth over the years and continues to innovate. It has found ways to tackle Covid-19 pandemic, remained recession-free and attracted the interests of large companies to invest.

CI/CD tools

All in all, serving will be made simple and developer convenient by tracing the roots and going back to the basics with the use of the new gen CI/CD (Continuous integration and Continuous Delivery) tooling. As the interfaces of the web get simpler with static web pages and applications,, the processes that are used to manifest it on the screen are getting more complex in the build to enable it.

Web development advancements in the Drupal World

Drupal with its constant updates has always aimed to stay in sync with the web development advancements happening around it. Being an open source software, plenty of user needs that are later materialised as technology are constantly brought up every now and then by the community, making the expansion of Drupal pretty organic and stable. Over the past few years, Drupal has come up with various new components. 

The consequent versions of Drupal 8  have tried to cater well to the community’s requirements and aspirations. Drupal’s out of the box feature enabled trials with experimental modules like the layout builder (for drag and drop management) and media library (for handling enormous amount of media) based on creating an interactive and engaging UI, which were later made into core components with version updates based on their performance and the needs of the user base.
 

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By the time Drupal was out with version 8.8, the workspaces module that was made to run on trial in the previous versions was embedded into the core. It made handling multiple workspaces much easier with features that allowed getting the content reviewed and deployed at one go. A native composer support was also built in, replacing previous third party dependencies. 
 

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In the latest updates, Drupal 9.0 and 9.1, Drupal has made an effort to make upgrading easier for everybody using the software, as approximately half of the pre existing modules do not need any changes. Access your complete guide on Drupal 9 here.
 

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The planned default front-end theme for upcoming Drupal 10 has been released as an experimental theme in Drupal 9.1, the underlying thought being incorporation of better ideas and bug resolution before the final release. This is what Olivero looks like - 

blue and white webpage displaying the theme OliveroSource : Drupal.org

Apart from Olivero, some major plans for Drupal 10 currently in the form of initiatives are  automated updates replacing the need to update your software components manually, an improved out of the box feature and introduction of javascript components. 
 

Light brown background with black flag and text talking about javascript componentsSource : Drupal.org

Coming to keeping up with the trends, Drupal has banked upon its flexibility to adapt to several technological advancements in the recent years.

Drupal works seamlessly with AI and ML. To facilitate ease of use, Drupal also has several modules that enable the use of AI in the website. Drupal’s compatibility with Machine Learning was well demonstrated by the demo of a proof-of-concept project shown to analyse user preferences and consequent fine tuning with due assistance from several APIs, in DrupalCon Baltimore, 2017.
 

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Drupal has noticed the trend of JavaScript Frameworks being extensively used in websites and has thus given a lot of emphasis to its decoupled architecture. Drupal’s open source community has worked a lot on various web services implementations like GraphQL, JSON:API and REST to enable efficient execution of headless architectures. This enables you to utilise a wide range of javaScript frameworks for frontend and build a perfect decoupled Drupal architecture.
 

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Drupal is mobile first and focuses greatly on responsiveness and UI.  In the past, Drupal has come with the mobile initiative for mobile first development and multiple device friendliness in an effort to draw community participation in the same. In addition to this, the Accelerated Mobile Page module enhances the overall UX of a website when accessed from a mobile device.,

To further the agenda, Drupal makes use of Progressive Web Apps to make browsing convenient and engaging for the user. These apps are usually installed in the background after the user has granted the permission to do so while browsing. PWAs do not need services from the play store and are installed from the browser itself. 

Drupal also is very handy with the native mobile application development. For instance, you can leverage Drupal as a content store and Flutter as your UI toolkit for building beautiful native mobile apps. More on Drupal’s provision for mobile apps here.

Drupal Community has also delved into Virtual Reality, Augmented reality and  Internet of things and has demonstrated Drupal’s stupendous capabilities to work well with such emerging technologies. For example, a while ago, a Drupal agency built an application prototype on Drupal 8 where users could consult a chatbot for grocery shopping, keeping certain health constraints in mind. The smartphone cameras were used to capture relevant product information, and the chatbots rendered necessary details to the customer. The concept, thus, used AR and AI together for better user convenience and experience.
 

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In 2018, organisers of DrupalCon Nashville used virtual postcards for admittance of the guests. From a VR editor built using Drupal as backend and React as frontend, to the javascript API WebVR demonstrating dynamic content using Drupal compliant JSON API, Drupal has come quite far experimenting with Virtual Reality.

virtual reality postcard with blue background, graphics of buildings, yellow text and the face of a manSource : Drupal.org

Drupal can also work with blockchain for synchronizing data of the websites of large corporations.

Headless Drupal can be effective to build advanced serverless architectures as well. For instance, you can seamlessly integrate Amazon CloudFront, [email protected], and headless Drupal that can deliver lowest latency and personalised experiences to users.

Conclusion

Trends in web development are always in constant evolution, demanding the rest of the market to keep up with them. While these are a few projected ideas, we might see some newer developments and technologies taking over in the near future.

Profile picture for user Akanksha Mehta

Akanksha is a writer more by personality than by profession. Believes in the unpopular opinion that Kindles are better than books. Also believes that even inanimate things have their own personalities - tea is all things bright and summery, coffee is all things cold and suave.

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Mar 02 2021
Mar 02

Today, there are a bazillion options available for us to choose from, be it restaurants, clothing brands, gadgets or software. We, as users, may have difficulty in choosing the best, but never in finding the options. The options may confuse us, but we are going to be bombarded with them nonetheless. 

This brings me to the question of choosing the right option amongst the lot; how is it selected? For me, one of the most important criteria is usability, if I am not able to understand the usage of a product, I’d rather choose the next one. I am sure usability must be an important factor in your decision as well. 

Now, coming onto the product that I would be talking about today, Drupal. It is one of the most renowned open source content management systems out there. If you are reading this blog, you would definitely be aware of Drupal and all of its brilliance. Despite its eminence and versatility, it is still marred by a slightly unjustified rumour based on its use. Yes, as the title suggests, Drupal is often considered difficult to use and as a result many shy away from using it. 

Today, we will try to understand all the aspects of Drupal that could account for this claim and see if it is really true. Can a software that is meant to be free for anyone to use be so difficult that it become inaccessible to a major lot of its audience? What would be the point of it then? You think about that while I begin with the individual of Drupal’s so-called complexities. 

A Glimpse at Drupal’s Market Share 

Drupal is one of the leading CMSs in the market. Its ability to build powerful web experiences is the paramount reason for the same. So before I get into the nitty gritty details of Drupal's ease of use, I wanted to highlight its popularity. 

A line graph is showing Drupal usage statistics. Source: BuiltWithA table is showing the number of sites using Drupal at different points of time.Source: Drupal.org 

These numbers clearly show that Drupal is being used by a considerable number of sites worldwide with as many as a million Drupal sites operational at one time. This proves the answer to the question ‘Is Drupal in demand’ is going to be an affirmative.

A graph shows how many sites use Drupal in comparison with other CMSs.Source: W3TechThere is a list of the most high traffic sites using Drupal.Source: SimilarTech

Is Drupal still relevant? I’d say it is primarily because it isn’t just the numbers that make Drupal impressive, but its performance as well. The above images depicts Drupal’s competency at handling high-traffic sites. Drupal is a software for which millions of visitors aren't daunting as proven by its clientele.

Two pie charts are showing various changes in business and projects handles by it.Source: Drupal.org 

Moreover, in a survey to understand 2021’s business outlook, Drupal found out that the majority of its users felt that the new year would mark a growth in their prospects. With Drupal’s presence in a wide range of industries, the profitability of the CMS is impressive too. Sectors like education, charities and nonprofits, government, IT and even media have experienced more profits with Drupal as per the findings of Drupal Business Survey 2020

Drupal has proven its worth in every aspect, be it the number or the performance. The only thing that mars its impeccable record is that it is difficult to use, which isn’t technically the case. I’ll start answering the why with the next section.

Let’s move on to the programming language 

PHP or Hypertext Preprocessor is the programming language Drupal is built on. And PHP is a language that is often considered to be part of its complexity. I would say that it is not accurate. 

PHP is one of the best programming languages and has landed itself in the top 10 best languages to learn in 2021 by many surveys; Simplilearn and Hackr.io are two of these reports. With that kind of efficacy, the language cannot be considered to be problematic.  

Further proof of PHP’s popularity is in the number of websites and applications that use it, which isn’t a lowly figure. Look at the graph below for proof. 

A graph is showing the popularity of various programming languages.Source: W3techs

And these reports and figures aren’t antiquated, rather are as new as the year itself. So, PHP must be a worthwhile language, even if it isn’t the easiest of them all. 

However, PHP isn’t the only language Drupal works with. It has other dependencies as well. These include; 

Symfony; 
Twig; 
CKEditor; 
jQuery and jQuery UI. 

All of these only mean that Drupal is versatile, it isn’t a software with one side. Its multifaceted programming aspects only add to its appeal. It may seem like a lot at first, but it is necessary and doesn’t add up to Drupal’s difficulties, rather it eases the task of web development.

Moving on to the beginner’s conundrum 

When we start something, more often than not, we feel overwhelmed with it. Since we are not accustomed to the newness and it’s nuances, that is understandable. And Drupal ensures that it takes into consideration the novice developers. 

Until Drupal 8, beginners have reported difficulties with the installation and evaluation of Drupal. But after the release of the eighth version, things are more streamlined with the beginner’s needs and expertise. 

Drupal has also brought on new themes to make its experience more flattering for the beginners. For example:

Umami in Drupal 8.6 
Claro in Drupal 8.8 
And Olivero as an experiment in Drupal 9.1

All three themes have made Drupal more accessible, responsive and simple for its users, if we are to rely on user feedback. If I talk about Olivero specifically, it is the new beta experimental frontend theme, which is both modern and concise, and will take over Bartik as Drupal default theme. Its simplicity and professional look make it a perfect pair for beginners.  

With Drupal 9, there isn’t much that has changed. If you are comfortable with Drupal 8, you would be able to ease into the 9th version with a breeze. Although there are indeed differences between Drupal 8 and 9, these are not as stark and have made development not seem like a daunting task. 

And there is more. 

The Drupal Community, always helping out!

Drupal has a community of over 1 million people and 100,000+ stories to tell. From putting your skills at work to acquiring new skills to work, the Drupal community is known for upliftment of the software and the people using it. 

Any questions a beginner may have will be rightfully answered. You can easily find mentors, who are Drupal veterans and will gleefully help you become an expert like them. You can practise, practise and practise some more to get to the level you want to be at. Being part of the Drupal community, you will be able to hone your skills unlike anywhere else. 

You would not feel like an outsider, meet people with similar interests and similar geography as you at Drupal Groups. Since the best way to learn Drupal or anything really is to be immersed in it, the Drupal community is just the place for learning and mastering.

And, there is a constant endeavour to help underrepresented groups from the Drupal Community. Diversity, inclusion and equity is at the heart of the community.

So, there isn’t much room for the beginner’s conundrum at Drupal.

Then there are the notorious Drupal upgrades

Upgrades are necessary, but they don’t necessarily have to be an insurmountable task, which frankly speaking was the case for Drupal. Upgrading till Drupal 8 could not be described as being easy and quick. They required a lot of work and it was difficult, as there were major fundamental changes in the software. However, there was no other way to go about it. If you wanted the added functionality and support that new version would have, upgrading was the only choice.

However, that isn’t the case now and thank goodness for that. 

With the launch of Drupal 9, upgrades have become less notorious and more accommodating. The Drupal 9 switch has been deemed as the easiest upgrade of the decade and that is saying something. This is because unlike previous upgrades, Drupal 9 does not change the entire CMS on a fundamental level, there is no reinvention, but it is still unique. It is a new and improved version of Drupal 8, with deprecated APIs and updated dependencies.

Here is an illustration that will help you understand what I have been saying about fundamental changes.

Different train tracks are used to describe the difference between various Drupal versions.Source: Drupal.org 

With a four step process, you can make your Drupal 8 sites ready and waiting to be upgraded into Drupal 9, if that is difficult, I wonder which adjective would be appropriate for the previous ones. You can also directly upgrade from Drupal 7, if you wish to. Access this complete guide to Drupal 9 to know everything about Drupal 9 upgrade and migration.

Yes, Drupal upgrades were difficult, but they aren’t now. So, does this fact make this pointer for Drupal moot? I think it does.

Coming on to the workflow 

For content management systems, content is the integral. The way it is created and managed essentially decides whether the life of developers and content creators is going to be easy or not. If you are using Drupal correctly, I can assure you life is going to be a breeze.

I say this because in terms of editorial workflow, Drupal has a lot to offer and not much is complicated, with structured tools equipped to define the same.

Here is an overview of some of them.

Workspaces is one tool that helps in defining the staging environments, previewing content changes, all the while deploying these to a live environment.

Transitions is another tool that makes it easy to control content States, which have their own attributes. It allows state changes to become restricted by roles and permissions along with allowing users what content to be put through them.

Then, there is the eminent Views module. This is one unique to Drupal and its highlighting feature in terms of content. It gives the power of creating, managing and displaying lists of content to administrators and site designers. It is these lists that are called views, while what the portray in the form of blocks or pages is the display, it can be one or many.

A screenshot of Drupal's Views module can be seen.Source: Drupal.org 

One of Drupal’s most fulfilling editorial tools is the Layout Builder. It allows editors to create a publishing piece that is more than flexible to their needs. Any kind of layout is possible with this module.  
 
All of these support the editorial needs of the many content authors who will be populating a platform and the better part is they would not need the guidance of the developers every of the way or any at all.

The new-age of Headless CMSs 

As times change, the things that satiated our needs no longer do so. The same is true for CMSs. Looking back, it is evident that site builders and developers were quite satisfied with nestling an entire project inside one CMS, which would have acted as the provider of the frontend and the backend needs. However, with the advent of multitudinous frontend technologies, that satiation is no longer achievable. 

Hence, the new-age of CMSs emerged, which is essentially without a head, that is the presentation. Unlike the monolithic architecture, the headless approach separates the frontend development from the backend, making the developers happy by leveraging other technologies.

Drupal is a pro at the headless approach. Its monolithic architecture is also used by sites with simpler needs, however, it does give them the option to decouple or go headless, if they wanted to. 

  • You could choose to decouple partially, this would be the progressively decoupled approach
  • You could choose to go all the way, with the fully decoupled approach with JavaScript framework of your preference taking care of the frontend or you could choose static site generators as your frontend.

Be it React, Angular, VueGatsby or Metalsmith, Drupal can work with all of the major frontend technologies and make the project a success with it acting as the content repository.

Drupal’s work isn’t finished yet, it also provides robust APIs to streamline the connection between the presentation and the content layer. Built on the API-first approach, Drupal offers all of its application functions as APIs. This is done through its web services including RESTful web services and JSON:API along with API extensions with GraphQL

Drupal can create its own flexible and structured presentation layer, there isn’t a doubt in it. Regardless of this, when it is decoupled, it performs with equal efficiency to create API endpoints, which basically make room for content consumption and display in the headless application.

And this new-age of CMSs is gaining ground each day, and Drupal, with its own web services at play, is making the transition quite easy.

Fusion with Emerging technologies

I mentioned in the previous section that with time things change and so does their to us. Today, technology is a major part of that change. I remember a time not long ago, when a single camera setup on our smartphones was enough for us. Now, my phone has three, still I envy my husband, whose smartphone has a quad camera setup. Who could have imagined that? 

The same is true for CMSs, when we look at them, we don’t just want a simple site building tool. We want innovations, enhancements and upgrades that will stun us in the most positive way. And CMSs have started providing that. 

Taking Drupal into focus, it has had a revolutionary impact on the market by integrating itself with futuristic technologies.

Drupal has proven to be both reliable and reaching in its fusion with emerging technologies and that has led to an improved digital experience, both for the developers and the users. Read our blog Unleashing macro trends in technology with Drupal to find more about this topic.

It all comes down to continuous improvement in focus

A horizontal bar graph shows the various reasons people opted for Drupal.Reasons for people choosing Drupal. Source: Drupal Business Survey 2020 

The most common reason for people using Drupal is because they have already used it and because of that familiarity, it becomes easy to use. However, ease of use is not amongst the top reasons for taking up Drupal. 

Probably that is why, when Drupal 10’s 2022 release was announced during DrupalCon Global in 2020 by Dries Buytaert, its ease-of-use was addressed as one of the most impactful aspects. And Drupal 10’s development is proof of that.

In Dries speech, he emphasised the ease of use quite a lot. He talked about five crucial steps that were taken to simplify Drupal even more. 

  • Improving third party components even after their EOL to enhance Drupal 10 readiness; 
  • Improving Drupal’s ease-of-use further, Drupal 9 was a great step in this direction;
  • Improving frontend themes; 
  • Improving updates by making them automates, this would work best for security upgrades; 
  • Improving on Drupal technology by implementing JavaScript components in the UI. 

For all of these, the efforts are being made by the entire community. 

Yes, it would be faster, better and more innovative, but it would not be difficult. Like I mentioned before in this blog, we should not expect many overhauls to the software that would make our eyes pop and heads hurt. 

There are going to be improvements, there would at least by four versions of Drupal 9 before the arrival of 10. However, this continuity in advancements does not have to affect the way Drupal is seen by its users. It needn’t be the forbidden fruit that everybody wants to taste, but scared to do so. Drupal is an open source software, it is meant for everyone and that means it isn't too difficult. I wouldn’t deny that wasn’t complex at one point, but that point of time is long gone. What lies in the future is a version of Drupal that is as easy to use for a beginner as it is for an expert developer.

The Bottom Line 

I’d like to answer the question ‘How hard is it to use Drupal?’ with a direct from one of our developers.

“Being from a technical background and having PHP development experience before diving into Drupal gives me an upper edge during the journey. Being into Drupal development for around 3 years, I can say it’s all about learning the architecture of Drupal (such as entities, configs and forms) and how the code executes (sequence of functions calls). The earlier you understand these, the easier the Drupal journey would be for you and it would help you to debug faster and select the best approach for the requirements. Plus having a great community and open contribution platform helps you learn better and faster. Drupal is like a Lego, you can build it to your liking but, at a certain point of customisation, it is like a box with thousands of pieces and not all of them fit together.” - Anmol Goel, Senior Software developer at OpenSense Labs

For Anmol, Drupal experience made the journey easier. It requires you to get a hang of things, once you do that, there isn’t much that you’d find difficult, and your Drupal development experience would be a walk in the park; at least most of the time. And like he put it so eloquently, who could find a game of Lego difficult? All it is about is building something new every time, be it today or tomorrow and that’s Drupal for you.

Feb 26 2021
Feb 26
Choosing Right CMS for Your Business: Part 1 Akanksha Mehta Fri, 02/26/2021 - 10:15

This is the first of the two-part series on ‘Formulating a business case for a new CMS’. The first part debates on open source CMS and proprietary CMS. The second part will discuss various other factors that are to be considered before opting for a new CMS for your business.

A successful business is resultant of an array of decisions, whether big or small, leading to its conception, formulation and finally, execution. With digital being normalized to the extent where it is the only way we know of to access a ton of products and services, a solid online presence has come to be of utmost importance for a business. A lot of times, businesses prefer going for a CMS (Content Management System) instead of building a website from scratch, as a CMS gives you a pre-built website, good to go as it is, or easily customisable even without having a dedicated team of developers and related coding knowledge.

What are the options?

The first step towards making a business case is to weigh your available options side by side. As a business choosing a new CMS, you will be rendered the following options -

A) Proprietary Model CMS

A CMS built under the proprietary backdrop will have a unitary ownership. Every tool and feature available will be created and listed by the owner organisation, and will be served to the end user in a transactional manner, with not much deliberation involved as everything sources back to one single origin. 

B) Open Source CMS

On the contrary, in an open source CMS model, apart from a few core features, contributions are invited from everybody. The model opens up avenues for discussion and innovation for its end users thus forming the likes of a community, working together for the greater goal.

Due to the community benefits that come along with an open source CMS, recent statistics point towards an increase in inclination towards adopting an open source model for a business.

blue and pink bar chart analysing the likelihood of large companies to opt for open source cmsSource : The New Stack

The said benefits can largely be summed up in the following points.

grey chart with blue lines mapping the benefits of open source adoptionSource : SASwhite chart using blue lines to map the customer benefits of using open sourceSource : SAS

Business Case : Open Source CMS vs. Proprietary CMS 

For a better understanding of the business case for a CMS of either kind, let’s compare from various dimensions the features of Open Source and Proprietary CMS models with a business point of view -

The Costs

In a proprietary model, since it is the organisation that bears all the cost of maintenance, addition and subtraction of features, upgradation and bug fixation, it will recover these expenses in the form of subscriptions, licenses etc. You might need to pay yearly renewal fees or monthly usage charges. Along the line, be prepared for cost surprises, as they may initially be hidden, but will pop up soon enough.

If you’re wondering why to choose an open source CMS in this case, it is because it’s free to use with no charges in the form of subscriptions or premiums.

Hence, both the models do need some form of monetary support, and it is the business owners’ call what they want to invest their money on. 

Customisation

With the homogeneity that comes with proprietary CMS models, also comes rigidity in terms of customisation and personalisation, since there’s very little that is left to you for deliberation. Hence, if your business thrives on establishing unparalleled user experience by tapping on features like personalised feed and customisable layouts, go for open source. An open source model remains connected to its user base owing to continuous contributions and ongoing discussions within the community, making the field research for customisation much easier. 

On the other hand, if your requirements do not place much focus on the look and feel of the site, and rather banks on niche content for niche audiences, the associated costs and effort that comes with customisation is not that high utility for you and this is when to choose a proprietary CMS.

Complexity

Needless to say, all the additional features and tools make open source CMS unnecessarily complex. A small business with limited resources might find it too overwhelming to delve into web development especially if it is not their calling. However, the open source community, like that of Drupal, for instance, is available at your disposal any time. Just leave your questions in the dedicated forum, someone from the Drupal Community, that comprises millions of members, would surely revert. Or, if you wish to get web performance optimisation services or support and maintenance services, you can also partner with a digital agency which specialises in Drupal. In the case of proprietary CMS, with a single vendor to reach out to, things can be streamlined here as well.

Reliability

A proprietary CMS is a one-stop-shop experience, everything is handed out to you at once and you have very little to worry about if your area of expertise lies elsewhere. You can certainly rely on it in customary scenarios where you’re looking for greater stability of the product. But what must be kept in mind is that the ownership decides the lifespan of every service offered, and reliance takes a hit if the products you’ve based parts of your business on are changed opposite to your liking, or even removed. You also need to rely on the owners for bug fixes.

On the other hand, in case of an open source CMS, when our surrounding technology sphere undergoes change, open source is the first to reflect it, as it consists of users, and more importantly, contributors, from all across the globe. It gives one the freedom to work on a part of the software that is useful to them, hence creating their own safety net.

Security

Proprietary CMS models bank on security by keeping their source code under wraps, which might backfire as any bugs that creep into the source code will remain hidden from the public eye as well. Although the source code being open in open source models has drawn speculation, it is widely known for bug fixes being very prompt as multiple hands are working constantly to make it error free. Snyk found out in one of their reports that there were lower vulnerabilities reported across popular open source ecosystems, and that there was an improved security mindset within open source organisations. 

Bulkiness 

Proprietary software packages come in a bulk, installing various components that you might never end up using, as choosing exactly what to install isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Open source softwares are based online, taking up negligible computer storage space. If bulkiness is your area of concern because you already have a lot of bulk on your plate, closed source might add to the problem.

Expertise Required

Open source is a developer’s paradise. If you have the expertise to work on an open source software or can afford people with the needed skills, nothing like it. However, if your website requires multiple people being on board to handle the content on a regular basis, it might not be the best choice for you. A closed source software doesn’t need any technical knowledge or coding skills to work seamlessly, while open source does. People with little to no technical experience can also work on proprietary software.

Innovation

The flexibility and space for innovation that comes with an open source software is unparalleled. Open source is like a self service buffet, each user is free to take what he or she wants, but it does not end there. New ideas for the betterment of the software and the community are always invited. In comparison, closed source models have a few people deciding on the features of the software, so it is impossible to cater to everybody. If your business’ future is to thrive on change and creativity, it is best to go for an open source model to avoid a fix in the future.

In open source communities, we see newer ideas and technologies on the ground not only sooner, but also on a continuous test drive with multiple technicians already working on the issues as soon as they’re detected. Open source CMS Drupal has held quite a starry record in unleashing new trends and making those functional as an open source platform. Macro trends in the industry like Continuous Delivery for superfast project deliveries, microservices infrastructure for small, autonomous services and machine learning for ‘intelligent’ web development’ have been brought to good use by Drupal. Hence, newer technologies see optimum utilisation with the backdrop of an open source community. 

Most importantly, the satisfaction of working with open source and contributing to it

Contributing to open source also has a plethora of hidden, indirect benefits. A company that is known to contribute to the common good is sure to build a positive, welcoming and compassionate brand value both within and outside the company. Developers involved in working on the open source components would be interacting with similar abundantly skilled people from all around the globe. Hence, not only is open source the right thing to do, it is equally exciting and challenging to work on. A person constantly interacting with the community is bound to gain a lot of dynamic experience, leading to a much faster growth rate as compared to a stagnant worker. And at the end of the day, one walks home satisfied and content with the feeling of having contributed to the bigger picture, to have fulfilled a bit of their own social responsibility. 

Companies as big units also find it important to provide funding to the community as a part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Since they derive so much in terms of components and knowledge from the open source community, it only makes sense at the end of the day to give back to it. More on large companies' preference for open source here.

Drupal as an open source software has time and again seen how contributions and community engagement keep the platform afloat. Drupal acknowledges each contributor by issuing them credits for their work, and derives essential data from the trends of contributors. For example, if they see minimal engagement from a social or ethnic group, the inclusion statistics are likely to be revisited in order to analyse whether Drupal is accessible to everybody to engage and contribute in. Drupal also states in its Values and Principles that the bigger goal is to foster a learning environment leading to collaborative decision making and overall excellence. To know more, take a look at what makes open source recession proof, how it has tackled Covid-19 problems, and how Drupal stayed on top in the coronavirus pandemic.

At present, Drupal receives contributions from thousands of organisations and individuals who believe in the power of open source. Learn more about the approaches and perks of contributing to Drupal here.

Conclusion

The process of choosing a new CMS should be undergone carefully after thorough analysis of every aspect of the business cases for different softwares. The CMS is what you choose to represent and associate your brand image with, hence it should do justice to your goals, agendas and vision.

blog banner picture of computer screen reading 'add new post' blog image brown desk with papers and two hands pointing at it CMS open source cms Open Source Community proprietary cms Content Management System Open Source Blog Type Articles Is it a good read ? On
Feb 22 2021
Feb 22
The Drupal and Contentful Comparison: Open Source vs Proprietary Software Gurpreet Kaur Mon, 02/22/2021 - 16:16

Today, everything is being done online. If you are not online, you just might be considered antiquated. From social media to e-commerce, every aspect of the online world is, thus, improving by leaps and bounds. We are benefiting from these advancements, so no complaints there. 

All the advantages that we are able to reap from the online world, from the websites we so eagerly use, are dependent on a particular system. This is the system that they are built on, the more versatile it is, the better the website’s versatility is going to be. And this is exactly what we expect from our web experiences and the system provides almost every time. 

Drupal and Contentful logos can be seen together.


It is the Content Management Software, I am raving about. There are plenty available for the developers to choose from. However, we’ll be talking about two of them in particular, comparing them actually as they are strangely a bit alike and a bit different too. These are Drupal and Contentful. So, let’s begin.

Parameter

Drupal   Contentful Market Share  Founded in 2000, Drupal has a substantial market presence, with a million sites using it  Launched in 2013, Contentful’s market share is impressive too Decoupled Architecture  Drupal offers efficient decoupling with an API-first infrastructure  Decoupling features are similar to Drupal

Performance and Scalability 

If optimised properly, Drupal provides impeccable performance and limitless scalability  Contentful offers great performance too, however, it poses technical limitations Security  Quite reliable and the most secure open source CMS with a proactive community constantly working on issues  Good, however, bugs can be a common occurrence Content Workflow  The content modelling and editorial experience is wholesome for the authors, Views system being the highlight Contentful works differently, but offers an equally wholesome experience to content authors Pricing  Free to install and configure, there can be other costs depending on the scale of the project  Not free, being a proprietary software, has a standard monthly cost to be paid Third-party Integrations  Integrates seamlessly with third party tools and application  Matches Drupal in this regard Community  The Drupal community is over a million and growing  Contentful does not have such a wide community, but its Community Plan is a step towards it Migrations  Difficult in the past, but a breeze with the launch of Drupal 9 The CLI tool helps in migrations, making them automated Responsiveness  Designs, themes, images and tables, everything is mobile-friendly with Drupal  The responsiveness to mobile devices is quite impressive as well. Multilingual  Translates content, configurations and interfaces in over 90 languages Offers translation services similar to Drupal, but in 30 languages Accessibility  Drupal follows WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0 guidelines for accessibility  Contentful follows WCAG 2.1 guidelines SEO  Drupal has a module for every SEO need, be it keywords or links Contentful also supplements SEO needs, but it is dependent on the creation of dedicated content types

Understanding the CMSs and their abilities 

Drupal, leading as an open source  

Drupal has been around for two decades. The 15th of January 2021, marked its 20th birthday, being around for this long, it has mastered all the nuances of content management and digital experiences. It is a digital experience management system that has the potential of driving web content onto multiple platforms to provide personalised experiences that would allow your users to connect with your organisation.

The kind of content management tools Drupal comes with are not only sophisticated, but also stimulate perpetual innovation. The great thing about Drupal isn’t its numerous modules, themes and templates, even though they are great too, but it is the fact that Drupal is open source and accessible to far more people than a proprietary software would be. 

A line graph is showing Drupal usage statistics. Source: BuiltWith

 

A table is showing the number of sites using Drupal at different points of time.Source: Drupal.org

Contentful, not the conventional CMS

Contentful was founded in 2013 by Sascha Konietzke and Paolo Negri in Berlin. It hasn’t been around as long as Drupal, but it isn’t the new kid on the block as well. In simple terms, Contentful is a content infrastructure, a platform that would allow you to create, manage and distribute content to any platform. 

This pretty much sums up the definition of a CMS. So, why did I say Contentful was not conventional?

Other CMSs, Drupal included, come with out-of-the-box content models that you have to choose from. However, with Contentful you have the liberty to create your own content models and you get to decide which content you want to manage. The RESTful APIs provide you the ability to deliver your content across multiple platforms, including websites, mobile apps, be it iOS, Android or Windows. From Google Glass to infinity, it is your pick. You can utilise the potential of Contentful on your own or a team. The uncluttered UI makes assigning custom roles and permissions a breeze. Contentful is a modern content platform that paves the way for faster launches.

A bar graph shows the market share of Contentful in different countries since it was founded.Source: BuiltWith 

Drupal vs Contentful: Putting them under the microscope

How efficient is decoupling? 

Usually a CMS is equipped to manage content in the backend and push it to the front-end templates that essentially provide the desired user experience. This meant that a CMS served as an all-in-one system that provided for all the development needs. However, that is changing with decoupling, where-in the frontend and the backend are two different entities, independent of each other.

Drupal 

With Drupal, you can decouple the frontend from the backend where you want to, making the content become reusable chunks that are independent of the presentation layer and always prepared for delivery to as many sites and apps.

When you decouple, you get the benefit of Drupal’s presentation-neutral content. The REST API, GraphQL, JSON:API and all the different alternatives that you get in decoupled Drupal ecosystem to build a front-end as you want, with any technology you want, is amazing

These are a few of the tools and frameworks that decoupling Drupal would allow you to take up and build interactive sites and apps. You can get the complete insights on what frontend technology to use with decoupled Drupal architecture here.

You also get the opportunity to future-proof your project by refreshing designs without re-implementing the entirety of the CMS.

Contentful 

Since decoupling is dependent on one principle, that is the separation of the frontend from the backend, I wouldn’t say that Contentful is all that different from Drupal in this regard. 

  • It is an API-first content infrastructure.
  • It makes front-end layers less rigid and more versatile, with a number of tools and frameworks.
  • It acts as a content repository delivering your content.

All of this is achievable through Drupal as well. What is different are two things;

  • It has its own Contentful API, delivered through a CDN, while Drupal operates on RESTful APIs, JSON and GraphQL. 
  • Next is the fact that Contentful uses an approach known as JAMstack, JavaScript, APIs and Markup; while decoupled Drupal uses MERN, MangoDB, Express, React, NodeJS.

There are also chances of API requests turning wrong. When that happens, the Contentful server will automatically create an error, with an appropriate HTTP status code in the header along with a JSON response in the body. 

How reliable is the performance and scalability?

Drupal 

Drupal comes equipped to handle any and all performance scalability needs an organisation might have. However, it would only be able to do that if you optimise it properly, that is a contingent for scalability. 

For instance, sites operating on Drupal 8 and later versions come with tools that will allow you to scale on the frontend and the backend. 

Blazy
Content Delivery Network 
Server Scaling 
Site Monitoring tools 

All account for a better performing Drupal site that is always ready to accommodate for traffic spikes and content growth making your site always available. To know more, read these comprehensive guides to Drupal performance optimisation techniques and scalability provisions.

Contentful

Contentful was made to scale to compensate for your site’s growth much like Drupal. It has taken into consideration all of the dimensions of growth that a site or app may face and categorised them into seven categories.

It is prepared to handle 

  • heightened levels of traffic, data and usage; 
  • the addition of more projects, products and channels; 
  • an increased level of complexity and sophistication in use cases;
  • an expansion in global markets; 
  • an elevated number of internal users; 
  • an enhanced pace of development; 
  • and cater for an advanced level of security for business perpetuity.

At the end of it all, Contentful comes with certain technical limits upon the infrastructure. These are enforced to mandate a lack of interruption on the shared-service infrastructure functions, however, they are limits all the same. Reading them before using Contentful would be wise.

How sufficient is the security?

Drupal 

In terms of security, Drupal is on the higher level of sufficiency, if not the best. The kind of features it comes equipped with make it a frontrunner. A Sucuri’s report even showed that Drupal is amongst the most secure open source CMS out there.

Drupal security is very competent because of; 

  • Its expert security team, adhering to the guidelines set by Open Web Application Security Project; 
  • Its community, being proactive and analysing any security issues; 
  • Its implementation of a secure access through strong passwords that are even encrypted;
  • Its secure codebase; 
  • Its control over the most trivial user access; 
  • Its encrypted database; 
  • Its APIs, ensuring validation of data and preventing malicious entry. 

Contentful 

Contentful almost competes with Drupal in terms of security, I have used the term almost because there is a catch. 

Talking about the positives, Contentful’s security infrastructure is based on Amazon Web Services, making it quite impressive. 

  • It has ISO 27001 compliant data centres; 
  • It comes with data storage, that is encrypted at rest along with an encryption of all forms of communication in transit; 
  • It comes handy with a web application firewall, brute force prevention, data retention policy, threat detection and two-factor authentication along with security audits. 

Despite all of these measures, Contentful isn’t totally secure from hacks. There are bugs and fixes that are often highlighted, and with a large codebase like that of Contentful, it is almost understandable. Therefore, its Bug Bounty Program was launched to reward hackers for finding these issues and vulnerabilities. 

How streamlined is the content workflow?

For a content management system, the content is the most essential part, its creation and management to be streamlined for the CMS to be successful.

Drupal 

In terms of content modelling and the editorial experience, Drupal’s abilities are more than impressive. 

  • Drupal offers numerous field types like boolean, comments, date, email, links, timestamp and numbers, inclusive of decimals, integers and floats. 
  • Drupal’s Field Group module enables you to custom group fields, allowing easy customisations for your editors.
  • The Views system helps in creating an experience that has enhanced uniqueness because it gives you the power to add any field to the view, pull relationships as well as executing many operations at once.
  • Then there is the Content Moderation module along with the Workflows module that can define an innumerable count of arbitrary publishing states and workflows. You could have a largely diverse team, and still be able to map out your preferred workflow before implementing it.

Majority of these are unfound in Contentful, however, it does have its own share of tools accounting for a streamlined workflow.

Contentful 

Contentful doesn’t really fall behind Drupal in content workflow by a substantial margin. Its abilities are almost as good as that of Drupal’s. Contentful’s default editorial experience is extremely easy to understand and use. However, when you decouple it, say using React, you would have to part with the default features. 

  • Contentful offers field types as many as Drupal’s, however, it doesn’t highlight specific format types like email and links and physical addresses. But then it has a JSON object, which Drupal is missing out on. 
  • Contentful uses widgets to define each field type. 
  • Default content views make viewing and filtering content very easy. 
  • Contentful also has easy field restoration with a referencing experience for searching and creation of entities, both of which aren’t found in Drupal.

Contentful’s content modeling and editorial workflow are quite different from Drupal, but effective all the same.

How pocket friendly is the pricing?

Drupal 

Being an open source software, Drupal is free to install and configure. If you have the right human resources, it is absolutely free. However, if you don’t, then it is going to cost you. And these costs depend on the kind of site you are building.

Costs would be dependent on; 

  • The size of the site you are aiming for, the bigger the project, the higher the cost; 
  • The kind of complexity it is going to mandate in relation to workflows, integration and multilingual sites;
  • The timeline and the team you would be relying on; a bigger project would need additional team members like project managers and quality assurance personnel;
  • Then there is the question of the Drupal agency to do all of this for you, if you cannot, which is going to cost you.

Contentful 

Contentful isn’t associated with being free like Drupal. It has different pricing models for different needs of developers and organisations.

  • If you are looking to build a personal site as an individual developer, Contentful would be free for you.
  • If you are looking to power a modern stack site or two with enhanced authoring roles and technical support, you could take up a free trial and then subscribe to Contentful starting at $489 per month.
  • And if you are looking to build hundreds of digital experiences while scaling your content platform, you can get a custom plan from Contentful for your specific needs.

I wouldn’t say Contentful is too heavy on the pocket as is, but including the cost of hiring developers and staff and it would become more expensive than Drupal. 

How effective are the third party integrations?

Drupal 

Drupal is renowned for its abilities to integrate itself with third party tools and applications. Be it analytic platforms, e-commerce verticals, ERP systems or email and marketing systems, Drupal works well with all of them.

Its API-first focus, like Contentful, makes it essential for finding connections to make content reach to other sites and apps. And third-party integrations are just the way to do that.

Contentful 

Contentful comes with UI extensions that are able to integrate themselves with external APIs and third party data. From e-commerce sites to YouTube to local translators, Contentful can merge itself with a number of tools. 

There is also the fact that Contentful has successfully integrated itself with Gatsby and Metalsmith as its official projects proving its abilities further in this regard. Drupal and Contentful aren’t all that different in terms of third party integrations.

How helpful is the community?

Drupal 

Drupal is a large platform, operational all over the globe. This means that its community is also spread throughout the world. And it has, the Drupal community has over a million users in as many as 230 countries, isn’t that an achievement in itself?

People from different backgrounds, different skill sets and different perspectives come together to improve Drupal and enhance its community ties. Perks of contributing to open source are immense and this guide to Drupal contribution will shed more light on the advantages that you get.

Contentful 

Contentful does not have a community as wide as Drupal’s. However, it is making strides towards building one. It has devised and launched a Community Plan that would empower individual developers to build as they like, without incurring any costs as opposed to its 14-day free trial. 

The community also provides technical support through its slack channel, where thousands of developers are active and ready to help.

How seamless are the migrations?

Upgrades and migrations are inevitable when it comes to web development. Usually developers do not look forward to the hassle they bring along. So, do Drupal and Contentful bring on the hassle or eliminate it?

Drupal 

With Drupal 9 having launched last year and Drupal 10 on the horizon, there is a lot of anxiety amongst the Drupal 7 and 8 using folks. The primary reason for the anxiety being the looming EOL dates and the heavy-duty upgrades. 

However, the anxiety isn’t necessary at all.

Talking about the switch from Drupal 8 to 9, as per the makers, this upgrade is considered the easiest in almost a decade. By following a four-step guide, you can have your current site ready for the functionality and better security standards of Drupal 9 by using the Upgrade Status

As for the upgrade from Drupal 7 to 9, easy is not a term that would be used to describe it. The migration will overwhelm you, but all the advantages of Drupal 9 will make it seem worth it. Developers can make the upgrade themselves with the help of Upgrade Status and Drupal Module Upgrader. These help in letting you know whether your themes and modules are competent for Drupal 8/9 and converting your custom code respectively. Explore the ultimate guide to Drupal 9, all the burning questions that you may have about Drupal 9 and the must-have modules to start your Drupal 9 website to know more

Contentful 

Contentful has a tool that helps in the migration process, making it rather easy by using CLI. The Contentful migration CLI helps developers to script changes to the content model with a fine-tuning that wasn’t possible before. Using continuous integration services along with it will also help you in validating the deployment before it hits production. 

Installation and configuration of the Contentful CLI; 
Writing of your own migration script; 
And applying the migration with CLI, is all you need to do to make it happen. 

The result would be getting documented and versioned content types along with automated and predictable migrations that can be repeated in other environments.

How versatile is the responsiveness?

Drupal 

In terms of responsiveness to devices, Drupal is a pro. Providing an optimal visitor experience is one such feature of Drupal that makes it worth everyone’s while and responsiveness is its core. 

Drupal offers; 

  • Responsive designs;
  • Responsive themes; 
  • Responsive images and breakpoints; 
  • And even responsive tables; 

All of these enable Drupal sites and apps to identify the width and height of any device and adapt itself accordingly, making it mobile and user-friendly at the same time. 

Contentful 

Contentful is often referred to as a mobile content management system, meaning it was built keeping in mind the fact that developers and authors would want to publish content on the go through a smartphone or tablet and Contentful makes that work seamlessly.

It optimises mobile performance with three features; 

  • Selective sync;
  • Image auto-compression; 
  • And providing support for offline persistence.

This makes it as good as Drupal in responsiveness.

How fluent are the multilingual sites?

Drupal 

Another one of the benefits of Drupal is the fact that it caters to a multilingual audience very well. With inbuilt language handling abilities, it provides localised digital experiences that are both fast and easy to get.

  • It can translate content, configurations and interfaces. 
  • It can be run in 90+ languages.
  • It also provides an overview screen for translators, making their work easier.  

Access this guide to Drupal’s multilingual capabilities to know more.

Contentful 

Much like Drupal, translations in Contentful also take place in-house. It has a six-step process to make translations happen, which isn’t very complex or rigid. You can add and delete the locales (languages) from the settings as and when you wish, provided you have administrative access. 

The only aspect that pales Contentful in front of Drupal is the number of languages supported. Sadly, Contentful only offers translations in 30 languages. 

Contentful uses locales to define the varying languages a site might use. This allows you to define localisations of content easily enough. However, when you have to work with multiple locales, it can become confusing for your authors. That being said it is an insurmountable task, organisations have worked with as many as 30 locales at once. 

How universal is the accessibility?

Drupal 

Drupal follows the WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0 guidelines to make its projects accessible to people with disabilities. 

Features for screen readers are a major part of it, with the inclusion of drag and drop functionality, colour contrast, image handling, form labeling and exclusion of null tags, to name a few. 

Drupal accessibility also transcends from the users to the developers, with themes, modules and community sites making an inclusive developer environment. 

Contentful 

Contentful also offers similar features and functionalities for accessibility like Drupal. The only major difference is that it adheres to WCAG 2.1 guidelines, which are more recent. 

Building sites that are easy to adapt, navigate, have distinguishable elements and are keyboard accessible are some of Contentful’s accessibility principles. It also implements automated accessibility testing to check whether the project is compliant with the set standards or not. 

How friendly is the SEO?

Drupal 

Drupal has powerful SEO tools that can enhance your site’s visibility by a landslide. When I say tools, I mean modules, the use of which can make you a pro at SEO. 

Mastering the keyword game through Real-time SEO for Drupal; 
Mastering the linking game through Linkit module
Mastering the duplicacy predicament through Redirect module

Drupal can and will keep you at your A-game in terms of SEO. The Ultimate Drupal SEO Guide will help you become acquainted with all the right SEO modules. 

Contentful 

When you use Contentful as is, there aren’t as many SEO privileges to enjoy. For instance, a media page would only have a title and a description. That’s not to say that Contentful doesn’t provide for SEO. 

It does, however, for that you would need to provide more information. This means you would need to create a dedicated content type for the media files you will have. 

Once that is done, you Contentful will enable you to; 

  • Take command of the SEO; 
  • Put in the right tags (which are only used for organising and searching content, sadly); 
  • And add alt text for your accessibility. 

The change in the content type helps you to create whatever suits your needs and preferences, which is a good thing. There is one thing to remember that the extended metadata for these media files would be stored in the content tab, rather than the media tab, where the actual file would be located. This can be a little confusing. 

The bottom line

In the end, I wouldn’t say one is definitely better than the other. There are aspects wherein Drupal prevails over Contentful, like security and performance; however, there were also areas, wherein Contentful gave Drupal a run for its money, like accessibility and responsiveness. I’d say that both are great at what they do and saying one is entirely better than the other wouldn’t be appropriate. So, I’ll leave it to you. 

blog banner There are two chicks standing side by side. blog image A balancing scale can be seen. Drupal Contentful Blog Type Articles Is it a good read ? On
Feb 19 2021
Feb 19

A whole lot of mental, physical and monetary investments later, your website is finally moving on the track. You have a good traction, and keep up with the trends with updated content and regular revisions. When you have eventually got the hang of managing a full fledged online presence on your website, the first thought that is likely to show up on your mind is to extend it even further. 

Blue background with light blue arrows, addition sign and light blue drop


For reaching a wider audience, optimising mobile experience, and building an alternative marketing solution, mobile app development is perhaps the best way to move forward with one’s business plans. 

What is Flutter?

blue arrows on white background with the text flutter


Flutter is a cross-platform mobile application development framework, more like a software development kit, that was created by Google in 2018. It is used to build applications for several operating systems, both mobile and desktop, and the web, from a single codebase. It is written with Dart programming language. In addition to this, Flutter is an open source platform and invites community contributions into their code repository. 

Ever since its launch and subsequent expansion into development for desktop and web, Flutter has seen widespread adoption and expansion. According to Stack Overflow Trends, Flutter has surpassed both React native and Xamarin in terms of the questions asked about their respective technologies. Google Trends display an increasing  interest of users in Flutter, with searches about the framework soaring since the past two years as well, while Google also claims that Flutter has been adapted by over 500,000 developers for app development.

white graph with blue red and yellow lines mapping the number of questions asked about flutter, xamarin and react yearlySource : Stack Overflow

Why use Flutter?

There are plenty of options available for mobile application development. Despite the presence of other similar frameworks and Flutter being relatively new in the market, in terms of popularity Flutter continues to be one of the most successful app development models among developers. This can be attributed to the following reasons  -

Widgets

Flutter makes the job of development easy with the use of widgets. Widgets are building blocks - each facilitating a part of User Interaction and Experience (UI and UX). Stateless widgets are static frameworks that don’t store any data and exist for the purpose of streamlining your inputs. For example, the Text widget lets you create stylised text and the Row and Column widgets let the user create layouts in vertical and horizontal directions. Similarly, the Container widget creates a rectangular, contained layout visual with margins and padding. Box decoration can be used to customize the rectangle. On the contrary, if the widget in question performs a function when activated, it is called a stateful widget. Examples of such widgets in Flutter are InkWell, Checkbox, etc. Thus, everything doesn’t need to be formulated from scratch, with various pre made layout builder widgets available for the developer.

Open source

What makes Flutter stand out from the rest of its competitors is that it is an open source platform. There are various ways in which an open source model builds its progress over proprietary models in software development. When the cause is community driven, there is always a certain proactiveness both from the users and the owners for driving towards betterment and growth. With no proprietary limitations, the developer community is free to indulge in knowledge sharing, code alterations, and discussing associated challenges with one another leading to better bug resolution in terms of analysis and frequency. Hence, choosing Flutter for application development means having a flexible framework that is open to customisations along with having a community to discuss and also solve your resulting issues with. To know more about the power of open source, read how open source communities work together, how much contributions are valued, why large companies believe in open source, why open source is recession-proof, and last but not least how open source has been impactful during Covid-19 pandemic.

Single codebase and Cross Platform

Although Flutter launched as a mobile application development framework for Android and iOS in 2017, it was quick to expand into the arenas of mobile, desktop and web in the following year, becoming multiple device compatible. A major pro of Flutter over other similar app development frameworks is that it has a single codebase to compile applications, ie, there isn’t a need to code separately for different operating systems and devices, enabling seamless simultaneous app creation even when you’re dealing with multiple platforms and gadgets at the same time. This makes Flutter both developer and user friendly, as the content needs to be formulated only once and is compatible with most of the devices one would want to access it from.

Dart 

Flutter uses a programming language called Dart, which is a relatively simple language with a small learning curve. Its features are a little similar to other languages, but are fitted into a unique syntax and infrastructure. Therefore, developers using Flutter don’t need to invest a lot of time and effort into the process of learning the basics and starting to build applications, which makes the framework ideal for users of almost all experience standings. Due to this, Flutter is suitable even for a small business or a startup that cannot afford experienced developers in their team due to the simplicity of the programming language. 

Integrated Tools

The codebase being integrated at a single place also accelerates the speed and convenience of coding, as the Hot Reload feature updates every change in the source code - allowing developers to see the changes made in the code real time. The work culture in such a case becomes transparent and hurdle free. Tools for developer convenience also include a package called DevTools, a compilation of performance and debugging tools meant to be used for both Flutter and Dart. DevTools is in the beta release at present and is undergoing alterations.

Drupal for Mobile App Development

White background with a blue drop

While we talk of application development, an important player in the market remains our good old CMS (Content Management System), Drupal. The range of mobile apps Drupal can deliver is impressive. The constant evolution and adaptation of Drupal is what has manifested into the huge user base of the CMS, which is currently hosting over 600,000 websites

The usage statistics for Drupal throughout the years are mapped on this graph -

white graph with red and blue lines mapping drupal's growthSource : BuiltWith

Drupal also has a domineering presence across several industry verticals.

red, blue, yellow pie chart showing the presence of drupal throughout various industriesSource : SimilarTech

Accordingly, in the arena of mobile app development, Drupal has seen significant advancements over the years.

  • As an API-first CMS, Drupal makes it easy to communicate smoothly with any application. It is these APIs that link Drupal to the mobile application.
  • Drupal provides plenty of development kits, libraries, modules and sample apps to make application development easier. This simplifies the job of a Drupal developer who might be well versed in PHP, MySQL and HTML but not so much in device-specific native mobile app programming languages like Java or Swift. Elements in Drupal like Waterwheel Swift and OneDrupal Android help manifold in bridging the gap. 
  • Application development is made even easier in Drupal by seamless compatibility with app development frameworks like Vue, React, Angular and Flutter. Drupal pairs well with all of these frameworks to create fast and responsive applications both for the web and mobile. 

The primary reason for which a business wants to build a mobile app is to reach a wider audience and expand marketing avenues. With both Drupal and Flutter occupying large parts of the commercial spectrum, let’s dig in a little deeper into how these can be used together. 

Case Study : Drupal with Flutter 

Drupal’s greatest strength is its ability to mould into any customisation, and in case a customisation does not exist, creating an API for your requirement is always an option. Drupal allows for decoupling and connecting with Flutter through its web services like REST API. Recently, Opensense Labs had the opportunity to take up a project from a leading media and publishing company in Malaysia. 

The primary agendas were - 

  • Refurbishing an already existing but poorly maintained website.

The website was previously built on WordPress, but the organisation wanted to shift to Drupal CMS for improved management of the ever renewing, large volume of content and efficient multi channel delivery. 

  • Developing a mobile app containing the same data as the website, from scratch.

To reach a wider audience and improve UX, an app was to be created to reach the readers faster. This is where Flutter came in.

Processes and solutions -

To start off with, the major work to be done was migration from Wordpress to Drupal and connecting Drupal with Flutter:

  • Since the website dealt in news and media with numerous reports published daily, the number of articles to be migrated were over 30,000. Content migration to Drupal was achieved by following processes like writing custom Drush commands among others
  • Rest API was used to connect Drupal and Flutter. While Drupal acted as the powerful backend managing content, Flutter helped in building a native mobile app.

Along the way, some major hurdles with performance and scalability were addressed:

  • Being a news website, the traffic was pretty inconsistent which led to a few malfunctioning issues. To tackle this, the entire infrastructure was built on AWS which allowed for auto scaling and scheduled scaling to be used. This made sure that the number of instances were increased and decreased as and when traffic saw a spike or a decline respectively.
  • Even though the APIs were created, there were some performance issues due to the large amount of content on the site, with numerous news articles being published daily. Right use of cache tags helped improve the performance eventually.

To make the website and the application function optimally and in sync with the company’s agendas,

  • Firebase was used for enabling Push Notifications, and manual permission was given to the admins for sending notifications leaving no room for error.
  • For ads, the DFP (DoubleClick For Publishers) module was used to serve ads from Google. Interstitial ads were placed between the length of the articles for maximum clicks. A basic level of ad optimisation was also done by the team to ensure better revenue. 
  • Upvote and downvote feature for the news articles was enabled using the Voting API module.

Conclusion

Drupal and Flutter are both significant players in the software arena. We are likely to see plenty more use cases where the efficacy of both Drupal and Flutter is utilised to formulate seamless mobile applications.

Feb 16 2021
Feb 16

Every morning we get up and something big has happened somewhere in the world. Sitting in the capital of India, we get to know how the inaugural ball went on in the capital of the United States. And how are we able to get this knowledge?

It is the media and publishing industry that constantly reports all the national and international happenings to our households. From getting to know about election results to knowing the extent of natural calamities and political unrest, we know it all. 

The role of the media is all the more important today, it has essentially become the voice of the voiceless all over the world. With such a magnitude of responsibility, the media and publishing businesses need to be at their A-game all the time. 

Today, we’ll try to understand how they can enhance their online presence for a rich user experience with the help of Drupal. Before doing that, let’s shed some light on the changes in this industry and understand the consequent change in their web needs. 

What changed over the years?

Time changes everything and everyone. People change their appearances, their style and their thought processes over time. Something that may be important for them is highly likely to become trivial in the distant future. This is what happened to people’s perspective towards the media and publishing industry and the change in point of view led to a substantial change in the running and management of this industry. 

Think of a decade ago, were we as dependent on smartphones and other mobile devices as we are now? The answer is no. However today, from teenagers to the elderly, everyone is glued to their third limb, being the smartphone or smart devices in general. Look at the usage in the graph below to get a clearer idea.  

A bar graph shows the global monthly data consumption on various smart devices .Source: Deloitte.com

Once reading a news article on a smart gadget was a novel thought. However, today it is an everyday occurrence. And that is the pivotal shift that the media and publishing has had to take. The readers are more inclined to reading news updates on their phones. And that is why, this sector has had to transcend from print and paper and provide their audience with digital platforms that are easy to access anytime, anywhere and on any gadget.

What the change comes down to is the delivery mechanism. The media and publishing outlets are performing their duties much in the same way. They are reporting much in the same way. The stories that need to be told are being told and the questions that need to be raised are being raised. However, all of this is happening on digital platforms and it happened in four phases. 

A circular diagram is showing the four waves witnessed by the media and publishing industry.The four waves of the media and publishing industry. Source: Weforum.org

I wouldn’t say that the physical medium of media has become antiquated, not by any means. I still see my dad having his morning tea with a side of the front page news of The Times. However, he also gets constant updates on his phone about the world happening without having to wait for the next day’s paper. 

And that is the change that has happened, that is how the evolution of the media and publishing industry took place, with the core values still remaining the same. 

Look at this report by Statista to understand the emergence of digital media platforms. With such a substantial amount of revenue, I’d say it has come out with a bang.

Revenue statistics for digital media and publishing industry are shown in the US.Source: Statista 

What do media and publishing houses seek today for digital presence?

Like we just discussed above, the media and publishing houses have transformed a great deal in the way they relay information to their audience. Today, there isn’t just one kind of audience and you can’t just build your entire persona around that one category. From young people perusing news on their smartphones to the minority population fluent in their own regional language, the media and publishing industry has to be able to provide for the diversity they have in their audience.

With the move towards digitalisation, we are going to take a look at the needs and requirements of this sector as they are in the present day.

Ease of publishing 

The primary purpose of a media and publishing business is to provide its audience the content that they need. This purpose mandates that the site has an enhanced ease in editing and publishing content, be it blogs, articles or press releases. These content pieces should not be limited to text, images, audios and videos are as equally important as the powerful words of a news writer, and that is the first requirement of this sector today. Faster production and publication of content across multifarious channels is key. 

Friendliness towards the search engines

Now that we have published the article with ease, the next major requirement is to ensure that it reaches the audience it was intended for. If I talk about myself, I always end up at Google whenever I want to read about a major or even minor happening in the world. This is true for most of the readers out there. That is why, Search Engine Optimisation is essential today. 

Producing SEO friendly content would help your content become all the more visible to a wider audience and garner organic traffic for your site. With over 3.5 billion searches everyday on Google, I’d say there isn’t any harm in taking advantage of SEO by adding the necessary words and phrases to your articles. Everything about SEO and its implementation can be accessed here.

Amiability to social media 

Social media is a game changer for the media and publishing industry, allowing it to take its content across the globe in mere seconds. Therefore, social media integration is key, with Facebook becoming the front runner, being that it is the largest platform. 

Having a social media handle, providing sharing options on your articles and creating custom posts of your social media handles, all three of these would lead to a streamlined integration with social media channels. With over half the world population using these platforms, it is only wise.

Responsiveness of design

Next major requirement for the media and publishing industry in going digital is the need to be responsive. Websites that can only be browsed efficiently through a desktop are essentially doomed for failure. Being responsive to all sorts of mobile devices, especially the smart phones, is integral to media outlets. Accelerated Mobile Pages are a trend that more and more websites are following. These help in delivering a smooth experience of browsing for all your users across all the touchpoints. Here is your complete guide to web design.

Warmth of personalised experiences

Coming to the final requirement, which is personalisation. Every web user today is treated differently, since they have different taste. We, as web developers, become aware of these tastes through web cookies. Therefore, as a media and publishing site, you have to become aware of your audience’s likes and dislikes and provide a personalised experience for them that they end of loving. Informational noise and never-changing ads need to be left in the previous decade. Your complete guide to web personalisation is available here.

Why is Drupal great for the media and publishing industry?

Sports, FMCG, Food, FinTech, Elearning, Government, healthcare, nonprofit, travel, or whatever website you need to build and whichever industry segment you belong to, Drupal has just the right ingredients to build your digital presence. Media and publishing industry is no different.

Drupal is an open source Content Management Software that has a worldwide presence and is renowned for its efficiency in managing content. It has clientele from multitudinous trades and businesses. And with a community of over a million, it is indeed a force. It is a force that is equipped to provide digital experiences that enable you to connect with your audience no matter where they are.

I would not get in every minute aspect of Drupal, because that’ll make this blog quite lengthy and nobody wants that. Rather I would only talk about those aspects of Drupal that make it extremely compatible with the media and publishing industry. So, here goes.

Drupal eases content management and distribution 

The thing about media sites is that they are not limited to just one, they have a huge family with many subsidiary sites. The higher number of co-dependent sites means that you would have to have a lot of content to deal with. Drupal comes quite handy here, as it acts as a single home for all the sites. 

And the amount of content that results in would not be bother as well.  Be it photos, videos, audios, podcasts or graphs and analysis. Everything would be seamless in terms of production, management and distribution with Drupal. Have a look at an example of how content authoring can be performed at ease with modern solutions like Layout Builder module in Drupal core.

Drupal eases the mobile transition 

I believe I am going to be mentioning this one for a third time now, but mobile responsiveness is pretty high on the priority list so it deserves another mention. When we talk about user engagement, a modular design is key and when that design is flexible to respond to any device the engagement soars. Drupal provides a number of modules to achieve the same.  To know more, read about mobile-first approach and Drupal’s provisions for building mobile solutions at scale.

Drupal eases multilingualism

With media sites catering to a large number of audience worldwide, language can become a problem. Drupal provides multilingual support that makes publishing the same content in different languages an ease. Drupal offers translations in as many as 94 languages. More on Drupal’s multilingual capabilities here.

Drupal eases profits and lessens costs  

Drupal is equipped to make you money as well. Advertisements, promotions, subscriptions and one-purchases, all are inclusive in Drupal modules that result in media outlets being more profitable. 

Then is the fact that Drupal is open source, which means it is free of cost. There isn’t any licensing fee required to be paid. All you need to do is install and configure it and you’ll be ready to go. Learn more about the perks of contributing to an open source CMS like Drupal and being a part of a growing open source community here.

Drupal eases the security concerns   

Drupal security is one of the best in the market. With modules for authentication, password protection and encryption, your data is always going to be safe. Open Source security isn’t anything to be taken lightly and Drupal has proven that. Here is a survey to prove that. 

There is a pie chart depicting the percentage of security issues in various CMSs, Drupal being one of least of them all.Percentage of security issues in a sample group. Source: Acunetix

With this level of ease, you can become relaxed and bask in the efficiency of Drupal and become free of the burdens of running a media site that you might have to endure otherwise. However, you would have to write stellar pieces that are able to resonate with the audience and accomplish what they were set out for. That is a burden you would have to bear, Drupal wouldn’t be able to do so.

Here is a glimpse of Drupal at work with digital media houses

Drupal has indeed proven to be one of the best CMSs for the media and publishing industry. I don’t just say it for the sake of it, I come bearing proof. OpenSense Labs has worked with many media and publishing houses to build impressive experiences for their web portals with Drupal and here are some of these sites. 

Men's Health 

Men’s Health magazine is a global brand, which publishes in close to 60 countries. It required a software that would provide an ease of management for the content authors, with an adaptable content architecture that would be responsive and browser agnostic. It also required to balance the performance and images conundrum without trading off on either of these. And Drupal was able to fulfil all of these requirements and an impressive digital experience was created. 

Read the complete case study of Men’s health to know more.

Earth Journalism 

Earth Journalism Network is a leading non-profit environmental new network that aims to improve the quality and quantity of environmental reporting. With such crucial work, it required the best. Drupal provided ease in publishing and managing varying categories of content types with a heightened flexibility. Drupal also had the right kind of core and contributed features that allowed for better design scope and ability to handle enormous amounts of content. 

Here is the detailed case study of Earth Journalism Network.

Farm Journal 

Farm Journal is a leading US publication site for agricultural news with a host of subsidiary sites serving varying sectors of this industry. With such a magnitude of services, its content needs were becoming a challenge. Drupal was able to overcome this challenge with ease. Customer sites were enhanced, upgrades were made faster and convenient, the architecture was made scalable and modular in nature and most importantly, the content journey, from the editors hitting save to the consumer clicking read, was reduced to mere seconds.

To know about everything that went on in the Farm Journal project, read this case study

AgWeb 

A part of the Farm Journal brand, AgWeb was able to improve its brand identity as well as user engagement with Drupal’s help. Being an agricultural news site, AgWeb needed to improve its web performance, at the same time the site’s SEO needed to be kept intact, while improving the site’s web SERP rankings. ReactJS was also implemented as part of progressive decoupling for a better frontend experience.

Take a look at the AgWeb case study to understand the project better.  

All of these are a blatant proof of Drupal’s efficiency in this constantly evolving domain of publishing and you would be wise to choose it.

Conclusion 

The news, newspaper and article sites are growing at an impressive pace. Therefore, having a CMS in your corner that is powerful enough to let you scale in accordance to the growth rate is ideal. Drupal is just that, it can do and achieve things for a media site that other CMSs may not be able to. And we at OpenSense Labs have actually witnessed that with all media projects. So, trust me when I say that you cannot go wrong with Drupal. For any doubts you may still please feel free to contact us.

Feb 09 2021
Feb 09

A myth is a pretty powerful thing, especially if you end up believing it. Even if you don’t, it does dampen the prospects of whatever it is associated with. It’s like if someone told you that the latest smartphone, which is exorbitantly expensive, is not worth the price. In such a scenario, even if you had the means of buying it, you would end up thinking twice. And you don’t even know whether the myth is true or not. That is how powerful a myth can be. 
 
A myth, a misconception, a false belief, whatever you call it, follows as many things as you can imagine. It follows you and me, and it also follows the inanimate objects, making their abilities seem weaker than they actually are. 
 
And it is one such thing that we are going to be discussing and try to debunk the falsified claims that have been following it for a long time. The thing I would be talking about is actually a software, a Content Management Software by the name of Drupal
 
Drupal is used to build websites, websites that are feature packed and give a powerful performance, yet there have been many claims made that try to show Drupal in a bad light.
 
Today, you and I will get into all of these and ensure that all the myths associated with the name Drupal are busted so colourfully that they can never ever be claimed by anyone. So, let’s start with the most common misconceptions about Drupal.

# Drupal tends to be difficult to use

Any software or system that you may end up using, the foremost aspect that you would look out for is its usability. It might be able to provide you with a ton of features and functionality, but if you cannot figure out how to use it, all of that would be a waste. So, on the same note, let me tell you the first Drupal myth. 

The most common myth about Drupal is the fact that it is very difficult to use by all the parties involved. Developers find it tedious to work with, marketers can’t get a hang of it and the content authors and editors, well, they feel that they are way out of their element. 
 
This myth is not true at all. Drupal is a little complex to use, at least in comparison to its competitors. However, it requires that level of complexity to be able to do its job properly. For instance, Drupal provides umpteen number of modules, all of which are able to provide you with any kind of functionality that you may be on the lookout for. Selecting from these could be a daunting task, but it is also a necessary one. 

Let us look at some of the Drupal complexities to understand why they are mis-conceptualising an easy-to-use CMS.

  • Drupal’s large codebase seems intimidating, but the system only loads what you need, so the point is basically moot here. 
  • Drupal uses more memory, so it is perceived that if there is an out-of-memory error, it would become very difficult to solve, making the experience pretty complicated. 
  • Then, there is the fact that Drupal is built on PHP. Since that is a language many developers lack experience with, the myth of difficulty in use prevails all the more.
  • The last one would be the lousy UX experience Drupal provides to the non-technical users. Being a content editor myself, I would say that this isn’t true at all. I have been able to use Drupal with ease to edit and publish my content and so far the experience hasn’t been lousy in the least. 

That is my take on Drupal ease-of-use. There is an acclimating period required, but that is true of any new technology. More on the misconception of Drupal being difficult here.

# Drupal migration and upgrade tend to be an insurmountable task

Migrations and upgrades are an inevitable part of website development. There will come a point when the version you have built your site on is going to become so basic and on the verge of being obsolete that you would need to upgrade or migrate to something new and better. 
 
With Drupal, the story is the same. From the first version of Drupal that was launched almost two decades ago to Drupal 9, which is the current version, there is a stark difference that is too obvious to ignore. 
 
The myth going on is that these migrations and upgrades of Drupal are very difficult, complex and will most likely give you a headache. The truth behind it is quite the opposite. 
 
I would be wrong to say that Drupal migrations do not require any work because they do. Imagine moving from your home in India to the US, there would be work required and lots of it too. However, the work won’t be too much to make you rethink the move because the other side is too special to give up. 
 
Coming back to Drupal, the upgrades are usually seen from Drupal 7 to 8, 8 to 9 or directly from Drupal 7 to 9. All of which are possible scenarios for your site and its enhanced functionality. 
 
Drupal 7 users can first upgrade to Drupal 8 and then move on to Drupal 9. Or, they may choose the best route by going directly to Drupal 9 to ensure that the upgraded site has maximum expected life.
 
For the Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 upgrade, there are six steps involved; only 6 and not a bazillion.  

  • First, you would need to ensure that your hosting environment aligns with the platform requirements mandated by Drupal 9.
  • Then you would need to update to Drupal‘s more current versions, it could be Drupal 8.8.x or 8.9.x. 
  • Once that is done, you would need to ensure that all your contributed projects are compatible with Drupal 9 by simply updating them. 
  • When that is out of way, you would be required to build custom code that is also compatible with Drupal 9. 
  • In the penultimate step, you will be asked to update the core codebase of Drupal 9. 
  • And as the final step, all you have to do is run update.php and that is it. 

There is also a step by step guide in the upgrading section provided by Drupal to help in the transition process with all the details you may be looking for. 
 
It is true that upgrading from Drupal 7 to 8 or 9 can be pretty intricate. Drupal Community took cognisance of this matter and made sure upgrading to Drupal 9 would be the easier you can get. As a matter of fact, the upgrade to Drupal 9 has been deemed as the easiest upgrade of the decade. This in itself should have been enough to pop this myth there and then. Access this ultimate guide to Drupal 9 to know more. You can browse through our complete list Drupal 9 FAQs that answers every burning question that might have regarding Drupal 9.

# As Drupal 9 rolled out, Drupal 7 and 8 tend to be less efficient

Since we just talked about the upgrading to Drupal 9, I felt this myth that has been for a while now needed some straightening too. 

The myth is that since Drupal 9 has launched and is the most advanced and feature-packed version of Drupal, the earlier editions of Drupal, namely 7 and 8, are simply no longer viable. 

This is not by any means true. It will come true at one point of time, but that point is very distant in the future; not according to me, but the makers themselves claim so. 

  • If I talk about Drupal 8, which is reliant on Symfony 3, it would be supported by Drupal until the 2nd of November, 2021, since that is how long the life of Symfony 3 is expected to be.
  • Talking about Drupal 7, its community support was earlier marked to end by November, 2021. However, with COVID and the consequent crisis, that has been extended to by a year. So, Drupal is expected to be supported by the Drupal community until 28 November, 2022

This support is proof that Drupal 7 and 8 would still be fully functional for a couple of years, and their efficiency is not going to be marred by any way. The sites and projects reliant on them will continue to bask in all the glorified features of Drupal. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Dries Buytaert, the founder and project lead of Drupal, takes pride in continuing to care for old software. Drupal 7 released almost a decade ago and continues to get the sort of care and attention from the Drupal Community it requires to function well. He wishes more and more software is well-maintained like Drupal is.

Another thing that I want to add is that even if the community support dies down, there is still the vendor support that lets the project be efficient. For Drupal 7 sites that support is extended to 2025. Let me also tell you that there are still many Drupal 6 sites which are performing efficiently through the vendor support. 

Yes, the end of life would come for the older versions sooner than the later versions, but that is how life in general works, don’t you agree?

# Drupal tends to be heavy on the pocket

Financial considerations are one of the major aspects to pivot someone’s intentions towards taking up a project or software. The same is true for Drupal as well, taking us to the next myth.

It is perceived that Drupal is extremely expensive, making it hard for smaller organisations to take it up as a software to build their websites.

Drupal is an open source software, which means it is free of cost, so this myth is a little funny to say the least. Yes, open source software is not entirely free or rather its implementation and maintenance is not free. It would definitely cost you to hire Drupal developers to make that happen. From maintaining Drupal modules and updating your digital properties to migrating Drupal to the most current version requires skilled developers who are not always economical. However, these costs are not exorbitant, at least not in comparison to proprietary software, with its licensing fee and other perpetual expenses. 

Then there is the support of the Drupal community, which is always there to help you in any dilemma you find yourself in. Any and all of your questions will always be answered. This also means you get to take advantage of the abundance of experience found throughout the community, you can simply build on solutions that have already been created. 

Apart from this, your non-technical staff, especially your content authors are not reliant on developers to post and edit the content. This frees up the developers, leading to savings. Finally, the migration from one Drupal version to the next is also not expensive at all. So, if you are planning to shift to Drupal 9 from 8, remember the switch from Drupal 8.0 to 8.1, the migration would be that simple. 

Now, you tell me, is this not cost effective?

# Drupal tends to lack in security

For any web application, it is extremely important to be secure. Having security issues often make you vulnerable and prone to hackers and that outcome is never going to be favourable. 

So, this Drupal myth states that the CMS is not secure at all. It is an open source software and that is reason enough to doubt all of its claimed security features. 

Let me start by telling you that Open Source security cannot be taken lightly. Also known as Software Composition Analysis, Open Source Security provides the user an opportunity to garner more visibility for his application. From examining binary fingerprints to using professional and proprietary research and corroborating it with scans is done to build elements and tools that help developers in building safer applications. 

Focusing on Drupal, it is deemed as one of the most secure CMSs in the market, not just in the Open Source market, but the proprietary as well.

A pie chart depicts of results of sample group survey for security of various CMSs.Source: Acunetix

The above image clearly shows Drupal leading the way in terms security, being the CMS with the least issues faced as per a sample group’s findings.

Let’s find out why. 

  • Drupal’s security team works with the community to tackle any security issue as soon as it arises. 
  • Drupal’s API and default configuration is equipped to handle security issues like XSS, injection and forgeries with standard solutions. 
  • Drupal provides a lot of out-of-the-box security features like secure access, granular user access control and database encryption to make it all the more secure. 
  • Then there is the fact that many prominent government agencies use Drupal to build and manage their online projects. This speaks to its security measures. 

So, no Drupal does not, by any means, lack in terms of security, rather its security is almost impeccable and really hard to breach.

# Drupal tends to be unscalable and gives a meagre performance

Despite how great your site is now, there would come a point when its present state is no longer viable with your business goals. And that is when you would need to scale your site accordingly and boost its performance. This leads us to the next myth. 

It is often presumed that Drupal is not very scalable and its lacklustre performance in terms of higher traffic load and more content growth is not appreciable by any means. 

As an answer to this preposterous myth, I just want to say that, if that were the case, why would sites like The Weather Company and NBC, which have a daily audience in hundreds of thousands use Drupal? The justification is the exact opposite of the myth. 

Drupal can handle traffic spikes, it can handle content growth and it can handle an incredibly elevated user count and it can do it all like a breeze. All you have to do is optimise Drupal to its best abilities. It provides a number of features and modules for you to work with to manage your site’s performance and scalability. Be it the Blazy module to provide integration or the Content Delivery Network to offload your site’s delivery, Drupal has you covered.

I think this misconception should be clarified now. These guides to Drupal performance optimisation techniques and scalability offerings would clear the air further.

# Drupal tends to be inaccessible

Web accessibility refers to a website or application being built in a manner that anyone can access it with ease, anyone has a special focus on people with disabilities. The World Wide Consortium has set a few guidelines that web developers have to follow to become universally accessible.
 
According to this Drupal myth, it is assumed that Drupal is not universally accessible. It is not meant to be used by people with disabilities and can cause them harm, if they were to use Drupal sites. 
 
There is absolutely no truth in this misconception. Drupal stringently follows the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and has built its features accordingly.  

  • The Olivero theme for the front end in Drupal 9 is the prime example of Drupal’s accessibility. With focus on colour, contrast and fonts in accordance to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, it is universally accessible. 
  • The use of HTML5 and WAI-ARIA has led to better semantics of purpose and behaviour of the web pages for the screen readers. 
  • The use of alt text in images helps in making them accessible to the visually impaired. 

These are simply a few examples of Drupal’s accessibility features and values. To understand web accessibility completely, read our blog Design Considerations for Accessibility and know that Drupal follows each one of them.

# Drupal tends to be unequipped to handle large site

There are two kinds of websites, the first one is for small businesses and the second one falls under the big business umbrellas. Taking these categories into consideration, we come to the next false claim. 

Many believe that Drupal is only competent to handle smaller sites, when it comes to the larger businesses and their web needs, Drupal may fall short. 

To clarify this bizarre claim, let’s just look at some of Drupal’s clientele. Tesla, Oxford University, European Commission, NBA and the French Government are just a few names that do not need an elaboration, people already know them. With such an elite clientele, is it justified to say that Drupal cannot handle large sites? I think not. 

Drupal is well equipped to provide enterprise grade services and features that include; 

  • Impeccable user management; 
  • Impeccable content management; 
  • Impeccable admin interface; 
  • Impeccably easy coding; 
  • Impeccable technology stack; 
  • And an infrastructure that resounds all the impeccable innovations in it. 

That is a whole lot of impeccable, but that is Drupal for you.

# Drupal tends to be incompatible with mobile devices and unsuitable for mobile solutions

Today, it is the responsive sites that reign over the internet. If you have a site that is compatible with the computer and the mobile phone, you can consider yourself amongst the rulers, metaphorically speaking of course. 
 
Drupal is often understood as a CMS that is not mobile-friendly, which means the sites and applications built on Drupal are not able to support responsive designs. 
 
Again, this isn’t the case. Rather Drupal works on the ideology of building sites that are responsive and creating web applications that provide an enthralling visitor experience, regardless of the device they may be using. This means that Drupal is compatible with mobile devices as well as desktops, since it has the ability to offer a seamless content experience to every user every time. So, the myth is debunked. 

# Drupal tends to be disintegrated with third-party tools

Confining a website to just one tool and software has become a thing of the past. With more technological innovations come more third party integrations. And where does Drupal stand in all of that?
 
According to the myth, Drupal is not at the top of the integrations list. Rather it is assumed that Drupal does not work well with other tools and has an isolated digital marketing philosophy as well. 
 
And there is very little truth in this assumption. In fact, Drupal has the ability to integrate itself with a massive ecosystem of digital marketing technologies and other business applications. It allows you to have the chance of tapping into the most popular tools of the present as well as the chance to do the same in the future. 
 
Drupal also has an API-first rule, which essentially means that your content can easily be connected to other sites and applications. This means your words would resonate with a much wider audience, making them all the more powerful.

# Drupal tends to have an inflexible and uneasy content workflow

Content is basically the voice of your site, so it is wise to choose a platform that makes your voice the loudest and most clear. Does Drupal do that?
 
The myth related to content workflow doesn’t believe that. As per the misconception, it is believed that Drupal is quite inflexible in terms of content and using it for creating, editing and publishing the content is not easy at all.
 
Let me start debunking this Drupal myth with its Admin Interface. This helps you in creating the exact content architecture that you want. You get to display only the content suitable for every context. The use of Drupal efficient display mode tools and Views makes this task all more fun. You can add any media type you want, be it images, videos or pdfs. Then there is the fact that you can customise your menus to make them aligned with the user’s device. 
 
And there is more. 

  • You can create and edit in-place. You can simply browse to a page, click on the content and start editing then and there. 
  • You can edit from any mobile device, iPads, smartphones or tablets, android or iOS, your pick. 
  • You can make revisions multiple times and keep track of all of them even months after. 

Is this what you call inflexible and difficult? 
 
Modules are Layout Builder and Paragraphs are renowned for the ease they provide to editors and content authors.

# Drupal tends to be unfriendly with SEO

SEO and all that it encompasses is essential or more like life-saving for your website and its visibility on the web. Since that is what brings in the numbers, you know how important that should be. 
 
So, the myth that is doing that rounds is that Drupal is not SEO friendly. It does not have the features to heighten the visibility of your site on Google or any of the other search engines.
 
Do you think that could be true?
 
I certainly don’t and neither should you. Drupal has dedicated features and modules that help you get the best out of SEO. Take the SEO checklist module for instance. Being an SEO module, it helps you be on top of all the SEO related tasks and ensures you are reminded of them. It is always being updated with the latest SEO guidelines so that you are aware and ready to tackle all of them. 
 
From modules capitalising on your URLs to tags and onto communication and editing, Drupal will have you covered for every SEO dimension you can think of. Our blog, The ultimate Drupal SEO guide will help you get an even elaborated explanation of Drupal’s SEO capabilities, which by no means are lacking.

# Drupal tends to be incompetent as a headless CMS

Going headless or decoupling has become a trend as it allows the developers to use the different technologies available in the site building process and make it all the more impressive. 
 
With Drupal, it is often assumed that decoupling would mean more work and less benefits. You would have a lot on your plate when you decouple Drupal and the result would be a dysfunctional and mismanaged site. 
 
This is nowhere close to the truth. When you decouple, you would have a separate frontend and backend development and management; both of which will be interdependent and connected through an API. Yes, you would most definitely have to part with some of Drupal’s out-of-the-box features, but that isn’t necessarily bad. 
 
With decoupling, you would be able to build a frontend the way you want to, with whatever technology you want to. Fancy React, go for it. Have a liking for Angular, go for that. You would be using Drupal as a content repository and since Drupal knows its contextual ABCs pretty well, you will be in great hands. You can publish your content across varying channels and manage it from one place. 
When you go headless, you will get to choose from the best frontend technologies and get the best at the backend layer with Drupal. The best of both worlds for you. 
 
Now, do these features portray incompetence to you? 
 
Read about everything you would want to know about Decoupled Drupal, Decoupled Drupal Architecture, how to decouple Drupal and some of the success stories to get an understanding of how competent decoupled Drupal can be.

# Drupal tends to be efficient with multisites

Many organisations have subsidiary businesses for which they need to build multiple sites. They might want these sites to become a replica of each other, offering the same features and functionality, yet be different to each other. 
 
There is a false claim being made that Drupal cannot optimise multisites. It cannot provide the separate individual sites their own database, configuration or even the URL/ domain names .
 
Drupal offers a multisite setup that is pretty efficient and well-equipped to handle all the requirements.

  • You would be able to manage all your Drupal sites running on the same version of Drupal core, which ultimately saves you time. 
  • You would be able to update all your sites simultaneously when there is a  new release because all of them would have one codebase. 
  • You might have some drawbacks through the multisite setup, but by using Aegir hosting system, you would easily overcome them.

Inefficient isn’t a term that should go with Drupal, since it is anything but that. So, manage your sites from across the globe from your laptop while sipping coffee on your kitchen island with Drupal. I consider this pretty efficient.

# Drupal tends to be hostile to multilingual sites

Like I talked about in the previous point, sites today aren’t confined to a region, they are almost universal. An American brand is also famous in India and it gained popularity because it was able to resonate with the Indian audience at a personal level in their language and dialect. 
 
Everybody knows that Drupal can handle multilingual sites, but many believe that Drupal isn’t great at that. Translations and other multilingual features tend to be below average. And that is just a myth.
 
Translations are the most crucial for multilingual sites and Drupal offers not one nor two, but four translation modules in Drupal 8. From content to configuration and interface, everything can be translated to the local language with ease. You can install Drupal 8 in as many as 94 languages without any need for the installation of extra components. Moreover, custom translations are often packaged and deployed on several properties, so you developers have lesser language related headaches. Everything on Drupal’s multilingual capabilities can be accessed here.
 
I would not call Drupal hostile to multilingual sites, would you?

# Drupal tends to only be suitable for a few industries

A CMS builds and manages websites. Since these websites can be for any business and field, a CMS should be able to cater to their industry type. 
 
There is a Drupal myth going around that states that the CMS isn’t meant for every industry. It only caters to a few, and I am not even sure which ones account in those few. 
 
This one is probably the most ludicrous misconception of them all. I can understand that people may be skeptical about open source security, but this is just nonsensical. I mean if a CMS is able to build a site for a retail business, what is stopping it from building one for a blogger? Kind of bizarre, isn’t it?

A list of the many sectors Drupal caters to is shown.Source: Drupal.org

This is a list of industries that has Drupal imprinted on their web services. And the extensiveness of the list is clarification enough for the myth.  From publishing houses and educational institutions to government agencies and charitable organisations, Drupal serves the majority of the industries.

# Drupal tends to become a pain when it comes to support, maintenance, hiring and partnering with digital agencies

Working with Drupal on your own can become challenging. You would need support and expertise of someone who has worked with the CMS and knows its ins and outs with clarity and that is a Drupal agency. 
 
This Drupal myth states that the hiring of Drupal agencies is a blood-sucking task, which would drain you of the same. Add to this the support and maintenance of Drupal and you might just give up on site building altogether. 
 
Let me start with Drupal agencies, there are a lot of them for you to choose from. The good thing about that many agencies is that they try to outweigh each other in terms of the services they offer and you end up with everything you desire. Being a part of OpenSense Labs, I can proudly say that we rank amongst the top 5 Drupal agencies in the global Drupal marketplace.

A list of Drupal agencies is shown with their marketplace rankings. Source: Drupal.org

Talking about support and maintenance, whichever agency you may choose, you are bound to get some very convenient services in this regard. 

These are only a few of the support and maintenance features available and they won’t let you be in any kind of pain.

# Finally, Drupal tends to be incompetent with the emerging technologies

We live in a dynamic world, where everything is transitory, from human life and thoughts to the technologies we have become so dependent on. These changes are basically advancements that aim to enhance our quality of life and all of the experiences in it. So, how does Drupal come into the picture and what is the myth?
 
This Drupal myth states that the software cannot work well with all the new technologies coming on every day and its integration with them is almost impossible. 
 
Do I have to say that this is untrue? I’m sure you know that by now. Drupal and its abundant content-heavy sites mandate that it utilises the latest technologies to make the user experience even more delightful.
 
The use of artificial intelligence in the form of chatbots, cognitive search and digital voice assistants like Alexa on Drupal sites is probably the most justified clarification to the bizarrely unjustified claim. Along with these, the streamlined incorporation of Virtual Reality, with all its realness, IoT and Blockchain into Drupal sites is further proof of the myth being a colossal misconception. Our blog, From conception to reality:Drupal for futuristic websites will shed further light on this notion. 

Conclusion

Drupal is one of the very best content management systems in the market. Its features and abilities are truly astounding. Believing some false claim that says that Drupal is anything but one of the finest would be a mistake you do not want to make. Yes, there isn’t everything Drupal is great at and yes, it may even have some flaws, being perfect is almost impossible after all, but all of Drupal’s imperfections are not enough to dampen its overall appeal. 
 
So, if you have chosen Drupal to provide your site’s groundwork, rest assured that you have made the right choice. We, at OpenSense Labs, have clients from across the globe asking us to build their sites using Drupal and to this day, not a single one of them has gone disappointed. 
 
Finally, the moral of the story is that don’t believe everything you hear, at least not until you have proof of its trueness and I think I have managed to tell you all of Drupal’s truths for you to shun all of Drupal’s myths. Debunking Drupal myths was fun. 

Feb 09 2021
Feb 09

Drupal being an open source project relies significantly on its community for contributions, promotion and overall expansion. The user base adds to Drupal in terms of coding, testing, bug fixation on the software, also contributing themes, modules and distributions regularly. Acknowledging the important role that the community plays and also its requirements, Drupal comes up with Initiatives to streamline and channelize everyone’s efforts to a common high priority goal.

Drupal Initiatives are common upcoming goals in the Drupal sphere prioritised according to commercial interests and their effect on the community. Initiatives are formulated around a feature, a new module, or an alteration in any element of the software. Usually, 

  • user research, 
  • proposals by Drupal Core Maintainers,
  • advice of key community members, and
  • inputs from the board of directors

are taken into account before launching an initiative. 

How core development and strategic initiatives come about in Drupal?

To understand the functioning of initiatives better, let’s skim through the life cycle of Drupal initiatives.

Proposition 

To start with filing Drupal initiatives, the first step would be to file a proposal. Although absolutely anyone could propose an initiative in Drupal, it is recommended that certain factors be taken into consideration before the said proposal. It needs to have a proper backing of relevant data along with a farsighted vision of what the end result would look like. It is recommended that the proposed initiative should have a positive market impact on Drupal and adds sufficient value to both the software and the principles that it stands for. Discussion with the community must also take place before bringing an idea on the floor, and subsequent revisions must be done accordingly with respect to the feedback received. Lastly, an individual wanting to get a proposal approved also needs to be patient with the whole process, as in a large community like Drupal, things move forward in a pretty organic fashion.  

                                                                                                        
Prioritisation

The sites supported by Drupal are diverse and cater to a plethora of end users, therefore prioritising initiatives in such a manner that every user persona is appropriately benefitted assumes utmost importance. Hence, several Drupal initiatives might be proposed, but only a few get highlighted. This is done in accordance with Drupal.org Prioritization Criteria. Prioritising can be a tricky business as while one initiative might affect every Drupal user one-on-one, another might influence a small segment of users but at the same time be essential for Drupal’s core. Keeping all these things in mind, propositions are ‘accepted’, ‘rejected’ or ‘postponed’. The accepted proposals are then prioritized.


Roadmap

The association’s staff are tasked with weighing the impact of the Drupal initiatives against the spectrum of affected audience. Once a bunch of initiatives are finalised, they’re listed in the Current section of the roadmap. Architects are assigned to supervise the initiative, the member also acting as the lead for that particular initiative. His job is to ensure accessibility to open discussions and related information. Weekly or biweekly meetings are done between the staff liaison and the community working on the initiative all throughout its execution, and the completed draft is then submitted for review.

The time taken to get done with an initiative is highly variable. A smaller one might take a few days while a lengthier initiative can also span a few months to complete. 

For core initiatives, the process looks a little different than this. Initiatives that are identified as being of utmost importance to Drupal and the community are included in strategic initiatives by Dries Buytaert himself, who is the founder and project lead of Drupal.

For an initiative to be included in this category, it must have the following -

  • Surveys or statistics figures substantiating the validity of the initiative.
  • An underlying vision that could result in a breakthrough for Drupal.
  • Requirement of channelised resources as it is high priority.
  • Due to its larger scope and influence, need for multiple stakeholders to come together and collaborate on it.

Major Ongoing Community Initiatives

Drupal Community initiatives are projects where the user base comes together to work on several components of Drupal like contributed modules and themes or even Drupal Core. These are some major ongoing Drupal initiatives -

Composer Support in Core Initiative

Composer dependency manager for PHP does not have an official dedicated Support, although there do exist several documented ways to use it wherever necessary. Owing to the manager’s widespread adoption by a number of contributed modules, an initiative has been set up to create a Composer Support in Drupal Core. 

Bug Smash Initiative

As the name suggests, the bug smash initiative is meant to contribute towards bug resolution. It is a core issue focusing on bugs in the newer versions of Drupal that have been recently launched. Issues resolved under this initiative are tagged accordingly under the same name.

Documentation and Help Initiatives

The goal here is to improve, with the help of extensive documentation, the user experience of a Drupal evaluator, developer or site builder. The initiative also focuses on achieving a better in-house Help system by adding high utility features like a topic based help provision.

Workflow in Core Initiative

This initiative is working towards bringing upgrades in Drupal’s content workflow, preview and staging features with the aim to provide content authors and editors sufficient tools to review and deliberate upon the content before it is rolled out.

Drupal Open Curriculum

The open curriculum initiative is self explanatory - the aim here being the provision of a systematic and structured training to new recruits in Drupal. Features like in-class sessions, self learning along with training exercises are to be included, culminating with on the job learning. It is targeted towards developer entrepreneurs owning Drupal agencies with new hires learning Drupal or individuals curious about the software.

Accessibility contribution

Another really important initiative is to ensure compliance to web accessibility norms set by various governments and organisations. Greater awareness regarding accessibility by individuals suffering from certain ailments has led to widespread adoption by the players, and the Drupal community aims on pitching in every idea and suggestion to improve accessibility for its users.

Major Ongoing Strategic Drupal Initiatives

Some major ongoing strategic Drupal initiatives are as follows -

Automatic Updates

This initiative aims to solve the inconvenience that comes with having to manually update a Drupal site after updates have been incorporated in the software, as one running behind the deadline might compromise on the standard and security of a website. Hence, the community is working on automated updates to provide a safe and secure environment for pre programmed updation, and also to cut down maintenance costs of a Drupal website.

Decoupled Menus

An initiative for decoupled menus is also ongoing, aiming for better synchronisation with front end JavaScript

Orange background with black flag and text talking about decoupled menus, one of the ongoing Drupal initiativesSource : Drupal.org

Drupal 10 Readiness

The Drupal 10 readiness initiative provides a timeline for things that need to be wrapped by 2022 to facilitate the release of Drupal 10 in June, or latest by December that year (which is 2 years after the release of Drupal 9). Milestones that need to be aced are updating dependencies before Drupal 10’s release, removing deprecated APIs, helping module contributors maintain the modules’ updation, and consecutively speeding up the launch of Drupal 10. The primary components of this initiative are -

pink background with a horizontal arrow, surrounding text talking about Drupal upgradesSource : Drupal.org

Easy out of the box

Ease of use has become a matter of prominence in recent years, which is why Drupal 9 was largely focused on making the update easier and convenient to use and incorporate by the users. Another area under maintenance now is the enabling of the new Media Library, Layout Builder and Administration Theme by default in Drupal for added user satisfaction.

New Olivero Front-End Theme

Olivero is set to become the new default frontend theme by replacing Claro. As design is what truly manifests changing technologies and advancements for the end user, upgrades  in terms of modernity and functionality are essential for proper representation. The new theme is also meant to include support for Drupal’s second level navigation and the embedded media. Staying laser focused on accessibility, the theme is also supposed to be fully WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) AA (mid range) compliant.

Conclusion

Drupal Initiatives are a good way to both bring the community together and stay afloat on the productivity factor. Some major changes in the past have been triggered by initiative action, for example, several design changes, changing Drupal’s default markup to one that conforms to HTML5 standards, making Drupal mobile first, etc Hence, initiatives have brought together people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to create something global together, affecting both the individuals personally but also the community at large. 
 

Jan 22 2021
Jan 22

The way websites are perceived has changed a lot recently. The audience has started demanding more and more from the web and web developers have to provide for all the demands. What this has resulted in is the transformation of websites for the better. 

The features that today’s sites are packed with were hardly even imaginable a decade ago. A website, a web application or a mobile application, all can do wonders for the users, satiating them with their experiences. 

So, when building a website, you have to be extremely considerate of the software you use and the technologies that accompany it as it is these that will make an astounding difference in your site’s overall appeal. 

On the same note, I will try to enlighten you about one such software and technology pair that has made websites as appealing as both their developers and users want them to be, and that is Drupal and Angular. So, let’s get right on it.

Drupal’s Essence 

The Drupal logo is seen.

In essence, Drupal is a provider of innovative digital experiences that set your websites apart from the ordinary. 

Being a content management software, Drupal can make websites that actually set standards for others to follow. Convenient content authoring, impeccable performance and outstanding security are some of Drupal’s most renowned features. Whether you want flexibility and modularity or integrated digital frameworks, Drupal can ease your needs. 

With multiple add-ons;
With numerous modules; 
With several themes; 
With various distributions; 
And with multitudinal mix and match options, Drupal’s core abilities are magnified by a landslide. 

Now, the Drupal 9 has paved the way for an even more delightful web building experience. Known to be the easiest upgrade in over a decade, it is going to take Drupal 8’s innovative streak even further. Here’s everything you will want to know about Drupal 9.

NBC, MTV UK, Amnesty International and University of Oxford are some of the elite clientele of Drupal and their websites are a true epitome of Drupal’s abilities. 

“Make something amazing, for anyone”  - a motto of a kind should have been pretty self explanatory of Drupal’s essence, but it has acquired bragging rights and rightfully so. Hence, a little more elaborated boasting was mandatory.  

Taking the Headless Route 

Drupal’s abilities, features and all that it encompasses has made it one of a kind. At the top of the list of its unique abilities is its ‘headlessness’. I know this is going to sound strange, but it is a fact and a very beneficial one at that. 

Like I mentioned above, Drupal has all the features to make a web experience up and running and quite smoothly too. Having so many modules, themes and distributions, web builders would not find any need to look for additional features in their site. The entire web project would be placed inside Drupal and it would be entirely responsible for all of the project's needs. 

However, sometimes developers want to try more and Drupal lets them. It essentially removes its head, that is the presentation layer, to make room for a different one, that is other frontend technologies, and lets the developers only utilise it for its body, that would be its backend capabilities. So, in a truly Headless Drupal architecture, you would only use Drupal as a content repository and nothing else. This is also known as Decoupled Drupal, since you are going to be separating the couple, the frontend from the backend. 

When you go headless, you will be parting with Drupal’s frontend capabilities, but the separation does not have to be final. Decoupled Drupal comes with two options for you to choose from; 

  • One is the fully decoupled Drupal or the Headless Drupal. This completely segregates the two ends of a web project. Drupal takes command of the backend, while other frontend technologies, like JavaScript take hold of the frontend; both being connected by an API for the transmission of the information. 
  • Then there is the less final, progressively decoupled Drupal. In this architecture, you are still left with some of Drupal’s frontend capabilities. This means you can combine other frontend technologies to work with Drupal and get the most for your website, without losing Drupal out-of-the-box capabilities.  

Do you benefit from the going Headless?

Drupal has numerous benefits when you use it as a whole for building projects from the ground up; however, the decoupled Drupal comes with a tad more advantages. That is why it is becoming a vogue today, with several traditional Drupal sites converting themselves into the decoupled ones. 

So, yes, you will indeed benefit from taking the headless route. 

Aids in publishing on multiple platforms 

Going Headless makes it very easy to publish content on multiple platforms, be it your primary website, social media handles, intra sites or even print and media. The write once, publish everywhere features lets you capitalise all the IOT devices and publish on them.

Aids in maximising user experience 

The growth of your online business is directly proportional to the user experience you provide. The better the UX, the higher the conversions. UX is further dependent on your site’s performance. Having two separate ends enhances it, the request time is reduced with a client-side server and your site would be nothing but speedy.

Aids in making your team independent 

When you have a separated front and backend, that means you have the power to work faster. The frontend developers will only be focused on the user interface and the backend developers will only need to worry about those needs. Your teams can even make changes on their respective layers without having to worry about impeding the work of the other. All of this results in faster work speed and increased efficiency.  

Aids in enhancing creativity 

Drupal is a robust software, yet it can be stuff sometimes. You have to follow its guidelines and set standards or the work won’t get done. This hampers the development team’s creative flair. However, by adopting other, more flexible, frontend technologies through decoupling, you can let your creativity run free. 

Aids in faster upgrades 

Headless Drupal separation of concerns makes it simple to upgrade without impeding on your site’s current workings. It also gives you the opportunity to test on a dummy web service, which acts as a mockup, aiding you further in making revisions to your site.

Aids in taking advantage of JavaScript 

The final and probably the most compelling advantage of decoupled Drupal is the use of JavaScript. JS has the ability to make websites extremely interactive, with features like destructed assignment and arrow functions in the latest version. Since site interactivity with the user has taken precedence over anything else, decoupling has become more of a need. React, Angular and Vue are some of the most eminent JS frameworks that are used when going Headless. 

To know everything about headless Drupal and its suitability, read our blog, “When to move from monolithic to decoupled Drupal architecture.”

In Comes AngularJS

Now that we have discussed one part of the title, let’s move on to the second, which is AngularJS. You may know that a major reason behind going headless is the fact that it allows the user to incorporate other frontend technologies into Drupal and get the desired web building experience and the product as well. AngularJS is one such technology. Let’s get into its details.

The logo of Angular is shown.

What is AngularJS?

We ended the headless Drupal discussion at JavaScript, so it is only wise to begin the new one with JavaScript as well. AngularJS operates on JavaScript, being an open-source front-end web framework. It helps you create dynamic web pages through its structured framework. 

HTML’s template language is integral when building web projects. However, there is one problem with its use. HTML has proven its potential for static documents, however, when dynamic views come to play, it becomes lacklustre and chaotic. Now, in such a scenario, AngularJS comes in to save you. It allows you to extend the HTML vocabulary for your project, paving way for your developers to work in an environment that is expressive, readable and fast to develop. 

There aren’t many frameworks that have the ability to solve the HTML conundrum, what they do instead is abstract away HTML, CSS and JS or they might manipulate the DOM. covering up the problem is not really a solution and AngularJS provides an extension of HTML, making it worthy for dynamic views. 

The crowning jewel of AngularJS is its ability to adapt. It can easily be modified or replaced to make it suitable for any of your development needs. Whatever your workflow and feature require, AngularJS has the ability to provide. The fact that it is completely extensive and compatible with other libraries. 

Talking about the technologies Angular belongs to, it is part of the so-called MEAN stack. The MEAN refers to MangoDB, Express, Angular and Node.js. The combination of these four accounts for a firm ecosystem that is also backed by full-stack developers.

Let's look at AngularJS’ market share to understand its prominence even more. 

A list of the top industries using AngularJS is shown.(a)A list of the top websites built on AngularJs is shown.(b)A list of the countries is shown that use AngularJS with the number of websites using it.(c) | Source: SimilarTech

All of these numbers are pretty self-explanatory of AngularJS’ popularity in the market. 

What are the benefits?

Built in 2010 by Google, which is to this date responsible for its maintenance along with an entire community of developers and companies, AngularJS is quite a technology to utilise for your project’s development. It’s numerous benefits will make you believe me even more. 

Angular is flexible 

Angular by nature, or maybe its build, is extremely lightweight and concise. What this translates into is a working environment that is so extensible that you would be able to create things you never deemed possible. 

Angular uses directives 

Like we discussed above, Angular is unique because it is able to extend HTML. And this is possible because of Directives. Through these, special behaviours are assigned to the Document Object Model, which in turn enables your developers and engineers to use HTML and create dynamic and rich content. 

Angular binds your data two ways 

It is a known fact that Angular gives your developers the power of developing at a much faster rate. Multiple views, asynchronous technique, SEO friendly development are amongst a few of the immensely impressive features of Angular. And all these are possible because it works on the MVC architecture.  Because the Model-View-Controller framework synchronises the Model and the View, so when one changes, the other changes automatically. And work gets done faster. 

Angular injects dependencies 

When developers code, all the different pieces of that code have to interact with each other. This interaction also means that they are going to be affected by each other;s changes. This scenario is defined as dependencies. 

AngularJS solves this issue of dependencies in code simply by decoupling them using injectors. A dependency injector has the ability of making individual components easy to manage, test and reuse; maybe even more than before. 

Angular aids testing 

Lastly, AngularJS also makes unit testing pretty convenient for you. It has a built-in setup that makes testing the code much simpler and faster for your developers. 

The things you can do using AngularJS are much more advanced than Drupal’s frontend capabilities. So, combining the two is going to be a partnership that will make work wonders for your web project. 

The best of both worlds

The Drupal and Angular logos can be seen together.

Up until now we have been talking Decoupled Drupal and Angular individually and they have certainly been impressive enough. Both Drupal and Angular are equipped to build projects that will cater to any and all of your needs.

When paired together, they seem to be packing a punch. Your web projects will be able to accomplish so much more. Let’s have a look at some of the most intriguing features.  

Performance that will leave you spellbound 

A site’s performance is what sets it apart from others, it is what will keep your visitors scrolling through your pages and finally clicking on that coveted Buy Now tab. So, how do Drupal and Angular together help in improving your site’s performance?

If I talk about Drupal, it provides functionality in tons. Just working with drupal can make your site perform impeccably. Now, if you combine the Angular technology with it, you will end up with a performance that would be even better. That is because you will be able to offload business logic to AngularJS as it is client-side, you would not be able to do it completely, but even some part of the offload can be extremely effective. 

Furthermore, when you go Headless and take up Angular, you would use the latter for theming and presentation, while Drupal would only be responsible for the backend data source. This would enable you to move the display logic to the client-side, helping you in streamlining the backend. The resultant site is going to end up as fast as The Flash himself, for lack of a better metaphor.

Coding that will free up your developers 

When you use Drupal to build a regular, basic website, you would not need to write a lot of code and the development work would also be quite minimal. Yes, a basic Drupal site would not be feature packed and that is where AngularJS would enter. 

AngularJS will take an ordinary Drupal site and make it extraordinary, so to speak. Angular can make sites more interactive, more dynamic and richer in experience, and complex coding would not be a prominent part of this picture. 

By using directives, HTML, plain objects and other features, the JS framework requires very little effort from your developers in terms of coding. Despite the minimal efforts, you will still end up with the interactive pages that were only possible to get with a complete JS coding. 

Logic that will clean up your code structure 

You remember we talked about the MVC architecture in the previous section? I would have to be redundant and mention it again since it serves a lot of benefits when going headless. 

The Model-View-Controller architecture works on a principle that essentially segregates itself into three parts; 

Business logic;
Controller logic; 
And model logic. 

This results in a separation of your application logic from the user interface. And why is that essential? Because it aids in making the code structure cleaner, without much redundancy and more clarity. 

Imagine if one of your developers has to leave in the middle of your project. This could become devastating for your project, but an isolated code would make it extremely convenient for any other developer to pick up the left pieces and continue with the same effectiveness as before. 

AngularJS and Drupal also work well together because the MVC framework helps in eliminating a lot of backend logic from Drupal. Consequently, your site will turn out to be both extremely lightweight and efficient.

Security that will keep you shielded

Both Drupal and Angular are backed by a massive community. This means that there all the security features are always under scrutiny and the chance of things going sideways is slim to none. 

Add to this the fact the Drupal’s security protocol, if followed to the T will provide you an assurance of safety that not many CMSs can. Further adding to this, the combination of Headless Drupal and AngularJS will enable an extra layer of security to your site because there won't be any direct server-side interaction, the browser will only communicate with AngularJS.

The result of all of this would be that your site will become immune to malicious code that the notorious hackers are known to inject in your databases. And all would be well in the web world.

Everything about leveraging decoupled Drupal and different frontend technologies can be accessed here

Summing Up 

When decoupling is considered, tapping into the available frontend technologies is the paramount concern. JavaScript is most definitely at the forefront of the developers’ mind for the presentation layers. 

Angular is one of the flag bearers of JavaScript, and Drupal is a prominent name in the CMS world. Be it dynamic sites or interactive interfaces, the possibilities of with the combination of these two powerhouses. So, when are you taking them up?

Jan 20 2021
Jan 20

People today do not like to be confined, if I talk about development teams, they would hold up flags stating the same. Since development and innovation go hand in hand and constraint is the biggest enemy of innovation, you can’t tell me they are wrong to have that notion. 

Talking specifically about web developments, there are a lot of areas to explore and a lot of technologies to help you do that. So, why limit yourself, when you don't have to? Drupal has brought such an impressive trend forward that has simply satiated the developer’s desire for innovation and that is the headless approach

Unlike before, when your entire project had to be nestled inside one CMS, Drupal now gives you the opportunity to explore new technologies to your heart’s desire. This is possible because the presentation layer and the backend content become two separate entities. Drupal acts as the content repository and a frontend technology of your liking takes care of, of course, the frontend part of website architecture.

To provide a connection between the separated development aspects of the project, enters the API. An API layer is a necessity when going headless, because it transmits all the information from the front to the backend and vice-versa. 

And the three available APIs in Drupal, REST, JSON and GraphQL, are the reason behind me writing this blog. Although the purpose of all three is the same, they are quite different from one another. Today, we would be highlighting their meanings, their pros and cons and all the visible distinctions they have. So, let’s begin. 

Decoding the APIs 

The logos of GraphQL, JSON and REST are displayed horizontally.


REST, JSON and GraphQL bring in a similar outcome when they are used for decoupling Drupal. Yes, they are different too. And we would get into the difference between REST, JSON and GraphQL soon. Before that it is essential to understand their history, origin and what they were intended for because the differences actually start from there. 

REST 

REST was developed by Roy Fielding in the year 2000, the purpose behind its development was to provide a software architectural design for APIs. In simple terms, it provided an easy path for one computer to interact with another by utilising an HTTP protocol. The communication between the two computers is not stored on the server, meaning it is stateless; rather the client sessions are stored on a client-side server. 

There are six constraints necessary to implement REST in the complete sense. 

  • It needs a separated client and server; 
  • It needs to be able to make independent calls;
  • It needs to able to store cacheable data;
  • It needs to have a uniform interface;
  • It is a layered system; 
  • Finally, it needs a code-on-demand. 

REST offers a great deal of functionality without a lot of effort. For instance, if you are working on someone else’s RESTful API, you would not need a special library or special initialisation. Yes, your developers need to design their own data model using REST, but the HTTP conventions at play make programming a breeze. 

To know how REST plays a key role in decoupling Drupal, read our blog REST APIs in Drupal.

JSON: API  

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. Built in May of 2013, it was designed as an encoding scheme, eliminating the need for ad-hoc code for every application to communicate with servers, which use a defined way for the same. JSON: API, like the name says, is a specification for building APIs using JSON. 

With JSON: API, communication between the server and the client becomes extremely convenient. It not only formats the way a request should be written, but the responses also come in a formatted manner. The primary aim of JSON: API is to lessen the number of requests and shrink the size of the package, all using HTTP protocol. 

Broadly stated; 

  • JSON reduces the number of requests and amount of data being transmitted; 
  • It requires zero configuration; 
  • It uses the same JSON access scheme for every piece of data, making caching very effective;
  • It offers quite a few features and gives you, as the client, the opportunity to turn them on or off. 

To know how JSON:API plays a key role in decoupling Drupal, read our blog, JSON API in Drupal.

GraphQL 

While JSON can work alongside REST, GraphQL was designed as an alternate to it and some of its inconveniences. Built in 2012 by Facebook, it acts as a cross-platform data query and manipulation language. Its servers are available in numerous popular languages, being Java, JavaScript, Ruby, Python, C#, amongst others. 

The features of GraphQL are that; 

  • It allows users to request data from multiple resources in a single request.
  • It can be used to make ad-hoc queries to one endpoint and access all the needed data.
  • It gives the client the opportunity to specify the exact type of data needed from the server. 
  • All of these add to its predictable data structure, making it readable as well as efficient. 

It was in 2015, after GraphQL was open-sourced that it became truly popular. Now its development is governed by The GraphQL Foundation, which is hosted by the Linux Foundation. 

To know how GraphQL plays a key role in decoupling Drupal, read our blog, GraphQL in Drupal.

Now that we know the basics of all the three APIs, let us have a look at their popularity status, before beginning the comparison. 

A bar graph shows the standing of different web services against each other.A glimpse at the popularity of the three APIs. Source: State of API Report 2020

REST vs JSON vs GraphQL 

Now let’s get down to the details and understand why choosing one over the other two could be in your best interest. Let’s start with the differences between REST, JSON:API and GraphQL.

How efficient is the data retrieval?

A distinction is shown between the three APIs, REST, JSON and GraphQL, in three circles with regards to data retrieval..


One of the most important aspects for an API is the way its fetches data. It could require one or more requests. Therefore, this aspect is also referred to as its request efficiency. Getting multiple data responses in a single request has to be an ideal, so let’s see how REST, JSON: API and GraphQL here. 

REST 

The REST API is innately built to capitalise one resource per request. This works perfectly as long as you only need to retrieve a single piece of data like an article. However, if you need more than that, the number of requests you would have to type in separately would be equivalent to the amount of data you need. 

One article = one request 
Two articles = two requests
Two articles and the author information stored in a different field = Two requests for the articles + a long wait for the completion of those requests + two additional requests for the author information. 

This sums up REST’s request efficiency to the T. You require to be equipped to handle a number of requests, which can ultimately stall your user experience, making it seem to go at a snail’s pace. No sugar-coating here, there are going to be a lot of round trips. 

And the problem with a lot of round trips is a lot of extra information you do not even need. This is because there is a possibility that a REST API endpoint might not have the required data for an application. As a result, the said application will not get everything it needs in a single trip, making multiple trips the only option. It's safe to say that REST over-fetches and the verbose responses can be a problem.

JSON: API 

JSON: API does not suffer from the multiple request conundrum. One single request can give you everything you want, be it one article, two or ten along with the author’s information, I kid you not. 

This is possible because JSON: API implements a concept called ‘sparse fields.’ What this does is list the desired resource fields together for easy fetching. You can have as many fields as possible. If you feel the fields are too long and would not be cacheable, you can simply omit a few sparse fieldsets to cache the request. 

Another thing to remember is that the servers can choose sensible defaults, so your developers would need to be a little diligent to avoid over-fetching. 

GraphQL 

Coming to GraphQL, it was also designed in a similar fashion to JSON: API and is competent enough to eliminate the problem of over-fetching and avoid sending multiple requests. 

GraphQL has its own queries, schema and resolvers that aid the developers in creating API calls with particular data requirements in mind. Moreover, by mandating clear-cut additions to every resource field in every query and ensuring the developers cannot skip any of it,  it is able to avoid multiple round trips. Thereby, making over-fetching information a thing of the past. 

The only problem here can be that the queries may become too large, and consequently, cannot be cached. 

How is the code executed?

The distinction between REST and GraphQL is shown with regards to code execution.


Using an API for calls involves the execution of a code on the server. This code helps in computing, calling another API or loading data from a database. All three of the APIs use a code, however, the code is implemented varies a little.

REST 

Route handlers are utilised for execution upon a REST call. These are basically functions for specific URLs. 

  • First the server receives the call and retrieves the URL path and GET; 
  • Then the functions are noted and the servers begins finding the same by matching GET and the path; 
  • After that the result is generated, since the server would have executed the function; 
  • In the final step, once the result is serialised by the API library, it is ready for the client to see. 

GraphQL

GraphQL operates in a relatively similar manner. The only difference is that it uses functions for a field within a type, like a Query type, instead of using functions for specific URLs.  

Route handlers are replaced by resolvers in GraphQL, they are still functions though.

  • After the call is made and the server has received a request, the GraphQL query is retrieved. 
  • The query is then examined and the resolver is called upon for every field. 
  • Finally, the result is added to the response by the GraphQL library and it is ready for the client to see. 

It should be noted that GraphQL offers much more flexibility as multiple fields can be requested in one request, and the same field can be called multiple times in one query.  The fact they let you know where you performance needs fine-tuning makes resolvers excellent trackers as well. 

This is simply not possible in REST and JSON. Do you see the difference in implementation? 

How do the API endpoints play a role?

Many a time, it is seen that once the API is designed and the endpoints are sealed, the applications require frontend iterations that cannot be avoided. You must know that the endpoints aid an application to receive the required data just by accessing it quickly in the view, so you could call them essential even. 

However, the endpoints can pose a bit of a problem for the iterations, especially when they need to be quick. Since, in such an instance, changes in the API endpoints have to be made for every change in the frontend, the backend gets tedious for no reason at all. The data required for the same can be on the heavier side or the lighter side, which ultimately hampers the productivity. 

So, which API offers the solution?

It is neither REST, nor JSON. GraphQL’s flexibility makes it easy for the developers to write queries mentioning the specific data needs along with iterations for the development of the frontend, without the backend having to bear the brunt.

Moreover, GraphQL’s queries help developers on retrieving specific data elements and provide insights to the user as to which elements are popular and which aren’t amongst the clients.  

Why doesn’t REST? 

The answer is simple, REST has the entire data in a single API endpoint. Being a user, you won’t be able to gain insights on the use of specific data as the whole of it always returned. 

How good is the API exploration?

A distinction is shown between the three APIs, REST, JSON and GraphQL, in three circles with regards to API exploration.


Understanding your API and knowing about all of its resources and that too quickly and with ease is always going to benefit your developers. In this aspect, all three perform pretty contrastingly. 

REST 

REST gives a lacklustre performance in API exploration to be honest. The interactivity is pretty substandard as the navigation links are seldom available. 

In terms of the schema, it would only be programmable and validatable, if you are going to be using the OpenAPI standard. The auto-generation of the documentation also depends on the same. 

JSON: API 

JSON performs better than REST. The observation of the available field and links in JSON: API’s responses helps in its exploration and makes its interactivity quite good. You can explore it using a web browser, cURL or Postman

Browsing from one resource to the next, debugging or even trying to develop on top of an HTTP-based API, like REST, can be done through a web browser alongside JSON. 

GraphQL 

GraphQL is indeed the front-runner here. It has an impressive feature, known as the GraphiQL, due to which its API exploration is unparalleled. It is an in-browser IDE, which allows the developers to create queries repeatedly. 

What is even more impressive is the fact the queries get auto-completed based on the suggestions it provides and you get real-time results. 

Let’s focus on schema now 

A distinction is shown between the three APIs in terms of schema using three circles.


Schemas are important for the development team, the frontend and the backend equally. It is because once a schema has been defined, your team would know the data structure and can work in parallel. Creating dummy test data as well as testing the application would be easy for the frontend developers. All in all, the productivity and efficiency levels elevate. 

REST

REST does have an associated expected resource schema since it is a set of standard verbiage. Despite this, there is nothing that is specifically stated in them. 

JSON: API 

In terms of schema validation and programming, it does define a generic one, however, a reliable field-level schema is yet to be seen. Simply put, JSON is basic with regards to schema. 

GraphQL

The fact that GraphQL functions completely on schemas makes it a pro in this regard. The schema used here is Schema Definition Language or SDL. What this means is that GraphQL uses a type system that sets out the types in an API because all the types are included in SDL. Thus, defining the way a client should access data on the server becomes easy. 

To conclude this point, I would want to say that when there is immense complexity in the schema and resource relationships, it can pose a disadvantage for the API.  

How simple is to operate it? 

The operational distinction is shown between the three APIs in three circles.


Operating an API essentially involves everything, from installing and configuring it to scaling and making it secure. REST, JSON: API and GraphQL, all perform well enough to make themselves easy to operate. Let’s see how. 

REST 

REST is quite simple to use, a walk in the park for a pro developer. It is because REST is dependent on the conventional HTTP verbiage and techniques. You would not need to transform the underlying resources by much, since it can be supported by almost anything. It also has a lot of tools available for the developers, however, these are dependent on their customisation before they can be implemented. 

In terms of scaling, REST is extremely scalable, handling high traffic websites is no problem at all. To take advantage of the same, you can make use of a reverse proxy like Varnish or CDN. Another plus point of REST is that it has limited points of failure, being the server and the client. 

JSON: API 

JSON: API is more or less the same as REST in terms of its operational simplicity, so much so that you can move from REST to JSON: API without any extensive costs. 

  • It also relies on HTTP; 
  • It is also extremely scalable; 
  • It also has numerous developer tools, but unlike REST, JSON: API does not need customised implementations; 
  • Lastly, JSON also has fewer failure points. 

GraphQL 

GraphQL is the odd one out here. It isn’t as simple to use as the other two. It necessitates specific relational structure and specific mechanisms for interlocking. You would be thinkin that how is this complex? Let me ask you to focus on word specific, what this means is that you might need to restructure your entire API with regards to resource logic. And you must know that such restructuring would cost you time, money and a boatload of efforts. 

Even in terms of scalability, GraphQL does not fare very well. The most basic requests also tend to use GET requests. For you to truly capitalise GraphQL, your servers would need their own tooling. If I talk about the points of failure here, even those are many, including client, server, client-side caching and client and build tooling. 

What about being secure?

The security distinction is shown between the three APIs in three circles.


The kind of security an API offers is also an important consideration in choosing it. A drastic difference is noted in REST and GraphQL. Let’s see what that is. 

REST 

REST is the most secure amongst the three. The intrinsic security features in REST are the reason for the achievement. 

  • There are different APU authentication methods, inclusive of HTTP authentication;
  • There are the JSON Web Tokens for sensitive data in HTTP headers;
  • There are also the standard OAuth 2.0 mechanisms for sensitive data in JSON structure. 

JSON:API

JSON:API is on a similar footing to REST in terms of security. The reason being the fact that like REST it exposes little resources.  

GraphQL 

It is not like GraphQL is not secure, it is; however, the security has to be manually attained. It is not secure by default and it is not as mature as REST in this regard. 

When the user has to apply authentication and authorisation measures on top of data validation, the chances of unpredictable authorisation checks rise. Now, do I have to tell you that such an event is bound to jeopardise your security? 

How is the API design pinpointed?

The distinction for API design is shown between the three APIs in three circles.


If an API has to perform well for every use case, you have to make it do so. By creating such design choices that are a result of your understanding of the users’ needs. You cannot just go with the flow, evaluating how your users are going to be interacting with your API and getting an understanding of the same is key for your API’s design. 

REST

For REST, this exercise of deciphering the user requirements must happen before the API can be implemented. 

GraphQL 

As for GraphQL, this apprehension can be delayed a little. By profiling the queries, you would be able to tell their complexity level and pinpoint the sluggish queries to get to an understanding of user’s consumption of the API. 

What about their use in Drupal?  

The distinction for Drupal installation and configuration is shown between the three APIs in three circles.


Drupal is an important player when it comes to building websites and managing their content. With decoupling Drupal becoming more and more popular, it has become crucial to understand how the APIs perform alongside Drupal. 

REST 

Talking about the installation and configuration of REST, it can be complicated at best. The fact that the REST module has to be accompanied by the REST UI module does not ease the complexity. 

With REST, the clients that cannot create queries with the needed filters on their own, since the REST module does not support client-generated collection queries. This is often referred to as decoupled filtering.  

JSON:API 

JSON:API module landed in Drupal core in Drupal 8.7. JSON:API’s configuration is as easy as ABC, there is simply nothing to configure. JSON is a clear winner in this aspect. 

Moving to client-generated queries, JSON does offer its clients this luxury. They can generate their own content queries and they won't need a server-side configuration for the same. JSON’s ability to manage access control mechanisms offered by Drupal make changing an incoming query easy. This is a default feature in JSON:API.

GraphQL 

The installation of GraphQL is also not as complicated as REST, but it isn’t as easy as JSON as well. This is because it does mandate some level of configuration from you. 

Similar to JSON, GraphQL also offers decoupled filtering with client generated queries. A less common trend amongst GraphQL projects is seeking permissions for persisted queries over client-generated queries; entailing a return to the conventional Views-like pattern.

In addition to these three major Drupal web services, explore other alternatives in the decoupled Drupal ecosystem worthy of a trial. Read everything about decoupled Drupal, the architecture-level differences between headless and traditional setups, different ways to decouple Drupal, and the skills required to build a Decoupled Drupal web application to know more.

Concluding with the basics 

To sum up, let us look at the fundamental nature of the three APIs, which entails two aspects; simplicity and functionality. 

In terms of simplicity, REST is a winner. A second would be rewarded to JSON, while GraphQL would not and could not be described as simple, complex and that too immensely with major implementations coming your way would be a more accurate description. In terms of functionality, GraphQL does offer the most. If you choose JSON over GraphQL, you would end up parting with some of its features unfound in JSON. 

All three are powerful and efficient in what they can do for your application. The question is how much complexity are you willing to take up with that power?

Jan 18 2021
Jan 18

Websites have entered a new playing field now, at least compared to what they used to be a few decades ago. They are not one-dimensional anymore. They represent a multitude of different business agendas that are essential for growth and visibility.

Websites are not just limited to words, their world has widened progressively. From animations to social media integration, websites today can do it all. A major reason for these advancements in websites and their build is the software they are built on. And that is going to be the highlight of this blog.  

We will talk about the Content Management Systems and the Static Site Generators and shed light on their uses, their suitability and whether they can work in sync or not? So let’s begin. 

Understanding a CMS 

There is a time line showing the emergence of various open source CMSs.Source: Opensource.com

Commencing with the veterans, CMS or a Content Management System have been around for almost two decades (Drupal, one of the world leaders in web content management, was initially released on 15th January 2001). Despite being that old, the conventions they are built on and the features they have been added with over the years have resulted in CMSs being as modern as modern as can be. 

From easing the workload off of the bloggers’ shoulders to making newspaper editors happy; from catering for corporations and their digital marketing team to aiding numerous government departments online and transparent, a CMS has a wide audience. 

If I had to define a CMS, I would simply call it the one-stop destination for all your website’s content needs. It manages, organises and publishes web content. What is more impressive is that content authors can create, edit, contribute and publish on their own, they do not need to be dependent on developers for that. A CMS offers a collaborative environment to build and present websites, allowing multiple users to work with it at once. Terms like Web Content Management and Digital Experience Platform are being thrown around today and they are nothing, but a modern variant of a CMS. 

Getting into the meaning of CMS a little further, you would hear two versions of it and they are essentially its break down. 

  • First would be the Content Management Application. This makes marketers, merchandisers and content creators self-reliant. They can do the contextual heavy-lifting on their own with a CMA without the requirement of a code, so, none of the guys or girls from IT would be needed. 
  • Next is the Content Delivery Application. This is basically the foundation for your content; the back-end aspect that placed your content into templates to be further presented as one website. So, what your audiences see is provided by the CDA. 

Both of these together make a CMS whole for your use. 

Moving further, after the meaning, it is time to get a brief understanding of the various categories of a CMS. Based upon different categorisations, there are seven in all.

Based on the CMS’ role 

Traditional 

Most often, a traditional CMS is used on really simple marketing sites. I have used the term simple to describe it because it is just that, be it the layout or general functionality. You can create and edit your content using a WYSIWYG or HTML editor and it would display the content as per the CSS you have used.

With a traditional CMS, your entire site is encompassed by one software. The frontend and the backend are closely connected through it, hence, it is also referred to as a Coupled CMS. 

Decoupled 

Unlike its traditional counterpart, the decoupled CMS separated the frontend from the backend. This means they work independent of each other and a change in the presentation layer does not necessarily affect the backend repository. Through decoupling, you get the features of more than one software to base your site’s architecture on. 

Headless 

A headless CMS is more or less similar to a decoupled one. When you take up a headless CMS, your content would always remain the same, however, each of your clients, be it an app, a device, or a browser, would be obligated for the presentation of the content. 

The code in this instance is not in the CMS, rather it is an API that is used for communication and data sharing amongst the two software. This way developers can consume content through an API and content authors can start adding content at the same time. If you are looking for the ‘one size fits all’ approach, this is where you will find your answer. 

Based on cost and ownership 

Open source 

Open source CMSs are the ones that are free of cost, at least initially. You do not need to pay for any license fee for its installation; however, there can be costs that you may incur for add-on templates and more such features. 

Open Source CMSs are pretty popular today, the reason being their thriving community of developers. This results in the veterans redistributing and modifying the code, which not only leads to perpetual software improvements, but also helps the newbies in making progress. 

Proprietary 

A proprietary CMS is the exact opposite of an open source CMS, meaning it is commercial and mandates a licensing fee along with annual or monthly payments. In return for the payments, you would get an out-of-the-box system to meet all your companies requirements, continuous support and built-in functionality.

Based on the location 

On premises 

As the name suggests, this is a CMS that has a physical presence within the company’s premises. The high degree of control it offers to its users is the reason for its popularity. However, the humongous investment and the chances of human error dampen its potential. 

Cloud-based 

The name gives it away. Such a CMS is hosted on the cloud and delivered through the web. It is essentially the combination of web hosting, web software components and technical support. It provides fast implementation and deployment along with accessibility from across the globe on any device.

Why choose a CMS? 

Moving further, let’s now delve into the multitudinal features that are packed inside a CMS making it a suitable choice for you and your organisation’s virtual needs.

If I had to broadly categorise all the features of a CMS, I would end up with three major categories, which will sum up the true potential of this software. 

Content and its production needs

Producing content is the primary reason anyone takes on a CMS. It is true if you are a blogger and it is also true if you work for an educational institution and its online persona. It is the content that speaks for itself, when it comes to your site and it needs to be pristine, for lack of a better word. And CMSs help you achieve a level of control over your content production that you desire.

  • Starting with the edits, the WYSIWYG editor could be deemed as the heart and soul of a CMS. It provides you formatted text in paragraphs with quotes, superscripts, underlines as well as images and videos. Your authors would not have to work around codes for sure. 
  • Focusing on the media, images are an important part of it. Every CMS has room for them, they can be uploaded directly from your computer or archives, either within the content or you can add them in the page itself. The same is true for pdfs, animations and videos. Videos also have the option of being embedded through Youtube. 
  • Furthermore, CMSs also support multilingual and multi-channel sites. This eases the pressure off of the content authors and makes localised projects easy to run. 

Content and its presentation needs

Presentation is all about design, how it is done and how it would be showcased to the end user. There are a lot of design considerations that a CMS can help you with. 

  • A CMS would have you sorted with the right font and its size and the right colours and contrast. 
  • A CMS would have your sorted with the right responsiveness for your site. 
  • A CMS would have you sorted with the right URLs and URL logic. 
  • A CMS would have you sorted with the right templating tools to change your layout. 
  • A CMS would have you sorted with the right hierarchy for your site as well as provide the right prominence to the aspects that need it. 
  • Finally, a CMS would have your site sorted for all the right accessibility protocols to make it universally accessible. 

Content and its distribution needs

Once the content is produced, its distribution comes into play. This has a direct impact on your site's visibility. And CMSs ensure that you get the most out of it. 

  • The foremost part of distribution needs is metadata. This helps in tagging, categorising and describing your content. It includes everything from keyword insertion to identifying the distribution channels and placing access restrictions on the content. 
  • Secondly, CMSs also come equipped with automated marketing tools like analytics and A/B testing that help you understand user behaviour and help you capitalise it. You would just have to define the parameters and the automation would do the rest, be it publishing on your site or email marketing. 

Content and its management needs

Then comes the management of your content, it is a perpetual process that helps in providing an ease to the editors and developers that streamlines the builds and updates of a website. 

  • For one, a CMS helps you plan and execute the publishing of your content. You can actually schedule when and what to post and where to post it. You can also decide when something would be available for the audience to see and when it won’t be like an events’ post. Once the event has happened, it won't need to be on your site anymore and a CMS helps with that. 
  • CMSs also help you to figure out user roles and implement them. This helps in ensuring that sensitive information is only accessible to the users who have the clearance. A manager and a director are going to have different roles, so does a premium member and a regular member of your site. 
  • Finally CMS helps you in avoiding instances where you delete something important and its recovery becomes impossible. Version control and revisions are a feature that has to be in your CMS, if you want the powers to bring back the lost content. 

Apart from these main categories, CMSs are also renowned for their security, their scalability and user friendliness. There is one more thing to add and that is the fact that a CMS can go above and beyond it capabilities by integrating itself to third-parties and combining their features with its own, a headless CMS is an example of the same. Drupal is one of the most popular CMSs, when it comes to going headless. Read our blog, Decoupled Drupal Architecture to know more about it.

Understanding a new vogue: Static Site Generators 

Before understanding a static site generator, let’s shed some light on static sites, since these are what it builds. A static site is the one that is designed in a way that it remains static, fixed and constant, during its design, its storage on a server and even upon its delivery to the user’s web browser. This is the attribute that differs it from a dynamic, it never changes, from the developers desktop to the end user’s, it remains as-is.

Coming to Static Site Generators or SSG, in the most basic of terms they apply data and content to templates and create a view of a webpage. This view is then shown to end users of a site. 

Now let’s get a little technical, you know that an SSG will only create static sites, it does so by creating a series of HTML pages that get deployed to an HTTP server. There would only be files and folders, which points to no database and no server-side rendering.

Developers using an SSG, create a static site and deploy it to the server, so when a user requests a page, all the server has to do is find the matching file and route it towards the user. 

If I talk about the difference between an SSG and a conventional web application stack or a CMS, I would say that it is in the view of webpages. While an SSG keeps all the views possibly needed for a site at hand well in advance, a traditional stack waits until a page has been requested and then generates the view.

Why did SSG come along?

Static Site Generators act differently than a CMS, they are more aligned with the needs of static sites. However, their emergence has a bigger story to tell. 

Yes, CMSs are quite popular today, yet there is a drawback to that. With the rising acclaim of CMSs, some of them have become more prone to cyberattacks. The lead in security hacks goes to WordPress, with almost 90% of all hacks being experienced by it as reported by ITPRO reports of 2020. But, Drupal is considered the most secure CMS as can be seen in Sucuri’s 2019 Website Threat Research Report.

Then there is the issue of performance. CMS sites operate mainly upon their servers, meaning they do the heavy-lifting. If a request is sent, it would mean the server taking the charge of the page assembly from templates and content every time. This also means that for every user visiting your site, the PHP code would have to be run to start up, communicate with the database, create an HTTP response based on the recovered data, send it to the server and then finally, an HTML file is returned to the user’s browser to display the content after interpretation. All of this may impede the performance of the site built on CMS when compared to the one powered by a static site generator. But, it’s not like CMSes give you low-performance websites. They do have provisions for delivering high performance websites. It depends upon which CMS you go with. If web performance is your concern, Drupal can be your go-to option.

An SSG is a solution to these two conundrums, hence, it emerged with a bang. 

What can a Static Site Generator do for you?

there is clock in the middle with the benefits of a CMS written around it.

Static Site Generators solve a lot of the issues that a CMS cannot, consequently they can provide you a lot for your site’s well-being. 

SSG means better security 

In an SSG, the need for a server is non-existent and this is the reason it provides more security. As we have already established that an SSG is rendered well in advance and its ready-to-serve infrastructure helps remove any malicious intent upon your site. This infrastructure essentially eliminates the need for servers, they do not need to perform any logic or work. 

Apart from this, with SSG, you would not need to access databases, execute logical operations or alter resources for each independent view. As a result, there is an easy hosting infrastructure as well as an enhanced security because of the lack of physical servers required for fulfilling requests. 

SSG means elevated performance 

A website’s performance is concerned with its speed and request time, and SSG provides in this area as well. Whenever a page is requested, it involves a whole bunch of mechanism to get it displayed for the visitors. There is the distance it has to cover, the systems it has to interact with along with the work that those systems do. All of these take up time, shadowing your performance. 

Since an SSG site does not mandate such a lengthy iteration per visitor request, it reduces the travel time. This is done through delivering the work directly from a CDN, a distributed network of caches, which aids in avoiding system interaction. Resultantly, your performance soars 

SSG means higher scalability 

When an SSG builds a site, it is often considered pre-built. I mean that is what building all the views in advance of an actual request could be defined as, right? So, with a pre-built site, you have less work on your hands. For instance, a spike in traffic would not mandate you to add in more computing power to handle each additional request, since you have already done all the work beforehand. You would also be able to cache everything in the CDN and serve it directly to the user. As a result, SSG sites offer scalability by default. 

When should you choose a Static site generator?

Now that you know how an SSG can benefit you, it is time to understand the scenarios that would mandate taking up a static site generator and all its advantages. 

When building complex site is the goal 

If you want your website to deliver more complexity, in terms of the kind of features it provides, SSG becomes a good choice. There are many that come equipped to provide you client-side features that are ready to go. 

When creating and displaying content is the only goal

Here SSG is a suitable choice because it would generate pages and URLs for you. And these pages would give you a 100% control over what is being displayed, meaning the output would always be in your hands; content pages need that. 

When generating numerous pages is the goal 

A static site generator can create pages at a great speed. It might not be seconds, but it is quite fast. So, when creating websites that would need a lot of pages to be created, SSG’s speed comes in quite handy. 

When templating needs are complex as well 

An SSG is a powerful software, it has the ability to assess your site’s visual style and content along with its behaviour and functionality. This feature becomes fruitful, when building a website with diverse templating needs. Vue and React based SSGs would definitely help you get the versatility you need on your website, along with the standard use of concept of code reuse on your site. 

I would like to add just one more thing, and that is the fact that your team must be familiar with the static site generator that you are going to end up using. There are a lot in the market. If your team is familiar with .net, use and SSG powered with it. On the other hand if it finds JavaScript more familiar territory, go with an SSG based on that. Let your development team be a part of the discussion, when the suitability of a static site generator is being decided. 

Are Static Site Generators always the right option? 

Coming from the suitability, you would think that an SSG is a great choice. Don’t get me wrong, it is. However, it isn’t a universal software. There are instances when it may not be the right choice. So, let’s delve into these scenarios.

Not when you do not have development experience 

Static Site Generators become a tad bit difficult for amateur developers. Your developers ought to have experience to reap all its benefits. The building process is considered to be more difficult than that of a CMS, something that finding plugins for pre-built pages acn become a chore. Furthermore, there isn’t a huge community out there to help you in the development part, if you are a beginner. 

Not when you need a site built urgently 

You have to understand the urgency and SSGs are not the best of friends. From learning the build process to developing the template code, everything needs time. 

There are development scripts to be me made;
There is the complication of customised them;
There is the additional process of creating and setting Markdown files;

All of these account to more time requirements for the development process. Think of it like this, you are going to be doing all the grunt work beforehand, and that would necessitate more time. 

Not when you need server-side functionality 

When partnering with an SSG, you would be parting with some, if not many, interactive functions on your site. For instance, user logins would be difficult to create, so would web forms and discussion forums. However, there are certain options like lunr.js search and Disqus commenting to help you with your sites interactivity. I would say that these options are pretty limited.

Not when your site has to have hundreds of pages

You might think that I am contradicting myself, however, I am not. Static site generators can create a website with a thousand pages, yet the process can become tedious and awkward. For a thousand or so pages, the content editing and publishing would be cumbersome. Along with this real-time updates could get delayed and like I mentioned before build times rise consequently.

Not when website consistency is a priority 

Lastly, SSG sites offer a lot of flexibility. That should be a good thing, however, it does have a side effect and that is on your site’s consistency. This is because anything that is found in the Markdown files can be rendered as page content. Consequently, users get the chance to include scripts, widgets and other undesired items. 

Can a CMS and an SSG work together? 

Yes, a CMS and an SSG can work together and pretty efficiently at that. However, that partnership is only possible in a headless CMS. This is because a headless CMS gives room for other frontend technology to come and play and in this case that technology is found in static site generators. 

A headless CMS is pretty versatile, choosing a static site to go as its head could help you get most of the benefits that both, the static site and headless CMS, come along with. This partnership indeed has a lot to offer. Let’s find out what that is. 

Two hands shaking can be seen on the left, with the benefits of a CMS and static site generators' partnership.

Proffers easy deployment via APIs

SSGs are quite straightforward to use, especially with an API, which is the connecting force between the SSG and the CMS. Pulling data from an API for generating and deploying a static PWA to any web host or Content Delivery Network is a breeze. 

Proffers ease to the marketing team 

When you work only with an SSG, you would face difficulties as it puts a lot of boundations on the marketing team. This isn’t a problem when you partner with a CMS. 

Proffers easy editing and workflow 

Conventionally, SSGs do not have a WYSIWYG editor or workflow capabilities for the tracking and collaboration of content. You might think that it is only needed for dynamic sites, but that isn’t the case. Static sites also need that. Since CMSs have that capability, they become ideal for content before actually running the SSG; the perfect contextual partnership. 

Proffers easy updates to sites 

With a CMS, you can easily change and update the content. With an SSG, the same changes can be pulled up through the APIs and a new static site can be generated every time they are incurred. All the developers have to do is set a tool up for content pulling and generation. As a result, your site would always be up-to-date and the users would not need to be processed whenever they visit your site. 

To check out some examples of how CMS and SSG can come together, read how Drupal and Gatsby can be leveraged for developing blazing fast websites. You can also go through the benefits of going ultra-minimalistic with the combination of Metalsmith and Drupal.

Conclusion 

In the end, all I want to say is that both a CMS and an SSG have their own set of features and capabilities that make them excellent at what they do, making their users more than happy. However, when it comes to getting the best out of both of them, there is only one kind of CMS that can help you reap the benefits of this dynamic. It is up to you to decide whether you want to use them together or individually.  
 

Jan 15 2021
Jan 15

First of all, happy twentieth birthday to Drupal. Yes, you heard that right. It is Drupal’s 20th birthday! Two decades ago, an idea was conceptualised to improve the cost efficiency of an internet connection by sharing it among a group of friends. That idea has now turned out to be one of the biggest open source projects in the entire world!

People holding up placards reading 'Happy 20th Birthday' and Drupal's logo


On the occasion of Drupal’s 20th birthday, let’s look back at how Drupal has evolved organically in the past two decades to become a sustainable community over the years, one that holds immense capacity to keep thriving despite all odds.

Drupal’s growth over the years

Drupal 1.0 was launched as an open source project, drop.org, in 2001. Dries based it off Slash, a modular CMS, the first version having 18 modules one could work with. Notably, there was no bar on who could contribute to the software. 

This is what it looked like -

Black and white screen of Drupal 1 website


Isn’t it substantial, how far we’ve come?

When Drupal was upgraded, Drupal 2.0 promised a feature where one could translate or overwrite their site in a different language. This laid a major mark in expanding but also bringing together the Drupal community. Other updates included user ratings, user permission system and sections for stories and user groups.

In the third major version, nodes were made the main unit of content in Drupal - in comparison to web pages, nodes provided the much needed flexibility in the Content Management System. Every category of content - whether an article, a news report or a forum - was created as a node and subsequently managed by a node module. Thus, Drupal became more convenient to use for everybody.

Drupal 4.0 was significant for the fact that it saw expansion like never before - armed with an e-commerce module in Drupal 4.4 and an WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, the fourth version of Drupal lay all its doors open. Web writers without a coding background could now use Drupal too, explaining the following surge in its usage after the release of the complete fourth version. 

Following its popularity, the first ever Drupal Conference was held in Belgium in 2005. Here’s Dries Buytaert’s ID from the event:

White ID card with Dries written on itSource : Dries Buytaert's blog

This is how Drupal started transitioning into a global community in the truest sense, with people from all walks of life, across the globe using and contributing to it.

By the time Drupal 5.0 was released on Drupal’s sixth birthday, the number of contributed modules had gone up to 2500 and that of contributors was 492! Version 5.0 simplified web development by incorporating jQuery, a javascript library that made HTML way easier. Also included was a provision of pre-created but customisable Drupal packages and improved CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) management for greater speed on the sites. 

The sixth version of Drupal saw a sitewide growth and expansion - 7000 contributed modules were already in place in addition to 34 core modules and 600 custom themes. Drupal 6.0 added a rewritten menu structure, a ton of drag-and-drop features, even better security etc

With Drupal 7 and 8, customisation and personalisation had come into play in the digital sphere, and Drupal adapted accordingly. Drupal 7 provided URL handling, integration with e-commerce, and custom fields that could be brought to use across content types and users. Using installation profiles, companies could now systematically distribute their website. 

This is a snapshot of Drupal 7. Drupal had now started to look like its modern day successor, hadn’t it?

Blue and white screen showing Drupal 7's websiteSource : Drupal.org

Drupal 8 rode the personalisation tide and responded aptly to the emerging needs of its user base, adding 200 essential features, one of those being adaptability of a website to the several devices it was accessed from. Personalised feeds and suggestions also came into play as businesses started to increasingly focus on User Experience. 

Called the ‘easiest upgrade in a decade’ by Drupal, Drupal 9 hit the market in the midst of a pandemic (which started making waves soon after Drupal’s nineteenth birthday), to cater to the needs of the worldwide user base stricken by it. Drupal 9 removed deprecated code and updated third party dependencies to curate digital solutions compatible with most businesses and individuals. Well, all your burning questions about Drupal 9 answered here.

Dupal 10 is slated to release in 2022 with a bunch of new features and upgrades!

OpenSense Labs and Team love Drupal! 

We at OpenSense Labs have been working with and loving Drupal for years now. Minimal learning curve, the support of a widespread community, and customisable components are some facets of Drupal that our developers are especially fond of. As Drupal turns 20, here’s what our in house Drupalists have to say about Drupal -

Pictures of 6 developers with text above reading what they say about Drupal


Once again, a very happy 20th Birthday, Drupal! Here’s to many more years of growth and innovation!

Jan 15 2021
Jan 15

It’s true that execution translates visions of the organisations into reality. Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan’s ‘Execution: The discipline of getting things done’ corroborates the same. In the software industry, it often translates to efficacious project management. Usually, a framework and specific methodologies are followed for the successful execution of a project. While the framework and methodologies are pivotal for project management, the human aspect of it can’t be sidelined.

A vector image with a human face and brain to represent human psychology in project management


Think of a Drupal project that is being undertaken by a project manager. He or she has a mix of experienced members and newbies in the team who would help in the speedy completion and timely launch of the Drupal website. Amongst everything else, the human factor here is very important to be considered. The psychological aspects of the individuals, both the project manager and the team members, can well be the decisive factor for a project to be a success or a failure. Their perceptions, emotions, problem-solving skills, decision-making processes among others can have an astronomical impact on the way project is being handled and executed.

Key competencies in project management

A heptagon formed by circles and text inside it to represent human factor in project managementSource: Project Times

Project management methodologies constitute technical and procedural factors like scoping, scheduling, budgeting, quality assurance, risk, communications and procurement. And, they all very well established frameworks. But, it’s the people who act as the core of project management. In a study titled ‘Human factor skills of project managers derived from the analysis of the project management processes’, emphasises that people, not objectives and processes, make the project successful.

bar graph showing statistics on human psychology in project managementImportance of project manager skills | Source: ResearchGate

Creating and managing the psychological contract between leadership and team is also a must. Project managers need a set of skills to perform at his or her best. These set of skills can be put together in the ‘Eye of Competence’ model, states the research paper titled ‘The psychological contract and project management as a core competence of the organisation’. They are:

  • Technical competencies
  • Behavioural competencies
  • Contextual competencies
pie chart in green showing textual information on human psychology in project managementSource: ScienceDirect

All the skills needed by the project manager related to project life cycle (initiate, plan, execute control, close) comes under technical competencies. The personal competence elements of project managers like attitude, abilities and behaviour come under behavioural competencies that help in dealing with different team-related challenges during the project lifecycle. Aligning project management with the organisational aspects of the company falls into contextual competencies.

The psychology of project leadership

Animated picture of a man and a woman talking to each otherHelping shoppers actually helps in developing great facilitation skills | Source: UXmatters

Brett Harned, Author of ‘Project management for humans’, in one of the chapters, recalls his own experience of working in retail. As the salesman, he was incented to make sales for a commission. He recounts a particular incident when a couple came into the store and were looking for buying a gift for a family member. They started off with five pairs of sunglasses and zeroed in on two of them.  Because Brett wanted to make the sale but didn’t know the person who was to receive the gift, he shared everything he knew about the sunglasses ranging from facts about the glasses to a lot of ridiculous questions.

Eventually, they decided to buy the one they both agreed upon and were satisfied with it. They thanked him for helping them with the decision-making. This incident helped Brett understand what actually helped customers to make a purchasing decision. More importantly, experiences like this helped him understand the importance of ‘human factor’ behind the success of organisations. In organisations, it’s the people who can make projects difficult and it’s the people themselves who can make projects easier. More often than not, a project manager’s role becomes that of a facilitator because part of keeping a project on track is keeping the people on track.

flowchart with boxes connected by arrows showing human psychology in project managementMental decision process | Source: ResearchGate

The proper analysis of the human factor in project management can be done if we know how the decision-making process is actually taking place.

To start off with the psychology of project leadership, look for the objective measurement of skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits and educational achievements using psychometric analysis. To do this, Myers Briggs or an assessment tool from McQuaig Institute can be helpful.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is also an important element to be considered for project managers. It is basically the ability to recognise one’s own and other people’s emotions. HBR defines it as:

“From a scientific (rather than a popular) standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions. It doesn’t necessarily include the qualities (like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence) that some popular definitions ascribe to it.”

A table with different coloured columns showing human psychology in project managementSource: Harvard Business Review

Daniel Goleman, Author and Psychologist, states that there are five important components of EI:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy for others
  • Social skills

In the conference paper, Complex project management: towards a theory of cognition for ill-structured tasks, Michael Kilpatrick says that the hurdles encountered by project managers tend to be ill-defined and open to several interpretations. The project managers have to understand the internal dynamics of the team and stakeholders.

Moreover, we need to understand that project management is both cognitive conscious (planned forms of activity) and cognitive unconscious (critical thinking skills). So, project managers need analytical, organisational, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.

a rectangle with two diagonal lines inside it explaining human psychology in project managementSource: ResearchGate

The human side of team members and project managers

Consider the following pointers to get the highest level of productivity out of your team members in addition to making sure of their mental and physical well-being:

As a project manager, eliminate the usage of the term ‘resources’

Calling team members as ‘resources’ is the worst you can do as project managers. Because it’s not about using people to just get things done. It’s more about asking them to solve problems that are presented in your projects.

While talking to Project Managers and Scrum Masters at OpenSense Labs about this subject, I understood why the term ‘resource’ occurs in the first place. They observed that with mutiple projects, both small-scale and large-scale, being undertaken by the organisation, they, as project managers, have to be on their toes to ensure proper team effort and timely deliveries. Juggling between a multitude of projects and focussing an awful lot on deadlines, they have shown proclivity to see their team members as so-called resources. With so much going on, they agree that it does get tough sometimes to see the emotional side of a team member, but they know it themselves when things get too hectic and it’s time to put a personal touch so that everyone is at ease and takes it upon himself/herself to finish the tasks.

As a team member, choose product thinking over project thinking

One of the toughest challenges that project managers (or organisations for that matter) face is to try and elevate thinking and culture from a project level to a product level. The focus of project thinking is delivery. This could be specific features of a web application or revamp of an entire website. In contrast, product thinking enables you to focus on outcome rather than on output.

Instead of focusing on timelines and dates, there is an emphasis on the goal you want to achieve or the job to be done. So, it becomes much more difficult to put time constraints around the delivery, at least up front. Regardless of how we try and get there, we ensure that we get to the outcome more efficiently.

The project managers at OpenSense Labs encourage their team members to leverage product mindset instead of project mindset. They have observed it’s practically not possible to do micro-management of team members when involved in multiple projects. So, they expect them to show maturity and act on the tasks at hand with the product thinking approach. Because if they just focus on deliverables and finish off the tasks assigned to them, it becomes tougher and tougher for the project managers too to ensure the best result. They would rather want their team members to proactively work on tasks and come up with their own unique solution too. And, when the project managers look stressed when the deadline approaches, just hearing ‘We will take care of it, mate’ from at least one of their team members puts their mind at ease knowing that there’s a collective effort going on and it’s not just the project manager who is dedicated and concerned.

Make sure that the team is not overbooked and prevent developer burnout

Keeping your team members busy and working on tasks is a tricky thing. You need to create a balance in the amount of work that is being undertaken by your team members. This will enable you to confidently commit to deadlines on projects knowing that your team is actually available to do the related work.

Communicate about staffing as much as you can. In an organisation that is continuously handling change, you will know that it’s a tough target to hit. Nevertheless, make sure to stay ahead of the resource crunch. Your team will be appreciative of your efforts in protecting their work-life balance and work-life harmony.

Well, our project managers have always seen that the mental well-being of team members plays a crucial role for long-term planning. Constant communication and transparency in discussions with each and every member about how he or she is feeling mentally helps them understand whether or not a person is feeling overworked or overbooked. They have encouraged them to take a half day leave or even a full day leave when they are feeling low on spirits for whatever reason it can be. They have also focussed on assigning less critical tasks to less experienced members before moving on to give them the more important and complex tasks. This has helped in making a team member progress through the ranks, learn at his or her own pace and finally working on business-critical tasks when they themselves feel confident about it.

Connect with your team

Matching skills to your projects is a whole new task in itself. Connecting with your team and understanding what motivates them is crucial. Find out what your team members’ interests are. Get to know each and every team member’s work. With changing project schedules, plan how you will fill someone’s time with other work. Asking people to plan holidays and vacations in advance would help you plan ahead. Humans are hale and hearty one day and bedridden the next. So, you have got to be ready with a back-up plan.

Covid-19 pandemic affected OpenSense Labs in different ways and we found ways to cope with it. We made sure open-ended leaves are given to ones who contracted coronavirus for them to recover and be back at work when they feel completely okay. A lot of elders especially were more vulnerable during these times. And, one of our team members looked very worried about his father’s deteriorating health, so we made sure he is given some time to be with his father and the financial benefits are provided without any deductions in monthly income for his long absence from work. We have also seen that reallocating tasks to certain individuals have helped them in their learning process. For instance, we have assigned more HTML and CSS related tasks to the guys who wanted to learn frontend development. We have also ensured that we do not shout at anyone or humiliate anyone in a group call for lack of productivity. One-on-one conversations have helped us to communicate things in a proper way, understand someone’s personal setback or realise how someone’s not happy about his or her marriage-related discussions happening within the family. And, sometimes project managers, involved in several projects simultaneously, have to deal with upset clients for different reasons and our team members understand that. When the PM isn't able to join a meeting with a client, one of the team members gives assurance for filling in for him or her.

Here's how OpenSense Labs shifted to remote working environments during Covid-19 pandemic.

Consider the stakeholders as decision-makers

It’s of utmost importance to understand that no one gets trained formally or is taught at some place to be a good client, stakeholder or project sponsor. But it’s not like they don’t know how to. They do know the fact that they have to be polite and nice to a project manager. It doesn’t have to be drilled into their heads by some means. What matters the most is that they are also, at the end of the day, humans and show their emotions while working on several projects with several people at one time. Life as a client can be difficult. As a project manager, you have to help them plan their time appropriately and communicate properly.

A lot of the times our project managers would have to deal with frustrated clients. Not because of any kind of problems with our work. But because of the fact that the client's boss would be putting some pressure on him or her and asking for an update on some of the crucial tasks. Our PMs have to understand their emotions and communicate things in a way that there is a mutual understanding of each other’s emotional well-being. We have also put a particular emphasis on finishing off different tasks much earlier than deadlines for the client’s satisfaction even if it was not that urgent. And, there was an instance where one of our new guys couldn’t deliver any task for over a month. But our project manager communicated with the clients accordingly as he saw that the guy showed intent and gave enough time and space to prove that he can start delivering. His daily tasks were internally supervised and managed and it worked eventually. Sometimes, we have to deal with a situation where a guy, who has worked late hours and has given his everything to the project’s success, has to suddenly attend to his family crisis when the project is nearing deadline. We have always strived to show sympathy in such situations and provide any help to our guys we can. Our project managers have amicably discussed such situations with clients to figure out pushing the deadline to a different date or trying out another guy in place of him.

Once you have understood the importance of human factor in project management, it's time to start your next Drupal development project the right way, learn how to handle complex Drupal projects and understand why to choose Drupal for a smooth web development experience.

Conclusion

Technology will always keep evolving and change the methods by which projects are completed. Projects themselves will keep changing in nature and scope. What doesn’t change? Human factor. Ethical behaviour, consideration of others, principles of communication and a quest for knowledge and excellence are some of the examples of those invariable elements. It’s important to learn and practice ways of optimising human interaction, to build trust and confidence and to efficaciously interact with team members, internal and external stakeholders, individual in positions of authority. All these considerations will ultimately pave the way for efficient project management.

Jan 15 2021
Jan 15

If we travel back to the time, we can assuredly see Drupal as a common factor in every other website. That is to say, websites that were built in the past used Drupal as an end solution to create, store, and display content in a seamless manner for end-user consumption. However, things are not the same as they used to be a few years back. 

Now, coming back to the present, the world we live in is encountering a significant growth in APIs and interfaces demand. As a result, agile organizations are constantly striving for a fantastically positioned CMS that can manage structured content across different presentation layers, that too in a consistent manner. 

Did we just hear a fantastically positioned CMS? Well, the only answer that we could think of is decoupled Drupal and we believe most of you would agree with that. 

Decoupled Drupal holds an innovative ability to deliver an outstanding digital experience to Drupal users worldwide. Furthermore, there is no doubt that Drupal has emerged as a true winner in this deep, enduring, and dynamic digital world. However, the ruling question here is - which is the right front-end technology that you may need in order to support the next phase of web development and further dominate the modern digital landscape. This particular question is worth noting as choosing the best front-end technology will help your organization to be the dominant force powering the development of all kinds of web applications.  

Continuing with that, if you want to catch up on some really important front-end technologies that can offer top-notch results, then this blog is a treat for you. This blog will introduce you to some best front-end technologies that you may need to look out for to rule the digital market space. 

If you are looking for the right front-end technologies, we assume that you have a decent understanding of what they are. Still, we are here to give you a bit of context as it won’t harm you. 

Front-end technologies

“Just like shop fronts, front-end technologies draw your attention and compel you to engage with the site.’’ 

Starting off with the statement while walking around cityscapes, the first thing that you probably see is the shop front that is shiny enough to captivate you and draw you inside. The front-end does the same job as shop fronts. That is to say while surfing the web you get to see plenty of sites but there is one site that attracts you the most and you end up opening that site. This is nothing but simply the magic that the front-end does to the website to allure the audience. 

In the software development world, whatsoever is built falls under two categories: everything that is seen by the user and the processes that are happening in the background. In this blog, we will dive deep into the front-end part only.

Front-end technologies are everything that users see on the site and they interact with. You may have the most structured back-end programming to strengthen your application, but the front-end is what users see and mostly care about. In other words, the front-end plays a pivotal role when it comes to engaging users and encouraging them to take action. It is none other than front-end technology that works in a seamless manner to help you retain customers. Therefore, businesses that value their customers cannot afford to ignore the importance of front-end technologies.

Furthermore, speaking of the thousands of front-end technologies available in the market, the choice to choose a perfect one becomes tougher. To help you out, we have created a consolidated list of front-end technologies that can surely turn the tables in your favor. 

Ready to unveil the front-end technologies list? Yes? Let’s get started! 

Javascript

Be it a small scale enterprise or a large scale enterprise, Javascript is present everywhere and is well suited for everything. As a matter of fact, Javascripts frameworks are an important part of modern front-end development that has been widely used to build a dynamic modern application, real-time chat, eCommerce, inventory, processing, and much more. Javascript frameworks have been gaining a massive legion of followers for almost 2 decades. Consequently, there are many modern companies out there that make optimal use of these frameworks.  

Since every JS framework comes with its unique forte and shortcomings, choosing the best for your requirement is by no means an easy task. Therefore, we have listed down the top 3 JavaScript Frameworks that currently dominate the market in terms of popularity and are highly used to build web applications.

React

Reactjs is an open-source JavaScript library that is widely known and accepted for creating dynamic and highly responsive UI. Due to its component-based architecture, React is considered an efficient solution for developing fast & scalable front-end for the web as well as mobile applications. The primary focus of Reactjs is to build natural, interactive, and appealing applications with minimal coding. In addition to this, this front-end tool uses Virtual DOM in order to deliver blazing-fast rendering.

Features

Apparently, ReactJS is gaining quick popularity as the best JavaScript framework in the front-end ecosystem. The important features of ReactJS include the following-

  • Unlike other large monolithic frameworks, React js is different and has a modular structure which makes its code flexible and easy to maintain. 
  • Since React follows a unidirectional data flow, it becomes easier for developers to debug errors and know where a problem occurs in an application.
  • React js is well known for creating interactive and dynamic user interfaces for websites as well as mobile applications.

Usage Statistics

React has seemed to position itself as one of the leading content management frameworks in terms of usage as shown in the graph below. 

Graphical representation with multicoloured lines to show usage statistics of React jsSource: BuiltWith

When it comes to high traffic sites, React has seemed to perform better than other content management frameworks as represented in the graph below-

Graphical representation with dots representing market share of javascript frontend frameworksSource: W3Techs

Why pair with Drupal?

It is often believed that Drupal for the backend and React for the front-end can help you get the best of both worlds to build and maintain your websites. Well, this could happen for a number of reasons. Some of the common reasons include-

Websites with plenty of dynamic page elements and a huge amount of constantly-changing data cannot be more advantageous from this combination. 

Using React to deal with the UX complexities while relying on Drupal for handling the content can be used to offer a best in class UI experience.

Integrating Drupal with a modern library like React provides all the necessary modern mechanisms that can help you build seamless and a rich user experience. 

Angular

Next on the list is Angular. Originally designed by Google, Angular JS is a powerful and efficient open-source typescript based framework which is highly used to build client-side single-page web applications. Angular Js took inspiration from React, undergone drastic changes, and has come to the force as one of the most secure front-end JS frameworks for building enterprise-scale applications out of the box. In today’s contemporary era, more than a million websites are using Angular, including some global media giants like Google, Forbes, IBM, Microsoft, etc.

Features

Being an important part of the JavaScript frameworks, Angular is one of the most popular and powerful front-end development tools. Let’s discuss some features of this widely accepted front end framework-

  • Angular intuitive API allows you to create high-performance, complex choreographies, and animation timelines with very little code.
  • It has a client-side nature which certainly helps your website to keep cyberattacks at bay. 
  • Using the Angular methods, it becomes easy to build desktop-installed applications across Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Usage Statistics

The graph below shows the market report of Angular in terms of its usage, which very evidently has seemed to receive a positive response from its users.

Graphical representation with multicoloured lines to show usage statistics of Angular jsSource: BuiltWith

Angular has been powering some high traffic websites with its prowess as shown in the graph below-

Graphical representation with dots representing market share of frontend javascript frameworksSource: W3Techs

Why pair with Drupal?

Combining Drupal and Angular together can be efficacious. It can serve as a general picture of what awesome websites/applications may look like. Let’s take a look at the numerous possibilities this combination can lead to-

  • Two is always better than one. That is to say, putting together two open-source frameworks like Drupal and Angular, we can only think of the extensibility and customizability these two can provide.  
  • Security concerns have always been the top-most priority of any website. The powerful combination of Drupal and Angular does nothing but adds an additional layer of security which makes it difficult for hackers to inject malicious code into databases.
  • Connecting AngularJS with Drupal allows you to move display logic to the client-side and streamline your backend, thereby boosting the performance of your Drupal website.  

Vue

Inspired by Angular, Vue is an open-source lightweight front-end Js framework that helps you build creative user interfaces and high-performance single page web applications. It is important to note here that Vue.js has adopted most of its features from famous front-end technologies like React and Angular with the view to deliver a better, easy to use, and secure framework. This aforesaid approach adopted by Vue can be understood by the fact that Vue provides a 2-way data binding as seen in Angular and ‘Virtual DOM’ as seen in React. Not to mention, the principal key advantage that Vue holds over other technologies is its simpler, uncomplicated, unrestrictive, and progressive nature. 

Features

Vue has encountered a massive explosion in popularity over the last 2 decades, owing to some of the most important features. Let’s take a glimpse of these features-

  • Vue is flexible in nature which allows users to write the template in HTML file, JavaScript file, and pure JavaScript file using virtual nodes. 
  • It offers different methods to apply a transition to HTML elements when added, updated, or removed from the DOM. 
  • Vue.js avoids complexity and therefore allows simpler API and design which is highly demanded by web developers who wish to build simple applications.

Usage Statistics

The usage statistics of Vue have shown a historical trend and received a tremendous rise since 2014.

Graphical representation with multicoloured lines to show usage statistics of Vue jsSource: BuiltWith

Vue has seemed to top the chart when it comes to high traffic websites, thereby gaining a competitive advantage over other frameworks as shown in the graph below-

Graphical representation with dots representing market share of frontend javascript frameworksSource: W3Techs

Why pair with Drupal?

The idea to take advantage of the best end-user experience calls out for the integration of Vue js with Drupal. Having said so, let’s take a closer look at the impact of this combination in the digital world-

  • Using Drupal and Vue as a combination can help developers to enrich Drupal interfaces with reactive features with no jQuery, use ready Vue components, or build single-page applications that consume Drupal 8 data.
  • The combination of Vue with Drupal makes Drupal competent to exhibit its magic at the back-end while the compelling features of the Vue handle the client-side.
  • When combined together, developers can request and store Drupal content as data objects by simply using the official Vue-Resource plugin.

Static Site Generators

To begin with, static sites aren’t something new. They have always been here and the roots of the web are embedded in static sites only. What’s new are static site generators that are an alternative to database-driven CMS that focuses on one main task i.e., generate a complete static HTML-based site that does not depend on databases or external data sources, thereby avoiding server-side processing when accessing your website.

Improved performance and security are just a few reasons that static site generators have exploded in popularity in recent years. Choosing the best options from a wide range of considerations can be difficult. Therefore, we have rounded up the top 3 static site generators that you can use to build your website. Let’s give them a detailed look.

Gatsby

Based on React and GraphQL, Gatsby is the most talked-about static generator that leverages the power of GraphQL in order to utilize data from different sources in your project. Gatsby is a solid choice for sites that specializes in taking advantage of pre-fetched resources for other pages and only loading the parts of a website that are needed at any given moment. Gatsby is well-known for its speed, thus by using Gatsby, you can build fast loading and fully interactive Jamstack sites. 

Features

Gatsby provides some really powerful features that can improve developer experience, site performance, and overall shipping velocity. Let’s have a look at some of those powerful features-

  • Gatsby is built with performance in mind. In other words, you can build sites with Gatsby that are 2-3 times faster and gives you fantastic performance out-of-the-box than similar types of sites. 
  • One of the greatest strengths of Gatsby lies in its open-source community. That is to say, a solid collection of API hooks allows developers to customize Gatsby at every step of the build process.
  • Built on some pretty popular technologies, Gatsby exempts you from the grueling learning process which means you don’t have to start everything from starch.

Usage Statistics

The usage of Gatsby has shown a tremendous rise over the period of time as represented in the graph below:

Graphical representation with multicoloured lines to show usage statistics of Gatsby jsSource: BuiltWith

Gatsby shows a high market position when it comes to high traffic websites. Gatsby has clearly dominated the entire market in terms of popularity and traffic compared to other popular CMS as represented in the graph below-

Graphical representation with dots representing market share of javascript frameworksSource: W3Techs

Why pair with Drupal?

Combing powers of Gatsby and Drupal are well capable of creating something truly amazing for the organizations. Sounds interesting? Let’s take a look at why pair Gatsby with Drupal.

  • Using Drupal with Gatsby is a great approach for organizations who wish to build an enterprise-quality CMS for free, paired with a great modern development experience.  
  • Pairing Drupal with Gatsby help you reap all the benefits of the JAMstack, which includes performance, scalability, and security.
  • Static site generators like Gatsby are used in combination with Drupal to build a simple website solution that offers minimal server setup and a low maintenance cost. 

Metalsmith

Simply put, Metalsmith is extremely simple which is a collection of user-defined plugins. It is worth noting that in Metalsmith, all of the logic is handled by plugins and you simply chain them together. Because of all this, Metalsmith can build anything, from blogs to documentation to web apps and just about anything that falls in between. If you are looking for a tool that can be infinitely flexible, then Metalsmith is all you need to assist you. Metalsmith collects all the information from the source files from a source directory and further writes the manipulated information to files in the destination directory. Not to mention, all manipulations are left exclusively to plugins.

Features

The developer community loves Metalsmith for its robust features. Some of the Reactjs features that distinguish it from the rest are:

  • Metalsmith owns a simple and quick configuration which means it includes plugins to generate the output as per the requirement of the source files. It generally exposes two ways to write generator configuration, including JavaScript and JSON.
  • Metalsmith API is quite small in size including only 11 methods, wherein all transformations are done with plugins. 
  • Unlike other CSS or JavaScript frameworks providing their own set of rules, Metalsmith gives you the entire freedom to decide where to store files, what we can implement, and how to implement.

Why pair with Drupal?

Combing Metalsmith with Drupal looks like an ideal choice to JS developers. There is surely more that you can obtain from this combination. Some of the notable improvements you may encounter are-

  • A combination of Metalsmith’s exceptional capabilities as a static site generator along with Drupal’s spectacular backend can be used to serve data to all kinds of clients.
  • Server data can be easily leveraged for building pages dynamically at build time using Metalsmith as a static site generator and the Nunjucks template engine.

Tome

Built-in Drupal 8, Tome is a static site generator and a static storage system for content. When Tome is enabled in Drupal, any changes to config, content, or files are automatically synced to your local filesystem. These exports can be used to fully rebuild- the site from scratch, which removes the need for a persistent SQL database or filesystem. Later on, when you feel you are all set to push to production, you can use Tome to generate a static HTML version of your site.

To simply put, everything is embedded in one repository and Drupal only runs on your local machine.

Features

If you are a fan of Drupal or are interested in working with structured content, then you must have a look at the following features offered by Tome.

  • The tome is well-capable of generating a static site only using Drupal (no JavaScript required).
  • Content is stored in Git and only uses Drupal when you need it.
  • Static build sites are always partial and cached by default.
  • Both views pagers and Media OEmbeds function out of the box

Conclusion

To sum it up, it feels great to see Drupal uniting with other front-end technologies in order to render excellent digital opportunities which is surely a pressing priority in today’s era. Moreover, we would also like to lay special emphasis on the fact that decoupled Drupal is the new innovation that companies across the world are going over. 

It is important to note here that moving from Drupal to headless/decoupled Drupal requires coordination as well as a balance between two main components i.e, front-end and back-end in order to build outstanding software and web application. Choosing the right front-end technology is quite challenging as there are chances that you get easily overwhelmed by the sheer number of technologies available. So, make sure you take out time to research and go with the one that suits you best.

Jan 13 2021
Jan 13

User Experience has gained significant prominence in recent years, and so, rightfully, have civic values. Organisations and individuals have left no stone unturned to make the globe an increasingly inclusive space for everybody. With the internet connecting the world throughout thick and thin, the right to access it must also be well distributed. Web accessibility as a phenomenon talks about how easy to navigate a particular web page is for a physically challenged or developmentally disabled person. Multiple ways in which organizations ensure web accessibility for disabled users is by adding alternative text for images, auditory or textual substitutes for video snippets, enabling screen magnification, etc. 

With the right to internet sliding into the fundamental rights of most modern day constitutions, web accessibility guidelines for businesses have become more elaborate and enforceable by each passing year. Hence, even in the commercial scenario, businesses can be highly impacted both positively or negatively owing to their policy on web accessibility standards

According to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Microsoft, these are the primary areas companies are looking to grow in - 

Light and dark green bar chart talking about the top business priorities of some organisationsSource : Forrester

And this is how web accessibility for disabled users helps an organization achieve these targets -

Drive Innovation

When a certain user community is diverse and each member entitled to sufficient resources, the interaction and consequent innovation, following as byproducts, become drivers of growth for the company. Making a website accessible not only broadens the application, usage and user experience but also reinstates the muted human touch that connects us as a civilization. Flexibility is another added element that comes complementary with accessibility - as when you add multiple multimedia and interface compatibility to your website, it becomes fluid; fitting seamlessly as nicely into a tab as to a mobile screen. Hence, an increase in accessibility increases and solidifies your user base ticking off a domino effect in terms of innovation and upgradation. Microsoft saw this happen in real time when the company’s management included making their online presence accessible to everyone a part of their responsibility and also their marketing strategy, driving growth substantially in turn.

Enhance your brand

To establish a proper brand identity and value, all bits signifying various important arenas should hold merit in the core ideology of a business. To propel your brand to the highest order, all these  boxes - inclusivity, accessibility, community - must be ticked. Corporations can’t move forward by denying a significant percentage of the world a solution to the problems they face on their digital platforms. Hence, web accessibility also overlaps with Corporate Social Responsibility and constitutes a part of the brand’s identity and public image. Negative public relations can lead to a downward spiral in the expansion of your business, and inaccessibility can be a major enabling factor for such a situation. Big corporations like Apple, Microsoft and Google have been applauded time and again for going the additional mile to be inclusive in their web approach. Hence, even the big players in the market realise that for enhancing one’s brand image, web accessibility has to be seamless and clog free.

“Accessibility is a core value at Apple and something we view as a basic human right.”
– Sarah Herrlinger, Director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, Apple

Increase Market reach

Expanding your user base can only lead to positive consequences, as every business wants to grow and expand. One might think that disabled population is a minority, but according to the World Bank’s Disability Inclusion Overview, 15% of the world is living with some form of disability. If you for one are unaware about the significance of web accessibility and do not have it incorporated in your online presence, a major chunk of your audience hasn’t been able to optimally access and consume all the content you’re putting out. Consequently, you are probably missing out on word of mouth marketing, which till date remains a significant growth driver. 

SEO is also a huge driver of traffic for one’s website especially if it is content based, and it is substantially enhanced by adding features like alternative text for increased accessibility. Hence, a prerequisite for a loyal customer base is a soothing user experience with no bottlenecks with respect to accessibility, and corporate benefits follow shortly. 

Minimise legal risk

Web accessibility is not only a social compulsion but also legally enforceable in numerous nations of the world, specially in democracies, where web accessibility litigation has been gaining greater ground due to focus on inclusion. Hence, accessibility norms have found their rightful place as a part of these litigations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has further solidified that being non compliant to web accessibility guidelines for businesses could invite a legal notice. It is a civil rights law under which numerous companies have paid monetary penalties for being inaccessible. The much famed case of a visually challenged man filing a lawsuit against Domino’s after being unable to order pizza from their inaccessible website resulted in a lot of negative publicity for the brand. Amazon suffered a similar lawsuit by a blind man who stated that even using a screen reader hasn’t been of much help as Amazon’s website and fellow acquisitions weren’t compliant with accessibility norms.

Improve the experience for everyone

It adds immense value to the ethics of a brand when they decide to roll out services that everybody has equally convenient access to, propelling the idea that their offerings aren’t meant only for a few abled, physically privileged people. Improving the experience of browsing through a website for everybody has a symbiotic effect, the company gaining from a positive public image and inclusive brand identity as well. When brands adhere to web accessibility guidelines they also promote non discrimination as an idea, thereby improving the online experience of every user in the community. On the other hand, when they don’t, brands lose out on potential customers because while most consumers may not go to the length of filing a lawsuit, they sure will make a conscious choice of not supporting or engaging with your business.

Read this complete checklist for design considerations for ensuring web accessibility standards.

Access and grow revenues

When Target got sued for an inaccessible website in 2008, cost efficiency went for a toss as they had to rebuild their entire website in addition to paying $ 6 Million penalty, which consumed much more money than if they had done it in the first place. Thus, keeping web accessibility in mind during the initial phases of creating a website can save crucial costs in the long run.

Recently, Kofax, a corporate giant, bagged a five year blanket purchase agreement with Social Security Administration, USA worth $20.9 Million by beating its competitors primarily in the arena of web accessibility. Thus, a significant business value of web accessibility is that you might reap benefits in more ways than one.

Prototype and evaluate accessible technologies

Survey consisting of questions related to web accessibility, using light and dark green bars for yes and noSource : Forrester

There has been greater effort on the part of corporations to bring accessibility to the table. Microsoft has come up with an accessible Office 365 and a new, modulated version of the Xbox to expand its user base. Google integrated morse code into its keyboard application, Gboard, to make it accessible to visually challenged people. Toyota has ventured out with a vehicle called Concept-i-RIDE - a car that replaces steering wheels and engine controls to make extra space for wheelchair bound people. By equipping a few products with accessibility features and rolling those out to serve as a prototype, brands enable crucial inputs from the consumer base and subsequent evaluation. As an added beneficial business impact of web accessibility, a sense of personalisation is also associated with accessible designs and websites. 

Build inclusive workspaces

Grey and white table containing three columns talking about the benefits of compliance to web accessibility and explanation on how these benefits were measuredSource : Forrester

Needless to say, the business value of web accessibility includes making the entire workplace more inclusive. Offices have been going the extra mile to ensure accessible workspaces in real time, using technical assistance like voice commands. The said ‘smart workplaces’ work on the principle of inclusion and equity, customising the physical environment of the workplace to suit the needs of all employees and users alike. 

For a comprehensive guide to planning web accessibility for your business, read here.

Conclusion

Web accessibility is a change that everyone has been hoping to see in the new, digitised, scientifically tempered world. With provisions in place, we finally seem to be walking towards a new reality where age old rigidities bend to accommodate everyone.

Jan 09 2021
Jan 09
“A thorough website audit can clue you into the necessary changes and will help you drive significant results.”

Websites are complex beasts and the issues that arise are of inevitable nature. Being oblivious to these issues is quite common when you don’t conduct the site audit properly and regularly. What happens next is quite obvious - you fail to identify a wide range of website issues which interrupts the potential users to access your website, thereby acting as a major barrier to the growth of your business website. 

So, the question that arises here is - what is the best possible way to optimize your website in order to hit the predetermined goals?

Unless you have been living under a rock, you already know that website audit is the resonating answer for the same. Don’t you? 

Well, a website audit is the most common yet the most efficient approach that every organization undergoes who wish to achieve goals associated with the traffic and performance boost. As a matter of fact, a good website audit takes into account all the factors including performance issues, security vulnerabilities, general site maintenance, and site changes and upgrades that can undoubtedly influence your website’s success. 

Have you ever audited your website? No? Then, now is the right time!

A comprehensive Drupal website audit is a necessity today and is highly recommended to make sure that your website is up to date and performing well. Whether you are a small business trying to optimize your site for organic search, or an agency doing the same for a client, it can be a bit difficult to know where to begin from and how in-depth your analysis should go. No need to worry, we have got you covered.

In this blog we have put together several parameters that are of great importance when it comes to carrying out an in-depth analysis of your website. Subsequently, we will be providing you the tools that will help you glean the most useful information throughout the audit process. 

Illustration explaining Drupal website audit checklists with 'Drupal website audit' written at top and several boxes containing textual information below it


Before we run into the on-page audit components, let's start with few basic but important domain level checks that every organization, irrespective of their size and nature should be updated with.

Site Map

A site map is basically a blueprint of your website that helps search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) to find, crawl and index all of your website’s content. Site maps can be good for SEO as they allow search engines to quickly find pages and files that are important to your site. 

SSL Certificate

SSL certificate is the backbone of the website that enables encrypted communication between a web browser and a web server. Websites need to have a validated SSL certificate in order to keep user data secure, verify ownership of the website, prevent attackers from creating a fake version of the site, and gain user trust. 

WWW resolution

WWW resolution assesses whether your website redirects to the same page with or without WWW (World Wide Web). It is better and more convenient for users when it does. 

Robots.txt 

Robots.txt is a file that lives at the root of your website to instruct your crawling preferences to various search engines. Not to mention, a Robots.txt file allows you to lock away areas of your website that you may not want crawlers to find.

On-page Site Audit Components

Apart from the aforementioned basic domain checks, there are several other components that are capable enough to influence the outcome of the website audit. Further, these influences can either have a positive effect on the quality of the website or can provide great repercussions on the reputation of the website on the face of the direct clients as well as end-users.

1. Drupal’s Best Practices

Creating and maintaining a Content Management System (CMS) like Drupal takes both time and effort. Further, you are required to follow some basic web development practices that can help you protect that investment and simultaneously provide a great user-experience. 

With that being said, the following pointers outline some best practices that are required to program with Drupal.

Drupal Architecture

  • The content structure must include all the fields and content types. 
  • Choose limited content types and files in your development plan to avoid confusion among content creators.
  • Use new entity type and single entity type for different and similar data types respectively.

Check the code

  • Use an indent comprising 2 spaces, with no tabs and the lines.
  • All binary operators should have space before and after the operator to serve the readability purpose.
  • To distinguish control statements from function cells, they should have one space between the control keyword and opening parenthesis
  • All lines of code should comprise a minimum of 80 characters.
  • Use short array syntax to format the arrays with a space separating each element (after the comma). 
  • Use require_once() and include_once() respectively when unconditionally and conditionally including a class file. 

Infrastructure

  • Stack size should be not too large, nor too small. 
  • Dive into logs to detect errors and prepare for growth and spikes. 
  • For security issues, it’s crucial to configure to protect from internal attacks as well as external attacks.

Optimise the front-end

  • Define component elements using their own classes. 
  • Exercise and test your site rigorously to resolve PHP errors, if any. 
  • Use a stable administrative theme during development. 
  • Use DRY CSS and group reusable CSS properties together and name these groups logically. 
  • Name components using design semantics. 
  • In order to keep your designs more organized, use SASS.

Test, error, repeat

  • Get your site reviewed by peers to get an additional idea on what to do next. 
  • Set up a testing environment to get your website tested easily and quickly. 

SEO Practices

  • Use Robots.txt, so the right pages and information is indexed. 
  • Bring navigational drop-down menus into action that silently contributes to search engine optimization.
  • Enable the URL aliasing with Pathauto to ensure the search engine understands what the webpage implies. 

Security Practices

  • Always keep your core updated. 
  • Arm yourself with some additional security modules.   
  • Make sure you only use modules approved by the security team. 
  • Don’t forget to keep your backup ready to face any uncertain events.

Maintenance Practices 

  • Keep your code under version control.
  • Maintain and update separate environments for the different stages of the site.
  • Limit access to the production site for all but the most trusted users.
  • Access all logs ever and again, including Apache, Drupal, and MySQL.
  • Review and assess your architecture frequently and make plans for the future.

To go through a detailed explanation of Drupal's best practices, read here.

2. Mobile Usability

Mobile usability testing helps you identify the potential issues/problems that are hindering a mobile friendly user-experience on your website. The need to conduct a mobile usability audit is extremely important because with the advancement in smartphone browsers, more people are visiting sites using their mobile phones. 

Below are some common yet important elements that can help you to produce great mobile-friendly sites. 

Responsive Design

It allows page elements to reshuffle as the viewport grows or shrinks. Responsive design plays a pivotal role as it allows you to create dynamic changes to the appearance of your website when there is a change in screen size and orientation of the device it is being viewed on. 

AMP URL

Originally developed by Google, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an initiative to speed up the loading time of web pages on mobile devices. The biggest advantage that AMP URL offers is faster and simpler web pages that can be displayed equally well on all device types, including mobile and desktop.

Mobile Pages Audit Tools

There are a number of tools that can help you perfectly optimize your site for mobile. Here are a few tools that that you should have in your bookmarks-

  • Screenfly
  • Google Resizer
  • Browserstack
  • Ghostlab
  • Crossbrowser Testing

Check out this guide on mobile-first design approach to know more.

3. Speed

Performing a website speed audit is important as it helps you evaluate the speed and responsiveness of the website and further identify the areas that need quick improvement. 

Page load speed

It refers to the time taken by the website to fully display the content on a specific page which directly impacts user engagement and a business’s bottom line. Page load speed is important to users for the obvious reason - faster pages result in more efficient and better on-page user experience. An ideal page load speed should vary between 2-5 seconds. 

Page Speed Audit Tools:

Market is flooded with a variety of tools that can be used to test page load and improve the website speed. Following is a handpicked list of some common tools- 

  • Pingdom
  • Google pagespeed insights
  • Google analytics site speed
  • GTmetrix
  • Dareboost
  • YSlow

4. Performance

Website Performance Testing refers to a software testing process used to determine how a particular website behaves and responds during various situations. Conducting a website performance audit is incredibly important for websites because it helps you to identify and eliminate the performance bottlenecks in the software application.

Take a look at the following list of performance elements that contribute to the response time of the website and overall end-user experience.   

HTML/CSS/JS 

  • JS and CSS count: Delivering a massive amount of CSS and JS to the browser can result in more work for the browser when parsing the CSS/JS against the HTML and that makes the rendering slower. Try to send only the CSS/JS that is used on that page and remove CSS rules when they aren't used anymore.
  • CSS Size: Delivering a massive amount of CSS to the browser can result in more work for the browser when parsing the CSS against the HTML and that makes the rendering slower. Try to send only the CSS that is used on that page and remove CSS rules when they aren't used anymore.
  • Image Size: Avoid having too many large images on the page. The images will not affect the first paint of the page, but it will eat bandwidth for the user.
  • Page Size: Avoid having pages that have a transfer size over the wire of more than 2 MB on desktop and 1 MB on mobile.
  • Image scaling: Scaling images in the browser take extra CPU time and will hurt performance on mobile. So, make sure you create multiple versions of the same image server-side and serve the appropriate one.
  • Documents Redirects: You should never ever redirect the main document because it will make the page load slower for the user. Instead, redirect the user if the user tries to use HTTP and there's an HTTPS version of the page. 
  • Charset Declaration: The Unicode Standard (UTF-8) covers (almost) all the characters, punctuations, and symbols in the world. It is highly recommended to use that.

Header performance

  • Cached Header: Setting a cache header on your server response will tell the browser that it doesn't need to download the asset again during the configured cache time! 
  • Cached Header Length: Setting a long cache header (at least 30 days) is better as it promises to stay long in the browser cache. 

Servers

  • Fast render speed: Avoid loading JavaScript synchronously inside of the head, request files from the same domain as the main document (to avoid DNS lookups) and inline CSS or use server push for really fast rendering and a short rendering path.
  • CPU rendering time: You need to be able to render the page fast which is highly reliable on which computer/device you run on. It is important to note that the limit here is high i.e., spending more time than 500 ms will alert this advice.
  • No. of requests per domain: Avoid having too many requests per domain. The reason being, browsers have a limit on how many concurrent requests they can do per domain when using HTTP/1. 
  • CPU scripting time: Do not run too much JavaScript as it will slow down the page for your user. Again, this metric depends on which computer/device you run on but the limit here is high i.e., spending more time than 1000 ms will alert this advice.

Performance Audit Tools

Here are some common tools that you can use to run website performance tests in order to achieve optimal performance. 

  • GT Metrix
  • Webpage Test

Read this comprehensive guide on Drupal performance optimisation techniques to know more.

5. Accessibility 

An accessibility audit is a comprehensive evaluation of how well your digital properties meet the needs of people with any limited ability. It is important to conduct the accessibility audit as it provides a detailed look at how and where you can enhance your digital products/services to improve digital accessibility.

Here are some of the first steps you can take to check the type of experience your website delivers for people with digital access needs:

Check your page title

  • Make sure that every page has an input title. 
  • This is usually done through the 'view source' option available in most modern browsers.

Turn images on and off

  • This can be done using an advanced option. For say, google chrome provides access to turn images on and off, which makes it easy to look for ‘disappearing’ text. 
  • Subsequently, check your image alt text for issues such as the missing or incorrect description of the image contents.

Turn sound on and off

Using the computer's sound options, turn off sound to make sure that your website is conveying the same meaningful information, with or without sound.

Manage plug-ins

  • Using special plugins, you can easily apply different views on the top of the page. 
  • For example- you can test grayscale to ensure that people who are color blind have access to each and every information available on a particular page.

Keyboard accessibility 

  • Try to operate and navigate your website without a mouse or trackpad. 
  • Check if all the functions are operable using keyboard navigation alone. 

Check Zoom in 

  • People with visual impairments often enlarge the elements to see what is present on the screen. 
  • Therefore, zoom to 200 or even 300% to check if anything pixelates or not. 

Check-up page structure and hierarchy

  • Your heading text should be H1, followed by various subheadings i.e., H2, H3, and so on. 
  • For example - follow the order 1-3, so H2 cannot come before H1 and H3 cannot come before H2.

Check multimedia elements

As per the information issued by web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG), websites must specify important information contained within multimedia elements (video/audio/photo) in a text-based alternative.

Accessibility Auditing Tools

There are some free online tools that you can use to uncover the accessibilities issues that are present in your site. 

  • Wave Evolution tool
  • Google Lighthouse
  • Sortsite
  • Pay11y
  • Stark contrast checker  

Take a look at this web accessibility planning guide and how Drupal is ensuring web accessibility standards to know more.

6. Security 

Conducting security audits are befitting to examine and identify the existing/potential threats that can jeopardize the website. Further it also involves improving the security of the website to make online business safer.

Following is a quick and easy list of elements you can evaluate to detect the security risks lurking in your website.

Ascertain the assets to focus on 

  • List out the high priority assets required to monitor and scan, including sensitive customer and company data, internal documentation and IT infrastructure.
  • Do not forget to set out a security perimeter 

Checklist your potential threats

  • Name your threats to ensure what to look for and how to adapt your future security measures. 
  • Some common security threats you might put on your list include weak passwords comprising sensitive company data, use of malware, phishing threats, unwillingness to accept service attacks and maleficent insiders.

Determine the current security performance

Evaluate the current security performance of the website to keep hackers at bay, trying to invade the company’s systems. 

Establish configuration scans

  • Setting up a higher-end scanner will help you detect security vulnerabilities.
  • Run some configuration scans to detect configuration mistakes made.

Look out for reports

Do not forget to give a detailed look at the reports generated by your auditing tools.

Monitor DNS for unforeseen events

Always keep track of the credentials used for your domain. 

Scrutinize your website

This a must task when you wish to spot some hard-to-access files and directories on your website.

Carry out internal vulnerability scan

  • Install an agent on each computer in your organization to monitor the vulnerability level.
  • Performing an internal vulnerability scan in a month or 3 months would be a great option.

Perform phishing tests

  • Perform cybersecurity training by sending out fake phishing emails to team members.
  • Running such tests would give a close-to-real-life experience of what a phishing attack is. 

Security Auditing Tools

Now that you have a plan, you might need some tools to put your plan into action. For your convenience, we have listed down a few tools that you can use-

  • OWASP Testing Guide
  • Burp suite
  • Nessus
  • Qualys web apps scan
  • Rapid7 

Get a thorough understanding of Drupal security by going through why Drupal is the most secure CMS, its provision for open source security, importance of security modules for Drupal website and Drupal website's data security strategies.

7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 

An SEO audit is an important facet of the website which identifies and analyzes the foundational issues affecting the organic search performance of the website. Conducting an SEO audit is extremely essential for any website as it allows you to analyze  the current SEO efforts (irrespective of fact how prolific or sparse they are) and further take immediate action on those insights.

Below are some of the most important areas that an SEO audit covers to maximize optimization-

Find and fix indexation issues

  • Make sure your site is well-indexed in Google.
  • Look for the number of pages that Google has indexed for your domain.

Conduct on-page SEO check

  • Keywords: While auditing your on-page SEO, start with the keywords. Make sure both long & short-tail keywords are incorporated seamlessly throughout the content. Moreover, adding LSI keywords help improve organic visibility eventually.
  • Optimization of headers: Use keywords in the headers. It is to be remembered that search engines including Google use H1 tags to understand the primary topic of a page.  
  • Call to actions: Curate content with the right CTAs for the maximum conversions. Good CTAs make a site look more structured and professional, attracting visitors’ attention. 
  • Optimized URL: It’s also crucial to have keyword-rich URLs for the website to improve the organic click-through-rate (CTR). The shorter the URL, the better is the ranking.
  • Meta description: Meta description plays an imperative role in SERP as Google uses description tags to generate a search results snippet. Hence, every page on your site needs to have a 160 characters meta description with a primary keyword. 
  • Internal links: Using internal links to publish new content is a must. Internal links are instrumental in establishing site architecture and spreading link equity (ranking power) at large. It is recommended to use descriptive keywords in anchor texts to give readers a sense of the topics. 
  • Schema markup: Furthermore, use Schema markup, an advanced level on-page SEO technique to help the search engine bots crawl relevant information for users. The Schema markup uses a unique semantic vocabulary (code) in microdata.
  • Image optimization: Lastly, the optimization of images with keywords in the image alt text also carries weight. This practice increases the potential to rank in image search apart from boosting the SEO efforts of webpages. 

Detect and delete broken links 

  • Check for the broken links list and find which link has the most inbound links.
  • Work through this list and either delete or replace the errors found. 

Duplicate and thin content pages

  • Check for duplicate pages as they have an adverse affect on SEO. 
  • The pages should have a decent word count else it would be considered thin content poage and might not attain a better ranking over SERP or even not get indexed.

SEO Auditing Tools

Following are the tools that you can use to track and detect errors that are hindering your site from achieving the top spot on Google. 

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • SEMrush
  • WooRank
  • Moz
  • Ahrefs
  • SpyFu

Access this ultimate guide to Drupal SEO to know more.

8. Consent Management

Consent management is a process that allows websites to meet legal regulations such as GDPR and CCPA by obtaining user consent for collecting their data or information. With a good consent management platform (CMP) in place, websites are able to create better customer experience and further deepen relationships with their consumers.

9. Hosting Infrastructure 

Having a quality web hosting infrastructure is essential for any website as it helps you determine the loading speed, downtime, bandwidth, and SEO factors of the website.

If you use a free or cheap web host, it will create a lot of hosting problems like frequent downtime issues for you in the future. 

Here is a list of some important things that you should consider before you choose a web hosting plan.

Fast servers 

  • Profits are directly proportional to the speed that webpages load, therefore make sure your web host offers at least a T3 internet connection.
  • Internet users lack patience and need quick results. Make sure your web host does not exceed the 30 seconds time frame. 

Unrestricted CGI Access 

CGI programs are put-to-use by many professional sites at some point or the other, therefore look for a web host that can provide you with CGI-bin access.

SSH and FTP Access

  • You can easily encrypt the data moving between your computer and your website server with the help of SSH. Doing so helps you reduce the burden on your programming development time.
  • A good web host must qualify the need to utilize an FTP with an intent to transfer files back and forth from your local computers and your web server.

Access to Raw Server Logs

This feature allows you to gain access data relating to your website’s traffic, including traffic you get per week, time period of visitors on your site, etc. 

Server Backups

  • Server backups ensure that you don’t lose out on anything at the time of uninvited events. 
  • Not all web hosting services provide automatic database or server backups, in such situations you are required to pay an additional amount to create full backups for your whole sites.

Services, Scripts, and Software

  • A good web host should offer a vast library of scripts wherein you can add forms, statistics, and other extras to your website.
  • Besides this, the scripts should also provide some e-commerce features including shopping cart software, real-time processing availability and much more. 

Tech Support

A web host of good quality should provide technical support to the website. 

Conclusion

To conclude, conducting website audits may seem like a strenuous task, but it is an important responsibility that helps you identify issues that can hinder the growth process of your website. Not to mention, the entire process may sound a bit nerve-wracking however the end results derived are worth the hard work. If you want to maximize the business benefits of your website, then a website audit is all you need to put-into effect. 
 
Furthermore, a website audit is not a one-off process that you conduct once in a blue moon. In other words, conducting a website audit is a mindset that helps you gain deeper insights into your website which further helps you stay on top of your website maintenance before it gets too late. Being successful in the digital market space requires some degree of agility and adaptability, and guess what this goes for websites too. 

Would like to put yourself way ahead of your less-informed competitors? Feel free to contact us at [email protected] and our industry experts will help you conduct a comprehensive site audit the right way.

Jan 04 2021
Jan 04

2020 has ended. (Finally!) So, is it time to rejoice? Is it time to be cheerful and optimistic?  Or, do we have to be realistic and concerned about the coming months?  We have this proclivity to celebrate and be mirthful when the New Year begins. But the fact is that Covid-19 hasn’t left yet and has actually left an indelible mark. We keep hearing about the occurrence of new Covid strains and how it is becoming more fatal than ever as days go by. Anyway, the good news is, the coronavirus vaccine is already here and multiple countries are fast-tracking the approval processes.

Beach in background and ' Drupal 2020 Year in review' written at the centre


With our strong resolve to tackle it, we have found ways to fight the gloom. 2021 has only just begun and will bring with it new challenges like every year does. No matter how difficult it gets, we will dodge everything that comes our way this year too and come out on top together. The Drupal fraternity, too, has risen to the top by uniting and becoming a force to reckon with. The Covid-19 pandemic has only made the Drupal Community to come even closer and work together. The power of the open source community was discernible as the Drupal project, which did get affected by the pandemic, witnessed an awful lot of growth in 2020. As the year has gone by, it’s time to look back, analyse, see what worked and what not and look forward to 2021 with hope.

19 years old: Almost two decades and still counting!

Drupal celebrated nineteen years of existence since it was first released on 15th January 2001. Well, it all began in 2000 when Dries Buytaert decided to put an internal site, used by a small group of people for socialising, online.

Snapshot of a tweet with a person's image on top left, textual content below it about Drupal's nineteenth (19th) birthday and an image with blue background and number 19 below it


So, what began as a hobby project is now a global project with hundreds and thousands of users, active contributors and a strong ecosystem. 15th January 2021 will mark the completion of two decades since Drupal came into being. With Drupal Community’s continued efforts to innovate, reinvent and evolve, Drupal has thrived and will continue to do so for many years to come.

#DrupalCares: Weathered the ‘Covid-19’ headwinds

With the Drupal Community celebrating 19 years of Drupal, a new viral disease from Wuhan was rapidly becoming the international cause for concern. Therefore, it will be incomplete without the mention of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Drupal world. Without a doubt, these are unprecedented times and no one saw it coming. But, Open source, with a reputation for being recession-proof, got itself back on track with the support of millions of supporters. Drupal was no different.

A drop shaped icon with hearts surrounding it and Drupal Cares written below itSource: Drupal.org

Drupal Association, which was formed as an open source non-profit to help grow and sustain the Drupal Community, was hit financially. But the massive response to #DrupalCares fundraising campaign only showed the power of the open source community and the open source model that make projects like Drupal the best possible investment in these uncertain times. Over $500,000 was raised in just about 30 days surpassing the expectations initially set. (The plan was to raise such a large amount in 60 days.) Hundreds of businesses and organisations along with thousands of individual donors and members donated to reach the goal in record time.

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DrupalCon: The year of virtual events

Ever since the first gathering of Drupal contributors way back in 2005, where just about 50 people made an appearance, DrupalCon has become the global event that is highly anticipated every year. While it acts as the ideal platform for the Drupalists from around the globe to meet at one place and share intuitive ideas, DrupalCon Minneapolis 2020 was very unlikely to happen with every other nation closing their borders and putting their respective countries under lockdown to try and curb the ever-multiplying infection rate.

Collage of Screenshots from Drupal 2020 international events like DrupalCon Global 2020 and DrupalCon Europe 2020 homepages with an image of earth on top and buildings at bottom


Eventually, virtual events started kicking off everywhere. For example, the likes of Cannes, Sundance, Sarajevo, Berlin, Rotterdam, Toronto, Tribeca, Locarno, Mumbai among others joined hands for the first time to screen one-of-its-kind, free, global, virtual film festival called We Are One. And, Drupal Community, too, had its share of virtual outings in its intinerary of Drupal 2020 international conferences as it had its first ever virtual DrupalCon Global 2020. Going by its success, DrupalCon Europe 2020 followed months later. Unlike 2019, where large gatherings and in-person meetings were the norms, 2020 became the year of everything virtual. Check out Drupal 2019: Year in review to know more.

Drupal 9: The most ambitious release ever!

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In spite of the pandemic, the roadmap of Drupal 9 release was right on the money because of the continued efforts from the Drupal Community. From the beta test process for Drupal 9 to the release of the first beta version, everything went as per plan. Eventually, the Drupal 9 was released on 3 June, 2020. It took birth with much more usability, accessibility, inclusivity, flexibility and scalability than previous versions. After all, it was in the works for almost 5 years!

And, the release of Drupal 9 was not shorn of any fanfare either. While Drupal 8’s launch saw hundreds of release parties happening across six continents, celebrations in the time of Covid-19 was a different game altogether. For Drupal 9, the community created CelebrateDrupal.org where virtual events can be posted for people to join, photos can be uploaded of Drupal 9-resembling food items, or just simply selfies and videos could be added.

Snapshot of a tweet with a collage consisting of images of people and food items to show Drupal 9 celebration


The rebranding of Drupal had to happen along with this release. So, it did. The new brand represented the fluidity and modularity of Drupal and more importantly the Drupal Community’s value of coming together to build a greater whole.

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Drupal 9 is a lot easier to be leveraged by marketers and offers a streamlined way to maintain and upgrade for developers. With intuitive solutions for empowering business users, state-of-the-art new features for reaching new digital channels and further enhancing content management processes, and offering easy upgrades for avoiding the need to replatform, Drupal 9 is just what web professionals need in this day and age of ever-evolving digital landscape.

While Drupal 8’s end-of-life date has been fixed for November 2021, Drupal 7’s has been moved to November 2022 in light of the impact of pandemic. It was simply because it felt like the right thing to do and it aligned with Drupal’s values and principles that calls for building software that is safe and secure for everyone to use. This goes to show the Drupal Community’s never ending commitment to continue to care for a software almost a decade after its release. Read this ultimate guide to Drupal 9, burning questions about Drupal 9 and the key modules to start Drupal 9 project to know more.

While Drupal 9.1 was released on 2 December 2020 with new experimental Olivero frontend theme and several additions to the Claro administration theme, the plan for Drupal 10 release is already under development. Drupal 10 is being targeted to be released around June 2022.

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DrupalCon Global 2020 had plenty of insights to share vis à vis Drupal 10 like Drupal 10 readiness initiative, enabling Media Library, Layout Builder and Claro by default, the completion of Olivero frontend theme, offering automated updates, and adding official Drupal JavaScript components to Drupal Core.

Screenshot of a video meeting with a person's image on top right explaining Drupal 9's and Drupal 10's vision in DrupalCon Global 2020 Source: Dries Buytaert’s blog

Drupal businesses continued to grow despite pandemic

Drupal Business Survey 2020 had interesting data points to showcase. Drupal agencies have considerably done a great business without getting adversely affected by the pandemic. Financially, Drupal businesses were well placed and thrived with many asserting that results exceeded the pre-covid prognosis.

a piechart with blue coloured and red coloured separations explaining the state of Drupal during Covid-19Drupal businesses during Covid-19 pandemic | Source: Drupal.org

The survey also delineated that almost half of the Drupal companies who participated are confident that their business and on-going situation will further improve in 2021 while 20% of the companies aren’t optimistic about the coming months. As far as the industry segments are concerned, Education continues to be a sector with most Drupal projects followed by Charities & Non-Profit and Government and Public Administration.

Growth in terms of Drupal project pipeline, deal size and win rate

Graphical representations with multi coloured regions to explain Drupal usage statisticsDrupal usage statistics | Source: Drupal.org

There has been a steady growth in the adoption of Drupal 9 ever since its launch. Drupal Business Survey 2020 also indicated that the Drupal project deal size grew more than the project pipeline or win rates that, in turn, shows Drupal’s growth  to the enterprise market.

Three piecharts with multi coloured regions to explain Drupal project pipeline, deal size and win ratesSource: Drupal.org

When the survey sought to look for answers as to why Drupal is chosen for web development projects, it was observed that clients, who worked with Drupal before, most often than not, decided to stick to it (this constituted 60% of the answers). This proved that they considered Drupal as a viable option for solving their business problems. Also, the recommendations from Drupal agencies, Drupal being an open source software, its amazing flexibility and the robust security that it provides made the clients want to go with Drupal.

But, the survey also revealed some of the downsides the Drupal Community would want to give a look at and take some actions to improve further. Drupal development being time consuming and thus being expensive was one of the issues it pointed out. Moreover, Drupal being intricate and potential clients not knowing much about it also came into picture.

Increase in Drupal contributions was observed

From Drupal Global Contribution Weekend (where people more or less close to Drupal and its community participate) to the Google Summer of Code (where students developers across the world get an exposure to open source software development including Drupal), contribution-focused events are given its due importance by the open source communities like that of Drupal. Because contribution is at the core of Drupal project and it thrives because of that.

Graphical representations with multi coloured regions to explain Drupal contribution creditsNumber of people contributing to Drupal has increased over the years | Source: Drupal.org

Drupal.org’s contribution data for 2019-2020 shows that there is a 20% increase in the number of contributions to Drupal project as compared to the previous period mainly due to Drupal 9 release. Although contributed modules witnessed the majority of credits, there was an increase in the contribution credits across all project types.

Bar graph with multi coloured horizontal bars to explain Drupal contributionSource: Dries Buytaert’s blog

Even though there was a decline in individual contributors, organisational contributors increased. Moreover, 20% of the contribution credits are coming from the top 30 contributors (the top 0.4%). It was noticed that two-thirds of all contributions were sponsored. But, volunteer contributions continue to remain a pillar of success to Drupal. Also, it was seen that currently Drupal’s maintenance and innovation is largely dependent on traditional Drupal businesses and larger, multi-platform agencies are barely contributing to Drupal. Read about perks of being open source contributor and different ways to contribute to Drupal to know more.

The continued support for diversity, inclusion and equity

The US was convulsed by the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, an African-American man, in police custody. This incident of racially-driven police brutality once again sparked violent protests and much-needed discussions.

The Drupal Association released a statement strongly “condemning racism, racist behaviour and all abuses of power.” It reiterated its support for diversity, inclusivity and equity across all facets. Drupal thrives because of contributions from diverse contributors and it’s pivotal to its health and success. Drupal’s values and principles state that treating each other with dignity and respect is of utmost importance.

While the Drupal Association values diversity, it understands there are still plenty of things to do to create meaningful change within the Drupal Community too. The Drupal.org’s contribution data for 2019-2020 showed interesting data on gender and geographical diversity. Only 10-11% of contributions were coming from people who did not identify them as men.

Bar graph with multi coloured vertical bars to explain Drupal contributionSource: Dries Buytaerts’ blog

And, while Europe and North America continued to be the biggest contributors, Asia, South America and Africa remain big opportunities for Drupal. To know more, read about the relevance of the trio of Diversity, inclusion and Drupal.

Bar graph with multi coloured vertical bars to explain Drupal contributionSource: Dries Buytaerts’ blog

Conclusion

2020 proved to be a tough yet exciting year for Drupal. It continued to grow and weathered all the storms that came its way. It made new progress and identified where it can improve in the coming years.

2021 has begun but the Covid-19 hasn’t yet gone. It’s going to be a while before we can expect absolute normalcy to return. But until then, we shall keep moving forward, continue contributing to Drupal and grow with it.

Happy New Year to all the Drupalists!

Dec 31 2020
Dec 31

Wouldn’t you say that websites are meant for everyone. If a children’s clothing site is not able to serve the needs of all the parents that fall in its target audience, what would be the point then, right?

We know every person is different, from the way they see things to the way they analyse them. Our differences do not make us less than the next person; web accessibility has ensured that, at least in the web domain. There are people who have certain physical conditions that limit some of their abilities, they are simply differently-abled from the rest of us. 

  • Colour blindness can affect the visual perception of a website.
  • Wheelchair user-concerns can affect mobility. 
  • Hearing problems can affect the auditory elements. 
  • Photosensitive epilepsy can induce seizures in a person through certain elements on the web. 
  • Dyslexia can affect the cognitive awareness of a user. 
  • Sleep deprivation, an incidental issue, can affect your accessibility as well.

All of these and more can impair the user experience for people who are suffering from them. That is where web accessibility comes into the equation. This blog will talk about the ABCs of implementing the best practices when designing for web accessibility. 

What is Web Accessibility?

Where websites are concerned accessibility becomes an important consideration that can actually become their breaking point, if not done the right. Before I start on the long tirade on how to make the web accessible, it is equally important to understand what it actually is. 

Web Accessibility can plainly be understood by its purpose, which is to make websites and their numerous tools and technologies in such a way that people with disabilities can easily use them. It is actually as simple as that; building websites that cater to the differently abled people. 

A more thorough definition would point towards making websites that; 

  • Can be perceived by people with disabilities;
  • Can be understood by them; 
  • Can be easily navigated by them; 
  • Can be interacted with; 
  • And they can also contribute to the web through them. 

This concept or more like a principle takes into account all the disabilities that have an affect on the web user experience, be it auditory, cognitive, visual, speech, neurological or physical. 

You might be thinking that that is all web accessibility is responsible for, to make the web more accessible for people with disabilities, but there is more. 

  • From different input modes to bright sunlight affecting the UX;
  • From transient disabilities like fractured hand to ageing hampering your abilities; 
  • From a slow internet connection to an expensive one; 
  • From people in rural areas to the people in developing and under-developed nations;

Web accessibility is meant for all, it takes into account every aspect that can impede on a person’s web experience, eliminate them and make the web a place that is all-inclusive to the core.

It is a concept that is meant to highlight the web accessibility, that is a given because of its name, at the same time, it is also a concept that works towards usability and inclusion. All three are pretty closely related, perhaps that is why they are considered to be the fundamentals of web accessibility. You know what that means by now, however, with usability, the purpose is to build designs that can be used by everyone, while inclusion focuses on diversity, aiming for the participation of everyone in the experiences the web can offer. 

Do you not think that web accessibility is crucial in the way we design our websites? I am certain you do.

What is the standard for Web Accessibility?

In 2008, the new web accessibility guidelines were implemented and even in 2020, they are still prevalent. These guidelines have set the standards for accessibility that all web experience provides must adhere to. These are the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and they can be summed up in four principles. 

Make websites perceivable 

It is after perception that you actually start becoming involved in something. That is why the first principle of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines is making sites perceivable. How do you perceive something? Using your senses, right? Sight, sound and touch being the players here. So, the elements on your site need to be focused on these senses to be truly accessible. To exemplify, it would help a blind person to hear the description of a video to perceive what is going on in it. 

Make websites operable 

Making a site operable means ensuring that all users can use it with ease, by all, you know I mean including people with disabilities. Operating a website has to do with its navigation and interacting with various components. As per this principle, your site should be equipped to operate well in a keyboard-only navigation without any time constraints along with helping the user out, if he were to make some errors. 

Make websites understandable 

Next is the understanding of a website, your users should not have to spend a lot of time to understand some simple instructions. Therefore, the third principle focuses on using clear terms that make even the complex of issues easy to understand. 

Make websites robust

This last principle is a bit on the technical site. Using a clean code for HTML and CSS that meets the overall standards would make it very easy for other technology, third-party included, to depend on your site. It would make your site more robust and thus, easy to process.

How to design for web accessibility?

Now comes the important part, knowing the semantics of wens accessibility won’t do you any good, if you do not know how to implement them in web designing. It is not going to be a drastic change in the design palette of your existing website, rather some minor, yet thoughtful, changes can go a long way in achieving the accessibility standards. So here they are. 

Aptness in contrast 

I’m going to start with contrast because I feel that contrast is one of the major problems seen in accessibility, despite it being a basic one. The text and the background needs to be in contrast to make the text pop. It could be in images, buttons or plain CTAs. For this reason, WCAG has set certain parameters for contrast ratios that need to be followed to achieve the basic requirements of accessibility. There are three types of text generally seen on websites, and all three need to maintain a separate ratio. 

For body text, the ratio is 4.5:1;
For large text, it needs to be 3:1;
And for black and white text, the ratio is to be set at 21:1.

You may have noticed that the larger text had a smaller contract ratio, the reason is simple, larger text is easy to recognise. A size of 24 pixels or a 19 pixel bold would really be hard to miss. 

The homepage of NBC is shown.


Aptness in colour 

Did you know that one in every twelve men is colour blind? It may seem like a lot, but that is true. The inclusion of people suffering from colour blindness, low vision or total blindness, thus becomes very important, because they account to a massive proportion of web users. 

So, just using colour to highlight a component is a colossal mistake in terms of accessibility. You have to use other ways of highlighting the same component. 

Different coloured shapes can be seen in two boxes, one has number written along them and the other doesn't.

While the first image is a perfect example of what not to do, the second one can be considered as an epitome in using colour and keeping accessibility in the picture. 

Aptness in forms 

Today, you would hardly find a website that would not accompany a form to fill, after all that is their way of connecting with the audience. So, making the forms accessible to all audiences is key. And sufficient labelling is the way to do it. 

Every field that you have in the form needs to have a corresponding label that isn’t too far away from it. Adjacent labels are much better than the ones inside it that disappear after the field has been filled with content. 

You may know that oftentimes a form is filled the wrong way, so letting the user he has made an error is also crucial. This needs to be done using colours and an instruction or some sort of a sign because someone with colour blindness might not be able to see the red that is being highlighted in an erroneous field. 

An incorrectly filled online form can be seen.


Aptness in focus elements 

There are certain elements in a web design that require more focus than others, these are essentially the interactive elements of a site, such as the BUY NOW button. You would have read these two words before even reading the sentence because they are in capitals, meaning they are focused. 

The same ideology has to be followed by you in web designing. You should have a different highlight for when a button is hovered over, when it is reached by the keyboard and when it is touch or click ready. 

A webpage can be seen with one highlighted section to showcase the importance of keyboard focus in web accessibility.


If your focus elements are not highlighted properly, by say a keyboard, can it be possible for the keyboard user to actually get the full experience of your site, I think not. 

Aptness in media

Media is another integral part of your website, some might even say it gives life to an otherwise dull webpage and they are not entirely wrong. To keep the liveliness alive, you have to make the media truly accessible. 

Starting with images, it is extremely imperative that you provide alternative text to the same. Adding a caption and description is equality pivotal for audiences using a screen reader. Almost all the CMSs have a pretty prominent alt text option while you upload an image, ensure that you use it. 

The addition of alternative text in pictures is shown during the publishing process of a blog.An example taken from one of our blogs.

What alt text is for images, transcripts are for the audio elements of a website. For the users with auditory difficulties, transcripts that are the sole medium of inclusion. With videos, it becomes necessary to include an audio version of what is happening in them. Considering explaining complicated graphs and tables is another step closer towards accessibility. 

Lastly, I want to mention autoplaying audios and videos. Nobody wants to listen or see them and they only make the user rush to find the button to stop them. So, as a general rule of them, add audios and videos in such a way that the user willingly plays them. 

Aptness in navigation

A user won’t just access a single page on your site, if he does that, then you won’t ever achieve your targets. To go through all of the pages and potential of a website, a user would need to navigate through it and you have to provide an obvious way to do that. You can do that by multiple ways with the provision of orientation cues, a site map is one of the most common ways. 

All of this depends on the layout and the structure of your website, so ensuring that it is meaningful and logical would go a long way in achieving accessibility. A well structured layout should have a couple of things in order; 

  • It should be flexible and resizable;
  • It should have a minimum of 320 pixels; 
  • And it should be able to zoom upto 400% and in close proximity. 

All three help people with disabilities navigate easily. Imagine you are using a magnifying glass to read through all the content and options on a website, would you not prefer that the things you are looking at are close to each other? You don’t have to tell me, I already know your answer. 

Then come the keyboard users, you have to be mindful of them as well. Without getting into the reason for people using a keyword instead of a mouse, I would tell you that for these people the tab key is the most crucial. You have to keep in mind when creating the order of your design, since you do not want your user to get lost while navigating. 

Aptness in content 

The content on your website is its heart and soul; it is what lets the user know of your intentions and your work. Therefore, being extra diligent with the content and its placement is prudent to avoid clutter. 

Let's start with readability, you cannot write your content like it is Da Vinci Code, yes, some people might still understand it, but that is not the aim right. Use simple language with short sentences, short paragraphs and common vocabulary because if the audience is not understanding it, well then, it’s a moot point. 

Then there is the spacing issue, you need to adequate spacing between paragraphs, lines and individual letters as well. 

It is recommended that the paragraph spacing should be twice the font size;
the line height should be 1.5 times the font size; 
And the letter and word spacing should be 0,12 and 0.16 times the font size. 

A similar content is shown writeen in two different styles to highlight how important spacing can be in web accessibility.The difference between the two is pretty stark. 

After doing so much, also try using a font that is easy to read on multiple devices, Arial and Sans Serif are a couple that are just that. 

Aptness in controls 

Then comes the bit about controls, and what are we controlling? That would be ‘the interactive elements.’ Every website has them, be they in the form of buttons or links, they are going to be there. Accessibility would be achieved when these controls are designed so that every person, despite their disability can use them. 

For instance, a person suffering from tremors might not be able to interact with a really small icon. He would find it very difficult to select or unselect a checkbox, the same is also true for the elderly, who suffer from a reduced dexterity due to age. 

Therefore, the size of a control needs to be 44 by 44 pixels, as per the recommendation of WCAG. However, even the size of 34 by 34 pixels could be deemed acceptable, anything below it would be prejudicial. 

Aptness in feedback 

As a last point, I want to mention your part in the user engagement process. When a user does something, whether it is right or wrong, your website should give him an indication of the same. 

For instance, he has filled a form, then there has to be a confirmation message or if there has been a modification in the page he was using, there has to be a notification to alert him of the same. This is called your feedback to the user and it has to be prominently displayed for the user to really get it. 

Aptness in effects 

Photosensitivity is a disorder that can cause headaches, nausea and make the sufferer dizzy. Photosensitive epilepsy is a disorder that can induce seizures in the patient from just fast flashing lights. Since many websites use effects and hyperlinks that blink rapidly, these people would suffer a great deal if they go on and use the said sites. 

 Therefore, accessibility guidelines mandate that you use animations and effects that do not make people suffering from epilepsy and photosensitivity suffer more. This could be achieved by trying to use; 

  • Animations that are small in size in comparison with the screen;
  • Animations that go in the direction of the scroll and follow its speed;
  • And animations that are not constantly moving or blinking. 

To be on the safer side, try to provide an option to pause or hide them, if the user wants to. Some sites even give the option of slowing them down, now that is a thought. 

Access this ultimate guide to plan for web accessibility. And, for a complete guide on web design, read this.

Conclusion

I want to conclude by saying that designing for web accessibility may mandate that you follow a certain set of principles, but that does not mean that it is inhibiting your innovative streak. Think of it as a chance to transcend your abilities and make your web experiences all the more valuable. 

For that to happen, you would have to constantly evaluate your site, especially in the design and development phase. An accessibility audit would help a great deal in that. It would help you in knowing the areas that need improvement and guide you through the accessibility transformation. 

Dec 29 2020
Dec 29

As the needs of individuals and businesses keep evolving, so do Content Management Systems. A CMS facilitates the creation of a digital empire, providing all the basic infrastructure needed to create a website. A traditional or coupled CMS is where the front end and the back end are bound together. This means that the developers working in the back end and the users experiencing the front end interface are both interacting with the same system. In comparison, a headless CMS is where the front end and the back end are managed separately. 

Choosing the optimum CMS for your business

Before we go on to understand when to choose headless CMS and the right way to do it, it’s important to understand the provisions of coupled CMS, the right way to choose it and when you should stick to it for all of your web development needs. The right CMS should reflect your agendas and objectives seamlessly through your content. It acts as a bedrock on which the content of your business is built upon, hence choosing the right one is crucial.  Following are the points that should be kept in mind while you narrow down on a CMS - 

  1. Identifying the core functions that your business needs is central to the idea of selecting a CMS. A little foresight is required to avoid any glitches in the future. For instance, if your business deals with rolling out similar kinds of content at regular intervals, easy to use templates can prove to be quite beneficial in the long run, as a bulk of repetitive work is easily automated. Similarly, if you are looking to expand your website into several domains in the future, omnichannel support is what you need to look out for. 

  2. If your business requires several people to login and post content on your website or make changes to it, it is essential that you choose a CMS that is not too complicated in its functionality. It should be easy to use even for the non technical teams.

  3. With users streaming content from several devices, the website must contain the provisions for being mobile friendly at the least. According to a Socpub survey, 57% users would never recommend a business if it had an incompetent mobile website. With UX (User Experience) gaining higher priority online, a CMS must be inclusive of the demands of its users and should also hold the potential of fulfilling those.

  4. The CMS must include the analytics parameters in its interface, or include the provision to team up with Google Analytics or HubSpot for a comprehensive analysis of your business.

  5. If you see your business making use of forms etc. to fill in surveys or feedback, User Interaction is another area that you need to consider while picking up a CMS. Does it provide this service? Or if not, does it enable third party integration for chats or comments

These sum up to the fact that along with user friendliness and utility tools, scalability and flexibility to adapt to various changes in the future are also essential features for a CMS in an ever changing, ever evolving world. Lastly, and most importantly, also consider how secure a CMS is and whether you can trust the system with all the data you’re uploading on it. 

Benefits of traditional CMS

There are some key areas where a traditional, coupled CMS still works the best. You need to look out for one if -

  1. You are a small business with limited operation that doesn’t require a bunch of diverse tools. If your content is largely monogamous and unidirectional, or if you’re in the pre alpha phase of your business and the focus is mainly on experimenting with content and greater investments aren’t supposed to be made presently, a traditional CMS will work the best for you. 

  2. Your primary deliverable is content, hence your team doesn’t comprise developers and coders. One of the benefits of traditional CMS is that it is  easily the most convenient, as it comes loaded with all the basic tools that one could possibly need. The coupled architecture of the website increases responsiveness and bugs or issues are less likely to happen, giving you a seamless workspace.

  3. Presentation or graphics aren’t the centre stage occupants in your business, and are lower on the priority list. If a compromise on the visuals doesn’t affect your brand because your focus areas lie elsewhere, go for a traditional CMS. The effort that goes into making a headless CMS functional isn’t worth your time and money in this case.

  4. Lastly, budget constraints can also be a viable reason. If you resonate with point number one, ie, you’re a small business, chances are that you are bootstrapped or haven’t been funded yet. The benefits of traditional CMS include availability of the core functionalities and the subtraction of any hassles of hiring developers, and also the associated costs, hence in this scenario, it might be the one for you.

Apart from these, editing and customising page layouts with minimal technical knowledge is also a big pro in traditional Content Management Systems.

When to choose headless CMS?

However, you need to check the underlying differences in the monolithic and headless architectures. The one size fits all approach will not work for a number of businesses out there, and that will happen when a coupled CMS doesn’t turn out to be inclusive of all the needs of an enterprise. These days content has become a really diverse term, encompassing various kinds of outputs needing different delivery channels. If you’re wondering why to choose headless CMS, you can consider going for one if -

  1. You are dealing with diverse content. If your business is looking to publish to different channels, the flexibility that your website needs will articulate only when you use a headless CMS. Although a traditional CMS can also publish to multiple channels, it is embedded into the very design of a headless CMS, making the delivery much faster and the final output much more user friendly. At one click, you can publish content that is accessible in the form of non web content (like a mobile app), an e-commerce website, digital signage, IoT etc. 

  2. You prefer a central nodal location to deliver content across channels. Any inconsistencies in the published material are ruled out as the source remains unitary, which might be a potential risk while using traditional CMS. Also, owing to these functionalities of a headless CMS, you never lose track of the market velocity and your content remains in sync with the demands of your users. 

  3. Your future plans include expanding into different verticals, or are, better yet, undecided. Since the technological sphere keeps changing and upgrading at the drop of a hat, it is very natural for you to want to implement bigger changes on your website down the lane. A headless CMS gives you enough space to scale your website, hence, in a way, future proofing it. So if the game plan isn’t crystal clear, a traditional system could prove to be too restrictive and you might fare better utilising these benefits of headless CMS.

  4. You are an organisation with its core focus on User Experience. If your business wants to build a truly differentiated customer experience, you will benefit immensely from researching on how to choose headless CMS that fits your needs and making it your core software. With enough tools at your disposal to survey and analyse what your users want, you could go berserk with creativity. Such provisions aren’t present in a traditional CMS.

  5. You have, or are, a team of developers. Headless CMS is, without a doubt, a piece of heaven for developers. One of the many benefits of headless CMS is that it is frontend agnostic, translating to custom, efficient coding to tackle any issues. Moreover, the developers aren’t limited by the tools provided in a traditional CMS and are free to tailor anything that adds to their productivity.

Keeping in mind the changing nature of the web world, CMS that initially started out as a traditional system have been branching out and expanding their use case by facilitating headless or decoupled versions of themselves. 

A good example of a proficient headless CMS is decoupled Drupal. In this variant of Drupal, one can work seamlessly even with relatively low Drupal specific knowledge, and make use of multiple new functionalities like nodal content delivery, enhanced performance parameters across channels, the leeway to create custom interfaces, and align their UX to the preference of their target audience. With its backend secure and its front end agnostic, Decoupled Drupal focuses on giving you the best of both worlds, backing endless possibilities of content creation and delivery. 

Graphic using green and orange texts and boxes to structurally compare traditional and headless CMS


Challenges of headless CMS

However, before finalising one, you might want to look out for the following concerns regarding a headless CMS -

  1. The simplicity of the CMS goes for a toss. With increase in tasks and technical scenarios, a headless CMS isn’t as simple to use as a coupled one, where all the tools are pre made and are at your disposal. It would not make the cut if your business requires multiple people interacting with the website on a daily basis, as it would get too complicated for most. 

  2. To work with a headless CMS you would need to be a developer, or have the financial capacity to hire one. Hence, if you are a small team and don’t have enough resources to allocate to developers, a headless CMS would be too far fetched of an investment. Since it requires building the front end presentation templates of the website, mobile apps, etc. working on making a headless CMS functional necessitates the need of technically proficient resources,

  3. The perfectionist in you wouldn’t like the fact that you can’t see a preview of what the final content will look like while working on a headless CMS. Most marketers prefer having a beforehand idea of the visuals of the published material, and a CMS with no presentation template will pose a problem in this case.

  4. Lastly, you might not need it. A flexible front end means deployment of ample time and monetary resources towards creating things that already are present in a coupled CMS. If the investment isn’t worthy enough for your business or doesn’t have sufficient ROI (Return On Investment), the challenges of headless CMS will outnumber its benefits.

Conclusion

The trajectory at which you plan your business to progress is something that should determine crucial Ifs and Buts of choosing the perfect Content Management System. Your business needs to go headless only if it fits in the path you’ve chosen, and even then, at your predetermined pace. 

Dec 24 2020
Dec 24

2020 came in like an uninvited guest and brought along unprecedented conditions that the whole world continues to cope with. We had to cancel our plans, sit at home and adjust to the new normal with a hope that this chaos would clear soon. As this year brought the world to a standstill, it taught us one thing - “When something doesn't go as planned, stopping is the worst thing that you can do.”

This unprecedented time had its impact on OpenSense Labs as well. With the new restrictions across personal and professional activities, we had to take some aggressive yet sustainable steps to fulfil our promises. No doubt we succeeded in doing so and turned 2020 to yet another productive and successful year for the team and the organization.

Let’s have a look at some of our proudest achievements this year, bragging about which is mandatory :D 

The successful completion of 12+ projects 

Despite what we may be facing, life would always keep moving forward. With the same notion, OSL successfully completed 12 projects and counting in the span of this year. Allianz Loyalty Program - an intrasite and StemFuse - an e-learning program, are amongst our most fulfilling projects. 

There are different logos of OSL clients in various rectangular blocks.


Digital transformation fulfilment for 15+ new businesses

Delivering success is not the only objecting we aim for. Our business growth strategies and hard gained credibilities won us 15 new projects across the digital spectrum. The new business allianze from across the globe added up to the confidence and motivation of the team. With this, OpenSense Labs continues its journey to deliver the best in class digital experiences for its clients.

OpenSense Labs' various services are written on a dark blue background.


Stepped into the space of CDP and Mobile Application Development

We initiated our strong roadmap of enterprise solutions by expanding our technology services and expertise in the field of Customer Data Platform and Mobile Application Development. With new projects in these domains, we are continuously gaining valuable experience to bring greater efficiency, ease and power to our clients. 

Community Event : Drupalcamp London 2020

The year began with the Drupalcamp in London, before the COVID-19 strike (oh! the simpler times). A successful session over Federated search solution was addressed by our CEO. Even though later on, OSL could not take part in other virtual Drupal events, we decided to support our community by investing our time and resources heavily on Drupal support forums and projects.

A picture from one of the keynotes during DrupalCamp London can be seen, with the speaker addressing an audience.


Ranked 5th as Global Drupal Service Provider

This year, with around 100 projects and an average of 150 issue credits for every 3-months we ranked 5th as Drupal global service provider. The credit undoubtedly goes to our developers for continuous contribution to Drupal’s Core modules.

The number 5 can be seen taking prominence on a dark blue background.


Our efforts remain to be an active contributor and strive to invest more to the knowledge and support toward our Drupal community.

A better version of OpenSense Labs with website redesign

Our website, which is the base ground of our capabilities, mission and values, all-in-one, went through a redesign. Our new design language personifies our vision, our goals and most importantly, our clients’ successes. We are still the same at core, yet better equipped to understand and interact with you. 

The homepage of OpenSense Labs is shown.


An adaption of work dynamics and culture that enabled productivity

With our offices closed and all the resources operating remotely, we could experience a restricted flow of knowledge, collaboration and communication. But we slowly and steadily accommodate ourselves to this new normal. With the adaptation of new technologies and modification in the process and workflow management we are continuously trying to overcome these hurdles. 

The names of applications used for work from home are mentioned.


Team OSL enjoyed its annual excursion and holi celebration in the first quarter of this year. During the pandemic, team engagement get-togethers were on standstill. However, thanks to our human resource team, we conducted virtual activities to bond and share our experiences.

Three pictures of the OSL team can be seen in the form of collage.


The result of these came in the form of motivation and step by step achievement of our milestones.

Expanding our team - 30 new enthusiasts joined the OSL family

While several companies all over the world laid off employees, OSL takes pride in expanding its team instead. We continued adding new experts to our team from the beginning of the year and throughout the pandemic. OSL even added new departments - AI and Flutter, which opened up a multitude of job and growth opportunities. We believe that we can only work to provide excellence to our clients when we have the right team to do so.

The names of different departments and the number of new employees in them are mentioned.


Aiming to achieve newer heights in 2021

With new business goals to achieve higher organizational growth, we are fully prepared to step into the new year. Here is what 2021 holds for OpenSense Labs -  

  • Launching a new face of OSL with improved design and content. 
  • Becoming a knowledge hub around Drupal and other digital experience spaces. 
  • Catering to technology services around education-tech, AI, Loyalty Platform, content distribution and SaaS. 
  • Proffering products ranging from site audits and personalisation to cloud-based decoupled Drupal. 
  • Adding new capabilities for our client with flutter mobile app development services
  • Expanding our domain in the digital experience platforms and creating an open source community for it - TheOpenDXP
  • Further expanding our team across all the project delivery prepositions

The endless journey

2020 may be ending, but our work and our journey isn’t. This year has been great for OSL, despite its tumultuous nature. But that is life, we have to continue being positive, regardless of what we are facing. Here is to hoping another great year ahead for you and us. 

Cheers to 2021!
Cheers to a better future!

Dec 22 2020
Dec 22

With over a million Drupal sites across the world, it is suffice to say that Drupal has become an eminent name in the CMS market. Not to brag, but it is jam-packed with features, features that can make your website transcend the ordinary boundaries. Due to the many features and modules, both core and contrib, Drupal is sometimes regarded as being slightly complicated and then the question comes, ‘How to start a Drupal project?’ Today, I am going to give an answer to the same question in the easiest way possible. 
 
For you to truly understand and begin a Drupal project, it is important to get the perspective of the people involved in making the project come alive. For it is these people who will be handling the project from the get go, so the tips they give are the tips that would make a difference.

Before I get into that there is one thing I want to mention. Yes, every stakeholder is responsible for his own thing, when starting a Drupal project, however, there is one aspect of the project that needs the contribution of all parties involved. And that is defining the information architecture of a site. 

The IA is basically the organising and labeling of a website. You can call it an art or a science, that is up to you. This is an aspect that does not have one person responsible. From the content authors to the designers and the business analysts, everyone has to contribute their bit to define the IA as clearly as possible. Getting to the minutest details and getting them right from the initial stage goes a long way in achieving the project deadlines and the business requirements as well. Therefore, the involvement of the entire development team and all the stakeholders is the right way to start your Drupal project. 

Now let’s get on with the tips accumulated from the pros themselves. 

There are six bulleted points for your Drupal project's entire team.

The Developer’s Tricks  

Commencing the tips with developers and all of their tricks, since they are responsible for the fundamental makeup of a Drupal project. From a development point of view, you would have to be mindful of a lot of things before starting your Drupal project. 

Developer’s environment 

If a project needs to be at its best, it needs the right environment to grow. By the right environment, I mean three of them, a remote, a live and a local environment. You cannot skip one; if you do so, you would break the workflow, which is essentially described as local leading on to dev-stage and then on to production developers. 

Developer’s consistency 

Continuing the conversation on the developer environment, it is also very crucial for your project that all your developers have a consistent local environment to work with. Let me tell you how such a development environment would benefit you. For one, it is going to help your new developers to get up-and-running in no time and it would also eliminate the need for your developers to keep dabbling in their own local environment. Consistency always pays. 

Developer’s understanding 

How much your developers understand the Drupal ecosystem is another tip to help you in escalating the growth of your project. Discussing the common terminology with the team members helps in keeping everyone on the same page. The basics have to be clear along with a commitment to follow the system. It has been seen that the continuous integration/ continuous delivery trend has picked up a lot, however, if your developers are simply going to ignore it, then what is the point? 

Developers and Git 

You are going to have more than one developer/ programmer and you would want them to coordinate with each other. You would also end up changing your source code from time to time and you would have to keep a track of the said changes. A Git Repository would do just that for you. 

Developers and Codebase 

Moving from code changes to codebase management, Drupal 8 has a Composer template to manage your project’s codebase. This acts as standard in the said management, but there is hope for significant development in the composer projects within the Drupal community. 

Developers and Configuration system 

Drupal has its own configuration system that allows you to push non-code configuration changes between environments pretty easily. This helps in creating a robust workflow amongst developers along with a stimulating environment, wherein the members continuously upgrade and test configurations in a local setting before going towards the remote route. However, all of your developers need to be using the system, or else its benefits would never be reaped. Go through Drupal 9 configuration management strategies to know more.

Developers and auto-deployment 

You should also equip your developers with auto-deployment. The reason would be to fasten the development process and ease the DevOps process. 

Apart from these tips, you have to remember that even though your project is just in its infancy,it would be on the path of growth soon. Therefore, you must keep in mind the future scope of development while designing the architecture. 

The Content Author’s Part 

Well, this one is not really limited to the content authors, but more about their participation in the development process. Hence, it came right after the developer’s involvement. In the introduction, I talked about information architecture and this tip has to do with that. 

Focusing on the content authors first, a content author needs to update the content regularly, so they have to be comfortable with the system. You need to give them the chance to add and edit their content on a prototype site. This can only be done before the site actually goes on the floor. For best content authoring experience in Drupal, check out Paragraphs and Layout Builder modules.

The Project Manager’s Duties 

Project Managers have a leadership role in your Drupal project, perhaps that is why they are called managers. They need to have great managerial skills, after all they are the voice of the project. 

There are two aspects of project management that can make your project a guaranteed success. 

Setting feasible targets 

For one, a project manager should set such targets and milestones that are realistic and fall under the abilities of the team. Yes, pushing the team to do better is always going to be the role of leadership, but pushing them beyond their abilities would just make things a mess. 

Provide clearer targets, for instance, setting a 6-month deadline on the project does not really clarify many things. Try providing specific goals every team member would have to complete by then. For this to happen, you need to listen, more than command. Listen to the needs of the team and become their guide when they need you. You should know that providing training is a crucial part of a project leaders duties. 

Defining work roles 

Using a project tracker and totally committing to it becomes essential when starting a Drupal project. This is because a project tracker helps in ensuring more focus towards the project. However, a project tracker would only work if the work roles are clearly defined for the development team and every other stakeholder, inclusive of the project managers themselves. 

Access the expert insights on project management for complex Drupal projects for a better web development planning.

The Designer’s Role 

You must want your Drupal project to have an interface that is elegant, user friendly and serves all your business principles. This would be easy to achieve, if your web designers are competent enough to fulfil their role. So, when I was trying to find out all the design duties, our in-house designer was a great help and here are the tips he had for you. 

Determining the style guide 

At present, many Drupal sites prefer to create their own custom theme and for that to happen, your designers would need to create a style guide. There is no hard and fast rule to create one, it is entirely up to you to make it simple or complicated. There still are certain things you need to be mindful of. 

  • The style guide you create needs to have a typography and a colour palette. 
  • The typography you choose must be responsive to all devices, think of the H1s, the headers and the footers. 
  • The rules need to be set to ensure how every aspect would look in different screen widths, winging it won’t be ideal here. 
  • The elements you want to be displayed throughout the website need to be defined in the style guide. 

The user does not want your site to make his experience cumbersome, a thoughtful style guide is the way to avoid that and make things comfortable through consistency. 

Determining the wire frames 

A custom theme also means that you would be designing your own signature layout for your landing pages at least. A wireframe is going to give you an idea of how your site’s pages would be arranged and how they would respond to different screen sizes. In simple terms, a wireframe is a template of your webpages. 

Coming to its specific, it is important to focus on consistency. All your pages must follow a similar layout for you to achieve consistency. This would not only help you in reducing costs by avoiding to design one-off pages, but it would also help you in building your brand’s image. The common elements, that I talked about in the previous page, help in making the theming easy for you. 

Determining through testing

You have to test everything before you go on the ground and testing is a major part of the designer’s role. 

First comes the dry testing, which means the testing of the interactive design prototypes and that too on real-time users. If the project fails in this test, a designer would be responsible for accumulating the pain or problem point, fixing them and then testing again. However, if the testing turns out to be a success, then the designers can commence with the UI design as per the design guidelines set. 

Then is the design testing and the real-time testing of the project; it is called real-time because whatever issues are detected end up getting fixed simultaneously. 

Along with these, designers must also be thoroughly involved in defining the Information Architecture and user and market research to always be one step ahead in the designing process.

Read this comprehensive guide to web design for hammering out the right plan for your business.

The QA Engineer’s Tasks 

 A Quality Assurance engineer has a lot of tasks on his/her plate and all of them help in maintaining the quality of the project to the utmost standards. To ensure that a QA engineer should have the basic knowledge of Drupal, especially about the terms and admin portal, which helps in testing. A major part of the job is to test and test each and every aspect of the project, so it becomes helpful. 

Testing for functions

Functional testing refers to testing the functionality of the project. From testing the validation of textboxes and radio buttons to internal, external and broken links and URLs; from web forms and error messages to database and cookies, a QA tests every function, so that nothing goes wrong.

This also includes ensuring that the features built in the Drupal project adhere to the set goals and no extra permissions and settings are given based on the user roles. 

Testing for performance 

Performance testing mainly refers to validating a website’s performance, load and speed. Checking the stress limit and data load of a website. Tools like GTMtrix, YSlow, Pingdom can be used for this. 

Testing for usability 

A major consideration in the usability of your Drupal project is its accessibility and QA’s test for that. Then comes the navigation of your site, which should be easy to find, read and use, for instance by clicking on a company logo, you can reach the home, easy and simple . Finally, it is content, it has to be defined with clear H1s and H2s as well the use of SEO in tags should be optimised. 

Testing for compatibility 

Before going live with your project, you should check its compatibility with different operating systems, different browsers and their versions, different devices and different  networks, environments and hardware configurations.

Testing for security 

Focusing on security can never go wrong, that is why as the last task of a QA engineer, he/she tests the security parameters of a Drupal project prior to it going live. 

These include; 

  • Checking for any URL manipulation; 
  • Checking for Cross Site Scripting; 
  • Checking for Password cracking;
  • And checking for Drupal security updates. 

Read how QA plays an important role in software development projects.

The Business Analyst’s Responsibilities 

Up until now, we have focused on the project side of things, now it is time to focus on the business side of Drupal project and that is the responsibility of a Business Analyst. This position is the bridge between you and your consumers. The fact that effective customer communication can only be achieved through a BA, is proof of that. 

There are two major responsibilities of a Business Analyst, apart from what I mentioned above. 

Understands the project 

A BA has to clearly understand the project requirements and iterate the same to the Project Managers, who would then get the project in motion. So, it is very important to ensure that the requirements are feasible and that would only happen when the Project Manager are part of the discussion. 

Interprets the requirements 

A Business Analyst is also responsible for interpreting the project requirements to the team. What this means is that he would have to convert the business needs of the project into technical specifications. Imagine talking business to a developer, he would be the least interested in it. Therefore, it is the BAs responsibility to convey the business needs to the team in the terms that they understand. 

Brings in value 

Business analysts are known to work with real-time user data and analytics programs. They do so in order to understand and recognise user trends, the functions that are a success with the user base and the kind of problems a user would face while adopting your application. This data and its recognition is crucial for business success and BAs have a great role to play in that. 

A business analyst could be involved just at the front end, while assessing user needs or he could be involved throughout the project implementation, whatever the case, he is an important player in the setup of a Drupal project. 

The Bottom Line 

At the end of the day, a Drupal project is just a medium for you to let you enter the world of business. Your Drupal site would be responsible for generating an income for you or fulfilling your social responsibilities, like the Government of Australia’s website. Therefore, for your Drupal project to be successful, you have to align it with your business needs. When all the stakeholders have a clear understanding of your business and its sole purpose, then there is no stopping you. Saying that, the aforementioned considerations are like the starter pack of a Drupal project and you would be wise to pay heed to them before commencing your Drupal Project. 

Dec 18 2020
Dec 18

The web has become a popular destination today. An average person tends to visit it plenty of times in a single day. From finding out the weather forecast to booking a cab or ordering in, you can do it all by exploring the different aspects of the web and enjoy doing so. However, have you ever wondered how our experience of the web is made enjoyable? A ten-year old and a seventy-year-old can find an equal sense of satisfaction through the umpteen websites they surf through, despite their different intellect, but how?

The answer lies in the web design. What is that? Web design is a process that continues throughout the life of a web project. It starts with planning and conceptualisation of the website, goes on to arrange its content online and continues with the production and maintenance of the sites. 

This blog will try to cover every spec of the concept of web design, from its importance to its universal application to its principles. Before we get into that, let’s delve into the two categories of web design, which are adaptive and responsive websites. 

Adaptive design 

Like the name suggests, this kind of website design adapts itself based upon the device type or browser width. It makes use of a “user agent” that informs the server about the device that is in use, it could be a desktop, mobile or tablet and consequently shrink or enhance the screen size. In a different scenario, the design will use media queries and breakpoints to let the server know the version to implement, namely,1080p, 720p or 480p, offering much more flexibility. 

Responsive design 

The other option is to use a responsive design, which works with the proportion of container space taken up by a single element and shrink accordingly. If a header is at 25% space on a desktop site, it would remain at the percentage even in a mobile device. Like adaptive design, it also uses breakpoints to establish the need for the server and keeps changing constantly. 

With that knowledge, I believe we are all set to commence into our comprehensive guide to web design. So, let’s start. 

The Importance of Web Design 

A chart is shown describing the need for web design.Source: McKinsey & Company 

The image above clearly depicts the importance of design. Web design has to be idolised for business success through leadership, inclusion, continuity and user experience. You cannot confine it, it has to have free reins for it to boom. 

Website design is indeed one of the major contributors in your online revenue. You could say that a good web design is directly proportional to a higher revenue. Now, let me let you why. Like I have said before, the web has become quite popular, people go on it regularly and check your company's online persona to see whether you are worth their time and money or not. If you are able to impress them with your design skills, you are bound to experience an impressive conversion rate. 

In simpler terms, 

  • Design is important because it acts as the first impression of your business. 
  • Design is important because it creates a consistent brand image and encourages the user to put his trust in you. 
  • Design is important because it gives you an advantage over your competitors. 
  • Design is important because it enhances your UX, making the user’s time enjoyable rather than frustrated. 
  • Design improves your performance, reduces the load time and the bounce rate, increases the conversions and amplifies consumer service and satisfaction levels. 

Let me exemplify this, today nobody would want to spend their money on a product that they haven’t researched thoroughly, be it a watch or a car. And where do people go to execute the research? Yes, to your website. So, if you answer all the questions the user might have in your product description and alleviate all the worries, the user will most likely buy from you. And all of this falls under the web design umbrella. 

So, yes web design is critical for your website’s success, for your sales and for the longevity of your business.

The Prerequisites of Web Design

Before delving into the principles of web design, it is important to know how you would prepare for it. There are certain requirements of web design that need to be fulfilled before you can get on the floor with the actual designing. 

Finding the inspiration 

Being inspired is the first step of designing, after all can you design anything without inspiration? I think not. So, explore, research, get to the very basics and see what you like and what you don’t. Go to Pinterest, if you have to, but start looking. This would set a great tone for the entire designing project because you would have some idea of what the end would look like. 

Finding the purpose 

After inspiration, comes the part where to find your purpose. You are building a website, there has to be a reason for that. Identify it and design accordingly. Majority of the time, the purpose of a site is sales, be it memberships/ subscriptions or an actual tangible product. Keep the purpose front and center and design to capitalise it. If indeed you are selling a product, design the pages in a way that each page is an encouragement for the user to click on that buy button. Take Amazon for instance, every time I go there, either I make a long and extensive wishlist for future purchases or actually buy things. That should be the target. 

Finding the needs 

There are also specific needs that a website has before its design process actually begins. 

  • The first would be to establish your space on the internet through a web hosting service. Then you would need to adopt a domain name through which the users will identify you. Along with this, you would also need your domain name and server to be in sync, so that the browsers know where to find you. 
  • Next, figure out what structure your site would have, how many pages would it have, what kind of content those pages would include and which of those are going to be your landing pages for marketing purposes. 
  • Then comes the functionality, you cannot just wing that. Remember we figured out the purpose of your site in the previous point, that purpose would help you in figuring out the kind of features your site should and should not have. For instance, the functionality of an informational site is drastically different from an e-commerce website. All of this is decided before the designers go on the floor with the process. 

Finding the tools 

You cannot work without the tools, so finding the ones most suited for your project is a key requirement of web design. 

If you wish to build a desktop app, then tools like Sketch and Photoshop are perfect for the designers as well as the developers to create the code for the designs. However, if that is not the case and you are aiming to build a site, then you can make use of Website Builders like PageCloud, Wix and Squarespace to name a few. 

Remember to do your research and maybe even get a free trial before committing to any one of them. 

Finding the personnel 

To use the tools, you also need the right team. Designing websites is not a one man job, you need the right mix of skills to get the best possible outcome. 

  • Designers to create mockups of the site;
  • User experience experts to ensure that the mockups align with the target audience’s needs
  • Developers to get the coding out of the way, the front end developers would take up the presentation layer, while the backend developers would work on the background; 
  • Content writers and SEO experts to write for the project and make it visible on the web through searches. 

Now, you are prepared to get into the nitty gritty details of web designing. 

The Principles of Web Design 

Web designing is a long and complex process, there are a lot of considerations to be kept in mind before the process can be considered even half-way through. Here is how we at OpenSense Labs divide the process into different segments of development and ace every one. 

Information Architecture (IA)

Through Information Architecture, designers are enabled to prepare an organised layout of the information that has to be relayed to the visitors; navigation and menus, being the spine of an information architecture. However, it is the user, who is the highlight, it’s his perception and expectation of the information that guides the architect to build the perfect IA. 

Now, how does a designer achieve perfection? This is done by researching the user to the T along with focusing on usability testing. User interviews, card sorting and observing the way a user interacts with your current design through usability testing are the pathways you should be seeking. For instance, when a menu has been decided, a tree test helps the designers know its suitability. And that is IA for you. 

Navigation 

Navigation is one of the most crucial aspects of your design strategy, so getting it right is the first order of business. Navigation refers to the system a visitor follows to get through the various parts of a website. Since the aim is to ensure that the user goes as many pages as possible, it has to be simple, concise and pretty blatant. If a user has to put in an effort to navigate your site, you are certainly doing something wrong. The lesser cognitive load while navigating, the better UX. The visibility of the navigation bar is paramount. 

So, how do you do that? 

By putting the user first 

First, you have to understand the needs of your users, at least a majority of them, and create a navigation bar based upon that. This would also help you get an apprehension of the user’s priorities, like how much he repeats a task. Also, the user must always know where he is, meaning the current page he is perusing through must be highlighted from the rest of the pages. Nobody likes being lost. 

By embracing the search

You must know that many of your visitors come to your site with a specific intention. So, how do they get to that? The search bar is the most obvious answer. It acts as a shortcut for the user to get to what he is looking for. Therefore, it needs to be front and centre. At the top of the page would be ideal, either left or right with a magnifying glass icon for added visibility. Can you imagine searching for a search icon? It also needs one more thing, a decent input size; you have to be able to see what you are typing into it. To get a perfect federated search solution for your website, read about Elasticsearch and Apache Solr.

By valuing the user’s time 

This is in regards to the back button. Imagine a scenario, you were reading an article, a pretty long one at that, and half way through it, you saw an intriguing link, you click on it and upon returning through the back button, you are at the very beginning of the said article. Now tell me, would you be frustrated? I certainly would be. So, ensuring that when a user clicks on that back button, he is back to where he left is quite imperative.

By separating the breadcrumbs

There are certain secondary navigation links, aka breadcrumbs, in every web design, which i sfine. However, they become a problem, when they overshadow the primary navigation bar. Separating each level by using arrowheads or slashes is a good practise. Remember that secondary navigation is only there to support the main navigation. 

By keeping the links in line 

There are going to be external and internal links on your site and you need to provide a distinction between the two for the user. Once a link has been clicked on and visited, its colour must change from the rest. Apart from this, you have to ensure that all the links work, a 404 error is a strict no no. 

The results page is shown after a Google search.The purple links signify that they have been visited. 

By optimising scrolling 

Everybody scrolls, they start doing it as soon as the page loads. So, by optimising on it, you can actually make the navigation experience better. The content and the media is an essential part of it. Write an impressive introduction or add a great visual to intrigue the user and he will start scrolling.

You also need to ensure that the top navigation bar should always be on display. If that isn’t the case, the user might feel lost, especially in pages that are pretty long and that is not an experience a user came to you for.

Page structure 

The page structure is integral in enhancing the visibility of your interface, so that every element is easily found by the user. It is truly up to you to decide the structuring of your pages, however, I would suggest that you follow a grid. Because a rid helps in segregating the different elements of a page at the same time keeping them combined, it makes it easier for the user to understand the logical progression. One of the classic examples of modern day grid-like page structure can be availed through Layout Builder module and Paragraphs module available in Drupal as can be seen below.

The layout of a grid-like structure in web design is shown in pastel colours.


You must also aim for a structure that your target audience is familiar with, assessing your competitors is the best way to do that. Familiarity helps in building the user's experience upwards. 

Visual hierarchy 

After page structure, comes the visual hierarchy of a page. When a user visits a page, there are certain aspects that the designers want them to look at the first glance. Deciding that refers to the concept of visual hierarchy. 

A webpage is shown with different elements being highlighted at different proportions.


In the above picture from OpenSense Labs, ‘Build better, build faster’ is the highlight. A user would read without much effort from his end. The company logo is another important element. Then comes the Drupal 9 bit, being their speciality, they have made it prominent as well. 

So when you design a page, keep in mind the elements that you want to be highlighted and make their size, position and colour prominent on the page. 

It would also be beneficial to capitalise on the user’s natural way of scanning. It could be the F-shaped pattern or the Z shaped pattern. The former works with written content and the latter can be used for the non-textual pages. These further help the user in scanning easily.

A webpage is shown with an F shaped out in the content.An F-shaped pattern. Source: Instapage

Your visual hierarchy process would be easy to build, if you create mockups first. This would help you in knowing where each element would lie and avoid any errors. 

Content 

The content of your pages allows the visitor to understand you and your objective better. The simpler the content would be to read, the better that understanding is going to be. For that, you simply need to implement three things.

  • One is to be a minimalist with your words. Inundating a web page with content will only confuse a visitor. Keep it simple, provide pointers for easy maneuverability.
  • Second would be to keep the language simple, you cannot use highly complex and technical writings on a web page. Yes, there is a possibility that some users would understand it, but are we aiming for some or all?
  • Third is to ensure that your sentences are short, preferably with one idea. Noisy sentences can often baffle the visitors; 20 words or less has to be the target. Also avoid caps lock for everything that is not an acronym.

Moving on from the writing style to the specific contextual elements of a web page, let us understand how you should work with them. 

Filling out web forms

Where user interaction is concerned, web forms are the most integral. The reason being they allow you to know your users’ personal details. Any confusion here, would make the purpose of the form futile. Keep things to the point, ask what is needed with a logical progression in the questions. 

A web form is shown.Source: Bajaj Finserv

Another tip to follow would be to group similar questions in one category. For example, the educational qualifications can come under one heading and the contact information could be a separate heading. 

Tapping the buttons 

Buttons are basically links that are designed as a button to tap on; like the ‘Buy Now’ button on Amazon we love so much. These are essential for a website to enhance its interaction with the visitors. So, you have to be certain that all the buttons are actually buttons with a link taking the visitors to wherever it says it would. A non-functional button is a frustration button. Then you should also remember to aim for consistency while designing these, so that users can easily identify them. 

The most important consideration for buttons is what is written on them because that is the only thing that would attract the user. Be descriptive, be clear, be concise and make it attractive. 

Numerous web buttons are shown to depict how prominent they need to be in a web design. All the buttons here are pretty clear as to what their purpose is. Source: Vecteezy

One of the most important buttons would be the CTAs, the Call-to-Action button. These encourage the user to become a customer and improve your conversion rates. Therefore, a CTA that stands out from the normal text, that is a size different from the normal text, that has negative space to make it even more prominent and that is labelled with encouragements is the CTA that will generate more conversions. 

A webpage with four CTAs is seen.


The above screenshot shows how OpenSense Labs, after having told the visitors all its benefits, lures them to click on the CTA. 

Enunciating SEO 

After doing all of this, you also have to ensure that you follow certain SEO guidelines to enhance your visibility on the web and search engines. By focusing on the title tags, URL structure, HTML and XML sitemaps and making them user friendly can totally elevate your SEO game. 

Media 

Imagine this blog, without a single media element, an image or a video, describing what is written in the text, would that be a great experience? I don’t think I need to elaborate on the answer, you know!

So, how do you work the media in your favour?

Images 

Images are a must in web pages, however, you cannot just add them for the sake of it. The pictures on your website should be related to content on it. They cannot be random images of people or objects that serve no purpose or add any value. Other than that, the pictures should also be of good quality, distorted and blurred images are a big no-no. 

A publishes bog is shown with a customised image.


This is a screenshot from one of our blogs, the image here is simple and concise. One glance at it and you would know what the succeeding information is going to talk about. That should be the target. 

Videos 

Videos have become equally important to images and the internet speed is to blame. They are an easy way to understand a concept of a product, its features or even the message of a brand. However, you need to use them wisely.

  • Do not autoplay videos, if the user wants to see it, he would see it without autoplay as well. And definitely do not have the sound on by default. 
  • Always include subtitles and transcripts for people with disabilities. 
  • Finally, if you are adding promotional videos, which is a great idea, keep them short. 

Animation

Animation is another way to add a pop of interaction on your site, it is easy and it is fun as it breaks the contextual monotony with ease. 

  • You can add animated effects to point out user mistakes like a wrong password. 
  • You can add animated effects to your brand logo. 
  • You can add animated effects to highlight the navigation transitions. 
  • You can also add animated effects to provide visual feedback to the user, like how much percentage has been downloaded. 

Responsiveness to Devices and other Media 

Responsiveness is crucial for your site’s web design, which means that your design should be flexible enough to accommodate any device that the user might be using, be it a mobile or a desktop. Statista reported that as many as 48% users surf sites on their mobile devices. This figure does make the responsive design of essence.

So, how do you achieve the level of flexibility in your design that will help it optimise a desktop and a cell phone equally?

The foremost thing to do would be to focus on your layout and make it a single-column one as it would be easy to go through on the small screen of a cell phone. Since the space on a cell phone’s screen is limited, you can only show information that is absolutely necessary. Here the Priority+ model works really well. You would show the info that is needed and the rest would come under the ‘more’ button. Then, the size of images also needs to be appropriated when designed for responsiveness. 

Apart from these pointers, it is also important to understand that the clicks on a mobile phone are different from that on a desktop or a laptop. So, you need to be very cautious in the size of the buttons and links along with making them prominent from the other text. You can achieve all of this by creating HTML templates that are mobile-friendly or simply going for a separate mobile-site altogether.

Two screenshots of the same webpage are shown, one taken from a desktop and the other from a cellphone.A desktop site vs a mobile site. 

Mobile responsiveness aside, a website also needs to be responsive to other integrations such as cross channel and social media. Linking campaigns and integrating with social media platforms like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn can do a lot to bring in business and generate a higher lead count. 

Load time 

Nobody likes waiting for a site to load, however, in spite of a site possessing great speed, there are factors that make it load slower than the developers wish to. These could be a weak internet network or a heavy site. So, what do you do to ensure that your website does not appear slow to the users? 

The primary thing to do would be to check your site for all the factors that could slow it down, for instance heavy images or having too many HTTP requests, and resolve them. Secondly, you can create an illusion of a faster loading speed for the visitors. This can be done by displaying the structure of the page in question first, thus, giving yourself a few more seconds to load the content. Facebook does it and so does Instagram. 

An unloaded instagram page is shown.


It is important to always keep track of the time it takes to load your content, as that would give you insights about the performance of your site. Remember that every second you delay is a second that would cost you. Nielsen Norman Group agrees with this notion and their three response-time limit should be set as an ideal here. Access the complete web performance guide for your Drupal website here.

Accessibility 

A web design would be considered incomplete, if it is not addressing the accessibility concern. People with disabilities need to be able to access your site without any difficulty. There are certain web accessibility guidelines you can follow to avoid that. 

Contrast 

The contrast ratios should be made keeping in mind people with a weak eyesight. Reading blue  on a black background would be easy for someone with a perfect sight, but not the others. Smaller text needs a 4.5:1 as a text to background contrast ratio, while the larger text can have a smaller ratio. WCAG’s guidelines for contrast would help you in getting to the perfect ratio. 

Colour 

You might be able to tell black from red, but everybody cannot. So, just focusing on colour to point out a feature or a mistake is unethical. You have to use words as well. 

An incorrectly filled online form can be seen.


The colour red is used to highlight the error, along with it a symbol is also used. And when you go to the erroneous column, a dialogue box appears to tell you what the mistake is. This is a perfect example of accessibility. 

Keyboard-savvy 

Motor impairments inhibits people from being able to use a mouse effectively, so they opt for the keyboard instead. So, make sure that your site is keyboard-friendly at least as much as possible. You can achieve this by making sure that all the interactive elements are accessible and the keyboard focus is loud and clear. 

A posted article is shown to highlight the use of screen reader in web design.An example of a prominent keyboard focus. 

Screen-readers 

There are going to be visual elements in your design, that is a given, however, someone blind will not be able to see them. So, for every image, you need to add an alternate text that a screen reader can read, describing what is happening in the image. 

It has also become a trend on instagram as well, with many influencers using alternate texts to describe their posts. 

An instagram post can be seen along with its caption.A caption inclusive of an alternate text.

Testing 

To ensure that your design works well and is equipped to go with your site, you have to test it out and that is the final call, the final piece in the web design puzzle. 

There are two tests you can perform;

  • One is testing repeatedly throughout the designing process. Feedback is pivotal here, it’s similar to constructive criticism. You might feel shattered that your design got such bad feedback, but in the long haul, you would be thankful that it did. Because through that you were able to create something much more powerful. 
  • Second would be A/B Testing, this works best when you conflicted between two designs. So, you run with both of them with separate audiences and see the responses. The one with the better analytics would be the better choice. 

Being original 

Being original goes a long way in creating the identity of your brand and bolstering the image of your company. You have to be creative, you have to think outside the box, you have to step up from the cliches and doing so will compel the visitors to become your customers. 

However, you have to do all of this by keeping in mind that originality does not mean that your visitors have to struggle navigating your sites. The set standard for certain categories of websites, like e-commerce, have to be adhered to. And then there is the contact us page that is an essential element in the design of every website out there. Despite this, you would still find that no two sites would have an identical contact page. That is the kind of originality I am talking about, unique yet not foreign. 

Google's search page is shown. Microsoft bing's serach page can be seen.


Even though Google and Bing essentially perform the same taks, yet their UI is quite different. Same elements, yet different. That is originality for you. 

Being consistent 

Your website is basically your brand and your brand can only have one image to portray. That is why your design needs to be consistent, portraying one single voice. By creating pages with the same colours palette, same typefaces and similar backgrounds, this consistency can be achieved. 

Imagine you are on a site, the landing page is all bright colours and bold fonts. When you move on to a different page, you find that the tone has completely changed, and the colours are muted with a minimalist feel. How would you feel? A little lost? A bit confused? That would be it. 

So, aim for consistency. I am not saying that you have to follow the same layouts, that would be impossible because some pages would have a lot more content than others. Just focus on keeping the same tones throughout. 

A webpage can be seen with different blog posts.A webpage with different team members is desplayed.


Without a second thought, you will be able to tell that these pages are from the same website. Design consistency is what makes that possible. You will see that there are elements that are different, yet there are elements that are similar. That is because every page does not have to be an exact replica of the next for the sake of consistency. 

Being credible 

Lastly, your credibility is what is going to make the visitors put their faith in you. You can work on all of the above elements, but what happens if the user still doesn’t trust you? The users won’t convert.

Long-term conversions and sales are directly proportional to your honesty. When you are honest and clear about what you are selling and that too on your home page, users will start gravitating towards you. Tell them what you are selling, why you are doing and how it would benefit them in the most honest of terms and they will consider you credible and trustworthy. 

Along with this, you can also be upfront about your pricing without any disguises. If you are claiming a cost to be $10, then it should be the same at the checkout. If there are going to be additional costs, mention that along with the $10  price. Trust me, your users will appreciate it immensely. 

The Final Call 

Web design is a continuous process that only ends when a project dies, never before that. This is just the beginning of a long road ahead, adopting the aforementioned guide would certainly be a help to your design process. But the bigger task on your shoulders as a designer. 

I would like to end by adding one more thing. Whatever you are going to design, if you design it by keeping the user and his perspective of the site in your mind, you could never go wrong with it. Good luck. 

Dec 17 2020
Dec 17

Open source is gradually sliding into the workspace of most developers these days, as they prefer a model that listens to their needs, and is also something that they can exercise some control over. As opposed to closed source where only the management can change, edit, and contribute, open source welcomes all opinions - from all nooks and corners of the world. 

Why open source?

In recent times, we’ve been seeing a number of big companies using open source software (OSS) in business and preferring it over the proprietary model. This shift can be attributed to multiple reasons.

Working with open source translates to minimal costs and time incurred in surveying and researching on market-needs discovery. As the software is accommodative of all the suggestions that developers make and even lists out the best contributions, open source becomes a self sustaining model with outpouring innovation. Hence, a reason why open source is good for businesses is because it consequently relies much less on its own internal resources, and is free to tap the ideas that make their way in externally. 

It generally sees a greater diversity in its contributors, ranging from academic researchers to full time developers. This leads to the inclusion of a wide variety of themes and modules, and the approach becomes quality driven. This increases the market competitiveness, thus reaping long term benefits. These are the primary grounds due to which open source adoption statistics have been soaring in its favour.

But, why contribute to open source?

Multiple reasons have been identified as to why big companies that use open source find it in their best interest to contribute to it. In the diverse community of OSS users, corporations find greater innovative capability, and the relationship turns symbiotic. There exists a give and take of ideas from which the entire pool of users, companies using open source in business included, benefit from. It also becomes a passive form of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), as a little shared goodwill never hurt anyone. 

Apart from that, being in close proximity to the market of end users acts as an innovation catalyst. A recent McKinsey report talks about this phenomenon called ‘Developer Velocity’, referring to the act of enabling developers to create an environment and a subsequent methodology where their talent is left free of any friction - which results in newer, fresher, unbound ideas.

Open source, hence, demarcates itself clearly from stagnation. Companies that use open source software don’t lose their hair worrying about going out of fashion. Every time the market undergoes a change, it is sure to be reflected in the OSS by its community. The end result is a mutually beneficial relationship, where the company stays up to date with all market fluctuations and demands, and it gets updated whenever there arises a need - becoming a repository of high utility modules. Read more about the perks of being an open source contributor here.

Impact of large companies on open source softwares

During recent times, the open source community has seen quite a bit of infiltration from big players in the market. Large companies venturing into open source is on the path to become the norm soon. These companies are some of the major vendors of open source - 

  1. IBM has turned out to be pretty resourceful with various OSS projects, contributing to a list of platforms like Hyperledger, Kubernetes, Node.js, Egeria, etc. IBM also has a training program for OSS contributors, and goes the extra mile by sponsoring various OSS projects.  
  2. Google broke the ice by creating Kubernetes in 2014, an open source container orchestration system that automates a bunch of manual work done in managing and scaling applications. Presently, under Google Summer Of Code and Google Code In, Google invites University and high school students respectively to intern with them by contributing to different OSS projects. 
  3. Facebook’s most notable open source creation would be React Native, a mobile application framework - used to develop various applications for diverse platforms. Other OSS projects by Facebook include Hermes (javascript engine created to run React Native on Android), Detectron2, Hydra etc.
  4. LinkedIn runs a large number of OSS projects under LinkedIn Engineering - some of which are Ambry, LASER, Helix and Kafka. Apart from contributing to OSS and using OSS in business, LinkedIn also maintains a dedicated blog for the articles related to it, and a separate tab enlisting all the research work on OSS that LinkedIn community has contributed to.
  5. HPE and Intel are working on Network Functions Virtualisation(NFV) for 5G installations, partnering with open source platform RedHat for the same. 
  6. Another alliance on the frontline is that of Apple, Amazon and Google - working together under the Connected Home over Internet Protocol (CHIP) project to create an all-in-one smart home device, and in the process, share and use each other’s resources. 

Talk about the open source community is incomplete without the mention of GitHub, a software development platform that boasts of being the largest in the world. Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub goes on to show that large companies are seeking to become major vendors of open source and are ready to invest large amounts of capital in the same. 

Hence, in the open source platforms that we see now,

  • Scalability is high - owing to cyclic contributions that not only keep the resources from stagnation but also constantly add value to it.
  • Sustenance is dependent on contributions - which might be voluntary, sponsored, or both. Since its users are also its contributors, open source leads to exemplary results with minimal investment on creating and updating its own resources.
  • Bug resolution is done by the users themselves. Constantly identifying errors and shortcomings keeps the site updated. Newer versions are tested, approved, and rewarded within the community. 

Seeing through the eyes of Drupal Community

Dries Buytaert, founder and project lead of Drupal, in one of his personal blogs, identified that open source communities are seen to be working at a steady pace even when the world suffers from recession. A collective purpose and associated ethics are the main drivers of OSS, making it resilient to external factors.

According to one of Dries’ blogs, Who sponsors Drupal development? (2019-2020 edition),  contributions to Drupal keep increasing by each passing year. The Drupal project has gained from the contributions by big companies that use open source like Capgemini and EPAM systems. Dries notes that even though the contributions from tech giants lag behind considerably when compared to the traditional Drupal businesses, he hopes to see a dramatic shift in the coming future. Apprising large enterprises about the value of contributions to large open source softwares like Drupal will go a long way. Moreover, providing better incentives can also play a huge role in increasing contributions from big companies, he feels. 

Bar graph with blue, green, and black vertical bars showing statistics on contribution by large companies on open source projects and Drupal in particularSource: Dries Buytaert’s blog

Open source has been a revelation during coronavirus pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic couldn’t put a stop on the development of the Drupal project. #DrupalCares campaign proved successful as a number of organisations and individuals helped raise $500,000 in just over 30 days. This shows that OSS is treated as a public good - something that is non-rivalrous, and can be used by and benefits everybody. Instead of racing against each other, users of open source run together, and share its responsibility.

The future of open source communities 

More than a new concept, open source fits in like an upgrade to the software world. It is the beginning of a virtual workspace that is very user friendly and has the potential to achieve maximum consumer satisfaction.

Open source communities have also responded to the COVID-19 crisis with much responsibility, participating in and contributing to the COVID-19 Global Hackathon. Giants like Facebook, AWS, Twitter etc. have gone ahead and shared resources to assist the participants. Also, a number of open source collaborative projects have shown up to tackle problems that the world is dealing with right now, creating digital solutions as an effort to minimise the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Dec 15 2020
Dec 15

Have you ever wondered how websites are built? Sure, there is an entire army, consisting of developers, designers, project managers and business analysts, involved, but is that all? Do they work independently? Do they work day-in and day-out to build the website from the ground up? Do they have some help in doing that? 

If you are a part of the website development army, you might know what I am trying to get at. It is true that websites are built from scratch, but what is also true is the fact that these websites require some help to get the scratch go on to be a fully-functional site and that help comes from a content management system, a CMS to be short. 

There are a few in the market, with Wordpress leading the way in market share numbers, however, we would be talking about the one that is leading the way in functionality and features. And that is Drupal. 

As of November 8, 2020, there are slightly more than 1 million Drupal sites all over the world. This number is a testament to Drupal’s abilities to give your site whatever it wants. 

To that accord, there has been a new vogue in Drupal and the way it is capitalised by its sites. And that is what we are going to discuss, before that let us delve briefly into Drupal’s traditional abilities.

Traditional Drupal VS Decoupled Drupal 

There are four circles showing how the different aspects of decoupled Drupal architecture are interconnected.Source: DZone

Like I said before, Drupal is a CMS, so it is equipped to build websites from scratch. And that is what the traditional/monolithic/coupled Drupal does. From the user interface to the data access code, Drupal caters for all your website needs. Being responsible for the front and backend, the traditional Drupal helps you in building versatile web experiences.

With Drupal’s themes, templates and behaviours, it is extremely easy to create a dynamic presentation layer for your website. The fact the Drupal allows you to build and customise a live site along with providing solutions for any frontend mishaps is another compelling reason to opt for the traditional Drupal. 

Yet there are many who think that Drupal’s frontend capabilities are not as impressive as that of JavaScript. Although Drupal has a JavaScript library in its corner, it does not have the JS framework to work with, so maybe they are right. So, as a solution, the advent of decoupled Drupal architecture was seen.

The Decoupled Drupal has a slightly different story to tell than its monolithic counterpart. You would still have Drupal and its abilities at your disposal, however, you would have a little more than just Drupal to work with. With decoupling, you would simply be saying goodbye to Drupal’s frontend abilities, either completely or partially, that is up to. Drupal would only be used as a content repository and your entire presentation layer will be made up of other frontend technologies; Angular, Vue and React are some of them. 

The Decoupled Drupal has two variants for you to choose from; 

  • First would be the progressively decoupled approach, in which you would be leveraging other frontend technologies and amalgamating it with Drupal’s frontend capabilities. This could be regarded as the best of both worlds. 
  • Second is the fully decoupled web app, in which your presentation layer is going to be handled by a JavaScript framework and will be completely independent of Drupal, and it would only be used for the backend architecture. Fully decoupled Drupal architecture for static sites is another option. In this approach, Drupal acts as a content source for static sites, aiding static site generators like Gatsby to create your site by taking data from Drupal. 

To know more about the working of decoupled Drupal, how it is different from the traditional architecture and what are the specifics of the technologies involved, read our blog Monolithic and Decoupled Drupal Architectures

The Move from Traditional to Decoupled Drupal 

Now that you have a fair idea as to what decoupled Drupal is, it is time to find out when the right time is to make the move from coupled to decoupled Drupal architecture. Let me ask you a question first, have you ever made a business decision without taking into consideration the pros and cons of that decision? I’m certain, you haven’t. So, for that very reason let me tell you why decoupled Drupal architecture is advantageous. 

The motto “Write once, publish everywhere” could be the tagline of decoupled Drupal. It allows you to leverage social media, emails, the intranet, apps, microsites along with your primary publishing platform, so that you can make your content as universal as you want. This is an advantage that makes decoupling the go to option for many. Then there is the fact that through decoupling you can enhance your user experience, get upgraded faster, which would make your team work at an enhanced efficiency, along with this decoupling also provides you the opportunity to become more innovative. The JavaScript framework, which would be at play in decoupling is the icing on top. 

You might think that with these many advantages, decoupling cannot ever be the wrong choice. It doesn’t have to be, if you know what the limitations are and are equipped to combat them. The most blatant drawback of decoupling is the fact that you would be losing out-of-the-box Drupal features, for some this can be a deal breaker. Obviously, since Drupal would not be at play on the frontend, you would have to part with its capabilities; you can’t bake the cake and eat it too, unless of course you choose progressively decoupled Drupal. Another problem that is often seen in decoupling is that the coding becomes a hassle and so does identifying bugs. 

After discussing the benefits of Decoupled Drupal along with its drawbacks, it is time to ask yourself some tough questions. For it is these questions that would help you in the decision to move. 

  • Is your business reliant on multiple channels and microsites to spread and accumulate content to and from? 
  • Is it your opinion that being reliant on one technology for your entire project is not a wise choice?
  • Are you unhappy with the interactivity your website provides to its users and want to capitalise on JavaScript framework to enhance it?
  • Do you have more developers who are experts in JavaScript than Drupal? Are you planning to take advantage of their expertise in JS?
  • Have you not been using all of Drupal’s frontend assets and think they only bring in more work?
  • Is building an app a future goal of yours?
  • Are your editorial needs basic?
  • Finally, do you have the budget to decouple, because Drupal may be free, other frontend technologies aren’t?

Think of your answer to all of these questions and then read our blog When to move from monolithic to decoupled Drupal architecture to understand all the nitty gritty details behind the move.

The Final Call  

In the end, all I want to say is that there are going to be benefits and limitations for your project, in both the coupled and decoupled Drupal architectures. If you want to make a decision, consider your needs over anything else. If you feel that your current architecture is not cutting it for you, the move could then be considered inevitable and prudent. If not, then maybe waiting for a time when there is an actual need would be the sounder choice to make. There is only one answer to “When to Decouple Drupal?” and that is when you have the need. 

Dec 11 2020
Dec 11

To say that a website or a web application is deemed worthy primarily because of its content would not be totally wrong. A website’s performance does play in the equation, but it is the content that seals the deal for the user. Web builders across the world are becoming aware of this fact and that is why the web content management (WCM) systems have become pivotal for websites. 

A WCM helps you in attracting and retaining your clients and ultimately give you the revenues that you had desired from the time the idea of the website came to you. Therefore, choosing the right WCM that is suitable to all your business needs is probably one of the most significant decisions you will take for your website. 

There indeed are numerous options to choose from, however, two of these have been stealing the limelight from all the others in the recent times. And these are Drupal and AEM. So, let us compare these two to make your decision a tad bit easier. 

Parameters Drupal  AEM  Performance and scalability  Ease of expansion; impeccable performance  Growth mandates performance and stress tests Content workflow Flexible  Flexible  Marketing and engineering perceptions Community driven innovations for developers and marketers Little room for leveraging marketing capabilities outside of periphery of Adobe Cost  Free Can be expensive  Security  Extremely secure Highly secure, yet there are vulnerabilities Community  Over a million and counting  Supported by community; but pales in comparison to Drupal Responsiveness Excellent responsiveness; mobile-first approach Excellent responsiveness as well Development  Works on PHP Works on JavaScript  Third-party integrations Impressive  Good, but involves issues to be troubleshooted Upgrades and migration  ‘Easiest upgrade of the decade’ Easy to perform  Multisite Excellent multisite tools  Great multisite features as well Headless approach  Gives options for decoupling  Decouples, but only in one sense  Multilingual  Terrific with multiple languages  Competes in parallel to Drupal  SEO  More SEO-friendly modules SEO is optimised, but on a scale lesser than Drupal

Getting to know the contenders

Websites are dependent on content management systems to enhance their digital experiences. The better the WCM, the better the chances of your website’s digital content. But how do we decide which is better? Let us start by knowing what they personify. 

Drupal 

The picture displays the logo of Drupal.


If you are reading this blog, there is a high, well a very high, chance that you would know what Drupal is. Still I would tell you a little about it. 

Drupal is an open source platform that helps in building web applications and making web projects come alive. It is free to use and is being used by millions of people across the globe. Organisations like Redhat, Timex, University of Colorado are some of the elite clients of Drupal. So, to say that Drupal is a small fish in the pond of WCMs would be a dramatic understatement. 

You can create and publish content without being an engineer. And the fact that your content does not have to be confined to a certain type of layout or a specific number of content fields is just a bonus. It uses the best of PHP along with that it also abides by HTML5 and YAML standards. Twig, jQuery, Symfonyand CKEditor are some of the powerful third-party dependencies Drupal implements. All of these are responsible for making Drupal a powerful web development platform, which cannot be deterred by high traffic. 

All in all, Drupal can help you create web experiences that are both wholesome and unique to lure your target audience and never let them go. 

Up until now, Drupal has had 9 versions with multiple sub-versions of each. Although Drupal 9 is the most recent version, less than half a percent of Drupal websites use it. As many as two-thirds of them are still on Drupal 7, while over a quarter of the websites are using Drupal 8, as per a survey by W3Techs

A horizontal bar graph shows the percentage of websites using the different versions of Drupal.Source: W3Techs

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM)

The picture displays the logo of AEM.


AEM could be deemed as the opposite of Drupal, provided the fact that it is a proprietary software rather than an open source. Built by a leading content management suite, it is a WCM that its proprietor refers to as a powerhouse and given its many features, it is not an inaccurate description. 

Adobe Experience Manager is an all inclusive system for content management that is equipped to build websites, forms and mobile apps. AEM effectively manages your content and your applications in an integrated manner, leading to applications being deployed as conveniently as the content. The result is a streamlined management of your online presence and that is what Adobe capitalises on.

This sounds somewhat similar to Drupal, doesn’t it? That is because at a foundational level, both of these are performing the same work. It is the way they do the work, the means and the features they are packed with that make them different, and that is what we are going to find out today.

Before we get into that, let us have a look at some statistics involving both Drupal and AEM to get a clear picture of their market share. 

There is a pie chart denoting the number of websites for Drupal and AEM.The number of websites for Drupal and AEM. Source: SimilartechThere are two horizontal bar graphs describing the market share percentage of Drupal and AEM. The market share of AEM and Drupal. Source: WappalyzerA graph shows the standing of Drupal and AEM with regards to other WCMs.Comparison of Drupal and AEM with respect to other WCMs. Source: W3Tech

What is the degree of performance and scalability offered?

The performance of a website is probably what makes the user stay on it for a longer period of time. If it is taking more than 2 seconds for a page to load, the user may become inclined to hot hit the escape button and move onto a different site. You know you have competitors and they gain from your loss.

So, the first feature to discuss has to be performance and scalability of Drupal and AEM sites. Let us get on with it. 

Drupal 

You must have heard that on occasion many sites tend to crash, especially when there is bulk traffic on them. With Drupal, you do not need to worry about that. The busiest of sites all across the world are using Drupal to handle their traffic spikes and keep them away from the embarrassment of slow performance.

And it is not just traffic that would be managed by Drupal, it also gives you the room to expand your content as much as you want, with multiple content contributors, without having an effect on the performance.

Therefore, managing site performance and scalability is quite easy and efficient in Drupal. The only thing to remember is to optimise your site well, if you don’t do that, there won’t be any guarantees. 

Drupal provides many tools and features to make that happen. 

Read about Drupal’s performance optimization techniques and scalability provisions to know more.

AEM 

With regards to small and medium based applications, AEM’s default configuration settings do their work without much effort on your part, leading to a streamlined performance for publishing and authoring at the same time. However, the growth of your sites would require a performance and stress test, depending upon the result of these tests, you will be able to comprehend the way to optimise the system. 

The advantage of Adobe Experience Manager is that after the installation and configuration is done, the degree of complexity of your project along with your development team will be the deciding factor for the performance optimisation. Even if your system load and performance profiles change over time, AEM’s performance tune-ups will keep your system optimised. Measurements, analysis, optimisation and validation become a constant part of these tune-ups.

Also, AEM uses files from content, JavaScript and CSS to establish performance standards. It also takes necessary performance action by using caching, load balancing and CDN; almost similar to Drupal.

All in all, Experience Manager can easily scale so that your performance needs are satisfied on the basis of the demand for your digital assets.

To sum up, Drupal offers you room to expand as much as you want without hampering your site’s performance, AEM also does something similar. However, the latter comes with a stipulation of tests to ensure that. 

How smooth is the content workflow?

If performance is the spine of a website, then its content would be the blood in its veins; metaphorically speaking of course. So, it was only wise to talk about the content workflow after performance. 

Drupal 

Drupal is a big name in the WCM market and the way it lets its authors use and manipulate the content across multiple pages is the reason for it. Drupal provides an ease in content authoring that is unparalleled by other systems. It is equipped to provide all the necessary tools required by the authors to create and publish content that is customisable. The WYSIWYG editor personifies Drupal’s flexibility. The workflow and content is easily managed through authentications and permissions. 

With regards to the content architecture, Drupal excels here as well. You can create just the right architecture based on your needs with the help of an Admin Interface or programmatically, the choice is yours. With display mode tools and Views, you can display only the content you want to be displayed based on the context, be it images, videos or even pdfs. Modules, like Paragraphs and Layout Builder, help you get the best out of your content by letting you micromanage the minutest of details. Moreover, Drupal workflows support annotations, it can reuse images in various components and it can easily support several individual fields in a single field with multi-fields. All of these provide a great user experience and the fact that it is equally good on multiple devices is another forte of Drupal. 

Apart from the creation of the content, the way it is stored and accessed is also imperative, after all we are talking about a content management system. In Drupal, the content is stored in a database, in a hierarchy, if you want, wrapped in Symfony. The interaction to the data by Drupal is usually done through MySQL, although there are other databases available as well. 

AEM 

The user experience to content authors provided by AEM is tough to compete with as well, although Drupal does manage that feat. Adobe Experience Manager not only integrates the content with other adobe technologies, but it also provides a high degree of flexibility and drag and drop user interface for almost all tasks, thereby making content authoring a breeze. 

Content in Adobe is not one single body, it is divided into multiple smaller components that in turn provide an immense degree of control to the content author because he can manage the smallest of parts of the content body. The feature of content fragments helps in editing the content to the most granular level with each component, be it text, images or videos given a separate fragment. The pre-existing templates in AEM work in a similar fashion to Drupal’s modules, allowing all the more ease in content creation. However, the fact that these individual components can be reused across multiple articles, makes AEM different from Drupal. 

Coming to content storage and access, AEM stores content as files instead of a database, which are wrapped up in Adobe CRX. And these files are accessed through Apache Sling. This web application framework provides an interface that can be accessed programmatically by developers to retrieve content. 

Drupal and AEM are more or less the same in terms of content, flexibility being the forte of both and the drag and drop feature being the focal similarity. The only difference that is blatant to me in terms of content is the way it is stored and retrieved. Although both use frameworks, the way these frameworks work is quite contrasting. 

How do Drupal and AEM align with your Marketing and Engineering goals?

There are two sets of people who are considered to be the building blocks of a website and it is their input that takes a web project to the next level. These are the engineers and the marketers. So let us understand their take on Drupal and AEM to highlight their difference further. 

Drupal 

Drupal, being an open source platform, comes with a great deal of benefits. The number of open source components found can be overwhelming for your engineers for all the right reasons. The primary one being the fact that Drupal is the synonymous of a developer-centric ecosystem. What this means is that you would be benefiting from the knowledge and expertise of other developers. This encourages learning like nothing else.

As for the marketers, Drupal again provides. For one, Drupal equips the marketers to edit or update page layouts without the presence of a developer. Earlier this feature was only found in AEM, but now Drupal is also packed. Then, there is the fact that Drupal allows the marketers to choose the tools they want to outside the jurisdiction of Drupal. Any leading marketing automation tool you might get compelled by would be perfectly used with Drupal for your gains. 

AEM 

Like I have already mentioned, AEM is a proprietary software, meaning that it does not have any of the benefits of an open source. In terms of an engineer, this can be a major drawback. You must be wondering why? The answer is simple, there wouldn’t be a developer pool, whose knowledge could be tapped into. So, the technical costs become high and you might find yourself solving an issue that has been resolved by numerous developers, but you can’t know that since AEM is not an open source and the locked code prohibits you from knowing. 

Adobe has many fancy, for a lack of better word, marketing tools that can effectively urge any marketer to take it up. The integration with these Adobe tools helps in providing a page building experience that is simply impressive. However, there are two things that make it lag behind Drupal; 

  • For one, only Adobe tools can be used, you cannot access other marketing tools available in the market;
  • And secondly, although agile marketing is provided, the fact that other developers in the community cannot contribute to it can be slightly disheartening. 

This is not to say that Abode is inferior or Drupal is superior, they are just different in the eyes of the marketers and engineers. 

It is pretty clear who is the winner here, a developer would always prefer a pool to stimulate innovation. Drupal's vast community provides that and AEM’s doesn’t.

What are the cost implications?

Whether something fits your budget or not is an important consideration when you are  considering to adopt a practise or in this case a WCM. How do Drupal and AEM fare in this regard, let’s see. 

Drupal 

In terms of costs, Drupal is going to be a clear winner and I think you knew that even before reading this blog. Drupal is an open source software, that means it has zero licensing fee. However, this does not mean that it is free, there would still be money required to build it. This is primarily because Drupal sites are built from scratch. You have to hire experts to take that seed Drupal provides and water it to become a full-fledged tree, you get the metaphor, right? 

When your site is built to be fully functional, then the costs for maintenance would start following, which is understandable. Drupal provides you the advantage of scaling the maintenance and support costs to align with your budget, and that is all we can ask for. I wouldn’t call Drupal to be free, but it is pretty economical. 

AEM

Compared to Drupal costs, AEM travels in uncharted territory. The costs start to pile on from the get-go. Since it is a proprietary software, you have to pay a licensing fee. Add to this the cost of building, including the hiring of developers, and the costs would be substantial. And then there is the cost of maintenance, although for support, AEM does provide a dedicated team, thank goodness for that. The average cost of AEM license and implementation can be around $100,000 to $200,000.

In the times of the pandemic, AEM can be way out-of-the-league for many organisations looking for a WCM.

Drupal is free of cost and this is one fact that would always make it outshine AEM, which, on the other hand, cannot be free, being a proprietary software. 

How good are the security measures?

Everybody has vulnerabilities, humans and websites alike. Our vulnerabilities might take us longer to overcome, however, websites are not that tricky. Security measures that are both sound and effective can help even the most faulty of codes become hack-proof. In this regard, let us try and figure out the standing of Drupal and AEM.

Drupal 

Many think that open source software is more prone to security breaches simply because they are open. However, that isn’t the case. Open source security, aka, Software Composition Analysis helps in giving the users the chance to attain a higher visibility level for their open source applications. For this, a lot of elements come into play. The binary fingerprints are examined, research both professional and proprietary is utilised, corroborating the research with scans and providing all of this to developers in the form of tools. So, no open source by no means can be regarded as unsafe and insecure.

The security elements of Drupal are top-notch and help you overcome the most severe security problems. The proof lies in the fact that numerous government agencies have trusted Drupal to build their sites and Drupal has passed all their stringent standards. Drupal’s Security Team is equipped to address all the security issues that are reported, be it in core or contrib modules. The members of the team are experts in security measures from across the globe, validating the reliability of Drupal in terms of security. 

  • The password policies of Drupal are the first sign of it being safe with minimum length, complexity and expiration. 
  • The limitation of login attempts from one IP address can detect brute force entry. Certain IP addresses can also be banned. 
  • The user roles in Drupal help you control what can be seen and modified by uses on any given page. 
  • The database encryption Drupal provides can be configured to become extremely strong for applications that warrant high security, be it to the whole website or certain parts of it. 
  • The Form API oversees the validation of all data entries into the database by scrubbing them so that XSS, CSRF and other malicious data entries are stopped in their tracks. 

All of these account for a safe and secure system for all your website building needs. 

A pie chart depicts the percentage of vulnerabilities in Drupal and two other CMSs.Percentage of security issues in a sample group. Source: AcunetixA bar graph us showing the comparison between different WCMs' security.Source: Sucuri Blog


AEM

Unlike open source, proprietary software is considered to be intrinsically safe and less prone to vulnerabilities. Again, that is not the case. There are instances when AEM sites have suffered major breaches. Something as simple as forgetting to use “nosamplecontent” during publishing can give just the opportunity a hacker was waiting for. This is because sample content is often under production and many know the user passwords. Saying this does not negate the brilliant security measures AEM does provide, my point was simply to enunciate that proprietary software is not immune to vulnerabilities. 

To say that AEM’s security features are similar to that of Drupal would not be entirely wrong. This is because Drupal has covered all the possible vulnerabilities that need to be prevented and worked the security measures around them. Since AEM wanted to do the same, like it should, the similarities come as no surprise. 

  • The security console to manage user access;
  • The theme language of AEM, HTL, has an intrinsic design to prevent XSS hacks; 
  • The AEM checklist helps in ensuring that all the security precautions are done as needed.

However, take a note of the security vulnerabilities of AEM that were reported in the recent past:

There is table showing the security vulnerabilities of AEM. Source: CVE Details

Do AEM’s security features sound similar to Drupal? I am certain they do. AEM is quite secure in itself, however, it has been reported for authentication bypass vulnerability and cross-site scripting vulnerability which should be taken into consideration.

How well are they tied to the community?

The developer community is vast and extremely supportive of each other, so as the next point of difference, let us look at how community plays a role in Drupal and AEM. 

Drupal 

There are plenty of advantages in contributing to open source. It pays dividends to both the contributors and the open source software itself. The support of the community is probably the best feature of being an open source. And Drupal has a pretty large one, with over one million members. This means the intellect of the million developer minds will be found in the core and contrib parts of Drupal, driving innovation further. Developers from across the globe could provide you a peer review for all your projects. 

Another advantage of an open source community is that it helps you thrive even in the most difficult of times. Therefore, the chances of Drupal going out of business are slim to none. The long term success of Drupal is almost a guarantee with its million volunteers. Learn more on how open source has remained recession-proof and how it has stayed relevant in the times like Covid-19 pandemic.

AEM 

With AEM, the story is different. A proprietary software does not have a community as impressive as an open source’s. There are still many AEM  user forums, but it does not match Drupal. 

The lack of community support somehow inhibits the force of innovation and makes AEM seem a little pale against its counterpart, Drupal. 

How responsive is their web design?

The user is the focal point of any web application, it is he who is at the heart of every decision made for the website. Therefore, a responsive web design that would take into account the user’s needs and his environment is of the essence. On this note, let’s compare the two. 

Drupal 

When responsive web design comes into the picture, the first thing to cross your mind is that it has to be mobile friendly and Drupal sites are just apt with that. Drupal is known for its responsive designs that provide the best experiences despite the device. 

It is Drupal’s aim to support a seamless content experience throughout the lifetime of its websites with its mobile-first approach. The out-of-the-box responsive elements have made it the premium choice of developers and content authors alike.

  • The ability to add and edit on the go is a must have and Drupal provides. 
  • The built-in themes with responsiveness embedded in them allows your webpages to fit all screen types. 
  • The ability to change the width and height of images depending on the device is also provided by Drupal through breakpoints. 
  • Even the tables in Drupal 8 are responsive with high, medium and low priorities available to assign to them.

AEM 

AEM is also up there in the responsiveness game, with many features making it a friend of all the mobile devices.

  • Using single or multi-columns for layout;
  • Manipulating the text size based on the screen size;
  • Displaying only priority content on smaller screens;
  • Providing device-specific tools for access;
  • Taking into account the window dimensions to assess the size of images to be displayed.

When web responsiveness is prioritised, you would not have any qualms about the future of your site because it would be secure leading to boundless capabilities. In this aspect, both Drupal and AEM pass, that too with flying colours.

Are there any development constraints?

Next comes the part where development is concerned, do Drupal and AEM have development issues? Do they limit the developers in their building? Or do they give them proverbial wings to fly on? Let us find out.

Drupal 

Drupal is renowned for building digital platforms that are transcending the boundaries of digital media in the present day. Its LAMP technology stack is the reason for it. Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, all four provide you agility, pace and flexibility to meet your enterprise’s development needs. 

One drawback of Drupal that is often cited by its counterpart is that it's not highly available. The reason being the fact that it does not provide multiple database instances, meaning one change to one database automatically changes all of them. Even though it is true, does it really account as a development constraint? 

Focusing on PHP, it is often considered to be a less advanced version of Java simply because it does not include state memory constructs. Therefore, tracking data separately becomes exhausting.  

AEM 

AEM developers need to be fluent in HTML, CSS, HTL, JavaScript and Java to develop on top of AEM, no PHP required like Drupal. The best feature of AEM development is the fact that it uses HTL instead of JSP for front-end development. This removes the chances of human error leading to XSS and secures your site a little more.

The drawback I talked about in Drupal is not really an issue in AEM, but does that really make it better? AEM is expensive as we have already established, its exorbitant costs are justified by providing an extravagance that may not really be needed. I mean what would globally distributed data centres do for a local website? They do sound appealing though.

AEM has Java instead of PHP and yes, it can do a lot more per process, but this would increase the complexity levels and make the overhead go on the higher side along with the chances for faults.

I would say that figuring out which is better between PHP and Java is a moot point, both have their own abilities. The fact that many leading organisations use them on their websites speaks quite loudly for their capabilities. Don’t you think so? 

How well do they support third party integrations?

Being able to integrate itself with other applications is often regarded as a great feature of a WCM. Both Drupal and AEM are able to do it, however, one of them stands out as the better option. 

Drupal 

Third party integrations have become a rudimentary need for open source platforms. Since Drupal is an open source, it comes with an intrinsic ability to integrate well with other platforms. Drupal was architecturally designed to be both scalable and modular, this makes it competent to allow third party integrations with ease. With the Services Layer and Library API being equipped to handle all the integration needs, the process goes by smoothly. 

Drupal can integrate with numerous analytics platforms such as Google Analytics, Salesforce and HubSpot.  It can make the ecommerce businesses feel connected with all the varying aspects they mandate. For example, Drupal Commerce can integrate with Magento. There are plenty of options for media integration too such as Colorbox and Slick Carousel. If you need an enterprise search solution for your web application, Drupal has got you covered and gives you Search API Solr.

AEM 

AEM is known to have a vast number of tools in its collection, however, it is also able to integrate itself with other applications.

  • Integrating with Amazon web services is easy with Amazon SNS connection;
  • Email marketing becomes convenient with ExactTarget;
  • Capitalising on social networking is also done through integrating Facebook Connect and Twitter;
  • Sales and CRM software are integrated through Salesforce.

There are other integration tools available as well for your convenience.

Despite all of these, AEM has certain issues with integrations which require troubleshooting. AEM does talk about these and mentions ways to overcome the problems as well.

For instance, some integration issues are known in AEM such as the Report Importer causing high CPU/Memory usage or the non-visibility of targeted content in preview mode when using custom page components. 

Even taking troubleshooting integration issues into account, AEM is still quite good with integrations, especially given the fact that it is a proprietary software.

Concluding this point, I would say that both Drupal and AEM have elaborate tools of integration for every field and need of a business. However, when troubleshooting is concerned, it does put a damper on the impressiveness of AEM. 

Are upgrades and migration easy-to-do?

Technology keeps enhancing and new updates keep on coming, so it is a matter of time before the version you are using becomes a thing of the past and something better is on the market. The question is how do Drupal and AEM fair in the upgrade and migration aspect?

Drupal 

Like I have already mentioned, Drupal 9 is the most recent version, yet not many sites have upgraded themselves to become Drupal 9 sites. However, they would have to because; 

as of November, 2021, Drupal 8 would not be supported; 
and after November, 2022, the same would be true for Drupal 7.

So, how do you update them? Let’s talk about the switch from Drupal 8 to 9, as per the makers, this upgrade is considered the easiest in almost a decade. By following a four-step guide, you can have your current site ready for the functionality and better security standards of Drupal 9 by using the Upgrade Status

As for the upgrade from Drupal 7 to 9, easy is not a term that would be used to describe it. The migration will overwhelm you, but all the advantages of Drupal 9 will make it seem worth it. Developers can make the upgrade themselves with the help of Upgrade Status and Drupal Module Upgrader. These help in letting you know whether your themes and modules are competent for Drupal 8/9 and converting your custom code respectively. Explore the ultimate guide to Drupal 9, all the burning questions that you may have about Drupal 9 and the must-have modules to start your Drupal 9 website to know more. 

AEM 

With AEM, the story revolves around a similar terrain, with more steps though. Upgrades from AEM 6.0 to 6.5 involve a lot more work than Drupal would. Separate migration tools are needed for making the entire upgrade a success. For instance, if going from a version older than AEM 6.2, you would need JMX bean to migrate your assets.

However, if we look at the upgrade from AEM 6.3 to version 6.5, the task of migration is totally eliminated. The new format for the SegmentNodeStore is the reason for it. 

The title ‘easiest upgrade of the decade’ has stolen the show, making Drupal upgrades more attractive and user friendly than AEM. 

How do they answer the multisite request?

Having multiple variants of a single website is not an uncommon trend, it is practised by Drupal sites and AEM sites equally. How do they fair then?

Drupal 

Drupal’s multisite setup helps you in gaining the many advantages of having multisite simply because it allows you to save on time and effort by running all your Drupal sites on a single codebase. 

Running easy updates for security issues, saving on hosting expenses, using Simpletest and functional PHP unit-based tests are few of the many use cases for multisite in Drupal

AEM 

For AEM, the Multi Site Management function does all the heavy lifting for you in capitalising the multisite feature. MSM allows you to monitor and control mobile and web properties into one integrated interface for all so that your global presence is defined by its consistency. Live Copy Overview and Blueprint Configuration Management are the two interfaces responsible for making the use of MSM easy for you. 

MSM is a great tool for creating user-friendly web experiences at the same time providing you localised control with regional teams having the power to edit. It also makes recycling your content a breeze. 

Drupal and AEM are not much different in terms of the multisite versatility, both equip their sites to make the most of one codebase or interface, and aim for consistency. 

How fulfilling is their headless approach?

Going headless has become immensely popular today. I mean who would want to pass on the chance of tapping into the latest technology without parting with their trusted WCM. Here is how Drupal and AEM perform. 

Drupal 

In a headless approach, the WCM is merely a content repository and nothing else and Drupal is a fine one at that. The separation of the front from the backend is pretty streamlined in Drupal with REST, JSON:API and GraphQL, being the APIs holding them together. 

Drupal is known for its flexibility and that can be seen even in its headless approach, with three alternatives to choose from. 

  • The progressively decoupled Drupal has a presentation layer that is built using Drupal and other frontend frameworks, like JavaScript.
  • The fully decoupled Drupal completely segregates the two ends of the site and Drupal is just responsible for the content while a JavaScript framework like React manages frontend
  • The fully decoupled Drupal for static sites allows a static site generator like Gatsby to build a frontend by being its source. 

AEM 

A major reason for opting for a headless approach is to publish the content on as many platforms as possible, the web, mobile apps and other channels. With AEM’s headless approach, you can do that. It allows you to “manage and re-use” page elements or the entire experience, if you want, across numerous channels. This is done through grouping content and layout. 

Like it is for decoupled Drupal, AEM also has customisable APIs as a core component of going headless. On top of this, it gives the developers the choice to choose a default or custom JSON output. The AEM HTTP API provides a smooth transition into headless inclusive of content fragments. 

The headless approach for Drupal and AEM have a set of advantages accompanying them. However, the option of choosing the way and degree of decoupling, gives you something to ponder on, doesn’t it?

How do they help sites be multilingual?

We live in a world where diversity is a constant and diversity means being multilingual. Today, more and more sites are trying to be multilingual, so how do Drupal and AEM help them? 

Drupal 

With Drupal, you can create customized sites in any language, web applications in multiple languages and displays that have multiple admin languages. You get to translate your content completely, so that your business has a wider audience. And you also get the option of choosing a language interface for the administrators, content authors and translators. 

Drupal has been designed in a way that it can promote multilingual sites. The four modules, Language, Locale, Content Translation and Configuration Translation, created to ease the language transition are proof of my earlier statement. 

AEM 

AEM has a similar story to tell. It can also support multiple languages and that too with ease. The fact that it provides both human and machine translation workflows makes it a great choice. 

You might be thinking how it supports human translation. It does so the old fashioned way by sending the content to an actual translator and once it is done, the translated copy is sent back to AEM and it works its charm on it. 

The six-step process of translating content does not leave much room for errors and you get a perfect copy of content in whichever language you may need it in. 

Both Drupal and AEM are close to perfect in their multilingual feature and it is safe to say that this one is a draw. 

Finally, can they help you capitalise on SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation helps your site become more visible and visibility brings in traffic and you must know what happens then. 

Drupal 

Drupal is best friends with SEO, that is why it has all the modules required to make the most of its friend. 

You might know that keywords are an essential part of SEO practices, and Real-time SEO for Drupal helps in ensuring that the keywords are there without seeming spammed. Links are equally important in SEO practices, so there is the Linkit module. For duplicate content, there is the Redirect module to help you. And these are just a few, for an entire checklist, read our blog, The Ultimate Drupal SEO Guide for 2020.

AEM 

AEM lets you get the best of SEO and URL management by helping you optimise them. It makes you focus on the minutest of details, so that you never make an SEO error. 

For instance, when you have translated a content, you might forget to translate the URL and AEM’s SEO guide would never let that happen. From configuring the dispatcher to creating and XML sitemap, AEM takes care of all things. 

Drupal might have a tad more SEO-friendly modules than AEM. Although AEM does cover all the essentials, factors like keywords, headers and footers do not take precedence in it like they do in Drupal.

The Bottom Line 

The purpose of this blog post was not to draw out a clear winner because frankly speaking, there simply can’t be one. I might even give you a winner, but then there is a high chance that you might disagree. Taking all the features into consideration, Drupal does tend to come out with better prospects, even if the margin is not that huge. AEM would be close second to Drupal in terms of functionality and features. 

If I had to give you my perspective, for me, the end line is the cost. Since Drupal is free and AEM is not, it would become difficult for me to adapt to AEM and its exorbitant cost implications, at least initially. So, for me the winner would be Drupal. However, for you, it could be AEM and that is fine too.

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