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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 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 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 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.

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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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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 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 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 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 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.

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 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. 

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