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May 27 2020
May 27

Is a design revolution on the way? History says yes.

A new decade tends to usher in new design trends, but 2020 is turning out to be much more than just a new decade. As we look forward to finally breathing a sigh of relief, once Covid-19 heads for the history books, now is the time to prepare for what’s next. 
 
Seismic shifts and societal aftershocks stemming from the global pandemic stand to reframe how we view and interact with the world, and that includes websites. Design is inextricably linked to world events and there is no doubt that the economic, emotional, and political impact of Covid-19 has rocked “business-as-usual” to the very core.
 
During stay-at-home lockdowns, websites were catapulted into the primary means of connection. Chances are, the strengthened online attachments made over the past few months aren’t going away. Moving forward, “normal” will look a lot different than how we remember it. 
 
What does this mean for your website? How can you ensure that your site aligns with emerging expectations, current concerns, and new preferences for staying connected and conducting business?

Looking Back to Look Forward

For perspective on the design approach that will resonate with your audience, let’s take a quick look back to the design revolutions that followed major global upheavals from past decades -- starting with the last time that world was gripped by a pandemic that rivaled Covid-19. Of course, web experiences were not a factor for much of the previous century, but many of the same principles apply. Whether we are talking about color choice, fonts, building facades, or refrigerators, design has a powerful impact, even when -- often especially when -- it registers on a subtle or unconscious level. 

From Pandemic to Prosperity

Immediately following the devastation of World War I, which killed 40 million people worldwide and more than 5 million Americans, one-third of the world’s population became infected with the Spanish Flu. More than 20 million people died as a result, including 675,000 Americans. 


It’s hard to imagine a series of events that sparked a more desperate need for optimism and a determination to reshape a vision for the future that was driven by positive energy. 
 
Enter the Roaring Twenties: Modernist designs, marked by innovation and experimentation vs. realism and the rules of the past were the primary influences during this era. It was a time of fun, flashy and opulent design with gold as a dominant color and art deco as the signature style. 

an representative Roaring 20s illustration of a woman1920s design depicted opulence, sophistication, art deco designs and women stepping out of traditional roles.

 

Then: The Crash

The Great Depression of the 1930s marked a sudden and sweeping turn in economic realities. It sparked another design revolution that reflected efforts to lift up a population who was dealing with tremendous loss and uncertainty. Bright colors and positive messaging were intended to spark optimism and hope.
 
Streamline moderne emerged as a new architectural style that emphasized industrial materials such as concrete and glass, along with smooth curves. A lack of ornamentation and sharp angles aligned with the economic austerity of the times, while unexpected colors injected bright spots into the dreary realities of the day. 

The Blytheville Ark Bus station built in 1937The former Blytheville, Ark., Greyhound Station. Built in 1937 and listed in t he National Register of Historic Places. Public domain Photo by Nyttead, Wikimedia Commons.

A signature Depression-era design achievement was the Sears, Roebuck & Company’s decision to hire industrial designer Raymond Loewy to redesign its Coldspot refrigerator in 1934, in an effort to create excitement about the appliance and encourage consumers to shop. Touted as a “single, smooth, gleaming unit of functional simplicity,” the redesigned Coldspot sparked a fivefold increase in sales for Sears between 1934 and 1936, due to both the redesigned appliance and the effective advertising campaign.


Impact on a far greater scale accompanied the graphic design campaigns created to spark excitement about the National Recovery Administration (NRA). Posters with the Blue Eagle were splashed in major cities all over the United States, and Blue Eagle became a widely recognized symbol of the government’s commitment to helping with jobs that would offer much needed food, shelter, and economic security.

NRA Blue Eagle PosterDepression-era poster widely displayed by retailers to show support for the National Recovery Act.

Onward and Upward

During World War II, iconic propaganda posters fueled the war effort with messages that urged specific actions, while conveying unity, strength and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. 
 
As the war ended, the United States was quickly catapulted into the “atomic age,” which encompassed the years of 1945 through 1963. Atomic Age design trends reflected a determination to redirect the world away from one of history’s darkest chapters, while harnessing the war’s massive destructive capabilities for scientific achievements that would have a positive impact on humanity. Abstract designs, bright colors (turquoise was huge) and graphic elements inspired by science and space emerged as dominant design devices that represented a bright future of boundless possibilities.
 
The “boomerang” emerged as a signature motif of the 1950s, as well as designs that suggested galaxies, planets, stars and space travel. 

1950s boomerang pattern1950s "Atomic Age" designs references galaxies, space and the iconic boomerang motif.


 

Radical and Rebellious

Post-war optimism took a nosedive in the late 1960s and 1970s, as the Civil Rights movement, along with opposition to the draft and the war in Vietnam, fueled widespread unrest and antagonism toward authority. 

Psychedelic designs that featured bright and unexpected colors, kaleidoscopic patterns, and groovy typography reflected an emerging youth culture noted for rebellion and a determination to be seen and heard. 

A 1960s era graphic design"Psychedelic Dingbats," by Hendrike. Wikipedia Commons.

 

The Next Big Downturn

Throughout the 20th century, graphic design served as an essential tool for shifting societal gears following crises and setbacks. As we entered the age of digital communications, rapid change and heightened competition called for far more rapid response to evolving user needs and expectations. 
 
Let’s fast forward to 2008 and the Great Recession that followed the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the near collapse of global financial markets. At this point, the web had long since entered into the mainstream as a critical component of consumers’ connection to the world. The rise of “Web 2.0” was allowing for widespread sharing, interaction, and connection via social media and commenting capabilities.
 
As the Great Recession sparked distrust in mega-corporations and complicated, behind-the-scenes financial dealings, it fueled the rise of simple, web capabilities that offered transparency, no-nonsense, and value. Digital natives for whom online interactions were second nature, drove the growth of direct-to-consumer brands such as Warby Parker. Casper®, and Blue Apron. 

Successful web designs trended toward unintimidating colors, most notably “millennial pink,” along with minimalism and simple, clean graphics. The elegant simplicity of Apple’s design sensibility is emblematic of this era. 
 

What Now? Post Covid-19 Design

At Promet Source, we are in no way suggesting that Covid-19 is behind us, but as we proceed with hope and caution toward that point, we are devoting a depth and breath of empathy and insight into the types of redesigned web experiences that will effectively resonate with audiences. 
 
While the pandemic had and is having a distinctly different impact on every household and every individual, it’s fair to assume that varying degrees of post-traumatic stress will accompany adjustment to the new normal.  
 
It seems no surprise that the Pantone 2020 color of the year appears closely aligned with the reassurance that post-pandemic audiences will be seeking. Classic blue is described on the Pantone website as, “a reassuring presence, instilling calm, confidence, and connection. This enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.”

Pantone Color of the year 2020. Classic blueClassic Blue: Pantone 2020 Color of the Year

Calm and confidence is certainly not limited to a single color, but the concept is essential. Successful web experiences will not be looking to further rock anyone’s world. 
 
Confined to their homes, audiences have spent more time on the web than ever before. Chances are, they’ve experienced sites that offered excellent, streamlined navigation, sites that were frustrating to find what they needed, and everything in between. Moving forward, the bar is high, and like never before, audiences will appreciate impeccably designed web experiences. 

As people are confined to their homes and finding online experiences to be their primary connection to the outside world, websites are being called upon to do more heavy lifting than ever before.

Historically, economic downturns, and large-scale disasters of every kind have presented an opportunity for renewal and reinvention. This renewal is reflected in the design of the world around us, from fashion to websites. Our expectation for the post-pandemic era is design trends that evolve towards brighter colors, whimsical styles, and simplicity. For your website, this might mean a fresh, new color palette, bolder fonts with smoother edges, brighter images, and a renewed organization of previously complex menus and data.

At Promet Source, we’re committed and uniquely qualified to work closely with clients to ensure that their websites exceed the expectations of their audiences. Looking to start a conversation on aligning your site with new and emerging realities? Contact us today.
 
 

 

 

May 21 2020
May 21

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
        - Margaret Mead

 

Global Accessibility Awareness Day was inspired by a blog post written in November 2011 by Joe Devon, a Los Angeles based web developer who was frustrated about an overall lack of awareness about accessibility. He posted a blog calling for a day devoted to building a more inclusive digital world. Shortly afterwards, Jennison Asuncion, an accessibility professional from Toronto discovered Joe's blog post, via a Tweet. Together, Joe and Jennison cofounded Global Accessibility Awareness Day and six months later, on May 9, 2012, the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day occurred with about a dozen virtual and in-person events. 

Today,  there are, hundreds of GAAD 2020 events scheduled in every corner of the world, and never before has the imperative of an accessible web been more profoundly apparent. Covid-19 related lockdowns and stay-at-home orders led to an environment in which online resources were the primary connection to the the outside world. Moving forward, it’s anticipated that all users will demand web experiences that align with their varying expectations and abilities.
 

Enlightened Access

It’s wonderful that digital accessibility is inching it’s way into mainstream thinking, but too often, the time and resources associated with making sites and apps accessible is viewed as a burden -- a legal requirement that would gladly be avoided, if possible. The fact is, expanding digital accessibility represents a profound opportunity to take a more expansive, empathetic, and inclusive view of our world and that always leads to good.

We are living in a digital world that shuts out or limits the ability to engage for an estimated 15 percent of the population -- customers, constituents, audiences. 

This translate into business. Worldwide, the disabled represent $490 billion in buying power. And millennials, who value inclusivity and social responsibility more than any generation that preceded them represent $3.28 trillion in buying power. 

Once we get it, that ensuring digital accessibility is not only a legal requirement, it’s the smart thing to do and the right thing to do, our passion for accessibility moves up several notches. And just as accessible ramps at entrances to public buildings serve far more than the wheelchair bound, it’s helpful to understand that accessibility is not just for the “disabled.” 

At Promet Source, we are passionate about web accessibility as an opportunity -- not a “have to.” 

Big-Picture Benefits

Let’s consider some ways that accessibility modifications make digital experiences more engaging and flexible for people of all abilities.

  • Logical layouts and engaging designs are not just pleasant to look at. Any user can get annoyed when needed information is difficult to find and interactions are complicated, but users who have cognitive difficulties or limited computer skills can be frustrated beyond all measure. Be sure to evaluate the user experience from multiple perspectives and angles. 
  • Adequate color contrast is essential for enabling users with a wide range of visual impairments, such as color blindness, to read, navigate, or interact with a site. Low-contrast sensitivity becomes more common with age, but good contrast also ensures accessibility in low-lighting conditions and for users who could be experiencing any number of temporary visual challenges. 
  • Video captions are, of course, essential to enable the hearing impaired to understand the meaning of a video. They also enable videos to be accessible to viewers who are in particularly loud environments, or in settings where silence is required. 
  • Alternate text for images makes a site more accessible for the visually impaired. It can also bring additional context and clarity to digital experiences, while boosting search engine optimization.
  • Technology that converts text to speech is viewed as a requirement for the visually impaired. It’s also helpful for dyslexic users, people who prefer not to read, as well as people who want to multi-task. Coding websites and apps to convert text to speech has the added benefit of helping search engines to detect content.
  • Customizable text capabilities enable users to adjust the size spacing and color or text without loss of function or clarity. There are a wide range of visual impairments that make small text unreadable, and difficulties in reading small type inevitable accompany the aging process for everyone. 
  • Clear language is key to accessibility. Industry jargon and acronyms always need to be explained. Run-on sentences and paragraphs can frustrate users of all abilities and in particular those who have cognitive impairments or learning disabilities. In the current environment, there is no patience or inclination for unraveling complicated text. 

At Promet Source, we believe that the internet is for everyone, and we are thrilled for the opportunity to acknowledge and participate in Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2020. We're passionate about helping organizations to understanding what web accessibility is all about and to bring their websites into accessibility compliance.

Here's one of the ways that we are recommending GAAD be acknowledged: Select one page of your website and test it for accessibility using an accessibility testing tool. And urge others to do the same! Need help finding the right tools or fixing accessibility issues. Contact us today!
 
 

May 04 2020
May 04

Even among teams who are accustomed to working remotely, staying positive and connected can be a challenge when statewide stay-at-home mandates turn lives upside down in a myriad of different ways.

At Promet Source, we took it up a notch this spring, with some new ways to enliven meetings and support each other. The following five initiatives helped us to:

  • Get a glimpse into each others’ lives beyond faces on a Zoom call, 
  • Encourage accountability beyond immediate tasks at hand, and
  • Just make regularly scheduled meetings more fun. 

1. Guess the Workspace

Prior to last month’s all-company meeting, I requested photos of six individual’s workspaces. Near the end of the call, I showed the photos of the workspaces and asked everyone on the call to match the six selected employees to their workspace and submit their votes via the Zoom chat. It was fun to speculate the owner, and in the end we all learned that we know each other better than we thought, because we mostly guessed them right!

Screenshot of employees and their workspaces

2. Meet the Family (Dogs and Children)

We played the above game with pets as well. Better than a picture is seeing them real-time on camera. Recently, I was in a meeting where someone’s baby was connecting with a team member’s dog through the camera. Working around children and dogs is part of this new normal for many of us, and instead of stressing about trying to keep other members of the family quiet and out of the way, we encourage team members to introduce us to current members of their household. Dogs and children bring joy to any meeting. Even if they’re only on camera for a few moments, it brightens everyone’s day!

Screenshot images of four dogs of Promet Source team members

3. Virtual Watercooler Questions

Since we can’t chat by the coffee machine or while sipping a LaCroix, I like to post fun random questions in our Slack Channel. Building rapport through light conversation is a great way to help connect the team with fun facts or experiences that we might have in common. After all, how else are you going to find out that someone else’s first concert was also Cool Kids On The Block?

screen shot from a Slack exchange concerning first album purchases

4. Get Fit Challenge

One of our team members reached out to the group wanting more accountability for his workouts. The cure? He started a “Promet Quarantine Fitness Accountability Challenge.” Participants share their goals and report in every week whether they are meeting them. 

5. Hat-Mandatory Meetings 

Most of us know about being able to change the Zoom background on a call (when settings allow for it), and that can spark some fun conversation. But matching a hat to the background, or simply requiring a hat, can be a fun way to kick off a meeting, and keep us from taking ourselves too seriously.

screenshot of a promet zoom meeting

This is just a glimpse into the many ways that Covid-19 quarantines have have sharpened our commitment at Promet Source to connection and creativity. 

In the meantime, we’re continuing to collaborate with our public sector, higher education, and enterprise clients on the development of amazing websites that redefine possibilities. Interested in what we can do you you? Contact us today.  

Apr 29 2020
Apr 29

Seemingly overnight, much of the professional workforce was catapulted into remote work arrangements. 

For many, this has led to an adjustment curve. At Promet Source, collaborating with co-workers from all over the world is built in to our culture, and over the past several weeks, we’ve taken this opportunity to share insights and ideas for optimizing productivity and connectedness among virtual teams

Free Webinar! Winning at Remote Project Management with Jira and Confluence

Remote work success is largely contingent upon superior project management tools that provide an easily accessible framework for collaboration and information sharing. Our clients count on us for adept management of large scale web design and development projects, and the top two project management tools that we recommend are Jira and Confluence.

Why Jira and Confluence

When effectively aligned and fully leveraged, Jira and Confluence can be relied upon for significant enhancements to efficiency and effectiveness -- providing stakeholders at every level with the ability to drill up or drill down on projects and receive reminders of upcoming deadlines, real-time status reports, productivity updates, and a lot more. 

With Jira and Confluence at the foundation of a project, remote teams are able to move forward with their various sprints as seamlessly as if the entire team was working under the same roof -- often with even greater efficiency. 

Remote work arrangements tend to drive a level of discipline that can fall by the wayside when there is the option of interrupting a co-worker at a nearby workspace to check on the status of a project. With Jira and Confluence, status updates and shared documents are easy to access. There is far less of a chance for work to stop due to an interruption from a team member who wants help accessing information or who stops by with a random inquiry. 

Jira at Work

Big project plans are laid out as a series of sprints, with tasks and individual accountabilities spelled out within each sprint. Generally speaking those sprints represent dependencies -- one needs to be completed for the next one to begin. 

When using Jira, team members are reminded throughout the process of upcoming deadlines. A comprehensive, realtime report is available for checking on the status of any part of the project, and revised as needed.

Within Jira, project managers are able to monitor progress, assign new tasks, and calculate completion dates. 
.
Another essential Jira benefit: transparency. The ability to closely and objectively monitor the progress and contributions of all individuals on a major project can potentially get muddied when multiple expectations and accountabilities are involved. Jira provides a tool for closely tracking individual progress, eliminating the possibility of any team member flying under the radar or becoming overwhelmed with an undue number of tasks.

Aligned with Confluence

While Jira allows for drilling down on the details of a project, Confluence provides perspective on the big picture.

Confluence has been described as a corporate Wikipedia, housing the project’s knowledge base and serving as an easily accessible repository for sharing large files among both team members and clients. 

Confluence serves as a single, cohesive vehicle for communicating with clients. It allows for the creation and sharing within specific project areas, while keeping track of feedback, client deliverables, and the exchange of all assets that support the completion of the project. Images or files that would be too large to send via email can easily be dragged and dropped into Confluence.

Top Tips

  • Document everything. All meeting notes should be uploaded to Confluence, and the notes will automatically be emailed to all clients or team members who are referenced in the notes or listed as attendees. This is an essential step in helping all stakeholders remember what was agreed to and why. 
  • Utilize the search feature in Confluence when necessary, to locate notes from a particular meeting or conversation. Over the course of a project, a vast collection of notes will be created.
  • Leverage the permissions feature and determine which documents will be accessible to which clients and team members.
  • At the start of an engagement, offer clients a tutorial on Jira and Confluence, emphasizing the depth and breadth of efficiency enhancements. Drill down on features such as the calendar in Jira, which specifies not just delivery dates and key meetings, but also indicates travel and vacation schedules for all stakeholders and team members.
  • Understand that while the majority of clients have not yet used Jira and Confluence for project management, the learning curve is short. In the event that there is any pushback from clients at the beginning of a project, that is quickly overcome as the ease and efficiency of the tools are realized.  

More so than ever before, the tools are available that allow for the adept management of major projects from multiple locations. Jira and Confluence provide the foundation for assembling project teams that are based on talent, expertise, and commitment to successful outcomes for the client -- location no longer needs to stand as a limiting factor.

There’s more to learn!

Register Now for a Free Webinar: Winning at Project Management with Jira and Confluence

When:
Thursday, May 28, 2020    12 p.m. CST

Or looking to start a conversation now concerning what’s possible when talented designers and developers leverage the full capabilities of Jira and Confluence? Contact us today. 

Apr 21 2020
Apr 21

Covid-19 has upended daily life, and in many cases, revealed trends that were a long time in the making. 
 
Work-at-home requirements brought the essential need for online connections and services to the forefront. 
 
More so than ever before, county and municipal government websites serve as a virtual town square and the place for: 

  • Keeping informed about events and public health alerts,
  • Taking care of official business,
  • Showcasing major attractions,
  • Attracting future tourism,
  • Supporting local businesses, 
  • Staying connected to the community, and 
  • Drawing attention to praiseworthy people and points of pride. 

Multi-faceted Functions

Back in the day, city halls and county courthouses were architectural masterpieces, situated in the center of town with well-tended gardens, and surrounded by the businesses that fueled the town’s economic engine. 

The Wharton TX county courthouseThe Wharton, Texas County Courthouse. Completed in 1889.

Much of what had been accomplished in and around the limestone and granite structures that were built in the 19th and 20th Century is now taking place online.

As such, officials in places such as Martin County Florida are pouring a high level of focus and commitment into their citizens' experience of their websites -- just as their counterparts from previous eras understood the profound importance of creating a welcoming experience that was efficient to navigate and supported civic pride. 

home page of the Martin County Florida websiteHome page of the Martin County, Florida website

 

New World, Same Needs

Venues have evolved, but many essential needs and expectations of last century’s physical town squares have much in common with today’s virtual ones.

Here are the objectives that are driving excellence among public sector websites in the current era:

  • Support citizens’ pride of place with an engaging, visually appealing experience
  • Serve as the go-to information resource in times of crises and uncertainty
  • Drive collaboration and connection among commerce and community groups
  • Streamline access to a vast range of services that previously needed to be accomplished in person
  • Accommodate the different ways that the full range persona groups who visit the site interact with technology
  • Meet and exceed ADA Section 508 compliance standards and the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) that ensure accessibility for people with disabilities
  • Leverage the latest technologies and expertise concerning optimal user experience, navigation, and site flow
  • Align navigation and information flow with user needs vs. the internal organizational structure
  • Bring essential stats and facts to life with illuminating data visualization strategies
  • Build in flexibility to ensure that site administrators can easily and efficiently make changes whenever necessary

This is the starting point. Every state, county, municipality, and public sector website has distinct opportunities to connect with constituents, drive efficiencies, and serve as a trusted information resource. 

Looking to explore new possibilities for your public sector website? Contact us today


 

Apr 13 2020
Apr 13

A crisis can put a website to the test, and never has this been more true than in the current COVID-19 outbreak. As social distancing and stay-at-home orders are fueling a heavier than usual reliance on online communications, people are looking to state and local websites for up-to-date and authoritative information that’s specific to their area.

Due to excellent planning, perspective, and great partnerships, the Martin County Florida website is serving as a trusted resource for residents on COVID-19 information. 

Solid Foundation for COVID-19 Response

When Martin County Florida partnered with Promet Source last year on the redesign of its website, the need for a flexible content management system (CMS) to communicate essential and up-to-the minute information about hurricanes and weather-related events was well understood. This is one reason why the team at Martin County chose Drupal for their web platform. 
 

The Martin County Florida website homepageMartin County Florida's Drupal website homepage

While the COVID-19 crisis was not anticipated, a high level of foresight and planning has served Martin County well. Since Martin County Florida is in a hurricane prone region, a communication strategy and website plan was already in place, along with yearly practice drills. Residents have relied heavily on the site in the past, and never more so than in the current environment.  

This emergency preparedness perspective has been a strong asset in developing a website that is providing residents with quick and comprehensive information on COVID-19. 

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has driven a sharp increase in the number of visitors to the site. Between February 23rd and April 5th, 2020, the website had more than 375,000 sessions. A sharp increase than the previous month when COVID-19 was not yet considered by most people in the United States to be a significant threat, noted Jennifer Hagedorn, web content specialist. She added that the recent spike in web visits exceeds that of any other hurricane or crisis event by 44%. 

Surge in Mobile Usage

There has also been a shift in the number of visits to the site from a mobile device. Pre-pandemic, about 40% of visits were from a mobile device, that figure now stands at about 70%, and represents a 200% increase in mobile usage over the previous month. This recent surge in mobile usage has been factored into how information is being presented on the site. 

To facilitate the increased mobile usage, the website content editors at Martin County began to utilize shorter blocks of content and placing content within an accordion-style page layout for mobile users to scroll through multiple topics and quickly locate what they were looking for.
 

Accordion Design Interface for Mobile Friendly ContentAccordion style user interface design ideal for mobile users and to consolidate topics for easy browsing

While there are many metrics indicating that the website is proving itself to be successful in providing residents with the information that they need, Jennifer pointed out that there has been noteworthy feedback by residents who have reached out to express their appreciation for the quality of the content on the website and the frequency of the updates. 

Success Factors

Key among the factors that have driven the success of the Martin County Florida website:

  • The ability to build new pages as needed and create page alerts facilitated a high-functioning emergency response system. 
  • Martin County also set up a single, easy-to-navigate Coronavirus page for all updates and information, which kept track of only the most up-to-date information and deleted all out-dated information and announcements to prevent confusion from website visitors accessing outdated information and articles on their site.
  • The Drupal CMS and WYSIWYG editor provides for a high degree of flexibility, enabling non-technical members of the communications team to perform in-line editing, simply create new pages, add them to the menu, update alerts, and easily embed videos and insert images.
  • The communications team can easily collaborate and are given the appropriate level of permissions for their role so they can help edit content, and those with a higher level of permissions can publish approved content to the live site.
  • The Drupal site uses Paragraphs, a Drupal module, that allows regions of a page to be interchangeable by content editors and does not require complicated code by technical developers to quickly build in functionality and apply custom arrangements on site pages.
  • For purposes of ensuring messaging validity, all communications are consistently branded and include the Martin County seal both on the website and social media images.
  • Website messaging is closely aligned with shareable, social media graphics and posts that are shared to help reach more people with the critical messaging and updates.
  • Residents can sign up for regular text messaging, offered via a third-party provider. The county has branded this capability “Alert Martin,” and these mobile text messages provide critical updates with links back to the website for the full story. This functionality offers one explanation for the increased traffic from mobile devices.
  • The “ALERT” region on the home page provides emergency and informative alerts and is color coded by level of importance: blue for general information, yellow for health and safety updates, and red for critical issues and warnings that require immediate attention. 
Alert system for websiteMartin County’s color coded alert system notifying site users of crucial health, safety, and general county updates.

By including these features on their website, along with many more, their site has received positive feedback from local residents saying they were very happy with Martin County’s COVID-19 emergency response and found the site easy to use and access the information they were looking for. The site was also recognized with industry awards for visual aesthetic and superior digital experience, proving to be not only nice to look at, but also usable and useful in a time of need.

COVID-19 is a moving target that is being attacked on many fronts. Never before have local governments had a greater opportunity and responsibility to ensure that their websites provide a trusted and single source of truth while providing a flexible content management experience for the site’s managers.

Looking to ensure your website is ready to communicate in a crisis? Contact us today.

Apr 08 2020
Apr 08

COVID-19 has fueled, among many things, a hefty appetite for data and analytics.

Having witnessed a rapid-fire evolution from a few, isolated cases in another corner of the world, to a pandemic that has the globe in its grips, data visualizations are now helping to tell the story and reveal the kinds of big data insights that are now possible. 

Near the top of the list of data visualizations that are providing an updated perspective on the Coronavirus is the Johns Hopkins University interactive global map, which offers a global view of the pandemic, along with the ability to drill down for a closer look at the spread of the virus within specific countries and regions. 

Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Map

A screen shot of the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 MapThe above screen from the the Johns Hopkins University interactive COVID-19 map is from April 8, 2020, and is among the interactive graphics on the site that depicts the global spread of the pandemic.  

 

Tracking Movement Via Cell Phone Data 

An April 2, 2020 article in an online edition of the New York Times, offered another angle from which to view the response to the Coronavirus in the United States. Using mobile phone GPS data, a color-coded map of every county in the United States, depicted miles traveled for the week of March 23, as an indicator of the degree to which people were adhering to shelter-in-place recommendations or orders.
 

A screen shot from a New York Times online article of a county-by-county map of the U.S. and movement over a weekend based on cell phone data.GPS data provided insight on a county-by-county basis into the degree to which mobility and travel had been impacted by the recommendations to stay home. 

Modeling Steps to Curtail the Spread

This third example is from a March 14, 2020 article in an online edition of the Washington Post, designed to demonstrate the impact of various degrees of social distancing. The article entitled, “Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to ‘flatten the curve,’” included animations of dots that demonstrated the impact of various levels of human contact on the spread of a hypothetical virus.

Screen shot from a Washington Post article that shows 4 models of the spread of a disease resulting from varying levels of social distancing. The four interactive graphics above represent the outcome of the different degrees of response designed to mitigate against a rapid spike in the spread of the virus.

Untapped Potential

While big data is fueling insights, that would have been difficult to fathom as recently as a decade ago, a depth and breadth of analytics and actionable data are within closer reach than many realize.  

Potentially rich data sources that too often go underutilized include:

  • Google analytics,
  • A/B testing,
  • Sales tracking, 
  • Live chat,
  • Customer surveys,
  • Heat mapping of visitors’ website activity,  
  • Competitor assessments,
  • Usability testing, and
  • User interviews. 

At Promet Source, we are passionate about helping clients to uncover and unlock the full potential of their data and analytics. We are also experts at creative visualization strategies that help clients and constituents to clarify complexities and understand information from new angles. 

Interested in igniting new data- and analytics-driven possibilities? Contact us today.

Mar 31 2020
Mar 31

Recent challenges sparked by widespread work-at-home mandates are revealing an essential need to ensure productivity and engagement for remote meetings.

Many of us are familiar with the internet meme video, A Conference Call in Real Life.  It may resonate as all too real (but still very funny!). 

With the right approach, however, remote meetings can be productive, engaging, and spark creativity. 

                  Register for a Free Webinar: Design Thinking for Optimal Online Collaboration

Since distributed teams and remote work environments are how we’re already accustomed to working here at Promet Source, we’ve been able to adapt many onsite Design Thinking meeting techniques, using Human-Centered Design activities and adjust them to a virtual format. We often accommodate remote teams who have attendees in varying areas throughout the globe that find it impossible to all get together for an onsite meeting, but still need to put their heads together to define an organization’s priorities or innovate together toward common goals.

On many levels the uncertainty and upheaval of our recent change in workplace environments represents limitation, but one of the main principles of design thinking is that creativity thrives in an environment of time constraints and limitations, which provides the opportunity for innovation and creativity when a few key guidelines are followed. 

Planning and Facilitation

A productive meeting has an agenda. Create a written agenda and share it with participants prior to the remote meeting, as well as at the beginning of the meeting itself. Be sure to include time slots for each discussion item, even if it is only 10 minutes.

Follow the agenda items closely and assign someone the “time keeper” function to give a 2-5 minute warning before the planned agenda item is due to time out and stick to it! 
 

Use Interactive Tools for Alignment

Oftentimes, the loudest voices in the meeting or those of upper management are the only opinions that get heard. Utilize online tools to facilitate discussions and to ensure every voice and opinion can be shared, regardless of hierarchy and position.   

Interactive tools can also help document what is being discussed in real-time without “note taking” so attendees can see what is being discussed and agreed upon. 

Creating an interactive forum also allows open discussion, presentation of ideas, and collecting maximum input from participants. If the users can contribute anonymously to the meeting, it allows for critical evaluation of ideas as a neutral and anonymous format.

Interactive tools we like to use during online meetings include:

FunRetro

  • Originally a Sprint Retrospective board we have co-opted for interactive meetings.

Google Sheets & Docs

  • Allows multiple users in a document at the same time for meeting collaboration.

InVision

  • In addition to a good design and prototyping tool, InVision also has a great virtual whiteboard that allows multiple people to draw on the whiteboard at the same time.

Prioritize & Gain Consensus

Working with the group to prioritize items that come up during the discussion helps to gain group consensus. Act as a facilitator for the meeting, listen to what is being said, and put your opinion aside in order to encourage participation and optimize input. Create follow-up activities for what the group sees as most important and assign next steps assigned to team members. Let them come up with a solution and present it back to the group in this or a future meeting.

Remember, online meetings can be productive and innovative when we allow the space for people’s ideas to be heard and thrive. Leveraging the right tools along with an intentional focus on connection and engagement sets the stage for memorable meetings that get participants to perk up and be on their A Game.

Design Thinking offers a whole new perspective on running a meeting. Engagement and connection are a particular imperative in the current environment and never has there been a better time to put design thinking to work. 

               Register for a Free Webinar: Design Thinking for Optimal Online Collaboration

[embedded content]

Design Thinking for Optimal Online Collaboration

When:

Tuesday, April 14, 2020    12 p.m. CST

In this webinar you will learn to:

  • Leverage interactive, online tools for meeting facilitation
  • Adapt design thinking techniques for the virtual meeting environment
  • Facilitate team activities that enhance online engagement
  • Understand the core of design thinking to facilitate more successful ideas
  • Implement a meeting format that sparks creativity and accelerates the evolution of ideas from good to great
  • Develop a process for creating joint ownership of ideas
  • Apply key steps for ensuring follow up and accountability

Interested in starting the conversation now? Contact us today to learn more about how you and your team could benefit from a Human-Centered Design / Design Thinking Workshop facilitated by Promet.
 

Mar 24 2020
Mar 24

ADA web accessibility compliance ultimately requires that developers get into the weeds of the 78 guidelines that make up WCAG 2.1. Visual checks and quick scans provide a solid starting point, however, and serve as key indicators of underlying accessibility violations. 

Here’s an overview of the essential factors to consider with developing or auditing a website for accessibility.

  • Contrast
  • Non-text content
  • Link purpose
  • Labels and instructions
  • Information and relationships
  • Keyboard navigation

Contrast

Contrast ratio refers to the luminance of the foreground text against its background. This guideline states that text and images with text need to have to have a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for small text (less than 18 points, if not bold, and less than 14 points, if bold), and 3:1 for large text. For the highest level of compliance (AAA), which is not required in most instances, the contrast ratio for small text needs to be 7:1.

Tools for checking color contrast ratios include contrast checker and WEBAIM’s Color checker.

Sample Contrast Checker Output

Sample output from a color contrast checker tool

Content that does not consist of a sequence of characters, such as images and form controls,  is covered by non-text content guidelines. Non-text content needs to have a text alternative that serves verbally describes the image, otherwise known as “alt-text.”  If the image is decorative or only used for visual formatting, then it can have a null alt (alt=””) or implemented in a way that it can be ignored by assistive technologies, such as a screen reader.

Sample code for the following image:

<img src=”location/of/image.jpg” alt="Illustration of man sitting in wheel chair and woman standing against background projecting a checklist diagram.">

Illustration of a man in a wheelchair and a woman reaching out with website wireframes in the background

Link Purpose

Screen readers users should be able to determine the purpose of a link based on the text alone.

For this reason, generic link text such as “read more,” “learn more,” or “click here” is not WCAG compliant. To avoid confusing those who use screen readers, content editors also need to keep in mind that if the same link text is used more than one time on a page, the destination for those links needs to be the same.
 

Labels and Instructions

Clear instructions and labels need to be in place for controls that require user input. Instructions also need to provide specific formats, that indicate exactly how information such as dates, phone numbers, and email addresses need to be entered. 

Important points to keep in mind:

  • Labels should be properly associated to their specific fields
  • Related form elements should be contained in a fieldset and should have labels properly associated with them.
  • When input fields are compulsory they should be coded properly as required. Error messages should also be clear to users and contain instructions and sample formats on how to fill in the field properly.

Information and Relationships

The focus here is the semantic structure of the page as it appears to users of assistive technologies. 

Headings

Screen reader users rely on headings to navigate and scan content to understand the flow of information on a page. As such, headings should be logically structured within the H1 to H6 HTML hierarchy. There should only be one H1 heading on a page, and there should not be any skipping of the descending order of headings within that hierarchy. An H1 followed by an H3 might confuse a screen reader user into thinking that they skipped an important part of the content.

Tables

When a page contains a table or multiple tables, it is important that these tables be identified based on the data they contain. Tables should have captions that serve as the general description. It is sometimes an option to use  <summary> to supplement table descriptions, but this option is not widely supported by assistive technologies.

Keep the following points in mind concerning tables on a webpage: 

  • Layout tables should be avoided. When tables are used to format content, they might cause some confusion to screen reader users. Instead of using tables to format your content, use CSS.
  • Designate row and column headers to data tables using the <th> element. 
  • Associate data cells with the headers using the <scope> attribute.
  • Avoid nested tables. The more complicated the table, the more inaccessible it becomes.

Semantic Markups

Formatting is important for the look and feel of the page but the underlying code should contain the same information as the visual presentation of content. Headings should have proper heading markups. Lists should be marked with <ul>, <ol>, or <dl>. For emphasized texts use <strong>, <em>, <blockquote>, <code>, etc.

Landmarks

Landmarks provide another way for screen reader users to navigate a page. It has previously been recommended to use HTML5 and WAI-ARIA landmark roles together (e.g. WAI-ARIA role="navigation" on HTML5 'nav' elements) but with the widespread adoption of HTML5 this is no longer needed. There should be only one main landmark on the page, and all page content should be included in landmarks. 

The focus here is the semantic structure of the page as it appears to users of assistive technologies. 

 

Keyboard Navigation

Landmarks provide another way for screen reader users to navigate a page. It has previously been recommended to use HTML5 and WAI-ARIA landmark roles together (e.g. WAI-ARIA role="navigation" on HTML5 'nav' elements) but with the widespread adoption of HTML5 this is no longer needed. There should be only one main landmark on the page, and all page content should be included in landmarks. 
 

There's Much More to Learn!

Promet Source is passionate about ensuring the accessibility of online experiences for people of all abilities, while helping clients to avoid ADA Accessibility legal action. We’re available to help in ways that include training, development, consultation, support, and workshops.  

Contact us today to let us know what we can do for you.

Mar 17 2020
Mar 17

Current realities are rapidly shifting for all of us. What to do now? What can we expect? 

During a time of crisis, the quality of communications can have a huge impact, and not just in the moment. The effects of what is said and what is not said will linger, and reveal much about the organization, its leadership, and individuals involved. 

A crisis and challenge on the magnitude of a global pandemic stands to bring out the best in us or the worst in us. There are the immediate concerns surrounding staying safe and helping to ensure the health and well-being of those around us. Then, of course, there are a myriad of business and financial concerns. Life goes on. Promises still need to be kept.

At Promet Source, we are committed to reaching out and being our best selves during this time. It’s a commitment that starts at the top with clear and honest communications.  

This commitment calls for a higher degree of empathy and outreach. What are people going through? What do they need to know? How can we help?

Empathy PLUS Honesty

During times of uncertainty, people look for answers and reassurance, and it’s tempting to want to provide that. Keep in mind that making promises and commitments that may not be kept is likely to be interpreted as dishonesty and deception, both of which are particularly difficult to forgive. Now is the time for integrity.

As businesses around the world scramble to meet obligations and keep teams productive and connected while working from remote locations, the right messaging matters more than ever before. 

Great communication also calls for a focus on connectedness: focusing on what it is that we have to offer and how that translates into our role as corporate citizens.

Resources and Expertise

At Promet Source, we’ve reached out to our sphere recently, pointing out that our team is distributed and that due to our well-established business processes for working remotely, we’re positioned to consult on the systems and technical tools that we’ve found to be the most effective for staying connected and optimizing productivity. 

Our communications team can also serve as a critical resource during this trying time, helping with strategic messaging and communications plans for optimizing culture and strengthening client relationships.

New Concerns, New Paradigms

It's important that we actively acknowledge that team members are facing new sets of challenges that extend beyond working at home. In many cases, school-aged children are at home. There are likely to be constant interruptions and new expectations for homeschooling. 

There are also big concerns about coronavirus symptoms and the impact of recent exposures. 

Even among those who remain healthy and symptom-free, let there be no doubt that this pandemic is having a major impact on everyone’s lives. Team members with high-stakes deliverables who are now facing a whole new set of realities need to know that they are not alone. 

These new realities call for new ways of connecting, being present, and adding value. It’s a challenge that few could have anticipated, but that many are working through and revealing considerable character in the process.

Did you know that Promet’s communication team can help with strategic communications support? Contact us today to schedule a workshop, or simply to start a conversation. 

Mar 11 2020
Mar 11

There’s nothing like the threat of a global pandemic to bring the topic of working remotely to the forefront. 

This week, in response to the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), companies from all over the world are scrambling to get systems and policies in place to ensure that work can continue in the event that quarantines are imposed or decisions are made to exercise caution and curtail the threat of workplace transmission of the disease. 

Remote work options are inherent to the Promet Source culture. We’ve benefitted for years from a culturally diverse staff and the opportunity to source the best talent without bias to location. As other organizations are rapidly moving in this direction, here are five strategies that we've learned for optimizing the remote work opportunity.

1. Communicate Often and Communicate Well

Compensating for the fact that you are not engaging with co-workers in the hallways, over lunch, or during daily stand-ups requires excellent and intentional communication. In fact, don't hesitate to over communicate with both your team and your supervisor. Assume nothing. Set clear expectations. Stay in touch, and be sure not to overlook the importance of casual conversations and humor. A productive work environment is not all work no play and you should get to know your remote colleagues just the same as you would those who work in the office or workspace next to yours.

2. Maintain Face-to-Face Connections

Promet’s president, Andrew Kucharski is insistent on the use of Zoom video conferencing for all meetings -- even ad hoc check-ins. This serves multiple purposes. Of course, it keeps us on our A Game and mitigates against any work-at-home temptation to stay in PJs and slippers all day. More importantly, we are inherently more connected when we see each other’s faces and facial expressions. We’re also more prone to converse and know what’s going on in each other’s lives and to remain accountable to each other.

Promet Source PMO working remotely with her dog, Lumen, by her sideDemonstrating another big advantage of working remotely from home, Pamela Ross, Promet Source PMO Director, takes a break with her dog Lumen at her side.

3. Leverage Technology

This one is huge. The concept of telecommuting has been around for a decade or two, but more so than ever before, we have access to tools that make us wonder why we’d ever waste a potentially productive hour or so every day sitting in traffic or taking public transportation to an office. Teleconferencing, shared calendars, collaborative document authoring tools and Slack are among the multitude of tech resources that enable a global staff to thrive.

4. Acknowledge and Affirm

Remember that all of the same principles of leadership and human dynamics apply when working remotely. Who among us isn’t energized by public acknowledgement, appreciation, and various forms of affirmation? At Promet Source, we encourage shout outs on the companywide Slack channel and through software that is specifically designed to engage employees and emphasize the company culture. New team members are welcomed and introduced during a “two-truths-and-a-lie” activity during company wide video conference calls, and managers are coached to consistently acknowledge team members for their contributions.

5. Recognize Relevant Strengths

Working remotely is a privilege that requires maturity and an excellent work ethic. Not everyone fares well in an environment that lacks the structure of a traditional office. Leadership needs to hire accordingly and cultivate an environment in which the responsibilities and advantages of working remotely are emphasized and built into expectations for every role.

At Promet Source, we do a lot more than develop and design accessible websites that win awards. Our Human-Centered Design workshops help to define the dynamics and the direction for success in any organizational endeavor. Contact us today to learn more. 

Mar 04 2020
Mar 04

The process of auditing a website for ADA accessibility compliance, as described by the W3C(R) Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology (WCAG-EM) 1.0  falls into two essential categories: automated and manual. The automated part of the process is relatively straightforward. It’s simply a matter of leveraging the right tools for diagnosing non compliance with WCAG 2.1. The next and indispensable step tends to be open-ended and undefined. 

The WCAG-EM is the definitive to the evaluation process.

[WCAG-EM documentation]... is intended for people who are experienced in evaluating accessibility using WCAG 2.0 and its supporting resources. It provides guidance on good practice in defining the evaluation scope, exploring the target website, selecting representative samples from websites where it is not feasible to evaluate all content, auditing the selected samples, and reporting the evaluation findings. It is primarily designed for evaluating existing websites, for example, to learn about them and to monitor their level of accessibility. It can also be useful during earlier design and development stages of websites. 

The process is very well defined and W3C(r) provides a sample reporting tool for audits. 
 
We, at Promet Source like to tinker and apply small changes, without deviating from the process to improve the report and make it easier to use and read. Our version of the Website Accessibility Evaluation Report Generator is Google Doc based, provides an executive summary, a simple dashboard of results and is FREE! This template from Promet reflects WCAG 2.1 guidelines, and designed  for use by accessibility analysts and developers to detect errors missed by automated testing.

As a part of our commitment to advancing inclusivity and web experiences that are accessible to a full range of differently abled web users, we are making this tool available to all.
 

Small preview of the tool

 

Why Manual Accessibility Testing Matters

Manual accessibility testing goes deeper and wider than automated scans. It includes:

  • Keyboard testing
  • Color contrast testing
  • Screen reader testing
  • Link testing
  • Tables and forms testing
  • Cognitive testing
  • Mobile testing

The types of non-compliance issues, which are detected by manual testing tend to have the greatest likelihood of exposing site owners to ADA accessibility lawsuits.
 
Keep in mind that diagnosing a website for accessibility and fixing any noncompliance issues that are uncovered is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. 

Every site has a distinct set of strengths and challenges, and in the current environment, the stakes are high for getting it right. That’s why we at Promet Source believe that tapping the expertise of a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) is the most efficient and effective path for bringing a site into compliance. We follow a distinct WCAG 2.1 auditing and remediation process that consists of a series of value-added steps in a specific order.  

Circle process graphic depicting web accessibility testing

 

Value-Added Elements

There is a high degree of added value that occurs during and following an accessibility audit. The education, consultation, and opportunity to dig deep and deconstruct aspects of a site that no longer serve the organizational mission fuels a better and wiser team of developers and content editors. For a number of reasons, web accessibility also enhances SEO.
 
In the current climate, websites are highly dynamic and serve as the primary point of engagement for customers and constituents. Constantly evolving sites call for an ongoing focus on accessibility, and an acknowledgement that staff turnover can erode the education, expertise, and commitment to accessibility that is in place at the conclusion of an audit. 
 
For this reason, a bi-annual or annual audit is a highly recommended best practice. 

Interested in kicking off a conversation about auditing your site for accessibility? Contact us today.
 

Feb 14 2019
Feb 14

A commercial came on the radio recently advertising a software application that would, basically, revolutionize data management and enable employees to be more efficient. My first thought was, “How can they possibly promise that when they don’t know their customers’ data management processes?” Then, it became clear. The business processes would have to be changed in order to accommodate the software.

Is that appropriate? Is it right that an organization should be required to change the way it conducts business in order to implement a software application? 

Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. 

The following four factors can serve as an essential guide for evaluating the need for change and ensuring a successful transition to a new solution. 

  1. Process Analysis
  2. Process Improvement
  3. Process Support
  4. Change Management

1. Process Analysis

Before committing to the latest and greatest software that promises to revolutionize the way you do business, make sure you’ve already documented current processes and have a clear understanding of what’s working well and what can be improved. Over the last few decades, several methodologies have been created and used to analyze and improve processes. Key among them: Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, and Total Quality Management (TQM).

How to Streamline Process Analysis

In simple terms, document the way you create, edit, and manage your data. Task-by-task, step-by-step, what does your team do to get the job done? If you see a problem with a process, keep documenting. Improvements, changes, redesigns come in the next step.

Steps to Document Processes

At the core of all process documentation is the process flowchart: an illustration with various boxes and decision diamonds connected with arrows from one step to the next. Collect as much data and as many contingencies as possible to make this flowchart as meaningful and robust as possible.

Diving Deeper

Integrated Definition (IDEF) methods look at more than just the steps taken to complete a task within a process. IDEF takes the following into account:

  • Input - What is needed to complete the steps in the task? Understanding this information can highlight deficiencies and can highlight flaws in effective completion of a particular step. 
  • Output - What does the task produce? Is the outcome what it needs to be?
  • Mechanisms - What tools are needed to perform the steps in the task? Can new technology make a difference?
  • Controls - What ensures that the steps within the task are being performed correctly?

Swimlane or Functional Flowcharts

In addition to the four items from IDEF data, knowing who performs a task is also important. As you draw the boxes and connect them with arrows, place them in a lane that represents the “Who” of process. Knowing who does what can reveal possible over-tasking and/or bottleneck issues in production and efficiency.

Getting Started

Whiteboards and Post-it can be an easy place to start process documentation. With today’s high definition smartphone cameras, you can sketch flowcharts, take a picture, and then share with stakeholders for their review and input. Once you have collected all relevant information, tools such as Visio or Lucidchart can make complicated process flows easier to create and visualize. 

2. Process Improvement

When you know how your current processes are performed, you can start to make improvements--whether incremental or a complete redesign (A.K.A reengineering). 

Low-hanging Fruit

Some needed improvements will likely be obvious. For example, someone on the process team says, “I didn’t know that you were doing that? I do it, too.” Duplication of effort doesn’t require metrics to be collected to determine that steps can be taken to enhance efficiency.

However, most processes require some form of metric collection to determine where improvements can be made. Metrics can include research costs, development time frames, quality assurance oversights, or frequency of downtime.

Knowing What to Change

If the needed improvement isn’t obvious, metrics can help guide the decision-making process. For example, how much time does it take to complete a process today? Could that be improved? Brainstorm ideas on how to shorten the time. Test the change and remeasure. 

Too often, data is collected with the intent of measuring the success of the process, but the data being collected is does not reflect objectives. For example, if the goal of a website or a particular page is to teach, metrics concerning the number of page visits does not indicate the degree to which that goal is being achieved. A more telling metric would be the amount of time a visitor spends on the lesson pages. Even more revealing would be the number of quizzes passed after a visitor engaged with the lessons.  

Before choosing metrics to be collected, understand your goal, determine the level of improvement you want to see, then start measuring that which will actually inform your goal.

3. Process Support

Key to process improvement is an analysis of how technology is can enhance productivity and efficiencies. 

For example: “We can cut three days worth of effort for three employees if we integrate the XYZ software into our process.” This kind of statement sounds like a worthy goal, assuming the cost to transition doesn’t exceed the long-term savings it can help realize. 

Calculating the Cost of Change

Open source software applications start out with a great price tag: Free. However, unless you use the application as is, there is always a cost associated with turning it into what you need. There are many more factors to consider than the upfront cost of the software. 

Costs can include:

  • Training on new processes
  • Training on the new software application acquired to support the new process
  • A drop in productivity and efficiency until the new process/application is adopted and accepted by your staff
  • Technology needed to support the new application
  • Keep in mind: The list of ancillary costs that are involved in the transition are unlikely to appear at the top of the salesperson’s brochure.

Return on Investment

ROI assessments will vary. Two values are needed to make this computation: cost and benefits. 

Once you've computed the short-term and long-term costs, you need to determine the benefits you gain. In a situation where investment directly translates into profit, this calculation can be straightforward.

However, sometimes the benefits are cost savings: “We used to spend this. Now we spend that.” When this is the case, instead of a cost/benefit ratio, a breakdown calculation might be required to determine how long it will take to recoup costs. 

The most complicated analysis will result from benefits such as an increase in customer satisfaction in which the benefit does not have a direct monetary value.

4. Change Management

When a team cannot see the benefit or resists change, new initiatives face an uphill battle. That’s why circling back to the process analysis phase and ensuring the buy-in of those who are being counted on to use the new application is a critical success factor.

Keep in mind that employees may not have access to the big-picture business goals that management sees, but change has the greatest chance of being realized if those who will be required to support it are informed as to why it needs to happen and included, at some level, in the decision-making process. 

Indeed, change management doesn’t start when the new application is ready to be implemented. Change management starts when:

  • All the costs of change are considered;
  • The full scope of process changes are identified;
  • Training is planned and delivered; and 
  • The campaign for change acceptance is designed and initiated.

Conclusion

You might be the boss. You might believe that the software application just discovered is what  your company or your department needs. As much as that matters, you need buy in. You need the support of the people who make your business possible. You also need to engage in a disciplined analysis of the processes that will be impacted, along with anticipated improvements and the level of support that will be deployed.

From ensuring that clients’ entire online presence is compliant with ADA accessibility guidelines to web solutions that optimize impact in the ever-evolving digital environment, we at Promet Source serve as a powerful source of transformative digital possibilities. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you.

Jan 23 2019
Jan 23

Besides Title, the most common field label found on a content type form is Body. Of course, this is where you place the body of your content. It’s your blog post, your how-to instructions, or maybe an event description. You know exactly what needs to be provided in this field because you are the trained author. What happens when the scenario includes many authors with varied skills?

Without clearly visible instructions for the form and the form fields, content authors can make mistakes. There are four default features in Drupal 8 that provide instructions for content authors.

Help

Body field configuration interface

When configuring a field, all fields except Title, you can include help text. The help text appears under the field, just like you see here on the configuration form where the help text for the help text field says, “Instruction to present to the user below this field on the editing form.”

Pros

The label of a field might not communicate the full intent or purpose of the field, so adding instructions in the help field can go a long way to ensuring an author uses the field correctly. 

For example, the Tags field on the Article content type provides default help text: Enter a comma-separated list. For example: Amsterdam, Mexico City, "Cleveland, Ohio" This provides instructions for entering tags correctly. 

However, if you need to add additional instruction regarding the context of the tags, you can include a statement like, “Do not use terms already offered in the Topics field.” 

Cons

The common placement of instructions below a field isn’t always noticeable. For example, the screenshot below shows the body field with help text below. Is it eye catching? Obvious?

Body field on the Add node page.

The size of a field can make providing easy to see instructions a challenge. And, if you need to make an accessible content type, the help text feature needs a little work to make it WCAG compliant. 

Placeholder

Configuration options for Body field on the Manage form display

Using placeholder text inside the field is another option. Although this feature is not available for all field types, it does enable you to include 128 characters of instructions. Located on the Manage Form Display tab for the content type, it’s just one configuration option available.

Pros

As mentioned in the Help section above, the Title field doesn’t have a help text option. However, the placeholder feature is available to provide tips on title strategies. Or, if the instruction is short and simple, such as a date format of MM/DD/YYYY can help users quickly understand the sequence of the date parts.

Cons

It’s only 128 characters and if the field size is less that that, not all of the instructions will be visible. On the topic of visibility, the Placeholder feature is not read by a screen reader. And, unless you do some browser specific CSS overrides, the contrast of Placeholder text might not meet WCAG color contrast criterion.

Lastly, when a user clicks in the field to enter data, the placeholder text disappears.  

Default Values

Body field default content configuration interface

The default value feature for fields is a great way to speed up data entry when the same entry is expected frequently. However, it can also be used to communicate instructions to the content author. You can go as far as providing a content template where the appropriate formatting has already been applied. 

Pros

Uniformity. Clarity. An experienced author will have their own way of conveying their thoughts, but that way isn’t always what’s best for an organization. Or, a newbie writer might need a little help to get started.

Notice the instructions for the often forgotten Summary feature. If you require a summary, include instructions like those shown in the example above and the Summary field will be open and ready when the content author uses the content type.

Also, unlike the Placeholder option, clicking in the field does not make the instructions disappear. 

Cons

The content author needs to remember to delete the instruction text. A small price to pay.

Content Type Explanation/Guidelines

Submission field settings for the content type

According to the Form Instructions tutorial provided by W3C, “Where relevant, provide overall instructions that apply to the entire form.” Each content type has the option to include a form explanation or submission guideline, as the field label suggests. 

Pros

Content add form with submission guidelines sample text.

The form explanation appears just above the Title field and outside the <form> element, which is needed for accessibility. You can also include HTML elements to format your instructions. 

Cons

If you need to format your form instructions, you will need to enter your own HTML as there is no HTML editor bar.

Conclusion

Not all forms are self-explanatory. Not all field purposes can be easily deduced. Drupal provides several options for providing guidance to your content authors, each with their own pros and cons. 

As you plan the way your finished content will be presented to site visitors, remember to plan your content type forms. Just because a content author receives training when the site is delivered, that doesn’t mean they will remember everything they learned. Form instructions help.
 

Jan 17 2019
Jan 17

Promet and Drupal go way back. We were at some of the first DrupalCons. We were an Acquia partner back when nobody had heard of Acquia. Most of our work today is building large, complex Drupal sites. (We are branching out though. Feel free to talk to us about Wordpress or other web development needs!) We love Drupal, and we’ve used it to build everything from simple to very complex websites.

However, Drupal 8 has changed the Drupal ecosystem. Drupal 8 is designed for engaging digital experiences. What does that mean? Mostly it means complex or mission-critical web applications. You can be a 2-person company working out of a basement, but if your website is everything to the business, there may be a good argument to build that site on Drupal 8. 

Drupal 7 was a swiss army knife. You can effectively do anything from a small blog site to the largest most complex sites online with it. Drupal 8 is more like a finely sharpened carbon steel Chef’s knife. It still does a lot, but you really shouldn’t use it to peel an apple.

Was that analogy too tortured? Anyway, we are still a Drupal first agency. However, there are definitely use cases where Drupal 8 is not the answer. Compare your project to the examples below to get an idea if Drupal 8 may be the right CMS for your website.

A small 5-10 page “brochure” site that may be updated once a quarter, if that.

This should not be a Drupal 8 site. Wordpress is probably the most common recommendation in this situation, however, I would recommend a different route. If you truly won’t be doing more than the occasional quarterly update, I’d recommend a static site generator (SSG) such as Pelican or GatsbyJS. Wordpress still comes with the overhead of keeping a database-backed web application updated and secure. For a few pages updated a few times a year, I would generate that site with the SSG and push the resulting HTML pages to a web server. With just HTML exposed on the server, your only security concern is if somebody compromises your server account. There is no database or CMS to hack. Your hosting costs are minimized this way too.

A small 50-250 page website that is updated frequently.

On the small end of this spectrum, Wordpress is the most common recommendation. As you get to the 250-page end there starts to be an argument for Drupal 8, especially if you are dealing with some more complex content types. Be careful though. A cheaper Wordpress shop will buy a $30 theme and tweak it to fit your needs. This can work fine, as long as the theme they buy was well constructed based on Wordpress best practices. Often those purchased themes are kind of a mess at the code level. 

If the site is small with static content that is highly trafficked, you can do something really interesting by using the GatsyJS SSG as a front end to Drupal. You can manage the content via Drupal, but publish it as static HTML pages via Gatsby to minimize hosting overhead and improve performance.

A large site with hundreds or thousands of pages that are updated rarely.

Drupal 8 will be the normal recommendation here, and it’s a perfectly valid recommendation. Drupal will allow you to publish structured content across the entire site, plus use taxonomy to relate content. If you need to manage user permissions about who can do what with the content, Drupal 8 becomes a great answer.

But what if you are publishing documentation that will almost never change? Do you really need the overhead of an enterprise-grade CMS that will get used rarely once the site launches? I think the static site generators are a really interesting solution to this use case. Pelican, to reference the SSG I’m most familiar with, can implement tags to relate content, and can identify different authors if it is a multi-author scenario, It has no concept of user permissions though. I’m not aware of any major sites that have been done this way, but it seems like a very low overhead answer to the publish a lot of content once and then mostly forget about it scenario. If you have a project like this let’s talk!

You have a large complex site that has a variety of content types that integrate with 3rd party systems, and it’s crucial to your business that the site stays available and performant.

This is the Drupal 8 wheelhouse. This is what Drupal 8 does best. You can think of Drupal 8 as a box of standard Lego bricks. What you build with it is only limited by your imagination, time and resources. (How big is that box of Lego bricks?) A few of the scenarios that Drupal excels at include:

  • Multi-author websites where you need granular control of publishing and editing permissions by either individual users or groups. This extends to workflow issues where you need a publishing workflow for editorial oversight.
  • E-commerce applications where you are generating significant revenue from the website.
  • Integrated solutions where the website needs to share or sync data with other business systems such as a CRM or AMS.
  • Multi-site applications where you need to manage dozens to hundreds of websites that will all share common elements while allowing for localized control of specific content elements on specific websites.
  • Multi-output applications (decoupled Drupal!) where you need to deliver the same content to disparate devices such as web browsers, mobile apps, digital signage,  voice-activated devices such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home device; and future devices we might not have thought of yet. I can see us interacting with websites via voice activation in our cars in the not too distant future, if it's not already being done. 
  • Multi-lingual websites where you need to manage translated content.

Hey Chris, you didn’t mention SquareSpace, Wix and similar services for smaller sites.

That is correct, I didn’t. Promet is an open source consulting firm, and personally, I’m an open source advocate. I avoid proprietary solutions when an open source option exists. That said, if you need to publish a small static website and want to take the path of least resistance with SquareSpace or similar, I don’t think it’s a particularly bad idea.  If your content got locked up in one of those services the site is presumably small enough that starting over won’t be that painful. But I’m not going to recommend those services, at least not in writing ;)

If you have any questions about what to do with your website please get in touch.
 

Dec 19 2018
Dec 19

Imagine if you will, you have an Events link on your main menu. Someone clicks on it and the Events landing page is loaded in their browser. How was this page built? With Drupal, you have several options. 

If you are the kind of person who likes to have a say in the way things are done, be it from a previous bad experience or idle curiosity, the following will help you engage in the planning aspects of your Drupal site. So, let’s look at five recipes for building landing pages in Drupal.

  • Node page
  • Node Plus View Block
  • A View Page Plus a Block
  • Panel Page
  • Custom Theme Page

Node Page

Content pages in Drupal are called nodes. You fill out a form (e.g., a content type) online, save, and you have an article or event or some other kind of page. This page has a URL. That’s important to remember. Every page in a website has to have a URL. 

How

Using Drupal’s default Basic Page content type, you fill out the form. Give the page a title of About Us. Fill in the body field with information about you or your company. Add it to the main navigation menu with a check of a box. Lastly, you create an URL alias. Instead of the default format of /node/3, you want /about-us. Save and you see your new landing page.

Yes, it’s boring, but we’re just getting warmed up. 

Why

Simple page. Simple technique. Easy to create and edit. Easy to translate in a multilingual site. And let’s not forget the other cool things you can do with a node.

Node Plus a View

Building on the previous example, let’s build an Events landing page. Obviously, this kind of page is going to be a little more complicated. Here are the requirements: a title, some introductory text, and a list of Events that you created using an Events content type. You will have many events so using a manual approach to creating and updating a list of events is not a fun idea.

How

With this scenario, you use the Basic Page content type and create a node titled Events. Using the body field, you add some text that describes your events. Like before, check the box to add this node to the main navigation. Give your page the URL alias of /events. Save and the first part of the configuration is complete.

The next step in the configuration process is a little more complicated, but it’s the concepts you need, not the details at this time.

Drupal has a module called Views. It’s an incredible tool that lets you create an SQL query on the database and then create a display for the results of that query. For this landing page, you need events for the future, not the past, so you filter accordingly.

Given we already have a Drupal feature with its own URL (the event node), we don’t need another. That means you will create a block display for the SQL query results. Blocks can be small bits of information or larger, more complicated displays. They can even hold forms. What they don’t have is a URL. They only show up because a page is there to host them.

Without going into all the particulars, you will place the block so it appears under the body field. If you want to know more about how this done, please join us in a Drupal 8 Site Building Best Practice training class.

When you go to the yoursitename.com/events URL, you will see the Events node and the view block that lists the upcoming events. With some styling, you can make the two features (node and view) appear as one, seamless page.

Why

Some will argue that you could have made a View page versus using this two-step process. And, in the next example, you will. In this scenario, you looked ahead and saw that the introduction text would not be a fixed blurb. You will change it from one season to another and your staff will not have the skills to edit a View.

So, this scenario worked nicely for your business process and staff.

A View Page Plus a Block

Let’s change up the requirements as a means of introducing another build option. You need a list of events, but instead of some introduction text, you need an image banner. There are several ways to accommodate this new image requirement, including adding to the previous scenario. In this example, we will use a View page and a block.

How

Create an SQL query, grabbing all the events scheduled for the future. Instead of displaying the list of events in a block, you create a page with a URL of /events and place it on the main navigation menu.

Next, create the block that will display your image banner. Like with most requirements, Drupal provides several alternatives to meeting them. For this scenario, assuming you are using Drupal 8, create a new block type called Image Banner. Add an image field to the new block form and set the field display to show only the image.

Create a block, using your new block type. Upload the image you need for the Events landing page. This process is very similar to creating a node. The input form looks similar as well. 

Place the banner image block either above or below the page title block to match your design. This is a quick and easy way to insert an image above the title of the page if that is your choice. 

Why

A View page isn’t like a node. It doesn’t have fields. You can add a header and footer text, but it’s not the same as adding a field to a node. Bottom line, a View show the results of a query - typically that of nodes. So, if you need to display information other than the query results, you might need to use methods like described above, by adding blocks or combining a node with a view.

Another reason for mixing and matching features to create a landing page is display. By default, a Drupal page - node or view - is broken into two parts: Title block and Main Page Content block. If we had chosen to add an image to the available header text box in the view, the image would appear below the page title. Yes, you can do some template coding and rearrange things a bit, but why would you if you could simply place a block and accomplish the same goal.

The point of all this is, remember that content comes in parts in the Drupal world, and quite often, a simple mix and match strategy is all that needed.

Taxonomy View Page

A technique that can be overlooked is the use of the default taxonomy term page. A term is a word or phrase used to describe the content in the node. By default, a term page displays when someone clicks on a term link shown on a node. The page provides a list of nodes tagged with that term. 

Let’s see how this default feature might be used to create landing pages by changing our focus from Events to types of content.

How

Imagine that you have three types of content that will be placed in a body field: How-to Lessons, News, and Blogs. Instead of creating three separate content type forms, you add a field that assigns terms to the content, declaring it a How-to Lesson, for instance.

By default, the How-to Lesson term has its own landing page. In Drupal 8, the term page is a View page and can be modified to meet your display layout needs.

Let’s take this scenario one step further. It’s come to your attention that you need a banner image and introduction text to appear above the list of nodes tagged as How-to Lesson. In this scenario, you can add an image field to the term and use the description field for your introduction text.

The results are very similar to what we have created in the previous scenarios: a page title, and image, some text, and a list of nodes. Place the page URL on the main menu and you have a landing page. 

Hopefully, this demonstrates the need to think about your processes before choosing a configuration strategy. There are several steps involved but it’s actually quite easy to learn how to do in a Drupal training class.

Why

Websites can be complex and that might mean multiple content types. However, imagine that one of your staff is blogging the latest insight on gardening strategies and it morphs into a how-to lesson. If they created the blog post in the Blog content type, they would need to move that content to the How-to Lesson content type instead. 

If this is something that might happen, create one content type for narrative content and use terms to distinguish between them. If you do, you can then take advantage of the term’s default pages, as demonstrated in this example.

Panel Page

So far, our examples assumed simple displays. What if you want to create a landing page whose content is built solely from blocks. Basic text blocks. View blocks. Blocks from other modules. Again, there are several ways to make this happen, especially if your theme (that bundle of code that controls the look and layout of your site) has the appropriate regions to organize your blocks in the way you need.

For now, let’s assume you need something unique.

How

Panels is a module that you can add to Drupal. It provides a graphic user interface (GUI) and allows you to create a page with its own URL that can be assigned to the main menu. Remember, if you need a page in Drupal, it has to come from something that can have its own URL. You can also create a custom layout to display blocks.

The process to complete this task is too complicated to step through here, but it can be learned in a Drupal training class.

Why

Some will say that you should create the theme regions you need versus using Panels, and they would have a valid point. However, if by now you are intrigued with the build process and are wondering if you might be able to do it yourself, then a tool such as Panels doesn’t require you to know how to customize a theme. 

Of course, with training, a custom theme is something you can manage. In fact, let’s consider one way of using a custom theme to create a page on your site.

Custom Theme Page

Let’s take a moment to consider the Drupal theme. Without going into all the details of theme development, at a minimum, you need to know that the theme defines the regions (header, navigation, sidebars, content, footer, and more) used to organize and display blocks. It also manages the templates used to say what gets rendered in the region.

For example, there is a page template. This renders the region if there is a block assigned to show in said region. You can add as many regions you want in order to accommodate the various block layouts you need.

You can also create a template for a single page. Let’s consider this strategy for a moment. 

How

Assume that you created a node using the Basic Page content type and titled it Resources. In the theme, you create a template specific to this node. At this point, it’s all about hand coding. You create a template that renders all the blocks you have created to display on this page. Then, with some CSS, you style the blocks in a layout of your choosing.

With the Resources node assigned to the main navigation menu,  you have the page you need because its custom template is hard coded.

Why

To be honest, although this blogger has seen this approach used, it is not conducive to making quick changes to the page. Why is it listed as an option? Because, depending on who you hire to create your site, you might end up with a vendor that uses this technique. Be it on purpose to gain maintenance business from you or just from lack of Drupal building experience, you could end up with a site that does not take advantage of Drupal’s flexibility.

Make sure you are specific in your requirements regarding the use of custom code if this is a concern.

Planning and Promet

The five options conveyed here are not the only options you have available. Moving forward, consider taking an active role in the development strategies chosen to create your site to ensure you receive a solution you can manage. 

Remember to build in time in your schedule to have development strategies discussed before they are implemented. If your developer is reluctant to let you in on their plans for meeting your requirements, they might not be the vendor for you. 

If you still have questions, check out Drupal 8 Makes it Easier and The Path to Migration to learn more about your options and considerations for your project.

Promet offers a unique planning engagement that we call our Architecture Workshop. This workshop is a customized engagement that engages all of your stakeholders in the Discovery Process. We do a 3-5 days of intensive onsite exercises with stakeholders (for your busy C-level folks we customize the agenda to bring them in where they are needed during this onsite). Then the team goes away and produces a set of deliverables that includes a full-field level Architecture Blueprint of the website(s). Whether you choose to use a waterfall or agile development methodologies - you have everything you need to build the website everyone has agreed upon. 

Not building your site and stressed out about getting an accurate quote? Investing in this kind of Workshop will make sure that you get the right Partner, and the best price.

For more planning information email [email protected].

Dec 19 2018
Dec 19

Have you ever tried logging in or registering to a website and you were asked to identify some distorted numbers and letters and type it into the provided box? That is the CAPTCHA system.

The CAPTCHA helps to verify whether your site's visitor is an actual human being or a robot. Not a robot like you see in the Terminator movie but an automated software to generate undesired electronic messages (or content). In short, CAPTCHA protects you from SPAM.
 

Distorted texts and numbers, for example, could not be recognized by bots so by providing this we are sure that only a human can log in or register.


This works! But there are some downfalls to this. For one, it's not user-friendly to visitors who are visually impaired. Reading distorted numbers and letters can be annoying to regular users, how much more to a user with a visual disability. The last thing we want from our visitors' is form abandonment, that is, leaving without even the chance to enter.
 

The solution? reCAPTCHA!
 

Drupal's reCAPTCHA module uses the Google reCAPTCHA to improve the CAPTCHA system. The reCAPTCHA module is a very efficient addon to the original CAPTCHA module.

With reCAPTCHA, we have the choice to provide a simple checkbox that asks our users if they are a robot or not. this is so much easier than asking our users to read distorted characters. We can also provide several random images and ask our users to check a specific image. This kind of test could not be passed by a robot, but we humans can!

Why trouble with bots? You may ask. The CAPTCHA system provides security, including but not limited to:

                -  Preventing Comment Spam in Blogs.
                -  Protecting Website Registration.
                -  Protecting Email Addresses From Scrapers.
                -  Online Polls.
                -  Preventing Dictionary Attacks.
                -  Search Engine Bots
                -  Worms (malware computer program) and SPAMs (undesired messages/content).

So how do we set up reCAPTCHA for our forms? Read along for an easy and detailed guide in setting up reCAPTCHA for your forms. this tutorial provides screenshots of every of every step of the way.
 

Install
 

Download and install CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA module.

Using your favorite installation mode the Drupal UI, copy/paste from drupal.org, Drush, or Composer. Just remember that to use reCAPTCHA, you need the CAPTCHA module.

If your site is set using the PHP dependency manager called composer (like we do at Promet Source), add reCAPTCHA and the CAPTCHA module will be added automatically as dependencies:

$ composer require drupal/recaptcha


 

Enable
 

With Drush, you can enable the reCAPTCHA module by running the command in your terminal.

$ drush en recaptcha

Drush is fantastic to interact with Drupal and work faster. Learn more: Drush Made Simple).

You can also enable the module in the UI at "/admin/modules".

Search for Recaptcha, Click the checkbox and click 'install'.
 

Enabled reCAPTCHA module


Configure
 

Go to "admin/config" and choose CAPTCHA module settings.
 

CAPTCHA module settings


In the form protection default challenge type drop-down, choose reCAPTCHA from module reCAPTCHA. Don't forget to click 'Save configuration'.
 

CAPTCHA settings


After saving, click the reCAPTCHA tab.
You will be asked for the 'Site key' and 'Secret key'.
Click on the link Register for the reCAPTCHA, you will then be automatically redirected to Google.

Register your website for reCAPTCHA

Write your domain name in 'domains'.
 

A screenshot of the form where the site has to be registered for reCAPTCHA


You will be provided with the site key and secret key. Go back to "admin/config/people/captcha/recaptcha" and fill up the "Site key" in the general settings.

Click save.
 

CAPTCHA keys

Then go to CAPTCHA Points.

Choose which form you would like to use your reCAPTCHA.

TEST!!

To test, simply open your website and try visiting the form where you enabled the reCAPTCHA.

In this tutorial, the form that I choose to use reCAPTCHA is the login form.

reCAPTCHA displayed in a login page

Additional step: For local testing ONLY

If you want to do the above steps in your local environment, you have to disable the domain name validation in your reCAPTCHA configuration in google.com

Click the Advance settings and disable the domain name validation.
 

CAPTCHA for local testing


Don't forget to test by accessing your form in an incognito browser.

And there you have it, reCAPTCHA configured! Your Drupal 8 project is now protected by Google's reCAPTCHA system.

Say no to bots, yes to human...

Questions?
Drop them in the comments section below this article :)

Special thanks to Luc Bezier for contributing to this post before publication.

 

Nov 15 2018
Nov 15

Did someone test your website for accessibility conformance without your knowledge and then inform you that your organization is prime for an accessibility lawsuit? Are they offering to help you fix the issues found on your website? 

That notification and offer might be valid, but it also might not be the entire picture. One free test grade might not reflect how your site is doing in all its accessibility subjects because automated testing tools can't find all the problems. We believe in assessing all topics of accessibility before recommending a sit down to discuss your options on how to proceed.

How do we do it? 

We don't rely on automated testing to reveal the true nature of a website's issues. We manually test it as well. We look at what makes your website unique and try to understand its mission before creating a scorecard you can use in your decision-making process.

This card reflects several perspectives including the issues anyone with an automated testing tool can see, including you. Many are free to use and quite robust in their feedback. Give one a try. For example, Code Sniffer.

But don't stop there. Our scorecard also reflects a sample of other accessibility issues not seen by the tool.

Last but not least, we look at how you are delivering your website. This part of the review is critical to understanding whether fixing or rebuilding the site is going to be your most cost-effective solution.

Website Grade

Just like the report card you got as a kid, we use grades to convey the accuracy and quality of your work, or in this case, your website. As you can see below, there are degrees of quality: A through D. No F, for failure. We assume no site is that bad.

A – Accessible & modern platform, main issues residing solely in the content
B – Accessible & modern platform, but issues with template items such as menus, sidebars, and in-line styling
C – Accessible & modern platform, but many features need to be replaced or reworked to achieve compliance
D – Antiquated platform, non-responsive, easier to rebuild vs. fix

The Scorecard is not intended to act as a thorough report or formal recommendation, simply a high-level overview. It's our tool to facilitate a conversation with you and help you choose the best path to remediation.

For example, we might find that you are using a content management system tuned to meet the accessibility criterion, but your content developers aren't using appropriate techniques when posting. Fixing existing content issues without “fixing” the reason the issues exist just means your site will continue to have problems.

Or, the example could be far worse. We hate to say it in this day of accessibility lawsuits, but there are still platforms out there that don't follow the rules. If your site was created using an antiquated approach, it might be more cost effective to rebuild rather than create workarounds in your current system.

Our Passion

Here at Promet Source, we are passionate about accessibility. We offer an array of services and remediation options that can be shaped to fit your needs. But, be warned, we are not a quick fix/band-aid company. We believe in enabling you to move forward knowing that you have a fully accessible site and the means to keep it accessible.
 
The decision process associated with such an undertaking can feel overwhelming. That's why we offer the scorecard as part of your remediation process. It's your tool to use in helping others in your organization to understand the level of effort you are facing by moving forward. 

We find that when all stakeholders have an understanding and are vested in doing the right thing, the future of a website is easier to envision. 

We look forward to talking to you about that phone call you got by surprise or that unsolicited email full of ill tidings. Don't worry, we can help you understand and make informed decisions.
 

Nov 15 2018
Nov 15

Did someone test your website for accessibility conformance without your knowledge and then inform you that your organization is prime for an accessibility lawsuit? Are they offering to help you fix the issues found on your website? 

That notification and offer might be valid, but it also might not be the entire picture. One free test grade might not reflect how your site is doing in all its accessibility subjects because automated testing tools can't find all the problems. We believe in assessing all topics of accessibility before recommending a sit down to discuss your options on how to proceed.

How do we do it? 

We don't rely on automated testing to reveal the true nature of a website's issues. We manually test it as well. We look at what makes your website unique and try to understand its mission before creating a scorecard you can use in your decision-making process.

This card reflects several perspectives including the issues anyone with an automated testing tool can see, including you. Many are free to use and quite robust in their feedback. Give one a try. For example, Code Sniffer.

But don't stop there. Our scorecard also reflects a sample of other accessibility issues not seen by the tool.

Last but not least, we look at how you are delivering your website. This part of the review is critical to understanding whether fixing or rebuilding the site is going to be your most cost-effective solution.

Website Grade

Just like the report card you got as a kid, we use grades to convey the accuracy and quality of your work, or in this case, your website. As you can see below, there are degrees of quality: A through D. No F, for failure. We assume no site is that bad.

A – Responsive & modern platform, main issues residing solely in the content
B – Responsive & modern platform, but issues with template items such as menus, sidebars, and in-line styling
C – Responsive & modern platform, but many features need to be replaced or reworked to achieve compliance
D – Antiquated platform, non-responsive, easier to rebuild vs. fix

The Scorecard is not intended to act as a thorough report or formal recommendation, simply a high-level overview. It's our tool to facilitate a conversation with you and help you choose the best path to remediation.

For example, we might find that you are using a content management system tuned to meet the accessibility criterion, but your content developers aren't using appropriate techniques when posting. Fixing existing content issues without “fixing” the reason the issues exist just means your site will continue to have problems.

Or, the example could be far worse. We hate to say it in this day of accessibility lawsuits, but there are still platforms out there that don't follow the rules. If your site was created using an antiquated approach, it might be more cost effective to rebuild rather than create workarounds in your current system.

Our Passion

Here at Promet Source, we are passionate about accessibility. We offer an array of services and remediation options that can be shaped to fit your needs. But, be warned, we are not a quick fix/band-aid company. We believe in enabling you to move forward knowing that you have a fully accessible site and the means to keep it accessible.
 
The decision process associated with such an undertaking can feel overwhelming. That's why we offer the scorecard as part of your remediation process. It's your tool to use in helping others in your organization to understand the level of effort you are facing by moving forward. 

We find that when all stakeholders have an understanding and are vested in doing the right thing, the future of a website is easier to envision. 

We look forward to talking to you about that phone call you got by surprise or that unsolicited email full of ill tidings. Don't worry, we can help you understand and make informed decisions.

Email us for help!
 

Nov 13 2018
Nov 13

Partnership combines comprehensive UI design, UX, and digital strategy, with web development proficiency, to produce a holistic experience for clients.

Chicago, Illinois — November 13, 2018 — In September 2018, Promet Source acquired DAHU Agency, a strategy-focused, user experience and design agency that enhances the services offered to its clients. By expanding their services in UX and UI, and bringing new offerings in-house for digital strategy, WordPress development, messaging, and branding –  Promet aims to better serve their clients evolving needs as marketing and web technologies continue to converge and the need to provide functional, dynamic websites increases.

 

In his vision for Promet to be a strong digital agency focused on creating great user experiences through meaningful web applications, Andy Kurcharski, President of Promet, seeks to accelerate growth and innovation by providing comprehensive digital services to his clients.  Andy has more than 20 years of technical leadership experience from startups to Fortune 50 firms with industry experience in banking, telecommunications, government, and association technology management. Andy’s e-commerce experience dates to 1998 with the implementation of highly scalable enterprise solutions.

 

“In today’s technology landscape, we are seeing that our clients and their customers expect more from their websites” Kurcharski expressed. “Our addition of a new team to our existing core of web developers will help us to proactively approach new websites with a holistic mindset combining our technology expertise with great design and function to ultimately increase client success online.”

 

DAHU Agency, based in Dallas, Texas, not only provides Promet with an office central to service their clients in the Southwest region but also brings expertise in design and digital strategy to help optimize user experience within an organization’s website.

 

Mindy League, CEO, and founder of DAHU Agency offers a highly thoughtful and adaptive approach to constantly evolving technologies and user behaviors. Her experience in building solutions for clients such as HP, Emerson, IBM, and Home Depot, contribute to a depth of perspective into the challenges and opportunities faced by top global brands. Mindy will join Promet as the Director of User Experience and Design.

 

DAHU’s distinct approach to engaging with clients has been described as “radical empathy” and it is this philosophy and mindset that complements Promet’s dedication to delivering groundbreaking results to their clients. Whether examining the impact of corporate strategies on customers and the broader enterprise or developing products, Promet aims to step into their clients’ businesses with a fervent dedication to excellent experiences and high-impact results.

 

Click here for full press release. 


 

Nov 01 2018
Nov 01

Your company brand encompasses the entire perception of your organization through the eyes of your customers, clients, and employees. Branding consists of more than just your logo and typeface selections; it is how the public (usually users and/or customers) experiences your business. How you position your brand can certainly define the customers’ experience of your organization. However, consider first planning great experiences for your users and customers in order to develop a more customer-centric brand identity. Changing to this strategy requires a solid understanding of your users and customers as well as a thoroughly considered mission statement prior to developing your brand.

UNDERSTAND YOUR USERS AND CUSTOMERS

Knowing who your business is intended to cater to will help you to plan all the touchpoints your customers and clients will have with you, from the in-person experience to the web and social media experience to even the look and feel of business cards you hand out. For example, if your target audience consists of Millennials, your language and messaging would be different than if it consisted of top-level executives and managers. User experience research techniques can be used to help define different customer/client personas. These personas can be used essentially as avatars for your customer base. As new services or features are developed, keep these personas in mind to ensure that these new offerings align with their needs and desires. At times, new personas might replace or get added to the list.

RELY ON YOUR MISSION STATEMENT

Your mission statement defines the core purpose of your business. There’s a delicate balance required between keeping it broad enough to encompass your long term vision, yet narrow enough to define your identity for both your employees and your customers. A good mission statement represents what you stand for in specific, actionable ways. It paves the way for how your employees interact with your customers. The length of your mission statement may range from a sentence or two to several paragraphs, a good rule of thumb would be to keep it as succinct as possible in order to avoid providing too narrow a focus and thus reducing strategic flexibility. Also, keep in mind that your mission statement can evolve over time to adjust for the market, your competitors, and your customer’s needs and desires.

DESIGN YOUR USER AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES

The broad definition of User and Customer Experience includes how your customers interact with all facets of your business. Rely on your mission statement and understanding of your customers to help define how you want those interactions to occur instead of leaving it to chance and risking a negative experience. For instance, if you wish to present your organization as caring and supportive to your user base, friendlier language and a welcoming user interface on your website or software would communicate your caring and empathic intent.

User and Customer Experience is about setting and meeting the users’ expectations through clarity of messaging and purpose. Keeping the customer experiences in mind at all times when developing your business processes will help ensure that your customers stay positively engaged with your organization.

By tailoring your business strategies around your customers’ expectations and the driving force behind your mission statement, you can create specific user and customer experiences.  These experiences reinforce their expectations and your mission statement, creating a sustainable, healthy feedback loop. For example, McDonalds recently responded to customer requests by running focus groups to test the viability of providing all-day breakfast service to their fans. Before simply agreeing to these requests (the first of which were posted in 2007!), McDonalds tested the viability of the service through focus group and user testing in small markets in order to ensure that the service could be provided within customer expectations. This is a great example of using feedback and relying on thorough user and customer research to improve brand perception through ensuring consistent customer experience, even for new offerings.1

By leveraging this valuable feedback loop to guide the underlying framework of your business decisions, you can ensure that your organization adjusts to changing expectations and trends, keeping your brand fresh and relevant for as long as possible – while keeping your customers engaged.

1The Story of How McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast Came to Be

 

 

Oct 20 2018
Oct 20

The most common way to post content on a web page is via HTML text, images, audio, and video. No matter your approach to content delivery, you probably know that your approach needs to be accessible. Did you know that non-web content such as Adobe PDF documents needs to be accessible as well?

Is your restaurant menu downloadable? Do you post your meeting agendas? What about event brochures or product catalogs? PDF files are great for such purposes and need to be accessible.

Did you know that the rules you follow to create accessible HTML content, also apply to non-web content such as Word and PDF files? You might be wondering how one makes non-web files like PDFs accessible. That’s where the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) comes into play. Of course, not all will apply such as Bypass Blocks and Captions for video but the WCAG criterion will be your guide. 

Let’s consider some of the guidelines that will apply to non-web documents.

Applicable WCAG Criterion

When creating documents, you need to cover the basics. 

  • Declare the document’s language.
  • Include a title for your document
  • Use Header styles instead of manually bolding a header or changing its font size
  • Ensure that said headers are orderly, that you don’t jump from header 2 to header 4, for instance
  • Include a brief description of your images via alternative text 
  • Ensure color contrast ratios are met
  • Identify the meaning of shapes and icons that you might use
  • Declare header row in any data tables you create
  • Resist the urge to use tables to manage your content layout
  • Ensure that embedded links have a clear purpose (no “Click here” links)
  • Remember not to leave inline bookmarks hanging without its partner link

The more complicated the PDF, such as those with forms, you will need to meet another criterion.  However, for your basic content document, hopefully, you are thinking that this list doesn’t sound too bad. If not, you have help. If you miss something while creating your PDF, Adobe Acrobat has an accessibility testing tool that will remind you to check things it can’t, tell you if it sees something wrong, and will give you help to fix the issues.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The first step in the process of creating the accessible PDFs.

Create a Source File

Microsoft Office, Corel, Google, and Adobe are just a sampling of product vendors whose applications can create PDF files after its user has created a source file. Perhaps you are using one of these or some other application. As long as your source file can be made to accommodate the requirements listed above before you export a PDF, then you are well on your way to creating an accessible document.

Save As or Export a PDF

If you create an MS Word document, for example, the process is to save as a PDF. If you create an InDesign document, the process is to export. Whatever the vernacular, convert your source file into a PDF.  

Convert does not mean print to PDF, nor does it mean scan to PDF. Both of these options create an image of the text. That means assistive technology cannot see the text. 

Sadly, not all conversion processes work perfectly. That means testing and repair is required.

Test and Touch up the PDF

Even if you have a simple Word document with sections and subsections divided by headers, you can still run into issues once the file has been converted to PDF. Use the accessibility testing tool in Adobe Acrobat to check for hidden issues. 

For instance, by default, the Acrobat accessibility test result will likely tell you to check your color contrast - assuming you are using color in your document. It might also say you don’t have a title when you do. FYI, the title being requested is part of the document’s metadata. Lastly, it will likely ask you to check the logical reading order of your content. 

You might think that checking the logical reading order can be ignored. You created a document whose content is presented in a logical order. How could it have possibly changed? Just to be sure, you scroll through the PDF and see that all is well. 

Logical reading order isn’t about what you see, it’s about the order assistive technology will read the content. So, be sure to click on Reading Order in the Accessibility options in Acrobat. Make sure that the numbers assigned to each item on the page convey the actual order. You would be surprised how often the reading order differs from what you see.

There could be other issues the test reveals. Don’t worry about not knowing how to fix all the issues it finds. Acrobat provides links to short tutorials that explain how to remedy an accessibility problem it has found. 

However, before you fix something in the PDF, make sure it was formatted correctly in the source of the source file. It if is not, fix it there and convert again.

Conclusion

If you have a choice between placing content on your site via a PDF versus HTML text, consider the HTML text first. HTML text is more accessible than a file that has to be downloaded. Plus it is easier to format HTML text and images to be accessible.

If faced with a multi-page source file that can’t easily be ported into HTML text, then plan ahead. Allow time to inspect your PDF’s reading order and remedy any accessibility issues before you put it online.

Not sure you have a problem? Email our Accessibility Experts - they can evaluate your site, and provide you with an Accessibility Scorecard. If you know your documents are a problem, we can estimate the cost of remediating those documents. 

Oct 18 2018
Oct 18

A web page in Drupal is made up of several parts. For instance, you have the header and navigation that appears on each page. You have the main content region that holds your articles or the details associated with your events. On either side of the content, you might have sidebars with blocks suggesting related content or a call to action. 

Typically, each part of the page is created or managed by different members of your website team. The developers that originally created your site will have set up your header and menu, for example. You might have a trained IT member of your team tasked to create and place blocks in the sidebars as needed. Then, when a content author publishes an article, those blocks appear as planned on the article.

A setup like this taxes your IT team and limits your content authors. Let’s explore how content types, fields, and views can empower your authors to influence the block that appears in the sidebars from article to article.

Planning Your Blocks

A simple exercise in the planning process is to ask the question, when X-type of content is published, what blocks should also appear? Traditionally, this would mean a fixed set of blocks configured to be visible on that content type or based on the URL alias.

But, what if you need a more granular approach to creating and enabling blocks? What if you wanted your content author to create and enable blocks without having to train them to be a Drupal builder?

Let’s explore an example scenario where you list all the blocks you might need from one article post to another:

  • More like this
  • Related training
  • Call to action
  • Archive
  • Guest speakers

A few of these blocks can be set up during development to activate automatically. For example, if the article is tagged as a container garden, then other articles tagged as such will appear in a "More Like This" block. But what about Calls to Action? Let’s take a closer look at those blocks that can’t be predicted with ease.

Related Training

You could design a Related Training block much like the More Like This block where training events would be listed in the block just because they have been tagged with the same term. 

What if the content is a how-to piece giving a sneak preview to one of the more simpler tasks that will be taught in a series of training events? In this scenario, the author wants to control which event to advertise, but she doesn’t want to include that advertisement in her narrative.

So, in the narrative content type, you add a field that allows the author to reference the training event nodes that are directly associated with the content of the how-to lesson. Following the same concept as in the previous example, you hide the event reference field and print it via a Views block. The block appears in a predestined spot on the page.

With this approach, with some planning, the block can be configured to include a thumbnail image taken from the events in question along with date and time information, making it more than a list of the titles that appear in the reference field.

Call to Action

Your content author has created an article about a new technology that will be presented at the conference. You are not presenting a session, but you will be hosting a networking event for attendees who want to extend their conference experience and meeting others in the field. The article is not the event. There’s an event node in another section of the site.

You want a Call to Action block to appear with this article, giving site visitors a link to sign up for the networking session. The common practice would be to create an advertising block and then place that block to be visible for this specific article.

Another strategy would be to add a field set to the content type you use for your narratives such as blogs, news, and how-to lessons. You would add an image field, a text field, a link field, and an on/off field. They would not be set to show. Instead, a contextual view block would be created, one on the lookout for someone to fill in the call-to-action fields and turn it on.

The Call to Action block will show up at the author’s discretion in a place on the page decided by the User Experience designer during the planning phase of your website development project.

Archive

Drupal 8 ships with a predefined View called Archive. It provides a block that lists months and includes a number representing how many nodes were published in that month. By default, all nodes are included but that doesn’t mean you can’t add filters to limit what gets included in the count.

Not all narrative content will be enhanced by including an Archive block, therefore having it enabled by default, could take up screen space needed for other more useful blocks. So, how does a content author turn this block on and off as needed? 

First, identify the scenarios where your users would benefit from being able to find previous narratives in common with the one they are viewing.  Then, using the same strategy applied for the Call to Action block, add an on/off field for the Archive block. Edit the Archive View to look for this field to be set to on.

This scenario and the previous one will depend on your trust in the author to know when to turn on Call to Action and/or Archive. That’s where business rules come into play and ensuring all know how to follow them. 

Guest Speakers

This time, your content author is creating an event with multiple guest speakers. You have decided that creating a speaker page for every guest could amount to many nodes that aren’t worth maintaining. Instead, you want to link to the speaker’s own website.

Of course, you could make this information available is a list of links as part of the event, but given all the data you are already including, it’s been decided that highlighting the speakers in their own blocks is a better option.

Using the same strategy enabled in the Call to Action scenario, you create a set of fields: image, text, link, on/off. This time, however, you need the ability to have multiple speakers so you need this set of fields to repeat. There is a module called Paragraphs that will be your friend in this example.

Paragraphs allow you to create a set of fields that can be repeated on the page. Instead of including them in the display, you use a View to show the information in a block.

Performance

You might be starting to wonder about the performance of your site with all these queries on the database. And, you would be right to be concerned if you had no caching plan in place. Outside of Drupal, you have caching tools such as Varnish that can help deliver your pages quickly.

Have a Plan

When it comes to Drupal, using your imagination is key to empowering your content authors. Start by mapping your processes. Ask yourself what has to be available in order to execute the process differently.

Remember, you don’t have to teach your content authors how to create and place blocks. You can plan ahead and give them simple options within the environment they will already be working. Assuming default processes are your only option can frustrate your users.

Need Help?

Promet offers best practice Training to help give your team the know-how to be prepared for these scenarios. Want to run scenarios like this by our experts to get advice on pages, or even plan a new website from the ground up? Promet is happy to create small and large planning exercises for you and your team to get the most out of your Drupal site.

Oct 15 2018
Oct 15

If someone sues you because your website has accessibility issues, it usually means they need you to fix said issues. Sadly, there will be those lawsuits where the complaint is trigger more by the desire of monetary compensation from a settlement than the present accessibility issues, but in either scenario, there has to be grounds for the complaint which means something needs remediation on your site. 

Why are we stating the obvious? Because it's not obvious to all who find themselves with a letter or lawsuit claiming that their website is inaccessible and therefore discriminates against individuals with vision, hearing, and/or physical disabilities under ADA Title III.

Defenses against inaccessibility claims that have been seen in the news include:

  • Websites aren’t included under ADA Title III
  • Even if they are, it’s moot in this case

ADA Title III Defense?

On October 31, 2017, a letter was sent to The Honorable Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, and signed by sixty-one Members of Congress, urging the DOJ “to restart the process of issuing regulatory guidance regarding the Internet under Title III of the ADA.”1

Restart? Yes. 

In this same letter, the sixty-one Members of Congress reminds the Attorney General that the DOJ, in their 2010 ANPR, states “Although [DOJ] has been clear that the ADA applies to websites of private entities that meet the definition of ‘public accommodations,’ inconsistent court decisions, differing standards for determining Web accessibility, and repeated calls for [DOJ] action indicate remaining uncertainty regarding the applicability of the ADA to websites of entities” included in Title III. 

Unfortunately, the 2010 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking2 where “the Department encourages small entities to provide cost data on the potential economic impact of adopting a specific requirement for website accessibility and recommendations on less burdensome alternatives, with cost information,” has been given a status of inactive under Trump’s Unified Regulatory Agenda released in July 2017.3 

On July 19, 2018, another letter was sent to the The Honorable Jefferson B. Sessions, III by the Attorneys General of 18 states and the District of Columbia on the same topic sent by the Members of Congress.4

If the DOJ recognizes that Title III is unclear, is it no wonder that site owners still try to claim that websites aren't included in Title III? No. 

However, as you read about website accessibility cases in the news, it’s clear that the courts have decided that it does. Whether it was the Winn Dixie case in June of 20175 that set the precedence or that the plaintiff in this case has brought other similar suits since then, it doesn’t matter. Compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), level AA is here to stay. Whether its WCAG version 2.0 or the recent 2.1, courts are ruling that these guidelines must be met.

So, what other defense can a business make to stop a website accessibility lawsuit? Other than remediating the problem?

Moot Defense?

If you aren’t a lawyer, you might be scratching your head right now. Moot? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Let’s start with a simple example.

Carroll v. New People's Bank, Inc.6

Filed in November, 2017 and terminated in April, 2018. First, please note the length of time required to adjudicate this case, only to have it dismissed. Here is a brief look at what transpired.

  • “NPB's website contains accessibility barriers, which Carroll alleges prevent him from using screen reading software to freely navigate the site.”
  • “NPB informed Carroll of its intent to develop a new website by letter in November 2017, prior to the filing of his lawsuit. In this letter, NPB stated that they had "voluntarily made a number of improvements" to the website and had "retained a third-party to develop a new website for the bank which [would] further improve [the website's] accessibility and client service feature-set."”
  • “Carroll argues that this new website does not render his claim moot because there is no guarantee that NPB will not revert to its former inaccessible website in the future.” 
  • “NPB has moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of standing.”
  • “NPB contends that, in any event, Carroll's claim is now moot based on its voluntary upgrades made to the website after this action was filed, which upgrades Carroll does not dispute.”

Obviously, there’s more to this case than the snippets provided here. In fact, the case is interesting reading. Bottomline, NPB responded to Carrol’s letter, fixed the site, and the case was dismissed.

Haynes v. Hooters of America, LLC7

This next case isn’t as straightforward as Carroll’s claim being moot. This one is about getting sued twice for the same issue. Here is brief look at the ruling.

  • “On April 4, 2017, Haynes sued Hooters in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida …” In short, Haynes wanted Hooters to fix the accessibility issues on their site.
  • “Prior to the initiation of Haynes’ suit, on August 22, 2016, a different plaintiff filed a separate and nearly identical website-inaccessibility lawsuit against Hooters. Less than three weeks after the filing of that suit, the parties reached an agreement and settled their dispute (“Gomez Settlement Agreement”) ...”
  • “Hooters moved to dismiss Haynes’ suit, arguing that, because Hooters was in the process of actively implementing a remediation plan for its website, pursuant to the Gomez Settlement Agreement, there was no live case or controversy and Haynes’ claim must be dismissed on the mootness grounds.” They had until September 2018 to fix their site.
  • The district court agreed with Hooters and dismissed the case.
  • But, Haynes didn’t agree, and neither did the Eleventh Circuit in their June, 2018 ruling that “the case is not moot.” 

Again, there is more to this case that is briefly summarized here. In short, Haynes had no way to know or to ensure that the remedies being planned would resolve the issues he was having with the site. Therefore, his claim was valid. Yes, you can get sued twice for the same thing if the issue is still present on your site. 

Lessons Learned

There are four lessons worth mentioning. 

Audit Your Site Before You Get Sued

There is no argument that it’s going to cost you money to have your site audited appropriately for accessibility issues and ultimately remediated if problems exist. You could wait to see if you get caught but at that point, your costs include legal fees plus the audit and remediation.

Other costs include the negative publicity that can ensue. Web accessibility cases are hot topics and will remain so due to the lack of specific ADA regulations from the DOJ. People want to know how courts are ruling and that means numerous blog posts and speculation where your business’ name is spattered over the Internet.

Website Accessibility Insurance

Insure your site. You heard right. Insurance. You have a site right now. You think all is well. You have processes in place that audit content as it goes live to ensure there aren’t any issues. You have run an automated tool on sample pages and everything looks okay.

However, as a person that drives a car or owns a home knows, you can never predict when something is going to go wrong. That’s why you have insurance.

Don’t believe that such insurance exists? Think again. Beazley Insurance is working with Promet Source to offer insurance against ADA website compliance claims. Said policy includes up to $25,000 coverage for an accessibility audit and remediation if someone files a claim against you.

“In 2017, 7,663 ADA Title III lawsuits were filed in federal court — 1,062 more than in 2016.”8 “If ADA Title III federal lawsuit numbers continue to be filed at the current pace, 2018’s total will exceed 2017 by 30%, fueled largely by website accessibility lawsuit continued growth.”9 Add to these numbers the cases brought in state courts and it’s not hard to believe that you could get sued in the near future.

Move Quickly

If you get a letter, move quickly to remediate those items specifically noted. In the case of Carroll v. New People’s Bank, even if Carroll could prove standing, in the long run, NPB responded quickly and fixed the issues in the letter. 

Has Hooters moved quickly? How much money do you think Hooters could have saved in legal fees by taking down their inaccessible website and quickly replacing it with a simple, accessible website until their new site could be designed, developed, and launched? You decide.

Quick Might Not Be Fast Enough

It’s clear that people with disabilities are no longer hesitating to file suit for an inaccessible website. Whether they have standing or not, you could be faced with one lawsuit after another until you can audit your site and remediate it accordingly. And, given the findings in Haynes v. Hooters of America, LLC, the courts might let each lawsuit stand. So, circling back to the first lesson, have your site audited using automated and manual testing, get it fixed if issues are found.

Conclusion

Until the DOJ responds to the pleas of lawmakers across the nation to create specific regulations regarding website accessibility, courts will continue to review other cases to determine what’s moot or not. Don’t wait to find out. Get audited. Fix the issues.

If you don’t know what to do, Promet’s Accessibility Audit, Remediation, and Training Roadmap will help you end a current lawsuit and prevent any future lawsuits.
 

Footnotes

1. https://www.cuna.org/uploadedFiles/Advocacy/Priorities/Removing_Barriers_Blog/ADA%20DOJ%20ES-RD%20Letter%20-%20FINAL.pdf
2. https://www.ada.gov/anprm2010/equipment_anprm_2010.htm
3. https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaMain
4. https://www.cuna.org/uploadedFiles/Advocacy/ADAAGLetter71918.pdf
5. https://www.adatitleiii.com/tag/winn-dixie/
6. https://casetext.com/case/carroll-v-new-peoples-bank-inc
7. https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca11/17-13170/17-13170-2018-06-19.html
8. https://www.adatitleiii.com/2018/02/ada-title-iii-lawsuits-increase-by-14-percent-in-2017-due-largely-to-website-access-lawsuits-physical-accessibility-legislative-reform-efforts-continue/
9. https://www.adatitleiii.com/2018/07/website-access-and-other-ada-title-iii-lawsuits-hit-record-numbers/
Sep 19 2018
Sep 19

You can’t build a website without a plan. A plan derived from requirements collected and a design created. You also need a development and testing plan that reflects the appropriate strategies for meeting said requirements and design. After you launch your website, you need a maintenance plan to ensure that your code remains secure, your content remains accessible, and your future features are integrated correctly.

Of all the development methodologies, past and present, there is not one that supports the development of software without requirements and design. When choosing a methodology, be it one based on the 12 principles listed in the Agile Manifesto, or not, you will not be able to avoid the effort of creating plans.

Agile Misunderstandings

Among the many misunderstandings regarding Agile methodologies is the aspect of planning. The belief that upfront planning isn’t needed and therefore time can be saved on a project is a misunderstanding of the iterative and incremental approach to software development. Think about it that for a moment. Can you create or build anything without some kind of plan? Be it simple or extensive?

It’s also a misunderstanding that said plans, if any, don’t need to be documented. If you choose an Agile methodology, you will quickly learn about Epics and the Backlog. Epics are large user stories while the backlog is a list of requirements derived from said user stories.

So, Agile isn’t about skipping the planning aspects of the project. It’s about changing the way the planning and development are conducted. And, the first step in the process of planning your site is gathering the appropriate players together.

The Right People

If you are going to put out a request for proposal, you need to include some of the requirements. Perhaps not all the details, but enough that a vendor who wishes to bid on your project can anticipate potential costs. Later, these initial requirements will fleshed out with the vendor whose bid you choose.

So, who needs to be in the room when you start brainstorming what you need? Who will ensure all requirements are identified? 

  • The money person would be good. They will know the budget and can remind you of the fact as the ideas start to mount.
  • The content manager is important. You will need to understand the tasks involved in creating and posting your content. For instance, how will you manage the publication of your content once it is uploaded to your site?
  • Let’s not forget the person who is in charge of your current site. This is the stakeholder who knows where the bodies are buried. They know why the current site is what it is and if certain aspects of the site can't change.
  • Other process owners. Depending on the tasks that your site will support, such as e-commerce or document download, who knows the most about how these tasks should be performed?
  • The naysayer. The squeaky wheel. Who is your Eeyore. “It will never work.” Get them in the room because you want the devil’s advocate. You want to hear what might not work and why.

Bottomline, anyone responsible for an aspect of the site, be it backend support or frontend interactions, get them in the room. You want to cover all your bases.

Agile Upfront Planning

“In 1998, Alistair Cockburn visited the Chrysler C3 project in Detroit and coined the phrase ‘A user story is a promise for a conversation.’”1 Then, in 2001, Ron Jeffries, one of the original signatories of the Agile Manifesto, proposed a ‘Three Cs’ formula for user story creation: card, conversation, confirmation, making user's stories part of the world of Agile methodologies. Coupled with use cases, Agile planning seeks to identify requirements and design before development begins.

However, as you will see, the level of requirements detail depends on several factors such that not every minute decision is made at the start. Let’s look at this idea more closely.

User Stories

User stories are typically brief statements written from the user’s perspective. For example, “As the content author, I need to be able to edit a page so that I can add a header image.” The documentation of such statements can be facilitated with index cards, Post-it notes, wireframe sketches on printer paper, or anything that meets your team’s needs.

A collection of such user stories helps to confirm the scope of the project and can reveal foundational requirements such as which framework or platform to use. Such stories also reveal relationships and thus where shared code will be used, for instance. 

At this point in the planning process, the team might decide to start developing. Such a decision is made possible by today's systems and platforms with plugin and play capabilities. They provide a way to support the user story tasks so that said tasks needn't be reinvented via a use case.

If user stories are unique and more detail is needed, creating use cases is the next step.

Use Cases

If system default tasks are not what is envisioned or additional tasks need to be supported, the team may choose to clarify the user stories via use cases - details of actions and events that define how a user interacts with the system. 

Deeper investigation into the requirements can help define a development path that supports both the overall system architecture required but also the specific tasks required of the system.

Once the stakeholders and development team have gained a common understanding of what is required, the user stories and use cases are converted into epics and the necessary backlog of development tasking.

So, Agile methodologies support the requirement and design phases listed in the Waterfall methodology, it just does it by engaging methods that have proven easier for end users to envision as they communicate what it is they want from the product being created. 

Of course, this isn’t the only time during the iterative and incremental development approach where planning takes place.

Agile Planning in Development

With epics and a backlog populated, the development team plans a series of iterative and/or incremental development efforts, commonly referred to a Sprints. The way the Sprints are defined depends on the overall development strategy required to build out the product, in this case, a website.

Before each Sprint, the existing requirements (based on user stories and use cases) are reviewed and specific strategies are chosen for meeting said requirements. This might include a conversation where details are clarified or added to use cases.

After each Sprint is complete, the product owner is asked to confirm that expectations have been met. If not, requirements and design aspects can be changed to correct misunderstandings or to acknowledge a new idea or need. In other words, additional planning is interjected into the development cycle and the project is adjusted.

In addition, lessons learned are collected and decisions are made regarding how-to strategies for the next Sprint. You might be thinking that enabling changes to the original plan might introduce scope creep. And, you would be right. It can.

Planning and Scope Creep

Scope creep is similar to what happens when you think you are buying the base model of a new car and you leave the lot having spent 20% more than planned because you decided on several add-on features. 

Several factors can influence the possibility of scope creep on a website. Let’s consider two related to planning.

  • Insufficient upfront planning. We aren’t talking about getting into the details of how features on your site are developed in this instance. Instead, it’s about ensuring that all user stories have been identified along with supporting decisions. For instance, if the user needs to be able to categorize an article, has the supporting requirements such as the information architecture been defined? 
  • Incorrect stakeholders at the planning table. The budget folks will have a different take on requirements than say an end user. Content manager will be able to enlighten decision makers on processes that are required to ensure a specific level of content quality. Without the appropriate people involved in the planning process, you might find that a Sprint doesn’t meet expectations.

Conclusion

An Agile approach to website development relies on planning to be successful, however, not all planning is required before development starts. Of course, there are risks associated with moving quickly into development, one being scope creep. 

The power of Agile methodologies isn’t about being able to skip steps that a waterfall methodology is criticized for enforcing. It’s about being flexible. It’s about being able to adjust as forgotten requirements are remembered. And, it’s about continuous feedback, ensuring what was originally thought to be a good idea, still works. 

Promet and Planning

Promet offers a unique planning engagement that we call our Architecture Workshop. This workshop is a customized engagement that engages all of your stakeholders in the Discovery Process.We do a 3-5 days of intensive onsite exercises with stakeholders (for your busy C-level folks we customize the agenda to bring them in where they are needed during this onsite). Then the team goes away and produces a set of deliverables that  includes a full-field level Architecture Blueprint of the website(s). Whether you choose to use a waterfall or agile development methodologies - you have everything you need to build the website everyone has agreed upon. 

Not building your site and stressed out about getting an accurate quote? Investing in this kind of Workshop will make sure that you get the right Partner, and the best price.

Footnotes

1 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_story
Aug 30 2018
Aug 30

Perhaps you’ve heard that the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) has updated their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. 

  • On April 24th, 2018, W3C posted a proposed extension of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, referred to as WCAG 2.1.
  • On June 5th, 2018, WCAG 2.1 was no longer considered a proposal. WCAG 2.1 includes 2.0 and 17 new criterion.

When will I need to update my website?

Is there a law someplace that answers this? An official interpretation? A lawsuit that references the new criterion?

To date, in the United States, there is an understanding that WCAG 2.0, levels A and AA, is the required version and levels of accessibility required to create an ADA compliant website. Court case summaries posted by the legal community say this is so.

But, as of August 2018, this reviewer can’t find a court case that references WCAG 2.1. 

Should you sigh in relief? No. Right now, the courts are interpreting Titles II and III and hearing complaints. Will a judge bring his or her hammer down on one of the new criterion if you aren’t compliant with it? Quite possible. One would hope for a reasonable ruling: no penalties and perhaps a date allowing you time to fix the issue given the newness of the additional criterion.

As soon as this happens, you have your precedence. You have your clock. Of course, until Section 508 is updated, federal site owners are protected, but that doesn’t mean said site owners should ignore the new criterion as they update or rebuild their sites.

What kind of changes will we see?

WCAG 2.1, according to https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/, “was initiated with the goal to improve accessibility guidance for three major groups: users with cognitive or learning disabilities, users with low vision, and users with disabilities on mobile devices.”

The fact that these new criterion were added with mobile devices and users in mind should not come as a surprise. In 2015, the W3C released Mobile Accessibility: How WCAG 2.0 and Other W3C/WAI Guidelines Apply to Mobile. They’ve been working accessibility for mobile devices for some time. 

Are we talking about a lot of change?

Depends on what you are doing on your site. It’s possible you have nothing to do or change in order to meet one or more of the 17 additional criterion. Perhaps you are hoping that most of the 17 criterion are level AAA and you won’t be held accountable. Let’s clear this one up right now. Twelve of the 17 are A or AA.

At this point, we could simply list the new criterion by the principles of POUR (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust) or by level, leaving you to mentally map the criterion to how you think about your site and its functionality.

Instead, the following is offered in hopes to provide a unique and helpful perspective on the new criterion.

  1. Interactions and Orientation
  2. Content Structure
  3. Visibility
  4. Cognitive

Each criterion will be briefly explained. You will benefit from reviewing the criterion’s Understanding pages as that is where you will find a more precise set of instructions.

Interactions and Orientation

Your site is “touched” and “viewed” using multiple methods.

The oldest method being via mouse or touchpad and the pointer they control on a computer monitor. Next up is the keyboard and monitor. WCAG 2.0 included criterion 2.1.1 Keyboard, for example, to address keyboard tabbing on websites. 

Given the fact that mobile devices and touchscreens are pervasive in the world today, it’s no surprise that several of the new criterion are focused on “touching” and “viewing” said technology.

  • 1.3.4 Orientation (A)
  • 1.3.5 Identify Input Purpose (AA)
  • 2.2.6 Timeouts (AAA)
  • 2.1.4 Character Key Shortcuts (A)
  • 2.5.1 Pointer Gestures (A)
  • 2.5.2 Pointer Cancellation (A)
  • 2.5.4 Motion Actuation (A)
  • 2.5.5 Target Size
  • 2.5.6 Concurrent Input Mechanisms (AAA)

Success Criterion 1.3.4 Orientation (AA)

Bottom line, don’t prevent someone from viewing your content in the display orientation of their choosing. Of course, there are exceptions, but if you don’t have to lock your content in portrait or landscape display, then don’t. This isn’t a feature you would accidently enable, especially if your site is responsive.

Success Criterion 1.3.5 Identify Input Purpose (AA)

You know when you fill out a form online that includes your name and maybe your address and all you have to do is start typing and you are given the option to autocomplete the form? Autocomplete is a feature in HTML5.2. This works because there is a defined purpose to the field.

Criterion 1.3.5 is about ensuring the purpose of the field is clear. They reference the autocomplete technology as a means of satisfying this criterion. However, the intent is “to help people recognize and understand the purpose of form input fields. … form input fields require programmatically determinable information about their purpose.”

If you have forms on your website, you might want to look into whether you are already using HTML5.2 and providing input purposes.

Success Criterion 2.2.6 Timeouts (AAA)

Not everyone can interact with your site forms quickly. It can take time to fill in a field thus creating lengthy interactions.

So, are you collecting job applications online via a form? Are your visitors entering data for anything that might take more than a minute or two? This one's for you. 

It’s likely that you are already advising your visitors that there is a time limit for interacting with your site, if indeed there is one. If not and there is a chance that their efforts will be in vain if the session times out, you need to warn them. If you are storing their data as they go along and thus there are no concerns if they walk away and return the next day, providing a timeout notice is not required.

Success Criterion 2.1.4 Character Key Shortcuts (A) 

Are you adding keyboard functions to your pages? No? Then you are good to go. If yes, then you have a new criterion to review. You don’t want to override an existing keyboard shortcut implemented by assistive technology. This criterion give you guidance in the changes you might need to make.

Success Criterion 2.5.1 Pointer Gestures (A)

What are pointer gestures? Have you ever used two fingers to zoom in or out on your mobile device screen? If you are providing an interface, such as a map, where the user would want to zoom in or out, you might need to add a single input option. According to W3C, including [+] or [-] buttons will accommodate this criterion. For other examples, visit 2.5.1’s Understanding page.

Success Criterion 2.5.2 Pointer Cancellation (A)

Have you ever clicked on a link and upon pressing down you wish you hadn’t? Perhaps you know that moving away from the link as you release your click will cancel your request. Well, in this criterion, they are focusing on actions you might have added to your page via Javascript, for example. Actions that would prevent a click or touch from being cancelled.

If you have, you need to edit your code to not include a down event such as touchstart or mousedown. W3C includes other alternatives to tweaking your code. Instead of repeating the official details here, please visit 2.5.2's Understanding page.

Success Criterion 2.5.4 Motion Actuation (A)

Do you have an app? Is your site presented via an app? If yes, this one might apply to you. This criterion is focused on interfaces that respond to device movements. Not a common feature on websites presented via a browser but definitely a possibility in apps you might be using to present your content.

If you have added functionality to your app that, for example, advances a user to the next page when they tilt their devise, then you need to pay attention to this one. Users need the option to advance to the next page via the user interface and not when their hand accidently moves, mimicking a tilt.

To prevent your application from behaving as such in a mobile device,  you need to add a setting that disables the response to movement.

Success Criterion 2.5.5 Target Size

On a full screen display, it’s easy to imagine large buttons, for example, being acceptable from a design perspective. Shrink that web page down into a small mobile device and that button can become a tiny dot that someone has to hit with a finger or other handheld pointer.

If you have buttons or links or other features that require interaction, they need to be big enough to be touchable - even on the small mobile screens. The Understanding page for 2.5.5 presents a couple scenarios that you should review if you have such interactive links on your pages.

Success Criterion 2.5.6 Concurrent Input Mechanisms (AAA)

To say this is a level AAA criterion seems odd to this reviewer. Why would you prevent someone from using an external keyboard to enter data or interact with your site versus the in-device touchscreen? If you aren’t doing this on purpose and your site doesn’t care what a user uses (mouse, keyboard, touch), then you can check off a level AAA criterion.

If you have an essential reason for such a restriction, then, okay. Although the criterion doesn’t say you have to explain yourself, the instructions for such interactions might be a place to make this clear.

Content Structure

It’s not just words that convey meaning. It’s the style and shape of the content. You might recall two criterion introduced in WCAG 2.0 that focused on ensuring that a user of a website would not miss out on what the content is saying or implying.

  • Criterion 1.3.1’s intent is “to ensure that information and relationships that are implied by visual or auditory formatting are preserved when the presentation format changes.”
  • Criterion 1.3.2’s intent is “to enable a user agent to provide an alternative presentation of content while preserving the reading order needed to understand the meaning.”

Two new criterion have been added on this note. 

  • 1.4.10 Reflow
  • 1.4.13 Content on Hover or Focus

Success Criterion 1.4.10 Reflow 

If your site or app is already responsive, you are well on your way with this one. As long as your content fits in a user’s screen such that only one form of scrolling is required, then you are set.

Your goal is to accommodate a 320 CSS pixel vertical width. Or, 256 CSS pixel height. 

Criterion 1.4.10 is extending the efforts made by criterion 1.3.1 Info and Relationships and 1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence in hopes of ensuring content and functionality are not lost. This time, it’s about resizing versus removing visual and layout styles. If your responsive breakpoints are such that a user need to scroll in two directions to experience your content, then you need to update your code.

Success Criterion 1.4.13 Content on Hover or Focus

Do you provide popup content such as tooltips? You know when you hover over an image or text and you get additional information clarifying the image or text?

If you need to use this type of content delivery, WCAG 2.1 is recommending guidelines that will make such content easier to “see.” For example, when the popup tip appears, ensure that it remains until the user moves away from it. Also, don’t let the users pointer block the content in the popup. 

Of course, more details and explanation can be found on the criterion’s Understanding page.

Visibility

Not everyone can see small text. Not everyone can easily distinguish text from its colored background. WCAG 2.0 gave us three criterion to follow in an effort to accommodate such users of web content.

  • 1.4.4 Text Resize
  • 1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum)
  • 1.4.6 Contrast (Enhanced)

In WCAG 2.1, the following are added to this list.

  • 1.4.11 Non-text Contrast (AA)
  • 1.4.12 Text Spacing (AA)
  • 2.5.3 Label in Name (A)

Success Criterion 1.4.11 Non-text Contrast (AA)

You are already abiding by the contrast criterion for text and images of text if you are meeting WCAG 2.0. 1.4.11 makes some addition to contrasts.

First, you know when you hover over a button or link and it changes? That is a state change. You are going to need to ensure the change meets a 3:1 contrast ratio. Next, it’s not just about color on color but now there is a need to consider color next to color.

The Understanding page for 1.4.11 gives examples such as pie charts and icons lined up next to each other. The potential design impacts discussed on this resource page are definitely worth a read. Too many considerations to list here.

Success Criterion 1.4.12 Text Spacing (AA)

Similar to 1.4.4 Resize text, 1.4.12 wants to ensure that changes in the spacing between lines, paragraphs, letters, or words, they won’t lose content of functionality. So, you might need to check your CSS to ensure the following are possible:

  • Line height (line spacing) to at least 1.5 times the font size;
  • Spacing following paragraphs to at least 2 times the font size;
  • Letter spacing (tracking) to at least 0.12 times the font size;
  • Word spacing to at least 0.16 times the font size.

Success Criterion 2.5.3 Label in Name (A)

This next criterion isn’t as direct as the last two when it comes to visibility of content, but reminds us of the fact that there is more than one way to “see.”

Depending on how your pages were made, you might have both visible and invisible labels on your site. Visible for those who can see the label, such a sign-up button, and invisible, a version of the label that assistive technology reads. Similar to when you create a link to a page and ensured the link and the page title were the same, visible and invisible labels need to match.

What happens when they don’t? A user speaks the label they see and their assistive technology looks for the same words. When visible and invisible labels differ, the technology can’t find what the user needs. 

Cognitive

You don’t have to have cognitive impairment to not understand something. In WCAG 2.0, three criterion are worth noting when it comes to understandable writing.

  • 3.1.3 Unusual Words (AAA)
  • 3.1.4 Abbreviations (AAA)
  • 3.1.5 Reading Level (AAA)

Just because they are AAA level criterion, that doesn’t mean they should be dismissed. They are three of the easiest AAA criterion one can strive towards.

WCAG 2.1 has added criterion that this reviewer feels fits with enabling users of your content to gain a better understanding of what it is your are conveying.

  • 1.3.6 Identify Purpose (AAA)
  • 4.1.3 Status Messages (AA)
  • 2.3.3 Animation from Interactions (AAA)

Success Criterion 1.3.6 Identify Purpose (AAA)

It’s likely that you have at least one of the following on your site: user interface components (e.g., buttons, link, fields), icons, or regions. And, if you are following the requirements of 4.1.2 Name, Role, Value, you are defining most if not all of these.

However, what you might not being doing is providing information about what the component represents, such as an image link represents a link to the homepage. This criterion wants you to convey more than a name, even if the name seems to convey the applicable meaning. Remember, assistive technology is not Artificial Intelligence. It’s needs you to tell it what it can’t surmise on its own.

Success Criterion 4.1.3 Status Messages (AA)

If you are using a content management system designed for accessibility, like Drupal 8 for example, then you should be okay. If not, you will need to update your code to declare your system messages via a role or other appropriate properties that can be understood by assistive technology.

Success Criterion 2.3.3 Animation from Interactions (AAA)

Does this criterion address an interaction or is a cognitive distraction? Perhaps both.

Do you have things that move on your pages? Do objects fly in from the side as someone scrolls? Criterion 2.2.2 Pause, Stop, Hide from WCAG 2.0 applies when the page initiates an animated object. You might have heard of this one. 2.3.3 is intended to prevent animation from being displayed on the pages in the first place.

If you have a dynamic page with moving parts, you need to look into this one. You might need to add to existing animation controls and allow users to keep them from appearing. Of course, this is level AAA, but it’s worth considering as sudden movements can trigger vestibular (inner ear) disorders and cause dizziness, nausea, and headaches.

Conclusions

If you manage a federal site subject to Section 508, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the additional 17 criterion into consideration when updating or building your site. As for everyone else, WCAG 2.1 is the recommended set of criterion. With the chance that someone might claim your site is non-compliant based on 2.1, you need to look into bringing your site up to date.

Remember, some of the new criteria are, by default, not going to be in play on your site. Many of them have to do with added bits of code that override default browser behavior that at one time were deemed acceptable. So, WCAG 2.1 doesn’t have to be scary.

Aug 30 2018
Aug 30

Since its launch, many have written about all the great technology that has been added to Drupal 8. You will find articles online talking about such added features as headless and responsive and accessible. You will read about modules that have been added to core, contributed modules once part of the standard recipe for configuring a Drupal site.

And, that's all good news if you are developer assessing building blocks and code. But, what if you are a business owner, marketing executive, or technical decision maker and don't speak Drupal yet? 

You have a laundry list of features and functionality you want supported by your site and you just need to know if, and a little bit of the how, Drupal 8 is going to meet your needs. Although a planning workshop and Drupal builder course could help you gain a strong understanding of Drupal, you aren’t there yet.

Recognizing this might be you, this article:

  • Shares some of the most common and not so common requirements that you might be facing, and
  • Talks about how Drupal can help support your processes and goals.

Common and Uncommon Features Don’t Scare Drupal

Drupal is a content management system, content being the operative word. However, Drupal doesn’t see content as a blog post or an event. It sees content as data. Data comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It carries multiple types of meanings, from the spoken word to value that triggers an action.

When it comes to identifying that which Drupal can’t do, this reviewer only has to stretch her imagination and a solution presents itself, often using existing functionality either from Drupal’s core and from millions that call themselves part of the Drupal community.

In order to demonstrate Drupal’s potential without the aid of video, the remainder of this article will address several capabilities - simple and a little more complex - in hopes that it will help you recognize that Drupal can meet your needs.

When working with managers such as yourself, request often start out as, “I want …” and finish with one or more of the following:

A Mobile Friendly Site 

You are likely one of the majority who surf the net using a mobile device like a smartphone and thus you know what it's like to visit sites that don't fit your screen. Perhaps you have decided that you don’t want to be that business that can't be easily experienced from any device.

Screen shot of default Drupal 8 homepage in it's most narrow display.

Drupal 8 makes it easier than ever to make responsive sites. Responsive means your web pages flex and reshapes automatically to fit your screen. Although responsive functionality was available in previous versions of Drupal, Dries Buytaert, the inventor of Drupal, decided that Drupal 8 would bring mobile to the top of his improvement list.

One of the first steps taken to make this possible was making the jump to HTML5 in order to gain such advantages as engaging the applicable input device when a site is viewed on a tablet or smartphone. 

Check out the screenshot showing Drupal 8 default homepage reduced down to fit on a smartphone.

Different Types of Content

This request often goes without saying and when it comes to Drupal, its response is, “Bring it on!” Any type of content you want, it’s yours. Plus, there is more than one way to get it done depending of the type of data you want to use to define said content.

Let’s consider an example. Story telling. This could mean that you have bloggers, new reporters, media reviewers, etc. At the core of this type of content, they are the same. It’s just the words and tone and organization that often makes these different. 

If you want a separate form to collect each type of content, then you can do that. Even if all the data fields you define are the same in each, Drupal doesn’t care. You can also collect this type of content using just one form with an additional field that lets you categorize the type of content.

This is a very simple example, but hopefully it’s already making you think about how your content can be viewed as data collected in fields versus what you might be used to doing with MS Word or other content management systems.

Since Drupal 7, this type of functionality was part of Drupal’s core. In Drupal 8, the coding structure has changed, enabling your developers to tap into the objects that make this possible and invent unique content collection tools that integrate with Drupal’s permissions and other default features.

Accessible Content Formatting

There are two methods associated with formatting worth mentioning: field-based and manual application. When content formatting comes to mind, you likely think of making text bold or creating bulleted lists. That’s cool. Drupal 8 has that covered by default.

Drupal 8’s text formatting is better than ever. Style your content in MS Word and copy/paste it into your Drupal 8 content form. Don’t do this with previous versions of Drupal, you could end up with a mess of code. Also, Drupal continues to offer settings that control which content author can, for example, add images to their blogs, or not. 

When it comes to using fields other than the traditional long text fields, you can apply styling via templates and CSS. Or, you can rely of the fact that Drupal 8 is WCAG 2.0 ready (likely to be 2.1 ready in the future) and much of the formatting you need is already in place.

Collecting Data Other Than Content

Drupal 7 not only added the ability to add fields for content collection forms, but it also added the ability to add fields to user accounts so that additional data can be collected and possibly displayed for your content authors. Drupal 8 continues this functionality but with the same object oriented strategies implemented for content.

Categorize Content

Categorizing content is at the heart of Drupal. Each Drupal site ships with one Taxonomy that can host multiple vocabularies (containers that hold terms). You can have as many terms (words or short phrases that describe or categorize content) as you need.

Drupal 7 included the ability to add fields to terms so, for example, you can associate an image of an orange with the term: orange. Drupal 8’s contribution, besides better backend code, it a new display page. When someone clicks on a term, they land on a page that displays all content tagged with that term. Drupal 8 makes it possible for you to easily modify that display right out of the box. 

Block Content 

Blocks are bits on content or functionality that can be added to a page. They typically appear alongside the main body of content, or below it, above it. Historically, you would create a block, for example that says, “Welcome to my site. Become a member …”. That block could be placed in one location, let’s say the right sidebar. By default, there wasn’t much more your could do without additional modules.

Drupal 8 has changed the block system. When this reviewer learned by how much, she couldn’t stop smiling. Okay, she might have shouted with glee. 

Anyway, not only can one block be placed in multiple regions at the same time, - in a sidebar and in a footer and in the region that displays the main content - it can display something other than the text. You can now display an image via a field. Or, a video. Or, an attached PDF file.

Yes. You heard right. You can add fields to blocks, made possible by the same object oriented strategies put in place for content, users, and terms. You can also have different types of blocks, just like you can have different types of content forms.

But that’s not all! If you have a block intensive website and you ever want to get a list of said blocks and the content they content in one report, you can query the database and get that list by using the feature called Views. The Views module used to be a contributed module, a staple in 99.9% of all Drupal sites - in this reviewer’s opinion.

Multilingual Site

With each major release of Drupal, the ability to develop a multilingual site got easier. Drupal 8 has not disappointed. Where Drupal 7 required up to eight or so contributed modules to create a multilingual site that was 99% correct, Drupal 8 has four in its core to make it happen.

Coding practices that used to prevent text from being translated are a thing of the past if a module contributor wants their module to be accepted by the community.

It was possible in the past and even easier now.

Manage Content Development

It’s one thing to be able to structure your data you see fit, it’s another to manage the development of said content or data. Aside from the creative nature of content development, you have the ever present need for copy editing. And, if you believe that your content authors can easily catch their own typos, think again.

It’s fortune that the Drupal community recognized the need to manage the process from “I have an idea” to a published work. Drupal 8 has jumped on the workflow wagon by including a workflow option you can turn on and configure. 

Whether your authors compose in MS Word or in Drupal’s content form, the first, second, or even the third draft shouldn’t be seen by the public. You can tell Drupal to save as unpublished. You can collect copies of every draft version by default and switch between them until you are ready for editing.

With additional functionality from the community, you will be able to do things like send notices with draft content is ready for review. You wouldn’t be the first to have this requirement and users of Drupal have been making this happen for years.

Reuse Content in Multiple Displays

This is not the first mention of content reuse. Drupal is all about content reuse. Break your content into structured data and you can find and filter until your heart's content. And, you can then share your queries with the whomever you wish.

Views has been around since Drupal 4, but has always been a contributed module. There are good reasons for waiting to integrate Views into Drupal’s core and now that it is here, Drupal out of the box is that much better.

Most notable is the administrative pages. Hard-coded in the past, the pages that list content and blocks and users and more are now made with Views. They are database queries made into page displays and thus allow you to easily customize your admin pages.

ADA Accessible Site

Accessibility has been mentioned already, but if you didn’t notice, it’s worth mentioning again. Taking a mobile first perspective when designing Drupal 8 was only one priority. Accessible web pages was right up there as well.

The developers of Drupal 8 have taken accessibility seriously. They have reviewed WCAG 2.0 and W3C’s WAI-ARIA. The Drupal community wants your site to be easily read by assistive technology and ARIA was a big step in the right direction.

Deep down, you know how important it must be to make web pages that everyone can experience. What you might not have heard about is the fact that the number of lawsuits for non-compliance has increased and continues to do so.

It’s not just about federal government sites anymore. It’s all sites. Drupal 8 provides a strong foundation to creating an accessible site from the start.

One System, Multiple Frontend Interfaces

You don't want two systems: one that will present your information in a web browser and one that will present your content in a mobile app. Data reuse is a key feature in Drupal and Drupal 8 takes the next step.

Drupal is now what some call “headless” and others call “decoupled”. It doesn't matter which word you use as this functionality is a technical thing that your developers can take advantage of when they present your data through multiple interface frameworks. 

What does this mean? It means you can serve up your content to an app who’s interface was created with a framework designed for mobile devices while at the same time, present content in a browser the traditional way. One blog post, two tools to manage said display. 

This simple example does not suggest that you can only have two frontend interfaces to your content. If you are looking for a central repository for your digital content and you want to deliver it to multiple platforms, Drupal 8 makes it easier than ever before.

Wow, talk about content management. Create it and edit it once and use it over and over.

Affordable Upkeep

This might be the last topic, but that doesn’t mean it’s an afterthought. Like many software applications, significant changes occur from one major release to the next. Unlike many software applications, you don’t have to start over to use the next version.

For a time, you could actually upgrade your Drupal site to the next major release. This reviewer went from Drupal 4.5 to 4.7 to 5.0 to 6.0 before migrating to Drupal 7. Drupal’s backend restructuring to keep up with today’s technology introduced some challenges when it came to taking a Drupal site from version 6 to version 7 and the developers listened to the complaints.

So, Drupal 8 has a few features worth noting as they can impact the cost of managing and maintaining your site.

  • Drupal 8 ships with a Migrate modules to help you tap into Drupal 8’s new functionality by making it easier to migrate.
  • Drupal 8 ships with a Configuration Synchronization module that allows you to launch a version of your site and easily add new features as resources allow.
  • Drupal 8’s path to Drupal 9 isn’t going to come in one giant leap like past major releases. Drupal 8’s development is taking semantic path with releases such as 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, and so on until 9.0 is reached.

These three strategies alone make Drupal more cost effective than ever before. Your development team will have a learning curve to come up to speed on the semantic coding process, but otherwise, they will find Drupal 8 to much more conducive to long term commitments. 

Conclusion

If you want a system that can build just about anything, like one can do with LegosTM , then Drupal 8 is where you want to be. If you have a simple blog site or a content rich site viewed by the world, Drupal can handle it.

The advantages discussed above just scratch the surface of what is possible. Other requirements that Drupal can handle include:

  • Advanced permission settings
  • Powerful content development and layout options
  • Integration with other systems
  • Mash ups - pulling content from other sources
  • eCommerce
  • And more

So, if your requirements are anything like what was discussed above, or if you have something truly unique, let us know. We love a challenge.

Jul 31 2018
Jul 31

When it’s time for a new site, the word “migration” is often dropped in conversations. Every organization looking at a migration in the future will have their own reasons for doing so, their own history, their own future goals. In this article, we will present the following topics as a means to empower you to recognize aspects of website migration you might otherwise overlook.

  • What can a new site look like after a migration.
  • Triggers for a migration project.
  • Paths that might be taken.
  • Creating the right team.

The first two topics are going to feel like the chicken and the egg. Which one comes first? Given the linear nature of articles, they will be presented in said order, but that does not mean the order will match the scenario faced by many.

What can a new site look like after a migration?

Amazingly, not everyone has the same vision of what a new site might mean. Managing expectations from the start is critical to a successful migration project. Below are some common scenarios that can constitute a “new site” and/or “migration” that you might face in your project.

You will find that the following three categories can account for most changes.

  • Server environment change
  • Web platform change
  • Design and/or functionality change

After this, the triggers that might cause one or more of these changes is presented.

Server Environment Change

The process of taking an existing site and moving it from one web server to another would be considered a server environment change. It could entail moving your site from your own web servers to an external vendor.

From a new site perspective, this scenario doesn’t seem to fit. Technically, it doesn’t. Same code, same site. However, to your users, it might feel new if the site’s performance has improved. Your site could actually look different, assuming pages weren’t loading fully due to slow performance.

From a migration perspective, this is text book. You physically move - migrate - to a new server. In the process, you will receive upgraded or new web server features that will need to be configured to work with your site. A few examples include:

  • Caching services
  • Security configurations
  • Development, testing, and production processes.

Your website’s code might be the same, but the environment in which it lives has changed and therefore it cannot be assumed that there won’t be some work to make everything fit and function as required.

Web Platform Change

First, let’s assume that web platform refers to some type of content management system (CMS). The process of migrating from one CMS to another can yield a site that looks the same, but is it?

From the new site perspective, at a minimum, the code-base is different. The configuration strategy is different. The opportunities to improve or enhance your current circumstances can be different. Given the expense, your new system should be ready to allow for your growth in order to justify the expense.

From a migration perspective, to move your site structure, content, interactions, etc. from one CMS to another is a migration, by definition. Depending how similar the systems and how complicated the existing website, the effort to make the move can be extensive.

Example migration and level of effort scenarios might include:

  • Blog Site - Migrating a blog site from one CMS to another is likely the least complex scenario. Most CMSs are designed around enabling users to post their stories, articles, and blogs with ease so the leap should not be overwhelming.
  • e-Commerce/Product Site - The level of effort for this type of move will likely be more labor intensive than a blog site. You might be thinking, “A product is a product,” but the way the sale is managed can vary from system to system. Check out processes may differ. The way the product is loaded into the system may be simple in one, but the other CMS might offer more sales options that you need to consider.
  • Multi-function Site - Sites that provide some combination of blogs, products, events, community, manuals, custom integrations, and more will present even more challenges when moving from one system to another.

The pattern should be clear. The more complex the site that is being migrated, the greater the level of effort. This can include new planning effort, where you dig into the metadata level of content and features. Some CMSs are designed for data micromanagement and you will want to take advantage of the data reuse functionality such a system provides.

Design and/or Function Change

This is one place you will want to manage expectations up front. The scope of work implied by the word design can send your migration project into overruns very quickly. And, the idea of functionality (from a site visitor perspective or a content author’s perspective), can be interpreted many ways.

So, from a new site perspective, design and function will create the most obvious new-site feel. Whether it’s the layout of your pages, your branding, the way your information is organized and accessed, or the new online tools you add, a significant change will occur.

From a migration perspective, the move is to go from one site to another. This scenario is often combined with the first two: server change and platform change. Even if it is not, the effort for such a move is not unlike the process of planning, designing, and building a site from scratch. Even if ideas and content and branding are transferred unchanged, a version of the original website’s implementation process will need to be executed.

Triggers for a migration project.

Based on the discussion above, it might seem obvious what the triggers for change might be. That is true, to some extent. However, there are triggers that can cause a server change while others can cause a system change. Or, both.

Performing a trigger review is a good way to explore the potential, “What about …,” comments that can bubble up during development and trigger yet more change and scope creep. In this section, five triggers for change are presented, along with the type of migration that might be required:

  • Analytics
  • Search engine optimization
  • Technology
  • Mobile first
  • Organizational goals

Analytics Triggers

Web analytics are the statistical data collected about website usage. If the site is not being used, can an organization justify the expense of maintaining said site? Not likely, unless the implied triggers for change from said analytics are implemented.

Triggers of this nature can include:

  • Bounce rate - Site visitors are not spending enough time on site pages. They aren’t reading or watching or interacting as desired.
  • Low or no visits - Pages on the site are not being visited at an acceptable rate. They are either not being found, or their topics don’t meet the visitor’s needs.
  • Low or no mobile device visits - Of the visits, users are arriving on the site via a laptop or desktop. This could be justified given the site purpose, or it could be connected to the bounce rate concern, where people leave the page because it is not easily visible in a mobile device.

To remedy these situations, an analysis needs to be completed. Depending on the findings, the following migrations might apply.

  • Server change - If statistics are off due to poor performance - pages not loading in a timely manner, for example - a new server environment might do the trick. Cached pages are easier and faster to send.
  • Platform change - If statistics are off due to inaccessible pages, pages read by accessibility technology, new code is likely needed. Be it the code for the page structure or the code used to present the content, non-accessible pages can be costly in the long run due to lawsuits, for example.
  • Design and/or function change - If statistics are off due to an unfriendly Information Architecture that make site navigation cumbersome, or due to page layouts that don’t fit in the small screens of today’s mobile devices, a new design will be on your list of changes.

Search Engine Optimization Triggers

When a website lands on the first page of Google’s search results, you can claim success. You have made it. Your site will have visitors. You product will sell. You can now lean back and relax. Not really. Vigilant monitoring is needed as search algorithms are constantly changing.

What happens if when you aren’t on the first page or if you slip from your pedestal? Something will need to change. What kind of changes? If only there was an easy answer to this question, you would be rich.

There are some efforts you might need to undertake, however. For example:

  • Platform change - Using a system that can deliver a semantic web solution is one step towards making a website more understandable. If a search engine can interpret the content of the website (e.g, “price” actually means product price), it’s more likely to index the content of its pages such that they can be delivered to users in search results. How do you think Google creates the images display or the shopping display? With page content it can understand.
  • Design and/or function change - In a 2018 blog post, Google stated, “Our advice for publishers continues to be to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals.”

The changes you need to make will come from an analysis which will include analytics and possibly user feedback. At the end, you should know what is wrong with your current site and how you might make it better.

Technology Triggers

Technology issues can trigger a website migration. With the current rate of change in web-related technology, an older website might already be facing issues that are triggering questions like, “Will our site crash in the near future and leave our customers hanging?”

There are several technology triggers that might send you into migration mode. Here are three examples:

  • Non-secure code - Hackers are always looking to see if they can break into your site. Be it a server hack or a site hack, it can happen. And, if you think only open source products are vulnerable, think about the number of security updates you accept from Microsoft on a regular basis.
  • Too much success - Your CMS was meant for blog posts, not community forums or product sales. You are growing. Your system needs to grow with you.
  • Accessibility problems - Yes. This has been mentioned before but given the increased number of accessibility related lawsuits against website owners, it’s worth repeating. Accessibility is just about page hits, it’s the law.
  • Lack of mobility - “Mobile first” is the phrase of the day and rightly so. Most web users today are using mobile devices to surf the net. Are they surfing you?

The type of changes that might be triggered from the list above can span all three: server change, platform change, and/or design and functionality change.

Mobile First

This drum has already been thumped, but it’s worth mentioning again. We have seen it. “Hey, I was on my phone the other day and saw this cool site. It fit great on my little screen. Can we do that for our site?”

The answer is yes. Given the trend for users to use a mobile device before they reach for their desktop computer, you need join the party. Several technology changes will need to be made to your site.

  • Layout plans - Where do the sidebars go when the page is in a narrow display?
  • Responsive breakpoints - When does the layout of your page change?
  • Menus - That horizontal menu bar will need to change shape in order to be viewable.
  • Media adjustments - Are you still offering up media that doesn’t run on a mobile device? Videos, Flash animations, not all formats work. And, don’t forget images. Those 4MG images aren’t going to fly to a mobile device with ease.

What does this mean for migration? Assuming you have the server environment that can manage the increase in your page hits from going mobile, you might need the following:

  • Platform change - If you aren’t working in a CMS that allows for mobile first design, you will need to change your CMS.
  • Design and/or functionality - As hinted above, page layouts,menus, media will need to be redesigned to accommodate the smaller environments.

Organizational Goals Triggers

The last trigger worth mentioning is the need to meet organizational goals. There is some overlap here with goals pertaining to Analytics and SEO. Other goals might include:

  • Additional services - An organization that talks about books might want to add the option to purchase said books versus providing links to external e-commerce service.
  • Additional resources - Instead of just selling products, the organization wants to provide an education focused community and tutorials.
  • Membership services - Some content might be worth selling right from the browser. The addition of a membership to the website and its valued resources might be the next step to reaching organizational goals.

In each of the examples above, all three types of changes might be required. A new system to provide the new functionality hosted on a server environment that can better handle said changes. Plus, when such changes are required, it’s likely that other design aspects will need to change, hitting all three types of migration.

Paths that might be taken

Once the migration requirement is identified, there are basically two paths to be taken:

  • Do it all now
  • Do it in phases

Do it all now

There are two scenarios that easily lend themselves to this approach.

  • Migration projects such as server changes are at the top of this list. Copy the site to the new environment, test it, fix it if necessary, and go live.
  • If the site will undergo minimal changes, getting it all done now is the likely path.

Of course, any scenario discussed above can follow this path to completion. With the right plans, anything is possible.

Do it in phases

There are several scenarios where this approach might be the best approach. Here are three examples.

  • Technology threats - The current site has been hacked and off line. Instead of spending time trying to fix a potentially outdated website, select the most important features of the site and spin up a new site as quickly as possible. Then, bring the remainder of the features online as they are completed.

  • Legal issues - Lawsuits against non-accessible websites can encourage the need to move quickly. While a new site is being created on a platform that supports accessible websites, two things can occur:

  • Budget - The business is growing, but the budget is still tight. Start with the new look and feel on the new platform and server. Get the basics up and running. Then, bring the new features online as resources permit. Two goals to meet in this scenario”

Creating the Right Team

Last, but certainly not least, is the team of managers, user experience experts, designers, developers, and possibly trainers. Who will you need? Without a plan, without an exercise of “What about …?” and “What if …?” scenarios, you aren’t going to know who you will need.
 

Architecture Workshops

From Stakeholder Mapping to the Delivery of Field-Level Blueprints the Architecture Workshop is designed to take your goals and objectives for your website and provide you solid plan. Whether you develop your website in-house or use an outside firm, this workshop will help you get your stakeholders on the same page, and give your website/project manager a blueprint to ensure you get the most out of your developers.

Private Drupal 8 Immersion Training for your team

  • Get your developers trained on the latest technology by the best Drupal trainers
  • Learn what new innovations you can implement with Drupal 8

 

 

May 31 2018
May 31

Does an accessibility issue on my website mean I need to build a brand new one? This might be one of many questions rolling around in your head as you read the email or letter informing you that your site has an accessibility problem.

 

Don’t panic just yet. It could be something simple, but you need to have all the facts. You need a plan of attack and that starts with a site audit.

Site Audit

Unless that letter is the result of a site audit, you need to set that wheel in motion. Conduct both automated and manual testing to confirm the claim and to determine if there are other problems waiting to be discovered.

Once you have a list of issues you need to address, you can decide if a new website would be easier and more cost effective than trying to fix your current site. Even if the list is long, starting from scratch might not be the answer.

Factors to Consider

Two simple factors in the rebuild decision process:

  • The content management system used to create your site pages
  • Content items in those pages.

After these are considered, site functionality and design can raise its ugly head and influence the direction you need to take. Let’s take a quick look at each factor to get you started.

Content Management System

If the issues reported are being generated by the content management system and are not a reflection of how the site was configured by the developer, ask yourself the following questions to see if there is cure.

  1. Is my CMS proprietary or open source?
  2. If proprietary, did the CMS provider promise accessibility when you purchased the system aso you can get the provider to resolve the problem?
  3. If open source, is there a patch or update you can apply to solve the problem on your own?

 

Simplistic questions? Yes, but they are merely a starting point. If you don’t see a solution after asking these questions, then you will likely need a new site on a different CMS. This doesn’t mean that you can’t transfer your current design to a new system, but it might be time to evaluate your site functionality to see if improvements can be made.

Content

If the issues presented in the letter and/or audit point to types of content that you created and inserted into the CMS, then there’s a chance that you won’t need a rebuild. Again, assuming the site has been configured to accommodate accessibility requirements, then it’s a matter of fixing your content and reposting. For example, if the issues focus on the following, then you can create a plan to fix your issues.

  • Content structure
  • Images
  • Downloadable files
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Uploaded animation

You still might need some developer time if configuration changes need to be made. For example, did someone forget to include the option for the alt attribute to be included with an image? If the changes are extensive, again, it might be time for a new site. Sometimes it’s actually easier to create than it is to edit.

Functionality

Are the issues you are facing tied to site interaction or services, i.e. online forms or interactive maps? Circling back to the CMS, could the issue be that the CMS wasn’t designed to do what you need it to do and will never let you meet accessibility requirements?

At this point, you can decide to either remove the functionality that is causing the problem or you can move to a system that can accommodate your needs.

Design

Just because you can, that doesn’t mean you should. Visual, flashy stuff on the page can be enticing to the user who can actually experience it. Are the issues you are facing linked to the that cool slideshow or mega menu? Depending on your CMS, there might be fixes to your cool features or there might not be.

Like with functionality, ask yourself what is required of your site and then what your CMS can do. You might be applying fixes to your design or you might be moving onto another solution.

In closing …

Facing the need to rectify accessibility issues on your site can feel overwhelming. Even the idea of tweaking all those PDF files to be accessible might want to send you to an early happy hour to drown your frustrations. Don’t worry. You don’t have to face this challenge alone. With training and expert help, you can avoid costly problems in the future.

May 17 2018
May 17

Does your website provide a “place of public accommodation”?

I am online.

Just because your site isn’t made up of brick and mortar, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act Title III, or so said District Judge Scola in 2017 when he concluded that Winn Dixie had violated the ADA by having an inaccessible website.

As the Department of Justice considers updating Title III, the courts are moving ahead with hearing plaintiffs and defendants and handing down rulings. According to Seyfarth Shaw LLP, at least 814 federal website accessibility lawsuits were filed in 2017. New York and Florida lead with 335 and 325 respectively.

I will find the money to fix my site if I get caught.

If you believe that the court costs you might incur if caught are less than the cost of fixing your site right now, think again. The check you write for IT services is only part of the cost you will face if you lose. Imagine the cost of negative publicity?

My website’s target audience can see and hear.

If money and reputation isn’t your motivator, imagine what your life would be like if you couldn’t access content on the web. You can see. You can hear. You have use of your fingers. Imagine one day you don’t. Accidents happen. We all age. Who will you curse for preventing you from accessing content, filling out a form, finding directions? Don’t be that company that prevents others from accessing your goods and services.

I wouldn’t know where to begin.

We know that technology and web accessibility can be overwhelming at best and scary at worst. Consider the following important things you can do now to meet your accessibility goals.

  • Statement of Web Accessibility - A statement from your business regarding accessibility objectives for your site. Keep in mind the effort and resources needed to meet that goal.
  • Hire a Third Party Vendor - Just because your development team says your site is ADA compliant, that doesn’t mean it is. Think of it as hiring an editor because you can’t see your own editorial mistakes.
  • Conduct an Audit - Expert eyes is the key to finding the issues. Both automated and manual testing is required.
  • Remediate Issues - Let your development team fix the issues or hire the experts. You need to demonstrate that you are working to rectify issues in the event that someone comes knocking on your virtual door with a lawsuit.
  • Verify and Document Remediation - Now that your site has been fixed, the ADA related changes need to be verified and documented.
  • Get Trained - Your site keeps changing. Do you know how to ensure your site is compliant moving forward? Training management, content authors, and site developers are the key to ensure your site becomes accessible and stays that way.
  • Maintain - Just because you are trained, that doesn’t mean the occasional content issue won’t arise. Stay on top of your ever-changing site with regular accessibility audits and seek help if you need it.
May 17 2018
May 17

Accessibility badges are gaining attention. These little icons on a web page boast that the page is WCAG 2.0 compliant. As such, the site owner is demonstrating that they recognize the need to provide accessible content.

How does one get a badge to put on their web pages? Assume for a moment that the site owner has actually made an effort and that the badge isn’t a hoax, the process is fairly straightforward. The site owner (or their accessibility consultant) audit the site’s web pages and confirms that WCAG’s criterion has been met.

With sophisticated, automated tools available to anyone with a web browser, web pages can be assessed for accessibility compliance quickly and easily. Or so some believe. Before you start celebrating, let’s briefly explore what it takes to ensure that a single page on your site is WCAG 2.0 compliant and thus badge worthy.

Automated Tool Testing

Automated accessibility testing tools have their place in the auditing process. They are quite valuable from a time-saving and educational perspective. How so?

The automated tools read your code. When they see specific HTML elements, they are programmed to look for code that would suggest that the element has been used in an accessible way. When they see the code is broken, they advise the auditor of the issue and can even suggest a way to remedy the situation. Sounds a little like automated copy editing tools that find typos and grammar issues.

Gotta love that, right? Just like with writers of text, writers of code and online content can’t catch every typo or forgotten attribute. And, if an automated tool can catch the obvious issues, that’s definitely helpful. Let’s look at a few examples that many will have on their pages.

Automated Tool Examples

  • Images - If the tool sees the <IMG> element, it wants to see that the ALT attribute has been included and that there is a description within the alt quotes. Easy check.
  • Segmented Content - If you have segmented content on your page, tools can pick up errors such as using the <h3> element when an <h2> is expected.
  • Audio Files - If the tool detects an audio file on your page, it might warn that the presence of a transcript is needed.

Automated tools can find many issues, but not all.

Manual Testing

Although automated tools catch obvious issues, a full audit requires skilled human intervention. Many of the issues a human will address are warnings expressed by the automated tool. Warnings are provided when the tool can’t be sure if there is an issue or not, and it wants a human to review.

Another aspect of manual testing has nothing to do with said warnings. Automated tools can do only so much and quite often, it’s the automated tools’ “failure” that gets a site owner into trouble.

Manual Testing Examples

Using the three examples above, let’s see how a human is needed to ensure accessibility on a page is being met.

  • Images - What the tool can’t do is determine if the description included in the alt attribute is valid. An image of a mountain range might have an alternative description of, “A beautiful day exploring nature.” This description is about the photographer’s experience, not the image itself.
  • Segmented Content - The tool can’t confirm that the <h3> is a typo or if the <h2> is simply missing. For instance, was there a copy/paste issue while transferring the blog from MS Word? By actually reading the content, a human can determine the real issue and correct it.
  • Audio File - Maybe you have a transcript attached to the page as a PDF. What the automated tool can’t tell you is if the PDF is accessible. It might be able to determine that a screen reader can navigate to the PDF and verify its link, but that doesn’t mean the content in the downloadable file can be read.

Earn Bragging Rights

Conduct a complete audit. Don’t assume that just because you created the right code that your page or its content is accessible. The three examples above only scratch the surface of what an automated tool can and cannot do. Take the time to learn what it means to be accessible, how to ensure accessibility on your site, and how to maintain said accessibility.

Beware of Snake Oil

There are a lot of companies out there that sell products that claim they do accessibility. They may sell a bolt-on widget that doesn’t really work, tell you that automated testing will suffice, and even manually test your site without giving solid advice for how to truly be compliant.

 

The Accessibility Team at Promet Source will get you everything you need to be compliant. Our audit will tell you what needs remediation, and the report we produce will even tell you exactly what you need to do to fix it.

Mar 27 2018
Mar 27

We're packing our bags and heading south! Will you be at DrupalCon Nashville? Don't miss Promet's lineup of sessions, training or stop by and see us in the exhibit hall at booth #710.

This year, Promet Source is supporting DrupalCon as a silver sponsor and host of the annual First Time Attendees social. We're also proud to announce our following schedule of events, including hosting the annual First Time Attendees Social, providing professional training and sessions throughout the week.

Monday, April 9th

Training: Drupal 8 Crash Course for Content Managers, Marketers & Project Managers

Are you responsible for project management, content, or vendor selection and preparing to work with Drupal? This one-day training delivers all of the tools you need to get started. Delivered by an Acquia Certified Drupal Developer, this training will answer the questions you didn’t even know to ask. Targeted to the non-developer, this training is perfect for individuals that need to get up and running in Drupal - fast!

- Time: 9:00am-5:00pm

- Location: Music City Center

Training: Advanced Web Accessibility Training for Drupal Developers

This training is designed to help developers shift their thinking to build accessibility compliant digital content.  During this full day training developers will gain hands on experience in using automated evaluation tools, learning how to incorporate Drupal core and contributed modules that assist with accessibility into their sites, identifying accessibility issues at the code level, and finally developing their sites with accessibility always in-mind.

- Time: 9:00am-5:00pm

- Location: Music City Center

Sign Up Today! If you haven't already, be sure to sign up and snag one of the few remaining spots for training

First Time Attendee Social hosted by Promet Source

To help ease newcomers into DrupalCon, we've put together an orientation designed to explain all DrupalCon's many moving parts and introduce you to a new friend or two. We think starting out the week with a buddy makes networking and navigating an unfamiliar event so much easier!

- Time: 3:30pm-5:00pm

- Location: Level 3 Foyer of Music City Center

Tuesday, April 10th

FREE Workshop: What am I getting myself into? A Drupal Crash Course for Content Managers

Are you responsible for project management, content, or vendor selection and preparing to work with Drupal? This session delivers all of the tools you need to get started. Delivered by an Acquia Certified Drupal Developer, this session will answer the questions you didn’t even know to ask! Learn more.

Time: 10:45am-12:00pm

Location: Room 103B - Music City Center

Wednesday, April 11th

Session: D8 Commerce meets Artistic Expression - Online Shopping with Corning Museum of Glass

Join the CMoG development team and Promet Source as we discuss the journey to roll out a newly redesigned e-commerce site for the Museum powered by Drupal 8 and Commerce 2.0 that showcases the works of art available for purchase online as well as signups for classes and events hosted by the Museum.  We’ll talk about its integration with the Museum’s internal ERP systems as well as some of the technical challenges encountered along the way. Learn more.

Time: 2:15pm-3:15pm

Location: Ambitious Digital Experience Stage - Music City Center Exhibit Hall

Session: More Social, Less Media - Harnessing Human Connection to Achieve Marketing Success

In this session, we'll talk about how to cut through the noise that can often be caused by trying to keep up with industry trends, and how to get to the heart of what your organization - large or small - really has to offer to the world. The unique, collective experience of the people around you (or just yourself!) is hands down the most marketable asset that will give your business the edge it's been looking for. Learn more.

Time: 2:50-3:15

Location: 205AB - Music City Center

What is DrupalCon? 

The Drupal community is one of the largest open source communities in the world. We're developers, designers, strategists, coordinators, editors, translators, and more. Each year, we meet at Drupal camps, meet ups, and other events in more than 200 countries. But once a year, our community comes together at the biggest Drupal event in the world: DrupalCon North America. This year, from April 9-13, we'll be in Nashville, TN. 

Whether you’re an existing Drupal user, developer, designer, site builder, or are maybe just a little Drupal-curious, you won’t want to miss out on this unique event.

Let's meet up! 

The Promet Source team will be flying our flag at DrupalCon again this year and would love to meet up with you! Get in touch to set up a time to chat or simply drop by and see us at booth #710. We look forward to seeing you in Nashville and supporting the Drupal community together!

Mar 07 2018
Mar 07

It's that time of year again for our favorite Drupal camp - MidCamp Chicago!   Of all the camps in all the cities, this one is always our favorite - because of all the great Drupalists we get to meet but also because it's our hometown camp. 

This year, Promet Source is supporting the camp by volunteering our very own Promet Training Practice Manager,   Margaret Plett, to provide a Drupal crash course tailored for non-developers. If you haven't already, click here to sign up and snag one of the few remaining spots!

What is MidCamp? 

MidCamp - Midwest Area Drupal Camp is the fifth annual conference held in Chicago that brings together people who use, develop, design, and support one of the web’s leading content management platform, Drupal. This year’s MidCamp will be March 8th - 11th, 2018 at DePaul University Lincoln Park Campus, Chicago.

  • March 8th — Training (get tickets here!) and Sprints (free)
  • March 9th and 10th— Keynote and Sessions
  • March 11th — Sprints (free)

Read more about the event on their site.

Feb 02 2018
Feb 02

Promet Source has been named among the Gold level winners of the 2018 AVA Digital Awards for outstanding work on the Martin County Florida Drupal website development project in the government category.

2018 AVA Digital Award Winner Promet Source

Related: Martin County Case Case - Redesigning Civic Engagement with Drupal

The AVA Digital Awards is an international competition that recognizes outstanding work by creative professionals involved in the concept, direction, design and production of media that is part of the evolution of digital communication. Work ranges from audio and video productions- to websites that present interactive components such as video, animation, blogs, and podcasts- to interactive social media sites- to other forms of user-generated communication.

AVA Digital Awards is administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP). The international organization consists of several thousand production, marketing, communication, advertising, public relations, and free-lance professionals. AMCP administers recognition programs, provides judges and rewards outstanding achievement and service to the profession.

As part of its mission, AMCP fosters and supports the efforts of creative professionals who contribute their unique talents to public service and charitable organizations. AVA Digital entrants are not charged to enter work they produced pro bono. Over the past several years, AMCP’s Advisory Board gave out over $250,000 in grants to support philanthropic efforts. That money was used for marketing materials for homeless shelters; orphanages; day camps; community theaters and art centers; and for programs and equipment for the elderly and disabled; childcare; and educational endeavors for the underprivileged. Entries come from throughout the United States, Canada and dozens of other countries.

Judges are industry professionals who look for companies and individuals whose talent exceeds a high standard of excellence and whose work serves as a benchmark for the industry. The AVA Digital Award was designed to pay tribute to the magnificent history of the audio-visual and web industries.

See the full list of 2018 AVA Digital Award Winners

Jan 29 2018
Jan 29

In this blog, we will walk through how to use the open source tool, pa11y, to setup and run automated accessibility testing. Before you can start the Automated Accessibility Testing, you’ll need to install the prerequisite tools that are required for this type of testing.  Don't worry, we will provide the list of tools needed as well as the setup and configuration instructions for each tool.

Tools Needed:

Step 1: Install Python then setup in Environment Variables

  • Download latest version of Python at https://www.python.org/downloads/
  • Select Python 2.7.xx
  • Install and follow the installation process
  • After successful installation, set the following in your Environment Variables option
  • Go to System directory, then click "Advanced system settings" link

  • Click "Environment Variables..." button

  • Under System variables option, click "Path" then "Edit..." button 
  • Click "New" button, then add "C:\Python27\Scripts" and "C:\Python27\"

Step 2: Install Git Bash


Step 3: Install Pip

  • Download and follow the instruction on how to install pip

    [embedded content]


Step 4: Install WAMPP


Step 5: Install Nodejs

  • Download and install latest version (e.g. v8.2.1 Current)
  • After installation, RESTART your computer


Step 6: Install NPM


Step 7: Install Pa11y

  • Open Git Bash terminal
  • Execute this:
    npm install -g pa11y
    

Step 8: Install xmltodict

  • Open Git Bash terminal
  • Execute this command 
    pip install xmltodict
    

Step 9: Go to https://github.com/promet/pa11y-sitemap then checkout the pa11y-sitemap folder


Step 10: Go to https://github.com/promet/pa11y-reporter

  • Click 'Clone or download' button
  • Click 'Download ZIP' button
  • File will be downloaded and labeled as pa11y-reporter-master.zip


Step 11: Copy or transfer the file (pa11y-reporter-master.zip) to your pa11y-sitemap folder


Step 12: Unzip the file pa11y-reporter-master.zip

How to Generate an html Output for Web Accessibility Errors Only with links to WCAG

  1. Open Git Bash.
  2. Go to your pa11y-sitemap folder location.
  3. Execute this command:  
python pa11y-sitemap-error-only.py -x <client sitemap.xml> -o <output directory> -r promet_reporter

Example:  

python pa11y-sitemap-error-only.py -x poplar-sitemap.xml -o POPLAR/reporter/error_only/ -r promet_reporter

Results:  

It will generate file(s) with html output format and with links to WCAG  

How to Generate an html Output for Web Accessibility errors, warnings, and notices with links to WCAG

  1. Open Git Bash.
  2. Go to your pa11y-sitemap folder location.
  3. Execute this command:  
python pa11y-sitemap.py -x <client sitemap.xml> -o <output directory> -r promet_reporter

Example:  

python pa11y-sitemap.py -x poplar-sitemap.xml -o POPLAR/reporter/errors/ -r promet_reporter


Results:  It will generate file(s) with html output format and with links to WCAG guidelines

How To Generate a Pa11y Summary File of Web Accessibility Errors, Warnings, & Notices

  1. Open Git Bash.
  2. Go to your pa11y-sitemap folder location.
  3. Execute this command:  
python pa11y-sitemap.py -x <client sitemap.xml> -o <output directory> 

Example:  

python pa11y-sitemap.py -x poplar-sitemap.xml -o POPLAR/reporter/summary/ 

Results:  It will generate file(s) with json output format

  1. Copy the file(s) where your json folder is located (Note: This was set in config.php file) 
  2. Launch WAMP Server then select Localhost.
  3. Copy the folder name pa11y-summary-PDF-generator-master, paste it beside localhost url then press ' Enter ' key.
  4. Save as a PDF:
  5. Launch http://localhost/pa11y-summary-PDF-generator-master/ in Chrome browser (recommended browser)
  6. Press ' Ctrl + p ' in the keyboard, then click ' Save ' button
  7. Open the pdf file to view the summary results.
Jan 24 2018
Jan 24


Responsive images are great! If I wanted to quickly introduce what responsive images are to some, I would say: On mobile? Small images. Tablet? Medium images. Desktop? Large images. This article is a complete "how to" in setting up responsive images in Drupal 8. 

If you are using Drupal 7, check out my previous article here: Picture Module: Building Responsive Images in Drupal 7.

So much has changed in Drupal 8 since our last tutorial. With D8, there is no need to download an extra module. The 'Responsive Images' module is now in Drupal's core.

Here is what this post will cover.

  1. Enable the Responsive Image module.
  2. Setup breakpoints.
  3. Setup the image styles for responsive images.
  4. Assign the responsive image style to the image field.

Lets get started!

Step 1: Enable the Responsive Image module

One of the major changes in building responsive images in Drupal 8 from Drupal 7 is the responsive image module being part of Drupal’s core - there is no need to download an extra module. However, this feature is not enabled by default.

  1. To enable the responsive image module, go to "Admin" > "Configuration" (/admin/config).
  2. Click the checkbox next to "responsive Image".
  3. Click "Install".

Enable Drupal Responsive Images module

Step 2: Setup breakpoints

If you are using a default theme like Bartik, there is no need to create breakpoints.yml file. Default themes already have this file.

If you have a custom theme, go to your editor. In the root of your theme directory, create a file called "yourthemename.breakpoints.yml".

Your theme directory is usually found at "/themes/custom/yourthemename".
For this tutorial, I will call my theme "alumni_theme".

alumni_theme.small:
  label: small
  mediaQuery: '(min-width: 0px)'
  weight: 0
  multipliers:
    - 1px
    - 2px

alumni_theme.medium:
  label: medium
  mediaQuery: '(min-width: 740px)'
  weight: 1
  multipliers:
    - 1px
    - 2px

alumni_theme.large:
  label: large
  mediaQuery: '(min-width: 1200px)'
  weight: 2
  multipliers:
    - 1px
    - 2px

Each breakpoint will tell Drupal what image size to load for each of the assigned mediaQuery. For example, we can load an image with a small image size for the breakpoint at min-width: 0px. When the browser is at min-width: 740px we can load another image size.

It is important to take note that the breakpoints weight should be listed from smallest mediaQuery to largest mediaQuery.

The multipliers allow us to display a crisper image for HD and retina display.

Step 3: Setup the image styles for responsive images.

Drupal image styles

We need to create the image sizes for the different breakpoints. Add one image style for each breakpoint you set at your_theme_name.breakpoints.yml. Since we created three breakpoints in our breakpoint.yml file, we will have to create three image styles.

 

One image style for each breakpoint.
 

For this tutorial, I will create:

  1. Image style of 400px by 200px for a minimum breakpoint of 0px up to breakpoint not more than 740px. This image style would be used for mobile devices.
  2. mage style of 1000px by 450px for a minimum breakpoint of 740px up to breakpoint not more than 1200px. This image style would be used for medium devices like Ipads.
  3. Image style of 500px by 400px for a minimum breakpoint of 1200px and above. This image style would be used for large devices like desktops.

 

You can configure your own image styles at ‘Home > administration > Configuration> Media’ (/admin/config/media/image-styles).
Click ‘Add image style’.
Type in the name of your image style. It’s better if your image style name is descriptive.
Click Save.
From the drop-down, choose scale and crop.

Click ‘Save’.
Image style dropdown

Type in the width and height of your Image style.
 

Input width and height of the image style

Click ‘Add effect’.
So that's one image style. Go ahead and create two more image styles. Just follow the steps provided above.

Here are the three image styles I created for this tutorial.
Image style

Step 5: Responsive Image styles

We will now assign the image styles with the breakpoints, to create the Responsive Image styles.

 

Go to ‘Home > Administration > Configuration > Media’ (/admin/config/media/responsive-image-style) and click on ‘Add responsive image’.
For this tutorial, I will call it ‘Header Image’ since this will be used for the header images of my posts.


Type in the name of your responsive image.Responsive Image style

From the drop-down in ‘Breakpoint group’, choose your_theme_name.

 

Click Save.
Assign image styles to every breakpoint defined in “your_theme_name.breakpoints.yml”.

Responsive Image styles assigned to each breakpoints

Step 6: Assign the responsive image style to an image field
 

Go to the content type where you want the responsive image style to be used.
Click ‘Manage fields’.

Responsive image setup in a content type image field


Click the gear icon on the right side.

From the drop-down under ‘Responsive Image style’, choose the responsive image style you created.

Image formatter setup in content type image field

And we are done!

To check, add a new content piece and add an image to the image field (make sure you are in the right content type). Resize your browser to the browser size defined in your your_theme_name.breakpoints.yml.

Right-click on the image and click ‘inspect’. In ‘network > img’ you will see the name of the image style that your image is using based on the browser size.

Responsive image on a small deviceMy image at a minimum width of 0px breakpoint.  responsive image at a medium deviceMy image at a minimum width of 740px breakpoint. responsive image at a large deviceMy image at a minimum width of 1200px breakpoint.

And we are done! Your image should now be resized based on the browser size without losing its quality.

Special thanks go to Raymond Angana, Andrew Kucharski and Luc Bézier for contributing to this post before publication.

Jan 23 2018
Jan 23

The FLGISA is an organization for CIO's, IT Managers, and technology decision makers from the state's local government agencies. The FLGISA Winter 2018 is where technology leaders from Florida local governments attend to learn, share the latest in technology trends, foster new professional relationships and meet current and potential business partners. Conference attendees consist of local government chief information officers, technology managers, and other technology decision-makers.

The Promet Source and Acquia team will be onsite throughout the duration of the conference to speak with attendees about web development, support, hosting, web accessibility and cloud based open source solutions that can help propel their government organizations web presence. 

About Promet Source

Founded in 2003, Promet Source is a web design and development agency that specializes in open source solutions for government, higher education and association/nonprofit clients. They offer web design, custom implementations, private and public instructor lead Drupal training, complex integrations, web accessibility compliance services, digital consulting and full 24x7 support to their clients. 

About Acquia

Acquia is the leading provider of cloud-based, digital experience management solutions. Forward-thinking organizations rely on Acquia to transform the way they can engage with customers -- in a personal and contextual way, across every device and channel. Acquia provides the agility organizations need to embrace new digital business models and speed innovation and time to market. With Acquia, thousands of customers globally including the BBC, Cisco, Stanford University, and the Australian Government are delivering digital experiences with transformational business impact.

Working with Government Organizations in Florida

Together, Promet Source and Acquia have helped a number of organizations in Florida redesign and rethink their websites to create modern, user friendly and accessible digital experiences with Drupal 8. 

South Florida Water Management District:

SFWMD needed a platform that was modern and user-friendly. Because they have a lot of content to share with site visitors, they needed a content management system that could comfortably handle large amounts of information. Their previous site had hard-coded pages, which were cumbersome to update, so they also needed a site that could be updated without having to touch code when information changed.

Related: Case Study / SFWMD Launches Modern, Accessible, User Friendly Site with Drupal 8

SFWMD also wanted to minimize the usage of custom modules and code, so a decision was made to utilize existing Drupal 8 modules and code whenever possible, instead of developing or depending upon custom modules. In order to help SFWMD schedule budgeting and management needs for the project, Promet Source took a phased approach to the project, and set phases and milestones so that both parties could keep track of the project progression.

Martin County Florida: 

The state of Florida has a policy of open government which allows Floridians free access to public records and documents. This is a great way to bring transparency to the inner workings of Florida’s government agencies. 

Promet Source was faced with the challenge of building a highly useable and accessible Drupal site that also made thousands of PDF files searchable within the site. Combine a massive volume of data with the particulars of Martin County’s user stories: users need to see accurate search results for specific synonyms within the vast library. Another wrinkle to the equation was introduced by the hosting setup for Martin County, a cloud instance which didn’t allow Javascript. 

Related: Martin County Case Study / Redesigning Civic Engagement with Accessibility for All Users

Promet Source implemented a PDF document parser with Apache Tika. A single instance of Solr on the web head server delivers speedy results, while swapping Solr’s default query configuration for indexed phrases and other stored content to deliver highly accurate results for searches containing phrases. The indexed content is then displayed to the end user on the Drupal site.  

The end result is a comprehensive search functionality that quickly delivers accurate results from three different sources, while providing all users with a flawless experience, no matter their web accessibility challenges.

Dec 19 2017
Dec 19

Another Drupalcamp event had just successfully ended in Cebu! This is one of the largest Drupal Conferences in Asia Pacific Region organized by volunteers and open source enthusiasts. Promet is happy to provide organizing space and event support.
 

The local community is growing!

It was very overwhelming to see Drupalcamp Cebu grow in number year after year since it first started last 2014 with 120 attendees. Drupalcamp Cebu 2015 had 70 attendees while Drupalcamp Cebu 2016 had 100. The monthly meetup in Cebu City helps in keeping in touch with the local community over the years.

This year we had a total of 150 attendees!
 

Graph of Attendance of Drupalcamp Cebu over the years.Attendance of Drupalcamp Cebu over the years.


Last November 1, 2017, Cebu had just successfully concluded its 4th consecutive Drupalcamp (thanks to the collaborative effort of the Drupal Cebu User group led by Luc Bezier), hosted by CIT University.

“CIT University has been one of the most dynamic universities that we worked with. They were very active in the venue preparation. They also sent student volunteers to help us during the event.” - Luc Bezier, Organizer.
 

Drupalcamp Cebu 2017 logoDrupalcamp Cebu 2017 Logo was selected following a logo contest. Congratulations to Ron Corona for his winning entry :)

Sponsors

Of course, the event would not have been made possible without our sponsors. Promet Source has been happily sponsoring Drupal events in Cebu and in the Philippines, and has been a GOLD Sponsor for Drupalcamp Cebu every single year! It’s no surprise, as Promet Source is already the venue for the Drupal meetup, last Wednesday of every month.

Below is the list of Drupalcamp Cebu 2017 sponsors.

GOLD SPONSORS: Promet Source, and Srijan
SILVER SPONSORS: Pantheon, and ANNAI.
BRONZE SPONSOR: Powerstorm.
COFFEE AND SNACKS SPONSOR: SkyRockIT


It is interesting to see that every sponsor had already sponsored this event in the previous years. I think it is a great proof of the success of the camp and that sponsoring the event is successful for both: the event organizers and the companies involved.

Pre-camp: the speaker’s dinner

A night prior to the event, Drupalcamp Cebu 2017 speakers got together over Dinner at the rooftop of Harold’s hotel.

It was fun to see familiar faces again and meet new speakers at Drupalcamp Cebu. It lets the speakers meet each other in a less formal way. Some had a long flight from another country, so they could enjoy a nice dinner and have a good rest before the conference. The dinner was organized and paid by the Drupal Cebu User Group. A few of the speakers were missing but most of them came and really enjoyed the live band.

Drupalcamp Cebu 2017 speakers dinner.Photos from the Speaker’s dinner at Harolds' Cebu rooftop restaurant.   

The sessions

Image of the registrationDuring the registration.

 

The camp this year had 23 sessions (one was canceled), but before the sessions started, we were able to attend the Keynote by John Albin Wilkins (JohnAlbin on drupal.org). It was great having John to visit us in Cebu and be our keynote. He is a very prolific sharer of free code. His Zen theme has been downloaded nearly two million times on drupal.org!

During the Keynote, he talked about future versions of Drupal 8 and Drupal 9, and how modern software evolves to facilitate migration from one version to another. By listening to him, we learned that with Drupal 8 we will slowly depreciate the API when changes are needed. This is to make migration from one version to another way smoother than we had ever experienced with Drupal. Link to the slides

 

Image of the keynote speaker and attendees in the session room

 

“I saw John’s keynote in Drupalcamp Taipei and I asked him to present the same for Drupalcamp Cebu 2017. I really liked his way of demonstrating how Drupal is planning to fix one of the main issue we have when migrating from one major version to another version in drupal. Gradually depreciating the API rather than breaking changes”
- Luc Bezier, Organizer.

Session for everyone

After the keynote, attendees went into their choice of sessions held simultaneously at four different rooms. Each room was labeled after each sponsor. To make it easier for the attendees, the sessions were divided into 8 categories:

frontend,
backend,
QA / accessibility,
business,
devops,
UI/UX,
lifestyle.

There was also 3-hour Drupal training for beginners attended mostly by students.

Cedric Chaux, from Taiwan, talked about the mistakes he made as a developer (Link to slides). He discussed some of the common issues we come across at work like task mismanagement, wrong estimates, procrastination, and unreliable clients.

The session was easy to relate to. I think it was a good reminder of the things that we should not do and the things that we should do as a developer.

Image of speakerCedric Chaux presents "Mistakes I Made as a Developer".

Donnabel Carato gave an overview of Web Accessibility. It was a very interesting session and helped me understand the process behind QA for Web Accessibility. Donna is the QA lead at Promet Source so the personal experience on QA was very interesting. She is involved in the ADA Website Accessibility services that Promet is providing.

Image of speakerDonnabel Carato on 'Web Accessibility Overview'.

Aman Kanoria, from India, discussed the improvements that came with Drupal 8 when it comes to managing media. He did a good showcase of some possibilities using cool modules like Dropzone or Entity Embed  (Link to the slides). Some of them I will definitely try to re-use in the future.

Image of speakerAman Kanoria: Managing Media assets in Drupal 8

The session of Luc Bézier "Guide to Freedom and Travels for developers" was not technical, but on lifestyle as a remote developer. Luc gave some highlights of the remote lifestyle and some tips on how to keep in budget while traveling. He traveled to many countries this year like Australia, Thailand, Morocco, Italy or Taiwan, and his session included exotic photos and a bunch of useful advices (Link to the slides).

Image of Luc Bezier session Luc Bézier during the opening session

From the 23 sessions, I was not able to attend them all. Other sessions included for example: "Ionic and Drupal Headless" by Leolando Tan, "Atomic Design" by Justine Win Canete, "Manage Docker Host or Swarm Cluster with Portainer" by Ashwini Kumar, "How to make your site on D8 Fly with Redis" by Paul de Paula, "Master of Mailgun" by Ranny Navarro, "Skill up! Learning, relearning and unlearning" by Joan Maris Rosos and "Automated Accessibility testing via PA11Y" by Raymond Angana.

The complete lists of sessions and more slide presentations have been posted on the camp's website https://2017.drupalcebu.org/schedule/.

“I like the session from Annai about ‘Open Portal Data Using Drupal. It's interesting to note that drupal is able to bring positive change to the community (like Japan), and the number of things you can do with drupal’s technology.”
- Mike Vallescas, third time attendee.

The Drupalcamp Training

Aside from the ~20 sessions offered, every year, we organize a training for beginners. Donnabel Carato and I usually present the “Drupal Introduction”. It is a one-hour presentation. The main purpose is for the first-time attendees to get acquainted with what Drupal is, it’s history, when to use Drupal, and who uses Drupal.

This is always followed by 2 or 3 hours training for beginners.
This year Dennis Abasa and Keith Roi Francis Sasan did an amazing job. Their training was focused on site-building and theming with Drupal 8.

 

Drupal trainersDennis Abasa and Keith Sasan: Training: Site building and theming with Drupal 8

 

Image of attendees in a session room.

 

We had around 60 people in the room, that’s a big jump from 35 last year. A majority of the beginners were students, but among the crowd, we had two IT Directors and an IT instructor from Eastern Samar (a neighboring island of Cebu) - all three were first-time attendees.

We also had a Wordpress developer all the way from New Zealand. During the registration, I happened to have a quick chat with him. He mentioned traveling to Asia and happened to see ‘Drupalcamp Cebu 2017’ event on Drupical’s website (link to https://www.drupical.com). He had always wanted to learn Drupal and decided to stop by and join the event.

 

“Always browse Drupical, you might be surprised where it takes you.”

Luc Bezier gave his closing session at 6 p.m. And just as the camp started with a live band at the speakers' dinner, it also ended with a live band at ‘IAMIKS Chicken and Beer’ for the yearly after-camp party. The trivia was organized by Raymond Angana.

Beer and games!

 

Organizer of Drupal triviasRaymond Angana: Organizer of the Drupal trivia at the Drupalcamp Cebu 2017 party.

Wait ... Where is Cebu?
Cebu City is the second largest city in the Philippines and is one of the most popular tourist destination in the country. Known as the ‘Queen City of the South’ this island is surrounded by more than 150 islets, you can just imagine the number of beautiful beaches waiting to be visited.
Aside from the beaches, there is still a lot to love about Cebu. 
Here you will find diving spots, snorkeling areas, mountains to climb, waterfalls, caves, and historic places to explore.

For Drupal lovers, one good reason to visit is the yearly Drupalcamp. Now that’s tempting.

Image of Cebu's tourist destinationsClockwise: Kawasan Falls, Moalboal, Bantayan island, Taoist Temple


Testimonials


This year we decided to throw questions to our attendees to get to know what they think and how they feel about the camp.

Q: What are the main improvements made in Drupalcamp Cebu 2017?

“One of the improvements of this year’s camp was the use of online payment. It was quite successful. We had the better estimate of how many people we would have ahead of the event" - Luc Bezier, Solutions Architect.

Luc has been the main organizer of Drupalcamp Cebu since 2014. Kudos to you!

Q: What session did you like the most?
“I honestly liked Mark Koh’s session “Drupal Beginner’s Essentials”. The topic on GIT was the most interesting part for me because of its power and capabilities on file management. And the fact that the speaker was not boring. He has the ability to capture our attention and he has that guts in the delivery of this topic.” - Gil Dialogo, IT Instructor.

Q: What do you think about Drupal?

“Drupal, though I have not used it yet in the development of websites, I guess it's good and user-friendly. Plus, there are experts whom we can lend a hand during development because of its a supportive community.” - Gil Dialogo.

Gil is a first-time attendee and an IT instructor at Eastern Samar State University - Salcedo. Eastern Samar is a neighboring island of Cebu and one of the biggest islands in the Visayas.

Q: What interested you most about Drupalcamp Cebu 2017?

“Drupalcamp Cebu 2017, has an interesting line up of talk and sessions.” - Donnabel Carato, QA lead.

Donnabel is the QA lead of Promet Source Cebu, one of the organizers of the Drupalcamp and presented during the Training for beginners.

Q: What do you think about Drupal?

“I am a pro-open source advocate and I see Drupal be an evolving CMF platform that's flexible, extendable, scalable, and secure. There's so much you can do with Drupal and hope to see more platform development and growing modules in the future”. - Michael Mark Vallescas.


Michael Mark Vallescas had been attending every Drupalcamp Cebu, since the first one in 2014. When asked about why he finds Drupalcamp interesting he said: “I like meeting like-minded people and learning new things about Drupal.”

In conclusion, Here is Drupalcamp Cebu 2017 in numbers:

  • 2 gold sponsors
  • 2 silver sponsors
  • 1 bronze sponsor
  • 1 coffee and snacks sponsor
  • 23 sessions
  • 3-hour Drupal training for beginners
  • 150 attendees
     

Thanks to all the organizers of the camp for doing extra hours after work. Kudos to Luc Bezier for taking the lead, well done!
We greatly appreciate the support from all the sponsors, the speakers for sharing your expertise, and to all the attendees.
We would also like to thank our foreign attendees and speakers for flying all the way to Cebu to be a part of Drupalcamp Cebu 2017.

Saving the best for last ….

Q: What session did you like the most?

“I like the training session most since it was the first time I was introduced to Drupal. I also like  the ‘Guide to Freedom and Travels, for Developers’ a great session where Luc give us some pieces of advice on traveling tips
Too bad He didn't give us some free plane tickets.” - Mikko Olmillo.

Miko is a student and a first-time attendee of Drupalcamp Cebu. He is very interested in learning Drupal and hopes to participate again in Drupalcamp Cebu 2018.

See you guys next year!!

 

Special thanks go to Luc Bézier for his significant contributions to this post.

Dec 18 2017
Dec 18

Promet Source is proud to announce that we have teamed up with OpenYMCA.org, an open-source digital platform for marketing and e-commerce, as a Drupal development partner. Through this partnership, we are committed to the Open Y philosophy, community, and platform. Promet has worked with several YMCA organizations across the country to build and maintain their Drupal websites. Through this new partnership, we are eager to utilize our Drupal expertise to not only assist YMCA organizations with their Open Y platform implementations, but to also build new modules, customize and extend the platform to meet the needs of their community.

About Open Y

The Open Y platform is a content management system that uses Drupal 8 functionality and useful modules from YMCAs and digital partners. It’s easy and free to use—everyone is welcome to implement Open Y and run Open Y projects.

In 2016 a group of YMCA digital, marketing, and technology experts recognized the digital opportunities that exist if we work together as a community and established Open Y.

A core team led by a small group of YMCAs including the Greater Twin CitiesGreater Seattle and Greater Houston:

  • Maintains the Open Y content management system and OpenYMCA.org site
  • Ensures all basic functionality accessible from the content management system is available free of charge—those who contribute cannot charge others for what is shared
  • Strives to be aware of issues found within the Open Y content management system
  • Is not liable for bugs, crashes or performance issues of the content management system
  • Invites and approves digital partners to join
  • Distributes communication about Open Y
  • Organizes events for the Open Y community—including 2 annual meetings

About Promet Source

Founded in 2003, Promet Source is a web design and development company that specializes in open source solutions for government, higher education and association/nonprofit clients. Promet Source’s founder, Andrew Kucharski, started the company as a custom .net solutions firm that focused on eCommerce projects for national brands.

After getting exposure to the Drupal community of open source developers, Kucharski realized that Drupal would become the go-to solution for clients that need to solve complex problems in content creation, membership management, donations and fundraising, and responsive design. Promet realigned its core services and solutions to meet the needs of clients faced with these issues and set about solving problems with Drupal.

Promet Source is a comprehensive Drupal development agency that offers custom design, custom implementations, private and public instructor lead Drupal training, web accessibility compliance, consulting and full 24x7 support to its clients.

Dec 14 2017
Dec 14

My name is Katherine Shaw and I am a front end web developer at Promet Source. I'd like to start by sharing a little bit of my background, as it has helped me to understand why accessibility, on the web and in the world around us, is such an important issue. I am an advocate for web accessibility and in today's blog, I'll be sharing how I became so passionate about implementing ADA Section 508 best practices into my work as a developer, which all began when I was working for local government.

I was born in Waco, Texas into a military family. I was the first born in my family, and my brother followed close behind. I travelled the country and to Japan throughout my childhood, giving me a great sense of other cultures and environments at an early age. With this constant travel, I didn’t grow roots anywhere helping me to feel out-of-place for much of my life. This unintentionally helped me with accessibility because:

  • I learned many points-of-view: Being around so many different types of people in various cultures helped me to understand that there are many points-of-view in the world.
  • I didn’t feel understood: Always being the new kid was difficult at times, making it so that you don’t always feel understood.
  • I had communication issues: Whether it was moving to a new school or a new country, I know how it feels when you have issues communicating with others.

Web Accessibility - My "Aha" Moment

In March of 2012, I met Dan, who works for the CIO’s office of the GSA’s Section 508 and Accessibility. He presented on accessibility from the point-of-view of a blind user. This presentation completely changed my perspective from that point on.

Hearing the JAWS screen reader
He showed us how a site sounds with the screen reader JAWS, which really blew my mind! I got just a glimpse of what it’s like for non-sighted user to use a site.

Section 508 testing methods
Dan discussed Section 508 testing methods, and shared various tools that are available on the web.

What I took from it
I was intrigued by his entire presentation, and my eyes were opened to a new world. I’ve never turned back, and I’ve now become an advocate for accessibility.

Implementing Web Accessibility in Local Government

After getting inspired by Dan’s presentation, I immediately brainstormed ideas on how I could implement some of these ADA Section 508 and WCAG standards at the county I worked for at the time.

Implementing basic web accessibility standards
Since I was the sole Webmaster, I was able to implement a lot of those changes without any issue on the existing site. When building new county sites in Drupal 7, I made sure to develop with accessibility standards in-mind.

Educating the staff on Web Accessibility
My next step was to try to educate the staff on why scanned PDF’s and images weren’t accessible, why images needed distinguishing alt tags, why writing in plain language matters to all of our users, and why a service-based approach is better than a department-based approach

“Spring Cleaning” of content
I was able to come up with a “Spring Cleaning” concept for the big redesign which worked well at accomplishing a lot of these goals. I also built-in a lot of these standards into the site, including:

  • Required alt tags for all images
  • Skip navigation on all pages
  • Page titles on all pages, with home page’s hidden for sighted users only
  • Automatically added titles from content to links, which creates tooltips on hover
  • Created a uniform top site navigation that didn’t change across the site
  • Created linked headings to text blocks on all content pages
  • Created templates for every content type, resulting in a uniform design

Old habits are hard to break
Some employees had a difficult time with these changes, and continued with their old practices including scanning documents and images and writing text that was too long for users to read through and understand.

Employees think department-based
Some employees asked for their department to have a button prominently displayed on the top navigation or wanted their own custom layout that was different than the rest of the site.

They didn’t understand that these updates don’t follow accessibility standards and also confuse users.

Support for web accessibility is needed from the top
When you work with elected officials, you’re limited in what you can do if you don’t have support from the top down.

Getting buy-in from administration is the key to success. Otherwise you will be fighting a lost-cause a lot of the time.

An Inspiring Moment from my work in Web Accessibility

Not long after I began to implement accessibility best practices into my development work at the county, I received a call from a blind citizen who was trying to access our website. There was a form he was attempting to use that was causing problems for him, specifically with a select menu with a list of states in the US. He stated that the select menus weren't helpful for him because he could only read abbreviations for the states. I could immediately identify that the keys were abbreviations while the values were the full names of the states.

Identifying and fixing the issue in real time

Sighted users see the values as they see the full names, while blind users see only the abbreviations. This is an unfair setup. Because of his feedback, I matched the keys to the values for all select menus throughout the site. You can view the example code below:

Old:

<select value=”KS”>Kansas</select>

New:

<select value=”Kansas”>Kansas</select>

After we were finished troubleshooting through the issue, he was not only extremely happy that this issue was resolved for him and other users, but he expressed that he was thrilled that I took the time to work through the issue with him on the phone.

Getting Involved with Web Accessibility

As a member of Promet's web accessibility team and an IAAP Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC), I now get to work with clients to ensure their websites are accessible to all users. I work on several remediation projects for Promet clients from start to finish. Consulting with clients, as well as performing the actual remediation work, has been very rewarding for me here at Promet.

Knowledge Sharing and Documentation

In addition to my client work, I share my knowledge and contribute to accessibility at Promet on a regular basis. I have also created a new Menu Attributes a11y sandbox project, which will hopefully be committed to the main Menu Attributes module to assist with accessibility.

I’ve also created documentation on Web Accessibility Standards and other accessibility information for the Promet team, as well as other documentation at previous positions.

I believe it's that it's time for us to develop with an accessibility-first approach at all times, and I hope my work can inspire you to do the same!

Need help getting started with web accessibility for your organization? Contact us today.

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About Drupal Sun

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

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

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web