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 Corona virus 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 and 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.
 

Mar 04 2020
Mar 04

Promet Named Acquia Growth Partner of the Year Award AND the Most Wins of the Year for 2019 in the Americas

Recognized Based on Business Performance

We are pleased to announce today that Promet Source has been selected for two Acquia Awards for Growth Partner of the Year Award AND the Most Wins of the Year for 2019, given for its superlative performance during the past year. Promet is being honored with overall business growth and having the most client wins with Acquia.

“We delivered measurable results by leveraging Acquia's Lift platform, which facilitated website personalization that served to optimize customer experiences,” said Andy Kurcharski, CEO at Promet Source. “We leveraged Acquia Site Factory, along with Acquia's entire, client-centered suite of products, enabled successful client partnerships and brand-building migrations that drove high-performance, personalized, and expectation-exceeding websites.”

Acquia recognized 15 partners across five global regions based on their overall revenue performance, overall growth with Acquia, and number of new customers secured last year.

“Promet Source is to be commended. 2019 was an incredible year for Acquia and our partners, with demand for our world-class digital experience solutions driving significant growth,” said Joe Wykes, SVP, global channels and sales, at Acquia. “2020 promises to be another amazing year, and together we’ll help our customers set the bar for delivering impactful customer experiences across channels.”

Leaders in digital experience delivery, Acquia partners support the world’s leading brands in facilitating amazing customer experiences. A full list of Acquia Partner Award winners can be seen here. 

Contact Promet today to explore how a partnership with Promet and Acquia can produce a high-performance, personalized, and expectation-exceeding website for your organization.

Promet Source Winner: Public Sector Growth Partner of the Year by Acquia
 

Promet Source Winner: Public Sector Most Wins of the Year by Acquia

Feb 26 2020
Feb 26

In our current, digitally driven business climate, search engine optimization (SEO) and optimal web experiences are inherently intertwined. Each feeds off and builds upon the other. 


SEO has worked its way into our widely recognized business lexicon, and it’s generally understood that better SEO translates into better organic (unpaid) search engine rankings. A far lesser-known fact, however, is that optimal user experiences enhance SEO.

Great UX drives SEO

In the early days of SEO, initiatives were largely focused on gaming the search engines, with a goal of landing at or near the top of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). This led to tactics such as packing key search terms into title tags and meta page descriptions.

Google and the other search engines have gotten a lot smarter. Google now detects various degrees of user engagement as a key measure for search rankings, and Google’s ever-evolving algorithm is focused on indicators that search queries result in the correct, sought-after data. In this new environment, websites that are playing by outdated rules are actually getting penalized by Google as well as the other search engines.

2-Faceted SEO Strategy

User experiences that meet expectations are at the core of great SEO, but the fact remains that information still needs to be delivered in a format that grabs the attention of search engine crawlers. As such keyword research and strategic keyword deployment remains essential.

Keyword research helps in moving beyond assumptions concerning most popular search terms relative to a particular product or service. Take the example of a search for facilities that cater to for elderly residents. A website designed to target this market absolutely needs to factor in data concerning the search volume and relative popularity of each of the following search terms:

  • Nursing homes,
  • Memory care,
  • Assisted living,
  • Assisted living facilities,
  • Retirement homes, 
  • Retirement communities,
  • Senior adult communities, and
  • Senior living facilities.

 

Keyword Research

For insight into the most popular search terms, as well as the terms that competitors are using, Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords), SEMrush, Spyfu and Moz are among the leading providers. 
 
Keep in mind that optimizing for search terms other than the highest volume search terms, is often the most effective approach to SEO. Companies that are operating in a field where the competition for the major search terms already appears to be an uphill of a battle, optimizing for the so-called “long-tail” (less frequent and more specific) search terms can be akin to a targeted, niche marketing campaign.
 
Examples of long-tail terms for senior living facilities could be “Westgate Senior Living,” or “Pet Friendly Retirement Communities.”

Keyword Placement

The main page header or the H1, is what informs Google of the subject of the page. The main header on every page is a key focus for SEO. It’s also important to be strategic about the deployment of keywords within page title tags, the page meta description and the secondary headers. 
 
Focus on a different set of keywords for each page that is crawlable by Google. The Google algorithm is looking to differentiate among pages, and anything that can be done to help clarify will serve to enhance SEO.
 
Search engine marketing is a dynamic, rapidly-evolving discipline, that too often does not receive the attention that it warrants. In a business climate where organizations are increasingly defined by their digital presence, a finely tuned and constantly refined SEO strategy is an essential success factor for organizations of every kind.
 
Looking to fine tune your site’s SEO strategy and ensure that it is aligned with current trends and best practices? Contact us today

Feb 17 2020
Feb 17

I was recently reading an interesting blog post concerning web accessibility. It seemed insightful and informative, until I came upon a link to “download a PDF …” for more information. 

But wait. These PDFs were not accessible.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. This kind of thing happens all the time. As the concept of web accessibility enters the mainstream as a “must-have,” the bigger picture is often getting missed.

Free training: Making PDFs Web Accessible

The PDF Problem

People are sometimes reluctant to accept that PDF’s are included in the scope of web accessibility requirements. It’s not uncommon for organizations to have hundreds of inaccessible PDFs on a site, or to have multiple links off to inaccessible PDFs. The surface of this challenge has barely begun to be scratched.

It’s true that PDFs can be remediated and made accessible, and WCAG 2.1 provides steps for creating accessible PDFs. Generally speaking, though, the process of making PDFs accessible is time-consuming and cumbersome. In the current accessibility climate, the most efficient approach is a mindset shift away from PDFs as the standard for document saving, and toward a realization that properly structured HTML files are the most accessible document type.

PDF Proliferation

When marketing an event online or promoting a product, a PDF is viewed as the go-to solution for saving a file. Organizations design and link offsite to PDFs that serve as digital posters for downloading and printing. 

It’s not uncommon for trifold brochures to be saved as a PDF and posted to a site -- not a good UX and abysmal for accessibility. 

PDF’s are also relied upon in organizational governance. Meeting notes or agendas tend to be created as Word docs and then saved as PDFs.Governments, healthcare providers, corporations, educational institutions, and large organizations of every kind, have hundreds if not thousands of PDFs on their site that they are just now realizing need to be remediated for ADA accessibility. 

Automation: Not the Answer

Automated remediation tools serve as only a partial solution, at best. For one thing, automated tools cannot be counted on to accurately create alt text for images. That’s a task that will always call for human judgment. 

A bigger issue is the fact that content on a WCAG compliant web page is required to be structured within the H1 to H6 HTML hierarchy of headings. Headings on a PDF promotional page or product announcement cannot be counted on to follow any particular logic that either a screen reader or automated remediation tool can make sense of. 

PDF Evaluation and Prioritization

An accessibility audit on a site that includes hundreds of PDFs functions akin to triage, with each PDF being evaluated as necessary or not for remaining on the site, followed by a strategic evaluation as to whether it makes more sense to remediate the PDF for WCAG compliance or convert it to an HTML file.  

This exercise proves to be strategically valuable for many reasons. I’ve yet to encounter a website that does not benefit from an overall inventory and focus on clearing out the “clutter.” 

As is the case with all initiatives designed to ensure WCAG compliance, inventory and auditing of PDFs for accessibility sets the stage for more sustainable web strategies, greater inclusivity, and better UX for all.

There’s much more to learn. Please join me next month for our upcoming training where we will cover the PDF accessibility requirements within the broader scope of WCAG compliance.

Register NOW

Making PDFs Web Accessible
Wednesday, March 18, 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. CST


 

Feb 11 2020
Feb 11

Recent and abundant evidence that ADA Accessibility enhances SEO, is broadening perspectives on WCAG compliance -- from a complicated and potentially costly requirement, to an excellent opportunity that needs to be accomplished ASAP.  

Google as a Gatekeeper

Google has emerged as a gatekeeper within our digitally-driven business climate. If a site doesn’t grab Google’s attention, that means lots of lost traffic. A recent article in Search Engine Journal reported that sites which appear on the first page of a Google search receive, on average, 91.5 percent of the traffic share. 

This means that in the current climate, websites need to be accessible to the major search engines -- just as they need to be accessible to people with disabilities. Structuring a site to align with what Google looks for in determining listing order on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is a critical business imperative.

Accessibility and SEO in Alignment

Many of the factors that fuel Search Engine Optimization are also essential for ADA Web accessibility compliance. 

Here’s a short list of reasons why and how SEO and ADA web accessibility best practices converge to enhance both objectives:

Google gets it: Great UX equals greater accessibility.

When websites are designed with a high degree of empathy for those who visit the site -- including people with disabilities -- SEO follows. Many metrics pertaining to great user experience have an impact on a site’s search result ranking. Among them: how long it takes a site to load, straightforward navigation, quality content, mobile responsiveness, and internal linking.

Screen readers and search engines both rely on title tags.

Title tags are the first component of a web page that’s read by a screen reader. They’re also essential to a search engine’s ranking of a page and where it appears on the SERP. Even though title tags don’t appear on the page itself, the title tag appears as the heading of the SERP listing and it’s essential -- for both accessibility and SEO -- that it includes key words that accurately reflect the content on the page. From the standpoint of visually impaired screen reader users, it’s also important that every page on the site has a distinct title tag.

Search engines also scan alt text.

It’s tempting for content editors to slap in perfunctory alt text. Carefully describing an image for the purpose of helping a visually impaired person to envision it, takes time and thought and descriptive alt text can make or break the user experience for a visually impaired person who relies on a screen reader. At the same time, alt text that weaves in key search terms also serves to enhance SEO.

Meaningful header hierarchies support WCAG and SEO.

Accessibility compliance requires that content follows a logical H1 to H6 header sequence and that headers accurately describe the content that follows. Adherence to a logical content structure serves all users, and in particular, those who have cognitive impairments or rely on a screen reader. From an SEO standpoint, breaking content up into meaningful pieces of information with headers that incorporate key search terms, is key to SEO and can lead to the content appearing as a featured snippet on a SERP page. 

The Big Picture: Web Accessibility Fuels SEO

ADA Web accessibility compliance and SEO are two distinct areas of expertise. Fortunately a sharp focus on one, enhances the other. Viewed from another angle, when Google is treated as a distinct user for whom a site needs to be accessible, the result is significant steps toward achieving ADA accessibility.

Looking to continue the conversation on how web accessibility can improve search engine rankings? Contact us.

Feb 05 2020
Feb 05

ADA Compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines has not traditionally been a top-of-mind consideration for the writers, editors, and subject matter experts who populate websites with content. Then again, the same can be said for developers, designers, site architects, and everyone involved in creating and maintaining websites.

That’s changing quickly as expectations for online experiences that are accessible for people of all abilities are emerging as the new normal. More so than ever before, organizations that cut corners or lack a sense of urgency to ensure that their websites are compliant with WCAG 2.1 are at risk for legal action and all sorts of possible setbacks. 

So let’s take a quick look at a few of the key issues that content editors need to keep in mind to ensure that websites are ADA accessibility compliant and aligned with the big picture of what may be required in 2020.

Register NOW for a FREE Webinar: Web Accessibility for Content Editors: What You Need to Know Now

 

Page Titles

Paying attention to page titles is important for a lot of reasons. The page title appears at the top of the screen and it’s the first thing that a visually impaired person hears from the screen reader when a page is loaded. As such, the page title should be accurate and informative, additionally every page on the site needs to have a unique title. 

Beyond accessibility considerations, the page title is also what appears in search results, and that’s, of course, a huge factor in search engine optimization (SEO). Good user experience (UX) is yet another reason to apply best practices to the page titles on a site. When users have multiple tabs open, a distinct, descriptive title helps with efficient navigation among multiple tabs.

Headings

As is the case with page titles, there are big ancillary benefits to an ADA compliant hierarchy for headings.

The primary issue to keep in mind concerning headings is that people who rely on screen readers, often navigate a page by scanning headings before determining what they want to read -- just as sighted users do. HTML coding for headings in the right descending order is required for screen readers to effectively interpret the content structure and this means logically structuring content headings and the content under them within the <h1> to <h6> page hierarchy. Simply bolding text or switching up font sizes should not stand in as headings.

Button Text and CTAs

Compliance issues concerning calls to action are possibly the most often overlooked or misunderstood component of content editing. It’s all too common for a page to have multiple CTAs with the same generic text such as: “LEARN MORE” or “CLICK HERE.”  To understand why this practice is not accessibility compliant, imagine a visually impaired person who is trying to navigate a page with a screen reader, and the frustrations that they would have in trying to efficiently navigate a page that has CTAs or buttons that all have the same text.

Accessible CTA text needs to make sense when it stands alone. Instead of “LEARN MORE,” for example, an accessible link would read, “Longhorn 2020 football schedule,” or  “10 most kid friendly dog breeds.” 

Much More to Learn!

Content editors play a distinct role in the creation and maintenance of an accessible site. 

WCAG 2.1 provides clear accessibility guidelines that are not difficult to implement. They just need to be learned, remain top of mind, and get built into the process flow.

Looking for a deeper dive to fast track your knowledge and know-how of accessible content editing? 

Join Promet’s Denise Erazmus and Mindy League for a free webinar:  Web Accessibility for Content Editors: What You Need to Know Now, where you will learn:

  • 7 things for content editors to keep in mind to ensure ADA compliance
  • The red flags that tend to spark accessibility lawsuits and how to avoid them
  • How to educate your team concerning both the WHY and the HOW of ADA Accessibility Compliant content editing

Tuesday, March 3, 12-1 p.m. Central

Register NOW!
 

Jan 28 2020
Jan 28

Load-testing is an essential best practice for Drupal 8 development. Quantifying how much traffic a site can sustain is critical information both during development and prior to launch. 

The reasons for doing so are significant and wide-ranging:

  • Determine hosting needs
  • Identify under-performing code
  • Test the efficiency of candidate contributed modules
  • Quantify how performance is impacted as content grows
  • Document pre-launch performance to facilitate future troubleshooting

 

Locust as a Load-testing Solution

Locust is a web-based, open-source tool. It was created to be easy-to-use via its user interface, while also being customizable via Python test scripts. For example, it allows for the ability to simulate multiple users concurrently submitting a Drupal webform multiple times. It can also run distributed tests with instances running on multiple machines.

 

Installing Locust

python3 -m pip install locustio

Install the "Beautiful Soup" python library to facilitate user login

python3 -m pip install bs4

 

Example Test Script

from locust import HttpLocust, TaskSet, between
from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

def index(self):
    self.client.get("/")

def about(self):
    self.client.get("/about")

def drupalLogin(self):
    # Get form build ID to pass back to Drupal on login.
    response = self.client.get("/user")
    content = BeautifulSoup(response.content)
    build_id = content.body.find('input', {'name': 'form_build_id'})['value']
    self.client.post("/user/login", {
        "name": "testusername",
        "pass": "testpassword",
        "form_id": "user_login_form",
        "form_build_id": build_id,
        "op": "Log in"
    })

def drupalLogout(self):
    self.client.get("/user/logout")

class UserBehavior(TaskSet):
    tasks = {index: 1, about: 1}

    def on_start(self):
        drupalLogin(self);

    def on_stop(self):
        drupalLogout(self)

class WebsiteUser(HttpLocust):
    task_set = UserBehavior
    wait_time = between(5.0, 9.0)

In this example, 5 users log in to Drupal and then each user accesses either the front page or the / about page every 5-9 seconds. The "Hatch rate" of 1 adds an additional use each second until a total of 5 concurrent users are actively running the script. This helps to simulate a more natural increase in traffic.  Finally, all users log out of Drupal when testing ends.

 

Running a Test

locust -f ./locust_test.py

Here is the UI form for initializing the test:

The UI form for initializing the test

Here is a screenshot of the data table this test produced:

Screen shot of the data the test produced

Here are PNG graph images generated by Locust during this test:

Graph showing the number of requests per second.

Graph showing response times.

PNG graph images generated by Locust during the test

Tests can also be run without the UI. This is useful for automation or for running tests in a remote environment:

locust -f ./locust_test.py --no-web -c 5 -r 1 -H https://target.domain

This approach has successfully been tested in a CentOS 7 environment.

 

Load-Testing in the Development Cycle

Since tests are fairly straightforward to write and run, it is feasible to perform load-testing throughout the development process.

Early in the development phase, tests could be more simple and generic. For example, visiting the front page, logging in, and logging out. These initial tests could be site-agnostic for reuse across multiple projects. Then, more site-specific tests can be added as the project takes shape,.

An approach for this might include load-testing directions within pull requests or, potentially, automation could kick off tests following a PR merge so a snapshot of performance is captured with each code change.

Next Steps

Locust is a simple yet flexible open-source tool for quantifying performance throughout the development cycle. Interested in load-testing or test-driven development for your Drupal 8 site?  Contact us today.

Resources

Jan 21 2020
Jan 21

Just because a website is required to follow WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines doesn’t mean it can’t have a great design. Sometimes this misconception can frustrate designers before they even begin to understand the accessibility guidelines and the reasons they exist.

Get our 12 Point Design Checklist for Accessibility

Great design that is accessible can actually ensure a better user experience and result in an expanded customer base, a better brand image, superior SEO rankings, and reduce the risk of an ADA lawsuit.

At Promet Source, our designers are guided by the following quote.

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” -- Orson Wells

Too often the WCAG guidelines are viewed as design limitations, but it is within limitations that creativity can best thrive.

We are not designing within a vacuum or to impress ourselves and other designers. We practice Human-Centered Design for people who have distinct objectives, and often they have limitations that include physical and cognitive disabilities. It is our responsibility as designers to build an inclusive experience for everyone. Creating an accessible website is not just the right thing to do, or an ADA Section 508 legal mandate, it’s good business.

Consider: There are 7 million people in the United states with a visual disability.1 One in four U.S. adults is living with a disability,2 and the total disposable income for U.S. adults with disabilities is estimated at $490 billion, with $21 billion in discretionary income.3 The web is where many connect and conduct business, and if people with disabilities can’t access the websites we are creating, we are all at a disadvantage.

In other words:

When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as 'SOME User Experience' or… SUX? -- Billy Gregory, Senior Accessibility Engineer

How do we ensure that online experiences are inclusive? ADA Section 508 provides the mandate for accessibility and WCAG 2.1 provides the guidelines. But while WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines are an essential framework, creating a truly accessible and user-friendly site involves more than checking off boxes. 

To create true usability, Human-Centered Design and usability testing incorporate the essential component of empathy to ensure that the humans, for whom the site is designed, can successfully engage and complete the tasks they set out to accomplish. 

To date, usability testing and research has tended to overlook the needs of people with disabilities. A true commitment to accessibility requires upfront user testing, the assurance that developers are deploying accessible code, collaboration among stakeholders, manual and automated audits, and perhaps most importantly, an empathetic understanding of how and why the humans for whom the site is designed will engage with it. 

Promet Source has created this essential 12 Point Design Checklist for Accessibility for designers to help meet WCAG 2.1 guidelines and develop accessible online experiences. Click here to get the checklist.

Contact us today for further information on implementing WCAG 2.1 guidelines for your site and to find out how we can help ensure more user-friendly and accessible online experiences. 

Sources:
1. National Federation for the Blind
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
3. American Institutes for Research
 
Jan 13 2020
Jan 13

Too often, compliance with WCAG 2.1, to ensure web accessibility for people with disabilities, is an afterthought of the web development process. WCAG 2.1 compliance is a multifaceted endeavor, and when accessibility is incorporated into every phase of development, the result is greater efficiencies and superior outcomes.

Let’s look at the key phases of the web development workflow, and the advantage of keeping accessibility top of mind every step of the way. 

Planning and Wireframes

When planning and wireframing out a website project, accessibility needs to be considered at the very outset. During this phase, different functionalities of the website are flushed out, but  accessibility tends to not be a top-of-mind. Here are a few practices to help keep the workflow on track for an accessible site and avoid unwelcome setbacks later in the process. 

  1. During planning and wireframing processes, developers and site architects need to take notes and continuously question: “How is this going to work?”  “How will we make this component accessible?” This initial inquiry helps in planning and anticipating certain “pain points” or larger components -- such as a Calendar of Events -- that might take more time to be made accessible.
  2. When planning out specific or custom functionality, it’s important to always stop and consider how it will be conveyed to a user who is visually or hearing impaired. 

Design

The design phase represents an whole new range of accessibility considerations that need to be taken into account. While color contrast is the most obvious issue, other issues such as focus styles or link text size are more likely to be overlooked. Below are a few of the many accessibility checks that need to be in place during the design phase. 

Evaluate elements of the website from the perspective of a person with color blindness, age-related sight loss, or other visual impairments. Can the text be clearly distinguished from the background image? Contrast checking resources and WCAG 2.1 provide support and guidelines for ensuring adequate contrast between the text and background elements.

Every website design should include a style guide that encompasses heading sizes, button styles, and other elements. Often, however, the style guide is not detailed enough and certain elements are forgotten or specific accessibility checks are missed. For example:

  • Different font sizes require different color contrast ratios between the foreground and the background.
  • Accessibility for heading colors varies by font size.
  • Alert boxes need to be legible with adequate contrast.
  • Primary and secondary colors need to be checked for accessibility with the site background.

Development

If accessibility has been top-of-mind up to this point, developers will be well positioned to avoid accessibility related setbacks and surprises. Notes taken during planning and wireframing can help to guide an accessibility roadmap during development. Below are a few items that are often overlooked:

“Read More” links. Almost every site created within the past 10 years has “Read More” links on landing pages, blog posts, and throughout interior pages. It is not accessible, however, to have the same text on multiple links that direct the user to different places. Link text needs to be descriptive and specific to the page, such as “Get Further Insights,” “Check Out this Special Offer,”  or “Learn the Key Benefits.” 

Forms and error messages. Forms are extremely common sources of accessibility issues. Ensuring accessible forms involves many distinct elements that need to be developed properly.

  • All form elements need to have proper labels with properly linked “for” attributes. Inputs with invalid “for” attributes cause the labels to not link to the inputs.
  • All accessible form elements require properly set up labels with descriptive text, and linked “for” attributes. 
  • Error messages need to be adequately informative for screen-reader users. Error messages such as, “This field is required,” don’t provide enough context for a visually impaired person using a screen reader. Consider more specific error messages such as, “Phone number required."

While accessibility considerations might feel like time-consuming additional steps, getting it right during development represents a significant savings of time and resources. It takes far more time and effort to find and fix accessibility issues once a site goes live, or even before it reaches the quality assurance (QA) phase than it does to understand the full scope of accessibility while the site is under construction.

Rules and Tools - It’s QA Time

Once development is complete and the site enters the QA phase, it is critical that QA testers are fully knowledgeable concerning what to check for from an accessibility standpoint and are familiar with WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines and testing tools. 

If accessibility issues arise during the QA phase, there needs to be a proper workflow and documentation processes in place for the QA team to successfully explain the scope of the issues, along with recommended fixes.

Want to Know More?

At Promet Source, we’re passionate about accessibility. We develop accessible sites, audit sites to uncover accessibility issues, remediate existing websites for accessibility, consult with clients on accessibility, provide accessibility training, and much more.

Contact us today for help with any or all of your web accessibility needs. 

Jan 08 2020
Jan 08

2019 set the stage for a new decade of innovation driven by open source, design driven by insight into how humans interact with technology, and digital accessibility driven by high court decisions and consumer demand. Throughout the year, we at Promet Source reached out every week with updates and insights.  

We’ve now taken stock of nearly 50 blog posts contributed by the full slate of talent that passionately serves our clients. 

Here are the posts that had the highest readership.

1. Supreme Court Marks New Era for Web Accessibility

By Andrew Kucharski, President, Promet Source

Andrew wrote the year’s most-read post immediately following U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to not review, the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling in Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC. His post pointed out the significance of this development, which signaled a long-anticipated answer to to the question of whether Title III of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, applies to an organization’s online presence. The answer is yes and the result is an anticipated acceleration in the pace of lawsuits pertaining to web accessibility.

2. Better Instructions for Your Drupal Content Types

By Cindy McCourt, Training Instructor, Promet Source

Our roots are in Drupal. Last years’ posts that focused on Drupal best practices, how-tos, or the scheduled June 2020 release of Drupal 9 consistently drew in a lot of interest and attention. Topping the list of Drupal posts in terms of readership: Better Instructions for Your Drupal Content Types. This Drupal how-to covered four Drupal 8 default features that provide instructions for content authors.

3. Great Websites Are Created before the First Line of Code is Written

By Mindy League, Director of User Experience and Design, Promet Source

This post reflected a breakthrough approach to web design and development that Promet Source adopted with the 2018 acquisition of the DAHU Agency. DAHU's team of UXperts and design thinkers have advocated for the application of human-centered design principles to web development, fueled from a foundation of:

  • collaborative problem solving, 
  • elimination of  assumptions,
  • deeper knowledge transfer, 
  • empathy for users, 
  • early stakeholder alignment, and 
  • excitement about what’s possible.

The result: deeper engagements, more fun, and superior outcomes.

4. A Marie Kondo Inspired Guide to Content Migration

By Chris O'Donnell, Business Development, Promet Source 

Chris O’Donnell, Promet’s entertaining and wickedly smart business development lead, had an epiphany in 2019 that content migrations would be well served by following the principles supported by anti-clutter enthusiast, Marie Kondo: tidy up, follow the right order, and discard what no longer serves.  

Onward to 2020!

Consistent outreach contributed to a significant growth in readership last year and we are committed to continuing that trajectory. With our talent base of experts and writers, we are tapped into a wide spectrum of expertise and insights. Contact us with your thoughts concerning what you want to read more about this year. 

Dec 17 2019
Dec 17

Created in 2004, and donated to the Apache Software Foundation in 2006 for open source publishing of the code, Solr Search has emerged into what many now consider to be the gold standard of enterprise search platforms. 

When developing Drupal 8 websites, this highly popular platform built on the Apache Java Lucerne library, is often proven to be the ideal solution and perfect fit for a website’s specific objectives and information architecture. 

But not always.

Among the considerations when integrating Solr Search into Drupal 8 sites:  

  • Solr Search usually requires the set up of a separate server. Drupal search, on the other hand can be set up with the installation of a module and the selection of a few settings. While Solr tends to require considerably more development work for sites that have a wide range of requirements, basic integration can be accomplished with relatively little effort if the Solr server is available.
  • Solr often represents the optimal solution for achieving great performance large sites with complex, highly updated content. For less complex websites, Drupal search and caching can also provide good performance.
  • Apache Solr comes with a set of great features (listed below), which may or may not be needed. These features will always need to be reviewed against the needs of the project to determine whether they will be useful. 

Preconceived Preeminence

Among Solr’s key achievements: the perception that it’s the best. It’s not uncommon that clients specifically request Solr as the search platform for their site. Our approach is to first seek to understand the big picture, dig deep into requirements, explore available options, and move forward with recommendations.

This exercise is incorporated into the Promet Source architecture workshops. We also create a detailed matrix of search requirements, identifying an entire set of search specifications and then ask the client prioritize them in order to inform the decision-making process.  

Prioritized search requirements may include features such as:

  • Spell check
  • Suggester
  • Keyword highlighter
  • Multiple character wildcard
  • Single character wildcard
  • Synonyms
  • Term proximity
  • Exact phrase boost

Range of Objectives

Clearly, one product owner’s idea of what constitutes ideal search capabilities differs from another’s. There is not one gold standard or ideal enterprise search platform, and as such, before discussing the functionality and relative merits of search platform options, we do the work upfront to understand the full scope of search criteria. Until this information has been gathered, one cannot effectively develop recommendations and move forward with decisions based on the search platform that aligns most closely with specific requirements.

Interested in looking beneath the surface concerning the search platform that meets your specific objectives -- or any other aspect of Drupal design and development -- contact us today.
 
Pamela Ross and Luc Bezier contributed to this post.

Dec 11 2019
Dec 11

More so than ever before, ensuring digital accessibility through compliance with  WCAG 2.1, is a multi-faceted endeavor that needs to be approached from several angles. 
 
Those of us who are in the business of developing and remediating websites and apps for accessibility are well aware of the fact that automated accessibility checkers primarily catch the low hanging fruit of inaccessibility. It’s completely possible for an inaccessible site to be run through any number of automated checkers with no accessibility issues being detected -- happens all the time.
 
It’s also possible that an automated accessibility checker can red flag a site, when the issue cited is not an actual impediment to accessibility.

Case in Point

A client came to us recently with a legal challenge from an outside organization. In the statement, this organization claimed that a user was not able to access certain parts of the client's website with a screen reader. In checking the validity of this claim, I discovered that it was false. 
 
So where did this information come from? An automated accessibility checker. Even though a screen reader user would have had no problems navigating the site, the underlying code was out of sync with the automated accessibility checker’s rules. Tightening up the code was needed to satisfy the automated tool -- not to make the site accessible to someone who uses a screen reader.

Legal Landscape

Due to the U.S Supreme Court’s recent decision not to review Robles v Domino’s Pizza, LLC, we can expect to see more and more accessibility related lawsuits such as this, from a new breed of opportunists deploying accessibility checkers without the benefit of any real perspective or passion for accessibility. 
 
In the current climate, cleaning up code to satisfy automated accessibility checkers is an important step toward avoiding legal challenges from individuals and organizations that use these tools simply to target their next defendant.
 
At Promet Source, we are passionate about putting solutions into place to ensure a more inclusive online environment, at the same time, we are passionate about helping our clients to avoid nuisance lawsuits. 

Covering All Bases

Our approach to achieving both objectives begins with a reliance on the following four tools for reviewing, auditing, remediating or developing websites and applications:

Why these tools and why all four?

They are distinct from each other in that separate organizations developed them. Many other automated accessibility tools are built off of these tools, and our goal is to avoid duplication of effort while covering as many bases as possible. 
 
While the first tool on the list, Validator, functions as a code checker, the three that follow, Siteimprove, AXE, and WAVE serve as accessibility checkers. 
 
Double and triple accessibility checks are a best practice that enhances both confidence and outcomes, often serving to uncover the types of subtleties in the underlying code that could spark an accessibility lawsuit. 

Dev Pro Tip

When developing a new site, we recommend utilizing these tools on an ongoing basis. This practice is a key step to ensure continuous advancement toward the development of an accessible site, vs. making one step forward and two steps backward, which is too often the case.
 
Despite the sophistication of these tools, always keep in mind that automated accessibility testing will never replace manual audits. Manual accessibility auditing by a real human is still the most dependable accessibility checker. Here is a short list of audit steps that call for human intervention: 

  • Increase/Decrease the zoom in browsers. 
  • Adjust the color contrast. 
  • Test with multiple screen sizes. 
  • Use only the keyboard to navigate the website. 
  • Use a screen reader to hear how the website functions for users who are visually impaired. 

 
Automated tools are a great start to the process of auditing a site for accessibility, and in the current legal climate, it’s essential to be able to proactively evaluate a site from the same angle as unscrupulous litigants in search of accessibility lawsuits.
 
The process, however, does not end with automated tools. Not by a long shot.
 
Looking for more insight about leveraging the right tools or learning where to start with digital accessibility? Promet Source can help. To speak to an accessibility specialist, contact us today.

Dec 03 2019
Dec 03

Drupal 8 offers considerable functionality for managing fielded content. Unexpected business needs, however, can result in less-than-ideal workarounds, such as rich text, when time, budget, or data constraints prevent more Drupal-specific solutions, such as Views.

Maintainability can be impacted when rich text is used for unintended purposes, such as alternative page layouts. This is among the reasons why it's essential for developers to guide clients toward better solutions, while carefully curating tools available in the rich text editor.

The Drupal Paragraphs module provides a solution for breaking up, reducing, and managing rich text at the content level.

What are Paragraphs?

Paragraphs are fielded entities that are specific to a single piece of content. Adding Paragraphs to a node is like adding blocks to a region. For example, if a blog post needs a data table inserted into its rich text, rather than embedding something or hard-coding it, the following Paragraphs could be added in place of a single rich text field:

  • Paragraph type: "Basic Content" - This would contain the first part of the rich text in this example. This Paragraph's type would consist of a single rich text field.
  • Paragraph type: "View Content" - This Paragraph's type would have a single "Views Reference" field.
  • Paragraph type "Basic Content" - The remaining rich text content would be placed into this paragraph, following the view block containing the data table.

In addition to Paragraphs, it is worth noting that the "Entity Embed" module can allow entities to be embedded inline within rich text content. This can be helpful in reducing complexity of rich text and it is convenient to be able to set the embedded content's view mode.

Additional Usage

Paragraphs can also supply settings fields on the content edit form for customizing a page's output. For instance, a "Recent Blogs" paragraph type that displays a view block could have custom settings to control the number of results, teaser to display, and could provide some template-specific logic, such as "title position." This approach provides the flexibility of content-specific customization managed at the content level.

Given that Paragraphs are entities, Paragraphs can also have child paragraphs. For example, a parent Paragraph could act as a general container for different kinds of content, similar to a queue. An example of this might be a grid of media, blog posts, and taxonomy terms, with associated theme-level templates and styles to support this presentation. Although other solutions can do this, this approach is content-specific and takes place on the content edit form.

Tips for Implementing Paragraphs

  • Survey site pages to identify repeated use of similar or duplicate content within each page's "content area" where page-specific content is displayed. Then, consider moving those repeated instances of content into blocks or views so that paragraphs can reference that content in the appropriate locations.
  • Add a "rich text" Paragraph type as a tool for breaking up rich text when some of its content can be displayed using non-rich text paragraphs.
  • If block content is being added above or below the content area for multiple pages via block visibility path settings, consider adding those blocks to those pages via "block reference" paragraphs instead.
  • Be sure to review and set permissions when adding new Paragraph types.

Paragraphs is a powerful Drupal module that provides a wide range of possibilities concerning content creation and presentation. Interested in exploring the possibilities for Paragraphs and optimizing the experience of your Drupal site? Contact us today.

Nov 18 2019
Nov 18

Conversations about web accessibility too often miss the bigger picture and the paramount importance of broadening our perspectives for the digital age. 

For this reason, it’s extremely important to understand, before getting into the weeds of compliance, that there are multiple facets of digital accessibility. Standard expectations such as images with alternative text for those who are visually impaired or video captioning for those who are hearing impaired, account for only a small segment of what’s involved in making a site accessible. 

In fact, accommodations for cognitive disabilities, such as autism or attention deficit disorder, and relatively common conditions, such as dyslexia, represents a huge component of accessibility compliance. 

Disabilities covered by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) can be permanent, temporary or situational; digital accessibility is all encompassing, for all people, of all ages, and benefits everyone. 

A Closer Look

WCAG 2.1 encompasses 78 guidelines, and is built upon the following four principles: 

1. Perceivable

Information and user interface components must be presented to users in ways they can perceive. Information and components can not be hidden to users. For example, a person who is blind will not be able to perceive the meaning of an image, but with the help of their screen reader that provides a description of the image via alt-text, they will be able to perceive the meaning of the image.
29 of the 78 WCAG 2.1 guidelines align with the “Perceivable” principle.

2. Operable

User interface components and navigation must be operable. Components and navigation are available to all users to interact with. For example, a user who is unable to use a mouse, will need to be able to navigate a menu using the keyboard on their computer. 
Another 29 of the guidelines align with the “Operable” principle.

3. Understandable

Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable and logical to the user. One example of adhering to the Understandable principle is displaying a menu in the same location, in the same way, across a website.
17 of the guidelines align with the “Understandable” principle.

4. Robust

Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. Content should not change for users, when technology changes. An example is code that is well written and properly structured. There are no duplicate attributes and all tags are properly closed.
 

Relative Rankings

Some of the guidelines are specific to a particular issue, others are all-encompassing. The most distinct difference among the guidelines, however, concerns the level of importance that has been assigned to them. All guidelines are ranked as either Level A, Level AA, or Level AAA.

Within the spectrum of “must-haves” and nice-to-haves”, 30 WCAG 2.1 guidelines are considered to be “must haves” (Level A). An example of a Level A guideline is a prohibition against the use of color in and of itself, (such as a green circle to indicate “good” and a red circle to convey “bad”) without accompanying text or imagery to convey meaning.

For a website or application to be considered in conformance, it must meet all 30 Level A and all 20 Level AA guidelines. The remaining 28 Level AAA guidelines are considered to be helpful, but not essential for accessibility conformance. This is largely due to the depth of development complexity required, and in some cases, the potential workarounds to achieve the same objective.
 

Slow Compliance Climb

Despite clear guidelines and available expertise for achieving web accessibility, businesses have been slow to step up and demonstrate a commitment to digital inclusivity. A recent report analyzing the top 1 million homepages on the web revealed that 99 percent failed to follow even the most widely used accessibility standards. 

Some might have been holding off on moving forward with the expectation that the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the case of Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, and rule that business websites do not constitute standalone public accommodations, and as such, do not need to comply with Section 508 of the ADA. The high court opted last month, however, not to take up the case, and WCAG 2.1 remains the standard for avoiding a lawsuit based on an inaccessible site or applications.
 

This decision needs to be viewed as a loud wake-up call for businesses that want to avoid legal action and unwanted attention to what their websites are lacking.

More so than ever before, businesses that delay in having their sites thoroughly evaluated for accessibility and remediated as necessary, risk being sued. 

While this might seem like an onerous burden, digital accessibility actually represents a significant opportunity. Remediating a site for compliance is about more than code. It involves a re-examination of the range of abilities, an overcoming of assumptions, and an acknowledgement that in our digital world, an inclusive marketplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business. 

Interested in starting a conversation about getting your website and applications into compliance with WCAG 2.1?  We have a whole team of accessibility specialists who can help. Contact us today.

Nov 05 2019
Nov 05
A list of the presidential candidates based on the accessibility of their sites, along with images concerning the candidate's sites. Explanatory text follows the infographic.

Based on our conviction at Promet Source that web accessibility matters, we evaluated the websites of leading Republican and Democratic 2020 presidential candidates for accessibility. The web.dev scans were conducted on November 4, 2019, and the above infographic offers a glimpse into how the candidates' websites rank in terms of accessibility factors that include keyboard navigation, use of ARIA assistive technologies, semantic markup support, and the presence of alternative text on images.

The scans revealed an average site accessibility score of 67 for Republican candidates of and 86 for the Democratic candidates (out of a possible score of 100). This is depicted with an outlined image of an elephant that's 69% filled in with red and an outline of a donkey that's 87% filled in with blue.

The candidates' accessibility scores are depicted as a horizontal bars with directional, racing imagery, each with the forward momentum icon of the person in a wheelchair.

Horizontal blue bars for nine Democratic candidates are depicted, followed by four red bars for Republican candidates. Among the Democratic candidates, Cory Booker ranked the highest with a score of 99; followed by Julian Castro (96); Bernie Sanders (94); Elizabeth Warren (93); Kamala Harris (92); Joe Biden (90); Andrew Yang (89); Pete Buttigieg (64); and Amy Klobuchar (60). Among Republican candidates, Joe Walsh ranked the highest with a web.dev score of 87, followed by Bill Weld (78); Mark Sanford (74); and Donald Trump (27).

Three outlined or partially outlined circles follow the bar chart. The first one is 100% outlined in red indicating that 100% of the candidates' websites from both parties have a DONATE button on the home page. The second circle is 29% outlined in red with a caption indicating that's the percentage of websites that have dual language capabilities. The third circle is 21% outlined, indicating that the percentage of 2020 presidential candidate sites that have alt-text on images.

Curious about the degree to which your site measures up to current accessibility standards? Go to web.dev to run it through an accessibility scan, and contact us today for a conversation about getting your site into compliance.

Oct 30 2019
Oct 30

It's the season for celebrating scary stuff -- ghosts, goblins, ghouls, haunted houses and the whole host of night creatures. 

One thing that does not need to end up on the list that provokes a loud scream: Preparing for Drupal migration. If you are still on Drupal 7, you know that you need to migrate. Drupal 7 will be hitting end-of-life status in November of 2021, and even though that’s still two years away, the longer you delay this inevitability, the longer you are missing out on the superior features of Drupal 8, and the longer it looms over your to-do list. Fear not! A careful inventory and audit of your current site can serve to significantly streamline the migration process. 

Here are 6 Steps to prepare for Drupal migration to ensure optimal efficiency:

1. Audit Existing Content. 

A content inventory that flags outdated, redundant, or off-brand content is a critical first step in the site migration process. The less content that needs to be migrated to the new site, the simpler the process will be, so it’s helpful to clear out the clutter early, while identifying and prioritizing which information you want to keep (and migrate). 

2. Look at Site Analytics.

It’s often difficult for stakeholders to agree on which content and features are must-haves, and which ones can be left behind. Analytics help. Data that reveals which pages get the most traffic will bring much-needed insight and objectivity into the decision-making process. It will also identify which pages and articles are not likely to be missed because they are receiving relatively few visits. 

3. Audit Modules.

Evaluate your site’s contributed modules to determine whether they’ve been updated for Drupal 8 or pulled into Drupal 8 core. If they haven’t been, investigate whether there is a Drupal 8 alternative that could be used to maintain the same functionality. You'll also want to evaluate any custom modules that have been written specifically for your site by your development team, paying special attention to the ones that integrate with systems outside of Drupal. Search Drupal.org for a contributed module that could provide the same functionality. If you don’t find replacements, your development team will need to rewrite the custom module(s) for Drupal 8. 

4. Assess Your Theme.

If your current site is using a contributed theme, look into whether there is a Drupal 8 version of that theme. While it is unlikely that a larger site would use a contributed theme without any modifications, it’s quite possible that your site’s custom theme is a sub-theme of a contributed theme (a base theme like Bootstrap, Zen, or ZURB). If you can keep the same base theme (but in its D8 form), you might need fewer changes to upgrade your custom theme to work with D8.

5. Identify Complexities.

The next step is to determine whether there are particularly complex features or functions of the site -- such as multi-language capabilities or single sign-on (SSO). While there are solutions to these complexities, the migration process is significantly more straightforward when they are identified and accounted for early.

6. Consider an Automatic Migration Tool.

Automatic Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 migration tools (like the Drupal UI Migration Tool or the Drush Migration Tool) could be worth trying, especially if your site doesn’t have much custom code. The likelihood of one of these methods’ success for any particular migration depends on your site’s architecture. If it is predominantly made of content types and fields configured through the Drupal UI and using Drupal core functionality, there’s a greater chance an automatic migration will do more of what you need.

One final note: Considering that the June 2020 release date of Drupal 9 is just eight months away, some clients have asked whether it’s worth it to migrate to Drupal 8 at this point. 

Absolutely yes. 

Unlike the migration from Drupal 7 to 8, moving from Drupal 8 to 9 is an incremental, backwards-compatible upgrade. That means the migration from Drupal 8 to 9 can occur using the same process as a minor update (as long as your site’s installed modules and themes are also compatible with Drupal 9.

At Promet Source, we understand that your organization’s website tells your story and that no two are alike. We also understand that the series of steps to prepare for migration, which we have outlined here, are often outside of the scope of available time and resources. 

Our Architecture Workshops are designed to zero in on the big picture, taking into account all factors that affect the migration to a successful Drupal 8 website. For many clients, the opportunity to achieve stakeholder consensus over the course of a one- or two-day workshop, as well as a plan for next steps, represents a breakthrough opportunity that could otherwise take months and months of meetings and analysis.  

If you are in the process of auditing your site for migration, interested in learning more about an architecture workshop, or are looking for a value-added partner to perform the entire migration process for you, Contact us today.

--Written in collaboration with Lisa Wahlgren and Mindy League

Oct 22 2019
Oct 22

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to pass on reviewing Robles v. Domino’s Pizza has served as a wake-up call for businesses that were holding off on remediating their sites for accessibility. 

As the case brought by a visually impaired man who sued Domino’s Pizza due to a lack of screen reader software, that would have enabled him to order a pizza from the website, heads back to trial, expectations of a definitive ruling that Title III of the ADA does not apply to websites have been dashed. Businesses that want to steer clear of the anticipated deluge of accessibility lawsuits, or avoid the negative publicity that can result from an inaccessible site -- or simply to do the right thing -- are now lining up to get their digital assets in compliance with WCAG 2.1.

For many, the concept of digital accessibility and remediating an existing site is unchartered territory: What needs to change? Where to begin? How long does it take? 

In the midst of a lot of uncertainty, developers and their clients are counting on the fact that accessibility is baked into Drupal core. Many improvements to both default settings and built-in tools for developers to create a strong foundation for the assurance of accessibility.

Accessibility Pledge

From our experience at Promet Source, Drupal 8 is a solid choice for accessibility. Drupal core that is. Integration of non-accessible contributed modules can undermine accessibility and complicate remediation efforts.  To encourage accessibility for contributed modules, the D8AX (Drupal 8 Accessibility eXperience) identifies accessible modules with an accessibility tag that reads: 

“I pledge to make this [module or theme] as accessible as it can be. If you find any flaws, please submit an issue [link to issue queue]. Help me fix them if you can.”

This initiative is designed to provide developers with a framework for conducting essential accessibility evaluations and testing of their module or theme, and fixing any accessibility issues that are flagged. 

Accessibility Features

Here are a few key examples of the accessibility features built into Drupal 8:

  1. Semantic markup support to ensure that HTML is structured to reinforce the meaning of the content in a way that both users and machines can understand and interpret the hierarchy of headers, subheaders and the overall architecture of the site. 
  2. The TabbingManager is a new mechanism to guide both non-visual users and non-mouse users to access the main elements on the page in a logical order. This provides essential guidance navigating complex user interfaces.
  3. Fieldsets for radios and checkboxes are now being used in the Form API. This is a big step toward further enhancing forms in Drupal. It is also now used in the advanced search. Fieldset is a tag that provides visibility to screen readers, as well as a label to announce them to the user.
  4. Alternative text is a default setting. This can be overridden in both CKEditor and  Image Fields, but the defaults settings assume that accessibility is an objective. Keep in mind, a simple lack of alt-text is what drove Robles v. Domino’s to the U.S. Supreme Court’s doorstep.
  5. Bartik is now automatically underlining links so that it is much easier for people to identify links on the page.
  6. Drupal forms have become considerably more accessible with the addition of accessible inline form errors as an optional experimental Core module. It is now easier for everyone to identify what errors they might have made when filling in a web form.

Looking to ensure web accessibility utilizing leading resources and expertise? Contact us today to talk with a Drupal consultant.

Oct 22 2019
Oct 22

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to pass on reviewing Robles v. Domino’s Pizza has served as a wake-up call for businesses that were holding off on remediating their sites for accessibility. 

Robles, who is visually impaired, sued Domino’s Pizza due to a lack of screen reader software which prevented him from being able to order a pizza from the website. As this case heads back to trial, expectations of a definitive ruling that Title III of the ADA does not apply to websites have been dashed. Businesses that want to steer clear of the anticipated deluge of accessibility lawsuits, or avoid the negative publicity that can result from an inaccessible site -- or simply to do the right thing -- are now lining up to get their digital assets in compliance with WCAG 2.1.

For many, the concept of digital accessibility and remediating an existing site is unchartered territory: What needs to change? Where to begin? How long does it take? 

In the midst of a lot of uncertainty, developers and their clients are counting on many improvements to both default settings and built-in tools for developers that create a strong foundation for the assurance of accessibility with Drupal 8.

Accessibility Pledge

From our experience at Promet Source, Drupal 8 is a solid choice for accessibility. Drupal core that is. Integration of non-accessible contributed modules can undermine accessibility and complicate remediation efforts.  To encourage accessibility for contributed modules, the D8AX (Drupal 8 Accessibility eXperience) identifies accessible modules with an accessibility tag that reads: 

“I pledge to make this [module or theme] as accessible as it can be. If you find any flaws, please submit an issue [link to issue queue]. Help me fix them if you can.”

This initiative is designed to provide developers with a framework for conducting essential accessibility evaluations and testing of their module or theme, and fixing any accessibility issues that are flagged. 

Accessibility Features

Here are six key examples of the accessibility features built into Drupal 8:

  1. Semantic markup support to ensure that HTML is structured to reinforce the meaning of the content in a way that both users and machines can understand and interpret the hierarchy of headers, subheaders and the overall architecture of the site. 
  2. The TabbingManager is a new mechanism to guide both non-visual users and non-mouse users to access the main elements on the page in a logical order. This provides essential guidance navigating complex user interfaces.
  3. Fieldsets for radios and checkboxes are now being used in the Form API. This is a big step toward further enhancing forms in Drupal. It is also now used in the advanced search. Fieldset is a tag that provides visibility to screen readers, as well as a label to announce them to the user.
  4. Alternative text is a default setting. This can be overridden in both CKEditor and  Image Fields, but the defaults settings assume that accessibility is an objective. Keep in mind, a simple lack of alt-text is what drove Robles v. Domino’s to the U.S. Supreme Court’s doorstep.
  5. Bartik is now automatically underlining links so that it is much easier for people to identify links on the page.
  6. Drupal forms have become considerably more accessible with the addition of accessible inline form errors as an optional experimental Core module. It is now easier for everyone to identify what errors they might have made when filling in a web form.

Looking to ensure web accessibility utilizing leading resources and expertise? Contact us today to talk with a Drupal consultant.

Oct 14 2019
Oct 14

There’s no question that literacy in the 21st Century is a multi-faceted concept that extends far beyond books on the shelves.

The American Library Association not only gets it, it’s embracing the evolving role of libraries, by driving a wide range of programs designed to spark excitement about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers among youth, and more specifically Computational Thinking. Recently, the ALA Ready to Code site, which was largely funded by a grant from Google, has raised the bar even further.

Libraries Ready to Code grew out of a conviction that helping youth to become comfortable with technology is key to the mission of libraries in the current climate. 

Resources on the Drupal 8 site are aligned with the ALA’s emphasis on inclusivity. Engaging exercises are targeted toward ages that range from preschool to early teen years, and the intention is to reach children as young as possible -- before stereotypes concerning who could or should pursue technology careers begin to take hold. 

The ALA has been developing resources designed to help librarians prepare youth to succeed in the high-tech future for many years. Ready to Code has leveraged an amazing collection of educational assets to create an inviting and visually appealing learning path.

Discovery Journey

While Computational Thinking is required for 21st Century literacy, ALA leadership is well aware of the fact that coding expertise has not traditionally been something that librarians learned while studying for a degree in library science. At the same time, there was a recognition that the interests and inclinations of librarians, tend to gravitate more toward literature and content than technology. 

As such, the objective of the site was not for librarians to actually teach coding to youth or to learn how to code themselves. Instead, the site was designed to help librarians who have varying comfort levels relative to tech to:

  • Understand what Computational Thinking is all about, 
  • Get on-board with the idea of libraries taking a lead in teaching youth about it, and
  • Facilitate programs that broaden perspectives. 

Multifaceted Mission

Having developed Drupal websites for the ALA prior to this project, Promet Source had an established relationship and was thrilled to step up to the role of designing and developing Ready to Code. Working with both Google and the ALA was a huge inspiration for us, as their intentional and well-organized programs for youth were very thought provoking. The content organization on the site was a creative challenge as we serve up relative content to users based on their experience level and interest in certain topics. In addition to the UX and UI design of the site, Promet designers also developed branding for the site, providing a new logo and style guide for the newly established ALA Ready to Code which became the initiative’s brand. 

Once the site went live, the response exceeded expectations on every front. The primary objective was for librarians to embrace the site and actively introduce youth to all that Ready to Code has to offer. That objective has been boosted by a steady stream of awards. Key among them is the American Association of School Librarians’ 2019 Best Websites for Teaching & Learning. Since this award is very much on the radar of librarians, it has added validity to the site and accelerate its adoption. 

Two additional and prestigious awards:

And then there’s the input from ALA clients, such as this review on the Clutch website:

"They (Promet Source) masterfully took our ideas and translated them into specific pieces of the website."
      -- Marijke Visser, Senior Policy Advocate, American Library Association

Among those of us at Promet Source who were engaged with ALA leadership from the very outset and took a personal stake in the success of Ready to Code, this ongoing validation that the site is achieving what it set out to accomplish has been the gift that keeps on giving. 

Interested in collaborating on big ideas that stand to make a big difference for igniting digital possibilities? Contact us today

Oct 08 2019
Oct 08

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision in Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC,* signaling a long-anticipated answer to an essential question: Does the Title III of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which was written before the current digital landscape was ever envisioned, apply to websites and apps?

The answer: Yes.
 
Until now, the legal mandate surrounding the accessibility of websites and apps has been shrouded in ambiguity. This decision needs to be viewed as a loud wake-up call for businesses who want to avoid legal action and unwanted attention to what their websites might be lacking.

More so than ever before, businesses that delay in having their sites thoroughly evaluated for accessibility and remediated as necessary are at risk. This ruling also opens up the flood gates for accessibility lawsuits

Call to a Higher Accessibility Standard  

In deciding not to hear Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, the Supreme Court has in effect upheld that:
    •    Title III of the ADA covers websites and apps that have a connection to a physical place of public accommodation, and 

    •    Holding businesses that do not have an accessible website liable, does not violate their 14th Amendment right to due process.


In not hearing the appeal from Domino’s Pizza, the Supreme Court cleared the way for Guillermo Robles, a blind man, to proceed with his lawsuit against the chain. His lawsuit alleges that Domino’s website and mobile app were not accessible to him, and that under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he had a right to require that the site be outfitted with accessibility aids. 

Screen Reader Sticking Point - Lack of Alt-text root cause of accessibility issue making it to the supreme court

Robles v. Domino’s was filed in the Central District of California in September 2016, and centered on the inability of Robles to order a pizza on his iPhone: The app didn't accommodate his screen-reader software, which works only when a website's graphics have an "alt-text," feature that gives a description of the image when a cursor floats over it. The full extent of the issues Mr. Robles encountered is laid out in the Dominoes-Robles-Brief Case 18-1539.  

Robles tried several times to order customized pizzas on the Domino’s website, but he was stymied by the site’s lack of alt-text, as well as other accessibility barriers. Pet. App. 55a-57a. He also tried multiple times to order customized pizzas on the company’s mobile app, but he “was unable to place his order due to accessibility barriers of unlabeled buttons that do not conform to Apple’s iOS accessibility guidelines.” Pet. App. 57a.

The Ninth Circuit held that websites and mobile apps should be considered among the “places of public accommodation” covered by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. While Domino’s argued that Title III of the ADA was intended to apply to accommodations in its physical restaurants the Ninth Circuit held that websites and apps now constitute places of public accommodation.

What does this mean for private website owners?

Let there be no doubt, the floodgates have now been opened for disabled plaintiffs to take legal action against companies whose websites and mobile apps are not accessible. 

While some claim that there is still a lack of clarity concerning web accessibility requirements, WCAG 2.1 currently stands as the definitive guidelines for remediating existing sites or building new ones.

The impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear this case cannot be underestimated. The disabled rights community has been closely watching this case and this week’s development needs to be viewed as a loud call to action for all businesses that have a website or app that’s designed to serve as a point of public accommodation.

At Promet Source, walking clients through the process of evaluating their websites and mobile apps for accessibility and moving forward with the confidence that compliance has been achieved, is what we do. And time and time again, clients discover that remediating their site for accessibility is a value-added process that results in a wide range of benefits.

Never has it been more critical to partner with a digital accessibility expert and to get it right. We’re here to help. Contact us today.

*Supreme Court Declines to Review Ninth Circuit Decision in Robles v. Domino’s, Exposing Businesses to More Website Accessibility Lawsuits, by Seyforth Shaw, LLP, Oct. 7, 2019
 

Oct 01 2019
Oct 01

If ADA compliance was not on your radar screen at the time your website was developed, you are in good company.

But in the current environment, accessibility of your digital assets may be an ADA-mandated fact of life. A recent flood of lawsuits is driving home this reality and the fact is, sometimes the search for fast fixes can lead to unintended consequences. Of course, your objective is to get your website into conformance as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. 

Even though the time and resources associated with making your website and apps accessible is something that you might prefer to not have to deal with, at Promet Source we’ve discovered that expanding digital accessibility actually provides an incredible opportunity to gain a more expansive, empathetic, and inclusive view of customers and constituents. 

[embedded content]

Your Partner in Accessibility

Interested in learning more about the advantages of both automated and manual accessibility testing and website remediation to help ensure your website is compliant with accessibility standards? With Promet Source, you get a strategically sound, sustainable solution -- the advantage of an accessibility partner who guides you through the process of actually getting your underlying code into conformance with accessibility guidelines. 

Our process reflects the specific recommendations of current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the expectations of the ADA.

I look forward to speaking with you about an accessibility solution that incorporates a range of advantages.

Click here to let me know how we can help.

Sep 24 2019
Sep 24

"Disability is an avoidable condition caused by poor design.”

This is a sentence that I found in a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) study guide, and it has given me a new perspective on accessibility. 

For those of us who are steeped in the world of web accessibility, an openness to constantly broadening perspectives is at the heart of our effectiveness -- whether we’re thinking about a wide range of experiences when designing sites or paying close attention to the language surrounding disabilities. 

Words matter, and how we talk to and about people with disabilities factors into the bigger picture of our effectiveness as accessibility evangelists. 

Here are some of the essential lessons that I have learned recently as both a web accessibility developer and as a person who is devoted to understanding a wide range of perspectives

Put People First

People-first language puts the person before their disability -- sending a subtle, but powerful, signal that the person is not defined by their disability.
Some examples of person-first language: 

  • A person who is blind 
  • A person with a hearing impairment
  • A person who uses a wheelchair

Notice that when the word “person” comes before any mention of a disability, we are literally putting the person first.

Identity-First Dilemma

While it may appear to be a direct contradiction to person-first language, identity-first language places the disability before the person. Individuals who prefer this form of speech argue that having a disability has had a major influence on their lives and who they are as a person. Their disability is nothing that they need to hide or be ashamed of.  

Some examples of identity-first language:

  • A blind person
  • A hearing-impaired person
  • A disabled person

Given that these two types of language can appear to be in direct contradiction to each other, determining what’s the preferred form and when to use it can be confusing.

In general, it is fair to assume that person-first language does not offend anyone. It is a benign form of speech and if the individual does have a preference, they will usually inform you of such. However, if there is any doubt or discomfort about which form of speech a person with a disability prefers, it’s okay to just ask.

More Insights

Best intentions don’t guarantee against oversights or offer the ability to view the world from another person’s perspective. So let’s take a closer look at some of the terms that many of us use in our day-to-day language, as well as some outdated language, and some terms you should absolutely never use.

“Accessible” vs. “Disabled” or “Handicapped”

When talking about places with accommodations for people with disabilities, use the term "accessible" rather than "disabled" or "handicapped." 

This is how the importance of this distinction was explained to me. I was asked as a mother of a small child whether I ever used the “handicapped” bathroom stall in a public restroom. I said, “sure.” I was then asked why. 

“Well,” I said, “because it is large and easier to maneuver in with my child.” The person then said, “so you use the bathroom because it is more accessible.”

"Uses a Wheelchair" vs. "Wheelchair Bound"

“Wheelchair bound” is a term that many of us use in our daily language and we should avoid it. It has a restrictive connotation, and implies that the wheelchair is a negative thing, instead of something that broadens possibilities and makes a person’s life more manageable. The wheelchair is a tool that helps to provide access, not a punishment that the individual is bound to. Instead of “wheelchair bound,” try saying “uses a wheelchair” or “wheelchair enabled.” 

Strike from the Vocabulary!

There are certain terms we all should take out of our vocabulary entirely. They include retarded, retard, handicapable, cripple, crippled, victim, stricken, or special needs. All of these terms are negatives and in the case of the top two on the list, absolutely unacceptable. In every case, they imply that people with disabilities are not “normal.”

Some additional “don’ts”

  • Don’t ask a person with a disability how they became disabled.
  • Don’t assume that all disabilities are easily observed. The fact that a person using an accessible parking spot is not using a walking aid does not mean that they are lazy or disrespecting the needs of legitimate users of the space. They could have a pain condition or some other issue preventing them from walking long distances. Often, there is more to a situation than can be detected from a casual observation. 
  • When working remotely, don’t presume that you know everyone’s story. There is much that you may not know concerning a team member or client on the other end of a call -- even if it is a video call. Making language sensitivity a habit, in all circumstances, is not just the right thing to do. It’s good business. 

At Promet Source, we’re actually a lot more interested in the “do’s” of accessible web experiences than the “don’ts.” So if you are looking for an empowering web design that’s excellent and accessible? Contact us today.

Sep 18 2019
Sep 18

These are interesting times for securing tech talent.

With the current unemployment rate at 3.7 percent, the job market is highly competitive, and that’s particularly true for the technology sector. 

Reaching out to agencies that can offer the right talent when and where it is needed is proving to be the solution among savvy organizations. 

Key among the advantages that the right agency relationship offers: the opportunity to leverage specific expertise on an ongoing, ad-hoc, or one-off basis.

In our rapidly changing market, here are six reasons why joining forces with an agency might be a better idea than hiring or relying on in-house talent:

  1. Hiring processes are costlier and more complicated than ever before. 
  2. Employees are an investment and represent overhead in benefits, office space, and training.
  3. Ensuring that an in-house staff consists of employees who have the depth and breadth of skills required to meet current and future needs may not be feasible for many organizations. 
  4. Top talent knows their worth. Along with their increasingly high salary demands, they tend to continue looking for new and better opportunities.
  5. If the hiring decision doesn’t work out, there are costs associated with parting ways along with the risk of legal liabilities.
  6. The market is moving forward at a rapid pace with constantly emerging needs for new types of specialization. The expectation that a few great hires or one exceptional, in-house team, can anticipate and proactively take on every new challenge impedes both agility and opportunity. 

 

Agility Rules

How to respond to these challenges in an environment where not keeping pace with what’s new and next is not an option? Strategic agency relationships. 

Reaching out to firms with targeted expertise that specialize in focused training, rapid-fire development, exceptional design, astute marketing, or incisive consultation on a depth and breadth of topics is proving to be the optimal path forward.  

While there is sometimes a tendency to view relationships with contractors as “all business” and lacking the connections that easily develop among in-house teams, I’ve often experienced a high degree of commitment and connectedness within agency and client relationships that are built upon a personal stake in clients’ success. Bridging this divide calls for an intentional focus, and can be facilitated by a workshop that’s designed to provide a deep understanding of a client's business and knowledge transfer to the agency partner.

There is no question that relationships optimize outcomes. Trust, genuine commitment, and true connections serve to drive game-changing synergies. In many respects, I’ve found that the quality of the relationships can make the difference between a transactional, task-focused approach, and a strategic, long-term vision.

And who can argue that work is considerably more fulfilling and fun when we’re connected with each other both professionally and personally

Looking to join forces with an agency that offers industry-leading expertise, and launch a relationship that can ignite new possibilities in web development, human-centered design, strategic planning, and accessibility remediation? Contact us today

Sep 06 2019
Sep 06

Diagnosing a website for accessibility and fixing any issues that are uncovered is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. 

Every site has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. Plus, site owners vary widely in their level of expertise and the availability of resources that can be devoted to accessibility -- which includes diagnosing the site, making the necessary modifications, and ensuring that the tools and expertise are in place to maintain compliance. 

That’s why flexibility is an essential criteria when seeking ADA Section 508 accessibility solutions.

Another key: a consultative approach. Generally speaking, developers and content editors aren’t hired for their knowledge of WCAG 2.1, and for most organizations, this expertise is not mission critical. 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.

For organizations that partner with Promet Source to transition their websites into compliance, the process consists of a series of value-added steps in a specific order.  

The following graphic depicts the essential steps involved in an Accessibility Audit in which Promet review all facets of a website’s accessibility relative to WCAG 2.1, and consults with site owners on remediation. 

A circular graphic that indicates the six steps in a Promet Source Accessibility Audit. 1. PA11Y Setup 2. PA11Y Remediation 3. Round 1 Manual Audit 4. Round 1 Remediation 5. Round 2 Manual Audit 6. Final Statements

PA11Y Setup

A11Y is an abbreviation for accessibility, with the number 11 representing the number of letters between the first and last letter. PA11Y is an automated testing tool that scans web pages to detect inaccessibility. While automated testing is an essential component of the accessibility audit process, it cannot be counted on to be comprehensive. 

On average, automated testing detects approximately 30 percent of a site’s accessibility errors. The errors detected by automated testing tend to be the “low-hanging fruit” found within global elements across the site, as well as logins, landing pages, and representative page templates.
 

PA11Y Remediation

What sets Promet apart following this initial, automatic testing phase is a high degree of consultation, along with a list of custom code fixes for bringing the site into compliance. Additionally, for a year following the audit, clients have the advantage of a dashboard, that serves as a tool from which pages can be scanned and red flagged for accessibility errors.

It’s also important to point out that at the onset of the audit process, it might not be clear what remediation will entail. For any number of reasons, clients who initially intended to manage the remediation in house, might opt for a different approach once they gain an understanding of the scope of work involved.
 

Round 1 Manual Audit 

The manual audit does not occur until all of the issues flagged by the PA11Y scan are fixed. This process is facilitated by the customized code fixes that Promet provides, along with a dashboard that provides a roadmap of sorts for tracking progression and red flagging issues that need to be fixed.  

As mentioned above, the PA11Y scan cannot be counted on to detect all of the accessibility errors on a site. Manual testing is required to root out the deeper errors, which are the issues that have a greater tendency to expose site owners to legal liability. Among them:

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

If a site is revealed to be unresponsive, this finding can result in a recommendation to not move forward with remediation. Another potential remediation deal breaker: a mobile site that is not consistent in terms of content and functionality with the desktop site, as a mobile site is required to have the same content as its desktop counterpart.

It’s important to note that a strong accessibility initiative has been built into Drupal 8, and that will continue to be the case for Drupal 9 and subsequent updates. At this point, we have found Drupal to be the best CMS in terms of accessibility.
 

Round 1 Remediation

Promet is in close consultation with clients during the manual audit, and walks through every component of success criteria before the client moves forward with Round 1 Remediation.

A customized plan is created that varies according to depth and breadth of remediation work required, as well as the in-house expertise, and available resources. Depending on client needs, the plan can incorporate various levels of consultation, and either online or in-person training.

Working closely with both content editors and developers, the training focuses on the required remediation steps, as well as how to write code that’s accessible. Ensuring the accessibility of PDFs is another key area of focus.  

The remediation dashboard serves as an essential tool during and following Round 1 remediation. The dashboard flags errors and issues warnings which then need to be manually reviewed and addressed.
 

Round 2 Manual Audit

The Round 2 Audit represents the final review, along with ongoing consultation concerning any remediation challenges that have proven to be complex, and best practices for maintaining compliance. The Round 2 Audit won’t begin until all errors reported in the Round 1 Audit have been remediated to 0 errors.
 

Final Statements

Once all recommended remediation has been completed and verified, final statements are prepared. The final statements provide official language that the audit and remediation are complete. A final Statement of Accessibility and Statement of Work Completed will be provided. Optimally, a complete Statement of Conformance is issued, but in instances where the site links to third-party vendors, (which is often the case) and the vendor sites are not accessible, a Statement of Partial Conformance is issued, along with an explanation of the site owner’s good-faith efforts. 

It is recommended that instances of inaccessibility be reported to third-parties that are linked to the site. Often the result is ongoing remediation work and ultimately, a comprehensive Statement of Conformance.
 

Moving Forward

Without exception, Promet clients report a high degree of added value 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. Plus, the dashboard that remains in place for a full year, is an essential resource for staying on track.

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, which can be viewed essentially as an accessibility refresh, is a highly recommended best practice. Interested in kicking off a conversation about auditing your site for accessibility? Contact us today.

Sep 03 2019
Sep 03

I’ll admit to having watched a few episodes of Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix. She has definitely inspired some of the downsizing my wife and I done over the last few years. I even applied her thought process to my personal website. When I moved it to a new host I thought about how much of the content on it was not sparking joy.  If I didn't really care about stuff did my readers?

This thought process is probably even more valuable for a large business-focused Drupal site than it was for my goofy personal website.

Kondo's six principles for tidying up your house are:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Find joy.

Commit yourself to tidying up

This one is pretty obvious. Make a plan or create a schedule with a hard due date for a wide, sweeping content audit. Require every department to provide a list of their content that needs to stay. Question why stuff needs to stay on the site. "Because it's always been there" is not an acceptable answer.

Image your ideal lifestyle

If we substitute website for lifestyle this one starts to be helpful. What websites do you love? How can you apply inspiration from those websites  to your site?

Finish discarding first

This one is important. Migrating content to a new CMS or new website is expensive. Don't pay to move content that doesn't need to be there. Make sure the timeline requires the content audit to be done first, prior to migrating to the new site.

Tidy by category, not location

Don't worry about whether or not press releases deserve a place in the top-level navigation. Worry about whether or not press releases need to be on the site at all. When is the last time somebody other than a Googlebot visited the 2005 press release archive? If regulatory or other pressures force you to keep them around, do they need to actually be on the site? Consider options, such as keeping the last two years of press releases on the site, and drop everything else into a public Dropbox folder.

Then repeat the above process for every other category of content on your site.

Follow the right order

With houses, Kondo recommends clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and finally sentimental items. In our house, we still haven't gotten through eight boxes of loose photos because every time I start, I waste three hours looking at old pictures, without making any decisions. This is why sentimental stuff needs to come last. For your website, maybe you want to follow the 80 / 20 rule. First, clean out 80 percent of the content that gets no action. As you are doing so, be mindful of SEO and any decisions that might undermine strategies for how search engines treat your site. 

Find joy

OK, does any website really spark joy? Well, maybe XKCD does. The annual blog post recapping the company retreat may not spark any real business value, but it may spark a smile when you remember it. That's okay. You can keep those posts.

Finally, remember to greet your website and thank the content that you are removing, like Marie does when she enters a house or determines an old sweater can go.  

Not exactly sure how this relates, but I needed an ending.

If you need help wrangling your content or migrating to a new site, get in touch. We can help!

Aug 31 2019
Aug 31

I’ll admit to having watched a few episodes of Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix. She has definitely inspired some of the downsizing my wife and I done over the last few years. I even applied her thought process to my personal website. When I moved it to a new host I thought about how much of the content on it was not sparking joy.  If I didn't really care about stuff did my readers?

This thought process is probably even more valuable for a large business-focused Drupal site than it was for my goofy personal website.

Kondo's six principles for tidying up your house are:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Find joy.

Commit yourself to tidying up

This one is pretty obvious. Make a plan or create a schedule with a hard due date for a wide, sweeping content audit. Require every department to provide a list of their content that needs to stay. Question why stuff needs to stay on the site. "Because its always been there" is not an acceptable answer.

Image your ideal lifestyle

If we substitute website for lifestyle this one starts to be helpful. What websites do you love? How can you apply inspiration from those websites  to your site?

Finish discarding first

This one is important. Migrating content to a new CMS or new website is expensive. Don't pay to move content that doesn't need to be there. Make sure the timeline requires the content audit to be done first, prior to migrating to the new site.

Tidy by category, not location

Don't worry about whether or not press releases deserve a place in the top-level navigation. Worry about whether or not press releases need to be on the site at all. When is the last time somebody other than a Googlebot visited the 2005 press release archive? If regulatory or other pressures force you to keep them around, do they need to actually be on the site? Consider options, such as keeping the last two years of press releases on the site, and drop everything else into a public Dropbox folder.

Then repeat the above process for every other category of content on your site.

Follow the right order

With houses, Condo recommends clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and finally sentimental items. In our house, we still haven't got through the eight boxes of loose photos because every time I start, I just waste three hours looking at old pictures, without making any decisions. This is why sentimental stuff needs to come last. For your website maybe you want to follow the 80 / 20 rule. First, clean out 80 percent of the content that gets no action. As you are doing so, be mindful of SEO and any decisions that might undermine strategies for how search engines treat your site. 

Find joy

OK, does any website really spark joy? Well, maybe XKCD does. The annual blog post recapping the company retreat may not spark any real business value, but it may spark a smile when you remember it. That's okay. You can keep those posts.

Finally, remember to greet your website and thank the content that you are removing, like Marie does when she enters a house or determines an old sweater can go.  

I have no idea what that means, but I needed an ending.

If you need help wrangling your content or migrating to a new site, get in touch. We can help!

Aug 26 2019
Aug 26

Promet Source is humbled to announce that this summer, two websites that we designed and developed for our clients have won three prestigious awards. 

2019 is the 25th year in which the widely recognized Communicator Awards have recognized “work that transcends innovation and craft” -- work that stands to make a “lasting impact.” The Communicator Awards receive more 6,000 entries and is sanctioned and judged by the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, an invitation-only group consisting of industry-leading professionals from media, communications, advertising, creative and marketing firms. AIVA also judges the W3 Awards, and the Davey Awards.  

The American Association of School Librarians’ 2019 Best Websites for Teaching & Learning rankings are peer reviewed and awarded based on the following criteria: innovation, creativity, active participation, collaboration, free to use, user friendliness, and encouraging for a community of learners to explore and discover. 

Awarding Endeavors

At Promet Source, the satisfaction of a job well done and a client whose expectations have been exceeded is the award we seek and the primary driver of creative solutions, collaborative passion, and constant dedication to staying on top of our game. 

Occasionally, though, there’s another level of achievement and recognition -- prestigious awards in which third parties evaluate our work and judge it to be at the leading edge of the rapidly evolving marketing and media landscape.

Both of these award-winning websites represented a labor of love for both Promet Source and our clients. Ready to Code was sponsored by Google and stemmed from a longstanding collaborative effort between the American Library Association and Google. The depth and breadth of resources available on the site are designed to empower librarians to advance computational thinking among children and teens of all backgrounds as an essential component of 21st Century literacy.

The Martin County Florida website served as an opportunity to optimize a utilitarian user experience that streamlined access to the full range of county services, updates, news, and social media connections, while strengthening civic pride with a visually engaging site that leveraged images of the county’s spectacular natural beauty and stunning infrastructural achievements.   

For Martin County, knowledge that their website has received recognition and attention on an international scale has compounded the impact of key objectives: heightened civic pride and greater awareness of a centralized location for conducting all county business.

For the American Library Association Ready to Code site, the recent ranking from the American Association of School Librarians represents a stamp of approval that has served to advance the mission of the site by increasing its credibility and magnifying its objectives, according to Marijke Visser, associate director and senior policy advocate for the American Library Association.

Why Awards Matter

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, pushing the bounds of possibilities is an essential success factor. Leaning on what passed for innovation last year is the path toward tired solutions that don’t resonate with clients and constituents. That’s why we at Promet Source take awards such as these seriously and are honored to be in the company of agencies that share our dedication.

Ultimately, websites win awards because they work. They are built upon a deep level of inquiry that leads to extreme empathy for what users need and what they are hoping to accomplish when they visit a site. 

Users are bombarded every day with messages, media, and technologies that confuse and get in the way. The websites that win awards offer a surprisingly delightful experience in which extra effort and expertise on the part of designers and developers translates into streamlined simplicity -- a breath of fresh air within a cluttered and complex world.

Interested in the calibre of design and web development that wins awards while driving big-picture goals? Contact us today.

Aug 12 2019
Aug 12

Like many companies in our technology-enabled, globally connected environment, Promet Source operates with clients and team members all over the world. This reality creates a challenge for communications. The truth is, the more we put into our interactions, the more we get out of them.

I’ve been working with distributed teams for a long time. Even though I got very accustomed to joining video calls, until recently, I had opted to not turn my camera on. I guess it started a while back when I had my first virtual interactions with teammates. Probably due to shyness or my lack of knowledge of virtual communications, I tended to avoid the camera component. That's changed.

Eye-Opening Experience

Lately I’ve started using more face-to-face open communications with clients, collaborators and internally. It brings a higher level of empathy, honesty and receptiveness to the conversations. It’s been like going from a gray-scale image to a sudden, colorful world, and has provided an important step toward building trust and strengthening ties.

A couple weeks ago, I was on a call with a collaborator and a team member with whom I’ve been working for more than two months.

That day, I turned on my camera, and the dynamic quickly changed. We started having a candid conversation between the three of us. 

As I we were chatting, my co-worker felt encouraged and also turned on his camera. We were able to see each other's faces for the first time in more than two months of working together. It made a difference.

Next, our collaborator followed suit and turned his camera on. The conversation was instantly raised up to another level. Once one of us opened up, others felt empowered to do the same. It was like a chain reaction or “Domino Effect.”

A New Dimension

We could comment about our surroundings, our clothes, our hair, what was going on in our lives and in our parts of the world!  We were able to get talking and build rapport so much more easily.

The collaboration on the call became alive and we got more out of it than if we had not had the advantage of video.

Looking back on this conversation, it would be easy to say that it was video that made the difference, but that was only one aspect. It was empathy that drove the emotional connection. 

The cameras helped. We were also willing to open ourselves up to a more honest dialog, sharing something personal, becoming available and responsive to each other. 

The Key: Trust

Trust your teammates. Trust your clients. Trust your collaborators. Trust that there is value in what you have to share.

Here’s what I’ve concluded are the keys to successful interactions even when working across multiple time zones.

Lead by Example

Be confident and share honestly. Let other people see you and hear you. Let your emotions shine through your expressions (facial expressions, expressions through the tone of your voice, the words you choose, etc.) 

Open up and people will trust you, and they will be more likely to open up too.  The Domino Effect can be very exciting.

Leverage Human Interaction

Promet Source is a leading practitioner of human-centered design. We know what it means to design for humans and we facilitate human-centered design workshops all over the country to enhance effectiveness and outcomes.

Just as we consistently emphasize that we are designing for humans, we are careful to not lose sight of the fact that we are designing by humans.

Strengthen Teams through Sharing

Too often, the left brain, technology-driven environment in which we operate ignores the powerful impact of the human element in all of our engagements. Even when separated by borders and time zones, efforts to connect on a personal level pays off in ways that are often unanticipated.

Have you found this to be the case? Share your thoughts in the comment section below on why and how connecting on a human level can drive better outcomes.

Sharing your thoughts and experiences can go a long way toward a greater sense of connection and community in our dispersed, digital world.
 

Aug 09 2019
Aug 09

At Promet Source, conversations with clients and among co-workers tend to revolve around various aspects of compliance, user experience, site navigation, and design clarity. We need a common nomenclature for referring to interface elements, but that leads to the question of who makes this stuff up and what makes these terms stick?
 
I asked that recently, during an afternoon of back-to-back meetings. In separate contexts, “cookies,” “breadcrumbs,” and “hamburgers” were all mentioned as they pertain to the sites we are building for clients. But I got to wondering: what is it about the evolving Web lexicon that seems inordinately slanted towards tasty snacks?
 

One Theory

As we all know, devs and designers work very hard, with incredible focus for long hours at a stretch. Are we trying to inject some fun language that evokes touch, taste, and smell to a web that can feel rather flat sometimes when we are in the trenches?


I couldn’t help but wonder about a potentially unifying theme to cookies, breadcrumbs and the buns that provide the top and bottom horizontal lines of the increasingly ubiquitous hamburger icon. That sparked my curiosity and a bit of research.

Data/Cookie Jar

Let’s start with cookies -- a term that refers to the extraction and storage of user data such as logins, previous searches, activity on a site, and items in a shopping cart.  Almost all Websites use and store cookies on Web browsers.

a stack of chocolate chip cookies

Generally speaking, cookies are designed to inform better and more personalized Web experiences, but they do, of course, give rise to all sorts of privacy and security concerns. 
 
Potential cookie constraints for Websites developed in the United States for a U.S. audience are moving in an uncertain direction. Up to this point, it’s essentially been the Wild West, with few restrictions governing their usage. 
 
In the European Union, it’s a different story. Assorted rules and regulations, collectively known as the “Cookie Law,” have been in place for nearly a decade -- forbidding the tracking of users’ Web activity without their consent. 
 
As is the case with U.S.-based Websites that need to ensure accessibility, compliance with the Cookie Law can be complicated -- requiring rewriting and reconfiguration of code, followed by careful testing to ensure that the site’s code, server and the user’s browser are aligned to prevent cookies from tracking user behavior and collecting information. And another issue that accessibility and cookies have in common: there’s more at stake than compliance. To an increasing degree, users avoid engaging with Websites when they believe that their activity is being tracked by the use of cookies and there’s no question that overall levels of trust appear to be on the decline as privacy concerns increase. This is among the reasons why many websites are starting to give users the option of just saying no to cookies and still allowing them access to the site.

Connecting the Crumbs

Considerably newer to the Web lexicon than cookies, a breadcrumb or breadcrumb trail is a navigational aid in user interfaces designed to help users track their own activity within programs or websites, providing them with a sense of place within the bigger picture of the site. 
 
Breadcrumbs can take different forms. Generally speaking, a breadcrumb trail tracks the order of each page viewed, as a horizontal list below the top headers. This provides a guide for the user to navigate back to any point where they’ve previously been on the site. Think about Grimms’ story of Hansel and Gretel.
 
Breadcrumbs can be very helpful on complex, content-heavy sites. Who among us hasn’t found themselves frustrated in an attempt to navigate back to a page that seems to have temporarily disappeared?

On the Table

Unlike cookies, which for better or for worse, are stored behind the scenes and consumed in a manner that’s usually not known to the user, a breadcrumb trail is out in the open -- right upfront for the user to see and follow. Breadcrumbs are designed solely to enhance the user experience, functioning as a reverse GPS on complex Websites.  
 
As more and more users come to count on breadcrumbs as a navigational aid, we can expect that the demand for them will increase. At the same time, we can expect that usage of cookies will come under increased scrutiny along with a trend toward escalation of privacy concerns and a growing skittishness about how personal information is being shared. At Promet, we consider cookies to be a must-have on any site.

Time for Some Protein

As for the third item in our list of tasty Web terms, the hamburger is essentially all good. This three-line icon that’s started to appear at the top of screens serves as a mini-portal to additional options or pages.

Actual hamburger on the left. A web hamburger icon on the right.

What’s not to love about this feature that takes up so little space on the screen, but opens the door to a trove additional navigation or features for apps and Websites? Fact is, UX/UI trends are constantly evolving, and users vary widely in the pace in which they pick up what’s new and next. The hamburger icon has a lot going for it and it’s not going away.

 

Meet the Search Sandwich

There’s a item on the table and we were just introduced to it by one of our UX savvy clients. As far as I know, it doesn’t have an official name yet, so we affectionately refer to it as the “search sandwich.” It’s an evolved hamburger combined with a search icon to indicate to users that both the navigation menu and the search bar can be accessed from this icon. It looks a bit like a ham sandwich with an olive on top and might make an appearance on a website soon. Stay tuned.
 
So there you have it. Key factors in our Web design world. -- possibly a reflection of a desire to take our high-tech conversations down a notch, with these playful metaphors for elements that we must all learn to identify with whether a designer, developer, or just a web user. They remind us that the Web is a rapidly evolving environment of UI/UX trends -- created and consumed by humans. 
 
Interested in serving up a tasty web experience? Contact us today

Aug 09 2019
Aug 09

At Promet Source, conversations with clients and among co-workers tend to revolve around various aspects of compliance, user experience, site navigation, and design clarity. We need a common nomenclature for referring to interface elements, but that leads to the question of who makes this stuff up and what makes these terms stick?
 
I asked that recently, during an afternoon of back-to-back meetings. In separate contexts, “cookies,” “breadcrumbs,” and “hamburgers” were all mentioned as they pertain to the sites we are building for clients, and I got to wondering: what is it about the evolving Web lexicon that seems inordinately slanted towards tasty snacks?
 

One Theory

As we all know, devs and designers work very hard, with incredible focus for long hours at a stretch. Are we trying to inject some fun language that evokes touch, taste, and smell to a web that can feel rather flat sometimes when we are in the trenches?

And then, I couldn’t help but wonder about a potentially unifying theme to cookies, breadcrumbs and the buns that provide the top and bottom horizontal lines of the increasingly ubiquitous hamburger icon. That sparked my curiosity and a bit of research.

Data/Cookie Jar

Let’s start with cookies -- a term that refers to the extraction and storage of user data such as logins, previous searches, activity on a site, and items in a shopping cart.  Almost all Websites use and store cookies on Web browsers.

a stack of chocolate chip cookies

Generally speaking, cookies are designed to inform better and more personalized Web experiences, but they do, of course, give rise to all sorts of privacy and security concerns. 
 
Potential cookie constraints for Websites developed in the United States for a U.S. audience are moving in an uncertain direction. Up to this point, it’s essentially been the Wild West, with few restrictions governing their usage. 
 
In the European Union, it’s a different story. Assorted rules and regulations, collectively known as the “Cookie Law,” have been in place for nearly a decade -- forbidding the tracking of users’ Web activity without their consent. 
 
As is the case with U.S.-based Websites that need to ensure accessibility, compliance with the Cookie Law can be complicated -- requiring rewriting and reconfiguration of code, followed by careful testing to ensure that the site’s code, server and the user’s browser are aligned to prevent cookies from tracking user behavior and collecting information. And another issue that accessibility and cookies have in common: there’s more at stake than compliance. To an increasing degree, users avoid engaging with Websites when they believe that their activity is being tracked by the use of cookies and there’s no question that overall levels of trust appear to be on the decline as privacy concerns increase. This is among the reasons why many websites are starting to give users the option of just saying no to cookies and still allowing them access to the site.

Connecting the Crumbs

Considerably newer to the Web lexicon than cookies, a breadcrumb or breadcrumb trail is a navigational aid in user interfaces designed to help users track their own activity within programs or websites, providing them with a sense of place within the bigger picture of the site. 
 
Breadcrumbs can take different forms. Generally speaking, a breadcrumb trail tracks the order of each page viewed, as a horizontal list below the top headers. This provides a guide for the user to navigate back to any point where they’ve previously been on the site. Think about Grimms’ story of Hansel and Gretel.
 
Breadcrumbs can be very helpful on complex, content-heavy sites. Who among us hasn’t found themselves frustrated in an attempt to navigate back to a page that seems to have temporarily disappeared?

On the Table

Unlike cookies, which for better or for worse, are stored behind the scenes and consumed in a manner that’s usually not known to the user, a breadcrumb trail is out in the open -- right upfront for the user to see and follow. Breadcrumbs are designed solely to enhance the user experience, functioning as a reverse GPS on complex Websites.  
 
As more and more users come to count on breadcrumbs as a navigational aid, we can expect that the demand for them will increase. At the same time, we can expect that usage of cookies will come under increased scrutiny along with a trend toward escalation of privacy concerns and a growing skittishness about how personal information is being shared. At Promet, we consider cookies to be a must-have on any site.

Time for Some Protein

As for the third item in our list of tasty Web terms, the hamburger is essentially all good. This three-line icon that’s started to appear at the top of screens serves as a mini-portal to additional options or pages.

Actual hamburger on the left. A web hamburger icon on the right.

What’s not to love about this feature that takes up so little space on the screen, but opens the door to a trove additional navigation or features for apps and Websites? Fact is, UX/UI trends are constantly evolving, and users vary widely in the pace in which they pick up what’s new and next. The hamburger icon has a lot going for it and it’s not going away.

 

Meet the Search Sandwich

There’s a item on the table and we were just introduced to it by one of our UX savvy clients. As far as I know, it doesn’t have an official name yet, so we affectionately refer to it as the “search sandwich.” It’s an evolved hamburger combined with a search icon to indicate to users that both the navigation menu and the search bar can be accessed from this icon. It looks a bit like a ham sandwich with an olive on top and might make an appearance on a website soon. Stay tuned.
 
So there you have it. Key factors in our Web design world. -- possibly a reflection of a desire to take our high-tech conversations down a notch, with these playful metaphors for elements that we must all learn to identify with whether a designer, developer, or just a web user. They remind us that the Web is a rapidly evolving environment of UI/UX trends -- created and consumed by humans. 
 
Interested in serving up a tasty web experience? Contact us today

Aug 06 2019
Aug 06

Drupal is certainly not only the open-source CMS game in town, but when consulting with clients about the best solution for the full range of their needs, it tends to be my go-to.

Here’s why: 

  • Architecture
  • Scalability
  • Database Views
  • Flexibility
  • Security
  • Modules
  • Search
  • Migration  

Architecture

Drupal 8 is built on modern programming practices, and of course, the same will be true for June 2020 release of Drupal 9. 

A Development – Test – Production environment is the default assumption with a Drupal 8 site. Too often, other CMS sites are managed as a single instance, which is a single point of failure. 

Also, Drupal comes with a built-in automated testing framework. Drupal 8 supports unit integration and system/functional testing using the PHP Unit framework. Drupal is built to be inherently extensible through configuration, so every data type can be templated without touching code to achieve fully customized, structured data collection.

Scalability

Drupal has proven to be scalable at the most extreme traffic levels. Weather.com, as just one example, is a Drupal site. Many of the Federal cabinet-level agencies using open source have built their web infrastructures on Drupal. Drupal has built-in functionality, such as a robust caching API and JS/CSS minification/aggregation to optimize page load speed.

Database Views

Drupal Views, which is in Drupal 8 core, is a powerful tool that allows you to quickly construct database views, with AJAX filtering and sorting included. This allows you to quickly construct and publish lists of any data in your Drupal site, without needing a developer to do it for you.

Flexibility

There are several components of flexibility. 

Drupal 8 was built as an API-first CMS, explicitly supporting the idea that the display layer for content stored in a Drupal CMS may not be Drupal. The API first design of Drupal 8 also means that it is easier to integrate Drupal with third-party applications, as the API framework is already in place.

Customers vary widely in the ways in which they currently consume content. We assume that new ways will emerge for consuming content in the future, and even though we may not be in a position to predict right now what that will look like, Drupal is well poised to support what comes next.

Security

The only totally secure CMS is the one installed on a server that is sitting at the bottom of the Mariana trench, with no connectivity to anything!  However, Drupal has been tested in the most rigorous and security-conscious environments across government and industry. With a dedicated security team managing not just Drupal core but also many popular modules, and the openness inherent in open source, Drupal is a solid, secure, platform for any website.

Modules / Extensions

Drupal modules are created and contributed to the community because they solve a problem. If you have the same or similar problem to solve you may be a simple module install away from solving that problem. Also, all Drupal modules are managed and accessible through a single repository at Drupal.org, providing a critical layer of vetting and security.

Search

Current versions of Drupal come with  powerful and unparalleled out-of-the-box search functionality. Also, SOLR integration is plug-and-play with Drupal, allowing you to extend the capabilities of search to index documents, or across multiple domains, or to build faceted search results to improve the user experience.

Migration

Face it: migration is not fun with any CMS. However, the Drupal 8 migration (and the same will be true for Drupal 9) API is highly capable of importing complex data from other systems. Simpler CMS platforms tend to offer simple migration for out-of-the-box content types (posts and pages), but not so much for complex data or custom content types.

Summary

Settling on the right CMS platform is often not an obvious choice. Weighing the relative benefits of every option can take time and calls for expert consultation. In instances where complexity increases, and there’s a need to integrate the CMS with outside data sources, I’ll admit to a Drupal bias. This is based on my experience of Drupal as a CMS framework that was designed specifically for the challenges of a mobile-first, API driven, integrated digital environment.

Looking for further exploration into the relative merits of your open source CMS options? Contact us today for an insightful, informative and fully transparent conversation.


 

Jul 29 2019
Jul 29

Conversations concerning accessibility of digital assets tend to fall into one of two categories: the carrot or the stick. 

The carrot is the host of business benefits associated with ensuring a great and accessible experience for all users. All too often, though, it’s the stick -- the threat of a lawsuit or actual legal action filed in federal court under Title III of the ADA -- that drives organizations to begrudgingly take steps toward getting their digital assets into compliance with WCAG 2.1 and ADA Section 508. 
 

Accessibility Claims Climb

Let there be no doubt, that the stick is real, and gaining momentum at a rapid pace. Lawsuits based on claims that a disabled person could not access a website because it was not coded to work with screen readers, or other assistive technologies, continues on a sharp upward trajectory. In 2018, we witnessed a threefold increase in accessibility lawsuits over 2017 -- from 814 to 2,285. The year-over-year increase in accessibility lawsuits filed during the first quarter of 2019 is more than 30 percent higher than the first quarter of 2018.  

The Southern and Eastern District of New York are battling the majority of these claims, followed by Pennsylvania and Florida, but the current geographic concentration cannot be viewed as any indicator of what’s next. The fact is, any organization that has a consumer-facing website that is not accessibility compliant, risks legal action.

There are no shortage of statistics such as these pertaining the “stick”-- the need for urgent and in-depth action to ensure accessibility compliance. I find conversations concerning the carrot to be far more fruitful, though. 
 

Accessibility is Good for Business

It should come as no surprise that the recent surge of accessibility-related lawsuits parallels the radical shift toward ecommerce. People of all physical and cognitive abilities are now counting on websites to buy what they need online, and retailers who are proactive about the accessibility of their sites are at a significant advantage for more reasons than simply staying out of court.

Any time a client is unable to complete a transaction or has a sub-par online shopping experience, that’s a lost opportunity. Chances are slim that a frustrated shopping experience will lead to a lawsuit, but there’s a significant likelihood that the client will look elsewhere -- possibly never returning to the site that was perceived to be problematic. This is among the reasons why it is so essential that we take a holistic view of online accessibility -- looking beyond the legal mandates and sharpening the focus on the needs and expectations of the users of your site. 

Vast and Varied Market

Recent Census Bureau statistics reveal that 56.7 million Americans, close to 20 percent of the population, have some form of disability.

Specifically:  

  • 3.3 percent of the population are visually impaired, which can include color blindness or require that they use a screen magnifier or a screen reader.
  • 3.1 percent have a hearing impairment for which they need to rely on captions for audio and visual media. 
  • Another 6.3 percent of the population have some sort of cognitive, mental, or emotional impairment which could impede their ability to complete a transaction without clear and consistent navigation and prompts.
  • And 8.2 percent have difficulty lifting or grasping, which could challenge their ability to use a mouse or navigate a keyboard. 

Accommodations and Awareness

Remediating a site to ensure accessibility will enhance the experience and enable commerce for differently abled users, while also attracting more users to the site.  A huge and seldom discussed advantage of online accessibility is its impact on SEO. Consider the analogy of how difficult it can be to find what you need on a cluttered desk stacked up with unmarked files. A well-ordered site that is tagged appropriately, with images that are accurately described, is not only key to accessibility compliance, it’s essential for modern browser searches. And don’t overlook PDFs. Information that is locked in an inaccessible PDF won’t be found by search engines -- a critical competitive disadvantage in the current market. 
 
A holistic and heartfelt approach to accessibility results in a blurring of the lines between user experience and ADA mandates. Much of this is accomplished during a Promet Source Human Centered Design workshops that take a deep and consensus-building inquiry into user needs and opportunities for growth. A holistic approach to accessibility is about ensuring a great user experience. It’s an investment in your brand and a profound opportunity for growth.

Looking for help with defining your audience and ensuring an accessible user experience that exceeds expectations? Contact us today.

Jul 22 2019
Jul 22

“Is it worth it?”
 
This summer, I’ve been asked a lot of questions concerning Promet Source’s commitment to sponsoring Drupal Camps, as well as our eagerness to lead training events and be present at them in every way that we can. 
 
I get that at any given moment, most of us have more on our plates than we can handle. It’s difficult to justify throwing travel and a two or three day camp or convention into the mix.  
 
That said, my answer to the “Is it worth it” question is an enthusiastic, “YES.”
 
Here’s why:

1. It’s good for business

Key among my objectives is the opportunity to connect with a new client or two, but regardless of the expectation that I have walking into an open-source event, I always learn something new or gain a new perspective or solidify a relationship in an expectation-exceeding kind of way. The basic maxim, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” rings very true during Drupal training events, and I’ll add to that, “You don’t know who you don’t know.”
 

2. You owe it to the community

The defining feature of any open source product is not the technology, it's the people. Open source thrives or dies based on the community that supports it. Any company that depends on open source has a responsibility to give back to the community. Giving back can come in many forms.

  • Contribute code back to the project, update documentation and other traditional "technical" facets of open source
  • Sponsor the project financially, either by funding critical work or by sponsoring events that bring the community together
  • Provide, content, programming, and volunteer labor to the events
  • Just show up

If your company is built on open source, consider all of the above as goals. 

3. Jobs

This one should be obvious. If you need to hire open source savvy people you will find no greater concentration of them than at a camp or convention. Likewise, if you are looking for a job in the open source world, or simply to network among the movers and shakers, you can usually count on the most connected players participating in and sponsoring open source events.
 

4. You get smarter

It's probably impossible to attend a Drupal Camp or DrupalCon and not come out of it smarter. The sessions are led by passionate and really smart people sharing interesting ideas and technical solutions to complex problems. Product pitches are usually prohibited, so the presentations are actually useful. And the conversations you end up in on the "hallway track" are often the most interesting of all.

5. It is fun

Get 25 to 2,500 open source advocates together in one place and shenanigans will result. Decorum, and maybe a statute of limitations, prohibits me from going into too much detail here. And a lot of activity is actually very tame. Trivia contests, dinner meetups, and coffee exchanges are regular occurrences.
 

6. The people

Hey, it's a bonus 6th reason. Oh, the people you'll meet. This should probably be reason #1.

Drupal GovCon starts tomorrow, July 24, 2019, in Bethesda, Md., and runs through July 26. I would love to count you among the people I meet at this event. Contact me and let’s work out a good time to connect.

Jul 10 2019
Jul 10

The countdown for the June 2020 Drupal 9 release has begun. As the Drupal community awaits this next big thing, here are the two burning questions on the minds of Drupal Devotees: 

  • What can we expect from Drupal 9?
  • What should we do between now and next June?

As the Business Development lead for Promet Source, with the added perspective of an Acquia Certified Drupal 8 Site Builder, I’m in the trenches everyday helping organizations to unpack questions such as these. Here are some of the concerns that I hear most often, along with my thoughts on how to most efficiently prepare for the transition.

Q. What are the most exciting/game-changing features of Drupal 9?

The most exciting thing about Drupal 9 is that there aren’t any game-changing features! No new features will be added after Drupal 8.9. Drupal 9 will remove any depreciated code or APIs that are still in Core. If your site works great on Drupal 8.9 and you are not relying on any depreciated APIs, the upgrade to Drupal 9 should be just like going from Drupal 8.8 to Drupal 8.9.

Q. To what extent does Drupal 9 reflect the evolution of the Drupal community?

Many of us know about the pain of migrating from Drupal 7 to 8. In fact, it is so painful that 750,000 Drupal 7 sites still haven’t upgraded. Drupal 9 represents the cumulation of the vision implemented with the complete overhaul that resulted in Drupal 8. For all practical purposes, Drupal 8 is a different CMS than Drupal 7. However, Drupal 8 was built with the idea that future major version upgrades would be incremental, not evolutionary changes. Drupal 8 is a enterprise-ready CMS built to support engaging digital experiences over the long term.

Q. Do you anticipate that Drupal 9 will draw in new types of users?

I don’t expect Drupal 9 to be a major event at all, and that is a good thing. It’s simply what comes after Drupal 8.9. Some changes in Drupal 8 over its lifespan, particularly the Layout Builder features that enables very powerful drag-and-drop page building capabilities, should make Drupal more appealing to distributed organizations that want to distribute content creation and management throughout the organization.

Q. Why would we migrate from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 at this point when another migration is around the corner?

Change is inevitable. You can’t avoid it. Drupal 9 is really just the next update after Drupal 8.9. In fact, it will have feature parity with Drupal 8.9. Migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 will be no more or less complicated than migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. Also, Drupal 7 and 8 will both hit end-of-life status at the same time, in November 2021. So staying on Drupal 7 or Drupal 8 won’t really be an option after November 2021.

The Drupal community won’t be maintaining Drupal 7 or 8 after Nov. 2021, although a  commercial vendor will likely seize the opportunity to provide a commercial support option. 

But really, just upgrade. Drupal 8.9 is so much better than Drupal 7 in many ways. Email me if you want to set up a call to discuss the differences.

Q. Practically speaking, could you compare a D7 to D8 migration, vs. a D8 to D9?

Imagine you drive a Toyota Camry and fortune smiles on you and are gifted a 2019 Ferrari 488 Pista. It’s still a car, but you will basically need to relearn how to drive. That is D7 to D8 from the developer perspective. The content editor/writer perspective is more like going from the Camry to a BMW. It’s just a nicer version of what you already had.

D8 to D9 will be like taking the Ferrari in for a tune-up.

Q. We’ve already migrated to Drupal 8 and it meets our needs. Any reason why we can’t just leave it at that and stay with Drupal 8 indefinitely?

Drupal 9 is just the update that comes after Drupal 8.9. For all practical purposes, you are staying on Drupal 8. It's just that Drupal 8 is constantly evolving, and because we are out of single digit number to the right of the decimal point at 8.9, the next update gets called Drupal 9.0. Also, that change in digits is a convenient place to clean out the depreciated code in the code base that you should have stopped using by now anyway.

We at Promet Source are here to help with any Drupal-related questions that you might have. Contact us anytime.


 

Jul 02 2019
Jul 02

The majority of communications regarding digital accessibility tend to focus on websites only. Too often, it’s overlooked that PDFs  are also required to be accessible. Here are some guidelines to help in the review and remediation of existing documents, along with guidance for ensuring accessibility of PDFs as they are created.  

PDF Maps

  • For larger, more detailed maps:
    • Upgrade to the latest version of ERSI.
    • Use ESRI for all large/detailed maps from departments such as Zoning, GIS, and Public Works.
    • Link to these larger maps in meeting agendas and minutes.
       
  • Options for simpler maps:
    • Convert to Google Maps whenever possible
    • Keep it as a PDF document but make it accessible by following these steps:
      • Run the PDF map through the Acrobat accessibility checker tool.
      • Address all accessibility issues revealed.
      • Note: This process is more time-consuming as it will involve tagging each of the images or image hot-spots.

Scanned and Inaccessible PDFs

If the PDF document is not accessible (i.e. scanned document), there are a few options for how to deal with it:

  • Convert scanned PDFs to instantly editable text using automatic OCR software in Acrobat Pro.
  • Create an accessible alternative version of the document in one or more of the following formats:
    • Google Maps
    • ESRI GIS
    • Large Print
    • CD
    • Braille
    • Audio
  • List it on the site as a historical document where your users can contact you to get access to it in various forms that can include:
    • Electronic copy
    • Printed copy
    • Reading it aloud for users who are blind
  • Important note: If one of these three options cannot is not possible, then the document should be completely removed from the site to avoid litigation and confusion.

Static and Fillable PDFs

Decide whether the PDF should be:

  • Converted to an online HTML form (recommended)
  • Made to be an accessible PDF

If you decide to convert it to an online HTML form:

  • Create an online HTML form based on the fields in the fillable PDF. If there are any fields that aren’t necessary, remove them.
  • Test the form to make sure that it meets all WCAG Level A/AA standards

If you decide to make it an accessible PDF:

  • Run the fillable PDF through the Acrobat accessibility checker tool
  • Fix all accessibility issues using the Acrobat accessibility checker tool
  • Offer alternative formats. In order to give your users more accessible alternatives, content within PDFs should also be available in the following formats:
    • Google Maps
    • ESRI GIS
    • Large Print
    • CD
    • Braille
    • Audio

When creating new documents

  • Always start from a source document (i.e. Word, Excel).
  • Make the source document accessible by using its accessibility checker tool.
  • Convert the source document to PDF format using the recommended steps.
  • Check the new PDF file with the accessibility checker tool.
  • Address all accessibility issues using the Acrobat accessibility checker tool.

Consider the above guidelines to be a start, and most importantly, a reminder that document accessibility is not an option but a requirement.

For help or further guidance with the full range of your online accessibility issues, Promet Source offers expert, targeted expertise and support. Contact us and let us know how we can help with ensuring the accessibility of your digital assets.

For a deeper dive:

Jun 10 2019
Jun 10

Smart business decisions tend to be equated with cutting costs and saving money.
 
Over the past decade or so, “Better! Faster! Cheaper!” has become the rallying cry for business process reengineering and new initiatives within every sector. As a developer and former business owner, I get this. Efficiency is essential.
 
I tend to look favorably on the fastest, most streamlined solution, and as such, I have a lot of empathy for clients who are seeking fast fixes to ensure that their websites and all of their digital assets get into compliance with WCAG 2.1 for ADA accessibility.
 
But as a developer, my focus is, first and foremost, on solving problems, and I can state unequivocally that overlays can't be counted on to solve the challenges associated with digital accessibility.
 
A recent web accessibility legal case, Haynes vs. Hooters set the precedent that organizations are required to remediate their actual code and not rely on band-aid dashboards or overlay solutions that appear to represent a quick fix that requires seemingly little hands-on maintenance.

Here are 4 key challenges inherent to overlays:

  1. Visually impaired users don't typically use them. They tend to have their own tools with their own voice and reader settings with which they are comfortable and proficient based on their experience and ability level. Your goal is to make your code available to whatever tools and devices they prefer using, not force them to use your overlay tool that has pre-selected settings and options.
  2. Visually impaired users typically have their own stylesheets and ways to access the web. They don’t tend to use presets from widgets because widgets complicate the experience for them and the inability to disable or override them can be frustrating.
  3. Overlays simply don't work well with mobile devices unless a significant expenditure is invested in customizing them to the individual site.
  4. Overlays basically amount to putting a line of Javascript code that pulls preloaded information onto your site. So even if the overlay has been customized as part of your package, to make it fully compliant it's nearly impossible to keep it that way, because accessibility issues can re-emerge with any subsequent change to your site.

 

Sustainable Website Compliance Solutions

Promet Source serves as an accessibility partner, committed to real and lasting accessibility solutions.
 
We conduct both automated and manual testing holistically, from the perspective of the entire spectrum of disabled users and available Assistive Technology -- recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all fix. This list of automated testing tools, recognized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), demonstrates the wide range of testing options and the need for focused expertise. 
 
Our clients interact closely with both accessibility and developer certified experts throughout engagement and have the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification every step along the way.
 
After guiding clients through the remediation process of actually fixing code to conform to WCAG 2.1 standards, we provide tools and resources to ensure that your development team has the training and knowledge to maintain your sites conformance.
 
We look forward to consulting with you about your specific accessibility objectives and working toward a solution that best addresses your needs.
 

Jun 07 2019
Jun 07

Business is hopping. You’re hiring Drupal developers with varied backgrounds and skill sets. 

When working in Drupal, there are often many ways to achieve the same outcome, and quite often, Drupal developers find themselves on different pages. How do you determine whose way is the 'best' way and proceed with optimal efficiency?

There are two perspectives to consider:

  • A team executing best practices, and
  • The process(es) needed to get best practices into place.

 

Best Practices

When defining the best practices that your Drupal development team will follow, you need to consider the following areas of development:

  • Foundational Strategies
  • Common Feature Configuration Options
  • Standard Methods for Selecting Contributed Modules
  • Custom Coding Standards
  • Development Environment
  • Workflow Methodologies
  • Testing and Quality Assurance

Foundational Strategies

All Drupal sites have a set of features that are the same. For instance, most, if not all, sites: 

  • Use content types to create content pages
  • Have a search functionality
  • Need a custom theme
  • Must meet WCAG 2.1
  • Should be usable

Before the discovery phase of a project, where requirements are confirmed and refined, create a set of configuration and coding defaults that allow you to deliver a quality product, and enable non-developers to easily use the site.
 

Common Feature Options

There are multiple ways to develop features in Drupal; some good and some not so good. Although there might be exceptions to this rule, choosing one way to develop a feature across your projects will help ensure your product is the best it can be.

Start with consistent configuration strategies and contributed modules. Consider the following:

  • Low maintenance is key to sustaining a site and continued services.
  • End user processes and skills take precedence over what’s easy for a developer to do.
  • Security can be in jeopardy with custom solutions. 

When collecting requirements, compare what’s needed with the one or more strategies you have placed in your company toolbox. Use only an approved strategy unless the requirements can’t be met.

Standard Methods for Selecting Contributed Modules

When a requirement can’t be met with a feature configuration option already in your toolbox, it’s time to go looking for options within the many contributed modules. This is a time when your sought-after best practices can go out the window if you aren’t careful.

Evaluating contributed modules in an effort to meet requirements should be a consistent process. It should be a process that not only helps configure the appropriate solution, it should also yield a configuration option for future projects.

New “best practices” should consider the following:

  • The common features considerations suggested above
  • Pros and cons of each module that meets your needs, maturity, flexibility, and coding standards
  • The history of the contributed module developer(s) and their ability to maintain the module
  • Whether your team is ready to take up the mantle of maintenance if needed
  • The interaction the module(s) could have with other features on the site

Custom Coding Standards

You have exhausted options using Drupal’s core and contributed modules and still have requirements that need to be met. This is where custom code comes in. 

The Drupal community has shared numerous standards for code development for Drupal. You don’t have to reinvent this wheel. However, you do need to establish a process that ensures:

  • Decisions to use custom code are appropriate
  • Drupal coding standards are being followed

Establish a set of criteria that must be met before custom code is cut. Asking questions such as the following can kick off your evaluation process:

  • Which modules (core and contributed) have been assessed as a means of meeting the requirement?
  • Why won’t existing modules work?
  • Can existing modules be modified to meet the need?
  • Does the client want this specific custom solution or do they want to adjust the requirement?
  • What are the potential security and maintenance issues associated with the custom code that can surface during the life-cycle of the website?

Development Environment

Before you can use the above best practices, you need a development environment. 

Drupal can run in many different web server configurations, but there are server settings that maximize Drupal’s performance. Invent your own server or use a service designed specifically for Drupal, that’s your choice.

In order to develop a website that can be hosted by your client, you need to know what their server environment will look like. If it varies from the solution you have selected, you will need a process that allows for:

  • Best practice configuration and coding that can be executed
  • The solution to be tested on the client’s server environment
  • Multiple developers to participate in development without creating issues

Workflow Methodologies

None of the above will matter if you don’t have a workflow that supports the best practices you have set forth for your team. If your developers don’t have time to evaluate their options, consult with each other, or document their solutions, they will do what they can in isolation.

Workflow is about establishing a consistent way of working, while taking into consideration tested and tried software development methodologies. You don’t have to use what others are promoting. You can mix it up, or adjust to meet your needs.

Whatever the workflow you define, consider allowing time to:

  • Identify and create best practices
  • Test new practices for coding standards
  • Verify requirements have been met
  • Provide quality foundation configurations, those your client assume you will deliver

Testing and Quality Assurance

Testing and QA are part of a defined workflow. However, they are worth mentioning separately as each process can overlook issues if not done incorrectly. Therefore, when creating a workflow, ensure you have best practices in place, particularly those accepted by the software industry.

Such testing and QA processes should consider:

  • Automated and manual testing of accessibility
  • User acceptance testing
  • Common software testing such as unit, integration, system, sanity, smoke, interface testing, and regression

 

Getting Best Practices into Place

Are you sold? Do you see the logic in the above best practice categories? Great. The next question you might have is how to implement it. 

There is no one way. However, there are basic steps you can take to get started. Remember, change isn’t going to happen over night. Incremental change is an option, unless radical improvement is needed now. If this is the case, re-engineering is your best option.

One way to kick off the process of change is to perform the following tasks:

  1. Get your developers into one room
  2. Make a list of the most common feature requirements
  3. Identify strategies for meeting the common features
  4. Rank the strategies by the requirements met
  5. Document the strategies 
  6. Train your staff
  7. Meet regularly to learn from each other, to add new options, and improve existing strategies
     

Conclusion

This idea of consistent process improvement to help ensure a quality standard that has its rooms in the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), which dates back to 1987.  CMMI is a process level improvement training and appraisal program and might be of assistance as you set goals for your organization.

Whatever you choose to do, change for the sake of quality improvement can only lead to:

  • Continued business growth
  • Happy customers
  • Employee job satisfaction

Promet Source offers a depth and breadth of Drupal development expertise. Contact us today to schedule a workshop or for information and insights to ensure that the agility and reach of Drupal is being fully leveraged.

Jun 03 2019
Jun 03

Astute marketers have stepped up to the concept of the Buyer’s Journey.  Taking the time to understand the full range of client personas and to gain empathy for the distinct phases that clients progress through as they explore and compare solutions, is now a key component of the marketing mix.

Let’s look at the potential for applying the concept of the Buyer’s Journey to a new leadership model that can serve as an essential resource for setting employees up for success.

First: a review of how understanding the Buyer's Journey is at the core of marketing effectiveness.

The exercise of mapping out the Buyer’s Journey produces insights that equip marketers to craft the right messages for the right media at the right time. The Buyer’s Journey also takes into account that not only do clients continue to have choices after the purchase, they now have a social media megaphone for broadcasting their experiences, and as such, there can be dire consequences for not continuing to pay attention after the purchase.  

While there are different models and different terminology to describe the Buyer’s Journey, the table below represents a snapshot of the distinct phases and the general types of marketing and messaging associated with optimizing impact within each. 

Buyer's Journey Snapshot

Phase Strategy Messaging/Media Awareness of need Focus on pain points / gain mindshare Industry-focused content that emphasizes empathy / Social media and sponsorships Consideration of solutions Education / help determine purchase criteria / Offer insight into what it’s like to work with you Emphasize scope and superiority of your offering / Content-rich blog posts, checklists, white papers, webinars, speaking engagements, case studies, trial offers Decision to purchase Validate decision Ease of implementation / training, support, webinars, user guides, community engagement Evaluation / advocacy Continuous added value Superior support, ongoing education and updates, closed Facebook groups, exclusive invitations, surveys, loyalty programs

 

Functional Model

Clearly, the days of the one-size-fits-all marketing campaign is a thing of the past. The bar has been raised and expectations are high for both messaging and solutions that are relevant to and resonate with clients’ specific needs. 

The concept of the Buyer’s Journey has gained traction because it makes sense and it works. It’s built upon genuine empathy and a sharpened focus on human centeredness in the design and delivery of both messaging campaigns and the solutions that they represent. 

Next Frontier: The Talent Journey

Imagine the impact if business leadership applied a similar model to the recruiting and retention of talent.  

Clearly, employees progress through distinct phases as they: 

  • Decide to search for a new job
  • Evaluate their options
  • Prepare for an interview
  • Participate in the interview process
  • Agree to join forces
  • Get onboarded
  • Become proficient in their new role
  • Evaluate the job and the company against initial expectations, 
  • Grow within the organization, and 
  • Evaluate future options.

Essentially these above phases fall within four basic categories:

  • Search
  • Sign on
  • Onboard
  • Empower

The following is a framework for the Talent Journey that mirrors the four phases of the Buyer’s Journey -- recognizing that this is simply a skeletal overview that needs to be refined and fleshed out to factor in the makeup of your team and the requirements of your company.

Talent Journey Snapshot

Phase Strategy Actions Search
Maximum positive exposure

Consistent social media posting, clear social media guidelines for current employees, presence at industry events, networking, incentive programs to encourage current employees to recruit to their sphere

Sign on Clarify expectations
Behavioral assessments that can be validated at the outset to help launch positive working relationships, detailed job descriptions and clarity concerning expected challenges, thorough information concerning benefits and company policies Onboard Set up for success

Frequent check-in along with a formal 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day program that sets goals and encourages issues and obstacles to be dealt with quickly

Empower Encourage stretch goals, remove obstacles, create a path for growth

Training, memberships in industry organizations, participation in industry events, open communication, employee surveys, 360 degree reviews, recognition programs

 

Talent Optimization

Leaders who adopt a Talent Journey mindset commit to paying attention and always being mindful of where team members are on the journey, within the framework of an intentional, empathetic model for connecting. As is true for the Buyer’s Journey, outcomes are optimized when there’s a recognition that different kinds of outreach are best suited for different phases of the journey.

Too often though, once talent has been hired and onboarded (insofar as such a process exists) they’re expected to merge with the culture, meet whatever demands come their way, and suck up any frustrations about the degree to which the actual job is out of alignment with their original expectations. 

To those who are thinking, “That’s too bad. This is business. The focus needs to be on innovation, attracting clients and maximizing profits--not coddling employees…” consider the cost of constant turnover, losing top talent to your competition, or frustrated employees operating at sub-par levels.

Talent Magnets = Great Leaders

A decade ago, when unemployment was teetering around 10 percent, leadership might have gotten away with more cavalier attitudes about cultivating talent. 

In the current economic climate, competing for talent is as critical of a success factor as competing for customers, and here’s the critical point: The competition is not won on the day that they agree to join forces. 

It’s no secret that turnover in tech is rampant. Talent knows their worth. They are mobile, well-connected, want top dollar for what they have to offer. According to Spicework’s recently published 2018 IT Career Outlook, more than one third of IT professionals in the United States are currently on the lookout for a new opportunity. Within your current team, can you accurately identify this 33 percent? Do you know who would be subject to being poached by a competitor if they got a better offer. Do you know who is frustrated and how that’s having an impact on their performance? 

Just as the Buyer’s Journey calls upon marketers to sharpen proficiency in multiple areas in order to optimize targeted effectiveness, the Talent Journey challenges leaders to be firing on all cylinders as they set talent up for success and help to remove obstacles for growth. The Talent Journey is both a model and a mindset that brings a richer dimension to our professional lives, deepening both relationships and the bottom line.

We’d love to hear from you! Do you view the Talent Journey as a workable model? What kinds of successes have you had in applying various components of it? Add your comments below or contact us today for a workshop on a leadership model that serves the specific needs of the talent journeys within your organization.
 

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