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Jul 05 2020
Jul 05
Tool/Template

Tool/Template

Your comprehensive Drupal website auditing tool is here!

Vardot released the beta-version of DrupalAudit to aid Drupal website owners and developers just before the release of Drupal 9 early June 2020.

Frequent performance audits are essential to guarantee that you benchmark your desired KPIs and website efficiency in alignments of the objectives of your digital strategy.

The tool will assess your Drupal website across the following key areas:

  • Performance
  • SEO
  • Accessibility
  • Best Practices

To use DrupalAudit, follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Enter your Drupal site’s URL and test the performance across all site aspects.
  2. Find out how your Drupal site is performing in the areas you care about.
  3. Automatically generated tips will guide you on what to do next.

Audit Your Drupal Website Performance
Jul 05 2020
Jul 05
Tool/Template

Tool/Template

Your comprehensive Drupal website auditing tool is here!

Vardot released the beta-version of DrupalAudit to aid Drupal website owners and developers just before the release of Drupal 9 early June 2020.

Frequent performance audits are essential to guarantee that you benchmark your desired KPIs and website efficiency in alignments of the objectives of your digital strategy.

The tool will assess your Drupal website across the following key areas:

  • Performance
  • SEO
  • Accessibility
  • Best Practices

To use DrupalAudit, follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Enter your Drupal site’s URL and test the performance across all site aspects.
  2. Find out how your Drupal site is performing in the areas you care about.
  3. Automatically generated tips will guide you on what to do next.

Audit Your Drupal Website Performance
Jul 05 2020
Jul 05

Many countries in the world prioritize the travel and tourism sector due to its extensive impact on stimulating other economic sectors related to the tourism value chain. Such related sectors include transportation, healthcare, financial services, retail, hospitality, shipping, car rentals, restaurants, food and beverage suppliers, and much more.

All the aforementioned sectors and businesses are directly dependant on attracting inbound tourism to their destinations. Attracting inbound tourism and destination marketing is the key and sole objective of a travel and tourism website.

1. Connect Stories With Travelers

Your destination or region will undoubtedly have many experiences to offer travelers. These attractions and activities are probably being actively promoted via images, videos, articles, downloadable ebooks, guides, digital maps, VR, and lists.

A common challenge for travel and tourism websites is that they cannot sustain a seamless and hassle-free experience for their visitors due to the nature of their content-heavy marketing effort.

Their sites were becoming increasingly unstable due to outdated technologies and increasingly difficult content management system (CMS) that often resulted in content managers breaking pages. Page load times were unacceptably slow for this heavily image-based site

Image management was increasingly difficult without categorization facilities as the library grew.

Drupal 9 is developed with user experience at the core of the technology. Building your travel and tourism digital experiences using an enterprise-level multilingual CMS ensures that your marketing efforts and immersive multimedia promotional content is enjoyed by your target audience in a seamless manner - regardless of how heavy your platform maybe with content.

Learn Why Varbase CMS Is the Best Multilingual Enterprise-Grade Drupal Website Builder

 

2. Be Responsive and Flexible

The global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) caused many governments to issue restrictions on travelers. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was one of the countries that issues a severe lockdown to mitigate the threat of COVID-19 spreading.

With travel and tourism being the main strategic sector for their economy - the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) actively promoted local travel and tourism within the kingdom's borders as soon as restrictions on travel were relaxed. The JTB also added an "Immersive Experiences" domain to make their various major attractions accessible for everyone via VR.

Being responsive is more than just being available from any device; it's also about having the technology that provides you with the flexibility needed to adapt to factors out of your control. The time to upgrade your website performance to a superior CMS is now - as more people contemplate traveling as soon as the travel ban is lifted.

As uncertainty appears to linger in the air regarding how soon we can freely travel borders, VR can become a popular alternative for people to enjoy particular experiences that your destination may offer. However, this will require you to assess your IT infrastructure's capacity to accommodate such solutions.

Building your destination's digital ecosystem and interconnected web of channels on Drupal 9 will enhance your capacity for ongoing growth and the ability to scale your digital experience when necessary to keep up with the trends and UX best practices.

3. Stimulate Trips To Emerging Travel Attractions

Create the ultimate network of digital experiences via Drupal's multisite functionality.

Your destination marketing team can create, update, publish, and promote content for each and every attraction's website or domain from one centralized CMS. Each attraction's digital presence can be managed and promoted to its target audience from a centralized content publishing process that enjoys a seamless workflow based on tiered permissions for content creators, editors, and marketers.

What does that mean? 

  • No more duplicate content issues.
  • More lean and efficient marketing teams needed.
  • No more time wasted by the marketing team(s).
  • Superior content development and marketing results.

Your marketing and technical team need not waste their time by duplicating the effort and time it takes to recreate or re-upload content to each relevant website or domain under your destination brand's name.

With multisite functionality; your websites can enjoy:
 
  • Seamless content publishing and management workflow process
  • Tier-based content moderation permissions for users
  • Best-in-class cybersecurity - continuously upgraded and updated
  • Mobile-responsiveness
  • Branding (if required) and UI/UX design systems
  • Ability to create dynamic, flexible layouts with Drupal's Layout Builder

But the multisite architecture solution can be used for related domains as well.

For example, many official travel and tourism websites such as VisitFlorida.org have audience websites that can all share best-in-class security, content publishing workflows, UX features, mobile-responsive layouts, all controlled and moderated by one centralized CMS and admin team.

4. Focus On The Digital Traveler Needs

The goal of any tourism site is to inspire visitors to travel and explore a particular region - from activities to geography - through relevant content across their existing website.

For the majority of travelers, the travel and tourism website they visit will be the first major impression of the experience they expect to have at the destination being promoted on that website.

Connecting stories relies on finding the right audience wherever they are and whenever they are searching for what your destination can offer them. This means you need a rich content-heavy digital experience that constantly evolves into a deeply personalized user experience for each user and website visitor.

You must ask your self key questions like:

  • Can any traveler easily access our website from any device or smart assistant?
  • Can any traveler easily understand what we want them to understand on our website?
  • Can any traveler communicate with us easily via our website or connected apps?
  • Can any traveler easily navigate our website and/or destination?
  • Can any traveler interact without any barriers for any communication while visiting our destination attractions?

Drupal 9 will allow you to connect those content-rich experiences and stories with travelers anywhere, anytime, and across all devices thanks to the endless capability to integrate with all necessary tools, solutions, and technologies to sustain an up-to-date digital ecosystem.

 

5. Personalize User Experiences

One simple method to achieve this is to enhance your communication via personalization.

Utilize the power of automation to deliver an exceptional experience to specific audience segments.

For example; gathering insight and data into how each user and visitor interacts with your digital platform informs your marketing team on how to optimize each landing page for higher conversion and engagement rates.

Utilizing essential integrations such as marketing automation will enable your marketing team to send dynamic and personalized marketing messages in the form of tweets, text messages, notifications, and emails to each website visitor based on their behavior on your website.

This insight into your website traffic will allow for a clear idea on how to optimize your landing pages for richer user journeys, higher engagement, and conversion rates.

The potential and opportunities are infinite with insight-driven marketing automation; ultimately you will be able to create advocates and champions of your destination by ensuring that travelers and tourists enjoy their travels from A to Z.

Winning Micro-moments: Mrs. Smith is on a 2 day business trip and she wanted to visit the main attractions close to her accommodation within the limited free time she can enjoy. Mrs. Smith can be a member of an audience named "One night only business trip" and can receive tips regarding which attractions she must visit within the city.

Moreover, she can be provided with quicker access to attractions and jump the queue via an online ticket code specific to members of this audience segment.

6. Hassle-Free Digital Experiences

Drupal 9 digital experiences are the most advanced travel and tourism websites that continue to deliver better on-page speed performances eliminating any frustration that website visitors can experience across any device.

Travelers seeking deeply specific search results for their holidays or business trips can easily find results quicker on Drupal-powered websites and digital platforms due to Drupal's on-page SEO superiority and integration with advanced search engine modules such as Apache Solr.

Your marketers published content has a much higher chance of ranking higher on search engines due to built-in SEO tools in the CMS that allows your content editors to upload marketing content optimized for better SEO performance across all devices regardless of the format of the content.

7. Incremental Growth and Critical Integrations

Are you set up for continued implementation and continued delivery of essential managed support services that ensure your performance at optimal levels? If not, you are already behind in sustaining standards of quality. 

Travelers are always looking for the most convenient value-based offer they can find. Their needs are evolving as are their perception of what an ideal UX should be when interacting with brands online. Enterprises have realized that they must transform into a breathing digital organism that consists of an interconnected network of relevant touchpoints and channels that their target audiences engage in.

Creating an evolving digital experience that constantly delivers on those evolving needs will require a reliable IT support partner that ensures that your website is constantly supported with essential UX related features such as upgraded security and search engine modules.

Is your destination's first impression an outdated website or rather an immersive digital experience made for the digital world? Is your travel and tourism website integrated with essential 3rd party apps that should make up your interconnected web of touchpoints that your target audience can and will interact with you from?

In fact;

  • Do you have a booking management system where travelers can make their entire accommodation plans quickly?
  • Do you have a secure payment gateway that accepts all currencies and payment methodologies?
  • Do you have an integration with essential marketing automation solutions that personalize your marketing messages for each website visitor based on their behavior and history of actions on your website?
  • Do you have an integration with automated chatbots that are increasingly being relied upon for FAQs?
  • Does your chatbot speak in tongues to cater to a globally diverse audience of travelers and tourists?
  • Can your marketing team easily build new content-rich and dynamic landing pages when required?

Through our decade-long experience with building digital experiences for global enterprises; we have realized that they valued reliable hosting, support, and maintenance above all criteria when selecting a vendor.

Support and maintenance by a dedicated and proven IT partner will be key to your long-term digital transformation plans and growth strategy.

Digital transformation is a commitment and a process that demands clarity and commitment.

8. Investing In Digital Tourism

Disruption will continue to occur, and expectations of your target audience will continue to shift.

You must align your digital and growth strategy with the technical requirements needed to ensure your ongoing sustained success. Investing in the right technology means that you will never need an expensive rebuild every time a critical update/upgrade is required.

Keep an eye on the future. Drupal's ability to integrate easily with any technology, solution, tool, or required 3rd party app makes it the ideal enterprise-level technology and CMS for digital experiences focused on personalized UX.

If your vision is ambitious and clear, you cannot build it on an inferior IT infrastructure that will only deliver short-term wins and long-term losses. Protect your future by making smart decisions today.

If you wish to consult with our travel and tourism IT solutions development experts, you can book a free consultation to discuss your opportunities and potential to drive more tourists to your destination.

Questions About Drupal 9

Questions About Drupal 9?

Jun 24 2020
Jun 24

Despite all the disruption and technological advances that occurred over the past few years, the structure of higher education institutions and state of academic curriculums are closer to what would be the case during the early stages of industrialization.

In 2020, we are well into the digital era and students face a set of challenges unique to their age and technology plays a significant role, both as part of the challenge and an opportunity to overcome those challenges.

Can schools and universities afford to operate using the existing model? What technologies will be needed? How will higher education experiences change in the coming years?

One fact is undeniable; higher education should focus on the direct needs of students and the demands of an increasingly digital market in the future.


1. Flexible Learning Experiences

A flexible learning experience is essential these days; not just because of unexpected force majeure circumstances such as the global COVID-19 outbreak.

New challenges have arisen due to the shift in the digital economy's demand for new skill sets and capabilities. The job market has witnessed a sharp demand for "digital", "innovation", "data science", and "information" in their job descriptions and titles.

The current curriculum being taught is fast becoming irrelevant and seems rigid to those seeking to learn a new in-demand skill or enhance their professional status. As a result, learning centers that provide focused online workshops and certifications are increasingly becoming a popular and cheaper alternative thanks to the flexibility, focus, and accessibility they have on offer for learners.


“The learner, the learning provider and the employer all are speaking different languages that don’t interconnect,” said Michelle Weise, chief innovation officer at the Strada Institute for the Future of Work.

Universities and schools should consider the subscription-based model where students would pay monthly fee subscriptions to attend the modules and courses they prefer instead of attending 9 hour school days. Learners can complete their selected courses at their own pace and enjoy convenient accessibility.

Students should be able to access specific learning resources, materials, libraries, labs, and digital learning activities at any time from anywhere across all devices.

Flexibility and accessibility are standard requirements for any digital experience and should be at the forefront when considering an enterprise-level digital project. But it's easier said and done - identifying and investing in the right IT infrastructure will be essential to support a comprehensive digital learning experience for your students.

2. Remote and Distance Learning

The days of strict daily hours of attendance of pre-fixed classroom schedules are over. 

We were inevitably going to rely more heavily on remote and distance learning in the upcoming years, however; the recent outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe has accelerated this process.

They realized the importance of aligning their strategic business needs with the ideal mix of technology value-stack required to ensure their digital growth and future.

We specialize in providing higher education institutions with comprehensive digital transformation solutions based on Drupal and we witnessed a sharp increase in both verbal interest and demand from schools, universities, and even teachers for our services.

Schools and universities have immediately reallocated their resources and budgets to prioritize remote and distance learning. Unfortunately, not all schools and universities are technologically capable to embrace full-fledged remote learning as the norm.

Almost every industry has been disrupted by the outbreak of Coronavirus but schools and universities have been hit the hardest because they had to reckon with the fact that their entire business model and operations have to change. Do they even need a campus anymore?

CS: American School of Dubai

Drupal 8 Transforms the American School of Dubai

3. Immersive Learning Experiences

There is no doubt that flexibility, accessibility, and maximum immersion will be critical in appealing to students around the world. 

This has led over 70% of the top 100 universities around the world to adopt Drupal which enabled them to build a truly digital campus and immersive learning experience for their students and faculty. Drupal has enabled these institutions to seamlessly integrate essential cutting-edge solutions that complement and support their digital transformation.

Essential integrations such as VR.

VR implementation in learning is on the rise and enables any school or university around the world to offer classes to a global audience of interested pupils. For example, a student from Beijing can attend a French language class at a middle school based in San Francisco through VR.

Some universities have introduced A.I. into their learning experiences as well.

Through A.I., students can learn from a robot teacher. This teacher is capable of grading, checking spelling, grammar, etc. and also monitor the performance of students to identify gaps in knowledge and weaknesses which in turn can be analyzed by academic advisors to further support their students improve their grades and performance.

There are a number of interesting experiments being run by Georgia Tech's Center for 21st Century Universities (a Drupal 8 platform) to identify which solutions work and which don't that are trying to find the right balance with regards to the involvement of A.I. in education and learning experiences.

Who Leads Digital Transformation?

Transformation is inevitable but it is often misguided due to lack of education (pun unintended) and awareness regarding the technologies that will be essential to elevate a university or school into a modern higher education experience.

Academics and higher education institutions must realize that technology alone is not the answer. It is only the tool.

Top management and leadership at academic institutions must drive the change and digital transformation based on facts and solid requirements in a bid to identify which technologies will be essential to build the foundation for an evolving interconnected web of digital learning assets and platforms.

Some have even adopted the wrong tools - technologies that do not match their digital transformation requirements or support their objectives.

Technology alone won’t be the answer to the existential challenges that schools and universities face. The culture of teaching and learning must also change. The real question that needs to be addressed is: what good or value is higher education supposed to deliver?

Addressing the needs of students already living in a digital environment and a digital marketplace will be paramount and Coronavirus might just be that disruptor that forces us to accelerate the digital transformation process.

One thing is for sure; it will force higher education institutions and academics to go back to the roots of education: storytelling, research, and development.

In the meantime, we will continue to provide our assistance to universities and schools in identifying the appropriate technologies needed to develop the ideal digital learning experience for their students.

Questions About Drupal 9

Questions About Drupal 9?

Jun 17 2020
Jun 17

The future of enterprise digital experience mirrors the needs and demands of the modern digital customer experience. You don't need a website. You need an entire digital ecosystem to even exist in the mind of your potential customers.

In the digital age, the relationship between consumer and brand is increasingly machine-to-human, and by 2030 it will almost certainly be weighted heavily in favor of a machine-tomachine relationship. Forward-looking brands are already investing in smart, AI-powered technologies that offer the ability to automate engagements and processes, capture data and drive actionable insights more intelligently, and deliver more immersive, rewarding, and valued experiences to their consumers.

To matter in today’s digital sphere and landscape, you must fulfill the following: Engage and evolve constantly. That is the undeniable truth that enterprises learned when they aligned their strategic business objectives with the technical requirements they will need.

INSIGHT: More than two-thirds of marketers responsible for CX say their companies compete mostly on the basis of CX, according to the 2017 Gartner Customer Experience in Marketing Survey.

What is an Enterprise Digital Experience (EDX)?

Let us start with what it's not.

It's definitely not your average and standard website. A digital experience speaks to the entire interconnected web of digital assets, channels, and domains that make up your brand; from kiosks, smartwatches, social media, to almost every touchpoint that your clients interact with you.

The beating heart and engine of this digital brand network would be your website; consistently feeding and being fed real-time data through all those various channels and touchpoints.

If you are unfamiliar with the term “digital experience” yet; it’s been coined to differentiate between simple websites that can be built using SaaS builders such as Wix and Squarespace.

These SaaS solutions have provided non-technical team members with unprecedented accessibility to building simple and neat websites quickly - however; enterprises understand that they are facing an altogether different reality when it comes to building their own online presence.

 

Source: State of Drupal | Dries Buytaert

Enterprises on the other have more complex technical requirements; they may and will need to become:

  • Multi-site platforms
  • Community engagement sites
  • Heavily reliant on critical 3rd party integrations
  • An omnichannel website

Prevalent and popular names in the marketplace such as Wordpress and Wix will simply not do. You can’t build a futuristic tower on a foundation that can’t handle more than a couple of floors.

Enterprises and international organizations with an eye towards protecting their digital future and investment are increasingly opting to transform their brands into an immersive enterprise-grade digital experience on Drupal. They realized that they need better content staging and management, faster performance, best-in-class security, and superior on-site SEO in order to attain what differentiates them from standard websites.

Here's why enterprise digital experiences prefer Drupal over other CMS options:

Content Moderation and Staging

TL;DR - Drupal allows enterprises to constantly engage their website visitors in a highly personalized and effective manner.

Unlike simpler websites; enterprise-level websites need to create shareable multimedia-rich content for all platforms and channels they rely on for marketing and business purposes. 

Enterprise-level content creation for the purpose of marketing needs to be uninterrupted and faster.

Usually, the process of content creation, publishing, distribution, and management for enterprises involves multiple teams from various departments within the organization. For example; creating an ebook on marketing automation will need the combined and coordinated effort from the marketing, technical, DevOps, and sales teams.

An enterprise CMS will have a built-in workflow that streamlines the content publishing process for all technical and non-technical stakeholders and content creators involved - making the experience for website admins, and content creators much easier and faster. Add into the mix Drupal's superiority when it comes to multilingual website content distribution and on-site SEO - you will quickly boost your enterprise's content marketing capabilities.

Landing pages also need to be personalized, updated, or even created from scratch faster than ever before.

Using the built-in Layout Builder module that can be found within Drupal 9 and enterprise CMS’s like Varbase; developers and non-technical team members from marketing can create features and content-rich landing pages within minutes.

Built-in Multi-site functionality

Enterprises are global operation entities. This means they must communicate effectively with a globally diverse audience and market thus building numerous sites dedicated to serve that purpose.

However, instead of building a new website dedicated to each market, audience segment, or product - enterprises can now build as many websites they need under their brand without the hassle and challenges of starting from scratch.

Drupal allows enterprises to build multiple websites and domains that share all the best practices, brand guidelines, security, and even design systems in place.

This means less cost, less time wasted on duplicated efforts when it comes to development and content publishing work. You will not need to hire a dedicated marketing or development team to run each website's requirements because all your brand's websites are run and managed by one centralized CMS.

Add to that the aforementioned benefit of seamless content publishing and management workflows - it becomes evident why Drupal is increasingly being adopted by global enterprises.

Every enterprise will eventually have to build multiple sites under its brand in a bid to enhance their user experiences, the question is do you know which multi-site architecture solution works best for your digital transformation strategy?

Fitness First Case Study

Multiple Sites. Seamless Integrations. One Powerful CMS.

API-First

You will be hard-pressed to find an enterprise-level website that doesn't rely on key integration with tools critical for their business. Even local websites integrate some form of email marketing tools to enable easier lead generation.

Enterprise digital experiences are much like the connected web - with various offshoot interconnected microservices.

Drupal was made to ensure that your audience and website visitors can seamlessly navigate through the entire digital ecosystem that supports your critical business objectives such as email marketing, marketing automation, CRMs, payment gateways, and much more.

Drupal can seamlessly integrate with popular tools such as Eloqua, Hubspot, Mailchimp, Mautic, Marketo, Slack, and almost every solution/tool under the sun. 

More importantly, your target audience will expect your brand or businesses to be accessible to them regardless of the medium they use - anytime, and everywhere. Your job is to create the appropriate digital ecosystem that plans and predicts all possible ways your customers and potential customers may interact with your business. 

For example, fans attending the World Cup in 2022 can interact with the official bodies governing the tournament through digital kiosks sprawling across Doha's Qatar Rail stations - or through voice search and chatbots. Drupal can enable you to integrate with almost any innovative interface you can imagine.

INSIGHT: Smart assistants are still emerging but will dominate consumer engagement with enterprises.

Immersive technologies will continue to emerge as the default best practice for brands who want to build customer loyalty as a brand attribute and Drupal is the ideal CMS for enterprise digital experiences that wish to upgrade into a truly immersive CX.

Continued Growth, Delivery, and Implementation

From our own long experience in building custom enterprise solutions; we realized that enterprises do not need all those features from the moment they launch their digital experiences. However, they WILL need them a few months later.

Another truth that many businesses are blind to (or frankly choose to ignore to their own disadvantage and detriment) is the fact that ongoing support is THE most essential differentiator between the best digital experiences and any standard website.

Digital solutions and technology evolve every day heavily influencing the standards and expectations of your customers - many businesses fail to live up to those standards simply because they elect to not invest in their digital future wisely or because they don't have reliable IT support to continuously monitor and implement the essential upgrades required.

Your website visitors expect you to match their constantly evolving expectations. If they prefer searching via voice - your website better be indexable and found easily on search result pages via voice search. Google has shifted its focus towards rewarding complete digital experiences over simple websites with no engagement to ensure that when people search they only get the best results.

Understandably, this can be difficult if not entirely impossible with your current technology. This is why you need to migrate to Drupal 9 now and use a powerful enterprise CMS like Varbase.

Your website must always be up-to-date and upgrade constantly to ensure that your visitors are experiencing best-in-class features regarding accessibility, security, media, sharing, page speed, and etc.

Why Drupal 9 and Varbase?

Drupal 9 is where enterprise-level digital experiences are going. Websites are no longer enough.

Consumers are increasingly looking for experiences that are immersive and allow a deeper level, or richness, of engagements and value. Drupal has proven to be the leading technology and open-source equivalent of CMS’s focused on creating feature-rich digital experiences for enterprises.

Drupal 8 has introduced various desired features that vastly enhanced user experience; and Drupal 9 has taken these enhancements to another level.

International organizations and businesses that need enterprise-level technologies and performance choose Varbase as their CMS because it has proven to be the fastest builder of multi-lingual enterprise-grade digital experiences.

Our recommendation is that you protect your investment. Build your future today, outsmart your competition rather than outspend them. Become the best of the web. If you are still operating on Drupal 7 and Drupal 8; upgrade to Drupal 9. If you aren't on Drupal yet; what are you waiting for?

Ditch your inferior tech for a powerful CMS like Varbase which will enable you to constantly evolve as a cutting edge immersive customer experience.

Questions About Drupal 9

Questions About Drupal 9?

Jun 04 2020
Jun 04

Leading brands, enterprises, and organizations are flocking to advanced and robust content management systems such as Drupal because they realize the need to focus on creating the best digital experience possible for their customers and website visitors.

However, as you already (hopefully) realize, building a website with a great UX is not enough to sustain a steady growth in your website traffic and engagement. You need to continuously audit your website’s performance and effectiveness. 

That is why we developed Drupal Audit - a FREE platform to help you measure and analyze your Drupal website performance.

In light of the fact that Drupal 9 has been released this week; a Drupal site audit is probably on your mind anyway, and Drupal Audit will make your life easier to pinpoint all performance related issues that need to be addressed in preparation for upgrading  your website to Drupal 9 (if you haven't made the upgrade yet).

25 Questions That Guarantee A Successful Launch

Using Drupal Audit you can benchmark and test performance across all key aspects of your Drupal website. In a matter of seconds Drupal Audit will provide you with the following:

Drupal Performance Audit

Drupal Audit will measure metrics such as:

  • First Contentful Paint
  • Speed Index
  • Largest Contentful Paint
  • Time to Interactive
  • Total Blocking Time
  • Cumulative Layout Shift

Drupal Accessibility Audit

All opportunities available for you to improve the accessibility of your Drupal website and user experience for users of assistive technology, like a screen reader:

  • Names and Labels
  • Contrast
  • Navigation

… and many more key accessibility metrics and elements.

Drupal SEO Audit

Drupal Audit will measure your on-site SEO performance and ensure that your Drupal website pages are optimized for search engine results ranking. This audit will cover key issues such as:

  • Content best practices
  • Meta tags
  • Links
  • HTML formats
  • Page indexing related issues
  • HTTP status
  • Data structure

… and much more.
 

All the aforementioned audits cover both desktop and mobile performance.

Enhance Your On-Site SEO Performance

How To Use Drupal Audit?

All you have to do is simply insert your Drupal website URL and hit START AUDIT.

Immediately, the Google Lighthouse powered Drupal Audit platform will give you insights into your Drupal website performance and automatically generate best practices and recommended steps to take to enhance your Drupal website performance.

Note: The Drupal Audit tool has been tailored to consider the specific characteristics of Drupal websites when it comes to best practices - as Google Lighthouse measures against the needs of simpler and lighter websites with less complex requirements.

Need a reliable support partner?

Apr 07 2020
Apr 07

Drupal 9 is expected to be released on time on the 3rd of June 2020 thanks to the amazing efforts by the open-source community who made huge strides in recent months in fixing and updating key issues.

The beta version (Drupal 9.0.0-beta1) is available now and it includes all the dependency updates, updated platform requirements (web server, PHP, and database versions), stable APIs, and features that will ship with Drupal 9. 

Note: Drupal 9 beta releases are intended for site owners and module or theme authors to test compatibility and upgrade paths for Drupal 9.0. Beta releases are not intended for production.

All the issues that are yet to be resolved before Drupal 9’s release date can be found here, while the list of all Drupal 9 core issues can be found here.

Helping with Drupal 9 Readiness

We have been actively preparing for Drupal 9’s release by making sure that Varbase CMS will be able to support the easy migration of Drupal 8 websites and projects to Drupal 9.

Learn Why Varbase CMS Is the Best Multilingual Enterprise-Grade Drupal Website Builder

The latest Varbase update (8.8.4) was released late March 2020 and we are pleased to announce that all Varbase Core components are fully compatible with Drupal 9.

 
All the following components have been tested and released:
  • Varbase Core
  • Varbase Media
  • Varbase API
  • Varbase Editor
  • Varbase Bootstrap Paragraphs
  • Varbase Landing
  • Varbase Blog
  • Varbase Media Hero Slider
  • Varbase Carousels
  • Varbase FAQs
  • Varbase Layout Builder
  • Varbase Reports
  • Varbase Media Header
  • Varbase Search
  • Varbase SEO
  • Varbase Social Single Sign-On
  • Varbase Styleguide
  • Varbase Total Control Dashboard
The following Varbase themes have also been released:
  • Vartheme BS4 (Bootstrap 4 SASS)
  • Vartheme (Bootstrap 3 LESS)
  • Vartheme Admin

At Vardot we have been actively helping with the readiness of multiple modules to make sure they are compatible by the time D9 is released as well. Our team has already begun fixing and addressing issues that arise through our testing on the Drupal 9 beta release. Some of those fixes and updates were implemented on modules we contributed:

Contributed modules ready and released:
  • VMI
  • CKEditor Anchor Link
  • Entity Browser Enhance (d|r)
  • Entityqueue Form Widget
  • Total Control Admin Dashboard
  • Auto Recommend Content Tags (Thru Apache Stanbol)

The Google Analytics Reports contributed module remains in progress and under review for release very soon. You can view the full list of updates released in Varbase 8.8.4 in preparation for Drupal 9 readiness here.

As things currently stand, Varbase readiness for Drupal 9 is solid in terms of the Varbase Core modules, and most of the popular modules used by the open-source community that can be found packaged in Varbase distribution. We are sure that with quickened pace of testing taking place that all popular Drupal modules will be tested and released as stable.

What's Next for Your Drupal Projects?

The beta release marks Drupal 9 as API-complete, so now is a great time to start getting your projects ready for Drupal 9

Most projects need a few small changes. A single project release can now be compatible with Drupal 8 and 9 at the same time, so you don't even need to release a new branch of your project to support Drupal 9.

Drupal 9: Current State and How to Prepare for It [Infographic]

Drupal 8.9.0 will also be released on June 3, 2020. It will contain the same features as Drupal 9.0.0 while keeping backward compatibility with Drupal 8. This final minor version of Drupal 8 will receive long-term support, with bug fixes and security coverage until November 2021.  Meanwhile, Drupal 9 will continue to receive new features in Drupal 9.1 (out in December 2020) and beyond.

Need Help Migrating To Drupal 9?

We have received numerous inquiries from enterprises and developers who have websites still running on Drupal 7 with concerns and lack of clarity towards upgrading to Drupal 9 when the time comes. In response, we have dedicated a team of 15+ Acquia Certified Drupal developers to provide guidance, support, and consultation to the needs of our clients and any enterprise that requires assistance migrating to Drupal 9.

Don't hesitate to contact us for a FREE consultation with our team should you need it. We got your back.

#StaySafe

Nov 07 2019
Nov 07

Our Standard Drupal Work Breakdown Structure Template provides an outline of these phases and detailed tasks to be done that we use for every Drupal project. This template is made to be easily imported to JIRA. It contains:

  1. The master sheet that aggregates the standard epics, tasks, and stories to be easily imported to JIRA.
     

  2. Sheet for defining the project’s own epics and stories
     

  3. The standard Initialization and Finalization work breakdown structure that must not be missed for any project

All of this helps to reduce discrepancies in developing each project, not to miss important tasks and also allows our team to deliver a project fast, and incrementally (delivering in the first week of development).

Using The Template:

The template is a Google Spreadsheet that you can easily clone and customize. To do so:

  1. Open the sheet and copy it to make it yours.

  2. Feel free to edit the sheet to make it your own. There are some instructions on how to use the sheet to make it yours.

  3. Follow the instructions on what to edit. We recommend that the “Initialization WBS” and the “Finalization WBS” stay intact (you can edit them once to your standard flow, then replicate for all projects).

  4. For each project, you will want to copy your template to customize the “Project’s Epics WBS” as per the project. The template has some samples for you to consider.

  5. Once done, export the “Master WBS” sheet to CSV. So you can import to your JIRA project.

  6. Map fields to your JIRA. 

Jul 24 2019
Jul 24

Mohammed J. Razem

This article assumes that you've already heard the big news about Acquia acquiring Mautic, the largest open-source marketing automation platform. Chances are that you've already run demos on your Drupal 8 site.  If that is indeed the case and your Drupal 8 site uses the popular Webform module; you're probably wondering how you can send your existing Webform submissions to Mautic in order to convert them to contacts.

Well, the easier way is to simply create a Mautic Form and embed that form in your Drupal site. Mautic lets you create many different forms which can be easily embedded in your Drupal site using simple JavaScript and/or HTML embeds. However, you cannot simply let go of your current Webforms, and let's also be frank, there no form systems that can outperform Drupal 8's Webform module.

The good news is that Drupal 8's Webform module can easily send submissions to Mautic forms - thus connecting your Drupal site with Mautic in a seamless way.

This integration also takes into consideration that Mautic tracks anonymous visitors then converts them into contacts once they submit a form - yes through Webform in this case.

Prerequisites: 

  1. You have a Drupal 8 website with Webform module installed
  2. You have a Mautic instance installed

Step by step guide:

  1. First, you'll need to create a Mautic form similar to your Drupal webform. You do not need to embed this form, you just need to create it so it receives the submissions by remote post from your Drupal webform.
     
     
  2. Download and install Webform Mautic module. This module adds a Webform handler to map submissions to Mautic forms.
  3. In your Drupal 8 site, go to the webform that you want to send its submissions to Mautic. 
    Navigate to the webform's "Settings", then go to "Emails / Handlers" to add a new handler.
    Create a new handler by clicking "Add handler" and choose "Mautic".
     
     
  4. Now you'll only need to configure the handler. Choose a meaningful title. I like to call this handler "Send submission to Mautic form".
        
     
  5. Save the handler and you're done.

Things to pay attention to:

In Drupal side:

  • It's recommended that you have Mautic tracking code installed in your Drupal site.
    This will leverage the contact tracking capabilities of Mautic and link form submissions to the contact activities that were tracked when the contact used to be an anonymous visitor.
  • Test the handler by going to "Test" in the handler's action menu. Make sure Mautic is receiving your submissions.

In Mautic side:

  • Make sure your form is published.
  • Make sure your form is not set to "Kiosk mode" if you want to get the full contact tracking activities when the form is submitted.
Jul 16 2019
Jul 16

Despite Drupal 8 (D8) being launched back in 2015 and Drupal 9’s release date looming; there are almost a million websites on the internet still running on Drupal 7 (D7). However; many of the website owners justify their reasoning for sticking with Drupal 7 until now to the long update to Drupal 8 process and the budget required.

So... should you upgrade your website to Drupal 8 now? That really depends on your business needs… however; since you decided to build your website using Drupal, I assume you already know the unique advantages that Drupal brings to your brand’s digital experience. 

We take a look at a few logical reasons to upgrade your website to Drupal 8 sooner rather than later:

 

 

1. D7 End-Of-Life (EOL) Is Around the Corner

Both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 versions will continue to receive support and fixes from the community until November 2021, a whole year after the release of Drupal 9 in 2020. Beyond that EOL date; D7 and D8 will no longer receive any support. What does that mean?

The community at large will no longer create new projects, fix bugs in existing projects, write documentation, etc. around Drupal 7. There will be no more core commits to Drupal 7. The Drupal Security Team will no longer provide support or Security Advisories for Drupal 7 core or contributed modules, themes, or other projects. Reports about Drupal 7 vulnerabilities might become public creating 0 day exploits. All Drupal 7 releases on all project pages will be flagged as not supported. Maintainers can change that flag if they desire to. On Drupal 7 sites with the update status module, Drupal Core will show up as unsupported. 

After November 2021, using Drupal 7 may be flagged as insecure in 3rd party scans as it no longer gets support. If you have a site that is running on Drupal 7, now is the time to start planning the upgrade. You don’t want to be making that decision with only a couple of months to the EOL date remaining.

If you still plan to stick to Drupal 7; you can engage the services of specific vendors who will be announced at a later date as officially recognized members of the Drupal 7 Vendor Extended Support program (D7ES).

Or, you could save money and time by upgrading now and gain the significantly richer benefits of Drupal 8. I strongly recommend this approach. Win-Win.

2. Power Your Digital Business

This one is logical. If you think you’d be saving money and time by jumping directly to Drupal 9 from Drupal 7, think again.

You are already missing out on Drupal 8’s awesome features. Drupal 8 was built with a focus on creating engaging user experiences. Website performance is at the core of all improvements, updates, and modules being created for Drupal 8. One of the first significant improvements introduced was Facebook’s BigPipe, which is now a built-in stable module in Drupal core.

Major brands that are running websites on Drupal 8 can give their site visitors the mobile-first, search engine optimized and secure user experience they crave. Businesses that cater to a global audience are reaping the benefits of the multilingual and translation tools built-in Drupal 8’s CMS.

From creating engaging dynamic webpages using the awesome Layout Builder module to a streamlined rich content publishing process. Drupal 8 boasts numerous modules that are a marketers dream

Additionally, Drupal 8 replaced PHPtemplate with a new, faster, simpler and much more secure theming engine, Twig. Though Twig is PHP-based, all that front end developers need to create beautiful websites is their skill in HTML/CSS. They don’t need to boast much PHP experience or expertise anymore.

The aforementioned are but a sample of highlighted features. Think of all the modules that have been improved and enhanced to build a digital experience that engages your base better than ever. Are you willing to be behind the pack until you decide I need to upgrade closer to the Drupal 7’s EOL date?

 

 

3. Smooth Migration to D9

Migrating your website from Drupal 6 to 7 demanded an entire rebuild. It’s true that migrating from Drupal 7 to 8 would be a major hassle as well, however, this would be the last major rebuild you will ever have to make again thanks to Semantic Versioning.

Drupal 9 is built on-top of Drupal 8. Hence, the transition when migrating from Drupal 8 to 9 will be seamless and effortless, especially when you compare the hassle of migrating between other major versions. 

“The first release of Drupal 9 will be very similar to the last minor release of Drupal 8, as the primary goal of the Drupal 9.0.0 release will be to remove deprecated code and update third-party dependencies. By keeping your Drupal 8 sites up to date, you should be well prepared for Drupal 9.” - Dries Buytaert, Drupal Project Lead

If you are still reluctant to rebuild your website in order to benefit from the sample of highlighted Drupal 8 features we mentioned earlier; consider Varbase.

Varbase is an enhanced Drupal distribution packed with adaptive functionalities and essential modules, that speed up your development, and provides you with standardized configurations, making your life easier. The essence of Varbase, lies within the basic concept that initiated it; DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself). Varbase handles that for you, relieving you from repeating all the modules, features, configurations that are included in every Drupal project.

You can build a beast of a digital experience that caters for a global and diverse audience, search engine optimized and mobile-first; whilst saving over 200 development hours.

The time to prepare for your business’s digital future is now. Adopting a neutral stance is only going to be a waste of time, traction and money. Choosing to upgrade to Drupal 8 right now means that you have already upgraded to Drupal 9. 

Drupal’s focus on engaging digital experiences reflects the actual shift in user behavior in real life. That is the main reason why global brands and many industries such as the entertainment industry, higher education, healthcare, and even public sectors are adopting Drupal… and Drupal 8’s features offer your digital business more than you can begin to imagine. Our award-winning team can help you build a digitally thriving business in the future by guiding you through the upgrade process. 

Contact us now and get a thorough complimentary performance audit of your website!

Jun 24 2019
Jun 24

When seven out of the world’s top 10 universities choose Drupal as their preferred partner in the vital task of creating and maintaining their websites, it’s safe to assume that the platform has much to offer even the best universities.

A good website saves on costs and optimizes the user experience of its visitors. All told, it’s a vital asset that few organizations can be without.

In this article, we’ll be going through the top 10 universities that built their websites using Drupal, an open source platform known for producing remarkable digital experiences. Drupal’s scalability and capacity for large amounts of content make it the number one choice for top universities all over the world.

1. Oxford University

In a fast-paced environment where broad functionality is key, Oxford University’s website is a testament to Drupal’s ability to host multiple sites and tasks while letting each department have control of its own web presence.

From information on admissions and university research to current news & events, the Oxford University website is a one-stop platform where faculty, students, and alumni alike can stay in the loop when it comes to life both on and off-campus.

2. Harvard University

The words ‘Ivy League’ call to mind a certain sense of prestige and tradition. Harvard University’s website brings these features to life with a distinct look and feel that communicates the Harvard brand to visitors right from the homepage.

Drupal’s friendly user interface enables Harvard administrators to design pages, host media, and post content in a way that allows branding consistency across the entire site.

3. MIT

Best known for its programs in engineering and the hard sciences, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology maintains a competitive culture, encouraging its undergraduates to pursue their own original research.

Like all sites built on Drupal, The MIT website is strikingly well-equipped for site protection and data privacy. Institutions like MIT, which work hard to preserve the safety of their student and faculty records, trust the Drupal CMS for eliminating the risk of breaches. In fact, many corporations, non-government organizations, and state agencies choose Drupal for its strong safety and security capabilities.

4. Stanford University

Higher education websites tend to require different access privileges for a wide range of contributors, and Stanford University’s website demonstrates Drupal’s ability to provide ease of management and sharing content across various portals and sites. The Stanford website features a significant amount of content from its many offices and departments.

5. Duke University

Duke University takes pride in being a global institute of learning that houses perspectives from all over the world. The university ensures that this core belief translates into their online presence by building their website with Drupal, a CMS known for catering to a multilingual demographic.

Since Drupal operates in more than 110 languages, the platform provides an outstanding translation module that enables higher education institutions such as Duke University to cater to the global needs of their students and faculty.

6. UCLA

UCLA is known for advancing knowledge and addressing social needs by fostering an environment full of diverse perspectives. The university extends the pursuit of these goals to their website, which houses rich content that’s accessible to all.

The UCLA website demonstrates how Drupal makes reusing and circulation content quick and easy. After the creation of a particular bit of content, website users are able to circulate it effortlessly through departments, intranets, and subsites.

7. University of Arizona

Drupal allows for powerful collaboration that supports both educational and research departments. As the University of Arizona prides itself on being a global and student-centered university, its website enables its faculty and students to access manuals, procedural forms, and research updates with no fuss or frills.

The University of Arizona’s website remains to be one of its key tools in the pursuit of their goal of community-wide collaboration to help solve the critical challenges we face today.

8. Penn State

A major public university that serves Pennsylvania and the global community, Penn State aims to make its online presence widely accessible. Built with Drupal, the Penn State website allows for responsive mobile access. In an always-on, mobile-first environment, the Penn State website paves way for great and functional communication that translates across all kinds of mobile devices.

9. University of British Columbia

With the university’s purpose of pursuing excellence in research to foster global citizenship, the University of British Columbia continuously works for the advancement of a sustainable and just society across the globe.

One of their most crucial tools in this regard is a website that hosts rich content on their core institutional objectives and accomplishments. Drupal allows the UBC website to access a wide range of people across different communities by enabling seamless integration from their website to different social media platforms.

10. University of Toronto

In the same way that Drupal allows non-experts to easily create and manage amazing websites, the platform also enables the creation of websites with sophisticated and user-friendly journeys.

The University of Toronto’s website demonstrates Drupal’s ability to allow for a platform that’s deceptively easy to navigate and browse through. For institutes of higher education, this feature matters greatly as users ought to have an easy time accessing information on a university’s website.

Drupal continually demonstrates high levels of functionality, security, scalability, and flexibility in every way, and it’s no surprise, then, that Drupal is considered the foremost platform for developing higher education websites.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that universities looking to use Drupal to jump-start their digital presence or revamp an existing website should consult with experts for a comprehensive assessment of where to begin. The platform is intuitive, but expert guidance can go a long way when making a digital transformation.

May 29 2019
May 29

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) might not be the first thing you think of when designing a new website, but building an optimized framework from the start will help you drive traffic to your site and keep it there.

With our Drupal SEO checklist in hand, you can build an excellent website that draws customers in as soon as you launch. To give you a quick summary before we go into detail, here’s a bullet list of what to check before the launch day.

  • Check that all web pages have unique titles using the Page Title module

  • Check if your XML Sitemap and Google News Sitemap are configured properly

  • Check if the Redirect module is enabled and configured

  • Check if the Global Redirect module is enabled and configured

  • Check that .htaccess redirects to your site

  • Check that your homepage title includes a descriptive headline, logo, and primary image

  • Check if your meta tags are filled with descriptive information

  • Check that OG tags are filled correctly and with descriptive information

  • Check if your site's information displays well when shared on social

  • Check if your path alias patterns are meaningful

  • Check if Google Analytics is enabled and configured

  • Check if Site Verification is enabled and configured

  • Check if Search 404 module is enabled and configured

 

Drupal SEO: 13 Things that Will Improve Your Site's Ranking

 

1. Check that all web pages have unique titles

Titles are the first element that any user will see --whether they come directly to your site, find it on a search engine, or see it shared on social media. Not only do good page titles help customers who are already on your site, but they help with social sharing, and picking your site out of search engine results.

All of your pages should be easily identifiable to the end user. Not only should they have unique titles, but they should also have meaningful titles. Having multiple pages with the same titles (like “Get in touch”, “Contact us” and “Make a booking”) will simply confuse your end users and search engine crawlers.

From an SEO perspective, page titles are among the most important types of data you can fill, because they help search engines understand what each of your web pages is about.

Writing good titles is extremely important, and having keywords in your title that match a user's search greatly improves the chances of them clicking on your page. Moz suggests the following format for title tag design: Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.

You can set up unique page titles much easier if you install the Drupal Page Title module.

 

2. Check if XML Sitemap and Google News Sitemap are configured properly

The XML Sitemap module for Drupal creates a robot-friendly map of your site that Google and other search engines can crawl to categorize your website. You should configure XML Sitemap early in your site build for the best effect, but you can also alter the settings later on at admin/config/search/XML if needed.

You can view your sitemap from http://yoursite.com/sitemap.xml (just replace “yoursite.com” with your own domain).

Google News Sitemap offers a similar but different service that creates a Google-specific map for ranking under their “News” section and to appear as news items on their main SERP pages. These two modules work nicely side by side to make your site easy for search engines to crawl and index.

Image from Drupal.org

Please note that if your site contains accelerated mobile pages (AMPs), there is no need to create sitemaps for them. The rel=amphtml link is enough for Google to pick up on AMP versions, which means you can easily gain traffic from Top Stories carousels and mobile search.

 

3. Check if Redirect module is enabled and configured

Redirect is a handy module for making sure users always make it to your site. It uses case-insensitive matching to help catch broken links with redirects and tracks how often users are hitting those redirects.

You can use redirects to capture any broken links, set up promotional links, or simply capture typos users are entering when trying to access your site.

Image from webwash.net

 

4. Check if Global Redirect module is enabled and configured

If you’re using Drupal 8 you can skip this one because the functionality has been rolled into the Redirect module. Otherwise, install Global Redirect to work in tandem with Redirect to catch any broken links.

Global Redirect will test all links with and without a trailing slash, ensure links are case-insensitive, and if a link is truly broken, it will return a user to your home page rather than a 404 page that decreases the position of your site in SERPs.

Image from webwash.net

 

5. Check that .htaccess redirects to your site

Some users attempting to visit your site will navigate to www.yoursite.com, while others will simply type yoursite.com. By setting up your site to handle either request using an .htaccess redirect, you can be sure you won’t miss any visitors.

 

6. Check that the homepage title includes a descriptive headline, logo and primary image

Design a homepage title that contains a descriptive headline as well as a slogan, to represent who you are as a business. This is usually the first impression you give off to visitors the moment they land on your site or catch your entry on a search engine.

This is a good opportunity to load your website up with SEO-friendly keywords, but don’t go overboard and sacrifice your image for it - keyword stuffing may not only decrease the trust index of your site but also its conversion rates.

7. Ensure that your meta tags are filled with descriptive information

SEO-optimized meta tags remains to be one of the top on-page ranking factors. You can think of these as expanded page headers --short-form descriptions of your website that give users and search engines a clearer idea of what to expect out of a webpage.

Make sure to install the Metatag module on your site to have an easy, user-friendly interface for updating metadata. With the module installed you can easily populate meta data with keywords, page descriptions, and more.

The Metatag module will also give you extra control over how your site appears when shared on Twitter or Facebook.

8. Check that OG tags are filled correctly and with descriptive information.

OG tags are meta tags specifically designed to ensure your site communicates nicely with Facebook. By setting these tags correctly you will be able to control exactly how your site appears on Facebook, including what images and what taglines are used.

 

9. Check if your site information displays well when shared on Facebook and Twitter

After configuring the Metatag module and OG tags, pop over to Facebook and make sure that your site shares the way you would like it to. It’s important to test this out now before users start sharing your site.

Similarly, try tweeting a couple of your pages to see how well your Twitter Cards come through. If you don’t want to show your site to your audience until you are sure it’s set up properly, you can check Twitter Cards using the Card Validator.

For more information on configuring Twitter cards, check out these user guides by Twitter.

10. Check if your path alias patterns are meaningful

By default, Drupal will set your URLs to node/123 - while this works great for the database backend, it doesn’t work well for your end users, or for search engines.

You can use the Pathauto module to create rules and patterns for your URLs that will significantly cut down on your maintenance times and simplify your site navigation.

11. Check if Google Analytics is enabled and configured

While having Google Analytics configured won’t improve your SEO, it will give you all the data you need to understand where your users are coming from and how they behave once they hit your site.

Installing the Google Analytics module makes setting up and configuring Google Analytics a breeze.

12. Check if Site Verification is enabled and configured

Having your site verified will make it easier for search engines crawlers to reward you with a higher rank, and for Google to allow you to access private search data. With site verification, you will receive better data and better search engine rankings for just a few minutes work.

The Site Verification module makes it easy to prove to search engines that your site is truly your own.

13. Check if Search 404 module is enabled and configured

The Search 404 module is a saving grace for reducing your bounce rate and SERP rankings, as well as for improving your overall user experience. Instead of your users finding an ‘Error: Page not Found” in place of the content they were hoping for, they will be offered a search of your site based on the URL string.

For example, if www.yoursite.com/great-seo-tips doesn’t exist, use this module will automatically search your site for “Great SEO tips” and show visitors the results.

While SEO may seem like a tricky subject to wrap your head around, the basics are easy with the right modules and guidance, and Drupal is a great content management system for building search engine optimized websites.


If you liked our SEO checklist, then check out the other educational materials that we at Vardot have designed to help you build a top quality website. If you’re looking for even more ways to improve your site’s SEO, have a look at SEO articles on our blog --or better yet, get in touch with our team!

Apr 28 2019
Apr 28

From Donald Trump's consistent accusations to lack of ad revenue caused by the shift in media consumption behaviors, the digital disruption that hit the media industry left the majority of media outlets considering their next steps knowing that being left behind in the digital age meant the end for them.

Focus shifted from simply reporting the news to delivering the most engaging and comprehensive digital experience possible for their readers.

Al Bawaba News - The Largest Independent News Platform in the Middle East (Built by Vardot)

News and media platforms need to remain vigilant and embrace the tech trends that impact content publishing in the near future. Here are the trends that are expected to impact the digital news and journalism industry:

1. Contextual Experiences

We are more likely to be doing more than one thing at the same time and news media outlets should have that in mind when considering how to develop their UX.

For example, you are taking a run on the gym treadmill and a relevant news article was just published; would you interrupt your routine to read a long-form article? The most likely answer is no. The desire to read the article would fade as the minutes' pass.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could listen to published news articles as we run, work out, cook or even drive? That is now possible thanks to progress made in Natural Language Generation (NLG) technology.

Natural language generation (NLG) is a software process that automatically transforms data into written narrative whilst keeping in mind SEO related factors such as keywords and users reading proficiency levels which makes it a powerful tool for news media outlets who seek to create contextual experiences for their readers.

"By 2020, natural language generation and artificial intelligence will be a standard feature of 90% of modern BI and analytics platforms." - Gartner

According to the Future Today Institute; various major news media outlets have been utilizing Automated Insights; which mines data for them and is capable of writing more than 2,000 stories per second using natural language generation to produce stories.

As voice search is increasingly becoming the norm, users will begin to ask for general content with specific conditions: 
 
  • “Alexa, I am running late, please give me the headlines only.”
  • “Siri, please provide me with news articles that are less than 2 minutes long.”   

Users are always looking for the most convenient and personalized experience; the news media platform that delivers contextual experiences are sure to gain a lead over their competition.

Such a digital experience could grow an audience possibly become a subscription service in the near future.

2. Fact Checking – In Real Time

Promoted by a president, championed by biased political views and powered by algorithms; ‘fake news’ is a trend that has become an unfortunate reality.

What is real and what isn’t?

People have either become proudly misinformed in the bubble they live in, or fatigued to the point of apathy towards real journalism. This phenomenon is arguably the biggest immediate threat to the profession and what’s worse is that generating ‘fake news’ has become easier than ever.

Enhanced algorithms for voice, video, and sound are being generated. Researchers at MIT CSAIL have been studying how children learn new words in order to train computers how to recognize speech. Computers are also being trained to watch videos and predict corresponding sounds in the real world.

Whilst this progress will enable AI to provide richer and better user experiences, there have been examples of malpractice too.

In 2017, researchers at the University of Washington developed a model that convincingly showed President Barack Obama giving a speech—that he never actually gave in real life.

Algorithms provide you with news based on your likes, online behavior, and interactions. While this does enable news platforms to generate more traffic, but at what cost?

3. Bots

Most journalism is simply about reporting the news and bots have done that efficiently so far.

Bots have proven to be effective when it comes to receiving instant alerts regarding trade warnings, natural disasters and etc. Bots will continue to be refined and improved to automate news related tasks freeing up time to allow reporters to devote time to more important tasks.

The major risk associated with bots is that they are only as reliable as the people who build them. People or groups with nefarious interests can use bots to distribute false information.

Important:
 
  • Ensure that your bot clearly explains its purpose and specific functions are.
  • Your bot must be able to showcase from where the answers it provides are coming from without any bias towards an idea or people.
  • The bot must represent your news and media platform’s values. What happens if your bot interacts with another bot or person whose values counter those of your organization?

Bots will continue to play a key role in journalism and other fields heavily reliant on content publishing as they utilize a combination of bots and AI to create new content. 

With elections taking place around the world, misinformation bots will continue to play a big role on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can expect to see more tech-based solutions being proposed to address the issue; your news platform must follow suit to ensure the credibility of your journalism.

4. Digital Frailty

Digital frailty refers to the loss of digital assets such as published content and articles. Typically, a news agency would lose it's content when attempting to upgrade their website.

In reality, this issue is easily avoided and usually caused due to poor IT practices and vendor selection.

A simple way to protect your archives and preserve digital assets is to build your platform using a CMS that is flexible, structured and features a revision process. 

Varbase - Drupal Distribution Revision Comparison - Source: Drupal.org

 

Drupal is a great CMS for digital news and media businesses as it delivers on the aforementioned and more.

Mergers and acquisitions are another reason why specific content goes missing. This is increasingly alarming as the number of media outlet owners are becoming more and more involved in politics.

News outlets sometimes are forced to delete content that is not aligned with the new ownership’s politics. A recent example of this scenario that made headlines around the world is when the Trump administration deleted all climate change related content from government websites in favor of the new administration’s agenda.

These tech trends and disruptions are but a mere sample of what impacts the digital news media industry. They present challenges but also tons of opportunities to create an engaging digital media experience for readers. 

From global media titans to independent content publishing platforms; Vardot specializes in developing personalized digital experiences for the news and media industry. 

Contact us to discuss how you can transform your news and media platform into a state-of-the-art digital news experience.

Apr 10 2019
Apr 10

Editor’s Note -- This article was formerly listed as the Top 10 Websites Built with Drupal, and based on TopDrops.org. That site has since stopped updating, so we decided to pivot towards a new kind of value for our readers: the most surprising examples of Drupal-run sites.

Some of the world’s most influential businesses and organizations run their websites using Drupal: General Electric, eBay, The Economist, etc.

A good number of groups using the CMS might come as a surprise, however, and they prove its reliability for creating powerful and noteworthy sites. We checked the web to bring you our list of the top Drupal websites. For a list of Drupal’s 10 best sites, read on.

 

Entertainment Weekly (a.k.a. EW) is an American publication, owned by Time Inc., that covers film, television, music, theater, books and pop culture.

It’s renowned for covering all things Hollywood, from the latest films and trends to the high-octane lives of its celebrities. EW reports on television ratings, movie grosses, production costs, and even concert ticket sales. Their in-depth articles are among the top resources for the world’s favorite shows, producers, showrunners, and more.

In addition to being a top Drupal site, ew.com is also ranked by Alexa as the 902nd most popular website globally over the last three months.

 

Tesla is one of the world’s most talked-about companies, known for making waves in the markets for automobiles and clean energy. You’ve probably heard about their fleet of self-driving, electric cars or the Tesla Wall: a giant battery providing homes with storage options for clean energy.

Their site is neat, clean, and highly effective at showcasing their products. We’re big fans of their homepage in particular, and we recommend you check it out. It’s exactly what a future tech company’s website should look like!

College sports in the United States is big business. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a non-profit association which regulates athletic competitions for 1,281 institutions, hosts conferences, and manages related organizations across the United States.

In 2014, the NCAA generated nearly a billion dollars in revenue—80 to 90% of which was thanks to the Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.

Their website is a functional mix of sports journalism and sales. Not only do they post schedules, analysis, and video coverage, but they also market their team merchandise hosted on the secondary site, shopncaasports.com.

 

Mint.com is a free web-based personal financial management service that caters to over 16,000 US and Canadian financial institutions and self-reports having 10 million users. Mint's primary service allows users to track bank, credit card, investment, and loan transactions and balances them all through a single user interface --as well as create personal budgets and goals.

In 2009, it was acquired by Intuit, the makers of Quicken and TurboTax. Judging by the look and feel of their site, that merger came with a bump in digital marketing expertise; Mint.com is simple, clean, and makes user acquisition easy.

 

Australia leans on Drupal to power their website: a sprawling information resource for citizens, visitors, and entrepreneurs. The site hosts over 3,000 distinct pages covering topics from healthcare and culture to career opportunities and travel suggestions. The website even goes the extra mile by linking to local news and social media channels.

Australia.gov.au is a great example of Drupal’s ability to organize and present information. The site is designed like an inverted funnel, with the homepage offering a selection of categories that branch into more specific topics the deeper you dive.

 

Founded in 1826, Le Figaro is the oldest national newspaper in France. It is the second-largest national newspaper in France after Le Parisien and before Le Monde and is part of Le Figaro Group, whose publications include TV Magazine and Evene.

The site delivers a variety of features that naturally belong on the website of a leading periodical. Page load speed is stellar despite being packed with feeds, media, and a live video pop-up on the bottom corner of the screen.

 

The Emmy Awards are a group of American awards dedicated to recognizing the best of U.S. television --from its actors and directors to its engineers and humanitarian impact. Their website covers featurettes on notable happenings and personalities surrounding television around the world (though naturally centered on America), as well as event schedules and videos of events and commentary.

Their site is dense in terms of content but smooth in presentation --just what you might expect from a showbiz powerhouse like the Television Academy.

While there are many options to choose from regarding themes for your website's content, here's our list of recommended Drupal themes that enable an effective and engaging digital experience.

 

Keap offers a client management service and automation platform (Infusionsoft) for small businesses. Their products are aimed at streamlining the customer lifecycle, facilitating customer relationship management, marketing automation, lead capture, and e-commerce.

Based in Chandler, Arizona, USA, Keap is one of the fastest growing private companies in the region, adding 240 jobs between 2012 and 2013, and also receiving $54 million in venture capital from Goldman Sachs in early 2013.

 

ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs is the news division of the ABS-CBN Corporation, a Philippine media conglomerate. It’s headquartered in the Philippines, and has news bureaus in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East, making it the largest and the most comprehensive news outlet when it comes to local and international newsgathering in the island nation.

Their website is powered by Drupal, which allows them to deliver news in real time, connect across various social media platforms, and encourage community discussion through a login system for news readers to set up profiles and engage in discussions.

NASA is the American government’s flagship agency for its civilian space program, aeronautics research, and aerospace research. They stand at the forefront of many of the world’s latest discoveries in physics, astronomy, and engineering --and their website is a haven for the world’s science enthusiasts.

Their site hosts information about past and present space missions, ultra-high definition photos and videos of the cosmos, and download links to a nearly endless amount of apps and learning resources for those looking to learn more about the universe we inhabit. It’s a shining example of Drupal CMS used to present stunning information, and elevate the user’s experience.

Honorable Mentions

As of 2019; the following 2 major platforms were revamped and enhanced as digital experiences with Drupal 8:

Amman Stock Exchange

and

Al-Bawaba News

New Drupal sites are always being uploaded, updated, and refined as the world’s site designers and marketers find more ways to work with the system. Drupal’s large community of developers and companies like Vardot are always at work innovating the craft of designing with Drupal; it’s only a matter of time before new sites earn a spot on our list.

Do you agree with our list of top 10 Drupal websites in the world? If you don't or see better websites out there worth mentioning... let us know in the comments!

Mar 11 2019
Mar 11

Few things are as good for a business as a website that looks great and runs well. When you’ve established a strong digital presence and rank well on Google, then you’re set to chase and convert leads to your heart’s delight.

Before any of those gains materialize, however, there’s the tricky task of building that website.

If you’ve chosen to use the Drupal CMS, then congratulations: you’ve made the right choice. Drupal is agile, powerful, and home to a wide community of developers and entrepreneurs.

Moreover, Drupal makes it possible to choose themes: templates that do most of the legwork of designing a site so you need only worry about the parts that matter (ex. your lead magnets, SEO, and copy).

Since not all themes are created equal... we’ve compiled a rundown of the 7 best Drupal themes to use in 2019:

1. Progressive by NikaDevs

Progressive is a theme that offers great value for money.

Its creators have packaged it with over 200 interactive elements, meaning you’ll be sure to find a function that lets your site move and behave just the way you envisioned it. It comes with video hosting, unique slider effects, and visual features that are guaranteed to capture an audience’s attention.

Our favorite thing about the theme is the set of four homepages offered at entry. While other themes force you into a single aesthetic mode, Progressive offers its solutions without placing implicit restrictions on your design options.

Price: $59

Compatibility: Drupal 7 & 8

Best used for: Businesses of all shapes and sizes.

2. TheMAG by PinkDexo

 

Today’s marketing is all about content that informs, entertains, or intrigues. It’s for this reason that TheMAG by PinkDexo ranks on our list of the best Drupal themes for 2019: it’s built to house content and house it well.

TheMAG is ideal for sites that want to rake in ad revenue, profit from content, or showcase products. It comes with a wide range of layout options and interactive elements, but it shines the most when used to present content in the style of a --you guessed it-- magazine.

We recommend taking a look at the theme before getting too excited. It’s a perfect fit for certain niches (blogging, journalism, entertainment) but other types of businesses would do best to continue reading through our list.

Price: $54

Compatibility: Drupal 7, Drupal 8, Drupal Thunder, & Drupal Commerce

Best used for: Media and Entertainment.  Businesses that lean on blogging activity.

 

 

3. Winnex by gavias

Winnex perfects soft and professional design through its clean look and implicit geometry. It took the best lessons out of the adage, “less is more,” and used them to create an intuitive theme for professionals looking to market their services.

The theme gives users an easy time of site development thanks to its block-based, drag-and-drop interface, its support staff, and the numerous video tutorials they’ve produced.

Winnex gets all the basics right, but our favorite feature is how effortless it is to upload and display videos. After all, when it comes to pitching a service, it pays to set your site up with content that builds user trust.

Price: $48

Compatibility: Drupal 8

Best used for: Consultancy and other B2B services.

 

 

4. Porto by refaktor

Part of a CMS’ job is to simplify the job of web design. In this regard, Porto is a theme that surpasses expectations. We’re hard-pressed to think of any other theme that can get so much done in so simple a way.

Porto features an unparalleled level of customization, with nearly endless options for page layout, header design, color mixing, and media hosting. This means that any business -- from consultants to home repair services, to e-commerce businesses -- can build their dream site using the theme.

Price: $59

Compatibility: Drupal 7, Drupal 8, Drupal Commerce, & Bootstrap 3.x

Best used for: E-Commerce. Businesses of all shapes and sizes.

 

 

5. Jango by NikaDevs

NikaDevs is back on the list with another highly versatile theme. Like Progressive, Jango offers endless potential for web design. Unlike Progressive, however, Jango presents itself as a theme for more timeless web design.

You’ll see fewer colors and gimmicks in their marketing, which can work well to favor businesses that need a site that keeps things simple. As with all themes on this list, Jango is structured, responsive, and offers support for its users.

Jango is a straightforward Drupal theme in the sense that it performs as needed, with minimal flash and maximum impact.

Price: $59

Compatibility: Drupal 7, Drupal 8, Drupal Commerce, & Bootstrap 3.x

Best used for: Any business that wants a simple and effective website.

 

 

6. OWL by gavias

Cafe and restaurant owners can breathe easy knowing there’s a Drupal theme specially designed for them. OWL is a quick and easy to use theme that knows the needs and demands of the food industry.

Our favorite feature of OWL is its capacity to host high resolution, Retina-ready images that food photographers are sure to appreciate. Coupled this with a simple interface and support for all kinds of modern programming tools (ex. Bootstrap, Custom CSS, SASS, etc.) and you have the perfect theme for restaurateurs.

Price: $48

Compatibility: Drupal 8, Bootstrap 3.x

Best used for: Hospitality. Restaurants and Cafes

 

 

7. Edmix by gavias

Our final entry, and our third from developer gavias, is a theme that caters to educational sites and businesses that offer online courses or tutorials. Edmix appears to take the best design features from of popular sites like Coursera and Udemy, giving its users the ability to shine a spotlight on their courses and videos.

As is the standard for gavias themes, the interface is easy to use and comes with assistance in the form of their support team, and library of tutorial videos.

Price: $56

Compatibility: Drupal 8, Drupal Commerce, & Bootstrap 3.x

Best used for: Online universities, masterclass services, etc.

 

This list covers what we think to be the best Drupal themes for a business operating in 2019. As you’ll notice, the best themes are versatile, and they allow for a high degree of customization to let businesses present the best sides of themselves without sacrificing style.

If you’ve had luck with any of the themes above, or if you know of a theme that you feel deserves a place on the list, feel free to write to us or leave a comment below.

Likewise, if you need help using Drupal or deploying any of the themes we’ve listed, Varbase is a powerful website builder platform that empowers businesses to build fast, reliable, and search optimized websites in record time.

How to Rank #1 on Google Using Drupal CMS

Feb 17 2019
Feb 17
Feb 17 2019
Feb 17

"Content is king! SEO is so 2017." Sure, why not.

Where is that king's throne? Where do you find content?

Content is found on web and mobile pages across the internet, amongst millions of millions of pages. Search Engine Optimization is about the process of being found by your content consumers and readers.

What Search Engine Optimization is not is that it's all about keywords; a common and prevalent misconception. You still need to create content that is of relevance to someone searching for it.

and of course, follow Google's rules and learn their ranking factors.

Basic stuff really.

"SEO? Gotta follow the Google machine's rules bro"

 

A critical consideration that usually escapes the decision-making process of what to use to publish that content: Which CMS suits my needs the most? 

A CMS (Content Management System) is the beating heart of your digital platform, website or experience. It is where you develop, manage and publish your content. Most websites look like Ferraris' but drive like an Austin Allegro.

Long story short, the CMS you built your site on will play a key role in your SEO efforts.

 

4 Ways Drupal CMS Enhances Your SEO

I am not here to shamelessly promote Drupal CMS (I really am though), but if you are looking to create the best digital experience for your users without bothering about on-site SEO then look no further than Drupal.

At its core, Drupal was built with SEO in mind. It has the power, flexibility, and tools needed to optimize every facet of your website for search engines, and in its huge kit of modules, there are quite a few that are dedicated to giving you an easier time when it comes to improving the optimization of your website. 

 

1. Implementing Meta tags

Meta tags are bits of text that are integral when it comes to improving your website’s search ranking, because, in a way, it tells search engines what the content is on each page on your website. This could be the titles of your pages to the little descriptions you see underneath the website links on a Google results page. You and your search engine need these bits of information to properly present and index your site on the search results page.

Usually, you can leave it up to your search engine to generate your page’s metadata for you, but by using the Drupal Metatag module, you can customize the metadata yourself. Set your own information such as page titles and descriptions to more properly and correctly present your site to your search engine and the online world.

 

 

2. Cleaning up Your URLs

 

Having bad, messy-looking links is a no-no when it comes to SEO. You want links that are easy to read and not just a jumble of letters and numbers so that they look more attractive to prospective visitors and to your search engine, who may be looking at your URL for keywords when it determines your site’s ranking.

Many web developers never realize the implications of messy URLs and leave their link syntax as-is, but going through each and every page on your website and manually setting the URLs isn’t an attractive option either. Luckily, Drupal generates clean URLs by default, improving the readability of your links and making things a bit easier on you.

If you want your links to be better and even more easy on the eyes, popular Drupal module Pathauto is a configurable system that automatically creates clean and extremely readable links that are perfect for your site’s optimization.

Another thing to keep in mind is making sure that your links actually go somewhere. Nothing sours the user experience more than clicking a link and being presented with a 404 page, and this in turn negatively affects your search rankings.

You can avoid this from happening by using the Redirect module. If you happened to have changed the page’s URL after Google indexed it, or moved the content to a different URL, this module allows you to make 301 redirects from that old link to the new one, quickly and painlessly, without having to go through the headache of cleaning up after yourself and fixing broken links.

 

3. Improving Page Speed

Google has been using the speed your page loads as an influencing factor in search rankings for years at this point. As they point out, sites that load faster have users that stay on for much longer, so it’s not only Google that you’re pleased by speeding up your website.

You might have to spend a little to have your website up to speed, but Drupal comes with several measures to help pages load faster, such as using BigPipe.

However, it’s not only desktop users you have to keep in mind, but mobile users, too. Given the leaps and bounds that technology has undergone in the last couple of years, you now find more and more people browsing the web on their smartphones and tablets. It’s important to make sure that your site experience is just as friendly and accessible on mobile devices as it is on desktop computers. As anyone who has used a desktop site on a mobile device knows, it’s not a pleasant experience.

Drupal’s default theme is responsive by design, which means it will display well on mobile screens of any size without having to do complicated rewrites of code or having to juggle multiple URLs to make sure your site displays correctly. With Google now also looking at the page speed of mobile sites, it’s now more important than ever to focus on delivering a good, well-optimized mobile experience to improve your SEO.

 

 

4. Talking to Your Search Engine

Optimizing your website can be a little tough when you don’t even know basic things such as where your site traffic is coming from. Installing modules like Google Analytics makes you privy to such information, and for someone with their finger on the pulse of the site’s SEO, it’s perhaps one of the most important tools they can have.

With Google Analytics, you get to know things about your site visitors: Where in the world they come from, which links they followed to get to your site, which pages they visit and how much time they spend on those pages, what keywords they searched to find your page and more. If you’re concerned about SEO, then getting information about your website directly from Google, the most popular search engine in the world is valuable information to have, and can help you make decisions on what to improve on next.

And while you’re pulling information from Google about your website, you can also provide information about your website to Google in the form of an XML sitemap. These are specially formatted, condensed summaries of the pages of content on your website that you can submit to Google to help them find your site and let their bots crawl through your pages. Google can crawl through your site without an XML sitemap, but you take on the risk of them possibly missing pages.

With Drupal, generating an XML sitemap is as easy as installing the XML sitemap module which creates one for you, and modules like Cron can automatically make sure your sitemap is kept up-to-date with the latest information from your website.

Drupal is inherently optimized for search engines after all the whole idea behind Drupal was to enable the creation of digital experiences that are user-centric. That user includes the development team who are always aided by the open-source community of experts that provide us with awesome SEO tools such as the SEO Checklist.

You see, friend... SEO is not dead. Content's prominence just made SEO eternal.

Want to boost your site’s traffic and rank #1 on Google with Drupal? Message us through our Contact Us page, or via email at [email protected].

3 Reasons Why Drupal Distributions Are Essential

Jan 15 2019
Jan 15
Nov 14 2018
Nov 14

The role of marketers has evolved beyond simply managing and coordinating online advertising campaigns to drive traffic to their respective websites; successful marketers must transform themselves to become storytellers.

Storytelling is an essential skill to master the art of crafting a digital experience for your digital business would-be customers and users. 

Therefore, as a digital business, you must be strategic when it comes to choosing the appropriate platform for your digital experience. 

The fact that you can easily publish and manage multimedia content across multiple websites under one brand has made Drupal a popular and strategic platform for enterprises, the media, healthcare and even powering digital governments.

In short; Drupal is a dream come true for marketers working in the aforementioned industries and sectors.

 

Here are 5 Drupal modules that were created by the Drupal community for marketers:

 

 

HubSpot is a widely used and popular inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.

HubSpot Integration Settings

Lead generation is a carefully planned ongoing process; deliberate in targeting users based on personalized content marketing.

HubSpot CRM is relied upon by marketers to enable them to qualify the leads generated from the landing pages they developed on their websites.

Marketers that use Drupal-based websites have saved a lot of time and effort by connecting their HubSpot CRM with their web forms that capture the desired user data.

For example, a Webform-based contact form on your site can send its data to HubSpot, where you may already track potential clients and contacts; or a Webform-based e-newsletter signup could send the lead to HubSpot's targeted marketing system, letting you use your pre-existing email campaigns.

Moreover, marketers that create content on HubSpot, can easily display it in Drupal 8’s front-end.

With almost 5,000,000 downloads and nearly 500,000 websites using this module; this makes Webform one of the most popular Drupal modules out there.

Webform Wizard Admin

Forms are an essential feature of a digital experience that relies upon gathering user data relevant to content marketing and personalizing user experiences across all relevant digital platforms.

Webform enables integration with various 3rd party marketing solutions such as MailChimp, HubSpot, and Salesforce to name but a few. You can find a comprehensive list of Webform add-ons here.

A great and simple guide to how you can get started on form building using Webform is available here courtesy of OSTraining.

This Drupal module adds the Google Analytics web statistics tracking system to your website.

Google Analytics Admin Section

According to Builtwith.com, Google Analytics is the most popular analytics tool in the world with at least 37 million live websites currently using the giant tracking and performance monitoring platform.

Marketers that use Drupal website benefit from the Google Analytics module to identify their traffic size, traffic sources and track the performance of their website with regards to ongoing personalization of their user experience.

Being able to seamlessly integrate Google Analytics also provides marketers with real-time data for current site usage and user behaviour. In addition to the aforementioned; marketers can track almost every statistic imaginable such as User ID, domain, as well as how many and which files were downloaded and by whom.

For full details regarding the statistics that marketers can track, visit the official Drupal module webpage for Google Analytics here.

This module provides integration with MailChimp, a popular email delivery service.

MailChimp Logo

Regularly maintained and reliable, MailChimp is a favourite tool amongst email marketers. That is mainly due to the attention to both sides of the email exchanges taking place.

This Drupal module allows email marketers to create and send email marketing campaigns from your website and analyze the performance of the campaign while monitoring the behaviour of users interacting with your emails.

On the other hand, your website visitors can choose to subscribe (or unsubscribe) easily to the email list of their preference.

MailChimp is not limited to email delivery only; you can also integrate MailChimp E-Commerce which allows marketers to optimize their online store sales via personalized email marketing campaigns and automation workflows.

This module provides integration with the Crazy Egg heat map service.

Crazy Egg Heatmap

Much of digital business and marketing success comes down to the ongoing enhancement of your digital experience.

This requires a consistent effort of monitoring feedback from your users who in the end must be able to enjoy an engaging user experience that doesn't feature frustrating issues such as slow page load speed and irrelevant content.

The aforementioned frustrations can heavily impact your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts to rank higher on search engines like Google; which makes monitoring online user behaviour on-site all the more imperative for marketers.

Crazy Egg is a simple Drupal module that is easy to install to your Drupal 8 (or D7) website to gain access to various reporting formats that showcase online behaviour on your web pages.

By recording the user behaviour, marketers are able to gain a visual insight into how users interact with different elements, features, and components of their website. Marketers are able to understand where users face challenges browsing the site, which aspects of the website they spend most of their time on and which they avoid completely.

Ultimately, the feedback gained allows marketers to develop the best UI, UX, and content in a more informed manner.

This is a core Varbase feature. We strongly recommend Varbase as the ultimate starter kit and distribution to build your Drupal digital experiences.

Varbase SEO

Enterprise level organizations and governments that rely upon an ongoing content marketing process require a content publishing and management solution that can handle heavy traffic without compromising performance standards.

This is where Varbase saves the day.

Not only is Varbase inherently optimized for all search engines it also enables you as a content marketer to optimize your multilingual content regardless of the media format to a diverse and global target audience.

  • Optimized markup that is compliant and accessible to WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards
  • XML Sitemap that is also language aware
  • Content SEO grader and recommendations
  • Full-suite of meta tags and descriptive tags that makes your site more optimized, integrated and favourable to search engines such as Google, Yandex, and Bing, and social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and many other
  • Total control over how your site will look when appearing on search results
  • Handle redirects with ease and prevent dead links
  • Readable and SEO-friendly URLs that automatically reads your site's structure and hierarchy
You can view our work on digital experiences that were built using Varbase here.

Honourable Mentions:

Honeypot

One of the popular Drupal modules available out there. Used by marketers and Drupal platforms that wish to avoid spam.

Honeypot keeps your database clean by blocking spambots from using your web forms using both the honeypot and timestamp methods and is not as intrusive as CAPTCHAs.

 

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

The AMP module is designed to convert Drupal pages into pages that comply with the AMP standard

AMP is important because it helps web pages load faster which potentially improves usability and convinces visitors to stay longer on your site engaging with your content.

The logic is straightforward: faster load time leads to better engagement, which reduces bounce rate and improves mobile ranking.

If we were to feature every Drupal module out there the list would be way too long, so which Drupal modules do you prefer? How does it help you achieve your marketing goals?

Share with us your own preferences and we will surely feature them as soon as possible.

Oct 24 2018
Oct 24

We are honored to have been chosen as the only company from Jordan to be featured in Clutch’s 2018 Leading B2B firms in Africa and Asia list. Clutch is one of the world’s leading B2B networking platforms.

The list features 200 identified companies based on in-depth evaluation of 12 qualitative and quantitative factors.

Leading up to this award; we look back at 2018 and recognize the moments that enabled us to earn this recognition:

Drupal Community Recognition

Only one person managed to contribute more than Rajab Natshah towards the open-source community of Drupal.

Representing both Vardot and the Jordan Open Source Association; senior software engineer and good friend Rajab’s valuable contributions were recognized and appreciated by the Drupal open-source community.

Vardot has always valued the feedback of the open-source community and we shall continue to work hard towards advancing the principles of open-source and Drupal technology.

We are very proud of Rajab for putting Jordan on the open-source Drupal community map in 2018 make sure to follow him on Twitter!

Contribution by Country to Drupal in 2018

 Source: Dries Buytaert

Masterful Expertise

Sustaining a reputation as a leading enterprise solutions providers and digital experience platform builders is a never-ending endeavor that relies on a team with a passionate drive to be the best.

2018 has been particularly eventful for Omar Alahmed who became a full-fledged Drupal 8 Grand Master back in July.

Acquia Certified Site Builder (Drupal 8)

  • Muath Khraisat
  • Ahmad Halah
  • Omar Alahmed
  • Yasmeen Abuerrub
  • Rajab Natshah
  • Mahmoud Zayed
  • Sally Nader

Acquia Certified Developers (Drupal 8)

  • Muath Khraisat
  • Omar Alahmed
  • Mahmoud Zayed
  • Rajab Natshah

Acquia Certified Back-End Specialist (Drupal 8)

Acquia Certified Front-End Specialist (Drupal 8)

  • Omar Alahmed
  • Mahmoud Zayed

It’s still early days, this list may yet expand before years’ end.

The First Drupal 8 Back End Developer in MENA

Success Stories


Working on new, interesting and rewarding projects with great clients was a blessing in 2018 as we get to be part of the development of great ideas and products.

Here’s a selection of our favorites:

The platform is quickly becoming the premier e-learning community for the Arab speaking market.

It's never too late to brush up on your knowledge or learn something new. Join a growing community of 80,000+ members.

Awa2el on Devices

A unique product that enables users to tell their life story or memoirs in a seamless manner.

The Life Writer

Thanks to Drupal modules, The application features full cross-device optimization, secure e-commerce capabilities and the ability to dictate text via speech smoothly.

After building their official digital platform; we were honored to be selected again by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to develop their official donation platform.

To learn more about how you can improve the lives of people who need your help, don’t hesitate to visit the platform here.

UNRWA Donation

Access to quality education is a universal right. Working with the Queen Rania Foundation on their latest education enablement initiative; the Queen Rania Award for Education Entrepreneurship is a project dear to our hearts.

If you are an entrepreneur or educator that has an idea to advance education in any manner; check here if your idea qualifies!

You still have 2 weeks before the deadline for submission arrives.

QRA Screenshot on Devices

The Middle East has seen more than it's fair share of hate and social injustice; which makes the Meshkat community initiative a positive step forward in rebuilding social cohesion within future generations.

Meshkat Community (مجتمع مِشكاة) is an initiative launched by PeaceGeeks in Jordan in 2017 which strengthens community cohesion and constructive dialogue in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region by building the skills, networks, knowledge, and action of citizens. 

 

The list is too long to mention but the effort to deliver is ongoing. We are currently working on awesome projects with the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), Al Bawaba News, Queen Rania Foundation, United Nations Ops (UNOPS), ProEquest, Amman Stock Exchange and ICARDA.

New Accounts and Partnerships

Varbase Evolution


Thanks to the valued feedback from the open-source community we were able to sustain frequent releases that enhance the performance of Varbase. Varbase is the ultimate CMS starter kit for Drupal projects.

During 2018; more developers and project teams adopted Varbase as their go-to solution to build effective digital experiences. Vardot is constantly maintaining and improving upon Varbase to guarantee that it delivers on the promise of enhancing Drupal project delivery by automating best practices and modules available.


Download Varbase

Expanding Our Horizons


Success is collaborative. As such, we are always seeking to grow bigger and better by collaborating with organizations that match our passion for excellence.

Strategic partnerships are only strategic if they are the right partnerships, forged in a bid to achieve larger and common objectives. 

Vardot is pleased to have built relationships with Naseej and Boston Consulting Group in 2018. A relationship that will reap bigger rewards for all involved.

In the end; the real reason why we are where we are today is our team.

Congrats to all the team members that enriched our expertise, knowledge and enhanced our ability to deliver to our clients even more.

Well done, Vardotters.
You earned this.

Official Clutch Release: Leading B2B Companies in Greater Asia and Africa Announced for 2018

Sep 06 2018
Sep 06

Drupal 8.6 was released yesterday and is being touted as the most significant update to Drupal 8 so far.  Browsing initiatives being undertaken by the Drupal community always gave an indicator towards the direction and future of Drupal. It’s easy to understand why the ever-growing community of Drupal users were eagerly anticipating this latest version which promises to focus on enhancing the user experience as a priority.

So, beyond the usual fixes and improvements typical of any update; Vardot decided to highlight the new features and capabilities included in the latest release.

 

1. Media Editing and Management

A new media library has now become a core feature of Drupal 8.6. This upgrade significantly enhances the experience of content publishers and content marketing teams’ performance in particular.

As an integrated feature of Drupal 8.6; the new media library can be customized based on your needs as a content editor and publisher. Upgrading your CMS to the latest update will enable you as a content marketer to easily edit, publish and manage your content:

  • High efficiency – The mundane task of re-uploading existing media content is a thing of the past now as all media content can be saved and browsed in the new media library available in Drupal 8.6.

  • Embedding made easy – the latest Drupal version features built-in stable support for embedding remote media. In particular; YouTube and Vimeo video content.

 

 

 

2. Workspaces

Since the Workflow module has become stable back in version 8.4; staging of multiple content changes at the same time (Workspaces) has been one of the Drupal community’s most requested improvements.

This has been duly delivered as an experimental Workspaces module in Drupal 8.6. A simple and intuitive user interface enables users to define workspaces, deploy multiple content items between them in a smooth manner.

The Workspaces module is steadily evolving but even at this experimental stage; it will prove to be a major upgrade especially for website who prefer or need to publish various changes at once.

 

3. Layout Builder

A much-anticipated tool that enhances the site-building experience and authoring capabilities.

Provide a drag and drop interface for creating layouts, which can apply both to overall site sections, as well as overridden on individual landing pages.

Web pages can be more dynamic, personalized and purpose-driven now that site builders can take advantage of the Layout Builder module in Drupal 8.6. The flexibility that users are provided to create unique layouts for unique content formats is an exciting feature which will undoubtedly continue to develop and become a stable key feature of the updates to come.

If you still need help enabling the layout features, OS Training made a clear and simple guide.

 

4. Meeting Evaluators Needs

Drupal has introduced a smoother installation out-of-the-box experience in the form of a demo profile dubbed ‘Umami Food Magazine’ which showcases the most powerful capabilities of Drupal and an overview of a variety of sample views and field types.

Recognizing the importance of a positive evaluator experience; Acquia CTO Dries Buytaert has outlined the Drupal 8.6 installation process in response to challenges that faced evaluators of early Drupal version experiences.

Importantly, the latest update includes major improvements to the download experience and documentation. Users can now download and install fully functional Drupal demo applications in under 2 minutes, whilst new users in particular can benefit from the revamped documentation found on Drupal.org.

 

5. Migration

According to the official release announcement; migrating your website from Drupal 6 and 7 to Drupal 8 has never been easier as almost all migration modules are stable.

Drupal Association’s Marketing Communications Manager writes: “Drupal 8.6 sees both Migrate Drupal (migrations from previous major Drupal versions) as well as Migrate Drupal UI (upgrade user interface) modules provide a solution to update older sites. This means that if you have a monolingual Drupal 6 or 7 site, you can now use a supported and built-in user interface to migrate your site to Drupal 8. Multilingual migrations are still experimental and now wrapped in the Migrate Drupal Multilingual module.”

This update has been anticipated by content editors and developers alike and we are sure that Drupal 8.6 will afford users and the community as a whole to pursue opportunities to innovate and improve upon the great advances made so far.

Did the latest update address your priority issues? If not, what are they?

Let us know what you think of the new update.

Aug 09 2018
Aug 09

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a hot topic when it comes to the discussion of online marketing. In today’s Internet climate, most people usually find websites by typing in a few keywords into their search engine of choice, like Google. Folks trust Google to present only the most relevant sites to their search queries, so it’s only natural the first couple of sites that get thrown up are the ones that get the most clicks and visitors.

As a consequence, those top page rankings are viewed as a prime real estate by those who want to boost traffic to their websites. After all, hardly anyone would bother checking the sixteenth results page when searching for a word or phrase. This is where SEO comes in.

 

What Is SEO? 

What is SEO | Vardot

SEO is the practice of optimizing a website to rank high among search engines. It’s a set of rules for organizing, populating, and presenting your website in such a way that improves its search rankings and puts businesses in a better position to earn.

Perhaps intentionally, having a well-optimized website not only makes search engines happy, it also makes visitors happy. Well-optimized websites are fast and easy to navigate, leaving your visitors with a positive impression and making them want to stick around your site a little more.

If you want to drive all that traffic to your website, it’s important to have the basics of SEO down pat, and have a grasp on what good and bad SEO practices are. It’s also important to have a good engine underneath the hood of your website, and Drupal just might be the CMS for you if that’s the case.

At its core, Drupal was built with SEO in mind. It has the power, flexibility, and tools needed to optimize every facet of your website for search engines, and in its huge kit of modules, there are quite a few that are dedicated to giving you an easier time when it comes to improving the optimization of your website. You really can’t go wrong with Drupal if you have your web page's search ranking in mind, and here are just a couple of things you can do with Drupal to improve your SEO and shoot to the top of Google search results.

 

Implementing Metatags

Meta tags | Vardot

Meta tags are bits of text that are integral when it comes to improving your website’s search ranking, because, in a way, it tells search engines what the content is on each page on your website. This could be the titles of your pages to the little descriptions you see underneath the website links on a Google results page. You and your search engine need these bits of information to properly present and index your site on the search results page.

Usually, you can leave it up to your search engine to generate your page’s metadata for you, but by using the Drupal Metatag module, you can customize the metadata yourself. Set your own information such as page titles and descriptions to more properly and correctly present your site to your search engine and the online world.

 

Cleaning up Your URLs

SEO URLs | Vardot

 

Having bad, messy-looking links is a no-no when it comes to SEO. You want links that are easy to read and not just a jumble of letters and numbers so that they look more attractive to prospective visitors and to your search engine, who may be looking at your URL for keywords when it determines your site’s ranking.

Many web developers never realize the implications of messy URLs and leave their link syntax as-is, but going through each and every page on your website and manually setting the URLs isn’t an attractive option either. Luckily, Drupal generates clean URLs by default, improving the readability of your links and making things a bit easier on you.

If you want your links to be better and even more easy on the eyes, popular Drupal module Pathauto is a configurable system that automatically creates clean and extremely readable links that are perfect for your site’s optimization.

Another thing to keep in mind is making sure that your links actually go somewhere. Nothing sours the user experience more than clicking a link and being presented with a 404 page, and this in turn negatively affects your search rankings.

You can avoid this from happening by using the Redirect module. If you happened to have changed the page’s URL after Google indexed it, or moved the content to a different URL, this module allows you to make 301 redirects from that old link to the new one, quickly and painlessly, without having to go through the headache of cleaning up after yourself and fixing broken links.

 

Improving Page Speed

Improve page speed | Vardot

Google has been using the speed your page loads as an influencing factor in search rankings for years at this point. As they point out, sites that load faster have users that stay on for much longer, so it’s not only Google that you’re pleased by speeding up your website.

You might have to spend a little to have your website up to speed, but Drupal comes with several measures to help pages load faster, such as using BigPipe.

However, it’s not only desktop users you have to keep in mind, but mobile users, too. Given the leaps and bounds that technology has undergone in the last couple of years, you now find more and more people browsing the web on their smartphones and tablets. It’s important to make sure that your site experience is just as friendly and accessible on mobile devices as it is on desktop computers. As anyone who has used a desktop site on a mobile device knows, it’s not a pleasant experience.

Drupal’s default theme is responsive by design, which means it will display well on mobile screens of any size without having to do complicated rewrites of code or having to juggle multiple URLs to make sure your site displays correctly. With Google now also looking at the page speed of mobile sites, it’s now more important than ever to focus on delivering a good, well-optimized mobile experience to improve your SEO.

 

Read more: SEO Checklist Before Launching Your Drupal Website

 

Talking to Your Search Engine

Search engine optimization tips | Vardot

Optimizing your website can be a little tough when you don’t even know basic things such as where your site traffic is coming from. Installing modules like Google Analytics makes you privy to such information, and for someone with their finger on the pulse of the site’s SEO, it’s perhaps one of the most important tools they can have.

With Google Analytics, you get to know things about your site visitors: Where in the world they come from, which links they followed to get to your site, which pages they visit and how much time they spend on those pages, what keywords they searched to find your page and more. If you’re concerned about SEO, then getting information about your website directly from Google, the most popular search engine in the world is valuable information to have, and can help you make decisions on what to improve on next.

And while you’re pulling information from Google about your website, you can also provide information about your website to Google in the form of an XML sitemap. These are specially formatted, condensed summaries of the pages of content on your website that you can submit to Google to help them find your site and let their bots crawl through your pages. Google can crawl through your site without an XML sitemap, but you take on the risk of them possibly missing pages.

With Drupal, generating an XML sitemap is as easy as installing the XML sitemap module which creates one for you, and modules like Cron can automatically make sure your sitemap is kept up-to-date with the latest information from your website.

 

Conclusion

These are only just a couple of the things you can do with Drupal to improve your SEO. Like all things worth doing, you can’t just press a button and magically have a well-made website ready to dominate the first page of the Google search rankings. It takes a good grasp of the basics, as well as a little effort, to have a perfectly optimized web page.

However, the road to that coveted #1 spot on the search results pages become a lot less bumpy thanks to the ease that Drupal gives you when it comes to optimizing your site.

Want to boost your site’s traffic and rank #1 on Google with Drupal? Message us through our Contact Us page, or via email at [email protected].

Why Drupal Is the Right CMS for Nonprofits & NGO’s

Jul 17 2018
Jul 17

Moving from Sharepoint to Drupal 8

Jun 20 2018
Jun 20

6 Reasons Why Leading News and Media Networks are Using Drupal 8

Jun 12 2018
Jun 12

Why Choose Drupal 8 to Migrate from your Legacy CMS?

Jun 06 2018
Jun 06
Apr 08 2018
Apr 08

Intro

As the old adage goes, the devil is in the details. Websites are complex ecosystems that have many moving parts—it takes more than an eye-catching layout and clever text, as you’ll soon realize as we go through this article.

Here are a few pointers to get you started on the wild web:

 

Drupal CMS

First and foremost, jumpstart your web journey with a great software that allows for a hassle-free content management—easy writing, fast performance, and reliable security.

Drupal, one of the most well-known platforms for web content management easily ticks all the right boxes, creating a strong foundation that will power your venture into digital. Through modular solutions that create integrated digital frameworks, this free and flexible open source platform gives you the power to tailor fit your tools specifically to the needs of your business.

Compared to other platforms which force your business to work around their set systems and tools, Drupal does things your way. Limitless solutions coupled with a flexible content architecture means boundless opportunities for you and your business. Worry not about its capacity to handle heavy traffic, either, as it has proven its spectacular performance with many Drupal-powered big enterprise websites, like General Electric and Pfizer, and high traffic websites, like GRAMMY Awards and NBC Olympics.

As an open source platform, it also undergoes continuous and concentrated innovation from its open source community, making sure that it constantly meets your business’ increasing needs.

Content and Search Engine Optimization

With all the information available on the Internet, it can be difficult to stand out. Websites are a dime a dozen, and people have thousands of options to choose from.

Where to begin?

Build a strong foundation on engaging content and a cohesive search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Find out what people are searching for, and target keywords related to your brand. In addition to that, structure your site so that it is easy to navigate—both for your customers and search crawlers. Lastly, make sure your site is properly indexed so Google can find you right away.

Rather than merely producing content, figure out what content people need (which you’ll find out by doing keyword research) and deliver it. The more questions and queries you can answer, the more likely potential customers will engage you.

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Design Review

More than how a website looks, the focus should be on how a website works. Create a pleasant user experience for your customers by studying how the different elements of your website interact with each other.

To test, do side-by-side comparisons of the proposed layouts and approved designs, and perfect every intricate detail (i.e. fonts, header styles, color schemes, etc.) that could possibly affect a user’s browsing experience.

Another very important element to consider is the images because they play such a huge role in the overall aesthetics and experience of the website. Make sure your images are properly and legally licensed and compress them so that they load quickly.

Always communicate with your website’s design team to iron out details. Talk about any and all matters that need to be attended to before moving on.

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Analytics

Ideally, something as crucial as setting up your website’s analytics should be done right the first time. You don’t want to spend unnecessary time, money, and energy redoing something that will be an imperative part of your platform’s core. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, historical reports that provide valuable insight for future strategic decisions wouldn’t be available for perusal should you make further revisions and alterations down the line.

Google Analytics provides a set of potent tools that should cover all the necessary bases for your website needs.

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Website Browser Testing

Now that you’ve set up all the elements of the website, it’s time to test if it works the way it was designed. Perform tests on each and every website functionality to check for bugs and errors in performance, and adjust the codes accordingly.

Monitor website performance through specialized trackers such as Google PageSpeed and Pingdom Tools to match customer expectations with actual website user experience.

 

New Drupal Website Checklist

Final Pre-Launch

Before going live, test the more technical aspects that play an important role in the overall website performance. Go through each one of those aspects because even a small detail overlooked can be a costly mistake in the long run.

Set up all domain registrations and third-party item connections to proper accounts; list down all unmet deliverables and plan for completion; download the current website using WebZip to back up your old site and revert to it if things go wrong; and confirm appointments with your go-to contact person for technical and IT matters.

After ticking all the pre-launch items, it’s finally time to go live and get your website up and running, but make sure not to do it on a Friday.

Post-launch

Once you take your website live, it will undergo a propagation period of a few hours for indexing and updating. While this is going on, what shows up on mobile might not necessarily mirror what your desktop screen displays, but this is nothing to worry about, as all devices will eventually parallel each other’s screens once the propagation period is over.

New Drupal Website Checklist

Announcement and Marketing

Now that your website is finally running smoothly, it’s time to announce this milestone to the public. Hype up your new website and continuously build up interest among stakeholders through constant and consistent promotion in your various consumer touchpoints (i.e. email, social media, newsletters, etc.).

Conclusion

When you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. But when you prepare, you set yourself up for success.

Props to you for doing your proper research on the best ways to launch your new company website. Just remember to go through this launch checklist faithfully and, in no time, sit back and relax as you watch incoming site traffic come in droves and your overall business performance soar.

Feb 15 2018
Feb 15

Omar Alahmed is a Technical Team Lead at Vardot with more than 10 years experience in web development, specializing in PHP and Drupal. Omar has worked with Drupal since 2007 starting with Drupal 5 and has continued along mastering 6, 7, and Drupal 8.

Omar had multiple motivations to earn certifications, which serve to establish his credibility and expertise. He has achieved Zend Certified PHP Engineer in Sep 2013, Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) MySQL 5.6 Developer in May 2014, Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 7 in Dec 2014, and most recently, Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 8 in Jan 2018 and Acquia Certified Back End Specialist - Drupal 8 in Feb 2018.

More importantly, is the added benefit of the time spent reviewing and studying all of the relevant topics and materials that these qualifications are built upon. His deep study of computer science concepts allowed him to step beyond surface-level theory and apply his learnings directly in his application of the code.

We interview Omar about what excites him most working with enterprise Drupal implementations at Vardot.

 

What are the tasks you find most exciting?

I started as a full-stack developer and I always feel that it is the best role for a new web developer. This is because it will introduce you to the broadest view of the web development life-cycle process. Taking this approach will give you exposure and the opportunity to examine what is needed in each phase. However, after getting the needed experience, some tasks may distract you from the deeper technical items. Therefore, I currently prefer to work on more custom tasks, such as using APIs and custom module development.

 

At Vardot, we follow the Agile methodology in our project development life-cycle. This usually begins with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), dividing the project deliverables into small chunks, and then assigning them to project’s team members. I prefer to work on the more customized tasks, either on the backend or frontend and to guide and train other team members when needed. For our team, this helps us deliver the tasks in a formalized practice and ensures projects to follow the Drupal best-practices, thus contributing to the Drupal project more often in each project.

 

How did you prepare for the exams? What background knowledge does one need to get Acquia Drupal 8 Developer & Acquia Back End Specialist Certified?

When I received the Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 7 certification, I realized that the exam truly validates a Drupal developer experience in mastering a Drupal website in a professional and standardized way. It is not a theoretical exam and cannot be passed simply by reading a study guide. Practical experience in developing web applications, like the work I do at Vardot, is required to succeed.

 

At Vardot we always strive to follow and endorse the best practices in development and apply it to different types of projects. Given this experience, I didn't find any difficulties during the preparation for the exam. I made sure to review the study guide links that were provided by Acquia and found ways to programmatically apply the topics that I had not worked with before. This allowed me to apply these topics in action instead of only reading about them.

 

Anyone pursuing this certification would probably agree that programming is an experimental science. In order to obtain the reusable knowledge at hand, you must write code and repeatedly practice. This method will help you expose problems that you may not be been introduced to before. I found that the published Acquia documentation is a good start for module development, as well as the Drupal API documentation.

Particularly:

Coding Standards: https://www.drupal.org/docs/develop/standards

Block API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/api/block-api

Form API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/api/form-api

Cache API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/api/cache-api/cache-api

Routing API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/api/routing-system

Theming API: https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/theming

Don't panic if you don't have an enjoyable experience in the Drupal API or module development resources. The key takeaway is to get an overview of the topics and then apply as much as you can.

 

Preparing using the above material is very important for both the Developer and Back End Specialist exams. The Developer exam covers advanced topics, but it also encompasses site building skills, such as working with content types, blocks, taxonomies, and views.

 

The Back End Specialist exam touches everything about Drupal API, performance, security, contributing to the community, and how to apply these techniques in real tasks by giving real scenarios or problems and asking to resolve them in the best way. So make sure to understand Drupal 8 core’s structure, and to do more hands-on practices before taking the exam, especially if you are not familiar with the latest PHP and OOP development techniques such as design patterns.

For further information about the content of the exams, you can check out the study guides for Acquia certification exams and an overview of Acquia Certification Program.

 

What are some tips you would give other developers working on Drupal 8?

As a Drupal 8 developer, you have probably observed that the Drupal community is the most important factor that places Drupal as the top web development platform. Therefore, I would say to try to interact with the community members; don’t work alone, don’t repeat yourself, and be cooperative as much as possible. If you find a bug or need a new feature, feel free to create a new issue in the project. You can also resolve, test and patch it to enable all Drupalers around the world to benefit along with you.

 

You’re probably aware that Drupal 8 is built on top of many Symfony2 components, like DependencyInjection, EventDispatcher, and Routing, with some customizations to be suitable for Drupal needs. With that in mind, it's a good idea for you to traverse how the core uses these components in order to facilitate and speed up your Drupal development. It’s important to always use the Drupal core code as an example if you need to write custom code because it will illustrate the best way to proceed and enlighten you what APIs are available for use. This helps you learn by example.

Summary

Omar Alahmed gives us a great example of what it takes to demonstrate success as a specialized developer in the Drupal community. Through his exhibited certifications, we can assume Omar's background required many dedicated hours of hard work and study. But we can also see that he was preparing for more than just certifications. Omar shows a passion for web development community at large, offering his advice as a team lead on what it takes to be a successful team player. His method of approaching problems and finding new ways to create solutions using industry best practices and established patterns makes Omar an invaluable member of our development team at Vardot.

Feb 15 2018
Feb 15

Omar Alahmed is a Technical Team Lead at Vardot with more than 10 years experience in web development, specializing in PHP and Drupal. Omar has worked with Drupal since 2007 starting with Drupal 5 and has continued along mastering 6, 7, and Drupal 8.

Omar had multiple motivations to earn certifications, which serve to establish his credibility and expertise. He has achieved Zend Certified PHP Engineer in Sep 2013, Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) MySQL 5.6 Developer in May 2014, Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 7 in Dec 2014, and most recently, Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 8 in Jan 2018 and Acquia Certified Back End Specialist - Drupal 8 in Feb 2018.

More importantly, is the added benefit of the time spent reviewing and studying all of the relevant topics and materials that these qualifications are built upon. His deep study of computer science concepts allowed him to step beyond surface-level theory and apply his learnings directly in his application of the code.

We interview Omar about what excites him most working with enterprise Drupal implementations at Vardot.

 

What are the tasks you find most exciting?

I started as a full-stack developer and I always feel that it is the best role for a new web developer. This is because it will introduce you to the broadest view of the web development life-cycle process. Taking this approach will give you exposure and the opportunity to examine what is needed in each phase. However, after getting the needed experience, some tasks may distract you from the deeper technical items. Therefore, I currently prefer to work on more custom tasks, such as using APIs and custom module development.

At Vardot, we follow the Agile methodology in our project development life-cycle. This usually begins with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), dividing the project deliverables into small chunks, and then assigning them to project’s team members. I prefer to work on the more customized tasks, either on the backend or frontend and to guide and train other team members when needed. For our team, this helps us deliver the tasks in a formalized practice and ensures projects to follow the Drupal best-practices, thus contributing to the Drupal project more often in each project.

 

How did you prepare for the exams? What background knowledge does one need to get Acquia Drupal 8 Developer & Acquia Back End Specialist Certified?

When I received the Acquia Certified Developer - Drupal 7 certification, I realized that the exam truly validates a Drupal developer experience in mastering a Drupal website in a professional and standardized way. It is not a theoretical exam and cannot be passed simply by reading a study guide. Practical experience in developing web applications, like the work I do at Vardot, is required to succeed.

At Vardot we always strive to follow and endorse the best practices in development and apply it to different types of projects. Given this experience, I didn't find any difficulties during the preparation for the exam. I made sure to review the study guide links that were provided by Acquia and found ways to programmatically apply the topics that I had not worked with before. This allowed me to apply these topics in action instead of only reading about them.

Anyone pursuing this certification would probably agree that programming is an experimental science. In order to obtain the reusable knowledge at hand, you must write code and repeatedly practice. This method will help you expose problems that you may not be been introduced to before. I found that the published Acquia documentation is a good start for module development, as well as the Drupal API documentation.

Particularly:

Don't panic if you don't have an enjoyable experience in the Drupal API or module development resources. The key takeaway is to get an overview of the topics and then apply as much as you can.

Preparing using the above material is very important for both the Developer and Back End Specialist exams. The Developer exam covers advanced topics, but it also encompasses site building skills, such as working with content types, blocks, taxonomies, and views.

The Back End Specialist exam touches everything about Drupal API, performance, security, contributing to the community, and how to apply these techniques in real tasks by giving real scenarios or problems and asking to resolve them in the best way. So make sure to understand Drupal 8 core’s structure, and to do more hands-on practices before taking the exam, especially if you are not familiar with the latest PHP and OOP development techniques such as design patterns.

For further information about the content of the exams, you can check out the study guides for Acquia certification exams and an overview of Acquia Certification Program.

 

What are some tips you would give other developers working on Drupal 8?

As a Drupal 8 developer, you have probably observed that the Drupal community is the most important factor that places Drupal as the top web development platform. Therefore, I would say to try to interact with the community members; don’t work alone, don’t repeat yourself, and be cooperative as much as possible. If you find a bug or need a new feature, feel free to create a new issue in the project. You can also resolve, test and patch it to enable all Drupalers around the world to benefit along with you.

You’re probably aware that Drupal 8 is built on top of many Symfony2 components, like DependencyInjection, EventDispatcher, and Routing, with some customizations to be suitable for Drupal needs. With that in mind, it's a good idea for you to traverse how the core uses these components in order to facilitate and speed up your Drupal development. It’s important to always use the Drupal core code as an example if you need to write custom code because it will illustrate the best way to proceed and enlighten you what APIs are available for use. This helps you learn by example.

Summary

Omar Alahmed gives us a great example of what it takes to demonstrate success as a specialized developer in the Drupal community. Through his exhibited certifications, we can assume Omar's background required many dedicated hours of hard work and study. But we can also see that he was preparing for more than just certifications. Omar shows a passion for web development community at large, offering his advice as a team lead on what it takes to be a successful team player. His method of approaching problems and finding new ways to create solutions using industry best practices and established patterns makes Omar an invaluable member of our development team at Vardot.

Jan 09 2018
Jan 09

The most popular websites know that the secret to maintaining high traffic is audience collaboration: keeping readers or viewers hooked by encouraging them to participate in your site or brand’s day-to-day activity.

By engaging with an audience, you give visitors more reasons to click through pages, explore links, and visit repeatedly.

Here are six of the most effective ways to engage with your audience, chosen for their simplicity and impact:

 

1. Know Your Audience

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Know Your Audience

Proper content planning takes a keen familiarity with your target audience, their habits, and their preferences. Google Analytics and similar marketing tools offer customers vital information about their users: where they come from, what kinds of devices they use, and what they do when they explore your site.


This is a reliable way of mapping the behavior of your average visitor and which pages or types of content are the most valuable. Likewise, knowing what devices your visitors use can give you insight into their preferences and help you assess whether or not your site is optimized for the people who comprise the majority of your traffic.

Audience collaboration is a matter of gathering and using your visitors’ input to improve their experiences with your website.  When you make changes to your website that reflect your audience’s feedback and preferences, they’ll be sure to notice.

 

2. Keep Your Comments Sections Open and Moderated

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Comments Sections

One thing that keeps people coming back to a site is a sense of community. If a website can serve as a gathering place for like-minded people, they’ll be much more likely to make a habit out of checking in.

You can opt for a message board like Disqus, or open each post to community discussion by allowing for comments. Whatever your decision might be, make sure to have a comprehensive set of policies and guidelines to maintain healthy discussion, as well as a dedicated team of moderators online to enforce them. You want to keep your comments section to house your audience’s ideas and opinions, not the ramblings of spam bots and trolls.

 

3. Give Your Audience Plenty to Talk About

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Audience Engagement

To get the most value out of each page, blog entry, or video upload, your content has to be written or designed to generate discussion. Open-ended blog articles that pose questions for your readership are a great example, as are message boards with updated talking points good for a certain time period (i.e. daily or weekly). Don’t believe us? Let us know why in the comments below.

In an age where content spreads like wildfire, you also want to make sure your website pulls all the shares and inbound links it can. After inspiring a discussion, your next best outcome is to encourage your readers to drag your friends into it as well. If a page on your site receives heavy inbound traffic, you know you're on the right track.

 

4. Be Responsive

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Responsive web design

A few points back, we mentioned how community-building is a valid and effective marketing strategy for businesses and content creators alike. However, conditioning your visitors to share their opinions and connect with like minds is only half of the equation; the other half is creating a persona to join in those discussions.

Your website is a personality of its own, and many elements of effective brand communication apply to cyberspace. You’ll want to communicate in a way visitors find interesting, sincere, and reliable.

Just be sure to keep a cool head and learn to deal with disruptive commenters. As we’ve said before, the internet can be a very frustrating place; take the worst of it in stride and don’t ever lose your head when engaging through your brand’s account.

 

5. Get With The Times

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Audience collaboration

 

The best content creators know how to use popular culture to their advantage. Although content creation is about making something original and unique, the best websites balance this with appeals and references to things that modern audiences already appreciate, from casually mentioning recent blockbusters or hit TV shows, to breaking the clinical and professional tone to deliver a well-timed joke.

This makes both your persona and your website feel more relatable and convinces your audience that your core messaging is relevant to their interests.

6. Learn from What They Love

6 Ways To Boost Your Site Traffic | Audience Engagement

Let’s face it: yours isn’t the only website your audience visits. Odds are your target demographic subscribes to a handful of other websites out of habit, and, sometimes, they love those websites more than they love yours.

Don’t let this fact get you down, but let it inspire you. Find out what websites your demographic visits most frequently, and take a page from their book. Take note of how they designed their site, how their writing looks, and everything you feel as you pass through their visitor experience. All of this should give you some idea of your audience’s preferences, as well as give a strong benchmark against which you can compare your own website.

 

Conclusion

Your visitors are the foundation of your website’s success. Take every opportunity to hear what they have to say, and adapt accordingly--you’ll be glad you collaborated with your audience when the ad revenue and sales come rolling in.

Dec 26 2017
Dec 26

A kick-off meeting with clients can set the tone for an entire project, along with setting up everyone’s expectations. It’s a big deal! And you want to do it right. Your kick-off meeting needs to be a success because you want your project to be a success.

Read on to learn a little more about how to prepare, what to do in advance, where you need to find agreement with the client, and how you can set and meet goals presented by the team.

 

1. Be Prepared & Know Who Will Attend the Meeting

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting


You and your clients are excited, and there is a great deal to discuss. There are steps you should take before you meet them in the boardroom.

First, familiarize yourself with the client. Who is the stakeholder? Who will be in the room, and what role do they play? What do you need to obtain from each of them? Take the time to review every single participant, so that you can anticipate their questions, too. To start off the meeting, let everyone introduce themselves.

Speaking of questions, it is smart to have clearly-defined questions ready. This will establish the role you are playing, which is the role of Expert. Nothing that comes out of that meeting can surprise you if you do your research properly.

Research should involve past projects, too. Have you worked on anything similar? What was the client worried about in those situations? What did they focus on? Go through past notes and address similar concerns so that you can move past them quickly this time around.

 

2. Set a Clear Agenda

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

Having an agenda to refer to will help you save time in the long run. It will also keep you from derailing off-topic and going off on a tangent. Include brief breaks if you need to, especially if the meeting is going to go long. Your audience will be grateful that you set aside time to allow them to gather their thoughts and to make queries.

Send the agenda to the client well ahead of the meeting. They will be grateful to receive a clear outline of expectations and deliverables for the meeting. They can also do their own preparation before coming to the table.

Make sure the meeting is going to take place face to face. If you cannot be in the same room as your clients, set up a video conferencing call. Do not rely on the phone. There will be more of a connection this way.

 

3. Set the Tone

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

Prepare the room and all of your equipment ahead of time. Make sure reception knows who to expect, and prepare refreshments. Print out your agendas, and create visual tools to get the conversation flowing. A one-on-one conversation with a client before the meeting can also help you get to know the people you will be working with and will help create jumping-off points for discussion.

You likely have a presentation style, and it’s a good idea to review that now. Will this be an appropriate space for sharing your own industry knowledge? Perhaps a collaborative discussion or a brainstorming session makes more sense than a rapid-fire proposal.

If you fear there may be opposing viewpoints in the room, have a plan for drawing out and addressing tension. Finding your method of approach can result in more credibility for you and your team, and will help you build enthusiasm for the work ahead.

Read more: Project Manager’s Guide into Breaking Down a Drupal Site for Incremental Delivery

 

4. Define the Next Steps Together

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

By the time your kick-off meeting ends, what needs to be completed? What needs to be agreed-upon? Whether you are working with a single entrepreneur or a corporation, write down their list of demands or expectations. Plan to discuss them one by one before the meeting ends. Use their own verbiage to show that you are A) listening closely and B) capable of getting the work done.

 

5. Establish a Communication Plan

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

Do not end the meeting without reviewing the ground rules. How will you communicate in the days and weeks ahead? Come to a conclusion with your clients about the goals of the project, and how you will meet them. Answer the who, what, where, how, and why of those deliverables in detail.

Your client may prefer collaboration throughout the project, while others prefer to circulate results internally and then transfer feedback later on down the road. Know what to expect when you hear back from them.

Make sure you know whether the client wants to be communicated with constantly and see incremental deliveries, or if they simply want to receive the end result.

 

6. Set Realistic Expectations

 

Tips for your Project Kick-off Meeting

The worst thing you can do is set client expectations too high, and then fail to follow through. Be realistic about your capabilities, and timing and delivery of the project. This is the only chance you will have to convey a timeline to your client and help them understand how the process works.

When you discuss deadlines, be brief and concise. Your client likely does not want to hear about every little thing you will be doing to meet their expectations. After all, that’s why they hired you!  

 

In Conclusion

By taking these steps to prepare for and rock your meeting, you will be in good shape for meeting client expectations and hitting them out of the park. Project scope often adjusts as you move forward, but if you follow this guide closely, it will deviate very little from the original plan. Your team and their team will be enthused, motivated, and ready to get to work!

Dec 13 2017
Dec 13

An earlier post presents what we believed were the top 10 free Drupal themes at the time.

This post is an update of the previous post with two important changes to the evaluation criteria. First, the previous list includes themes for both Drupal version 7 and 8; the new top 10 list consists of free themes for Drupal 8 only. While Drupal 7 is still the most used Drupal version today, Drupal 8 is by far the most popular, and when it is finally time to upgrade, the vast number of Drupal 7 sites will need to replace their existing theme with one that supports Drupal 8.

 

Themes for Drupal 8

The second reason for updating the list is that Bootstrap has emerged as the industry-leading front-end framework for developing responsive mobile-first websites. In fact, recent web analytics indicates that 16.3% of all websites are built with the Bootstrap framework. Bootstrap for Drupal is a base theme which implements the Bootstrap framework on the Drupal technology platform. The Bootstrap for the Drupal base theme has gained wide adoption and support in the Drupal community, including Tag1 Consulting, its maintainer.

Numerous Drupal modules have been implemented to enhance site building using the Bootstrap base theme. For instance, Views Bootstrap and Bootstrap Layouts are 2 modules that support site builders with theme component creation and layout respectively.

Vardot‘s own Drupal 8 distribution, Varbase, also supports the Bootstrap base theme. In addition, Vardot has contributed 2 modules to support the creation of View modes, Layouts, and Paragraphs using Bootstrap: Varbase Bootstrap Paragraphs and View Modes Inventory - Bootstrap Ready

In summary, to be considered for the new top 10 theme list, a theme must be: Free; Supported on Drupal 8; Bootstrap-based; General purpose - instead of industry-specific; and Responsive.  

 

 

1. Creative Responsive

Creative responsive

Creative Responsive occupies the top spot on the top 10 list with respect to the number of deployments on Drupal 8 websites as of November 2017. This theme supports the display of web contents in 3 columns: the main column, a left, and a right sidebar. Also, you can configure up to 16 block regions to organize information on a webpage. Last but not least, built-in support is provided to integrate with popular social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.

If you are looking for a reputable general-purpose theme with a modern look, Creative Response is a very strong candidate.

 

 

2. Business Responsive

Business Responsive Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

 

Business Responsive and the aforementioned Creative Responsive are 2 themes created by the same parent company, Zymphonies.

Despite being the slightly older and scaled-down version of Creative Responsive, Business Responsive makes up for the lack of finesse by just working reliably. As an added insurance, you can purchase premium support for the theme from Zymphonies. If you want a no-frills corporate theme that just works out-of-the-box, you should definitely consider Business Responsive.

 

 

3. NewsPlus Lite

NewsPlus Lite Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

 

NewsPlus Lite is the free version of the NewsPlus Premium theme. The premium version is essentially a Drupal distribution which includes the free NewsPlus Lite theme.

Despite its name, this theme is at par feature-wise with the other top free themes. For some features, NewsPlus Lite is even better, e.g., it supports the 3-column layout. What sets NewsPlus Lite apart is the up-to-date online documentation database which is maintained by MoreThanThemes, its parent company, and a reputable Drupal theme vendor.

If you are building a news magazine website, and don’t have a lot of prior experience doing so, NewsPlus Lite is well worth your consideration.

 

 

4. Bootstrap Mint

Bootstrap Mint Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

Bootstrap Mint boasts the most flexible layout among the top 10 themes. It can lay out web content in up to 4 columns and 25 regions. Given that only higher screen resolutions can support the display of 4 columns, this theme is best viewed using a desktop or laptop. If the majority of your web audience visit your website via a desktop or laptop, you should definitely consider using this theme for its layout capability.

 

 

5. Showcase Lite

Showcase Lite Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

Showcase Lite is the free version of ShowcasePlus Premium, both created by MoreThanThemes which also owns the aforementioned NewsPlus themes. The Showcase Lite theme is designed with the creative enterprises in mind. Specifically, this theme supports the use of video galleries and sliders, critical features for a design studio business. If you are building an image-intensive website and require corporate technical support, Showcase Lite is not to be ignored.

 

 

6. Ice Magic

Ice Magic Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

Ice Magic distinguishes itself among the top 10 themes by being the most color configurable. Most free themes only offer a very limited color scheme (e.g., 3 colors) that you can apply to a fixed set of theme elements. Ice Magic, on the other hand, includes a color module which allows you to specify colors from a color spectrum. Ice Magic should be on your radar if you are meticulous about color options on your website.

 

 

7. Robotic

Robotic Theme | Themes for Drupal 8

Robotic is a highly customizable theme for even the technically challenged. You can customize the carousel, social media icons, and the interface colors. If you require the ability to fine-tune the look-and-feel of your website all without coding, you should look into Robotic.

 

 

8. Magazine Lite

Magazine Lite | Themes for Drupal 8

Magazine Lite is the free version of the Premium Magazine+ theme distribution. It is a theme custom designed for news and magazine websites. If your goal is to build a stylish news and magazine website with a clean uncluttered look, Magazine Lite should be on your short list of themes.  

 

 

9. The One

The One | Themes for Drupal 8

The One is unique among the top 10 themes in that it supports the seamless single-page website design. Not everyone is a fan of the single-page design, but if you are, look no further than The One.

 

 

10. SOLID

SOLID | Themes for Drupal 8

Despite its name, the SOLID theme is one of the more visually appealing themes in the top 10 list. It’s simple but elegant and functional which makes it a multi-purpose theme suitable for general deployment.

 

Summary & Conclusion

Are you operating a Drupal 7 website, and planning an upgrade to 8 in the near future? Part of the upgrade will involve picking a theme that supports Drupal 8. If your requirements are well satisfied by a free theme, you should definitely consider selecting a Bootstrap-based theme from our top 10 list. Note that Varbase, Vardot’s custom Drupal 8 distribution, supports all themes on the top 10 list. If you have requirements that are beyond the capability of free themes or you need customization, please contact Vardot's professional services to inquire about the Varbase distribution.

Dec 06 2017
Dec 06

 

Global e-commerce sales topped 1 trillion US dollars in 2012 for the first time in history. Industry estimates projected that sales will reach 4 trillion in 2020. As more enterprises conduct their core businesses on the Internet, Drupal has evolved from being a pure content management system to a full-fledged e-commerce site-builder. While e-commerce is not (yet) part of Drupal's core, support for it comes in the form of contributed modules.

Read more: 9 Reasons why Drupal Is Dominating the Market

A quick search on Drupal.org for stable actively developed e-commerce modules generated 330 hits. Many such modules are optional for your online storefront. For example, AdSense, Affiliate Store, and Amazon Store are of no interest to you unless you want to monetize your website through advertising and affiliate marketing. Some modules such as Barcode are only relevant if your storefront requires that specific functionality.

 

In this post, we describe a set of 7 best-of-breed e-commerce Drupal modules which together implement the core functionalities of an online storefront. These modules focus on enterprise mission-critical operations that drive business results and have a direct impact on the bottom line.

7 E-Commerce Modules that Every Drupal Website Must Have

So let's not keep you in suspense for too long and list e-commerce modules that we at Vardot think are essential for every online shop built with Drupal:

  1. Drupal Commerce vs Ubercart

  2. Commerce Recommender / Ubercart Recommender

  3. Commerce Upsell / UC Upsell

  4. Invoice

  5. Commerce Shipping

  6. Mailjet / MailChimp E-Commerce

  7. Currency

Now let’s discuss each of the modules in particular and see why it is so great.

 

Drupal Commerce vs Ubercart

 

Drupal Commerce vs Ubercart

 

As I mentioned before, e-commerce is not a built-in core feature of Drupal. The easiest way to add e-commerce functionalities to your website would be installing one of 2 competing Drupal modules: Drupal Commerce vs Ubercart. The 2 modules are often described as e-commerce ecosystems or frameworks which depend on third-party modules to make them feature-complete.

Drupal Commerce and Ubercart are both excellent e-commerce frameworks with their own active developer community. Ubercart is known for being easier to configure, and being more ready to deploy out-of-the-box. In contrast, Drupal Commerce is designed to be customizable and can scale up to support large enterprise e-commerce operations.
 

If you operate a small business with modest e-commerce requirements and a small I.T. budget, Ubercart is a good choice. Medium to large enterprises should consider Drupal Commerce because it is flexible enough to satisfy more complex requirements and scalable enough to support future business growth. One caveat is that you need to possess technical expertise and be prepared to spend considerable time and resources to extend Drupal Commerce to do exactly what you want. You can find a more detailed comparison of Drupal Commerce with Ubercart in this article.

 

 

Commerce Recommender/Ubercart Recommender

 

Commerce Recommender / Ubercart Recommender

 

To optimize revenue growth in e-commerce, enterprises need to find ways to boost revenue per order. Cross-selling and upselling are 2 key techniques to achieve revenue growth objectives. Commerce Recommender and Ubercart Recommender are 2 Drupal modules you should install to enable cross-selling on the Drupal Commerce and Ubercart platforms, respectively.

Both modules make personalized recommendations for your web users. The recommendations are based on the user’s current order and any previous purchases.

If the user is a new customer, the lack of a prior purchase history limits the recommendations that the software can make. In such a scenario, the cross-selling module analyzes the purchase history of other users who previously bought the same product in the current order, and recommends products which these users also ordered in the past.

 

 

Commerce Upsell/UC Upsell

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: Commerce Upsell / UC Upsell

 

Upselling is different from cross-selling in that the former entices the customer to upgrade to a more expensive product with a better profit margin, while the latter is about buying additional products such as an accessory. For upselling, Commerce Upsell and UC Upsell are the respective modules to install on the Drupal Commerce and Ubercart platforms.

The 2 modules allow site builders to define related products for upselling purposes. During a customer checkout, the software recommends product upgrades based on what products are in the shopping cart.

 

Invoice

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: Invoice

 

Invoice is a Drupal module which generates sales invoices for your online business. You can customize the format as well as the content of your invoices using template files. After instantiating your sales invoices, you can view them online as well as output them in PDF or HTML format.

 

Commerce Shipping

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: Commerce Shipping

 

Your online customers can place their orders from any country in the world. Before they purchase your products, they want to know the shipping options and their associated cost. Commerce Shipping is a shipping rate calculator. It is designed as a shipping calculation platform which depends on third-party carrier-specific modules to provide the actual shipping rates. For instance, it supports UPS, FedEx, and USPS through the modules Commerce UPS, Commerce FedEx, and Commerce USPS, respectively. Using rules, site administrators can configure which shipping services are available on a web store and how they are charged, including flat shipping rates.

 

 

Mailjet/MailChimp E-Commerce

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: MailChimp E-commerce, Mailjet

 

Despite the phenomenal growth in social media, email marketing remains an integral part of any online marketing plan. Marketing and sales campaigns are regularly conducted by sending email to people on subscription lists. The Mailjet module supports email marketing on Drupal Commerce. Alternatively, MailChimp E-Commerce supports both Drupal Commerce and Ubercart. One e-commerce best practice is to offload email sending to third-party cloud-based email service providers.

Mailjet and MailChimp E-Commerce integrate with the Mailjet and MailChimp email service providers, respectively. To use either module, you need to first sign up with the respective company.

The services are free if email volume is kept below a certain threshold. Both modules enable site administrators to create email campaigns, personalize the marketing message, and track campaign effectiveness.

Read more: How to Choose the Right Open Source CMS for Your Website (Infographic)

 

Currency

 

Best Drupal E-commerce modules: Currency

 

E-commerce reels in online customers from the farthest countries of the earth, together with their different local currencies. The online store must be able to convert product prices from the enterprise’s own preferred currency to the local currency of each customer. In addition, the newly converted local amount must be presented in a format that conforms to the customer’s regional convention.

Currency is a Drupal module that specializes in converting world currencies based on stored exchange rates. In addition, this module can automatically customize the display format of price information based on the locale of each online shopper.

 

 

Summary & Conclusion

 

E-commerce is the key to unlocking revenue generation potential of an enterprise Drupal website. Drupal provides excellent e-commerce modules under two main technology ecosystems, Drupal Commerce and Ubercart.

While integrating the right modules is critical to providing the necessary e-commerce functionalities, site builders also need to pay attention to other important factors such as SEO and site security. SEO will bring more visitors and potential customers to a website, and site security will protect them against hackers when they transact business online. For more information about essential Drupal modules, please refer to our earlier blog posts: 5 Security Modules for Every Drupal Website and 10 SEO Modules That Every Drupal Website Must Have.

The building of an e-commerce website, that is SEO-friendly and secure, requires expertise that may be beyond the capability of many enterprises. If you require professional Drupal assistance, please contact Vardot.

Nov 06 2017
Nov 06

Drupal continues to grow in popularity every day. Many users opt to adopt a Drupal distribution: a full copy of Drupal along with additional software. In general, you will see two types of Drupal distributions. Complete solutions, otherwise known as full-featured distributions, and quick-start tools.

A Drupal distribution is collection of Drupal and other software components built, assembled and configured so that it can be used essentially "as is" for its intended purpose.

Software Distribution

Software distribution gets software from the manufacturer to the end user. It is extremely familiar to those who utilize open-source software because a software distribution is as close as most of us can get to free, "finished" software. Software distributions often refer to software made up of open-source components, ready or nearly ready for use.

Let’s talk about some of the most famous examples of Drupal distributions, beginning with Commerce Kickstart. It is an "out-of-the-box" iteration of Drupal Commerce that is a way to skip weeks of configuration, as are the rest of our distribution examples. It's packed with features and supported by an active developer community.

Working solutions can be built on Drupal using the Lightning Drupal distribution. Editorial teams love its functionality and ease of use. Higher education is elevated with OpenEDU, a sub-profile of Lightning. It is a popular composer-based project. There is also Thunder, which makes it possible for publishers to connect and put great work out into the world.

Varbase is another Drupal distribution example you need to know about. Adaptive functionalities and essential modules are packed into this distribution powerhouse. Development can be sped up by leaps and bounds, and hours that could be spent on customization can be spent in the trenches, utilizing the program. Take advantage of Drupal core modules. Use pre-installed and preconfigured tools. Leaders in industries across the globe take advantage of Varbase to create work backed by Vardot, an award-winning enterprise web solution provider.

Read more: Essential Things To Know About Varbase

What is a Drupal Distribution, and Why Do You Need It

 

Starting with a Drupal Distribution

You may still be wondering why a distribution is a way to go. The biggest advantage is the amount of time you save, and we all know time = money.

Normally, you would need to download and configure Drupal core, and then select your modules. There are tens of thousands of them, so as you can imagine, this can take weeks to get right and explore properly.  

Or, you can jump straight ahead to a preconfigured site. Each option is already packed with the essentials, contained in a single download. In addition to the famous examples, we listed above, Vardot also contributed its own modules to Varbase SEO and Varbase Media.

Launch time goes from days or weeks to hours with the help of a Drupal distribution. Enterprise leaders love the time-to-value ratio and the customization options for industries including higher education, media, publishing, commerce and more.

Read more: Need Better Website Performance? It Starts with a Drupal Site Audit

 

Starting a Drupal Project on a Distribution vs. Without

What is a Drupal Distribution, and Why Do You Need It

Let’s look at the differences in time-to-market when you are using a Drupal distribution versus building your website from scratch. Perhaps you are new at this, or you are eager to go live and establish an online presence. Drupal is a powerful content management system (CMS), and you will need to educate yourself on it to use it to its full potential. Once Drupal is downloaded, you have access to core modules. Anything beyond that will require an additional download.

Then there is the Drupal distribution, which will include both core and peripheral modules in a single download. Social collaboration applications come with all the social modules needed. University and college teams can locate and download higher education distributions that create turnkey educational resource websites. The list goes on and on. Where there is a need, a Drupal distribution exists to fill it.

In other words, utilizing a Drupal distribution consists of three steps:

  1. Selecting the correct Drupal distribution.
  2. Installing the distribution.
  3. Configuring and enabling it.

The advantages of working with a Drupal distribution continue well past initial installation. Maintenance is also a breeze. When you create a website born out of a distribution, all modules and features are integrated and tested together. When updates are required, it is a single update, as opposed to hundreds.  

Here at Vardot, we specialize in open source solutions. Along with comprehensive Drupal consulting and training services, we can assist with launching your Drupal Project. Get started by clicking below.

Oct 12 2017
Oct 12

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) might not be the first thing you think of when designing a new website, but building an optimized framework from the start will help you drive traffic to your site and keep it there.

With our Drupal SEO-checklist in hand, you can build an excellent website that draws customers from launch day. Briefly speaking, here is a bullet list of what to check before the launch day. Below we’ll speak at each point in more detail.

  • Check that all web pages have unique titles using the Page Title module

  • Check if XML Sitemap and Google News Sitemap are configured properly

  • Check if Redirect module is enabled and configured

  • Check if Global Redirect module is enabled and configured

  • Check that .htaccess redirect to site with/without www

  • Check that the homepage title includes a slogan, and is descriptive for the function of the site

  • Check if Meta Tags is filled with descriptive information

  • Check that OG tags are filled correctly and with descriptive information.

  • Check if site's information appears well when shared on Facebook

  • Check if Path aliases patterns are meaningful

  • Check if Google Analytics is enabled and configured

  • Check if Page Title module is enabled and configured

  • Check if Google News Sitemap is enabled and configured

  • Check if Site verification is enabled and configured

  • Check if Search 404 module is enabled and configured

Drupal SEO: 13 Things that Will Improve Your Site's Ranking

 

1. Check that all web pages have unique titles

 All of your pages should be easily identifiable to the end user. Not only should they have unique titles, they should have meaningful titles.

Having multiple pages with the same titles (like “Get in touch”, “Contact us” and “Make a booking”) will simply confuse your end users and search engine crawlers.

Not only do good page titles help customers who are already on your site, but they help with social sharing, and picking your site out of search engine results.

Titles are the first element that any user will see, whether they come directly to your site, find it in a search engine, or see it shared on social media.

Writing good titles is extremely important, and having keywords in your title that match a user's search greatly improves the chances of them clicking on your page.

Ensuring all your pages have a unique name will help users navigate, boost your SEO ratings, and increase the chances that someone will type the right keywords into a search engine to bring them to your site.

You can set up unique page titles much easier if you install the Drupal Page Title module.

 

Read more: 10 Drupal Modules that Will Boost Your Website’s SEO

 

2. Check if XML Sitemap and Google News Sitemap are configured properly

The XML Sitemap module creates a robot-friendly map of your site that Google and other search engines can crawl to categorize your website.

There are a few settings you can alter your site at admin/config/search/XML sitemap and you can view the sitemap from http://yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.

You should configure XML Sitemap early in your site build for the best effect, but you can also alter the settings later on if needed.

Google News Sitemap offers a similar but different service that creates a Google-specific map - as suggested in the name. These two modules work nicely side by side to make your site easy for search engines to crawl and index.

Please note that if your site contains AMPs, there is no need to create sitemaps for them. The rel=amphtml link is enough for Google to pick up on the accelerated mobile page version, which means you can easily gain traffic from Top Storie's carousels and mobile search. Creating AMP on your Drupal site became easy with our step-by-step guide.

 

SEO ChecklistSEO Checklist

 

 

3. Check if Redirect module is enabled and configured

Redirect is a handy module for making sure users always make it to your site. It uses case-insensitive matching to help catch broken links with redirects and tracks how often users are hitting those redirects.

You can use redirects to capture any broken links, set up promotional links, or simply capture typos users are entering when trying to access your site.

 

SEO Checklist

 

4. Check if Global Redirect module is enabled and configured

If you’re using Drupal 8 you can skip this one because the functionality has been rolled into the redirect module. Otherwise, install Global Redirect to work in tandem with Redirect to catch any broken links.

Global Redirect will test all links with and without a trailing slash, ensure links are case-insensitive and if a link is truly broken it will return a user to your home page, rather than an ugly 404 page that decreases the position of your site in SERPs.

 

SEO Checklist

 

5. Check that .htaccess redirects to site with/without www

Some users attempting to visit your site will navigate to www.yoursite.com, while others will simply type yoursite.com. By setting up your site to handle either request you can be sure you won’t miss any visitors.

 

6. Check that the homepage title includes a headline, logo and primary image and is descriptive for the function of the site

The headline, as well as the slogan, represent who you are as a business. Make your first impression a good one as this will also be visible on search engines.

This is a good opportunity to stack your website with SEO friendly keywords, but don’t go overboard and sacrifice your image for it - keyword stuffing may not only decrease the trust index of your site but also its conversion rates.

 

SEO Checklist

 

7. Ensure Meta tags are filled with descriptive information

Writing SEO-optimized metatags is highly important because they remain one of the top on-page ranking factors. Make sure to install the Metatag module on your site to have an easy, user-friendly interface for updating metadata.

With the module installed you can easily populate metadata with keywords, page descriptions, and more.

The Meta tag module will also give you extra control over how your site appears when shared on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Read more: SEO tips for your Drupal site

 

8. Check that OG tags are filled correctly and with descriptive information.

OG tags are meta tags specifically designed to ensure your site communicates nicely with Facebook. By setting these tags correctly you will be able to control exactly how your site appears on Facebook, including what images and what taglines are used.

 

9. Check if site's information appears well when shared on Facebook and Twitter

After configuring the metatag module and OG tags, pop over to Facebook and make sure that your site shares the way you would like it too. It’s important to test this out now before users start sharing your site around.

Similarly, try tweeting a couple of your pages to see how well your Twitter Cards come through. If you don’t want to show your site to your audience until you are sure it is set up properly, you can check Twitter Cards using the Card Validator.

For more information on configuring Twitter cards, check out the Twitter user guides.

10. Check if Path aliases patterns are meaningful

By default, Drupal will set your URLs to node/123 - while this works great for the database backend, it doesn’t work well for your end users, or for search engines.

You can use the Pathauto module to create rules and patterns for your URLs that will significantly cut down on your maintenance times and simplify your site navigation.

 

SEO Checklist

 

11. Check if Google Analytics is enabled and configured

While having Google Analytics configured won’t improve your SEO, it will give you all the data you need to understand where your users are coming from and how they behave once they hit your site.

Installing the Google Analytics module makes setting up and configuring Google Analytics a breeze.

 

12. Check if Site verification is enabled and configured

The Site verification module makes it easy to check the boxes that tell search engines that your site is truly yours.

Having your site verified will improve how search engines crawl your site, and for Google will allow you to access private search data. With site verification, you will receive better data and better search engine rankings for just a few minutes work.

13. Check if Search 404 module is enabled and configured

The Search 404 module is a saving grace for reducing your bounce rate, your SEO and improving your customer experience. Instead of your users finding an ‘Error: Page not Found” in place of the content they were hoping for, they will be offered a search of your site based on the URL string.

For example, if “www.yoursite.com/great-seo-tips” doesn’t exist, use this module will automatically search your site for ‘Great SEO tips” and show the users the results.

 

Bottom line

While SEO may seem like a tricky subject to wrap your head around, the basics are easy with the right modules and the right guidance. Drupal is a great content management system for building search engine optimized websites.

With our SEO checklist you can get off on the right foot, and here at Vardot we love educating our customers to build top quality websites. If you’re looking for even more ways to improve your sites SEO, have a look at SEO articles on our blog or get in touch with us.

Sep 30 2017
Sep 30

Drupal professionals have to constantly upgrade their skills to keep up to date with technology. The good news is that much of the knowledge now is available online, and there is no more need to spend hours in the library looking for resources that can give answers to your questions. In the 21st century, most of the topics are covered in different blogs.

Vardot was featured as one of the top 20 Drupal blogs for Drupal developers. In this post, we recommend several resources (in addition to the one you are reading now of course) for you to subscribe. We believe that these resources will give you an excellent overall picture of what is happening in the Drupal community.

 

Drupal Blogs You Should Be Reading in 2017

Dries Buytaert blog

Dries' personal blog offers a glimpse of his work at Acquia and his views on Drupal and open-source software, in addition to general news and his opinions about the Drupal community.

If you are looking for low-level Drupal tips from the grand master himself, this is not the source of it. Instead, you will find a high-level and strategic perspective of where Drupal has trekked before and where it is heading, from none other than its creator. It will keep you well-informed of Drupal trends.

In our opinion, Dries’ blog is simply the best online resource for catching Drupal trends and formalizing your Drupal strategy.

 

Acquia blog

Acquia is the company that Dries Buytaert co-founded to provide cloud-based Drupal services, and according to a recent report, the number 1 organization for code contribution to Drupal in the 12-month period ending on June 30, 2017. The Acquia blog publishes posts by Dries, other Acquia insiders, and guest bloggers about 4 times a week.

This blog is the mother lode of knowledge about all things related to delivering Drupal enterprise solutions. You will find posts on best practices, architectural considerations, marketing trends, etc, on full-cycle Drupal commercialization.

Developers should take note of posts from the Acquia Developer Center.

If you want to learn more about delivering enterprise Drupal solutions, the Acquia blog is a great resource.

Vardot is proud to partner with Acquia to deliver professional hosting and training services.

 

Lullabot blog

The Lullabot blog averages about 2 new posts per week, and its target audience is enterprise Drupal developers. Building a modern enterprise Drupal website involves integrating multiple open-source technologies that must work well together. Consequently, enterprise developers must be well-rounded in various open-source technologies in addition to Drupal. The Lullabot blog has an excellent coverage of the entire Drupal technology stack.

One great feature of this blog is that it also features a library of podcasts on various Drupal topics. If you have a long commute, these Drupal podcasts are a great means for making good use of your time. (Another good source of Drupal podcasts is DrupalEasy.)

If your interests are entirely developer-centric, you may want to subscribe to the Lullabot feed.

 

Drupalize.Me blog

Drupalize.Me, a sister company to Lullabot, runs a website dedicated to Drupal developer training. It is made up of 2 main components: a blog and a series of technical guides/tutorials. The Drupalize.Me blog mainly posts Drupal community news and announcements about new Drupalize.Me guides. A small proportion of the guides are free (samplers), while the rest are available for a monthly membership fee.

Despite the paid subscription model, Drupalize.Me offers arguably the most systematic approach for Drupal developers of all skill levels to upgrade their Drupal expertise online. The guides are categorized into topics: an introduction to Drupal (including Drupal 8), site building, theming, module development (including API), site administration, and backend and infrastructure. The guides cover multiple Drupal versions, including the latest Drupal 8 as well as the older Drupal 6 and 7.

Drupalize.Me is a good investment for Drupal developers for continuing their Drupal training because of its breadth of topics and its depth in skill level. For a detailed list of the main online resources for learning Drupal, please consult this Vardot guide.

 

Volacci's Drupal SEO blog

Volacci's Drupal SEO blog, as its name suggests, targets marketing professionals rather than developers. Marketing has become a critical component in the Drupal community as evident in the recent DrupalCon Vienna 2017. DrupalCon hosted the very first Drupal Marketing Sprint in the DrupalCon Vienna program. So, we include Volacci’s high-caliber Drupal SEO and marketing blog on our recommended subscription list.

This blog is updated with a new post about once every 2 weeks. It covers Drupal industry news, SEO techniques, and best practices. Ben Finklea, CEO and the primary author of the blog, is a world-renowned Drupal SEO expert. He was also the presenter for the Drupal 8 SEO hands-on seminar at DrupalCon Baltimore 2017.

If you are strictly interested in the SEO and marketing perspectives of Drupal, this is a blog that you should definitely follow. For additional quality SEO-related posts, please refer to the SEO tag on our blog.

 

Don't want to read too many Drupal blogs at the same time?

No problem, there are several resources where you can find the latest news about Drupal from all over the world. Honorable mentions of blogs worthy of your subscription are listed below.

 

Planet Drupal

This is the official Drupal blog. It aggregates posts from a pre-approved list of Drupal-related blogs. The volume is quite high, about 40 posts per week. The scope spans a broad spectrum of development as well as business and marketing topics.

 

Reddit Drupal

Reddit Drupal is another high-volume website that covers anything Drupal-related. Because it is being hosted on the Reddit platform, you will find the website more interactive than the other Drupal blogs. You can ask questions directly on Reddit or search through the existing posts for possible answers.

 

The Weekly Drop

This is a handcrafted weekly digest of the best Drupal-related blog posts from each week. If you find following multiple Drupal blogs too time-consuming, you should consider subscribing to the Weekly Drop which can keep you up-to-date with a minimal weekly drop of relevant articles.

 

Drupal Association Youtube channel

If you could not personally attend a DrupalCon conference, the best consolation is to watch the video recordings of its always educational workshops on Youtube. The Drupal Association Youtube channel has been updated with the workshops presented at the recent DrupalCon Vienna 2017.

To keep abreast of developments in the fast-changing Drupal community, we recommend that our readers subscribe to the above Drupal blogs in addition to Vardot’s own. And what is your favorite Drupal blog?

Sep 25 2017
Sep 25

Introduction

Varbase is a custom Drupal 8 base distribution developed by Vardot, a leading Drupal solution provider headquartered in Amman, Jordan with regional offices in Santa Clara, USA, and Cairo, Egypt. It is a software product embodying years of experience from building Drupal-based websites for high profile customers such as Al Jazeera, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Why Varbase?

Drupal is an industry-leading website building platform, renowned for its rich feature set and the ability for users to customize and extend core functionalities to satisfy their unique requirements. Its flexibility is due to its modular design, that is, Drupal functionalities are implemented in a large number of relatively small core and contributed modules, rather than in a single enormous blob object. One key element for a successful Drupal project is to start it off in the right way: namely, select and configure the best modules to do what you want, or as close to what you want in order to minimize the customization work.

This can be a daunting task for most Drupal newcomers. For developers who have done this before, the task can quickly become a repetitive chore, as the same procedure is required at the beginning of each project.

Varbase offers Drupal site builders the important benefit of time-saving. As a Drupal base distribution, Varbase makes available, in a single download, Drupal core modules, as well as best-of-breed, contributed modules, themes, and pre-defined configurations.

Instead of starting from scratch, Varbase site builders leverage pre-installed and pre-configured industry-proven tools and modules. In addition to using the best modules that others had written, Vardot also contributed its own optimized modules to the distribution, for instance, Varbase SEO and Varbase Media.

From now on you can start building and customizing your website right away, instead of wasting valuable resources in 'reinventing the wheel'.

The new distribution was the direct result after many hours of interaction between Vardot developers and web editors, specifically to find out how to make the editor's job easier and more efficient. Varbase users benefit from that editorial experience as the knowledge was subsequently codified into the design of Varbase modules.

Committing to a base distribution and a website building platform is a long-term investment in user organizations. To protect their investment, users look for a base distribution that is being actively developed and supported long-term by a quality organization. Varbase as a product is fully backed by Vardot, an award-winning enterprise web solution provider. Since 2011, Vardot has been applying its Drupal expertise to build enterprise websites spanning many industries, including corporate, non-profit, news/media, and higher education vertical industries. You can view the past history and the future roadmap of Varbase on-line.

In addition to this, we've created a Slack channel where you can quickly get any information regarding the distribution or get our support in a timely manner.

 

Features

Mobile ready

If a mobile visitor browses your website, only to find web pages served up using an oversized desktop resolution, it is very likely that the visitor (and potential customer) will bounce off and never return. Varbase prevents this event from happening by prepackaging custom responsive themes built using the industry-standard Bootstrap framework. The use of the carefully selected responsive themes guarantees that visitors will experience your website in a screen resolution that best fits the actual devices.

The distribution also provides site editors with the ability to preview web pages on their mobile phones. As a result, editors can examine a page using the same screen resolution before releasing it to the target mobile user base.

High scalability

As your website gains readership over time, the user experience of the site must not degrade because of the additional load on your Drupal platform. Specifically, the page load time must remain fast during peak hours in web traffic and also when your website experiences temporary spikes in traffic.

Varbase is designed to be highly scalable in order to deliver the performance required to withstand a steady climb as well as a spike in web traffic.

Easy media management

 

varbase

 

The distribution offers optimized HTML5-compliant media management via the Varbase Media module. Support is built-in to upload, via drag-and-drop, photos, images, videos, and even documents to an online media library.

Uploaded images and videos in the library can be assembled into sliders or carousels and displayed on your website. Varbase Media is designed to enhance both the aesthetic and the SEO performance of your media resources.

SEO ready

With a built-in SEO modules, search engine optimization is no longer hit-and-miss. Varbase provides a powerful SEO engine to grade the SEO readiness of your website, and to recommend on-page areas for improvement based on its vast SEO knowledge. Varbase enables the specification of meta tags and markups to describe your web contents. Furthermore, to further increase the visibility of your web pages, Varbase supports the generation of XML sitemaps.

If you are migrating your website to Drupal 8, Varbase can import all web pages from your legacy website, and set up page redirects from the old URLs to the new ones on the Drupal 8 platform.

Social media savvy

If visitors like your web content, you want to gently encourage them to share it with their social media contacts, essentially creating a viral effect. Varbase makes the integration of social media within your website as easy as just choosing the target social networks, which automatically enables the corresponding social media plugins.

In addition, Varbase enables you to syndicate selected web contents to various social media networks, thereby maximizing their exposure and reach.

 

Summary & Conclusion

Varbase embodies the principle and practice of Don't Repeat Yourself (or DRY). It is a shortcut to developing your Drupal 8 website using out-of-the-box, best-of-breed modules, themes, and tools. Varbase is made available to the general Drupal community as a free and open-sourced software. Varbase users can download and modify the base software without incurring any licensing cost.

For organizations that require professional services, note that Vardot offers full-cycle Drupal services ranging from implementation, customization, support, training, to hosted management. Please don’t hesitate to contact Vardot if you have any questions regarding our work!

Sep 18 2017
Sep 18

There is a great deal of enthusiasm surrounding chatbots in the Internet technology world today. Fanning the flames were the news that the White House had created a Facebook chatbot using Drupal. This post explains what a chatbot is, its current status, and how it can benefit business enterprises.

What is a chatbot?

Chatbots are software agents which communicate and collaborate with human users through text messaging using a natural language, say English, to accomplish specific tasks. Examples of common tasks in a business context are product inquiries, ordering, and troubleshooting.

Chatbots holds the promise of being the next generation of technology that people use to interact online with business enterprises. From a historical perspective, the first generation of customer contact technology involves websites. Users open the company website within their browser, navigate web pages to get the information they want and to trigger various e-commerce transactions, such as ordering a product.

Next up are mobile apps which users can download on their smartphones or tablets. The problem with apps is that people have to manually download and learn to use each of them. Chatbots lead the way for the next wave of technology.

With chatbots, there are no new apps to download. This is because most users already have at least 1 instant messaging application installed on their communication devices, e.g., SMS, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Kik, etc. Another advantage for chatbots is that, because chatbots communicate using a natural language, users don't need to learn yet another new website interface and to get comfortable with the unavoidable quirks.

The chatbot interface is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. AI is tasked to understand the text that users enter and pass on the knowledge to the backend for processing. Another benefit of using AI is that the chatbot will learn over time to better understand user preferences and as a result, deliver better and faster services.

Why are chatbots important to enterprises?

It was reported that, in 2016, for the first time in Internet history, there were more people using messaging apps than social media. It follows that chat has outpaced social media to become the de facto standard in how mobile users want to make contact.

Mobile users are known to be an impatient bunch, ready to abandon any website en masse if they are made to wait for mere seconds after their initial request. Is your business staffed properly to handle this 24x7 onslaught of customer product queries, sales orders, and support requests?

 

Chatbot Technology

 

Image Source: Business Insider

Chatbots can be programmed to monitor and respond to those chat sessions that fall within their domain expertise, such as troubleshooting, return merchandise authorization (RMA), sales inquiry, etc. For chatbots to do their job, enterprises first need to capture the aforementioned domain knowledge in a knowledge base. Once the knowledge becomes accessible, chatbots can staff the all-important corporate functions 24x7.

By deploying chatbots, a business can save money by easing the staff headcount while guaranteeing good service response time. Besides its always-on feature, another major advantage of using chatbots is the consistency in how your business processes are applied: chatbots will execute the business logic consistently in all customer contacts.

Chatbots advanced that it is, is not the panacea for all enterprise customer service problems, nor does it completely replace the entire human workforce. Human agents are still required to solve the more complex problems that are beyond the ability of chatbots. While chatbots can resolve the most basic troubleshooting tasks, second-level support technicians are still required to tackle the complicated product issues.

State of the union

The chatbot technology is still an emerging technology. There are many components that have to work together to make chatbots work. As of today, the technology stack is not standardized, and a clear market leader has not yet manifested itself.

Just as there are many messaging apps, there are as many, if not more, chatbot building platforms, each designed to work with a subset of specific messaging apps. Some messaging app vendors, such as Facebook and Telegram, also provide their own official chatbot building platforms. Besides those, there are other third-party chatbot platforms that support multiple messaging apps.

For instance, Chatfuel is a chatbot platform that supports both Facebook and Telegram. The Microsoft Bot Framework supports Facebook Messenger, Slack, and SMS.

Most chatbot building platforms claim that chatbots can be developed in minutes with no coding required. While creating a chatbot may take only minutes, making it do something useful involves customization including configuring the AI front-end engine, the e-commerce and payment processor backend, etc.

Given the myriad technical choices and possibilities, it is best to leverage professional help to guide the development of chatbots for your business enterprise.

Chatbots and Drupal

Many businesses have already crafted their online presence in the form of a website using an enterprise-class CMS technology, for instance, Drupal. The good news is that you can add chatbot technology to your existing technology infrastructure, rather than starting from scratch.

If you have already built an enterprise-class Drupal website, you are a one-step ahead of everyone else. The Drupal infrastructure is essentially a portal that captures your business logic, including the backend portion that interfaces with your e-commerce and other back-office systems.

Adding chatbots to your overall technology stack involves adding the proper middleware to connect your chatbot frontend with your Drupal-based business logic backend.

As stated in the previous section, chatbots itself is an emerging technology that may be outside the scope for most in-house development expertise. Adding the middleware to join together chatbots and your Drupal backend is an extra level of software complexity.

This middleware framework is available from the Drupal community but is currently in a very early stage for commercialization. To ensure success for your chatbot project, professional consulting is highly recommended.

If you require professional services, whether to build from scratch an enterprise-class Drupal website with chatbot integration or to add chatbot capabilities to your existing Drupal platform, Vardot is pleased to offer such services from its Jordanian headquarters or its American and Egyptian regional offices. Contact us now for more details regarding your project!

Sep 06 2017
Sep 06

DrupalCon Vienna must be music to the ears of Drupal developers. Every year, Drupal developers flock to DrupalCon to collaborate, network, and learn in a beautiful urban European or North American location, with the objectives of supporting the Drupal community and furthering their Drupal careers. Year 2017 will be no exception. The popular annual European version of the event will be held in Vienna, the grand Austrian capital, September 26-29, 2017. Vardot, a long-time contributor in the Drupal community and sponsor of DrupalCon Vienna will be there.

Why you should attend DrupalCon Vienna

There are many reasons for attending DrupalCon Vienna. If you are new to Drupal 8, you definitely want to come to soak up all things Drupal 8 this year. In fact, Drupal developers have 132 reasons to attend DrupalCon Vienna, one per accepted conference session. The excellent sessions rank high in most developers’ checklist. For the 2017 conference, a whopping total of over 500 session proposals were submitted. Acceptance standards were most rigorous, and only 132 sessions, or 26%, were accepted for DrupalCon Vienna. Attendees will not be disappointed by the quality of the carefully pre-selected sessions.

The accepted sessions together make up 108 hours of quality learning opportunities for attendees. To help you find the sessions that interest you the most, the sessions are classified into 13 tracks, covering the entire spectrum of topics of interest to the Drupal community. The top 4 tracks with the most submitted session proposals in DrupalCon Vienna are: Being Human, Coding and Development, Business, and Site Building.

 

Being human

While 3 of the 4 above mentioned session tracks are reasonably self-explanatory, the Being Human track perhaps needs some explanation. This track covers the human dynamics in a Drupal project and community. Speakers are encouraged to share personal anecdotes to illustrate principles of maintaining a healthy community and project. Leadership, mentorship, gender gap, work-life balance are all key ideas in the Being Human track.

Specifically, three of the sessions in this track draw my attention. Two are related to promoting diversity in the Drupal workspace, and to a large context, the Drupal community. The Debugging the Gender Gap session addresses the current gender imbalance in the Drupal industry, and suggests some solutions to correct the situation. The From a Single Fighter to a Team Player session makes an effort to bridge gaps of a different kind, namely, cultural and language gaps. The speaker relates back to his personal experience as a visible minority in the European tech industry. To paraphrase him, how a job is done is more important than doing a perfect job.

Drupal is different (and better) than a lot of other open-source projects because of its vision and commitment to be an open and inclusive community. These sessions are steps toward fulfilling that vision.

 

Coding and Development

DrupalCon marks almost 2 years since the release of Drupal 8. So, it is not surprising that DrupalCon Vienna sessions, including the Coding and Development track, are almost exclusively Drupal-8-centric. If you are still in the process of migrating to Drupal 8, it is not too late. Migrate Everything into Drupal 8 and Doctor, Will My Drupal 7 Commerce Site Survive the Upgrade? are 2 sessions that you should not miss.

One huge benefit of attending DrupalCon Vienna is to learn the latest practical development tips and techniques. Drupal developers will pick up valuable debugging knowledge from the Wait, there’s more! - Advanced debugging tactics session. I also like 2 other sessions on testing. Improved development process with better QA approach will frame a good overall mindset on testing, while Testing small to medium size client projects with Behat will drill into a specific test tool.

 

Business

Unless you are a pure Drupal hobbyist, sooner or later, you will have to figure out how to make your Drupal business viable. Pinpointing star sessions in the Business track is difficult because it depends on where you are in the life cycle of a Drupal business.

If you are an entrepreneur about to start a new Drupal venture, I’d recommend Co-operative Drupal: Growth & Sustainability through Worker Ownership. Here, you are challenged to make every employee an owner of the company. The coop ownership model is still very much a novelty in the Drupal industry. However, the speaker will argue for its merits, and share personal success stories.

If your objective is to grow your existing Drupal business, then sales and marketing is perhaps your focus in this track. You can weigh whether accessibility is an applicable value that you can sell to your clients, as suggested by the Accessibility as a Business Proposition session. You can also learn valuable lessons on how to build a sales team from the session entitled Is Selling Drupal an Art or a Science?

Last but not least, if you are running a well-established Drupal business and pondering on the next step, then How to go from one to seven companies around the world and how to run them is a must-attend for you. The speakers will present the challenges of diversifying a successful company and how they met the challenges head on.

 

Site building

Decoupled Drupal (aka headless Drupal) has the potential to effect a paradigm shift in how websites are built. Essentially, the idea is to separate content (the Drupal CMS backend) from the display frontend. The Site Building track in DrupalCon Vienna includes 2 sessions which feature the headless architecture: Decoupled site building: Drupal's next challenge, and

Headless, stateless, DB-less: how Kurier.at is transforming digital production with Drupal, NodeJS and Platform.sh. These sessions not only introduce the possibilities and implications of such an architecture, but also point to some working examples. Site builders not familiar with the idea should definitely attend at least 1 of the sessions.

 

Other tracks (and sprints too)

Kudos to DrupalCon Vienna for the breadth of topics covered. Besides the above 4 tracks, developers will also be attracted to the Core Conversations, DevOps, Front End, Performance and Scaling, PHP, and Symfony tracks. And, if you want to step temporarily away from the programming side of Drupal, you will be stimulated by the Project Management, Drupal Showcase, and Horizons tracks.

While the formal sessions are great, you may want to add some activities that are more participatory in nature. DrupalCon Vienna has planned for that as well. Besides the formal sessions, there are also Birds of a Feather (aka BoF) sessions and Sprints.

BoFs are informal gatherings during DrupalCon Vienna on a specific Drupal topic, but without a pre-planned agenda. This allows attendees to collaborate and share their ideas freely and organically on a target topic. BoFs are fun and their outcome often unpredictable. In contrast, Sprints are hands-on sessions to tackle specific focused tasks for the Drupal project. Example activities include bug squashing, specifying a new feature, refactoring a small module, etc. Both BoFs and Sprints are very popular among attendees and can fill up quickly.

 

Have fun

DrupalCon Vienna offers more than just sessions. You can sprinkle DrupalCon Vienna with social events in order to network with fellow Drupal community members. And what better backdrop to befriend them than Vienna, a city of music, art, culture, and fine cuisine.

 

Vardot on DrupalCon

Fellow developers, when you attend DrupalCon Vienna this coming September, drink up on coffee because you are going to need it with so many good activities for your enjoyment and career development. And if you bump into someone from Vardot at the coffee lineup between sessions, don't forget to say hello - we’re always happy to see drupalists around.

 

And what sessions of DrupalCon Vienna are you planning to attend? Which ones are the most attractive for you and why? Share with us your opinion in the comment section below. See you soon in Austria!

Aug 02 2017
Aug 02

The cobbler's children always go barefoot! Is a saying we no longer want to be associated with. As a Drupal-specialized development house, it's no longer an excuse to keep a Drupal 7 website.

You're currently reading this post from our new Drupal 8 website, built using the ultimate Bootstrap distribution available for Drupal 8; Varbase (see project page on drupal.org). We've built Varbase with the basic concept of DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), so that we relieve ourselves from repeating all the modules, features, configurations, best-practices that are included in every Drupal website we built.

Did you know that Varbase is available for free to install and build websites on it yourself? You can test-drive it now on Simplytest.me. Or contact us to build one for you.

New Website Sections

Our new website features our Products in a new section where you can learn more about each product we build.

We also highlight how we deliver business solutions for various industries and verticals, including Higher-ed and SchoolsCorporates and Enterprises, Non-profits and NGOs, and News, Media and Entertainment.

Paragraphs to Build Nice Pages

The new website (and Varbase) uses the famous Paragraphs module, and suite of other modules that we have specifically built for Varbase, such as Varbase Bootstrap Paragraphs.

You can now leverage this functionality with an intuitive page building experience when you use Varbase.

Advanced Page Building Using Paragraphs in Varbase

It's worth noting that it took us 2 weeks to build the new website! Amazing, right? Let us know what you think.

And contact us to discuss your next project.

Pages

About Drupal Sun

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

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

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web