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Appnovation Technologies: Simple Website Approach Using a Headless CMS: Part 1

Wed, 2019/02/06 - 9:00am
Simple Website Approach Using a Headless CMS: Part 1 I strongly believe that the path for innovation requires a mix of experimentation, sweat, and failure. Without experimenting with new solutions, new technologies, new tools, we are limiting our ability to improve, arresting our potential to be better, to be faster, and sadly ensuring that we stay rooted in systems, processes and...
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OpenSense Labs: Lights, Camera and Action with Drupal

Thu, 2018/12/27 - 7:21am
Lights, Camera and Action with Drupal Vasundhra Thu, 12/27/2018 - 11:51

Ah! those days, when copies of movies were sold in the form of DVDs, fast forwarding and rewinding through the scenes made us feel that the power is all in our hands. 

But with the evolution in technology and internet presence  (in terms of marketing a film), the need for a movie website has come a long way after witnessing a growth in streaming services.  


Setting up a movie website means understanding the goals of building it in the very first place. Be it a teaser website, production blog, or a distribution site - depending on the demand of the audience, web development is brought into action.

And nothing does a better task than Drupal. Often preferred by brands that deal with a high volume of traffic, this  CMS platform would offer you effective features and functionalities for your website.

What Does Drupal Offer Your Website With?

Choosing a Content Management System for your website is like choosing the cast for your movie. And Drupal proves to be the CMS which give the best of “all worlds”. It would provide you with an ample number of functionalities and fulfill all your customer's needs. 

Starting from:

Content Authoring 

While you are creating your movie website, there might be instances that would lead you to a situation in which you wish to edit your content or any particular page. It may be a change in the movie title or modification in the synopsis.

Drupal 8 features bring about an unusual power into the hands of content authors. With modules like WYSIWYG CKEditor, drafting and editing content have become a piece of cake.

The use of client-side editors to edit content, installing and integrating choice editor has been made even more simple. It includes HTML editors (i.e WYSIWYG), pseudo-editor (to insert markup into text area) and  flash based applications (for production of animation)

The WYSIWYG module also presents you with an abstraction layer for other Drupal modules to integrate with the editor which implies that Drupal modules can expose content editing functionality, indifferent of what editor has installed.


New Theme Engine

Just like resolutions are important for deciding the quality of a movie, a theme also plays a vital role in your website. When an individual visits your movie website, the very first thing which would attract them would be its theme. An interesting and impressive theme would never backfire when it comes to user experience.

Theme engine combines data with templates from themes and shows the final HTML result to the user  Source: Github

Drupal 8 includes a brand new theming engine called Twig, which is PHP-based, flexible, fast, and secure. It helps in creating a beautiful and functional website that has a much simpler syntax. Offering features like template inheritance, automatic escaping, variable filters, and macros to improve the development workflow. 

Responsive Designs  

According to Statista,  52.4 percent of the global web traffic is originated from mobile devices (making it half of the population) which clearly implies the importance of responsive designs. 

Responsive Designs would improve user experience which would in return portray a positive impression for your movie website. If your fans are able to easily access your website, it would more likely to increase the numbers in terms of traffic and bring out a good number of conversion rates even in the future.

Drupal 8 is mobile first in its approach. All the built-in themes that come with Drupal 8 are responsive, along with an admin theme that adapts to different screen sizes. This would allow different users to access your website at different places on various devices. A module like Breakpoint, which comes with Drupal core, resizes the website and images according to the device.

Nordisk Film Cinema is a great example of this. They wanted a responsive and a visually engaging website with cutting-edge functionalities. This was demanded so that the current and future website users have the power to easily navigate the site regardless of the device they were using. The requirement of the responsive site was also because many visitors use their smartphones to buy tickets on the go. Thus Drupal was the best choice for them. 


Security 

While you are funding for the construction of your movie website, you expect it to be secure and safe from hackers and potential viruses. Drupal has a very good track record when it comes to security, and has recognized process for investigation, verifying and publishing security problems. When it comes to security, Drupal vulnerability statistics clearly depicts security attacks that have considerably reduced over the years.

Source: Etondigital

You can easily enhance the security of your website with help of Drupal security modules like captcha (response test to determine whether a user is a human or not), password policy (enforces restrictions in users passwords), security kit (protects the website from cross-scripting, cross-site requesting, click jagging etc), two-factor authentication (provides extra security with code authentication on mobile) 

Not only this but Drupal design meets all the security standard of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). Hence, Drupal core, being highly secure, builds sites that can be patched within minutes. This lowers the risk of broken features or any error to a minimum.

Migration 

Entertainment Weekly was one of the sites that were stuck managing content across ten different WordPress VIP blogs and a large legacy Vignette site. They needed to incorporate their digital content and implement a rapid publishing solution to lower the time between publishing and going live.

An agency was approached to help migrate content and integrate editorial workflow onto a single Drupal-based solution. Migration of more than 20 years of content was all needed to be considered for the creation of the platform. Drupal was chosen because of the fact that its core consisted of the migrate module that provides API and base implementation for importing up of data. 

Similarly, at any instance of time, you might feel a need to migrate from one site to another, and that is the reason why Drupal is the hero for you. The core migrate module in Drupal 8 provides APIs and base implementation for importing data into Drupal.  


Web Hosting 

It is important to buy a web space to build your movie website in order to get it live and active on the internet. 

This is only possible with the help of web hosting. Drupal 8 provides you with many web hosting options. Which are safe to use and efficiently handles your site traffic.

So, if you want to make a better choice when it comes to web hosting companies, you can choose:

  • Pantheon
  • Liquid Web
  • InMotion
  • Bluehost
  • Site5
  • Pair
  • Omega8.CC
  • Drupion
  • Green Geeks
  • Black Mesh  
Manages Configuration

Configuration Management is an important factor of any CMS platform. In Drupal 8 configuration data is stored in files, separated from the site database, and has configuration management built into it at the file system level. Carrying configuration elements from local development to the server has been made really easy with Drupal 8.

The contributed module in Drupal 8, i.e Config Filter helps in built-in configuration management capabilities by providing an API to support different workflow which filters out or modifies configuration changes as being pushed to the configuration. 
Config Split is an another contributed module in Drupal 8 that builds on top of Config Filter that allows a difference in configuration between various environment.  

Managing configuration would allow you to establish a consistency in terms of performance and also eliminate the time to build out additional resources without worrying about the user prone errors. 

Configuration Management System in Drupal can manage things like:

  • Modules setting and states 
  • Content Types
  • Block Types
  • Permissions
  • Views
  • Theme Settings
Content Architecture 

We have reached a point where the old drupal hymn “create content first and see it later” is not enough to succeed with the content editors. Hence, Drupal is competing and replacing other CMS when it comes to content architecture. Content Editors expect full flexibility on how to create, display, approve and publish content. Modules like panels and panelizer, a distribution like panopoly and demo framework have helped in the modification of panorama in Drupal.  

One of the most important steps of building your movie website is deciding how to structure your content architecture. There are ample numbers of ways in which you can build out complex content type in Drupal 8. Here, every piece of content is an entity that stores different types of content.

Your movie website would have entities like the cast, edition, categories, review, collection and so on.

Drupal modules like views contribute largely to the whole structure of the content architecture. With this Drupal 8 feature firmly integrated with the core, the creation of pages, blocks, admins have been made easy.

Menu module in Drupal core is the static hierarchy of the content. This module allows the administration to customize the websites navigation menu. You can easily add new menus and edit the existing ones. Apart from these two, Entity reference field or link field explicitly allows the addition of link from one content item to another. 

Accessibility 

In addition to providing subtitles in multiple languages for a worldwide audience, understanding the need of closed captions and audio description have broadened the customer base to include hundreds and millions of people worldwide who have hearing loss and vision impairments. 

Making a movie accessible is not only a choice but a legal requirement as well.

Accessibility for the visually impaired community is a really important factor for creating any website. Drupal 8 has excellent support for industry standards like WAI ARAI, and with the help of screen readers and other assistive technology, Drupal is ensuring accessibility at a much bigger level.


Performance 

We all are aware of the three-second rule implemented on a website. Even the smallest change in a website page results in the modification of the traffic noticeably. Hence, speed immensely contributes to the strength and the performance of the website.

Drupal 8 caches all the entities, and helps in the speed and streaming sector to optimize the performance as it is needed. With modules like varnish and redis this task is easily achievable. These modules allow the developers to optimize the site load performance for the end-user significantly.

Drupal 8 core also consists of a module which is the Big Pipe that loads the dynamic pages quickly by loading various section of the webpage in parallel. It is done so that the end users do not have to wait for the Document Object Model (DOM) to be completely ready to start an interaction with the website. Drupal allows the user to tinker with the core. A programmer can twist out a lot of performance boost from a Drupal website. It primarily caters to the enterprise market, hence the websites are well suited and handled with a large volume of data and thousands of pages. It should be noted that a well managed Drupal website rarely goes down or slows down the procedure. 

Multilingual and Multisite Capabilities 

Drupal’s multisite feature allows the user to share a single Drupal installation site core. This is specifically useful for managing the code since each upgrade only needs to be done once. Every site would have its own database and it would also have its own configurational settings. If you have a complex site or a very different site to manage then Drupal multisite is the best option. 

Drupal is also capable of supporting and managing multiple language out-of-the-box. Which means support for the translation of the content as well as for the translation of the back-end user interface of the CMS itself. Having the support of the multilingual website means more audience. With the addition of only four modules in Drupal 8 for language support, all the monolingual and non-english website are easily translated. 


A great example of this would be Turner Broadcasting General Entertainment multi-site which is built on Drupal platform. The site consists of entertainment brands like Cartoon Network, Boomerang, CNN etc. Drupal was primarily used because of its multilingual and multi-site capabilities. It successfully built enterprise-level CMS websites, and scaled to a high level of traffic and maintained availability and performance.

Getting Noticed 

Once you have a website, you need to get it noticed so that people will start visiting it. In other words, if the website ranks high it would definitely get noticed. Drupal has some set of modules which does the task pretty well. Modules like Pathauto, Meta tag, Site verification, Path Redirect, and Google Analytics help in creating URL paths and optimize search engines. 

  • Pathauto

Drupal automatically operates and generate path identity for the content without asking the users to specify the path identity. These identities are based on pattern system that uses token with the administrator.

 

  • Path redirect

Drupal allows the user to redirect from one path to another path utilizing HTTP redirect status. This would prevent the user to encounter with error 404 if the path was changed or redirected at some instance. 

 

  • Site verification

Drupal is such a user-friendly domain that it allows them to verify the site and domain ownership for a search engine. There are two types of methods which support verification - the addition of meta tags or uploading a particular file. 

  • Meta Tags

Drupal automatically grants the users with structured metadata or meta tags. These elements help the website with ranking and displaying of the site in the search engine outcomes. 

 

  • Google Analytics

Drupal is one such platform which supports web analysis. It presents the users with class web analytic capability, these capabilities make Google analytics an excellent tool for monitoring SEO results. 

Community 

Drupal community constantly updates and builds modules to expand the platform for compatibility and security reasons. In other words, Drupal is one of those platforms which checks for errors and makes it certain that the site is protected all the time. 

Drupal association has a team that looks after the security of Drupal and its module. Thus, your movie website is surely in good hands as there are people watching it all the time. By providing with several customer support features that are built in the service. Features like:

  • Forum

The user can post a question or a query which is answered by the professionals once it is seen by them.

  • Slack and online chat

The user can chat with the Drupal community which is maintained by them and handled by them.

  • Community documentation

The user can read the online documentation which is written and maintained by the Drupal community. 

  • Books

There is an ample number of user guide and manuals which presents the users with remedies and solutions. 

Case Study 

Cambridge film festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious cultural events in the East Anglia region. Drupal was chosen to build the website. It was selected because it maps the content-rich film data into a CMS that gave them an opportunity to build a powerful film search.


As a key part of the festival’s marketing strategy, the new website was used to raise awareness, increase audiences and attract the world's best filmmakers.

Focusing on the user experience (UX), it was built fully to have a responsive website which can be viewed across all devices. It was also essential to make searching, sharing and booking online via the mobiles and tablets easy.

Although Drupal 8 was still in the process of development during the introduction of this project, the breadth of functionality and flexibility in the core was taken into consideration.

While building the theme for the Cambridge Film Festival, the advantage of the new Twig theming system was also taken. Individual pages were built in a more styled and modular way, the Twig debug mode did a great job of guiding them through the process, making file name suggestions that offered a range of options for theming elements either globally or individually.

The film search utilizes the View module as well. Using Views made the complex relationships easy to set up, and the also advanced caching which meant that even though the view was quite complicated, it loaded very quickly under most circumstances.

Wrapping Up 

Just like every movie has a happy ending ( if not then that's not the ending), bringing your site to a position where the world watches it and appreciates it is what you desire for. And attaining this task is the big climax to the entire scene. 

Thus, to grab those standing ovations working smart is the key. At OpenSense Labs, we actually sense the need of you producing a user-friendly site and thus provide services that contribute highly to your journey of constructing the website. Thereby, call us at hello@opensenselabs.com to build the desired movie website. 

blog banner blog image Drupal Drupal 8 CMS Movies Media Content Authoring Theme Engine Responsive web design Security Content migration Web hosting Content Architecture Web Accessibility Performance Optimisation Multisite Multilingual Site SEO Drupal community Movie Website User experience Film website Blog Type Articles Is it a good read ? On
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fluffy.pro. Drupal Developer's blog: Terraform: conditional operator with list values

Wed, 2018/12/26 - 10:25pm
It's not possible to use list values in a conditional operator. For example, if you try:resource "aws_elasticsearch_domain" "es_domain" {
...

vpc_options {
...
subnet_ids = [ "${var.es_zone_awareness_enabled ? list("subnet-1", "subnet-2") : list("subnet-1")}" ]
}

...
}
it will fail with "conditional operator cannot be used with list values" message. This is because terraform cannot assert that list's element types are consistent.

Read more »
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Drudesk: How to import data from a CSV file to Drupal 8

Wed, 2018/12/26 - 2:17pm

There is often a need to import and export content to and from your Drupal 8 website. The ability to do that lets you use the power of content in Drupal 8 more fully. One of the most popular content sources is a CSV file. For getting data from it, Drupal 8 has a number of useful contributed modules, and any cases also need customization. Our Drupal team provides smooth CSV import even for the most complex cases.

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The Accidental Coder: Drupal 8 Quick Start Guide

Wed, 2018/12/26 - 4:09am
Drupal 8 Quick Start Guide ayen Tue, 12/25/2018 - 22:09
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Agiledrop.com Blog: The Story of Agiledrop: Our Training Program

Mon, 2018/12/24 - 2:50pm

We've started a series of blog posts that tell the story of what makes our developers successful when working with other Drupal teams. The second chapter outlines the obstacles we encountered, dealing with one of them in more detail and presenting our solution to it.

READ MORE
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Droptica: With Droopler 1.4 you will LOVE content management in Drupal

Mon, 2018/12/24 - 10:52am
Droopler 1.4 is now available and you can download it right now! Personally, I’ve been testing the 1.4-rc version on Droptica’s websites for a number of weeks and I can honestly say that the new version is a great improvement in terms of editing work. Finally, creating long and beautiful websites in Drupal is a simple and pleasant affair. Easier paragraph editing The main content type in Droopler is paragraph-based. The Paragraphs module is – at least in my opinion – the best Drupal module geared towards easier content creation; however, when it comes to long and very long pages, editing content using Paragraphs becomes tedious and annoying. 
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Elevated Third: Drupal 7 End of Life: Start Your Migration Planning Now

Fri, 2018/12/21 - 6:45pm
Drupal 7 End of Life: Start Your Migration Planning Now Drupal 7 End of Life: Start Your Migration Planning Now Nick Switzer Fri, 12/21/2018 - 10:45

It’s official – Drupal 7 will be reaching its end of life in November of 2021. In a blog post announcing the June 2020 launch date of Drupal 9, Drupal founder and project lead, Dries Buytaert, revealed the latest roadmap for Drupal version support. 

The announcement marks an exciting milestone for the Drupal community but also starts the countdown to the end of life date for not one, but two, major versions of Drupal. With the support cycles for both Drupal 7 and 8 coming to an end in 2021, now is the time for Drupal site owners to consider what an upgrade or migration might look like for them, and to better understand the impact of these dates on the future of Drupal. 

What does end of life mean?

When a piece of software reaches its end of life date, it will no longer receive bug fixes or security updates from the maintainers. Dropping support for deprecated versions of Drupal is a way for maintainers to drive adoption toward modern platforms that leverage current technology as effectively as possible. Come November 2021, both Drupal 7 and 8 will reach end of life, but each for slightly different reasons.

In November 2021, Drupal 7 will be over 10 years old. In 2011, we were excited about the brand new iPhone 4S and Game of Thrones Season 1. Needless to say, times have changed drastically and Drupal has experienced more growth and evolution than Daenerys’ dragons.

Drupal 7 was a huge step forward when it was released, but Drupal 8 continued to push things with a complete rework of the underlying architecture and a wealth of powerful new features, including a revamped release cycle, that rendered Drupal 7 obsolete. While Drupal 7 is still supported with bug fixes and security updates, it does not receive any new core features and is definitely not the place to start a new Drupal site build. November 2021 will mark the long-overdue retirement of a piece of software that served its purpose, but is no longer able to meet the needs of a user base that demands something more robust.

Drupal 8 also reaching end of life in November 2021 marks a major milestone in the life of Drupal: only one major release will be supported for the first time ever. However, this is happening for a much different reason than the depreciation of Drupal 7.

Image Courtesy of Dries Buytaert

Thanks to the major architectural rework that took place in Drupal 8, Drupal 9 will essentially be Drupal 8’s final form. This means that Drupal 9 is the next step in the evolution of Drupal 8 and it can simply be included as part of a global Drupal release cycle, rather than something that needs its own special treatment. The impact of this change on site owners and the general longevity of Drupal websites is monumental.

For the first time ever, upgrading to a new major version of Drupal will not require a ground-up rebuild.

Assuming Drupal core and all of its dependencies have been kept up to date, migrating from Drupal 8.8.x to Drupal 9, should not be all that different from updating Drupal 8.7.x to Drupal 8.8.x.

Why is this a good thing?

While this could potentially be a painful transition for many Drupal 7 site owners, the upside of a Drupal 8 migration is larger than it has ever been. Drupal 8 is a modern, stable platform that is capable of handling massive websites with huge amounts of complex functionality, and that platform will no longer be hindered by the stagnation that can occur when the user base knows that a new major release is on the way with no backwards compatibility. This means site owners and module maintainers alike have a much clearer roadmap for how future releases of Drupal impact them, and that roadmap allows for more innovation without the concern of a full rebuild due to the incompatibility of a future major release.

Additionally, knowing the end of life date of Drupal 7, and the release date of Drupal 9, gives Drupal 7 site owners significantly more time to plan their migration than any other major release has allowed. Given that we are currently a little less than three years out from this date, there is ample time to secure budget and plan for a long-term investment in Drupal, knowing that your new site will be compatible with future major releases of Drupal.

When should I upgrade?

At the very least, you should be starting the planning process for your Drupal 8/9 migration now. Drupal 8 is, and has been, ready for prime time for quite a while. At Elevated Third, we’ve been building exclusively on Drupal 8 since May of 2016 and we’ve had no reason to look back. The Drupal core contributors have committed to a release cycle that will facilitate a much more sustainable life cycle for Drupal site owners, who can rest easy knowing that consistent maintenance will allow a well-built site a huge amount of longevity. 

Considering a Drupal 8 Migration?

Start here
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Drupal blog: Drupal's long-term growth obstacles

Fri, 2018/12/21 - 6:15pm

This blog has been re-posted and edited with permission from Dries Buytaert's blog.

Drupal 8 has been growing 40 to 50 percent year over year. It's a healthy growth rate. Regardless, it is always worth exploring how we can continue to accelerate that growth.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the power of removing obstacles to growth, and shared how Amazon approaches its own growth blockers. Amazon identified at least two blockers for long-term growth: (1) shipping costs and (2) shipping times. For more than a decade, Amazon has been focused on eliminating both. They have spent an unbelievable amount of creativity, effort, time, and money to eliminate them.

In that blog post, I promised to share my thoughts around Drupal's own growth barriers. What obstacles can we eliminate to fuel Drupal's long-term growth? Well, I believe the limitations to Drupal's growth can be summarized as:

  1. Make Drupal easy to evaluate and adopt
  2. Make Drupal easy for content creators and site builders
  3. Reduce the total cost of ownership for developers and site owners
  4. Keep Drupal relevant and impactful
  5. Promote Drupal and help Drupal agencies win

For those that have read my blog or watched my DrupalCon keynote presentations, none of these will come as a surprise. Just like Amazon's examples, fixing these obstacles have been, and will be, multi-year efforts.

Drupal's five product strategy tracks. A number of current initiatives is shown on each track.

1. Make Drupal easy to evaluate and adopt

We need to make it easy for more people to try Drupal. To help evaluators explore Drupal's possibilities, we improved the download and installation experience, and included a demonstration site with core. We made fantastic progress on this in 2018.

Now that we have improved the evaluator experience, I'd love to see us focus on the "new user" experience. When you put yourself in the shoes of a new Drupal user, you'd still find it hard to set up a local development environment. There are too many options, too little direction, and no one official way for how to get started with Drupal. The "new user" is not receiving enough attention, and that slows adoption so I'd love to see us focus no that in 2019.

2. Make Drupal easy for content creators and site builders

One of the most powerful trends I've noticed time and time again is that simplicity wins. People expect software to be functionally powerful and easy to use. This is especially true for content creators and site builders.

To make Drupal easier to use for content creators and site builders, we've introduced WYSIWYG and in-place editing in Drupal 8.0, and now we're working hard on media management, layout building, content workflows and a new administration and authoring UI.

A lot of these initiatives add tools to the UI that empower content creators and site builders to do more with less code. Long term, I believe that we need to more of these "no-code" or "low-code" capabilities in Drupal.

3. Reduce the total cost of ownership for developers and site owners

Developers want to be agile, fast and deliver high quality projects that add value for their organization. Developers don't want their tools to get in the way.

For Drupal this means that they want to build sites, including themes and modules, without being bogged down by complex upgrades, expensive migrations or cumbersome developer workflows.

For developers and site owners we have made upgrades easier, we adopted a 6-month innovation model, and we extended security coverage for minor releases. This removes the complexity from major upgrades, gives organizations more time to upgrade, and allows us to release new capabilities more frequently. This is a very big deal for developer and site owners!

In addition, we're working on improving Drupal's Composer support and configuration management capabilities. This will help developers automate and streamline their day-to-day work.

Longer term, improved Composer support could act as a stepping stone towards automated updates, which would be one of the most effective ways to free up a developer's time.

4. Keep Drupal relevant and impactful

The innovation in the Drupal ecosystem happens thanks to Drupal contributors. We need to attract new contributors to Drupal, and keep existing contributors excited. This means we have to keep Drupal relevant and impactful.

To keep Drupal relevant, we've been investing in making Drupal an API-first platform for many years now. Headless Drupal or decoupled Drupal is one of Drupal's competitive advantages. Drupal's web service APIs allow developers to use Drupal with their JavaScript framework of choice, push content to different channels, and better integrate Drupal with different technologies in the marketing stack.

Drupal developers can now do unprecedented things with Drupal that weren't available before. JavaScript and mobile application developers have been familiarizing themselves with Drupal due to its improved API-first capabilities. All of this keeps Drupal relevant, ensures that Drupal has high impact, and that we attract new developers to Drupal.

5. Promote Drupal and help Drupal agencies win

While Drupal is well-known as an Open Source project, there isn't a deep understanding of how Drupal is evolving or how Drupal compares to its competitors.

Drupal is improving rapidly every six months with each new minor version release, but I'm not sure we're getting that message out effectively. We need to promote our amazing progress, not only to everyone in the web development community, but also to marketers and content managers, who are now often weighing in heavily on CMS decisions.

We do an incredible job collaborating on code — thousands of us are helping to build Drupal — but we do a poor job collaborating on marketing, education and promotion. Imagine what could happen if these thousands of individuals and agencies would all collaborate on promoting Drupal!

That is why the Drupal Association started the Promote Drupal initiative, and why we're trying to rally people in the community to work together on creating pitch decks, case studies, and other collateral to promote and market Drupal.

Here are a few things already happening:

  • There is an updated Drupal Brand Book for organizations to follow as they design Drupal marketing and sales materials.
  • A team of volunteers is creating a comprehensive Drupal pitch deck that Drupal agencies can use as a starting point when working with new clients.
  • DrupalCon will have new Content & Digital Marketing Track for marketing teams responsible for content generation, demand generation, user journeys, and more; and a "Agency Leadership Track" for those running Drupal agencies.
  • We will begin work on a competitive comparison chart — contrasting Drupal with other CMS competitors like Adobe, Sitecore, Contentful, WordPress, Prismic, and more.
  • A number of local Drupal Associations are hiring marketing people to help promote Drupal in their region.

Just like all open source contribution, it takes many to move things forward. So far, 40 people have signed up to help with these marketing efforts. If your organization has a marketing team that would like to contribute to the marketing of Drupal, check out the Promote Drupal initiative page and please join the Promote Drupal team.

Educating the world about how Drupal is evolving, the amazing use cases we support, and how Drupal compares to old and new competitors will go a very long way towards raising awareness of the project and growing the businesses built on and around Drupal.

Final thoughts

After talking to hundreds of Drupal users and would-be users, as well as dozens of agency owners, I believe we're working on the right things. Overcoming these growth obstacles are multi-year efforts. While the various initiatives might change, I believe we'll keep working on these four tracks for the next decade. We've been making steady progress the last few years but need to remain both patient and committed to driving them home. Just like Amazon continues to work on their growth obstacles after more than a decade, I expect we'll be working on these four obstacles for many years to come.

File attachments:  product-strategy-mountain-december-2018.jpg
Categories:

Dries Buytaert: Drupal's long-term growth obstacles

Fri, 2018/12/21 - 4:53pm

Drupal 8 has been growing 40 to 50 percent year over year. It's a healthy growth rate. Regardless, it is always worth exploring how we can continue to accelerate that growth.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the power of removing obstacles to growth, and shared how Amazon approaches its own growth blockers. Amazon identified at least two blockers for long-term growth: (1) shipping costs and (2) shipping times. For more than a decade, Amazon has been focused on eliminating both. They have spent an unbelievable amount of creativity, effort, time, and money to eliminate them.

In that blog post, I promised to share my thoughts around Drupal's own growth barriers. What obstacles can we eliminate to fuel Drupal's long-term growth? Well, I believe the limitations to Drupal's growth can be summarized as:

  1. Make Drupal easy to evaluate and adopt
  2. Make Drupal easy for content creators and site builders
  3. Reduce the total cost of ownership for developers and site owners
  4. Keep Drupal relevant and impactful
  5. Promote Drupal and help Drupal agencies win

For those that have read my blog or watched my DrupalCon keynote presentations, none of these will come as a surprise. Just like Amazon's examples, fixing these obstacles have been, and will be, multi-year efforts.

Drupal's five product strategy tracks. A number of current initiatives is shown on each track. 1. Make Drupal easy to evaluate and adopt

We need to make it easy for more people to try Drupal. To help evaluators explore Drupal's possibilities, we improved the download and installation experience, and included a demonstration site with core. We made fantastic progress on this in 2018.

Now that we have improved the evaluator experience, I'd love to see us focus on the "new user" experience. When you put yourself in the shoes of a new Drupal user, you'd still find it hard to set up a local development environment. There are too many options, too little direction, and no one official way for how to get started with Drupal. The "new user" is not receiving enough attention, and that slows adoption so I'd love to see us focus no that in 2019.

2. Make Drupal easy for content creators and site builders

One of the most powerful trends I've noticed time and time again is that simplicity wins. People expect software to be functionally powerful and easy to use. This is especially true for content creators and site builders.

To make Drupal easier to use for content creators and site builders, we've introduced WYSIWYG and in-place editing in Drupal 8.0, and now we're working hard on media management, layout building, content workflows and a new administration and authoring UI.

A lot of these initiatives add tools to the UI that empower content creators and site builders to do more with less code. Long term, I believe that we need to more of these "no-code" or "low-code" capabilities in Drupal.

3. Reduce the total cost of ownership for developers and site owners

Developers want to be agile, fast and deliver high quality projects that add value for their organization. Developers don't want their tools to get in the way.

For Drupal this means that they want to build sites, including themes and modules, without being bogged down by complex upgrades, expensive migrations or cumbersome developer workflows.

For developers and site owners we have made upgrades easier, we adopted a 6-month innovation model, and we extended security coverage for minor releases. This removes the complexity from major upgrades, gives organizations more time to upgrade, and allows us to release new capabilities more frequently. This is a very big deal for developer and site owners!

In addition, we're working on improving Drupal's Composer support and configuration management capabilities. This will help developers automate and streamline their day-to-day work.

Longer term, improved Composer support could act as a stepping stone towards automated updates, which would be one of the most effective ways to free up a developer's time.

4. Keep Drupal relevant and impactful

The innovation in the Drupal ecosystem happens thanks to Drupal contributors. We need to attract new contributors to Drupal, and keep existing contributors excited. This means we have to keep Drupal relevant and impactful.

To keep Drupal relevant, we've been investing in making Drupal an API-first platform for many years now. Headless Drupal or decoupled Drupal is one of Drupal's competitive advantages. Drupal's web service APIs allow developers to use Drupal with their JavaScript framework of choice, push content to different channels, and better integrate Drupal with different technologies in the marketing stack.

Drupal developers can now do unprecedented things with Drupal that weren't available before. JavaScript and mobile application developers have been familiarizing themselves with Drupal due to its improved API-first capabilities. All of this keeps Drupal relevant, ensures that Drupal has high impact, and that we attract new developers to Drupal.

5. Promote Drupal and help Drupal agencies win

While Drupal is well-known as an Open Source project, there isn't a deep understanding of how Drupal is evolving or how Drupal compares to its competitors.

Drupal is improving rapidly every six months with each new minor version release, but I'm not sure we're getting that message out effectively. We need to promote our amazing progress, not only to everyone in the web development community, but also to marketers and content managers, who are now often weighing in heavily on CMS decisions.

We do an incredible job collaborating on code — thousands of us are helping to build Drupal — but we do a poor job collaborating on marketing, education and promotion. Imagine what could happen if these thousands of individuals and agencies would all collaborate on promoting Drupal!

That is why the Drupal Association started the Promote Drupal initiative, and why we're trying to rally people in the community to work together on creating pitch decks, case studies, and other collateral to promote and market Drupal.

Here are a few things already happening:

  • There is an updated Drupal Brand Book for organizations to follow as they design Drupal marketing and sales materials.
  • A team of volunteers is creating a comprehensive Drupal pitch deck that Drupal agencies can use as a starting point when working with new clients.
  • DrupalCon will have new Content & Digital Marketing Track for marketing teams responsible for content generation, demand generation, user journeys, and more; and a "Agency Leadership Track" for those running Drupal agencies.
  • We will begin work on a competitive comparison chart — contrasting Drupal with other CMS competitors like Adobe, Sitecore, Contentful, WordPress, Prismic, and more.
  • A number of local Drupal Associations are hiring marketing people to help promote Drupal in their region.

Just like all open source contribution, it takes many to move things forward. So far, 40 people have signed up to help with these marketing efforts. If your organization has a marketing team that would like to contribute to the marketing of Drupal, check out the Promote Drupal initiative page and please join the Promote Drupal team.

Educating the world about how Drupal is evolving, the amazing use cases we support, and how Drupal compares to old and new competitors will go a very long way towards raising awareness of the project and growing the businesses built on and around Drupal.

Final thoughts

After talking to hundreds of Drupal users and would-be users, as well as dozens of agency owners, I believe we're working on the right things. Overcoming these growth obstacles are multi-year efforts. While the various initiatives might change, I believe we'll keep working on these four tracks for the next decade. We've been making steady progress the last few years but need to remain both patient and committed to driving them home. Just like Amazon continues to work on their growth obstacles after more than a decade, I expect we'll be working on these four obstacles for many years to come.

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AddWeb Solution: Continuous Delivery with Drupal - The Need of the Hour!

Fri, 2018/12/21 - 1:02pm

Continuous Delivery - A trending word in the world of technology. Continuous Delivery(CD), along with Continuous Integration(CI), is becoming a popular term even with the non-technical people. And hence, every IT company is seeing a flood of clients coming with the demand of both of them. Both of these techniques - CI/CD are closely associated with the quality-oriented work methodologies - Agile and DevOps. And so are we!

 

Team AddWeb has been for years been associated with and following Agile and DevOps. Just as we’re associated with Drupal. No wonder, we have been ardently following continuous delivery with Drupal for years now. So let us first throw some light on this popular concept of ‘Continuous Delivery with Drupal’.

 

What is Continuous Delivery?

Continuous Delivery is a process of automatically deploying all your changes made on development stage, directly to the production stage. This kind of delivery is done by accepting all the unit-cases followed by coding standards. Once the code is merged with the stage branch from the development branch, the same stage branch also gets an automatic update with the help of Jenkins and git-webhook, which is triggered by merging the branches. A similar process of automatic delivery is also followed on the production site; where the code is merged with the master branch from stage branch, which is later deployed to the production servers.

 

Team AddWeb, as we mentioned previously, has been persistent followers of CD with Drupal via Jenkins, Ansible, and RocketChat. We believe, in today’s day and age, CD, and CI hold so much of significance because one can define repetitive tasks for one time and then on every build the same mentioned steps will run in order to update the new content. And when we speak of so much so of its importance, let us also share the tools, block diagram and process that we, at AddWeb, choose to follow for Continuous Delivery.

, ,

CD/CI Tools Used by Team AddWeb:

There are multiple tools that can we used to follow the process of Continuous Delivery. Let us share the ones that we, at AddWeb, have been using for years. You can consider this as a recommendation from us, for the amount of experience we hold in using them successfully for all these years.

  1. Git

  2. Docker

  3. Jenkins

  4. Ansible

  5. Rocket-chat

Block Diagram Used by Team AddWeb:

Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a diagram for us - the techies, is worth a hundred written words. We at AddWeb, do understand and empathise with this fact and hence, here’s the block diagram that we personally use for Continuous Delivery.

, ,

Process Followed by Team AddWeb:

Every developer has their own process to be followed for Continuous Delivery. Here’s the one that team AddWeb choose to follow:

  1. As soon as the developer pushes code into the git repo, a webhook will be triggered. This will call Jenkins, which will further run the Ansible playbooks. These Ansible playbooks comprise of the code of delivery process, which is eventually followed by sending a push notification to the RocketChat server once the code is successfully built. One also receives this push notification in case of built failure condition.
     

  2. Pipeline code is written in Ansible playbook for a continuous delivery process:
    - Create a backup of code and database
    - Pull the latest code on the server by git pull
    - Run composer install for Drupal-8 sites to install new modules, libraries
    - Run drush updb -y
    - Run drush cim -y
    - Run drush cr
    - Send notification of successful build or failed build job details into Rocketchat

Hope the overall understanding and the provided guideline regarding the much-talked about and significant Continuous Delivery has proven helpful to you. In case, you have something to add on to the above information or even correct anything, feel free to contact us. Also, you can share what do you want us to share in our next blog. We’re all ears for suggestions and recommendations.

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Drupal core announcements: Seeking volunteers to fill new core team facilitation roles

Thu, 2018/12/20 - 10:13pm

Over the past five years, to meet the growing velocity in Drupal 8 core development and facilitate a more mature release process, we've gradually grown the Drupal 8 core committer team from two people to four, then six, then twelve people.

We've reached a team size where we'd benefit from additional team members whose primary focus is helping the committer team function more effectively, through facilitating process; communicating with other maintainers, initiative teams, and the community; and organizing meetings and discussions.

To this end, the core team is adding two additional roles to our governance (more details behind the link):

  • A committer team facilitator role, responsible for helping organize and run committer discussions. The committer team facilitator supports the committer team in the team's priorities (but does not set these priorities). This important project management assistance will allow the core committer team to spend more time reviewing and committing patches, which will increase the quality and speed of improvements.
  • A core initiative facilitator role, responsible for supporting core initiative teams across initiatives and helping initiative coordinators. This is a very important role because it helps initiative teams to deliver software that meets end user needs and brings better community awareness to the efforts going on within initiatives.

Both roles are estimated to be a 10-15 hour/month commitment, and we're suggesting a renewable one year term for each.

Adding project management backing to the team will help us be more effective, and to better focus on those roles and tasks that only committers can do. I'm excited about this direction, as it embodies our principle of everyone has something to contribute, valuing non-technical contributions at the same level as technical contributions by making these roles a formal part of the committer team.

If you're interested in one or both of these new roles, please get in touch!

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Drupal Atlanta Medium Publication: Your Holiday Gift from DrupalCamp Atlanta: Session Videos Now Live

Thu, 2018/12/20 - 7:00pm
To Zach Sines and Taylor Wright, It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.2018 DrupalCamp Atlanta Group Picture

Thanks to all of the presenters and participants who attended 2018 DrupalCamp Atlanta (DCATL). We are excited to provide you with a little holiday gift. The Session Videos are now live. View here

I would also like to thank the awesome DCATL team that I had the pleasure to work with:

  • Sarah Golden — Acquia
  • Nikki Smith — Sevaa
  • Zach Sines — Manhattan Associates
  • Taylor Wright
Overcoming Challenges

As with any event, this year’s DCATL had some interesting twists and turns that we were able to overcome. The biggest and most noticeable one, of course, was the construction that was happening at the hotel. Two weeks before the event, I met with the hotel event staff to discuss our setup. On my way into the hotel, everything looked as I expected and it was business as usual. When I entered the lobby I noticed they were putting up a temporary wall that blocks off the hotel bar. During our discussion I was informed there was going to be some construction going on during our camp but as ensured that the event space wouldn’t be impacted.

The DCATL team arrived at the hotel to load in and everyone was mortified when we saw the front of the building. No more than 10 minutes after we arrived, I received a message from one of the trainers asking, “are we still having the conference?” We immediately started thinking about how we can alleviate the situation so we took a picture of the building an sent an email out to everyone ensuring them that the interior of the building was okay and that we were still going to have an awesome conference.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. 10 days before the camp, we were still short on the financials and were kind of sweating it out (although we had reserve funds to cover the costs) thinking of ways that we could reduce costs without getting rid of too much programming. I received a phone call from an employee at Turner, asking if they could be a Diamond Sponsor and would also like to sponsor the after party. WOW! I couldn’t believe we were getting bailed out in the last minute, phew!

2019 Goals for DrupalCamp Atlanta

After the camp, I got a chance to have lunch with a mentor of mine and we talked about where are the next generation of Drupalers going to come from and what purpose camps serve today vs ten years ago. So based on our discussion here are my top two goals I would like to propose to the DCATL organizing team.

Increase the Number of Case Studies with co-presentations from Drupal shops and their Clients.

Another topic we discussed was how Acquia Engage has taken a different approach by showcasing their clients and providing opportunities for Drupal shops to schedule a meet and greets talk with their clients. During the opening session at DCATL I asked the audience, “raise your hand if you have invited a client to attend or co-present at DrupalCamp Atlanta.” Out of all the attendees maybe 2 raised their hands.

Increase the Number of Student Attendees

When looking some of my Drupal colleague's user profiles so many of us over 10 years. This means we are getting old folks :) But more importantly, where are the net generation of Drupalers going to come from. The state of Georgia has 114 colleges and 326,609 students. I know it takes a lot of energy but we have to figure out a way to use our camp as a pipeline for nurturing the next generation of Drupalist.

It's Not Goodbye Its See You Soon

For the past 5.5 years, I have had the pleasure to work with Zach Sines and Taylor Wright as board members of the Atlanta Drupal Users Group (ADUG). Both Zach and Taylor were key stakeholders in the restructuring of the organization. Zach took on the writing of the bylaws that states how people are elected, what are the rules for participating, what are the roles and responsibilities of each officer and so on. Taylor has a ton of finance experience so he took on the responsibility of cleaning up our financials and paying all of our bills. These two have been by my side, even after heated discussions and have been what I like to call my nice translators. Sometimes I have the tendency to be too blunt so they were always had my back :).

Zach in the Green on the Left. Taylor in the Green on the Right

Earlier this year, both Zach and Taylor informed all of us that 2018 will be their last year serving on the board. Not to get too mushy but I am going to miss them both a lot, I mean a ton. Not just for their expertise but hearing their voices on our monthly calls and some of their hilarious stories. But what is great about Drupal is that you build some lasting relationships and now I consider these two my friends. Thank you for all the work you have put into running these events, and I know this is not goodbye its soo you soon.

ADUG is Looking for New Board Members

With our current vacancies, the Atlanta Drupal User Group (ADUG) is currently looking for new board members to join our team. While the serving on a board can sound intimidating we are really just a bunch of Drupalers who want to give back to the community. All of our meetings are held on a video call. If you are interested or know some who would be a great fit, please feel free to contact us.

Your Holiday Gift from DrupalCamp Atlanta: Session Videos Now Live was originally published in Drupal Atlanta on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Agiledrop.com Blog: Top Drupal blog posts from November 2018

Thu, 2018/12/20 - 12:21pm

To continue with our tradition of compiling the top blog posts involving Drupal from the previous month, we’ve prepared a list of blog posts from November 2018 that stuck with us the most.

READ MORE
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Droptica: It’s been a year with Droopler!

Thu, 2018/12/20 - 10:00am
Soon, we will be celebrating the first anniversary of the day Droopler – our open Drupal 8 distribution – was released. It is a perfect time for some summaries and plans for the future. In this article, I’m going to show you how Droopler works and what awaits its users in the upcoming release.
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Jeff Geerling's Blog: Deploying an Acquia BLT Drupal 8 site to Kubernetes

Wed, 2018/12/19 - 11:28pm

Wait... what? If you're reading the title of this post, and are familiar with Acquia BLT, you might be wondering:

  • Why are you using Acquia BLT with a project that's not running in Acquia Cloud?
  • You can deploy a project built with Acquia BLT to Kubernetes?
  • Don't you, like, have to use Docker instead of Drupal VM? And aren't you [Jeff Geerling] the maintainer of Drupal VM?

Well, the answers are pretty simple:

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Aten Design Group: GraphQL with Drupal: Getting Started

Wed, 2018/12/19 - 7:29pm

Decoupling Drupal is a popular topic these days. We’ve recently posted about connecting Drupal with Gatsby, a subject that continues to circulate around the Aten office. There are a number of great reasons to treat your CMS as an API. You can leverage the content modeling powers of Drupal and pull that content into your static site, your javascript application, or even a mobile app. But how to get started?

In this post I will first go over some basics about GraphQL and how it compares to REST. Next, I will explain how to install the GraphQL module on your Drupal site and how to use the GraphiQL explorer to begin writing queries. Feel free to skip the intro if you just need to know how to install the module and get started.

A Brief Introduction to GraphQL

Drupal is deep in development on an API First Initiative, and the core team is working on getting json:api into core. This exposes Drupal's content via a consistent, standardized solution which has many advantages and responds to REST requests.

Recently the JavaScript community has become enamored with GraphQL, a language for querying databases which is touted as an alternative to REST for communicating with an API.

Developed by Facebook, GraphQL is now used across the web from the latest API of Github to the New York Times redesign.

GraphQL opens up APIs in a way that traditional REST endpoints cannot. Rather than exposing individual resources with fixed data structures and links between resources, GraphQL gives developers a way to request any selection of data they need. Multiple resources on the server side can be queried at once on the client side, combining different pieces of data into one query and making the job of the front-end developer easier.

Why is GraphQL Good for Drupal?

GraphQL is an excellent fit for Drupal sites, which are made up of entities that have data stored as fields. Some of these fields could store relationships to other entities. For example, an article could have an author field which links to a user.

The Limitations of REST

Using a REST API with that example, you might query for “Articles”. This returns a list of article content including an author user id. But to get that author’s content you might need to do a follow-up query per user ID to get that author’s info, then stitch together that article with the parts of the author you care about. You may have only wanted the article title, link and the author name and email. But if the API is not well designed this could require several calls to the server which returned way more info that you wanted. Perhaps including the article publish date, it’s uuid, maybe the full content text as well. This problem of “overfetching” and “underfetching” is not an endemic fault with all REST based APIs. It’s worth mentioning that json:api has its own solutions for this specific example, using sparse fieldsets and includes.

Streamlining with GraphQL

With GraphQL, your query can request just the fields needed from the Article. Because of this flexibility, you craft the query as you want it, listing exactly the fields you need (Example: the title and URL, then it traverses the relationship to the user, grabbing the name and email address). It also makes it simple to restructure the object you want back; starting with the author then getting a reverse reference to Articles. Just by rewriting the query you can change the display from an article teaser to a user with a list of their articles.

Either of these queries can be written, fields may be added or removed from the result, and all of this without writing any code on the backend or any custom controllers.

This is all made possible by the GraphQL module, which exposes every entity in Drupal from pages to users to custom data defined in modules, as a GraphQL schema.

Installing GraphQL for Drupal

If you want to get started with GraphQL and Drupal, the process requires little configuration.

  1. Install the module with Composer, since it depends on a vendor library GraphQL-php If you're using a Composer based Drupal install use the command:
    composer require drupal/graphql
    to install the module and its dependencies.
  2. Enable the module; it will generate a GraphQL schema for your site which you can immediately explore.
Example Queries with GraphiQL

Now that you have GraphQL installed, what can you do? How do you begin to write queries to explore your site’s content? One of the most compelling tools built around GraphQL is the explorer, called GraphiQL. This is included in the installation of the Drupal GraphQL module. Visit it at:

/graphql/explorer

The page is divided into left and right sides. At the left you can write queries. Running a query with the button in the top left will display the response on the right pane.

Write a basic query on the left side, hit the play button to see the results on the right.

As you write a query, GraphiQL will try to autocomplete to help you along.

As you type, GraphiQL will try to autocomplete With entities, you can hit play to have it fill in all the default properites.

You can also dive into the live documentation in the far right pane. You'll see queries for your content types, the syntax for selecting fields as well as options for filtering or sorting.

Since the schema is self documenting, you can explore the options available in your site.

The documentation here uses autocomplete as well. You can type the name of an entity or content type to see what options are available.

Add additional filter conditions to your query.

Filters are condition groups, in the above example I am filtering by the "article" content type.

In the previous example I am just getting generic properties of all nodes, like entityLabel. However, if I am filtering by the "Article" type, I would want access to fields specific to Articles. By defining those fields in a "fragment", I can substitute the fragment right into my query in place of those individual defaults.

Use fragments to set bundle specific fields.

Because my author field is an entity reference, you'll see the syntax is similar to the nodes above. Start with entities, then list the fields on that entity you want to display. This would be an opportunity to use another fragment.

Now that the query is displaying results how I want, I can add another filter to show different content. In this case; a list of unpublished content.

Add another filter to see different results.

Instead of showing a list of articles with their user, I could rearrange this query to get all the articles for a given user.

Display reverse references with the same fragment.

I can reuse the same fragment to get the Article exactly as I had before, or edit that fragment to remove just the user info. The nodeQuery just changes to a userById which takes an id similar to how the nodeQuery can take a filter. Notice the reverseFieldAuthorNode. This allows us to get any content that references the user.

Up Next: Building a Simple GraphQL App

If you’re new to GraphQL, spend a little time learning how the query language works by practicing in the GraphiQL Explorer. In the next part of this post I will go over some more query examples, write a simple app with create-react-app and apollo, and explain how GraphQL can create and update content by writing a mutation plugin.

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Lullabot: A Toolset For Enterprise Content Inventories

Wed, 2018/12/19 - 7:06pm

Earlier this year, Lullabot began a four-month-long content strategy engagement for the state of Georgia. The project would involve coming up with a migration plan from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 for 85 of their state agency sites, with an eye towards a future where content can be more freely and accurately shared between sites. Our first step was to get a handle of all the content on their existing sites. How much content were we dealing with? How is it organized? What does it contain? In other words, we needed a content inventory. Each of these 85 sites was its own individual install of Drupal, with the largest containing almost 10K unique URLs, so this one was going to be a doozy. We hadn't really done a content strategy project of this scale before, and our existing toolset wasn't going to cut it, so I started doing some research to see what other tools might work. 

Open up any number of content strategy blogs and you will find an endless supply of articles explaining why content inventories are important, and templates for storing said content inventories. What you will find a distinct lack of is the how: how does the data get from your website to the spreadsheet for review? For smaller sites, manually compiling this data is reasonably straightforward, but once you get past a couple hundred pages, this is no longer realistic. In past Drupal projects, we have been able to use a dump of the routing table as a great starting point, but with 85 sites even this would be unmanageable. We quickly realized we were probably looking at a spider of some sort. What we needed was something that met the following criteria:

  • Flexible: We needed the ability to scan multiple domains into a single collection of URLs, as well as the ability to include and exclude URLs that met specific criteria. Additionally, we knew that there would be times when we might want to just grab a specific subset of information, be it by domain, site section, etc. We honestly weren't completely sure what all might come in handy, so we wanted some assurance that we would be able to flexibly get what we needed as the project moved forward.
  • Scalable: We are looking at hundreds of thousands of URLs across almost a hundred domains, and we knew we were almost certainly going to have to run it multiple times. A platform that charged per-URL was not going to cut it.
  • Repeatable: We knew this was going to be a learning process, and, as such, we were going to need to be able to run a scan, check it, and iterate. Any configuration should be saveable and cloneable, ideally in a format suitable for version control which would allow us to track our changes over time and more easily determine which changes influenced the scan in what ways. In a truly ideal scenario, it would be scriptable and able to be run from the command line.
  • Analysis: We wanted to be able to run a bulk analysis on the site’s content to find things like reading level, sentiment, and reading time. 

Some of the first tools I found were hosted solutions like Content Analysis Tool and DynoMapper. The problem is that these tools charge on a per-URL basis, and weren't going to have the level of repeatability and customization we needed. (This is not to say that these aren't fine tools, they just weren't what we were looking for in terms of this project.) We then began to architect our own tool, but we really didn't want to add the baggage of writing it onto an already hectic schedule. Thankfully, we were able to avoid that, and in the process discovered an incredibly rich set of tools for creating content inventories which have very quickly become an absolutely essential part of our toolkit. They are:

  • Screaming Frog SEO Spider: An incredibly flexible spidering application. 
  • URL Profiler: A content analysis tool which integrates well with the CSVs generated by Screaming Frog.
  • GoCSV: A robust command line tool created with the sole purpose of manipulating very large CSVs very quickly.

Let's look at each of these elements in greater detail, and see how they ended up fitting into the project.

Screaming Frog undefined

Screaming Frog is an SEO consulting company based in the UK. They also produce the Screaming Frog SEO Spider, an application which is available for both Mac and Windows. The SEO Spider has all the flexibility and configurability you would expect from such an application. You can very carefully control what you do and don’t crawl, and there are a number of ways to report the results of your crawl and export it to CSVs for further processing. I don’t intend to cover the product in depth. Instead, I’d like to focus on the elements which made it particularly useful for us.

Repeatability

A key feature in Screaming Frog is the ability to save both the results of a session and its configuration for future use. The results are important to save because Screaming Frog generates a lot of data, and you don’t necessarily know which slice of it you will need at any given time. Having the ability to reload the results and analyze them further is a huge benefit. Saving the configuration is key because it means that you can re-run the spider with the exact same configuration you used before, meaning your new results will be comparable to your last ones. 

Additionally, the newest version of the software allows you to run scans using a specific configuration from the command-line, opening up a wealth of possibilities for scripted and scheduled scans. This is a game-changer for situations like ours, where we might want to run a scan repeatedly across a number of specific properties, or set our clients up with the ability to automatically get a new scan every month or quarter.

Extraction undefined

As we explored what we wanted to get out of these scans, we realized that it would be really nice to be able to identify some Drupal-specific information (NID, content type) along with the more generic data you would normally get out of a spider. Originally, we had thought we would have to link the results of the scan back to Drupal’s menu table in order to extract that information. However, Screaming Frog offers the ability to extract information out of the HTML in a page based on XPath queries. Most standard Drupal themes include information about the node inside the CSS classes they create. For instance, here is a fairly standard Drupal body tag.

<body class="html not-front not-logged-in no-sidebars page-node page-node- page-node-68 node-type-basic-page">

As you can see, this class contains both the node’s ID and its content type, which means we were able to extract this data and include it in the results of our scan. The more we used this functionality, the more uses we found for it. For instance, it is often useful to be able to identify pages with problematic HTML early on in a project so you can get a handle on problems that are going to come up during migration. We were able to do things like count the number of times a tag was used within the content area, allowing us to identify pages with inline CSS or JavaScript which would have to be dealt with later.

We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what we can do with this XPath extraction capability, and future projects will certainly see us dive into it more deeply. 

Analytics undefined

Another set of data you can bring into your scan is associated with information from Google Analytics. Once you authenticate through Screaming Frog, it will allow you to choose what properties and views you wish to retrieve, as well as what individual metrics to report within your result set. There is an enormous number of metrics available, from basics like PageViews and BounceRate to extended reporting on conversions, transactions, and ad clicks. Bringing this analytics information to bear during a content audit is the key to identifying which content is performing and why. Screaming Frog also has the ability to integrate with Google Search Console and SEO tools like Majestic, Ahrefs, and Moz.

Cost

Finally, Screaming Frog provides a straightforward yearly license fee with no upcharges based on the number of URLs scanned. This is not to say it is cheap, the cost is around $200 a year, but having it be predictable without worrying about how much we used it was key to making this part of the project work. 

URL Profiler undefined

The second piece of this puzzle is URL Profiler. Screaming Frog scans your sites and catalogs their URLs and metadata. URL Profiler analyzes the content which lives at these URLs and provides you with extended information about them. This is as simple as importing a CSV of URLs, choosing your options, and clicking Run. Once the run is done, you get back a spreadsheet which combines your original CSV with the data URL Profiler has put together. As you can see, it provides an extensive number of integrations, many of them SEO-focused. Many of these require extended subscriptions to be useful, however, the software itself provides a set of content quality metrics by checking the Readability box. These include

  • Reading Time
  • 10 most frequently used words on the page
  • Sentiment analysis (positive, negative, or neutral)
  • Dale-Chall reading ease score
  • Flesh-Kincaid reading ease score
  • Gunning-Fog estimation of years of education needed to understand the text
  • SMOG Index estimation of years of education needed to understand the text

While these algorithms need to be taken with a grain of salt, they provide very useful guidelines for the readability of your content, and in aggregate can be really useful as a broad overview of how you should improve. For instance, we were able to take this content and create graphs that ranked state agencies from least to most complex text, as well as by average read time. We could then take read time and compare it to "Time on Page" from Google Analytics to show whether or not people were actually reading those long pages. 

On the downside, URL Profiler isn't scriptable from the command-line the way Screaming Frog is. It is also more expensive, requiring a monthly subscription of around $40 a month rather than a single yearly fee. Nevertheless, it is an extremely useful tool which has earned a permanent place in our toolbox. 

GoCSV​

One of the first things we noticed when we ran Screaming Frog on the Georgia state agency sites was that they had a lot of PDFs. In fact, they had more PDFs than they had HTML pages. We really needed an easy way to strip those rows out of the CSVs before we ran them through URL Profiler because URL Profiler won’t analyze downloadable files like PDFs or Word documents. We also had other things we wanted to be able to do. For instance, we saw some utility in being able to split the scan out into separate CSVs by content type, or state agency, or response code, or who knows what else! Once again I started architecting a tool to generate these sets of data, and once again it turned out I didn't have to.

GoCSV is an open source command-line tool that was created with the sole purpose of performantly manipulating large CSVs. The documentation goes into these options in great detail, but one of the most useful functions we found was a filter that allows you to generate a new subset of data based on the values in one of the CSV’s cells. This allowed us to create extensive shell scripts to generate a wide variety of data sets from the single monolithic scan of all the state agencies in a repeatable and predictable way. Every time we did a new scan of all the sites, we could, with just a few keystrokes, generate a whole new set of CSVs which broke this data into subsets that were just documents and just HTML, and then for each of those subsets, break them down further by domain, content type, response code, and pre-defined verticals. This script would run in under 60 seconds, despite the fact that the complete CSV had over 150,000 rows. 

Another use case we found for GoCSV was to create pre-formatted spreadsheets for content audits. These large-scale inventories are useful, but when it comes to digging in and doing a content audit, there’s just way more information than is needed. There were also a variety of columns that we wanted to add for things like workflow tracking and keep/kill/combine decisions which weren't present in the original CSVs. Once again, we were able to create a shell script which allowed us to take the CSVs by domain and generate new versions that contained only the information we needed and added the new columns we wanted. 

What It Got Us

Having put this toolset together, we were able to get some really valuable insights into the content we were dealing with. For instance, by having an easy way to separate the downloadable documents from HTML pages, and then even further break those results down by agency, we were able to produce a chart which showed the agencies that relied particularly heavily on PDFs. This is really useful information to have as Georgia’s Digital Services team guides these agencies through their content audits. 

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One of the things that URL Profiler brought into play was the number of words on every page in a site. Here again, we were able to take this information, cut out the downloadable documents, and take an average across just the HTML pages for each domain. This showed us which agencies tended to cram more content into single pages rather than spreading it around into more focused ones. This is also useful information to have on hand during a content audit because it indicates that you may want to prioritize figuring out how to split up content for these specific agencies.

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Finally, after running our scans, I noticed that for some agencies, the amount of published content they had in Drupal was much higher than what our scan had found. We were able to put together the two sets of data and figure out that some agencies had been simply removing links to old content like events or job postings, but never archiving it or removing it. These stranded nodes were still available to the public and indexed by Google, but contained woefully outdated information. Without spidering the site, we may not have found this problem until much later in the process. 

Looking Forward

Using Screaming Frog, URL Profiler, and GoCSV in combination, we were able to put together a pipeline for generating large-scale content inventories that was repeatable and predictable. This was a huge boon not just for the State of Georgia and other clients, but also for Lullabot itself as we embark on our own website re-design and content strategy. Amazingly enough, we just scratched the surface in our usage of these products and this article just scratches the surface of what we learned and implemented. Stay tuned for more articles that will dive more deeply into different aspects of what we learned, and highlight more tips and tricks that make generating inventories easier and much more useful. 

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Jeff Geerling's Blog: Hosted Apache Solr now supports Drupal Search API 8.x-2.x, Solr 7.x

Wed, 2018/12/19 - 5:50pm

Earlier this year, I completely revamped Hosted Apache Solr's architecture, making it more resilient, more scalable, and better able to support having different Solr versions and configurations per customer.

Today I'm happy to officially announce support for Solr 7.x (in addition to 4.x). This means that no matter what version of Drupal you're on (6, 7, or 8), and no matter what Solr module/version you use (Apache Solr Search or Search API Solr 1.x or 2.x branches), Hosted Apache Solr is optimized for your Drupal search!

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Evolving Web: 5 Things New Drupal Site Builders Struggle With

Wed, 2018/12/19 - 5:15pm

I’ve recently been researching, writing, and talking about the content editor experience in Drupal 8. However, in the back of my mind I’ve been reflecting on the site builder experience. Every developer and site builder who learns Drupal is going to use the admin UI to get their site up-and-running. What are some things site builders often struggle with in the admin UI when learning Drupal?

Blocks

For most Drupal site builders, the Block layout page is key to learning how Drupal works. However, there is more to Blocks than just the Block layout page. You can also create different types of blocks with different fields in Drupal 8.

Site builders new to Drupal don’t usually stumble across the Block Types page on their own. In fact, I think a lot of site builders don’t know about block types at all. Probably because "Block Types" is not listed in the in the 2nd level of the administration menu under “Structure”, but instead buried in the third level of the menu.

Similarly, site builders might never find the “Custom block library” page for creating block content. Depending on how blocks are being used on a particular site, this page might be more logically nested under “Content”.

Many users never find the “Demonstrate block regions” link, a really key page for anyone learning how Drupal works and what regions are. Most Drupal site builders who see this page for the first time are delighted, so making this link more prominent might be an easy way to improve the experience for site builders.

Appearance

Typically, a Drupal site has two themes: the default/front-end theme and the admin/back-end theme. The appearance page doesn’t make this clear. Some site builders learning Drupal end up enabling an admin theme on the front-end or a front-end theme for the admin UI. I think the term "default theme" is confusing for new users. And making a consistent UI for setting a theme as the default theme or the admin theme would be a nice improvement.

Install vs. Download

The difference between installing and downloading a module is not laid out clearly. If someone is trying Drupal for the first time, they’ll likely use the UI to try and install modules, rather than do it through the command line. In the UI, they see the link to “Install New Module”. Once this is done, it seems like the module should be installed. Even though they have the links available to “Enable newly installed modules”, they might not read these options carefully. I think re-labelling the initial link to "Download New Module" might help here.

Most users are also confused about how to uninstall a module. They don’t know why they can’t uncheck a checkbox on the "Extend" page. Providing a more visible link to the uninstall page from installed modules might help with this.

Configuration Management

The UI for configuration management is pretty hidden in Drupal 8. In practice, configuration management is something we typically do via the command line, this is how most seasoned Drupalers would import/export configuration. However, for someone learning how Drupal 8 works, they’re going to be learning initially from the UI. And at the moment, site builders are virtually unaware of Configuration Management and how it affects their work.

Having some kind of simple reminder in the UI to show site builders the status of their configuration could go a long way to them understanding the configuration management workflow and that they should be using it.

The Admin Toolbar

Everyone loves the admin toolbar module. Once it’s installed, site builders are happy and ask “Why isn’t this part of Drupal core?”

But, for a certain set of people, it’s not clear that the top-level of this navigation is clickable. The top-level pages for “Configuration” and “Structure” are index pages that we don’t normally visit. But the “Content” page provides the content listing, and the “Extend” page shows use all our modules. These are obviously key pages. Imagine trying to learn Drupal if you don’t realize you can click on these pages for the first week. But users who are used to not being able to click top-level elements might simply miss these pages. Does anyone know a good way to signal that these are clickable?

What's Next?

I would love to hear how you think we should improve the admin UI for site builders and if you have any thoughts on my suggestions. 

One thing that I'm very excited about that's already happening is a new design to modernize the look and feel of the Admin UI in Drupal. This will go a long way to making Drupal seem more comfortable and easy to use for everyone, content editors and site builders alike. You can see the new designs here.

+ more awesome articles by Evolving Web
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