As you probably know, Drupal 6 reached its End-of-Life (EOL) on February 24th, 2016. However, the mantle of supporting Drupal 6 was taken up by the Drupal 6 Long-Term Support vendors - including the team here at myDropWizard!
Long-Term Support isn't glamorous or exciting.
It's making security releases. It's minor bug fixes. Sometimes it's updating a contrib module that hasn't had an official release since 2009 to work with PHP 7. :-)
In fact, a big part of Drupal 6 Long-Term Support (D6LTS) is updating Drupal 6 core and contrib to work with new technologies, especially as the older versions that it was originally designed to work with become deprecated or reach their own EOL, like when PHP 5 reached its EOL at the end of last year. (Did you know that Drupal 6 now works with PHP 7?)
Today, I'd like to announce that Drupal 6 supports MySQL 8, starting with Drupal 6.51!
This was implemented in collaboration with the community, largely the contributions of f1mishutka, but also a number of others who contributed testing and bug reports.
I know there's a lot of anxiety over how Drupal 7 Extended Support (D7ES) is going to work, however, I think that this is more evidence that the vendor-supported model used by D6LTS (and soon, D7ES) is working.
You can download the latest Drupal 6 LTS core release from GitHub.
Your current website/platform is built on Drupal 7 and news has hit your ears about 7’s end of life (EOL). Maybe your site is a Drupal 8 site and you want to know what the future has in store for you. Good news is, you don’t have to do anything immediately, but it is definitely a question that you want to start thinking about very soon.
This article is mainly aimed at Drupal 7 builds looking to upgrade to 8 or 9, and we will explore the pros and cons of each. However, if your current platform is based on Drupal 8 and you want to know what your options are with regards to Drupal 9, you can skip to here. Or, if like my fence (yes, that really is my fence and it is in desperate need of an upgrade), you require an upgrade, skip down to see what we can do for you.
Drupal 7’s EOL is November 2021, which is a little way off yet, but it’ll soon creep up on you (very much like my fast approaching wedding day… eek!)! So what does EOL mean? After End of Life in November 2021, Drupal 7 will stop receiving official support: this means no more security fixes and no more new features. Any new ‘Drupalgeddon’ security issues will be ignored, leaving Drupal 7 sites open to attack; we saw a minority of sites being used as bitcoin miners last year as a result of sites not being patched… this is just an example of what could/can happen!
There appear to be talks in the Drupal community about providing LTS (“Long Term Support”) programmes, offering continued support for Drupal 7. Community LTS tends to cover security issues mostly, with minor functionality updates. But if you want the longest term security support prospects, whilst also being on the platform best suited to growth, ongoing development and support we would advise that you don’t look to the D7 LTS programmes.
Crucially, a Drupal 7 to 9 upgrade will largely be the same as a 7 to 8 upgrade - you won’t be missing out on too much; you’ll just wait longer for the new goodness that 7 doesn’t have!
The best option, therefore, is to consider an upgrade. But which version do you go for? Should you go straight in for Drupal 8, or stay longer on your beloved Drupal 7 and switch over to 9 nearer 7’s end of life? Let’s look at the options.
Benefits of migrating to Drupal 8
Drupal 8 was a complete ground-up rewrite of Drupal 7. D7 was written without a known framework and without utilising Object Orientation, meaning a majority of Drupal 7 was written procedurally; this can make code hard to maintain and inefficient, resulting in a loss of page load performance. Using a framework that is built upon an OO philosophy ensures clearer code that it is easier to maintain, read, and modify - all of which results in a faster, more secure site.
Drupal 8 also runs on PHP 7 as standard; PHP 7 is *much* faster than its predecessor. In addition, D8 utilises a new theming engine called Twig - with benefits that include better security (Twig automatically sanitises user input, for example) and a big emphasis on separation of business logic and presentation as well as being fast and flexible. It also includes nice features such as inline editing, handy for those sites that have lots of ever changing content; this should save you a few clicks of a mouse and multiple page loads! Drupal 8 is also continuing to add new features, like the anticipated Layout builder (which you can read all about here), the newly incorporated media handling and big pipe!
Well you could, but we would recommend not to. Drupal 9’s release is only around the corner, much like Drupal 7’s EOL. 9 is due to be in our hands mid-late 2020. This overlap has been cleverly timed with Drupal 7’s EOL to allow Drupal 7 sites to upgrade to Drupal 9 with time to spare before EOL. So what is the difference between Drupal 8 and 9 and why do we recommend to upgrade to Drupal 8 first?
Drupal 9 - in Layman’s terms - will be a “cleaner” version of the latest Drupal 8 version; they’re essentially the same thing, minus some deprecated code that was present at the start of Drupal 8’s life. (Deprecated code is code that is due to be decommissioned and re-written/re-integrated at a later date. The code is still safe and usable, but if you upgrade in the future, you might have a job on your hands converting all the deprecated code with their replacements. Rule of thumb, always use the newer version if it’s available to avoid future headaches).
Crucially, a Drupal 7 to 9 upgrade will largely be the same as a 7 to 8 upgrade - you won’t be missing out on too much; you’ll just wait longer for the new goodness that 7 doesn’t have! Drupal 9 will also include updates to external libraries/dependencies, which it relies upon, not to mention any new features that’ll it have over 8. At time of writing, we are unsure of what these might be!
The only foreseeable benefit we can see for waiting for Drupal 9 (over 8) is that you get to stay on your tried and trusted Drupal 7 site for a year or two longer whilst giving you maximum time to plan for that eventual upgrade.
How easy is it to upgrade my site?
At the start of Drupal 8’s life, one of the major goals that 8 wanted to get right over D7 was migration. Therefore, a big emphasis was placed on making sure that migrations were easier and less painful to do, particularly since it (core) would have a completely different architecture. As a result, migrations from 7 to 8 (or 9) are somewhat nicer than those who upgraded from 6 to 7 (Checkout our Conservative Party case study where we migrated an entire Drupal 6 platform to 8)
Some of you who have been reading our articles for the last few years will notice we underwent a huge change - not only did we re-brand, but we also upgraded from 7 to 8 - all of which you can read about, including all the trials and tribulations we experienced.
Drupal 8’s built in migration tools are a huge improvement over 7 and the Drupal community has created some really neat modules too, some that will provide a good starting point for any migration mappings that you may need… However, any custom code/custom field structures will need additional plugins and migration mappings without discounting an entire re-write of any HTML template files due to the new theme engine Twig.
As far as we are currently aware, a Drupal 8 to 9 migration will be *much* easier than a 7 to 8 migration. Those who have a Drupal 8 site see their minor version (8.5, 8.6, 8.7 etc etc) updated every 6 months with very little hiccups. A Drupal 8 to 9 migration will be not too dissimilar to the minor version updates that current Drupal 8 owners experience today. One of the very few exceptions being that any deprecated code (as explained above) will need converting; upgrading all contrib modules and performing a full custom code audit to make sure this works with the new version of Drupal. The data structures will remain intact as will the theme engine so no need to write new migration mappings or to convert any HTML templates - these tend to make up the bulk of the work for any Drupal migration.
We, at ComputerMinds, have experience of all the different types of upgrade paths that are available to you. Back in the day, we conducted full Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 migrations (no easy feat), but more recently, we have done Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 upgrades (as we mentioned before, in addition to upgrading some of our clients from 7 to 8, we also carried out our own upgrade for this very site) and even Drupal 6 to Drupal 8 upgrades. So we have a wealth of experience and skill.
Furthermore, choosing to upgrade your site is the perfect time to review your current brand, the look and feel of your site and to add any new features that may be in your pipeline. Any new/additional changes are a lot easier to incorporate during the upgrade phase than later down the line; it’s cheaper because we can do all the changes in development phase and it’ll also mean you’ll get shiny, new things quicker - so something definitely worth thinking about.
This article has been written to highlight what options are available now and in the future; we certainly won’t force anyone to upgrade their site, but will always do our best to make people aware of what is coming up in terms of Drupal’s life. With the e-commerce world always advancing, you definitely can’t stand still for long, so this topic will certainly need to be thought about. We also won’t be able to facilitate upgrading everyone in 2021, so please do plan ahead!
Drupal 8 is in the best possible place today. Most of the contributed modules have either been converted from 7 to 8, or brand new modules that have been created in emulate functionality from Drupal 7 that simply didn’t exist for 8. The webform module for example, a staple on 99% of our sites, wasn’t available for a long time due to the time it took to completely rewrite it - a worthwhile wait in our eyes as it is a big improvement over its 7 version. We are currently recommending any new site builds that come our way to start life as a Drupal 8 site. It gets a big thumbs up from us!
If you’ve liked what you’ve read and feel like you’re ready - or in a position - to start thinking about a site upgrade, why not start a conversation with us today either by way of live chat or using our contact form. We’d love to hear from you and look forward to seeing what benefits we can bring to your site.
QED42 has always been an ardent participant in the Drupal community. We pride ourselves for contributing to the Drupal community via modules, code patches, Drupal initiatives, DrupalCons, DrupalCamps or hosting Meetups!
It’s really the Drupal community and not so much the software that makes the Drupal project what it is. So fostering the Drupal community is actually more important than just managing the code base.
We hosted the Pune Drupal Group monthly meetup on 18th May 2019 at our office. The healthy turnout to the local meetup was a reflection of how connected the Pune Drupal Community was.
Packed with people, plenty of snacks, and laptops our Meetup commenced. After a brief introduction from all the attendees, the lights dimmed and Meena Bisht from QED42 started her session ‘ Be Ready for Drupal 9!’
It was a highly interactive session that pivoted around Drupal’s ever-evolving nature. She spoke about how long Drupal 7 will be supported, Drupal 8 end of life, and how it would impact businesses. Drupal 8.7 features - Layout Builder and Media Library and challenges faced while moving from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.
We welcomed the newest member to the family, Drupal 9.
The session also covered the Drupal release cycle, which justified the difficulties faced while moving to Drupal 8. We were relieved to know that upgrading to Drupal 9 would be a lot easier thanks to the minor upgrades.
The session shed light on why an upgrade is required, and what to expect out of Drupal 9. We ended the session with useful tips on tools for checking our deprecated code while preparing for Drupal 9.
Post session, we discussed the hurdles faced during the earlier version releases, our inhibitions, and expectations from Drupal 9.
After a quick break with refreshments and offline chats, we gathered back for the BoF session on the configuration management system. We discussed the origin of configuration management, as a Drupal initiative, the different configuration issues faced by us and identified solutions.
Lastly, we chalked out a map for the DrupalCamp Pune. All the attendees brought helpful ideas to the table, location, sessions, sponsorships, etc.
After an informative and super lucrative agenda of sessions, BoF, and DrupalCamp Pune planning, we wrapped up our Meetup.
ruchika.mohite Tue, 05/21/2019 - 17:35
Three years ago, I started to talk about "coming to an agreement within the Drupal community and sponsoring a Webform feature." In that blog post, I discussed creating a reusable and free-to-use agreement template with a defined process which could make it easier for organizations to sponsor feature requests. Now I want to share my current process for handling sponsored feature requests to the Webform module for Drupal 8.
For the past three years, organizations have reached out to me for paid support and feature requests. Adding the ability to import submissions was a feature request paid for by Kennesaw State University. Only two parts of my transaction with Kennesaw State University were publicly visible, the issue on Drupal.org (#2902977) and a blog post.
Sharing my process for handling paid feature requests will hopefully clarify how organizations can sponsor a feature for the Webform module and other Drupal and Open Source projects.
Steps for sponsoring a feature
Sponsoring a feature can be broken down into four key steps:
Good communication is one of the keys to the success of any Open Source project. Currently, there are several approaches to initiating the communication process for a sponsored feature.
To keep up with consumer demand, businesses need to tactically rethink and reform the way they produce and manage content.
What you need is a way to stand out in the consistent content chaos. To make that happen, you need a strategy that can help:
- push out content intuitively
- transform disorganized assets into a comprehensive manner
- manage real-time collaboration effectively
And that’s where the role of a CMS is important.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to building the right content strategy with Drupal, focusing primarily on the technological aspect, which will help you build and establish the right notes with your audience.
In this post, we’ll take a look at what you need to consider when preparing images for the web and how Drupal 8 can help you make this process automatic.READ MORE
The Drupal Community Working Group (CWG) consists of volunteers who help promote the health of the Drupal community; maintain and uphold the Drupal Code of Conduct; and act as an escalation point to help mediate conflict between community members.
In December of 2018, following extensive input and feedback from the community, the CWG proposed a new charter to Dries and the board of the Drupal Association. This new charter changed the oversight of the group from the project lead (Dries) to a three-person Review Panel consisting of the two community-elected members of the Drupal Association Board along with an independent representative from a different open source project who is appointed by the full Association Board. The new charter also included an expanded mandate to focus on proactive measures for community health. Dries supported these changes as did the Association Board.
An important next step following these changes was to fully appoint the CWG Review Committee. The Drupal Association worked in the first part of 2019 to identify candidates for the third party seat of this panel.
At DrupalCon Seattle we were pleased to announce that the Review Panel is fully staffed. The current members are now:
Member of the Drupal Association Board. Elected by the community to a two-year term in 2018, Suzanne is a community leader and co-founder of Evolving Web.
Member of the Drupal Association Board. Elected by the community to a two-year term in 2017, Ryan is a longtime community member and contributor to Drupal, as well as the founder and CEO of Centarro.
Jono Bacon is an experienced community strategist, speaker, author, and podcaster —and has consulted with a number of proprietary and open source organizations on community strategy and culture. The third seat of the panel has a term set by the board of the Drupal Association upon appointment, typically lasting 2 years.What is the role of the Review Panel?
The Review Panel's mandate includes approving the appointment of new members of the CWG and acting as the escalation point for Community Working Group issues. The CWG Review Panel serves as the final escalation point for CWG matters, though in exceptional cases where an issue may represent a significant concern to the whole project, the panel may escalate an issue to the full Drupal Association Board.
The Review Panel’s mandate only extends to issues that are appealed to it if one of the involved parties feels a decision of the CWG is unreasonable. The Review Panel is not responsible for reviewing decisions that take place outside of the CWG process (such as Drupal.org terms of service violations, DrupalCon Code of Conduct violations resolved directly by Association staff, or other issues that have been escalated to the full board of the Drupal Association). Requests to review those decisions must be referred to the party that made the decision.
The Review Panel is not involved in the CWG’s day-to-day activities; only matters that are brought to it as part of the appeals process, or at the discretion of the CWG. The Review Panel may, however, consult with the members of the Community Working Group to help them develop programs for proactively supporting community health.How do the Drupal Association and the CWG work together?
Under its new charter, the CWG is able to draw upon the resources of the Drupal Association, including legal advice and protection. It is also better equipped to proactively address the needs of the Drupal community.
For example, at DrupalCon Seattle the CWG presented a workshop on developing strategies for effective and inclusive group communication with the help of funding from the Drupal Association. The CWG is also currently soliciting feedback from the community as it prepares to review and update the Drupal Code of Conduct.
These are among the first of what we hope will be many initiatives to promote the health and well-being of the Drupal community, and to enhance volunteer leadership skills and sustainability as we continue to help make the Drupal community one of the most compassionate, inclusive, and intentional communities in open source.
For years, SimplyTest.me has provided a once-and-done tool for testing Drupal, and Adam Bergstein has recently taken over maintainership. In this episode we find out why, how you can help, and coffee!
We are on our journey to master the Drupal performance, after having our previous Part 1: Caching published a couple of weeks ago, we've been lucky enough to get into Issue 386 of TheWeeklyDrop newsletter, Planet Drupal, and got much love and good feedback on Twitter.
If you haven't already read the first part of the series, the ultimate guide for faster Drupal: Part 1 Caching, please feel free to read that article too.
Faster Drupal - Part 2: Aggregation and CDN
Note: You don't necessarily have to do all of these, some items listed here are replaceable with each other as well, so proceed with caution!
The one and the only holy grail: Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation
On every Drupal optimization post you’d read you have to setup and configure AdvAgg module, but you gotta do what you gotta do!
AdvAgg features and core benefits are listed on the module page completely, so go ahead and read them all, configure it the way that works best for you and move on
Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation Drupal module
Note: If you have Mod Pagespeed you might not need AdvAgg module, make sure that you don't overlap your own work
But that’s not all, if you are on Drupal 7, you should consider checking Speedy module as well, in some areas, this might work a bit better so make sure to check it out as well
Drupal MinifyJS module
CDNize the whole project, as much as you can! You may use CDN module too
Consider if you can make your own scripts defer/async (a new challenge when it comes to Drupal js aggregation)
Okay, this round was much easier thanks to AdvAgg module for taking care of half of the things we need to do for us! Note that on the frontend side you can Uglify, Minify and make sure everything that you code, will become compressed, whether it’s CSS, JS or even images or SVG files! Now let's get to it, Image optimization.Image optimization
Drupal 8: Use the Responsive Image module wherever possible and create the appropriate styles. It uses the <picture> tag which is what we really want
One might say we have one too many image optimization modules in Drupal, which is a good thing! For that we tested some, experienced with some of them and here’s what we suggest: Use blazy and lazyload_images (Drupal 8 that uses IntersectionObserver instead of scrolling events), Also consider: lazyloader and image_lazy_loader when using the picture module for responsive images in Drupal 7. There is also a lazy loading option that works well
Image optimization: for main images/icons used in the design (Yes you can optimize SVG files as well), also the best tool for that is not in Drupal, try ImageOptim desktop app, Also there’s an API-based service available with a Drupal 7 module, take a look here, might worth setting/selling this up to clients
Image formats like JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP often provide better compression than PNG or JPEG, which means faster downloads and less data consumption. There's a really good module that help you serve WebP, it's called, you guessed it; WebP.
Bonus tip: Even favicons should be optimized. Sometimes people ignore the weight of a favicon file. You shouldn’t!
For the next week, we will be covering subjects regarding Drupal database/web server tweaks & improvements, stay tuned.
Written by Sohail Lajevardi
Developer at Ramsalt Lab
For this month’s SC DUG, Mauricio Orozco from the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs shared his notes and lessons learned during his first DrupalCon North America.
We frequently use these presentations to practice new presentations, try out heavily revised versions, and test out new ideas with a friendly audience. If you want to see a polished version checkout our group members’ talks at camps and cons. So if some of the content of these videos seems a bit rough please understand we are all learning all the time and we are open to constructive feedback.
If you would like to join us please check out our up coming events on Meetup for meeting times, locations, and connection information.
While upgrading to the latest version is always part of the best practice, the process can be staggering.
Drupal 8.7 is already here and 9 will be released in a year, in June 2020.
Although a lot of discussion is happening around the upgrade and possibilities it brings along, the final product can only be as good as the process itself.
The good and important news is that moving from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 should be really easy — radically easier than migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.
As a site owner, here’s what you need to know about the new release and what to take care of to make the process easier without many glitches.
Altering Drupals composer.json to fetch a particular Drupal module git checkout.
Content editors can help make the web a more accessible place, one published moment at a time.
Although web accessibility begins on a foundation built by content strategists, designers, and engineers, the buck does not stop there (or at site launch). Content marketers play a huge role in maintaining web accessibility standards as they publish new content over time.
“Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web.” - W3Why Accessibility Standards are Important to Marketers
Web accessibility standards are often thought to assist audiences who are affected by common disabilities like low vision/blindness, deafness, or limited dexterity. In addition to these audiences, web accessibility also benefits those with a temporary or situational disability. This could include someone who is nursing an injury, someone who is working from a coffee shop with slow wifi, or someone who is in a public space and doesn’t want to become a nuisance to others by playing audio out loud.
Accessibility relies on empathy and understanding of a wide range of user experiences. People perceive your content through different senses depending on their own needs and preferences. If someone isn’t physically seeing the blog post you wrote or can’t hear the audio of the podcast you published, that doesn’t mean you as a marketer don’t care about providing that information to that audience, it just means you need to adapt in the way you are delivering that information to that audience.10 Tips for Publishing Accessible Content
These tips have been curated and compiled from a handful of different resources including the WCAG standards set forth by W3C, and our team of accessibility gurus at Palantir. All of the informing resources are linked in a handy list at the end of this post.1. Consider the type of content and provide meaningful text alternatives.
Text alternatives should help your audience understand the content and context of each image, video, or audio file. It also makes that information accessible to technology that cannot see or hear your content, like search engines (which translates to better SEO).
Types of text alternatives you can provide:
- Images - Provide alternative text.
- Audio - Provide transcripts.
- Video - Provide captions and video descriptions in action.
This tip affects those situational use cases mentioned above as well. Think about the last time you sent out an email newsletter. If someone has images turned off on their email to preserve cellular data, you want to make sure your email still makes sense. Providing a text alternative means your reader still has all of the context they need to understand your email, even without that image.2. Write proper alt text.
Alternative text or alt text is a brief text description that can be attributed to the HTML tag for an image on a web page. Alt text enables users who cannot see the images on a page to better understand your content. Screen readers and other assistive technology can’t interpret the meaning of an image without alt text.
With the addition of required alternative text, Drupal 8 has made it easier to build accessibility into your publishing workflow. However, content creators still need to be able to write effective alt text. Below I’ve listed a handful of things to consider when writing alt text for your content.
- Be as descriptive and accurate as possible. Provide context. Especially if your image is serving a specific function, people who don’t see the image should have the same understanding as if they had.
- If you’re sharing a chart or other data visualization, include that data in the alt text so people have all of the important information.
- Avoid using “image of,” “picture of,” or something similar. It’s already assumed that the alt text is referencing an image, and you are losing precious character space (most screen readers cut off alt text at around 125 characters). The caveat to this is if you are describing a work of art, like a painting or illustration.
- No spammy keyword stuffing. Alt text does help with SEO, but that’s not it’s primary purpose, so don’t abuse it. Find that happy medium between including all of the vital information and also including maybe one or two of those keywords you’re trying to target.
Example of better alt text: “Illustration of red car with flames shooting out of the back, flying over line of cars on sunny roadway.”3. Establish a hierarchy.
Accessibility is more than just making everything on a page available as text. It also affects the way you structure your content, and how you guide your users through a page. When drafting content, put the most important information first. Group similar content, and clearly separate different topics with headings. You want to make sure your ideas are organized in a logical way to improve scannability and encourage better understanding amongst your readers.4. Use headings, lists, sections, and other structural elements to support your content hierarchy.
Users should be able to quickly assess what information is on a page and how it is organized. Using headings, subheadings and other structural elements helps establish hierarchy and makes web pages easily understandable by both the human eye and a screen reader. Also, when possible, opt for using lists over tables. Tables are ultimately more difficult for screen reader users to navigate.
If you’re curious to see how structured your content is, scan the URL using WAVE, an accessibility tool that allows you to see an outline of the structural elements on any web page. Using WAVE can help you better visualize how someone who is using assistive technologies might be viewing your page.5. Write a descriptive title for every page.
This one is pretty straight forward. Users should be able to quickly assess the purpose of each page. Screen readers announce the page title when they load a web page, so writing a descriptive title helps those users make more informed page selections.
Page titles impact:
- Users with low vision who need to be able to easily distinguish between pages
- Users with cognitive disabilities, limited short-term memory, and reading disabilities.
Write link text that makes each link’s purpose clear to the user. Links should provide info on where you will end up or what will happen if you click on that link. If someone is using a screen reader to tab through 3 links on a page that all read “click here,” that doesn’t really help them figure out what each link’s purpose is and ultimately decide which link they should click on.
- Any contextual information should directly precede links.
- Don’t use urls as link text; they aren’t informative. A
- void writing long paragraphs with multiple links. If you have multiple links to share on one topic, it’s better to write a short piece of text followed by a list of bulleted links.
EX: Use "Learn more about our new Federated Search application" not "Learn more".7. Avoid using images of text in place of actual text.
The exact guideline set forth by W3 here is “Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.”
There are many reasons why this is a good practice that reach beyond accessibility implications. Using actual text helps with SEO, allows for on-page search ability for users, and creates the ability to highlight for copy/pasting. There are some exceptions that can be made if the image is essential to include (like a logo). Providing alt text also may be a solution for certain use cases.8. Avoid idioms, jargon, abbreviations, and other nonliteral words.
The guideline set forth by W3 is to “make text content readable and understandable.” Accessibility aside, this is important for us marketers In the Drupal-world, because it’s really easy to include a plethora of jargon that your client audience might not be familiar with. So be accessible AND client-friendly, and if you have to use jargon or abbreviations, make sure you provide a definition of the word, link to the definition, or include an explanation of any abbreviations on first reference.
Think about it this way: if you are writing in terms people aren’t familiar with, how will they know to search for them? Plain language = better SEO.9. Create clear content for your audience’s reading level.
For most Americans, the average reading level is a lower secondary education level. Even if you are marketing to a group of savvy individuals who are capable of understanding pretty complicated material, the truth is, most people are pressed for time and might become stressed if they have to read super complicated marketing materials. This is also important to keep in mind for people with cognitive disabilities, or reading disabilities, like dyslexia.
I know what you’re thinking, “but I am selling a complicated service.” If you need to include technical or complicated material to get your point across, then provide supplemental content such as an infographic or illustration, or a bulleted list of key points.
If you are in content marketing, chances are you have built a form or two in your time. No matter whether you’re creating those in Drupal or an external tool like Hubspot, you want to make sure you are labeling form fields clearly so that the user can understand how to complete the form. For example, expected data formats (such as day, month, year) are helpful. Also, required fields should be clearly marked. This is important for accessibility, but also then you as a marketer end up with better data.Helpful Resources
Here are a few guides I've found useful in the quest to publish accessible content:
- Content Style Guide: Writing for Accessibility (MailChimp) - offers many tips on writing accessible content
- Readability Test Tool (WebFX) - a tool you can use to test the readability of your content
- Tips for Conducting Usability Studies With Participants With Disabilities (Smashing Magazine) - a blog post outlining different things to consider when running usability studies with disabled participants
- Writing Simply and Clearly (WebAIM) - guidelines for writing understanable web content
- Introduction to Web Accessibility (W3) - an overview of all things web accessibility
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) - recommendations for making web content accessible
- Digital Content Standard (Transport for London) - offers many tips on writing effective online content.
- How Screen Readers Read Content (WebAim) - can help you understand the way your content is conveyed to users with low vision and blindness.
- Understanding WCAG 2.0 (W3) - a comprehensive deep dive into each individual guideline.
In our booth during DrupalCon Seattle this year, we had the pleasure of speaking with people in the Drupal community about our new Support & Maintenance offering. The response we heard most often was, “Doesn’t Lullabot already do support and maintenance?” The short answer is yes.
In my experience, a big part of making a Drupal 8 site usable for content editors is customizing the WYSIWYG, which usually includes adding a couple additional CKEditor plugins.
Of course, you can simply download the plugins into the 'libraries' folder, and that's fine. But these days, it's becoming best practice to pull in all of your site's dependencies using Composer.
Adding 'package' repositories to your composer.json for the CKEditor plugins (the current best practice) works fine - but only for your individual site.
It doesn't work so well if you want to install:
- A Drupal "Feature" (like with the Features module) that configures the WYSIWYG, including adding some CKEditor plugins, or
- A Drupal distribution (like Panopoly or Lightning)
In those cases, you can't depend on what the individual site may have in its top-level composer.json, and asking the user to manually copy-paste a bunch of 'package' repositories in there may create enough confusion or problems that potential users will just give up.
Well, I've got an possible solution to this problem: an experimental Composer repository which includes CKEditor plugins for use on a Drupal site.
It works better for Feature modules and distributions, but can also make life easier for individual sites too.
Read more to find out how it works and how to use it!
Earlier this week, The Cut ran a piece about a “Tinder Hacker” who created a fake profile with his roommate’s photos, then hooked a piece of code up to the Tinder API and did some very simple string substitutions so that men who messaged “her”–after “she” swiped right on them–were tricked into actually talking to other men who did the same. In brief, he put strangers in contact with each other under false pretenses, rerouted and surveilled their communications without consent, and proceeded to use this as a bragging point on dates and in interviews.
One might take exception to a number of elements of this story, but let’s start with its terminology. “Hacking” is a word whose meaning has broadened beyond all practical use, but in no sense did “Sean”, the pseudonymous subject of the story, “hack Tinder.” He relied on someone else’s reverse engineering to write some buggy code that ran against its API. That’s all.
The article itself seems confused about whether the Tinder API, or Application Program Interface, only exists to allow homebrew apps on Windows Phone. But an API is just a set of commands made available by a server, like the Tinder mothership, to accept instructions from client apps, like the many copies of the Tinder app that run on all kinds of phones. Almost all the apps on your phone are clients that work this way, and APIs are ubiquitous. Even the Drupal and Wordpress sites we build each have their own versions.
The code described in the article fits less within the definition of a hack than that of a bot. It would live on a server, persist as a service, wait for triggers–like incoming messages–and then respond to them according to certain rules. Some bots are used for automated customer service; some are used for art projects; some are used for jokes. Many, many, many bots are used for spam or other malicious purposes.
The ethics of bot development are not always simple, but they’re not new territory either. That’s the second and most glaring exception to be taken here: Sean’s assertion that his bot was at the “gray hat” level of malice in terms of its exploitation of code. Bot creator and Portland local Darius Kazemi wrote a thoughtful piece about considering and refining the possibility space of joke bots toward kindness in 2015. That in turn references fellow creator Leonard Richardson’s seminal 2013 post “Bots Should Punch Up”, which contains a telling bit with regard to the color of that hat:“Hackers and comedians and artists are always attracted to the grey areas. But your bot is an extension of your will, and if you're a white guy like me, most of the grey areas are not grey in your favor.”
Perhaps it’s assuming too much to conclude that Sean, a San Francisco programmer whose race is not mentioned in the article, is a white guy. Perhaps not. Technology as a field in the US is overwhelmingly full of white men, offering most of the benefits of the biggest wealth creation engine in history to the people who were already granted our society’s highest levels of privilege. That privilege, and power, means that thoughtless choices have more potential to do harm: by default, they’re punching down.
But even if that weren’t the case, as an educated and socialized human adult, it shouldn’t have been hard to see that writing a service solely to entice, deceive, manipulate and mock people in a vulnerable space like a dating app might have consequences. That is, unless you’ve spent a career being rewarded for ignoring consequences, because you work in tech. That’s the third exception to be taken. For pulling a prank like this, many people would be fired or sued. Instead, Sean got a better job.
I can admit that this story struck me on a personal level. Back before I had to quit Twitter, I used to write bots using their API myself. One of them, which I created in 2014, worked on a similar principle to the Tinder bot: it would receive a person’s message, put it in holding, and send them back a random held message from someone else in response. The juxtapositions were surreal, delightful, and often rewarding. And everyone involved was informed, consenting, and able to make use of built-in safety tools to report bad actors.
I’m not an ethicist or a researcher by training, but I knew to consider those aspects of my work because I have an interest in the history of the internet. According to the article, Sean does too–I’m willing to bet he and I read the same books about phone phreaks, blue boxes and Captain Crunch.
The phreakers he admires, by the way, were indeed “punching up” with their pranks–using low-rent tools to get one back at Bell, an exploitative tech monopoly that would eventually be broken up. Hey, there’s an idea.
People have made infamously bad choices like Sean’s before, and one might expect creators here in the future to work at avoiding their repetition. But instead, his story reflects the broader attitude of a tech sector that is not just ahistorical, but willfully naive and ignorant of the lessons of its past. (If you only read one thing linked in this whole piece, make it that last one. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)
The things I value about working at ThinkShout stand in opposition to all of that. My colleagues here are technical experts, but they’re also widely read, deeply informed, and always working to expand our collective view of the world in inclusive and considerate ways. That’s why we take pride in supporting progressive organizations like the Campaign Legal Center and ChangeLab Solutions. That’s why we focus on accessibility for all users as a core concern and increasing equity in our own job pipeline. That’s why we’re fine with being located far outside the insular centers of big tech culture, where it seems like people would rather try to land on the Moon than make change on the ground.
Even if the article in The Cut highlights the deep problems in the technology sphere that engulfs us all, there are certainly worse things on the internet than a man getting his kicks by trolling a bunch of other men. But there are better things too. If you’d prefer to join us on that side, please get in touch! We’re hiring, and we’d be glad to hear about how your hobby project brought a little kindness and empathy to the world.
One of the best things about Drupal’s open-source ecosystem is that it empowers you to be open-minded. Given the vast array of solutions and modules available, users can customize their site to their whims. Alternatively, if you think up and code something new, your contributions can be shared online with other users. With all of the customization available, Drupal is a conducive platform for outside-the-box thinking.
Decoupling is a recent example of this philosophy. Where a standard Drupal website would feature a Drupal-powered front and backend, decoupling opens the door for a variety of possibilities. A decoupled site can utilize different platforms and technologies for both the front and backend. For example, a decoupled site could utilize Drupal’s backend CMS while running a React-powered frontend. Such is Drupal’s flexibility that it can power scores of different, user-facing channels from a single backend, including other sites, native apps, Internet of Things (IoT), and more.
This decoupled or “headless” concept has more applications than just for site design, though. The search function of a website, for one, can benefit from components that utilize this headless approach – and not a moment too soon. As Google has begun to sunset its Google Search Appliance offering, there is now a need for an open and flexible search tool with enterprise-level capabilities.
At this year’s Midwest Drupal Camp, the team from Palantir demonstrated that a decoupled approach to site search was viable. This solution, federated search, allows for indexing and searching across multiple sites. For organizations with a large web portfolio across different platforms, this open federated search solution can fill the gap left by Google.
Understanding why federated search for Drupal is important requires an understanding of how regular site search functions operate. At the core, the search feature is built from three different components: the source, index and results. The source simply refers to all of the searchable content on a given site, from blogs to landing pages. The index is a compilation of metadata that makes the content form the source easier to parse. At Duo, we often use Apache Solr, a platform-agnostic, open source solution for indexing, as it provides speed, power and its own server capabilities. Finally, the results refers to the front-end experience that compiles and delivers the search results to the user.
The above setup will work fine for most simple websites, but larger organizations often require a more robust solution. With federated search, users can query across multiple sites across different platforms without placing much strain on Drupal, since Apache Solr is handling generating the index and providing results. This is accomplished through some tweaking of the basic site search formula.
Part of what makes this search so powerful is that it takes advantage of Drupal’s backend without relying on its frontend. For that, Apache Solr’s dedicated servers empower this new search solution by shouldering the burden of indexing and providing the results. Before it can work, though, some configuration is needed. Based on this configuration, Apache Solr can encompass searches across different sites – including sites that aren’t built with Drupal. Creating this custom solution, in conjunction with the Search API and Search API Solr modules, will ensure that the different data types being indexed will be standardized.
This powerful and streamlined take on site search has a variety of applications. Before releasing the solution, Palantir originally developed federated search for the University of Michigan, as each department ran their own sites on different platforms. Federated search now allows users to seamlessly search for information across the entire school’s network, regardless of the technology used to deliver the content. Beyond university ecosystems, federated search also presents an opportunity for eCommerce. Using this solution, products from different vendors can be consolidated into a simple search.
Thanks to Drupal being open source, organizations can utilize federated search and any other contributed solution at any time. This level of openness is what makes Duo such champions of the Drupal platform. At Duo, we’re committed to exploring new features like this and helping each of our partners think outside the box. If you’re ready to start rethinking your website or sites, we’re just a click away.