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GSoC 2017 | Week 1: Port Vote Up/Down sudhanshu Wed, 06/07/2017 - 11:41

Creating a responsive mega menu is often a regular prerequisite on any project, Drupal 8 or other. And if we can find some solutions offering to create mega menus easily, very often these solutions remain quite rigid and can hardly be adapted to the prerequisites of a project. But what is a mega menu? It is nothing more than a menu that contains a little more than a list of links (proposed by the menu system of Drupal 8), with specific links, text, images, call to actions, etc.

Drupal 8 is a powerful and customizable CMS.

It provides a lot of different tools to add, store, and visualize data, however spatial data visualization is a sophisticated and complicated topic — and Drupal hasn't always been the best option for handling it.

Because of its complexity, spatial data requires a specific process to become visual. We often think of a map with some pins or location points, but there are much more complex edge cases where Drupal is not able to solve the end user needs, such as rendering thousands of points or complex geometries in a map, or trying to create heatmaps based on stored data.

That’s why it's important to acknowledge that Drupal is not a golden hammer and the use of third party services will help us to provide a much better and appropriate user experience. This is where we introduce CARTO.

CARTO is a powerful spatial data analysis platform that provides different services related to the geographical information stored in a spatial database in the cloud. The fact that the base of all this process is a database table makes the connection between Drupal and CARTO simple and fairly straightforward.

From our point of view, two of the most useful tools provided by CARTO to be integrated within Drupal are the Import API and Builder. (There are some other ones that are interesting for more advanced users).

  • Import API allows you to upload files to a CARTO account, check on their current upload status, as well as delete and list importing processes on a given account.
  • CARTO Builder is a web-based drag and drop analysis tool for analysts and business users to discover and predict key insights from location data. Maps generated with this tool can be shared or embedded in any website.

So, at this point we have two systems — Drupal and CARTO — with the following features:

  • Drupal, a very capable tool to create, store, and establish relationships between content
  • CARTO, a powerful platform able to import spatial data, process it and generate amazing performance maps that can be shared
  • Drupal Media, an ecosystem that allows embedding and integrating external resources as entities

The problem is generating powerful maps and including them in any Drupal site.

First, the data stored in Drupal has to be pushed to CARTO. Then the maps are generated in CARTO before being embedded in Drupal. 

This can now easily be done using CARTO Sync and Media entity CARTO, both Drupal modules.

  • CARTO Sync allows Drupal Views to generate who's results can be pushed to CARTO to be processed
  • Media Entity CARTO integrates CARTO Builder shared maps within the Media ecosystem and allows to create Map entities to be referenced or embedded in any Drupal content

Following this method, we can still use Drupal as the CMS, while taking advantage of all the features that CARTO provides in order to represent accurate spatial information.

If you find this topic interesting, please take a look at the slides or recording from the presentation at DrupalCamp Madrid 2017.

Tags: Drupal PlanetCARTODrupal 8spatial datamapping

First off, I want emphasize that the below blog post is my opinion and personal feelings as someone who has spent the past year building the Webform 8.x-5.x module for the Drupal community. Now I want to see it continue to grow and flourish. There are many thought leaders, including Dries, that have contemplated and publicly discussed the concept and benefits of crowdfunding and have used this approach to fund Drupal 8 core and module development.

Drupal 8 was, and still is, a monolithic accomplishment - one that continues to be an ambitious undertaking to maintain and improve. The Drupal community might still be waiting for Drupal 8 to be released if organizations did not crowdfund and accelerate D8. It is our togetherness, our pooling of our resources, that allows us to accomplish great things, like Drupal. At the same time, the Drupal community is made up of a network of relationships and collaborations. Drupal and Open-source’s success depends on its collaborative community, which is driven by relationships. Crowdfunding solves a big problem, pooling resources to fund open source, but it does not build relationships. Drupal's strength lies in its community, bonded together by healthy and productive relationships.

I feel that crowdfunding, especially within the Drupal contributed project space, is just handing out fish without teaching project maintainers how to fish or even companies how to properly hand out fish. Crowdfunding Drupal projects does not build relationships between project maintainers and organizations/companies. The most obvious issue is that crowdfunding typically has a limited number of fish. Conversely, dozens of companies are throwing fish, aka money, into a pool that is drained by project maintainers, who don't even know the origin of this particular fish. Finally, the most...Read More

GenomeWeb brandt Wed, 06/07/2017 - 11:29 Increasing Engagement Using Segmented Content

Using Domain Access to manage content between multiple sites.

  • Multi-headed Drupal architecture

  • Audience segmentation using domain-specific registrations

  • Efficient editorial and user management workflows

We want to make your project a success.

Let's Chat. Our Client

GenomeWeb is an independent news organization that provides online reporting on genomic technologies. Historically they have focused on this very narrow niche of the bio industry, and they are the leading news site in that particular field. Their site has an active community with over 200,000 users and about 20 new articles being published daily.

Over time GenomeWeb saw that the technologies they were covering were moving very quickly into healthcare and diagnostics, and they wanted to expand their news coverage into the molecular diagnostics space.

Goals and Direction

Instead of adding new content directly to the existing site, GenomeWeb wanted to create a new sister site to be located at www.360Dx.com, which would include existing diagnostic content and also new coverage that could be marketed to a broader diagnostics audience. The new site would host less technical and more business-focused content, as well as share content with the current GenomeWeb site.

Goals for the new 360Dx site and multi-headed architecture:

  • Content from each site should be easily accessible for both sets of audiences.
  • New clinical content should only live on 360Dx.
  • Sites should keep the same user database. If someone is a user on GenomeWeb, they should have the same level of access on the new 360 site. This means paying for a premium level of access on one site would grant users premium access on the other.

“It was a very complex project. The site was already complicated to begin with.” — Bernadette Toner, CEO

How We Helped

To extend their business model to another site, Palantir used the Domain module suite to enable editors to assign content to both genomeweb.com and 360Dx.com. With Domain, the two sites can share some content and cross-promote articles to new audiences while having unique themes and settings.

The team developed a new derivative theme for 360Dx.com and ensured that content, users, and views were assigned to the proper domain. This work included analysis of existing modules and content, the creation and testing of update scripts, and configuration of domain-specific settings for analytics, ads, and other services. We also worked with the GenomeWeb team to integrate domains into their memberships, so that users could subscribe to email news bulletins from either or both sites independently.

The new site structure we created had very intuitive workflows, which meant the GenomeWeb team did not need extensive training to learn the new functionality. We worked to ease deployment and updates using the Features modules and through documentation of domain configurations.

The Results

The new multi-headed Drupal architecture created multiple wins for GenomeWeb. There is a wealth of content between their two sites, and by using Domain Access they are able to easily manage it all in one place. It has been easy for editors to post content and decide if it should go to one site or both, and there hasn’t been a huge change in their daily workflow.

The new architecture also allows GenomeWeb to engage with their audience on a deeper level: by having different kinds of registrations for each site, GenomeWeb is able to collect different demographics and target specific segments of their audience with more data. Although the site is still new, GenomeWeb has met their initial projections, and they anticipate being able to personalize their efforts even more as more data compiles.

“The new site works as we envisioned, which doesn’t always happen. The Palantir team listened to what we needed and was able to make it happen, and we are really, really happy with the results.” — Bernadette Toner, CEO

“The new site works as we envisioned, which doesn’t always happen. The Palantir team listened to what we needed and was able to make it happen, and we are really, really happy with the results.” Bernadette Toner, CEO

We want to make your project a success.

Let's Chat. Drupal 8 Services development genomeweb.com 360Dx.com
Starwood Retail Partners brandt Wed, 06/07/2017 - 11:56 Providing Flexibility for Future Growth

A robust style guide translated into a flexible Drupal 8 interface.

  • Easy-to-use Drupal 8 interface

  • Robust style guide

  • Collaborative partnership with Petrick Design

We want to make your project a success.

Let's Chat. Our Client

Starwood Retail Partners owns 28 shopping malls and lifestyle centers across the United States. Unlike their competitors, Starwood Retail focuses on developing community centers instead of just shopping destinations. Their corporate website targets retailers and investors who are interested in leasing or developing their properties. The site provides information on the individual locations, as well as downloadable resources for potential investors.

Being on a tight timeline to launch the new site before an upcoming corporate event, Starwood Retail sought to replace their standard development partner. They had already contracted with another firm, Petrick Design, to provide creative support, but they needed a strategic development partner. After conversations with the Palantir team, Starwood Retail knew they had found the Drupal prowess they were looking for.

"We could tell the expertise we were getting in Drupal, and that we were going to have the necessary support to get all of the things we didn’t know we needed.” — Brian Price, Digital Marketing Manager

Goals and Direction

Starwood Retail felt that their site was lagging behind their competitors, and they wanted to do a full redesign in a way that would allow them to provide thorough information with an updated look. They wanted their website to inspire, engage, and “wow” visitors while advancing the company brand and culture – innovative, creative, fresh, and young but with tremendous experience. The site also needed to intuitively expedite the leasing process, showcase their centers as prime opportunities, reinforce their retail expertise, instill pride in current employees, and inspire potential employees and partners.

Simply put, none of the content on the old Starwood Retail site described what services they provided. It had information scattered across different pages in a way that made the information feel overwhelming, and the content was not organized at a property level. This made it extremely difficult to find location-specific information because all of their content was shown in massive lists.

The new site needed to achieve three primary goals:

  • Surface content to make it easier for marketers, future tenants and investors to find what they needed.
  • Tell a story about the services Starwood Retail provides.
  • Modernize the site by migrating to Drupal 8.
How We Helped Living Style Guide

Starwood Retail is a rapidly growing company, and they needed a site that had the flexibility to grow with them. We took the beautiful static designs provided by Petrick and extended them into a responsive style guide that informed the Drupal build. This robust browser-based style guide turned the design into components, so that new content can be published quickly as Starwood Retail continues to grow. This style guide now serves as a reference so that any future updates will still maintain the design system.

Flexibility in Drupal 8

After the style guide was created, it was translated into an easy-to-use Drupal interface. As we were building, we were able to show the Starwood Retail team how all of the components would come together, and we worked with them on help text, labels, and an organization that made sense to them. Since they were in on the process, it makes it easier for them to carry forward.

The new site is easier to understand and easier to populate. In the previous site, contact information would have to be updated in each location that it was present on the site. On the new site, if you update a piece of content, it will update that node across the whole site. Another example is that when a new mall page is added, that mall is automatically added to their location map (shown below).

Property map with advanced filtering abilities.The Results

The new Drupal 8 site has intuitive workflows and allows the editorial team to be more efficient as Starwood Retail grows. Not only does it have a modern look and feel, it’s easy to update. Editors know exactly where they need to go, because the site functions as they intended it to.

This project is a prime example of how a collaborative process can turn out well. Through constant communication and clearly identified trade-offs, even a very tight deadline was achieved.

“We have a great corporate website now that everyone is really proud of, and it functions exactly how we wanted it to.” - Brian Price, Digital Marketing Manager

We want to make your project a success.

Let's Chat. Drupal 8 Services development starwoodretail.com

As part of our series discussing the use of Drupal in non-profits (click here to subscribe via e-mail), we recently reached out to one of our favorite clients, WIEGO, who candidly shared some of their struggles and successes.

Since re-launching their site on Drupal almost 6 years ago, they've grown from a site with 50 static pages, to a searchable, categorized repository of news and knowledge spanning over 22,000 articles!

In this case study, we gain some insights into how organizations like WIEGO decided on Drupal, have lived with some of the growing-pains, and are planning to move forward into the future!

Read more to find out!

Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different clients on their Drupal 8 site builds. Each of these clients had a large development team with significant amounts of custom code. After a recent launch, I went back and pulled together the common recommendations we made. Here they are!

1. Try to use fewer repositories and projects

With the advent of Composer for Drupal site building, it feels natural to have many small, individual repositories for each custom module and theme. It has the advantage of feeling familiar to the contrib workflow for Drupal modules, but there are significant costs to this model that only become obvious as code complexity grows.

The first cost is that at best, every bit of work requires two pull requests; one pull request in a custom module repository, and a second commit in the composer.lock in the site repository. It’s easy to forget about that second pull request, and in our case, it led to constant questioning by the QA team to see if a given ticket was ready to test or not.

A second cost is dealing with cross-repository dependencies. For example, in site implementations, it’s really common to do some work in a custom module and then to theme that work in a custom theme. Even if there’s only a master branch, there would still be three pull requests for this work—and they all have to be merged in the right order. With a single repository, you have a choice. A single pull request can be reviewed and merged, or multiple can be filed.

A third, and truly insidious cost is where separate repositories actually become co-dependent, and no one knows it. This can happen when modules are only tested in the context of a single site and database, and not as site-independent reusable modules. Is your QA team testing each project against a stock Drupal install as well as within your site? Are they mixing and matching different tags from each repository when testing? If not, it’s better to just have a single site repository.

2. Start with fewer branches, and add more as needed

Sometimes, it feels good to start a new project by creating all of the environment-specific branches you know you’ll need; develop, qa, staging, master, and so on. It’s important to ask yourself; is each branch being used? Do we have environments for all of these branches? If not, it’s totally OK to start with a single master branch. If you do have multiple git repositories, ask this question for each repository independently. Perhaps your site repository has several branches, while the new SSO module that you’re building for multiple sites sticks with just a master branch. Branches should have meaning. If they don’t, then they just confuse developers, QA, and stakeholders, leading to deployment mistakes. Delete them.

3. Avoid parallel projects

Once you do have multiple branches, it’s really important to ensure that branches are eventually merged “upstream.” With Composer, it’s possible to have different composer.json files in each branch, such as qa pointing to the develop in each custom module, and staging pointing to master. This causes all sorts of confusion because it effectively means you have two different software products—what QA and developers use, and what site users see. It also means that changes in the project scaffolding have to be done once in each branch. If you forget to do that, it’s nothing but pain trying to figure it out! Instead, use environment branches to represent the state of another branch at a given time, and then tag those branches for production releases. That way, you know that tag 1.3.2 is identical to some build on your develop branch (even if the hash isn’t identical due to merge commits).

4. Treat merge conflicts as an opportunity

I’ve heard from multiple developers that the real reason for individual repositories for custom modules is to “reduce merge conflicts.” Let’s think about the effect multiple repositories have on a typical Drupal site.

I like to think about merge conflicts in three types. First, there’s the traditional merge conflict, such as when git refuses to merge a branch automatically. Two lines of code have been changed independently, and a developer needs to resolve them. Second, there are logical merge conflicts. These don’t cause a merge conflict that version control can detect but do represent a conflict in code. For example, two developers might add the same method name to a class but in different text locations in the class. Git will happily merge these together, but the result is invalid PHP code. Finally, there are functional merge conflicts. This is where the PHP code is valid, but there is a regression or unexpected ~~behaviour~~ behavior in related code.

Split repositories don’t have much of an effect on traditional merge conflicts. I’ve found that split repositories make logical conflicts a little harder to manage. Typically, this happens when a base class or array is modified and the developer misses all of the places to update code. However, split repositories make functional conflicts drastically more difficult to handle. Since developers are working in individual repositories, they may not always realize that they are working at cross-purposes. And, when there are dependencies between projects, it requires careful merging to make sure everything is merged in the right order.

If developers are working in the same repository, and discover a merge conflict, it’s not a blocker. It’s a chance to make a friend! By discussing the conflict, it gives developers the chance to make sure they are solving the right problem, the right way. If conflicts are really complex, it’s an opportunity to either refactor the code or to raise the issue to the rest of the team. There’s nothing more exciting than realizing that a merge conflict revealed conflicting requirements.

5. Setup config management early

I’ve seen several Drupal 8 teams delay in setting up a deployment workflow that integrates with Drupal 8’s configuration management. Instead, deployments involve pushing code and manual UI work, clicking changes together. Then, developers pull down the production database to keep up to date.

Unfortunately, manual configuration is prone to error. All it takes is one mistake, and valuable QA time is wasted. Also, it avoids code review of configuration, which is actually possible and enjoyable with Drupal 8’s YAML configuration exports.

The nice thing about configuration management tooling is it typically doesn’t have any dependency on your actual site requirements. This includes:

  • Making sure each environment pulls in updated configs on deployment
  • Aborting deployments and rolling back if config imports fail
  • Getting the development team comfortable with config basics
  • Setting up the secure use of API keys through environment variables and settings.php.

Doing these things early will pay off tenfold during development.

6. Secure sites early

I recently worked on a site that was only a few weeks away from the production launch. The work was far enough along that the site was available outside of the corporate VPN under a “beta” subdomain. Much to my surprise, the site wasn’t under HTTPS at all. As well, the Drupal admin password was the name of the site!

These weren’t things that the team had forgotten about; but, in the rush of the last few sprints, it was clear the two issues weren’t going to be fixed until a few days before launch. HTTPS setup, in particular, is a great example of an early setup task. Even if you aren’t on your production infrastructure, set up SSL certificates anyway. Treat any new environments without SSL as a launch blocker. Consider using Let's Encrypt if getting proper certificates is a long task.

This phase is also a good chance to make sure admin and editorial accounts are secure. We recommend that the admin account password is set to a long random string—and then, don’t save or record the password. This eliminates password sharing and encourages editors to use their own separate accounts. Site admins and ops can instead use ssh and drush user-login to generate one-time login links as needed.

7. Make downsyncs normal

Copying databases and file systems between environments can be a real pain, especially if your organization uses a custom Docker-based infrastructure. rsync doesn’t work well (because most Docker containers don’t run ssh), and there may be additional networking restrictions that block the usual sql-sync commands.

This leads many dev teams to really hold off on pulling down content to lower environments because it’s such a pain to do. This workflow really throws QA and developers for a loop, because they aren’t testing and working against what production actually is. Even if it has to be entirely custom, it’s worth automating these steps for your environments. Ideally, it should be a one-button click to copy the database and files from one environment to a lower environment. Doing this early will improve your sprint velocity and give your team the confidence they need in the final weeks before launch.

8. Validate deployments

When deploying new code to an environment, it’s important to fail builds if something goes wrong. In a typical Drupal site, you could have errors during:

  • composer install
  • drush updatedb
  • drush config-import
  • The deployment could work, but the site could be broken and returning HTTP 500 error codes

Each deployment should capture the deployment logs and store them. If any step fails, subsequent steps should be aborted, and the site rolled back to its previous state. Speaking of…

9. Automate backups and reverts

When a deployment fails, it should be nearly automatic to revert the site to the pre-deployment state. Since Drupal updates involve touching the database and the file system, those should both be reverted. Database restores tend to be fairly straight forward, though filesystem restores can be more complex if they are stored on S3 or some other service. If you’re hosted on AWS or a similar platform, use their APIs and utilities to manage backups and restores where possible. They have internal access to their systems, making backups much more efficient. As a side benefit, this helps make downsyncs more robust, as they can be treated as a restore of a production backup instead of a direct copy.

10. Remember #cache

Ok, I suppose I mean “remember caching everywhere,” though in D8 it seems like render cache dependencies are what’s most commonly forgotten. It’s so easy to fall into Drupal 7 patterns, and just create render arrays as we always have. After all, on locals, everything works fine! But, forgetting to use addCacheableDependencies on render arrays leads to confusing bugs down the line.

Along the same lines, it’s important to set up invalidation caching early in the infrastructure process. Otherwise, odds are you’ll get to the production launch and be forced to rely on TTL caches simply because the site wasn’t built or tested for invalidation caching. It’s a good practice when setting up a reverse proxy to let Drupal maintain the caching rules, instead of creating them in the proxy itself. In other words, respect Cache-Control and friends from upstream systems, and only override them in very specific cases.

Finally, be sure to test on locals with caches enabled. Sure, disable them while writing code, but after turn them back on and check again. I find incognito or private browsing windows invaluable here, as they let you test as an anonymous user at the same time as being logged in. For example, did you just add a config form that changes how the page is displayed? Flip a setting, reload the page as anonymous, and make sure the update is instant. If you have to do a drush cache-rebuild for it to work, you know you’ve forgotten #cache somewhere.

What commandments did I miss in this list? Post below and let me know!

Header image from Control room of a power plant.

Lots of stuff has been changing in Drupal 8 recently. In 8.3.0, a new experimental "layout discovery" module was added to core, which conflicted with the contrib "layout plugin" module. Now in 8.3.3, the two-column and three-column layouts had their region names changed, which hid any content dropped into those regions when those layouts were used.

In the past week, we've seen a couple issues upgrading a site from 8.2.x to 8.3.2, and now another issue with 8.3.2 to 8.3.3 that seem worth a quick mention.

DrupalDrupal 8Drupal PlanetUpdatesVisual Regression Testing

Agaric is grateful to the Drupal community for all the effort poured into the amazing collaborative project. As part of giving back to it, we go to conferences to share with others what we have learned. These are some events where Agaric will be presenting this month.

Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy

This is a convergence of worker-owned cooperatives. Representatives come from all over the country to attend workshops and sessions on all things related to owning a cooperative. It will be help in New York City on weekend of June 9th -11th at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Benjamin and Micky will be hosting a workshop/discussion with Danny Spitzberg on Drutopia. They will cover how it can help cooperatives and smaller businesses have a we presence above and beyond the costs they can afford by consolidating the hosting and feature development into a group effort.

Montreal Drupal Camp

This event will take place on June 15-18 at John Molson School of Business de l'Université Concordia. Benjamin will be speaking on how Software as a Service can lead to long-term success in a software project.

Twin Cities Drupal Camp in Minneapolis

At Twin Cities Agaric will be presenting one workshop and two sessions.

On Thursday, June 22, Benjamin and Mauricio will be presenting the Getting Started with Drupal workshop. It is aimed to people who are just starting with Drupal and want to have a birds eye view of how the system works. As part of the workshop attendees will have the chance to create a simple yet functional website to put in practice their new knowledge. The organizers have gone above and beyond to make this training FREE for everyone! You do not even need a camp ticket to participate. You just need to register.

On Saturday, June 24, Mauricio will be presenting on Drupal 8 Twig recipes. This will be an overview of the theme system in Drupal 8 and will include practical example of modifying the default markup to your needs. The same day, Benjamin will present his Software as a Service.


This is THE yearly Camp for Drupal doers in Boston and it happens June 22nd-23rd. Micky will be hosting a workshop/discussion on Drutopia, an initiative within the Drupal project based in social justice values and focused on building collectively owned online tools. Current focuses include two Drupal distributions aimed at grassroots groups also offered as software as a service, ensuring that the latest technology is accessible to low-resourced communities.
Agaric will have a busy month attending and speaking at conferences. Please come to say hi and have fun with us.

There is one module that makes designing for Drupal 7 much, much easier: Theme Developer.

You can think of Theme Developer as a Drupal-specific version of Firebug or Chrome Developer Tools. Using Theme developer you can click on any element of your Drupal site and get a breakdown of how it was built.

Theme Developer has some downsides: it's not been updated in a while, and (like anything related to the Devel module) shouldn't be used on live sites. But, it can still be a useful tool for Drupal 7 themers.

  • In the bottom-left corner of the screen, you will see a small "Themer Info" area:

  • Check this box:
  • Up in the top-right corner of the site you'll see a larger black box:

  • The bar does a pretty good job of explaining what to do! Just like Firebug, or Chrome Dev Tools, you can inspect areas of your Drupal site.
  • Here's what happens when you click on a page element: you'll see a red box around that particular element.
  • The theme developer box will now show information about your chosen page element:

Here are some of the details you'll see:

  • Template called: the name of the file which is controlling the layout of this element
  • File used: the location of the file controlling the layout
  • Candidate template files: if you'd like to create an override for this part of the page, these are suggested file names.
  • Preprocess functions: These functions connect what happens in the module code to what gets sent to the theme

If you want to use the candidate template files, easiest thing to do is copy the "Template called" file, rename it and save it in your template folder. This is what the files mentioned in this example would do:

  • block-user-1.tpl.php ... if you create this file, it will only provide a template for this particular block
  • block-user.tpl.php ... if you create this file, it will only provide a template for this user blocks
  • block-left.tpl.php ... if you create this file, it will only provide a template for blocks in the left div.
  • block.tpl.php ...if you create this file, it will provide a template for all blocks

This video offers a great explanation of the Theme Developer module:


We built a platform to run Compose remotely and easily, so that you don't have to know how to use it. It's called Composy.io.

There is no tools or modules available for Drupal project management in drupal.org. It's all about your men and how you manage them. A few weeks back my colleague wrote about ‘How to set the right expectations for project delivery?’. 
I am a Drupal Project Manager and in this blog, I have written about the ways I manage a Drupal Project.
Let’s list down the core objectives of any project manager
A Drupal project is not something out of the world but a project which has focused Drupal development and maintenance tasks.
The main objectives are:

  • To Stay On Budget
  • Finish On-Time…

As project managers (PMs), we are often asked to deliver on Key Results Areas (KRAs), to put up “our best show.”

Unfortunately most of us think that as a project manager, our only task is on-time quality delivery within a stipulated budget.

However, in this rat race, we tend to forget what makes us different from rest: the soft skills that, if honed properly, enable us to manage our users, sponsors, and all our stakeholders. Then our job is done.

Tags: acquia drupal planet
6 Things to Consider During a Nonprofit Web Design Project 6 Things to Consider During a Nonprofit Web Design Project Jill Farley Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:45

Every day, cultural institutions face unique challenges while working towards a mission with a small technical staff and digital budget. Limited money, revolving staff, and regulatory pressures require visionaries to think ahead of their competition to build a digital presence that doesn’t tie their hands with expensive proprietary licenses and high maintenance code. 

So often, cultural nonprofits feel pain triggered by the decision of another department. When technology solutions like ticketing, donor and membership management, point-of-sale, email marketing, and content management are selected without cross department communication, they won’t integrate. This causes struggles big and small like: 

  • Extracting or inputting data 
  • Battling with vendors to get even the most innocuous tracking code installed
  • Making the public-facing user experience feel seamless
  • Customizing the look and feel of simple things, like forms and checkout screens
  • Keeping content (like event descriptions) consistent across systems

After more than 13 years working with nonprofit and cultural institutions, like the Denver Botanic Gardens, we’ve seen that these problems are epidemic. Drawing from experience, we have a few ideas about why that could be, and how Drupal can help. 

Mind Shift: Expense vs. Investment

The big problem is that most nonprofit web design projects are considered a one-time expense, instead of a long term investment. 

Expenses are a one-time cost with a start and end-date. Once a purchase has been made, it is scrutinized as an operating cost by the board and the finance committee, often dubbed a ‘necessary evil.’

Investments require long term, strategic thinking. They receive ongoing budget priority and dedicated resources. They, like an employee, are expected to make money and be accountable.

When a for-profit company spends money on the development of a new product or venture, they bank their business on it. They set goals and expect it will eventually enjoy returns that will help the company grow. 

Treating technology spend as an investment rather than an expense can position a nonprofit to be more strategic about its vendor selection, increase direct revenues from a nonprofit website design and generate longer term buy-in from leadership.

How can nonprofits make the shift?

1. Invest in open source. Open source software differs from platforms provided by Microsoft, Adobe, etc. in that it doesn't cost anything to license and use. It also means you can pick up your site and take it to any vendor. Because it's open source, Drupal is updated and maintained by millions of developers (a lot like Wikipedia). This means that when a new social media platform becomes popular for example, the community can create an integration within a matter of days or even hours. 

2. Make integration-focused software a priority. Own the technology. Don’t let the technology roadmap be dictated by whether another company thinks a feature is important. Pick vendors by their commitment to playing nice with other tools, not by how many out-of-the-box features they have and always, always make APIs a priority. Drupal can connect to almost anything. Other less custom platforms have a hard time integrating with third party software. Drupal can integrate with almost any platform, regardless of how old or specific. Drupal works well with things like Salesforce, Hubspot, Marketo, and countless many more.

3. Learn how well Drupal works for nonprofits. It is a scalable content management and system integration platform of choice. Trusted by institutions like GreenPeace, LACMA, The Red Cross, and The Whitehouse, Drupal offers the ability to integrate with enterprise solutions like Blackbaud/Convio, Magento and other commerce platforms, ticketing systems like Galaxy, Tessitura and more that haven’t been invented yet. Integrations, scalability, and speed to market are all things to be kept in mind when selecting digital tools.

4. Think in terms of conversions. Measure. Technology tools should save and make money, directly or indirectly. Have higher expectations of a ticketing system, a content management system, or a volunteer management system. Figure out how things that are valuable and can be tracked like “conversions”. Assign value to non-monetary outcomes so gain and ROI can be calculated. 

For example: 

A volunteer may not be a revenue line, but recruiting someone takes valuable staff time. Calculate how the website can do some of that work for you. 

  • Volunteer value - $50 each 
  • New dynamic volunteer signup form - $1,200 
  • Result? 30 more recruits than usual 
  • ROI: ((30 x $50) - $1200) / $1200 = 25%

25% return? Not bad.

Managing and reconciling event information across all website platforms can be cumbersome and require tons of time by a content manager. 

  • Staff cost - $40/hour
  • Manual ticketing effort for event - 120 hours
  • Calendar API integration - $2000
  • Automated ticketing effort for event - 40 hours
  • Annual Savings: ((120 x $40) - ((40 x $40)+$2000)) = $1,200

$1,200 savings every year? Nice.

5. Keep your staff happy. Drupal is built to make sense to users of any technical skill level, and the admin interface can be optimized for any type of workflow. The interface can even be customized to look like other systems that users may be more familiar with. Content edits can be made easily, and Drupal can be configured to allow for revisions and approval from multiple content editors with various permission levels. 

6. Don’t forget hosting. During a nonprofit web design project and throughout the life of a website, is it important to have the support of a reputable hosting company. A Drupal specific hosting company, like Acquia, offers the most comprehensive bundle of support and integrated hosting services, which as an long term investment can save thousands. For a nonprofit, reliable maintenance and security is unmatched. 

Drupal is a long term investment because it can be scaled as a nonprofit institution grows. It can save time, money, and hassle, especially when paired with a top-notch hosting platform, like Acquia. In our tenure working with nonprofits like the Denver Botanic Gardens, The NFPA, and the Colorado General Assembly, we’ve solved many problems using Drupal. If your nonprofit or cultural institution could use an overhaul, contact us

Direct .mp3 file download.

Join Kelley Curry, Ryan Price, Liz Lipinski, Dan Schiavone, Kevin Lannahan, Lakia Newkirk and Mike Anello discuss the goings-on at Day 1 of DrupalCon Baltimore. Music: Drupalcon Baltimore (to the tune of Good Morning Baltimore) from the Prenote.

Direct .mp3 file download.

Join Chris Weber, Ted Bowman, Kelley Curry and Mike Anello discuss the goings-on at Day 2 of DrupalCon Baltimore. Music: We'll Get the Hard Part Done Tonight (Hamilton Parody)

How do we grow a sustainable Drupal business in an increasingly competitive marketplace and how can we innovate and diversify to stay ahead? Help us address those questions at Drupalcon Vienna 2017 with your sessions on Business track. Drupalcon is the biggest Drupal event where people meet and discuss Drupal as technology and community. This year European Drupalcon will take place in Vienna, Austria.  Drupalcon targets to provide something for everyone, regardless if you are a developer, designer or entrepreneur. To provide this mix of content, we organized it into 11 tracks: Being Human… READ MORE
A high-level overview of the Plugin system in Drupal 8 spencer Fri, 06/09/2017 - 03:20

I am pleased to announce that Lee Rowlands has accepted our invitation to be a Drupal 8 provisional framework manager.

Lee is based in Australia and has been heavily involved with the Drupal community both at home and internationally. His involvement with core and his contributions to a huge variety of projects on Drupal.org is impressive. You can read more about his contributions at his Community Spotlight. A quote:

"As a contributor you are incredibly lucky to have your work constructively reviewed by some of the world's best programmers. Every time someone makes a suggestion on your patch, you learn a little more. I've learnt so many programming concepts from reviewing other's code and having my code reviewed by others."

For years, Lee has been stepping up to do what's most needed for Drupal. For example, when Forum module was potentially at risk of being removed from core, Lee stepped up to adopt it in response. He's also very active on the Drupal security team to ensure fixes go out in a timely manner. Lee cares both about the maintainability of Drupal itself and the concerns and experiences of other Drupal contributors.

Lee builds sites for some of the Australia's largest government, education, media and non-profit organizations. He has spoken regularly at events in Australia/New Zealand since 2010. In addition, Lee is a long-time mentor to others, and has inspired many people all over the world to be a part of the Drupal community.

Please join me in welcoming Lee.