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What is information architecture and why it is important to your website

20 October 2016 - 11:01pm

Website navigation is something you probably use every day but don’t think too much about. This is how you travel from page to page within a website. It is probably the most used part of your website that you spend the least amount of time evaluating, right? I used to feel the same way. A few years ago, I inherited a site navigation that seemed to be working so my team focused on growing other areas of the site. Looking into how our menu was organized was low priority. We continued to just add things to it as we needed, and over time it morphed into a big mess that was difficult for our users to navigate. So, if someone asks you why your menu is organized the way it is, what is your answer? I’m afraid to say that for a long time my answer was “because that’s the way it’s always been”. I hate that answer. Instead, I want to share some big changes we’ve made around the grouping and organization of our main website menu.

What is Website Navigation?
Website navigation is the organization of hyperlinks on your website that show users where to go and how to use your website. This navigation can be broken up into multiple groups such as global, local, contextual, and even hierarchical navigations. The site navigation will be designed into your site and is a primary resource for your user. Site navigation is a very important part of any website interface, as it influences the usability of your site.

What is information architecture?
Information architecture is the structural design of your information, and includes the art of organizing and labeling items to insure usability and findability. In our case, information architecture can be applied to site navigation to help the usability of your website.

How do they work together?
The goal of information architecture is to balance what you want the user to do and what the user needs to do. Your site navigation needs to hold the hand of your user without pushing them away. Start by looking at the data you have. We began by looking into traffic stats. Investigating heat maps for our navigation was also useful. Then think through your user flow and personas. Where do you want your visitors to go? What are the more valued sections of your site? When re-evaluating, look for areas of consolidation. Are these two sections enough alike that they should really be one section? Such as products and services, they can be two separate sections or one section, our decision was based on if it was what we sold to a customer they belonged together. Also look for areas of clarity. Can you, rename a section so that it is more obvious for the user? The key is to be simple and clear.

When you update your menu, it’s helpful to consider a structure that would easily accommodate the creation of new pages which could add more time onto your project. When you begin to think about this flow, make sure you u keep consistency and simplicity at the top of your mind. Your users shouldn’t have to think what is behind this link in your navigation, it should be clear based on the label.

Finally, don’t just commit to your first ideas. It will be beneficial to test your thinking on others and ask for opinions. It took us 6 months to roll out the latest update to our site navigation. We looked at our data, made some rough assumptions, and then reviewed it with lots of people both inside and outside of our organization. We also sought out expert advice from SirusDecisions, an agency we worked with to validate our plan. Even though we have rolled a new menu, we still plan to monitor and improve on it over time. This is not a set it and forget it type of project.

The goal of information architecture is to balance what you want the user to do and what the user needs to do. Your site navigation needs to hold the hand of your user without pushing them away. There is an art to it, so be patient and rely on your data to make adjustments and improvements overtime.

Categories: Drupal News

Nasdaq using Drupal 8 for new Investor Relations websites

19 October 2016 - 10:59pm

I wanted to share the exciting news that Nasdaq Corporate Solutions has selected Acquia and Drupal 8 as the basis for its next generation Investor Relations Website Platform. About 3,000 of the largest companies in the world use Nasdaq's Corporate Solutions for their investor relations websites. This includes 78 of the Nasdaq 100 Index companies and 63% of the Fortune 500 companies.

What is an IR website? It's a website where public companies share their most sensitive and critical news and information with their shareholders, institutional investors, the media and analysts. This includes everything from financial results to regulatory filings, press releases, and other company news. Examples of IR websites include, and -- all three companies are listed on Nasdaq.

All IR websites are subject to strict compliance standards, and security and reliability are very important. Nasdaq's use of Drupal 8 is a fantastic testament for Drupal and Open Source. It will raise awareness about Drupal across financial institutions worldwide.

In their announcement, Nasdaq explained that all the publicly listed companies on Nasdaq are eligible to upgrade their sites to the next-gen model "beginning in 2017 using a variety of redesign options, all of which leverage Acquia and the Drupal 8 open source enterprise web content management (WCM) system."

It's exciting that 3,000 of the largest companies in the world, like Starbucks, Apple, Amazon, Google and ExxonMobil, are now eligible to start using Drupal 8 for some of their most critical websites. If you want to learn more, consider attending Acquia Engage in a few weeks, as Nasdaq's CIO, Brad Peterson, will be presenting.

Categories: Drupal News

Personalization takes flight with the new Acquia Lift

18 October 2016 - 7:16am

Last week, we launched a new version of Acquia Lift, our personalization tool. Acquia Lift learns about your visitors' interests, preferences and context and uses that information to personalize and contextualize their experience. After more than a year of hard work, Acquia Lift has many new and powerful capabilities. In this post, I want to highlight some of the biggest improvements.

Intuitive user experience

To begin, Acquia Lift's new user interface is based on the outside-in principle. In the case of Acquia Lift, this means that the user interface primarily takes the form of a sidebar that can slide out from the edge of the page when needed. From there, users can drag and drop content into the page and get an instant preview of how the content would look. From the sidebar, you can also switch between different user segments to preview the site for different users. Personalization rules can be configured as A/B tests, and all rules affecting a certain area of a page can easily be visualized and prioritized in context. The new user interface is a lot more intuitive.

Unifying content and customer data

Having a complete view of the customer is one of the core ideas of personalization. This means being able to capture visitor profiles and behavioral data, as well as implicit interests across all channels. Acquia Lift also makes it possible to segment and target audiences in real time based on their behaviors and actions. For example, Acquia Lift can learn that someone is more interested in "tennis" than "soccer" and will use that information to serve more tennis news.

It is equally important to have a complete view of the content and experiences that you can deliver to those customers. The latest version of Acquia Lift can aggregate content from any source. This means that the Acquia Lift tray shows you content from all your sites and not just the site you're on. You can drag content from an ecommerce platform into a Drupal site and vice versa. The rendering of the content can be done inside Drupal or directly from the content's source (in this case the ecommerce platform). A central view of all your organization's content enables marketers to streamline the distribution process and deliver the most relevant content to their customers, regardless of where that content was stored originally.

Content can also be displayed in any number of ways. Just as content in Drupal can have different "display modes" (i.e. short form, long form, hero banner, sidebar image, etc), content in Acquia Lift can also be selected for the right display format in addition to the right audience. In fact, when you connect a Drupal site to Acquia Lift, you can simply configure which "entities" should be indexed inside of Acquia Lift and which "display modes" should be available, allowing you to reuse all of your existing content and configurations. Without this capability, marketers are forced to duplicate the same piece of content in different platforms and in several different formats for each use. Building a consistent experience across all channels in a personalized way then becomes incredibly difficult to manage. The new capabilities of Acquia Lift remedy this pain point.

The best for Drupal, and beyond

We've always focused on making Acquia Lift the best personalization solution for Drupal, but we realize that customers have other technology in place. The latest version of Acquia Lift can be installed on any Drupal or non-Drupal website through a simple JavaScript tag (much like the way you might install Google Analytics). So whether it's a legacy system, a JavaScript application, a decoupled Drupal build with custom front end, or a non-Drupal commerce site, they can all be personalized and connected with Acquia Lift.

In addition, we've also taken an API-first approach. The new version of Acquia Lift comes with an open API, which can be used for tracking events, retrieving user segments in real time, and showing decisions and content inside of any application. Developers can now use this capability to extend beyond the Lift UI and integrate behavioral tracking and personalization with experiences beyond the web, such as mobile applications or email.

I believe personalization and contextualization are becoming critical building blocks in the future of the web. Earlier this year I wrote that personalization is one of the most important trends in how digital experiences are being built today and will be built in the future. Tools like Acquia Lift allow organizations to better understand their customer's context and preferences so they can continue to deliver the best digital experiences. With the latest release of Acquia Lift, we've taken everything we've learned in personalization over the past several years to build a tool that is both flexible and easy to use. I'm excited to see the new Acquia Lift in the hands of our customers and partners.

Categories: Drupal News

Learn From the Best and Steal Their Ideas at Acquia Engage

18 October 2016 - 12:59am

This year, I had the opportunity to take on one of the three main talk tracks for Engage 2016. With customer experience and digital evolution as the lens, we decided on Steal This Idea as the overall theme. I want these sessions to spark your creative sense of problem solving. Creativity, strategy, and technology are foundational to move you and your organization into the next wave of the digital ride. We lined up an amazing set of sessions to get you thinking creatively about how you will solve your problems, and develop line-pushing strategies all while using amazing technologies.

Have you ever wondered how your peers are building exceptional digital experiences? What’s moving the needle with their customers? What motivates other businesses to implement change, and what strategies they employ to bring those ideas to life? I’ve had the opportunity to work with many of our presenters and I wanted them to share their hard work, challenges, and successes with you. It may be a slightly different journey for each of us, but we can all learn from each other in this ever-changing digital world.

Steal This Idea is a talk track focused on all the cool, unique, innovative, and interesting things people are doing with digital. We won’t just be talking about ideas, but rather diving into execution and measuring actual results. We’ll show you what some real life projects look like from their very infancy and early planning, through to implementation and post-implementation tracking and impact, and hear stories of what you might expect to encounter along the way.

We have some great speakers lined up, from all different industries and regions. Nestlé and Burda will be with us to talk about their respective evolutions, BAC will be on-hand to discuss the tricky business of digital in the financial services industry, and ADMA will share some ideas from down under about using data to drive marketing, not only in the Australian market, but beyond.

We see this track as an opportunity to be inspired. Whether you sit on the tech or the marketing side of your organization, you’ll gain valuable insights and come away with some gems. This track is for people who want to be the agents of change within their organizations, and who are excited to face their challenges head-on. Hopefully, Steal This Idea sessions will help spark your creativity, and you’ll be stealing some ideas to take back to your own organization.

Ready to steal some ideas?

Categories: Drupal News

Personalize Across Any Platform: Introducing the New Acquia Lift

14 October 2016 - 4:43am

Acquia is excited to announce its newest version of Acquia Lift: a single solution that harnesses the power of content distribution and customer data to deliver in context, personalized experiences across any channel or device.

With customer expectations higher than ever before, digital marketers have no choice but to implement a personalization strategy if they want to build and maintain meaningful relationships with their audiences. Unfortunately, today’s marketers struggle to aggregate audience data across disparate technologies, making it nearly impossible to get a holistic understanding of buyer behavior and interests. In addition, organizations lack a central content repository, making it more challenging to discover and repurpose content from disconnected systems.

Acquia Lift’s approach finally solves these challenges for the digital marketer, delivering the only standalone solution that breaks down both data and content silos responsible for preventing true personalization. Lift automatically captures and unifies data from any channel or device into a single, comprehensive customer profile to give marketers a more holistic view of their audience. And with content syndication capabilities built in from the core, content from multiple sites, departments, and technologies can be accessed and used in any personalized experience. Lift empowers marketers to adaptively segment and target audiences with the most relevant content in real-time, resulting in faster conversions and increased bottom-line.

Acquia Lift features include:

  • A new card-based, intuitive UI with drag-and-drop content targeting
  • Merging anonymous and known visitor profiles
  • Enterprise CMS integration and content syndication from any source
  • Turnkey integration with Drupal 7 and Drupal 8
  • Real-time, adaptive segmentation
  • Behavioral targeting and A/B testing

Lift offers a solution that meets the needs and expectations of both IT and marketing teams. Marketers are able to create and execute personalizations with Lift’s new UI, completely independent of technical resources. The intuitive interface makes short work of complex tasks, freeing up the marketer’s time to focus on the customer.

As the only personalization tool built for Drupal, Lift is now able to support enterprise organizations where Drupal is not the only technology. Extending personalizations across any technology or channel empowers organizations to capitalize on their existing technology investments without the need to re-platform. The cloud-based solution includes a simple Javascript tag installation, plus APIs that enable IT to integrate the solution more seamlessly with relevant technologies. This makes Lift not only valuable now, but in the future, as new marketing technologies can be added to further build the best possible personalization practice within an organization. This is only the beginning of what Lift can do; as customer experiences continue to move beyond websites, with its open APIs and connectors, so will Lift. We’re excited to see what the future holds.

Categories: Drupal News

Acquia Engage Awards Finalists Announced

14 October 2016 - 4:19am

Acquia partners and customers are setting a new precedent for exceptional digital experiences. These organizations are executing ambitious digital projects and creating experiences that inspire, entertain and inform. The Acquia Engage Awards Program serves as a unique opportunity to showcase the best examples of their work.

For this year’s competition, Acquia’s digital agency partners and customers submitted their sites and digital projects for consideration across 13 categories. Nominations that demonstrated an advanced level of visual design, functionality, integration and overall experience advanced to the finalist round, where an outside panel of experts from the Drupal and Web Content Management communities will select the winning projects. This year’s field of finalists features 88 projects selected from more than 150 partner and customer submissions. Winners will be announced at the Acquia Engage Conference this November.

At Acquia, we are impressed by the innovation, usability, and overall experience that’s evident in the projects that were submitted. We think you will be impressed, if not inspired too. It is our pleasure to announce the finalists for the 2016 Acquia Engage Awards.

Commerce CI&T and Motorola HS2 Solutions and Wilson Sporting Goods Born Group and Feed Projects Born Group and Blissworld Digital Experience Princess Cruises and Princess@Sea Mirum and Nokia Salsa Digital and Herbert Smith Freehills Miggle and Ski Safari & Freedom Treks AKQA and Kilroy Realty Corporation Brand Experience iCrossing, Inc. and The Cocktail Project Globant and Johnson’s Baby Argentina VML and Xerox DigitasLBi and MillerCoors Genuine and Wellness Natural Pet Food:TruFood Genuine and DeVries Global Mirum and Sako/Beretta Wunderman Hathway and BrightView Rockfish Digital and Sunrun Third & Grove and Granite Construction Manifesto Digital Limited and Frieze Javali ADSI Lda Consumer Brands Janrain and Johnson & Johnson: Healthy Essentials Phase 2 and Weight Watchers MyPlanet and SpartanNash DigitasLBi and Crispin Cider DigitasLBi and Leinie Genuine and Wellness Natural Pet Food:Core Health Sciences CI&T and Johnson & Johnson: Pharmagenius Appnovation Technologies Inc and Avalere Health Knectar and Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine Miggle and Avert The Formery and DKMS Healthcare Mirum and HealthyDay Knectar and Temple University Fox Chase Cancer Center Hatch 130 and Steward Health Care System, LLC CI&T and Johnson & Johnson: Caring Crowd Miggle and Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Financial Services Third & Grove and Quicken Zoocha and The Financial Conduct Authority Hogarth Worldwide and Santander CI&T and Commonwealth Financial Network The Archer Group and Essent Guaranty Huge Inc and PayU Globant and BAC Credomatic Ameex Technologies Corporation and Global Atlantic Financial Group High Technology Chapter Three and IXIA Isovera and Fidelis Cybersecurity Mediacurrent and Curtiss-Wright Corporation Intranet Accorin and Lord Corporation Boston Interactive and EnerNOC Isovera and Intralinks FFW and DocuSign Boston Interactive and Attunity Boston Interactive and Lexia Learning Media, Publishing and Entertainment MyPlanet and Accessible Media Inc. FFW and NBC Sports Cogapp and The Yiddish Book Center Tincan Limited and B2B Marketing Huge and Sprout (NBC Universal) Public Sector IDEO and City of Boston, Department of Innovation and Technology Huge and Civic Nation Domo Soluciones Web & IT and Interagua C. Ltda Rolling Orange and City of Hayward XVT Solutions and NSW Department of Planning and Environment Nonprofit West Virginia University Foundation NCCARF - National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (Australia) FFW and YMCA of Greater Twin Cities Genuine and Kripalu Appnovation Technologies Inc. and Visit California Higher Education KWALL and California State University Long Beach and South Dakota State University The University of Iowa Oregon State University and Chicago Booth Review Boston Interactive and Wentworth Institute of Technology KWALL and College of Southern Nevada Said Buisness School - University of Oxford VML South East Asia & India and INSEAD Last Call Media and Haverford College Connective DX and Clark University External and Community Sites Pedalo Web Design and Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining White October and Oxford Said Business School - Annual Fund Miggle and ThinkNation Digital Garden and Médecins Sans Frontières Outlier and Ameex Technologies Corporation and IFA Cameron & Wilding Ltd.

Congratulations to all finalists! Thank you to our partners and customers for their submissions. We will unveil the award winners this November. Stay tuned!

Categories: Drupal News

How Content Marketers Can Use Drupal 8 to Their Advantage

11 October 2016 - 11:21pm

Drupal is a robust WCM platform, and can often be intimidating for those who do not have an extensive technical background. Previous versions of Drupal may have projected an air of developer exclusivity, but the release of Drupal 8 has debunked the myth that working directly with Drupal is only for the technically savvy.

The Drupal community has placed a high priority on making Drupal 8 a great out-of-the-box experience. This is especially true for content authors. Due to major authoring experience improvements in core, content marketing teams now have a seat at the Drupal table.

Improved Authoring Experience

An easier authoring experience for content authors is now a default in Drupal 8 core. This means that content can be created and published without having to navigate Drupals’ administrative interface. Thanks to the Drupal distribution Spark, marketing teams have control over every step of the content authoring process, from creation, to workflow, and finally publishing.

So what are the out-of-the-box tools in Drupal 8 that make content authoring so intuitive?

In-place Authoring: In Drupal 7, correcting simple copy edits like typos or replacing absent images required content management teams to fix problems in the back-end. With D8 In-place Authoring, content teams can make these changes in the front-end, navigating through any field to create and edit content.

WYSIWYG Editor: Instead of toiling with HTML, Drupal 8 offers a WYSIWYG editor right out-of-the-box. Buttons allow content editors to go bold, embed links, and insert images with ease. This allows for speedy content creation, enabling marketing teams to move faster than ever before.

Mobile Editing: To make things even easier, Drupal 8 authoring experiences are responsive, so teams can edit and approve content on mobile devices.

Content Workflows: The process of authoring and disseminating content is simplified with improved content workflows. Increased visibility allows teams the flexibility to customize their own editorial workflows so that content can be managed from creation to publication.

And the list goes on….. The improved authoring experience doesn’t stop here, as there are numerous tools that will aid content teams and make working with Drupal easy. If you want to learn even more about how Drupal 8.2 is enhancing usability, check out Dries’ blog on Drupal 8.2, Now With More Outside-In.

If you give a Drupalist a Fish….

The benefits of Drupal 8 for content teams are evident. The Drupal community has put a lot time and energy into making the content authoring experience intuitive and easy to use. The tools are there, but how should content marketing teams take advantage?

It’s no mystery that the way customers are interacting with businesses is changing. Most of this is for the better, as businesses have the opportunity to be more innovative and creative with their digital properties. But when digital landscapes are constantly “evolving”, content teams need some kind of map in order to summit the steep and shifting needs of their customers.

Drupal gives content marketing teams the tools, but if you need help developing a content marketing strategy, check out the “How to Build an Open Content Marketing Platform with Drupal 8” Webinar next Tuesday, October 18th at 1pm EDT.

In this webinar, you’ll learn why Drupal 8 is right for your content marketing strategy and what tools within Drupal make sense for your team. Katelyn Fogarty (Digital Marketing Manager, Acquia), Michael Silverman (CEO, Duo Consulting) and Richard Lawson (CTO, Duo Consulting) will provide the insight and strategies needed for content marketing teams to leverage the improved tools of Drupal 8.

“Join this webinar to learn how taking an open marketing approach gives you access to the best of breed tools you want to be using to have a great website experience for your users.” - Katelyn Fogarty, Acquia.

Categories: Drupal News

State of Drupal presentation (September 2016)

7 October 2016 - 8:33pm

DrupalCon Dublin marked my 28th DrupalCon and #Driesnote presentation. You can watch a recording of my keynote (starting at 23:55) or download a copy of my slides here (185.4 MB).

The first half of the presentation I provided a technical update on Drupal 8. I showcased some of the big changes in Drupal 8.2 such as the settings tray, REST API improvements, migration tool improvements, and easier to use block placement. I also talked about how we've transformed Drupal 8 for continuous innovation. I'm super excited about our improved development process and release cycle, as it helps us ship innovative updates to Drupal 8 faster and with a much easier upgrade path.

The second half of the talk focused on "The why" of Drupal, and asked an important question for all of us to think about: what is Drupal's collective purpose? In addition to me talking about my own purpose, my team interviewed Drupal people around the world about their passion and purpose.

I featured a lot of interviews with Drupalists. If you're interested in viewing their individual videos, they're now available on my YouTube channel:

© Paul Johnson

Special thanks to Ash for the amazing design work on my slides and helping with the interviews, and Paul Johnson for the nice photo of me listening to Zsófi.

Categories: Drupal News

Is Drupal the right choice for my Marketing website?

7 October 2016 - 2:15am

When you need a website or need to seriously update your existing website, the first thing you should do is evaluate the available website platform options. For smaller sites, it is easy to start digging into pay by the month website vendors like wordpress and wix, but when you need a new business website, who should you look to? Gartner just came out with this annual Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management and the top right quadrant features leaders in the space. This year the top 3 are Adobe, Sitecore and Acquia.

Acquia runs their WCM platform off of Drupal. Drupal should be one of the first options you consider, especially if you are operating an enterprise level website.

Here are the reasons why marketers love Drupal:

  1. Modules! Modules are extensions of your website that allow you to customize your site as needed, and enable you to connect to a service or a feature you may want. Drupal has a large community of developers creating new modules, which are updated daily. This flexibility ensures you will have an up-to-date and relevant website.
  2. Integrations. Drupal was built with API first in mind so it is fairly easy to integrate with other services through your Drupal website. This is especially true with Drupal 8. For example, we integrate with Demandbase on through an API service, in addition to Marketo.
  3. Flexibility. With some larger vendors you are limited to their tools and to their roadmap. If you want a feature you may need to wait until customer demand is high enough to prioritize feature development. With Drupal you can use any service you want, and no need to stick with the vendor option or pay a developer to build it for you. This allows you to get what you need , when you need it t. Some of the larger vendors can’t provide that flexibility.

What are the things Marketers think about most? In order to do these things they need to be able to have a platform that can support them. Drupal can be that platform.

Is Drupal the right choice for my Marketing website? Yes, and I strongly recommend it. Even if your marketing site begins as a basic brochure website, you might need all the flexibility and scalability options Drupal provides in the future. Why not set yourself up for success by choosing the right platform up front. That is also the beauty of Drupal, because it is open source, the platform itself doesn’t cost you anything. It costs what it takes to build, customize and host, so you can start small and build up as your business grows. Drupal will extend to be as complex as your business demands. Drupal is a definitely contender in the WCM space, make sure to check it out.

Categories: Drupal News

Acquia Partner Profile: OPIN Software

6 October 2016 - 11:57pm

At Acquia, our partners are an incredible part of our success. In this series, we’ll be profiling some of our premier partners, showcasing who they are and what they do, in their own words.

We had the opportunity to sit with Chris Smith, the CEO and founder of OPIN Software, a Canadian Drupal agency that often partners with Acquia on large-scale projects within government, sports and health care.

“At the beginning, it was just two of us. My role started as a developer, with a sales person by my side. Of course, since then my role has evolved. Today, I focus a lot on sales and scaling the business. I’m also responsible for ensuring the team is constantly learning and being challenged through their work.”

OPIN Quick Facts:
  • Founded: October, 2011
  • Location: Ottawa, Canada
  • Number of employees: 20
  • Top clients: Government of Bermuda, Canada Games Council, Government of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History
  • Awards: Acquia 2016 Partner of the Year, Acquia 2015 Partner Site of the Year in the public sector category, 2014 International Summit Creative Awards
What’s your least favorite buzzword?

“Game-changer, disruptive, world-class, … I could go on."

What project / work are you most proud of?

"I’m very proud of the work we do with SOS Children Villages Canada. We started working with the organization in 2012. A large portion of our work for them was pro-bono; our job was to assist them reach their target audiences and increase donations to their cause. Since our involvement, we’ve been successful in helping double traffic to their website. This has increased online donations, which are used to support children who’ve lost their families in different parts of the world.

I’m also really proud of the work we’re doing with the Canada Games Council. The Canada Games encourages young athletes and students to pursue sports and a healthy lifestyle. As a National Partner of the Games, our contribution has helped broaden the opportunity for youth, parents, and fans across Canada to stay connected and up-to-date with the Games.”

What areas are you looking to expand or invest in in the future?

“Moving into 2017, we’ll be doubling down on our key verticals – government, sport and health care. We’re investing in expanding our reach, developing relationships, and informing decision makers of the value of open source, specifically Drupal.

From a technology aspect, our team will be focusing on furthering Drupal 8 core and key contributed modules. We will also continue investing in the local open source communities where we do business.”

What environments do you support?

“Today, we work with Drupal 8 as a variety of marketing tools depending on the needs of our clients.”

What role do customers ask you to play in technology strategy or selection?

“We specialize in Drupal, and leverage the platform to work with our clients and build a solution that meets their goals. We plan, design, build and deploy; that is typically our process.”

What tech trends are you most excited about?

“It’s awesome that applications are becoming more native in the way they feel. The increasing trend of client-side technologies in Drupal is also great. Especially in the world of Drupal, it will give us and similar agencies an advantage, but also adds a lot of value to clients in terms of a better user experience. I’m also excited about the trends in infrastructure and cloud. As organizations like Acquia move to more modern, powerful and flexible virtualization tools, it will decrease the cost and effort required to deploy complex solutions.”

What is most important to you / what do you value most as an agency?

“I see our company as an incubator for people. We invest heavily in our employees in terms of training and ensuring they’re always challenged, whether it be through obtaining certifications like the Acquia Developer Certification, or sending them to conferences so they can learn and eventually become thought leaders.

We hire a lot of graduates straight out of school, and really give them the chance to work on great projects. We’ve had the opportunity to work with big names, like the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and it’s been great to see our young developers grow and deliver these amazing projects.”

What makes you unique?

“In line with our culture of continuous learning, everyone in our company, including our sales team, is Acquia certified.

We also have a strong focus on corporate social responsibility. Each year, our company puts over a million dollars towards supporting Canadian non-profits and charities, either through pro-bono work or sponsorships. We’re proud to help these organizations reach their goal. Clients who work with us can know that a large part of the money they put in will go back into the community.”

How would you describe the culture at your agency? What are the people like?

“I think our culture is empowering, trusting and open in terms of communication, and very knowledge centric. We value external learning, but also internal mentorship and learning from each other. It’s a fun and easy-going environment, but hardworking. “

What’s one random fact about your agency?

“We named our development teams ‘pods’ after a family of killer whales. A killer whale is basically a super smart, aggressive dolphin, so we decided it’s fitting for our development teams.”

Why partner with Acquia?

“Acquia is the largest Drupal technical support and infrastructure company in the world. They bring tremendous value to our clients, and their team is great to work with – very collaborative and supportive.”

Categories: Drupal News

Drupal's collective purpose

3 October 2016 - 10:46pm

When I was on vacation in Italy this summer, I had no internet, which gave me a lot of time to think. Some of that time was spent reflecting on why I do what I do. I have been working on Drupal for over 15 years and on Acquia for almost 10 years. The question of what gives me meaning and purpose has changed drastically over that time.

Evolving purpose

I started Drupal because I wanted to build a website for myself and a few friends. In the early days of Drupal, I was obsessed with the code and architecture of Drupal.

As I wrote in 2006: "I focused completely and utterly on creating fewer and fewer lines of more elegant code.". I wanted Drupal to be pure. I wanted the code to be perfect. For Drupal to be architected in the right way, I had to rewrite it multiple times and strip away anything that wasn't necessary – I couldn't imagine preserving backwards compatibility as it meant we had to drag along a lot of historical baggage. My mission in the early days was to keep the platform fast, clean and on the leading edge of technology.

As time passed and Drupal started growing, my role evolved. More people became involved with Drupal, and I thought more about scaling the community, including our tools, processes and culture. I started to focus on building the Drupal Association, promoting Drupal, handling trademark issues, and last but not least, setting the overall direction of the project. In the process, I started to worry less about achieving that perfect vision and more about the health of the community and collaborating on a shared vision.

While I miss programming, I have come to accept that I can't do everything. Every day when I wake up, I decide where I want to focus my energy. My guiding principle at this time in my life is to optimize for impact. That means enabling others versus doing much programming myself.

Meaningful moments: part I

While in Italy, I decided to make a list of the moments in Drupal's history that stand out as particularly meaningful or purposeful. I started to discover some patterns in these moments, and ended up sorting them into two groups. Here is the first set:

  • When people find Drupal, and it gives them a better career path and ultimately changes their life. I got goosebumps when almost 3,000 people stood up at DrupalCon San Francisco when I asked "Please stand up if Drupal changed your life". I often talk to people that went on to make a full-time living with Drupal – or even start a Drupal business – to provide better lives for their families. Some of these stories, such as Vijaya Chandran Mani's, are deeply impactful.
  • Seeing how Drupal is used for aid relief, like in the aftermath of the 2013 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. Members of the Drupal community worked throughout the night to create a website for victims to help each other.
  • Seeing how Drupal has made a meaningful impact on the Open Web movement. Over the last 10 years, millions of people have created Drupal sites that express their creative freedom and individuality. In recent years, I've become concerned about the Open Web's future and have spoken out on how the Drupal community is uniquely positioned to help preserve the open web. I believe it's an important mission that we should all embrace, so the original integrity and freedom of the Open Web remains intact for our children and grandchildren.

All of these moments suggest that my purpose is self-transcendent – I get meaning when my work matters more to others than it does to me. Organized into radiating circles, the impact on each of these groups gives me purpose: individual Drupalists, the Drupal community, Drupal end users, and the open web. This is why I've become so passionate about things like usability, internationalization and accessibility over the years.

I know it's not just me; my team interviewed many other people that have the same feelings of finding meaning when their work results in life-changing outcomes. One great example is "Franck" Seferiba Salif Soulama, who hopes that training more young people in Drupal can lift people from Burkina Faso, Africa out of poverty. He wants to provide them job opportunities so they don't have to leave their country. Other examples are Drew Gorton or Ronan Dowling. There are many people like Franck, Drew or Ronan around the world that have a positive domino effect on others.

Meaningful moments: part II

The second group of moments I wrote down weren't necessarily self-transcendent, but still gave me purpose. Here are a few examples:

  • Fundraising after the great server meltdown. In 2005, we had to raise money to buy new infrastructure for We nearly had to shut down and could have lost everything. While it was a difficult time, this moment was especially meaningful as it helped us come together as a community.
  • Having to ask individuals to leave the project or change their behavior because their values weren't aligned with the project. While providing critique or removing someone from the project has never been never easy, I'm proud of the times we stand up for our values.
  • Getting Drupal 8 over the finish line after 4.5 years of hard work. At times, many people doubted our progress, questioned whether we were making the right decisions, and even left our project. While the development process wasn't always fun in the moment, when we did release parties around the world, we all felt a real sense of accomplishment. In the long run, we built something that will keep Drupal relevant for many years to come.

Many of us find meaning when the hard and uncomfortable work results in life-changing outcomes for others. Not only does this type of work provide purpose, some people believe it is the recipe for success. For example, Angela Lee Duckworth's TED talk on grit applies directly to the work that is done by Drupal's maintainers.

How do we scale purpose?

Hearing all of these inspirational stories makes me think: How we can attract more people to the project, but do so in a way that ensures we share our core values (like giving back)? While there are no straightforward answers to this question, there are many organizations that are doing great things in this area.

One example is the Drupal Campus Ambassador Program which hopes to appoint ambassadors in every university in India to introduce more students to Drupal and help them with their job search. While at Drupalcon India earlier this year, I met Rakesh James, who has personally trained 600 people on Drupal!

Another example is the Drupal apprenticeship program in the UK, which focuses on recruiting new talent to the Drupal community. Participants get an extensive Drupal bootcamp to help them with their job search. Many of these apprentices are disadvantaged young people who have great talent and aptitude, but might be lacking the traditional route or access to a meaningful career path.

I'd love to take programs like these global – they instill our values, culture and a sense of purpose to many new people. If you know of similar initiatives, or have ideas to share, please do so in the comments section.

Based on my own introspection, and hearing from amazing Drupalists from around the world, I truly believe that Drupal is fueled by a collective sense of purpose that sets us apart from other open source software communities and organizations. We need to keep this purpose in mind when we make decisions, especially when the going gets tough. What is your sense of purpose? And how can we scale it around the world?

Categories: Drupal News

Looking to Drive Change in Your Company? Acquia Engage May Be The Solution

28 September 2016 - 10:49pm

We’re a little over a month out from Engage, and I couldn’t be more pumped. This year, I’ve been given the honor of running one of our tracks: The Politics of Digital. Given the chaos of the election season, this track couldn’t be more timely. While we won’t be discussing Donald Trump’s tweets or Hillary Clinton’s emails, we will take a deep look at the politics involved in any digital transformation project and how to Get S#%t Done.

Every single session in this track was designed to help anyone embarking on digital transformation within their own organization. One of the sessions is aptly titled “Technology is the easy part,” because for a lot of organizations it is (sort of). There are TONS of resources available, from Forrester analysts to agency partners to technology peers that will help your organization choose and implement a technology. The really hard part (that no one seems to talk about) is what happens within the walls of an organization. What happens before the analyst briefing is scheduled or before the agency brief is written? How do you take a great idea, like designing a new web presence, and get leadership, peers and partners on board? Then how do you organize around this new technology to get the most out of your investment?

In this track we’ll address all of these questions using real examples from real Acquia customers who have been there and done that. There will be no product pitches, no agency pitches, nothing but idea sharing and success stories. The sessions are full of clients from all industries, and all walks of life. For example, the YMCA will talk about how they brought digital transformation to a 160-year old brand. The City of Boston will talk about how they are actively including citizens of Boston in their digital transformation project. And Emmis Radio will tell their story about how Drupal was the catalyst for changing their entire sales and business model.

And there’s so much more. Including (drum roll please) a panel discussion run by yours truly featuring change agents from 5 different industries, all sharing stories on how they overcame the challenges faced by any organization.

While I may be a bit biased, I think this track is going to be the most practical, valuable, and interesting track we have this year. You’ll hear great stories, and come away with tips and tricks you can start using today (or rather, November 4th) to ensure success in your digital transformation journey.

Categories: Drupal News

The transformation of Drupal 8 for continuous innovation

28 September 2016 - 4:46pm

In the past, after every major release of Drupal, most innovation would shift to two areas: (1) contributed modules for the current release, and (2) core development work on the next major release of Drupal. This innovation model was the direct result of several long-standing policies, including our culture of breaking backward compatibility between major releases.

In many ways, this approach served us really well. It put strong emphasis on big architectural changes, for a cleaner, more modern, and more flexible codebase. The downsides were lengthy release cycles, a costly upgrade path, and low incentive for core contributors (as it could take years for their contribution to be available in production). Drupal 8's development was a great example of this; the architectural changes in Drupal 8 really propelled Drupal's codebase to be more modern and flexible, but also came at the cost of four and a half years of development and a complex upgrade path.

As Drupal grows — in lines of code, number of contributed modules, and market adoption — it becomes harder and harder to rely purely on backward compatibility breaks for innovation. As a result, we decided to evolve our philosophy starting after the release of Drupal 8.

The only way to stay competitive is to have the best product and to help people adopt it more seamlessly. This means that we have to continue to be able to reinvent ourselves, but that we need to make the resulting changes less scary and easier to absorb. We decided that we wanted more frequent releases of Drupal, with new features, API additions, and an easy upgrade path.

To achieve these goals, we adopted three new practices:

  1. Semantic versioning: a major.minor.patch versioning scheme that allows us to add significant, backwards-compatible improvements in minor releases like Drupal 8.1.0 and 8.2.0.
  2. Scheduled releases: new minor releases are timed twice a year for predictability. To ensure quality, each of these minor releases gets its own beta releases and release candidates with strict guidelines on allowed changes.
  3. Experimental modules in core: optional alpha-stability modules shipped with the core package, which allow us to distribute new functionality, gather feedback, and iterate faster on the modules' planned path to stability.

Now that Drupal 8 has been released for about 10 months and Drupal 8.2 is scheduled to be released next week, we can look back at how this new process worked. Drupal 8.1 introduced two new experimental modules (the BigPipe module and a user interface for data migration), various API additions, and usability improvements like spell checking in CKEditor. Drupal 8.2 further stabilizes the migration system and introduces numerous experimental alpha features, including significant usability improvements (i.e. block placement and block configuration), date range support, and advanced content moderation — among a long list of other stable and experimental improvements.

It's clear that these regular feature updates help us innovate faster — we can now add new capabilities to Drupal that previously would have required a new major version. With experimental modules, we can get features in users' hands early, get feedback quickly, and validate that we are implementing the right things. And with the scheduled release cycle, we can deliver these improvements more frequently and more predictably. In aggregate, this enables us to innovate continuously; we can bring more value to our users in less time in a sustainable manner, and we can engage more developers to contribute to core.

It is exciting to see how Drupal 8 transformed our capabilities to continually innovate with core, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we accomplish next! It also raises questions about what this means for Drupal 9 — I'll cover that in a future blog post.

Categories: Drupal News

API-first Drupal: Innovating from Digital Experiences to Digital Ecosystems

27 September 2016 - 11:28pm

Recently, Acquia CTO and Drupal project lead Dries Buytaert touted Drupal as the optimal solution for “ambitious digital experiences.” But what constitutes an ambitious digital experience these days? Many of the digital experiences we encounter on a daily basis are no longer web-based, nor do they rely solely on web technologies at all.

Indeed, content touchpoints are multiplying at a fast clip as consumers seek increasingly diverse and distinctive means of interacting with content, like the Internet of Things (IoT), digital signage, conversational interfaces, and devices that employ machine learning to adapt to our characteristics. This calls into question: Is Drupal truly ready for our expanding milieu of devices, interactions, and experiences that we must contend with?

Luckily, last year’s release of Drupal 8 introduced a variety of capabilities allowing you to use the ever-powerful content management system (CMS) as an API-first content repository. Simply put, this means that Drupal is resolutely no longer for standalone digital experiences. In short, Drupal is well-positioned — and becoming even better — for entire digital ecosystems.

From digital experiences to digital ecosystems

Here’s a bit of a thought experiment. Think of the very first website you ever visited in your life. How was the experience of using that website? Now think of a contemporary website today. How has the experience changed over the years? When we do a comparison across decades like this one, the colossal diversification of digital experiences becomes more perceptible.

If we scrutinize digital experiences more incrementally over time, we can illuminate where touchpoints have entered the picture. The quadrennial Summer Olympics provide excellent temporal reference points to examine what exactly defines a digital experience. For instance, what were digital experiences for content like in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics?

Chances are that more likely than not, your content was delivered to your consumers through a single site in a single browser. Touchscreen smartphones were still a novelty, and many of the devices which we take for granted today were as yet prototypes in a subterranean research lab. But in 2012 in London, we begin to see a gradual proliferation of devices, each equipped with its own browser. Meanwhile, on smartphones, native mobile applications begin to partition walled gardens for consuming content.

In 2016 for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, we witnessed an explosion of touchpoints and devices. Spectators in Rio and beyond relied on a bevy of applications and devices which all enabled more personalized and intimate interactions with content. For instance, the Olympics website of the American broadcaster NBC, built in Drupal, achieved over a billion minutes of video streaming over the course of the Games.

This is no small feat. But what about Tokyo in 2020? The Japanese government has already confirmed its plans to stage the most futuristic Olympics of all time, including robotic ushers, instantaneous translation between languages, and autonomous taxis to ferry spectators between events. All of these discard the foregoing model of consumption of content in favor of rich interaction with content.

In short, we are witnessing nothing short of a wholesale paradigm shift in how organizations think about content. The digital experiences we are accustomed to are no longer disparate touchpoints built by siloed teams, united solely by brand. Today, digital experiences constitute digital ecosystems which increasingly require centralization and orchestration.

From consumption of content to interaction with content

Consider for a moment how your personal experience of the Olympics might shift in the coming years as devices continue to enter the market at a blistering pace. What might a typical day look like during the Tokyo Olympics?

When you wake up in the morning to your smartwatch’s alarm, you peer sleepily at the screen and see various news notifications about the previous day’s swimming races, preemptively requested the night before. Then, when you rise to begin your day, you ask the Amazon Echo perched on your nightstand what happened the previous day in cycling, and Alexa responds with a curated list of news catered to your athletic interests.

As you eat breakfast, a small screen on your refrigerator depicts yesterday’s American medal winners and the overall medal standings across all participants in the Games. And as you walk to your car, bus, or train, your Google Glass pushes some notifications about the women’s gymnastics team into the corner of your lens. Finally, during your grocery shopping at the end of the day, you receive a notification on your smartphone about a sports drink on sale in the adjacent aisle based not on your browsing habits but rather how you’ve interacted directly with your content.

Of course, upon imagining this “typical” day four years from now, you may conclude that these possibilities are still remote and as yet unachievable. You might contend that realizing and articulating these myriad digital experiences requires a complicated and unwieldy architecture that current technologies are underprepared for.

In fact, all of this is possible and achievable in the short term with Drupal’s help.

Interacting with content, powered by Acquia

To demonstrate this, Acquia already has many compelling case studies in this area, especially around conversational interfaces and the Internet of Things (IoT). For instance, consider that Drupal 8 already has an open-source module available for Amazon Echo and that an integration with Alexa is not only possible but already very real, as you can see in the demo video below.

Holding a conversation with Drupal is certainly impressive, but it is by no means the only futuristic project that has leveraged Drupal 8 for forward-looking ideas. In New York City, Drupal 8 powers screens on information kiosks which show upcoming trains and service advisories, significantly ameliorating the waiting experience for passengers on platforms.

Drupal 8 also supplies data to a Tesla mobile application for Tesla vehicles, and Lufthansa is currently constructing in-flight entertainment systems which will consume content and data served by Drupal 8. All of these new applications open the door to even more new use cases and unfathomable opportunities for the audiences of our content.

API-first Drupal is free and open-source

What all of these innovative experiences have in common is Drupal as the centerpiece of each digital ecosystem. Today, you can use one Drupal repository to power IoT applications, chat applications, native mobile and desktop applications, single-page applications, set-top-boxes, and even other back ends.

Drupal 8 is API-first, which means that it is optimized for exposing content for the benefit of applications. Nevertheless, Drupal isn’t alone in this space. API-first content-as-a-service platforms, such as Contentful,, CloudCMS, and Prismic, are quickly infiltrating this new market. These are platforms which specialize in the broadcasting of content to other applications but do not display content themselves; in other words, they are headless. These API-first platforms generally charge to use their repositories in the cloud and often limit the number of requests you can make for content based on your subscription.

But Drupal has one key advantage in this age of new devices and touchpoints: It’s an API-first CMS that is free and open-source from end to end. This means all layers, including accessing and retrieving data, exposing that data, and consuming that data through software development kits (SDKs), comprise free and open-source software.

At Acquia, we are working hard to make Drupal even more API-first. Acquians are supporting ongoing efforts to shore up Drupal’s API-first capabilities as part of the API-first initiative in the community. In the upcoming weeks, Acquia team members will also be releasing Waterwheel.js 1.0, an SDK that helps accelerate the development of Drupal-backed JavaScript applications. This is just one part of the emerging Waterwheel ecosystem, a growing set of SDKs that bridge the gap between Drupal and other technologies such as Swift.


Think once more about where your digital experiences are today — your websites, your mobile applications, and all of the other content experiences you provide. Are they ready for the new world of content? Are they prepared for the constant upheavals in how we reach and understand our audiences? Are they equipped for the market trends that will redefine digital experiences as digital ecosystems and consumption of content as interaction with content?

How can you transform your digital experiences into a digital ecosystem that is ambitious, innovative, and uniquely competitive? Acquia has an excellent answer to that question. Stay tuned for an important announcement from Acquia next month about how we can collaborate to conceive, accelerate, and cultivate a compelling vision for your content. Together, we can take your content to the next level.

The contents of this blog post are adapted from a session delivered at the Brazil Innovators Summit in São Paulo entitled “Inovação na Acquia: Ampliando ecossistemas de conteúdo para novos espaços” (“Innovation at Acquia: Expanding content ecosystems to new spaces").

Categories: Drupal News

Machine Learning's Not Magic, but It Can Work Wonders

26 September 2016 - 11:09pm

There’s a fairly common tendency to use the word “magic” when talking about Machine Learning (ML). In some ways this word is appropriate given the amazing feats being accomplished using ML techniques, but in other ways it’s an unfortunate choice of words as it suggests these things are impossible for us to understand. If we believe that, then we can also be led to believe that “anything’s possible” when it comes to ML, and we lose our ability to be skeptical about claims being made about it.

The “anything’s possible” idea can also lead to unwarranted fears about an imminent Singularity, where the exponential rate of technological growth brings about a so-called superintelligence and the subsequent subjugation of the entire human race.

This post is about celebrating some of the most important successes of Machine Learning in a way that hopefully gets across how unmagical but nonetheless remarkable and full of promise these ML techniques are. It is the second post in our series on ML (you can read the first one here) which aims to spread interest and enthusiasm, not hype, about the great potential of Machine Learning in solving real problems.

Google’s AlphaGo has beaten the world Go champion

This story, more than any other from the past year, is probably responsible for a lot of recent converts to the idea that the Singularity must surely be near. Here are some of the reasons why AlphaGo’s victory against Lee Sedol, world Go champion, was such a big deal:

  • The number of legal configurations of a Go board is greater than the number of atoms in the universe
  • The branching factor of Go, i.e. the number of legal moves from a given position, is 250 (chess has an average branching factor of 35), which makes any kind of brute force (purely search-based) approach impossible
  • In 2014, AI researchers working on the problem thought it would take at least another decade for an AI to be able to beat the best humans at Go

So how did AlphaGo do it? The full technical details are provided in a paper in Nature but on AlphaGo’s website the approach is described as combining “Monte-Carlo tree search with deep neural networks that have been trained by supervised learning, from human expert games, and by reinforcement learning from games of self-play.” We talked a little bit about deep neural networks as a form of supervised learning in the last post. In this case, the networks were trained on game board configurations from real historical games played by human experts, so they could learn the probability of a win for a given move from a given position. And AlphaGo then got to hone its skills by playing against itself over and over. So it played - and learned from - more games of Go than any human ever has. And that was the secret to its success.

As remarkable a feat as this is, it is important to bear in mind that AlphaGo cannot do anything besides play games of Go. It is another example of narrow or weak AI, focused on a very narrowly defined task.

Big Data is helping researchers understand cancer

Genomics, the study of entire genomes of organisms, needs to analyze extremely long sequences of characters representing the building blocks of DNA. Because these sequences form a double-helix, the size of genomes is given in pairs of characters (so-called base pairs) and the size of the human genome is estimated to be about 3.2 billion pairs. Researchers investigating the genetic foundations of cancer now have access to two petabytes of cancer genome data that they can train ML models on in order to identify drivers of tumor growth or predict the most effective treatment for specific cancer types, for example.

Both supervised and unsupervised learning techniques are used in cancer research. So far in this series we’ve only touched on supervised learning; unsupervised learning is about looking for patterns in data without having a specific outcome you’re trying to predict. One example is clustering: given a batch of data with various features, figure out meaningful ways of dividing it into clusters, based on those features. In cancer research this technique can be used to identify different types of cells exhibiting particular characteristics that prove to be significant in driving tumor growth.

Elsewhere in cancer research, Deep Learning is helping reduce the error rate in breast cancer diagnosis by a staggering 85%.

Bigger than Big Data: Astronomical Data

If you’ve ever wondered what the biggest data is, it is the data of space. The Square Kilometer Array telescope which is due for completion in 2024 will produce an exabyte of raw data per day. That’s 10 18 bytes, or one million terabytes. Machine learning techniques such as dimensionality reduction are required right from the start in order to be able to throw away just the useless data and retain a manageable amount of relevant data. But ML finds all kinds of uses in the study of space. NASA held a competition in 2011, via the ML competition site Kaggle, where the challenge was to “create a cosmological image analysis program to measure the small distortion in galaxy images caused by dark matter.” Within a week, the current state-of-the-art algorithm for this task had been beaten. The winners used an Artificial Neural Network to recognize patterns in the 100,000 image dataset.

The statistical approach to language translation beats all others

As mentioned briefly in the first post in this series, one of the main tasks the early AI researchers focused on was solving Machine Translation (MT): creating software that would take as input a sentence in one language and produce as output that sentence translated into another language. After decades of mediocre results from translation systems that attempted to use syntactic rules to translate from one language to another, the data-driven approach emerged and quickly left rules-based approaches in the dust.

Google researchers wrote about this in 2009 in an articled entitled The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data. They noted that far from being one of the simplest tasks in Natural Language Processing (NLP), MT is in fact one of the hardest, but the reason the data-driven approach was so effective was due to the availability of massive amounts of data to train on: text is translated every day by humans from one language to another. The general trend seems to be that once you throw enough data at any NLP problem, the data-driven approach will eventually win out over rules-based approaches. As we noted before, the availability of large amounts of data has been a driving factor in the huge uptake of ML in recent years, and this is as true of NLP as it is of any other problem space.

At Acquia, we’re excited about many of the possible applications of ML, from unsupervised learning for understanding user data to predicting traffic spikes to optimize our Cloud service. And we’re particularly excited about applications in Natural Language Processing because the data they’re concerned with is text, i.e. content. In the next post, we’ll look more closely at NLP and some of the techniques used to analyze text data.

Categories: Drupal News

Why Website Personalization Is Harder Than You Think

22 September 2016 - 9:59pm

Over the past 3-5 years I’ve been hearing a lot about website personalization. I have battled a lot with personalization over the years, and to be honest, good personalization can be difficult to execute. I’ve taken some time to reflect on the difficulties of personalization, and have uncovered three main factors that make personalization challenging:

  1. Resources/Time
  2. Reporting
  3. Expectations from management

Resources and Time
Properly executing personalization on your website is hard and takes a lot of time. For example, let’s say we want to personalize a section of our homepage by audience. After we decide how we will target the audiences, we then need to ensure we have content for each audience. Once we have those two items completed, we need to know what our goal is so that we can track success against these personalized items. If you want to personalize a banner on your homepage, how would you measure a success event? By clicking on a button? Once you have determined all of those items, you then need to implement all of these things in a personalization tool. This could require a few days’ worth of work before you have personalization running on your site. Then, you need to leave it running for a length of time so it can gain statistically significant data before you can deem it successful. After the test has run for a while you will need to go in and evaluate your data and the results. This takes a lot of time.

The next phase is reporting, which will help you determine if personalization has improved your web content. Reporting can vary, as I’ve done tests that were straightforward and others where there was not enough definitive data to determine if the new personalized versions were successful over the default. So when you are determining goals for your new personalization campaign, what should take priority? Should it be more clicks? Click ratio to your audience? Navigation to other sections of your homepage? Or do you directly compare it to the default you are testing it against. The answer is: all of the above. (I didn’t say personalization would be easy!)

When I build out personalization campaigns I actually nest an A/B test within each personalization so that I can see if my personalization for each audience does better than the default. But this is where reporting gets tricky. Some tools can’t nest a test within a personalization, and even if the tool can do that, it can also add a lot of complexity to your reporting. Before you know it, you’re looking at audience success and A/B test results at once. It is a full time job to set up and report on personalization campaigns, and a lot of companies make the mistake of adding this task to someone’s current job responsibilities. Multi-tasking personalization won’t allow it to be successful in your business. Hire someone.

Expectations from Management
Once you hire someone to run personalization on your site, you also need to set expectations with your leadership team and co-workers on what you can and cannot be accomplished Some teammates think the solution to all arguments is “just test it” or “can’t we set up a website personalization campaign for this?” But personalization experts will know that most of the time, just running tests and campaigns isn't a possibility. Yes you can set up basic A/B tests to help solve some arguments, but personalization needs to have a larger strategy tied to it and you need to be able to target an audience. Defining how we do that is much more challenging than it sounds. Your target audiences should be set and defined up front with the larger team, and then these audiences can be recycled to make new campaigns move faster.

Additionally, set the expectation that personalization won’t drive traffic to the website, but that it will help keep quality traffic on your site longer. When dealing with personalization you need to look at a different set of metrics, one that your leadership team might not be accustomed to. You’ll need to help drive that new way of thinking. Have I convinced you that this is a full time job yet?!

All in all, personalization can be an important and exciting element of your site, but it is not as easy as it sounds. To properly execute personalization, you need to strategize, and build on the right foundation.

Categories: Drupal News

4 Weeks, 4 Events - Where’s Drupal in mid-2016?

21 September 2016 - 11:28pm

Drupal is way more than websites and our community is thriving and making a difference all around the world. That’s the shortest way I can sum it up.

4 Weeks, 4 Events

It’s September, 2016 and DrupalCon Dublin is on next week! In the last four weeks, I’ve had the privilege of visiting and speaking at Drupal “SaunaCamp” Helsinki, Drupal Camp Costa Rica, and Drupal Camp Ghent. I was also part of the team of Acquians and Acquia-partners at dmexco 2016 (a 50,000+ attendee digital-marketing and -advertising trade fair held every year in Cologne, Germany). It made for an intense four weeks!

Selling Drupal without selling Drupal

Drupal is way more than websites now. It is behind digital marketing packages, running mobile apps, powering digital kiosks and signage, helping charities run better, and a lot more. Everywhere I have been the past month, I’ve seen people using our open source toolset to improve their world in some way; to improve their own organisation, to help others improve theirs, to work, sell, or govern better. I wanted to avoid buzzwords, but Drupal is behind many instances of what I can only call “digital transformation.” More and more of us are using Drupal to drive change in our own companies or for our clients, but it’s not about Drupal:

“It’s about marketing and business challenges, it’s not about the nuts and bolts, it’s about what people are trying to achieve.” - Jim Bowes, Manifesto, at dmexco 2016.

Drupal powering digital marketing - At Drupal Camp Ghent, I attended a presentation by Dominique De Cooman, CEO of Dropsolid, who really impressed me because Dropsolid sells marketing-as-a-service for small and medium businesses, including: analytics, campaign planning, analysis, and so on (part of their package offering is a website tuned for inbound marketing … hello, Drupal!). Online marketing is something that many business people are beginning to understand they need, but have no idea how to get started with. With Dropsolid, Drupal has a foot in the door, small businesses can do better business, the Drupal footprint increases – win for us!

Acquia’s stand at dmexco 2016 did not say, “COME BUY SOME DRUPAL!” It said, “Personalization Happens” and featured “live personalization” in the form of a hairdresser and tattoo artist (real, actual tattoos). I asked Acquia’s Central European Country Manager, Michael Heuer why the word “personalization” (and a tattoo artist) were more important than the word “Drupal” at our stand.

Drupal is at the heart of everything we do, but people are not interested in technology, they are interested in doing something with it. We’re not trying to work from the fact, ‘Here’s a piece of technology. We’ve enhanced it and built some services around it.’ It’s more about ‘What do you want to do?’ For example, a lot of companies want to do personalization. So they’re thinking about personalizing content, personalizing the shop experience; they think about personalizing the emails they send out. They want to utilize all kinds of information. We were thinking about how we could get this across. We have a really good personalization technology here, which is based on Drupal and connected with Drupal ...” [And it works with all kinds of other web systems, too, not just CMS’s.] “I wasn’t expecting that so many people would volunteer spontaneously to get a tattoo [11 people did in the course of the 2-day event]. So the first most-asked question was ‘Are those real tattoos?’ and the second was ‘What does Acquia really do?’ And this was what we wanted. It gave us the chance to talk with them.” - Michael Heuer, Acquia

tl;dr: By selling personalization and services that are not about which software we use, we’re still opening the door for Drupal. Start a conversation. Listen to their needs. Help them solve their problems.

Community and business - creating transformation hand-in-hand

There is no dichotomy between “community” and “business.” Drupal Camps and Cons are for the nuts and bolts; how we want to build our futures. But when we’re working with organisations elsewhere, it comes down to understanding their needs, giving them a vision of what they can achieve, and then helping them do that – which we obviously want to do using Drupal somehow.

When I asked him why we weren’t selling Drupal at dmxeco, Manuel Pistner, CEO of Bright Solutions summed up the difference between a tech conference and a business event like dmexco: “Because this is not an exhibition for technical [people]. It’s for more than just coding Drupal or building applications. It’s about digitalizing processes, digitalizing the customer experience.”

I saw example after example of how this alleged business-community gap is being bridged:

  • Dropsolid is a great example of a business need generating more Drupal business over time.
  • Drupal in advertising and more - In Helsinki, the community is the glue between everyone from a global advertising agency centering on Drupal solutions – Mirum – to an individual freelancer who supports his family by contracting out to clients including other Drupal agencies (shout out to Juho!), and everyone in between.
  • Drupal in banking - Drupal Camp Costa Rica was inspiring. Just like in India, the community seems to be young, enthusiastic, and growing. But it wasn’t just students; the largest bank in the region, BAC|Credomatic Bank, was there talking about how Drupal helped them grow their business and reduce costs at the same time... And after my session, we got to talking with them about what they might be able to do with Drupal 8, too!
  • Drupal in everything! - At Drupal Camp Ghent, in the heart of Drupal’s origins in Belgium, people clearly have a deep emotional bond with Drupal and feel connected to its roots. But at the same time, I met people offering (and selling) innovation services, marketing, accessibility and other kinds of value built on Drupal tools, but not selling Drupal!

Drupal Camp Costa Rica 2016 - Pura Vida!

Thank you!

Thank you, friends in the Costa Rican Drupal community for making it possible for me to be part of your camp. My wife and I felt so welcome in your country and at the camp. Thank you, Belgian Drupal community for inviting me to speak at your camp. Though my home in Cologne isn’t far from Ghent, the trip couldn’t have happened without your help. Thank you, Mirum and the Finnish Drupal community for the welcome in Helsinki. Thanks to the Acquia team and our partners at dmexco for an amazing and educational two days. And finally, thanks to my employer, Acquia, for enabling me to do my part for our technologies and our community.

Categories: Drupal News

Sneak Peek: A Look at Our Upcoming Blog Refresh

15 September 2016 - 4:45am

In last week’s blog I talked about our iterative design and development approach, so this week I wanted to show this method in practice and share a recent project that I’ve been working on: refreshing the blog section of our website.

Why are we redesigning our blog?
A lot has happened in our blog strategy since the last time we updated the design. The current blog design was done about 2 years ago with a very different plan and target audience in place. We’ve made a few minor updates along the way to align the blog landing page with our current goals. These changes include the placement of our blog newsletter, how we market to target audiences, and the layout of the site.

The first example is our blog newsletter. This item was added about a year ago, and in order to properly fit it into our site today, our new design will have a well thought out placement for the newsletter sign up.

We have also drastically changed our targeted blog audience in the past 2 years. We built for our developer audience and moved all developer related posts to that website. The blog now is oriented toward a buisness audience. Our blog offers posts on topics like thought leadership, strategy, and how-tos for the marketing audience. This change helps our users in both audiences to get what they need quickly and easily without having to dig through content that isn’t relevant to them.

Finally, when we started thinking about the visual style of our blog, we wanted the update to mirror the latest look and feel improvements that have been executed on other pages within our site to maintain consistency. For example, this past month we updated our Resource Center with a more visually appealing layout, which we wanted to mimic in the layout of our blog. Our visitors are responding well to this imagery, so we wanted to make it a bigger part of our design.

What are we removing?
We want to streamline our content on the main blog landing page, so we are removing the intro text on blogs and just showing the headlines. This will make it easier for users to browse our blog content. However, this could turn out to be a mistake and is something we will need to watch closely. The thought behind this decisions is that if the headline doesn’t capture you, the blurb won’t add much. This provides us the ability to make the page more uniform in addition to making our images bigger. We also removed the right side bar on the blog landing page. We haven’t deleted those items, but instead we made them more integrated into our design. We moved the series tags under the headline story, so that they would be more prominent.

The other thing we are paring back on is info about the author on the individual blog pages. Currently we offer some fun facts about the author, which are primarily developer focused insights and don’t add much value to our business audience.

What are our goals?
With this redesign, we are looking to enhance the experience of our blog. We want to limit the superfluous extras and bring the value to you, the reader, faster. We don’t anticipate these changes will increase traffic — our content needs to do that for us. But we want to help boost the value of the content by amplifying the vivid imagery that adds value and excitement to the experience of reading our blogs. Lastly, we want our blog to match the look and feel of the rest of our website, and determined that it was a section that needed an update. Come back in the next few weeks to see it live in action. In fact, this very post will look different in just a few weeks’ time!

Categories: Drupal News

Acquia Announces Launch of Acquia Cloud Site Factory Stacks

14 September 2016 - 2:15am

Acquia is proud to announce the release of a new, breakthrough capability within Acquia Cloud Site Factory. Available today, Acquia Cloud Site Factory Stacks brings ubiquitous multisite delivery, management and control, empowering different brands, regions, and teams to manage their own digital experiences.

Acquia’s solution for multisite management is now the industry’s only digital experience platform that can deliver strong governance along with the flexibility to support multiple development teams, multiple regions, multiple brands, multiple compliance standards, and multiple versions of Drupal, all with a single solution.

With this release, Acquia Cloud Site Factory now has the capabilities to deploy and manage multiple Stacks; enabling groups of sites to be spun off from multiple codebases, all within a single instance of Acquia Cloud Site Factory, regardless of site complexity. This evolution expands Site Factory’s functionality, regional deployment, and governance while opening up many new possibilities including:

  • Different teams within an organization can now deploy their own sites on the Stacks solution, yet all sites can be managed from a centralized console.
  • Support for dramatically different sites that require unique digital experience functions or infrastructure can now be delivered and managed centrally.
  • Drupal 8 sites may be independently managed alongside Drupal 7 sites within a unified management console.
Helping Digital Marketing and IT Deliver Experiences Together

Realizing multiple digital experience sites at global-scale takes teamwork. Digital marketers and IT teams need the right tools in place in order to effectively work together to deliver the applications, the content, and the site management infrastructure that together define an organization’s digital experiences. Marketing controls the brand, the look and feel, and the overall experience of each site where IT manages and maintains the backend. Marketing values time for creativity and automation that does not slow down the process of delivering the experience. IT is focused on ensuring uptime and performance, mitigating security risks, and powering continuous innovation and development across brands, regions, and experience teams. Each team needs to execute with hyper efficiency to enable both to run at the speed of today’s global digital businesses.

Acquia Cloud Site Factory has long provided excellent delivery and governance tools for satisfying the needs of both marketing and IT teams. Now with Stacks, both teams have more flexibility to deliver and manage multiple digital experience applications and sites based on the brand, experience, and deployments while making it easy to centrally manage and control.

ACSF Stacks brings the following benefits to the digital experience team:

  • Faster, hassle-free campaign launches: Stacks increases creative freedom without sacrificing speed. The reduced burden on DevOps means that those technical resources can focus on new features and improvements instead. This also reduces total cost without impacting the experience.
  • Speed time-to-market and performance assurance: Acquia will handle spikes in traffic when a marketing campaign takes off and succeeds so you never worry about performance.
  • Mitigated security risk: By using dedicated multisite infrastructure, centrally accessed and controlled from a unified management console, security features and patches can be applied to multiple sites at once, minimizing risk across the board and reducing vulnerabilities.

As the demand for digital business and marketing increases, digital experience teams in marketing and IT are facing many challenges to achieve success:

  • The need to lower the costs of website delivery and management
  • To close the widening skills gaps in executing new digital approaches
  • To transition to IT service providers to enable continuous, efficient digital business operations

ACSF Stacks provides digital experience and platform owners a common platform and governance approach which translates into lower site costs, managed complexity, and a proven IT service provider ready platform.

Categories: Drupal News

Engage 2016: A Peek at This Year's Talk Tracks

9 September 2016 - 11:45pm

The beginning of September marks not only the end of summer for most, but the beginning of Engage season! With less than two months to go until our annual customer conference, we’re kicking things into high gear.

We’ve got some great speakers lined up — including Dan Lyons, author of the book Disrupted, and Filippo Catalano, Chief Digital Operations Officer at Nestle — and our full agenda is now available online for a peek into what your an expect this year.

This week, I’m especially excited to announce our talk tracks for 2016. We’ve settled on three high-level topic areas: success stories, tech, and digital politics. Read on below for a deeper look at what you can expect from each of these tracks!

Steal This Idea
Ever wonder how your peers are building exceptional digital experiences, what's moving the needle with their customers, what their business motivations are for implementing change, and the strategy they employ that brings those ideas to life? We were pretty curious too, so we rounded up an outstanding group of forward thinking digital experts to tell their stories of embracing change and the digital evolution. Our customers do amazing things, and we think there’s a lesson to be learned from each of them.

Tech Talk
Discover the technology behind how customers and partners built their next-level digital experiences. Technical peers share best practices and the secrets to how they did it using Acquia products and Drupal 8.

The Politics of Digital
Learn how others have successfully harnessed people and processes to drive success with digital initiatives. Get more done — more easily, with less friction — by learning from peers about overcoming challenges related to people, process, governance, and organizational alignment, and how to tear down the common barriers that exist at every organization.

With this year’s agenda, we’re confident we have a little something for everyone, regardless of your role or level within your organization. So come join us and find out!

In the coming weeks, we’ve got loads more to divulge on the Engage front, from our conference wrap-up activity (historically we’ve done both a beer tasting and a whiskey pairing, just to give you a hint!) as well as a closer look at our list of speakers, pre-conference sessions, and more.

Don’t want to wait another day to confirm you’ll be joining us? Register now!

Categories: Drupal News