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Guest blogger Jenna Bos is the Senior Marketing Manager at Blue Coda, an Acquia Partner. Blue Coda is an agency focused on ROI-driven website development. Jenna believes in generating results through the combination of creating outstanding content and implementing a smart digital strategy.
The implementation of an open source solution for an end-user involves a combination of the available software and the people who know how to implement the software in a way that is tailored to the client’s needs.
Blue Coda has worked with Acquia for the past five years, during which we have tackled mid-to-large sized projects together. The main verticals for these projects have been healthcare, education and non-profit. Blue Coda won “Acquia Site of the Year in 2015” for the Shared Value Initiative website. The website for the National Apartment Association (NAA), a joint project of Acquia and Blue Coda, won Best Community Site from the Drupal Commons Community in 2014.Putting Security First
When it comes to security, the more eyes there are on a product, the more opportunities there are for developers to catch, and then fix, any security vulnerabilities. Open source solutions like Drupal have an entire community ready and able to address any security vulnerabilities, making them the safest choice.
There is also an element of trust inherent in the way vulnerabilities are shared and managed. The community is immediately made aware of any vulnerabilities so that teams can work to protect their clients.
Proprietary solutions contain vulnerabilities that can exist for extended periods of time before anyone notices them. These proprietary solutions also then rely on their developers to resolve the vulnerabilities and are limited to the talent of these developers.
As security continues to be a top priority for our clients, we evaluated whether or not we should continue to use proprietary solutions, ultimately deciding to use open source solutions going forward.Switching from Ektron to Open Source
Blue Coda is proud to be part of the open source community and an Acquia partner,, so we knew that the transition to using exclusively open source content management systems would be easy. The next step would be to transition any clients that were using proprietary solutions to open source, requiring our team to not only be well-versed in open source solutions, but in some proprietary solutions as well. Of particular concern to the Blue Coda team was Ektron, a platform that the development team knows well.
Recent rumors surrounding Ektron’s acquisition by an equity firm and subsequent merger with EpiServer had Blue Coda reconsidering their ability to continue to recommend Ektron as a solution for their clients. The merger caused some hesitation due to the precedence set by acquisitions across all industries which have put the needs of the health of a merger over the needs of the end-user.
The potential merger of EpiServer and Ektron seemed likely to leave Ektron customers without the requisite level of service they would need to continue to host their websites at the quality and security they had come to expect.
Because of the turnover associated with a merger of this size, Blue Coda was left wondering about the security and stability of their websites on Ektron. More troubling was that there was no smooth migration path from Ektron to Episerver—there was no lift and place solution.
It made sense for Blue Coda to rethink proprietary solutions altogether moving forward. If a site rebuild was necessary for Ektron users anyway, it was time to think about using an open source solution for current Ektron customers.“Our values have always aligned to the needs of our clients, and that means being knowledgeable of and aware of the latest and greatest technologies available to them. As we saw the direction of our proprietary content management software (CMS) partner, open source CMS seemed to be the only solution that we could really, honestly, without reservation, recommend to our clients. This meant reevaluating our relationship with Ektron and looking into forging a partnership with Drupal and Acquia.”
-Jason Schaffer, CEO, Blue Coda
In the next post, we’ll talk about options for those looking to make the leap from commercial CMS to an open source CMS solution using a combination of Acquia and Drupal. We will use our experience with Ektron specifically to demonstrate how the migration occurs. In the meantime, let us know in the comments—have you switched from a proprietary solution to open source? What was your experience?
Question: “When should I move to Drupal 8?”
Answer: “It all depends.”
You thought you were going to get an easy answer? I wish! Even with my own sites I’ve had to evaluate and spend time determining the best plans for migration. But when it’s time to figure out what to do with your site, here are my suggestions.
If you are building a website for a new project or idea, I would create it using Drupal 8. In my opinion, Drupal 8 has progressed enough that building a site with Drupal 7 will cost you more money, because you will need to rebuild it on Drupal 8 within the next year.
But if your site is currently on Drupal 7, then deciding when to move it to Drupal 8 is still something to consider. Here are some things to think about.
Drupal 8 enhanced features
Drupal 8 has added a lot of great features into their “out-of-the-box” experience, such as a built in WYSIWYG editor, which makes it easier to manage and edit content. There is also better language support for your multilingual site experiences, extensive support for accessibility (which you can learn more about in my latest blog), responsive design, and much more. These awesome features make a convincing case to build your site on Drupal 8.
Time, budget, and resources
When you move to Drupal 8 you will need to rebuild and migrate your site, which is more than just an upgrade. Drupal 8 differs from Drupal 7, such as core modules and the platform framework. So while Drupal 8 gives you great feature enhancements, it comes with a more difficult migration process. You will need to consider hiring an agency or ensuring that you have the development staff on hand to rebuild your site. This will also consist of content migration, theme migration, and module migration if needed. For your migration to be successful, these things will need to be planned out, in addition to considering the cost associated with them.
The advantage of rebuilding is that you get the chance to change things and re-architect your site. I look at this as an opportunity to clean out the old, and build a better performing, more streamlined site.
The next big consideration is whether the modules you need to run your website are available in Drupal 8. This is very important. When I consider a migration, I need to ensure that the way I conduct business will not be affected. If you don’t have what you need, both your business and site visitors could suffer.
The good news is that Acquia spearheaded an initiative to help accelerate module development for contributed modules, which means that many of the modules that you’ll need are already available. There is also a tool you can use from D8upgrade, which will email you a report with the results of your contributed modules.
Note that if you have any custom-developed modules, you will also need to evaluate and update them to Drupal 8.
Shelf life of your current site
Is your current site running on Drupal 6? If so, you should consider moving to Drupal 8 ASAP. Because support for Drupal 6 has ended, you will no longer receive security updates for the platform, and modules won’t be maintained.
If you are on Drupal 7 and your site is running well, there isn’t a rush. Drupal 7 will continue to be supported until 3 months after Drupal 9 is released, which means you should be good through 2018 or later (there is no date for Drupal 9 yet). Of course, there’s no time like the present to consider when your budget, modules, and timing will be right to migrate your site using the tools and recommendations I’ve provided.
When you finally make the move...
Moving to Drupal 8 is a big project and shouldn’t be considered without a lot of planning and resources. That being said, I’m excited about Drupal 8, it’s opportunities and advancements, and I hope that you are too.
Here are some other great tools and articles to take a look at:
Over the weekend, Drupal 8.2 beta was released. One of the reasons why I'm so excited about this release is that it ships with "more outside-in". In an "outside-in experience", you can click anything on the page, edit its configuration in place without having to navigate to the administration back end, and watch it take effect immediately. This kind of on-the-fly editorial experience could be a game changer for Drupal's usability.
When I last discussed turning Drupal outside-in, we were still in the conceptual stages, with mockups illustrating the concepts. Since then, those designs have gone through multiple rounds of feedback from Drupal's usability team and a round of user testing led by Cheppers. This study identified some issues and provided some insights which were incorporated into subsequent designs.
Two policy changes we introduced in Drupal 8 — semantic versioning and experimental modules — have fundamentally changed Drupal's innovation model starting with Drupal 8. I should write a longer blog post about this, but the net result of those two changes is ongoing improvements with an easy upgrade path. In this case, it enabled us to add outside-in experiences to Drupal 8.2 instead of having to wait for Drupal 9. The authoring experience improvements we made in Drupal 8 are well-received, but that doesn't mean we are done. It's exciting that we can move much faster on making Drupal easier to use.In-place block configuration
As you can see from the image below, Drupal 8.2 adds the ability to trigger "Edit" mode, which currently highlights all blocks on the page. Clicking on one — in this case, the block with the site's name — pops out a new tray or sidebar. A content creator can change the site name directly from the tray, without having to navigate through Drupal's administrative interface to theme settings as they would have to in Drupal 7 and Drupal 8.1.Making adjustments to menus
In the second image, the pattern is applied to a menu block. You can make adjustments to the menu right from the new tray instead of having to navigate to the back end. Here the content creator changes the order of the menu links (moving "About us" after "Contact") and toggles the "Team" menu item from hidden to visible.In-context block placement
In Drupal 8.1 and prior, placing a new block on the page required navigating away from your front end into the administrative back end and noting the available regions. Once you discover where to go to add a block, which can in itself be a challenge, you'll have to learn about the different regions, and some trial and error might be required to place a block exactly where you want it to go.
Starting in Drupal 8.2, content creators can now just click "Place block" without navigating to a different page and knowing about available regions ahead of time. Clicking "Place block" will highlight the different possible locations for a block to be placed in.Next steps
These improvements are currently tagged "experimental". This means that anyone who downloads Drupal 8.2 can test these changes and provide feedback. It also means that we aren't quite satisfied with these changes yet and that you should expect to see this functionality improve between now and 8.2.0's release, and even after the Drupal 8.2.0 release.
As you probably noticed, things still look pretty raw in places; as an example, the forms in the tray are exposing too many visual details. There is more work to do to bring this functionality to the level of the designs. We're focused on improving that, as well as the underlying architecture and accessibility. Once we feel good about how it all works and looks, we'll remove the experimental label.
We deliberately postponed most of the design work to focus on introducing the fundamental concepts and patterns. That was an important first step. We wanted to enable Drupal developers to start experimenting with the outside-in pattern in Drupal 8.2. As part of that, we'll have to determine how this new pattern will apply broadly to Drupal core and the many contributed modules that would leverage it. Our hope is that once the outside-in work is stable and no longer experimental, it will trickle down to every Drupal module. At that point we can all work together, in parallel, on making Drupal much easier to use.
Users have proven time and again in usability studies to be extremely "preview-driven", so the ability to make quick configuration changes right from their front end, without becoming an expert in Drupal's information architecture, could be revolutionary for Drupal.
If you'd like to help get these features to stable release faster, please join us in the outside-in roadmap issue.Thank you
I'd also like to thank everyone who contributed to these features and reviewed them, including Bojhan, yoroy, pwolanin, andrewmacpherson, gtamas, petycomp, zsofimajor, SKAUGHT, nod_, effulgentsia, Wim Leers, catch, alexpott, and xjm.
Writing great content for developers is, well, great and all, but if it’s not distributed properly, how will they find it? In the world of content distribution, the mantra is simple: go where the people are... because they probably aren’t coming to you. However, once you enter their world, you need to remember there are rules and other subtle cultural norms to follow. Not just community rules but parameters set up by certain sites to keep marketers and others from spamming. One of these sites is reddit.
In the off-chance that you’ve been living on a remote island for the last 11 years since the company was founded, reddit is a social media and social news aggregation, web content rating and discussion website. The dedicated community of 542 million monthly visitors (234 million unique users), creates and curates popular threads or subreddits with various things from news and current events to the most ridiculous images / memes / gifs on the Internet. Users determine what content makes it to the top of the page via “upvotes.” In addition, reddit has also gained popularity with celebrity Ask Me Anything sessions (AMAs), with everyone from K-Pop star Psy to President Obama. As of 2016, reddit is the 26th most popular website in the world.
This is what http://www.reddit.com/r/drupal looks like
With stats like that, it seems like an ideal place to communicate to developers (there’s even a Drupal subreddit). But before you start populating the site with all your latest developer content, there are some things you should know.
First: going blindly into any community of passionate participants with the explicit goal of promoting yourself / your product / your company will quickly earn you the scorn of that community. Remember, long before reddit or Hacker News, or Facebook or LinkedIn or even Livejournal, at the dawn of the commercial Internet, there was a very reddit-like precursor known as USENET. Just like present-day reddit, there were thousands of special discussion groups on everything from cats to Unix. Then came the infamous Green Card advertisements and thus spam was born, amidst a huge community uproar. Ancient history aside, if you enter a forum or social network with marketing and promotion as your agenda, you won’t last very long.
However, there is a way to influence people without acting like a blinking neon sign. That means participating before promoting, sharing before taking, and knowing that no bad deed goes unpunished in the unforgiving world of developer relations.No Thread Hijacking Allowed
It’s great to get colleagues involved in the promotion of content but spamming or trying to game the voting system isn’t going to fly here. reddit isn’t naive; it logs your IP address and if you try to keep upvoting or try to organize your colleagues to join the cause, reddit’s algorithm will actually remove upvotes and bump you down as a penalty. The right way to engage reddit is to designate one person to post your new content when it goes live and instead of sharing the link with your colleagues to the specific post for upvoting, share the forum instead.Participate!
Encourage people to join relevant subreddits if they want to (as an individual, not on behalf of the company). Instead of trying to upvote only your company's posts, encourage colleagues to upvote other posts they enjoy or find informative. Put together guidelines and best practices or even hold a short demo session to give them the rundown on how reddit works.
The goal of reddit is to be a forum for new content for you to evaluate; you’re not supposed to come in looking for a specific post but rather browse through many and build your own trail through the morass of content and special interests. Plus it’s interesting to see the content your company is creating in the context of other posts. This can also give you a window into what’s on the mind of developers, thus helping you to create relevant content in the future.Beware the Rabbit Hole
And a word of advice; be careful not to go down the rabbit hole that reddit can quickly turn into. We’ve all done it; gone to a site like Wikipedia to look up something specific and then an hour later you find yourself reading some bizarre, delightful, but totally unrelated entry and forget what you were doing there in the the first place. With reddit, what can start out as a simple research mission to see what is going on in the Drupal community can quickly turn into a long discussion of everything that’s wrong with Suicide Squad, whether or not Michael Phelps is an alien and/or merman, adorable gifs of baby animals, etc. reddit is super fun to explore but if you’re someone who easily loses focus, maybe wait until you finish up work before clicking through threads. Just trust me on this one.
Vote for open source, open culture, and making a difference. Community voting is open until September 2 for the SXSW 2017 conferences. I've been looking through the proposed session catalog and I've picked out a few that I really like and care about.You go vote, too!
I encourage you to go have a look and vote, too, since I discovered last year that community voting is 30% of the selection process. You’ll need to register on the SXSW Panel Picker to be able to vote. It only took me a few seconds and the info asked didn’t feel too invasion-of-privacy-y to me ... ymmv, up to you.Sessions that make a difference
Below is a selection of what I found that looks promising, important, or otherwise interesting to me. From more then 5000 sessions (!), I've voted for seven so far. The ideas represented all have in common that they could make the world a better place somehow. And given my background and predilections, there's a focus on openness, sharing, and the connection between the digital and the physical in all of these. I've put in notes explaining what each proposal is about and why I think they're important and vote-worthy. I make no claims to being comprehensive or impartial :-)
You should go register, try searching on key words that interest you, and vote, too!Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
- Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
- What: Panelists from respected institutions exploring sharing in culture, including Charlie Reisinger (Penn Manor School District) Aria Chernik (Duke University) and Alicia Gibb (Colorado University, Boulder), will discuss, "the challenges and rewards of some specific efforts to implement open source/free culture in education."
- Why: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Open source and free culture approaches are old ideas that we urgently need to revive in our societies. The traditional way to master a (creative) skill through much of history was to imitate, copy, and eventually eclipse one's teachers. This was true in visual art just as it was in music. The very new idea that someone can own someone else's creativity long after the creator's death benefits neither creators nor later generations. Another recent idea--that someone can own a certain chord progression or melody in a limited system of sounds like there are in western music--is almost certainly stifling creative learning and expression as it had been practiced for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I'm very interested to see what this panel has to offer in the way of approaches and solutions to today's challenges on the intellectual property front.
- Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
- What: From the session proposal, "This session will talk about how open source projects like Drupal have successfully adopted codes of conduct and developed governance structures to help support and maintain a friendly and welcoming environment for a large and diverse community of contributors from around the world. We’ll explore some of the tools and techniques these communities use to create a more level playing field that supports positive participation by all."
- Why: Codes of conduct are like contracts: you make them in the good times because you'll need them in the bad times. They're expressions of good will and a tool you hope you'll never have to use. I feel they also send a message to the world about your project, saying, "We're trying to be grown ups about this. We recognize that it takes a lot more than pull requests to make a healthy open source software platform and community." For my money, the Drupal project's size and success are signs of its long term commitment to treating people right. There's a long way to go still, but there's a lot to learn here.
- Full disclosure: The presenter, George DeMet is a really smart guy from the Drupal community :-)
- Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
- What: From the session proposal, "How can manufacturers open source their design and products without losing their unique value proposition? This panel debates the challenges of designing open source-based business models for manufacturing and looks at the future of production in a new era. An era increasingly defined by not only the technology of the maker movement, but also its major underlying currents of knowledge sharing, co-creation and crowdsourced innovation. A future where manufacturers and designers will have to learn to share - or die."
- Why: In the free- and open source software communities, we have been thinking about this problem space for decades. The question of business (or practice) models comes down to how and where to differentiate versus how much to share and collaborate. The answers in the software world have been many and varied. In the physical world, there are already parallels such as freely available (and compulsory) construction standards used to build creatively differentiated structures--compare a prosaic highway or railway bridge to Calatrava's bridges around the world. Open standards used in differentiated solutions to the same problem. But how do you apply this to the physical world when you're not funded by a government to put up a bridge? How and where do you share and how and where do you collaborate with your peers? I am very keen to see, hear, and participate in this discussion.
- Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
- What: A neat way of including the whole world in a universal address system.
- Why: Having been in India a couple of times this year, I am fascinated by the mix of high-tech and tribal knowledge that makes it possible for a place like Mumbai ("Maximum City") or New Dehli to function. While a cab might rely on Google Maps or similar to get you many places, others are not reliably on the map. And if you want to take an autorikshaw, you need to announce your destination to the driver or group of drivers who might pick you up. If the driver doesn't know the place, he takes off and you start waving into traffic hoping to snag the next one. When speaking with a group, after a few seconds of intense discussion, you're presented with the driver who knows that part of town and off you go. Fun times, but even as a tourist, you need to build up knowledge about major landmarks around where you're staying if you want to get around effectively. what3words is a fascinating take on this problem!
- Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
- What: A panel of folks from some companies known for innovation and sharing their ideas come together to talk about the "codified skunkworks" (my description) that are the "labs" where engineers and others are allowed to move fast and break things along the way while coming up with solutions to interesting problems.
- Why: Nowadays, we hear the word "innovation" and "innovative" so often in advertising, we can forget how important it is. A company fresh out of ideas is a company not long for today's world. So whether large or small, companies need to innovate, bring something new to the table. That's what labs are for. Startups fighting to survive and make something of themselves are practically the freestanding innovation labs of the economy. The names of the successes (and some of the failures) are legends. Once companies are large and established, it's hard for them to foster evaluation in the face of the pressures of maintaining the parts of the business that fund their prosperity. The panelists' companies--Acquia, PARC, HubSpot, and Fast Company--have all run labs operations of one sort of another. I'm keen to hear them compare notes about what worked and why.
- Full disclosure: One of the panelists, Preston So, also works for my employer, Acquia.
- Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
- What: From the session proposal, "How will voice interfaces become the next big thing for the web, and what needs to happen from a consumer standpoint?"
- Why: Conversational tech is already here. I ask Siri to set timers and alarms for me every day. What would a dinner party be nowadays without someone fact checking someone else via Google? Talking with our computers hasn't been around that long, but it already feels natural. There must be something to this language thing! The makeup of this panel is fascinating and I can't wait to hear how their perspectives on this clash or harmonize: Dries Buytaert, Drupal Project Lead, who is making a strong push for Drupal as the backend glue behind the internet of things and other digital systems, Chris Messina (Drupalist!) from transport technology enabler Uber, Joshua Brustein's with the business angle from Bloomberg Businessweek, and tying it all together, Gela Fridman from the Huge Inc. agency.
- Full disclosure: One of the panelists, Dries Buytaert, founded both my home-base open source software project, Drupal, and the company I work for, Acquia.
- Session Proposal: Open Source and Free Culture Across the Curriculum
- What: Volunteers around the United States are joining a "civic hacking movement" where they collaborate with government to create solutions for their community. Red Hat and OpenSource.com's Jason Hibbets has been at the forefront of this.
- Why: I am very interested in ways that technologies can leap the digital/physical boundary and be used to make our world a better place. Jason Hibbets has years of experience in this area. This session is likely to be informative, pragmatic, and inspirational and I can't wait to see it.
Acquia partners are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with digital. They’re helping their clients achieve their great ambitions, and creating digital experiences that inspire, entertain, and inform. Experiences that extend from mobile to a rapidly growing ecosystem of Internet-connected objects that are located just about everywhere we go. Experiences that through context cut away the clutter and give the user a clear path forward.
Nowhere is their innovation more evident than at Acquia Engage, where Acquia partners and customers share the insight and learnings they’ve gained through trial and error. It’s the one time of the year when hundreds of users converge to showcase what happens when creative and technical talent leverage cloud technologies and open source solutions to deliver groundbreaking digital applications at global scale.
We want to bring more of our partners and customers into the spotlight for the great work they do. That’s why this year we’ve expanded our annual partner award program. For the past three years the Acquia Partner Site of the Year awards have recognized some of the very best examples of Drupal in action. In 2015, 16 winning sites were selected by an outside panel of judges among 48 finalists, and awards were presented during Partner Day on the eve of Acquia Engage. Award programs in 2013 and 2014 similarly spotlighted the very best among hundreds of tremendously innovative projects.
This year we’re taking one step further by bringing our award program into the conference. We're making some other key changes to raise its profile:
- We’re renaming our annual award program the Acquia Engage Awards.
- Winners this year will be announced during an all-conference reception that will be emceed by Joe Wykes, Acquia’s senior VP of channel.
- We’re ensuring both partners and customers have an opportunity to submit their work and be recognized for their innovation.
- We’re raising the perks for finalists and winners. In particular, every organization named a finalist will receive one complimentary conference pass to Acquia Engage and the award ceremony.
Just as in past years projects will be judged based on several criteria including: visual design, functionality, integration, and overall experience. A panel of distinguished professionals comprised of luminaries from the digital and Drupal communities will serve as jurors. Winners — both partner and customer — will be spotlighted throughout the year in joint marketing and Acquia’s media properties. Submissions must include projects that launched or were upgraded in 2015 or 2016.
We’ve extended the deadline to ensure everyone who has an award-worthy site or project has a chance to participate, but don’t delay, nominations are only open through September 16, 2016. Submit your site today!
Pop quiz: If you walk into a store today, will you be greeted first by a salesperson, or big screens running video loops showing beautiful product images and happy people loving that brand? Probably the latter. Video screens are engaging, inviting, eye-catching, and inspirational - they help shake money out of your pockets.
Digital signage, screens, and billboards have become part of the customer experience journey. They exist in the moment as one part inspiration, one part explanation, but are 100% designed to drive a purchase.
About five years ago everyone said it was the Year of Mobile. Mobile sites and apps were beginning to drive new customer interactions both for content and commerce; getting web content, quickly, onto the device your customers were carrying around — that was the big idea.
You might call 2016 the Year of Content Everywhere. Enterprises are figuring out how to deliver content and campaigns far beyond the website and mobile experience. Content isn’t only words and images; it’s data, and feeds, and triggered alerts that can deliver maximum, personalized experiences to any screen, or anything web-enabled, even if it has no screen. Amazon Echo and its capability for voice interaction is a great example of that.
Organizations are identifying diverse needs and use cases (not only selling) where delivering digital content to screens and signs in their locations is not just important, it’s critical to a complete customer experience. Examples include:
- In-store product videos and images showing new products and offerings
- Aspirational videos showing people using products and interacting with the brand
- Offers aligned with the time of day, or day of week, or the profile of the customer in the store interacting with a screen or device
- Wayfinding and information screens that improve customer experience, in locations like hospitals and airports
- Real-time screen-based information, news and alerts in college buildings or other high-traffic locations
The demand for content everywhere has now coincided with the tools to manage and deliver it. And not just one screen at a time, but perhaps thousands of screens at a time. Digital signs and screens, networked across many locations and powered by centrally managed content, represent the next wave of customer experience. In the realm of digital transformation, major organizations are investing in new technology to harness the power of digital signage.
Two great examples showing disparate use cases point to the power of Drupal and the Acquia Platform to be a scalable digital signage solution for different types of organizations that reduces costs, speeds time to market, and builds new, engaging experiences for people seeing the screens.
Vodafone, one of the world’s largest telecom providers, is rolling out in-store screens delivering product info, images, and offers to thousands of retail locations in dozens of countries, leveraging the Acquia Platform to do it.
Aneta Rutkowska, technology program manager for retail channels at Vodafone, told marketers at a Figaro Digital conference in the UK recently that in-store screens are no longer just one silo for content delivery, they’re part of a continuous, end to end customer journey that includes web and mobile, digital campaigns, and now, in-store screens and signage showing offers, product info, and images. “From a content management perspective, we created a single platform we are moving all of our content to it… This is our ultimate goal,” she said in her presentation.
In a matter of weeks this year, Vodafone, working with Acquia, built a platform that will eventually serve Vodafone retail locations in a minimum of 26 countries and thousands of stores, she said. Content can be translated and localized for local markets; and in-store displays can present content based on which area in the store the displays are set up - promoting broadband services, or new handsets, or anything else, based on location in each store.
The University of Iowa, which already runs 600+ sites on Drupal and the Acquia Platform, has rolled out its Drupal Digital Signage Service, part of a campus-wide effort to provide new digital capabilities. Think residence halls, dining halls, academic buildings and other locations. The service leverages Drupal for content management and delivery, and Intel Compute Sticks, mini-computers which serve each screen or sign, to provide wireless connectivity to the Drupal-based content as it’s pushed out to screens in real time.
The university has reported rapid adoption of the service. As of June, 32 colleges and divisions representing 70 units within the University use the free, cost-effective, and user-friendly solution on hundreds of screens. Stakeholders use templates and drag and drop tools and widgets to customize and manage screen content. “The signs provide key information for students—like bus arrival times, menus, emergency alerts, ads for student groups, weather, news, and events,” according to an IowaNow news story.
“Because Drupal is open-source software, there are no licensing fees. Hardware costs are lower thanks to the project team's discovery that the signs could run on small, energy-efficient compute sticks. The sticks cost far less than PCs and can be maintained with existing device-management tools. Wireless connectivity eliminates the expense of data ports and cabling,” the story stated.
The push for content on screens as disparate as a Times Square billboard, to rapid transit alerts on subway platform screens (an initiative New York City’s MTA, or Metropolitan Transit Authority, are working together on) and limitless retail use cases leave one question on the table: Is your digital experience platform capable of delivering a truly end to end experience?
Some assessment questions can help you determine how far along the planning scale you are:
- Does your organization want to deliver cross-platform, multichannel experiences?
- Have you considered how content presented in a new context can shift your message, and help drive home a point in the right setting?
- Are you cognizant of ways to personalize for context based on time of day, or physical location within a store, rather than, say user profile?
- Have you considered how to track engagement from multiple channels, and use that to drive strategic and tactical improvements?
These are just a few questions on the minds of digital marketers and others who care about multichannel experiences and the rise of digital screens in stores, venues, and other physical locations.
Every media company’s approach to selecting a CMS is different. While many companies are still opting for in-house solutions, open source poses an affordable, powerful alternative. But over and over again, CMSs have failed to meet the needs of most companies, often because the system is too outdated or too complicated.
The industry continues to evolve and adapt to the shifting dynamics of the web, readership and advertising. Media companies are struggling to strike a balance between technology investments and hiring and retaining editorial talent. To find a solution, the best place to start is with a CMS. And while many companies are still considering building their own, companies interested in an affordable and competitive solution should consider open source CMSs.
A History of Disruption
An Adweek report from 2011 validates that CMS selections are cyclical, happening about every five years. Though the reasons vary, that means every five years, media companies are going back to the drawing board—which is both costly and disruptive.
Last year was the latest “cycle” in media CMS switches, in which mergers and acquisitions hit a record high. These changes on the business side of the equation challenged media companies to keep foundational technology consistent, often needing to consolidate platforms or start anew. For example, when Time Inc. spun off from Time Warner in 2014, Time Inc.’s had to start from scratching building a new digital platform for its properties. This uptick in M&A activity had caused an industry-wide search for a new or updated CMS.
Leaps in innovation also played a major role in driving CMS switches. As personalization, social media, and audience analytics technologies became available, media companies immediately saw the opportunity to improve their digital strategy. However, most CMS platforms in existence were not designed for such integrations. That meant some big bets on CMS—both proprietary and custom—went out the window between 2011 and 2015, because existing platforms could not keep pace.
A High Price to Pay
Despite these industry cycles, media companies continue to invest heavily in their CMSs. Take Hearst Newspapers, for example, who built their CMS from scratch. At the start of 2016, Hearst CEO Steven Swartz announced a multi-million dollar investment into the further development of Media OS. Media OS is Hearst’s custom CMS platform and the foundation of all the company’s media divisions. Developing a custom CMS is a huge undertaking from a staffing perspective. The New York Times also maintains a custom platform, called Scoop; former New York Times CIO Mark Frons and former CTO Rajiv Pant managed a team of about 500 had to manage a team [corrected August 19, 2016*] in 2015 to scale this project, according to Capital New York.
But will these major investments pan out? Buzzfeed invested heavily in their platform and to enhance their site’s analytics, fuelled by financial backing from famed venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and NBCUniversal. But today, Buzzfeed isn't living up to expectations. The company missed its revenue target for 2015 and has nearly halved its 2016 internal projections. Many are concerned that the Buzzfeed model is not scalable, as their platform is narrowly optimized to the unique Buzzfeed voice.
Washington Post’s Arc Publisher, on the other hand, may face a different fate. After buying the Post, Jeff Bezos invested heavily in the Arc “suite of tools,” such as PageBuilder, which allows editors to build digital front-end experiences for their content, and WebSked, for newsroom collaboration. These custom technology solutions integrate with CMS options like Wordpress to make content management easier for publishers. While it was a significant investment up front, the Washington Post is beginning to license Arc to other media companies for monthly fees ranging from $10,000 for small organizations up $150,000 for large ones.
Finding A Middle Ground
Still, media history is filled with examples of companies who wasted time and money going all-in on a single technology for publishing. Well-known magazine publisher Conde Nast invested heavily in Adobe CQ5 as a CMS for the majority of Conde Nast back in 2011. But today, only a handful of the company’s properties actually run on Adobe CQ5. Newspaper group Digital First Media (DFM) developed a custom CMS platform called Thunderdome, meant to serve its 100+ newspaper titles across the U.S. But, looking to cut costs in 2014, the company put its newspaper titles up for sale, subsequently ending the Thunderdome initiative.
As a result, many companies today are looking for a CMS that will meet their needs without locking them into a proprietary vendor or high prices. They want to both maintain their editorial talent and keep pace digitally. The solution is often open source CMS options. TechCrunch, Time.com, and Atlantic Media’s Quartz all run primarily on Wordpress. Popular Science and The Economist use Drupal. These platforms are powerful, flexible and agile, giving media companies the capability to offer exceptional digital experiences at scale. What’s more, open source CMS are maintained and updated by an entire community of developers worldwide. This means the community is able to adapt to the speed of innovation, while media companies are free to focus on the creation, distribution and promotion of quality content.
While technology is critical to media companies today, the goal moving into the future should be finding a balance between digital priorities and editorial ones. By opting for open source technologies, publishers are able to spend less energy to maintain a CMS and more on producing quality content. Publishers will always need to adopt and adjust to new technologies, but they shouldn’t have to live and die by their CMS.
[*In the original version of this post, the number we quoted was incorrect. We regret this error.]
Many people care about ensuring website accessibility, but don’t know where to start and also don’t understand the legal ramifications. Government and public sector sites, or those organizations who receive federal or state funds, are held to strict requirements when it comes to ensuring full access to visitors with disabilities such as impaired eyesight. Nearly 1 in 5 people in the US have some form of disability, which means that there’s a significant portion of the population needs to be accounted for. Have you considered website accessibility for your site?
I’ve known about 508 compliance — the rules and guidelines for delivering accessible sites — but honestly hadn't dug very deep into what this means and where to start with the goal of achieving it. When I started doing research on 508 compliance I was very overwhelmed and pushed it aside for a few more weeks to consider. There is just so much content out there about the topic it was hard to digest. My goal with this blog post is to give you a high level overview of what web accessibility is and means, where to start, and what resources you can look at to learn more.
WCAG vs. Section 508
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), is a standard published by the W3C, the standards group that defines Web standards. WCAG 2.0 reflects the best international consensus on the issue of accessibility. However Section 508 is a national regulation specific to only the US. Other countries have their own laws and regulations.
WCAG 2.0 is a good standard to apply in different contexts (i.e., websites, desktop apps, mobile apps). It has 12 guidelines that are organized under 4 principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. For each guideline, there are success criteria at three levels: A, AA, and AAA (A being the least strict, and AAA being the most stringent).
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal agencies to provide software and website accessibility to people with disabilities. This includes:
- Government agencies
- Federal-funded nonprofits
- Public higher education institutions
- Public K-12 schools
Many large companies have also voluntarily chosen to be 508 Compliant.
Where do I start?
The best place to start is by talking to your developer or development agency. They may already have experience on the basics and can start implementing specific aspects on your site. Here is a list of things to consider when starting an accessibility project for your site.
- Use ARIA: ARIA (Assistive Rich Internet Applications), is a spec from the W3C and created to improve accessibility of applications by providing extra information to screen readers via HTML attributes. Screen readers will help the visually impaired to read the copy on your page out loud, and it also picks up alt text on images to describe the image itself. Out of the box, screen readers work with regular HTML, but adding ARIA can provide screen reader users with more context and greater interactivity with content.
- Provide sufficient contrast between colors, especially between the foreground and background
- Don't use color alone to convey information (i.e., color-coding only)
- Provide clear and consistent navigation options
- Label all form elements
- Make sure tables (used only for tabular data, of course!) have table headers – <th> tags
- Use good code structure such as headings and spacing to group related content
- Descriptive alt text for images (this is for screen readers specifically)
- Don't use slideshows, videos, or other content that starts automatically
- But if you do, be sure you have controls to stop it
- Reflect the reading order in the code order, because screen readers actually read through your code. If you have some code organized differently than it is displayed, this could cause confusion for a disabled user.
- Ensure that all interactive elements (links, forms, etc.) can be used with a keyboard
- Avoid CAPTCHAs
- Avoid flashing of any kind – it can cause seizures
- Certain types of movement, such as parallax scrolling, auto-running slideshows, or ads, can be a problem.
- For people with attention deficit disorders, movement can be so distracting they can't focus on content at all
This list doesn’t capture the full list requirements, but is a good place to start when embarking on website accessibility.
Scanning Tools, Services, and Other Resources
Video captioning services
Color Contrast Analyser
Experts for deep dive or audits
- Paciello Group: https://www.paciellogroup.com
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Ontario, Canada
I hope this helps get you started on your journey to website accessibility. Please also check out this 2-part series on accessibility for clients on our developer website:
Building a platform and strategy that will take your digital experiences into the next 5 years means stepping into uncharted territories. No one knows the devices or channels that will be most popular in the future. With the pace of technology growth, predicting what you’ll need or what will be the preferred device in even a few years is incredibly difficult. While today you may be thinking about mobile applications and websites, a few years from now augmented and virtual reality could be your largest growth potential.
Fortunately, we’re not starting off blind. We know from early tech pioneers the kinds of problems that we'll face and the terrain we’ll be on. But the first step on any successful journey is to make sure you know exactly where you’re going and what you’ll need for the trip.Preparing for the Destination
For personalization, the “destination” is when every customer, regardless of the device they’re using, receives the content that makes them most likely to buy, engage or come back for more at just the right time. Everybody in the personalization space talks about this, but no one is actually there yet. The pioneers who come the closest are the heavyweights in the tech industry like Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon. They have teams of data scientists and engineers working on this problem, yet they still have a long way to go.
One aspect of the destination we can be completely sure of is that it involves showing content to users. Content refers to anything a user will see on a website or any other channel; from products to technical documentation, from the footer to images. When you add personalization into the mix, now you’re potentially dealing with the need for individualized content that fuels tailored experiences for different segments and user profiles.
Managing dozens if not hundreds of siloed data sources, each one duplicating content for a different channel, will simply not work. Knowing the complexity that awaits us, and generally what it will look like, allows us to bring the right tools in the right configuration so that we can make it through this uncharted territory unscathed.Organizing and Utilizing Customer Data
Over the past several years, organizations have become increasingly aware of the power of understanding and leveraging customer data. This is evidenced by the proliferation of data related marketing tools and the push by leading content management platforms into data services. Furthermore, the rapid improvement in tools related to very large data sets such as the Hadoop and Apache Spark ecosystems, as well as AWS and other cloud services, have helped to accelerate the adoption of powerful data tools and also increased awareness of the possibilities to the technology industry at large.
One obvious trend that stems from the adoption of these tools is that in order to reap the full benefits of a data related strategy, data from around the organization must be centralized and normalized. This means that data coming from every touch point and every moment that an individual interacts with an organization must be brought into the same data store so that it can be analyzed and acted upon. This data store must be sufficiently flexible to meet this need, and it must be able to scale rapidly in support of millions if not billions of interactions per day.
Two general approaches have emerged to this problem from an architectural standpoint. One is the creation of a technology stack often referred to as a “data lake”, which can take all data from disparate sources and make it accessible to analysts or data scientists in order to discover the insights needed by the organization. The second approach is to normalize data at the time of collection. Various solutions have emerged for this task which provide APIs, integrations and aggregations.
Either approach can be beneficial for analytics, but the latter is preferred when building a system that is meant to adapt to user needs in real time. This is because structured data can be fed into a personalization system as well as better understood by predictive algorithms. For this reason, our future ready personalization toolset includes a rich, structured and highly flexible data store, or Unified Customer Profile, which provides the context of users at any given time.Sustainable Content Management
Many personalization and recommendation systems today fail to take into account the central importance of well structured content and the challenge of maintaining that content. As a result, only deeply technical individuals can make changes, or business users are severely limited in the scope of what they can accomplish. In either case, the end result can suffer significantly.
In the case of automated recommendation, a compromise is often made by simply using algorithms that attempt to extract the appropriate data from the content or that use other individuals’ signals such as views or shares to derive their recommendations. As examples, collaborative and content based recommendations can do a fair job, but they are always incomplete. For example, a search engine rarely has access to deep semantic knowledge of the content, and while the semantic web movement is making strides at fixing this problem, deep knowledge of the content is often still missing.
The other common approach by personalization vendors is to provide What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors that overlay on top of a page. These tools are easy to get started with, but the results are unsustainable. Not only do you have two completely different editing systems (one you created the base page with, the other for creating variations), but it also becomes very difficult to understand what a page might look like for a given user.
These are all problems that can be addressed through deeper integration with content management systems such as Drupal.
A successful journey begins with planning. A great architect begins with a firm foundation. While the ideal of 1-to-1 personalization has yet to be realized, we can all see it getting closer. To prepare your organization for what’s to come, you need to plan carefully for how your content and your user’s context can be integrated together in a central place. From there, you can start incrementally building out a personalization team and program, knowing that you can scale into the future without the foundation collapsing. It’s an exciting future, and we should all be ready.
Does your business rely on form fills (leads) to keep sales teams employed? Is your marketing team tracked on the number of MQLs (marketing qualified leads) they pass over to sales? This is the nature of the B2B beast in most cases. There is, however, some conversation happening around the idea of removing forms and not gating any content, and instead delivering a product experience that will push better qualified leads to your sales team. My friend, Tom Wentworth, has a good post on this topic. While this idea is great, it doesn’t work for every business.
So what do you do if you have a bunch of forms on your site? You optimize them! I’ll show you how.
The first place to start is to consider your page layout and the copy on the page. You want to show the user this is a gated page by putting the form high on the page (above the fold) so that they don’t get the wrong idea of your goal and become frustrated later. You also need to write the page copy in a way that gives value to the form. No one wants to give away their contact info for free, so you need to show the value of the asset you are about to provide to make it worth their time and their contact details to view it.
- Depending on your business, the length of your form will depend on the following variables:
- What are you providing, and is it worth it the customer to fill out any fields? For example, think about the difference between infographic vs. demo forms.
- Where in the buying cycle does this offer apply? Will the user be ready to go to sales after reading it, or will they initially need to be nurtured?
- Is the user creating an account and registering, or just filling out a form?
These types of variables will have an impact on what is acceptable for a form, and will affect conversion rates if improperly applied. As a rule of thumb, less is usually better, but users do understand that to get something they really want they will need to trade you for it.
You also need to highly consider your audience. For example, business users are more used to and ok with filling out a form and providing information about themselves. The developer audience in our case, however, hates forms, and hates sharing their information.
Increase your form fills by testing out button copy on your submit button. Forms using the default ‘Submit’ text see a 3% decrease in conversions, according to a Quicksprout infographic on form conversion. They recommend using relevant, non-intimidating text for your buttons such as ‘Download,’ ‘Click here,’ ‘Go’ and so on.
Also, set the user’s expectation regarding the action that will result after filling out the form. This could include landing on a new PDF page, or being sent an email with the PDF included. And if they are going to stay on the site to receive a PDF, try the wording “Download PDF” instead of “Download Now” to see how that performs. Be kind to your users and don’t say “Buy now” if they will need to complete 3 more steps before they actually get to purchase.
Regardless of your button wording choice, be sure to test these options for your site because every site will perform a bit differently. You can also use services like Acquia Lift to help you with A/B testing, to see what wording choices drive more form fills.
Know your users:
If you have the ability to remember your users and show them less fields the next time they come to your site, do it! Hiding fields they’ve previously filled out helps streamline the content getting consumed by your users. You want both new users and returning users to read your content, so making it a bit easier for your known users when they return will help you and build a better experience for them. I know this can be a bit limiting based on the marketing automation system that you're using, but it’s definitely worth looking into.
- In doing my research for this post, I found some conversations about a few extra things that are worth mentioning.
- The phone number field can be a big cause of form abandonment as well, so test this field on your forms to see how it behaves for you. Some research shows that just having a phone number field will cause a 5% dip in conversion and a 36% form abandon rate.
- Give your form a proper title and label. Providing more context for the user is always a good thing. Make sure your form has an enticing title to help show the user why this is valuable to them.
Wrapping it all up
Form conversion is very important to the web in general, so knowing your users and using some of these helpful tips or guidelines is the best place to start. The key rule is to test these out for your specific website. Just because they worked for me or others doesn’t mean this is an exact science. Use this blog post as a guideline to figure out your success story.
If you’ve ever worked with developers , you’ve probably heard of GitHub. As defined in the the Acquia eBook “GitHub 101 for Government”: “GitHub is a user-friendly website that helps people and organizations share code and collaborate on projects, like a social network oriented around code. The site’s main feature is hosted Git code repositories, like a “track changes” feature for software projects.”
GitHub was founded in 2008 and has since grown to over 14 million Github users and more than 35 million repositories. This makes GitHub the largest host of source code in the world.
The important role GitHub plays in the lives of the developers who use it can’t be understated. It is a tool vital to their work, their careers, and the spirit of open collaboration which has transformed the way software is written today.
To get started with GitHub, you create a project (after creating an account) to host and share it. A GitHub project consists of a repository of code and, if you choose, an issue queue and/or wiki. A repository is a place where all versions of all code for one project is stored. Once you have your repository, anyone (depending on permissions) can collaborate with you on your project
If you’re a commercial coder you might only allow access to colleagues inside of your organization and not make your project open to public view and commentary. The project’s owner decides who can see the code, comment on it, download it, or fork it (copy it) and create their own copy so they can work on their own version. They can then merge changes back into the original project, thus contributing to it.
GitHub is used to review code changes to projects, to “commit” code (code is committed to the repository), create pull requests (to let others know about code changes that have been pushed to the repository), etc. GitHub is designed for collaboration and discussion, which is critical to developers, especially in the open source community.
So why care about GitHub if you’re in marketing or developer relations? For the most part, if you don’t code you don’t need it. This is not an opportunity to fill your database of developer leads or promote your own products or services. However there are ways that developer relations evangelists can tap into GitHub to help collaborate better with developers with a need or interest in their technology.Technical Content Review
When creating technical content for developers, accuracy is paramount. If you’re not a technical person yourself, you need a solid technical review from someone who is, especially if your piece contains snippets of code. GitHub is an excellent way to get such an expert review because it was designed with the intention of soliciting and receiving comments -- for code as well as documentation. Once you create a project on your GitHub, you can share a technical paper, a piece of documentation, or a draft of a blog post with whomever you want through the GitHub community. Developers and engineers can comment or even fork the piece of work or expand on your topic to give you a better understanding and ultimately deliver a more accurate piece of work.Subject Matter Experts
In a sense, GitHub has become the "LinkedIn” of coders -- a professional repository of their projects and code that prospective recruiters and employers can review for a sense of the coder’s capabilities and approaches. In effect, GitHub is a vital piece of a modern coder’s resume, representing a record of their work from school and onwards throughout their career. While an engineering manager might want to see how a potential candidate codes, GitHub can also be used to see what project a developer might be working on and where their expertise may be deepest.
Many organizations use GitHub to promote and share their projects. The tech publisher O’Reilly Media posts their books on GitHub. Many are in working draft status so readers can report bugs, request features, provide feedback and stay informed about updates. A good example is HTMLBook.Reputation Management
Because anyone can add comments or report an issue, GitHub can also be used for “brand” management and keeping good relations with the greater community of devs.
GitHub’s role in the realm of developer relations became clear to us at Acquia this spring. Our Professional Services team released a free tool that they use to build and launch Drupal projects. It was inadvertently named something similar to different project (acquia/bolt vs. bolt/bolt) from another company. Developers from the bolt/bolt community alerted the Acquia team by submitting an issue, and we adjusted the name accordingly to avoid confusion. In the end we were able to remedy the situation quickly because of GitHub’s open, collaborative functionality.
GitHub might seem like foreign territory but it doesn’t have to be. Playing around with it and exploring is worth it if you want to understand developers and how they interact a little bit better. Remember that any comments, contribs or feedback must be useful and relevant; this is not a place to post promotional materials but seek out real technical expertise.
The scale, complexity and diversity involved in managing all the channels and touchpoints belonging to a single organisation is mushrooming. In 2015, the Delivery Experience (DX) survey from Forrester found that companies of enterprise-size now manage an average of 268 customer-facing websites each. And that number doesn’t take into account other engagement channels like apps, social media platforms, chatbots and the more traditional interaction points such as email, SMS and phone.
This same report went further and said that these international organisations can have as many as 10,000 individual content creators and approved users managing these sites in some way.
As the array of brand and transaction channels grows exponentially, the teams running them need to deliver increasingly sophisticated and intuitive digital experiences to customers. Each digital asset must simultaneously incorporate diverse elements to appeal to different audiences and comply with the rules and regulations within specific markets and countries.
There are also clear security and cost challenges involved in the scale of the operations being run. But, customers don’t ‘see’ the security infrastructure or costs involved. They only find out about it when digital assets are hacked or crash due to lack of investment. Instead, it’s the consistency of – or lack of – digital experiences that directly influence their perception of the brand.
A good example of this is a customer of a mobile provider. This is often a fairly long-standing relationship which centres around the customer paying a bill each month. But, there are many other potential touchpoints, for example a customer phones the call centre with an issue, walks into a store, uses online livechat, sees some advertising, checks their account in an app or follows the company on Twitter. The explosion of channels available to customers has happened in a short space of time. Very few of these channels are integrated to enable brands to understand how each customer behaves in each interaction so that data is visible and actionable when the same customer next pops up on another channel. And the bottom line is that even the existence of a long relationship doesn’t prevent an unhappy customer from very, very easily switching suppliers.
I really empathise with those responsible for the range of channels. I hear from many who feel overwhelmed and who have a sobering realisation that their digital architecture is too complex, too expensive and unsuited to the needs of their organisation today. The multiple sites and touchpoints have probably been built in siloes over time and are likely running on more than one CMS (content management system). At Acquia, we believe that managing and implementing changes, security needs and governance requirements is a lot easier, quicker and cleaner with a cloud-based, multi-site environment that eliminates siloes. Working in this way can also be cheaper – production costs can be reduced by as much as 60% – and improve stability to boot. Crucially, this multi-site approach is also the foundation of a multi-touchpoint strategy.
Today, there is a global mobile operator that leverages our suite of solutions to deliver all the content and assets that appear on its in-store displays, websites and all other digital channels, giving its business and customers consistency. That first stage is part of a broader vision to connect all of the operator’s channels, including call centres, stores, websites, apps and so on – to deliver one connected journey for each customer. For example, if a customer has an issue with their phone and they’re on the website looking for an answer, a new option of resolving the problem could be booking an in-store appointment at the nearest location. When the customer arrives, a staff member books them in and offers the appropriate solution, perhaps an in-store or off-site repair, or a replacement phone. Once the customer chooses an option, they can go back onto the website and, once logged in, they’ll see information about setting up the new phone.
In the end, I think it boils down to enterprise organisations building advanced profiles of all their customers and ensuring they can communicate with them – and vice versa – through any one of the channels in operation. Customers are individuals, each with their own needs, and they deserve to have outstanding and consistent experiences that make them feel that way.
 "The State Of Digital Experience Delivery, 2015,"By Anjali Yakkundi with Ted Schadler, Danielle Geoffroy, April 2015."
Are you more likely to click into a blog post that has images or no images? The use of images -- photos, diagrams, drawings, gifs, Vines, etc, -- has really grown over the past few years with enhancements to social media such as Facebook’s timeline update to incorporate more images and Pinterest being one of the top 3 social media sites. We are very visually motivated and cliches about pictures being worth a thousand words now being out of the way, there’s research proving the right image can make a piece of content really perform.
You want to make sure you use images appropriately to capture users’ attention, and add value to your content and not use deceptive clickbait images like pictures of cats (unless your article is actually about cats). Images (if used well) are also a great SEO tool for your page, and according to this infographic, articles with images receive 94% more page views than articles without images.
SEO benefits of images:
- Text does carry a higher weight for search engines like Google, but the value of images shouldn’t be overlooked. Here are some good habits to adopt:
- Naming your file: you should make sure you name your image file using appropriate keywords that are relevant to the content in your post, because search engines will crawl your site and pick up the file names.
- Alt text: Make sure you always add [alt=”image description”] to the source code of your images. WYSIWYG editors will usually prompt for this description text. “Alt” stands for alternative text which will display if your image is broken, and will also get picked up by search engines and also be used for screen readers used by visitors with vision disabilities.
- File size: Keep file sizes as small as possible so you don’t add to your page load time. Google ranks pages higher if they load faster for their users. You can optimize images with image tools such as Photoshop or Gimp, but you should also run them through image compression tools. Here are a few free tools that work pretty well:
I mentioned above that image compression is good for SEO, but it is also critical for your overall website performance. Whenever possible for design, have images pre-loaded through CSS so they will start to load as the page is loading and keep your site performance high. Try using this free performance scanning tool to see how your images impact your total site performance: http://www.webpagetest.org/
Proper image licensing:
Image licensing is very important and overlooked far too often. Images are subject to copyright protection and you as a web site owner are responsible for ensuring the images on your website are properly licensed and cleared for use. There are commercial image services where you pay for a subscription such as http://www.gettyimages.com/ or http://www.istockphoto.com/. Some images have different licensing terms set per image so make sure to read the fine print, you shouldn’t just go to Google or Flickr and grab an image. You can always make your own images or have a designer or photographer create them for you. I have also found some free image services and images cleared under creative common rights that you can use:
My advice on images comes down to this: make sure you use images in your content, in your social media, and on your website, and make sure you are using licensed images that are compressed and SEO optimized. Happy image hunting!
Summer is in full swing but that doesn’t mean that Drupal 8 has slowed down. Currently there are more than 100,000 sites that have been deployed on Drupal 8! We’ve continued to document the process as modules continue to be migrated over from Drupal 7 on the Acquia Developer Center blog. This week we’re looking at Workbench Moderation, Rules, and Inline Entity Form.Workbench Moderation
Maintainers: Joe Purcell, Technical Analyst and Senior Web Developer with Digital Bridge Solutions; Ken Rickard, Director of Professional Services at Palantir.net; and Larry Garfield, Director of Runtimes, Integrations, Engines, and Services at Platform.sh.What Does Workbench Moderation Do?
Workbench Moderation is a key component in the Workbench suite of modules — Workbench, Workbench Access, and Workbench Moderation. As Ken Rickard puts it, "Workbench makes complex tasks simple and provides a common user experience that makes Drupal easier to use."
Larry describes a common situation: "At Palantir.net, we often got requests from academic clients for 'approval workflows.' Usually clients would describe highly complex ideal workflows, but after some discussion, they realized all they really needed was save-as-draft and someone-else-approves. Workbench Moderation was built to easily handle both of those use cases, which it turns out is the 85% use case."
Ken adds, "We tracked the common workflow issues we were being asked to solve, and collaborated on an approach that we could apply to all future projects."
So Workbench was developed for Drupal 7 to address a set of common editorial problems:
- An editorial workspace customized for each editor, which shows what work needs to be done next.
- A draft-revision-published workflow
- Review states that require permission to publish content
- The ability to create a new "forward revision" waiting for approval while retaining the published version
- An extensible, consistent workflow system
- Access controls that grant access to specific sections of a website using a hierarchy that maps to an organization chart
Workbench Moderation enables "forward revisions" on content; each revision gets marked in a particular state. These states are often simply "Draft," "Needs Review," and "Approved/Published," but WBM is completely configurable. You can add "Needs Legal Signoff" or any other state to the approval workflow. Via configuration and permissions you can also control who is able to move the forward revision from one state to another. This lets you reflect the roles of authors, editors, moderators, or your legal department. Revision states can also be set to cause an entity to become the new default revision, and to make it published or not, thereby allowing for an "archived" state.
"In Drupal 7, it only worked for nodes," Larry explained to me, "For Drupal 8, it works on (almost) any content entity that supports revisions and bundles. In core that's Nodes and Block Content, but it can work with others, too."
As of mid-2016, roughly 29,300 sites report using the base Workbench Module, 6,300 Workbench Access, and 24,000 Workbench Moderation (including 1,100 Drupal 8 sites).Why Does It Matter?
Workbench Moderation is a site administrator’s friend. Larry Garfield walked me through some different "levels" of Workbench Moderation use cases from simple to advanced:
- Simple: "WBM covers the low-to-middle end of content moderation needs pretty much out-of-the-box. In its simplest configuration, it provides "save as draft" type functionality very easily. In my experience, the default configuration is usable for most sites without any further modification."
- Level up: "By giving different user roles access to move content to different states, the common ‘contributors can post articles, but only editors can approve them’ use case is set up and covered in about 10 minutes."
- Bonus round - Do it later: "When combined with the new Scheduled Updates Module, both publishing and unpublishing can be scheduled to happen automatically at some point in the future."
- Boss level: "WBM works on a single entity at a time. That means it does not cover publishing a large set of content all at once. However, it does integrate with the new Workspace Module to allow the Workspace itself to be moderated as a whole." (Joe Purcell also told me about his work on this feature.) "Marking a Workspace published in WBM triggers the Workspace to be published all at once. For very advanced use cases, I’d recommend this process."
Maintainers: Wolfgang Ziegler (fago on Drupal.org, founder and CEO/CTO of the Vienna-based Drupal company drunomics and the creator of Rules and Klaus Purer (klausi) and Josef Dabernig (dasjo), who are both major contributors and were part of the effort to upgrade Rules to Drupal 8.What Does Rules Do?
The Rules Module provides site builders and administrators with a powerful user interface to create custom automated workflows on a website, without any coding, using "reactive" rules. Reactive rules are also known as ECA rules: an Event happens under a certain Condition, triggering an Action. Site builders can use the Rules module to react when something happens on a site and conditionally manipulate data or execute any logic necessary. Rules even lets you schedule tasks for the future on a one-off or recurring basis. A classic example would be when you create a rule for your site to email you when someone posts a comment, but Rules is in active use on roughly 300,000 Drupal websites and covers a huge number of other use cases.
Josef Dabernig told me, "We have a couple of interviews as part of the Rules Initiative where one quote I like was, 'Rules eliminates the middleman. It empowers those who know about their business use cases to actually implement them using site-building tools—the user interface—on Drupal websites,' that is, without having to know how to write any code." Putting power into the hands of the end-user is what I call 'Drupal's most important design decision,' and Rules is an impressive expression of that ideal. And Josef also suspects that since Rules includes loops and conditions, it may well be a Turing complete programming language at the user interface level, too.
However, at the code level. Rules is also tightly integrated with Drupal core APIs and all structured data exposed through the Entity and Field systems. Contributed modules can extend the module by providing additional events, conditions, and actions. In Drupal 7, hundreds of other contributed modules take advantages of Rules' flexibility and integrate with the Rules API.Why Does it Matter?
Developers can save a lot of time by off-loading commonly needed tasks to Rules. Instead of writing one-off, potentially less-compatible code, taking advantage of Rules and its API gives you standardized, compatible, repeatable ways to do things like checking any kind of user-configurable conditions before taking some (also configurable) action, like for example, checking whether a commerce discount needs to be applied to a particular purchase.
Josef pointed out in this context, "It's really the part of the ecosystem where everything connects. So it's not just the Rules module itself that makes the difference, but the power of the Rules module comes from the integrations it makes possible. In Drupal 7, we have over 300 modules like the Flag module, like Views, Bulk Operations, they all integrate and create this powerful, rich tool where Rules can then hook into all the data structures of the website. Rules can trigger any events that maybe the Workbench Moderation module provides or Rules can perform actions defined by other integration modules."
Site owners and administrators are empowered to configure various custom workflows without having to code. That way it helps to save time and makes a lot of changes possible without having to involve a developer. So when they say "Rules eliminates the middleman," it means Rules helps because we don't always want to have to go to a developer just to customize a string as part of an email notification, or we want to be able to change the tax rates on our eCommerce site ourselves, as needed.
Maintainer: Florian Weber (webflo) who created Inline Entity form, Ted Bowman (tedbow), Bojan Živanović (bojanz) and Janez Urevc (who continued Weber’s work), who spent more than 3 months of developer time bringing the port to its first Drupal 8 beta release.What Does Inline Entity Form Do?
Inline Entity Form (aka “IEF”) extends the functionality of entity reference fields in Drupal, to allow referenced entities to be created, edited, and deleted on the fly. Changes to the referenced entities are only saved when the main form is saved.
Though the problem space sounded a little dry and abstract to me at first, understanding it also helped me understand why IEF is installed on roughly 68,000 Drupal sites.
This is a solution to Drupal’s UX being “inside out” for some purposes. Doing things the “traditional Drupal way,” if a node needs to reference another entity or category, that needs to be created first. This can be frustrating, since it feels like one has to start from the end and work towards the beginning. IEF can reduce frustration by providing a more intuitive UX. eCommerce listings are a good example. In shopping catalogs, it’s common for a Product (“My T-Shirt”) to have a set of varying Attributes (size and color in this case). Each combination of Product Attribute values is called a Product Variation (red/small, blue/small, green/medium, etc.). Each Product Variation has a price and a SKU (“Stock Keeping Unit,” a unique ID code).Why Does it Matter?
Drupal Commerce 1.x followed the unintuitive “Drupal way” pattern: To make a t-shirt product listing with all available options, you had to make an entity for each SKU (in our case: red/small, blue/small, green/medium, etc.) first before you could create the t-shirt catalog form. Once you had created all the necessary SKU’s, you could then reference those entities manually on the parent form. Bojan admits, “Naturally, people were not happy about using two different UIs to accomplish what was essentially a single operation.”
Now, using IEF, you can create, edit, and delete the relevant entities directly in the parent form (or even refer to existing ones if you already have them in your catalog). In our eCommerce example, I can create the main t-shirt form I need, add all of my SKU variations to it, and save it — all in the same UI.
Modeling this sort of data and relationships is one of Drupal’s strengths. Bojan gets to the heart of the matter, “Data models are full of 1:n relationships (“order has multiple line items”, “page has multiple paragraphs”). Implementing this in Drupal without IEF is a challenge. IEF is important because it allows proper data models to be implemented without sacrificing UX for the site’s administrative end users. The entities are also aware of the fact that they are embedded, via parents, the same way the field widgets are. This allows them to be nested as many times as needed.”
Here, the simple widget shows a row for each reference, with the entity form inside. This is the “field collection” UX.
Is there a Drupal 8 module you’d like to see profiled? Let us know in the comments!
You may have heard rumblings before now, or excited, anticipatory mentions of Acquia Engage 2016, but I’m super excited to officially introduce you to this year’s event, and invite you to join us in November for what promises to be the best Engage ever.
Now in it’s third year, Engage 2016 will bring more of what you’ve come to expect in the past two years — outstanding speakers, engaging sessions, a product roadmap, ample networking opportunities — but we’ll also be introducing two new talk tracks that we think you’ll love. Those include:Tech Talk
This practitioner-focused track that really speaks to those of us that are knee-deep in the Drupal world on a daily basis, whether as content maintainers, Drupalists, IT professionals, marketers, or other related roles that interact with the platform.Steal This Idea
Always wants to know how some of the world’s best brands strategize, troubleshoot, build, deploy, and optimize their digital experiences and customer journeys? We’re putting some of our best customers on stage, and giving them a chance to tell their stories of digital experience mastery.
Last year’s event received some great press, but Michelle Rayburn of iLab summed it up pretty perfectly:
Acquia Engage 2015 was a true treat to be a part of – the execution was phenomenal and I soaked up so much information about what goes into creating an evolving, personalized, digital experience in our digitally-driven world… At the aptly named conference, Engage, the Acquia team brought the way the company transforms the digital-world to life – their talented people engaged in quality in-person human experiences all the way through the 3 day conference. For a greenhorn to tech conferences and Drupal, I was blown away by how welcome I felt, how captivated I was by the individuals I chatted with, and the overall experience delivered throughout the conference.
In coming months, we’ll introduce you to this year’s speakers, share some more insights into the three talk tracks, and tell you more about what you can expect from the three-day conference. In the meantime, feel free to pop on over to the Engage website, familiarize yourself with this year’s offerings, and take a peek at the recap from last year to remember the magic, or acquaint yourself for the first time.
This year’s event will take place at the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston, November 1-3. Ready to take the plunge? Register today!
We can’t wait to see you there!
Yesterday the City of Boston launched its new website, Boston.gov, on Drupal. Not only is Boston a city well-known around the world, it has also become my home over the past 9 years. That makes it extra exciting to see the city of Boston use Drupal.
As a company headquartered in Boston, I'm also extremely proud to have Acquia involved with Boston.gov. The site is hosted on Acquia Cloud, and Acquia led a lot of the architecture, development and coordination. I remember pitching the project in the basement of Boston's City Hall, so seeing the site launched less than a year later is quite exciting.
The project was a big undertaking as the old website was 10 years old and running on Tridion. The city's digital team, Acquia, IDEO, Genuine Interactive, and others all worked together to reimagine how a government can serve its citizens better digitally. It was an ambitious project as the whole website was redesigned from scratch in 11 months; from creating a new identity, to interviewing citizens, to building, testing and launching the new site.
Along the way, the project relied heavily on feedback from a wide variety of residents. The openness and transparency of the whole process was refreshing. Even today, the city made its roadmap public at http://roadmap.boston.gov and is actively encouraging citizens to submit suggestions. This open process is one of the many reasons why I think Drupal is such a good fit for Boston.gov.
More than 20,000 web pages and one million words were rewritten in a more human tone to make the site easier to understand and navigate. For example, rather than organize information primarily by department (as is often the case with government websites), the new site is designed around how residents think about an issue, such as moving, starting a business or owning a car. Content is authored, maintained, and updated by more than 20 content authors across 120 city departments and initiatives.
The new Boston.gov is absolutely beautiful, welcoming and usable. And, like any great technology endeavor, it will never stop improving. The City of Boston has only just begun its journey with Boston.gov - I’m excited see how it grows and evolves in the years to come. Go Boston!Last night there was a launch party to celebrate the launch of Boston.gov. It was an honor to give some remarks about this project alongside Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (pictured above), as well as Lauren Lockwood (Chief Digital Officer of the City of Boston) and Jascha Franklin-Hodge (Chief Information Officer of the City of Boston).
How should digital marketers approach the creation and management of an international portfolio of digital assets and campaigns? It’s a question that we’re increasingly asked here at Acquia. I have previously written about this from a multi-deployment standpoint, but I thought it would be interesting to ask Ian Truscott, Channel Director at MRM Meteorite, for some advice as to how digital agencies and their clients can ensure consistent brand control and visibility in a global environment.
Ian sees the focus as two-fold:
- To make the process of customer engagement as efficient as possible, ensuring the re-use of digital assets, consistency of engagement and brand across multiple geographies, markets and stakeholders.
- Allow for local nuances, so that on-the-ground marketers can engage with their familiar audiences in the best way they can.
So, what steps should brands take to establish consistency of international campaigns and customer experiences? Ian recommends that they look at the following areas:
Like any digital project, it’s important to understand the appetite for change from within the business. MRM Meteorite follows a model that assesses the maturity of the organisation, its current capabilities and then assesses what it possible.
Ian believes that organisations and their brands should focus on their ability to innovate, ensuring that they have the capacity to undertake the change needed at that time. Not everything needs to be changed overnight.
Businesses need to look at the story they want to tell in the different markets. This needs to be consistent at a brand level, but relevant to each region. Part of this means understanding which brand pillars everyone needs to leverage to be on message and which parts of the story can be flexed for local applicability. Achieving this requires buy-in from across the organisation.
Metrics and Breaking Down Barriers
Metrics plays a very important part in global measurement and securing stakeholder engagement. Is each market focused on tracking the right metrics? Each marketer might be measuring traffic, when in fact deeper metrics, such as engagement, may be more valuable. It could be that one digital asset doesn’t attract huge amounts of traffic, but delivers essential content to a small but valuable set of customers. Do your metrics allow for this? Setting, agreeing and calculating the right metrics across global digital campaigns helps brands to gather better insight into their customers and the experiences that resonate best in each market.
Ian also urges companies to integrate all stakeholders’ objectives into the measurement. Understanding these can be difficult, particularly as many departments can be isolated within a business, but common measurement can help to break these barriers down. Stakeholder engagement depends on tracking the success of a campaign against overall business objectives and the marketing strategy. If senior stakeholders are feeding into these objectives and helping to set metrics, then silos are allowed because measurement is aligned.
Ian believes that the platform, the people and the processes are the components that make or break global campaigns. There needs to be a certain maturity in the business to leverage a multi-site platform – it’s the people and processes that determine this maturity. A multi-site platform needs to be able to create digital assets to respond to immediate needs, and enable shared content across social, mobile, web and apps across multiple locations. The technology provides a framework that empowers local marketers, yet provides assurance in brand consistency and integrity.
Here at Acquia, we like to think that we take the extra time to truly understand how agencies and their clients work, or want to work in the future, so that we can keep developing better technologies that drive exceptional digital journeys. Working closely with partners, such as MRM Meteorite, helps us to do just that.
Our partners and customers are using Acquia’s platforms and services to rapidly launch new brand experiences, but with no duplication of effort or cost. This is the holy grail in digital marketing.
Everyday I see the impact ad blockers have on our business, because they are blocking more than just ads. Ad blockers are one of the most downloaded browser utilities and smartphone applications, and the source of great debate among privacy advocates, publishers, and consumers.
For a site builder or manager like myself, the more important and less-talked about issue of ad blockers is they can block non-advertising related content. The fact this is even happening might go unnoticed, which could be why it isn’t talked about very much. While doing my research for this post, all I could find were discussions about the financial impact of ad blocking, how it kills the publisher's’ revenue models. While I can understand both sides of the arguments for and against blockers, and appreciate the business of buying and selling ad space, in my mind advertising is a fact of life and is going to happen… we either ignore it or let it catch our attention and click. Paid ads aren’t always bad content or malware as some articles pushed. My personal stance on ad blockers is that I don’t like them, and that’s because they continue to break my websites and block non-ad content.
Here are three examples of how different ad blockers have broken my website this year:
- Social share icons: I got a report a few weeks ago that our social share icons that once use to be at the top of all blog content had gone missing. Which was weird because I still saw them, so I wasn’t able to reproduce the error to help aid our development team. It took us a few hours to discover it was a new ad blocker which was blocking our social share icons. Now this user knew the site and knew something was missing, but if this was a first-time visitor to the site they wouldn’t have noticed anything was missing. We would have continued to miss out on a potential social share because the ad blockers were stifling the functionality. I did some research into reporting these types of issues to the blocker developers, but all they suggest is that you ask visitors to adjust their filters.
- Missing forms: We use a marketing automation platform and embed its forms on our website. Some ad blockers block those forms! I received a message from someone asking how they could download one of our eBooks. I pointed them to the page and they sent back a screenshot with no form. Where did it go? It turned out it was the mobile ad blocking service they had installed on their phone (mobile users conscious of conserving their data plans are turning to ad blockers to reduce the size of the websites they visit). When the person viewed the page on a desktop browser the form was there. They were using http://crystalapp.co/ and once they turned it off the form came back.
- Misleading users: we had a public issue where a user was upset with us for always pushing sales at them. They were trying to sign-up for a webinar but only saw “talk to sales” at the bottom of the page. We have a talk-to-sales call to action (CTA) in our footer but that was it, so we weren’t exactly sure what they were complaining about, because any users should be able to sign up for a webinar without talking to sales. Alas, ad blockers had turned off the form for this user so all they saw was our footer and thought we were forcing them through sales. This was a terrible user experience for them and very upsetting for us at well.
What’s the solution? What can we do about it? Unfortunately not much.
This is a challenge to the performance of our site and one that hurts my team's productivity because we investigate these issues when they are reported. If it turns out to be an ad blocker to blame then we waste time and money to solve nothing we can control. My dream would be that ad blocking services develop better ways to report these types of issues and instead of directing the user to adjust filters, actually make your tool smarter and stop blocking non-ad content.
There are a few things you can do to help prevent blocking. First: make sure you don’t name anything with “ad” or “advertisement” that isn’t an ad. Ad blockers will grab and hide anything with those names attached to them. There is a possibility of detecting ad blockers and displaying a message asking visitors to place your site on a whitelist or disable their blocker for the duration of their session on your site but this is a bit of effort and you still won’t catch them all. Ultimately this is a topic we’ll continually need to stay on top of.
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 spoke with Alick Mighall, Managing Director at miggle. “As a small-ish specialist development agency, my role encompasses product, project and account management, HR, finance, business development and sales. I don’t do any development myself, but I like being able to support my team of devs to do their job well”.miggle Quick Facts:
- Founded in 2007
- Location: Brighton and Hove, England
- Number of Employees: 10
- Top Clients: NBC Universal, Air New Zealand and Travel Nation
Alick explains: “Travel is the main sector, but really the unifying factor is Drupal, and for now, that’s centred around build and support.. We do a lot of work with Solr, using to it to help create and manage rich content experiences.”What project / work are you most proud of?
“We’re probably most proud of the work we’ve done for Travel Nation, as it’s the most extensive, longest term Drupal project we’ve worked on - and the client team there are great. They really get it. We’ve been working with them on it for 3 years now.”What technology and environments do you support?
“In terms of platforms / content management systems, we support Drupal 7 and 8. We also support a variety of marketing tools. Most clients that come to us have already hedged their bets with a CRM etc., so our job becomes one of working out how we best integrate with those choices.”What areas are you looking to expand or invest in in the future?
“We have been looking at Internet of Things (IoT) and spending some R&D time there. Watch this space! Over time I’d like to look at becoming more of a full service agency, possibly with a narrower sector strategy.”What role do customers ask you to play in technology strategy or selection?
“Customers usually are looking for two things from us: more control over their content, often in an environment where they are dealing with limited editorial resources and improved information architecture (IA) in the front end. In terms of applicable technology, we look at whether we can paint the right picture with Drupal delivering on those objectives.”What tech trends are you most excited about?
“I’m most excited about IoT and how it will combine with Drupal 8 and progressive decoupling.”What is most important to you / what do you value most as an agency?
“It’s important to me that miggle works for my team. If my team is happy, then client happiness takes care of itself.”How would you describe the culture at your agency? What are the people like?
“I’ve been fortunate to always have a talented, loyal team; very few egos coupled with a real desire to learn and share knowledge. I’d say the culture is one of getting along, but getting on with it and then enjoying the rest of what life has to offer.”What’s one random fact about your agency?
We’ve hired, at complete random, lots of musicians over the years, but other than Guitar Hero have never put that to use or applied it to client work. For a while we had enough bass players to have performed an epic rendition of ‘Big Bottoms’ by Spinal Tap - but we never took the opportunity…”What’s your least favorite buzzword?
“‘Reaching out’ I’d reach out to someone if they were drowning or vice versa. Other than that you can just thank me for getting in touch. Right now I hate ‘Brexit’ too because of what I think it will mean to my kids future.”Why partner with Acquia?
“We partner with Acquia because I want my developers to be developers not ‘have a go hero’ system admins. Now we’re with Acquia we have less nasty surprises around infrastructure. We’re in touch with some very nice people there too.”What else would you like the community and prospects to know?
“We’d like people to know that you should just look us up and see how we can help. Having been in digital for over 20 years I know I have a great team here. I want to supplement that with more talented people and do exciting work with customers who are as passionate about online as we are.”