The Blog

DrupalCon Logo

DrupalCon 2016 – New Orleans: Hanging out with Drupal 8 in the deep south

Every spring, anticipation builds in the Drupal community. DrupalCon — the official conference for the Drupal community to participate in learning sessions, talks, code sprints, and social events — is around the corner. While several “Cons” are held internationally, this marked my first experience at the event, held this year in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Kicking-off sessions was Drupal’s founder and Acquia CTO, Dries Buytaert. The opening keynote was well-attended and furiously tweeted with the affectionate #DriesNote as excited developers, product owners, and sellers-of-open-source anxiously awaited Dries’ SOD (state of Drupal) speech.

As with many technological advancements (in this case, the release of Drupal 8), attendees were desperate for some validation and direction.

  • Have I made a good investment in Drupal?
  • Am I doing the right thing for my organization? What about my own career?
  • I just released a Drupal 7 application and Drupal 8 is out; now what am I supposed to do?

Dries opened with some impressive stats including the rate at which Drupal 8 is already being adopted.

Dries revealed 8 key initiatives focused on content creators, developers, and end-users. While a couple are already in-the-works, these proposed initiatives will be the basis for improvements in future D8 releases.

Audience: Content Authors

  1. Media – Authors and editors need simple drag-drop media and asset handling
  2. Workflow – Authors and editors need easy-to-use tools to share, review, approve, stage, and collaborate on content before it’s live.
  3. Blocks and Layout – Site builders need intuitive tools to build pages, change layouts, and add & arrange blocks with live preview.
  4. Data Modeling – Site builders need tools to quickly implement architecture.

Audience: Developers

  1. API-First – Developers want Drupal to integrate with other systems to bring your content anywhere and display as they wish.
  2. Theme Component Library – Convert Drupal’s complex combination of templates and huge render arrays into a simple, structured, tree of reusable components.

Audience: Customers

  1. Cross Channel - Customer Experience is cross channel, becoming web-less, and about conversational interfaces. Drupal needs to grow to provide better digital experiences via contextualization.
  2. Orchestration – Customizing communication based on where the user is and what type of communication they receive as a result. (e.g. If user is in the car then send voice message.)

Given the SOD, I am confident in telling my colleagues and clients that investing in Drupal is sound, and that Drupal is going to continue to empower content managers and optimize the publishing experience in ways that no other CMS yet has.

Drupal has broken down technical barriers and created opportunity for so many. As an enterprise-caliber platform, Drupal isn’t right for every scenario. But for non-profits with editorial teams, government agencies, universities and more, Drupal continues to evolve into a powerhouse content management system. It was invigorating to experience the excitement of a passionate community.

Shameless Plug

To those product owners feeling a bit stumped at the daunting task of upgrading an existing Drupal application or building a new one in Drupal 8, know that help is out there.

At the time of writing, Taoti has several D8 builds in progress and our clients will reap the benefits of running the latest version. If you’re not sure where to start your D8 project, contact us and we’d be happy to give you a free consultation!

Final Thoughts

Moving throughout the week, it was clear that the nearly 3,100 in attendance as well as many digital onlookers were just as excited about the discussions and other sessions. The week was alive with NOLA creativity.

Some of my favorite moments included:

  1. Eating authentic creole fare
  2. Hanging out in the exhibit hall; seeing old friends and colleagues and making new ones
  3. The many social events including sponsor parties and group meals
  4. Getting to meet new people and find out what they do with Drupal and why they came

With DrupalCon 2017 scheduled to take place in Baltimore, I expect to see many more familiar faces and look forward to sharing my experience with next year’s freshmen!


  1. Initaitves and graphics pulled from Dries' keynote.
DrupalCon Logo

A Taste of New Orleans ... Tweets from DrupalCon 2016

We've got people on the ground and we're keeping a high-level view of the tweets from DrupalCon 2016. Watch this space for updates througout the event!

Image from the panel at Live beyond the Infographic session at NTC

Take-aways from human-centered design and infographics sessions at #16NTC

After three very helpful, informative, conceptual and practical days of sessions at NTEN's NTC, my final day was more refreshing and clarifying than I had expected. I chose well, in attending these two sessions.

An exploration of human-centered design

The first, My Dad and Other Real People Designed Our Online Strategy was led by Trista Kendall of the newly rebranded and Danielle Siembieda of Leonardo/ISAST
The session was an exercise in questions, essentially. We talked about who to ask questions of, what questions to ask, and how to make sure you're asking the right questions. This was all based on their experience leveraging IDEO's Field Guide to Human-Centered Design to help with their redesign. 
My key take-aways are listed below. 
When taking the human-centered design approach, don't skip to solutions. Just get a good question established.
When seeking user feedback: You can talk to people you know. You'd be surprised at how little your friends and family take in what you do.
When talking to major donors, use the term "advice visit"
Think in terms of Facebook ad criteria when figuring out types of people to talk to.
Some great questions to ask when seeking user feedback: 
  • What conversations happen between you and your friends IRL vs social media?
  • What would you expect to find when you go to our site
  • How would you expect to hear about our organization's failures?
  • What is something you were looking to do on the site that you were not able to do?
When you focus on just one group's needs you still help others with the outcome.Ask yourself: Who has more needs that are harder to meet?
Your digital program affects people you're never going to hear from, and will never know they're there.

Life Beyond the Infographic  

Later in the day, I was among the first to arrive for the Life Beyond the Infographic session, which I was so happy existed, I thanked the panel even before it started. 
The panel of Marianna Sachse and Shannon Ryan from Burness and their client, Robyn Carliss of Sustainable Conservation discussed their experiences working on an overhauled messaging approach that involved a strategy of creating visuals that get people's attention, even when they're on a mobile device.  
My biggest take-aways are below
55 percent of users on a page are only there for 15 seconds
Curate info for a-ha moments ... Don't say everything at once
People respect and appreciate when you respect and appreciate their time
Keep minutiae grounded with visuals and anecdotes
Focus on the human angle to make change possible
People like to see things in progress. It makes them feel invested. It doesn't have to be super polished when it comes to photography.
What the panelists found helpful:
  • Open the conversation (instead of trying to say everything at once)
  • Bold photography and great smart typefaces go a long way
  • Simple images and anecdotes from the field help connect supporters
  • repurpose, repurpose repurpose - memory isn't as great as you think so repetition is helpful
Use stats wherever you can ... but maybe just one at a time
There is a difference between accuracy vs. precision
  •  Scientists want it precise. We want it accurate.
  •  Scientists want a  bullseye. We want it to be on the target.
  •  Ultimately when deciding which way to go, you need the more compelling way to communicate to a broader audience. 
Key questions when putting planning and designing an infographic:
  • What is the story
  • What will resonate
  • What can I demonstrate
  • Should I give story a human face
  • Do I have compelling data
If you have a long story, do it in parts. ... Give people digestable information
Overlays: If you start using text overlays, you start seeming more like a company and less like a person.
Make sure the graphic and visual is really telling your story, and ensure that there aren't multiple intrepretations of a graphic. Are 1 in 10 sick, or are 9 in 10 not sick and is there is there a difference that could undermine it.
DIY tools 
  • - a simple-to-use DIY graphic design tool for simple, compelling infographics.
  • Infogram for charts
  • Over - social media graphics done by your phones ... Size for social media sizes
Cheap, good or fast? These are considerations to balance when building an app

Thoughts on planning, designing, building, testing and marketing an app from #16NTCBuildApp

I bailed on a Session That Shall Remain Nameless, and was happy I landed at the session "So You Wanna Build an App for That: Experts Share Tips on Taking Apps from Need to Launch" run by communications consultant Lauren Girardin.

While there was some discussion about being sure that you really need to build an app (a topic I have written about previously)  the dialogue and discussions were very real-world focused and intended to get small groups thinking about challenges and considerations around planning, designing, building, testing and marketing an app.

Lauren reminded the group that there is a growing sentiment around thinking about app building as one that is done "with, not for an audience." This set a great tone for the rest of the discussions and is great for teams to keep in mind throughout the process.

Some key considerations from the session are below:

Establishing limits and setting expectations

  • Understanding the idea that you can only get two out of the three between cheap, fast and good.
  • Limit the number of stakeholders who can steer the project.
  • Limit communication with coders after a certain point
  • Change orders are important and a means by which to communicate the impact of delays
  • Scoring features empowers compromise down the road. Not every feature is created equal.
  • Speak in seasons instead of specific dates
  • Be aware of development cycles when planning for updates

Feedback and testing

  • Build in feedback time early
  • Think about bringing in your community to design apps early ... There might be a gap between what audiences needs are and what they say their needs are. Listening is crucial.
  • Think about how to reward those who provide input (Food, alcohol, Discounts for a paid app, Badges)
  • Testing should be thought about early in the process
  • Use third party security testing
  • The roadmap always changes after the first 10 percent of the development
  • Use people outside the project who don't know about the planning
  • List as many variables to test as possible (WiFi on, Cell data on, Platforms, Devices etc.)

Working with vendors

  • When searching for a vendor, test them on low-risk projects
  • Make sure someone outside of your organization reads the RFP first. This can eliminate a lot of internally-focused terminology
  • Use services like Glassdoor to research the firm
  • Pick a vendor that understands that change is part of the process


Thinking about launch and post-launch

  • Include marketing in your budget
  • How are you going to include this app in your marketing
  • Build in app review invitations; You're building in engagement; Thank people for positive ratings
  • Build analytics into the app
  • Use your website to talk about the features of your app that you can't do in the same way in the store; Explain very clearly and show the value of your app
  • Think of launch as a starting line and not a finish line