Drupal

North Texas Drupal Users Group September Meetup- Drupal 8 Revisted

The summer doldrums and vacations are over, time to get back to the North Texas Drupal Users Group meetups that FireRoad Digital organizes.

We'll be taking another look at Drupal 8, as it approaches its one year anniversary, and its upcoming 8.2 release.

We have a great speaker for this meetup, from one of the biggest Drupal agencies in the word - FFW Center of Excellence Director Ray Saltini.

Full details and RSVP on our NTXDUG Meetup page.  See you there!

Mobile Performance with Drupal - Part 1, Testing

I don't think you need yet another blog post to tell you mobile is becoming a bigger and bigger thing. Your website has to look good and perform well on mobile - you know that. But is it? How do you tell? How do you improve?

We here at FireRoad Digital are very data driven. So our process for improving mobile performance for our client Drupal sites uses the same general methodology we use for most everything:

  1. Implement best practices techniques for implementatng a certain functionality or improvement, based on our experience with developing and enhancing literally figuratively millions of Drupal websites
  2. Test, measure, analyze the results
  3. Iterate based on what we've learned

Let's look at our own FireRoad website as an example of this process. We developed it in Drupal 7 to be mobile responsive from the beginning, meaning it dynamically optimizes how the content and user interface is displayed and interacted with by the viewer based on the device being used. So we've already done part of Step 1- the basics- but for the sake of example, let's do some testing and analyzing of the initial website before we would normally go through our typical optimizatition process.

We can also use this opportunity to try out Test My Site, a new super easy to use and understand website usability and performance test tool from Google. Based on their PageSpeed Insights, which has been embedded in their other tools such as the Google Search Console, this tool doesn't require a Google account to use and provides results easily understandable results, with clear actions for improvement.

Let's be brave (and transparent) and run this tool on fireroaddigital.com

Google mobile test - first screen

 

Click TEST NOW and the tool will scan and process your site for a few seconds, and dispense some wisdom about mobile viewing habits and statistics while you wait.

Shortly you will see the results summary page, which for our site is ..

 

Google mobile test results summary

 

Our "mobile friendliness score is good" !  Good ... but looks like we could improve.  Click on the GET MY FREE REPORT button and Google will send you a lovely PDF with more details and action items. We can also step through the different categories right now and drill into the details.  Just scroll down ...

 

Google mobile test results- friendlinessGoogle mobile test results- SpeedGoogle mobile test results- Desktop


So what to do next?  The first category - Mobile Friendliness - shows how well we developed our mobile look & feel to both look good on mobile devices, as well as be optimized for mobile interaction. Looks like we've done pretty well there- the general process of developing Drupal mobile friendliness deserves a blog post of its own, including Drupal theming, media querries, Bootstrap and grids, and lots more ... which we totally should get around to writing one of these days. But looks like there are still a few points we could eke out with some tweaking.

We did the worse on the second category - Mobile Speed. We already run on the fastest, most powerful Drupal hosting platform around - Pantheon - with plenty of processing power, RAM, SSD drives, Varnish caching, and just about anythng else that can be done to increase server response. Since we are not directly managing our web server (with good reason), we do have limited options on what we can change there. On the client side, maybe some of our images are too large to download on mobile quickly. Maybe we should us e a Content Delivery Network. Maybe we haven't configured caching on the client side correctly. Lots of options here.

And thirdly, this test looks at our desktop speed. There will be some similar criteria as the mobile speed, with more leeway given since desktop users typically have more bandwidth available and larger images are needed to fill up bigger desktop monitors.  We did well, but we won't ever be satisfied with a B+.

in parts 2,3 and 4 of this series we will look at each category - why we received the grade we did and what specifically we can do to improve each number. Stay tuned - we are going for 100 / 100 / 100 !

Longer Title and Descriptions on Google Search Results

In their often unannounced, sneaky fashion, Google has apparently snuck in an update to search results pages (SERP) that increases the size of the display Titles and Descriptions.  This gives webmasters and SEOs more room to describe and market pages!

The previous generally-accepted guidance for page title lengths was around 55 characters before Google chopped it off ... now it looks like you can to 65-70 characters.

For page descriptions, 150-160 characters was the consensus length, which generally came in around 2 lines ... now we are sometimes seeing 3 lines, and up to 15-20 more characters per line. That is a lot more space to descirbe your pages.

Here is a very recent example of a Google search:

So what to do with this new exciting update? Update your pages with longer page titles and meta descriptions! Give it a day or two, then check your search results and see how it looks. Iterate and tweak as needed.

And how do you do that on your Drupal website?  Our Implementing Google Ranking Factors in Drupal guide will give you the step-by-step details, or you can just make sure you are running the Drupal Metatag module and use it to set detailed, active and unique description and page titles for you home page and all other pages on your site. Be sure to check your Google Search Console results for what Google thinks of your page titles and descriptions.

June North Texas Drupal Meetup - Debugging

Come join us at the June (15th) North Texas Drupal metup - Allen Shaw will be presenting on Pessimism, Entitlement, and Other Virtues of a Successful Debugging Approach - targeting beginner to expert Drupal developers.

Debugging can feel a lot like hunting for a needle in a haystack, and sometimes you're not even sure the needle is there. But we'll walk through a few examples taken from real life, and see how those were found and solved. Along the way we'll look at strategies for narrowing the search, and tools to help with navigating unfamiliar code.

In this session we'll look at what to do when the unexpected happens and you need to debug, especially when it's someone else's code -- either Drupal itself, or a contributed or custom module.

Developers of all backgrounds are encouraged to attend, as I'm hoping we'll have time to learn from each other when it comes to preferred practices and toolsets. 

More info on our Meetup group.

North Texas Drupal April Meetup Notes

We had a big crowd at our April meetup of the North Texas Drupal Users group this past Monday.  And it was all about the Drupal 8!

I gave a brief intro on Drupal 8 progress, stealing liberally from webchick's Drupal 8 slides.

Brent Bice was up next, speaking about the market and business side of Drupal 8, as well as some of his discussions with Acquia engineers and product managers.  His slides on are slideshare.

Brandon Williams from the Austin Drupal users group was generous enough to travel up to Dallas for the event to present on Drupal 8 changes for developers, specifically with regards to API.  He posted his slides on gitbub.

Since the normal May meetup date would fall right about DrupalCon LA, we decided to have our next meetup in June.  Details soon.

Drupal 8 Mega Resource Guide

Drupal 8 is coming soon (ok, soonish), so we've put together this mega guide for all your Drupal 8 edumacation. And don't forget our North Texas Drupal Users Group meetup Drupal 8 Extravaganza! here in Dallas in a couple weeks.

Official Drupal 8 page

"Drupal 8 Will Have Something for Everyone to Love"

Drupal 8 Preview Slideshow by webchick

"Drupal 8 will be the best release of Drupal yet."

The Drupal 8 Sessions - DrupalCon Austin

Links to 17 sessions related to Drupal 8

Why Drupal 8? Why now?  by jam

"As of March 2015, when should you deploy Drupal 8?"

Ultimate Guide to Drupal 8 by webchick   (eBook link)

"This blog series will attempt to enumerate the major changes in Drupal 8 for end-users, for site builders, for designers and front-end developers, and for back-end developers."

Drupal 8 - What's in it for me?

He looks at the benefits of using Drupal 8 for both marketers and technologists.

Try out Drupal 8 on Pantheon

It's still in beta, but Pantheon lets you spin up a Drupal 8 site quickly and easily.

Drupal 8 Release Date

A mathematical estimate on when Drupal 8 will be released based on the remaining number of critical bugs and tasks against Drupal 8 punched into a Monte Carlo simulation.

Drupal 8 Changes Twitter Bot

Follows changes from https://www.drupal.org/list-changes/drupal and tweets them.

Acquia's Drupal 8 Blog Series

It's a series of blog articles. By Acquia. On Drupal 8. That's pretty much it.

27 Questions (and Answers) from My First Drupal 8 Site Build

"Slowly, through trial and lots and lots and lots of error, I found answers to all of my questions. Those answers follow."

Dallas Course: Online System for Small Business Success

Are you a new small business owner who needs to build an online presence, or an experienced one who wants to learn more about building your website and improving your online marketing? If you live in the Dallas area, then do I have a learning opportunity for you!


Beginning on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, I am teaching a new continuing education course at the Collin College Courtyard campus in Plano. It will run for 6 weeks, 3 hours each Tuesday night from 6:30 - 9:30. The tuition cost for the entire program is just $199. It's the same place I teach Drupal courses, if you've ever been to one of those.
 

 

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Course Objectives:
Create an online website/system with compelling content; analyze website activity and improve results; research valuable keywords and competitor’s online activity; perform email and pay-per-click marketing.
 
Recommended Prerequisites:

Students should have a basic comfortableness with computers and the Internet.
 
Course Description:
Learn how to build a complete online presence to help make your small business or non-profit successful. This is a fast-paced, hands-on course with between-class “homework”. At the end you’ll have your own professional-looking and search engine optimized (SEO) website, along with integrated content and email marketing, analytics, social media and Google tools. You’ll understand how to attract prospects to your website using both organic and paid search techniques and encourage them to stay and convert.
 
This will be a comprehensive, fast-paced course that will cover a lot of ground. Be prepared to spend time in-between classes on specific “homework”, or you will fall behind. Some additional small student- paid expenses will be necessary for optimal results, including website domain registration (around $10, if needed), website hosting ($25 / month), and Google AdWords (pay-per-click) cost (varies, but we will initially keep the amount small just for testing and learning).
 
Those who do not have a current website or are willing to rebuild theirs will get the most out of this class. We will use the free, open-source Drupal content management system (CMS) to build websites. For students who do already have a business website, those with a Drupal-based website will get more out of this course than those using a different system (such as Wordpress) as the optimization techniques and plugins used will all be based on Drupal.  The marketing concepts will apply to any small business website however.
 
Lesson Plan (by week):
  1. Introduction, basic concepts, goal setting, begin initial website
  2. Continue website - look & feel, content, launch initial website, basic Google tools
 
  3. Advanced Google tools & analytics, configuring conversions, keywords, inbound marketing
  4. Social channels and sharing, media (photos, video, sound), email marketing
 
  5. More website functionality, link building, metadata and on-page SEO

  6. Ongoing website and marketing maintenance, CRM tools, going forward and review

I've poured everything I've learned in my 85 years about creating websites and online marketing for small businesses that attract viewers and converts them to customers into this course. Come learn and succeed!

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Drupal Podcasts - Keeping Up While Doing Something Else

Podcasts, or "a digital medium that consists of an episodic series of audio, digital radio, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed on-line to a computer or mobile device" (wikipedia) have been around a little over 10 years, and lately have seen a resurgance in popularity. It's a great way to learn something, or least be entertained while you are commuting to work, exercising, or just cleaning the kitchen.

My preferred iOS podcast app, Downcast, shows me subscribed to about 50 shows. Which of course is way more than I can listen to, but at least gives me choices. Many of those are Drupal, technology and marketing related. Some of the best:


 

Dropcast from Mediacurrent. Brand new from one of the top Drupal shops in the world. The first show comes in at 45 minutes, with a variety of topics.

 


 

Drupalize.me logo

Drupalize.me from Lullabot. Drupalize.me has been around a while and generally puts out 1-2 shows a month, each running 15-50 minutes.

 


 

Drupal Easy logo

Drupal Easy. With nearly 150 episodes, it's been around forever. Tends to go long and sometimes sound amateurish, but they have great guests.

 


 

Hacking Culture logo

Hacking Culture by Lullabot. Also brand new, and not Drupal-exclusive. But their first episode featured a Backdrop CMS (the Drupal fork) discussion.

 


 

Drupal Easy logo

Full Stack Radio. A podcast for "developers interested in building great software products, product design, user experience, testing and system administration."

 


 

Social Media Examiner. If there is a marketing and social media podcast out there that has more immediately actionable information in it, I don't know it.

 


What others do we like that maybe aren't Drupal or developer focused? Well, since you asked: Sword & Laser, TED Radio Hour, Science Friday, Radiolab, Duct Tape Marketing, Cool Tools, and Ask Me Another.

Happy Listening!

Drupal 8 Extravaganza at the March North Texas Drupal Users Group Meetup

Drupal 8 is likely going to launch sometime in 2015.  So we all need to get ready - Drupal 8 is a whole new ball game.  Likely agenda for the March 16 meetup:

  • Drupal 8 status
  • What's New from Drupal 7
  • Direction
  • Resources
  • Can You Build a Real Site With Drupal 8 Yet?

For that last one, we'll walk through the process of creating a new, functional website using just Drupal 8 and see where the pitfalls are.

And just for fun, DrupalReleaseDate.com uses Monte Carlo simulation to guesstimate the Drupal 8 release date.  As of today, it shows January 6, 2016.  Yikes.  Better get working on those blocker bugs.

So if you live in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area and use Drupal or want to learn more about Drupal, then the North Texas Drupal Users Group is the place to be.  See you in March.

AngularJS and Structural SEO in Drupal - Feb North Texas Drupal Meetup Notes

We had a nice turnout last night for the North Texas Drupal users group.  And we just cleared 100 members!  You need to join us on our Meetup page to learn about all our upcoming meetups.

First up was the various Drupal ecosystem updates:

  1. DrupalCamp New Orleans is on March 28th.  Beignets and Drupal- can't beat that!
  2. DrupalCon LA starts on May 11.  Only one week to submit session proposals.  Although we all know that only the big sponsors get selected, but you can try anyway.
  3. CiviCon 2015 starts on Apr 23 in Denver.  The conference site should be up soon.
  4. BackDrop CMS had their 1.0 GA release.  This was the fork of Drupal made a year or so ago.  You can spin up an instance to play with on Pantheon.
  5. Lots of great Drupal podcasts out there to help you keep up while commuting or exercising.  Dropcast, Drupal Easy, Drupalize.me are all Drupal-focused.  Others of interest: Hacking Culture (open source), http://fullstackradio.com/ (dev), and The Changelog (dev)
  6. Wonder when Drupal 8 will release?  DrupalReleaseDate.com uses Monte Carlo Simulation to take as good a guess as anyone.  Says Oct 29th right now.
  7. Weather.com was launched by MediaCurrent, making it the most heavily used Drupal site developed to date.  And, it has a AngularJS front end!

And that's what Travis presented - using AngularJS as a front end to Drupal.  His presentation is on his website - http://travistidwell.com/

Next, I spoke on Structural SEO in Drupal - how the construction of your Drupal website affects its search engine placement … and conversions … directly and indirectly.  My 75 slides aren't that useful without me talking about them, but I will be turning it into a more readable document shortly and it will be available on our website.

Next month - It's all about the Drupal 8!  See you then.

 

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