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Switch from A Mobile-Friendly to A Mobile-First Strategy!
How do you find the online landscape now, when the air is filled with new possibilities, opportunities, forecasts, and wishes for 2017?   You do find it dominated by the digital environment’s own trends, and technological breakthroughs, right? Moreover, it’s just dictated, as it has always been, by the future-oriented end user, let’s face it.   Since more and more mobile users won’t even get to visit your website on their desktop devices anymore, but exclusively on their mobile devices. And since they will visit it more frequently from their mobile phones you need to cope with this context or else you’ll turn into a “dinosaur” stubbornly attached to his “desktop supreme” belief.   How should you cope with the (not so) latest shifts in the online world? You should go beyond the “mobile-friendly” approach and you should adopt the forward progression, the “mobile-first” plan!   Draft Your Mobile-First Strategy from Day One If you want to boost its effectiveness, you must draft it from the very beginning, from the product’s/services creation phase, so that you can align it with all your further marketing strategies and business maneuvers.   Practically, starting with a mobile-first viewpoint allows you to automatically make all the other business strategies and operations revolve around it.   But First, Let’s Analyze Three Different Approaches to Mobile-Friendliness 1. Responsive Web Design Let’s call this approach (which emerged in 2003) “the pioneer of all mobile-friendly techniques”. It practically revolutionized the way web designers and mobile users started to envision and to navigate through mobile websites and it’s still quite alluring even now, for many developers, due to its obvious advantages:   one URL for a given website across all devices cost-effectiveness (derived, of course, from the above-mentioned advantage) adaptability: web pages/content resize to any given width, enabling web users to quickly switch from the way they used to navigate through websites on their PCs, to the vertical type of navigation (scrolling)   And yet, as any “pioneer” in its field, responsive web design has slowly started to show its weaknesses:   “adapting” content-heavy website for mobile devices with fewer functionalities and far less equipped for supporting all the heavy content lead to a significant increase in loading time it inevitably looks like some sort of “compromise”: developed for the desktop and re-thought so that it should somehow fit the small screen devices’ features   2. Dedicated Mobile Site Then, when web design responsiveness starts to show off its limitations, it was time for the “dedicated mobile sites” to shine!   Basically, they were subdomains of desktop websites. Users got “detected” when they accessed websites from their mobile devices and they got automatically directed to the mobile version of the desktop site, using a different URL.   The big step forward? This was the very first attempt of customizing the experience for the end-user visiting a specific website on his mobile device, instead of just delivering him/her a “compromise”: a shrunk version of the standard desktop site. This approach paved the way for mobile-specific content strategies. And yet, there are certain disadvantages to this mobile-friendly approach, as well:   You have multiple URLs to juggle with (mobile and desktop version) If wrongly configured, it could easily lead to SEO-related trouble   3. Dynamic Serving (Server Side Components+ Responsive Web Design) And here is the most complex (for the team of developers who’ll have to respond so some bigger challenges now), but surely the most efficient (from the user’s experience standpoint) mobile-friendly approach!   What makes it better?   As a web developer, it allows you to display content, using just one URL, based on a user agent. The user reaches a specific website from his mobile device, he gets “detected” by the server-side JavaScript and the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript written and adapted to the mobile is delivered to him. That, instead of the same content being created for the desktop version of the website and then adapted...  somehow, so that it should fit the mobile, too.   Let’s sum up the pros:    one URL a much-improved user experience mobile-targeted content   Now, Let’s Dive Into the Mobile-First “Philosophy” “I think it’s now the joint project of all of us to make mobile the answer to pretty much everything” Eric Schmidt (Google).   Do you need more reasons for making your mobile-first website a top priority than these 2 major ones?   desktop devices’ supremacy has started to fade away (more web users will try to access your website from their mobiles and, moreover, there will be quite a lot of them who will be using only those devices for visiting your site) Google itself is all into the “mobile-friendly” “craze”   To these two main reasons for “saying yes” to a mobile-first approach, add 2 main targets, too:   freeing your future mobile-first website off all the heavy, unnecessary content, just an unwanted “legacy” from its “bigger brother”, the desktop version of the website reducing Its loading time and overall making all the displayed info looking neat irrespective of the technology used on the specific devices that your website’s accessed on.   Graceful Degradation vs Progressive Enhancement As we delve deeper into the mobile-first type of mentality that more and more website developers and website owners adopt these days, we should point out two main viewpoints that subsequently developed.   1. Graceful Degradation It is a concretization of the need for a design to work properly across as many platforms and browsers as possible. With this “goal” in mind, designers strive so that the user enjoys the best experience while visiting a certain website and makes efforts so that this website functions properly, despite the inevitable shortcomings.   Basically, the resulting website would need to scale back and lose some of the content that would slow it down or just didn't adapt to certain viewpoint sizes. It was about “losing the heavy content”: graceful “degradation”.   This viewpoint’s limitation is obvious: the final product often features the look of an afterthought, of an unpolished (one-size-fits-all) product.   2. Progressive Enhancement The whole perspective changes when you adopt this mobile-first viewpoint. You practically start by making your website look amazing and function properly on a low technology mobile device, thus trimming it to its core features, and then you progressively add new, heavier content, new features and turn it into a more robust desktop-ready website. See the difference?   It’s a much more organic way of developing a website: from its nucleus, made of its most vital elements, to a far more complex version of it. No need to rethink it from scratch so that it should work properly on mobile or, even worse, to “make it fit” (and it never does in a “natural” way) for mobile devices. You go your way up!   Also, when it comes to content (you know, “the all mighty king”), to the way that it gets enhanced or constrained by these two types of “methods”, the progressive enhancement “wins again”. It’s obvious why:   the graceful degradation: all the heavy content gets loaded on the largest platform and even though much of that content is removed from the mobile web pages, the already loaded heavy content still slows down the mobile website. the progressive enhancement: the basic elements get loaded first, making navigation much smoother on a mobile device and loading time much lower, and then progressively additional resources get added, when/if needed (to platforms that can support them well).   The Top-Down Method vs The Mobile-First Method We’ve already tackled these two mobile-friendly types of approach, but without actually naming them, so we’ll just sum up the basics:   1. The Top-Down Method: creating a website for large-screened devices, then “decreasing” it for smaller and smaller-screened devices. The main shortcomings are:   overloading mobile devices with way too heavy content, with too much information omitting many of the tempting features and functions specific to mobile phones   2. The Mobile-First Method is all about usability, all about user-friendliness. Start with the highly simplified, core version of your site which should work perfectly on devices equipped with lower-tech and level it up so that it should evolve into a website suitable for the latest high-tech devices. Facing simplicity (you’ll practically have to “work” with only 80% of your desktop’s screen size), maintaining it and turning it into your main goal, enables you to keep focused on the core elements of your website. And on how the end-user can carry out any given action on your site as quickly and intuitively as possible! Going from small to big is always far easier and it seems to be far more efficient, too!   Needless to add that the approach to mobile-first design is a flexible, constantly evolving strategy. It needs constant “trimming”, constant modifications so that it organically adapts to all the technological changes and to the shifts in mobile users’ way of interacting with the digital world, as well! ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Nov 21'2016
Our Top 5 Drupal 8 Modules
The much-awaited, much talked about and supposedly innovative Drupal 8 is stil “too shiny and new” for you? Still a bit „nostalgic” about the good old, so familiar Drupal 7?    Well, don’t be! We’re going to point out to you 5 of its coolest modules which will make your life as a websites builder a lot... simpler (for, besides flexibility, simplicity has always been one of the Drupal community’s ultimate goals).   Now let’s just dive into our selection of “juicy”, highly useful, won’t-be-able-to-live-without-anymore Drupal 8 modules!   1. Views It’s by far one of the most used modules in Drupal, so no wonder that the worldwide team behind Drupal 8 strove to improve it.   Probably one of the best news regarding this module is that it’s a core module now! You do realize what this means, right? You’ll get it by default, along with the whole installing package, no need to add it yourself, manually, afterwards anymore.    And since Drupal’s all about „empowering the non-technical end-users”, you’ll be glad to hear that the Views module comes equipped with some new too-hard-to-resist-to „powers” for you:   as a content editor and site builder it enables you to filter and to display information depending on your predefined parameters: you can create a block listing the most recent posts, you get to „play with” your taxonomy listing, to put together a slideshow with the best images of the last month or a sidebar with the most recent/longest/interesting/useful comments on your website etc. as an admin, you get „spoiled” by all the „responsibilities” that the Views takes in Drupal 8: it controls content admin page, user admin page, lists, blocks and more. Moreover, you get to „work your magic” without even having to write a single line of code, just by “playing” in its admin interface: configure lists, calendar, create photo galleries etc.   2. Rules You may not be inclined to follow rules in your life outside Drupal’s world, but how about the power to set up your own rules for your website?   This contributed module allows you to create three types of rules which, put together, create a complex, logical sequence: you can set up an event (first rule), a conditioned one (second rule) in fact, which leads to a certain action (third rule).   Here’s a suggestive example for you: you’re a website’s admin, right? Well, imagine now that someone posts a comment on your site (event) and, thanks to your configured rules, you automatically get an email informing you about this posted comment (action). Got it?   The whole "attraction" for the Rules module is the fact that it enables you to create and to manage automated workflows on your website.    3. Features Now here’s another super useful contributed module that Drupal 8 „spoils” you with!   It will be extremely useful in your work especially if you have a whole portfolio of Drupal websites to juggle with (as 99% of organizations do). How precisely?   You’ll get to import/export your multiple configurations and all your code as whole packages that you can then move across your whole collection of websites.   Enlightening example: just imagine that you’ve come up with a rule (you know, we’ve just talked about that module). Ok, now the great part is yet to come: you can export it so that it can get imported to all the other websites that you might administer, simultaneously. Time-saving and efficiency-boosting, wouldn’t you agree?   4. Admin Toolbar Ok, ok, so you think that it has been improved and yet that it could have turned out much better.   Still, we can’t underestimate the role it plays in your work as a Drupal site developer: it’s menu (replacing now the old admin menu module) is now responsive. It sure fits the whole Drupal 8 „mobile-first philosophy” right?   5. Pathauto  If the whole „SEO is dead” nonsense hasn’t got to you, you’ll find this module to be so helpful.    What does it do exactly? It upgrades your website with search engines-friendly, clean URLs for your content. Of course, you’ll be lending this specific module a decisive helping hand to enable it to get your site SEO-friendly, since you’ll be the one predefining the page path patterns.    The result? Standard Drupal links turn into readable links that your visitors will love and since happy visitors means a better Google rank, you do the map!     These are our top 5 Drupal 8 modules. How does your own top 5 list look like? Is there anyone of our preferences listed there or not? Feel free to share it with us.  ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Nov 18'2016
10 UI Design Predictions for 2017 with a Huge Impact on the User Experience
You do agree that a good web designer must always strive to “read the future”, right?   To predict the trends and align his/her efforts with them even before they get to turn themselves into trends. Well, we’re here to lend you a helping hand with that, empowering you with a forecast on what will change, what will become even more prevalent and eventually what will become outdated in UI design in 2017.    So, here’s what professional experts with extensive experience in UI design predict for the year to come:   1. Extreme Minimalism If in 2016 the trend of minimalist, clean, airy design spread like wildflower, wait to see the trend of extreme minimalist design simply explode in the year to come!    Well-experienced designers predict that a magazine-specific layout (which some visualize in black-and-white, while others featuring bold, retro-style colors and arty, pop culture themes) will take over the digital interface.   Big, visually-appealing photos, engaging videos and highly simplified icons will outshine the long copy. Copy which will eventually get refined to short, easy to read and to understand phrases.   Conclusion: the print layout is expected to take over the digital world and the human eye will become, in 2017 more than now, the main “target” for all designed interfaces.   2. Micro-Interactions and Animations By far the most popular and therefore the best representation of a successful micro-interaction is Facebook’s “like” button.   Well, it looks like in 2017 designers will strive to come up with many more interactive forms of visuals, challenging their creativity to add the fun factor to them, too, so that they should: inform and engage and entertain at the same time.    Users feel „important” for a certain feedback is asked from them and they get to visualize what will happen if they click a certain button, if they perform a certain action.   Interaction is key in 2017’s web design and if you add creativity and fun, as well, then you’ve got yourself a magic formula!   3. Illustrations UI design has been about authenticity (“template web design” has been forgotten long, long time ago) this year and it will surely be about authenticity even more in 2017! About authenticity and personality, as well!   Even more than photography, illustrations allow you and your team to get creative and to enjoy unlimited freedom when you’re trying to present your brand’s uniqueness through storytelling.   Go for doodle-like illustrations if you want to portray a fun, playful brand or for line-based illustrations if you want to project a more sophisticated, professional look for your company.   4. Gradients and Vivid Colors Ok, how about flat design and muted colors? Been there, done that, it’s time to move along and to experiment!    What does this mean? It means that if you want to infuse some personality and dynamism into your UI design in 2017, you’d better get bold and go for vibrant color palettes and gradients.   Warning! Make sure that the vivid colors that you’ll opt for compliment and highlight your content. That you don’t sabotage yourself by choosing a color palette that goes against your content!   5. Parallax Since we’ve already forecast the trend of the „new”, modern magazines-specific layout, parallax is the perfect mechanic to pair it with!   The effect where the foreground moves at a faster rate than the background creates the impression of dynamism and of a fluid flowing content that both we and users are addicted to.   If you compliment it with text and imagery and with that non-traditional type of layout we were just referring to, the effect of fluidity is guaranteed!   Still, be cautious! If you’re not prudent, parallax can tire your users’ eyes!   6. Typography Bid farewell to once so cutting-edge, now „dusty” sans-serifs fonts and say „hello!” to the new big, bold, artsy looking fonts!   In 2017 you’ll get to challenge your creativity not just to put together illustrations, eye-catching minimalist layouts and „humanized”, fun-filled micro-interactions. You’ll get to create your own statement „look at me” typefaces, too, thus adding even more personality to your content!   Remember! You can craft uniqueness by simply putting big, beautiful fonts into the center of your stage!   7. Eye-Catching, Full-Screen Video It’s true that it’s no longer a breakthrough trend, but immersive, visually-appealing videos will become even more prevalent in 2017!   Again, as we’ve already mentioned, the human eye gets (vision more than any other human sense) constantly stimulated through dynamic, storytelling videos. They catch attention, they engage and if you pair them with eye-pleasing typography you get: a match made in heaven!   8. Scrolling Down and Long Content And here’s another not-that-new-anymore trend that will continue to grow in the year to come, too: continuous scrolling!   Why is it that this type of viewing has got so popular is pretty obvious: users get to „digest” long content in a fluid, less-disruptive motion.   What’s truly interesting is that it has become more and more popular for larger screened devices, too. That’s right, those old strict demarcation lines between mobile and desktop devices type of design have become more and more blurry.    Expect to see more and more websites featuring this type of mechanic on desktop devices, too.   Big plus! Continuous scrolling down is a so very versatile mechanic, since it works great on landing pages, on news stories, long-form copy and, again, on all devices, too!    9. Breaking the Grid Since we’ve already stressed out that dynamic layout is going to be a big trend in 2017, we couldn’t possibly have left this related forecast out: UI designers will be breaking the rigid grid!   Feel free to experiment, in the name of fluidity and dynamics! Play with focal points, layering, motion and depth, since your UI design’s potential will no longer get limited by a grid.   Be cautious though!  Never ever should you put form ahead of function! Know your limits, when you’re experimenting breaking from the grid’s tradition, lest you should come up with a UI design less intuitive and rather confusing for your user. You definitely don’t want that!   10. Cards-Based Design Told you there’s going to be little (close to none) „borders” left between desktop and mobile devices design. Card-based design is just one eloquent example, a trend that will grow more and more influential in 2017!   Just think about, let’s say, Pinterest! It’s probably one of the best examples of engaging cards-based design. The secret behind its popularity: it enables designers to structure and display large bits of data on a screen at a single click/tap/scroll.    Not only that you get to organize your information so that it should be easy-to-dig-through for your users, but you can customize your cards, too!    How do you prefer them? Do you want them to spin, to flip or to stack maybe?     And now we’ve reached the end of our list of „premonitions” when it comes to 2017’s trends in UI design.   Which one/s of them do you find more „likely to turn into a big hit”, which one/s of them do you consider to be outdated already and what other predictions, that we haven’t added to our list, can you share with us?  ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Nov 17'2016
Here Is How You Create Drupal 8 Comments Programmatically
Since flexibility’s already one of Drupal’s emblematic features, it was about time they did something about their quite rudimentary commenting system, right? Well, get ready to embrace the upgraded Drupal 8 comments, which are far more than just some basic settings in a node type.   So, What Makes the Drupal 8 Comments far More Tempting?   1. They’re set up as fields That’s right, comments are no longer fieldable, full-featured entities. They’re still entities but set up as fields. What’s in this for you? You get to choose where exactly on the page your comments will get displayed and you’re no longer restricted to add them to content only (now they can practically “show up” anywhere the fields can)   2. Comments have their own fields Can you believe this! Not only that they’re set up as fields in Drupal 8, but you can also add a set of fields to each comment.   3. They’re of several types Now, this is just a big step ahead of the standard, one-type-only comments in Drupal 7!   For instance, now you can add comments to taxonomy terms, to users, blocks, contact messages, content and even to… other comments.   Just imagine: you’re the admin of a social networking site! You can leave private notes to your users, they, as well, can leave their own private suggestions for you, while users can also leave comments on your public-facing website, too.   Here’s another quick example of Drupal 8 commenting system’s flexibility: if you want to add comments to a content type you simply add a field “Comments” on the “Manage Fields” page and voila: there’s your comments field!   Still, when it comes to this new upgrade in Drupal’s commenting system, we must be fair and point out an issue that still needs improvement: in Drupal 8 multiple types of comments don’t come with multiple individual permissions, as well. This means that anyone who’s granted permission to post a certain type of comment can practically post any type of comment on the website.   4. Comments have their own area now  You get to scroll through the “Unapproved Comments” and the “Published Comments” lists.    5. The “Recent Comments” block is in Views  Remember how frustrating it was realizing that you could not edit your “recent comments in” D7? Things have changed now: the “recent comments” block has been moved to “Views” in Drupal 8 and is available by default.   And Here’s How You Can Create Your Comments in Drupal 8 Basically, the whole process comes down to 2 major steps:   You create a comment entity in code.   Then you save it.   Here’s how the code will/should look like:   // To create a new comment entity, we'll need `use` (import) the Comment class. use Drupal\comment\Entity\Comment;   // The function name doesn't matter. Just put the the function body where you need it. function my_modules_function_or_method() {     // First, we need to create an array of field values for the comment.   $values = [       // These values are for the entity that you're creating the comment for, not the comment itself.     'entity_type' => 'node',            // required.     'entity_id'   => 42,                // required.     'field_name'  => 'comment',         // required.       // The user id of the comment's 'author'. Use 0 for the anonymous user.     'uid' => 0,                         // required.       // These values are for the comment itself.     'comment_type' => 'comment',        // required.     'subject' => 'My Awesome Comment',  // required.     'comment_body' => $body,            // optional.       // Whether the comment is 'approved' or not.     'status' => 1,                      // optional. Defaults to 0.   ];     // This will create an actual comment entity out of our field values.   $comment = Comment::create($values);     // Last, we actually need to save the comment to the database.   $comment->save(); }   Now let’s have a closer look at each one of these fields:   entity_type: it’s the entity that you attach your comment to (a node, for instance)   entity_id: it’s the id that you’ll attach the comment to (it would have to be a nid in case it’s a node that you’ll attach it to)   field_name: this field is the one for the entity that you’re attaching your comment to   Practically, what all these 3 first fields do is let Drupal know what entity it should attach your comment to. This whole “flexibility” laid at your feet, that you get to juggle with multiple comment fields of the same entity and the fact that those comments’ fields can use multiple types of comments, themselves, is just part of the upgrades added to the commenting system.   uid: informs Drupal which user wrote a specific comment   comment_type: the type of comment you want to create (you know, who’ve already talked about how in Drupal 8 you have several types of comments to juggle with). The default comment will be just comment   subject: just like a node comes with a title field, so does a comment come with a “subject field” in Drupal 8   comment_body: is provided by default and you can remove it, just like you can remove any other one of the fields   status: if you don’t want, as admin, to be asked to approve each comment before it goes live, set it to 1   field_foodbar: although it does not show in the above example of code, we still wanted to show you that you’re free to add custom fields if you want to. Simply use the field’s machine name and give it a default value.    So, what do you think about Drupal’s new commenting system?   Do you find the improvements made to the way you can create comments to be a big step ahead, contributing to Drupal’s overall flexibility or do you consider that there are many other possible upgrades (feel free to name them) that its developers should have focused on? ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Nov 16'2016
Is SEO Still Relevant? Why? And What Is The Importance of SEO for Your Own Website?
                   A pretty suggestive analogy, isn't it?   With all those voices, getting more and more strident, claiming that “SEO is dead” and with the major “seismic waves” shaking the digital world (that the rise of the social media optimization trends have caused), you might ask yourself: what's the importance of SEO nowadays?    Well, allow us to:   assure you that SEO is far from being dead inform you that SEO is in fact evolving into its better version, adapting itself to all the new challenges of the digital world   Here are just some of the arguments that we've put together to help you "stengthen your faith" in SEO:    IT'S YOUR ONLINE STORE/WEBSITE THAT YOUR CUSTUMOERS WILL STEP IN FIRST   Before welcoming your potential customer into your physical store, you need to welcome him/her into your online store.    It's here that he'll be looking for reviews that would eventually influence his final decision, it's here that he/she will make first contact with your products (with their more or less eye-pleasing photos and with their more or less relevant and creatively-written, engaging descriptions, too).    OK, so you can't actually welcome your online customer with a smile on your face (you can't be online 24/7 and you might just overwork a face muscle if you stuck a warm, welcoming smile on your face for too long), but you can make him/her at least sense it. How?   A user-friendly, easy to navigate-through website is key (eye-pleasing colors, easy to read content.) A quickly loading website A lack of annoying pop-ups and ads An amazing user experience, overall, is the key to success   Needless to add that all these common sense SEO-specific techniques will rank your website higher in search engines results.   For your customer it will be pretty much like in this analogy that we've come up with: shopping in a store placed close to the main entrance of a shopping mall, compared to “enjoying” a shopping experience in a store as hard to find as a clue in a hidden object game.   BOOST YOUR BUSINESS CREDIBILITY   Although almighty Facebook might have, in your opinion, eroded some of almighty Google's authority, the later still remains The One who bestows authority upon websites (and therefore businesses).    So, if, due to your SEO endeavors, your website shows up in top 3 websites that your future visitor sees the moment he/she types his specific words into the search box and, moreover, if it keeps getting listed in that top each time each he types in other words related to his searches, as well, than he'll (even if many times unconsciously) draw the conclusion that: if Google picked your website and granted it the honor of being listed among the first ones in his search list... well... then it must be worth it.    Take the search engines as the ultimate warrant with an authoritarian voice that can empower your business with credibility before your future visitors/potential customers.   ENHANCE YOUR BUSINESS BRAND VISIBILITY   Here's a short definition of the “new” type of SEO: “it’s changed so drastically that people really need to learn to think of it as less of a marketing tactic, and more of a branding play.”  (Sam McRoberts, CEO of VUDU Marketing)   So, if nowadays SEO it's less about striving to stuff your website with keywords and irrelevant backlinks, so that Google should push you ahead of your competition's website, but about brand visibility, about a far more refined and nonetheless challenging version of SEO, it's more than obvious that: if your target users keep reading your brand's name, over and over again, as they search for their needed services or products online, automatically brand awareness is being build thanks to SEO.   It's the whole SEO strategy, integrated into the bigger picture of your online marketing plan, that actually makes this “miracle” possible: that your customer keeps bumping into your website each time they look for their desired products/services.   ATTRACT TRAFFIC   So, the “new SEO” is all about user-experience, about branding, about engaging content, but even so it still revolves around the same mighty goal: attracting traffic to your website.    The more visitors come in, the more chances you get to actually turn their visits into     sales/subscriptions.    And yet, the real beauty of SEO is not even mere traffic at all, but the qualified leads that this traffic is made of.    Just think about it:   you're not annoying your customers off by interrupting their favorite TV shows with your TV commercial you're not distracting (and annoying them again) your target clients with a flashy newspaper ad as they're trying to read a piece of news Your visitors already have a certain need/interest (“sort of interest” is gold, compared to none) in the services/product that your provide so convincing them that you're the best provider is already a half-won battle.    GAIN PRICELESS INSIGHT INTO YOUR CUSTOMER'S PROFILE   This is gold!    Just think about it: you don't (again”) have to annoy your customer with phone or face to face surveys for collecting valuable data regarding him/her.   Upgrade your website with Google Analytics and then you can just “dive” into a “sea” of highly valuable data helping you put together your users' profile: where are they located, at what time of the day do they access your website, what devices do they use, what products to they prefer, how much time do they spend on specific pages on your site etc.   Then, it's totally up to you how you turn all that data into fuel for your website.    IN CONCLUSION   The importance of SEO hasn't been undermined by the rise of the social media optimization, it has simply adapted to the new challenges that social media faced it with:   it's quality content-focused  it's user experience-determined it's brand awareness-driven   Good old SEO practices (such as non-overloading your websites with keywords and backlinks, having authoritative voices in your field linking to your website, owing a website that doesn't take ages to load and which is both easy to navigate through etc.) are more relevant than ever.   People will keep going online to book/buy/subscribe to certain services/products whether they'll be using their PCs or their mobile devices.   Wouldn't you want to be there, in the first row, greeting and welcoming them to your website rather than throwing all your hard work to trash (by focusing exclusively on social media marketing) and so giving the chance to your competitors to welcome them to their own websites?  ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Nov 15'2016
How to Manage Your Drupal 8 Configuration Workflow with Git: A 4-Step Guide
  Wouldn't you agree that managing configuration is vital in the life-cycle of a multi-person project? Well, its importance used to be, until recently, proportional to its main dreaded feature, that of being a major nuisance for web development teams: highly important configuration settings were missing, leading to major inconsistencies when it came to configuration handling, commits, made by the members of the team, resulting in conflicts etc.   Have no fear, Drupal 8 Configuration Management System Is Here!   That's right, Drupal's latest version comes to relieve your team of all the stress that parallel configuring actions might lead to. Upgraded with tempting configuration management tools, it allows developers to export/import all the configuration settings they will have performed to/from code.   Moreover (and this is the very best part of Drupal 8 configuration management system), Git allows the members of your team to put configuration under version control, thus keeping track of it (the ultimate goal of any configuration management endeavor, after all!).    What does this mean?    1. that you'll have a history of all configuration changes   2. that you can compare different configuration states   Setup   Do you already have a a development version Drupal 8 installed on your system? Is Drush available there, as well?    Well, before you go any further we have a "warning”/piece of advice for you:   Make sure not to put the files/folders that came with Drupal specific setup (e.g. sites/default/settings.php, sites/default/files/, sites/default/files/css/ etc.) into your repository! How to avoid that? Just make a clone of the "example.gitignore" file (that you get with Drupal) and place it in .gitignore, then adjust it  to your website's specific needs, thus keeping the files directory and setting.php unexposed to the risk of getting versioned.   Initiate The New Repository   Once you've downloaded your Drupal 8 version, simply initialize and register a new repository along with it:   $ git init   $ git add .   $ git commit -m "Initial Commit: Drupal 8.x Code base"     Great! Now consider this: Drupal 8 configuration management system only works on distinct instances of the same website! So, what solution do you have? You simply clone it: import the database of the website to be cloned in the other environment!   Next,  add your remote repository clone URL:    $ git remote add origin REMOTE_CLONE_URL   Push the commit up to GitHub:    $ git push -u origin master     ... and voila: you have your new functional Drupal 8 website!     Now let's start “playing” with the Configuration Management System that Drupal 8's developers "spoil" us with, easing our work by giving us full control over all the changes we (along with out teammates) will apply to our site later on during its development process!   Go ahead and export your configuration   After you've set up the needed configuration, it's time to export it. How? Use the command line for exporting the site configuration to a new folder (config/site):    $ mkdir config   $ drush config-export --destination=config/site   Next, commit and push the configuration to the repository.   There, you've just created your own "safe", the one that stores priceless website information!   Practically, you now have a valuable screenshot of how your website looked like when you installed it. From now on, dare and perform any configuration you'd like, knowing that at any time you can just roll back your site to precisely this state: the one right after its installation!      Time To Import Your Configuration   For importing your configuration from the config/site, rely on this "powerful" command:   # Import the configuration from the repository   $ drush config-import --source=config/site     Why powerful? Because it instantly overwrites the current configuration!      It's after you've exported your configuration that you can merge it with those of other members of your web development team:   add and commit the configuration to Git use Git pull, then focus on fixing any commits conflicts that might arise   At this point, we have another warning/helpful piece of advice for you: don't rely exclusively on Git for the configuration's merging part. Be sure to check whether the result of the merge is correct, whether it makes sense!     If everything will have gone smoothly with your configuration's importing process, you can go ahead and push it to the remote repository.      Valuable Pieces of Advice   1. Always export configuration first and pull the configuration changes run by your collaborators secondly! Why? Because Git doesn't recognize the changes will have have applied to your database until you actually export them!   2. Always import first, push secondly! This means that it's always safe to import the configuration and only then to push it to the remote repository, avoiding the risk of breaking the site (in case you're dealing with a broken configuration)   3. Accompany each import with a database dump, thus granting your team a backup in case anything goes wrong   4. Deal with this thought: you can't rely on Git for everything! Don't loosen your vigilance, especially when you're a member of a larger team working on the same project! ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Nov 14'2016
Get An Insight Into The Page Request Handling Mechanism in Drupal
  If you really want to evolve from a web developer skillful enough to put together a functional “puzzle” out of Drupal's core modules, to one custom-making his new modules, then you need to take a close look at the whole process behind this apparently simple sequence: “you hit an URL, then (as if by magic) the required page instantly gets loaded”.   So, ready to take a sneak peek “behind the curtains”? If yes, then allow us to be your guide!     1. Drupal Separates The Internal Path from the Domain Name   Once the server gets the message, once the URL is sent, Drupal focuses on the internal path and on it only. Therefore, it just “cuts it off” from the URL.   2. Then Drupal Calls Index.php   Take the index.php as some sort of a “control tower” (you can find it in the root directory of the Drupal install), the one that processes all the incoming requests.    Now, let's have a closer look! Index.php is made of 4 lines, each one of them performing a certain function:   define('DRUPAL_ROOT', getcwd(): the very first line that runs once Drupal gets a page request require_once DRUPAL_ROOT . '/includes/bootstrap.inc': its role is that of loading  bootstrap.inc in the includes/subdirectory.bootstrap.inc drupal_bootstrap(DRUPAL_BOOTSTRAP_FULL): it loads pretty much everything: the modules and functions, the needed data into the memory... menu_execute_active_handler(): as the name says it, it's the one actually handling the page request, delivering the final web page to the end user    3. Now Drupal Goes Through the Bootstrap Process   This is where the “major loading” happens: it is now that Drupal loads the libraries, initializes the database, sets the right sessions...    The bootstrap process a self-start one, requiring no input, no intervention from you, the website's “creator”, and yet... you can't possibly not know what happens during this whole process running on its own!   How about going rapidly through all the 8 phases of this highly complex bootstrapping process?   1. DRUPAL_BOOTSTRAP_CONFIGURATION: Drupal calls upon it wherever it encounters php errors or exceptions. If so, then an error handling code is prepared, settings.php gets loaded, configuration gets initialized...   2. DRUPAL_BOOTSTRAP_PAGE_CACHE: it checks whether the IP is blocked or not, whether the cache is enabled or not in order to serve the page from the cache   3. DRUPAL_BOOTSTRAP_DATABASE: it loads the database and checks whether any $databases array has been defined. If no, then it redirects to install.php   4. DRUPAL_BOOTSTRAP_VARIABLES: it loads the variables from the database variables table, then it overwrites the ones defined in settings.php, while loading all the other modules needed during this process      5. DRUPAL_BOOTSTRAP_SESSION: it initializes the session handlers. There are several custom session handlers in Drupal:   _drupal_session_open() and_drupal_session_close(): to open and close a connection _drupal_session_read(): gets the session from the sessions table _drupal_session_write(): checks whether the session has been updated and writes a new one to the databse _drupal_session_destroy(): it deletes cookies and cleans up a specific session _drupal_session_garbage_collection(): it deletes the outdated sessions   6. DRUPAL_BOOTSTRAP_PAGE_HEADER: it practically sets up the HTTP header   7.  DRUPAL_BOOTSTRAP_LANGUAGE: called upon only for multilingual websites, it initializes the right language for the future web page   8. DRUPAL_BOOTSTRAP_FULL: the very final step, where all the modules are enabled and hook_init() is invoked     4. Drupal's Menu System Steps In   From all of Drupal's modules, it's the menu system that “guides” the internal path to a callback function.   PATH... MODULE... MENU SYSTEM... CALLBACK FUNCTION... LOAD CONTENT   5. Finally, It's the Theme System That Styles the Requested Page   Being more than just a theme (since it's a mix of theme functions and templates), the theme system is the one “dictating” the content/ the web page's final look.    CONTENT... THEME SYSTEM (CSS, HTML, JS etc.)... BROWSER   Of course that each process of this whole page request handling mechanism in Drupal requires a lot more in-depth knowledge, but this is pretty much the overall mental scheme that each developer should know for:   1. boosting his self-confidence with powerful knowledge   2. being able to come up with his own future custom modules       ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Nov 11'2016
How Do You Create a Highly Persuasive Web Design? 4 User Psychology Principles to Apply
  How self-absorbed are you?    You don't need to answer that, for we all know that each web designer secretly shelters its own overdose of pride (towards his own creativity, his thirst for innovation and so on)... Still, if you're determined to make it in this user-centered digital world, you'd better lose some of that "I burst creativity and I “exhale” innovation and the user can't possibly not admire my... works of art!"   User psychology principles, combined with your own creativity, result in... powerful web design that actually influences (and which is much more than aesthetically pleasing). Curious now to discover how your site users' brains actually work?     The Human Brain Craves Order    Chaos on your website might look like some sort of a... statement to you, but beware of the temptation of getting too... innovative. You'll then risk to come up with a web design lacking:   hierarchy consistency familiar web design patterns (e.g hamburger menu, account registration, continuous stroll, FAQ, breadcrumbs etc.)   In a few words, make it easy for your user to surf through your interface with the help of a logical hierarchy.    Also, be sure to remain consistent with the theme and with the design patterns that you've settled for throughout your website.   One more thing: reward your visitor through recognition. Make him feel safe and sort of... proud of himself by placing:   your contact information where he's used to find it, based on his previous experiences the call to action button, as well, where he'd normally find it the logo on top, as he's used to seeing it an so on...     Speaking of the “recognition pattern”, what better examples could you think of other than:   Google, that guides our searches based on our browsing history and past searches  Amazon, that guides us in our future selections based on our previous purchases      Cement this pattern of recognition in your user-friendly interface!      Still, The Human Brain Can “Digest” a Certain Dose of Surprise   … but only if you're really carefully how you dosage it and how you present it to him.   What does this mean? It means that yes, of course that you're allowed to think outside the box, to get innovative, but you get to break the familiar patterns if and only if:   You've already asked yourself why you're breaking up the standard pattern   You're confident that your new one is better (and not just different)   You're sure that it's intuitive enough for your user (that it triggers surprise and not just frustration)   The safest way to... incorporate innovation into your web design is by placing the new pattern where the user doesn't expect it to be and by rewarding him, as well (most important), once he will have discovered it.    You'll thus influence him to embrace the new method of interaction!     The Human Brain Craves... Trustworthiness   User psychology-centered web design revolves around this common principle after all: first you do all the work it takes for winning your customer's trust and only then you can actually expect him to... reward you (by placing an order, by subscribing to your newsletter you name it)   So, is your website trustworthy? You know how to build appealing websites, but do you know how to upgrade them so that they convey trust as well?   Familiar design elements (e.g. menu at the top) Visible page headings and titles Detailed contact information at the bottom of the website Consistency in design (e.g using the colors in your logo throughout the entire website, even if just for links or for small icons) Placing your logo throughout your website (thus reinforcing branding and... building a sense of recall in your user's brain) “Less is more”, when it comes to content and... only easy-to-digest, perfectly structured content is king (“concise” is the golden word in the... user-centered online world)     The Human Brain Reacts to Colors   And there's a whole study pointing out each color's array of specific emotions/reactions (that they trigger in the user's brain).   Here are just some of the main color's characteristics, according to user psychology principles applied to web design:   Red: it conveys a state of emergency (e.g. Chinese restaurants using red to urge their future customers to... satisfy heir hunger) and alert (see it CNN's news alerts or where it's used to point out sales mark downs) Green: you won't find a more... easily to be processed color than green, nor one conveying the same state of optimism. In a few words: when it doubt... go for green! Being easily associated with nature, it's heavily used for beauty products websites. Blue: it makes the best choice when the main emotion you want to convey to your target audience is... trust. Rely on calm, cool shades of blue when you want to build a website on a solid foundation of trustworthiness, when you want to gain loyalty from your users (giants like Facebook and Twitter have and also lots of banks are using it on their websites). So, blue is trust and openness! Purple: go with the “royal” color if it's a message of... high-brow type of brand/services/products that you want to convey to your users. Many beauty and retail websites are “painted in purple” for this color's calming and soothing effect on the users. White: what's more inviting than white? It helps you put together a clean, pure design, one showcasing certain elements of your work and where do you add that there's much fuss about the almighty “white space”. What does it mean? It means that you should design with these necessary white spaces in mind (spaces on the website with no text or imagery), some “breaths of fresh air” for your user's eyes. Black: it's strong and powerful, but on the other hand... emotionless. Used mostly for luxury products retailers, it can help you trigger the right emotions that you want to if... used wisely (balance is key, after all, no matter what colors you choose) Grey: so modern and professional, yet lacking personality, some might say.  Pink: when you say “pink” you automatically say “feminine”, “fun” and “youthful”. So, you pretty much got the picture which should be your target market when you use lively or soft shades of pink!   How Does User Psychology Dictate Layout, Typography and Content?   Layout   We've already strengthened the importance of the “white space” concept, but we're going to... put it into the spotlight once again: use “comfort zones” in your layout (white zones), where your visitor can... rest his/her eyes and his brain if you want to guarantee him a pleasant experience on your website.   Typography   When it comes to fonts (and we do thank CSS3 for giving us access to a brand new world of... friendly fonts), they still divide into 2 major categories, each one of them addressing 2 types of users, 2 types of fields of activity:   Serif fonts: the ones conveying professionalism, traditionalism and importance (used on educational websites, newspaper websites...) San serif fonts: preferred by... modern brands, on the cutting edge side (e.g. Google and Apple) Also, balanced spacing is key (put enough space between your letters/paragraphs so that your text doesn't look too dense and so that it shouldn't convey a certain flightiness, either)   Content   Basically, it all revolves around structuring your content in order to be easy to be digested...     Now how about turning this empowering user psychology knowledge into the driving force behind your own future persuasive web designs? ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Nov 09'2016
Not All Content Is King in Drupal 8: Mobile, Global Content Is
  Can you handle all the ... power that Drupal 8 is about to lay in your very hands, whether you're a developer, a marketer/content editor or a user/end-user? Will you take the dare to set yourself free from the desktop and from any regional or language limitations and to step into the... future?     If you answered “No”, then... good luck with implementing your digital “vision”, you'll need it!   But if you've answered “I'm not sure” or “what does this fancy utopia even mean?”, you'll definitely want to read the following true facts about Drupal 8.   Empower yourself with helpful information about what is described as “the world’s leading digital experience platform that helps you manage and deliver web content across channels and devices."     Shifting to a Mobile First Mentality   “If I were to start Drupal from scratch today, I'd build it for mobile experiences first and desktop experience second”, Dries Buytaert.   Need we add more to this suggestive quote?   We're not going to beat around the bush stating the obvious (that users have started to rely more on their mobile devices for... getting themselves informed, entertained or for buying/booking certain goods/services).   Instead, what we'd like to point out to you is precisely those upgrades that the visionary team behind Drupal 8 have upgraded it with:   its was conceived primarily for mobile devices (and only secondarily for desktops), therefore its structurally made to support responsive design it sets itself apart from the (now) rudimentary belief of  “one size fits all” it comes upgraded with responsive image support (pictures adapt automatically to any device's specific viewport size, without affecting the page's loading time) it turns managing content on mobile devices into a highly intuitive process (its admin has been significantly adapted for mobile) it empowers site builders with new responsive themes, mobile-adapted ones, thus enabling them to get... creative and craft great Drupal 8 websites that look appealing on mobile devices       Drupal 8 Encourages You to Go... Global    In other words, Drupal 8 supports your “taking over the world” vision (only as a visionary entrepreneur of the digital era, of course...).   Since, now you should start envisioning user-friendliness as “user friendliness on a global scale”, what Drupal 8 does is that it... empowers you (sorry, we couldn't find a more appropriate word to describe Drupal 8's main... “mission”) with all the cool tools you'll need for going... international:   Content Translation module: it helps you communicate in your users' own languages, therefore to easily translate your site' content Interface Translation module: it helps you, as a site developer, by giving you the chance to... build sites in your own language (you get to actually translate the blocks, the toolbars, the menus etc.) Language module: it... empowers you (there, we did it again!) to determine specific languages (that your site will support) for your target visitors     Usability+Accessibility= A New Winner in the Drupal vs Wordpress Showdown   We didn't find it necessary to add customization to the above formula, for this is already THE feature (along with the related flexibility) that Drupal has become famous for among developers belonging to both teams (the Drupal enthusiasts and the Wordpress fans for life).     Now let's sum it up:    Drupal 8 websites/apps can be accessed anywhere on the globe    Drupal 8 websites/apps can be accessed on practically any type of device      OK, so we've cleared the accessibility issue out!   But what about usability, the ultimate goal that both Drupalers and Wordpress enthusiasts are craving for while their developers are striving to reach?   Let us check this ultimate goal off the list, as well:   Content Editors/Marketers Get More Power Than Ever   That's right, Drupal 8 is not just about easing the developers' work or about putting the user and the end user into the spotlight. It's also about empowering content marketers.   In this respect, here's how Drupal 8 will “lighten” up your work life, if you're a content marketer:   the integrated WYSIWYG editor, easing content authoring the on-page editor better preview uploading images with drag and drop modules (more of them) for monitoring your SEO-oriented activity  easy to integrate YOAST and Google Analytics   But What is in it for Drupal Website Developers?    Still, if Drupal 8 is focused on the end user more than all the previous Drupal versions and if it invests content marketers with so much power, it doesn't mean that... there's nothing in it for website builders, too.    We've kept “the best” for last, so to say...   So, if you're a Drupal website developer (or willing to become one), here's how Drupal 8's own visionary developers have decided to ease your work:   Rest API's PHP7 and we all know that this is a huge step forward, turning Drupal 8 into one of the most dynamic content management platforms out there You get to use it as a data source (you get to post data from the front end and output content as XML or JSON Hypertext Application Language JavaScript Automated Testing Customization is still... king with Drupal 8, too: you get to customize your admin tools, lists, views, determine the way your data gets displayed (and all that without having to write code) More fields for you to better structure your content     Now that Drupal 8 empowers you with accessibility, usability, mobile-first mentality and global-ready vision, all you need to bring in to the table is... your own share of innovation, creativity and... boldness and you can go ahead and craft the digital experiences of the future! ... 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Adrian Ababei / Nov 08'2016