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IoT in Mobile App Development: 4 Key Benefits You Can Reap (and 3 Challenges to Consider)
How are you planning to get your share of the pie? Where the "pie" is made of all those opportunities that IoT in mobile app development brings. But what are those opportunities translated into benefits more precisely? Why would you want to build an application that completes a network of IoT devices? And how will IoT change the way mobile applications get developed in 2020?   Source: Gartner.com Are there any challenges and risks to implementing this technology into your mobile apps that you should... prepare for? Now, let's see:   what are the most... irresistible benefits to developing your mobile solution for the IoT what are the best IoT mobile app development tools to put on your shortlist what's a common example of an IoT-enabled mobile app what kind of risks you face when you integrate a mobile application with IoT   1. Why Would You Want to Integrate IoT into Your Mobile Apps?  Why would you be interested in making your mobile apps IoT-friendly this year? How will it benefit you?   1.1. Users Get Hooked on Your IoT App: It's "Too" Convenient And the "less human effort" factor is the main reason why you'd want to integrate mobile apps with IoT. For it all bubbles up to the user experience that you'll provide: Your mobile app will be the "brain" of the whole network of interconnected devices, fridges, air conditioners, TVs, etc. Installed on the user's smartphone or smartwatch, it'll help him/her to cut down on the effort needed to... check the security cameras, switch off the light, turn on the AC and so on.   1.2. You Boost Your Team's Productivity By bringing IoT in mobile app development, you bring more... productivity in your workplace. An IoT-enabled mobile app will:   automate your business processes and specific in-house operations streamline your software products' development lifecycles empower your team to manage multiple tasks simultaneously provide you with real-time measurement and data analysis In short: with their repetitive tasks automated, your team gets to work on more complex, innovation-focused tasks.    1.3. You Get Actionable Insights into Your Users' Engagement Behavior Just imagine: an entire network of appliances, devices, gadgets, and servers exchanging data. And your IoT mobile app collecting ALL that data. Image by Tumisu from Pixabay You'll get some valuable insights into your users' needs, don't you think? Real-time information that you can leverage to:   simplify your business process make prompt and relevant adjustments to the user experience you provide   1.4. You Engage Users with A Highly Interactive Mobile App And interactivity is the shortest path to... higher engagement. Integrating IoT into your mobile app will make it not only interactive but highly customizable, as well.    It opens up a huge "playground" for your team, where they can test and implement various features and IoT-based functionalities. Where they get as creative and daring as they want with their customization work. 2. A Common Example of an IoT Mobile App Would Be... The one installed on a guest's IoT-enabled smartphone, that enables him to open his hotel room. No key or access card needed to... enter the room he booked. And this is but one of the top IoT app development trends to look forward in 2020.  Here are some more types of IoT apps that'll steal the spotlight this year:   smart warehousing apps workforce management apps healthcare apps blockchain apps AI & Big Data apps 3. What's The Best IoT Platform for Mobile App? Let's say that you've decided to incorporate this technology into your next mobile app: What IoT mobile app development tools should you check out first? What are your best options?   Here's a top 3 for you:   Xively: it ships with a conveniently rich collection of IoT features to help you get you started Android Ubidots: connect your Android account to Ubidots and just push your mobile app to multiple devices Thingworx: it provides you with a heavy load of complex tools to market your app with 4. IoT in Mobile App Development: Challenges and Concerns "But are there any?" There are. So, make sure you ponder on them before you rush to... reap the benefits and seize the opportunities of integrating IoT in your mobile apps.   4.1. A Huge Shift in the Concept of "Data Ownership" The risks concerning data security are head of the list: How much of your/ your customers' data privacy would you trade to access the benefits of IoT?   Because: automating your team's redundant tasks granting your users the highest level of convenience .. does come with a "price tag" on. The cost is... data. Data stored in cloud and unrestricted control over consumer data...   4.2. Distributed Computing Performances ...compared to today's technology. You might want to take this aspect into consideration, as well, before you just jump on the IoT in mobile app development trend.   4.3. The Need to Restructure Your Operating Procedures from the Ground Up Also, the way information is being transferred and your existing protocols.   The END!     Now, comparing the opportunities to the challenges, would you consider integrating IoT into your mobile apps this year?  Image by Niran Kasri from Pixabay ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jan 30'2020
OPTASY Scores Another Perfect 5-Star Review on Clutch and Remains One the Top Web Developers in Canada
Unfortunately for many tech enthusiasts, the vast majority of web developers in Canada currently trying to implement AI, Blockchain, or IoT want them for their novelty rather than for the genuine purposes they can serve. So what happens when you do have a creative use for one of these technologies?  For many development houses, the choice between investing in emerging technology capability or staying on top of the vast set of platforms users choose from is an easy one — more platforms means more clients, and you can usually find a way to fill most functions using traditional technologies. At OPTASY, however, we knew we wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible. By focusing on Drupal development, we have been able to become leaders in our field, enabling our clients to take control of far more powerful technologies than have ever before been available.   That attitude, combined with our attention to detail and customer service, has landed us a series of excellent reviews on Clutch.co, placing us in the top 10 web developers in all of Canada. Clutch promotes leading agencies by collecting verified, unbiased feedback on vendors and displaying it in the form of written ratings and reviews. In one of our most recent projects, we built the Drupal 8 website of an equal opportunity community nonprofit. Our team worked hard to provide iterative design and development that incorporated all of the client’s feedback throughout the process. Their team was particularly impressed with our professionalism and openness to input. “We would definitely choose them in the future and recommend them to any individual looking for a website that leads to conversions and conveys a message in a smart format. They welcomed our feedback but also balanced our ideas with conversion principles. The site’s beautiful and performing exactly how we’d hoped it would.”  - Sean Kelly, Executive Director   Feedback like this from our valued clients demonstrates one of the biggest reasons we love what we do so much. Development may be our selling point, but building meaningful business relationships is what makes the world of tech go ‘round. We really appreciate the chance that Clutch provides to learn from our past engagements and reach potential future customers.  We are also featured highly on The Manifest, a platform that hosts industry-organized company rankings alongside business insights and articles explaining a variety of topics. On Visual Objects, customers have the chance to look through portfolio items to help inform their decisions, helping them to get a sense of what their project might look like with any particular team of web developers in Canada.  If you’re looking for a development partner to help make your business dreams come to life, check out our profile on Clutch or reach out to us! We’re always looking for exciting new partnerships to take on, and would love for the next one to be you.   Image by Tomislav Kaučić from Pixabay  ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jan 27'2020
How to Integrate AI into Your Drupal Website The... Easy Way: 7 Drupal 8 AI Modules at Hand
How do you take advantage of AI and get the most of Drupal's content management system? Are there any Drupal 8 AI modules and tools that you could incorporate into your website and... get the most of both worlds? The best of Drupal as a reliable content repository and of a:   chatbot virtual assistant or another type of conversational interface   Or maybe you want to implement AI to boost the various content workflows happening on your website:   content that needs to be served to various markets (and thus translated into... various languages) user-generated content that needs to follow a certain editorial guideline (e.g. "adding alternative text to images") content experiences that need to be tailored to each user's activity on your site   Nothing easier. There are at least 7 different modules in Drupal to help you inject AI capabilities into your website:   1. What Are the Biggest Advantages of Artificial Intelligence in Drupal? How does building AI integrations on top of your Drupal website translate into benefits? Strong, clear benefits... Well, it all bubbles up to the user experience and to your team's efficiency:   you create and deliver more personalized experiences for your website visitors you streamline and automate your team's content and marketing workflows  you get to boost your targeted marketing efforts you provide more engaging user experience, as well, incorporating smarter features into your Drupal site   2. Build a Drupal Chatbot Fast with 2 Drupal 8 AI Modules Thinking about delivering a more user-centric experience on your website? Then you must be wondering how you can implement an AI-powered conversational interface in Drupal, right? You'd then be using Drupal for front UI, content management, user admin... Source: Drupal Camp Pune It's simple:    There are 2 dedicated AI modules in Drupal that help you create a chatbot in no time:   2.1. Chatbot API    Let take this scenario:   You want your "Drupal headless" setup to share content across an entire ecosystem of services: Facebook bot, Dialogueflow, Amazon Echo... Yet, you dread the idea of writing custom code for every single chatbot/personal assistant in this ecosystem.   How do you streamline your content serving efforts? How can you write your code once and... have your content shared with all your target chatbots and? You install Chatbot API. It will intermediate the integration of all those services into your Drupal website. And it will ensure that data gets served across the whole network of chatbots.   2.2. Drupal Chatbot    Another useful module to use if you consider creating a chatbot on Drupal data. Here's how it works:   It enables you to set up a voice and text-based bot to interact with your website visitors. One that acts as a layer between Drupal and the NLP agent.   You get to choose the block where you want it enabled and to add various functionalities, as well: Latest Article Search, Latest Pages, Top Rated Pages...   3. Implement a Virtual Assistant with Decoupled Drupal Commerce What if you want to take the eCommerce experience on your online store to a new level? To turn it into a... conversational eCommerce experience? How? By integrating a Drupal virtual assistant into your website. Nothing easier:   You connect a bot to decoupled Drupal Commerce.   Bot Frameworks + Decoupled Drupal Commerce APIs + NLU = A Conversational Interface for your eCommerce website. Since Drupal:   puts a whole collection of APIs at your free disposal (being API-first)  provides you with the Commerce Cart API module to leverage   ... storing content (and product details) and interacting with shopping carts in Drupal Commerce becomes particularly easy. And here's how your Drupal Commerce-powered bot would work:   it will trigger "review cart" and "add to cart functionality" via message-based interactions it will unblock search and "explore the products" functionality by connecting itself to the Drupal Commerce APIs   4. Create Personalized Experiences with Drupal Machine Learning Personalization is the norm these days.  To serve content tailored to your customers' past activity (what they shared, what content they searched for...) and their profiles. And for doing it right, you need to incorporate machine learning techniques into your Drupal website. "Is it possible to do that?" Of course. And here are just 2 Drupal 8 AI modules that you can tap into for personalizing the web content experience that you provide your site visitors with:   4.1. Acquia Lift Connector  Take it as a convenient 2-in-1 tool at hand: customer data & content. This way, you get to streamline your content personalization efforts. To scale and share user-tailored experiences across an entire infrastructure of channels and devices. It'll "equip" your marketing campaign with all the powerful features you need: behavioral targeting, real-time audience segmentation, A/B testing... In a nutshell, what this module does is connect your Drupal site with the Acquia Lift personalization tool...   4.2. Azure Cognitive Services API   The go-to module if you consider "injecting" intelligent features — speech, facial and vision recognition, speech and language understanding — into your Drupal website or app. Your development team can just tap into the machine learning APIs exposed and... turn them into machine learning functionalities to be incorporated into your Drupal application. Source: Drupal.org It's a package of 4 different AI modules, in fact:   Face API Module Emotion Recognition API Module Computer Vision API Module Azure Text Analytics API Module   The last one, for instance, triggers advanced natural language processing on raw text. This translates into 3 key features: key phrase extraction, sentiment analysis, and language detection.   5. Streamline Your Workflows with 2 Drupal Intelligent Content Tools  One of the biggest advantages of artificial intelligence is that of streamlining (and automating) your in-house workflows. Your content and marketing ones... So, how do you inject "efficiency" into your Drupal content and marketing teams' various workflows? You integrate these 2 Drupal 8 AI modules into their work.   5.1. Automatic Alternative Text   What if you could implement AI capabilities into the process where users upload their own content? Just ponder on this scenario for a while:   You can include "Add alternative text images" into your set of editorial guidelines, but you can't expect users to follow them, as well, when they upload content, right?   And that's what you have the Automatic Alternative Text module for. Source: Drupal.org It describes the image that the user uploads. In one sentence. It generates more than one description for the same image, actually... Furthermore, it ships with features like:   detecting mature content identifying faces in a given image determining the prevailing colors   5.2. Cloudwords for Multilingual Drupal    Another one of those Drupal intelligent content tools that you should turbocharge your team's workflow with. Just put yourself into one of your marketers' shoes:   He/she has to deliver content (lots of it) to an entire ecosystem of markets, in various languages.   And delivering localized, consistent content experiences at a global scale does take plenty of resources... What this module does is automate the entire content delivery and management process:   Just select the piece(s) of content that you'll need to localize and let Cloudwords serve it at high speed, to all your target markets.   The END! And these are but 7 of the Drupal 8 AI modules at your disposal for injecting artificial intelligence capabilities into your website/app. Have you implemented any AI integrations in Drupal 8 so far? Any chatbots or maybe AI-powered tools for personalizing the content experience on your website? What other types of AI modules would you like to find in Drupal? Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash  ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jan 24'2020
The 5 Best Automation Testing Tools for Web Applications that You Could Use in 2020 (Powerful and Easy to Use)
You save time, you keep errors to a minimum, you free up mental real estate that you could then invest in other crucial tasks included in your app's development lifecycle, you... There's no point insisting on the benefits: automating your testing process is a life-changer. But how do you know what automation testing tools for web applications to evaluate first? Where to start? Which are the most effective ones?    Those that are conveniently feature-rich and easy to use, as well? That ship as bundles of powerful features and are so straightforward, helping you create test cases in no time?   Well, we've done our research and identified 5 automated software testing tools that meet most of your criteria:   to be open source to run in a variety of operating systems and browsers to be feature-rich to be easy to use    But First: Determine What Test Cases You Should Automate To put together an effective test automation strategy for web applications you need to be really strategic. Strategic about what parts of the process you should put on auto-pilot and where it would be best to test them, as well:   don't rush in to test everything in the GUI (like record and reply, for instance); GUI testing tools do come with some significant test maintenance costs, you know whenever possible, opt for unit testing instead of GUI testing load testing, repetitive tasks, tasks that run on multiple platforms and configurations, tests that need to be “fueled' with multiple data sets... these are just some of the cases that you should automate   1. Selenium, One of the Top Automation Testing Tools for Web Applications Selenium is the... “Swiss knife” type of automated web testing tool. It comes as a heavy package of libraries and tools. Moreover, you get to run it in pretty much any:   operating system browser automation testing framework programming language   In short: it's one of the most versatile automated software testing tools that you can get your hands on. The “de facto” standard in terms of open-source test automation tools, with a large community that you can rely on. Source: G2.com And with versatility comes power, since Selenium empowers you to come up with particularly complex browser-centered test scripts. You get to use them for:   regression testing exploratory testing quick reproduction of bugs   Cons of Using Selenium For there are also some drawbacks to using this automation testing tool on your web apps to keep in mind:   a certain maintenance overhead (maintaining your tests in Selenium is more expensive compared to unit testing, for instance) building libraries and frameworks to meet specific testing needs does call for above-the-average programming skills (time and effort, as well)    2. Watir A powerful tool for automating tests. A Ruby library in fact, that mimics the behavior of a user interacting with your web app. Why would you choose Watir over other free automation testing tools for web applications? Because:   it enables you to create tests that are easy to read and to maintain you can run it on your web app, irrespective of the languages that it is written on it supports data-driven testing from buttons to links, to forms and their responses, it's built to test all the elements of your web application you can leverage its powerful API handling to extend its capabilities you get to connect it to databases, turn your code into reusable libraries, read data files, export XML you get to combine manual browsing with Ruby commands  it supports cross-browser testing  it integrates with business-driven development tools: Cucumber, RSpec, Test/Unit   To sum up: Watir taps into the advantages of Ruby — reputed for its clear syntax — which makes it such a flexible testing tool to add to your... toolkit. Source: G2.com Cons of Using Watir   a relatively small community supporting it (when you compare it to Selenium) you need to pair it with other tools to use it to its full potential   3. TestComplete If a powerful, feature-rich automated web testing system is what you need, then TestComplete checks off all the “must-haves” on your list: From cross-browser to regression, to parallel testing, it provides you with all the capabilities that you expect from a robust automation system. 1500 +real test environments... That's the type of scalability that you get if you opt for this automated software testing. It's one of those automation testing tools for web applications that you get to use on your mobile and desktop apps, as well. For pretty much any type of automation task that you can think of... Source: G2.com Cons of Using TestComplete Some users have reported errors with object recognition during playback. So, you might want to keep that in mind. 4. Katalon Studio Easy to use and robust.  Source: G2.com What more could you ask from an automated UI testing tool than:   to be conveniently accessible to any type of tester, those with no programming background here included to ship with a whole set of powerful features   And speaking of those, here are just some of the capabilities that you can turbocharge your testing process with:   customizable execution workflow support for image-based testing smooth integration with a variety of tools (e.g. TeamCity and Jenkins) built-in support for generating test scripts, creating test cases, reporting results, recording actions built-in object repository, object re-identification, Xpath built-in support for Groovy/Java scripting languages visual representation of each step in the test (it's one of the most beginner tester-friendly tools out there)   Moreover, Katalon Studio is one of those automation testing tools for web applications that you can use for API and mobile testing as well. 5. Cucumber Here's another open-source automated software testing tool to consider putting on your shortlist. A collaborative tool based on behavior-driven development that you can use to:   write acceptance tests for your web apps perform those tests by running the most representative examples for your app   Now, one of the biggest strengths of this tool is the up-to-date document that it'll provide you with. One incorporating both the test documentation and the specification. Source: G2.com Anyone in your team (non-testers) can go through it since it's written in a highly accessible format (plain English). Now, if we were to sum up its “power” features:   it enables you to reuse code in your tests it supports lots of different languages Groovy, Python, Perl, PHP, .NET, Scala it grants you great support, since it's a highly popular automated app testing tool, with a large community  it enables you to use code along with Watir, Selenium, Capybara it's a cross-platform tool quick set up it enables you to generate detailed reports it integrates with GIT and Jenkins   Cons of Using Cucumber    you might find the default organization a bit... overwhelming you depend on external plugins for generating reports, so do expect some integration challenges The END! These are the top 5 automation testing tools for web applications that you should check first when getting your 2020 toolbox ready. Have you used any of them? If so, what's been your experience with it/them? And what other automated web testing tools would you have added to this selection? Let us know in the comments down below: Image by testbytes from Pixabay     ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Jan 21'2020
Apigee Edge Microgateway: Why Would You Want to Use It and When Should You? 10 Typical Use Cases
So you're evaluating and comparing all the available solutions for centralizing and standardizing your APIs. And you can't help wondering: "When is it recommended that I use Apigee Edge Microgateway?" Why would you use it in the first place, over other platforms for managing internal APIs? Over... the Apigee Edge gateway, for instance? What "irresistible" capabilities does it provide? And when precisely should you use it? What are its typical use cases? Let's get you some answers:   1. What Is Apigee Edge Microgateway? How Does It Work? If I was to compress its definition in a short line, it would go something like this: Apigee Edge Microgateway is a hybrid cloud solution for managing your APIs. Whereas if I was to opt for a detailed one: It's an HTTP-based message processor for APIs, built on Nodejs, that enables you to centralize and manage all your APIs in a hybrid cloud deployment setup. From traffic management to enterprise-grade security, to analytics, spike arrest, and quota (and the list goes on), it provides you with most of the standard Apigee Edge capabilities. Moreover, you get to install it either on the same machine or in the same data center. Source: docs.apigee.com "And how exactly does it work?" you'll then ask yourself. It processes the messages — requests, and responses — going to and from your backend services. Meaning that it'll asynchronously push API execution data to Apigee Edge once consumed by the Edge Analytics. "What about the Edge Microgateway deployment scenarios? What are my options?" Well, there are quite a few, since you get to deploy it:   in PaaS platforms (e.g. Cloud Foundry) Azure App Services as a service instead of sidecar integrated with Kubernetes as a Docker container in cloud-native PaaS platforms (e.g Google App Engine) in virtual machines as standalone processes 2. Why Precisely This API Management Solution? 5 Big Benefits Why would you go with Apigee Edge Microgateway over another setup for centralizing and administering your APIs? Here are some of the strongest API management capabilities that it provides you with:   enterprise-grade security: it authenticates requests based on an API key or signed access token that each client app gets via Apigee Edge analytics: it publishes all the data analytics to Apigee Edge so that everyone gets traffic stats in real-time configuration: no special coding is needed to set up Apigee Edge Microgtateway  rapid deployment: you get to deploy an instance in no time  reduced latency: it collects and sends API data to Apigee Edge asynchronously, therefore with minimal delay   3. When Would You Use It? What Are Its Typical Use Cases? When is it best to go with a hybrid deployment model for managing your APIs? Source: LinkedIn Here are some of the most common use cases of Apigee Edge Microgateway:   for an application running on a microservices architecture to keep API traffic within specific limits set for compliance and security reasons to provide Apigee API management for services running in Kubernetes for behavioral testing (of the scaling, of the infrastructure...) for disaster recovery to speed up API traffic for services running in close proximity  when legal and geographical boundaries are involved; for instance, when some of your global products need to run in regional data centers due to issues regarding personal data to keep processing messages even when there's no internet connection for cost management and market segregation   4. And What's the Difference Between Apigee Edge and Microgateway? Apigee Edge vs Microgateway... why should you consider the later? How are they different more exactly?  Especially since it gets even more confusing when considering that you even get Apigee Edge Microgateway plugins, which are so similar to Apigee Edge's policies... What capabilities, that you can benefit from using Apigee Edge, does Microgateway lack, for instance? Now, in terms of differences, here's a general "rule of thumb": Apigee Edge Microgateway does not come to replace the Edge gateway.  It has its own specific "lighter" use cases, like various mediations, key verification, quota that you can do with your backend services in close proximity, all while tapping into its robust above-mentioned capabilities. The END! Are you using Apigee Edge Microgateway? If so, what's your specific use case? And why have you decided to go with Microgateway instead of Edge Gateway? Image by Lynn Neo from Pixabay  ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jan 17'2020
Drupal 8 Media Library: Simplify The Way You Embed Media (2 Significant Improvements in Drupal 8.8)
Powerful, full-featured media handling in Drupal. This has been your, our, and all the content authors and Drupal site builders' wish for a decade now. And it has just become reality: Drupal 8 Media Library is now a stable core module shipping with... WYSIWYG embedding support. You just click that shiny and new button added to your CKEditor and add your media. As simple as that! And there's more: You can embed media assets in your content in a... finger snap. No mouse needed. A bit overwhelmed?  Now, let's see how we got this far. How was the life of an editor before Media in Drupal 8 core and how it came to improve? And, of course, how these 2 major media improvements in Drupal 8.8 impact your content creation experience.   1. Drupal 8 Media Library: Why Was It Necessary in the First Place?   Since we already had the Drupal 8 Media module in core, right? Yes, but it lacked an UI...  So, any time an editor needed to add/reuse media file to a... blog post, let's say, he/she had to type in that file's name in the entity referenced field, triggering its auto-complete functionality. He could not visualize those media items before selecting them. There were just plain-boring forms, a table for all the media files and administrative views... Therefore, the team behind the Media Module in Drupal 8 created Media Library, which was meant to provide precisely that visual experience that was missing. In short: Drupal 8 Media Library was meant to add a nice UI to Media. Editors could browse though all their media assets, then quickly select and upload, right from their media libraries, the ones they wanted to reuse across their websites. It would open up a visual grid display of all their media items, with built-in filters to narrow down their options.  The result? A far better editorial experience.   2. Media Management in Drupal 8: From None to... a Full-Featured System How did we get this far? From almost no media support to a modern ecosystem of powerful media handling features? It all started in 2007, when Dries first outlined the need for “Drupal’s core features for file management and media handling... generic media management module with pluggable media types” in his “State of Drupal” talk. Since then, decent media handling support in Drupal has been one of the most requested features: Source: Drupal.org Now, putting the whole “Media in Core Drupal 8” process on high-speed we get to:   the release of Drupal 8.4, when the Media module was first added to core Drupal 8.5 with Media working right out of the box Drupal 8.6, when the Drupal 8 Media Library module “stepped into the spotlight” as an experimental module Drupal 8.7 with significant improvements to the Media Library visual interface (e.g. bulk uploads) Drupal 8.8 with WYSIWYG embedding support    Now, can you imagine the life of a Drupal site builder/content author, back in those days? The “before Media” days? Whenever he needed to reuse an image media, previously uploaded on the website, but on a different page, he had to... re-upload it. There was no way of reusing and embedding it into the text, quick and easy. And no way of using remote media, either (Instagram, Youtube...) Now, back to the present, when we (finally) have Media and Media Library in Drupal Core: You get to add different types of media items — audio files, remote video, images, documents —  store them in your library and reuse them in your content whenever you need.  Furthermore, you get to bulk upload media files, filter them by specific criteria, display them in a table or a grid view, you name it.   Managing and reusing your media resources in Drupal has never been easier.   3. Media Library in Drupal 8.8: The New “Add Media” Button  Drupal 8.8 came to “seal” a whole decade of efforts put into building and implementing a robust media handling system in Drupal. And the last improvements that it brings to the entire core media in Drupal 8 ecosystem are just... mind-blowing:   Media Library is officially a stable module in core it comes with an “Add Media” button added to the CKEditor panel keyboard accessibility: entity embed is possible without using a mouse   Source: The Drop is Always Moving And there you have it! The last “roadblock” on Drupal 8 Media Library's roadmap to the status of a stable core module has been overcome: You have WYSIWYG integration in Drupal 8. Meaning that now you can embed media in your content types by simply clicking on a button, right in your editor. And all that with a... finger snap. No mouse needed. Source: Drupal.org In other words, Drupal 8 Media Library means, since Drupal 8.8's got released: A quicker, simpler way for everyone to add media from the media library directly to the text editor. The END! We're a bit curious: With powerful media handling now in Drupal core, what's the next “nice to have” improvement on your wishlist? What other critical feature, that Drupal currently lacks, would significantly improve your developer/site builder/admin/editor experience? Image by Pettycon from Pixabay  ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jan 15'2020
Are There Any Strong Reasons Not to Use Nuxt.js? 7 Issues that Might Discourage You from Choosing It
It helps you boost your SPAs' SEO, it enables you to generate your apps both on the server-side and statically, it "spoils" you with an opinionated structure and setup... so you cannot help wondering: "Are there any reasons at all not to use Nuxt.js?" Considering its heavy load of too tempting capabilities (and I've briefly outlined just some of them), you ask yourself:   "Why would I not (always) choose it over regular Vue.js for building my PWAs?" "Why would I ever bother with a... "Next.js or Nuxt.js" dilemma, for instance?"   In short: what are Nuxt.js's limitations (if any), those that could make you at least doubt for a minute or two before choosing it for your future SSR projects? Well, we've run our investigation and managed to identify its 7 key weaknesses (for there are, indeed, a few). Weaknesses that we're about to share with you, so you can give yourself a well-founded answer to your question: "Why should I use Nuxt.js over Vue CLI for building an SPA?"   1. But What Is Nuxt.js More Exactly? How Does It Work? Before we go ahead and expose its weaknesses, it would be only fair to define this framework properly, right? A concise, yet accurate definition would be: It's a high-level framework that helps you build SPA and universal Vue.js apps more easily. While a more detailed one would be: It's a minimalistic Vue-based framework that simplifies the whole process of creating server-side rendered apps. It'll handle all the UI rendering of your app project, abstracting away the client code distribution and complex details of the server. From routing to asynchronous data, to middleware, it'll handle all the complex pre-coding configuration, so you can focus solely and entirely on... developing a great Vue.js web app.   2. How Can Your Project Benefit from Using Nuxt.js? 5 Strong Benefits Let's highlight some of the most "irresistible" capabilities of Nuxt.js, those that might have already made you stop and wonder: "What possibly could determine me not to use Nuxt.js... in all of my future SSR projects?" it's great for SEO: it solves all the SEO issues that single-page apps are reputed for (client-rendered content, mobile web performance, URL and routing, etc.) it generates static websites via the "generate" command; moreover, it ships with powerful features, similar to other famous static site generators like... Jekyll, for instance it provides an opinionated structure and setup automatic code-splitting it streamlines the building of server-side rendered Vue apps it helps you get the most of your universal web app without a server easy setup using the command-line with the starter template   3. Why Would You... Not Use Nuxt.js? 7 Drawbacks The very question that sparked the idea of this blog post in the first place. You'll hardly find any cons to using Nux. For this, you need to dig a bit deeper and look beyond the huge pile of online content on the common topics:   Nuxt vs Next Nuxt vs Vue Nuxt Universal vs SPA N Reasons to Use Nuxt.js and so on...   So, let's dig out some... disadvantages that you might want to consider before you just jump on the Nuxt bandwagon:   3.1. Common Plugins that Don't Exist or Which Aren't that Solid There are Vue plugins designed to work on the client-side only (the server just wasn't added to the "big picture" when they were being developed). So, do keep that in mind. Also, you might discover that there are common plugins and components (e.g. Vector maps, Calendar, Google maps) that, well, don't exist. When they do exist, they might not be as solid as you expected, since they're not properly maintained.   3.2. Getting Custom Libraries to Work with Nuxt with Can Be Challenging Add this issue to your list of "the biggest disadvantages to using Nuxt.js", especially if the timeline for building your Vue.js app is a tight one. Addressing it might take you more time than planned.   3.3. High Traffic Can Be Particularly Heavy on Your Server This inevitable server strain in the case of a large, high-traffic application is another reason not to use Nuxt.js. At least if this inconvenience weights heavier on your evaluation list than the pile of benefits does.   3.4. Debugging It Can Get Painful "When things break, trying to dig down into what the hell broke can be a serious pain." (source: Reddit.com) This is one of the most frequently reported issues with using Nuxt.js. An issue that becomes exponentially frustrating as your Vue app project gets more and more complex: When trouble strikes you only get a conventional error message. No clue, whatsoever, about where you should start your "investigations"  in order to track down the "culprit".   3.5. There's a Relatively Small Comunity Behind It And that can only translate as:   the product documentation is not that extensive fewer resources for you to dig into at need   3.6. Fetching Data on the Server Takes Place At the Page-Level Only... This means that you need to load data into a Vuex store or pass it all down via props. A source of... frustration that you should be aware of before you decide whether to use or not to use Nuxt.js.   3.7. You Need to Get "Tangled Up" in More Complex Plugins or Components If you need to build a particularly flexible Vue app — say you need to render the contents of a slot in another component — you'll have to render various JSX/functions.   The END! These are the 7 main reasons to (at least) doubt whether Nuxt.js is an invariably good option for your SSR Vue project. Have you identified other drawbacks, limitations or simply small, but annoying inconveniences to using Nuxt.js? If so, feel free to share them in the comments down below, so we add them to the list! Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Dec 18'2019
How Creating a Mind Map Helps You Make Your Website More User-Friendly
The line between useful and... useless (or pushy or simply annoying) is thinner than you think. That's why creating a mind map that aligns your site's content structure with the user intent is... critical. "Whether you’re a product owner or designer, you don’t want your website to be a maze with nothing but frustrating blind alleys.” (source: altexsoft.com) And there's no guessing work or discouragingly complex process in identifying the current user flow on each web page on your website: Just take a look at the behavior flow report in your Google Analytics. No rocket science here... Take it from there and:   identify the roadblocks restructure content on each page so that it matches user intent and is fluid and easy to read But let us give you a hand with that. With mind mapping your current customer journey and planning its improved version: In this respect, in today's post we'll:   give you the “anatomy” of a user-friendly website: what elements make a website, well, user-friendly? define mind mapping with respect to designing the user experience on a website teach you how to create a mind map: an easy step-by-step guide show you how to use a mind map to make UX improvements on your website   1. The Anatomy of a User-Friendly Website: 4 Essential Features “A vague objective leads to poor results.” There's no point in creating a mind map that would hopefully make your website more user-friendly if... you're not quite sure what key elements make a website user-friendly. So, here's the list of must-haves for any website aspiring to deliver a great user experience:   1.1. High Speed It's no news to anyone: the page loading time has a huge impact on the user experience. Unnecessary interactive elements, that don't match users' needs and don't play any role in the conversion process either, will only get you a clunky and... well... slow website.   1.2. Useful Features And “intuitive” I must add. Again, we go back to the “elements justified by the user's needs” principle: Is that slider useful and relevant for the user behavior on your website? It it too bulky, loaded with endless options that just ... discourage the visitor? You might want to re-evaluate all the features on your website: are they relevant and intuitive enough?   1.3. A Well-Structured Information Architecture Information that's:   easy to access easy to interpret   … is key for a wannabe user-friendly website.   1.4. Content that Matches User Intent If users are looking for online cooking classes, let's say — and that's precisely what you promise to deliver them — and you're only trying to sell them kitchen gadgets on your website, the only result that you'll get is them bouncing off in seconds.   2. What Is Mind Mapping with Respect to Designing the User Experience? An overly simplified definition would be: A way to brainstorm and present the generated information in a visual way. Now, since I've promised you a definition “with respect to” creating the user experience, here's a more... context-specific definition: Mind mapping is a vesatile technique where you put together a visual hierarchy of your site's present or future content. It lists out the key pages on your website (homepage, service pages, blog page, etc.),  the various relations between different web pages, the links and CTAs on each page... Source: altexosft.com In short: mind mapping reveals how data is structured on your website. Of course, you'll then consider creating a mind map of the target version of your current website. The more user-friendly one...   3. Main Benefits of Using Mind Mapping: From Great Ideas to... Actionable Steps Finding new ideas is exciting. But jumping on every new great idea that someone in your team has, without first checking whether it aligns with the user intent, is just like... making shapes out of soap foam. Not only that they're not future-proofed, but that clutter of ideas might not work together either. By using one of the best mapping tools available online for structuring those ideas as they... pop out, you turn them into actionable steps in your strategy for improving the UX on your website. And the clear benefits to mind mapping are:   you define your ideas' roles: what role do they play in your UX strategy (if you can't assign them a role, they're just “Wow” ideas with no solid justification) you assess their value: how does implementing this new idea bubble up to the user experience? you identify the various relations between them: you might want to avoid “island-ideas”, with no connections to other ideas listed out in your mind map   4. Creating a Mind Map: 5 Simple Steps Now that you know what a mind map is and why on earth you'd bother making one, let's see how you can actually put one together:   4.1. Create a Mind-Map Template Just so you can have a basic idea of the current information architecture on your website. List out how data's being structured on your website now and how you plan to structure it for its more user-friendly future version...   4.2. Map Out Your Ideal User Flow How would you like your website visitors to engage with your content? What actions would you like them to perform? Source: mindmeister.com Once you've outlined the key pages on your website (homepage, services, features), start planning out the user flow.   4.3. Compare it to the Current Behavior Flow Available on Your Google Analytics Before you can properly map out the user flow, you need to know what's the standard customer journey on your website now. For that, just delve into your Google Analytics data and look for the user behavior report. It'll show you all you need to know about:   how users are engaging with your website's content  what paths they usually take when navigating through your current information architecture   4.4. Identify the Roadblocks The user behavior data might reveal to you some unwanted realities regarding the user experience on your website:   poorly structured content a bulky and tiresome collection of interactive elements irrelevant features (embedded videos, interactive elements, social sharing functionalities) too many tools that don't respond to users' needs   4.5. Make the Appropriate UX Decisions to Influence the User Behavior Now that you've identified the main roadblocks in delivering the best user experience, it's time to... remove them, one by one:   turn chaos into a logical content hierarchy trim irrelevant page elements, with zero value in the conversion process  adapt web pages' content structure to the needs of specific audience segments (make sure to include relevant information for those customer personas, redesign your CTAs if needed...)   5. How to Use a Mind Map to Make Powerful UX Improvements Creating a mind map is but the first step: Turning it into powerful UX decisions should be your main objective. So, the answer to the question “Are mind maps effective/useful?” is: They are if and only if you make them useful and... usable. You can turn your mind map into:   an effective sitemap a customer journey map   But let us take a real-life scenario and point out specific UX decisions that you could make with your mind map at hand. It's an example that I've run into reading Mindmaster team's great blog post: A Simple Way to Design UX, UI and CX Using Mind Maps: Say you're targeting 3 different customer personas on your website. You then need to plan 3 different user flows.  You start by grouping the web pages on your site into 3 categories, each of them corresponding to one audience segment. Then, you start doing some user behavior mapping: how do you want each customer persona to navigate to the corresponding web page so that he/she clicks the CTA placed there? Now, it's time to make some critical UX decisions:   what relations to set up between various pages on your website? You might have a user on a service page and you need him/her to visit your “get a quote” page, as well what's the best CTA design for each one of your 3 types of pages? what key information should you include on a page, depending on the customer persona accessing it? See? Not only that creating a mind map helps you put together an effective information architecture, but it's also a great technique for generating content ideas that match the user intent.   6. Final Word In the end, it all comes down to goal setting. Creating a mind map is a great way to:   understand your website goals: what type of conversion actions do you want users to perform? achieve those  website goals by delivering a user-friendly experience: content that's useful, accessible, easy to read and to interpret   The END! Do you usually create mind maps when building new websites, to ensure they'll deliver the best user experience? Or for existing ones, to improve their UX? Do you consider them critical or optional in designing the user experience? Image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Dec 14'2019
Why Would You Build Your Own Cloud Native Drupal Platform? The Main Benefits and Challenges to Consider
Why or rather "when" should you consider building your own cloud native Drupal platform?  Is a container-based infrastructure a viable solution for you? For your business needs? How do you know if your specific use case calls for a cloud-native Drupal development environment? And, assuming that you've run your own evaluation and that your use case does demand a switch from your current VM to a... multi-cloud Drupal hosting architecture: How do you make Drupal... cloud native friendly?  So that you can build, deploy, scale and manage fast and resilient Drupal apps in the cloud? In this post, we commit to answering all your key cloud-native and Drupal-related questions:   "What does cloud-native mean exactly?" "What is cloud-native with respect to Drupal?" "Why do I need a cloud native Drupal platform anyway?" "What are the biggest advantages and their... flip sides?" 1. What Does Cloud Native Mean Exactly? What is a cloud-native application? It's a holistic approach to designing, building, and running applications that make the most of cloud-native concepts. Or, if you wish: Cloud-native application development is a methodology — covering all stages of an app's lifecycle: design, deployment... operations — for developing apps that run in the cloud.  Applications that use the cloud computing model to its full potential. DevOps, agile, microservices and other modern software architectures all fall under the umbrella of a cloud-native methodology. Therefore, it's fast, resilient, highly scalable and easily maintainable applications that you get to run in a cloud-native infrastructure.   2. And What Is Cloud Native with Respect to Drupal?    In other words: where does Drupal fit in this revolution in how we develop and deploy our applications? Overall, taking full advantage of a cloud native Drupal development environment means: Finding the best solution for handling decentralized storage, auto-scaling, auto-provisioning and multi-region fault tolerance. Getting the most of cloud-native and Drupal comes down to:   minimizing the use of long-running servers relying more on purpose-built services and elastic computing setting up a development environment where you can easily test your new themes and modules, fix bugs, build, and deploy resilient enterprise Drupal apps   3. Why Build Your Own Cloud Native Drupal Platform? And When? For there are cases (is this your case, too?) when such a powerful, yet... challenging architecture is not justified by the company's business needs. So, let's answer your "when" question first. You're better off with a cloud-native infrastructure, where you deploy Kubernetes and containers, if:   you're dealing with high traffic, high volume applications and polyglot architecture you already have an Ops team you've already made at least some sort of investments in the private or public cloud your current requirements in terms of costs and control justify setting up a multi-cloud architecture you're running and maintaining an entire ecosystem of Drupal sites   "OK, so it looks like I "qualify" for it. But still: what would be the biggest advantages of building my own cloud-native platform compared to opting for a cloud vendor's services?" Here are the 2 most obvious advantages:   you'd avoid getting locked-in to a cloud provider you'd avoid growing dependant of your PaaS provider for hosting, scaling, and managing your own Drupal apps   4. Why Would You Want to Containerize Your Drupal Apps in the First Place? What would be your major wins if you ran Drupal in containers? Here are the 3 most significant ones:   repeatability and consistency: you get the same predictable and specific result with each container that you run less maintenance work an easier way to run PHP upgrades compared to a conventional VM stack where you depend on your host for that and where there's a whole cluster of sites that needs to get PHP upgraded simultaneously   5. 3 Pillers of a Container-Based Infrastructure: Drupal, Kubernetes, Docker What goes into a cloud-native Drupal platform? There are 3 key players involved:   5.1. Drupal The robust content management system which, beginning with its 8th major version, grew into a Symfony-based content management framework. Backed by a huge (100K+) and active community of contributors and a rich plugin ecosystem, Drupal powers a wide variety of web applications: media and entertainment apps, non-profit, gov, education... 5.2. Kubernetes It's the standard container orchestration technology.  In the context of your future cloud-native infrastructure, you'll be using it to manage:   your containers' lifecycle command and control distribution scheduling   5.3. Docker It's the standard... tool that you will be using for creating your containers. 6. 4 Cloud-Native Platform Features to Put on Your Wishlist What feature requirements should you have with respect to your Drupal development environment? Here's how a... decent wishlist should look like:   it should provide a layer of abstraction over IaaS it should handle cross-cutting concerns it should be easily scalable and secure it should provide an efficient developer experience (and agile operator experience, as well)   7. Deploying Your Drupal Apps on the Cloud: Requests & Constraints What's the proper set-up for a container-based Drupal architecture? "What are the key requirements that my future cloud-native Drupal platform should meet?" you might legitimately ask yourself.   your Drupal application should be turned into a containerized stack minimal Ops (or not Ops at all) it should run properly on any cloud your public/private file should be externalized it should scale up, out, and down it should make the most of PaaS services: for gateways, databases, load balances, cache stores, queues it should tap into an operational model: new app provisioning-routing-monitoring... your development team should be able to get high fidelity local environments up and running in no time   "And what challenges should I expect?" you'll further wonder:   your developers are faced with a steep learning curve: they should have some sort of understanding of what's happening under the hood when deploying Kubernetes CI & Delivery Pipeline  logical architecture monitoring and management Dev & Build Tools  local development    The END! What do you think: Is a cloud native Drupal development environment a viable solution for you?  Are the advantages highlighted here relevant enough for your use case and business needs? Or are the outlined challenges too discouraging for you? Feel free to share with us any thoughts and concerns that you might have regarding the idea of building your own cloud native Drupal platform. Photo by C Dustin on Unsplash  ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Dec 12'2019