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Drupal 9 Features: From “No New Features” to... 9 New Shiny Things You Can Expect to See in Drupal 9
What new Drupal 9 features can you expect to see on June 3rd, 2020? For, it's a bit confusing, isn't it?   on one hand, you have the “no new features“ statement on the other hand, you get answers like: “the easiest upgrade in a decade”, “newer PHP libraries”, “a brand new admin theme”, and so on   So, are there any new shiny things in Drupal 9 that you can look forward to? Or maybe get worried about... There is one shiny new feature and 8... improvements, from what I've seen. And I've grouped all together in a list. Here it is: 1. The New Shiny Thing: Easy Upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 A smooth upgrade experience, this is the only new shiny thing that Drupal 9 ships with. In short, moving to Drupal 9 will be as easy as updating from one minor Drupal 8 version to another. Source: Drupal.org Word of caution: the upgrade path to Drupal 9 is “buttery smooth” if and only if you stick to a “healthy” routine of weeding out old and deprecated code from your current codebase. 2. Drupal 7 and 8 Will Continue to Get Supported Alongside Drupal 9 One of the biggest Drupal 9 vs Drupal 8 (and even Drupal 9 vs Drupal 7) difference is the overlap of security coverage: Till Drupal 9, whenever a new stable version got released, the previous one lost its support. Starting with the 9th version of the CMS, Drupal 7, and Drupal 8 will continue to get community support till November 2021. In other words, Drupal 8, cleaned-up of all deprecated API will continue to work on Drupal 9.  And Drupal 7 will get community support for... 1-1.5 years after Drupal 9 gets released.  One of the unexpected Drupal 9 features. For it disrupts the way that the Drupal community used to approach major versions once they were no longer “the latest” ones. 3. Claro Becomes the Default Administration Theme … once it gets stable. 4. New Drupal 9 Features: CKEditor 5 Gets Implemented ... in a future version of Drupal 9. Security support will drop for CKEditor 4 sometime around Drupal 9's end of life. Therefore, Drupal 9's roadmap includes adding CKEditor 5 to a future version (and eventually removing CKEditor 4 completely in Drupal 10).   5. The Workspace Module Goes from Experimental to Stable Source: Drupal.org How is this good news for you? Let's say that you need to prepare multiple versions of your Drupal site and, depending on certain factors, to push live only one of them. The Workspace module allows you do to precisely that: to replicate content between workspaces on the same Drupal site. And, luckily, the module will be generally available starting with Drupal 9... 6. What's New in Drupal 9? Twig 2 That's right, Drupal 9 comes with support for newer PHP libraries. Support for Twig 2 here included. 7. Drupal 9 Will Be Backward-Compatible with Drupal 8 from Day One What are the new Drupal 9 features? Minor upgrade versions of Drupal 8 will be backward-compatible with Drupal 9. This means that all your Drupal 8 components will work with Drupal 9. This ninth version of Drupal is built on top of Drupal 8, basically.  In other words: no need to panic that your (Drupal 8) website's key features will no longer be valid in Drupal 9. This is going to be the first time that 2 major versions of Drupal are fully compatible.   8. From Symfony 3 to Symfony 4.4 “What's new in Drupal 9?” Symfony 4.4. Since its third version will no longer be supported in November 2021, Symfony 4.4 gets integrated with Drupal 9. All while making sure that Drupal 9 is forward-compatible with Symfony 5, as well...   9. Olivero Becomes Drupal's New Default Theme New Drupal version, new front-end theme. Olivero will come to replace Bartik, the current default theme in Drupal.   Wrap-Up: 5 Drupal 9 Requirements Your Drupal Site Should Meet Now you know which are the predictable, the new and the... shiny new features in Drupal 9. What next? How do you ensure that your Drupal website's Drupal 9-ready? Here are 5 key steps to take for a buttery-smooth upgrade:   Make sure your environment is Drupal 9-compatible: PHP 7.3, MySQL 5.7.8, Drush 10   Update to the latest minor versions of Drupal 8 as soon as they get released: you'll be able to upgrade your website to Drupal 9 only from Drupal 8.8. and Drupal 8.9    Keep your modules up to date: do all your contributed modules run on their latest versions?   Weed out any deprecated API from the custom projects that your website's using   Update core to Drupal 9   Word of caution: if your website (still) runs on Drupal 7, upgrade to Drupal 8.  To sum up, the shortest path to a smooth upgrade to Drupal 9 is sticking to the best practices:   remove all deprecated code (go for an automated tool like drupal-check or Rector to identify deprecations on your website) update your Drupal core and contributed projects to their latest versions   Or, you can leave all the preparations to us. Just drop us a line and we'll evaluate your website's level of... readiness:   Is there any deprecated code still “lingering in there? Does it run on Drupal 7? Are there any outdated versions of PHP or MySQL that it is still using?   Then, we can come up with a plan to get it Drupal 9-ready. Image by Marsel Elia from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 20'2020
Cross-Platform App Development: 6 Reasons Why You’d Want to Build Your Cross-Platform App with React Native
You've decided to jump on the cross-platform app development “bandwagon” and to build an app that targets both Android and iOS users. An app that works on multiple frameworks and caters to multiple audiences... at the same time. Now, the question that arises is: Why would you go for React Native? Over any other cross-platform app development framework? Why not... Flutter or Xamarin? Or maybe Ionic? What are the key benefits that, as a business owner, you'd reap from going for this particular framework? I've piled together all the reasons why you'd want to use React Native to build your cross-platform app with, then I've narrowed down the long list to... 5 reasons. The strongest ones. Here they are:   But First: What Is Cross-Platform App Development More Precisely? Compared to native app development, cross-platform mobile development refers to: Building a custom app meant to work on several platforms. And to be compatible to multiple software environments. In short: a versatile mobile app that works on both iOS and Android.  Having one codebase, one development team and just one app to test (and to maintain) translates into lower costs. And it bubbles up to the user experience, as well. Now, getting back to the best possible answers to your legitimate question: “What are the advantages of React Native for cross-platform app development?” … here are 5 key reasons why you'd lean towards this framework:   Reason #1: It's Cost-Effective Why? It's pretty obvious:   React Native allows you to code once and use the same codebase for any operating system; you get to (re)use the same code for both Android and iOS development it provides you with platform-specific UI elements there's only one JavaScript codebase to... test; fewer test cases for you to “juggle with” since you only need to fix all bugs and errors once   Reason #2: You Can Quickly Prototype an App React Native accelerates your prototyping process, so you can:   get a functional cross-platform app up and running in no time collect valuable user feedback much quicker   If you run a startup betting on a highly innovative app idea or a product company, the speed at which you manage to turn your idea into a prototype and to release it to the market is crucial.   Reason #3: Brand-Aligned and Consistent User Experience  “Why would I choose React Native as my cross-platform app development solution?” Because it helps you keep consistency in your app's UI design. Users get to interact with the same UI elements, irrespective of the platform that they use your mobile app on. Which instills a sense of familiarity and delivers them a uniform user experience...   Reason #4: You Expand Your Audience  And this is the first reason that you'd get in any “native app development vs cross-platform” debate. As a cross-platform mobile app development framework, React Native enables you to widen your app's reach: You build one app for both Android and iOS users. Reason #5: You Build Your Mobile App Faster Why go for React Native over other cross-platform app development frameworks?  Because it speeds up the development process: Your development team can put together a mobile app faster thanks to the pre-built components that React Native provides them with. Do they need to implement certain functionality into your cross-platform app? They stand high chances to find it, already coded by other React Native developers, and free to be deployed in your own app.   Reason #6: You'll Only Need One Development Team A single team, that has hands-on experience working with a set of technologies. Speaking of cost-effectiveness, right? Moreover, by having a unique team handling all the stages of your project you avoid a scenario where too many teams risk to... sabotage one another. And to compromise the app project itself.   Final Word: React Native's the Right Cross-Platform App Development Solution for You If...   you're a startup you're a small-medium company  the time factor is critical for you and you need to prototype a mobile app in no time ... with as little resources as possible   Don't have a React developer in your team? We've got you covered. There's a whole team of React Native developers here, at OPTASY, ready to help you. Just drop us a line.  Tell us about that innovative mobile app idea of yours, the functionalities that it should incorporate, and... we'll get back to you with a draft plan. Image by ijmaki from Pixabay   ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / May 19'2020
How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: 11 Universal Ways that You Can Make It Faster (With and Without a Plugin)- Part 2
I'm back with the rest of 5 simple ways to speed up a WordPress website. So, grab your pen and paper and get ready to take notes. As promised, I'll pin-point only easy tweaks that you can make to your website and boost its performance. So, let's dive right in:   Add Page Caching via a WordPress Caching Plugin How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: Minify Your CSS and JS Files Clean Up Your Database Switch to a (More) Lightweight Theme Enable GZIP Compression, The Fastest WordPress Speed Optimization Technique   7. Add Page Caching: Use a WordPress Caching Plugin for That  Here's how caching improves your site-loading speed: It creates – and stores on the server – static files for each page/post on your WordPress site. So, once a user accesses any of those pages, your website delivers the content much faster. In short: by adding page caching, you speed up your WordPress website's response to search requests. For this, you'll need to consider choosing an effective caching plugin for your website. And you definitely don't run out of options there. But if we were to make a very drastic selection, we can honestly say that you'll find the best plugin to speed up your WordPress site with on this shortlist:   W3 Total Cache (vetted by Neil Patel himself) WP Fastest Cache WP Super Cache  Cache Enabler    Tip! Pair your Wordpress cache plugin with a powerful caching mechanism like Varnish and you'll double your website's page loading speed. 8. How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: Minify Your CSS and JS Files Another quick and easy way to reduce page load time on your Wordpress site is to minify your resources (aka CSS and JS files). To cut down on the number of calls and on these files' sizes, as well. How? You can either:   do some manual fixing, following the steps on the Google PageSpeed   or go with a plugin to streamline the whole process   9. Clean Up Your Database Since WordPress is database-driven, it's crucial that you clean up your database of all the:   spam comments old drafts fake users pingbacks post revisions tables transient options   A measure that falls into the “reducing overhead” category, like the technique of removing all the unused plugins, that I've mentioned in Part 1. This way, you keep the size of your database to a minimum. Which will minimize the size of your backups, as well. And why do everything manually when there's at least one plugin for it? One that'll put the whole database clean up process on autopilot. WP-Optimize, for instance.  Once enabled, it'll take you just a few clicks to delete most of your database build-up. Moreover, you can schedule it to remove residual content automatically.   10. Switch to a (More) Lightweight Theme Now, you might wonder also: “How do I speed up a WordPress website without a plugin?” Going for the lightest WordPress theme is but one valid option. In other words, resist the temptation of choosing a theme that “seduces” you with a parade of dynamic elements, social icons, sliders, widgets... glitz and glamour. In most cases, these shiny elements translate into:   higher page sizes a higher strain on the web server   Tip! Go for the most simple, lightest theme/template and build all the additional functionalities that you might need on top of that base.  When in doubt, choose one of the default WordPress themes! Tip! If your WordPress site's a particularly feature-rich one, go with a theme that uses a robust framework like Foundation or Bootstrap.   11. Enable GZIP Compression, The Fastest WordPress Speed Optimization Technique And this is the “simplest” technique, as well. Just enable GZIP compression and start saving valuable bandwidth usage and reducing the page load time on your WordPress site. Here's how it works: GZIP compresses different files on your website, so that when a user tries to access it, his/her browser will first need to unzip the site. This way, you bring down the bandwidth usage.  And, as you can guess, there's at least one plugin that enables GZIP compression. Take PageSpeed Ninja, for instance...   The END! Our list of 11 simple ways that you can speed up a WordPress website ends here. Struggling with low speed on your WordPress site? Do you need help implementing and adapting these optimization techniques to your own website? We're here to help. Just drop us a line and let's put together an optimization battleplan for your site! Image by deanmarston432 from Pixabay    ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / May 13'2020
How Do You Stay Productive When You Work Remotely from Home? 6 Advice from Team Members at OPTASY Who’ve Been Doing It for Years
The walls start to close in on you... You're overwhelmed. You just can't get as much done as when you were in the office. Then, you start to feel guilty and anxious... all the time. What can you do to stay productive when you work remotely from home? To give you an honest answer, I've run a small “investigation” inside the OPTASY team. I've asked some of my colleagues about the best advice they'd give to anyone who's now adapting to remote work. Most of us work from home, yet for these “interviews” I've selected those team members who've been doing it successfully for quite a few years now. So, here they are: 6 tried and tested tips for setting yourself up to perform when working from home.   1. Resist the Temptation to Work from Bed/Couch Our colleague Dinu Rodnichi, one of the web developers here at OPTASY, stressed out the importance of the “ass in chair time” for higher productivity. So, if you're wondering “How can I be productive working from home?” this is one of the right answers: Sitting at your desk (as you normally would in the office) tricks your mind into thinking that you're "at work". “For me, working from my desktop PC instead of my laptop is critical. It forces me to sit at my desk instead of laying in bed or lounging on the sofa. I've noticed that I always get things done faster by just sticking to this small habit.” Note! It would be unwise of me to advise you to buy yourself a desktop PC if you've been working from your laptop for some time now (at the office here included). But working at a desk, that's so doable (and budget-friendly).   2. Designate A “Work Zone” in Your Home  It could be your kitchen table when it's not used for... home cooking experiments.       Or your dining table, if squeezing in a new desk or turning an entire room into a home office sounds a bit too sci-fi to you. The idea that our delivery manager, Radu Camerzan, insisted on was: “Once you've turned a corner, half of a table or a room into your work space, use it for work and work only. At least during work hours. Don't get your mind all too confused by using the same designated work space to prep your dinner, sort out laundry or... watch Netflix, while still “at work”. Another reasonably realistic solution to implement when you work remotely from home, don't you think?   3. Set a Work Schedule (And Stick to It) The golden rule for staying productive (and keeping your work/life balance) is to force a work schedule on yourself.  And here is Radu's second answer to your legitimate question “Why working remotely doesn't work?”: “Set your work hours and get things done during that time interval. Setting a time limit for your daily tasks challenges you to be more efficient. To avoid the trap of working more, but doing less. It makes it easier for you to maintain the boundary between worktime and family or “You” time.”   4. Use a Good Pair of Headphones When You Work Remotely from Home “What do I need to work remotely from home?” You definitely don't want to be stingy with your headphones (another one of Radu's best advice for working from home novices):   they'll help you soundproof your work zone from domestic noise that might risk getting your out of the "zone" they'll upgrade your video calls (and there're going to be plenty of those these days) they'll do your favorite music justice (if you fall into the “Can't work without my music” category)   5. Hone and Adjust Your Communication Skills This is one of the "working from home" tips coming from Sandu Camerzan, our delivery manager (yes, we have 2 of them at OPTASY). If you have none... you'll need to start developing some.  Whereas if you think your communication skills are excellent, you still need to keep honing and adjusting them to the new context:   new communication channels (e.g. talking face to face, at the office, vs talking over the phone or engaging in video calls) planned communication (the new carefully scheduled scrum meetings and video calls replace the old “coffee breaks” and chats in the office about the projects you were working on) new environment (e.g. having phone calls while driving to the nearest the store, for more supplies, or as you fix yourself a quick lunch)   In short: you'll want to double your flexibility stocks in order to cope with these new types of communication challenges. Make it a goal to develop a new communication style. A more:   flexible: show a little empathy; those from the other side of the line/screen face the same communication challenges clear and concise sincere   … way of communicating with your team and clients.   6. Every Morning, Write Down Your 1-3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) My advice to you, from my own work from home experience (for I, too, work remotely from home... for +3 years now) is: In other words, be realistic: life happens and... even so more when you work from home. Unplanned homework needs to be checked, spills cleaned up, pets entertained. Or your better half has an emergency Skype video call to take. And maybe you two are sharing the same “work zone” these days... So, my best advice to you (which is not “mine”, actually, but learned from Leo Babauta, the one behind the “zen habits" method) is: Every morning (the earlier the better) write down your 1-3 most important tasks of the day. Those that you set yourself to get done that day, no matter what. Multi-tasking is so overrated, so mind you stick to those 3, 2 or just one “task of the day” and don't get your mind focused on anything else before you've carried it out. Better have even just one high priority task done by noon or by the end of your work day, than to juggle with multiple ones and... finish none.   The END! These are the OPTASY team's 6 advice for you on how to stay productive when you work remotely from home. What's your recently discovered hack for keeping yourself up to perform at home?  Let us know in the comments below. For we're constantly revising and adding new powerful habits to our personal routines, that could help us get even more productive while working in our slippers. Image by imperioame from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 12'2020
How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: 11 Universal Ways that You Can Make It Faster (With and Without a Plugin)- Part 1
“How do I make my WordPress site faster?” you ask yourself. And let me guess: you want to address this challenge – how to speed up a WordPress website – the easiest way possible... So, what you're looking for is some effective and universally applicable tweaks that you could make on your own website without much fuss, right? You're in the right place, then... For in this post (Part 1) I'll be listing and detailing 6 of the 11 simplest ways to make your WordPress site faster:   Use a CDN: Deliver Content from the Nearest Possible Server How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: Compress Your Images Minimize External Scripts Upgrade to PHP 7 (At Least): A Simple WordPress Optimization Step to Take Switch To a Better Hosting Provider (With a Dedicated Server) Remove the Plugins that You Don't Need   So, let's dive in:   1. Use a CDN: Deliver Content from the Nearest Possible Server Do you serve content to an international audience? Then using a content delivery network is a must for you. Here's precisely how it'll reduce the page load time on your WordPress site: It serves your static files (e.g. your images) to your visitors based on their geographic locations.  In other words: if a user's located too far from where your website's hosted, a CDN will deliver the static content on your website from the data center nearest to him. A CDN  helps you keep the site-loading speed to a minimum when your website's accessed from different corners of the world. All there's left for you to do is... a little digging. See which are the most popular CDN services out there (Cloudflare, MaxCDN, KeyCDN, etc.) and evaluate their offerings against your specific feature needs. And budget.   2. How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: Compress Your Images More often than not the (too) large, high-resolution images are the “usual suspects”. So, the no. 1 rule is to compress your images.  Or, better said: to optimize your image files – aka to reduce their size with no compromise on their quality. And here you have 2 options:   you either compress them manually, in Photoshop, Chrome PageSpeed, or by using any other tool of your choice or you just use a WordPress plugin: WP Smush, Optimole, EWWW Image Optimizer, etc.   3. Minimize External Scripts Keep your font loaders, ads, and other external scripts to a minimum. They're one of the main reasons why your WordPress website's loading so slowly. 4. Upgrade to PHP 7 (At Least): A Simple WordPress Optimization Step to Take Because PHP 7 is significantly faster than its predecessors (e.g. PHP 5.6). Here, again, you have 2 options:   you either upgrade the PHP version yourself or you ask your hosting provider to give you a hand   Note! Needless to add that it's critical that you opt for a host that supports this version of PHP.   5. Switch To a Better Hosting Provider (With a Dedicated Server) Hosting is the no.1 culprit for a WordPress website's poor performance. And that because:   a badly configured web hosting server has a huge impact on your page load time a shared hosting environment won't guarantee you decent loading times at high-traffic hours; your website's sharing the same server with many other sites...   So, if it's a shared hosting provider that your website's running on, consider this: Unlimited emails, domains, bandwith and the many other features that a sharing hosting plan might “seduce” you with can't compensate for the... slow loading times and the clogging of RAM and CPU. So, one of the best answers to your “How to speed up a WordPress website” dilemma is: 6. Remove the Plugins that You Don't Need Want to make your WordPress faster? Start by decluttering your plugin collection. Are there any plugins that you've... never used? Get rid of them! Why? Let me give you just one example of how a heavy load of plugins can slow down your WordPress site: The more plugins that you have there, the larger the size of your backup will get. And this will only put an unnecessary strain on your server with every backup file that's generated for these non-essential plugins. You might want to consider replacing them with third-party services that serve the same purpose.   END of Part 1! Has any of these 6 steps on how to speed up a WordPress website caught your attention? Do you consider switching to a new hosting provider and you need some expert advice on which one to go with? Or maybe you're having trouble identifying the plugins that are unnecessarily bogging down your site? We're here to help. Whether it's just a recommendation of what CDN to use or putting together and implementing an entire optimization strategy for your WordPress site, just drop us a line. And stay close for the second round of WordPress speed optimization tips in Part 2! To be continued... Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / May 07'2020
How to Make Icons Accessible to the Widest Range of Users? 10 Best Practices
Material icons, flat icons, thin icons, ready-made or fully custom, on-brand icons... No matter what type of web icons you opt for, the same rule applies: the need to be visible to all users. So, you ask yourself: "How to make icons accessible to... everyone?". For, in vain you go with an eye-catching web icon design if its color contrast is so low that some users just don't see it. Or if it's interactive, but only when... mouse clicked. See my point? Therefore, in today's post I'll tackle aspects like:   what accessible icons are what goes into making icons accessible: most effective approaches and best practices what are the different types of web icons and the specific techniques for making them accessible    Let's dive in:   1. What Are Accessible Icons More Precisely? What makes an icon accessible to screen reader users? What requirements should it meet to be fully inclusive? Here are the 6 most important things to consider when you're designing accessible icons:   1.1. Make Them Noticeable For, it's pretty logical:  If an icon's not instantly perceivable to all visitors, it becomes inaccessible. And by "instantly perceivable", I mean that users shouldn't be constrained to perform some sort of action in order to make the icon... visible. 1.2. If It's Purely Decorative, It Shouldn't Be Read Out One of the best practices for designing accessible icons (decorative icons) is to skip the part where the ALT text gets read out to screen reader users. That's because, in the case of a decorative icon, informing the user about its existence on the page (e.g. "There is a key icon!") is just... superfluous. Which leads us to the next requirement that all "wannabe accessible" web icons should meet:   1.3. Always Add a Text Label The magnifying glass icon is universally recognized as a "search" tool. But that's the only universally recognizable icon... Therefore, it's best to play safe if you want your icons to be accessible to the widest range of visitors. Whether you have a hamburger menu icon or a house-shaped one, accompany it with a text label to prevent any ambiguity.   1.4. Keep in Mind the Color Contrast  This is one of the recommendations on top of any "How to make accessible icons" list that you might stumble upon: Make sure there's enough foreground-background color constrat in your icons, so that visitors with different levels of visual imparirment can easily notice them.   1.5. Make Sure They're Properly Sized And by "properly sized" I mean somewhere around 44x44 pixels. Pay particular attention to the size in the case of icon links: Any smaller than 44x44 pixels and they become inaccessible on smaller devices: some users won't be able to click on them.   1.6. Make Sure They're Mouse, Touchscreen, AND Keyboard Accessible Have you decided to "sprinkle" some interactive icons across your website?  Then make sure that users can easily click on them whether they use their mouses, they tap on their touchscreens or they depend on their keyboards for that. 2. How to Make Icons Accessible: 10 Approaches & Best Practices  Now that we've gone through "what" makes an icon accessible, let's get to the "how-to" part: How can you make your web icons more accessible for screen readers users? Here's a list of simple approaches and valuable tips to consider:   2.1. Consider Pixel Measurements and Square Dimensions  Most icons have square dimensions.  And if you're curious which are some of the most frequently used sizes for web icons, here are some popular examples:   128x128 16x16 512x512 64x64 256x256   2.2. The Easiest Way to Make Your Linked Icons Accessible Is to... ... add an ALT-text that lets the user know what the link does. What its destination is. For instance, you can add "Email us" as the ALT-text accompanying your "@" email icon. 2.3. When In Doubt, Choose an SVG or a PNG File Format  Even if some prefer the SVG icons systems, while others choose to go with PNGs (making icons accessible is easier with that file format), all web designers agree on this: Icon fonts should be the very last option to consider.   2.4. Make Sure Your Document and Your Icon Are The Same Size    2.5. See that There's Enough Icon-Background Color Contrast Will you be adding your web icon to a background?  If it's a yes, then check and adjust the color contrast.   2.6. Check Your Icon's Size Before Exporting It The 6th tip on our "How to make icons accessible" is pretty... predictable: All web icons should be properly sized prior to export, making sure they're not too large.   2.7. Hide the Text Accompanying the Icon, but Keep It Visible to Screen Readers Let's say that you've inserted an explanatory enough copy text within your link icon, but you don't want it to be visible to all users.  You want it to be visible to screen readers only. For this, you can use a visible-hidden class selector.   Word of caution! Going with this solution does call for 2 compromises:   the click/touch area is smaller screen reader users might not understand what that icon does (the VoiceOver will then read something like: "internal link, home"). 2.8. Accompany Your Semantic Icons with Visible Text to Avoid Ambiguity "What's a semantic icon?" you ask?  A standalone icon that has meaning.  Now, if you want to make sure you'll prevent all situations where users might just overlook it, just add a visible "Menu" text next to it. This way, its meaning will be 100% clear to anyone.   2.9. The Simplest Way to Make Icon Fonts Accessible Is... ... to add aria-hidden="true" to the element. Note: again, whenever possible, avoid icon fonts and opt for inline SVGs instead.   2.10. Skip Adding ALT-Text to Text-Based Icons Let's say that you have an "Email Us" linked icon.  Now, it would be quite superfluous to have an ALT text added to, saying the same thing to the screen reader user, wouldn't it? In this case, the icon is purely decorative, since the copy text around it already conveys the meaning on its own.   The END! Now you have at least 10 different answers to your "How to make icons accessible to the widest range of users" question. But maybe you need help choosing the best approach and implementing these best practices in order to make your brand icons more accessible.  We're here to help! Just drop us a line and let's find the most suitable solution for making your web icons available to everyone visiting your website. Image by Виктория Бородинова from Pixabay  ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 06'2020
How Good of a Website Analysis Tool Is Google Lighthouse? 6 Reasons to Use it (plus, OPTASY.com Lighthouse score)
“What's the best audit tool that I can use to check my website's performance?” you ask yourself. Why would you consider Google Lighthouse? How reliable is its scoring system? And how accurate are the results that it provides? Now, let's get you some answers on:   what is how to use  why you'd want to use … the Google Lighthouse testing tool. 1. What Is Google Lighthouse? Before we get into the “Why”, let's see “What” the Google Lighthouse score is, actually: It generates separate scores for different aspects on a web page, like:   SEO rundown of best practices accessibility performance PWA   In other words: it evaluates precisely the factors with the strongest impact on the user experience (page load time, anyone?). What you get is a report on the measures to take in order to fix the identified issues. And to hopefully get a maximum Google Lighthouse score next time...   2. How Do You Use Google Lighthouse? And here we tackle one of this testing tool's biggest selling points: ease of use. Now, there are 3 ways that you can run a Google Lighthouse report:   2.1. Use it Right in Chrome DevTools  The simplest way to run this audit tool on your website is to:   Download Google Chrome for Desktop (if you haven't done that already) Enter the web page's URL in your browser Click F12 to open up your Chrome Developer Tools (or just click “Inspect” anywhere on the page) Hit the “Audits” Tab Click “Perform an audit” (you'll see there the aspects of your website that it's about to check: SEO, Accessibility, Performance...) Hit “Run Audit” to have Google Lighthouse generate your audit report directly through your browser   Easy peasy... 2.2. Install the Lighthouse Chrome Extension If you prefer to run this website analysis tool as a Chrome extension, just:   Download Google Chrome for Desktop Install the extension from the Chrome Webstore Go to the web page that you want to test Click the “Lighthouse” icon newly added to your Chrome address bar Hit the “Generate Report” button   Just wait for about 30-60 seconds for the tool to inspect the page and generate the results in a new tab. Source: developers.google.com   2.3. Run It Via the Node.js Command Line  If you're more of a CLI person, you'll find this workflow more suitable:   Again, if you haven't downloaded Google Chrome for Desktop already, now it's the time Install the latest version of Node.js   Install Lighthouse by typing npm install -g lighthouse into your command line Next, enter the lighthouse <url> to run an audit   Note: use the lighthouse –help command to get an overview of all the options. That's it! Note: it's an HTML version of the audit report that you'll get when you run Google Lighthouse via the command-line tool. Just so you know it. Tip! There's also a... forth way to use the Google Lighthouse audit tool, probably one of the quickest ways to run your report:   Just go to web.dev Click “TEST MY SITE” Enter your URL  Click “RUN AUDIT”   And voila: you'll have your Google Lighthouse score generated for that particular web page in no time! 3. 6 Reasons Why You'd Use Google Lighthouse (And Why We're Using It) Now that you know precisely what it is and the different ways that you can use it: Why would you choose this particular website auditing tool over... all the other testing tools out there? To give you an honest answer, let me share with you the key reasons why we, the OPTASY team, are using it on our clients' websites and even on our own site:   it's so easy to use: why compromise ease of use for accurate audit results, when... you can have both? it's Google-developed (not just a no-name third-party testing tool) it's open-source it's fully automated it tests how the scanned web pages look and perform on mobile devices, as well it's user-centric metrics that it provides: what's the point of optimizing a website merely for our own “fame and glory” and... risk losing sight of the user's own expectations?   Whether we're:   building a new website for one of our clients optimizing a client's existing website optimizing OPTASY.com itself   … and we want to check how well its web pages perform, we just run a Google Lighthouse audit. And speaking of using it on our own website, here's a sneak peek into the Lighthouse Score that it's got after we put it through some major optimization work: In short, the scoring system and suggestions of improvement that Google Lighthouse generates make the best "barometer" for us to:   assess the quality of the audited pages (in case of an existing website, so we know what we're dealing with) evaluate our work (after we've built/improved a website) identify existing issues and prepare our “To Do” lists to get them fixed   4. Final Word  Do you want to learn more about how to use Google Lighthouse to its full potential? About how you can boost your Google Lighthouse performance score, like we have for OPTASY.com? Or maybe you've already generated a report, you have the list of recommendations at hand and you need help to implement them on your website? Either way, we're here to help. Just drop us a line. ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 01'2020
Top 10 Drupal Websites in Asia: From The Jakarta Post to... the Mitsui Chemicals
What are the top 10 Drupal websites in Asia?  What famous Asian brands, newspapers, NGOs, key players in various industries, have their websites powered by Drupal? To answer your question, we've done some digging and put together a selection of the best Drupal-based websites in Asia, ranging from the most popular to the most niche ones:   1. Mitsui Chemicals Inc., Japan   Japan's leading chemicals manufacturer runs its multi-site infrastructure on Drupal. Why Drupal?   because of the powerful multi-site and multi-language features that it provides, out of the box because Drupal enables them to store content centrally and then share it, personalized for each country, across their ecosystem of sub-sites: Japan, Germany, China, Singapore   In short: Mitsui Chemicals Inc. needed a robust CMS. One that could withstand its heavy structure of domains and groups of sites and enable them to manage all their content on a single platform. 2. ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs, Philippines The news division of this reputed media corporation in the Philippines —  ABS-CBN — has its website powered by Drupal. And the reasons why they chose this CMS are... pretty obvious:   we're talking about a complex network of various types of content: video, multimedia, story... the website delivers critical news in real-time, so Drupal's feature of processing and publishing data in real-time is critical for them the newspaper has a whole community of online readers built around it, so it depends on Drupal's access control system   A content-heavy, high trafficked website, that updates its content in real-time… Drupal's built precisely for this type of scenarios. And that's why ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs is listed among the top 10 Drupal websites in Asia. 3. The Haribon Foundation, Philippines Now, we couldn't have left out non-profit organizations from our list of popular Drupal websites in Asia, now could we? The Haribon Foundation is a biodiversity conservation organization in the Philippines, that trusted Drupal for turning its website into a user engaging one. One that tells their story right to all the future volunteers, donors, members, and partners. Why Drupal?   because it ships with plenty of built-in functionality, enabling them to get their website up and running in no time because it provides them with a robust taxonomy system, which enables them to categorize and organize their content  because it's scalable: it's built to accommodate all future initiatives, no matter how bold, and all future loads of traffic because it's open-source  because it's easy to use by non-technical users (anyone can create, add, publish, and further edit content)   4. The Beijinger, China A community website with an audience made of English-speaking expats living in Beijing, China. Why did they go with Drupal?   because of the different types of content that they display on their website, ranging from forums to events, to reviews, podcast, blog, directory, photo gallery because a significant part of the content is user-generated, which means that they can get the most of Drupal's user role and permission-based access control system  because they needed a CMS that could grant them the best editorial experience: adding and editing so many types of content, on different sections of the website, had to go... smoothly   5. The Jakarta Post, Indonesia, One of the Top 10 Drupal Websites in Asia The largest English language newspaper in Indonesia, The Jakarta Post is on the list of the key media sites using Drupal. A heavy load of content, that needs to be updated in real-time... these are just 2 of the key factors that turned Drupal into the only CMS suitable for this high trafficked newspaper site.   6. Amman Stock Exchange, Jordan Another one of the top 10 Drupal websites in Asia, due to:   the crucial role that this economic platform plays in the region  the outstanding user experience that it provides, despite the complex technical challenges that it needs to deal with “in the backstage”   Why did they choose Drupal over any other CMS option?   Drupal enabled them to provide their users a mobile-first experience: a seamless user experience was crucial for the Amman Stock exchange website, with users being enabled to view charts, graphs, and tables on the go, from any devices Drupal provides the right tools to “empower the end-user”: users can set up and easily manage their own portfolios on the website, set filters for the content that they receive, personalize their notifications, etc. Drupal's robust enough to withstand high spikes of traffic Drupal integrates seamlessly with their ecosystem of third-party systems, that provide the Amman Stock Exchange users with market and financial information Drupal is multi-lingual right out of the box: Amman Stock Exchange could provide a personalized experience to business owners and investors from all over the world   7. Pacific Aikido, Japan The Aikido dojo, which been teaching its classes in and around Tokyo since 1991, has its website powered by Drupal. And it's no surprise to anyone why they chose it:   Drupal makes it plain easy for the end-users to manage their own content: students and parents can log in and engage in conversations with the site owner, while the latter can upload and update content quick and easy Drupal's conveniently extensible: it enabled the team working on this project to implement the Image API and thus enable the site owner to upload his/her own images nice and easy   Images that get resized automatically, by default, once published on the website... The website's both a public-facing site and an easy to use private back-end, where students and parents can communicate with the site owner. 8. Playtika, Israel We can't put together a list of the most popular Drupal websites in Asia and not include Playtika, the leading gaming company based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Since Drupal ships with a whole collection of responsive tools and responsive themes, it made it a lot smoother for their UI and UX design to look great on both their web and mobile websites. 9. Al Bawaba, Jordan This independent digital news, blogging, and media platform — the largest one in the Middle East — is on all the “Top 10 Drupal websites” selections. Why did they decide to build their digital presence with Drupal?   because they have a large, diverse, and expanding content team — different types of editors, researchers, journalists, publishers — so they decided to leverage Drupal's system of user roles and its flexible content workflow because they depended on Drupal's powerful SEO features because they were facing increasingly high volumes of content (multimedia content here included) and Drupal's built with content-packed websites in mind   An efficient digital media assets solution and a conveniently scalable CMS were critical for this content producer and distributor in the Middle East. So, Drupal was the only CMS framework that checked all the requirements off their list.   10. Taiwan Environmental Information Center     Another NGO — the “product” of a larger non-profit and non-governmental organization: Taiwan Environmental Information Association —that's earned its place among the best Drupal websites in Asia. Their website stands out as an extensive network of environment-related information: editorials, green events, feature articles, news... Now, the reasons why they trusted Drupal with their digital presence are clear to anyone:   it's open-source it empowers the content team to add, edit, and publish content (multiple types of content) on the fly it's extensible and conveniently scalable it's non-technical user-friendly   The END! This is how our list of “top 10 Drupal websites in Asia looks like”. What other websites would you have added? Image by Lizbet Palmer from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Apr 21'2020
Which Drupal Page Builder Should You Use: The Gutenberg Editor or Cohesion DX8?
You want to enable your content editors to build new pages on their own. So, which drag and drop Drupal page builder do you choose? Let me try and guess what's on your "wishlist":   to be super easy to use, with an intuitive front-end editing interface to be light to be compatible with your Drupal theme to load fast to provide a decent collection of ready-to-use designs to be conveniently flexible   Have I guessed it right? Now, which of these 2 popular editors for Drupal 8 — Gutenberg Editor and Cohesion DX8 —  checks the most must-have features off your list? Let's compare them: 1. Introducing: Acquia Cohesion DX8 “The only low-code platform for the design, build and management of Drupal 8 websites.” (Drupal.org) A Drupal website builder that empowers you (your designers and content editors) to create all the visual aspects that make a website:   layout theme element styles templates components   And all that in the browser, via a highly visual drag-and-drop user interface... With no need to write CSS, PHP or HTML. Here's how it works:   Acquia Cohesion DX8 provides your editors with a library of branded (reusable) content components — sliders, tabbed elements, hero sections, banners, video players, feature panels they select, mix and match, and assemble together the blocks of their choice … and fill them in with content.   Tip: your non-technical editors can also edit, inline, those display components (block “templates”). And voila: A simplified way of building Drupal websites. A component-based approach to building a Drupal site. And during all this time, your development team can focus on building all those unique functionalities that you have in mind. 2. 5 Reasons Why You'd Want to Use Cohesion DX8 Now, let's talk... benefits. What are the main advantages of choosing Acquia Cohesion as your Drupal page builder?   2.1. Your content editors can assemble new page layouts quick and easy. And “quick” is the keyword here.  The non-developers in your marketing and other teams can assemble new web pages in no time: They just drag and drop and arange different components available in the library, making them fit into the design pattern that you've already defined for them.   2.2. Your marketers are free to edit content & layouts right on the page. Another strong benefit that you can reap from using this particular Drupal layout system is that your editors can easily modify content/layout right on the live website. In other words, Acquia Cohesion DX8 provides them with an easy to use in-context editor. This means that your content editors can open the page that they need to update and make any change in... seconds. Tip: you get to set different levels of permissions and keep track of who's updated what on the website.   2.3. Your content editors can build and manage your website with no coding skills needed. In other words, you'll turn your editors into... web designers. Source: Dri.es They need no coding skills, except for a low-level understanding of some general website concepts, to put together a new enterprise-grade Drupal website if needed.   2.4. You can replicate the newly created design on all your Drupal websites Why would you opt for this low-code site builder?  Because it enables you to export and reuse the same style configuration and web design across your entire ecosystem of websites. To sync your brand styles across your whole network. An easy way to control your brand across a multi-site structure.  And a guarantee that your non-developers, who are granted such “power”, will keep brand-compliant in their work.   2.5. Your non-technical teams can build uniquely designed and fully responsive websites The non-developers in your team (content editors, designers with little coding knowledge) can easily put together custom layouts using this drag and drop page builder for Drupal. Source: Acquia.com Moreover, Acquia Cohesion DX8 makes it easy for them to preview their newly created layouts in multiple device aspect ratios.   3. What You Can Expect from Using this Drupal Page Builder Let's say you've already found the answer to your “Gutenberg Editor vs Cohesion” dilemma: you've opted for Cohesion DX8. Here's what you'll notice:   your team sets up and launches brand new Drupal websites faster now the costs for developing new websites have lowered all the Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 website migrations have been streamlined keeping brand consistency across your multiple Drupal websites is no longer a challenge your digital marketing and content authors are more confident to experiment with new content (since updating and reverting changes is so straightforward) your senior developers gain more time to innovate; to focus on their own development tasks   4. What You Can Build with Cohesion DX  Let's see precisely what you can create using this page editor for Drupal:   full page content templates  master templates that your content editors can use to put together headers, navigation systems, footers... menu templates, from basic list menus to interactive, multi-level ones content components, which can then be assembled together into unique layouts CSS styles view templates for your blocks or page page content layouts   5. Introducing: Drupal Gutenberg       The Gutenberg Drupal 8 module comes as an alternative to the body field editor in Drupal: Editors can build a new page by assembling content blocks instead of writing text in a text body. Source: Drupalgutenberg.com A Drupal page builder that enables them to:   move blocks around the page, as needed reuse uniquely designed contrib blocks across multiple pages on your Drupal site and even across multiple projects select from the pre-built blocks — lists, paragraphs, tables — that Drupal Gutenberg provides them with insert raw HTML in the form field   When it comes to the “user-friendliness” factor, Drupal Gutenberg “bids on” a highly visual editing experience, just like Cohesion DX8 does: Any member of your team, regardless of his/her technical skills, can easily build a new page by putting together media, text, and content blocks.   6. 4 Reasons Why You'd Want to Use Drupal Gutenberg  “Why would I choose precisely Gutenberg as my page editor?” Here are some compelling answers:   6.1. You empower your editors to build new landing pages on their own. It's all about “democratizing publishing": Drupal Gutenberg enables them to add, move around, and edit blocks quick and easy.   6.2. Your editors get a whole collection of custom blocks to choose from That's right: Gutenberg Cloud library comes as a rich content repository for contributed blocks. From:   call to action sections to uniquely designed forms to web components   ... your content editors get a whole collection of blocks created by other developers to dig into when building new pages.   6.3. You grant your editors a flexible, visual editing experience.  One of Drupal Gutenberg's biggest selling points is its React-powered UI API. The JavaScript type of “fuel” that makes the editing experience both flexible and powerful:   a scalable, high performant editor that content creators can use with great ease; no technical background needed   Where do you add that they get “spoiled” with lots of pre-designed elements to choose from, as well.   6.4. You enable your editors to use and... reuse Drupal media assets. Gutenberg's conveniently integrated with Drupal's media library. This means that your marketing team can easily scan through and choose the media assets that they need to incorporate into their landing pages. And even re-use them as many times as needed.   7. What You Can Expect from Using this Particular Drupal Page Builder A more independent, empowered marketing department. Which automatically translates into a more productive development team, as well.   8. What You Can Build with Drupal Gutenberg “What are the most typical use cases for the Gutenberg editor?” you might ask yourself.   landing pages text-heavy content types (e.g. blog posts) designs that don't call for a lot of dynamic configurations  simple layouts content structures and designs that blend in perfectly with your theme's looks   9. Final Word  “So, which Drupal page builder should I choose: Drupal Gutenberg or Cohesion DX8?” It depends greatly on your feature needs and on your content team's skill level, as well. For instance: do you value the convenience of replicating the same designs on all your websites (Cohesion) more than... having an entire library of contrib content blocks to select from (Gutenberg)? Keep “confronting” the features of these 2 website builders and put them against your team's needs and experience, as well.   The END! How flexible is the authoring experience for your own team? Have you tried implemeting any of these page editors into your page building workflow? Feel free to share your experience, good or bad, in the comments below. Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay   ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Apr 14'2020