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How to Migrate to Drupal 9
  Drupal is a free open-source content management system (CMS) that allows you to create websites, blogs, and other web applications. It has become one of the most popular platforms for building custom sites. The process of migrating from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 is no small task. There are several changes and new features that you’ll want to consider before moving forward. In this article, you'll discover some of the major changes that you’ll encounter when migrating from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9. As you migrate to Drupal 9, you’ll notice a significant change in the way things look and function. The biggest difference between Drupal 8 and Drupal 9 is the introduction of a completely redesigned user interface. This means that you'll need to rework your entire site from scratch. What Does a Drupal Migration Mean? A Drupal migration process involves taking an existing Drupal website or blog and converting it into a Drupal 9 installation. You can also perform a complete Drupal 9 install by starting with a blank slate. When you migrate to Drupal 9 from Drupal 8, you need to update your Drupal 8 website to the latest version of both core and contributed modules and themes. If you have any custom code, such as custom content types, views, and fields, you will need to convert them to Drupal 9 compatible versions. You may also need to upgrade your database schema to support Drupal 9's new data model. And finally, you should make sure that all your files are converted to Drupal 9 standards. What Is Drupal 9? Drupal 9 is the same as the Drupal 8.9 version but without the deprecated code available in the previous version. It's identical to the 8.9 version for editors, website builders, and developers and it is built with an API-first approach in mind. Drupal 9 improves structural tools and editorial workflows.  Key Drupal 9 benefits Drupal 9 brings forward a continuous innovation cycle that delivers all the best features of Drupal 8, plus updated system requirements that improve security support.  Drupal 9 provides feature additions twice a year, so you'll be up-to-date with the latest technology innovations. What is more, your developer team will most likely work very easily with Drupal 9, as the Drupal 8 experience is quite similar. Prepare your upgrade process and get a cleaned-up, consistent, API-based modern environment.  You might also like: Drupal 10 New Features and How to Prepare Your Migration. Migrating to Drupal 9: What do I need to know? Before you begin your Drupal 9 migration, there are three key areas where you'll need to take action: Update Your Site Core In order to successfully migrate to Drupal 9, your site must be updated to the latest version of Drupal 8 core. To ensure that your site works properly after the migration, you should use the same version of the core that you used during development. Upgrade Modules and Plugins When you migrate to Drupal 9 you'll need to upgrade all your modules and plugins to their respective Drupal 9 versions. For example, if you're using Views 7.x-3.0 then you'll need to upgrade to Views 8.x-2.1. Similarly, if you're using CCK 3.x-7.x then you'll need to move to CCK 4.x-4.6. Convert Custom Code If you've developed custom content types, views, or fields, you'll need to convert these items to Drupal 9 compatible versions so they work properly on your new site. How does a Drupal migration affect your brand reputation and business value? Upgrading to Drupal 9 comes with benefits like all system and software upgrades. To understand the business value added by such a migration, consider asking the following questions: Are your current features and modules secure and relevant for your business scope? How would you rate them? Do you clearly know the scope of a Drupal migration for you? How many resources like time and money do you plan to spend on this migration? Does your developer team have the necessary skill set to plan and complete it successfully?  How will your Drupal migration impact the content design and architecture on your site? Tools & Modules For Completing Your Drupal Migration Now that you've asked the right question, you might be ready to start your migration. If so, here are some tools and modules to help you in this process:  Core Migrate Module Suite: migrate your content and site configuration   Upgrade Rector: automate module updates for Drupal 8 sites of common deprecated code to the latest Drupal 9 compatible code Drupal Module Upgrader: scan and convert outdated code on your site Upgrade Status Module: provide information about contributed project availability 4 Steps to Prepare Your Drupal 8 site for Migrating to Drupal 9     Check out this to-do list before starting your migration to Drupal 9: 1. Check that your hosting environment meets the compatibility requirements of Drupal 9. 2. Update your contributed projects so that you resolve Drupal 9 compatibility issues gradually, keeping Drupal 8 compatibility at the same time.  3. Make sure to upgrade to the latest Drupal 8 version available (Drupal 8.8 and 8.9). 4. Edit your custom code by removing deprecated API use.   The transition from one version to another can be challenging, but the migration process is simple once you learn how it's done. If you find it overwhelming and want to opt for professional services, check out Optasy's services.  Our dedicated team of Drupal experts will support you in every step of your migration process and ensure that your website is up and running smoothly after the migration. Optasy offers assistance and custom migration to suit the specific needs of each business.   Photo credit: Unsplash.... Read more
Raluca Olariu / Jul 07'2022
Drupal 10 New Features and How to Prepare Your Migration
  Drupal is a free and open-source content management system that allows you to create websites with a simple interface, but it has many powerful features for more advanced users. Drupal is being used by millions of people worldwide and many businesses and institutions like Harvard, Twitter, or Whole Foods.  The first version of Drupal was released on January 15, 2001, more than twenty years ago.  Drupal 10 is expected to be released in December 2022. It will be a refined version of Drupal 9 and it will include many new features, including: Symfony 6 compatibility. Site owners and module developers will benefit from as much Symfony 6 compatibility as possible and Symfony 4 deprecations in Drupal 9 for Symfony 5 will be resolved. Supported solutions for rebuilding jQuery UI functionality by using either vanilla JavaScript or frameworks like React. jQuery UI components used by Drupal core will be removed. Best practices for deprecating modules. Users will be able to use a proper mechanism for naming, versioning, deprecating wrappers, etc. A 'lifecycle' - property can be used in info.yml files for themes and modules. Better decoupled developer and site builder experiences, especially for menu and URL handling. Introduction of CKEditor 5 with better authoring experience and more modern editing (replacing CKEditor 4). PHP 8.1 compatibility for Drupal 9 and Drupal 10.  Theme Starterkit tools for bespoke theme creation.     How to prepare for Drupal 10 The following are steps that you should take before upgrading your existing sites to Drupal 10. Upgrade all modules on your current site to their latest versions. If you have not already done so, upgrade core to its latest release. You can do this by running drush up --all from within your Drupal root directory. Perform a full backup of your site. This includes database backups as well as files and folders outside of the Drupal installation directory. Update your site's configuration file. The easiest way to do this is to download the Configuration Upgrade Module module and run it against your site. To do this, go toUpdate your themes and modules to the most recent versions available. In particular, update any custom modules or themes you use to their latest releases. Will the upgrade to Drupal 10 be easy? New functionality for Drupal 10 is added to Drupal 9 releases, meaning module developers can start adopting new APIs right away. Old functionality is removed, but backward compatibility is kept. Once we are ready for Drupal 10, we remove deprecated code, breaking backward compatibility, but because developers had a chance to update their modules, the upgrade to Drupal 10 should be easy. More exactly, Drupal 10 is identical with Drupal 9, except for its deprecation list. There shouldn't be any big or unexpected changes. What are the Drupal 10 platform requirements so far? PHP requirements: At least PHP 8.0.2 and PHP 8.1 is recommended.  PHP 8.0 is being dropped after November 2023, but security patches for PHP 8 will continue to be provided by other organizations. Some of Drupal's Composer dependency packages might start dropping support for PHP 8 after November 2023. Database server requirements: Check out the Database server requirements documentation.  Web server requirements:  They are the same as for Drupal 9. If you need additional support for preparing your migration to Drupal 10, our experienced team of Drupal experts can provide step-by-step assistance. Learn more about our Drupal services today!    Photo credit: Unsplash. ... Read more
Raluca Olariu / May 25'2022
Acquia Maintenance Services for Drupal Enterprise
  Acquia Cloud Enterprise is a fully managed cloud service that provides the infrastructure, tools, and services to run your site on the Acquia Platform. Acquia for Drupal Enterprise is an enterprise-ready version of Acquia's award-winning platform for building and running websites with Drupal 8. It includes all of the features you need to build, manage, and scale a modern website. It also comes with preconfigured modules, themes, and other content so you can get started quickly. What makes Acquia the right Drupal hosting provider? Acquia Cloud Platform offers secure and compliant web hosting services built exclusively for Drupal. You can use them to host your site and develop your content using Drupal 8, Drupal 7, or any other version of Drupal. They offer fully managed Drupal hosting, as well as a range of development tools. Their enterprise-grade security features include SSL certificates and access control lists (ACLs). They also provide world-class customer service. The following are some of the key benefits of choosing Acquia: Fully managed hosting - No servers to install, configure, maintain, upgrade, patch, or monitor. All you have to do is deploy Drupal. Focus on innovation - Having a fully managed Drupal hosting solution allows you to create digital experiences that focus on what matters most: the customer. Highly scalable - Acquia’s cloud architecture scales from small sites to large global deployments. Built for performance - Acquia has built its hardware and software solutions to ensure that your site performs at peak levels. Streamline compliance - Compliance requirements such as GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and more are easily met through Acquia’s robust data protection practices.   Top features of Acquia web hosting for Drupal Drupal 8 support. Acquia supports Drupal 8 out of the box. This means you can start developing and deploying your next great project immediately. Built-in security. Acquia includes strong authentication and firewall controls. Robust developer tools that provide automated testing for development, staging, and production environments.  Real-time monitoring tools (Acquia Insight) that measure and report on application health. Add-ons. Acquia offers hundreds of add-on modules and themes to help you customize and deliver cutting-edge experiences. Best Practices for Acquia Setup & Maintenance  In order to optimize the performance and functionality of your site, we recommend the following best practices when setting up and maintaining your site on Acquia. Set up the environment before starting work. The first step in getting started with Acquia is creating an account and installing Drupal. Once your site is live, it’s important to keep it running smoothly by regularly updating core, contributed modules, and third-party extensions. Use the Acquia Dashboard. The Acquia dashboard provides a single place where you can view all of your settings, including installed modules, configuration options, and user roles. It's also where you can manage users, groups, and ACL permissions. Keep your database clean. As part of regular maintenance, make sure your database tables are properly maintained. For example, if you have many content types or custom fields, consider using the Field Permissions module to prevent orphaned records. Keep your database optimized. If you use the MySQL Query Cache feature, it will be automatically enabled. To ensure optimal performance, disable caching whenever possible. Optimize your codebase. Use the built-in Drush command line tool to perform updates and upgrades to Drupal core and other modules. Optimize your site architecture. Make sure your site has a clear separation between presentation logic and business logic. This helps separate concerns and makes it easier to maintain your site as its complexity grows. Make sure your site has a clean separation between presentation logic and data access logic. This helps separate responsibilities and makes it easier to update your site when new features are added. Test your site thoroughly. Test your site from multiple devices and browsers. You should test on mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop.    FAQs about Drupal hosting How does Acquia compare to other Drupal hosts? Acquia is one of the few companies offering truly integrated Drupal hosting. The brand has combined its expertise in both technology and business management to make it easy for users to launch and grow their online presence. What is the difference between Acquia Hosting and Acquia Cloud Platform? With Acquia Hosting, customers get all the benefits of a full-featured, managed Drupal platform without having to manage servers themselves. With Acquia Cloud Platform, customers get all the advantages of a private cloud infrastructure with the convenience of a shared environment. Both options allow you to build, test, and deploy websites quickly and efficiently. Is there a free trial available for Acquia Hosting? Yes. You can try our services completely risk-free by signing up for a 30-day free trial. After the trial period ends, you will be billed $9.99 per month. Can I host my website using Acquia Hosting if I am not interested in running an enterprise-level site? Absolutely. Acquia Hosting is designed to work well with any type of website. It comes with everything you need to launch your new or existing website, including: A powerful Content Management System (CMS). An intuitive user interface. Easily scalable resources. Advanced security. Access to thousands of premium WordPress themes and plugins. Support for multiple languages and currencies   To learn more about Acquia Drupal, check out this page.          Photo credit: Unsplash.... Read more
Raluca Olariu / Apr 29'2022
How to Find the Best Drupal Developer for Your Needs
  Building a robust Drupal development project that supports your business objectives can be challenging and time-consuming. But with the right Drupal partner that has the experience and expertise needed to help you build a website that will meet all of your needs, you will find this process a lot easier. This article talks about the competitive advantages of hiring Drupal developers and how you can find the best fit that meets your Drupal project needs.  The benefits of hiring Drupal developers Hiring a Drupal developer is an investment in your company's success as it provides plenty of competitive benefits that set you apart from the competition. These advantages include: Building highly-personalized Drupal projects that boost your brand awareness and increase sales. Designing and developing custom Drupal features and functionalities that suit your project requirements. Dedicated support for your Drupal project throughout its lifecycle from content migration and system integration to API design and web accessibility. Having access to ongoing updates and continuous maintenance and support. Reduced costs and increased ROI by having a dedicated team working on your project. What are some of the challenges of hiring Drupal developers? Hiring a Drupal developer or a Drupal development team may not always be easy because there are many factors involved when choosing a Drupal developer. Some of these factors include: Finding a good match between your skillset and their technical knowledge. Choosing a Drupal developer who understands your business goals and objectives. Finding a reliable Drupal partner at a price that fits your budget allowance.     How to spot the right Drupal partner for your business requirements There are several things you should consider before hiring a Drupal developer. Here are some tips to help you identify the right Drupal developer for your project: Do your research first and gain a good understanding of what a Drupal developer is and what are their responsibilities.  A Drupal developer has plenty of duties like conducting research and installing Drupal modules that best fit your needs, extending existing modules so their functionality increases, managing how your website looks and works for high-quality user experiences, migrating existing websites and content, architecting  Drupal projects and web infrastructures, etc.   Also, a Drupal developer can have three main roles that you should pay attention to: Drupal Front-End Developer. A front-end developer is responsible for designing and building the interface of your site using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Bootstrap, Foundation or any other framework. This includes elements such as buttons, forms, navigation menus, or tables and also includes how your page looks. Drupal Back-End Developer. A back-end developer is responsible for programming the logic behind your site's functions and processes. This includes writing code that handles database queries, creates pages, manages users, and more. Drupal Theme Developer. A theme developer is responsible for styling the look and feel of the entire website including the layout, colors, fonts, images, and anything else that makes up the overall appearance. They will work with the front-end developer to ensure that everything on the site matches and flows well together.        2. Identify and examine your project needs.  Now that you know in more detail what a Drupal developer does, it's time to understand your project needs and what you require from a developer's services. Key questions to ask at this stage are: Do you need a back-end expert or a full-stack developer? Do you only need Drupal maintenance? Do you need a whole new enterprise-grade Drupal solution? Would you like to hire a freelance developer or a contract-to-hire? Do you just have a rough idea of what you’d like him/them to develop? What type of experience do you want them to have? How much time would you be willing to spend working with them? How many hours per week would you be able to dedicate to the project?       3. Know where to look for talented Drupal developers. Top channels to consider for passive searches: job portals like LinkedIn, Monster, Glassdoor, Indeed online Drupal (or PHP) communities freelance platforms like Upwork, Toptal, Scalable Path Top channels for your active searches: social media Drupal groups local IT communities LinkedIn (when you start analyzing particular profiles on LinkedIn your passive search becomes active) (select the top Drupal profiles there and start evaluating them against your own requirements) developer communities like GitHub, Stack Overflow       4. Ask the right questions. Among the most important questions to ask potential Drupal partners are: How long have you been working with Drupal development solutions? What Drupal experience do you have? Are you familiar with my business model? Can you provide references? What Drupal skills do you possess? What Drupal technologies do you use?       5. Evaluate your potential Drupal partner carefully. Essential things to consider are: How experienced they are in working with different Drupal versions What their technical expertise is / How skilled they are at Drupal module development Their GitHub Profile (how much time they spent on different projects, samples of their written code, details on their contributions) Their involvement with the Drupal community What past clients say about working with them   Optasy's team of experienced Drupal developers is here to help you We are a development company and we are ready to leverage and to "fuel" your project with all that Drupal expertise that we've been gaining as a Drupal firm during these +10 years: whether it's custom module development, Drupal migration, AI implementation, or any type of new feature integration with Drupal that you need us to do. We're web developers, but with a mobile-first approach to our website development projects, in fact: we commit to helping you deliver the message to your users in an intuitive, effective, and nonetheless appealing way, on all devices.  We'll be in for the long run: our Drupal development services include 24/7/365 support & ongoing maintenance, which means much more than just rolling out patches and updates; we'll ensure that your OPTASY solution (be it Drupal, Laravel, WordPress, Magento, React or Angular-based) keeps meeting your goals, that it continues to remain relevant in the context of future technology changes. From structure planning, to Drupal website development, all the way to maintenance and long-term support, we've got your back; stay assured: full-cycle projects are our specialty as a Drupal 8 agency. As a development company in Toronto we have the experience and the expertise to handle your most specific requirements:   back-end development: we design and develop the custom features and functionalities that suit your project requirements front-end development: from custom themes to user-friendly Uis, to user experience design, to designing responsive layouts content migration system integration API design and development web accessibility  website maintenance: pass over the maintenance burden on our shoulders; we provide ongoing updates and continuous maintenance and support   For more information on how our talented Drupal experts can help you build a robust project for your web development needs, contact us.    Photo credit: Unsplash.... Read more
Raluca Olariu / Jan 21'2022
The Benefits Of Interactive Websites and How to Create Them
  Today, the digital world is getting increasingly competitive. To stay relevant, you need to build personalized user experiences and engage your audience in a meaningful way. What makes a website interactive? An interactive website is one that communicates efficiently and provides interactive web user experiences. It can be used to create an online presence for your business, or it could also be used as part of the marketing strategy for your company. The main goal of any website should always be to provide users with the information they need in order to make informed decisions about their purchases. This means providing them with all relevant information on products and services offered by you and/or your competitors. An effective way to do this would be through the use of graphics, videos, animations, etc., which are known collectively as "web 2.0" technologies. These types of websites allow users to interact directly with content without having to navigate away from the page first. They're often referred to as being more engaging than traditional static sites because they encourage interaction between visitors and the site's owner. In addition, these types of websites tend to have higher conversion rates compared to other forms of advertising. The Benefits of Creating Interactive Websites Interactivity is a key element in the success of any website. It can be as simple as adding an interactive map to your business directory, or it could involve creating a complex database-driven application that allows users to search for products and services by category, price range, location, etc. The main benefits of interactive websites are: Increased engagement. Users will spend longer periods of time browsing your site if there are multiple ways for them to engage with what they see. For example, if you offer a product comparison tool, then people who want to compare prices may find themselves spending hours looking at different options before making a purchase decision. Higher conversions. People like interacting with things that interest them. If you've ever been to a museum, you know how much fun it is to look around exhibits and learn new facts while doing so. You'll probably end up buying something after visiting such places. So why not take advantage of this fact when designing your own website? More targeted traffic. When someone visits your website, they have already made some sort of connection with you. By offering them additional opportunities to connect with you further, you increase the chances of converting that visitor into a customer. Better SEO rankings. Search engines prefer websites that contain lots of valuable data. An interactive website gives you many more opportunities to include keywords within its pages, thus improving your ranking in searches related to those terms. Better user experience (UX). A good UX makes life easier for both customers and employees. Customers might not mind navigating complicated interfaces; however, they hate slow ones. Employees dislike working with systems that require too much training. Both groups appreciate easy navigation and intuitive designs.   How to make your website interactive There is a wide variety of tools and website features available today that help you build interactive websites. The most popular elements and features for making websites interactive are: Simple software tools that relate to your business like tax calculators, quizzes, or surveys. These types of applications allow visitors to interact directly with your content without having to leave your page. They also provide valuable feedback about your audience's interests and preferences. An eCommerce solution that integrates payment processing, shipping, inventory management, order tracking, and other functions needed to run a successful online store. Social media widgets that let you embed social sharing buttons on your website. This lets your audience share information about your company via their favorite networks. Videos on web pages make great examples of how to create interactive websites. The best part about using videos is that it doesn't need to be fancy -- just get creative! Visual designs tend to attract and engage more users. User-generated content can add value to any type of site. It helps people feel connected to what you're saying by giving them an opportunity to contribute ideas and opinions. A blog allows users to comment on posts as well as read others' comments. Blogs often have polls where readers vote on topics. Interactivity isn't limited to these five categories. There are plenty of ways to incorporate interaction into your website. For instance, if you sell products, you could offer free samples so that potential buyers can try them before buying. If you want to promote your brand, you could ask followers to submit photos of themselves wearing your product. You could even use Twitter hashtags to encourage conversation around certain subjects. You can get creative when it comes to interactive content on your site and use the following interactive elements that, as simple as they might look, can engage more users: Google Maps is a very useful interactive element to introduce on your site because it helps users save time and energy. Live polling gives users the ability to respond in real-time to questions asked through live chat. Search functionalities that make the user navigation more straightforward and effective. Feedback forms give users the chance to express their opinion about something specific and offer a feeling of connection with the brand. Making your website interactive strongly supports your digital marketing efforts An interactive website design and functionality can significantly improve the customer experience, which will most likely increase engagement among your target audiences. Your digital marketing strategies can greatly benefit from an interactive design layout and functionality. According to a study, "the average person spends more than two hours per day consuming digital media." An interactive website design and functionality give businesses the chance to engage with consumers at all times. How interactive elements affect SEO The more interactive experiences you provide on your website, the better they'll perform when it comes to search engine optimization. In fact, Google has stated that sites with rich user interactions tend to rank higher in its results pages. Google uses many signals to determine whether a webpage should appear high up in its rankings. One of those factors includes how much attention users pay to each element on a given page. For example, if someone clicks on one particular link within a post, then this action indicates interest in that specific topic. Therefore, engaging your audience as much as possible through interactive features and elements will help boost your organic traffic and help you rank higher on SERPs. Interactive websites as part of a strong online presence Successful modern businesses provide valuable interactive website examples as they leverage the potential of interactive websites to create stronger connections between customers and companies. They understand the power that lies behind creating a positive impression on visitors by providing them with relevant information and making sure they feel valued. What tools or features do you use to make your website more interactive?   Photo credit: John Schnobrich on Unsplash. ... Read more
Raluca Olariu / Oct 13'2021
The Ultimate Guide to Canadian Web Accessibility Laws
  According to a 2017 study, 1 in 5 Canadians aged 15+ has at least one disability. Failing to prioritize web accessibility means ignoring a significant part of the population.  The increasing number of published legal cases around web accessibility shows that making websites accessible for people with disabilities is no longer optional.  The international web standard WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) includes three levels of accessibility compliance: A, AA, and AAA. However, as digital environments continually evolve, these requirements are frequently updated to match increasingly modern needs. The WCAG help companies remove unintentional barriers and reach the widest possible audience.  Accessibility regulations in Canada vary based on: The type of business (public sector company or private organization) The place where your business has been founded The size of your organization Whether your company is country-wide or provincial    So, how can you ensure you meet all Canadian accessibility requirements and provide accessible digital information for all your users? This article dives in the wavy sea of accessibility laws and policies in Canada, so you can determine which ones apply to your business. But first, let's have a look at what makes a website accessible. What is web accessibility? For a website to be accessible, it has to offer people with disabilities and those using assistive technologies easy ways to interact with the entire content found on the site. By supporting your visitors to overcome accessibility barriers in their interaction with your site, you position your brand as a trustful one. Therefore, the benefits of web accessibility extend to your business as well, not only your website's users.  Web content accessibility doesn't just include people with disabilities. It also refers to content that can be easily understood and interacted with by smartphone users, elderly people, persons with low literacy, or those who have low English skills.  An accessible website includes the following: ALT text for all types of images Captions and transcripts for audio and video content to help persons with disabilities, hearing loss, or low English skills understand the information provided.  Link names that contain meaningful and descriptive text which can be easily interpreted by screen readers. Relevant, appropriately formatted headlines that help people with disabilities that use assistive software easily find the information they are interested in. This accessibility step also improves your SEO and SERP rankings.  Use meaningful link texts that clearly describe what the URL i about. Try to include specific keyword and avoid raw URLs.  Clear website instructions that make your users' interactions with your site more straightforward and streamlined.    What is accessible content? Maybe your website is an Ecommerce platform, or it might be a publishing site on various topics. Regardless of its scope, your website has to provide clear, meaningful, and concise content in order to be considered accessible.  As a content editor, you need to pay attention to how you write your copy so that it is always: Perceivable. Website users should easily perceive any piece of content that is presented on the site. Operable. When structured, a site's content should focus on operability. Understandable. Accessible content is comprehensive, concise, and includes meaningful structural elements. Robust. A piece of content is considered robust when it can be easily scanned and interpreted by assistive technologies.  By doing so, your web content will be accessible to all your users (persons with disabilities, smartphone users, elderly people, non-native English speakers, etc.)    What are the most important web accessibility laws in Canada? According to the Canadian Standard on Web Accessibility, all Governments of Canada websites and web applications must conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA.  Note: This does not apply to any business outside the government.    Provincial regulations The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) established in 2005 was the first provincial accessibility law and is currently the only provincial law with an explicit digital accessibility element.  Public sector organizations, private, and non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees need to comply to AODA regulations. Despite the fact that the AODA does not apply to self-employed individuals that don't have employees, all businesses in Ontario, regardless of size, are urged to consider web accessibility a priority.  The current minimum standard for all public-facing websites is to comply with Level A and all public sector organizations and private businesses with 50+ employees need to be WCAG 2.0 AA accessible.  To maintain their accessibility compliance status, companies are also required to publish a Statement of Accessibility Commitment and Accessibility Policy on their websites. The deadline for this report was set for December 31, 2020, and extended to June 30, 2021.  In regard to companies that own a website with content built by international vendors, the content must comply with local laws and policies. specifies, “The organization that controls the website must meet the accessibility requirements.”    Accessible Canada Act (ACA) The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) founded in 2019 by the Federal Government intends to create a barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities by 2040. Its futuristic vision and well-established strategies were built with the Canadian Human Rights Act and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in mind.  These new legislations benefit everyone in Canada, especially people with disabilities, through the proactive identification, elimination, and avoidance of barriers to accessibility in the digital environment. The ACA encourages the Government of Canada to collaborate with stakeholders and persons with disabilities to create new accessibility regulations for private or non-profit organizations, banking, telecommunications, or transportation industries.  To discover the right direction of the ACA development, the Government of Canada asked its citizens what an accessible Canada meant to them. The findings of the report, Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned from Canadians, outlines the following key areas where accessibility needed reinforcement: Programs and service delivery Employment Information and communication technology Procurement and transportation The ACA set a new accessibility standard for publishing and promoting digital content, and it received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.  What lays at the foundation of ACA is eliminating the barriers to accessibility for Canadians with disabilities and help them interact more easily with digital content and technology. One touchpoint of the ACA is the digital experience, which can be made accessible by: Leveraging conformance-facing tools in workspaces (intranets, employee services, internal learning resources) Including conformance of digital tools and content from vendors Installing kiosks, parking machines, or payments machines   How to comply with accessibility laws In today's busy and complex digital landscape, all websites are highly encouraged to take accessibility seriously. Regardless of the regulation, you can ensure that you pass the accessibility test by: Keeping up to date with the latest versions of WCAG, which constantly change to match current technologies and user research. These regulations are established to meet a wide range of needs, including those of people with low vision or neurologic disorders, and to keep pace with the ever-changing mobile landscape.  Leveraging analytics data to help you understand your target audience and their unique needs. Additionally, you can talk and ask for feedback from your active users to better grasp your website's strengths and weaknesses. By gaining awareness of ideas of improvement directly from your audience, you'll deliver more personalized and accessible web experiences. Testing assistive technology tools to gain a more accurate perspective on how you can support, for example, people relying on screen readers. Get in the shoes of your users and become more empathetic to be able to come up with appropriate inclusive solutions to make your site more accessible.    Fines and penalties So, what happens if you fail to comply with the accessibility regulations that apply to your organization?  The fines under the AODA include: Companies can be penalized up to $100,000/day. Individuals and unincorporated businesses can receive fines of up to $50,000/day. Managers and officers in a corporation can be fined up to $50,000/day.   The current enforcement instructions state that businesses are fined larger penalties for their first violation, and, if the lack of compliance continues, these penalties can apply every day.  However, the way these fines are given depends on the impact of the non-compliance and the history of the company or individual that has committed the violation. For minor violations, organizations may be fined as little as $500/day.  The AODA applies to all levels of government, non-profit and private sector companies, but the penalties are currently targeting only organizations with 50+ employees.    How can your business benefit from complying with accessibility laws? Improving your website's accessibility is wise regardless of legal compliance regulations. It is also good for the business. Some key benefits of optimizing your site for accessibility are: Higher traffic rates on your website. By making your site accessible, you are opening the door for a wider range of visitors, which may lead to increased traffic, engagement, and conversion rates. More customers. Web accessibility is all about meeting a wide variety of customer needs, and it can grow your customer base in the long run.  Improved SEO rankings. Some practices to make your site more accessible include writing relevant, concise content, adding ALT-text to images, or selecting simplistic layout designs. Also, these practices are good for SEO, as they increase your SERP ratings and your website's visibility.  Faster page loading speed. By working on your website's accessibility, you also improve your page loading time and the overall user experience.    Conclusion Keeping up with the evolving web accessibility laws in Canada is a must. The next step is to become proactive on your accessibility journey by designing and optimizing your web apps and sites to comply with the rules and regulations of WCAG. This will not only keep you away from lawsuits and penalties, but it will also boost your brand reputation and your business outcomes.  If you need a hand in building websites and web apps that are compliant with the latest Canadian accessibility laws, we are happy to help with proactive Drupal support for your development projects. Check out our Drupal Website Accessibility services and let's discuss how you can embrace an inclusive mindset that supports all your customers.    Photo credit: Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash. ... Read more
Raluca Olariu / Jul 22'2021
 How to Create Accessible Content More Easily
  Web accessibility heavily relies on developers and designers. They are responsible for building code and specific design patterns to make a website accessible for people with disabilities.  Another way to enhance a site's accessibility is through content. Creating accessible content is paramount when it comes to making a website accessible to screen reader users or visitors that use assistive technologies.  Content editors can give a piece of writing accessibility by: writing relevant, concise, descriptive text links creating easily scannable headings adding alternative texts to every non-text element of the content writing meaningful copy   Regardless of the scope of your website, as a content editor, your mission is to create and optimize every piece of writing on your site with accessibility in mind. This also means putting yourself into the shoes of your audience and thinking from their perspective. You should ask yourself: What do I need in order to have full access to this website? Which features and website tools can help visitors interact with this website more conveniently?  If you use empathy to answer these questions, you'll get closer to understanding your audience. Only then will you be on the right path to building accessible content on your website.    How do you define accessible content? Web content accessibility doesn't just include people with disabilities. It also refers to content that can be easily understood and interacted with by smartphone users, older people, persons with low literacy, or those who have low English skills.  According to the WCAG 2.0 standards, web content is considered accessible if it's: Perceivable. Website users should easily perceive any piece of content that is presented on the site.  Operable. When structured, a site's content should focus on operability. Understandable. Accessible content is comprehensive, concise, and includes meaningful structural elements. Robust. A piece of content is considered robust when it can be easily scanned and interpreted by assistive technologies.    How to create accessible content 1. Use specific link texts. And try to avoid link text like "Click here" as they're not suitable in terms of accessibility. Meaningful link texts convey and clearly describe what the URL is about, making it easier for people who use screen readers to interact with the content.  When using link texts, try to: Avoid raw URLs  Include specific keywords Be short and concise Make sure the link text fits naturally into the content Mention the type and size of files  in case of downloadable links   2. Write clear and simple content.  Using concise language for your website's content benefits multiple groups of visitors, such as: Users with cognitive disabilities Non-native English speakers Screen reader users Busy people who want to quickly go through your copy Depending on the professional level of your content's target audience, you should either avoid or explain technical terms and acronyms. Also, focus on using an active voice that clearly states your ideas and avoid long sentences and idioms.    3. Provide transcripts and captions.  While captions appear on the screen as written text, transcripts are the textual version of the video or audio content provided in a separate document.  Transcripts and captions make websites more accessible for users who: Have hearing issues Have low English skills Can't listen to the content due to environmental reasons Transcripts and captions can be provided for all video and audio content, or they can be done by request. Either way, they are great ways to improve a website's accessibility.    4. Add relevant, appropriately formatted headlines.  People with disabilities that use assistive software need scannable content that allows them to quickly find relevant information instead of wasting time going through the entire chunk of text. Structuring and styling your content in a scannable manner can also enhance your SEO efforts and improves your SERP visibility.   Design your headings with accessibility in mind, and ensure that you use them as structural elements of the content and define its hierarchy. The accessible text needs to provide readers the ability to quickly navigate between the most important sections, and headings are the tool for allowing this.    5. Use ALT text for images.  Whether you have complex images or just decorative images on your site, make them accessible by providing precise and concise ALT descriptions. Screen readers can't interpret non-text content elements, so images without ALT text are useless for screen reader users.  Like headlines, alternate descriptions highly improve your SEO rankings and visibility.  Make sure you use ALT text wisely by: Keeping your description short (under 125 characters) Avoiding images with text like graphs or diagrams    6. Write clear, to-the-point website instructions. Web accessibility is all about easier interactions with digital platforms. People want web experiences that require as few resources as possible on their part. And for online visitors with disabilities, this is more than a demand; it is a necessity.  Therefore, web instructions, error messages, or data formats must be easy to understand, so they can be considered accessible.  Part of creating accessible web content includes paying attention to how you write basic text like website instructions.   Web accessibility is here to stay. Implementing web accessibility into the core of your digital platform is a must. As web accessibility laws are getting more restrictive, brands start to think of making their websites accessible to support the future of their businesses. In an increasingly populated digital landscape, the mindset has to evolve in order to meet the complex needs of a variety of internet users. Companies that don't keep up with these trends will fall behind, and those who take web accessibility seriously will be on the winning side.  As we've seen, accessible content creation is not rocket science and will improve your website in multiple ways. Making your content accessible should be a priority and an essential part of your editorial workflow.  A few practices to remember for optimizing your content are: Always use ALT text for images Provide captions and transcripts for audio and video content Properly structure and format headings   If you need help to make your website more accessible, check out Optasy's Drupal Website Accessibility services. We'll offer our best support for helping you adopt an accessibility-first mindset to your website.    Photo credit: Nick Morrison on Unsplash.   ... Read more
Raluca Olariu / Jul 20'2021
10 Best Practices for Making Web Icons Accessible
  It's no secret that icons are widely used in web design and, to fully reap their potential, they should be truly inclusive. There are multiple ways in which brands can make their website content easy to interact with for people with disabilities, and icon accessibility is one of them. Regardless of the type of web icons you choose—material icons, flat icons, graphical icons, ready-made or fully custom, or on-brand icons—they have to be visible to all users. How can you make icons accessible to everyone? Keep reading to find out: What defines an accessible icon Best practices for making icons accessible Types of web icons and practical approaches for improving their accessibility   What's an accessible icon? Icons that can be understood by all website visitors, no matter what impairments or disabilities they might have, can be considered accessible. To make icons fully accessible to screen reader users, consider following these steps: 1. Focus on noticeability. Whether it is a decorative icon or a standard icon, if it can't be instantly perceivable to all users, it becomes inaccessible. This means that visitors shouldn't have to perform any extra action on your site in order to view the icon.  2. Insert text labels. This is a safety measure worth investing in to ensure your icons are accessible to the widest range of users. To prevent unclear situations from arising, add a text label near any type of graphical icons you use on your site.  3. Consider color contrast. If an icon's color contrast is too low, some users with vision loss might have trouble seeing it. Screen reader users need enough foreground-background color to easily notice your icons.  4. Don't forget about the size. To be properly sized, icons must have around 44x44 pixels. Icon links must be treated with care as, if they're smaller than 44x44 pixels, they may become inaccessible on smaller devices.  5. Make your icons are mouse, touchscreen, and keyboard accessible. If you're thinking of interactive icons, then you need to ensure that users can easily click on them, whether they use a mouse, keyboard, or touchscreen.    Best practices for making icons accessible How can you turn a standard icon into an accessible icon? Here are some useful tips to consider on this journey: Use the most popular pixel measurements and square dimensions. The most frequently used sizes for web icons are:  128x128 16x16 512x512 64x64 256x256 Make linked icons accessible with ALT-text. For example, you can write 'Email us' as the ALT-text near your '@' email icon.  Use more SVG or PNG file formats. It's easier to make icons accessible with SVG icon systems or PNGs, and, as most designers advise, icon fonts should be avoided.  Adjust the icon-background color contrast properly. If you consider adding your web icon to the background, you need to adjust the color contrast accordingly.  Use a visible-hidden class selector for the text accompanying the icon. If you've inserted an explanatory text within your link icon, and you want it to be visible to screen readers only, a visible-hidden class selector is a solution. However, be careful that, by doing so, the click/touch area will be smaller, and some screen reader users might not understand what the icon does.  Insert visible text next to semantic icons. This is another safety measure to ensure that the meaning of your icons is 100% clear to all visitors. While semantic icons are standalone icons that have meaning, the safest way to make them visible to anyone is by accompanying them with visible explanatory text. Make icon fonts accessible. If you do decide to use icon fonts (try to avoid it as we discussed earlier), then add aria-hidden="true" to the element to ensure they are fully accessible.  Don't use ALT-Text to text-based icons. It's easy to see why you should avoid using an ALT text near a text-based icon, as it becomes unnecessary and might even confuse screen reader users.    How to use icons efficiently within apps and online The main goal of web icons is to quickly convey meaning for all types of users. However, if not used accordingly, icons can do more harm than good by being difficult to interpret.  To avoid this, make sure you choose commonly used icons. For example, it is likely that most users will recognize the hamburger icon as the menu and the wheel icon as the settings. That's why, opting for popular, simple icons is more beneficial than using unusual ones.  Another tip for efficiently using icons on your site is to be consistent in doing so. More exactly, give each icon on your website one meaning only. Using the same icon for different purposes will confuse your visitors and alter the user experience.  Also, avoid using small icons as they can be challenging to understand, especially for users with visual impairments. A tiny decorative icon can also prevent users with limited fine motor skills from easily interacting with your site, and can also be hard to click on mobile device screens. After implementing all these tips and best practices, you need feedback to see whether you're going on the right track or not. To ensure that the icon sizes and icon types used on your site are as clear and meaningful as possible for your audience, you need to test them with real end-users.  Remote testing is one approach that can help you easily gather data on whether your icons are accessible or not from a large number of users.   Web accessibility as regulation and necessity The legal requirements around web accessibility have become more complex in recent years. More emphasis is being put on making websites accessible for individuals with disabilities, and the fines for not doing so can be considerable.  Web accessibility is not only beneficial for users, but also for companies. What are the benefits of web accessibility for your business? From increased website traffic and online visibility to improved brand reputation and bigger customer base, the competitive advantages of making your website accessible are multiple.  As the number of internet users is constantly on the rise, businesses need to develop and maintain innovative mindsets that promote inclusion and diversity. Proper access to all elements in a website for all users is no longer optional, but necessary.  The rise of assistive technology usage requires optimized websites that take into consideration the needs of a wide range of internet users with various health conditions. Graphic icons can be a powerful way to enhance accessibility in apps and web pages if they are implemented with care.  This means choosing which accessibility issues to prioritize based on the needs of your audience. Completing an accessibility remediation project requires a deep understanding of how your users interact with your website. When prioritizing, you also have to consider the direction of your business strategy, content, and website functionality.  If you need help choosing the best approach to prioritization or making your website more accessible through optimized icons, drop us a line, and discover our Drupal Website Accessibility services.    Photo credit: Harpal Singh on Unsplash.         ... Read more
Raluca Olariu / Jul 19'2021
How to Prioritize Accessibility Issues - 8 Tips
  Completing an accessibility remediation project can be tricky. It's one thing to spot issues in your web accessibility plan and another to efficiently prioritize solving them. How do you prioritize accessibility problems? Which issues should you address first? There are several ways to do this, by noticeability, by severity, or by tractability—which one do you choose? There are multiple questions at this point and, hopefully, this article will help you answer all of them. Keep reading to discover eight simple ways to prioritize the issues included in your accessibility audit report.    Why is web accessibility important?   Web accessibility is essential for both people with disabilities and businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures taken by the government have accelerated digital transformation and changed the online climate.  As the number of internet users has increased to 4.66 billion in January 2021 and appointments to COVID-19 vaccine shots have been made through online platforms, web accessibility has become even more crucial than before.  People with high-risk medical conditions and those from priority populations need streamlined access to vaccine appointments, and here's where web accessibility optimization counts.  U.S. and Canadian regulations regarding web accessibility have been reinforced in the last year, with an increase of 20% in web accessibility lawsuits.    How does web accessibility benefit users and businesses?   Making your website accessible brings multiple benefits for your digital users and your company. By helping your audience overcome accessibility barriers in their interaction with your site, you are more likely to earn their trust and long-term loyalty. And by making your customers happy, you invest in the well-being of your business as well.  Satisfied customers mean higher engagement and conversion rates, and improved traffic on your site.  Making web accessibility a priority in your development practices is also essential to avoid the risk of legal complications. Today, optimizing websites for people with disabilities is no longer optional, unless you don't mind legal fees and penalties.  As the digital world is getting more complex, innovation is what often makes the difference between success and failure. Trends are ever-changing, so being able to innovate and come up with creative solutions to your problems is key.  Web accessibility helps you maintain a flexible and innovative mindset, as it forces you to deal with unanticipated issues that require extra creativity.  Another benefit of making your site more accessible is that, by doing so, you're also making it more SEO-friendly.  You can improve your site's accessibility by adding ALT-text to images, writing clear content, or choosing a clutter-free page layout. All of these steps also mean good SEO practices.    8 tips for efficiently prioritizing accessibility issues   We've now understood why digital properties need to be accessible and what are the benefits of web accessibility for users and businesses.  Now let's dive in and explore some best practices on how to efficiently create a strategic accessibility prioritization plan.   1. Does your website have lots of images on it? Then your main focus should be ALT text.  2. What does your analytical data tell you? Prioritize addressing accessibility issues according to this data to improve the user experience. If your target audience heavily relies on screen magnifiers to zoom in on particular sections on your site, then prioritize solving the issues around this specific feature.  Take advantage of analytics tools and statistics to accurately address the needs of your customers and efficiently design your site accessibility plan.  If you know that your population of users who uses a keyboard is 1 %, and your magnification users are 5 %, then a keyboard focus issue which normally is in the bottom third of the list since it is an AA suddenly becomes more important. In other words, prioritizing web accessibility issues according to their WCAG level (A, AA, AAA) is a bit rudimentary in the complex digital scenario that we currently interact with.  What matters more is how these accessibility issues impact your customer base—that's where you should start from.  3. Does your site have lots of video content on it? In this case, prioritize adding captions to address the needs of people with disabilities.  4. Is an issue repetitive for screen readers? Then treat it as a top priority.  For example, link names are a common issue listed on the W3C accessibility checklist. These links should contain unique, meaningful, and descriptive text. If your automated accessibility testing tool has identified repeated issues with link names and the experience of website visitors using a screen reader might be compromised, then address it quickly.  5. Are your users having trouble submitting forms?  If so, consider addressing these web accessibility issues that prevent users from filling in a form on your website. Usability issues like inaccessible inline error messages or unhelpful error text messages can send a message to your visitors that they don't matter enough to have access to basic streamlined experiences on your site.  6. Does your site have accessibility issues that affect the user navigation experience? In this case, you know what to do: prioritize solving any issue that negatively impacts the way your visitors interact and navigate on your website. A poor navigation experience is bad for any visitor and even worse for users with disabilities who depend on assistive technologies to interact with your site. Most likely, they'll get discouraged, frustrated, and never again willing to come back to your website.  7. Are there any accessibility issues on your site's main pages? Consider putting them on top of your accessibility remediation list. Why? Well, it's pretty straightforward: your main pages like the product page or the contact us page are the ones your visitors interact the most with.  'It will be very difficult for a website to conform to all criteria on level AAA. For this reason, the recommendation is to address accessibility issues based on popular pages and specific groups.' 8. Do you prioritize according to your audience's needs, content, or website functionality? If not, get started because internal prioritization based on the requirements of your web accessibility plan is many times the winning strategy. Taking the 'A level vs AA level' shortcut may not be as effective, leading to poor long-term results. In today's highly dynamic digital landscape, web accessibility issues prioritization must be made based on deeper insights that involve your audience and business direction.    Key aspects of web accessibility   You now understand the importance of web accessibility for your audience and for your business, as well as how to spot priority issues in your accessibility strategy.  Next, let's have a look at what makes a website accessible and what goals you should set for your website's content and design to make it accessible: Ensure that your design elements and text are visible for all users Create robust content that can be easily interpreted by specific assistive technology tools Make sure the information you deliver on your website is clear and the user interface easy to navigate and interact with   Some key features that boost accessibility in a website are:   Color contrast - Website visitors that can benefit from this accessibility feature are the ones with a sight condition, people who are accessing your site from their mobile devices, those accessing it in a poorly lit environment, etc. Implement a good color contrast between the background and the foreground of your site makes it more visible and enhances text readability. Text to speech - This accessibility feature allows users with learning disabilities to interact with your website in a convenient manner. Also, people with literacy difficulties, low vision, or just busy users that choose multitasking will be highly grateful for a text to speech feature.  Clear and constant instructions - Providing feedback in the form of error/success messages for every action that users need to complete or have completed can highly benefit users with cognitive and learning disabilities or visitors that aren't skilled at computer operations. People love clear instructions, especially if they struggle to complete certain tasks, so making your website predictable and convenient is key. Video captions -  Captions or subtitles make your video content accessible to people with hearing loss or users accessing your content from a loud environment. This feature is highly convenient and should not miss your top ten accessibility features list.  Clear layouts and design - The benefits here are multiple, as simple designs load faster, provide better user experiences, and improve your website's SEO rankings. You can maintain your site clutter-free by getting rid of unnecessary design elements, non-relevant content, and unnecessary code. To decide which parts of your site need decluttering, perform an audit of the text sections, links, and menus, and start cleaning your site.  Voice recognition - This accessibility feature is not beneficial just for users with various health conditions. It's convenient for anyone who would rather utter search phrases instead of writing them in the search bar.  ALT-tags - When you think of accessibility, you think of confidence and comfort. That's what you want to give your audience and, by using concise descriptions, you offer them a sense of trust and control. Impersonal image descriptions that include specific keywords are the most helpful to them.    Prioritizing web accessibility is not optional anymore. Learning how to efficiently manage your accessibility prioritization plan can be challenging, but, hopefully, the insights from this article have paved the way for a pragmatic approach to accessibility prioritization. You now have a better understanding of how to decide which functionalities need immediate attention, as well as the issues that should be fixed first.  Efficient accessibility prioritization is all about stepping out of your business shoes and empathize with the user who's most affected by accessibility issues. Ask yourself, 'If I couldn't access this, how would it make me feel?' Then you'll be able to truly get on the other side of the table and understand your audience, thus prioritizing with their needs in mind.  Check out our Drupal Website Accessibility services for more insights on how you can take web accessibility to the next level.  Photo credit: mohamed_hassan on Pixabay.     ... Read more
Raluca Olariu / Jul 15'2021