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How Creating a Mind Map Helps You Make Your Website More User-Friendly
The line between useful and... useless (or pushy or simply annoying) is thinner than you think. That's why creating a mind map that aligns your site's content structure with the user intent is... critical. "Whether you’re a product owner or designer, you don’t want your website to be a maze with nothing but frustrating blind alleys.” (source: altexsoft.com) And there's no guessing work or discouragingly complex process in identifying the current user flow on each web page on your website: Just take a look at the behavior flow report in your Google Analytics. No rocket science here... Take it from there and:   identify the roadblocks restructure content on each page so that it matches user intent and is fluid and easy to read But let us give you a hand with that. With mind mapping your current customer journey and planning its improved version: In this respect, in today's post we'll:   give you the “anatomy” of a user-friendly website: what elements make a website, well, user-friendly? define mind mapping with respect to designing the user experience on a website teach you how to create a mind map: an easy step-by-step guide show you how to use a mind map to make UX improvements on your website   1. The Anatomy of a User-Friendly Website: 4 Essential Features “A vague objective leads to poor results.” There's no point in creating a mind map that would hopefully make your website more user-friendly if... you're not quite sure what key elements make a website user-friendly. So, here's the list of must-haves for any website aspiring to deliver a great user experience:   1.1. High Speed It's no news to anyone: the page loading time has a huge impact on the user experience. Unnecessary interactive elements, that don't match users' needs and don't play any role in the conversion process either, will only get you a clunky and... well... slow website.   1.2. Useful Features And “intuitive” I must add. Again, we go back to the “elements justified by the user's needs” principle: Is that slider useful and relevant for the user behavior on your website? It it too bulky, loaded with endless options that just ... discourage the visitor? You might want to re-evaluate all the features on your website: are they relevant and intuitive enough?   1.3. A Well-Structured Information Architecture Information that's:   easy to access easy to interpret   … is key for a wannabe user-friendly website.   1.4. Content that Matches User Intent If users are looking for online cooking classes, let's say — and that's precisely what you promise to deliver them — and you're only trying to sell them kitchen gadgets on your website, the only result that you'll get is them bouncing off in seconds.   2. What Is Mind Mapping with Respect to Designing the User Experience? An overly simplified definition would be: A way to brainstorm and present the generated information in a visual way. Now, since I've promised you a definition “with respect to” creating the user experience, here's a more... context-specific definition: Mind mapping is a vesatile technique where you put together a visual hierarchy of your site's present or future content. It lists out the key pages on your website (homepage, service pages, blog page, etc.),  the various relations between different web pages, the links and CTAs on each page... Source: altexosft.com In short: mind mapping reveals how data is structured on your website. Of course, you'll then consider creating a mind map of the target version of your current website. The more user-friendly one...   3. Main Benefits of Using Mind Mapping: From Great Ideas to... Actionable Steps Finding new ideas is exciting. But jumping on every new great idea that someone in your team has, without first checking whether it aligns with the user intent, is just like... making shapes out of soap foam. Not only that they're not future-proofed, but that clutter of ideas might not work together either. By using one of the best mapping tools available online for structuring those ideas as they... pop out, you turn them into actionable steps in your strategy for improving the UX on your website. And the clear benefits to mind mapping are:   you define your ideas' roles: what role do they play in your UX strategy (if you can't assign them a role, they're just “Wow” ideas with no solid justification) you assess their value: how does implementing this new idea bubble up to the user experience? you identify the various relations between them: you might want to avoid “island-ideas”, with no connections to other ideas listed out in your mind map   4. Creating a Mind Map: 5 Simple Steps Now that you know what a mind map is and why on earth you'd bother making one, let's see how you can actually put one together:   4.1. Create a Mind-Map Template Just so you can have a basic idea of the current information architecture on your website. List out how data's being structured on your website now and how you plan to structure it for its more user-friendly future version...   4.2. Map Out Your Ideal User Flow How would you like your website visitors to engage with your content? What actions would you like them to perform? Source: mindmeister.com Once you've outlined the key pages on your website (homepage, services, features), start planning out the user flow.   4.3. Compare it to the Current Behavior Flow Available on Your Google Analytics Before you can properly map out the user flow, you need to know what's the standard customer journey on your website now. For that, just delve into your Google Analytics data and look for the user behavior report. It'll show you all you need to know about:   how users are engaging with your website's content  what paths they usually take when navigating through your current information architecture   4.4. Identify the Roadblocks The user behavior data might reveal to you some unwanted realities regarding the user experience on your website:   poorly structured content a bulky and tiresome collection of interactive elements irrelevant features (embedded videos, interactive elements, social sharing functionalities) too many tools that don't respond to users' needs   4.5. Make the Appropriate UX Decisions to Influence the User Behavior Now that you've identified the main roadblocks in delivering the best user experience, it's time to... remove them, one by one:   turn chaos into a logical content hierarchy trim irrelevant page elements, with zero value in the conversion process  adapt web pages' content structure to the needs of specific audience segments (make sure to include relevant information for those customer personas, redesign your CTAs if needed...)   5. How to Use a Mind Map to Make Powerful UX Improvements Creating a mind map is but the first step: Turning it into powerful UX decisions should be your main objective. So, the answer to the question “Are mind maps effective/useful?” is: They are if and only if you make them useful and... usable. You can turn your mind map into:   an effective sitemap a customer journey map   But let us take a real-life scenario and point out specific UX decisions that you could make with your mind map at hand. It's an example that I've run into reading Mindmaster team's great blog post: A Simple Way to Design UX, UI and CX Using Mind Maps: Say you're targeting 3 different customer personas on your website. You then need to plan 3 different user flows.  You start by grouping the web pages on your site into 3 categories, each of them corresponding to one audience segment. Then, you start doing some user behavior mapping: how do you want each customer persona to navigate to the corresponding web page so that he/she clicks the CTA placed there? Now, it's time to make some critical UX decisions:   what relations to set up between various pages on your website? You might have a user on a service page and you need him/her to visit your “get a quote” page, as well what's the best CTA design for each one of your 3 types of pages? what key information should you include on a page, depending on the customer persona accessing it? See? Not only that creating a mind map helps you put together an effective information architecture, but it's also a great technique for generating content ideas that match the user intent.   6. Final Word In the end, it all comes down to goal setting. Creating a mind map is a great way to:   understand your website goals: what type of conversion actions do you want users to perform? achieve those  website goals by delivering a user-friendly experience: content that's useful, accessible, easy to read and to interpret   The END! Do you usually create mind maps when building new websites, to ensure they'll deliver the best user experience? Or for existing ones, to improve their UX? Do you consider them critical or optional in designing the user experience? Image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Dec 14'2019
Why Would You Build Your Own Cloud Native Drupal Platform? The Main Benefits and Challenges to Consider
Why or rather "when" should you consider building your own cloud native Drupal platform?  Is a container-based infrastructure a viable solution for you? For your business needs? How do you know if your specific use case calls for a cloud-native Drupal development environment? And, assuming that you've run your own evaluation and that your use case does demand a switch from your current VM to a... multi-cloud Drupal hosting architecture: How do you make Drupal... cloud native friendly?  So that you can build, deploy, scale and manage fast and resilient Drupal apps in the cloud? In this post, we commit to answering all your key cloud-native and Drupal-related questions:   "What does cloud-native mean exactly?" "What is cloud-native with respect to Drupal?" "Why do I need a cloud native Drupal platform anyway?" "What are the biggest advantages and their... flip sides?" 1. What Does Cloud Native Mean Exactly? What is a cloud-native application? It's a holistic approach to designing, building, and running applications that make the most of cloud-native concepts. Or, if you wish: Cloud-native application development is a methodology — covering all stages of an app's lifecycle: design, deployment... operations — for developing apps that run in the cloud.  Applications that use the cloud computing model to its full potential. DevOps, agile, microservices and other modern software architectures all fall under the umbrella of a cloud-native methodology. Therefore, it's fast, resilient, highly scalable and easily maintainable applications that you get to run in a cloud-native infrastructure.   2. And What Is Cloud Native with Respect to Drupal?    In other words: where does Drupal fit in this revolution in how we develop and deploy our applications? Overall, taking full advantage of a cloud native Drupal development environment means: Finding the best solution for handling decentralized storage, auto-scaling, auto-provisioning and multi-region fault tolerance. Getting the most of cloud-native and Drupal comes down to:   minimizing the use of long-running servers relying more on purpose-built services and elastic computing setting up a development environment where you can easily test your new themes and modules, fix bugs, build, and deploy resilient enterprise Drupal apps   3. Why Build Your Own Cloud Native Drupal Platform? And When? For there are cases (is this your case, too?) when such a powerful, yet... challenging architecture is not justified by the company's business needs. So, let's answer your "when" question first. You're better off with a cloud-native infrastructure, where you deploy Kubernetes and containers, if:   you're dealing with high traffic, high volume applications and polyglot architecture you already have an Ops team you've already made at least some sort of investments in the private or public cloud your current requirements in terms of costs and control justify setting up a multi-cloud architecture you're running and maintaining an entire ecosystem of Drupal sites   "OK, so it looks like I "qualify" for it. But still: what would be the biggest advantages of building my own cloud-native platform compared to opting for a cloud vendor's services?" Here are the 2 most obvious advantages:   you'd avoid getting locked-in to a cloud provider you'd avoid growing dependant of your PaaS provider for hosting, scaling, and managing your own Drupal apps   4. Why Would You Want to Containerize Your Drupal Apps in the First Place? What would be your major wins if you ran Drupal in containers? Here are the 3 most significant ones:   repeatability and consistency: you get the same predictable and specific result with each container that you run less maintenance work an easier way to run PHP upgrades compared to a conventional VM stack where you depend on your host for that and where there's a whole cluster of sites that needs to get PHP upgraded simultaneously   5. 3 Pillers of a Container-Based Infrastructure: Drupal, Kubernetes, Docker What goes into a cloud-native Drupal platform? There are 3 key players involved:   5.1. Drupal The robust content management system which, beginning with its 8th major version, grew into a Symfony-based content management framework. Backed by a huge (100K+) and active community of contributors and a rich plugin ecosystem, Drupal powers a wide variety of web applications: media and entertainment apps, non-profit, gov, education... 5.2. Kubernetes It's the standard container orchestration technology.  In the context of your future cloud-native infrastructure, you'll be using it to manage:   your containers' lifecycle command and control distribution scheduling   5.3. Docker It's the standard... tool that you will be using for creating your containers. 6. 4 Cloud-Native Platform Features to Put on Your Wishlist What feature requirements should you have with respect to your Drupal development environment? Here's how a... decent wishlist should look like:   it should provide a layer of abstraction over IaaS it should handle cross-cutting concerns it should be easily scalable and secure it should provide an efficient developer experience (and agile operator experience, as well)   7. Deploying Your Drupal Apps on the Cloud: Requests & Constraints What's the proper set-up for a container-based Drupal architecture? "What are the key requirements that my future cloud-native Drupal platform should meet?" you might legitimately ask yourself.   your Drupal application should be turned into a containerized stack minimal Ops (or not Ops at all) it should run properly on any cloud your public/private file should be externalized it should scale up, out, and down it should make the most of PaaS services: for gateways, databases, load balances, cache stores, queues it should tap into an operational model: new app provisioning-routing-monitoring... your development team should be able to get high fidelity local environments up and running in no time   "And what challenges should I expect?" you'll further wonder:   your developers are faced with a steep learning curve: they should have some sort of understanding of what's happening under the hood when deploying Kubernetes CI & Delivery Pipeline  logical architecture monitoring and management Dev & Build Tools  local development    The END! What do you think: Is a cloud native Drupal development environment a viable solution for you?  Are the advantages highlighted here relevant enough for your use case and business needs? Or are the outlined challenges too discouraging for you? Feel free to share with us any thoughts and concerns that you might have regarding the idea of building your own cloud native Drupal platform. Photo by C Dustin on Unsplash  ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Dec 12'2019
Acquia DAM: What Is It? And How Precisely Does It Streamline Your Content Production Process?
PDFs, infographics, icons, logos, fonts, videos... How complex is your "ecosystem" of creative digital assets? And how easy is it for your team(s) to manage it efficiently? If it goes from challenging to... cumbersome, then you might consider switching to Acquia DAM. "But would it pay off to make the move to a cloud-based digital asset management software?" To answer your own question, ask yourself further:   "What if all designers, content creators and marketers in my company were always on the same page? On a shared platform?"   "What if no one in my team(s) saved brand assets locally, but on the cloud instead? On a centralized cloud-based location?"   "What if managing my heavy load of digital assets could get as efficient as... having one single repository for all my assets? One that all my teams can access anytime and (from) anywhere?"   Now, what if Acquia DAM was the answer to all these... daring "fantasies" of yours? Here's:   what this tool is how it can streamline your content pipeline what are its most powerful features how you can get the most of it (since any software can only be as good as its users, right?)   1. What Is Acquia DAM? It's a digital asset management system that acts as a central storage location for all your assets, allowing everyone in your company to:   access them, irrespective of their locations keep track of them organize them update them share them   ... with great ease. Here's a short demo of Acquia DAM "in action", streamlining the most common asset management tasks that your creative teams usually perform. In short: imagine your current infrastructure of various platforms, personal computers, various channels, multiple stakeholders involved in the content process, devices, and repositories reduced to one single place on the cloud. A cloud-based repository where all your different teams — marketing, design, content — can store and update all your creative assets. The 2 most obvious benefits that you'll "reap":   you'll deliver a consistent brand experience you'll speed up the content production process   2. What Are Its Most Powerful Features? For, OK, it boosts your content pipeline: But what about those robust features and functions that it ships with? The key ones to look look for and to trigger, to be sure that your teams use this DAM solution to its full potential?   2.1. Centralized Digital Asset Library Instead of an intricate network of repositories — Dropbox, Google Drive, email, local or network hard drives — you'll have one single storage place on the cloud. One repository for all your creative assets, that everyone in your organization can:   access and use to create unified digital experiences: no need to waste precious time looking for a specific branded image created... years ago update, making sure that there are no out of date licensed assets left lingering in there   All your assets in one place, syncronized, current, approved and... easily accessible.   2.2. Workflow Management The more the... merrier? Not in the context of a high volume of assets and lots of people, from multiple teams, engaged in the content production process. Luckily, using Acquia DAM's workflow management your design and marketing teams can keep a close track of everyone's step in the process. From asset creation, to update, to review and final approval, an ideally formalized workflow will speed up your entire asset management process.   2.3. Portal for Publishing Approved Assets That's right: Drupal Acquia DAM enables you to set up your own portal site for sharing brand guidelines and approved assets. With approved rules and presets for image processing at hand, your non-designers gain a higher level of independence. Which can only translate into a streamlined content pipeline.   2.4. Dynamic Templates A feature aimed at the same goal: Empowering your non-designers to update graphical design elements on their own. Swapping images, editing text field, all while preserving the approved branded design elements — logo, font, colors — gets so much easier for them when using these dynamic templates. Now, some other equally powerful features to incorporate into your asset management process are:   Scheduled Publishing Enhanced search Custom Metadata Fields Audit Report Logs Custom Form Fields Metadata Group Permissions Version controls   3. Why Use It? What Content Production Challenges Does It Solve? In other words: Would switching to Aquia DAM pay off? Now, here's a scenario that might be (too) familiar to you: You're dealing with... loads of assets in your organization. They get shared in Google Drive or Dropbox, updates get approved on various chat channels, specifications added to Google Docs... It's a chaos of technologies and tools that you're storing, organizing, tracking and repurposing your assets in. Have I "guessed" right? Then this is why you should consider implementing a digital asset management software like Acquia DAM. To cut off all the inefficiencies that derive from such a cumbersome patchwork of disconnected tools and processes:   the time your teams would waste looking for a specific asset that seems to be lost in this "black hole" the money you'd lose whenever someone in your team decides to... recreate an asset that's... "gone missing" the risks you expose your brand to by using images with expired licenses the bad reputation that you gain by... accidentally sending older versions of your assets to your clients    Source: Acquia.com Now, let's sum up the main benefits that you'd reap from taking the leap to Acquia DAM:   highly accessible assets: for everyone in your team, anytime, from anywhere on the globe increased system performance significant marketing and IT resource savings increased governance and control of your entire ecosystem of digital assets synchronous brand message: your design and marketing people will better coordinate their efforts   4. How Can You Sync Your Assets with Your Drupal Site? Acquia DAM Drupal Integration It's simple: You use the Acquia DAM Connector for Drupal. This way, you can use the assets stored and updated on your Acquia DAM instance across all your Drupal websites. Just visit Acquia'as dedicated page for info on the right version to download, depending on the version of Drupal running on your website(s).   5. How Can You Import Your Assets to Drupal? The Media: Acquia DAM Module Say you're storing your creative assets to Acquia DAM: How do you move them to your Drupal website? For, it's there that you'll be... putting them to use, after all. You install and enable the Media: Acquia DAM Drupal module. What it does is:   provide you with tools for scanning your DAM system for specific assets and pair them with their corresponding Media entities; with their corresponding entities on your Drupal website... ensure that your selected assets, along with their metadata, get instantly synch whenever you're making changes in the DAM   6. How Can You Build Apps Using the Drupal Acquia DAM? Acquia DAM API Say you need your developers to safely read and write from your DAM so that your users can easily push and pull their files and metadata. You need unrestricted access to some of Acquia DAM's most robust features: upload, file sharing, search. In this case, Acquia DAM API provides you with the underlying interface for building the apps that'll tap into your DAM tool's power.   7. How Do You Integrate It with Your Other Services? Acquia DAM Integrations For there must be all kinds of services and platforms that your teams are currently using, for storing your assets and authentication. You just browse through the list of popular services that Acquia DAM provides integrations for and pick the right ones.   The END! How does your digital asset management system look like? Have you considered switching to a DAM solution? Do you find Drupal Acquia DAM's features and benefits powerful and relevant enough for your specific content pipeline? Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Dec 06'2019
Why We Fired Capex CPA and Why You Should Think Twice Before Putting Your Accounts into Their Hands
"Our goal is to have you relax and know that your tax and regulatory compliance are on cruise control." Just mind you don't... relax too much, as one of Capex CPA's clients, for you risk waking up to a brutal reality: huge payroll year-end mistakes. It's your choice:   you learn from our immense mistake of hiring this Chartered Professional Accounting firm Brampton you knowingly expose your company's accounts to a level of incompetence that's... off the charts   Until here, I might sound to you just like another revengeful former client of a Chartered Professional Accounting firm in Mississauga, am I right? Especially since it's one of the 5-star teams of Chartered Professional Accountants that I'm referring to. A highly reputed, high ranked Chartered Professional Accounting firm in Toronto according to its clients' reviews.  Well, we've already taken the "reputation" bait, ourselves, so... we get you: The impeccable reputation forms a thick concrete wall around this team of Brampton Accountants, hiding their incompetence from the public eye. But now, let's talk facts. Real facts, shall we? Here are the reasons why we decided to fire our accountants, Capex Brampton, after no less than... 11 months, during which we "relaxed, knowing that your tax and regulatory compliance were on cruise control":   1. Capex CPA Bampton Got Our Payroll Wrong... 3 Times in a Month Just make sure you don't rely... blindly on their "experienced and professional staff", for, unfortunately, they live by this motto: Practice makes it perfect. Well, in the case of our payroll it didn't make it perfect. It was all wrong, every single time. We're talking here about a team of Chartered Professional Accountants in Toronto who's repeatedly provided us with the wrong payroll 3 times during the same month. 3 might be a magic number for some, at least in fairytales, but it did not guarantee us any... happy ending. They "stubbornly" tested our patience and just... shocked us with their incompetence, which is, we have to admit: out of this world!   2. They Overlooked the Fact that Our Funds Were Both in CAD and USD  And we're talking about a Chartered Professional Accounting firm who has been having access to OPTASY's accounts for... 11 months. This was, indeed, a masterpiece of incompetence mixed with... an overdose of irresponsibility. But hey, who needs responsible and accountable... accountants, right? We just need to... "relax knowing that our tax and regulatory compliance are on a... cruise". Now, there are at least 3 different answers to our legitimate question:  How could this team of Chartered Professional Accountants Mississauga, one with an irreproachable reputation, not see, while managing our accounts for 11 months, that there were 2 different currencies in there? Both CAD and USD...   they're shockingly incompetent (sorry, but it seems to be the keyword of this blog post) they're dangerously negligent: they just didn't care what currencies the funds in our accounts were... USD, CAD... potato, patato they knowingly neglected even their very basic responsibilities as a team of Toronto accountants   Pick any answer or pick them all. There's no wrong one here. 3. They Exposed Us to the Risk of Not Being Able to Pay Our Year-End Taxes The blunders of this Chartered Professional Accounting firm Mississauga kept piling up till we ended up with a year-end payroll filled with mistakes. We had no other chance but to quickly replace this CPA in Brampton with a professional ("truly" professional) to address all the serious issues in our accounts, so we could go ahead and pay our taxes. "Irresponsible" is a too soft term to define their work as our Chartered Professional Accountants Brampton over these 11 months. 4. They Demonstrated Their.... "Professionalism" By Claiming for More Money to Fix Their Own Mistakes "Mistake is human", right? We, too, as a Drupal firm, make mistakes when working on our clients projects.  But how would you call a long sequence of mistakes? Complacency or pure incompetence? And fixing one's mistakes is... human dignity, isn't it? Not the case of Capex CPA, who's genuinely replied, when we asked them to address the issues they had caused: "5k is not enough money to do the work..." The "work" here being that of fixing the mistakes they, themselves, kept doing throughout the year as the accountants handling our business tax in Toronto. How would you call that? Dishonesty, untrustworthiness, lack of a minimal sense of responsibility for one's actions. And we're referring here to a team of accountants handling Corporate tax Toronto. Accountants!  So-called "professionals" that deal with:   Real Estate tax in Brampton Business Tax Brampton Corporate tax   ... on behalf of their clients.  To whom we gave free access to our companies' accounts. In return, after they made not one, but several mistakes while doing our bookkeeping and payroll and we dared to ask them to... clean up their mess, all we got from this "professional" accounting firm handling Corporate tax Brampton was an: "Oops!"  And a: "Sorry, but there'll be an extra charge if you want us to... fix our mistakes, as well." Now, we'd appreciate your "brutally" honest answer to this question: How would you have handeled this situation if you were in our place? Would you have fired Capex CPA or not?  Image by Robert DeLaRosa from Pixabay ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Dec 04'2019
What Are the Best Continuous Deployment Tools for Kubernetes and Why? Top 5
So, getting your apps up and running with Kubernetes has been a quite unexpected pleasant surprise. But now comes the... predictably challenging part: updating and deploying them. How do you set up a solid automated deployment pipeline? What continuous deployment tools for Kubernetes meet all your specific feature-needs? Feature needs like:   canary deployment release management secrets and variable storage in the tool itself (i.e. not in Kubernetes) easy rollbacks continuous-integration rolling and orchestrating application deployment  UI blue-green deployment monitoring infrastructure and applications    And the offer of tools geared at making deployment more efficient sure is... overwhelming enough.  But fear not, for we've weighted some of the most popular Kubernetes cluster deployment tools' pros and cons, we've compared them to one another and shortlisted your bulky list of options to... 5. The 5 best dedicated tools to orchestrate your releases with Kubernetes:   0. Manual Deployments vs Continuous Deployment Tools for Kubernetes Why not just build a fully customed deployment script like... so many organizations out there still do? It would fit your specific in-house processes and particular feature needs like a glove, wouldn't it? "In a soon to be released survey by Codefresh, 32 percent of developers reported they don’t have CI/CD or the right kind of automation tools to help them deploy more often, making it challenging to take advantage of cloud-native technologies." (source: Devops.com) Well, let me give you 8 key reasons why maintaining such a script would turn into a dread in the long term. And why going with an “off-the-shelf”, “enterprise-level” solution would benefit you n times more:   maintaining a deployment script is a slow and time-consuming process   a custom build turns into a major challenge once you need to scale it up   running manual Kubernetes deployments, that engage a large development team, is always more prone to errors   managing rollbacks, keeping track of old and new deployments — particularly when dealing with a large team and a complex app — is n times more challenging (and riskier) when using manual deployments compared to running the right CD tools    automated deployment tools for Kubernetes enable you to run specific deployment strategies like blue-green or canary   YAML files have gained a reputation of being particularly error-prone; Kubernetes application deployment tools will streamline everything, from creating YAML files to generating and templating them   storing secrets, managing them among multiple developers, across different repos, calls for extreme cautiousness and so... can get time-consuming and prone to “accidents”   upgrading the entire ecosystem of resources that your Kubernetes app depends on gets quite challenging; by comparison, automating the entire updating workflow, using the right tooling, will help you save valuable time   In short: if scalability, maintainability and close to zero risks of failure are your two top priorities, choosing the right tooling for your continuous deployment workflow with Kubernetes becomes critical.   1. Fluxcd.io   One of the best Kubernetes deployment tools that you could "turbocharge" your workflow with. Here's why: Source: Fluxcd.io   you can use it in production it relies on an operator in the cluster to run deployments inside Kubernetes: in other words: you won't need a different continuous deployment tool it detects new images, keeps an eye on image repositories and updates the running configurations based on a configurable policy and the configuration set in git it checks that all config updates and new container images get properly pushed out to your Kubernetes cluster it adjusts itself to any development process   In short: Flux will automate the deployment of services to Kubernetes. Now, here's Flux "in action", in one of its typical use cases: One of the developers in your team makes some changes... the operational cluster needs updated now... Flux detects the changes and deploys them to your cluster and keeps monitoring it. Long story short: that developer in your team won't need to interact with an orchestrator; Flux provides him/her with a CLI to run all these operations manually.   But there are also 2 cons for using Flux as your automated deployment tool:   it lacks webhook support it lacks multi-repo support   Tip: use this automated deployment tool at the end of the Continuous delivery pipeline.   2. Spinnaker.io What's Spinnaker? Source: bmc.com A cloud deployment tool developed originally by Netflix, then open-sourced, that comes with support for Kubernetes. How does it work with Kubernetes? It's designed to complement Kubernetes, to make up for its limitations: it provides robust deployment pipelines that allow you to "joggle with" various deployment strategies. Why would you choose Spinnaker over other continuous deployment tools for Kubernetes?  Because:   it provides deployment pipelines, easy rollbacks and scaling (right from the console) it's open-source it integrates seamlessly with email, Slack, Hipchat, thus making pipeline notifications a breeze you get to use it for all types of Kubernetes resources (it's not "limited" to deployments) it supports Helm charts it handles blue/green and canary deployments and ships with support for any CI tool and cloud provider it'll monitor your Kubernetes app's (and cluster's) health   In short: you'll want to use Spinnaker if it's a robust, fully automated CD pipeline for Kubernetes that you want to set up; one "packed" with all the best practices, that'll help you streamline the deployment of apps.   2 Typical Use Cases for Spinnaker:   you use packer for building an AMI in one of the stages and you deploy it to production; Spinnaker allows you to closely monitor the state of your deployed application to perform tests, detect a container image push and deploy that image to Kubernetes   3. Codefresh.io     Source: Codefresh.io Not just one of the continuous delivery tools to consider, but THE first Kubernetes-native CI/CD technology. Codefresh is a GUI-based environment that streamlines your Kubernetes app building and deployment process. Here are just some of the most powerful reasons why you'd add it to your box of continuous deployment tools for Kubernetes:   it supports Helm charts it allows you to use your favorite tools: favorite CI, image repository, repo... it ships with a whole set of plugins that enable you to hook it to your favorite CI/CD tools (e.g. Jenkins)   And a few cons of using Codefresh:   it won't store your secrets/variables its plugins are set up from their own GUI: if trouble strikes, addressing the problem might make your pipeline unnecessarily complex it doesn't handle cluster credentials living outside your cluster, leaving it exposed to imminent risks   4. Argo CD   Source: Argoproj.github.io Another one of the best Kubernetes deployment tools to consider when you're planning your continuous delivery workflow. How does Argo CD work? Argo uses git repositories as a reference for the target state of your app and the target deployment environments. It will synchronize your desired app state with each of the target environments that you'll define. It's a declarative continuous system that it will provide you with, one supporting a whole variety of config management tools: Helm, ksonnet/jsonnet... Argo CD's top features, that make it worthy of your shortlist, are:   it provides continuous monitoring of your deployed apps rollback/roll-anywhere-in-the-git-repository features it ships with webhook support (BitBucket, GitLab, GitHub) it provides sync, presync and postsync hooks for complex app rollouts it provides SSO integration (GitLab, OIDC, Microsoft, LinkedIn, SAML 2.0, LDAP) you can use it alone or as a component of an existing setup of pipeline tools    5. GitLab An automated delivery tool designed to meet even the highest feature needs:   Auto DevOps provides you with pre-built CI/CD configuration, so you can automatically identify, build, test, deploy and further monitor your Kubernetes apps it works with any Kubernetes cluster (you won't depend on GitLab's infrastructure) it allows you to use Containers as a Service or a self-hosted Kubernetes cluster on any public cloud it provides you with CI support out of the box it allows you to choose between its auto-deploy component for Kubernetes and Helm charts Overall: GitLab will simplify and streamline your entire Kubernerted app development cycle. Use it if you need an end-to-end automated deployment pipeline that doesn't depend on too many configurations. It makes that off-the-shelf solution that fits your scenario perfectly.   The END! These are the 5 continuous deployment tools for Kubernetes to start evaluating first as you're getting your toolbox ready.  Do you have a continuous deployment pipeline in place? What other great tools are you using to orchestrate your app releases with Kubernetes? Image by Astryd_MAD from Pixabay   ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Nov 26'2019
How Do You Prepare for Drupal 9? 5 Tools to Detect Any Uses of Deprecated Code on Your Drupal Website
How should you prepare for Drupal 9? You deep clean up your codebase of all deprecations and errors and wait patiently for the big upgrade to... happen. “But how do I know whether my Drupal website's using any code deprecations?” you'll legitimately ask yourself. How do you identify and make an inventory of all the code errors on your site, so you can remove them and start... waiting, patiently, for that big upgrade to Drupal 9? Well, you “stuff” your toolbox with all the essential tools that'll help you track down deprecations (still) lurking in your codebase. Here are the 5 most effective ones:   1. Drupal Check  You can't claim that you're getting ready for Drupal 9... the proper way if you're not already using Drupal Check to scan your codebase for deprecations. “But what is Drupal check?” It's a command-line tool — a custom runner for PHPStan — that enables you to run PHPStan against your Drupal website to look for any deprecations and code errors. In short: instead of running PHPStan, you run Drupal Check, which comes as a package storing PHPStan, PHPStan Drupal, PHPStan's Deprecation Rules, plus configurations for them all, as well. Source: glamanate.com Just incorporate it into your build processes and continuous integration systems and run audits on:   your custom and contributed modules, checking their compatibility with Drupal 9 your D7 to D8 migration code   Use it on your existing Drupal 8 website. Or use it on the one that you're developing, when you're nearly done, to check whether any deprecations have made their way to your codebase... Word of caution: expect Drupal Check to provide you with an accurate report of the deprecated code used on your site, but don't expect it to fix them for you, as well.   2. Upgrade Status Module   Here's another “tool” that you shouldn't miss from your toolbox. That if you do want your website's upgrade to Drupal 9 to be... buttery smooth. Source: Drupal.org What the Upgrade Status module does is:   inspect your code — your custom and contributed projects — for deprecations make an inventory of all the identified issues    Moreover, its Drupal 8 version harnesses the power of PHPStan and comes as a complete solution that you can use for running full-site checks. Let it work its “magic” on your Drupal site and find out where it stands in terms of compatibility with Drupal 9.   3. PHPStan & PHPStan-Drupal         PHPStan's the very foundation of the toolkit to rely on when you prepare for Drupal 9.  Source: Matt Glaman's Twitter page Not only that you save valuable time using it, time that you'd otherwise invest in pinpointing every error spotted during your code reviews:   classes called incorrectly nonexistent classes PHP projects that you forgot to run once you compiled them   …  but you get to write your own custom rules. You get to indicate specific “red alarm” situations that you'd want PHPStan to... investigate for you. Now, it may be the key tool to keep at hand when you evaluate your site's compatibility with Drupal 9, but nevertheless... it does have its own limitations: It won't load any files on its own if you run it against a Drupal module out of the box. It depends on Composer to load all that information... Luckily, Matt Glaman's developed an extension to address precisely this... limitation of PHPStan: phpstan-drupal.  An extension that'll help you make the most of PHPStan when using it to scan Drupal code: from your various dependencies to... Drupal core.    4. Use Project Deprecation Status to Prepare for Drupal 9  And what this tool does is answer one key question: “What's the current status of the Drupal modules in terms of compatibility with Drupal 9?” Which Drupal projects are already compatible and which of them need more fixing before the big upgrade? Project deprecation status is the right tool to... gain an accurate picture of where each Drupal project stands in relation to upcoming Drupal 9.   5. Rector        So far I've pointed out the 4 key tools for deep-scanning your Drupal website to detect any uses of deprecated code as you prepare for Drupal 9. But what if you want to get rid of that pile of deprecations that you will have collected by the end of the scanning process? How do you fix/remove them? And, more importantly: how do you automate this code cleaning process? In this respect, Rector for Drupal 8 — a proof of concept for now — comes with great potential: Check it out and... be prepared to add it to your toolbox for any automated deprecation fixes that you'll want to perform on your site.   The END! These are the 5 essential tools to have in your toolbelt for running deprecation checks on your Drupal website, getting all ready for Drupal 9. Would you have added some other must-have tools to the list, as well? Let us know in the comments here below: Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Nov 22'2019
Google Apigee vs MuleSoft: How Do You Choose the Right One for You? How Are They Different?
How do you know which API management solution best suits your needs? What fundamental differences would a Google Apigee vs MuleSoft comparison reveal? What different features and different use cases would it expose, pointing out to you the right platform for your application? Well, we've compared the 2 API managers for you, so get ready to find your answer to:   What is Apigee? What are its main features? What is an API management platform? What is MuleSoft? What's the difference between Mule ESB and Apigee? What is Apigee used for? And what about Mule ESB? 1. What Is Apigee? It's a cross-cloud API management platform offered by Google. Source: Google Cloud But that's just a "teaser" answer to your question, so if you crave for more details: Apigee is an API gateway tool that provides a secure environment for multiple cloud services and applications to exchange data in. In short: Google Apigee is that platform that helps you manage all your APIs in one place. A platform that brings together all your digital experiences.    2. What Is an API Management Platform, More Precisely?  Maybe you feel a bit confused. Left in the dark about what API management platforms are. Therefore, allow me to delve into (even) more details, so there's no confusion left when I start to actually compare these 2 API managers: Google Apigee vs MuleSoft. So, an API management platform is: The process where you manage all your APIs in a secure and scalable environment. A process that enables you to use an API for overseeing the interface's lifecycle. This way, you make sure that all the apps and developers using that API have their needs met. Now, there are 3 key functions that an API management platform should support:   security monitoring version control   ... and some basic features that would allow you to accelerate innovation in your organization and adapt easily to customer expectations of flexible and scalable technology:   API key and authorization management analytics live updated documentation developer community management developer portal to simplify the acquisition and distribution of certain APIs needed for building apps   3. Google Apigee: Key Features Now, that looks tempting enough, doesn't it? To be able to manage all your APIs from one central place... But what features, designed to streamline the whole API management process, does Apigee provide you with? How precisely does it help you be effective when managing your APIs?   it provides constant version updates it provides troubleshooting options it taps into machine learning and analytics to generate actionable insights it scales to your needs it supports multi-cloud and hybrid cloud  it automates the process of generating API documentation and software development kits it speeds up the implementation of API proxies with integrated metrics and dashboards it provides a modern UI for your legacy data stores it provides monitoring tools for security, API troubleshooting, and optimization 4. What Is MuleSoft? Since we're about to make a MuleSoft API management vs Apigee comparison, your question is more than legitimate: Source: MuleSoft.com   MuleSoft is a software company that provides an integration platform — Mule ESB — for centralizing all the apps, data, and devices across the on-premise and cloud environments in an organization.   5. Google Apigee vs MuleSoft: What's the Difference? And we're back to the initial question: What's the difference between MuleSoft and Apigee, after all? For they're both API management platforms, they both seem to be serving the same API centralization and management needs and they're equally popular. Here's a first differentiator: In Google Apigee APIs are consumption-centric, whereas in Mule ESB they're exposure-focused (or reuse-focused). Now, let's dig out some more ways in which they differ:   5.1. Mule ESB   higher ongoing operational costs compared to Apigee ships with a wide array of connectors, for all major platforms —Twitter, Facebook, SAP, Salesforce — and business process management software; this makes it easier to be integrated to other systems and services it provides some of the most robust features in API management: oAuth, throttling, access levels... it makes implementing a CI/CD environment conveniently easy it supports a whole variety of interaction patterns since it ships with lots of adapters and robust message-oriented middleware   5.2. Apigee   it grants you close control of user access; you can even grant users granular control based on their particular needs and adjust the services' requests based on users' specific requirements it allows branding it provides support for JMS and SMTP functionality  it integrates seamlessly with other platforms   6. When Do You Use One API Manager over the Other? Specific Use Cases In other words: which one to use? Say you need to expose some services in your app: should you go with Google Apigee or Mule ESB? To make an informed decision, here are some of the typical uses cases of each API manager:   6.1. Mule ESB   more appropriate for REST API development best suited for system-to-system integration  covers a bigger scope, compared to Google Apigee   6.2. Apigee   best suited for connected apps scenarios the best option if you're planning to update your legacy apps and to enable data exchange across your ecosystem of apps and services when you just need full API lifecycle management: a platform that exposes your services in a secure way and ships with powerful API governance and management features like caching, analytics, etc. The END! Have I answered your "Google Apigee vs MuleSoft" question(s)?  If so:   Which API management solution do you think that best suits your needs? Image by Juraj Lenhard from Pixabay     ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Nov 15'2019
What’s the Fundamental Difference Between Gatsby and Next.js? How Do You Choose?
You're building a React website/application. You have your bulky list of functionalities all set, you know how you want it to look, but can't decide on the React framework to build it on: What's the main difference between Gatsby and Next.js, after all? And what's the difference between server-side rendering and static site rendering? Since both frameworks seem to be serving your main goals:   not to get tangled up in config or routing to generate a fast, fully accessible and SEO-friendly website to provide you with boilerplate application   So, what's the fundamental differentiator between Gatsby and Next? The one(s) that'll help you identify the framework that best covers your specific use case. Or, are there several of them (differentiators)? Just keep on reading:   1. But First: What Do Gatsby and Next.js Have in Common? How are they similar?    they're both React frameworks they're both great options for SEO purposes they're both great options if you need a high performance React app/website they both provide entirely formed HTML pages they both provide boilerplate application they both simplify and speed up the React app/website development cycle  they both generate SPA out-of-the-box they both provide great developer experience   In short: both Next.js and Gatsby score well in categories like speed and SEO; they're both awesome solutions to streamline app/website development in React. But the way they go about it... that's where these frameworks are fundamentally different.   2. How Does GatsbyJS Work? It builds HTML code on build time. That would be the short(est) answer to your question. But if we were to elaborate upon it: GatsbyJS is a static site generator that... generates (static) HTML code during the “build” process. How? It fetches data from external sources — APIs, Contentful, WordPress, markdown files —  and uses GraphQL to render it. Example: say you have a blog. In this case, you could use Gatsby to fetch your blog posts from... Contentful. Or any other repository where you might be storing your content (e.g. WordPress or Drupal).   3. What's Next.js? A tool for rendering pages on the server-side. And a more detailed answer would be: It's a React framework that supports server-side rendering. Meaning that it generates the needed HTML code dynamically, from the server, each time a request is being sent through. In short: your browser's provided with pre-rendered HTML code instead of empty “div”. Now, how does its distinctive way of going about building a React app/website suit you? It enables you to develop multi-page applications using static rendering and serving dynamic data from a back-end.   4. What Are They Used For? Specific Use Cases for Gatbsy and for Next.js What's the difference between Gatsby and Next.js in terms of use case? In other words: when should you choose one over the other?   4.1. Specific Use Cases for GatsbyJS 1. Blogs and small-scaled websites And I'm talking here about a particular scenario: When you have no comments section on your blog or, at least, not a very “busy” one. So, a use case where you don't need to render content every 5-10 minutes. Since blogs are static and their content doesn't change that frequently, Gatbsy's ecosystem makes the perfect fit for them.  And you have 2 options for your blog post creation and publishing process:   you write a blog post and the npm build will generate a corresponding HTML page you write a blog post in Contentful (or a CMS of your choice), publish it and recompile your blog in Netfly   2. Landing pages Again, since they use static content, landing pages make an ideal use case for GatsbyJS.  Where do you add that Gatsby “spoils” you with such a wide collection of plugins to choose from and to boost your landing page with: PWA, inline critical CSS, AMP...   4.2. Specific Use Cases for Next.js 1. Content-packed websites Dealing with lots of content? Or are you expecting your site's content load to grow, over time?  Then Next.js should be your first choice.  The reason is simple: Just imagine your Gatsby framework overstrained to rebuild all that content over and over again. Not precisely the most time-effective solution to go with, don't you think? 2. When you need more freedom for accessing your data Do you want to empower your content team to publish content on their own? Then you might want to consider Next.js.   3. To-Do Apps They make the perfect use case for server-side rendering: Next.js retrieves the content for your list, from the server, and displays the to-do's upfront.   5. The Fundamental Difference Between Gatsby and Next.js Is... … that Gatsby's a statically generator, while Next.js generates HTML dynamically.  Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay The first creates JS/HTML/CSS at build time, while the second generates it at run time. Or, if you wish to put it this way: Gatsby doesn't depend on a server, while Next can't function without one.   6.4 Other Main Areas Where They Differ For the “Gatsby vs Next” debate doesn't end at the “static vs dynamic” comparison.  There are other factors, as well, that set these 2 React frameworks apart. And we'll outline the 4 most obvious ones:   6.1. Data Handling In case of Gatsby, the framework's the one “deciding” how you should handle data in your app. It needs to know where your data, your images and other types of content will be handled.  What's in it your for? Why would you accept this... “compromise”: to be told how to handle data in your own app? Because: Gatsby, through its rich collection of plugins, enables you to hook up your site to various data sources. This way, you gain external control over your data... By comparison, Next's totally unopinionated. Is gives you the freedom to decide your own data architecture. In short: it doesn't “tie” you to a specific technology. You're free to handle data your own way.   6.2. Deployment You can deploy Gatsby anywhere you need to, with no special configurations, since it's no more than compiled CSS, JS, and HTML. And things are equally straightforward with Next.js, as well. Since it's a Node application, you can host it anywhere you want to...   6.3. Routing With Gatsby, you have a pages directory where you're free to create all the HTML pages needed for your app/website.  Moreover, they provide you an API, as well, for creating routes dynamically. With Next.js you get a “pages” folder, as well, where you can set up your new pages and get your app running, with no routing to config.   6.4. Plugins “What's the main difference between Gatsby and Next.js?” Plugins sure are a powerful differentiator. Gatsby comes “loaded” with an entire ecosystem of plugins.  So, do you need to have your JS minified, you CSS compiled, your...? There must be a Gatsby plugin for it. Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay   Next.js, on the other hand, doesn't “tempt” you with plugins, since its smaller scope doesn't justify the usage of plugins... The END! These are the key differences between Next.js and Gatsby, along with their common points and specific use cases. Have you had your “Aha!” moment(s) reading through our post? Have you managed to identify the right framework for your own use case? Photo by Charles ?￰゚ヌᆳ on Unsplash ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Nov 12'2019
How to Configure Custom Search in Drupal 8: 8 Ways to Deliver More Relevant Search Results on Your Website
Let's say that you have a cleaning business. Once a user types “office cleaning” on your website, the search results that show up first are some blog posts on this topic instead of the page that you're actually targeting: the “Office & Workplace Cleaning” service page. So, you wonder: “How to configure custom search in Drupal 8?” What are your options if you want to go beyond the default Drupal search? How can you influence that search results ordering so that you:   improve the overall site search experience for your visitors? push forward into the spotlight particular pages on your site, based on specific keywords?   We've done our homework, collected and then selected 9 different ways that you can upgrade the default search experience in Drupal so that it should fit your needs perfectly. From:   additional Drupal modules that you can enable to effective search plugins that you can install to brilliant configurations that you can set up   … you'll find a whole collection of options at hand for fine-tuning the search functionality on your Drupal website.   1. Enable the Drupal Search API Module If you find the default Drupal search module a bit too... restrictive, consider Search API.  It takes but 3 simple steps before you can leverage its flexibility to the fullest:   just install it and enable it, along with the Search API database module add an index and an API server, as well   2. Integrate Your Drupal 8 Website with Apache Solr Search The Java-based search platform is powerful enough to supercharge your website with tons of search capabilities: Source: Drupal.org   search for all attributes of Drupal nodes ouline the search queries in the results perform language stemming to return related results search across multiple websites index from... millions of nodes overlook users' typos and provide proper suggestions provide location-based search results display the most relevant results on top of the list   In short: you're better off with a Solr back-end; it will always overstep a Drupal database search setup when it comes to returning relevant and intuitive results. Even in “keyword phrase search” scenarios.   3. How to Configure Custom Search in Drupal 8: Use ExpertRec This search-as-a-service solution ships with a heavy load of useful features, such as:   manageable search ranking typo tolerance easy UI control results as you type custom facets   So, you might want to consider it for evaluation. Just put its robust set of features against your site search needs.    4. Use the Cludo Site Search Solution What if you could turn the site search on your Drupal website into a powerful “insights generator”?  Source: Drupal.org  One that would provide you with valuable and, most of all, actionable insights on your users' search behavior. Just imagine turning all that powerful data into highly relevant site search experiences for your visitors. Cludo's that fully customizable on-site search tool, that “spoils” you with unique features like:   semantic search customizable index machine learning-driven autocomplete   Find out more about this tool and what it can offer you from our post on Cludo as an alternative to Google Site Search.   5. Boost the “Title” Field to Improve Search Relevancy Say you have a “How to speed clean a kitchen” page on your website (we're assuming that you run a professional cleaning business, remember?).  Now, if a website visitor types “how to clean my kitchen quick” you most certainly want that specific page to show up first, right? Well, to make that happen you simply boost the title field. Here's how:   go to /admin/config/search/search-api click “Edit”, next to the index that you're targeting click “Add Fields” look for “Title”, under the “Content” heading hit “Done” look for your title field scrolling down your list of fields and replace its “Type” from “Strong” to "Fulltext" configure the “Boost” dropdown that pops up: set the title, fill in the special keywords field... click the “Save Changes” button   6. Configure the Search View to Your Needs “How to configure custom search in Drupal 8?” You tweak the default search view... The good news is that Search API connects with Views, “spoiling” you with loads of flexibility when setting the way your search results get displayed. But the great news is that you can go even further:   Define a field-based view, add the title and excerpts fields so that your website returns a Google-like title and snippet to its users.   7. Enable the Indexer to “See” the Whole Node Let me guess: you, too, are using Paragraphs on your Drupal site. Who doesn't, right? All that flexibility that you get when putting together your web pages is just... irresistible. Then, you must have already bumped into one “minor” issue: Your search indexer can't “see” the entire content on a page, since the Paragraphs module breaks it into multiple little pieces. Luckily, Search API comes to the rescue!  Just add the “Rendered HTML Output” field to your index and you'll enable the indexer to “see” the whole content on a page. Just like your website visitors see it: with references, paragraph entities and all that... And here's how you incorporate this field:   go to /admin/config/search/search-api click “Edit” click “Fields” on top of the page click “Add Fields” look for “Rendered HTML Output (rendered_item)” under “General” click “Add”    Word of caution: you'll then need to select a view mode for all the content types that your search index can access. Make sure you go with the “default” mode (unless you've set up a custom mode of your own) and not the “search results highlight input”.    8. Add a Custom “search_keywords” Field to the Targeted Content Types Remember the example at the beginning of this post (the one with the “office cleaning” search phrase)? Now, it's about time we found an answer to this question: How can you give your content team more control over the returned search results? Over the results ordering... You set up a new field called “search_keywords” and integrate it with every content-type/bundle that you're targeting:   go to /admin/config/search/search-api click “Edit” click “Fields” click “Add Fields” look for your newly created “Search Keywords”, under “Content” click “Add” look for your new field in the fields list change its type from “String” to “Fulltext” configure the “Boost” dropdown showing up (consider setting it to 21...) click “Save Changes”   The END! Here are no less than 9 different solutions to your “How to configure a custom search in Drupal 8?” type of dilemma. Which one would you go with? And why? Give us a clue in the comments here below. Image by Republica from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Nov 08'2019