DrupalCon New Orleans was the third DrupalCon I’ve attended, and it never ceases to amaze me how much Drupal has changed over the years, and how much time and effort the community puts in -- not just into core and contrib, but also into building out third party tools, scripts, and methods that will benefit other agencies and freelancers. It really is a privilege to be a part of a community that is so incredibly committed to the values of open source and always willing to share their experience along the way.
Aside from the #prenote, catching up with old friends, and some of the weirdest parties you’ll ever attend, DrupalCon is the time of year for those who don’t always pay close attention to core updates and community conversations to catch up on the current trends in the Drupal community, learn about what’s going on, and learn how to actually use these new tools being developed.
Without further ado, this is a recap of the best trends and tips I took away from DrupalCon, from a developer's point of view.
1. Drupal 8
With the release of Drupal 8 late last year, and with DrupalCon Los Angeles having a strong showing of sessions prepping us for Drupal 8, it’s no surprise that this topic spanned across a majority of the sessions. Of course, the lingering question remained for every freelancer and agency: “When are we going to move to Drupal 8?” Last year, there was quite a bit of hesitation while the business community waited for D8 contrib to catch up. This year, it seemed like the resounding answer is “NOW."
Of course, it’s not just new Drupal 8 sites that are being built, but migrations from Drupal 6 or 7, so a lot of effort has been going into core migration and the Migration Tools
module. With that, the underlying gist is this: if you haven’t set sail to Drupal 8 yet, at least start helping us build the boats to get over there.
2. TWIG (theming)
When I first started working in Drupal, I went from a site builder to a front-end developer (I’ve also been known to write a module or two). Since I spend the majority of my days writing CSS and theme functions, I thought I should focus a lot of my attention on new theming developments and front-end tools (Drupal 8 or otherwise).
MortenDK’s talk, “Drupal8 Theming - Am I doing this right?” was by far one of the best sessions I attended. While he talks like a Danish pirate,
Morten explained just about everything in
theming, from how & why to use Twig, to the quirks of building a D8 theme (always start with a core base theme, Stable or Classy), to the disappearance of the theme() function. One big takeaway from
Morten’s session was hearing his passion come through about the importance of
theming support and development in Drupal 8. Often, front-end functionality is less favored than content administration and better OOP support. In case you’re wondering, this is what Drupal looks like without a front-end. Think about it.
At LevelTen, we leverage the Bootstrap framework across all of our projects as a solid foundation for our clients' themes, and in turn, we develop a lot of tools and modules that help us work better Bootstrap components. Other than a number of block enhancements, a lot of our focus is empowering productivity for our clients through the WYSIWYG. This means leveraging the CKEditor Widgets API and building out templates clients can use to create advanced Bootstrap components, like carousels and jumbotrons.
The plus side to this model is that everything is in one field, so when we create summaries or export the content, we’re only dealing with a single body field. The downside is that since it is still HTML in a WYSIWYG, there is an opportunity for clients to potentially break these components by messing with the source code and removing necessary attributes, closing tags, and so on.
Throughout a number of sessions, I saw multiple demos and sites using the Paragraphs
module. If you’re unfamiliar with Paragraphs, it essentially lets you create types of paragraphs, or collections of fields, that can be added in any order (if you’ve used the Field Collection module, this should feel familiar). Each paragraph type can then be configured using view modes and custom templates, creating clearly defined templates for your clients' content. While the downside is that it’s another field you have to add to your content type, the upside is that it makes it very, very difficult for a client to break the site while putting in content.
I will admit, as a developer who is constantly trying to build a better experience for editors to create compelling and creative content, this is very enticing.
So what now?
DrupalCon New Orleans was an awesome event, and I’m pretty excited about the future of Drupal. While I couldn’t mention everything in here, I will say that there were some great talks from Acquia
about Personalization and an awesome talk about style guides and patterns from Phase2
. At this point, I’m fairly eager to get my hands dirty with a Drupal 8 site working on Twig templates and learning more about Symfony.
Who know, maybe I’ll even start porting some of my own modules over to Drupal 8.
If you're a developer who went to DrupalCon New Orleans 2016, what was your favorite take-away from the sessions?
Check out the rest of our DrupalCon[densed] 2106 series! No matter who you are, we've got your perspective covered.