5 Key Takeaways from DrupalCon Nashville

Zivtech had a great time at DrupalCon Nashville this year. Jody and I led the Drupal 8 Site Building training on Monday, Christine and Emily had some great conversations with the community at our booth, and I got to hang out with one of our clients for the sprints on Friday. I’ve had a week to process everything at this point, so it’s time to break down my five game changers from DrupalCon Nashville. 

From the very start of the conference, the tone was set by Dries in his Driesnote. The resounding message was that the community needs to build a better out of box experience for new users and content editors in Drupal 8. Many community members are seasoned Drupal developers and themers who have seen Drupal go through multiple versions and many changes. However, newcomers have classically seen Drupal as a big challenge with a steep learning curve, even just for content administration. Thankfully, the Drupal community has numerous developers and non-developers trying to figure out how to handle these problems in various initiatives. 

The Out of the Box experience initiative for Drupal 8 is a perfect example of this. There are many other features, enhancements, and tools that are already available, or on the horizon, for Drupal 8. I learned more about these during DrupalCon last week. Here are five key takeaways from the sessions I attended that I feel have the potential to be the biggest game changers in Drupal 8.

Building an Out of the Box Experience with Drupal 8 that Empowers Content Creators

The founder of Drupal, Dries Buytaert, demonstrated the current out of the box experience during his keynote this year. The demonstration was humorous to some at first, but also brought a startling revelation to all of us about the current out of the box experience for Drupal 8. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “37 clicks,” you should watch this part of the Driesnote. The video segment demonstrates how many clicks it took to install Drupal for someone who had never installed it before. After that, he showed off some of the upcoming features in Drupal 8. Some of these are currently available in Drupal 8.5.x and will be available in upcoming versions of Drupal 8. The future is looking bright for Drupal 8!

Drupal Out of the Box Experience Initiative: Umami

In my opinion, the biggest game changer for Drupal 8 is the Out of the Box experience initiative. This initiative’s goal is to make the OOTB experience much more inviting to new Drupal users and those looking to evaluate Drupal as their CMS. The community plans to add an installation profile with Standard that installs a full food magazine publishing site called Umami.

“The goal is to add sample content presented in a well designed theme, presented as a food magazine. Using recipes and feature articles this example site will make Drupal look much better right from the start and help evaluators explore core Drupal concepts like content types, fields, blocks, views, taxonomy, etc.”

The work going into this whole project is quite amazing. Contributors are not only contributing designs and code, but photos and real open source recipes too! Check out this video segment from the Driesnote to see how it’s being done. 

This initiative will make it much easier for people to evaluate Drupal, and could open it up to many more industries that may have felt that it was too far out of their league. Teams will be able to dissect the content types, field settings, block configurations, views, and more to figure out how Drupal works out of the box. This will hopefully lower the stigma of Drupal’s learning curve, and lower the barrier of entry for new members at all levels. 

The community needs all sorts of people, not just developers. We need site builders, content editors, marketers, product owners, and everyone in between to make Drupal 8 a real success. Get involved with the Out of the Box experience initiative on Drupal.org to make sure this initiative is a success.

Drupal Core Automatic Updates Initiative

The Automatic Updates initiative is another game changer in my book. As we all know, Drupal 8 Core updates can be cumbersome, even for experienced developers and site builders. This initiative’s goal is to make Drupal Core updates, at least in terms of security updates, much easier to deal with by automating them. The issue on Drupal.org for the Automatic Updates initiative outlines the goals, progress, and how you can help.

“The goal is to implement a secure system for automatically installing updates in Drupal, lowering the total cost of ownership of maintaining a Drupal site, improving the security of Drupal sites in the wild, and lowering the barrier to entry to using Drupal.”

I attended the Drupal Core Auto-Update Architecture session in Nashville where the presenters explained how they are planning on implementing such a solution. They were open to suggestions, as none of it was set in stone yet. 

There were some really great ideas that had me on the edge of my seat for most of the session, as I have been running Drupal security updates for about ten years at this point. Having some sort of automated tool, especially for the most important Drupal Core security updates, would be a major game changer for Drupal 8. 

Check out the session video and get involved in the issue queue if you would like to see this initiative move forward.

Site Building 2.0 with Layout Builder

The Layout Builder module was added to Drupal Core as an experimental module in the 8.5.0 release. This means that in the next two minor releases, we should see Layout Builder as a stable core module. 

As a site builder, the examples of how the Layout Builder works from both the Driesnote and the session I attended were exciting. This tool looks to be on a course to compete with Gutenberg, the famed Wordpress layout editor that everyone is talking about these days. The Drupal Layout Builder looks like it could really give Gutenberg a run for its money; it provides a very similar experience for site builders, and perhaps content editors, but with the power of Drupal as the CMS. 

The Add a Layout Builder to core initiative is still alive and kicking on Drupal.org, so check it out to get into the conversation and help make sure Layout Builder gets into core on time.

I also attended the Site Building 2.0 with Layout Builder session where Kris Vanderwater explained that Layout Builder is the best solution for layouts with a live demonstration in Drupal 8. The result was something of a site builder’s dream, in which layouts are drag and drop, and the rendered markup is clean as a whistle. This sort of experience for site building and content editing could be one of the biggest game changers for Drupal 8 and beyond.

Drupal Admin User Interface Redesign

The most refreshing of the takeaways I saw at DrupalCon this year was the Drupal Admin User Interface Redesign initiative. Drupal has long been criticized for being too developer-oriented and lacking great design. This is often the complaint when it comes to the out of the box administration theme and user interface. 

A UI overhaul would be a major improvement in Drupal 8. The Seven theme has served us well, but after seeing the short video segment and checking out the full initiative on Drupal.org, I must say it’s time for a change. I’m excited to see where this initiative ends up when it lands in Drupal core!

There was no session around the Drupal Admin User Interface Redesign initiative that I saw, but it was noted briefly in this video segment in the Driesnote

As developers, we often overlook the fact that we aren’t the ones that are going to be using the site everyday. That job mainly falls on content editors, non-technical staff, and possibly end users who really are the ones who need the best experience overall. This initiative is looking to tackle those issues by giving the Drupal administration and content editor experience a whole new look. Check out the video or hop into the issue queue on Drupal.org to help with this initiative.

Drupal Official Documentation Initiative

I typically try to help out with documentation whenever I can. I have a knack for writing content and I love teaching people, so it’s just second nature to me. My final takeaway was that we need better documentation! 

One of the biggest things that stood out to me from the example Dries gave was the length of time it took the user to get through the documentation just to install Drupal. That’s not including all the additional documentation they will need to read to extend Drupal. 

Enter the Drupal Official Documentation initiative. This will supplement our existing user guides and also reference them in more places to make them more accessible and easier to use.

“The goal is not to replace or supersede the existing Drupal User Guide (which is an excellent, comprehensive resource), but rather to better promote it on various places in Drupal.org's information architecture, and supplement it with targeted, focused guides that follow a well-defined set of standards and maintenance practices pioneered by the Drupal User Guide.”

It looks like we have a new, but familiar saying in the community now: “There’s an initiative for that!” The Drupal Official Documentation initiative hopes to tackle the “37 clicks” issue once and for all. 

This would be an improvement for Drupal in many ways because it will help onboard new users. It will also help existing users find the documentation they need easier and faster. This will help the Drupal community continue to grow with more members that follow best practices through our already existing amazing documentation!

Overall, DrupalCon Nashville was a breath of fresh air in terms of seeing the Drupal community come together to solve some major issues. Many of these initiatives are still in the early stages or in mid-stride, so if you want to help shape the way they play out, start getting involved in the issue queues to make Drupal 8 a real game changer for tomorrow’s web.