Acquia Engage 2018 keynote

An Acquia banner at the Austin airport
Acquia Engage attendees that arrived at the Austin airport were greeted by an Acquia banner!

Last week, Acquia welcomed more than 600 attendees to the fifth annual Acquia Engage Conference in Austin, Texas. During my keynote, my team and I talked about Acquia's strategy, recent product developments, and our product roadmap. I also had the opportunity to invite three of our customers on stage — Paychex, NBC Sports, and Wendy's — to hear how each organization is leveraging the Acquia Platform.

All three organizations demonstrate incredible use cases, and I invite you to watch the recording of the Innovation Showcase (78 minutes) or download a copy of my slides (219 MB).

I also plan to share more in-depth blog posts on my conversations with Wendy’s, NBC Sports, and Paychex’s next week.

Acquia a leader in the 2018 Forrester Wave for Web Content Management Systems

This week Acquia was named a leader in the Forrester Wave: Web Content Management Systems. Acquia was previously named a leader in WCM systems in Q1 2017.

The report highlights Acquia and Drupal's leadership on decoupled and headless architectures, in addition to Acquia Cloud's support for Node.js.

I'm especially proud of the fact that Acquia received the highest strategy score among all vendors.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this result! It's another great milestone for Acquia and Drupal.

Thirteen recommendations for how to evolve Drupal's governance

If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Drupal exists because of its community. What started from humble beginnings has grown into one of the largest Open Source communities in the world. This is due to the collective effort of thousands of community members.

What distinguishes Drupal from other open source projects is both the size and diversity of our community, and the many ways in which thousands of contributors and organizations give back. It's a community I'm very proud to be a part of.

Without the Drupal community, the Drupal project wouldn't be where it is today and perhaps would even cease to exist. That is why we are always investing in our community and why we constantly evolve how we work with one another.

The last time we made significant changes to Drupal's governance was over five years ago when we launched a variety of working groups. Five years is a long time. The time had come to take a step back and to look at Drupal's governance with fresh eyes.

Throughout 2017, we did a lot of listening. We organized both in-person and virtual roundtables to gather feedback on how we can improve our community governance. This led me to invest a lot of time and effort in documenting Drupal's Values and Principles.

In 2018, we transitioned from listening to planning. Earlier this year, I chartered the Drupal Governance Task Force. The goal of the task force was to draft a set of recommendations for how to evolve and strengthen Drupal's governance based on all of the feedback we received. Last week, after months of work and community collaboration, the task force shared thirteen recommendations (PDF).

The proposal from the Drupal Governance Task Force
Me reviewing the Drupal Governance proposal on a recent trip.

Before any of us jump to action, the Drupal Governance Task Force recommended a thirty-day, open commentary period to give community members time to read the proposal and to provide more feedback. After the thirty-day commentary period, I will work with the community, various stakeholders, and the Drupal Association to see how we can move these recommendations forward. During the thirty-day open commentary period, you can then get involved by collaborating and responding to each of the individual recommendations below:

I'm impressed by the thought and care that went into writing the recommendations, and I'm excited to help move them forward.

Some of the recommendations are not new and are ideas that either the Drupal Association, myself or others have been working on, but that none of us have been able to move forward without a significant amount of funding or collaboration.

I hope that 2019 will be a year of organizing and finding resources that allow us to take action and implement a number of the recommendations. I'm convinced we can make valuable progress.

I want to thank everyone who has participated in this process. This includes community members who shared information and insight, facilitated conversations around governance, were interviewed by the task force, and supported the task force's efforts. Special thanks to all the members of the task force who worked on this with great care and determination for six straight months: Adam Bergstein, Lyndsey Jackson, Ela Meier, Stella Power, Rachel Lawson, David Hernandez and Hussain Abbas.

Why Drupal's Layout Builder is so powerful and unique

Content authors want an easy-to-use page building experience; they want to create and design pages using drag-and-drop and WYSIWYG tools. For over a year the Drupal community has been working on a new Layout Builder, which is designed to bring this page building capability into Drupal core.

Drupal's upcoming Layout Builder is unique in offering a single, powerful visual design tool for the following three use cases:

  1. Layouts for templated content. The creation of "layout templates" that will be used to layout all instances of a specific content type (e.g. blog posts, product pages).
  2. Customizations to templated layouts. The ability to override these layout templates on a case-by-case basis (e.g. the ability to override the layout of a standardized product page)
  3. Custom pages. The creation of custom, one-off landing pages not tied to a content type or structured content (e.g. a single "About us" page).

Let's look at all three use cases in more detail to explain why we think this is extremely useful!

Use case 1: Layouts for templated content

For large sites with significant amounts of content it is important that the same types of content have a similar appearance.

A commerce site selling hundreds of different gift baskets with flower arrangements should have a similar layout for all gift baskets. For customers, this provides a consistent experience when browsing the gift baskets, making them easier to compare. For content authors, the templated approach means they don't have to worry about the appearance and layout of each new gift basket they enter on the site. They can be sure that once they have entered the price, description, and uploaded an image of the item, it will look good to the end user and similar to all other gift baskets on the site.

The Drupal 8 Layout Builder showing a templated gift basket

Drupal 8's new Layout Builder allows a site creator to visually create a layout template that will be used for each item of the same content type (e.g. a "gift basket layout" for the "gift basket" content type). This is possible because the Layout Builder benefits from Drupal's powerful "structured content" capabilities.

Many of Drupal's competitors don't allow such a templated approach to be designed in the browser. Their browser-based page builders only allow you to create a design for an individual page. When you want to create a layout that applies to all pages of a specific content type, it is usually not possible without a developer.

Use case 2: Customizations to templated layouts

While having a uniform look for all products of a particular type has many advantages, sometimes you may want to display one or more products in a slightly (or dramatically) different way.

Perhaps a customer recorded a video of giving their loved one one of the gift baskets, and that video has recently gone viral (because somehow it involved a puppy). If you only want to update one of the gift baskets with a video, it may not make sense to add an optional "highlighted video" field to all gift baskets.

Drupal 8's Layout Builder offers the ability to customize templated layouts on a case per case basis. In the "viral, puppy, gift basket" video example, this would allow a content creator to rearrange the layout for just that one gift basket, and put the viral video directly below the product image. In addition, the Layout Builder would allow the site to revert the layout to match all other gift baskets once the world has moved on to the next puppy video.

The Drupal 8 Layout Builder showing a templated gift basket with a puppy video

Since most content management systems don't allow you to visually design a layout pattern for certain types of structured content, they of course can't allow for this type of customization.

Use case 3: Custom pages (with unstructured content)

Of course, not everything is templated, and content authors often need to create one-off pages like an "About us" page or the website's homepage.

In addition to visually designing layout templates for different types of content, Drupal 8's Layout Builder can also be used to create these dynamic one-off custom pages. A content author can start with a blank page, design a layout, and start adding blocks. These blocks can contain videos, maps, text, a hero image, or custom-built widgets (e.g. a Drupal View showing a list of the ten most popular gift baskets). Blocks can expose configuration options to the content author. For instance, a hero block with an image and text may offer a setting to align the text left, right, or center. These settings can be configured directly from a sidebar.

The Drupal 8 Layout Builder showing how to configure a block

In many other systems content authors are able to use drag-and-drop WYSIWYG tools to design these one-off pages. This type of tool is used in many projects and services such as Squarespace and the new Gutenberg Editor for WordPress (now available for Drupal, too!).

On large sites, the free-form page creation is almost certainly going to be a scalability, maintenance and governance challenge.

For smaller sites where there may not be many pages or content authors, these dynamic free-form page builders may work well, and the unrestricted creative freedom they provide might be very compelling. However, on larger sites, when you have hundreds of pages or dozens of content creators, a templated approach is going to be preferred.

When will Drupal's new Layout Builder be ready?

Drupal 8's Layout Builder is still a beta level experimental module, with 25 known open issues to be addressed prior to becoming stable. We're on track to complete this in time for Drupal 8.7's release in May 2019. If you are interested in increasing the likelihood of that, you can find out how to help on the Layout Initiative homepage.

An important note on accessibility

Accessibility is one of Drupal's core tenets, and building software that everyone can use is part of our core values and principles. A key part of bringing Layout Builder functionality to a "stable" state for production use will be ensuring that it passes our accessibility gate (Level AA conformance with WCAG and ATAG). This holds for both the authoring tool itself, as well as the markup that it generates. We take our commitment to accessibility seriously.

Impact on contributed modules and existing sites

Currently there a few methods in the Drupal module ecosystem for creating templated layouts and landing pages, including the Panels and Panelizer combination. We are currently working on a migration path for Panels/Panelizer to the Layout Builder.

The Paragraphs module currently can be used to solve several kinds of content authoring use-cases, including the creation of custom landing pages. It is still being determined how Paragraphs will work with the Layout Builder and/or if the Layout Builder will be used to control the layout of Paragraphs.

Conclusion

Drupal's upcoming Layout Builder is unique in that it supports multiple different use cases; from templated layouts that can be applied to dozens or hundreds of pieces of structured content, to designing custom one-off pages with unstructured content. The Layout Builder is even more powerful when used in conjunction with Drupal's other out-of-the-box features such as revisioning, content moderation, and translations, but that is a topic for a future blog post.

Special thanks to Ted Bowman (Acquia) for co-authoring this post. Also thanks to Wim Leers (Acquia), Angie Byron (Acquia), Alex Bronstein (Acquia), Jeff Beeman (Acquia) and Tim Plunkett (Acquia) for their feedback during the writing process.

The end of PHP 5

PHP, the Open Source scripting language, is used by nearly 80 percent of the world's websites.

According to W3Techs, around 61 percent of all websites on the internet still use PHP 5, a version of PHP that was first released fourteen years ago.

Now is the time to give PHP 5 some attention. In less than two months, on December 31st, security support for PHP 5 will officially cease. (Note: Some Linux distributions, such as Debian Long Term Support distributions, will still try to backport security fixes.)

If you haven't already, now is the time to make sure your site is running an updated and supported version of PHP.

Beyond security considerations, sites that are running on older versions of PHP are missing out on the significant performance improvements that come with the newer versions.

Drupal and PHP 5

Drupal 8

Drupal 8 will drop support for PHP 5 on March 6, 2019. We recommend updating to at least PHP 7.1 if possible, and ideally PHP 7.2, which is supported as of Drupal 8.5 (which was released March, 2018). Drupal 8.7 (to be released in May, 2019) will support PHP 7.3, and we may backport PHP 7.3 support to Drupal 8.6 in the coming months as well.

Drupal 7

Drupal 7 will drop support for older versions of PHP 5 on December 31st, but will continue to support PHP 5.6 as long there are one or more third-party organizations providing reliable, extended security support for PHP 5.

Earlier today, we released Drupal 7.61 which now supports PHP 7.2. This should make upgrades from PHP 5 easier. Drupal 7's support for PHP 7.3 is being worked on but we don't know yet when it will be available.

Thank you!

It's a credit to the PHP community that they have maintained PHP 5 for fourteen years. But that can't go on forever. It's time to move on from PHP 5 and upgrade to a newer version so that we can all innovate faster.

I'd also like to thank the Drupal community — both those contributing to Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 — for keeping Drupal compatible with the newest versions of PHP. That certainly helps make PHP upgrades easier.