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:
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).
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
With BigCommerce and Acquia, brands can use a commerce-as-a-service approach to quickly build an online store and oversee product management and transactional data. The front-end of the commerce experience will be powered by Drupal, built and managed using the Acquia Platform, and personalized with Acquia Lift.
Today, Acquia announced a partnership with Elastic Path, a headless commerce platform. In this post, I want to explore the advantages of headless commerce and the opportunity it holds for both Drupal and Acquia.
The advantages of headless commerce
In a headless commerce approach, the front-end shopping experience is decoupled from the commerce business layer. Headless commerce platforms provide a clean separation between the front end and back end; the shopping experience is provided by Drupal and the commerce business logic is provided by the commerce platform. This decoupling provides advantages for the developer, merchant and shopping experience.
For developers, it means that you can decouple both the development and the architecture. This allows you to build an innovative shopping experience without having to worry about impacting a system as critical as your commerce backend. For instance, you can add ratings and reviews to your shopping experience without having to redeploy your commerce platform.
For merchants, it can provide a better experience for administering the shop. Traditional commerce solution usually ship with a lightweight content management system. This means that there can be competition over which system provides the experience layer (i.e. the "glass"). This can introduce overlap in functionality; both systems offer ways to manage URLs, create landing pages, manage user access rights, theming systems, etc. Because headless commerce systems are designed from the ground up to integrate with other systems, there is less duplication of functionality. This provides a streamlined experience for merchants.
And last but not least, there is the shopping experience for end-users or consumers. Consumers are demanding better experiences when they shop online; they want editorials, lookbooks, tutorials, product demonstration videos, testimonials, and more. They desire the content-rich experiences that a comprehensive content management system can provide.
All this is why Acquia is excited about our partnership with Elastic Path. I believe the partnership is a win-win-win. It's a win for Acquia because we are now better equipped than ever to offer personal, unique and delightful shopping experiences. It is a win for Elastic Path as they have the opportunity to provide contextual commerce solutions to any Acquia customer. Last but not least, it's a win for Drupal because it will introduce more organizations to the project.
Note that many of the above integration challenges don't apply to native solutions like Drupal Commerce for Drupal or WooCommerce for WordPress. It only applies when you have to integrate two entirely different systems. Integrating two different systems is a common use case, because customers either already have a commerce platforms in place that they don't want to replace, or because native solutions don't meet their needs.
Acquia's commitment to best of breed
Acquia remains committed to a best-of-breed strategy for commerce. There isn't a single commerce platform that meets the needs of all our customers. This belief comes from years of experience in the field. Acquia's customers want to integrate with a variety of commerce systems such as Elastic Path, SAP Hybris, Salesforce Commerce Cloud (Demandware), Magento, BigCommerce, Reaction Commerce, Oracle ATG, Moltin, and more. Our customers also want to use Drupal Commerce, Drupal's native commerce solution. We believe customers should be able to integrate Drupal with their commerce management solutions of choice.
Configuration management is an important feature of any modern content management system. Those following modern development best-practices use a development workflow that involves some sort of development and staging environment that is separate from the production environment.
Given such a development workflow, you need to push configuration changes from development to production (similar to how you need to push code or content between environments). Drupal's configuration management system helps you do that in a powerful yet elegant way.
Since I announced the original Configuration Management Initiative over seven years ago, we've developed and shipped a strong configuration management API in Drupal 8. Drupal 8's configuration management system is a huge step forward from where we were in Drupal 7, and a much more robust solution than what is offered by many of our competitors.
All configuration in a Drupal 8 site — from one-off settings such as site name to content types and field definitions — can be seamlessly moved between environments, allowing for quick and easy deployment between development, staging and production environments.
However, now that we have a couple of years of building Drupal 8 sites behind us, various limitations have surfaced. While these limitations usually have solutions via contributed modules, it has become clear that we would benefit from extending Drupal core's built-in configuration management APIs. This way, we can establish best practices and standard approaches that work for all.
I first talked about this need in my DrupalCon Nashville keynote, where I announced the Configuration Management 2.0 initiative. The goal of this initiative is to extend Drupal's built-in configuration management so we can support more common workflows out-of-the-box without the need of contributed modules.
What is an example workflow that is not currently supported out-of-the-box? Support for different configurations by environment. This is a valuable use case because some settings are undesirable to have enabled in all environments. For example, you most likely don't want to enable debugging tools in production.
The contributed module Config Filter extends Drupal core's built-in configuration management capabilities by providing an API to support different workflows which filter out or transform certain configuration changes as they are being pushed to production. Config Split, another contributed module, builds on top of Config Filter to allow for differences in configuration between various environments.
While the initiative team is working on executing on these long-term improvements, they are also focused on delivering incremental improvements with each new version of Drupal 8, and have distilled the most high-priority items into a configuration management roadmap.
For Drupal 8.7, we're planning on shipping an experimental module for dealing with environment specific configuration, moving the capabilities of Config Filter and the basic capabilities of Config Split to Drupal core through the addition of a Configuration Transformer API.
For Drupal 8.8, the focus is on supporting configuration updates across different sites. We want to allow both sites and distributions to package configuration (similar to the well-known Features module) so they can easily be deployed across other sites.
How to get involved
There are many opportunities to contribute to this initiative and we'd love your help.