Drupal Developer

Web Performance: A Guide to Building Fast Drupal Websites

Posted: August 24, 2014

What follows is part one in a series of posts on web performance that I've wanted to write for quite some time. I'll not only be talking about optimizing web performance generally, but also providing specific guidance for speeding up Drupal sites.

Although I'm not a web performance specialist or expert, I have taken a keen interest in the topic in my work as a frontend developer building responsive websites. I love building fast sites and have gained some experience over the years getting Drupal to shed some its inherent sluggishness. 

As a way of systematically tackling what can be a complex subject, we'll use the results of a test from WebPageTest.org, a Google-sponsored tool that provides very in-depth information about the performance of a site in nice, easily digestible chunks.

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Headless Drupal? It Just Might Be a Bigger Deal than Twig

Posted: August 4, 2014

If you're a frontend developer or designer that has grumbled about the challenges of Drupal theming, you no doubt applauded the announcement that the Twig template framework was being added to Drupal 8.

It's a big upgrade, no question. If you're like me, however, you may prefer a completely custom frontend crafted out of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. You may have looked at the cool stuff AngularJS or Backbone is capable of and wondered how you could bridge the gap with Drupal to enjoy that sort of freedom.

Fortunately, there are some folks that are already doing exactly that and sharing the results of their work. It's something called "headless Drupal" and it's an approach that uses Drupal as a backend content repository and REST server.

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A New Drupal Installation Profile and Theme

Posted: July 3, 2014

I've been working on a Drupal 7 installation profile and accompanying theme for the past couple months (demo site here). Both the profile and the theme are meant to be "starter kits" for designers and frontend developers when working on Drupal projects.

Prometheus and Atlas - the profile and theme, respectively -  are where most of my Drupal projects start these days. They represent an approach that works well for me, saves loads of time and takes advantage of a lot of the contemporary frontend tools and tricks. While they aren't completely done - lots of stuff on the margins to take care of - they are in good enough shape to share, get some feedback on and hopefully find a collaborator or two.

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Quick Tip: Syncing Databases Between Drupal Websites with Backup and Migrate

Posted: June 16, 2014

A common scenario that Drupal developers and site builders run into is the challenge of keeping the database in sync between the dev, testing and production versions of a site. Web hosts like Pantheon (highly recommended) make this a snap, but what if you're using a VPS or some other hosting that doesn't have that functionality? One popular option is to use Drush, but that isn't a good fit for everyone.

Backup and Migrate (BaM) can be a great tool for helping with this sort of problem. In this post we'll talk about using BaM for this task and include a very handy companion service that makes things even easier. What I often see with site builders who are using Backup and Migrate is the manual downloading of backup files and then doing a manual restore from the downloaded file.

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A Few Website Usability Tips Backed by Research

Posted: June 2, 2014

If you make websites for a living, then you're well aware how tough it is to keep up with everything that goes into creating a top-notch site. Something that often gets overlooked is usability testing. It's one of those things that many clients can't afford - or perhaps don't see the value of - and so instead of testing things, we rely on common patterns and trends to help us along.

Below are a few resources that discuss common web design patterns that may be hurting your site more than they are helping. I have to admit, a couple of these surprised me. Hopefully you'll find them useful as well.

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How to Evaluate the Performance of Responsive Websites

Posted: May 4, 2014

A lot of the time, when someone talks about making a website responsive, they mean that the layout will change depending on what device is being used to view the site. But there is more to responsive design than that. Perhaps an even more critical factor is the performance of the site, particularly on mobile.

At its heart, responsive design is about opitimizing the user experience across a wide range of devices. This can be a hard job, no doubt about it. But we've been making things harder than they need to be.

A major culprit has been the choices that are made with recent design trends - large images, lots of JavaScript libraries and even the continued use of carousels. This has led to swelling page sizes, with the current median page size of a top 500 website now coming in at over 1.5 MB - 33% larger than the year before!

What follows are some tips on evaluating responsive websites across different devices. We'll see how to use several tools and techniques - using a real website as an example - that can provide hard data on how your site is going to perform on mobile devices and help identify problem areas.

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Thoughts on Building Responsive Websites

Posted: April 27, 2014

What follows are a few observations and suggestions that are distilled from my experience of having worked on dozens of web projects involving responsive web design (RWD).

First of all, I'd like to say to those of you not yet using responsive design in your work, the time has come. It's not a bandwagon, it's not a fad. In 2014, web design = responsive web design. More or less, anyway - the separate mobile site can sometimes be great for those with large budgets, but for the vast majority of sites, it's RWD or bust.

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