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The Future of Drupal: Our Thoughts on the Driesnote From DrupalCon 2016

Rich LawsonWritten by Rich Lawson
Jun 8, 2016 8:00:00 AM

DrupalCon 2016 kicked off in New Orleans with the annual Driesnote. Dries Buytaert took the stage to give attendees an update on Drupal 8 and share initiatives for the future of the platform. Dries also shared results from the annual Drupal user survey and how those results influence some of the key initiatives for the future of Drupal 8. 

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Drupal 8 Updates

Drupal 8 was released in November, and Drupal 8.1 was released shortly before DrupalCon. This frequent release cycle is new for Drupal 8, and new releases are planned for every six months moving forward. Dries predicts a huge spike in adoption for Drupal 8 (it is being adopted faster than Drupal 7 was at this point in its lifecycle) but also recognizes that there is a lot to do to accelerate the adoption of Drupal 8.

Future of Drupal 8

Drupal has reinvented itself with every release, and with Drupal 8 it is no longer just enough to build websites. Now it’s about creating platforms and digital experiences. With that in mind, Dries shared his plan for developing key initiatives for Drupal 8 to meet the needs of core groups of Drupal users including authors, editors, and developers. Based on the results of the annual user survey, Dries determined that 75% of product updates should be for the editorial experience.

In order to build the leading platform to assemble the world’s best digital experiences, Dries proposed the following initiatives.

Media Initiative

Authors and editors need the ability to update media and handle assets quickly and easily. The media initiative includes WYSIWYG editor integration, visual media browsing that is intuitive and has features like multi-upload. Media handling has always been an area in Drupal that could use some improvement, so it’s really excited to turn more attention to this area.

Workflow Initiative

Authors and editors also need easy-to-use tools to share, review, approve, stage and collaborate on content before it is live. Take for example, a media company that needs to preview and publish one or more different pre-built pages. Dries shared the example of creating pages for the winner of the super bowl, and with election season upon us there are many additional use cases available for this initiative.

The workflow initiative is already in process and you can view a high-level overview as well as a detailed plan at drupal.org. Using Drupal 8’s much more rapid release cycle, there are a number of planned improvements for each major release.

Much of this work is currently centering on content staging, which is an important issue for many clients. While many sites have environments that allow for staging content, there often remains an issue with moving content into production once everything is approved in the staging environment. The Workflow Initiative is already working to solve that problem through work on the Multiversion, Replication, Workspace, and Deploy modules.

Blocks and Layout Initiative

This initiative is designed for site builders who need intuitive tools to build pages, change layouts, and add and arrange blocks with live preview. This initiative will get rid of the need to learn regions, as you will be able to just hover where you want to place a block on the page. Site builders will also be able to set visibility conditions and switch layouts with preview.

The blocks administration page has definitely become dated, so improvements here would be extremely beneficial to site builders. While modules like Context and Panels have worked to fulfill these needs within Drupal for quite some time, it would be great to have a consolidated solution in Drupal core that improves on the current blocks administration interface.

Data Modeling Tools Initiative

For this initiative, Dries shared the example of a site builder making a site for foodie meetups to share and discuss recipes. With the Data Modeling Tools initiative, site builders will be able to easily create an event content type with associated recipes.

While the goals of this initiative would be very beneficial for site builders, Drupal’s user interface already allows site builders to accomplish this job. While improving site builders’ experience within Drupal is hugely important, this seems like it could be a bit of a rabbit hole from both a development and a user experience perspective, and all of the other initiatives seem as though they should be higher priority.

API-First Initiative

The API First initiative focuses on the ability to integrate with other systems, bring your content anywhere, and display it as you wish. Web services in Drupal 8 are currently made up of Core REST Modules, Relaxed Web Services, Services (D8), and Entity Query API. This set up isn’t ideal, so the API-First Initiative focuses on creating a full feature set and unified REST API in Drupal core.

The initiative will be made up of:

REST:

  • Full feature set
  • Single REST API in core

SDKs:

  • For JavaScript apps
  • For native apps

GraphQL:

  • Client-specified queries
  • Schema introspection

Drupal already does a great job of integrating with other systems, but these improvements will both standardize and simplify to improve Drupal’s core developer experience, leading to great project efficiencies. Given the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and other non-Web-based digital experiences, improvements such as this help the Drupal platform to be a great choice for creating and integrating separate systems and technologies together.

Theme Component Library Initiative

This initiative will convert Drupal’s complex combination of templates and render arrays into a simple, structured tree of reusable components. Based on the principles of Atomic Design, this initiative could greatly improve the experience of Drupal themers.

Anyone who has themed a Drupal website is very familiar with the potentially massive render arrays that Drupal generates. Under this approach, these would be componentized and become much easier to use. Combined with the ideas of the Blocks and Layout initiative, Drupal would become even more modular than it already is.

At Duo, we’re excited to see how these core initiatives continue to evolve and improve Drupal 8. You can watch the entire Driesnote on buytaert.net. If you’re interested in learning more about upgrading your website to Drupal 8, check out our free Drupal 8 Readiness Assessment.

Topics: Development

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