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Highlights from DrupalSouth 2015

As the 2 day conference that brings together Drupal community members from around Australia and the southern hemisphere comes to a close, I thought I’d look back at some of the best parts of the conference. I'll break this post into two parts, as it's taking me some time to write.

Around 300 attendees, volunteers, presenters and sponsors came to the Melbourne exhibition and convention centre. Developers, designers, content strategists, UX, accessibility and business practitioners presented a wide variety of talks. In between talks, attendees got to know each other, eat some great food, network, and talk shop.

The Drupal conference tagline, “Come for the code, stay for the community” really sums up the feel to the conference. Many talks were centred around the continued work and upcoming (eventual) release of Drupal 8, and the way so many passionate people collaborate so closely on this upcoming release is exemplary of the inclusive, supportive nature of the Drupal community as a whole.

For me personally, there were a few great talks, BoFs (Birds of a feather) and moments that were a highlight.

Angie Byron Keynote

@webchick

The first day keynote was by Angie Byron (webchick). A Drupal evangelist, Angie presented her top 8 features of Drupal 8. As a core contributor who’s very heavily involved in the direction of Drupal 8, she demonstrated the best feature that we can look forward to. The standouts for me were:

  • Drupal Themes and Admin are fully responsive, out of the box. This is a result of countless hours of work, and will be invaluable for content editors in the future. The admin menu works really well on small screens. Tables scale down, and can drop columns off to conserve space. These columns can have a “weight” of importance, so users can still see the most important fields on mobile.
  • In place editing. Drupal 8 now supports and in-place editing workflow. Users can click edit links on the content that they view, and edit that content in its place. Styls and formatting will remain the same. This approach will be far less jarring for content editors, whi previously were taken to a separate editing page for each node or piece of content.
  • Configuration management. In Drupal 7, admins would make changes to site configuration in the database. When these changes needed to be moved from one environment to another, say from DEV to STAGING, admins faced a problem. Modules like the Features module were used to commit those config changes back to code, which could then be tracked with the codebase, and enabled on the new environment. Features does a good job, but can come with it’s own problems; and other solutions have been used. D8’s configuration management will solve this problem. changes to any site config, including modules, content types, fields, will all be exportable to .yml files with config management. This is one feature of D8 that everyone’s excited about.

Amelia Schmidt - Responsive Design Pitfalls

@meelijane

This talk touched on some of the issues that I've come across when trying to design a responsive site. Amelia outlined some 'Red Flags' to watch out for in a design; things that can cause problems down the road.

Some of these included:

  • A grid layout with items that are all the same height. Too often you get a design with the same content repeated, with lorem ipsum text. In practice, the content always ends up differening in the final site build, with different height boxes causing less than ideal layouts.
  • Images set at the same height as a floated paragraph. This always causes issues as text gets longer on smaller screens
  • Art direction in responsive design can be tricky. Amelia had some great examples of portrait photos of people, whose heads get cropped as images change aspect ratio on smaller devices. The js plugin Focal Point was mentioned. This plugin tries to intelligently crop an image based on what it thinks is the focal point.

Amelia also demonstrated webflow Webflow allows designers to create responsive sites, with an easy to use interface. As they use a GUI to create the site, webflow writes clean sematic HTML and CSS in the background. CSS transitions and JS behavious like animation, modals etc can even be prototyped by the designer.

This can be a good platform for designers who are unfamiliar with HTML and CSS to create responsive designs. A front end developer can then export the code from webflow, and use it as a base to develop their front end.

When designers use tools like Photoshop or Illustrator to create their designs, they can easily design something that is hard to preproduce with CSS. Using tools like webflow can alleviate problems like this.

The slides for Amelia's presentation can be found here