DrupalSouth 2014

by Michael Birch

I really enjoyed DrupalSouth. I wasn’t sure if I would; I’ve often found Drupal 6 and 7 front-end development frustrating and time-consuming. It turns out that Drupal 8 may help ease the pain. The conference also generated some seriously positive vibes for the Drupal community.

Many thanks to Josh and the team, who made it happen.

The presentations I attended were mostly from the “Frontend” track.


Making Your Front End Workflow Awesome

Kitt Hodsden gave an amazing brain-dump of front-end workflow in over 200 slides. Some great advice for using Sass, Grunt, sass-convert, Alfred, jshint, phantom CSS, Emmet, Yeoman. Gulp was also mentioned in the question time as a new alternative to Grunt.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Drupal 8 But Were Too Afraid To Ask

A detailed insight into the inner workings of Drupal 8. I won't attempt to summarise Kim and Lee's presentation. One thing I took away is that Drupal 8 is wildly different in many ways to previous versions but it should be faster to learn. Most people already know about OOP and many things follow patterns that are repeated. Learn how to do it once and then repeat the process elsewhere.

View the slides.

Foundation vs Bootstrap Death Match: Responsive Frameworks in Drupal

Vladimir gave a roundup of both frameworks’ features.

I think Bootstrap and Foundation are great for quick prototyping, but for production sites I prefer writing my own Sass and if I use any framework it would be a grid-only framework like Suzy.

In an intriguing aside, Vladimir explained that it's possible to create a static site in HTML and CSS and then use AngularJS and the migrate module to import it into Drupal 8.

Cross Browser Testing With SauceLabs And Selenium

Scott Whittaker spoke well and was well prepared, having made videos to show workflows (instead of relying on the conference WiFi). Useful and interesting and went beyond simple cross browser testing to talk about automating tests with Jenkins.

Keynote: Emma Jane Westby

Emma Jane talked about talked about Drupal, vision and change management. Drupal 8 has been causing stress in the Drupal community. She suggested that we need a united vision for the future to reduce this stress. Slides for: Lessons From an Unlikely Superhero

Keynote: Larry Garfield

Any anxiety the audience had from considering the stress of change in Emma Jane’s talk was quickly dispelled as Larry took everyone on an uplifting and inspirational journey for the future of Drupal with Drupal 8. When Emma Jane asked us to tweet why we came to DrupalSouth, Larry tweeted “I'm here to share the promise and potential that is Drupal 8”.


Keynote: Jeffrey "Jam" McGuire

Jam came to the stage dressed as a Drupal Superhero (a theme for the conference) in a cape and bright orange undies! He made an emotional welcome on Saturday when he nostalgically referred to coming back to his home town of Wellington. He shared his passion Drupal and inspired us with relections about what makes the Drupal community so successful. Little things like Dries saying thanks to every new contributer (including Larry Garfield years ago).

Case Study: Sydney Living Museums

This presentation could have easily been placed in the conference’s Frontend track.

An interesting presentation – especially the development of a custom inline editor. They also developed a custom module for a social media timeline. Daniel even promised to share the code for this after being asked why they didn't release it during development of the site. Daniel wanted it to be more polished before releasing it, but everyone agreed that it’s better to release early. This prompted him to say that he would make it a priority to share the code.

Can I TWIG It? Yes, You Can!

Morten gave a down-to-earth, entertaining talk.

He explained the frustration that front-end devs have with Drupal 6 and 7 and advantages of using a templating language like TWIG.

Twig has a nice, clean syntax and there will be no need to do battle with nasty arrays and having to poke around in modules to find out how to manipulate output.

Say goodbye to a huge template.php file because TWIG will allow front-end devs to have logic in template files. There will be no need to overwrite theme functions. Everything will be in one place, making maintenance easier. Morten is an advocate of keeping HTML as clean as possible (I agree with him there) and it looks like this will be easier to achieve this in Drupal 8.

I think this may be the biggest improvement for Drupal for the work that I do. In the past I have avoided Drupal for smaller websites because it has been faster to build a site in something like CakePHP. I have heard that Drupal 8 is more suited for enterprise, but I think that TWIG could make Drupal development easier for small sites. Front-end developers will need less knowledge of Drupal, which could attract a lot more designers, who have previously been put off by Drupal's steeper learning curve than other CMSes.

There is still a lot of work to do to get TWIG working in Drupal 8 and Morten encouraged everyone to help by trying it out and getting involved with the community e.g. writing documentation or submitting patches. More here: https://drupal.org/node/2008464

Download Morten’s slides (pdf, 24.9 MB).

Managing Complex Projects with Design Components

John Albin gave us a detailed look at how he structures his Sass using the principles of web components, OOCSS, SMACSS and BEM. He had some great tips for organising and managing your Sass. e.g. Be careful when using extend — use silent selectors to avoid unintended results. He breaks his Sass into a separate file for each component, which can be combined using Sass Globbing (as described in Automatic Sass Imports with Sass Globbing). Because each partial matches a web component, the order that they are imported doesn't matter. Read the slides from his talk.

UX Spaces: A New Approach To Website Design And Development

Chris Skene talked about his experience with kitchen design. Here’s an extract from the talk.

I liked Chris Skene's idea of UX Spaces. The idea of “representing digital space using task mapping, rather than information structure” is one that appeals. Almost all UX planning happens in documentation like sitemaps, but instead it should be baked in to the web design and development process.

Form Enhances Function: How Design Can Improve User Experience

Colin Watson talked about design principles for the web and it would have been a good intro for some of the developer types in the audience. Design concepts like this aren't often discussed at Drupal events. Some good advice that I have heard before from the likes of Andy Clark and Mark Boulton and from Ellen Luton’s book “Thinking with Type”.

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