Drupal North 2015 Thoughts and Highlights

By Alex De Winne,

Drupal North

The first annual Drupal North regional summit in Toronto is wrapping up this weekend. We showed our support for the community by being Gold Sponsors.

Overall, there were an impressive 40+ sessions and 3 keynotes. The sessions I went to personally I found to be of high quality. There were quite a few people that I hadn’t met before from the Montreal and Ottawa region. It was nice to see some new faces. Of course, many of the regulars from over the years were there too.

The keynotes were the highlights of the event

Jeff Eaton’s keynote was aptly title ‘Planning Beyond The Page’. I find it interesting that in this day and age we still need to advocate the idea that we’re no longer building web pages. The disconnect I believe is where a website, even a large complex one, is perceived as being a collection of pages. Like a book. We still have the idea that a unique url/path leads to a page, and that that page can be related back to the idea of a printed page. The reality, however, is that for most significant web properties, the underlying data structures and logic are not page centric. As websites move towards being web apps and generally more interactive, my hope is that it will become obvious that we’ve evolved.

What I loved about the talk was the examples of how business services, products, people become the discrete elements of the content architecture and the data model. Looking at content and content relations in such a fundamental way is both simplistic, and difficult to do. The difficulty lies in the process of gaining the insight and understanding of the organization to then be able to distill their content architecture into it’s fundamentals.

Below is an example Jeff used to explain how a Chef’s plate of food is the centre of the content model.

Food plate content relationship schema diagram

Structured content is where it starts

Working with such an excellent Content Management system as Drupal forces us to think about structured content. However, even with the current latest version of Drupal, it makes many assumptions that the output medium for our content would be seen in the form of ‘web pages’. In our multi-device / channel world, where we don’t know where content might end up, it is best that we think about content as discrete elements. Each of these elements have their own unique content structures. Each element additionally has relationships to other discrete components.

No, we can’t build you a $500 website

The sites we build today are actually content centric ecosystems. An understanding and appreciation for the process leading up to a business and user aligned content architecture is critical to the process. Larger organizations in my experience are ahead of the curve on this. They have pressure to reuse content, reduce the number of static silos that are built and generally manage their content and content relationships better. This approach makes sense for organizations from a financial, user / brand experience and a compliancy standpoint.

What’s been happing over the past few years at Therefore is that we’re doing a lot less building ‘websites’, and a lot more of building content infrastructures and ecosystems, that happen to output a website. We’re building the tools and infrastructures that allow us to play more of a consulting role with clients in building a web presence. I think this is the right way to go to help future proof content, and to build flexible communications systems. It’s great to see people like Jeff not only advocating for strong content structure models, but also doing it in practice for influential organizations.

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