Dries Buytaert presenting at DrupalCon Dublin

DrupalCon 2016 Dublin: highlights and takeaways

DrupalCon is the largest Drupal congress worldwide, held over several continents. Started in Belgium in 2005, with little over 60 people, DrupalCon has become a massive event where Drupal specialist meet up and share their experience and where end-users and the business get to meet the open source community behind Drupal. With clients like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson actively engaging in the open source ecosystem, Drupal has become an open source enterprise alternative for sustainable added value for online organisations. People from all over the world attend DrupalCon, with 89 Dutch present. Next year’s DrupalCon will be held in Vienna, Austria. 

Online experience

Digital transformation

As more business, project managers and end users are coming to DrupalCon to meet the passionate people behind their CMS framework, there were plenty of interesting speakers with various topics on business, project management and ‘being human’. The latter subject covering many aspects of what it takes to build great teams and growing service portfolio’s towards more maturing customers. Where Drupal from a business perspective is maturing more and more as well, as Drupal agency it’s important to realize other aspects are now involved in getting bigger companies to adopt Drupal. Aspects like marketing, market penetration, digital transformation and agile values are just as important as proper quality of code. Imre Gmelig Meijling, digital strategist at LimoenGroen talked about this at DrupalCon. With DrupalCon still very much developer centered, also organisations considering adopting the CMS framework for their own website(s) are now attending more. When organisations already employing Drupal for their own websites, like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer engage, Drupal is gaining even more momentum for businesses.

AIDA model

Outside In

Dries Buytaert, founder and project lead of Drupal itself, opens the DrupalCon on the current state of Drupal and its upcoming developments. While Drupal can sometimes be challenging for content editors, Drupal 8 contains some big improvements that will make Drupal more user-friendly and Outside In. One great example of this is that editors can now directly click the element they want to edit and make the changes, without leaving the page.

Another visually quite subtle improvement is the RefreshLess-module. When navigating to another page, the only thing that changes are the new elements. The header for example which is mostly the same throughout the whole site, will not change. This prevents flickering and gives a more instant and app-like experience.

Business owners meet up

DrupalCon is primarily about sharing, whether it’s code or management-related information. At the business summit on Monday, CxO knowledge is shared by discussing topics brought up by the attending CEO’s and business owners. Subjects like ‘how to gain venture capital’, ‘managing client expectations’ and ‘training new staff the most efficient way’ were addressed in depth. Discussing these topics with like-minded people is not only really helpful, but also fun. Later in the week Baris Wanschers also attended the CEO dinner, sharing experience informally. Meeting interesting people, sharing knowledge and having fun while learning a lot was the premise for many of the business opportunities at DrupalCon 2016 Dublin.

Technical Highlights


With Twig being the core template engine for Drupal 8, there is a great improvement on control over the Drupal output and implementing a component based theming strategy. Also noteworthy is the handy Drupal template helper plugin for Chrome. But beware not to use preprocess functions to add classes. Set variables and then set the class based on the variable in the Twig template. Twig blocks can be used to inherit templates and then change only a specific block within the child template.

Search developments

The Search API module has entered the beta-phase and now has an upgrade path. There are still some things to work on, but the ecosphere seems to move forward rapidly now. It will open up new and awesome search possibilities to be used on websites and online tools built with Drupal. In order to overcome Solr and Search API module application limits,  directly working with the Elasticsearch REST API could be a great help in getting these great search experiences clients are now demanding.

Streamlining Front End Development

When using the Display Suite module it is possible to make a DS field, in which you can load a block. This DS field you can place in a region of the DS layout view mode. We don't need DS in D8, but this could be useful on some D7 projects. Streamlined Front-end Development with Pattern Lab and Twig on Atomic Design was inspiring to see. You can create components on patternlab.io, based on CSS & TWIG templates that can directly be used in Drupal Themes. This offers great advantage to projects since Drupal Themes can be developed without any Drupal environment present yet. We will definitely investigate how we can apply this into our Front End development. Also interesting takeaways are the possibility for an Accessibility test by using tenon.io in combination with Gulp or Jenkins and the Block Visibility Groups module.

Accessibility in Drupal 8

Drupal 8 is the most accessible Drupal version ever (Baris). Drupal has had focus on accessibility for years, and with Drupal 8 this really became clear. Baris attended three sessions on this topic. Since LimoenGroen has a focus to create accessible websites out-of-the-box, we wanted to understand the latest status and goals. One of the great new accessibility features in Drupal 8 is the Language of Parts button.  

All about Entities

The Entity browser module is very flexible and can be adapted to most use cases. A nice example is adding a reference to an entity for inline editing. The Workbench module allows to have a published version and one that is in revision, helpful for content and marketing teams to review content before it's being published. 

Debugging Drupal

Drupal Console is a handy tool to figure out how the inner workings of drupal 8 when using the debug function. If you use the command `drupal router:debug` for example, you can see all the router paths of your application. There is an excellent cheatsheet available to experiment with this. Likewise, Composer has also some great commands such as `composer show` which shows all the installed packages. And if you want to know more of a specific package you can run the command `composer show twig/twig`. Drupal Template Helper is a Chrome plugin which allows for a quick overview of the Twig templates that are being used when the Twig debug is enabled. You can also see some info about hooks that can be used.

Configuration Management

The trio from Nuvole gave a honed version of their earlier talks on configuration management. In it, several pain points experienced by shops using development sites were discussed and potential work-in-progress solutions presented.

Automated Testing

dahwehner and klausi gave a presentation on automated testing with PHPUnit, but then all the way. Their goal is to replace simpletest based KernelTests and WebTests in Drupal core with variants powered by PHPUnit. Their talk was also my introduction to the Prophecy stub/mock framework in Drupal 8. The mocking framework will make testing our Drupal 8 custom code in upcoming projects much faster to implement. The combination of the config_readonly and config_split modules might be an invaluable piece in the continuous integration puzzle for Drupal 8.

Drupal documentation

Drupal.org documentation is in the process of a huge overhaul. Documentation should become more accessible, but also more maintainable. The deep tree of pages will be flattened and split into multiple subject guides. Each of those guides can have subject maintainers who are able to keep tabs on and review edits by the community.

A word from Laurie the Newbee

The words “We came for the code, we stayed for the community” are very true. Laurie’s first DrupalCon was quite overwhelming, but all newcomers, technical and business alike will testify on the mellow openness the global Drupal community is about.

A testimony from Laurie on her entering the Drupal community in Dublin is as follows.

“I have been in the drupal world for 9 month now and was overwhelmed by how welcoming and friendly everyone is. They all want to share their stories and ask me about my impressions.

One stand out: I wanted to go to a BOF, so I decided to try Novice Issues, thinking I am a novice, not sure what issues they are talking about, but i can definitely learn from it. It turned out this was the BOF for the very highly experienced mentors deciding which issues are good for novices for the Mentored coding on Friday.  I was, to say the least, very intimidated that most had been mentoring for longer than I had been doing drupal at all. They were even excited and encouraging for me to stay to give them my novice opinions as a test case.”

Laurie with Dries Buytaert

The invaluable hallway track

A very useful part of the conference was not scheduled. Meeting old friends and strengthening ties with people and businesses in the Dutch Drupal community happened in the many hallways and venues outside of the CCC. In addition to the social aspect, information imparted provided us with solutions or pointers to solutions for issues we’ve had with a range of things, such as managing modules and patches with composer, SimpleTest’s lack of speed when testing core patches, issues with cache consistency on non database backends and deadlocks on D8 + ACPu.

Power Up Your Skills

LimoenGroen is gradually growing on all sides, from project size to revenue. In order to maintain a stable growth on our projectbase, we are recruiting new talent to help us fulfill larger Drupal projects. We would very much welcome passionate techs savvy’s to challenge our team at our own ‘Google Fridays’. Our team is ready to assist with the development of a Drupal theme or getting that module pushed to Drupal.org. We will offer a serious boost in skills and invited everyone at DrupalCon to seek our individual team members, get a sticker and collect a cool metallic PowerBank. All 40 ‘Power Ups’ were redeemed (minus 5 that served as prize at the infamous Trivia Night). It was fun to see our people were chased all over Dublin in order to get all the nine checkmarks before receiving the nifty powerbank.

Baris geeft PowerBanks weg


Meet us

Meet us at our great new office in Amsterdam. We have a great housewarming party coming october 27th. More info to follow soon.

For any reason regarding Drupal or web development or just a good cup of coffee, drop us a line at hallo@limoengroen.nl or call +31 20 - 737 1880


Title photo courtesy of Paul Johnson @pdjohnson