Mile-High Inspiration from DrupalCon 2012

Posted by Julia Koelsch & filed under Drupal.

I had the fantastic opportunity to attend DrupalCon 2012 for Spry Digital. We met many fellow Drupalers, attended tons of sessions, and enjoyed a pint or two of Denver’s finest brews. I was blown away by the quality of the presentations as well as the friendly and supportive community that make up the Drupal community. I’ve had a little time to reflect on the past week, and am really excited by some of the trends that emerged:

DrupalCon Denver 2012

Collaborative publishing for every device.

1. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!

The theme for the conference was “Collaborative Publishing for Every Device”, and the message came through loud and clear. Luke Wroblewski, author of Mobile First, gave a compelling keynote address on this topic. I’m writing this post on a mobile device, and chances are that a significant portion of those reading this post will do so on a mobile device. How does this impact our site development process? It means that:

  • The focus must be on the primary content and message of your site. Clever design is great, but it’s wasted effort if a user can’t find the information they were looking for when viewing your website on a smartphone.
  • The days of optimizing for the average desktop screen resolution are over. Page content should shift as needed based on various screen resolutions, so don’t get hung up on the pixel-perfect desktop experience. Here’s a clever example that demonstrates how page elements can shift around.
  • Speed and page size optimization are as important as always, but it must be done carefully. Poorly optimized images look even worse on high-resolution screens like the latest iPhones and iPads.

2. CSS preprocessors are hot

The days of spaghetti CSS are numbered. With technologies like SASS, LESS, and many others, you can write cleaner markup and modularize your CSS. These technologies have been around for awhile now, but many sessions I attended demonstrated how easy it is to use them in your projects. As we rely more on CSS to provide a richer online experience to a broader range of devices, these tools will help maintain your sanity while maintaining your CSS.

3. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Websites

Many of the “coder” sessions I attended covered topics like security, performance, and the operations side of development. The Drupal platform is secure and performs great out of the box, but developers need to know how to write secure and well-optimized code, regardless of your language and platform of choice. Security covers many aspects: not just avoiding writing code that can be compromised, but also automating repeatable processes and monitoring all aspects of your environment to provide a rich set of data for trend analysis. Tools like Hudson can help automate repeatable processes like site deployments and cron jobs. Monitoring tools like Nagios can monitor and report on all aspects of your environment to ensure your site continues to be fast and secure.

One last observation – while I learned lots of great Drupal-specific techniques, much of what I took from this conference can be applied to any web development project.

Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors that helped make DrupalCon such a worthwhile experience!

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