Tag: website

Drupal 8: It’s Here!

Posted by Julia Koelsch & filed under Drupal.

It’s been almost 5 years in the making. Over 3200 individuals contributed their time to update code and documentation. Today, we are thrilled to help celebrate the release of Drupal 8!

Why are we at Spry Digital so excited? We have been enthusiastic supporters and users of Drupal. Drupal is a powerful content management framework that allows us to craft websites and web apps.

New Features

With Drupal 8, many of the things we like about Drupal 7 have been improved upon, and there are plenty of new features to make creating sites with Drupal a great experience. Our development team has been meeting weekly to get up to speed on the changes in Drupal 8. Here are some of the new features we can’t wait to use:

Content Authoring

The content editing experience is much improved, with CKEditor included out-of-the-box, inline editing capabilities, better previews, easier multilingual configuration, more field types, and many more smaller improvements to make it easier to manage content.

Front End Development

Front end developers got a lot of attention with Drupal 8, mainly with the switch of the template engine to Twig. Creating creating rich, interactive experiences will be an easier and more pleasant experience!

Back End Development

There are many changes under the hood that will make back-end developers excited to use Drupal 8. The underlying architecture was completely rewritten, and now leverages the Symfony framework. This means that Drupal is now object-oriented, and can take advantage of other third party libraries since it structured more like other popular PHP frameworks.

Retiring of D6

With the release of Drupal 8 comes a date for the end of life for Drupal 6: February 24th, 2016. When Drupal 6 was released, it was a great step forward for Drupal, and included many compelling features for its time. But that was 2008, which is a very long time on the internet, and it’s time to let D6 retire. What does this mean for D6 sites? After February 24h, Drupal will no longer release security or maintenance updates. In order to maintain a secure site, we encourage you to look at upgrading to Drupal 7 or 8. Email us if you would like to determine how your existing Drupal site can be upgraded.


The development effort for Drupal 8 also focused on stability and reliability, and many contributed modules have already been upgraded for Drupal 8. This means that the switch from using Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 will likely be swift.

We sincerely thank and congratulate all Drupal contributors, and look forward to all of the amazing things we will be able to do with Drupal 8!

Note: Join the St. Louis Drupal Users Group’s official launch party for Drupal 8 this Thursday night at Spry Digital!

5 Questions To Ask Your Web Partner About Security

Posted by Sheila Burkett & filed under Security, Tips.

Has your website ever been hacked? If it has, you know how difficult it can be to get it back up and working. As a business owner, you pay thousands of dollars to have your website built, but how do you make sure the website and server are being maintained to prevent it from getting compromised?

Here are five questions you should ask your web partner about the security of your website.

What content management system (CMS) will my website be built on?

CMS’ such as WordPress and Drupal, are open source platforms that interactive agencies use to build websites. There are programmers around the world dedicating their time and effort to the maintenance, enhancement, and expansion of each CMS. This results in the frequent release of new updates that fix problems within the code base, plugins or modules that provide website functionality. What does that mean to you? Each month, the company or individual who maintains your website should review the code that was released, apply the updates to your website platform and test to make sure everything is still working.

What development and testing processes will be taken to ensure my website is secure?

Your website isn’t just pretty pictures and content. Most websites today allow users to log in, make purchases, submit applications for jobs, or monitor service requests. The website code that makes this possible should be written with security in mind and tested to make sure the “bad guys” can’t get through easily. Hire a company who understands these issues and can talk to you about the procedures they take to develop secure websites.

What hosting service will my website be using?

Source = AustinSEOguy.com

Websites run on a computer called a server and the websites are “hosted” or run on these servers. It is important to understand the following about the environment:

  • Where are these servers are located?
  • Which security measures does the company take?
  • What monitoring procedures are in place to identify a threat?

Websites are often hosted by specialized companies that utilize different forms & levels of security. Some hosting companies limit web teams’ access to server level software, which may limit their ability to keep the web server and website secure.

Who will manage the security and software on the hosting server?

When you purchase hosting services from companies such as WIX or GoDaddy, they typically are maintaining the servers and monitoring for security issues at the server level. Some hosting services do not maintain the server security or software, however. It is important to understand what level of security support the hosting company actually provides at the web server level and/or with your website content management system.

Will you make sure my CMS is updated and secure?

A monthly review of the CMS and any plugin updates that are regularly released is highly recommended, as well as implementing a monitoring process that includes alerts when security patches are made available. Security patches should be applied within 24 hours of the announcement.

An area where we frequently see security issues arise is with plugins and modules that have been installed on the CMS that are no longer supported or maintained by the original developer.. When code isn’t maintained, it creates a security hole that makes your website vulnerable to being compromised. Here at Spry Digital, when the technical team identifies plugins or modules that are no longer maintained, we immediately look for a replacement of that code to minimize the security risk. Once your website is built, you should expect additional support costs for your website team to address these issues.

Your website is the digital front door to your company. Not only do you make sure that all of the doors to your building have a lock, but most of us have security alarms, cameras and security codes to ensure our buildings are safe from intruders. It is important to make sure your web partner is employing the same level of security and maintenance for your website.

Spry Digital Launches New Brand Identity and Website For The Olive Link

Posted by Ken Moire & filed under Case Studies.

The four and a half mile business district along Olive Boulevard in University City has long been recognized as one of the most diverse in the St. Louis metropolitan area, hosting a variety of ethnic communities, eateries, shops and businesses. When The City of University City decided to embark on an initiative to bring visibility to this burgeoning business community, Spry Digital was engaged to develop a unique identity and website that would showcase the diverse attributes of the neighborhood while attracting new businesses to the area.

With input from the Olive Boulevard business community and The University City Chamber of Commerce, Spry Digital forged a new identity, The Olive Link, that speaks to the neighborhood’s geographic and cultural significance. As a main thoroughfare, “The Link” connects St. Louis City to the County. With its many ethnic businesses and restaurants, it connects St. Louis to the World. Spry Digital developed a brand voice deck, key messages and a vibrant logo system. The new logo, featuring four intersecting rings, is universal in design and symbolizes the four distinct business districts within The Olive Link, united as one community. The tagline “Get In The Mix” entices businesses, restaurants and patrons from all around the World to come explore all that The Olive Link has to offer.

The Olive Link Responsive Design

Spry Digital designed and developed an eye-catching responsive website built on the WordPress content management system. Features of the website include a commercial property database that provides prospecting businesses and property owners the ability to search available properties by type or use, and an interactive feature that invites visitors to explore the neighborhood. Content that inspires and communicates the vision of the up-and-coming business district was developed by Spry Digital from the intial brand voice work.

Spry Digital Case Study: The Olive Link brochure

To accompany the website, a printed brochure was also created by Spry Digital to share with visitors to the region. With the new identity and website, University City can sell The Olive Link as a viable option for businesses in the Midwest and beyond looking to set up shop in the St. Louis metro area and University City in particular. Here’s what the Deputy Director of Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Raymond Lai said about working with Spry: “Working well with city staff and a community stakeholder group, the responsive and talented Spry team was able to create The Olive Link brand and an impressive website for the 4-mile, 4-district commercial corridor of our City.”

See more of this project in our Work section.

Dating Tips For Winning A Long-Term Digital Partner

Posted by Ken Moire & filed under Tips.

When designing and building websites and applications for a living (like we do), a digital firm is creating an extension of a client’s business model that touches practically every aspect of that business: Operations, technology, marketing, customer acquisition, etc. Getting to know a business on such an intimate level can create a lot of pressure for both the client and the agency. That is why fit is so important — If you don’t have a sound digital strategy, the consequences to your business can be costly. A lot of time and energy can be spent going down the wrong path due to a lack of clear communication or not understanding the capabilities of the team. The honeymoon period of working with a new team, along with any competitive advantage that you may have once enjoyed, can go away quickly. How do you ensure that your digital partner is the right one to meet the challenges ahead?

For Valentines Day, we’re donning our matchmaker’s hat and have assembled a few tips that will hopefully help you land the ideal long-term interactive partner.

Get to know them.

It may sound obvious, but often many client-agency relationships aren’t given the time to blossom. Spend some time getting to know the people that you’re trusting to build your interactive future. Who are the owners? What is their experience working with companies or organizations like yours? Who are the people that would be working on your project (and what is their experience, roles, dependability)?

A reputable partner wants to be just that, your partner, so they should be willing to meet you on more than one occasion, in multiple settings even, to get to know your business and understand your goals. If they aren’t inclined to make time for you beyond the first meeting, or seem urgent to sign and jump into work, then they likely aren’t thinking about the big picture or the partnership. If it feels like things are being rushed, it may be a signal that the agency is more concerned about signing work than successful deliveries. Ask them what percentage of their business is repeat businesses versus new business, or how many clients they have on retainer. Getting referrals from their existing customers is always a good idea.

Don’t try to change them.

Hire a team that is well established and structured to accomplish what you need them to do. Understand their core competencies, strengths and weaknesses. There’s no point thinking you can change an agency once you start dating. Agencies that are hungry for work may be less than sincere about their capabilities or capacity to deliver. Go beyond words and look at their work. Do they have experience working within a particular technology? Can they demonstrate success with a similar product or service to your own?

Your potential agency should also be forthright about their business objectives. Do their goals align with yours? Have a meaningful discussion with a potential partner about where their strengths lie and look for considered, honest answers about their weaknesses. A partnership is a two way street and a reputable company should be able to express misgivings about doing work outside their comfort zone. If you go with a team that doesn’t get it, don’t be surprised when expectations are not met.

Don’t go dark.

The key to any good relationship is communication. Expect clear communication protocols, meeting times, and set schedules of deliveries and milestones. If they are reluctant to provide them, that can be a bad sign.

A deep understanding of what you’re building, how you’re building it, time to completion, and risks or impacts to delivery are required and depend on good communication along the way. Expect weekly or regular meetings to discuss status of ongoing work and always get it on the calendar – It might just be too convenient for an agency to prioritize other work and not make the time for yours if regularly scheduled meetings are not kept. If they tell you that they have all that they need and will contact you when the work is done in three months, run in the opposite direction at full speed!

We take great lengths to stay in contact with clients during the course of the relationship, using multiple tools and channels of communication: phone, email, chat, web conferencing, forums, wikis, project and collaboration tools. No matter what methods of communication a potential agency uses, they should be comfortable adapting to communication methods that suits your business.

Evaluate the relationship periodically.

Sometimes, when working with agencies over the long term, familiarity can breed complacency. Ask yourself, does something feel amiss? Are you still made to feel special? Maybe you’re not getting results that you expected. Discuss and set clear expectations with your potential partner to determine what will be the measurements of success. Does your potential partner have the tools to measure that success? Whether success be measured by increased traffic, conversion rates, SEO or performance, get on the same page with a potential partner so both parties know what they’re working towards.

Know when to fold ’em…

Let’s be honest, some client-agency relationships don’t have a fairytale ending. Make sure that they have outlined what happens in the unfortunate circumstance that you need to terminate a contract. Who owns the work that will be produced? How easy will it be to retrieve your data should you decide to move on? A prenuptial agreement in the shape of a professional services agreement is the place to determine these answers. A respectable agency should have no problem discussing these terms.

Ending relationships is never easy, but if your agency isn’t meeting your expectations, you can’t afford to let the relationship wither on the vine. Directness and honesty is the best approach. Don’t be too hasty though – Make sure that you have a contingency plan and understand the impacts to your business should a change be necessary.

Take a moment to examine what did and didn’t work in your previous relationship so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes with the next agency you hire. Sometimes, sharing that information with a new potential partner can help both parties understand the pitfalls to avoid.

We at Spry Digital always encourage honest feedback from our partners and are always looking for ways to improve our client interactions to make our relationships more fruitful. Have any dating tips that you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below!