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Mobomo: Must-Follow Considerations When Starting a Drupal-Based Project

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argument-open-source Over 500,000 businesses leverage Drupal to launch their websites and projects. From NASA to Tesla, public and private institutions regularly rely on Drupal to launch large-scale websites capable of handling their development and visual needs. But, starting a Drupal project doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, 14% of all IT projects outright fail, 43% exceed their initial budgets, and 31% fail to meet their original goals! In other words, if you want to create a successful Drupal project, you need to prepare. Don’t worry! We’ve got your back. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when starting a Drupal-based project.

1. GATHER REQUIREMENTS FROM STAKEHOLDERS EARLY AND OFTEN

According to PMI, 39% of projects fail due to inadequate requirements. Believe it or not, requirement gathering is the single most important stage of project development. In fact, it’s the first step Drupal itself takes when pushing out new projects (see this scope document for their technical document project). Gathering requirements may sound easy, but it can be a time-consuming process. We recommend using SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, Time-based) to map out your specific needs. If possible, involve the end-user during this stage. Don’t assume you know what users want; ask them directly. Internally, requirements gathering should rally nearly every stakeholder with hefty amounts of cross-collaboration between departments. You want to lean heavily on data, establish your benchmarks and KPIs early, and try to involve everyone regularly. The single biggest project mistake is acting like requirements are set-in-stone. If you just follow the initial requirements to a “T,” you may push out a poor project. You want to regularly ask questions, communicate issues, and rely on guidance from stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) to guide your project to completion.

2. PLAN YOUR SDLC/WORKFLOW PIPELINE

We all have different development strategies. You may leverage freelancers, a best-in-class agency, or internal devs to execute your Drupal projects. Typically, we see a combination of two of the above. Either way, you have to set some software development lifecycle and workflow standards. This gets complex. On the surface, you should think about coding standards, code flow, databases, and repositories, and all of the other development needs that should be in sync across devs. But there’s also the deeper, more holistic components to consider. Are you going to use agile? Do you have a DevOps strategy? Are you SCRUM-based? Do you practice design and dev sprints? At Mobomo, we use an agile-hybrid development cycle to fail early, iterate regularly, and deploy rapidly. But that’s how we do things. You need to figure out how you want to execute your project. We’ve seen successful Drupal projects using virtually every workflow system out there. The way you work matters, sure. But getting everyone aligned under a specific way of working is more important. You can use the “old-school” waterfall methodology and still push out great projects. However, to do that, you need everyone on the same page.

3. USE SHIFT-LEFT TESTING FOR BUG AND VULNERABILITY DETECTION

Drupal is a secure platform. Of the four most popular content management systems, Drupal is the least hacked. But that doesn’t mean it’s impenetrable. You want to shift-left test (i.e., automate testing early and often in the development cycle). Drupal 8+ has PHPUnit built-in — taking the place of SimpleTest. You can use this to quickly test out code. You can perform unit tests, kernel tests, and functional tests with and without JavaScript. You can also use Nightwatch.js to run tests. Of course, you may opt for third-party automation solutions (e.g., RUM, synthetic user monitoring, etc.) The important thing is that you test continuously. There are three primary reasons that shift-left testing needs to be part of your development arsenal.

  • It helps prevent vulnerabilities. The average cost of a data breach is over $3 million. And it takes around 300 days to identify and contain website breaches.
  • It bolsters the user experience. A 100-millisecond delay in page load speed drops conversions by 7%. Meanwhile, 75% of users judge your credibility by your website’s design and performance, and 39% of users will stop engaging with your website if your images take too long to load. In other words, simple glitches can result in massive issues.
  • It reduces development headaches. Nothing is worse than developing out completely new features only to discover an error that takes you back to step 1.

4. GET HYPER-FAMILIAR WITH DRUPAL’S API

If you want to build amazing Drupal projects, you need to familiarize yourself with the Drupal REST API. This may sound like obvious advice. But understanding how Drupal’s built-in features, architecture, and coding flow can help you minimize mistakes and maximize your time-to-launch. The last thing you want to do is code redundantly when Drupal may automate some of that coding on its end. For more information on Drupal’s API and taxonomy, see Drupal API. We know! If you’re using Drupal, you probably have a decent idea of what its API looks like. But make sure that you understand all of its core features to avoid headaches and redundancies.

5. SET STANDARDS

Every development project needs standards. There are a million ways to build a website or app. But you can’t use all of those million ways together. You don’t want half of your team using Drupal’s built-in content builder and the other half using Gutenberg. Everyone should be on the same page. This goes for blocks, taxonomy, and every other coding need and task you’re going to accomplish. You need coding standards, software standards, and process standards to align your team to a specific framework. You can develop standards incrementally, but they should be shared consistently across teams. Ideally, you’ll build a standard for everything. From communication to development, testing, launching, and patching, you should have set-in-stone processes. In the past, this was less of an issue. But, with every developer rushing to agile, sprint-driven methodologies, it can be easy to lose sight of standards in favor of speed. Don’t let that happen. Agile doesn’t mean “willy-nilly” coding and development for the fastest possible launch. It still has to be systematic. Standards allow you to execute faster and smarter across your development pipeline.

NEED SOME HELP?

At Mobomo, we build best-in-class Drupal projects for brands across the globe. From NASA to UGS, we’ve helped private, and public entities launch safe, secure, and exciting Drupal solutions. Are you looking for a partner with fresh strategies and best-of-breed agile-driven development practices?

Contact us. Let’s build your dream project — together.

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