We've been publishing a lot of technical blogs about Drupal 8 to educate and inspire the community. But what about the non-technical folk? How will Drupal 8 shift the way designers, content strategists and project managers plan websites? While many of the changes will not affect our day to day work, there are a few new terms and ways of thinking that can streamline the strategy process, save developers time and save clients money.
Entities: The Word of the Day
Entities are our new friend. They are easygoing and flexible. The sooner we get comfortable with the word Entity and begin using it with our teams, the sooner we can all reap the rewards of the budding relationship.
The term Entity describes any piece of content with a unique identifier. Now at the core of Drupal 8, Entities encourage a unified approach to site building and may reduce the number of required modules. This saves time and money and makes it easier to solve the common use case of: “I need this custom content to show up on this one instance of this content type or template page.”
I have always tried to be mindful of the language I use when handing off a site to the development team. Using jargon like Node, View or Panel in the handoff can inadvertently box a developer in to an architecture that may not be best for the project. Using the more flexible term, Entity, empowers developers to craft the best structure for the site. It’s our job as skilled communicators to work toward shifting, standardizing and reinforcing this new shared vocabulary.
Drupal 8 has a new module called Content Blocks which gives Blocks more muscle. Because Blocks are now fieldable Entities, creating custom Blocks per page is easier and cheaper. Now, instead of creating node pages for content that will be solely displayed in a Block, and then hiding them with the Rabbit Hole module, developers can simply create a Block for that content. For example, I often need testimonials to be created once, and used in several places. They never require a node page, because the testimonial usually displays in its entirety in a sidebar. In Drupal 8, we can define structural content directly at the Block level. No rabbit hole.
Blocks can also be used more than once per page. So, if you have a Block with social media icons, and you want it to show in the header and the footer, you can now create it once and have it show up in both places.
With these improvements, strategists can meet common client requirements with a more elegant system that is designed to accommodate them.
Often, a client asks for a filtered display of content on one page and the same content with a slightly different filter on another page. For this, developers can use View Modes, which are easy to create in Drupal 8.
Entities come with View Modes to configure the fields and attributes that appear in a given situation. This feature takes the “show it or don’t show it” functionality out of Views, thereby speeding up site building. Admins no longer have to use the cumbersome Views interface to simply turn off an attribute or field.
So, when a client asks for a View of a Content Type on one page that displays fields A, B and C, and another page that only displays A and B, we can say “yes” without worrying about blowing the budget.
Why All This Matters To Us Layfolk
These technical details and the new vocabulary of Drupal 8 are important to strategists, designers and project managers. We may be tempted to leave all of the tech talk to the developers, but that would be a mistake. Understanding the key changes and “talking the talk” means that when we identify content display scenarios in strategy sessions, we can offer clients more flexibility within the project budget. We can also feel confident knowing that our developers will be able to implement our vision with fewer headaches.