14 Takeaways from Drupalcon Baltimore

We went big at Drupalcon Baltimore this year. We were a Silver sponsor of the overall conference, sponsored the nonprofit summit, and half our team attended. We learned a lot and had a great time exploring Baltimore. Here are some reflections on our experience this year. (1) Our Chief Operating Officer Hannah Del Porto participated in this year’s prenote. The prenote is a sort of bizarre Drupal-inspired hour long variety show that kicks off the conference every year. Watching Hannah dance and sing while dressed up as a koala bear gave us all great joy. (2) On a personal note, this GIF I made of Hannah participating in the aforementioned prenote is probably the greatest piece of art I ever created. (3) In his keynote talk, Drupal founder Dries Buytaert said that the upgrade path for Drupal 9 will be much simpler than what we’ve seen previously. Traditionally Drupal has
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Four ways to keep your team unblocked and the work flowing

One of the most challenging parts of running a web development firm is workflow management.  Inevitably members of our Brick Factory team get blocked, meaning they can’t complete their work while they wait on someone else to make a decision or perform a task.  Blocking is a huge problem, as it can result in delays, budget overruns and unnecessary fire drills. In this post we  explain what it means to be blocked, why it is such a big problem and provide some tips on how to keep the work flowing.

Why do people get blocked?

We are a mid-sized web development firm of around twenty people.  A typical project might take 400-500 hours spread out among 5-6 staff to complete.   A project team usually looks something like this:

Twitter: Who, What, When, Where, and Why?

One of our goals in 2017 is to improve our social media strategy. We want data to inform our strategy, understand what content our audience likes best, and identify best practices for posting to our Twitter account. In order to achieve this, we started reviewing all of our 2016 Twitter content and broke it down into a number of categories and components:
  • Media type: graphic, articles, blogs, case studies, photos, videos, and text
  • Content topics: office culture, current affairs, design, web development, strategy, and marketing
  • Tweet time
  • Tweet length
  • Hashtags
We then calculated the engagement rate by dividing the sum of all reactions (replies, likes, and retweets) by the number of impressions. Through this process several trends and patterns became apparent which should help us improve the performance of our tweets.

What type of content should I post:

The first thing we did was break our content into media types
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The weariness of technology

It’s been a long day. Eugene O’Neill long and there wasn’t so much as a Tylenol PM in the mix. Most of my days are like this now and it’s not because I’m getting up there according to my weird, blunt doctor. My days are long and harrowing because they are full to the brim with technology. It turns out, however, that this isn’t such a magical time to be alive after all. Most of the technology in my world doesn’t work. Not as advertised, certainly. Take my hand and let’s begin a stroll together through my forest of UX, UI and promised technology miscues on any given day. It’ll be fine. And there’re pictures! clock I start the day with a panic because the alarm clock has not gone off and I’m late. The alarm didn’t stand a chance really, as the UI on the clock was designed for someone
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How is Stacks different from Paragraphs?

We announced a new Drupal module called Stacks a few days ago.  Since we launched the module we’ve gotten some thoughtful questions from the Drupal community about why we built Stacks given that is appears similar to Paragraphs. The short answer is that we love the Paragraphs module and we strongly considered extending it. Ultimately, we determined that the problem that Stacks is trying to solve is fundamentally different from the one paragraphs addresses. Given the different approaches and requirements, we needed a custom code base to work from so built our own modules. Longer answer below.
We love the paragraphs module and admire the work that’s been done on that project. There are a lot of great ideas and concepts that we drew from when building Stacks. I guess the best way to explain our thought process is with the Stacks origin story… A few years ago, our team
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Introducing Stacks: a better way to Drupal

We love Drupal. It is flexible, feature-rich, cost effective and has a fantastic user community supporting it. It is the Content Management System we use most. However, we will be the first to admit that Drupal isn’t perfect. And perhaps the number one way it isn’t perfect is the page building experience it provides content managers. Drupal has awesome tools for highly structured and consistent content, like press releases. It is not so awesome if you are trying to build a one-off page whose structure you are defining on the fly. So something like this for example:
To help solve the problem we built an open source Drupal 8 module called Stacks that provides content managers with a great page building experience. Stacks breaks the design of a site up into reusable components called widgets. Using a drag and drop interface, content managers can add, remove, configure and reorder widgets
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Google Optimize brings A/B testing to the masses

In the Spring Google launched a paid A/B testing product called Google Optimize 360 and in October they announced a free tool called Optimize.  Optimize is still in private beta, but I was fortunate enough to get an invite in early December.   I’ve been playing with Optimize on our own website ever since and think it is fantastic.  The product is powerful, easy-to-use and includes nice integrations with Google Analytics.   At zero charge, it provides most of the features and functionality you find in pricey paid alternatives. What follows is a review of Optimize, using a simple experiment I ran on our own website as the example.   

What am I testing?

Ever since we launched the Brick Factory, an illustration of a factory on a DC landscape has been a part of our brand identity.  The illustration is the centerpiece of our site’s homepage and is featured on
brick factory optimize experiment
google optimize experiment interface
google optimize experiment preview
google optimize objectives
google optimize improvement overview
google optimize page view report
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