Websites are important
From being a Marketing Director, Business Owner, General Manager, through to a sales executive, and customer representative, you have your business objectives to achieve, your business challenges to overcome, your prospective audiences to grab the attention of, and your existing customers to retain and keep happy. It’s a tough gig.
There are many elements that put together equal success of the above but arguably at the epicentre is the company website - particularly in this information age where people expect information whenever they want and wherever they are.
A company may have a kick-ass marketing campaign but drive people to a poor website that results in a less than good user experience, then all that hard and positive work from the marketing campaign is lost. Credibility goes out the window and rest assured there will be a competitor biting at your proverbial ankles ready to win over said customer. It’s a dog eat dog world. If I was given the choice of having double the traffic to a website or double the conversion rate of that traffic once it got the site, I’d take the latter every day of the week.
Wastage of cost of lead generation if the traffic is not converting
Brand damage / poor brand perception if the user has a poor experience > this is a BIG thing that can often get overlooked.
The solution is:
The solution is actually fairly easy, well in words anyway.
Build a website that caters to all of your audience needs, is accessible on any device, is secure, is simple to use for the administrator to make quick and agile changes, is constantly updated / tested / optimised, and when the time is right is upgraded.
What often goes wrong for Websites?
The digital agency delivers a brilliant pitch, the company awards said agency the website redevelopment job, everyone is motivated and the project commences.
There are three key elements that can go wrong:
Planning: The client doesn’t know what they want, multiple stakeholders and decision makers are involved, and the agency does a poor job to extract and consolidate the relevant information in the planning phases. End result = a poor website and unhappy faces.
The job really starts at go-live: The website goes live, everyone cheers with their cold champagne in hand, the job is now completed…..Wrong - the job actually has only just begun. This is probably the one I have seen the most of. There are so many valuable insights that will drive real business impact that can be identified once a website goes live which will aid conversion and retention optimisation. If all the effort that was put into planning the development of a website was then also mirrored in the on-going maintenance of a website, then as a whole websites would be significantly more successful. Sounds easy really doesn’t it. Let me repeat myself then. When a website goes live, the work (and the many opportunities) start. Search Engine Optimisation, paid digital-social marketing, regular analytics deep diving, website exit surveys, automated and manual user journey analysis, landing page optimisation, progressive profiling, ad retargeting, average order optimisation, tailored relevant content based upon the user type, drop out emails etc etc etc. Opportunity yields success. There could be a series of blog posts on this point alone, so will save my extensive thoughts on this for another post.
Dated website, company evolution, marketing landscape change - this is quite normal and ultimately the main cause for a website redevelopment. This blog post will focus on this element.
Times are ‘a changin’
Yes I did just throw in a Bob Dylan line - why not right!
Times change, technology evolves, consumer behaviours change in response to the latter, and therefore pragmatic companies change and adapt.
Ever evolving technology affects all elements of business and consumer behaviours, period. To take Ray Kurzweil’s point, the author of the book ‘The Singularity Is Near’, as he was discussing the underlying drivers for the Law of Accelerating Returns, aka the exponential growth of technology in our age, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate)”.
Now Ray was talking more along the lines of artificial intelligence but that said, with the inevitable and ever rapidly change and evolution in consumer, technology and business, it’s not unreasonable to consider that websites have a shelf life. As with anything with a shelf-life, you need to replace it with something that meets your existing and future requirements.
Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 | Magento 1 to Magento 2
Creode develops many websites using the Drupal and Magento web development platforms. Those familiar with either of these will know that both have (fairly recently) launched completely new versions of their framework, Drupal having released Drupal 8 on 19th November 2015, and Magento having released version 2 on 17th November 2015.
Having worked client side for a lot of my career as Head of Digital for a number of international companies, as an owner of a company website, I would have many questions regarding upgrading my website to the new platforms.
What are the benefits / improvements of Drupal 8 over Drupal 7 / Magento 1 over Magento 2?
What are the USP of Drupal 8 over Drupal 7 / Magento 1 over Magento 2?
Is Drupal 8 secure? / Is Magento 2 secure?
Are there many (as many) available modules in Drupal 8 / Magento 2?
Are there available Drupal 8 / Magento 2 modules for my payment service provider?
Is the Drupal 8 / Magento 8 back office easier to work with than the previous versions?
Is there a migration path from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 / Magento 1 to Magento 2?
So, having been asked these questions more and more frequently recently, I put these questions to our Head of Development Gareth. Here is what he has to say.
Over to Gareth.
It’s exciting times for us as developers of Drupal and Magento and of course for the clients that we build sites for. For a long while now content has been king, but in the last few years the content game has well and truly taken off. No longer is your content solely for your website, your customers now communicate with your business through social media, mobile apps and with ‘internet of things’ devices. To maximise its potential your content needs to be available on a variety of channels and it needs to be tailored to the individual reading it.
Step up Drupal 8; the faster, more flexible, modern evolution of Drupal. After more than 5 years of service Drupal 7 has been superseded, and it was well worth the wait. Drupal is an open source framework with a strong development community and the Drupal core team have worked with them to bring several of the most commonly used third party modules into the framework itself. Mobile support, views, WYSIWYG text editors, multi language support, inline content editing and automatic image resizing are just some of the features that would have needed additional development work in version 7 but now come with the base install. We also now have a REST API, an access point to your content that your other delivery streams can tap into, meaning Drupal is now a true content management system (CMS) and is no longer solely web focussed. And this is just scratching the surface of the 200+ enhancements, improvements and new features introduced.
The changes haven’t only been on the functional side, there have been several performance improvements too, most notably on the caching. These improvements ensure that successful Drupal sites can scale well when the visitor numbers suddenly shoot up. There have also been huge leaps forward on the development practises, including the introduction of composer for dependency management, that in turn has led to the use of symfony (a popular, modular, open source PHP framework) modules, and most significantly the move to an object oriented programming style. In combination these three changes mean that Drupal is easier to maintain, easier to upgrade and is becoming more attractive to a higher calibre of developer.
If that’s whet your appetite and you’re considering moving to Drupal 8 then you’re in good company, the London Assembly and NASDAQ - both high traffic sites with a focus on data security - have recently made the switch to Drupal 8. Those of you debating an upgrade from Drupal 7 will be pleased to hear that the Drupal team have included a migration module with version 8 to help smooth this process, and the adoption figures show that this is having a real impact.
The key benefits of Drupal 8 versus Drupal 7
D8 first new version in 5 years
More scalable for high traffic sites
Admins can edit the content inline, on the site - HUGE benefit to website administrators > this means admins can edit the site from looking at the front end of the site like a consumer sees it.
Has a rest API so Drupal can become a true content management system (not just a WCMS), driving multiple ‘nodes’, rather than just the website.
Drupal 8 core now includes a lot of modules that would always have been installed on a D7 site, views, jQuery, CKEditor (wysiwyg), Picture (automatic image resizing) are some examples. Open source means that the developers of trusted and widely used D7 modules, the experts in their fields, were involved in the integration of these into D8 core
Drupal 8 is targeted much more at mobile users - the admin area is responsive out of the box
A migrate module ships with Drupal 8 core to help with the move from D7. This should make minor updates easier too
More consistency in third party modules means they’re easier to install and use for developers, saving time (and money) when using them
Multilingual out of the box
Greatly improved caching (performance improvements)
Now uses composer, symfony components and is OOP rather than procedural. Modern practises and techniques that will attract a better calibre of developer
D8 is being adopted more than twice as fast as D7 was
Big players who are data security focused are now adopting Drupal 8 (not yet developed / in progress)
Magento was designed to be a leader in the e-commerce market. It is flexible and extendable and the numbers prove that it has been on top of its game since its release in 2008. The way it has been built lends itself well to keeping up with changes and improvements in web development, but there’s only so far you can go without wholesale changes. The Magento team were aware of this and have responded with the release of Magento 2.
It’s clear that the team have learnt many lessons from the last 7 years and worked to address the main concerns from the community. The speed of Magento was a point of contention for some, however the second incarnation of their framework is 25% faster than the first. Magento also comes with support for Varnish, Full Page Caching (in community edition), a messaging queue (RabbitMQ) and supports PHP 7, all of which will further improve performance. The changes haven’t just been in the code, the database can now be split in two with data that can and can’t be cached now stored in different places.
Back in 2008 the smartphone was still in its infancy and 4G was a few years away. Things have moved quickly and these days mobile and tablets have overtaken desktop as the devices of choice for browsing the internet. Magento is following the ‘mobile first’ trend with its default themes now being responsive, the admin area menus are also much more mobile friendly than they were previously. Speaking of the backend, in Magento 1 it was never the most attractive or intuitive system to use and was really showing its age. It has had a huge makeover for Magento 2 and is now much more user friendly and customisable, there have been positive changes in product import and image compression and you can now use a drag and drop interface when designing your pages.
Magento is first and foremost an e-commerce framework, and of course this hasn’t been forgotten. It now supports more payment providers out of the box (including paypal, braintree and worldpay) and has improved PCI compliance. Password encryption is now stronger and automated testing is much easier to implement than in previous editions.
For those of you considering a migration from Magento 1 to Magento 2 there are official Magento issued guides to help aid the transition and suggestions on how to shed unnecessary modules while you do it. Upgrading Magento has now been made easier and composer is supported to help bring in (and potentially upgrade) third party modules in no time at all. For those developers picking up Magento for the first time, or experienced M1 developers making the transition, there is much improved documentation that should make the learning curve much less daunting.
As a Magento specialist agency based in London and Leeds, Creode have recently developed several Magento 2 websites - a couple upgrading from Magento 1 and a couple from scratch. (As well as many Magento 1 websites). More and more modules are now being released and with the performance enhancements as mentioned above that benefit both the consumer and the administrator, now is the time to stay ahead of the curve and get your ecommerce store leveraging the power of Magento 2.
The key benefits of Magento 2 versus Magento 1?
Magento 2 is 25% faster and supports PHP 7 for a further speed boost. It also includes caching tools that are common additions to Magento 1 sites, optimizes images when uploaded and allows separation of databases to squeeze every last drop out of your servers
The checkout is more customizable, includes more payment methods, stronger passwords and improved PCI compliance
The CMS is more user friendly & intuitive, easily customized for each user and has improvements in product imports and drag & drop layout editing amongst others.
The default themes now support mobile and the admin area can also be used on a phone or tablet
Updates are easier and unnecessary extensions can be shed as part of the migration. There are also guides to help as you make the transition
Automated code testing is now easier to implement. When used this means that your developers will know when the code they change has affected another area of the site.
Magento 2 ships with RabbitMQ, a tool that bridges the gap between your website and third parties (your warehouse, ERP etc.) to ensure that a temporary loss of communication won’t bring your site down or cause you to miss any valuable updates.
For developers; composer can be used to bring in your site dependencies and the formidable learning curve of Magento 1 has been smoothed through improved documentation
Discover > Develop > Deliver > Optimise:
So to end it’s back to me, Si Muddell.
Thanks to Gareth for his thoughts and expertise above, some very valid reasons to justify upgrading your website platform. We hope some of your questions regarding the new versions of Drupal (Drupal 8) and Magento (Magento 2) have now been answered and you have more clarity as to the benefits of doing so.
As mentioned previously, the devil is in the detail. The platform itself provides a solid foundation to work from but without clear objectives, on-going resources post launch, analytics to measure / benchmark and optimise from, and a willingness to trial and test, your website will never maximise its potential. That said, be fully prepared on all these fronts and the business impact your website could yield should be exciting.
Creode has already developed and is currently developing a number of Drupal 8 and Magento 2 websites, so if you are considering developing a website using either of these platforms, please do get in touch. Creode have offices in both Leeds, Yorkshire and also in Aldgate East in London and would love to see if we can help you realise your website potential.
Si Muddell & Gareth Midwood