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A week at DrupalCon Europe 2020

Bethan Evans   —   22 December 2020   —   Code & Drupal

A year of virtual calls, conferences and meetings - 2020’s DrupalCon Europe followed suit. The online event offered a chance for the international community to come together and share thought leadership and ideas, develop new skills, and listen to the minds of Drupal experts. 

This year’s session tracks focused on five tracks; makers & builders, clients & industry, users & editors, agency & business, and open web community.

So with Drupal at our core and the above tracks offering a wide variety of topics, a mixture of Access developers, testers and PMs attended various sessions to check out the latest news, tips and developments. Here are our following highlights from this year’s conference…


Day 1 - 8th December 

First up we attended the ‘Gitlab deep dive for Drupal developers’ on the makers and builders track. Highlighting the benefits of Gitlab, and firming the idea that we need to look at it as a full platform, rather than just a tool, we were taken through the ‘create > verify > release > secure > config’ DevOps workflow it harnesses.

Designing for chaos: The design process behind Olivero’ was next, looking at the new default theme for Drupal 9. Aimed at users and editors, it kicked off with a spectrum analysis exercise helping us to look at how we describe our designs. It then showed us the benefits of collating these in a mood board and then mocking them up, which could be a great way to show our initial design ideas with our clients. One to definitely look into more! 

Accessibility (A11y) is a very important component in our delivery and development, so we attended ‘Taking an Axe to your Pa11y, or how to test how accessible your site is’ to make sure we’re on top of the latest tools and troubleshooting tips. Some important takouts were: 

  • Automation could only cover 20-30% of WHO rules for A11y on sites.
  • Real people should be used, not just tools
  • Editors/Designer should be educated on content A11y not just developers


Day 2 - 9th December 

The second day was jam packed with more insightful sessions, our top picks were the following…

First up it was all about getting to know about AWS Step Functions with the ‘Welcome to the party with the Serverless One Stop Shop’ session. The speaker talked about how they created a serverless web shop for Q-dance in the AWS ecosystem and how they had to implement high demand and stock coverage app that would scale - all very interesting, but even more so, they didn't use Drupal for this!

Very apt for the uncertain times we live in, another interesting session we attended was on preparing your infrastructure for sudden spikes of traffic. ‘Load test your Drupal website before it is too late’ talked about how websites need to be prepared for unexpected loads, but also, how it could be Drupal applications that are causing websites to crash. The speaker also introduced some good test tools, like - it’s meant to be good for Ajax based applications or SPA (Single Page Apps).

As Drupal experts we understand that it has one of the most advanced caching systems of any CMS out there, so in this session Fabianz Franz taught us all he knows about caching in the ‘Caching and performance deep dive 2.0’ workshop. From learning about cache invalidation strategies and common caching pitfalls, to CDN variation and auth user caching - it was a really detailed talk that we took a lot from.


Day 3 - 10th December 

On this day we attended two final sessions - one on ‘Utilizing the QA Engineers Throughout the Whole Project Lifecycle’ and the other, a workshop called ‘Front-end Web Performance Clinic 2020’.

The QA session was really good and discussed the roles and responsibilities of testers and that thinking of them as a 'non-technical tester' is old fashioned. What it set out was that the perfect profile of a QA would be someone with a natural attention to detail but also with BA/UX skills and just technical enough. The main point we took away was that throughout a project there are several touchpoints for a QA beyond 'testing' - validating our own perspective on the role of our in-house QA team.

The workshop aimed to dive deep into modern web performance, and how to identify and fix performance bottlenecks in your website / webapp. Covering topics from optimisation, profiling and key metrics to measure, it’s given us a lot of useful tools and websites to look into for helping us improve our frontend and user experience. Check out Web Page Test, Nooshu, and CatchPoint for some handy tools.


A conference to remember!

Behind the scenes of Dries keynote speech at DrupalCon Europe 2020 - the founder and lead developer of Drupal

With 119 sessions to attend overall, our experience at the conference only just touched the surface. Our Head of Development, Mark, found that “Across the sessions, DrupalCon continued to offer the high calibre of insight and thought leadership we’ve seen from past conferences helping to drive some important conversation within the team. Being online, it did mean missing out on meeting up with friends both old and new, but it also offered many more opportunities for us by being able to pick and choose sessions that suited our timetables. Another great conference - we can’t wait for the next one”.

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