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Taking a Drupal 7 site, updating it to Drupal 8, improving the design, performance and user-journey

a forest

The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) is a non-profit, independent research centre that does exceptional environmental science spanning water, land, and air. Their science makes a difference by supporting environmental policy, commercial innovation, and conservation efforts all across the world.

The UKCEH site was running on Drupal 7 and needed, among other things, an update to Drupal 8.

In total, the UKCEH is responsible for supporting 500 scientists across 4 sites and an additional 150 PhD students. It’s fair to say that it’s a particularly large institution, formed in 2000 as a result of a merger of 4 research institutes. Together, the forming organisations are over 50 years old.

The UKCEH site is not specifically intended or designed to be public-facing. More, the goal of the website was to target specific business sectors, funders, NGOs and the policymakers within. The goal was to create an integrated approach to environmental challenges (namely soil science, water science, pollution studies, etc) and bring them all together).

Ultimately, they wanted the site to be simple. A top-level way into the organisation. Their motivation was to achieve a smoother user journey.

Requirements

On considering technical aspects, a list full of specifications was expected to meet skillfully. Below is a list of essential requirements:

  • An upgrade to the existing code
  • All sites to be based on one single codebase
  • A new look and feel that was consistent across the user journey
  • Data-lead stories 
  • Feature-rich pages
  • Reduce or remove obsolete modules
  • An improved search experience for users
  • Better breadcrumbing (in instances, breadcrumbing was missing. They were using the Easy Breadcrumb module (for Drupal 8)
  • Specific user roles with clear restrictions

What we did

We successfully provided all the desired features by the client and above that revived the site.

Improvising landing page

With alluring field types and updated themes in Drupal 8, we changed the entire view of the home page, making it simpler and clearer than it was before.

We used the component-based structure to meet the precise needs of our end users.

Revised search feature

We have revised the search engine for UKCEH. We used search API and faceted search where the users can search the category and types of books and publications they want. The advanced search feature was customised so that users can easily find the authors and genre they are searching for.

Design

They had a new theme developed in the Drupal 7 site. It was something they were very happy with and didn’t want to change. More, they wanted to bring all other pages in line with it to meet their requirement of a “clean and simple” design.

We helped UKCEH with this Drupal 8 migration with a new theme and structural changes.

We fine-tuned the content type usage by merging and restructuring with the architectural changes and also made it easy to navigate, clean and yet attractive. We have changed the structure to component-based which will ensure the component reusability and it represents well-defined interfaces that will eventually help end-users.

UKCEH homepage

 

Migration

Migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 is a steep curve but was successfully able to help them with their migration. This migration provided them with a faster and secure website. It served them with multiple field types that are easier to use, and a quick edit module was provided so that the content can be edited directly from the website's front end. UKCEH had multiple content types, but we helped them merge similar content types, which made it easier to process. 

As an added bonus, it will now be an easy migration to Drupal 9 in the future.

Media

Since Drupal 8 now ships with a Media library, the files from the D7 site were migrated to use the new Media objects structure allowing better management and integration with external services.

Due to a large number of assets (images in particular) used and produced by the organization, we developed and integrated a module with the Assetbank Digital Asset Management (DAM) system, allowing quick access to approved images without the need to download or upload.

Our team collaborated closely with UKCEH to make the proper configuration changes on Assetbank to allow integration with the site.

With a unified approach to Media management, it has become much easier for site editors to embed in content a wide variety of Media items, whether Twitter cards, third party videos (Youtube, Vimeo, etc...), uploaded images or from Assetbank, with the same tools, management methods and interfaces.

It is now possible to have much better control and overview of the image base and it has become even more practical to re-use images on the site.

Pantheon infrastructure

Working with the Pantheon hosting and development environment required the team to adjust to a number of tools and its deployment workflow.

Deployment scripts were set up using command-line tools, for UKCEH's admin team, to simplify the deployment of code or configuration changes.

With a robust Continuous integration platform in place and a clearer deployment workflow, code updates and configuration changes can now be efficiently deployed and tested on different specific environments, from development through testing to the live site.

Next

We’re also thrilled to be working with the UKCEH on a multi-side accessibility audit to work toward their commitment to a WCAG 2.1 AA compliant digital ecosystem.