DrupalCon Portland 2022 was the first in-person DrupalCon in over two years. Gathering face-to-face again (plus masks) gave us even more energy and inspiration to take so many insights about the present and the future of Drupal.

Here’s our list of favourite sessions at this year’s DrupalCon, for those who couldn’t attend all sessions and those who couldn’t be at the event. If you want to dig deeper into the topics, you can watch the videos of the sessions on the Drupal Association YouTube channel.

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Driesnote: “Drupal Is for Ambitious Site Builders”

The “Driesnote”—the keynote talk delivered by Drupal founder and project lead Dries Buytaert—is always one of DrupalCon’s most awaited events. It’s always filled with updates on the current status of Drupal core and its community, upcoming changes, and the vision and strategic direction for Drupal’s future.

This year, Dries took us on a tour of Drupal’s new features and other changes coming with Drupal 10. He also introduced a shift in vision toward targeting “ambitious site builders” for ongoing improvements from Drupal 10 to 11. Before that, Dries opened his talk with a note of solidarity to Ukraine and acknowledging the war’s impact on the Drupal community there. Here you can watch the Drisnote in its entirety:

💻 Read Our Article: What You Need to Know to Get Ready for Drupal 10

Getting Ready for Drupal 10

This session was geared toward developers and other technical folks. It focuses on the new system requirements for Drupal 10, the rationale for these dependencies, and how developers can start preparing their projects for the move.

After a quick review of new features, there was a discussion on the dependencies–Symfony 6.2, PHP 8.1, and CKEditor 5. The rest of the session was filled with actionable recommendations, tools, and tips to move to Drupal 10 as seamlessly as possible.

We highly recommend watching this session and starting to plan your Drupal 10 migration now, while there’s still plenty of time before its release, in December.

📖 Download Our Free Ebook: Your Drupal 9 Migration: Agency or In-House?

Getting Ready for Automatic Updates in Drupal Core

This was another session focused on Drupal 10, diving deep into the upcoming integration of automatic code updates into Drupal core. This functionality is intended to reduce the maintenance burden of Drupal implementations and encourage project owners to keep up on security updates and other improvements.

This talk provided fantastic insights into the technicals of how automatic updates will work, including code samples and discussions around the decision-making process for the ongoing development and rollout of enhanced features and capabilities.

Elevating Search Results with Solr 7

This session focused on using the elevate.xml configuration file to gain more control over your site’s search results. Elevate.xml lets us directly specify the order of top search results, going beyond score-based sorting. This is a powerful enhancement to Solr, as it allows us to surface results that are not only algorithmically most relevant but that contribute to goals like promoting client content or prioritizing timely resources in response to an emergency.

Much of the talk focused on a step-by-step overview of installing and configuring Solr7 with Drupal 9 and Lando, including a set of files and instructions available for download.

👨‍💻 Read Our Article: How to Create a Great On-Site Search UI Through Iteration

How to Audit PDFs for 508 at Scale

This session focused on how a large government agency improved the accessibility of a huge PDF collection during its migration to Drupal 9. This is a common problem that doesn’t get nearly enough attention or guidance.

While it’s pretty well-known that PDFs on the web can pose major challenges, the most common advice is simply, “Don’t use them if you don’t have to.” Unfortunately, that’s not very helpful for organizations that have to use PDFs due to user needs, team skills, or regulatory compliance, missing a real opportunity to improve PDF accessibility.

We think this review of the constraints, auditing, document remediation, and ongoing best practices employed by a US federal agency is a great place to start your PDF accessibility research and planning.

📽 Watch Our Webinar: How to Use Assistive Technology to Improve Web Accessibility

Duke University’s Code+ Co-Curricular Program – Promoting Undergraduate DEI

Most of the sessions on our list focused on technology and practices for implementing technology. However, this one got our attention because it’s a fantastic way to create a path for students from historically marginalized groups to gain access to crucial tech industry internships.

The student team for the featured project had no prior experience in Drupal, Symfony, or PHP. They had just 10 weeks to learn the technology, build a Drupal module to solve a real-world business problem and present their results to a panel of University and industry stakeholders.

We love this session because the Code+ program provides a unique opportunity for undergraduates to own and lead a software development project from start to finish and access a network of industry decision-makers for future internships and employment.

👩‍💻 Read Our Article: How Drupal Can Be a Force for Diversity and Inclusion

Build Highly Visual, Long-Form Content with Layout Paragraphs

This session provided a look at a Layout Paragraphs, a contributed module that gives content editors an intuitive, drag-and-drop tool to manage page layouts in the content creation admin. Where Layout Builder manages sitewide layouts, Layout Paragraphs manages layouts for individual pieces of content. As a result, editors have per-node layout flexibility within configured templates and constraints for the content type.

This is a very exciting idea for content creators, who are often frustrated with the limitations of Drupal’s content entry tools and lack of visual feedback when editing. When exploring highly visual tools like Wix, the lack of content structure and design enforcement can introduce a new set of challenges. This way, Layout Paragraphs could pave the way for Drupal to become the preferred CMS for an even broader range of content publishers.

🎥 Watch Our Video Tutorial: How to Use Drupal 9’s Layout Builder

Optimizing the Haystack: Improving Findability in Content-Heavy Websites

This session provided an excellent discussion on how to mitigate the taxonomy tangle that often happens in expansive, content-heavy sites. It uses the example of a major UN office’s migration from an old Sharepoint site to its first Drupal platform to look at the specific challenges of such a project and the practices to resolve them.

The presentation is packed with actionable recommendations and clear examples illustrating the various problems and their “holistic taxonomy” solutions. A clear, well-structured taxonomy is the backbone of any effective Drupal system, making this session one we think you should watch.

Watch Our Webinar: How Drupal Fits Into the Landscape of Digital Experience Platforms

What Do You Think?

These were our picks, but we know there were other fantastic sessions we’ve missed. What were your favourites? What was the best thing you learned, saw, or heard at DrupalCon Portland? What do you hope to see or hear about in the future? Drop a comment below and tell us what you think!

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