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Reimagined on Drupal 8, in six sprints.

Processes
  • Agile/Kanban
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership

In the fall of 2016, the Rainforest Alliance and Last Call Media launched an exciting redesign of www.rainforest-alliance.org, built on Drupal 8, employing seasoned agile software development methodologies. Our productive partnership with the Rainforest Alliance resulted in a technically groundbreaking site that allowed users unprecedented access to the riches of their content after just four months of development. The tool is now primed to drive the Rainforest Alliance’s critical end-of-year development activities. 

People seem really, really happy with it. YAY!!

Danielle Cranmer, Web Manager

How we did it

Over the years, RA has cultivated a repository of structured content to support their mission. While the content is primarily displayed as long form text, there is a wide variety of metadata and assets associated with each piece of content. One of the primary goals of the new site was to enable discovery of new content on the site through automatic selection of related content driven by the metadata of the content the user was viewing. Additionally, RA had a future requirement for advanced permissioning and publishing workflows to enable stakeholders outside of the web team to play a role in the content lifecycle.

Rainforest Alliance Phone

Drupal 8 was selected for this project based on several factors. First, its focus on structured data fit well with Rainforest Alliance’s need for portable and searchable content. Second, the deep integrations with Apache Solr allowed for a nuanced content relation engine. Solr was also used to power the various search interfaces. Third, Drupal has historically had powerful workflow tools for managing content. While these tools weren’t quite ready for Drupal 8 when we built it, we knew they would be simple to integrate when they were ready. In short, Drupal was a perfect fit for the immediate needs, and Drupal 8 met the organization’s longer term goals.
 

We’ve been getting lots or praise, internally and externally.  Brava, team!

Melissa Normann, Senior Manager Web Strategy and Development

At the close of Sprint 6, there were zero critical and only 3 moderate issues to address. The final Sprint/Project review had only 3 support questions, launching as arguably the most impressive Drupal 8 site launched within a year of the initial release of this latest major version on the Open Source CMS, and most importantly, in time for Rainforest Alliance’s major end-of-year donation campaign. The site delivers on its promise to showcase the Rainforest Alliance’s exciting and informative messages and beautiful imagery, and stands as testimony for the efficacy of the agile approach.

Read the full case study here.

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Leveraging our Scaffolding and Drupal 8.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership

Since early 2014, LCM has continued a productive, ongoing partnership with Chicken Soup for the Soul, and supports their web properties and the associated infrastructure. Recently, Chicken Soup asked LCM to launch two new and completely different Drupal 8 sites within a month. LCM worked off of prototypes from Chicken Soup for the Soul and was trusted to move quickly. By deploying two separate teams of 2 developers, LCM was able to take each site from prototype to launch on D8 and Pantheon within two weeks, while another team maintained the ongoing feature release schedule on Chicken Soup for the Soul’s massive Drupal 6 site.

In June of 2016, Chicken Soup needed a simple site for their rapidly-growing television and online programming production and distribution business. The site needed to handle a collection of content pages and videos, and was intended to be another microsite that would follow some standard templating and functionality as laid out for previous Chicken Soup sites LCM had worked on, and new sites that were still to come.

Chicken Soup was looking for an alternative approach.

Building new features to support growing business lines inside their massive aging Drupal 6 site was becoming unsustainable. Over time, the site had accumulated so much functionality that each deployment ran a high risk of breaking something, which led to lengthy deployments. Recognizing that issue, a plan was developed in partnership with Chicken Soup for the Soul to spin out a series of smaller, more focused sites sharing a similar architecture. Drupal’s modular architecture, and particularly Drupal 8’s approach to dependency management, made it a great fit for this task. Additionally, while the core CMS functionality of Drupal 6 worked well, the UI was becoming dated and cumbersome to work with. Drupal 8 featured a lot of usability enhancements, such as the built in WYSIWYG, that would make the site much more usable overall. Finally, the feature set of the site was tightly focused, and after consideration, we were able to implement it with a small handful of contributed modules, and very little technical debt. 

Following on the success of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Foods site, Last Call Media used a similar formula: leverage Drupal 8 core wherever possible, and avoid contributed modules. This was a great strategy in terms of avoiding the turmoil of early Drupal 8 contrib churn, and had the side benefit of keeping the site very lean and performant. After experiencing some past pain points in using the bare “Configuration Management” system in Drupal 8, we chose to use the Features module on this project. Features makes it easy to bundle configuration into modules, and makes it easier to share configuration (in the form of Drupal modules) between the brand’s sites should the need arise in the future. 

The site uses Last Call Media’s boilerplate Drupal 8 scaffolding build, which helped jumpstart the development process by providing a suite of best practices and quality assurance tools with no extra effort.

The goal of this project was to build a flexible marketing site capable of showcasing Chicken Soup for the Soul’s entertainment offerings; primarily their TV shows and online videos. The biggest obstacles the project faced were the looming deadline, the relative instability of Drupal 8 immediately following the initial release, and the lack of contributed modules that were available to us. For example, the Media-related modules we would normally use for the online video section were not stable yet. Instead of using a media/file entity as we normally would to store an online video, we leveraged Drupal core’s new URL field to store the URL of the Rumble video, and used a field template to output an embed link. It was a simple and elegant solution to a difficult problem. 

Thanks to excellent communication with Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Digital Strategy team, and Last Call’s experience in working with Drupal 8, we were able to turn the project around in just two weeks. This met the deadline set by the marketing team, and achieved all of the goals that were set out. 

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Pet Food Microsite: Built in two weeks.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership

Since early 2014, LCM has continued a productive, ongoing partnership with Chicken Soup for the Soul, and supports their web properties and the associated infrastructure. Recently, Chicken Soup asked LCM to launch two new and completely different Drupal 8 sites within a month. LCM worked off of prototypes from Chicken Soup for the Soul and was trusted to move quickly. By deploying two separate teams of 2 developers, LCM was able to take each site from prototype to launch on D8 and Pantheon within two weeks, while another team maintained the ongoing feature release schedule on Chicken Soup for the Soul’s massive Drupal 6 site.

In June of 2016, Chicken Soup needed a simple site to promote their line of wholesome pet food and message of overall health and wellbeing for dogs and cats. The site needed to handle a collection of content pages for products and species, as well as a store locator to show users where their products are available. The Chicken Soup Pet Foods site is a microsite that follows standard D8 templating and functionality, as laid out for previous Chicken Soup sites LCM has completed, and new sites that are still to come.

Chicken Soup was looking for an alternative approach.

Building new features to support growing business lines inside their massive aging Drupal 6 site was becoming unsustainable. Over time, the site had accumulated so much functionality that each deployment ran a high risk of breaking something, which led to lengthy deployments. Recognizing that issue, a plan was developed in partnership with Chicken Soup for the Soul to spin out a series of smaller, more focused sites sharing a similar architecture. Drupal’s modular architecture, and particularly Drupal 8’s approach to dependency management, made it a great fit for this task. Additionally, while the core CMS functionality of Drupal 6 worked well, the UI was becoming dated and cumbersome to work with. Drupal 8 featured a lot of usability enhancements, such as the built-in WYSIWYG, that would make the site much more usable overall. Finally, the feature set of the site was tightly focused, and after consideration, we were able to implement it with a small handful of contributed modules, and very little technical debt. 

After experiencing some past pain points in using the bare “Configuration Management” system in Drupal 8, we chose to use the Features module on this project. Features makes it easy to bundle configuration into modules, and makes it easier to share configuration (in the form of Drupal modules) between the brand’s sites should the need arise in the future. The site uses Last Call Media’s boilerplate Drupal 8 “scaffolding” tool, which produces an artifact build, and provides a lot of best practices and testing tools out of the box. Other than that, we worked hard to use as much of the core D8 functionality as we possibly could to reduce our future technical debt as contributed modules matured.

The goal of this project was to build a flexible marketing site capable of showcasing Chicken Soup for the Soul’s line of pet food products, promoting the retailers that sell those products, and building flexible pages containing multimedia content. The biggest obstacles the project faced were the looming deadline, the relative instability of Drupal 8 immediately following the initial release, and the lack of contributed modules that were available to us. For example, the Addressfield/Geofield modules we would normally use for the “Find a Retailer” feature were unavailable to us, and we were forced to get creative. We ended up using Google’s Fusion Tables as a datasource, with some javascript to embed the data on the page and provide the interactivity. Overall, this was a great tradeoff, since it allows us to offload the import/edit UI and the proximity to a third party, whereas the old solution required building a custom importer to bring a CSV into Drupal, and a number of slow spatial queries to be made against the database.

Thanks to excellent communication with Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Digital Strategy team, and Last Call’s experience in working with Drupal 8, we were able to turn the project around in just two weeks. This met the deadline set by the marketing team, and achieved all of the goals that were set out.   

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A Hub for Emergency Preparedness.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership

San Francisco takes emergency preparedness seriously.

As the fourth largest city in California, the city also serves as a center for business, commerce and culture for the West Coast. To support the City of San Francisco’s commitment to emergency preparedness, the Department of Emergency Management designed and developed a campaign to drive citizens to better understand how to be prepared in the event of an emergency. And in the unfortunate event that disaster does strike, the platform transitions to a communication platform where citizens can find the most up to date information directly from the City.

DEM had invested significant effort into creating a very engaging website to communicate to the public about emergency preparedness. However, the site was developed in a way that did not facilitate quick and easy content changes - a critical need when up-to-the-minute accurate information is needed. The site also fell short on a number of accessibility metrics.

How we did it.

Profile picture for user Jeff

When it’s business as usual, the site serves as a platform to generate awareness for how someone can better prepare themselves and their family in the event of an emergency. Visitors can download checklists, and complete forms, in addition to reading about how to prepare for different kinds of disasters, like an earthquake or tsunami. However, in the event of an emergency, the City can quickly enable a separate emergency home page which presents visitors with vastly different dynamic content updated in real time specific to the emergency, including an embedded interactive Google Crisis Map that displays information aggregated from a variety of external sources managed by the City.

Last Call Media provided a direct replacement of the existing site in Drupal 8, leveraging the out-of-the box D8 accessibility features and the user-friendly D8 in-place content editing interface. We also reduced the maintenance burden by bringing the blog, which had been a separate site, into the main site.

Our accessibility audit revealed that the original color palette used for the site designed relied heavily on colors that did not meet WCAG 2.0 contrast requirements. We were able to identify a compliant color scheme that remained within the existing brand guidelines for the new site. The site also relied heavily on icon fonts which were not taking advantage of Unicode’s private use area, and the HTML elements displaying the icons did not use appropriate ARIA attributes. Rebuilding the icon font and HTML markup to take advantage of those tools helped to greatly improve the screen reader experience for the site.

Another area that needed improvement was general accessibility related to interactive elements. Sections like flyout menus and tabs were difficult to navigate via keyboard, and were missing ARIA attributes that make them easier to understand and use. During the rebuild we switched away from using mostly-homegrown CSS and JS, and leveraged the Foundation CSS/JS framework instead. This change provided a couple of benefits - many of the missing accessibility features are included in the components provided by Foundation out of the box, it helped keep the nuanced details of the styling more consistent across different areas of the site, and it expedited the development process as well.

The City of San Francisco now has a means of communicating its emergency preparedness message with a site that is engaging, nimble, and robust.