An interview with a Drupal 8 developer

Zan was instrumental in redesigning our company website. We sat down with him to find out what was involved in the site's creation, and what he's learned by using Drupal 8.

photo - žan

What were the goals in rebuilding the AGILEDROP website?

The most important reason is that we wanted to build our page with Drupal 8, as it would appear slightly odd to consult with clients and recommend Drupal 8 if we don't use it ourselves.

What technologies did you use.... anything specific?

We built the site using primarily core modules; however, one that really stands out is the Paragraph module. This is actually the first time we've used it in any of our projects. Even though this module was fully released for Drupal 7, we've never really looked into it before. Personally, I love it, it's essentially a sort of mixture of panels and various grid layout modules.

From a theming perspective, this is my first Drupal 8 project, and the theming aspect, compared to Drupal 7, is different. Also, object-oriented programming (OOP)... the preprocess/PHP part of the code is different, the logic is different but ultimately I realized it was easier to learn than the procedural style of Drupal 7... with 7 it was more difficult for me to create my own preprocess functions, with Drupal 8 it's much easier to create this with objects.

So for future projects, you'd prefer to use Drupal 8...

Yes, of course, absolutely. I would never want to go back to Drupal 7.

What were some of the obstacles you encountered during development of the AGILEDROP site?

I think the primary problem was regarding resources. Drupal 8 is still brand new and there's not a lot of tutorials or forums available in case you get stuck, so I had to rely a little more than usual on the knowledge of our senior developers, who see the bigger picture by being able to 'export' their knowledge of Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.

Another obstacle was in the planning of our site... there are many intelligent individuals on our team and each one presented well thought-out arguments for implementing certain features, and sometimes those ideas were contrary to other valid ideas, and so we spent some additional time communicating a plan that was satisfactory to everyone involved. I suppose you could say AGILEDROP, as a team, delivers the best of all worlds when developing a site for a client, because we attack specific problems from several angles and points of view to come up with a solution that's as efficient and logical as possible.

What was the most difficult technical problem that you had to solve?

There are in fact a few technical issues that remain to be resolved. There are problems with certain modules, such as field group and field collections... those modules have some serious core issues and aren't quite ready for use in Drupal 8, so this needed to be solved in different, less elegant ways... sometimes by even simply hard-coding things in the page. When we wanted to use field collection for social icons with text labels in the footer, we couldn't use it like we did with Drupal 7... while we of course solved these issues, they were essentially workarounds; they work for the time being, but will be corrected once the modules are updated to play nice with Drupal 8.

What new things did you learn while developing?

Many new things... this was the first time I've used Twig, which is a template engine. This is also the first time I've developed in OOP PHP. I had developed using OOP before but never for websites, so this was one of the big mindset challenges I had to go through. It was initially difficult for me to grasp OOP concepts but once I understood the logic behind it, everything eventually seemed easier and made more sense versus procedural programming.

Any plans for Phase 2 of the website?

Yes, lots of plans. The biggest challenge will probably be to decide on the most important new features and to use time more efficiently for development. This project is about building upon our corporate image and delivering our message... it needs to be as complete as possible so that our clients understand the "big picture" of AGILEDROP... but we also have to carefully consider what things we'll present to ensure that the company's message is affirmed throughout the site.

Anything else to add?

I'm looking forward to seeing how quickly Drupal 8 evolves. I really appreciate its logic, and though some aspects are not yet fully stable, I believe in the Drupal community to help solve the few existing issues. One day I hope to contribute to that community as well.