Convivial, a friendly way to build Drupal sites

Convivial is a new way to build Drupal 8 websites. It is based on a solid foundation of component driven development with useful building blocks for quickly implementing functional website. This is combined with the powerful design capabilities of Looks and Modifiers giving editors the ability to build attractive, expressive sites very easily.

Over the past 18 months we have been getting to know Drupal 8 and its strengths and weaknesses. We set out to build a starter kit for our Drupal 8 builds, looking for ways to leverage the power of Drupal with a focus on the needs of editors and designers. We aimed to build a system which would make it easy for editors to quickly build out attractive pages without the need for the intervention of a site builder or developer. Along the way we have changed approach more than once and have refactored several times. The end result is Convivial, a starting point for our client builds.

Convivial is the confluence of a number of "cross cutting" aspects. Combined they make content creation and design much easier, without limiting the power of Drupal. Convivial, at its heart, is not about standard "data model" things such as Content Types, Vocabularies nor functional things such as Views or third party integrations. It is about the following.

Foundations

Single base theme

Convivial is based on a single theme, which is itself based on Bootstrap. It is very stripped back with only the bare essentials. We have tried to avoid any commitments to colour or style which may get in the way of later modifications. Take a look at the Convivial site with no Look, just the base theme. This lean approach makes it possible to layer the Looks and Modifiers over the top of it. This blank slate approach opens the door for editors to add the design as they want, avoiding many of the limitations of many base themes.

Flexible layouts

We live in a mobile world and sites need to work on a variety of devices. Designing a system of grids which works well across devices for all of the content, is a challenge. Convivial supports a number of layouts, including those which allow for edge to edge designs.

Standard View Modes

View modes define the way content is displayed. We ensure that all content types and some blocks and media support displays for teaser, tile, stack, image, search and summary. This provides consistency and allows editors to compile lists of items which will display the same way across the site.

Widgets

Component driven development is at the heart of the system. We develop widgets (blocks and paragraphs) which can be plugged into the content in a variety of ways. Current widgets include item lists, galleries, slideshows and accordions with more to come. This approach ensures that the system can be continually improved.

Modifiers for Content

Modifiers are a new concept developed by Morpht. They operate on elements on the page and alter their presentation and functionality. Modifiers can utilise JS libraries, JS config data, classes, CSS and more to alter the way a element works. A simple example of a modifier would be a "Colour Modifier" which allows a background colour to be applied to a block, A more advanced modifier would be a "Parallax" image modifier which pulls in a library, an image and ties the two together to bring about parallax scrolling.

Modifiers can be applied to elements across the site. Multiple elements can be applied to a single element. Modifiers can also we wrapped up to form a Look.

Modifiers for sitewide "Look"

A Look is a collection of Modifiers. Looks sit on top of the base theme and operate by applying the Modifiers to the page. The end result is that the site is "skinned" according to the Look.

A site can have many Looks and they can be applied according to selection rules. For example, the default Look for a site could be replaced by a different look based on URL parameter, Path or node.

Modifiers Plugins

Modifiers are plugins and we will be releasing a set of them soon to Drupal.org for the community to use.

Other Features

In addition to these foundational principles, Convivial has a grab bag of other features which makes it useful fro a starting point for Drupal 8 site building.

Media management and embedding

  • Drupal 8: Popular, modern, well supported, open source CMS.
  • Media: Easily manage and embed images, videos, tweets, documents and more.
  • Workflow: Customise how content flows through content creators and reviewers.
  • Content types: Standard types include pages, articles, events and places.
  • Taxonomy: Classify your content according to tag, category and persona.
  • Extensible: Use the power of Drupal to build the site as you like.
  • Webforms: Collect and store data from your users.
  • Search: Search and filter content and media.
  • Layouts: Select the layout of the page from a number of options.
  • Responsive: Responsive grids and components mean that your site works on all devices.
  • Accessible: Semantic HTML and sensible starting design aims for WCAG2.0AA compliance.
  • Pagespeed: We aim to give your users the best client side performance.
  • SEO: Top notch on page SEO with semantic HTML, metadata and search engine sitemaps.
  • Integrations: Common services include Google Analytics and Salesforce.

Who is Convivial for?

We see a number of different types of sites which would be a very good fit for Convivial.

Microsites and Marketing sites

The biggest challenge for microsites is handling the variation at the theme level. Traditionally a distro will focus on the features and will leave the theming to a front end developer as needed. This problem is avoided in Convivial because there is no need for a new theme. The new site can get a new Look and the job is done. New looks can be applied in a matter of hours, not weeks. This speeds up the time to market.

Subsites (Group, Domain, Path, Individual nodes)

Looks can be applied selectively to parts of the site using rules based around URL or node ID. Different pages can have a look applied, effectively defining a section. For sites needing different Looks, this is very handy.

Simple sites

Convivial supports a reasonably complete set of essential contrib modules, making it suitable for a wide range of builds. At Morpht, we eat our own dog food and have released this site on Convivial. We are also using it for a number of other clients for simple needs where custom coding is not needed.

Starting point for Complex sites

More complex sites can still make use of Convivial, especially where they need to make use of Looks. Convivial then can act as a starting point. New modules and custom code can be added as required.

Open Source

Morpht will be open sourcing a number of modules, which capture a good degree of the innovation behind Convivial.

  • Modifiers
  • Modifiers Pack
  • Look.

We expect these module to be released soon. 

The parts of the system we will not be releasing at this stage are as follows:

  • the base theme
  • the config of the various starter sites.

We would like to work with Clients and Agencies who would like to use Convivial on their own projects. If this is you, please get in touch and we would be happy to arrange a demo.

The Future

Convivial, Modifiers and Look will continue to be actively developed at Morpht. This is just the start and we expect to be able to release many extensions to the Plugins over the coming months.

 

Visit the Convivial site