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drupalcon

23 Takeaways from Drupalcon Austin

Chris, Mike, Ron, Shane, Teddy and I spent last week at Drupalcon Austin.   We learned a lot, and ate our fair share of Mexican food and BBQ.  Following is a list of our key takeaways from the trip.

(1) Drupal 8 won’t be released until sometime in 2015.  During a Q&A with Dries Buytaert and other key Drupal 8 contributors, they advised against using Drupal 8 if you have a project you need to ship in the next three to six months.

(2) In the same panel, it was mentioned that it took a year after Drupal 7 was released for the majority of contributed modules to get updated.  The goal is to cut that time in half, to six months, for Drupal 8.

Drupalcon

(3) When Drupal 7 was released, support for Drupal 5 was dropped immediately.  Assuming funding allows, the plan is to perform critical security updates to Drupal 6 for one year after the release of Drupal 8.  This is huge, as it will give the hundreds of thousands of sites run in Drupal 6 more time to make the transition.

(4) Drupal 8 will not support anything lower than Internet Explorer 9.  This got a big cheer from the crowd.  Drupalcon attendees are not big IE fans.

(5) 12% of the 100,000 most popular websites on the Internet are powered by Drupal.

(6) Paraphrasing Nica Lorber from her content session: “Clients underestimate the importance of content and won’t pay for it.”  So true.

(7) Another tidbit from Nica: People read 20% slower online.

(8) Nica also made the point that flexibility is overrated when it comes to content.  She recommends developing structures for content with clients and sticking to it:  make decisions.  I couldn’t agree more.  On the web constraints actually help.

(9) If you want to see the bats emerge from the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, you’ll have to show a bit more patience than our Brick Factory team.  We waited about 45 minutes before giving up on them.

Congress Avenue Bridge

(10) Ron heard a lot about Docker, the open source project that containerizes applications. He wrote:  “Docker is really useful for managing and deploying applications and the software/libraries needed within the same or among different environments. Even the new Red Hat Enterprise version distribution that came out two days ago supports Docker.”

(11) Our front-end development team loved the “My Brain Is Full” session.  Teddy wrote: “This session summed up how I view web development right now. Lots of technologies sprouting up at once that are difficult to keep track of, with the hope that these front end development processes will be streamlined over time.”

(12) The “Twig Playground” session was also popular with our team.  Teddy again: “Morten DK was probably my favorite presenter because he did a good job of pinpointing aspects of Drupal theming that I don’t like and he cursed a lot. It seems that a lot of these issues will be gone once Drupal 8 comes around.”  Shane: “Twig is a great addition in Drupal 8.  This will make Drupal more secure, and it will also be more familiar to people who are switching from other platforms.”

(13) If you love music (vinyl in particular) and are in Austin, don’t miss Waterloo Records.  Bring your wallet.

Waterloo Records

(14) Many of the Drupal firms we talked to have done a full embrace of Scrum, an agile software development framework. For many this has simply become how they do their work.  I’m a bit skeptical of whether this will work for us across the board.  I tend to think that the right methodology can change from project to project.   From my conversations, Scrum seems to work best on projects with scopes that are less well defined and with clients who have time (at least ten hours a week) to be involved in the website build on a daily basis.  If you want to learn more about Scrum, check out this session.

(15) Ron and Chris are much better at their jobs than at riding a mechanical bull.  Ron and Shane are both pretty good a ping pong though.

Drupalcon mechanical bull and ping pong

(16) Great quote from Jordan Hirsch’s session on requirements gathering: “You can’t ever truly skip a discovery phase.  You end up doing it even if the client doesn’t pay for it.”  Yup.

(17) The audience shared Jordan’s pain when he talked about how destructive hidden requirements are to the web development process. Like the Salesforce integration you find out about two days before launch.

(18) I loved Adam Edgerton’s presentation on scaling a Drupal firm.  One key point he made was that profit doesn’t necessarily scale along with revenue.  A digital agency might make the same profit at $10,000,000 in revenue as they did at $4,000,000.  He mentioned that once you get over 25 people you start to need process.  At that point you are no longer a tribal company.

(19) An emerging trend is the use of Drupal as a backend system for content management with frontends that are 100% outside of Drupal.  In particular, a lot of firms are using AngularJS on top of Drupal.

(20) Chris went to a session that talked about the importance of developing processes that are non-blocking.  The web development process goes much more smoothly when folks aren’t constantly taking breaks to wait on delayed deliverables/approvals.

(21) Ron is excited about the configuration management software Ansible.  He wrote: “I was sold when I heard that it is agentless, so you don’t have to install anything on the servers. Besides that, it uses current standard protocols and syntax and can also handle app deployments. It seems like a dream come true.”

(22) I can’t say enough good things about the tacos at La Condesa.  Probably the best tacos I have ever had.  Go now.  We didn’t take picture of the tacos as we were too focused on eating them, but here are some other food porn pics from the trip.

Tacos and BBQ in Austin

(23) Drupalcon will be in Los Angeles in 2015.  We’re fired up, ready to go.

10 best trade association websites

10 Best Trade Association Websites

What makes a good website? About a hundred different things. But what’s a good start? Good organization, good design, good content.

Brick Factory is based in D.C., where you can’t go a block without passing half-a-dozen trade associations, so we were curious: which ones have the best websites?

What did we find? Very good examples of organization, design, and content.

We started with 50 of the largest trade associations, but narrowed it down to 10.

Who rose to the top? Take a look.

 

10. The Endocrine Society

The Endocrine Society has a good website overall, but they made this list because of how user-friendly the site is. We like that you can browse content by “who you are.” This option is right at the top, right in the middle: you can’t miss it.

Endocrine Society Website

 

 

9. Mortgage Bankers Association

It’s organized, it’s attractive, it’s easy to navigate. Overall – a job well done. Notice how all the content on the homepage is spaced perfectly and fits into a grid; the standardized height and width for each block makes this website design clean and effective.

Mortgage Bankers Association

 

 

8. American Association for the Advancement of Science

Great calls-to-action! “Become a Member” stands out clearly without being over-the-top. AAAS uses red to draw your eye to the most important things on the page. But why does this really work? Because it’s the same red they use in their logo.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

 

 

7. American Chemical Society

ACS has an attractive and well organized website, but what sets them apart is their content. It’s original, it’s engaging, it’s fun. Cool Science? Molecule of the Week? Chemistry Quiz? We’re in!

American Chemical Society

 

 

6. National Rifle Association

The NRA is another trade association that is making a large investment in the production of original content, particularly video. Their website features video series targeted at diverse audiences, like women and urban youth, that will keep visitors coming back.

National Rifle Association

 

 

5. The Optical Society

OSA does a great job with subtlety – the header provides just the right amount of depth. Also, the scrolling updates could have come across as cheesy, but it actually works! It’s small enough and the animation is slow enough that doesn’t take over the page. Oh – and check out the image gallery, great content.

The Optical Society

 
 

4. Aerospace Industries Association

This website is just beautiful. Every time you refresh you get a new, huge image of a plane or helicopter. A very unique approach for a trade association.

Aerospace Industries Association

 
 

3. National School Boards Association

NSBA has done everything right. A smooth, larger-than-average slider makes the visual content the focus of the page. A clear headline tells you who they are right away. And using icons for their primary initiatives was a good, attention-getting touch.

National School Boards Association

 
 

2. InfoComm International

What do we really love about InfoComm International? Look how much is on their homepage… not that much, right? InfoComm has a great content strategy – keeping it simple.

InfoComm International

 
 

1. American Diabetes Association

This is one of the only websites on our list that doesn’t have a slider. The American Diabetes Association has an attractive, modern website that uses visuals and icons very well. Also, their original content is outstanding: relevant, entertaining, and tailored to their audience. We love the featured recipes!

American Diabetes Association

3RD_ROUND

Our New Website

We quietly launched our new Brick Factory website last week.  I’m really proud of it.  I think it is a true reflection of who we are and what we do, which is tough to pull off.

When web development firms build sites for themselves, the instinct is to show off.  To overdesign.  To throw in every bell and whistle.  “Let’s implement all the ideas!”  The resulting sites often look like they are designed for other web designers/developers, as opposed to the actual audience, prospective clients.

As a firm that preaches simplicity and talks a lot of audiences and conversions, it was important that our own site reflect the work we do for our clients.  It is a real tribute to the talent of our staff that we were able to create a site that is simultaneously simple, completely unique and beautiful.

The launch of the new site also represents the Brick Factory entering its next phase.

As a group, we’ve focused the last year on getting better at what we do a little bit every day.

We’ve embraced new processes and technologies.  We’ve fixed some structural issues we were having.    We’ve invested heavily in the development of some new products we will announce soon.  All while doing some incredible work for our clients.

So please take a look at the new site and let me know what you think.  Also be sure to check back in on us, as we have some great things in store for the rest of the year.

Summer Internship at Brick Factory

We are looking for an intern to join our team this Summer. The job description is below as well as instructions for how to apply. We’d love to hear from you!

Summer Internship at Brick Factory

The Brick Factory plans and executes world-class digital campaigns for non-profits, trade associations, advocacy groups and brands. We believe in simple solutions, setting clear goals and objectives, and providing great service to our clients. We believe a good website or campaign is never done and the launch of a website is the beginning, not the end.

The Brick Factory interns will be responsible for supporting our Strategists in conception, implementation and analysis of many digital initiatives. This includes website, social media, email, mobile and other digital marketing efforts that support new business, our products and client campaigns. This position calls for an individual with strong communication skills, analytic skills and creative thinking ability. This position requires a highly resourceful individual who can think on their feet and can focus under pressure.

What you’ll do:

  • Help us launch new tools. We’re in the midst of building some great new platforms for our clients. You’ll be right in the thick of it as we launch them to the public.
  • Assist in running our clients’ digital programs. This involves an active engagement that is beyond management, ensuring that our projects ship on time, goals are set, tracked and met, and our clients are provided with clear, high level recommendations that help them succeed in the digital space.
  • Work in a small team environment. You’ll wear multiple hats, provide input and solutions, and work on multiple projects at one time.
  • Contribute to our blog. Brick by Brick is our soapbox to spread the thoughts and opinions of The Brick Factory. Once settled, you’ll be expected to develop new post ideas and contribute innovative content regularly.
  • Aid in new business and marketing efforts. At The Brick Factory everyone is involved in selling new work. Our interns have a large role in managing advertising and marketing campaigns. You will also be constantly looking to expand the work in our existing client portfolio while reaching out to new business prospects.
  • Make yourself and the company better. Meaning that you aren’t ever satisfied with the status quo and are constantly looking to improve yourself, the company and our clients.
  • Something you are interested in. We encourage our interns to tackle a self-driven project from conceptualization to launch during their time with us.

What you bring to the table:

  • You’re a fun person to be around.
  • You have a passion for work in the digital industry and are excited to learn new things.
  • You’re a problem solver. You would rather figure out the best solution than be told how to do it.
  • You’re organized. You can manage multiple projects at once and are dedicated to hitting deadlines.
  • You have some experience with HTML, marketing and sales research, and analytics tools. A big plus if you have experience with CSS and JavaScript as well.
  • You have a strong writing background. Your communication skills are exceptional and you have experience creating and editing content for clients.
  • Have used or are willing to learn Adobe products such as InDesign, Dreamweaver and Photoshop.

What you can expect from us:

  • A metro accessible office in downtown Washington, DC.
  • A great work environment, with plenty of opportunity to learn.
  • Training and professional development opportunities.
  • Compensation during the extent of your internship.
  • A fun team of enthusiastic and talented people.
  • Occasional work activities, lunches, and happy hours.
  • Additional random perks and benefits.

The Details:

Dates: May 2014 through August 2014 (can be flexible for the right candidate)
20-25 hours a week in the office

Sound interesting? Take a look around our website, blog, Facebook and Twitter. If you think we’d be a good fit please send a resume and cover letter to jobs@thebrickfactory.com. The deadline to apply is April 18th.

Email Rates

Five political emails that look nothing like political emails

As someone who works in digital public affairs, I paid close attention to the emails that were sent out by the Obama campaign during the 2008 and 2012 election cycles and am now closely watching what is being sent out by  Organizing for Action.  The reason I’m paying attention is simple: the Obama folks know what works.  Years of research is behind every email that gets sent.

Since the election, emails from Organizing for America seem to have followed two general templates:

  1. Emails sent from individuals (Barack Obama, Michele Obama, David Axelrod, Lindsay Siler, etc.) are almost always text-based and extremely simple in their design.  Images are rarely included.  Very straightforward formatting.  They are made to look like the emails you receive from your friends and family.  You can see an example here
  2. In contrast, emails sent generically from Organizing for Action are extremely visual and viral in nature.  They include pop culture references, infographics and animated gifs, and usually only minimal text.  You can view examples of these types of emails below.

I’ve been particularly interested in the increased frequency and complexity of the visual-based emails.  They have much more in common with product marketing emails than traditional political ones.  I think the rise of these emails is a good indication of how competitive the battle for email opens and clicks has become. 

When you send an advocacy email today you are fighting for attention.  You aren’t just competing against the opposing political party or issue group.  Your are fighting companies like Groupon, Amazon and Gilt for the attention of your supporters. 

In the case of Organizing for Action they are also fighting fatigue.  Many have been on the Obama email list for six or seven years and have gotten thousands of email from the various versions of the campaign.  Even is they don’t subscribe, you have to think many are tuning out the emails. 

The increasingly visual and share-hungry emails sent out by Organizing for Action are an attempt to win this battle for attention.  They can’t just inform, they have to entertain a bit too.

Having gotten through the throat clearing, here are five examples of visual and viral emails sent by Organizing for Action the last few months.  Click on the title or image to see the full email.


1. Fist Bump

Not a lot of explanation required here.  This simple, e-card style email was sent out as part of a list building campaign around the President’s birthday.

fist-bump

 

2. Infographic Email

This infographic email was sent out by Organizing for Action to celebrate their one year anniversary.  The 2012 Obama campaign has used this style a few times.  I love it. 

infographic

 

3. Cats

As a way of connecting the Affordable Care Act with Valentine’s Day, Organizing for Action sent out an email asking friends to share kitten photos with their Facebook friends that include health care-related messages.  The actual email template is actually pretty text-based, but I included this one due to the clear attempt to leverage the Internet’s love of cats for political gain.

cats 

 

4. Breakfast Club Gif

In-mid February Organizing for Action sent out an email asking visitors to take a pledge that they will help spread the word about the March 31 health care coverage deadline.  If you took the pledge, you are automatically entered into a contest that would give you the chance to meet president Obama.   Organizing for Action sent out this email featuring the Breakfast Club gif below.  The email is about a contest deadline, so, presumably, the animated gif is telling you to stop what you are doing right away and enter.

breakfast-club 

5. Prince Animated Gif Email

As a way of promoting the same contest as the Breakfast Club gif, this email included not one, but two, animated gifs of Prince presumably judging you for not having taken the pledge yet.  I actually felt a bit tricked here, as upon receiving the email I had assumed President Obama and Prince would be doing some sort of joint appearance.

prince