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Finding The Best Drupal Partner With Your RFP

As the recipient of many RFPs for website redesigns, we know they all look different, and there’s no silver bullet to creating the perfect RFP. There are certainly some tips and tricks to making sure your RFP is effective, but when it comes to finding the best agency for a website redesign, there are some finer points to consider specific to Drupal development partners. Here are some of the top things to ask about to make sure your chosen partner can deliver a website that will meet not just the needs of your users, but the needs of your business, too:

Process for designing the admin experience for content authors

The Drupal admin is highly customizable, and with the release of Drupal 8 the tools available should make page editing much more intuitive and visual.  However, just because a company has developed a number of sites on Drupal 8, or even Drupal 9, that doesn’t mean they are designing the most usable experiences. Unlike other more commercial products, you’re not “locked-in” to how the admin experience was designed. With the right vendor, this can be a great thing.

With the wrong vendor, it can be very disappointing.  We’ve been under the hood of some sites, and—compared to the authoring tools and overall content author usability we build on the same version of Drupal—the difference can be jaw dropping.

Tip: Inquire as to the vendor’s process for developing admin requirements, but also dive into their design process. Drupal is highly customizable, and the relationship between Drupal development and your authors should be highly collaborative.

Moreover, ask the vendor to demo some of their recent executions.  Hearing a site success story is great, but seeing first-hand the way they think, develop and optimize to clients’ needs can solidify your confidence, especially when you’re comparing potential partners.

Content Migration Methods and Recommendations

When it comes to migrating from one platform to another, whether from another CMS product or an early version of Drupal, content migration is without question going to be the biggest lift.  It’s the most cumbersome, time-consuming and resource-intensive part of the entire process.

Tip: Don’t believe a vendor who tells you differently.  It will be the tip of the iceberg, and there’s likely more smoke and mirrors to come on the long road to launch. Content migration should be a mix of automation and manual effort.  Anyone who says it has to be 100% manual isn’t investing the time to understand migration scripting and the Drupal Migrate API.  Anyone who tells you it’s going to be entirely automated is going to have reasons down the road why it cannot.

Ensure your vendor is thinking about efficiency and automation, while also being realistic about the effort ahead.  Dig into their approach to content strategy and planning.  We find that the process to migrate and write new content starts at the outset. When the vendor has a team dedicated to helping you, whether it includes proficient Drupal resources to populate pages or strategists to help you organize and make the most of your content, the process is going to go much more smoothly.

Large content sites and multi-site management

It is amazing that there are thousands of Drupal developers across the globe contributing to its roadmap and evolution. The fact that it’s free and open source is even better.  However, I want to share a word of caution. With ready access to this code, a plethora of documentation, pre-built features and the Drupal community, the bar for a “developer” can be much lower.  Since the entry point into Drupal is low, you want to be sure you select developers who are true and seasoned architects with a diverse portfolio. These are the types of partners who will make your Drupal site shine.

Tip: Look closely at the vendor’s portfolio. Dive into their case studies on enterprise end-to-end redesigns and work consolidating multiple sites into one Drupal install.

Some people can design a great microsite in Drupal, but it doesn’t mean they know how to scale an enterprise solution. You need a partner who understands how to develop with longevity and your future growth in mind. They’ll be thinking about flexible pages and content modules, workflow, performance and ease of updates. It’s also important to inquire about third-party integration.  Ask about methods for importing and managing your external data.

Experience with Drupal hosting and security

One of the best things about Drupal is that it can be hosted anywhere, supported by anyone—and yet it has evolved to an enterprise-level CMS in terms of its approach to security.   You should ask vendors to share their own recommendations and processes to check these important boxes.

Tip: Experience or partnership with Acquia or Pantheon is great because they’re leaders in the hosting and support space for Drupal, but take it a step further.  Investigate the vendor’s ability to configure environments of their own and troubleshoot issues. Do they have their own hosting and support recommendations or solution?  Their own cloud and security team? Moreover, how are they going above and beyond to keep your data safe? What are their methods for data encryption? What levels of data privacy compliance do they uphold?

Approach to support

Hosting and securing Drupal may get you to launch, but ongoing support for Drupal module updates is just as important.

Tip: Make sure your vendor has a stringent process to monitor the community, install, test, and release updates.  Make sure they are also prepared for incremental and major version upgrades. Unless you have your own team to manage the updates, it’s critical to site scalability and security that you factor this support into your budget. Also, very important: Don’t believe the hype about 100% automated or one-click updates.  Yes, you can automate the install and release of these updates.  Given the number of sites Primacy manages, we rely on this. However, factoring in a human layer of smoke testing with each release, or developer support if an update is a little more time intensive, will serve you well.   It is best practice to have the team that built your site manage the updates.

What’s your Drupal special sauce?

What makes a development partner truly special? That’s something subjective that you’ll need to decide. But don’t settle on a vendor until they show you what excites them about a Drupal site build.

Anybody who is passionate about Drupal, like we are at Primacy, is working to take their development to the next level. The best partners will take advantage of all that is free, open source, and turnkey for your benefit, and then devote resources to making an experience that will be unique to your brand.  If you are considering or have committed to Drupal, it’s likely because you expect certain things will come standard or be easier to install and develop.  Make sure your partner is prepared to not only leverage Drupal to accelerate your build, but also to bring tools and strategies to make your instance truly custom.

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Author: Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart is VP of Product Strategy for Drupal and ZenSource CMS. With over a decade of experience in web development and project management, Jon focuses on designing and implementing customer experience platforms that focus on ease of use for content authors and marketers. For ZenSource, Jon creates tools that enable clients to scale their digital ecosystems true to the strategic vision.


Published December 2020

Category Drupal

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