DrupalCon North America 2021 - Recap

Furthermore, there were community summits held for higher education, healthcare, nonprofit, and government. These were individual events focused entirely on their subject with panels, workshops, and discussions within breakout rooms.

The Forgotten Site-builder

During the Driesnote, Dries Buytaert mentioned five big initiatives to focus on for Drupal 10, all of which have made progress throughout the lifecycle of Drupal 9:

  1. Decoupled Menus
  2. Easy Out of the Box
  3. Automated updates
  4. Drupal 10 readiness
  5. New front end theme

Dries made us aware that with the evolution and growth of Drupal, we have left behind the “site-builder” role. Dries believes that we need to get back to our identity, to reinvigorate and re-focus on our roots by empowering site-builders to build ambitious websites with low code.

“Let’s make Drupal the go-to technology for site-builders experience.”

Finally, Dries mentioned a sixth big initiative, a project browser, to improve the site-building experience. One of the first things site-builders do when they start with Drupal is to install a module, a project browser will therefore simplify the process of finding and installing modules.

DrupalCon North America 2021 - Driesnote by Dries Buytaert

Back to the sessions I attended, rather than recap them in timeline order, I decided to group them into different category themes.

The main themes for me during this DrupalCon were:

  • Contribution
  • Editor Experience
  • Decoupled Drupal
  • Accessibility
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


The conference schedule was split into two parts, daily sessions during the day followed by a daily afternoon-evening spotlight on contribution. In the Driesnote, we saw a comparison of how approachable it is to contribute to the Symfony foundation compared to the almost pain-staking way of contributing to Drupal. It is clear that we need to improve Drupal’s contributor experience, which is why the Drupal Association is looking to give new Drupalists an easier path to start contributing by improving the integration with GitLab and enabling newer features in the near future.

Contribution was organised on OpenSocial, an online collaboration platform, which saw a healthy group of members attend each day to work on improving Drupal. There were five main focus groups: Decoupled Menus initiative, Easy out of the Box initiative, Automated Updates, Bug Smash, and Drupal 10 readiness. There was also the general contribution area and as always, the first timer’s contribution lounge.

Editor Experience

Throughout the conference, a recurring theme was a focus on improving the editor experience. I attended the following sessions related to this topic:

  • Easy out of the Box initiative Keynote
  • Editor Experience: Compare Drupal, WordPress, & Contentful
  • A Better Experience for Content Editors
  • Editor UX Matters: Gutenberg Can Help
  • Expand Building With Components Truly Achieve No-code Drupal
  • Reimagining the WYSIWYG: CKEditor 5 in Drupal Core

The Easy Out of the Box Initiative makes the editorial experience clear and empowering from the moment Drupal is installed by enabling Media, Layout Builder, and Claro in the default Drupal installation profile. This initiative is important because media, layouts, and modern administration design are fundamental to creating a delightful user experience for everyone building with Drupal.

Sascha Eggenberger, a Senior UX Designer at Unic and a core member of the Easy out of the Box initiative, shared his work on a better experience for content editors along with various modules that he recommends such as "admin toolbar", "media library", and "inline entity form". Sascha also gave an overview of quick wins and explained how a good user experience along with site-building is crucial in helping towards wider adoption of Drupal.

DrupalCon North America 2021. A Better Experience for Content Editors, by Sascha Eggenberger

At Amazee Labs, we actively seek to improve the editor experience for our clients’ needs. We build solutions involving the Gutenberg editor coupled with bespoke admin views, along with the implementation of an improved admin UI utilising the Gin admin module.


Following on from improving the editor experience, we explored the state of decoupled Drupal, with a heavy focus on Gatsby and Next.js. I attended the following sessions:

  • Decoupled Menus Initiative Keynote
  • An Iterative Approach: Decoupling Drupal Sites With Gatsby
  • JS Web Components (Demo)
  • Decoupled Translations with Drupal and Gatsby
  • Using Drupal's Layout Builder with Gatsby
  • Relaunch Blog of Unity.com with Headless Drupal 8, Next.js

The decoupled menus initiative is set up to provide the best way for JavaScript front ends to consume configurable menus managed in Drupal. Menus were chosen because the majority of digital experiences have a menu. They also touch on some of the most difficult problems facing decoupled sites today.

DrupalCon North America 2021 - An Iterative Approach to Decoupling Drupal Sites in Gatsby, by Brian Perry and Matthew RamirRecently, the Drupal Association made it possible to distribute JavaScript packages within the Drupal ecosystem, helping to push this initiative forward. In the evening, a hackathon was held where participants were invited to build their own custom menu component with their favourite JavaScript frameworks. This is an important initiative to help realise Drupal’s goal of being the best decoupled CMS.

Amazee Labs developer, Nick O’Sullivan, gave a talk about “Decoupled Translations with Drupal and Gatsby”. Gatsby is a popular static site generator that uses React, and it’s a perfect match for a decoupled Drupal architecture to create lightning-fast websites. Nick took us through how to create a multilingual Gatsby site with content sourced from Drupal, then gave an overview of the key considerations to take into account when developing a translation management workflow.

AmazeDrupalCon North America 2021 - “Decoupled Translations with Drupal and Gatsby” by Nick O’Sullivan


There were many great sessions on accessibility, I was only able to attend the following:

  • Accessibility is a Moving Target
  • An Accessible Digital World
  • Accessibility for Deaf Beyond Video Captions & Sign Language
  • Bake Accessibility into Every Project
  • Inclusive and Accessible Co-Creation

AmyJune Hineline, an Open Source Community Ambassador and winner of this years’ Aaron Winborn award, gave a presentation on how “Accessibility is a moving target”. AmyJune walked us through embracing accessibility, understanding the high-level principles, and shared tips on designing for accessibility.

  • Perceivable: A user can identify content and interface elements by means of the senses.
  • Operable: A user can successfully use necessary interactive elements.
  • Understandable: Users should be able to comprehend the content, and learn how to use the interface.
  • Robust: Users should be able to choose the technology they use to interact with digital assets.

DrupalCon North America 2021 - Accessibility is a Moving Target, by AmyJune Hineline

In “Accessibility for Deaf Beyond Video Captions & Sign Language”, Svetlana Kouznetsova, an experienced deaf professional providing consulting services to businesses, presented a unique session to demonstrate that not all deaf and hard of hearing people are the same. As the vast majority of deaf and hard of hearing people don't know sign language, they can’t benefit from interpreters, and not everyone can lip read or benefit from hearing devices.

Sadiyah Ali spoke about “An Accessible Digital World” by baking it in from the beginning of the development phase. By ensuring headings, links, images, and focus states are all accessible, you will cover a lot of the requirements laid out by the law. “If you forget to put butter in the batter of a cake, you can’t put it in at the end, similarly digital accessibility is simplest when it’s planned as part of the process.”

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Heather mentioned at the beginning of the Driesnote that the Drupal Association has an increased focus on Drupal’s strategic initiatives. One strong Drupal value is to cultivate talent with an emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Heather shared Drupal's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resources found on drupal.org.

There were many wonderful talks throughout the conference, however, the topic that focuses on diversity and inclusion is always more thought-provoking, inspiring and important to me.

  • Allyship - Key to Unlocking the Power of Diversity
  • Building Successful Mentorships for People of Color in Tech
  • Creating Systemic Change: Digital Rights For All
  • School Needs Open Source, Now More Than Ever

Sheree Atcheson, a global diversity, equity and inclusion leader, gave the keynote entitled “Allyship - the key to unlocking the power of diversity”. Sheree spoke about intersectionality, being an ally and allyship, along with the tools to aid you and your organisation to improve your DE&I processes. Sheree explained that an ally is any person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts that benefit people as a whole. Allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. It is a continuous and consistent process in which you need to educate yourself by following and learning from people different to you.

“Most importantly - listen, support, self-reflect, and change.”

DrupalCon North America 2021 -Allyship - Key to Unlocking the Power of Diversity, Sheree Atcheson

Byron Woodfork, a senior software engineer, spoke about “Building Successful Mentorships for People of Color in tech”. Byron explained that we must change the way we mentor as traditional teaching methods will not work for minorities. Help build a mentor network to give a diverse and supportive community for your mentee to learn and grow from. Build trust with your mentee by providing quality feedback, coach and counsel your mentee by listening to them. Mentoring is really hard work, and you will get things wrong, but the important thing is to learn from your mistakes and improve upon them for the future.

Stu Keroff and his students of The Penguin Corps, Aspen Academy's Linux Club, gave the final session entitled “School needs Open Source, now more than ever”. Maya began the keynote by announcing the Penguin Corps pledge: What are we trying to do? Change the world! How do you change the world? Be crazy enough to think you can!

Stu then gave a brief history of how he set up the first two Linux clubs in Minnesota, and how the penguin corps has grown year after year, from 15 members to over 50. The equation is simple: open-source software + user computers + enthusiastic kids = more students learn! The talk was my favourite and I look forward to learning more about the growth of the Penguin Corps.

DrupalCon North America 2021 - School Needs Open Source, Now More Than Ever, by Stu Keroff

A Final Word

Overall, the conference has proven that splitting the schedule to accommodate a shorter day of interesting sessions coupled with a half-day of contribution has been a healthy balance to avoid “Zoom fatigue” and to keep all attendees engaged and motivated.

As always there was a great deal to learn and share, and of particular value were the sessions on Accessibility. At Amazee Labs, we offer Accessibility audits so reach out to us if you want to create a better User Experience and ensure your site is compliant.

If this resonates with you and you’re as passionate about Drupal and the open-source community as we are, get in touch today!

Stay in the Loop

We will use the personal data you are sharing with us solely for the purpose of sending you our newsletter. See more here: Data Privacy.


Let us know how we can help you.