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5 Takeaways from Capital Camp

Last weekend was Capital Camp, that annual time when Drupalists descend on Washington DC for two days of conversation and sessions on everything Drupal. If you weren't able to make it, here are 5 takeaways to apply to whatever you are working on:

1. Drupal is great for .gov

Woven throughout the sessions were case studies for large government entities who turned to Drupal and found success, both on the state and federal level. One example, Gerogia.gov, used Drupal to transition to a responsive site with a simplified design by shedding all the low-traffic links and focusing on search. For EPA.gov, Drupal was chosen as a unified system to replace, literally, hundreds of thousands of static HTML files. In both cases, more content migration and rollouts for additional agencies are in the works.

2. Listening to users is good. Observing them is better.

In his keynote, usability aficionado and Acquian, Dharmesh Mistry discussed principles of User Experience as they affect the Drupal community. Dharmesh explained that what people say and what people do, are often different things (shocking, I know). From a user experience perspective, that means some users struggle but report few issues, while others raise concerns with the smallest of hiccups. Listening to your users is important, but there's no substitute for going straight to the source and watching them use your product.

3. Digital prototyping is becoming increasingly important in the multi-device world

With the web becoming more dynamic and websites changing for every device, teams are really starting to feel the limitations of yesterday's static prototypes. For teams like those at Rock Creek and Forum One, exploring digital prototyping meant finding ways to augment their workflows with rapid development tools like Zurb FoundationTwitter Bootstrap, and Proty.   But even prototyping with straight-up HTML and CSS can bring benefits, since much of that work can be integrated into the final design. One thing's for certain, the web of the future will not wait for yesterday's prototyping techniques to catch up.

4. Site-builders are designers

As any Drupal developer knows, once you've got Drupal Core running, the party has just begun. The configuration applied by the site-builder can make a big difference in whether your CMS users are stuck with clumsy workflows, or empowered to create. In my session on empowering content creators, I asked site-builders to summon their inner designer and leverage existing Drupal modules (like Chosen, Field Group, and Video Filter) to clean up the interface and build smooth workflows for content creators. Daniel Schiavone's "10 steps NOT to forget after installing Drupal" covered several other gotchas you'll want to address before launch day (note to self: check out the Login Destination Module).

5. The future is bright with API's

With modules like Services, Drupal is well-suited to stand up API's for other applications to tap into. Acquians David Platek and Matt Grasmick discussed the best practices of RESTful API's and how Drupal can be set up to deliver intuitively structured data. Ryan Szrama looked to the future of Drupal, describing the benefits of Drupal 8's REST module and imagining a future where Drupal might provide hypermedia data through it's core APIs (more about that in his blog post, "Toward's Hyperdrupal"). Now that's some deep stuff!

With all the training and tracks that I couldn't attend, this list is certainly not comprehensive... but don't fear. If you want to learn about managing millions of nodes, and dozens of other topics, you can check out the rest of the videos posted online at http://capitalcamp.org/program/sessions.

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