Lightning

How Igility Builds Drupal 8 Experiences with Acquia Lightning

Acquia Lightning is a Drupal 8 distribution that enables web developers to build better sites faster and to empower page building and content authoring with easy to use tools. It’s become the go-to starting point for thousands of organizations worldwide building new Drupal 8 sites and projects.

In this interview, Brad Gronek, founder and CEO of Acquia partner Igility Solutions, describes how his agency uses Acquia Lightning to build Drupal sites that deliver great digital experiences and drive revenue growth for customers.

Among the Drupal projects Igility has built using Acquia Lightning is the flagship site for Mobile Mini, a US-based, portable storage company. Mobile Mini has seen leads and site conversions jump 23% and 30%, respectively, since the site relaunch.

Why do you use Acquia Lightning for Drupal 8 projects?

Brad Gronek: “We use Acquia Lightning in order to quickly incorporate the latest key Drupal modules enabling the core functionality of content editing and management.  This also adds the benefit of incorporating key patches and versioning in order to keep this core functionality of our sites stable as the modules evolve. “

What caused you to adopt Lightning over Drupal Core?

BG: “We have always relied on distributions to provide a foundation to build on.  Any Drupal site is built upon a foundation of many modules which are built by the community, which works hard over time to ensure that modules work well together and don’t break a given build.  However, these modules are always evolving and things do happen. That’s where the community of developers and partners such as Acquia and Igility jump in to ensure that, first, each site works well as a whole, then that the modules continue to improve in terms of both stability and cross-functionality.  

Distributions such as Acquia Lightning provide a well-maintained foundation of functionality and stability for a given set of capabilities.”

Lightning is Igility’s base distribution of choice because:

  1. It satisfies the key needs of enterprise grade content management projects.
  2. It adds key modules which represent the latest R&D around the evolution of Drupal.   Acquia will often develop key enterprise oriented modules for Lightning before rolling them out to the community at large, so you get a leg up on incorporating the latest and greatest Drupal features.
  3. It is maintained in lockstep with Drupal, so the moment a Drupal release comes out, you can expect coinciding Lightning changes to be available almost immediately.  This is paramount as we have in the past seen poorly managed or maintained distributions cause modules to lag behind by months of version updates.

Can you describe the developer benefits you gain using Lightning?

BG: “Developers are able to get projects started more efficiently and spend less time worrying about cross functionality among key modules.   Less time is spent on patches and issues and more time is spent on adding value.”

Is there an aspect of Lightning you particularly like?

BG: “I am loving the development of the layout builder and look forward to seeing its evolution.  The addition of sub-blocks (blocks which can be dropped in within blocks) would be a huge competitive add when comparing against systems like Adobe AEM (which we’ve built with).”

Describe the benefits to the page builders who use Lightning-built sites

BG: “Remember the old saying that if you give a person a fish, he’ll eat for a day; however, if you give that person a fishing pole, he’ll eat for a lifetime?  We and the Drupal community place a lot of emphasis on giving our clients fishing poles. Benefits we see:

  • Content Editing and Collaboration - Using Content Moderation in addition to the Acquia-built module Moderation Note, we are able to create a Google Docs-like commenting experience which allows client content teams to collaborate on the creation, improvement and publishing workflow of content prior to launching the content.  This is a very cool add which, with Lightning, comes right out of the box requiring only the addition of the Moderation Note module.

  • Time to market - Leveraging these key content publishing features allow us to build sites rapidly and get functionality out the door in record time.  Over the past month, leveraging the Panels modules which come with Lightning, we were able to completely rebuild and launch a new home page and landing page while collaborating with the client and other partners on finalizing content and SEO optimization.  

  • Lightning Media is extremely helpful to page builders as they manage their ever expanding media libraries within Drupal.  Images, YouTube and Vimeo embedded videos and documents are all stored and reusable using the Lightning Media library. We can even manage rather specialized Vimeo HTML5 videos using Media in order to curate content for complex home page interactions.

How about the benefits experienced by content creators and content marketers?

BG: “Very similar to page builders, content creators and content marketers feel a great deal more in control when we implement their Drupal sites.  This is very much enhanced by the addition of lightning’s Media, Workflow and it’s integrated Panels Page modules. We are also very much looking forward to incorporating the newest Layout Builder modules and incorporating more of the Lightning Layout module as well.  In fact, we are already doing so in our next big project which rolls out in Q2 of 2019.”

None of this matters if the visitor experience isn’t optimal. How does Lightning assist with creating great customer experiences? 

BG: “By leveraging Lightning, we are able to create engaging customer experiences which leverage many types of media to succinctly convey the key value propositions which differentiate (our) customer’s products.  All of this is done with an easily manageable back-end interface leveraging modules managed by or greatly enhanced by Lightning.”

In the Mobile Mini website project, key modules managed by Lightning include:

  • Lightning Media

  • Lightning Workflow

  • Panels Pages

Assuming you’ve used Drupal core or a different distribution in the past, how would you describe the differences between that, and using Lightning today, to a developer?

BG: “We have used Panopoly which is closely related to Pantheon’s offering back in the D7 days.  One of the challenges we faced was that some modules would include outstanding issues which kept the entire distribution from updating many of its key modules.  As a result, large parts of the entire system, including subsequently added modules, would be forced to remain in a downgraded state.

Because Lightning is managed by Acquia, which also is a very significant contributor to the Drupal platform, development resources are allocated to help resolve blocking issues within the community.  This alleviates this risk and allows the Lightning distribution to stay in lockstep with Drupal.

Acquia Lightning Drupal distribution adds a lot of value to the overall platform as it implements a pre-configured set of key functionality out of the box and includes enhancements as well as stability improvements.  At Igility, we have successfully leveraged Lightning in marketing web sites as well as ‘content + commerce’ sites which incorporate both commerce and WCM capabilities. We recommend that it be seriously considered at the outset of any Drupal build project to add long term stability to the project, bring the latest innovations to your site and to speed up time to market.”

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Brad Gronek is founder and CEO of Acquia partner Igility Solutions. Visit our product page for more information on Acquia Lightning.

David Aponovich

David Aponovich

Sr. Director, Product Marketing Acquia, Inc.

David Aponovich is senior director of product marketing at Acquia, where he helps articulate the benefits of Acquia solutions including Acquia Journey, the company’s customer journey orchestration solution, and trends in digital experience.

Prior to joining Acquia, he was a senior analyst at Forrester Research, where he researched web content management and digital experience technology and consulted to Forrester’s global clients on their digital transformation initiatives. He also spent six years as web content management strategy consultant at agency Connective DX, and previously was marketing director at a WCM software vendor.