Drupal is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) available, with over 1 million websites running on this platform. Drupal can help manage any type of website for any organization, including businesses, nonprofits, associations, government entities, and more.
As a Drupal user, your website is a powerful tool for engaging your audience and encouraging them to get more involved in your organization or cause. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you’re making the most of the platform’s unique resources and features to create the most effective website possible.
With that in mind, we’re going to cover five tips for improving your Drupal website’s performance and making it a reliable resource for years to come. These tips include:
- Audit your website regularly.
- Prepare your Drupal roadmap.
- Make website updates based on user research.
- Stay up to date with security and module releases.
- Improve your website load speed.
Drupal is a free, open-source CMS that any organization can use to create a customized website. What you do with your Drupal site is ultimately up to you and the goals you’re trying to reach. Keeping these tips in mind will help you prepare your website for future changes and upgrades. Let’s dive in!
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1. Audit your website regularly.
Whether because of an organizational rebrand, site migration, or security vulnerabilities, there may be times when your organization wants to undergo a full website revamp. These projects require a major overhaul of your current system and can take months or even years to fully complete.
Because website revamps require a significant amount of time and resources, make sure you’re prepared for whenever a major change is needed. That’s why it’s important to regularly audit your site and correct any errors or issues as soon as you spot them.
Follow these steps for a successful audit:
- Look for outdated or unneeded content. If you’ve had the same website for several years, chances are that some of your content has become outdated. For example, perhaps you’re the digital marketing manager for a well-established nonprofit that’s been around for many years. Eventually, your nonprofit website may become cluttered with outdated blog posts, event landing pages, and other unnecessary content. Review your website from time to time to identify any content that’s outdated or that no longer aligns with your organization’s mission or philosophy.
- Reformat or eliminate old content. After identifying unnecessary content, decide whether you’re going to completely remove this content or reformat it to better serve your digital goals. Some content may simply need to be deleted. However, you might have other pages you can combine or reformat to boost their SEO performance or serve as more valuable educational resources for your audience.
- Remove any modules you aren’t using anymore. Modules add additional functionality and features to your website. However, having too many modules can slow your website’s load speed. Plus, keeping a variety of modules on board without updating them can lead to security vulnerabilities. Review your modules regularly and remove any that you aren’t using.
Auditing your website can help you prepare for a site migration when a new version of Drupal is released, providing a streamlined roadmap for future development.
2. Prepare your Drupal roadmap.
Staying up to date with the latest Drupal releases ensures that your website remains secure and makes use of the latest technologies and innovations. That’s why it’s helpful to create a Drupal planning and development roadmap to strategize your migration path.
As you prepare your Drupal roadmap, keep these steps in mind:
- Map out your upgrade path to prepare for Drupal 10. Mark your calendars — Drupal 10 is set to be released in December 2022. Kanopi’s Drupal planning and development guide has everything you need to know about migrating to Drupal 10, whether you’re currently using Drupal 7, 8, or 9. Do your research and get your website into the best possible position ahead of Drupal 10’s release.
- Map your user journey. The user journey is the path your website visitors take to learn about your organization and decide whether they want to support you. Your users’ journeys may change over time as your audience grows and evolves. Conduct occasional user research to assess whether your website is effectively meeting your audience’s needs. For example, are your calls-to-action (CTAs) receiving a lot of engagement? Has your bounce rate fluctuated recently? Keep these metrics in mind as you work to streamline the user experience.
- Consider working with a professional Drupal developer. If you feel like your organization could benefit from an outsider’s perspective, consider hiring a Drupal developer to help map out your Drupal migration. These professionals can assess your organization’s website, goals, and budget to determine the best ways to optimize your user journey, maximize conversions, and prepare your site for future upgrades.
Understanding and planning your website’s upgrade path is critical for ensuring a smooth migration process. Thoroughly mapping your Drupal migration can save your team time and make the upgrade process less stressful down the road.
3. Make website updates based on user research.
To help you create a streamlined user journey, we recommend regularly conducting audience research to understand how your visitors are interacting with your website. Analyze these data points to kickstart your audience research:
- Web analytics: How long do users stay on different pages before clicking to another page or off your site entirely (otherwise known as your average session duration)? What percentage of users visit only one page on your website before leaving (also known as your bounce rate)? Use a tool like Google Analytics to keep track of these website metrics, which help reveal patterns in user behavior.
- Traffic sources: How do visitors access your website (i.e. via social media, a search engine, a link on another website, a direct search of your URL, etc.)? Understanding your most popular traffic sources can help you determine which marketing platform is the most effective for encouraging your audience to engage with you more deeply.
- User behavior: What are users clicking on most? What do they spend the most time looking at? What forms do they fill out? Use a tool like HotJar to analyze your website’s heat map and understand which website elements are most engaging for visitors. Also, keep track of your conversion rates for important pages, such as your online checkout page or donation form.
Let’s look at an example of how to put some of these insights into action to enhance your website experience. Perhaps you own a comic book store and want to update your Drupal website to better showcase your inventory. You review your analytics and see that users spend a lot of time browsing your online store, but only a small percentage of people actually buy comics online. In this case, you might look into upgrading your POS eCommerce system to one that’s easier to use and that offers a wider array of payment options.
Rather than having to guess what your visitors want from the experience, your website analytics can help you build a smoother user journey and make data-driven updates to your website.
4. Stay up to date with security and module updates.
Keeping your Drupal website up to date with security updates is crucial to patch any holes in your security system and make your website more trustworthy for visitors. Ensuring that your website is secure is especially crucial if you’re handling sensitive data, such as healthcare information or payment details.
Implement new security patches as soon as possible. This includes updates for various tools and modules you use on your website, such as your POS system. Also, we recommend conducting non-security-related module updates on a monthly or quarterly basis.
To ensure your site stays protected from threats, run vulnerability tests and antivirus assessments regularly to identify vulnerabilities and quickly correct them.
5. Improve your website load speed.
Studies have shown that websites that load in one second have a conversion rate three times higher than sites that load in five seconds. If your Drupal website loads too slowly, you could risk creating a negative user experience that leads to lower engagement and fewer conversions.
Double the Donation’s nonprofit web design guide offers a few tips for improving load speed that can apply to any organization’s website:
- Leverage browser caching. Caching is the process of storing a copy of a website’s files within a web browser to allow the site to load faster upon subsequent visits. Drupal recommends enabling basic caching and performance tuning. They offer more information about caching and improving performance in their site performance blog post.
- Reduce image sizes. Large image files take longer to load, slowing down the user experience. Ensure that all of your website’s images are appropriately sized and compressed to minimize the amount of data they add to each page.
A faster load speed helps you drive website conversions. Think about it—how long would you be willing to spend waiting for a checkout or donation page to load? When your site loads quickly, visitors can find what they’re looking for and complete any intended purchases or other actions with ease.
Drupal is a powerful platform for creating a robust, engaging website that grows brand awareness and engagement for your organization. By following these tips, you can make the most of the platform to build a long-lasting website. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, there are plenty of places to go for assistance, from the Drupal website to a professional Drupal developer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Guest Author Anne Stefanyk
As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.
Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.
Anne Stefanyk of Kanopi Studios has a background is in business development, marketing, and technology. She is experienced in managing all facets of a business and has a technical understanding allowing her to interface with engineers. She has years of professional Drupal hands-on experience from basic websites to large Drupal applications with high-performance demands, multiple integrations, complicated migrations, and e-commerce including subscription and multi-tenancy. Anne’s contribution to projects is managing everything on the client-side. One of Anne’s key strengths is her ability to understand client needs and translate them into functional web applications. She has been working in Drupal since 2007 and has held Director level positions at large Drupal agencies. Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp.