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How Goals It? An Update on last year's Website Tech Goals and what's in store for 2024

By Reuben Walker, 22 January, 2024
Illustration of astronaut dribbling a soccer ball in space

In this article, I will provide an update on the progress of three goals I set for Mobile Atom Media's PHP-based websites in 2023. And share what's in store for them in 2024.

Again, longtime readers of my sites may know I use them as learning and testing grounds. I like experimenting with new technologies and expanding our capabilities and services on our in-house sites first.

2023

Here were my three 2023 goals:

With our flagship site that promotes our content strategy and publishing business, I wanted to integrate Symfony with WordPress. Yes, you read that correctly. I am not demented yet.

For our content production and web development business, I wanted to migrate to Sulu CMS with a frontend implementing Netgen Layouts. Or, if that didn’t work, use the Symfony web skeleton with Netgen.

And for Symfony Station, I wanted to upgrade to Drupal 10 with a new theme.

So, what happened?

Mobile Atom Media

The tagline for my flagship business, Mobile Atom Media, is Digital Content, Simplified. A custom OOP WordPress theme powered its frontend. I planned on unsimplifying its backend by integrating Symfony with it.

My goal was to do so using Sword. It would have been the most challenging goal of the three for me to meet. I had never created a theme with Symfony. In fact, I still don’t have the Symfony programming skills to do so at this point. So, this likely would have been a step too far in any event.

February 2023 update

Because, business goals intervened with this personal goal.

I had a new client with a hard-coded site I need to move to a CMS. I wanted to explore the easiest solution for content producers in Drupal and compare it to the WordPress experience.

So, I migrated my Mobile Atom Media site from WordPress to Drupal. And used DXPR as a distribution.

They say:

"For too long, marketers have struggled with Drupal. Those days are over. Smart, fast marketing teams build whatever they need with DXPR, even with no Drupal experience."

FYI. It is the simplest Drupal experience I have had. However, it's not quite to WordPress's standard for ease of use yet. But, it's still impressive.

I may revisit WordPress via Sword again in 2025, and there is also another alternative, Simply.

Mobile Atom Code

Mobile Atom Code implements Mobile Atom Media’s content strategies. Its tagline is Content Production, Simplified. That’s for my clients. For my sites, I like doing things the hard way. Or at least a new way.

So for my second most challenging goal of 2023, I wanted to migrate WordPress-based MAC to a Sulu CMS backend and a Netgen Layouts frontend. Sulu is an abstracted Symfony CMS, and learning it would have prepared me for my Sword challenge. It would also have helped achieve my long-term goal of being a Symfony developer.

Unfortunately, this wasn't an achievable goal last year. I was too busy with Mobile Atom work, my real-estate business, and Symfony Station to have adequate time to master the Symfony skills I needed.

But I did mange to migrate Mobile Atom Code to Drupal 10 and slightly customize the default theme. So, mild progress was made on the journey to a Symfony site.

Symfony Station

My most manageable goal (and one that was accomplished) was rebuilding and upgrading this site to Drupal 10 with a new theme. Hurray!

Last year I asked:

  • Will I build a custom theme?
  • Will I heavily customize the new default theme?
  • Or will I build one with the new starter kit capability?

I ended up going with the second.

Last year I also said: I won’t do this until auto-updating is functional in Drupal later in the year. As we all know updating Drupal core is a pain in the ass.

Well, auto-updating is still not available even though Drupal has been working on it for seven plus years. :(

So:

  • I moved to a new host in order to have access to cPanel.
  • Which allowed me to use Softaculous to install Drupal. They unlike Drupal have figured out auto-updates.
  • I hand migrated the site's content resulting in a hurt ass.
  • I heavily customized the Olivero theme. And continue doing so to this day.
  • And I optimized, cleaned up, and streamlined the backend by removing all the modules I had experimented with. I only use part of core and a few community modules.

I am very happy with where Symfony Station is right now. Especially when it's viewed on a desktop.

2023 Summary

All in all my progress on the goals was slightly disappointing. But, I did learn a great deal about Drupal and what I need to master going forward to meet my long-term goal. Which is being a Symfony developer for passion projects during my retirement in Europe.

2024

Goals

Now that I have increased my knowledge of Symfony, I've decided to stick with Drupal for my business sites this year. It's the platform most tightly integrated with Drupal that lines up with my development skills.

And this strategy will help me with my business goals, which now include Drupal services.

Plug ⬇️

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Plug over.

I finished an outstanding book, Drupal 10: Masterclass that solidified my knowledge of Drupal's "uniqueness". And another one with specific uses of Drupal techniques, Drupal 10 Development Cookbook.

Goal 1 - Build a custom Drupal theme

I have a great book, Modernizing Drupal 10 Theme Development that will help me with this. I also have a DrupalizeMe course for Drupal 9 I never finished.

And I may revisit the Drupal and Twig tutorials on SymfonyCasts.

I will apply the theme to either my Mobile Atom Media or Mobile Atom Code site. Most likely the former.

Goal 2 - Build a Drupal module?

Guess what? I also have a great book, Drupal 10 Module Development for mastering module development. But this goal might be a bridge too far. And at this point I don't even know what I would need one for. However, I do have full day of training on module development coming up at Drupal Camp Florida. Maybe that will generate some ideas.

I moved one of my largest clients to Drupal this year, so I might build something for their site. At least I will better understand the modules tying it to its CRM, payment systems, email marketing, event management, community forums, etc.

Goal 3 - Explore other Symfony-based CMSs, Platforms

I want to try out other solutions in order to learn more about Symfony. And I've decided upon:

I have installed test sites with these and plan to experiment with them throughout 2024. Other than Sulu which is almost pure Symfony and Drupal, these three use the most Symfony components. See the links above if you are interested.

My initial thoughts on them are as follows.

TYPO3 is fantastic for multi-site and multi-language applications. It's easier to set up than either Drupal or WordPress. I also like the way it does not require a hundred non-core modules like Drupal or plugins like WordPress. If you need extra functionality via an extension, just enable one of the core ones. TYPO3's core extensions are much more extensive than Drupal's core modules.

My first impression of Fork CMS is that it's closer to the WordPress experience. But I will find out if this is correct. I have just started with it.

I have not done anything with Laravel yet. And I probably won't.

Summing it up

As you can see, I was over ambitious last year. And I'm being more reasonable with my time estimates this year. But, I think it's the best route to my long-term goal.

And it will be the most productive use of my skill building time. A good chunk of that time goes to learning Portuguese as I am getting my permanent visa from Portugal. I am also polishing my French for Symfony-related reasons. So, most of the rest of my learning time will go to Drupal and Symfony.

I also hope to finish liquidating my real-estate assets this year. And that would free up some additional time for learning.

This is a personal and non-evergreen article. If you read it, thanks. I hope it inspires you to learn and try new things for your sites in 2024.

Keep learning and keep coding Symfonistas!

Author

Reuben Walker headshot

Reuben Walker

Founder
Symfony Station

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