Low Code in Drupal: Site Studio and The Secret to a Better Developer Experience

Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, Shopify… What do all these tools have in common? They are easy to use and, most importantly, they bring what was before confined to the realm of web developers to the masses. As digital transformation accelerates, CIOs are challenged with matching the pace of change without sacrificing performance, security and experience. They’re seeking the innovation of web development without the complexities of software engineering (delays, spiraling costs, team burnouts…).

Let's remember that having a website is not anymore a nice thing to have for your business. It is a requisite for survival as a company. Evolving with your web presence and offering a digital experience is as important. And it's evolving what makes or breaks a company. 

After all, building the initial ideas is not a problem. Not at all. And it’s as well the reason said tools are not fit for everyone, especially on enterprise and SME environments where you need a high level of customization. It’s evolving those ideas and keeping them growing fast. You can even push teams to reduce development times and keep your CXOs happy with some quick initial wins. What comes after that mess, if you make that a habit, is what will be lambasting your team and potentially your company for months and years to come, bringing up maintenance costs and grinding your team to a halt even for the simplest changes.

The "Deliver Faster" Promise 

Believe me, I've been on many teams during my career observing similar patterns. Marketing, CTO, some director… It doesn't matter who comes up with the idea, but the pattern is nearly always the same. After all, is just code, right? Why can't we deliver faster? 

However, without a long-term plan on the table, that rushed code ends up in the bin after only a few years. Your team ends up having to rebuild everything because that code you had to rush is not maintainable. It takes more and more time to modify and it constantly breaks every time you move a piece. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 

When I moved to the UK I joined a development team of around ten people in a 100+ person company. We were tasked to fix a failed project the company had attempted a few years back: rebuilding the main brand website. There was an immediate plan, rebuild, rebuild fast. No tests, no around the corner plan. Just rebuild quickly to show fast, quick wins, because the previous system is slow, unmaintainable…unloved. No need to say that there was a lot of pressure from the stakeholders.

A year later the company was in the same situation, just with different technology. The organization didn’t have much to show for it other than a million pounds invested and a difficult-to-manage codebase.  

Wouldn't it be nice if we could reduce the root problem: legacy code produced by teams under pressure with unrealistic timelines? The failure of the leadership was not being able to recognize the underlying issue hurting their workflows.

The Key to Writing Better  Code: KISS and Write Less Code


Source: https://dzone.com/articles/what-is-shift-left-testing

What if I told you that the secret to deliver better software is to deliver…less software. No, I am not joking. It’s actually one of the key principles of software engineering. The KISS Principle (Keep it simple stupid) proposes that the more simply you can deliver a piece of code, the better.

Now imagine that you could have templates where site builders would just apply different components by copy-pasting or dropping elements in a modular way. Those modules would be pre-tested so you could trust they would remain stable with your deployments. Having these ready-made pieces in place would mean you could reduce the amount of software that you are delivering with less burden and fewer chances for defects.  

It’s similar to the idea of using libraries. We are just adopting code that has been proudly tested somewhere else, limiting the code that we need to prove or QA to our own integration. 

That's where low code tools come into play. It's not about replacing developers. It's about reducing the custom code layer, while you free the engineering team to work in the R&D that makes a difference. Let’s look at some of the innovation potential of a low-code site-building tool powered for Drupal: Acquia Site Studio.   

  • Faster time to value - Websites can be built and iterated at the speed of your customers not at the speed your technical resources allow. 
  • Increase overall project value - Empowering marketers lets organizations free up experienced developer resources, so dev teams can focus on building new features and integrations. 
  • Project velocity improvements - Teams can work in parallel - expediting timelines and deliverables. 
  • Improved platform adoption - Including Site Studio as part of the overall solution improves the ease-of-use for marketers and designers, driving adoption of the platform and the project.
  • Digital experiences that drive ROI - Easy iteration means sites are no longer “launch and leave.” Marketing and content teams can evolve significant parts of the website, improving customer engagement and satisfaction.

Decoupled Teams

As a backend developer, I've never been more frustrated than when I’ve had to deal with minor,  "There is one pixel missing here" kinds of tasks from the marketing team. However, even the small edits matter and marketers are passionate about the total customer experience. 
Why not give them the power to unleash their creativity? Why not put the control of the brand and image on their own hands, instead of relegating them to the co-pilot seat? The backend team will build the data, frontend and site builder specialists will build the brand and connect the dots.


Have brand specialists building the components, the building bricks of your website. Then hand them over to editorial or site builder specialists and they can build beautiful website experiences without coding knowledge. 

From those components, Site Studio creates code for you using predefined templates… and less custom code. Just like magic. And less code means, of course, less code to maintain as well. If you ask me, this looks like a win-win situation.

Introducing Site Studio: The Series

I think I finally got your attention on low code workflows and Site Studio, didn't I? Well, then you are lucky because I have spent a few days playing around with a sandbox equipped with Site Studio. I obtained my Acquia Site Studio certificate, and now I thought it would be a good moment to write a few tutorials, give my first impressions and open a new series about this low code tool.

Watch this space and the Acquia developer blog for more