Content creators don’t need to get overwhelmed with layout issues anymore. Drupal Layout Builder has come to the rescue! We show you how it works.
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Layout shouldn’t be a concern for content creators. But a quick reality check reveals that it actually is. More and more so, as workflows in content creation are being shortened. Which gives stage for Drupal Layout Builder.
Since the release of Drupal 8.7 back in May 2019, the new module is included out-of-the-box with the CMS. It supports one of the most anticipated features of Drupal to date: an easy-to-use tool for non-technical content managers to define page layouts − and to place content inside of these layouts.
With this article, we take a closer look on the details of using Drupal layout builder − and a number of situations where the tool can come in handy.
The layout possibilities in Drupal Layout Builder are more versatile than most other open-source CMS - but just as intuitive for the user.
Content layouts made for content managers
Managing page layouts and block placement has always been a challenge in Drupal-based websites. Often, a contributed module like Panels is being deployed, or the more traditional standard Drupal back-end interface is used to place blocks in various areas of the website. These tools, however, are tailored towards developers and site builders. This is certainly not ideal, since organizations nowadays expect full control over layout and content, without requiring extensive technical skills for the CMS.
With Layout Builder, layout management and block placement are now accessible and easy-to-use for non-technical content managers. More specifically, Layout Builder allows to manage the layout of the content region for every page separately, right from the front end of the website, making it much more user-friendly and allowing faster previews. Furthermore it allows to easily create, configure and place blocks around the various regions, as they are being called in Drupal, available on a page.
Drupal Layout Builder: key use cases
Layout Builder has 3 main use cases:
- When working with structured content (like a news item or event information), Layout Builder allows to manage the layout of fields present in the related Drupal content type. That layout applies to every piece of content that’s of the same type. This feature can be used by developers, to define the default layout for the various fields as shown to visitors, making sure content is displayed consistently across the site.
- An extra option allows to define overrides of the default field layout on a per page basis. This is great for content managers, meaning to have a certain level of flexibility, by changing the default field layout so that a certain page can stand out. This can be done by moving fields around or by adding extra elements to the page (like a promo banner, for instance).
- Placement of Drupal blocks (not fields) across a page. These blocks can contain both editorial (such as a piece of text) and non-editorial content (for example an automated list of recent news items, or a social media component).
And the versatility doesn't stop there - it multiplies, as these three scenarios can be combined, which allows for a great deal of situations in which you can use Layout Builder to ease your website content management.
The right tool for the right job
At this stage, Layout Builder is perfect for creating landing pages: Often, this kind of pages are not that content-heavy, and composed of elements which are not directly related to each other. For example, a list of recent events, a newsletter subscription block and a list of call-to-action elements. For these landing pages, it makes sense to start with a separate content type with a minimal amount of structured fields, and manage the whole page using Layout Builder.
The landing page example above indirectly also illustrates situations in which Layout Builder might not be the ideal tool to use:
- When density of editorial content on a page is high: The interface for entering content in Layout Builder is based on the new Settings Tray in Drupal 8 (see screenshot below). This interface offers limited screen space, not suited for managing high volumes of content (new modules are lately arising in the Drupal community to counter this issue, like e.g. the Layout Builder Modal module).
- When different content elements on the page need to be isolated: Content elements which are tightly related to each other require specific processes, related to translations, editorial workflow and versioning, to name a few. These processes are currently not well supported by Layout Builder.
The new Settings Tray in Drupal 8 offers only limited screen space
In cases as mentioned above, it's easier to work with content in Drupal Structured Fields, or to implement Paragraphs, if you require more flexibility.
Layout Builder or Paragraphs?
Layout Builder seems to solve the same kind of problem that the famous and beloved Paragraphs module aims to tackle: offering a system that allows content managers to have much more flexibility when building pages, instead of having to work within a strict and predefined template (content type + fields). But make no mistake, Layout Builder is a whole different kind of beast.
Paragraphs allows users to manage page content, based on a library of pre-defined content components (text, image, video, quote, etc.). It certainly allows basic layouts to be configured (for instance, by nesting paragraphs), but this causes a lot of usability issues and technical hurdles. Layout Builder, on the other hand, was specifically designed to manage page layout. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should choose between one of these two solutions when building a new website: both tools can be used side-by-side.
In a Nutshell
With Layout Builder, you gain an interesting tool in Drupal. Like with any toolbox, it's important to pick the right tool for the job at hand: Layout Builder is certainly not an all-round module. But if you use it in conjunction with other Drupal mechanisms, it opens a new range of possibilities for content managers, offering much more flexibility and less reliance on developers. Moreover, being an integral part of Drupal core, the rich community ecosystem will most likely result in faster adoption and extra extensions in the near future.
To read more about Drupal updates and best practices, check out our previous blogs:
- Popular features of Drupal 8 web forms
- Drupal 8: three secret weapons for your multilingual website
- Drupal – The future is decoupled
- 10 tips to manage a multilingual website in Drupal 8
*Image by Kati @xilophotography via Convertkit.com
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About the author
Jan Lemmens is a DXM and ECM Consultant at Amplexor, based in Belgium. As an enthusiast for platform-independent design and open source technology, Jan focuses in architecting and building innovative, cost-effective and user-friendly solutions for Enterprise customers. He has been responsible for several successful Drupal API and architecture projects.