Agile + Drupal 8 + Pantheon: 3 Is the Magic Number for Last Call Media & the Rainforest Alliance

Musketeers. Members of Hanson. Dimensions. Some of the best things in life come in threes. A two-legged stool is a recipe for disaster; add a third leg, and you’re sitting pretty.

Digital agency Last Call Media recently put the power of three to work for a good cause: The environmentally-conscious nonprofit group the Rainforest Alliance. The Alliance’s website was reaching the end of its life cycle. Last Call Media had pushed the site’s performance to the max on Drupal 7, but it was clear it was time for a new design.

To equip the Alliance with a site that would serve their increasingly complex needs, Last Call Media decided to develop in Drupal 8. To deliver on time and within the nonprofit’s budget, they turned to an Agile workflow methodology. And for a platform that could keep pace with their development needs, they chose to develop on Pantheon.

Agile, Drupal 8, and Pantheon: With that power trilogy on their side, Last Call Media was able to develop and deliver one of the largest and most complex Drupal 8 sites in existence.

We sat down with Kelly Albrecht, Senior Digital Producer at Last Call Media, to get the whole story.

What does Last Call Media do, and what kind of clients do you serve?

Albrecht: We create digital experiences, bringing strategy, design, development, and support for our clients. We particularly enjoy work with a purpose, building tools that assist and support people working to improve their communities. A nonprofit organization like the Rainforest Alliance is a perfect fit for us.

Why did the Rainforest Alliance choose Drupal 8 for this site?

Albrecht: The site ( has a lot of structured content. Drupal as a whole lends itself well to this, and we knew Drupal 8 takes it to the next level. In late 2013 we redid our company site in Drupal 8, and we had done a few other Drupal 8 sites for clients.

The redesign called for enough new functionality to justify getting ahead with an early upgrade to Drupal 8.  In addition, the Rainforest Alliance had a future requirement for allowing people outside of their web team to work on content. They needed advanced permissioning and publishing workflows. So we decided to build a responsive Drupal 8 website, to manage their current needs and set up the structure for their future needs.

How did you decide on Pantheon for this project?

Albrecht: The Rainforest Alliance was using a production infrastructure we had hand-built for their needs. But it wasn’t a development infrastructure. We have our own internal development infrastructure, but we liked Pantheon’s better. It was really the chosen tool of the development team, and we had alignment with [Rainforest Alliance] on that. We trust our development team to choose the tools that are best for the product that they’re building.

Can you describe how you used agile methodology for this project?

Albrecht: We worked with the client to build a backlog of what they wanted to see in the finished project. Then we did some forecasting, some sizing-up of the largest, most important elements in the backlog. We started thinking about how to fit the most important elements into the sprints the budget would allow for.

As we scheduled and started each sprint, we looked more closely at the large and small tasks, and the development team would commit to certain tasks for each sprint. Maybe not all of them, but maybe more than we had forecasted. The development team would work on the tasks, towards our sprint goal, and at the end of each sprint we had a review with the client.

How did Pantheon’s workflow work with your agile methodology?

Albrecht: Pantheon’s Multidev was incredibly useful. Working with Multidev branches was really beneficial, and allowed us to show the different pieces that were getting done, without having to go through the effort of putting it on a staging server completely integrated. We could do little pieces and get feedback, and change direction when necessary.

As we all got into a rhythm, across the last couple of sprints, we started to just share our work more frequently with the client. Every couple of days, we would share Multidev branches. It became more of a Continuous Delivery workflow. We were able to leverage Continuous Integration seamlessly with Pantheon. And the client was able to see the site polishing up nicely in real-time. It really helped the client prioritize the rest of their budget.

By the time we got to the final review, there wasn’t too much to talk about because they were reviewing the site in pieces as we were developing.

What was it like developing in Drupal 8 on Pantheon?

Albrecht: Pantheon is really current with development best practices. We were able to implement automated testing for regressions and performance as part of the build process in very straightforward ways. Additionally, Drupal 8’s use of configuration management and Composer can be leveraged very nicely with Pantheon and its integrations with other best-of-breed services.

Do you plan to continue developing on Pantheon?

Albrecht: Oh, yes. We basically stopped doing our own hosting, and we often use Pantheon instead. Pantheon has an excellent development infrastructure, regardless of where the site ultimately deploys.

Do you plan to continue developing in Drupal 8?

Albrecht: For us, it doesn’t make sense to develop in Drupal 7 anymore. We’ve got a lot of Drupal 8 stuff happening right now, and a lot of it’s on Pantheon.

Learn more about how Drupal 8 reaches it's full potential on Pantheon.

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Topics Agencies, Digital Agencies, Development, Agency Partners, Drupal

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