Rainforest Alliance
Drupal Case Study

A Reimagined Rainforest Alliance on Drupal 8

The Challenge

Over the years, RA has cultivated a repository of structured content to support their mission.  While the content is primarily displayed as long form text, there is a wide variety of metadata and assets associated with each piece of content.  One of the primary goals of the new site was to enable discovery of new content on the site through automatic selection of related content driven by the metadata of the content the user was viewing.  Additionally, RA had a future requirement for advanced permissioning and publishing workflows to enable stakeholders outside of the web team to play a role in the content lifecycle.


Drupal 8 was selected for this project based on several factors.  First, its focus on structured data fit well with Rainforest Alliance’s need for portable and searchable content.  Second, the deep integrations with Apache Solr allowed for a nuanced content relation engine.  Solr was also used to power the various search interfaces.  Third, Drupal has historically had powerful workflow tools for managing content.  While these tools weren’t quite ready for Drupal 8 when we built it, we knew they would be simple to integrate when they were ready.  In short, Drupal was a perfect fit for the immediate needs, and Drupal 8 met the organization’s longer term goals.

Key Benefits and Drupal Technologies

Page Manager/Layout Plugin/Panels:

Page manager is a great tool for making it easy to create specialized landing pages, and when combined with Layout Plugin and Panels it provides the ability to use different layouts when viewing different node types (or other entity/bundle combination). Specialized landing pages were built as specialized page manager pages, many with their own layouts. All of the different full node displays were handled by Page Manager, using different variants for each node type.

Search API/Search API Solr:

Most content types have a “related content” section at the bottom of the page. Tagging content is one great way to handle something like this, but for our requirements we needed to have logic that was more robust than only showing other content with the same taxonomy terms. We went with Solr for this, specifically for the “more like this” (MLT) functionality that it provides. Search API Solr provided the interface for managing our servers and indexes, then with a custom block we were able to leverage MLT with our own boost criteria to help control how the related content lists were generated.

Media Entity (and related modules):

Drupal core provides file fields, which allow us to upload files to different entities, but this project had a requirement that we must be able to reuse the uploaded files, and have the ability to add additional related information for each file or image that is uploaded. Things like caption, image source, etc. On top of that, we needed to be able to display these files in different ways - in some places an image may display the caption as a tool tip, while in others it should display below the image. The Media suite of modules is perfect for this type of thing. We were able to use different modules from within the media ecosystem to handle images, embedded videos, and PDF documents, and add appropriate fields to each media entity bundle, and using Drupal core’s view mode system we were able to set up multiple displays for each media type.

Entity Embed / Entity Browser/Inline Entity form:

It hasn’t always been easy to empower content teams to easily add images and other entities to WYSIWYG fields, especially when those items need to be themed in a special way. Entity Embed allowed us to add new CKEditor buttons to the WYSIWYG that provide a dialog where the user can choose an entity that they want to appear in content, the view mode that they want it to display with, and then position it on either the left, center, or right side. One great thing about this is that the module uses a text format filter, so different text formats can display the embedded entities, while the others don’t. Entity Embed is primarily used for embedding images, but we also used it to give content editors the ability to embed blocks in their wysiwyg content as well.

Inline Entity Form allowed us to create entity reference fields, but gave content editors the ability to create the referenced entities right from the node edit form, something that can be a big time saver for content editors.

Entity Browser ties in with both Entity Embed and IEF by adding a button that opens a dialog displaying a view that allows users to select the entity that they want to use from a list, rather than having to remember media names, taxonomy names, or node titles and enter them into an autocomplete field.

These modules combined help make for a great editorial experience.


Drupal 8’s CMI initiative solved a lot of issues around managing configuration. That being said, we’ve found that bulk exporting/importing an entire site’s configuration isn’t a great workflow for our team that involves multiple environments and developers, each potentially having a few of their own special configuration options that need to be be set. Manually seeking out and overriding those configuration options in settings.php isn’t something that we decided was sustainable, and has it’s own drawbacks. The features module in D8 allows us to package and ship the configuration that we need to be consistent, while allowing us to leave out what may be different across environments (such as development only modules, css/js aggregation and page caching).


When viewing taxonomy terms for several vocabularies we needed the ability to have a consistent layout, but to place different Custom Block entities on each term, which is essentially what Panelizer’s made for. The module doesn’t have full taxonomy term support yet, but the community is working to get it added, and the patches provided in this issue were far enough along that we were able to make it work without issue.

Results & Feedback from the business

At the close of Sprint 6, there were zero critical and only 3 moderate issues. The final Sprint/Project review had only 3 support questions, launching as arguably one of the most impressive Drupal 8 site launched within a year of the initial release this latest major version on the Open Source CMS, and most importantly in time for Rainforest Alliance's major end-of-year donation campaign. The site delivers on its promise to showcase the Rainforest Alliance’s exciting and informative messages and beautiful imagery, and stands as testimony for the efficacy of the agile approach.

“People seem really, really happy with it. YAY!!”

-Danielle Cranmer, Web Manager

“We've been getting lots or praise, internally and externally.  Brava, team!”

-Melissa Normann, Senior Manager Web Strategy and Development


Last Call Media is a full-service creative agency developing solutions for partners online and off through innovative strategy, branding, print, and digital design. Last Call Media enjoys work with purpose– building engaging solutions that assist and support organizations working to improve their communities.

The Rainforest Alliance is a growing network of people who are inspired and committed to working together to achieve their mission of conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. Last Call Media is proud to be a key technology partner in their efforts.
Rainforest Alliance Screenshot
“People are going bananas about the site here! So awesome!” -Melissa Normann, Senior Manager Web Strategy and Development

Facts & Figures

  • 100+ Page Backlog doc
  • Dozens of Epics
  • Hundreds of User Stories
  • 4 month timeline, met with Agile/Scrum

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