June 14, 2017
Pattern Lab integration with Drupal allows for you to easily keep your style guide in sync with your app. Drupal 8 is a theme engine that Pattern Lab uses, which is one of the reasons why there's currently so much hype around building on Drupal 8. What if you want to integrate Pattern Lab with your Drupal 7 website? Luckily, we're working an approach that makes this possible!
Tom Friedhof: There’s a lot of hype around integrating Pattern Lab with your Drupal theme these days. Particularly because Drupal’s template engine is now using twig, which is one of the template engines Pattern Lab uses. The holy grail of having a living style guide and component library is now a lot more feasible! But what about Drupal 7 sites? Twig doesn’t exist in Drupal 7. Today I’m going to show you something we’re working on at active lamp to implement Pattern Lab templates in Drupal 7.
How do you easily keep the real app and the style guide in constant sync? That could be a lot of work, given that once the initial designs are done, the design iterations are typically done directly in the app being built, making the style guide obsolete and outdated.
Well, we’re still working on Drupal 7 sites, so how do we benefit from this approach in Drupal 7? To be honest, we’re still hashing out our approach to do this in Drupal 7. We have the process built out enough, and we’re using it on a new theme we developing for a client, but we’re still constantly iterating on the process, and improving it as we run into things.
What I want to show you guys today is the direction that we’re going, and I’m hoping to get your feedback in the comments so that we can continually improve and iterate on this system. First off, we decided not to use the twig version of Pattern Lab. We spent half a day trying to get twig working in Drupal 7 with the twig for drupal 7 module, and realized we’d be going down a pretty deep rabbit hole just to make twig work in D7.
I’m going to jump into a demo here in a second. However, I’m not going to do a deep dive of how Pattern Lab works or how Drupal and Panels work. I’ll dive deeper in future videos with those details if you’re interested. Leave a comment if you want to see that stuff and we’ll put it on our list of content to share. I’m going to give you guys a 10,000 foot view of how things are shaping up with our Drupal 7 integration to Pattern Lab process.
All right, so here we are in our Drupal seven install. This is pretty much a vanilla Drupal installation. If I jump over to the Drupal directory, you can see here within my sites all modules file or directory, here are all the modules that I need for this actual demo that I’m gonna use for today. We like to use panels and panels everywhere, so what I’m going be demoing today is with panels and panels everywhere, but the stuff that I’m gonna show does apply to just regular template files if you don’t want to use panels and just want to stick with the core TPL system within Drupal.
One of the the other things that we have in here is a theme called Hills, this is where all the magic actually happens. One thing that you’ll notice in this Hills theme is we have two directories called node modules and vendor. We’re actually pulling in dependencies from NPM and from Composer or from Packagist into this theme. If we open up our package.jason, which actually defines the NPM dependencies, you can see that we’re defining a dependency called hills-patternlab. This is basically the repo that holds our Pattern Lab instants, it’s the living style guide that the UX designer uses to actually update the patterns, update CSS and make any changes that need to be changed in the UI.
The composer.json file is requiring the Mustache PHP implementation. We’re using this library for obvious reasons to render the Mustache templates that we’re pulling in from Pattern Lab. This theme needs to be instantiated with an NPM install and a composer install to get these dependencies and once you’ve done that, then you’re ready to start working on the theme.
One other thing I want to do before I actually start building this our in Drupal is I want to show you the Pattern Lab instants. I am in our Hills directory, I can run NPM start and this should pull up our Pattern Lab instants. Here is our Pattern Lab instants, not going to go into the details of what Pattern Lab is, but essentially it’s all the components that make up a website. For example, you can see a page header looks like that, if we wanted to see what the header looks like, it looks like this and all of these templates are basically Mustache templates within our Patterns Lab. Let me open up node modules so you can actually see these templates real quick. The Pattern Lab directory structure looks like this, within the source directory inside of Patterns we can go into organisms and actually look at what a header looks like within Pattern Lab. This is including a couple other patterns from within Pattern Lab so let’s see what the navigation actually looks like by going in here. This is the HTML that make up a navigation.
This template includes other patterns within Pattern Lab, let me drill down to the primary links pattern. Here’s what our primary links look like, you can see that this is outputting variables, for example, href and name here and then it’s including yet another pattern within Pattern Lab, let me open that one as well. Here you can see that it’s outputting more variables, classes and name. These variables are actually defined within Pattern Lab’s data directory. I’m not going go into detail how that works, but let me just show you what that ends up rendering. You can see here’s our organism header, that primary links pattern is this here. This is basically rendering data from Pattern Lab’s data directory. If I go into the data directory just real quick, within the primary-links.json file you can see this is the actual data that it’s pulling in. If we wanted to say staff services, this is going to rebuild and we see staff services here. That’s essentially how Pattern Lab works with data in a nutshell. What I’m gonna show you guys is how we actually integrate this with Drupal. Eventually what’s going to happen is these Mustache templates are going to render variables from Drupal and not the data specified in this Pattern Lab data directory.
Let’s jump over to Drupal. Here’s our Drupal installation. First thing that I’m going do is I’m going to switch the theme to our Hills theme, our Hail to the Hills theme, so I’m gonna enable this and set this as the default. Now I’m gonna open up the homepage in a new tab and drag that over here. So now we can see here’s what we get out of the box with this Hail to the Hills theme, there’s really nothing in this theme yet. There is stuff in the theme, but I’ll get to that in a second, but this is what you’ll get once you enable it initially. We’re using Panels Everywhere with this theme so what I’m going to do is I’m going to go configure Panels Everywhere. Panels Everywhere gives you a site template by default, so I’m gonna come over here and edit it and I’m gonna add a new variant. We’ll just call this default and I’m going come over here and choose a layout within the PL Templates layout category and I’m going to hit full width one column, continue and then we’ll just work through this UI. Then I’m going to give it basically the basic content that we need to render so that you can actually see something on the page when you visit a page within the site. We’ll create the variant here, we’ll update and save that so now let’s look to see what our homepage looks like.
Our homepage is starting to look a little bit better, we’re basically hitting the default homepage for Drupal, which just shows the title and then a no front page content has been created yet. You noticed here in this layout tab, we had this category called PL Templates and it’s pulling in full width and main content. Let me show you where these are defined, if I jump back into our theme, within our theme info hook or info file, panels allows you to specify a directory where you’re going to define your layout plugins. The way you specify that is by using the string plugins panel layouts and then you just give it a path to your directory. Let me close node modules so this is a little bit easier to see. If I come into this layouts directory, you can see that I have two layouts specified here, we used the full width layout so I’m gonna jump into that first.
This isn’t a tutorial on how to create plugins, but essentially what we’re doing is we’re just creating a ctools layout plugin. We’ve called this the full width one column, we’ve said the theme function or implementation for this is panels full width and you can see that we have a panels full width template here. So when this layout is used, it’s going to actually use this template. If we just into that, all this template is doing is it’s printing out whatever is in the content area. This has nothing to do with Patten Lab yet, but this is how you essentially setup a default template with regions within panels everywhere. Let’s jump back to Drupal and go into our content area. You remember we have the default template set up now, but now let’s start to pull in some of the patterns from Pattern Lab. If I come over here, this pattern here called organisms header, let’s pull that into Drupal first. I’m gonna come in here and add content, I have this PL components over here and we have a pattern called header. I’m gonna click on that and this header is asking for four pieces of data, so I’m gonna give it the data that it needs. I’m gonna browse for a file, let’s look at that, that looks good, we’ll upload this, go to next, we’ll say logo, logo. Then we’ll give it a path and we’ll tell it what main menu to use, we’ll just say use this as the main menu and with help menu we’ll just tell it to use the user menu for now, and then finish. Let’s drag this up to the top, hit update and save and let’s go see what happened. Let’s go back to our homepage and voila, we’ve got a header pulled from Pattern Lab in here. You’ll notice that the menu is not the same menu that’s coming from Pattern Lab and why is that? It’s because it’s pulling the actual primary links from Drupal.
If we go into the menu system here, we chose the main menu to use, the main menu here and if we create another link here we can say another link, have this go to front. Then we come back to our homepage, you can see that this is actually pulling from Drupal. We have no sub-menus underneath that and that’s why it’s not showing anything underneath it. But you can see that we’re actually using our own data from within Drupal.
How did we actually pull in this whole header section from Pattern Lab? Let’s go back to where we actually pulled that in. I’m gonna go to structure, pages, back into our site template. We had this content type that we pulled in, this PL header content type. This is a ctools content type and you can define those with a content type plugin. Because this plugin only exists within this theme, we defined the ctools content type within this theme. The way we did that is within our info file, we’re specifying where content types for ctools should live and we’re saying those content types should live in the Pattern Lab directory, which is right here. This behavior isn’t default behavior in ctools, so we did have to patch the ctools modules so that we could do this. You can check out that patch here and leave any comments if you have any comments or suggestions regarding that patch. It’s a very small patch, but it basically allows us to define content types, ctools content types, within our theme and not have to define a module just for these content types.
Let’s look inside of this Pattern Lab directory and see what we have. The way ctools plugins work is it’ll traverse the directory that you’ve defined and look for any .inc files and read those in while it’s processing plugins. Within the organisms header directory, I have a file called organisms_header_inc. The content type system within ctools will pick up this file and it’ll read this variable that defines the actual plug in. You can specify other functions to be able to expose, for example, an edit form. Here you see we have a submit handler for that edit form. But here’s where all the magic happens, here’s a function that we’ve defined called preprocess. This is where we actually map the Drupal data into data that Pattern Lab understands and we pass this data to Mustache to actually render the pattern. Let me back up and show you what Pattern Lab is expecting to see within this content type. I’m going to open up a new PHP storm directory so that I don’t have to continue to scroll up. Go into sites, all, themes, hills, node_modules, hills-patternlab, open a new window, yes. Here is the Hills Pattern Lab directory within that theme, that Hills theme. What I’m going to do is go into the pattern that we’re actually pulling in and so it is here. This pattern is pulling in data from this data file and the hints that you can get from this data file is basically looking at what these patterns rely on. We’re not producing or we’re not outputting any data here, so what we need to do is we need to drill down to see where data actually is being output. If we go into navigation, we can see navigation still isn’t outputting any data, it’s still just including other atoms and molecules.
So let’s jump into the primary links. Now primary links is starting to actually output data. We have that href file there or href variable, we have a name variable there. But then you can also see that it’s pulling in yet another include. But this is where we want to start. We’re using data here in this primary links component, within Pattern Lab you can specify data in this data directory. We have this primary links Jason file and we basically specified an object with a primary links key. Now Pattern Lab’s going read into all these data files and essentially merge the objects so that you can reference them by whatever key is at the root of that object, they all get merged into the data json file. If we look here, primary links is being looped through and then the href and the name is being rendered out. If we look at this, primary links is an array with name and href. If we collapse these guys, you can see we have name, we have several links here. Staff services, work tools, news, administrative units, contact us, that all coincides with our pattern over here.
Within that pattern, coming back over here to primary links, you can see that it’s including molecules drop down and that is here. That’s also rendering or looping through the links and using the classes variable and the name variables. So if I come back into that data file and open one of these guys up, you can see here’s the links array and there’s the name and href that is being used. It looks like we’re only specifying classes on this very last button here. If we come back here, you’ll see that that class is actually specified there and that’s what makes that look a little bit different.
Essentially what we’re doing in Drupal is we’re just mapping data to the data that Pattern Lab expects. Let’s jump back over to Drupal and so now here’s our Drupal content type. You can see here, essentially we’re returning an array, nav bar brand. Here’s our primary links, so that’s what we just looked at, the primary links is essentially creating an array that looks like this, but in Drupal. You can see here, hills_menu_tree, this is essentially creating that array that Pattern Lab is expecting.
I’ll show you an easier example of what that looks like as we continue to build out this page. Let’s add another pattern to this site layout. If we come into the default template and we add content, go to Pattern Lab components, I’m going to add in a footer calling card. So that footer calling card, if we come over here into molecules, then footer, we can see the footer calling card looks like this. If we come into the template for that, that’s a molecule under footer, the calling card looks like this. This takes several variables, it takes a title, phone, email and then it loops through a social array and outputs the href and the network we defaulted in Pattern Lab. If we look at the data that we defaulted in Pattern Lab, we can come over here to footer calling card and you can see that we’ve got a calling card key and then we’ve just specified the data down there.
We’re gonna render this in Drupal so we created a content type that essentially has an edit form for all of this information. Let’s just fill this out, information technology and let’s just go sure and yes. Let’s keep that there, update and save. Now there’s our footer calling card. All right, you guys get the idea there, we’re able to create content types, we’re able to create an edit field that passes in data or we’re collecting data and then we pass that data into Mustache and render the Pattern Lab template with the data that we are pre-processing.
What is you’re working with content that isn’t going to be a ctools content type, for example nodes? Let’s create some nodes and see what that actually looks like. I’m going to come in here into configuration and we’re going to devel generate a few nodes. I can come down here, hit generate content and let’s just create 10 basic pages, we’ll generate that. Now let’s go back to our homepage here, so there we have five nodes listed on the homepage now. How do we actually style this so this looks like something? What I’m going to show is first thing I’m gonna do is I’m going to put this into a content container. Let me go over to our Pattern Lab, I’m gonna go to layouts and look at our main content. Our main content goes into a container that looks like this and the content is output inside of that container. What I’m going to do is I’m going to actually create this homepage as a view so we can actually control the template that’s being output here. I’m gonna come over here to structure, go down to views and let’s add a new view, let’s call this homepage list, we’ll continue and edit that.
We’re gonna make this a content pane, I’m actually going to get rid of this page here, we didn’t need that I should’ve unchecked it. Within that content pane, we’re going to render fields and we’re not really gonna be using the views output so uncheck that and then we’ll also throw in the body here and we’re going to limit that to 600 characters, so that’s what our view is going to look like that we’re going to use on the homepage. Let’s go ahead and save that. What I’m gonna do is I’m gonna create a new front page over in page manager. Within page manager, I’m gonna add a custom page, we’ll call this front page and then we’ll give this the path of front and we’re gonna check this box that says make this your site homepage, we’ll continue. Then I’m going to choose the layout called main content and what that’s going to do is that’s going to use the layout from Pattern Lab that uses main content and I’ll show you that here in a second.
I’ll hit continue, continue and then inside of here, we’re going to output the view that we just created. So here’s that view there, so we’ll save that and we’ll hit finish there. Update and save so now we have a front page that’s going to render a view called homepage list using the layout main content. So let’s take a look to see what happened here, let’s go back to the homepage and there you go, you can see that we’re now outputting that actual view within the page content. This home site install shouldn’t output here and this is actually being output by panels, so what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna disable that title there. If we come back here into content and then … Actually this is going to be in the site template. We’ll edit that, go into content and within the page content section, we’re going to override the title and make it nothing, update and save that. Now we’re getting a lot closer to what our styles look like in Pattern Lab.
Now the next step that we want to do is actually make this view look like something in Pattern Lab. What we’re going to do is we’re going to make that look like a two column stack view. We have this data here that’s set up in a two column stack, we’re gonna make the data from views output this template when it renders. Let’s jump back into views, so let’s go into the front page that we just created and go into the content and so here’s that view. I’m going to open this cog here and edit this view and a new tab, so views gives you the ability to specify a theme file. So what we’re gonna do is we’re actually going to specify this theme file in our theme. I’m gonna copy that and then jump into our theme over here. So here’s our Drupal theme, going to my templated directory let’s create a views directory so that all our views live in the same directory within our templates directory. Let’s create a file called views unformatted home page list.
Now, let’s just put in hello world so that you can see that this is actually working. When we re scan the templates, views is going to pick up that template file as you can see now that it’s bolded. We’ll save this and refresh the homepage and you can see now it is outputting hello world, which is in our template file. How do we actually use the template that is in Pattern Lab? Let’s go back into views, so this is where the magic happens in this theme. We have a variable expose called ‘m’, which is basically the Mustache connector to Pattern Lab. On that connector, we have a method called render, so this is where we’re going to specify the actual template that we want to use within Mustache. There is a naming convention to this and we’ll document what that naming convention is, but essentially what you need to do is specify what type of pattern it is, this is an organism so it’s in organisms and then what the name of the template it, this is a two column stack. That’s really it, that’s all you have to do to render this template, so let’s go ahead and save this and then look at our view here.
That didn’t render anything, let’s go back to our template and you can see that we’re actually not printing anything out, so let’s actually print out the results of that call and then let’s see what happens. There you go, now we’re actually printing out the template from Pattern Lab, but you can see that this is actually pulling the data from Pattern Lab, it’s pulling out its default data from Pattern Lab. How do we actually make it put our own data? Just like the content types that I was showing you, we can send it a map of how our data should look. There’s two ways we can do this, this method here, render, actually takes two arguments. One of them is an array and I’m gonna show you that first and this array is the actual map that the component is expecting. If we look to see what the component is expecting, let me jump back over to our Pattern Lab and then go into the data file that the two column stack is expecting, we can see that it’s expecting an array with a two column stack as a key and then that as an array of objects with card as the key and then title and nutgraf.
What I’m going to do is I’m actually gonna just pull some of that data out of there. Let’s go back to our Drupal theme and paste that in here. Obviously json syntax doesn’t work in PHP, so we need to convert some of this, so I’m gonna make that an array so that looks more like what PHP can understand. Now what I’m going to do is copy this array, but we also need a key of what it’s expecting. What it’s expecting as the key is primary links, sorry we’re looking at the two column stack, what is that expecting, two column stack is what that’s expecting. Let’s grab that, so now this should do it, probably because that ends the map there. Now we have this two column stack, we’re actually passing it data so you can pass it whatever data you want, but essentially this is what Drupal is looking for, so if you have your data then just go ahead and do it right here. Let’s see what this actually looks like when we save that and then come back over to Drupal and then hit refresh. You can see how it’s printing out five cards with the same data in there.
We have another way of actually mapping this data and this is through a pre-process callback. The way that works is there’s a third parameter that you can pass to this render function. Let me delete that array that we just defined and what we’re gonna do for the second parameter is we’re just going to actually pass it the variables that Drupal knows about. Inside of a Drupal theme, when you’re working with your template, there’s a variable exposed called variables that you can use and then you can output whatever variables you want. What we’re going to do is we’re gonna actually pass that to a callback that we define here and we’ll pass that in as ‘v’ just so that we don’t confuse it with variables here. What’s happening behind the scenes is this variables is being passed into this callback and now you can run PHP logic to actually pre-process your variables. Just to show you what variables looks like, let’s demo that so you can see what’s actually being passed into this callback. If we hit save there, refresh this, you can see here is what the view is actually outputting and what we really want within this data is the results that the view is outputting. Here’s all the data that the view is outputting, so this is what we want to actually map to what Drupal is expecting.
If we come back into here, what we’ll do is we’ll return an array that Pattern Lab is expecting, that array expects to have this key so we’ll copy that and then that key has a bunch of cards that are associated with it. What we’re gonna do is we’re actually gonna do the pre-process just to keep this clean in a separate function, so I’ll just define this as process card data. In this function that we’re going to define now, we’ll just copy this function guy here. This function’s going to need to take the data that we’re passing it, so pass in ‘v’ here and we’ll pass in ‘v’ here, but really what we really need from ‘v’ is just the results from the view, so maybe we just pass in ‘v’ view results. Then down here we can just say that this is going to be called the results, since it’s an array of results.
Now, essentially what we need to do is we need to create this data format again with this function that we’re using inside of Drupal. What we’ll do is we’re just going to loop through the results as result and we’re going to create what we need. Actually we need to specify that data array up here and then let’s return the data array down here. What we need to do is specify each element of the data array. That’s going to be equal to another array and in that array… Let’s see what that needs to look like, that needs to have a card key with another array with title, nutgraf and href. We’re just gonna leave href off, since we don’t have the links yet. Title, nutgraf and href. So let’s go back here and let’s start to set up what this looks like. It needs title, it’s gonna be something, nutgraf and href. We also need this to be in an array with cards, so let’s actually create the card here and pull this inside of the card. Now this is starting to look a lot like the data that Pattern Lab is expecting.
Now let’s actually map the data from views. If we come back over here and we look at what we have, we have each one of these objects, we have the note title and we have the field body. Essentially we just need to write that into the template, no title and then for the body we have field body zero rendered markup. For the href, we do have the NID so I guess we can pass that here. All right and that should be all that we need, so if we save this and then go back and refresh this, that didn’t work. Let’s take a look to see what we did wrong here. I’m going to output our variables again and just make sure that we map this properly. View, result … So we got view, ‘v’, result. View is an array, it’s not an object, this will probably fix it. So we have ‘v’, view, result, view is an object, result is an array object. We’re looping through the array and then an object. Let’s save this and see if that actually works and get rid of this criminal.
There we go, there is our views data within our template from Pattern Lab. The idea is that the Drupal theme developer just needs to specify one file that renders the template from Pattern Lab while passing it the variables that Pattern Lab is expecting or passing a callback function that our Mustache connector can then call and map out the variables that Pattern Lab is expecting.
There’s a lot going on under the hood in this theme to make all of this work. We’re thinking that this theme will end up as a base theme that you can extend, to take advantage of all this functionality. However, that is still yet to be determined and we may change our minds on that approach. If you have an opinion on that, please let us know in the comments.
There are definitely some trade offs to using this living style guide approach, and those trade offs exist regardless of the Drupal version you use. I plan to release a future video to talk about the benefits and disadvantages of the living style guide approach with Drupal. Taking this approach definitely does not fit every Drupal theme. More about that later.
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