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University of Applied Sciences' New Website

Migration from Drupal 7: simplified content management and enhanced user experience with innovative modules and integrations.


Key takeaways

The University of Applied Science had a multilingual website on Drupal 7. It served thousands of users, had contributions from hundreds of authors, and included an intranet.

However, it also had an outdated access management system and lacked a user- and mobile-friendly design and interface.

Attico International's team migrated the website to Drupal 9, reducing development and support costs.

With the addition of innovative modules, the new website featured:

  • A modern, mobile-friendly, intuitive, cohesive, and scalable design and interface.
  • Optimal appearance across all devices.
  • An enhanced, user-friendly multilevel access management system.
  • A streamlined content approval and publishing system.
  • All required integrations, including with DIAS, BITE, Opus 4, and an embedded podcast player.

Attico's team behind the project success

Dzianis Sukharevich
Dzianis Sukharevich PM
Knows how to find and use the strengths of the team to achieve goals. Conscientious and customer oriented. For Drupal events, he brewed beer in a home brewery.
Yaroslav Lushnikov Backend developer, Team Lead
Senior developer, Drupal expert and big fan of technology. Helps Junior developers and contributes to the Drupal community in his spare time.
Volha Tsiamliak
Volha Tsiamliak Frontend developer, Team Lead
Superorganised. Fan of new frameworks. Mother of 4 boys.
Boris Yarosh
Boris Yarosh Backend developer
Drupal Developer with over 4 years of experience. I enjoy working in teams and communicating with people.
Aksana Huliayeva
Aksana Huliayeva Frontend developer
Front-end specialist with 3+ years of web development experience in international teams.
Denis Glotov
Denis Glotov Backend developer
Developer with a knack for handling entire projects independently. Committed to client satisfaction and delivering top-notch Drupal solutions. Self-driven, adaptable, and a team player.

About the client and their website


The University of Applied Sciences, located in Germany, has a student population of over 9,500 and employs more than 800 staff, including 150 professors, across 40+ departments. Its website serves two primary functions:

  • As a hub for scientific and marketing content, including a database of research projects, news, articles, scientific publications, videos, and podcasts.
  • As an internal workspace (intranet) for editors and administrators, containing non-public content, such as internal news, events, articles, and so forth.


The content-making process is organized in the following way:

  • Hundreds of individuals can be authors, including Bachelor, Master, and PhD students, professors, assistants, editorial team members, and others.
  • An author can have a Participant, Assistant, Editor, or Admin role in the content-making process. The role doesn’t relate to their positions at the University.
  • Prepared content must be approved by one of the main editors or administrators.
  • In different departments, different individuals are responsible for content approval. For example, someone from the Natural Science department can’t approve an article from the Computer Science department, and vice versa.
  • At the same time, one individual can have content-making roles in two or more departments. The roles can be the same or can differ; for example, someone can be an Admin in one department and an Assistant in another.
  • All authors can upload images — photos, illustrations, screenshots, diagrams, and so forth.
Design system 101

Key figures about the website's content:

  • 2 language versions: German and English.
  • 15+ editable page types available to content managers.
  • 40+ diverse blocks, ranging from simple text to customizable carousels.
  • Over 15,000 content pages, accompanied by 120GB+ of related images and documents.


The website was built on Drupal 7, around 10 years before the project. As a result, its interface and access management were quite complicated and weren't very user-friendly or mobile-friendly. There have been complaints from administrators and editors.

Furthermore, the website design did not follow modern trends, making it appear somewhat obsolete.

Images prepared by hundreds of content-makers could have a small size and low resolution.

There was only one size of an image for all devices; so they could appear as bad quality on some devices. For the marketing team, the image quality control process was strenuous.

All of this could affect the university's perception, potentially making it less attractive to prospective students.

Challenge puzzle


Due to all the factors mentioned and the upcoming Drupal 7 End of Life, the University team formulated the following tasks for Attico International:

  • Migrate the website from Drupal 7 to a newer version, gaining access to the latest advanced technologies and modules.
  • Create a new website design that looks modern, renders well on all devices, and employs contemporary technology to enhance user experience.
  • Unify the site structure; remove outdated confusing elements from website pages and interface design.
  • Migrate 15,000+ pages along with their related images and documents to the new improved structure.
  • Complete additional tasks, including required integrations.
Content management
  • Enhance the multilevel access management system to allow the editorial team to control publications produced by various departments, institutes, and faculties, while ensuring simplicity and convenience for all roles involved in the content-making process.
  • Provide authors and editors with a new user-friendly publishing admin panel that makes the content publishing process extremely simple and intuitive.
  • Develop a solution for automated processing of images uploaded by hundreds of authors, ensuring they look good on any device.
Key results


To help the University achieve its goals, the Attico team identified a set of optimal solutions while migrating the website to Drupal 9. 

In particular, we employed:
  • The Drupal Group module to create arbitrary collections of content and users on the site, granting access control permissions based on these collections.
  • The front-end separated from the backend. An atomic design system. A component-based approach, integrated with Storybook for frontend development. A theme processor to minimize backend actions.
  • The Resizer tool for streamlining the preparation of images for various devices.
  • A centralized library to manage application deadlines, enabling faster changes to field values for one or more nodes.
These solutions:
  • Made the new website user-friendly and easily scalable while reducing development costs.
  • Simplified the access management system, making it agile and convenient.
  • Ensured the website design was modern, 100% mobile-friendly, and cohesive.

Technical details and features


To complete the project, we employed:

  • 120 different contrib modules.
  • 40+ modules from the Drupal core.
  • 2500+ configuration entities.
  • 15 custom modules; each one performing its specific function.
  • 3 forked contrib modules. Their base was great, but these modules needed modifications to be suitable for the University sites.
  • 2 custom modules developed and prepared for release on for public use.

Drupal key modules used

These modules provided a variety of functionalities, such as adding moderation states for content, establishing workflows with transitions between different states, defining permissions for individual menus, enabling group functionality for the Node module, allowing automatic publishing and unpublishing of content, and creating a reusable and structured library of images.

We were strict about security — the site should not be vulnerable to any attacks. Thus, we used the best modules and followed best practices to prevent damage.

  • Paragraphs & Paragraphs Browser: The site was built using only Drupal Paragraphs, so we ensured editors have an easy experience.
  • Group: To simplify the content publishing and approving process, we chose Groups to manage roles and content within the department.
  • Gin & Gin Toolbar: Gin is one of the best administrative themes for Drupal – it's clean, robust, and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Crop & Image Widget Crop: Editors may need to crop images to fit specific blocks, and these modules handle that task.
  • Migrate & Migrate Plus: Given the vast amount of content we had to migrate, we needed a reliable migration tool. The Migrate module made the migration process much easier.
  • Security modules:
  1. Security Kit,
  2. Honeypot, 
  3. Antibot, 
  4. Flood Control, 
  5. Move 403 to 404, 
  6. Rabbit Hole,
  7. Username Enumeration Prevention.


  • Other modules examples: 
  1. Content Moderation,
  2. Workflows,
  3. Simple Menu Permissions,
  4. Group Node,
  5. Scheduler,
  6. Media.


Group Module:

Before the website migration, the University utilized a taxonomy-based system to manage access permissions. Only developers could implement most changes, such as adding a new department into the system; and it was impossible to create a department's page.

To improve the access management system more quickly and reduce development and support costs, we implemented a ready-made contributed Drupal module "Group".

The Group module was designed with the goal of making access management as user-friendly as possible. With this module, the University could configure scenarios for access permissions directly through the admin panel, without any custom code. Each of the over 50 different departments received its own page. Employees and students engaged in content creation gained tailored access to editing and adding content. Within each department, a hierarchy of roles like "Assistant," "Editor," and "Administrator" was established, each with specific permissions. Implementation of the Group module dramatically simplified the process of controlling publications across the University’s departments.

Storybook and Theme Processor:

Storybook and Theme Processor helped us significantly simplify the development and integration of the frontend for Drupal: reduce development costs, ensure cohesive design, and make the website easily scalable.

We used Storybook as a development environment for the frontend. This allowed us to develop and test UI components in isolation from the site’s business logic. These components were then combined into larger elements and the site pages.

The Theme Processor acted as a unique bridge between development units, allowing developers to easily specify which Storybook components or elements they needed in a particular spot on the website, and then pass the related data to the frontend.


This feature helped reduce development time by at least 20 hours when automating the processing of the numerous images uploaded directly by users to the site.

Why automated image processing was required:

Modern image display standards dictate providing tailored image sizes for each device screen size. The University had hundreds of content creators, and they often included images in their content. The goal was to ensure that users only needed to upload images in their original size. After publishing, the CMS should automatically adjust these image parameters to be optimal for a specific device. This feature was particularly vital given the increasing use of mobile devices to access the site, where internet connections can occasionally be unstable.

The Drupal Image Styles tool enables us to scale, crop, resize, rotate, desaturate images, and convert their types; due to that, images look good on various devices, including Retina displays of Macs, tablets, and small cell phone screens. However, the challenge is that a developer typically has to manually set the necessary image parameters for each unique block on the website.

To eliminate manual operations, we developed a smart tool that automatically performs the required actions based on the parameters provided. This ensured that the correct image size was automatically delivered for each block on various devices.


Image upload and selection interface

Centralized Library for application deadlines:

At the University, different educational programs have individual application deadlines. Editors are responsible for updating these deadlines. Before the website migration, this was a challenging process: editors had to modify application dates on separate pages for each program. We developed a dedicated page for editors, allowing them to modify or delete the 'Application Period' field value for Degree Programs in a single place. Specifically, we created a unique Content Type for both languages. With the new page, editors could adjust the 'Application Period' field values quickly, as they didn't have to open an individual editing page for each program anymore. Given the number of departments and nodes on the site, this functionality is crucial.

Centralized library for application deadlines


We implemented several integrations for the new University website, including:

DIAS Integration
Official announcements and university rules are stored on a third-party platform, DIAS. On the Drupal side, pages containing these publications are stored as separate entities. This allows them to be cached and displayed even if the DIAS platform becomes unavailable.

Vacancies are displayed on the site via the BITE API. To respond to or interact with these vacancies, users are directed to the BITE system.

Opus 4
Lists of Publications — University Library Service. Publications are accumulated on the publications server and automatically listed on the website.

Podcast Player. We integrated a personalized podcast player via an iframe. Users can input a link to the podcast or playlist, and the item is embedded into the page through the iframe and cached to speed up output.




The use of Storybook and Theme Processor greatly simplified the development and integration of the frontend for Drupal.

The Resizer tool eliminated the need to create hundreds of different image styles, which improved the developer experience.


  • Attico International successfully migrated a multilingual website with numerous users, 15,000+ pages, 120GB+ of related images and documents, and complex functionality from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9
  • The university’s new website is mobile- and SEO-friendly, with a modern design, and perfectly caters to the needs of various departments, institutes, and faculties.
  • The implementation of various modules and integrations significantly streamlined the management of publications, images, and application deadlines.
  • The centralized library for application deadlines sped up the process of updating the Application Dates, increasing the editorial team's efficiency.
  • The integration of third-party platforms improved the user experience and provided easier access to various publications and podcasts.

"We appreciate their expertise and hard work and look forward to working with Attico International’s team.

The website of our university is an essential part of our communication and outreach efforts. We needed a reliable partner to help us improve our Drupal backend functionality, and Attico International delivered. The new features and integrations they implemented have made our website more efficient, user-friendly, and streamlined. We appreciate their expertise and hard work and look forward to working with Attico International’s team.” — the Client’s Representative

Looking to migrate your Drupal 7 website to a newer version?

Attico International has got you covered. While rendering Drupal migration services, we take care of all pains associated with the transfer to a more recent version to save you from the headaches and ensure that you’ll be happy with the results.