Drupal

Planning Your Drupal Site

In 2009 we released a whitepaper entitled Building an Enterprise Class Website in Drupal.  The paper covered topics such as: how Drupal is being leveraged at the enterprise-level, planning your site launch for long-term success, assessing and scoping your Drupal project, among many other key topics. Though some of the information might be a bit dated, the core process is still a solid structure to look at when planning your Drupal site.

Here's an outstanding excerpt:

Building an enterprise-level Web site is like preparing for the courtroom: all of your efforts 
are tested upon launch, and you have no second chance to make a first impression. While site builders have the advantage of a “beta” period—and opportunities for refinements over a long run—eventually every public-facing Web site has to face a trial by audience. Verdicts are swift, and appeals unlikely.

So the need to prepare is clear, but not all forms of “preparation” are equal: some devour time with little ultimate result, while others are necessary, but non-obvious. How can you tell which is which? In our experience, effective preparation involves examination of two areas: business goals and technical assets.

Defining your Business’ Goals
The two most common questions we get from prospective clients are:

  • How much is this going to cost?
  • How long will it take?

Surprisingly, the answer to both questions depends more on 
the project’s clarity than on its complexity: in short, ambitious goals that are well-framed are easier and cheaper to achieve than simple goals, poorly framed.

The first step toward clarity is to ask: who is your target audience? You’re seeking not only general demographic information, but also a sense of how its members interact with Web sites. To
 drill deeper: how much do they already use the Internet, and in what ways? How much of your interaction will be “offline”, and how will you tie the two venues together? Are they familiar with online social networking, and would they benefit from it in your site? Are there sites similar to yours that they already use?

This is a good time to exercise your optimism and imagination to their fullest. Try to picture the perfect exchange between your site and your audience; imagine them walking away, smiling and satisfied. Then ask yourself: what can I give them to make them feel that way?

Your decisions at this point will help drive the technical design of your site: a little planning now will prevent the need to develop a custom module two weeks before launch.

Planning Your Drupal Site
The second question to answer is: what assets do you already have? If you already have a Web site, which parts would you like to migrate to the new site? Which have become obstructive or obsolete? What “offline” assets should be brought online? Regardless of your answer, chances are that a fundamental reorganization of assets will make your site clearer, less cluttered, and more friendly. But you can’t start that process until you know exactly what’s on hand.

The last question to answer is: how will you know if you’ve succeeded? Modern Web tools offer comprehensive ways to measure the volume of visitors and track their actions, but far too many administrators treat their metrics program as an afterthought. As a result, they don’t have a sense of what’s working, and their attempts to improve response are scattershot.

So you’ve plotted a course, which is no small feat: fulfillment is impossible without a goal to fulfill. Now it’s time to be sure you have everything needed to execute your plan.

Want more? Download our free whitepaper:  Building an Enterprise Class Website in Drupal.

About the Author: 

Adam Waid is the Director of Marketing at Mediacurrrent, an industry-leader in helping organizations architect custom Drupal websites. Adam is also a MATRIX Alumnus, where he worked closely with the Sales and Recruiting organizations to develop differentiation strategies, create content, and drive CRM and social media initiatives with a single goal in mind - build stronger, more meaningful relationships with our clients. Leveraging new technology, the latest social media trends, and a good mix of traditional marketing, Adam grows online communities.  

Follow Adam on Twitter and Read his Social Media Blog.

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Is Your Website Future-Ready?

Maybe you already know by now that mobile web is important. There are now more than 100 million smartphone users in the U.S. and the percentage of overall web traffic that comes from mobile users just doubled in 2011.

So what does that mean for your website? If your site isn't optimized for mobile, that's a lot of people that are struggling to get the information they need from you, or worse, that are leaving to find someplace else they can. It can be overwhelming to consider all the possible ways you could try to reach this target audience. One route would be to build a mobile app, but that can be expensive to both build and update an app for several phone types—and then there's the small matter of users being able to find and download it from the app store.

Drupal Mobile

Mobile web seems to be the quickest route. Everyone with a smart phone has access to the web; and all that hard work you did building up your SEO can help mobile users find your site quickly. So how do you prepare your site for mobile users? You could build an entirely separate website using a third party tool, and try to incorporate the most important information into the mobile site. Re-route traffic to m.yourdomain.com, and then struggle to keep your regular website and your new mobile site up-to-date. But device detection isn't perfect, and sometimes mobile users want to see ALL the content on your site, not the abridged version.

What if there was a way to update all your content in one place, and have it display one way to visitors on desktop computers and a different way to users on mobile devices? What if the layout could shape-shift to accommodate tablets of all sizes, and even expand to showcase a wider version for users with large monitors?

Enter the perfect couple: Drupal + Responsive Design. It's no Brangelina, but it still rocks. With Drupal, a powerful, open-source, fully customizable content management system — adding and updating your content is a snap. Photos resize themselves, formatting is taken care of for you, and multiple users can make updates and save revisions. Drupal is also ready to slip into a responsive theme like Omega or the Adaptive Theme. This means that your content is optimized for whatever screen size your visitor has got, and no one leaves grumbling and frustrated. Take a look at some of the most recent responsive sites we've launched with Drupal.

It's the real deal. Mediacurrent recently published a whitepaper, "The Mobile Web with Drupal", that expands on why organizations must move into the mobile arena. Be sure to check it out.

About the Author: 

Kendall Totten is a Drupal Designer & Theming Specialist at Mediacurrent, a Drupal web development agency based out of Atlanta, GA.  Kendall is a graduate from Eastern Michigan University, where she studied Communication Technology and Graphic Design. She worked in the layout and design department at the Eastern Echo newspaper for three years, eventually becoming the Chief of Design. Kendall grew and expanded her role as a graphic designer into Drupal front-end development, support, and client training.

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Adventures in Publishing Land

I like playing by the rules. Not because I'm paranoid or anything. I just don't find a lot of fun in breaking the law. So when I heard a song on the radio that I wanted to use as background music for a video to post on YouTube, I knew I needed to get the rights to use it first. This was the first time I'd tried doing something like this, so I went at it blindly and followed a logical and very down-to-earth course of action--

Publishing LandOver the bridge to Publishing Land.

First, I searched for the song on YouTube and followed the link to the band's channel. The fairies of Pandora were singing happily along as I waltzed on from there to the band's official website. And froze.

The website was in Italian. I don't speak Italian.

Through the flowery field of Facebook.

Thank goodness for social networking. An Uncle of a friend of my Dad's helped me translate my letter into Italian. After employing the help of the generous and almighty Google to find a contact email for the band-- I sent it to them. Ciao, II mio nome è Garbers Annika, una ragazza di 13 anni, --etc.



Wading the swamp of endless research.

A day later, I received an email back.

“Ciao Annika, for this song you might want to ask for permission to the record company who has the rights for USA. All the best.”

Oh...

Search engines are tricky creatures. They seem to know whenever you really want to find something, and then they hide it from you. Mischievous little things. After attempting to persuade the ones on the record company's website for several hours, they finally showed me a PDF form to download and fill out. It had all sorts of questions about the “Production Budget” and “Exact Description of Scenes”.

I sank dumbly back into the comforting pillows of mildly amusing Vimeo videos for awhile, and then got up again and started filling out the form. I put $0 for the budget question... hoping that would be acceptable. This was just a video of one of our robotics competitions...

The forest of faxing and phones.

At the bottom of this form, it instructed you to fax it (erm... I don't remember ever faxing anything before...) to a certain number, along with a written letter of approval from the music publisher.

I had no idea who the music publisher for the song was... Again to consult the great Google!

I found.... a phone number. I called it and the person who answered gave me an email address to contact.

Sinking into the canyon of fails.

I sent my letter again – the English version this time – and waited.

And waited...

I never got a response back. Two weeks later, I finally gave up. I emerged from Publishing Land, my metaphorical feet worn out, my real-life head aching.

The lesson I learned – stay out of music licensing, little girl, because unless you have lots of experience, lots of time, and lots of money – there's no point in even trying to do the right thing.

A few days after my interesting little pilgrimage, my dad mentioned something about Creative Commons licensing. Since I was running out of tracks to use on the royalty-free music CD I had, and using other stuff seemed to be out of the question, I took a somewhat cautious stroll into the less-widely-known Creative Commons Country.

And fell in love.

The idea of CC licensing was created by passionate people who want to share their work with the world, without the crazy jumble that is record companies and music publishing. For a lot of people, and for me - this is an amazing resource. The different varieties of licenses are specific but easy-to-understand, and it's clear exactly what you are and aren't allowed to do with the music and what's expected of you.

I can understand why Publishing Land is so complicated for people who are making huge, high-budget movies or commercials, but, as far as I can tell, there's no golden bridge over the swamp if you're just a kid who wants to stick a video on YouTube.

So – I'm left here, in Creative Commons Country, happily discovering more and more music I love, and with a great appreciation for the people who created this beautiful alternative to the confusing and complicated Publishing Land.

About the Author: 

Annika Garbers is the co-founder and editor for heyhomeschoolers.com and is working on developing a new website for kids and teens to learn about Drupal. She has taught other young people html and css and answered questions about website building from kids all over the world. You can reach her at annika@heyhomeschoolers.com or through her page at heyhomeschoolers.com/content/annika.

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Growing Drupal... For All Ages

Sometimes, you'll hear people say things like "That was a moment that I'll remember for the rest of my life". I definitely had one of those this month. Smiling out at an audience of eager people who were interested in what I was saying, and seeing their reactions as I explained that I was just barely thirteen years old--that was pretty priceless.

Annika at DrupalCamp AtlantaI'm Annika Garbers, and on October 2nd I gave a presentation at DrupalCamp Atlanta about modules you need to get your Drupal website up and running. It was a lot of fun and I can't wait to do something like it again.

I got interested in Drupal through my online magazine, Hey Homeschoolers, that some friends of mine and I started about two and a half years ago. At first, we were running our website through webs.com, a free hosting service. Each month, everyone would send me articles and I would edit them and then copy and paste them into a Microsoft Publisher document. Eventually, with 13 pages in the newsletter, over 21 staff members, and tons of content to juggle, it became clear that we needed to look into a different way of running Hey Homeschoolers if we didn't want it to consume every second of our days. And so, perfectly, entered Drupal--I attended DrupalCamp Atlanta 2009 and absolutely fell in love with it. Now, Hey Homeschoolers is a drupal-based blog-format magazine with nearly 30 staff members and loads of other contributers. Drupal has changed my life and helped HH change other kid's lives, too--I received a lovely email the other day thanking Hey Homeschoolers for "helping her dreams of writing come true". So now I feel quite a personal committment to Drupal--and that's why I decided to present at DCA.

Hopefully in the future I'll be able to do more stuff like this. Drupal is an amazing tool and more people (especially younger people!) need to know about it. Jeff Walpole's excellent keynote speech about the tasks facing the Drupal community in the future offered a lot of challenges, but also a lot of hope. No one knows how far Drupal is going to go, but one thing I do know is that I'm nowhere near done. It's cool to think that I'm growing at the same time Drupal is, and that I'm going to keep doing everything I can to spread the word about it. I think it's really important to get kids involved in Drupal and other similar projects because, as someone I knew once said, it's easier to teach someone new our tricks than to re-train someone experienced in similar things! 

It's tough, because when a kid looks at making a website, the first thing they're going to find is definitely not Drupal. Yet Drupal works for so many things, and it's really important for people to know that there IS this great tool that younger people can learn to use easily. So one of the most important things you can do as someone involved in Drupal is spread the word. Tell your kids about it, have them tell their friends about it. The thirty people we have in the staff of HH have learned how to use Drupal on a basic level (posting content) and our editors and head staff have gone even further than that and discovered Drupal's admin system and all the amazing things Drupal does behind the scenes. I'm very proud of all my friends and each one of our new staff members who are discovering Drupal, and I'm so excited about the fact that some of them are working on their own websites. But it's not enough--more kids should know about Drupal, because we're the ones who will be helping it in the future. If we can start now...? Who knows what we can accomplish in the next twenty years or so.

I was really nervous about presenting at DCA in front of adults, but with support from my dad and my neighbors (who are setting up their new Drupal website now!) I learned a really important lesson, and that is--age doesn't matter when you're helping with something you love.

Also -

Thanks to my mom for letting me take a couple days off of social studies and math to work on my presentation :)

About the Author: 

Annika Garbers is the co-founder and editor for heyhomeschoolers.com and is working on developing a new website for kids and teens to learn about Drupal. She has taught other young people html and css and answered questions about website building from kids all over the world. You can reach her at annika@heyhomeschoolers.com or through her page at heyhomeschoolers.com/content/annika.

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Becoming a Productivity Ninja

I have always been a proud technology geek. As a young man, the largest part of my wages was spent on the latest “shiny” technology - all in the pursuit of increasing my productivity. Looking back on those years, it wasn’t only expensive, it was exhausting!

I started off with Psion organisers before moving on to my beloved Palm pilot. I’m now using an Android. These new tools were part of my endless pursuit of “Getting Things Done.” As I was exposed to new ideas and technologies, I would constantly refine and adapt my process. This was all part of my quest for “Productivity Nirvana.”

In the last few years, through advances in technology, I have finally found the perfect piece of technology for my needs. This amazing piece of technology has the following features:

  1. Never needs recharging
  2. Never crashes
  3. Works offline - no need for an Internet connection
  4. Supports “Cut” and “Paste”
  5. Highly recommended by respected Thought leaders from multiple disciplines.
  6. Did I also mention it doesn’t crash? - worth mentioning twice :-)

And the name of this amazing technology?

My Moleskine notebook!

Writing in a notepad strips everything down to its simplest components. I don’t spend my valuable time working out how best to use my time. I can concentrate on getting the work done. It’s easy to spend too much time tweaking a productivity system; putting it on paper keeps it simple.

Planning projects on paper has also helped me see things from a new perspective. As a result, when I commit the ideas to an electronic medium, they have already gone through at least one pass-through on paper. Writing also slows me down, providing clarity of thought while I write up my notes, ideas and projects.

I’m in great company as a user of a notepad. Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre and Benjamin Franklin all carried notebooks around with them and it’s hard to argue the success they achieved. :-)

If you’re interested in joining the paper revolution, here are some tips and links to great resources:

  1. Number your pages and leave a couple of pages blank at the front of your notebook. Use them to build a “Table of Contents.” I maintain a spreadsheet in Google Docs of all my notebooks and indexes. I find it helpful to print it out and paste it inside the front cover when the book is full.
  2. Buy some sticky tabs and leave a couple in the back pocket or inside back cover. They are useful as bookmarks to your notes.
  3. Flip it upside down and from the back cover write your “To Do” items. When your task list catches up with your notes section, it is time to buy a new notebook.
  4. Don’t be afraid to “Cut and Paste.” My notebook is full of function references and cheat sheets. If you use a Moleskine notebook, you can download and print templates from their website to stick in to your notebook.

Below are a few great Starting places to join the Back to Paper Revolution:

  1. PigPog PDA - Using Moleskines for “Getting Things Done”.
  2. Freelance Switch - Monster List of Moleskine tips
  3. 43 Folders - Moleskine Productivity Tips.

 

About the Author: 

Andy is a Drupal Consultant at MediaCurrent and has over 25+ years in the software development industry. He specializes in Drupal, database and information architecture with a dash of security and usability thrown in the mix. Born in the UK and now living in Atlanta. You can read his blog or follow him on Twitter @BohemianPixel.

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