3 Months Later: An (Almost) Beginners View of Drupal
Christoph Weber, The Scripps Research Institute
[My own rough notes to this presentation, very interesting in terms of insight into how people actually use Drupal to construct web applicatoins. A lot of people had left by the time this presentation started, but hopefully the video will enable it to be seen by more Drupaleros]
Background as a scientist, not a coder. Experienced user.
New Web Presence, rebranding research to IT services.
Basically an intranet site which is open to the internet at large where security isn’t important.
Users can find out information without having to raise a ticket at the help desk or send an email.
Old web site: lot of static web pages. 600 legacy pages, of which all retired save 150, imported into Drupal.
Dozens of PHP and CGI scripts that needed to be integrated into the new system.
They were excited at the prospect of separation of content and presentation.
No more formatting headaches when composing content, no need for endless tweaking.
No issues with menu restructuring on the basis of a static site.
No more link updating: hopefully your CMS takes care of that.
Only minor issues in future for site facelifts.
Last two facelifts major PITA.
Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Vignette and Sharepoint were considered.
Wordpress was rejected since it is too specialized given the requirements.
Vignette had given rise to bad experiences.
Sharepoint weak on mobile alternatives.
Via a question, it was revealed that Plone was also considered, but found clunky.
And that Alfresco had not been considered.
That left Joomla and Drupal.
With Drupal the sky was the limit, there is a healthy community, and they are happy they made that choice.
But, Drupal is hard, true to its reputation.
Drupal is harder to understand than many of the competing systems. Someone had said: do you want a Playmobil toy or Lego set?
Drupal Pluses gained from the experience:
- Clean architecture under the hood, clean code: Drupal ranks as top notch
- 100% XHTML and CSS 2.0 compliant: looks cool on a Blackberry, on any browser, and will be on an Android phone… future proof
- Very versatile system… countless modules freely available, plus some paid stuff out there too
- Received patch for FAQ module within 12 hours after issuing a support request! So strong and interactive community
Minuses for Drupal
- Versatility demands abstraction, which yields more complexity.
- Administration could be reorganized, not so intuitive.
- Missing module updates for Drupal 6: almost a show stopper
- Getting started section for Drupal 6 needs serious love: Drupal 5 has great PDF for getting started, but Drupal 6 doesn’t have that yet, unfortunately.
- Rest of handbook very useful.
- Getting an account on drupal.org is recommended, participate, in the issue queues. in the forums.
- Lullabot podcasts, specifically #40 (in spite of outdatedness) and #60 are useful
- Pro Drupal Development: August 2008 – great resource… goes into enough depth to help you understand why things are the way they are.
Categories: Taxonomy is the cornerstone, they decided against indexing by hand. It is a support site, just content that needs to be tagged. Each story is tagged with all applicable categories, then based their navigation on that. They pull up content via categories.
They are an IT support site, so one vocabulary is Platform (operating systems), including a hierarchy of versions, which is required.
They are using the taxonomy VTN module: lets you pull off index pages, just like in a book, and new content automatically shows up.http://drupal.org/project/taxonomy_vtn
They use Marinelli theme as a basis.
They also evaluated Andreas02 and Pixture.
FCKeditor and IMCE
Pathauto and Token
Sitenotes: to keep notes for yourself on how you developed the site, a developer’s log only visible to admin role users.
Diff (shows difference in markup not only plain text)
All department members can create and edit content
Use all available expertise: if you spot a typo, go ahead and fix it.
But, all new or revised content goes into moderation
Authentication: they looked at LDAP, but they chose in favor of local passwords (LDAP module not ready for Drupal 6, only 25 people).
Many more modules tested on a separate test site.
Image modules rejected because of the overhead. They needed to ensure they had a light system.
FAQ includes categories of nodes sorted by taxonomy.
They liked the configurable blocks. They can have a block on every page with instructions on how to raise a ticket. Never did it before, took 10 minutes.
Rotating banners is inobtrusive, but spiffy.
CCK and Views 2
Dynamic lists of new or most popular content
Other navigational improvements
Help users find answers fast.
Migrate other subsites to Drupal for better integration:
- Ease workload on webmaster
- Put departments and labs in charge
- clunky handling of images in WYSIWYG editors
- Overly complex admin backend that has to be kept away from clients
(someone said that manipulating roles and permissions, plus hiding stuff with CSS mitigates against this)