3 Posts Tagged "drupal"

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NMC Two Point Oh

Hey, I just finished my 2006 summer project! When I joined NMC, I projected having a public version of a new web site ready by September.

I lied. Or grossly underestimated. Or lied.

But this morning we flipped the switch and lit up the tree. I could blog about all details of this process (and should have) but that might take me another year. And I’d rather get some work done. But in a snapshot, and some more bits to be written up in subsequent days/weeks/months/whenever…

The project was taking a pure static, 1999 vintage site, with is clear gif spacers, tables, but basic style sheets to something “2.0”ish. The old site was quite consistent in design, a credit to the non web developer staff who carried out the design for the last 5 years by replication. But it suffered from the pigeon holes of its fixed navigation set, had text a bit squint worthy in size, and did not take advantage of the full screen real estate. And it was a pile of hand coded html. A big pile.

So the new site is powered by drupal. Now as I know folks are already reaching for the comment buttons with, “Why did you choose that and not XXXX?”, or “Yuck, I hate drupal”, I’ll give a simple reason, a rule that has never failed me in the last 5 years.

I copied D’Arcy.

That was a joke,

Sort of. No, I did not conduct exhaustive research of every CMS out there, be it Joomla, Expression Engine, Smooch (I made that one up), etc. But form my reading of D’Arcy, looking at the rabid developer community of drupal, looking at some possible comparable sites like Academic Commons, and knowing we needed something that would be open-source, flexible, user centered, and highly extensible, I felt fairly confident drupal could do the job. It’s not to say another tool might have done it was well, or better, but at some point, you just need to reach in the box, grab a tool, and get to work. Otherwise, you just are hanging around the hardware store debating drill press torque.

Oh, and one more reason — IBM was pretty positive on drupal as well.

But over the summer, as we gathered some requirement, just trying to conceptualize the site, structure, and trying to get my head wrapped around the drupal way, I was facing this immense mountain — how long would it take me to learn drupal from the ground up? I feel very confident in my skills to make WordPress do whatever it takes, but this was a whole new enchilada. A big, sprawling one.

And finally, someone wiser than me suggested (and funded) a better idea… hire someone who can do the back end programming and module juggling, so I could focus on content, form, and function. Thanks to a referral from Mike Roy, we hired the folks at the Longsight Group, who have been fantastic, especially was we wavered in a few false starts on design and organization, and ended up adding to the site in an accretion mode.

So in the end, I have not learned drupal inside out; I have found my way to wrangle taxonomies, to do a lot with views and blocks, to do some custom tweaking to small bits of code.. .but I still just do not understand the full drupal mindset. There are just so many ways to do things, and it just does not compartmentalize anything. And it is a completely different way to organize and structure information.

So that was a whole pile of pre-amble, and I did not even follow my own law of “Start with the %#^#ing Demo!”