Medium 9781449305482

Planning and Managing Drupal Projects

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If you're a solo website designer or part of a small team itching to build interesting projects with Drupal, this concise guide will get you started. Drupal’s learning curve has thrown off many experienced designers, particularly the way it handles design challenges. This book shows you the lifecycle of a typical Drupal project, with emphasis on the early stages of site planning. Learn how to efficiently estimate and set up your own project, so you can focus on ways to make your vision a reality, rather than let project management details constantly distract you.

  • Plan and estimate your project by discovering your client’s goals and audience perceptions
  • Discover how Drupal works under the hood, and learn basic DrupalSpeak
  • Frame the UX design challenge through a deeper understanding of your site’s intended users
  • Get real content for your project as early as possible—before you start prototyping
  • Choose the right modules for your project, and learn about several go-to modules
  • Understand how to walk clients through the Drupal design and development process

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7 Slices

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1. Introduction

ePub

If youre just starting off with Drupal, one of the hardest things to figure out is what people are saying when they discuss Drupal terms. What is a Node? What do you mean, Taxonomy? The list below is a quick and dirty guide to DrupalSpeak, which is a tongue-in-cheek way of describing Drupals unique jargon. It includes the most common terms youll find people using when they talk about Drupal.

The actual Drupal files that you downloaded from Drupal.org. Drupal Core is also used to talk about any functionality that is native to Drupal.

Modules or themes that you install after you install Drupal Core.

A folder within your Drupal installation which contains all the files, including any contrib modules or themes, that are being used to customize your site.

Any module, theme, or other customization that you create for your site should always reside in sites/all.

A single piece of content. This could be a news item, event listing, simple page, blog entry you name it. Anything in your site that has a heading and a bit of text is a node. Nodes can also have custom fields, which are useful for all sorts of things. Think of a Node the way you would a page on a website, or a record in an address book.

 

2. Setting the Stage: Discovery and User Experience

ePub

In this chapter, we talk about one of the most important pieces of the Drupal puzzle, and the one that is often neglected by new site builders. The discovery process helps us gain an understanding of the client, the objectives of the project, and some of the functional issues that we might have to contend with; the user experience process helps us frame the interactions that will need to take place through the website, and helps everyone on the team agree about what well actually be creating.

Every project, from the most basic promotional site to the most complex online community, should start with a solid discovery process. During discovery, youre looking to accomplish two things:

Find out everything you possibly can about the clients, their business goals, and why they want to invest in this project.

Create a set of documentation for the project that you can point to down the line to defend your design choices, and to help manage the inevitable just one more thing... conversations.

 

3. Fleshing Things Out: Getting ready to prototype

ePub

This chapter deals with some practical issues of planning a Drupal implementation. In the first section, Working with Content, well discuss why its vital to start working with real content right away in your Drupal site. In the second, Choosing Modules, we talk about the process of selecting the right modules for your site. Theres also an entirely non-comprehensive list of contributed modules that you might find Very Useful.

In the Old Days, building a promotional website was a fairly straightforward affair. Youd go through a discovery process, create a couple of wireframesgenerally for the home page and 1-2 interior pages, then mock up and iterate designs. When those designs were approved by the client, youd whip up a fancy template in HTML and start laying in the content and images.

Content, almost always, came later. Youd have a sense of the site map, and how it might evolveyou needed that for navigationbut the actual content was rarely something you saw in the early phases of developing wireframes. Generally, this wasnt a problem; as you were coding the content by hand within the template, you could adjust the template relatively easily once you had content to work with.

 

4. Working with Clients

ePub

This final chapter deals with walking clients through the Drupal process. It collects what Ive learned over years of running a studio and dealing with clients, and also touches on how to collect what you learn over the course of your projects, so that the next one is always just a little bit easier.

Over the years, Ive learned to break the discovery process into two distinct phases. The first, outlined here, happens prior to estimating the project, and gives me the background I need to create a proposal and estimate for the project. The second, more comprehensive phase happens during and after the project kickoff. This phase, described in Chapter2, is where we start framing the design challenge that were facing, fleshing out the user experience, and making sure that the client is on board with our approach.

The initial discovery phase should give you enough information about the client, the projects goals and the level of complexity that you can put together an accurate proposal. During this phase, youre looking to learn:

 

A. Project Brief

ePub

NOTE: This brief borrows heavily from Happy Cogs project planner (http://www.happycog.com/), with a bent towards both branding and Drupal projects. I made this available as a download from the the zen kitchens website; clients would download it in Word, fill it out and send it back to us before we got back to them with a proposal. This can be very handy for getting a head-start on the discovery process.

This handy worksheet is designed to help us get a feel for your organizations background, goals and design needs, and to help make sure that everyone is on the same page so that we can create the most accurate proposal possible for your project. The information in this document is also an important part of the zen kitchens proven design processyour answers here serve an important role in clarifying direction, messaging and audience up front. This makes it easier for us to produce award-winning strategic design for our clients.

When youre finished, save the document as {organization name}_planner.doc (replacing {organization name} with the name of your particular organization), and email the document to email@site.com. Please allow up to 1 week for a response. In a hurry? Just let us know and well let you know if we can help you sooner.

 

B. Work Agreement (with Professional Relationship Clause)

ePub

NOTE: The terms of this standard Work Agreement were crafted by Jessica Manganello, founding attorney at New Leaf Legal (http://newleaflegal.com). Theyre available for you to adapt under the Creative Commons license; however, if you need a great legal team to help you work out your own contract terms, I highly suggest giving the team at New Leaf a call sometime.

Description

Amount

Brand and Messaging Strategy, including:

One half-day kickoff meeting to brainstorm audience profiles, needs and perceptions, key messages and platforms

Brand immersion and research

Compilation of research findings and recommendations into a comprehensive findings analysis and preliminary messaging report

Refinement of findings and positioning into comprehensive brand position and key messaging report.

Project Management and client communication (including up to 2 followup meetings)

$XXX

Design of Drupal website, including:

 

C. Project Proposal

ePub

 

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