Drupal and other distractions

What started out as a 3-4 month hiatus to do an intranet site redesign, is now winding down after 6 months.  After the first couple months when it became apparent no progress was going to be made, I regrouped and put together a different, motivated but novice team. It’s been a little over three months since that team started on the project, and the results are impressive.  Although we could go live with it, I decided to do some “beta testing” on our unsuspecting end-users.  That has been enlightening: there may be some revisions in store before we finally get this baby to bed.

The terms usually associated with Drupal are “steep learning curve.”  I was the only one in my organization who even knew what Drupal is, although some seemed to have a vague concept of “content management system.” But I recommended we go with Drupal over other options because of (1) it’s potential, (2) the growing and active group of libraries with Drupal, and (3) because it’s the CMS I was most familiar with.  Looking back, I’d have done some things differently (isn’t that always the case?), but I would still choose Drupal. We haven’t fully taken advantage of all Drupal’s potential, but that’s only because I decided to hold off development of more advanced features until after we completed the initial project.

I was fortunate to have 2 others who were eager to learn and undaunted by Drupal’s complexity.  In a little over two months, with 1 1/2 days of one-on-one training and many many hours of phone conferences with them, they understand Drupal better than I did after two years of playing with it. This is a good thing, since they will likely be the ones left with the task of maintaining the site over the long run.  But we needed more than us three to migrate the content from the previous site, so I recruited 4 others, 3 of whom were apprehensive about approaching technology at this level.  One had a Technical Services background, and provided us with the taxonomy structure we needed. Two added content directly into special content types I set up, and one tracked down copyright-free pictures we needed.  It was an interesting exercise in project management: finding the team members we needed by dividing the tasks by skill level required, configuring Drupal to be easier to use for technophobes, and by approaching prospects individually to ask for help on a limited scale.

About half way through the project, as I struggled with trying to get the site to display the same in IE7 and Firefox, I shifted gears and decided to do the layout completely in CSS.  Actually I was shamed into it after a query to the Drupal library group.  I finished those changes just about the same time everything else fell into place.  And it works just fine in both browsers, thank you!  But we had been designing with the assumption most end users would be using a set screen size and resolution.  This week we discovered those assumptions were way off.  The good news is that we have found a lot more real estate to work with.  The bad news is that while things aren’t broken, the site doesn’t look quite the way we envisioned.

There may be some more tweaking involved, but there are now two others who have enough experience to do the tweaking.  Life is good.  Now to get back to the digitization project.

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