What is Drupal, you ask? It is one of the top open source content management systems, right up there with WordPress and Joomla. Drupal is a CMS with a reputation for being notoriously hard to learn, even for seasoned web developers. Part of the issue many have is that the documentation and support rely entirely on the development community; hence open source. Often times seeking out a solution to a specific problem can take a lot of time. Oh, and don’t forget which version of Drupal you’re running, as that answer may not apply to your version of Drupal, and so the search continues. Lynda.com’s Essential Drupal Training and Advanced Drupal Training courses provide a 15 hour or so crash course to get you up and running with Drupal. These courses take you through run-of-the-mill Drupal scenarios such as installation, adding modules, adding/editing blocks and content types and so on.
At the end of the courses you will be ready to launch a fully functioning Drupal site, using free or purchased themes. But that just won’t cut it. The project was to develop a custom Drupal-integrated website for The Ambassador Health System, and for me that translated to double the development time. You see, as a beginning ‘Drupaler,’ trying to combine learning Drupal with developing the front-end using CSS was potentially a recipe for disaster. With the goal in mind, we split the project into two parts, with Part I being the front-end development of The Ambassador’s site in HTML/CSS/jQuery, and Part II the back-end Drupal integration. As you can see from the Drupal Learning Curve Diagram below, those who feel comfortable with non-Drupal content management systems have another thing coming.
Part II: Drupal Strikes Back was now in full force as the marriage of The Ambassador Health System’s front-end development was combined with Drupal’s Core. The next phase was swapping out the Drupal template “Bartik” with the custom Ambassador Health System theme.
With the new theme in place it was time to start adding content, sixty pages of content. We gave each category or service on the site its own sub-template, with different colors and banner images that provide a distinct feel for each division of the site. We took many of the images used on the site from our previous video shoots in Omaha, Lincoln and Nebraska City.With the content in place it was time to go live.
I wish I could say it went off without a hitch but, as I came to find out, transferring the Drupal database is anything but rudimentary. With a little patience (both from the client and us) we had brought the site live! Our last step was to host the client at our office for individual training on using Drupal’s interface, adding/editing content and performing other tasks on their site. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project, as it brought so many challenges that provided a great learning experience and were a joy to overcome. Going into this project I knew that the Drupal Learning Curve demanded respect. With patience and persistence we were able to make something eloquent and unique. Enjoy the screenshots of the before and after, and visit the new site by clicking here – The Ambassador Health System.