Suzanna Conrad

Information Professional

Why I heart Drupal

In the late 90's I wrote and designed my first webpage, which was a tribute page to The Cure. I created a number of pages including some of my favorite photos, a biography and just general reasons why The Cure helped me get through middle school and high school. I had this tacky purple background and wrote everything in HTML with the site hosted as a free site on geocities (remember geocities?!).

My next foray into web design happened after college when I was working for a scientific equipment company based out of Boston. They had a basic webpage authored in FrontPage 2000, which I maintained and updated. I implemented a secure site for customers to get quotes, pricing and some other perks that seemed pretty technologically advanced at the time, however now make me giggle a bit.

Fast forward to a few years later when I created a website to post pictures to while I was on a work-exchange program in Germany. For this I used FrontPage again, but began to realize that FrontPage was especially limiting in a lot of functionality that I needed. This was also my first experience working with a hosting provider directly. After pulling out my hair with FrontPage, I started using Dreamweaver to author sites. By 2008 I started using WordPress for a relaunched blog - this time detailing my return to the U.S. and move to California. The WordPress install was relatively simple and the user interface was easy to manage. I just didn't like how I felt stuck in a certain box with a certain set of commands.

In 2010 though, I was interning at a public library and was asked to update some of the pages in Drupal for the library's website. I was amazed at the resources for finding tips and tricks to make certain technologies and techniques work in Drupal. Specifically I wanted to get a bunch of lightboxes and a jQuery slideshow to function within the installation (without having access to any administrator controls). It was possible and easy to do. In 2011, I interned for Purdue University Libraries and furthered my Drupal understanding and knowledge, using jQuery UI functions as well as basic JavaScript functions and CSS image maps to create a more interactive experience for a specific instructional portal yet to be launched. While Drupal seems complicated at first glance, once you understand how it works with your web server and how you can use it to simplify web design, it's a great open source tool.

Some of the things I heart about Drupal:

  • Themes: Installing a theme can be a pain, however I never have to mess around with CSS stylesheets again, which to me makes it all worthwhile.
  • Add-on modules: Things like Mollom for spam protection or any of the easy to integrate lightbox functions are easy to install and implement.
  • Support forums: Anytime I have an issue with Drupal, I generally can find someone who has had the same issue and successfully solved it.
  • Accessibility to users of different web design levels: I don't consider myself a web designer or developer by any stretch. The kind of people who are web designers or developers do this full-time, not on the side over years. To stay abreast of technology and web design techniques you almost have to be doing this all the time - so that you are aware of new developments. That said - I know plenty of web developers who only know select technologies - there's just too much to know! If you're not particularly technically savvy, but want to have a blog or website, it is possible to have someone assist you in setting up a website in Drupal that you can edit. This was the case at both libraries where I used Drupal - IT or a consultant had implemented the set-up and the library was continuing to expand and edit that installation. If you can get help installing the actual software and the themes, Drupal can be really intuitive.

 

Some great links on Drupal:

 

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