Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Learning Drupal

I've been having fun being creative with my Nikon D90 and snapping a bajillion photos (many of which I still have to look at, going all the way back to March Break!). Recently, a new photography club just got started in my area, and I volunteered to make a website. I figured it would be a great opportunity to pick up some new skills, since I'd never really had a reason to put together a dynamic site before.

The site would have to house the usual information - upcoming meetings, news and announcements, club rules, etc - but I thought it would also be fun to have a blog that all members could contribute to, as well as a showcase of winning photos from the quarterly contests we planned to hold. I also wanted to make it possible to (eventually) have the club's executive make updates themselves. Some kind of content management system was clearly needed.

Way back in the days of being President of our undergrad computer science society, we rebuilt our website from scratch. It had been done in Drupal before, but it wasn't really kept up to date or well used. The web guy at the time decided to use Joomla! as it would probably be a little easier to get running and to maintain. No complaints from me - I knew I wouldn't have time to help administer the site's back end, so anything that gave me a nice template and lots of options for content made me happy.

So when it came time to choose the back end for the photography club's website, I was a little sceptical about my husband's suggestion of using Drupal. It seemed that Joomla! really was easier. But he offered to get it going, so I figured - why not?

While Joomla! would have been fine (and maybe even better in some ways?) I can't say I regret the choice.

Finding and installing new themes and modules is dead simple - you literally just upload the files to your server to the appropriate folder. The administrator's menu seems to include everything you need in a relatively easy-to-navigate layout. The Views module is a little confusing at first, but getting what you want (if what you want isn't too complicated) doesn't take long. The Content Construction Kit allowed me to make custom stories - one each for blog posts, news items, and events. This way, I can give registered members access to post only certain kinds of items on the website (typically, just the blog). It also makes it easier for them, because they can't accidentally mess it up! I also love that you can have all your content get put into a single RSS feed.

It's not all unicorns and rainbows, though. One of the most frustrating things is figuring out how to style your views. In fact, I haven't even figured this out at all yet - I'm just using the default styles, but I'm not 100% happy with the way things look. Some of the spacing is weird, for example, and the view items don't even seem to use the same styles as the rest of the site! I don't even want to know how hard it would be to customize the overall theme...

It's hard to compare exactly to Joomla! since I didn't do the actual setup of that, but I definitely do get the impression that Drupal has a much steeper learning curve. However, once you get a handle on the basics, it's pretty obvious that it is really quite powerful. I'd recommend it for anyone with some decent computer knowledge and lots of patience.

Here's the website I made: North Grenville Photography Club.


Christian Muise said...

Joomla is easier to install / setup / maintain. For example you don't need to know how to upload things to a server to install new modules / plugins / templates / whatever.

Drupal is more powerful.

-- The web guy

Gail Carmichael said...

That is nice that you don't need to upload to the server to update Joomla!. That's a really good reason to use it if you have less tech savvy people maintaining the site after you're done setting it up. I also found a few things hard to figure out how to get going on Drupal which I think were a lot easier in Joomla! (a wiki, for instance - though I didn't try all that hard)...

Anonymous said...

Nice,I think it could be interesting to add some more entries following this one, and probably it's not only me having this opinion. Cheers!Customized application development

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