I just wrapped up my most recent project—a rebuild for Action Against Hunger (ACF USA)—and it was one of the most satisfying projects I've done in a long time. They had a Drupal 6 site, and they wanted to revamp their site structure and do a full redesign. I was really excited for the chance to build a Drupal 7 site, but during the discovery process of the project, we tried our best to talk them out of it. We were concerned that too many modules wouldn't be ready for prime time, and that they'd have to compromise too much on functionality. And here's where the project got really interesting. The ACF USA team, led by Matt Koltermann, completely understood that D7 would have some limitations at first. They were not only fine with it, but after some long discussions, we decided to use Drupal 7's limitations to help clean up their content, site structure and functionality. Basically, we decided to cleanse their site with the fire of Drupal 7.
Like most orgs, ACF USA's rebuild was on a tight budget. To minimize problems that would eat time and ensure stability in the still quite bleeding-edge Drupal 7, we decided to build as close to core as we could. This meant that every single piece of functionality had to get checked against the project's mission to ensure it was really needed right now. If it could wait, it got wishlisted in case we had extra time, or was saved for the next iteration of this site. Then, every module had to pass several tests before we'd use it. Is it stable? How many issues in the queue? How heavily is it being used right now? And, most importantly: is there a way to do this without a module? Or with a simpler, better module? ACF USA lost some bells and whistles that they could easily have had in D6, but also cleaned up their site structure, consolidated several content types into a blog, and got a stable, clean, elegant site in the newest version of Drupal.
While we were building this summer, Drupal 7 went from bleeding edge to cutting edge. So figuring out what modules were ready for prime time was a moving target. For example, the Media API module is not yet stable, and easy-clickin' embedded media support just isn't there yet in Drupal 7. That's still very rough around the edges. But Matt and his team were clear about this project's goals: make content easier to find, easier to manage, and easier to promote across social networking channels by cleaning everything up. They chose elegance and organization over bulky modules that offer "automagical" admin features. And there's still plenty of Drupal automagic on the back-end of this site, but there will be many opportunities for ACF USA to enhance their site in the future as Drupal 7 continues to mature.
What made me love this project so much, in addition to the fact that I got to build a site for a fabulous org that does life-saving work, was definitely the collaborative group that we brought together to do the work. Matt and his team are our dream clients: they had already drank the NTEN nonprofit tech strategy tech-aligned-with-mission Kool-Aid. So my team and I didn't have to start there. It was like building a website with an nptech strategy graduate class. Incredibly smart and able, they were willing and ready to learn and get hands-on with Drupal. At the same time, they embraced collaboration like few org teams I've seen. We could easily have been stepping on each others' toes, but instead there was just lots of communication, learning and building going on.
So a tremendous thank you to the collaborative team that built this site together: my stellar co-developers Michelle Murrain and Jim Craner, and the communicative, flexible and talented Ryan Myers who created the elegant design. And thank you to ACF USA for giving us this opportunity to help build you a beautiful new site.