Secrets to Drupal Success on a Budget

Building Backwards Wastes Resources

The orgs I love to work with most are almost always on fairly tight budgets. I often find that people's expecations of how a website should be built is backwards, or it's generic and—once Drupal has been chosen—this generic approach does a great disservice to a project budget. In a typical scenario, the org and designer consider the content that needs designing, come up with a web design and sitemap, and then expect Drupal developers to map that vision of the site into Drupal, and perhaps fudge the places where it's not a perfect fit.

Know Your Drupal Toolkit

But there's no reason that these orgs—even given their budget constraints—can't have excellent sites that function well, upgrade cleanly, and are flexible and expandable in the future. Instead of starting with content and design, it will save a lot of time if we start by looking at opportunites to bring the org's content, users' needs, and Drupal system together. We can then create a data model and wireframes that respect Drupal's building blocks—nodes, fields, blocks, Views, etc. By the time design is then applied to those wireframes, the site's already being built in its undesigned state.

This is Not Print: Get the Important Things Right

All of this lets us build sites more quickly. When designers or orgs want variations from the way things look and work out of the box in Drupal, they can then be prioritized: do they represent a key aspect of user experience? If so, let's devote more of the budget to ensuring that we get it right. If something's just "nice to have", let's put it on a wish list and build it as we're able.

I was reminded of this all today by Emma Jane Hogbin's excellent Acquia webinar From PSD to Drupal Theme, which describes a very similar approach to budget site theming and rapid prototyping. It's free in exchange for giving your email address to Acquia. The slides are on Slideshare. Thanks to Emma Jane and Acquia for sharing these!