Trying out useful themes and plugins for a Drupal site

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This week we are taking a look at some necessary features that a content management software (CMS) must have in order to pass the launch of the Library Currents Beta blog. For WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla! these features, such as the ability to create a resource directory and share content across social media sites, can be found either natively in the CMS software or as a plugin/module. Today we will look at Drupal for possible development of the Library Currents Beta blog.

Drupal Design Experience

“Personal Blog” Template

Drupal does not have a search function native in the core file, so one must visit the Drupal website to conduct a search and download a zipped file which is later uploaded to Drupal in the templates area. This is a minor step and not necessarily a bad thing, so I conducted a search on “responsive” themes and received a few dozen hits. I noticed that many of the themes were on one end basic looking and on the other end specialty themes, such as those meant for stores or specific niches. Finding something in the middle that looked professional but was still elegant was hard to discover. In other words, nothing popped out after searching pages upon pages of themes.

I opted to install a theme called “Personal Blog” which seemed appropriate, looked professional and was uncluttered. In order to upload my Tame The Web blog postings, I had to install an importer module using the module search on the Drupal website. Many of the themes and modules on Drupal have sub-themes and¬† sub-modules, so I had to download a second one specifically for WordPress files. After installing them to my Drupal account, I imported my pages and posts from Tame the Web. Everything imported…. except pictures and images. I would need to go back into every posts and re-upload and reformat the photos if I decided to use Drupal. For the scope of this week’s analysis, I just needed to set up a theme and include Tame the Web posts, so these additional duties could be done at a later time. I can see that Drupal is heavy on the development end of site building, which kinda takes the attention away from content creation.

Drupal Design Experience rating: 5

Drupal Directory Capabilities

Error message when trying to upload directory module

The modules search function on the Drupal website was a bit frustrating on this one. A simple search for the terms link and directory yielded a wide range of modules. The search had to be placed in quote and combined with the relevancy setting to finally yield a result. It seemed like a perfect one, so I downloaded the sub-module, and then its parent module, only to find that there was an incompatibility with the parent module. I had to update my Drupal Core files from 7.22 to 7.23. This isn’t so bad until you consider that Drupal does not allow automatic updates to the core files, and that you have to unzip them and FTP them to the site following explicit directions so you don’t erase your content or create a database headache. For someone like me, that is easy to do.

So no directory will be uploaded this week. With the extensive work required to develop the Drupal site, the question is “Will the extra time and effort be worth it?” This is something I may find a way to address next week when I directly compare the three CMS’s in my final analysis. I have a feeling that the scope of any project determines the justification for a deep and lengthy site development.

Drupal Directory Capabilities: 4

Drupal Social Sharing Functionality

Drupal Social Sharing module

Social sharing is not native in Drupal, so once again I turned to the module search on the Drupal website. A search found a popular service called “Share This” that I have seen on many professional sites. I installed it, and the customization of the plugin module was simple and self-explanatory. The social share buttons appeared at the bottom of my posts, which was a relief!

Drupal Social Sharing Functionality: 9

Drupal Score this week: 18/30. Drupal total score so far: 59/80

 Bonus: Drupal Gardens

Drupal Gardens Home page

Last time I investigated Drupal Gardens, I was very impressed with the ease of use and some of the functionality built into it that you don’t find in the native Drupal core CMS. Would a deeper investigation in themes and plugins to make a blog and resources directory continue Drupal Garden’s positive score? One thing I noticed upon first logging in was that it was lagging a little. I wasn’t sure if it was the site or the internet connection, but it seemed to be slow to load various sections of the site.

Drupal Gardens Design Experience

The Drupal Gardens themes section is easy to use, with searchable templates that can be selected and previewed. But the biggest issue that I found with the template manager was that there were not many templates to choose from, just 9 total. The fact that a user cannot upload more templates is unfortunate, which makes giving a unique feel to the site a near impossibility. The customization of these 9 themes using the native customization tool and CSS fields definitely help, but your site will still look like a thousand others, except for the color scheme and other superficial attributes. Given the popularity of the site, there could still be a number of them that look like yours. Then the worst part: the dreaded buggy error, where I couldn’t change my theme at all or save to a different theme. I’m stuck with the default template.

Drupal Gardens Design Experience rating: 3

Drupal Gardens Directory Capabilities

There is no directory module available at Drupal Gardens.

Drupal Gardens Directory Capabilities rating: 0

Drupal Gardens Social Sharing Functionality

There is no social sharing module available at Drupal Gardens.

Drupal Gardens Social Sharing rating: 0

Drupal Score this week: 3/30. Drupal total score so far: 49/80

Note: The Drupal Gardens test demo is revealing how important the demo process is to avoid what is often described as technolust. The articles written about Drupal Gardens, as well as the home page of Drupal Gardens, are very exciting and entice the user to use it. But it is important to know what your needs are prior to using a technology, and to determine if it best meets those needs. Otherwise, you might end up using the wrong tool for the job. As Drupal Gardens cannot provide the basic functionality that is needed, it will no longer be considered as a CMS for the Library Currents Beta.

Series Navigation<< Cool Plugins & Themes for a WordPress Library Blog and Resource DirectoryJoomla! templates and plugins user experience: Is it any good? >>
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Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at librarycurrents1@aol.com.

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