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Drupal and Design

Our latest Drupal theming and development partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY) at Ulster resulted in a soon-to-launch student blog site. It is a good example of how, in the hands of skilled graphic designers and themers, the power of Drupal's back end can be added to any design or website seamlessly.

At DrupalCon in DC recently, we attended a workshop on "social object theory", which proposed that higher education (if not all) should be concerned not with delivering content to students, but facilitating contexts for their interactions around that content. Social Media (like commented blogs) are one way to accomplish that.

For more on the pedagogy of using Drupal in educational environments, visit The Empowered Teacher.

Web Development with Drupal CMS

What's a CMS?

A content management system, or CMS, allows users to create and update pages, menus, and other content (like online stores or blogs) without special software.A CMS can be "general purpose" (does almost everything well, a framework for many kinds of sites rather than a particular system) or "specialized" (for example, is an open-source CMS that interfaces with the Multiple Listing Service).

What's Open Source?

Most web development systems require annual or monthly fees to cover the cost of their initial and ongoing development, but some are Open Source – they're developed by a worldwide community, always in the process of being updated, and remain free to use.

What’s Drupal?

Drupal is widely regarded the most powerful Open Source system - more powerful than Joomla for SEO and social publishing, - and Game Face Web Design specializes in Drupal hosting, theming and development. The Onion is a well-known example of a full-featured Drupal site. Game Face maintains 98.1 WKZE, another site that makes use of many Drupal modules, some of which we custom-coded.

What's a Drupal Theme?

The Onion's "theme" (site template, which determines layout, typography, and other design elements) is very busy, but it's a newspaper so it needs to show a lot of information on the home page, to give users whatever they are looking for. Your site is probably better served by a highly graphic, more focused layout that's smart AND sexy, to use our S-Words of Web Design.

Tweeking and Greeking: Coders vs. Designers

Code-centric web developers start with an existing CSS theme or even a Drupal theme and "tweak it" to match a client's branding. Artful web designers start with a layered graphic file (PSD or PNG) and associated font files, representing a home page (but with greeked content). This file results from a series of client review-and-revise cycles, in person or online.

Game Face Web Design takes the latter approach, though like code-centric developers, we prefer to create liquid layouts, when possible and appropriate. These designs grow to fill whatever size screen is being used.

How Game Face Does Design

We prefer to help you redesign your site from the start, to make sure it will be sexy, sticky, smart, speedy, searchable and spot-on! If you are part of a management team or organization, we can use online tools to help you manage buy-in with a needs assessment and design review process. However, if you already have a graphic design, send us the layered file (PSD or PNG, preferably) and any associated fonts, Game Face Web Design will create a pure-CSS, standards-compliant, cross-browser-compatible Drupal theme.

If we do your design, we start with a home page design with existing content (since the text and images affect each other strongly in a "spot-on" design) and create an "inside page" template to match (with greeked text). For more complex sites with many sections, each may require a separate "landing page" (also known as a "level one page" with a unique layout, and associated "level two" pages based upon it. At this point, the site is not public, but can be viewed with a log-in.

Cost and Time: For simple sites with one landing page, this process will take a week or two, and cost from $750 to $1500, depending on how many stakeholders need to buy in, give input, and be satisfied with the design.

From Graphics to Code­

With all the necessary designs created, the basic layout (boxes with borders and backgrounds, menus and text areas) are re-created with HTML and CSS code. Then, each component image is extracted, optimized (made smaller, with a transparent background) and arranged on the pages to match the layout of the original design.

Cost and Time: We budget a week for this process, and charge a flat fee of $500.

Optimizing Drupal for Site Building

­Managed Drupal Hosting with Game Face begins with a company-specific Drupal configuration that has gone through many years of customization, hosted on a dedicated server specifically designed to man­age, update an­d present Drupal sites reliably and fast. Depending on the needs of your own site, you may require an online store, a newsletter made up of aggregated Blog feeds, or other special features requiring additional configuration.

If you have a database or other collection of pieces of similar information (like a catalog), these are imported into a custom database, so that fields and values can be displayed to match the new design in a series of “views” that specify which records andfields to display how, whether in a list, a table, or an individual page.

Cost and Time: Depending on the complexity of your site needs, this phase varies widely.

From Themes to Pages

Once the landing pages are themed, inside ("level two") pages can be built from existing copy, or copywriters can use your design to create drafts for your review. Text can be copied from existing sites or word processing files, or composed directly onto pages with Drupal's "WYSIWYG" editor, similar to most word processors. Each draft revision is saved automatically so you can track progress and recover something that was edited out.

Cost and Time: With training, page building can be done entirely by the user. However, depending on the complexity of your page layouts and content requirements (e.g. editing, search engine optimization), costs vary.

Bottom Line?

For under $5,000, most small businesses can have a beautifully designed, fully themed Drupal site, and sufficient training to build pages.  For under $2,000, a fully functional Drupal site, with training, can be built from a template.

­Contact Game Face Web Design for a quick consult by phone, and see what Game Face can do for you!

Want to learn more about Drupal?  Purchase an online video tutorial from Lullabot for $30!