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Best Web Design

Best web design to match our community objectives.

We have two categories of blogs on our site: Quality Management and  Web Development. This blog is intended to discuss the design and content of the site, the technology involved and direction and scope of both the layout, scope and types of projects.

There are 3 maxims I personally would like to abide by as we develop and enhance the site:

  • Keep It Real Simple - in both layout and ease of maintenance. Is that the K.I.R.S. principle (pronounced "curse")? Nice and clean, free of flashy graphics and propaganda. The site, objectives, projects and publications need to be practicable, purposeful and not over-complicated.  Complex concepts (especially when we dig into the nebulous concepts of Business Process Re-engineering, or Stratification Analysis of multiple data source techniques.
  • Keep It Fun - professional, but not over-terse and innundated with quality-techno-garble (aka gobble-de-gook). Our audience includes real people who struggle to find a tie in their wardrobe (or spend minimal time in front of the make-up mirror, depening on gender). We like to play with the technology and methodology and encourage some reasonable scope in our dialogues ("clean but colourable" we might say). We're not making money from our community site so we don't need to excessively proof-read the deliverables for a "paying" customer.
  • Keep an Open Mind - the dynamics of the world, technology, business opportunities and evolving "best practice" quality methodolgy demands that we don't lock our minds into what worked very well 2 decades ago (or even last week in many cases). Everything in what we do and how we manage keeps changing.  We need to foster the flexibility to keep up with the pace.

11-December-2012  -  Recently I added the Drupal Statistics module (to Community site only).  This module gathers some stats on site hits from visitors, and which nodes (or pages) they were viewing. (The data is cleared after 3 days or whatever the Administrator sets it to).  My point is that I am now getting an indication of the amount of "interest" the site is drawing. The fasinating thing about all this is the tempation to explore the additional modules that would graphically display some trends or recent status on site activity etc etc.

Without debauching the site with the "flashy graphics" we committed to avoid, something clean and useful may be a point of interest in itself, and sticks to the Community theme of quality improvement and member self-education in WCMS and Drupal).  At the very least, I can now review any errors related to "page not found" or broken links, assisting me and my support colleagues in providing consistenty in site performance.

Clearly, the next move would to plug-in some interactive user surveys, plotting outcomes as we go.  Hmmn!  Any thoughts?


31-July-2013  Time marches on and technology is changing at an incredible pace.  I am coming to grips with the many dimensions and value attributes of social media (aka Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Skype.  Whilst we once played with adding the interactive buttons (specifically Facebook), we very quickly retreated. For me, facebook is for family, friends and truly social interaction (my own oppinion).

I've recently had a rethink on reader interaction, after being prompted to (finally) setup a personal Twitter account (Wher will it end?).  So I've tested the concept an grappled with the basics (Thanks Bruno).  Consequently I have asked the support team to establish a community account then ad a button for readers to post "tweets". That's the theory.  This has also been added to the Suggestion Box.

I'll use this blog to track the progress, feedback and counter suggestions.


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Making effect use of Drupal modules

According to a recent Drupal org community survey, the Drupal 7 top ten contributed modules are -

  1. Views
  2. Token
  3. Chaos tool suite
  4. Pathauto
  5. Wysiwyg
  6. Date
  7. Administration Menu
  8. IMCE
  9. Webform
  10. Google Analytics

We are slowly getting to understand, explore and start benefiting from these modules and how they might enhance the site and improve facilitation of many of our objectives.  In the above list, the colour - highlighted modules are already in use on our site,  In particular, the following 2 modules have had the greatest impact to date.

Wysiwyg  -  (We actually used the CKEditor Wysiwyg editor) has allowed us to significantly increase both the look of the site and our web team's productivity.

Views        -  especially when combined with Taxonomy terms, tags and custom fields, has unleashed the potential of the underlying database system on which the web site is built. This module is best demonstrated with the Registers listed under the Navigation menu on our Home page.

We'd also want to mention another module that didn't make the top 10 above, Quick Tabs. As the name suggests, this module now allows us to extend the functionallity of our tables and indexes, as best demonstrated our Document Catalogues, for example in the  Procedures Index.

Do you have and recommended modules, or other suggestions for the site?

I was trawling around for advice on constructing knowledge bases with Drupal, and coincidentally stumbled on yet another  "Top Ten Best Drupal 7 Modules" , this time from Codekarate.com.  I think I've come across about four or five so far (without any intentional research), and this raises two questions:

  1. How credible and popular are the choices (and order) of modules listed?
  2. How often (and using which criteria) should we at QualityHelp revise our "top ten" references?

Maybe the way forward would be to come up with our own list - Top Ten Best "Top Ten Best Drupal 7 Modules" Compilations.  In any case, I found both the modules in this   latest list (and the selection/rating reasoning) worth my own evaluation. 

Top Ten Best Drupal 7 Modules
1.  Drupal.org 2.  Codekarate.com 3 - 10  (tba)
  1. Views  1.  Views  
  2. Token  2.  Panels  
  3. Chaos Tool Suite  3.  CTools (Chaos Tool Suite)  
  4. Pathauto  4.  Token  
  5. Wysiwyg  5.  Pathauto  
  6. Date  6.  Webform  
  7. Administration Menu  7.  Rules  
  8. IMCE  8.  Features  
  9. Webform  9.  Strongarm  
 10. Google Analytics  10. Date  

 

Without taking anything away from all these modules,  I wanted to put in a plug for the Quick Tabs module, which is featured prominantly on our Quality Help Community site in our Documentation Catalogues.

 

Seven months down the track and it's time to revise this list of top ten Drupal modules.  Many in the list, that are fundamental to our site layout would still be there, but I've just discovered the Project Management module, and this may prove to be ground shaking.

It's early days as the team implements it, with a view to migrating all our PM components an processes across (See the suggestion box entry for now).  In the next week or so, I will get an update of the favoured Drupla modules and resubmit the list..

Time keeps ticking over and we revisit to the 10 Best Drupal Modules, after 12 months.  We're neither the experts nor the judges here, but it's useful to highlight some current opinions on the subject. With Drupal 8 becoming more respected, we'll respectably genericise our progress table.  The updates in the following table were prompted by a recent blog from Door3 Insights :

Top Ten Best Drupal Modules
1.  Drupal.org 2.  Codekarate.com 3. (March 2014)
  1. Views  1.  Views  1. Backup and Migrate
  2. Token  2.  Panels  2. Context
  3. Chaos Tool Suite  3.  CTools (Chaos Tool Suite)  3. Display Suite
  4. Pathauto  4.  Token  4. Features
  5. Wysiwyg  5.  Pathauto  5. Field Group
  6. Date  6.  Webform  6. Media
  7. Administration Menu  7.  Rules  7. Menu Block
  8. IMCE  8.  Features  8. Panels + Panelizer
  9. Webform  9.  Strongarm  9. Workbench
 10. Google Analytics  10. Date  10. Views

There's clearly a considerable shift in the list makeup here and many readers might quickly dispute the list, and offer another opinion (which we welcome).  To be fair, List 3  comes from a blog called the "10 Drupal Modules You Should Know" and all have their merits. Note that Views and Panels modules tend to show up on most comparisons.  Also, List 3 doesn't appear to be ordered by preference (possibly reverse order).

Opinions on these lists would also be driven by the site buiIding objectives and requirements of developers. For example Webform may be considered more useful (or essential) when customer feedback is an important requirement for a new site.

Ideally we'd like to survey a number of published opinions (and reader's comments) and then list our own concensus. We accept that we also need to extend and better categorize our charts to separate the essential "utility" modules that are common dependencies of others (eg. Date, Ctools, Rules, Token, IMCE)

This is probably off the topic slightly, but I wanted to capture the importance of chosing a suitable web hosting provider, as perhaps a contributing factor in Web design, as well as ease of maintenance.  This became evident as our team was investigating reliable, stable, high performing and cost effective hosting sites.  I'm not saying that our current server host are lacking on any of these points, but times change.

What suits our communtiy needs and objectives may not match requirements of a small company looking to build a web site to enhance their market, credibility and influence potenial customers.

Whilst reviewing current host providers as part of our latest project ( p130002 ) I came across this review of (susposedly) the top 10 to 15 web server / domain host sites.  I've added the link as a useful reference in our Web Hosting Support section.

I've list the top 10 here, and you can get the full details at  www.toptenbestwebsitehosting.com

  1. iPage
  2. justhost.com
  3. GoDaddy
  4. FatCow
  5. Hub
  6. bluehost
  7. inmotion
  8. HostGator
  9. GreenGeeks
  10. hostmonster

I'd be interested to know what experience our users have had with any of these providers, or any recommendation.

 

I was going through my periodical patch upgrade to the Community drupal sites, when it was driven home to me (once again) about the importance and value of good host server tools. This is especially so when performaning basic and regular housekeeping tasks such as folder  and database backups. For us, scripts that ease the upgrades for applications such as Drupal (or Joomla) are second on the list of critical tools.

I personally found the CPanel file and backup support options, plus Softaculous tool support for Drupal to be a great selling feature for HostPapa.  I had a a very smooth and clean run with the backup and upgrades to over 10 subdomains.  It's a pity GoDaddy (which was rated 2nd in one review from Australia) doesn't make it nearly as easy to achieve the same tasks.  Their full site backup support is quite inferior (in my opinion).  The database backup works Ok, when you can find the script.

The host side File Manager has an archive option (which I think is restricted to 20 mb, if you backup to the server).  I could only successfully archive 2 out of 5 sites to a local computer.

I've resorted to Filezilla to download my site ready for a manual zip/archive. Just to make the experience even less exciting, GoDaddy's Drupal script is about 2 weeks behind HostPapa in the available Drupal patch version.  (I've just upgraded to 7.20 yet my site's report page tells me that 7.21 is available).

 

Recently I have been getting some interest in building a photo gallery in Drupal.  There are plenty of options, training, and purpose-built applications available (through Google searching) hence I'm not going to elaborate too much on best places to look.

What I did want to suggest, as part of our learning and discovery journey (especially for audience relatively new to web cms and Drupal), is the benefit of having a go at constructing couple of simple galleries with basic Drupal modules.

For example, I constructed a simple gallery format (at one of my "training sites"  CafeTORC), using the functionality in the CKEditor and IMCE modules.


Alternatively, another basic technique using modules is demonstrated with instructions at  OSTraining.  The techniques that are very clearly defined here use CTools and Views modules.  I have previously referenced OSTraining previously in our Resources Index, and have now added this new tutoral.

Have some fun and, as always, I welcome feedback and suggestions.


 

I suspect many readers may misunderstand the mission and objectives of our site.  Let me try and clarify.

If you have read our Mission and Objectives, you will note the emphasis on Training, Building prowess and Continuous Improvement.

Community Objectives

  1. Create an online, internet site as a gathering point and communication tool for our community members.
  2. Build a functional web site to develop our projects, share training, knowledge and ideas on all our focal interests in quality management, IT services and support management, continual process and quality improvement.
  3. Develop prowess and practical skills in building smart, online tools for training and  team collaboration, through contribution and hands-on involvement with the community site and it's projects.

Whilst we continue to steer our readers to top class training resources on the Web (some commercial, most free), many miss the point that our site is a "hand-on" training project in itself. We stated that we are not "experts" in Web Development nor any of the IT Service Management streams where we share our collective experience and knowledge. We make no apologies for the intentional simplicity of the site design and layout. If it looks like a "want to be" extranet, than that was part of the plan. It was also our intention to expose as much of our contents as possible to hopefully provide learnins and take aways for our readers, as well as our members.

Hence the site is a "self-fulfilling" project for both member training and continuous improvement.  As for the site the web site development, we have come a long way in the last year, but still have many challenges.  If the progress seems slow, then not that there are no full time members. At some stage though, I predict we will hit a critical point where the overall site content and value will accellerate.

Many thanks to all our contributers and readers. As always, if any reader has some insights, suggestions or other feedback to share with us, we would be happy to receive it (through the Contact Us link in the Home Page Navigation block.

Whilst it wasn't in the original design to overload the home page (or Article streams) with graphics, we've started to allow a subtle change  to the teasers to increase interest.. This is to allow a thumbnail, or small jpeg / png to be imbedded as a preview from the article body. We'll be consistent by keeping to the same width text alignment (either left or right side).

It will be interesting to see what impact this will have on site visits and interest, and be keen to get feedback and opinions on the change.

The thumbnail implementation significantly improves the first impression of the articles. They space out the text neatly and look appealing enough to wonder what the rest of the article contains. There is no possibility that comes to mind where a potential reader would be scared away by the graphics. This in turn makes the site more colourful than it was before but it blends in nicely. 

Twelve months ago, I thought I was rather clever when I discovered how to blend tables with Drupal Quicktabs to create tidy looking, multi-tabbed indexes.  We used this combination in a number of areas of our site (eg. for displaying Drupal Resources and Training ).

What didn't work out so well was our attempt to use this method to build a model to regulate the management of documents (emulating some form of standards or company policies on document control).

The issue was both one of work effort to maintain (for several 100 or possibly thousands of documents), as well as providing a more thorough and consistent record of document life-cycle management.

A better solution lay with combining Drupal Views with Quicktabs objects to construct structured, multi-tiered catalogues. With this method, plus a standard (customized) control record for each document or record,  it would be possible to potentially track and manage several hundred thousand documents.

Whilst we don't intend to prove the capability, we will certainly put the theory into practice, with a working catalogue model for our QualityHelp Community site. That means we will build and populate our own Catalogue for all to see, and send us opinions and suggestions (eg. via Article feedbak forms).

For a start, you might read our recent article on Migrating from Index to Catalogue, to understand the mechanics of constructing the NewsCorner Catalogue our diagram. Go and test it yourself - the Master Catalogue is in the Documents Menu.

 

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