Recently I decided to develop a community driven website. This just means that members/users of my website will be able to produce content, vote on content/polls and make site decisions. I decided to use a Content Management System (CMS) to keep things easy and, since I’m on a budget, it had to be affordable so I am fortunatr I got the service of asp .net cms. After test driving several, I decided to go with Drupal.
What is Drupal?
Drupal is an open source web content management system, which means that it’s a completely free way to set up and manage your web site. That fit perfectly into my budget. The only expense then is the price of hosting. Drupal runs with PHP programming, so it’s important to make sure the web host you choose is reliable and offers plenty of Mysql database space as well as storage space. Drupal uses quite a bit of space for its core functionality and you’re probably going to use more for adding on modules and themes. Modules are extras that are added onto the core to increase functionality. Themes are just “skins” that change the look of the site.
For Site Configuration
Site owners and administrators will love the backend of Drupal. Setting up the look of your site is as easy as deciding what to put on the sidebars. The content is arranged by blocks, which consist of a header, content, sidebars, and footer. These blocks are the core. You can add blocks to these, as well as subtract blocks. [Note: I don’t recommend taking off the core blocks. You could disable your site] To configure the page you decide where you want key features- login, navigation, links, recent content, etc. – by choosing from drop down menus and assigning them numbers. For example, for “user login” you could choose “right-sidebar” and “-10”. That would place the login at the very top of the page (the smallest numbers “float” to the top). You would then decide which components you want in the sidebars and assign their placement the same way. After you’ve determined the look (blocks) you may want to increase usability (modules).
For Function and Usability
Drupal comes with the ability for site members to create their own blogs, stories, pages, forums, and polls. They can form groups for project collaboration. With added modules, users can rate content up (to put on the front page) or down (to take off the front page). They can have a “buddy list” and subscribe to their buddies’ content. Commerce sites can add shopping carts, check outs, a FAQ and have customer support forums. For sites with a lot of professional jargon there is a glossary add-on so that newcomers can understand what’s being said. If there are more questions than can be easily answered, there’s a wiki module that will add a page similar to Wikipedia. For the community driven websites, there are modules that allow users to determine if content or comments are trollish and users can be given the power to erase the offensive material.
Site owners and administrators can set configurations and permissions to allow any or none of these. You can do this by creating user roles for members and assigning them special rights. For instance, you may need a site moderator to help with behind the scenes tasks. You would create the user role “moderator” and assign the permissions based on what your needs are- such as “administer users”, “edit stories”, or “administer login”, among many others. You would then determine such things as registration requirements- can a new user start posting right away or do they need approval. Would you rather prospective members email you for permission first? You can do that and then set up their account for them. You set comment configurations to determine if you allow anonymous users or not. You can determine a point system where users must earn a specific amount of points to receive certain permissions, such as adding their own links. By the way, the point system is good for contests as well. You can determine what kind of content is seen on the front page, which is good if you need a static page that describes a particular product. You can find all of these modules and more on Drupal.org.
Support for Your CMS
Because Drupal is open source software there is no unified technical support available. They do have user generated handbooks and help nodes where you can find some answers, such as the basics for setting up your CMS. However, the best help is located in the Drupal.org forums. A search of the forums will most likely bring up many possible solutions to any problems you’ve run into with your installation. If you have a problem that hasn’t already been answered, then you can post in the forums. You should make your post as detailed as possible- include your software version number, what specific issues you have and what you’ve done to try to resolve those issues. When posting in the forums, always remember to follow the guidelines and be polite and patient. If you follow proper protocol you’ll see an answer to your problem in no time.
Make Your Site Rock
Drupal CMS is the way to go for a site that is user friendly, functional, and affordable. The only thing standing in your way for an awesome website is a good host and imagination. Drupal definitely stands out from the crowd of web content management systems.