Client Area

Do Drupal Right

Kendall Totten's picture
Kendall Totten  | Drupal Designer & Theming Specialist
Dec
12
2011

Drupal on the Bayou has come to a close, and it was a fun couple of days. This was the smallest Drupal event I've been to, but every dynamic has its advantages. Maybe it's my own personal perception, but I felt as if the small size made everyone much more approachable. Everything was a bit more relaxed and informal, but that made it feel that much more cozy.

I met some great folks from the New Orleans area and elsewhere and learned quite a lot. Here's my recap:

Client Training

Steve Burge from OSTraining.com had a great session about Training Your Drupal Clients. Since I don't have a background in teaching, it was very enlightening to learn some different approaches to training. 

Here are five methods, in order of increasing difficulty:

  1. Workflow Method, i.e. "Download the module. Install it. Enable it. Use it."
  2. Facts Method, i.e. "You get modules from Drupal.org. They add functionality to your site"
  3. Concepts Method, i.e. "What is a Module?"
  4. Process Method, i.e. "How does a module work?"
  5. Principles Method, i.e. "How? What? Why? Putting everything together."

People learn quickest when things are broken down into simple workflows that have 3-4 steps. Simplify, and simplify again. Off-the-shelf training is generally good for people who are already tech-savvy. The more custom & specific you can make the materials, the better! BTW, thanks again to Steve for his live blog of my sesion, Beginner & Intermediate Guide to HTML5 / CSS in Drupal

Translating Client Speak

Mediacurrent's own Jeff Diecks also had a good session where we discussed ways of effective communication between clients and web shops, or really between one human and another. He recommends defining ambiguous words like "flexible", "usable", and "dynamic."  Words like these can have multiple meanings, and it's important to understand what your client thinks it means, even if you think the generally understood definition is something else entirely. Another good strategy to acquire full understanding is to use diagrams or example websites. If a client tells you that they like website XYZ, ask them specifically what they like about it and why they chose it. 

Content Strategies & SEO

I also really enjoyed Tom McCracken's session, Content Strategies, SEO, and Social Media: Secret Weapons for Driving Traffic and Engaging Visitors. I feared the generic "write some good content" statement (which was included), but Tom went way above and beyond. He showed us how to implement the SEO Tools module, which depends on the following modules (plus a few more):

  • Keyword Research (D6) - provides intelligence to help you explore, analyze and select better keyword phrases for your content directly from your website.
  • Content Optimizer (D6) - helps to increase your site’s search engine (e.g. Google) rankings by improving on-page optimization factors and insuring your content conforms to Drupal best practices.
  • Readability Analyzer (D6) - designed to help copywriters and editors develop more consistently readable content across a Drupal site. It performs five popular automated readability tests that provide a grade level equivalency of the difficulty of a page's readability.

I felt my eyes pop as Tom demonstrated how these tools can help you pull in keyword statistics straight from Google, and apply it directly to your content while you are creating your node.  It gives you insight into the most popular keywords, lateral keywords, and even tells you the current adwords price for those keywords (so you can see how in-demand they are). Then it analyzes what you've written and gives you a grade for readability. It really adds a serious level of practicality to all these best practices we're supposed to be doing every time we write content. 

Beyond that, Tom showed us the Social Media module and Widgets module, for Drupal 7, which make integrating social media into your site easy! The Social Media module provides an interface to add the links to your social media pages, and allows you to choose from several "follow me on..." icon sets. The Widgets module installed a twitter feed and a Facebook "like" box.  Want to resize or customize these widgets? Don't get out of your recliner, the admin interface makes that easy too. You're going to make us lazy, LevelTen. :) Additionally, these modules are destined to become a Drupal app, which is even cooler. 

Contributing to Drupal

I also especially liked Angie Byron's keynote speech that kicked us off. Beyond the expected "Yay Drupal!", Angie gave a personal account of how even though she was an open-source lover, was still afraid to dive into contributing to Drupal for almost a decade. She gave a real demo of different ways you can help even if you aren't a coder. For example, just by simply testing a patch and providing useful feedback, or by writing documentation, even if it's not polished. I'm like, "That's me, I can do that!" Thanks, Angie!

There were lots of other awesome sessions too, and New Orleans was a great place to be. The food was good, the music was fantastic, and @Drupalon the Bayou rocked.

Oddly enough, I ran into the Violin Monster who is from my hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. Go figure!

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