Planning Your Drupal Site
In 2009 we released a whitepaper entitled Building an Enterprise Class Website in Drupal. The paper covered topics such as: how Drupal is being leveraged at the enterprise-level, planning your site launch for long-term success, assessing and scoping your Drupal project, among many other key topics. Though some of the information might be a bit dated, the core process is still a solid structure to look at when planning your Drupal site.
Here's an outstanding excerpt:
Building an enterprise-level Web site is like preparing for the courtroom: all of your efforts are tested upon launch, and you have no second chance to make a first impression. While site builders have the advantage of a “beta” period—and opportunities for refinements over a long run—eventually every public-facing Web site has to face a trial by audience. Verdicts are swift, and appeals unlikely.
So the need to prepare is clear, but not all forms of “preparation” are equal: some devour time with little ultimate result, while others are necessary, but non-obvious. How can you tell which is which? In our experience, effective preparation involves examination of two areas: business goals and technical assets.
Defining your business’ goals
The two most common questions we get from prospective clients are:
How much is this going to cost?
How long will it take?
Surprisingly, the answer to both questions depends more on the project’s clarity than on its complexity: in short, ambitious goals that are well-framed are easier and cheaper to achieve than simple goals, poorly framed.
The first step to clarity is to ask: who is your target audience? You’re seeking not only general demographic information, but also a sense of how its members interact with Web sites. To drill deeper: how much do they already use the Internet, and in what ways? How much of your interaction will be “offline”, and how will you tie the two venues together? Are they familiar with online social networking, and would they benefit from it in your site? Are there sites similar to yours that they already use?
This is a good time to exercise your optimism and imagination to their fullest. Try to picture the perfect exchange between your site and your audience; imagine them walking away, smiling and satisfied. Then ask yourself: what can I give them to make them feel that way?
Your decisions at this point will help drive the technical design of your site: a little planning now will prevent the need to develop a custom module two weeks before launch.
Planning Your Drupal Site
The second question to answer is: what assets do you already have? If you already have a Web site, which parts would you like to migrate to the new site? Which have become obstructive or obsolete? What “offline” assets should be brought online? Regardless of your answer, chances are that a fundamental reorganization of assets will make your site clearer, less cluttered, and more friendly. But you can’t start that process until you know exactly what’s on hand.
The last question to answer is: how will you know if you’ve succeeded? Modern Web tools offer comprehensive ways to measure the volume of visitors and track their actions, but far too many administrators treat their metrics program as an afterthought. As a result, they don’t have a sense of what’s working, and their attempts to improve response are scattershot.
So you’ve plotted a course, which is no small feat: fulfillment is impossible without a goal to fulfill. Now it’s time to be sure you have everything needed to execute your plan.
Want more? Download our free whitepaper: Building an Enterprise Class Website in Drupal.