In-Fisherman.com - Building an Enterprise Level Drupal Site

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This case study features the development process employed for building out the In-Fisherman.com Drupal website.

This case study features the development process employed for building out the In-Fisherman.com Drupal website.

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  • 1. Case Study: In-Fisherman.com – Building an Enterprise Level Drupal Site
    An overview of the development process, lessons learned and successful techniques for team-based development projects
    Presented by Paul Chason & Josh Estep
  • 2. Presenter Bio: Paul Chason, Managing Partner
    Mediacurrent Founder – established March 2004
    Master’s Degree Medical Illustration
    Stints at WebMD, Home Depot
    Bring left and right brain expertise to Mediacurrent
    Self-taught web developer
    ASP.NET / SQL Server, PHP / MySQL, Flash Actionscript, Javascript, CSS, XHTML
    Adobe CS Expert
  • 3. Presenter Bio: Josh Estep, Drupal Developer
    BS Computer Science
    Drupal “Swiss Army Knife” – themer, module developer, MySQL guru
    4 years Drupal development experience at large media company
    XHTML, CSS, Photoshop, Javascript, Perl, PHP, Linux, C++, Java
  • 4. Client Profile
    InterMedia Outdoors, Inc. (IMO), is the leading multimedia company serving the needs of outdoors enthusiasts
    Boasts the largest network of websites (16 total) dedicated to hunting, shooting and fishing
    Websites serve to complement print magazines
  • 5. Challenge
    Ensure site could be easily managed by in-house development team
    Build a scalable site that can perform under averages of 67,789 user visits, 266,379 page visits, and an average of 4:1 page visits/user visits in a typical month
    Leverage Drupal’s social-networking features such as tagging, commenting and user generated content to entice new users
  • 6. Why Drupal?
    Scalability - Drupal was perceived as the most scalable and extensible open source option
    Cost - No licensing fees
    Multi-site / multi-database architecture - Drupal’s flexible multi-site configuration would allow IMO to store content and user data in multiple databases for a single site.
    Hosting - The expected traffic for the site demanded a low-cost enterprise level hosting environmen; Drupaland the LAMP stack were a natural fit
  • 7. Why Drupal?
    Flexibility - IMO's previous CMS was inflexible, making it difficult to implement new and innovative features. Drupal’s modular framework, API and theme override capabilities made it the top choice
    Theme customization - Drupal’s separation of presentation and business logic through the theme layer allowed the In-Fisherman.com UI to undergo significant revisions during and after development
    Active development community - A fragile economy encouraged open source software vs. a proprietary vendor solution and allowed IMO to not be “locked in” to one vendor
  • 8. In-Fisherman.com Goals
    Better User Experience - Create an engaging web experience for users by leveraging IMO’s vast repository of sportsman-related content and video
    Branding - Provide a more modern, contemporary look and feel that reinforced the magazine brand
    Intriguing Content - Give anglers the ability to quickly find the information they’re seeking by using a well defined taxonomy structure and lists of articles tailored toward a user’s individual preferences
    Scalability - Careful consideration needed to be given to scaling, isolating points of failure and configuring the site to fail “gracefully”
  • 9. Hosting Architecture
    “Shuttle” servers store cached content
    Page requests routed through Cisco Load Balancer, balancer identifies open shuttle
    MySQL DB master / slave
  • 10. Development Process
    UI design completed without Drupal in mind
    Loose set of requirements
    Agile approach
    Active Collab for project management
    Weekly stand up calls with client
    Use Skype for up to the minute communication among development team
    Oh Noooo!
  • 11. Design & Theming
    Worked with NYC-based Brooklyn Design Foundry to implement custom theme
    Adapted UI design to Zen theme
    Built “Custom Content” module in place of Panels
    Developed custom modules for generating Flash widgets and associated XML data
    Flexibility of Zen allowed for numerous design tweaks during final theming phase
  • 12. Obstacles & Solutions
    Timeline - Developing 3-4 enterprise class sites in a compressed timeframe (5 or 6 months)
    Limited information architecture specifications - Project stakeholders met often to discuss items such as data query logic for blocks and layout format of node edit pages
    Multiple themers - With several developers involved in theming, the team needed to coordinate everyone’s efforts
    Search - For a general site searching, the Google Search Appliance (GSA) was used
  • 13. Obstacles & Solutions
    Sharing Data across multiple domains - The In-Fisherman.com site uses several databases to support high-volume traffic
    Block Flattener module
    Multidomain module
    Optimization of multipage nodes - The article content type needed to present up to 6 pages of content
    Combination of theme overrides in template.php and customization in the node.tpl file
    Custom module to intercept the clean URL and detect a page number at the end
  • 14. Obstacles & Solutions
    Data Import - IMO had lots of content (1200+ fishing articles) to be imported from Filemaker Pro database
    Enterprise level hosting and establishing fault-tolerance – In-Fisherman.com traffic demanded a hosting infrastucture capable of high load
    Multiple Drupal databases with master/slave database servers
    If one section of site fails, the other section doesn’t fail with it
    Partition user data, editorial content and user-generated content
  • 15. In-Fisherman.com Contributed Modules
    Nice Menus: This easy-to-configure module gave the site’s primary navigation a set JavaScript drop down menus.
    Fivestar: Allows site users to rate content.
    Workflow: Gives content contributors the ability to promote content and have it approved by an editor before it’s published.
    Transliteration: This module “sanitizes” file names for user uploaded content, helping oddly named files become readable by the file server.
    String Overrides: Gives site administrators a simple way to replace text that’s passed through the Drupal API t() function.
    TinyMCE: A WYSIWYG editor that gives content contributors the ability to style web site copy.
  • 16. In-Fisherman.com Custom Modules
    Alternating Content Background Manager: This allows site administrators to update the background images used by an accordion flash widget without having to update XML manually. New images are saved to specific filenames referenced in the XML.
    Block Flattener and Block Flattener Reader: These modules allow block data to be shared between subdomains without directly accessing a database for block content.
    Gear Related Articles: This module outputs block content to a flat file for sharing across subdomains, similar to the Block Flattener module.
    Profanity Input Filter: This provides rudimentary, context-based input filtering via a modifiable set of rules. Site administrators can insert custom string rules of prohibited content. The module then replaces the prohibited strings with asterisks.
    Fish Profile: Adds radio button-based fields to the profile form and reorganizes the fields.
    Gear Related Articles Export: Saves block data to a flat file for use by blocks in other subdomains thereby reducing cross domain database calls.
  • 17. In-Fisherman.com Custom Modules
    IMO import Fix: A helper module that assists in correcting file paths, taxonomy assignments and string replacements during the article import process.
    In-Fisherman Form Alters: Handles all form alter logic for In-Fisherman.com.
    Multidomain: Manages the subdomain links for a multi-site Drupalinstall.
    Node Process: Processes node page calls, allowing nodes to have multiple pages.
    Profanity Input Filter: Provides an input that can filter profane words or phrases based on a set of rules.
    SolunarMonth: The In-Fisherman site provides solunar calendars, which provide the best lunar fishing phase in any given month. This module supplies the solunar_month content type for the calendar. CCK couldn’t be utilized because the number of fields required by this content type consistently maxed out PHP’s memory allocation when loading the node edit form. The module also supplies a dynamic XML menu item for a given month and year together.
    WWW Advanced Search: Generates an advanced search form page, containing category-based filters.
  • 18. Training & Documentation
    Never overlook the level of effort needed
    Used Drupal for documentation repository, leveraging the book module
    Targeted toward developers and content managers
    Give simple directions and use examples
  • 19. Lessons Learned
    Break the project down into chunks
    Use a proven recipe of modules
    Acquire 3rd party code as soon as possible
    Orient designers on the “Drupal way”
  • 20. For more information on Mediacurrent
    Visit www.mediacurrent.com
    www.twitter.com/mediacurrent
    paul.chason@mediacurrent.com
    josh.estep@mediacurrent.com