supportunitedway.org case study
This is a writeup of how and why United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack valley chose Drupal for the redesign of supportunitedway.org. I'll talk about our history with Drupal, how we structured the new site, which modules we used, and how we migrated data from our old site.
About a year ago, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley decided our web presence needed some love. We had already used Drupal for a few projects such as the CFC Eastern Massachusetts campaign and mycaringclub.org, and between the success of those projects and the familiarity we gained with Drupal in doing them, we decided to use Drupal 5 for our reworking.
The first attempt we made was to re-create our existing website, both in content and structure. Most of the content was migrated when our annual campaign season came along and redirected most peoples' attentions. However, we were able to reuse the framework created by this exercise to launch our blog, speakunited.org.
So, several months pass. We continue to use Drupal for multiple internal projects, as well as upgrade mycaringclub.org to Drupal 5 and give it a good re-themeing. During these months, United Way of America, our parent organization, announces its new message of Live United. We decide to use the branding and messaging suggested by UWOA in our United Way, and take this as an impetus to begin working on a new site again.
This time, we had a much clearer design and content goal, as well as a deadline of June, when UWOA's liveunited.org goes live. We established a five member team; our current webmaster, our writer, one of our designers, our communications director, and myself. I'm going to talk more about the technical aspects of the site here, since the design and tone were largely handled by the others.
The biggest challenge from an information structure perspective was that we were essentially running many sites for different audiences on the same site. We have our general public audience, but also more engaged groups of agency representatives, campaign managers, media, and staff. To provide useful portals for what each of these audiences needs from us, we decided to use the Domain Access module.
We leaned very heavily on CCK, creating 20 content types so far. This was based on some good advice from Agaric, and it has really been helpful to have such cleanly defined roles for each content type instead of trying to do ten different things with pages. We even ended up replacing the core Blog and Forum content types with CCK/view constructs, and providing structure through domains and OG instead.
Pathauto and Custom Breadcrumbs are used to place most content within the site. User-generated content falls directly below a view which presents a summary of entries for that content type, and the breadcrumb for an entry leads back to this view. In other words, user-generated content is only three levels deep: home > view > content. Blog entries and events are exceptions: their views, paths, and crumbs also includes dates and, in the case of blogs, blogger names.
Certain content types, such as pages, are still set to be menu children by hand, because their structure is unpredictable. These make up a small portion of the site; nothing community contributed falls under this category. Recommended links are being used to aid navigation further on these pages, since the editors can create links to other relevant or child content.
We also wanted to create more engagement within the site, so Organic Groups was a natural. Of course, this introduced the need for the Domain/OG patch, and I'm happy that my work on the site could contribute to the integration between these modules. We created OG content types for Companies, Agencies, and internal Divisions for use by Campaign Managers, Agency Representatives, and Staff roles, respectively. We also have a generic Community type anyone can create and invite others to join; more of your standard OG use.
A couple additions to the domain_conf.inc file allowed us to specify different secondary menus and google analytics settings for each subdomain, which is handy. Panels 1 are being used to set the homepage for each subdomain right now, but their use is likely to expand.
The site's theme is based off Zen, for the standards compliance and SEO if nothing else. We tried to emulate liveunited.org to a large degree. The subdomains all use the same theme, but we added the active domain to the body classes to allow for targeted tweaks, such as different background colors.
CCK, Imagecache, Related Links, and templates were used to give editors the ability to create nicely rich pages in browser. They can define a sidebar, upload and place images/video within the page, and create navigation blocks.
While all this was being set up, the blog at speakunited.org continued to be updated. I pre-gamed the transition of that data, and have already done a writeup. I'm happy to report it worked very well!
The path redirect module is being used so all our old links go the correct place still. The mapping was a manual process (the structure of the old site was unpredictable), but it was aided by taking a dump of Google's search index for the existing site. Redirect seems to respect Domain settings, by the way.
A great deal of the content on the new site was newly written to be in line with the new messaging. Stuff that wasn't was migrated by hand; I think it was about 100 pages, and about 100 files attached.
For video, we had originally planned to manage everything though a YouTube channel. We then realized that a lot of our audience is behind firewalls and wouldn't be able to access that content. To get around this, we set up the Flashvideo module and are already enjoying the benefits of having such fine control over our video content.
There was only one custom full module we needed to develop; our donation form. This was helped along by the Drupal Wizard API module. There are a couple of snippets in site-specific helper module; some for OG/Domain integration, custom blocks, come calendar modifications, and special handling of the "wiki" content type.
We launched the site a couple weeks ago, and so far it has been very well received. The membership is all internal staff so far; our next step is to decide how we're going to moderate external members. We are still fine-tuning all the little knobs, so if you have a suggestion, please let me know.
I hope you found this study useful.