web-design: drupal heavyweights

Drupal

If you’re not into web-design, you should probably tune out about… now.

 

Ok, for everyone else, I’ve made a list of some of the module that are of most use  to me in the Drupal CMS. The Drupal Content Management System is a web framework which allows the construction of interactive and dynamic websites. All these modules are not essential for a Drupal site, but I highly suggest a new user look at each carefully when creating a site, as many are neccessay to perform most of the functions needed in a well-designed, working, feature-filled website. Most of my experience has been in Church websites, so these module will kind of be tailored to those kind of sites. Also, this list is by no means exhastive, and if you believe any other modules are very useful, and need a mention , just leave a comment (and, all this is still in drupal 5 – I’ve had little Drupal 6 experience, and many 6 modules aren’t ready for some serious commenting on yet)

So.. here we go: (the numbers are not neccessarily an order, just a way to record each)

  1. Views: Despite my disclaimer above – this definelty is number 1! Views simply provides a way to create lists of nodes (content). So you can create lists of anything, filter them through type, name – bsically anything. You can then sort it by any of these fields too – date create or modified etc. I’d recommend whenever installing Drupal, to install Views and CCK (below) along with it at the same time – the vast majority of sites will need these two super-heavyweight modules – you cant do much without them!
  2. CCK (Content Creation Kit). CCK allows you to add custom fields to nodes. Instead of just the “title” and “body”, you can add countless amounts of text fields, integer fields, node reference fields, and you can also add more add-on modules which will provide more field types, allowing you to add images, links audio etc to a node. Once again, quite neccessary and really improves the things Drupal can do. CCK Imagefield, and CCK Link are both add-ons which provide more fields for CCK
  3. Contemplate: Contemplate is also a pretty essential module if you want to do any kind of node customisation quite easily. It allows you to create a template for each node type where you can insert certain placeholders for each variable and field. Great to get rid of the default drupal look.
  4. Pathauto: Out of the box, Drupal allows you to overwrite those ugly urls like example.com/124 with things like example.com/about-us. However, pathauto will allow you to set up rules which will automatically give the content a URL containing it’s variables, such as title, date created, term, etc. This makes it really easy to set up search-engine-friendly, easily rememberable, and structured URL’s, such as: example.com/2008/may/12/drupal-heavyweights for a blog post, or example.com/photos/family/family-reunion for a photo gallery. Much prettier than /124, and much easier than manually adding each URL.
  5. Image: The image module is a bundle of modules that will allow you to upload and display images, and even create some simple image galleries. Pretty essential for any site incorporating a photo gallery.
  6. Audio: If podcasting is what you want, you’ll need this module. It’ll let you upload audio files, and, most impressive, even provides a couple of little players which will allow users to play the files straight off the site. You can use this to create an RSS feed to use as a podcast, or just for any site that needs to provide some audio or listening or downloading. Perfect for Church sermon recordings. 
  7. Read More Tweak: This is a handy little tweak you can pretty much install, set a setting or two, and go. If you are a drupal user, you may have been frustrated by the fact that the “read more” link is hidden with the taxonomy terms. This module will remove tht link and place a “Read more..” link right after the last word of the teaser. Really helpful for your users.
  8. Event: Just like Image gives you images, and Audio gives you audio, the Event module gives you a whole framework to add events and display them on a calendar. Although the same result can be achieved using CCK and Views, this is a simple and easy to use module for groups needing a basic calendaring and event system on their site.
  9. Organic Groups: A really cool module that lets you set up groups such as those seen on MySpace or FaceBook. Users can create and join groups, and then post any type of content you allow to these groups, and then notifications will be sent to each group member, letting them know about the addition. Great for community building and creating smaller groups within the large site. Very flexible and customisable.
  10. BuEditor/TinyMCE: There’s a bit of debate as to which of these is best, but, for most drupal sites, it’s best to have a WYSISWG editor installed – even if it’s only for the administrator. This will stop you having o write out complex html to add some style to you content. If you install the IMCE module too, it allows easy addition of inline images.
  11. Google Analytics: This module allows you to use your site with Google Analytics, a service which collects a heap of site statistics for you. You just install this module, sign up for Google Analytics, tweak a few settings, and you’ll start seeing data about who visits your site, such as visitor counts, referring sites, where you visitors are from in the world etc.
  12. Panels: Panels are like blocks for the main content area of your site. Instead of just having one thing in the content of your site, you can split it into columns and rows to display a variety of different blocks on one page right in the content area. Really helpful to display alot of different types of content on one page (kind of like a “dashboard” view)
  13. Poormanscron: Cron for the Poor Man! If you dont have the facilities or time to set up cron jobs, just install this module, and it will run a cron job after a specified time when a page is loaded. Saves you from setting up cron on your site, but provides the same service. Great for the not too technical minded.
  14. CAPTCHA: Got Spam? Get CAPTCHA. Ever see those litle images on a site with a bunch of letters, and you have to type in what you see? That’s what a CAPTCHA is, and this module enables it for your site. CAPTCHA’s help prevent spam, as any spam-bots cannot read the text in the image and therefore cannot pass the test. If you’re starting to get hit with spam, but still want to allow anonymous posting or use of a contact form, try out the CAPTCHA module.
And that’s it. My list of relatively essential modules for learning Drupal. Disagree? Did I miss one?
Let me know.
And I hope it’s helpful – it is for me: each time i install drupal I look through this list to make sure I have everything I need.
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