Archive for category Best Practice

How to go about selecting a CMS

A client has come to us for analytics and other consulting.  We then found that they manage their rather large and complex site entirely via manual HTML edits. They know they need a better way and are considering content management systems.  Chatting with them I see they have not outlined in a formal manager the business requirements for the management of not just their website, but their entire digital framework. A good short list of needs that the team agrees upon should be the basis of evaluation and selection.  Here are some questions the business requirements should consider.

  • What is the product road map of the CMS and how is it supported?  Does this match your corporate culture and comfort level.
  • How big is the site and what are particular feature and functional requirements?  Can the CMS package support these items that you currently utilize but also those that may be needed in the future?  For example, every site should expect to have a mobile and location-based requirement even if you do not have the current need.
  • What is the analytics package you will utilize?  Is this supported with tools to customize the metrics and settings within the CMS?
  • What technologies is your IT staff comfortable managing?  For that matter, do you have an IT staff or will this need to be managed by a partner?
  • How many people will need to manage the website?  Where will they be located?  Do you need a workflow for data entry, review and approval?
  • What tools that are in place will need to link to the CMS?  Email marketing, CRM, SEO, SEM, social media monitoring and engagement and others should all be able to integrate with the CMS. Existing partnerships, modules or other linkages will enable a more immediate and cost-effective hook up.
  • Will this be rolled out buy an internal team, external tam, partner or others and with what level of expertise?  This needs to be taken into consideration for the training and service options available?
  • What is the budget range for the initial phase and the eventual enterprise roll out? This is key as there is a wealth of options but many can be priced right out of the budget.

Here are some other good reads regarding CMS Selection.

This is just my short list of items?  What else should be added to this list of considerations?

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Best Practice: Website Ownership and Asset Control

I am a big fan of The Bivings Report.  This is a great blog that demonstrates how an Interactive PR  agency can use a blog to create a useful collection of both thought leadership and down-and-dirty practical items.  A recent post, Buying a Website. The Seven Costly Questions That Are Often Overlooked,  directly addresses a lot of client hosting concerns that are often not voiced.

What Gary Bivings notes in his post matches to what I have frequently experienced.  Clients need to take a bit more ownership and responsibiltiy for the details behind campaign projects.  By all means I relish in being a trusted advisor.  However, clients must always think ahead as to the ownership of their materials. 

Here are some additional items to the Bivings post to consider:

Always keep it work for hire.  Be sure that you own 100% of the content, design, code and other materials.  Not just the end result.  If I am paying for materials, I believe the materials along the way have been paid for as well.  This means that the design files that make up the Web site should be delivered to me as well as the final Web site.

Example, I recommend any design contract call for the delivery of all Adobe Flash and Adobe Photoshop source files be delivered as part o the site launch.

Know the permitted uses of image and media files.  We almost always purchase royalty free or restricted rights images for design efforts.  These are purchased for use in the Web site and then are usually not permitted for reuse in other projects.  Be sure that if you plan to adapt your Web imagery to other online or offline projects that you obtain the details on the permitted uses of these images.  And, that you obtain the images themselves and the details of where they were purchased.  By obtaining these details you can edit the image if needed and purchase the additional rights as well.

Have hosting under your control.  Almost every agency provides some sort of level of hosting.  I recommend against this as a packaged service.  Instead I feel clients should contract with the hosting vendor (via the agency is fine) or provide the hosting.  The agency can then be provided the appropriate access and contracted for support as needed.  The key is that you retain administrative access to and control over the home for your materials. You then will never have to migrate the materials should you sever your relationship with the agency.

Own the domain names.  Be sure that when your agency registers domain names that your company is listed as the administrator.  The agency can be the technical and even billing contact.  However, if you are not the administrator then you are tied to the agency to turn the domain over to you.  Eliminate future transfer hassles by owning the domain and the agency acting as your technical contact.  

Manage your content.  When working with agencies it is still best if you take the lead to manage the content.  It is almost never cost-effective for your agency to enter, adjust and tweak content.  You are best off in the long run to learn at least the basics of the CMS and perform content entry and edits yourself.  It is also advisable that you learn how to perform general maintenance tasks such as user management.

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Share presentations for visibility on SlideShare

YouTube is certainly well known for the success it has shown with marketers. Another effective tool is SlideShare. SlideShare offers the ability to post a presentation that others can view, share and comment upon just as you would a video on YouTube. There are a number of similar services, but SlideShare appears to have a solid user base.

Easy to use and requiring nothing more than a PowerPoint deck, SlideShare is easy to test out for marketing and communications campaigns.

What makes this really easy is a nice Microsoft PowerPoint plug-in. This allows you to work with the SlideShare features and post to the site right from within PowerPoint. Get it here.

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Drupal CMS Alignment with Best Practices

One of the things I fear when working with a developer is that they will claim to be as someone around here did to be a “code monkey.” Good Web site development and campaign delivery is not about creating code. It is about utilizing best practices to provide the best user experience. Those who solely want to work on the code level often miss the forest through the trees

Each CMS must be configured to align with marketing, user interface and other best practices. The following provides for common best practices that should be noted for attention with the Drupal CMS configuration. These items are included in this document to confirm the configuration as the technical defaults are often focused on specific functionality rather than such general best practices

Start Here

A great list of best practices in an easy to read format is available here: http://zzolo.org/thoughts/drupal-basics-and-best-practices Rather than recreate those items, just start and there and then come back to this document for more.

Installation Package

The Drupal core package for download from www.drupal.org has the most basic set of core files and modules. This is always supplemented with additional modules. Use of the Acquia Drupal package distribution from acquia.com can provide a simplified install with a large number of the modules that would have to otherwise be individually installed. This provides the entire core Drupal functions with added services from Acquia. The services from Acquia may not be desired and can be easily disabled.

Module Configurations

The following settings, configurations and modules should be installed and activated.

Configuration Options

The following basic configurations options should be set:

  • PING – Activate ping with a long list of ping servers..
  • User Administration – Any agency account management team Role should have the ability to add and configure users to be authors.
  • File Quota – Set the file size and upload quotas to at least 50 MB or unlimited for all users. The default of around 8 MB is almost always inadequate.
  • Full HTML – Set FULL HTML as the default input format.
  • File attachments – Activate file attachment capability for all users.
  • Video – Activate the video module for the easy inclusion of YouTube and other videos.

Modules

Modules provide functionality beyond the Drupal “Core.” It is the underlying philosophy of the Drupal CMS that any installation will contain a variety of these modules to provide services beyond the basic items built-into the CMS. The main issue when selecting these modules is that they are maintained by individuals often with no real development plan. They may break, be withdrawn or be incompatible with future versions of the Drupal core.

Even so, be sure to check the Drupal module availability prior to developing custom code.

The following are a variety of helpful modules that appear to be well maintained and respected by the Drupal community. This list has been determined based upon Drupal community recommendations and other base level best practice requirements.

Basic Modules

The following modules should e downloaded and installed for all sites. They provide base level functions that should be expected for delivery on all sites.

Basic Drupal Module Configuration

Draft

http://redesign.pparx.org/admin/settings/draft

This provides a method for an editing review with a draft of content. This way someone can make changes and hold then for review or come back later and complete edits and then publish.

To turn this on:

Place a check box in the “Allow drafts when editing” box

CustomError

http://redesign.pparx.org/admin/settings/customerror

This provides for a custom page to be displayed when Web server or browser error occurs. This is important otherwise a blank page is displayed with very little wrapper display.

To turn this on:

Design page nodes or HTML files to display for 403 and 404 errors and place these details in the settings.

Page Title

On content creation pages, gives you the chance to specify the page title rather than defaulting to the content’s title.

To turn this on:

Active – simply use area in form to set the page title.

Additional Modules

The following are common modules that provide some frequently required functionality.

Accounts/Roles

User1 should not be used for development, maintenance or other tasks. Set it aside for very restrictive use.

Layout and Development

Never alter the Drupal core. Instead adapt an existing module or create required customizations as a module. These methods will isolate customizations from the core and other modules so that the core may be updated without impact on custom development’

Use the Content Construction Kit and the Views module. You can bypass this kit and module, but future development and adjustments are easier if they are utilized.[1]

Use the From API. Define the forms in php syntax and let Drupal create the html. This will let other modules adapt the form and enables programmatic submission.[2]

With the Form API make sure to check text only fields with check_plain(). This will check the fields for malicious content such as scripts, HTML and so on.[3]

To tackle Drupal development is strong in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery[4]

For a normal (single site) installation, you should put all non-core modules or themes in the sites/all/modules or sites/all/themes folders. For a multi-site installation, put modules or themes in sites/all that you wish to have available for all sites.

Scalability

The following is a good resource for Drupal scalability – http://www.optaros.com/blogs/drupal-scalability. Most of these tips come from this page.

Choose modules carefully and deactivate them when they are not required. This would apply mainly to modules that assist in development. Deactivate these following the development cycle and reactivate when adjustments are required.[5]

CCK is a critical module but can slow down high-traffic sites. Consider its impact on such models. [6]

A theme is not just the look and feel. It is the data architecture and should be created with performance as a key concern,[7]

MySQL should be tuned for performance for any size site. See this page for four tips to follow : http://www.optaros.com/blogs/drupal-scalability.[8]

Use database, member and caching systems for files. The Cache Router module at http://drupal.org/project/cacherouter is recommended.[9]

Follow at least the basic guidelines for shared server and mySQL optimization as found on http://drupal.org/node/36628

Drupal Site for Best Practices

The Drupal site itself has a whole section on best practices. This is of course a great resource and no one should start developing in Drupal without reading these areas targeted to the deep developer audience.

· http://drupal.org/node/287350

· http://drupal.org/node/244642

· http://drupal.org/node/36628

· http://drupal.org/node/22283

· http://drupal.org/node/224921

Other Best Practices Sources

The following are some of the solid best practices locations I have found for Drupal. The information in this document is heavily drawn from these sites.

· http://www.slideshare.net/manugoel2003/drupal-best-practices

· http://zzolo.org/thoughts/drupal-basics-and-best-practices – Great great easy to read bullet list – start here.

· http://acquia.com/community/resources/webinars/seo-best-practices-your-drupal-site-0


[1] http://www.slideshare.net/manugoel2003/drupal-best-practices

[2] http://www.slideshare.net/manugoel2003/drupal-best-practices

[3] http://www.slideshare.net/manugoel2003/drupal-best-practices

[4] http://www.slideshare.net/manugoel2003/drupal-best-practices

[5] http://www.optaros.com/blogs/drupal-scalability

[6] http://www.optaros.com/blogs/drupal-scalability

[7] http://www.optaros.com/blogs/drupal-scalability

[8] http://www.optaros.com/blogs/drupal-scalability

[9] http://www.optaros.com/blogs/drupal-scalability

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Best Practice: Constant Contact List Segmentation

Constant Contact provides methods to segment lists when they are collected from different data collection forms. This is conducted by using a different list name for each data collection form. The following practices can help with this segmentation

  • Import any external lists to a new list for each. Do not import these to lists used with data collection forms. If this import contains data from multiple external lists then use a column (custom data filed) for details on the original source list.
  • Create a general list for use with the main subscription form on the Web site. Something like – “General Web Contact” is a good name.
  • Use a different list for each form used with an advertisement, microsite or other campaign. Yes, you will have a large number of lists. This is absolutely fine.
  • You could use one list and have a custom field populated with a source name that is unique to each form. This is not the preferred method since this will have a single list that may become prohibitively large.
  • Where possible use the Constant Contact forms that are provided for inclusion as this can be a very easy and direct method to include the forms with minimal programming.
  • Use a plug-in/module for WordPress (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/constant-contact-signup-form-widget/) or Drupal (http://drupal.org/project/constant_contact) as these can help shorten programming cycles and make it easier to create the forms.

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