The power of Drupal stems from our ability to customize it. One common requirement is the need to define complex fields with custom widgets and formatters that are unavailable in core or contributed modules. This allows us to collect more sophisticated data from users, and define exactly how that data is presented. Drupal's Field API provides the hooks needed to make just about any field we want.
We often define custom blocks in a site-specific module. Sometimes the markup in these blocks can start building up and we realize that it's time to create a template for the block. This is a good way to keep markup out of the module code. It's also a good way to practise writing cleaner and more themer-friendly modules.
If you're building a large website in Drupal, you're likely to have a long list of views that you're using. Often, views require some custom configuration to match a given design or to provide the user with additional information. Sometimes you want to add dynamic text above or below the view, such as the number of results, or want to create a dynamic title beyond what views lets you configure through the user interface.
If you haven't noticed already, we are getting pretty excited about cloud computing at Evolving Web. Our latest deployment included 5 Rackspace Cloud servers being controlled by Puppet and provided the client with the ability to scale up and down easily depending on traffic. Scaling up involves spinning up a new server instance and configuring it for its role. But what is the best way to configure it? By hand? By scripts? By images? Well technically any of those methods will work, but I want to tell you about one you may not have heard of.
Lately, we have been involved in a project where our clients needed a site capable of serving a large number of anonymous users and a reasonable number of concurrently logged in users. In order to reach these goals, we looked to the cloud. I'll give a quick overview of our configuration using nginx, boost, apc, cacherouter, memcached, and glusterfs. This has allowed us to scale up considerably.
Recently, I've been working on the search interface for McGill University's course catalog. The University wants to allow students to browse courses at friendly URLs like:
Creating a search interface for a website with a lot of content requires providing a variety of filters. Sometimes those filters can take on a life of their own, providing hundreds of options for users to filter by. While building widgets for our Drupal/Solr projects, we looked at a couple non-Drupal examples of search interfaces for content-heavy websites.
Sometimes, we find issues with content that are not anticipated by the planning process since they don't show up by looking at sample content or discussing the major use cases of the site. By looking at real content during the data import phase, these issues can be dealt with at an early stage in the development process.