Drupal-User training is in the offing and getting closer

By Monica Scott-Taliaferro, editor, Benchmarks Online (not a formally trained web developer)

Feb. 15, 2017 – Drupal, pronounced "droo-puhl," is a robust, open-source platform for building digital experiences since 2001. It is made by a dedicated community – anyone may use it and it is free. It is the content management system supported by the UNT System IT Shared Services' department of Central Web Services, led by Mike Buras, and University Recruitment, Communications and Marketing's department of Web Services led by Stephen McMinn.

cartoon about the steep learning curve of popular content management systems'Sounds pretty great, right?

The Behemoth

The bane of most Drupal users is that non-developers, who often are asked to create or update content on a website, find it somewhat intimidating. As the cartoon depicts, the steep learning curve for Drupal is sometimes a point of humor. However, when your page is 'broken' or you have been asked to migrate your department's site from Drupal 6 (no longer supported by Drupal or UNT) to Drupal 7, and you are not an HTML-CSS-Javascript-PHP wizard, it can be more frustrating than funny. 

Most content managers throughout the departments and colleges of UNT are not technical web developers. After an unofficial email survey of UNT departments taken on Nov. 22, 2016, 126 full-time employees responded with an interest in Drupal training. Only 12 of those respondents have IT or web developer in their job title, but all of them have web-related duties in their job descriptions and need to be able to update content and make basic changes. Other than getting in line at CWS' weekly, 90-minute Office Hours for help, Drupalists often are left to search the internet, take a Lynda.com course, watch YouTube videos, read Drupal for Dummies, bug the "real" web developers... and more – yes, that's a bit of a confession. So, formal training would be good and documentation would be even better.

Additionally, CMS duties require basic knowledge about photo resolution and resizing, pixels, HTML and CSS basics – Javascript and PHP skills would be nice too. Then there is the UNT-required use of the Associate Press Stylebook that applies to web and print content. There are specifics about style for each medium, such as when print style differs from web or social media and vice versa. Then, you have to know what do with all that data from Google Analytics to tell you who is hitting or not visiting your pages, but your official title is administrative specialist. It can be a bit daunting.

"Drupal Groupal," an informal self-help group, was started years ago by John Mayfield, web developer, PACS-IT services, but meetings waned as Mayfield's duties increased. 

It’s often described as the CMS from hell; ugly and a total memory hog, to the novice, the learning curve is often far too steep and the documentation sometimes scarce. Why is this behemoth of a CMS even used anymore?

Its name is Drupal, and it’s very powerful when tamed. From the glorified Views module to the great SEO features to the loyal and enthusiastic community, Drupal certainly begs attention. It can be used to make some very beautiful and user-friendly websites. ~ Mohammed Shakeri, Web Designer Depot

The Solution

Drupal skill levelsSeek and ye shall find... URCM's Brand Marketing and Technology Department led by Charity Beck. Asked about the possibility of UNT-provided Drupal training and documentation in November, 2016, Beck stepped up to look into providing help and needed resources. Taming Drupal takes a village though and will include Central Web Services, University IT, UNT System Human Resources, help from other ninja-level Drupalists across campus and more. 

A planning meeting on Feb. 17, 2017 is scheduled to sort out details – training, curriculum, roles, communications and other processes. 

In other words, help is on the way! And, before you know it, you will be ready for Drupal 8.

For more information, contact Monica Scott-Taliaferro at 940-565-4068.

Editor's Note: Please note that information in each edition of Benchmarks Online is likely to change or degrade over time, especially the links to various websites. For current information on a specific topic, search the UNT website, UNT's UIT Help Desk or the world wide web. Email your questions and comments to the UNT University Information Technology Department or call 940-565-2324.