The Build Order

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Relativity logo

To build a skyscraper, a house, or any structure one would guess that the obvious starting point is the foundation. But if following an explicit order of operations the foundation is not even close to first. Identifying the purpose of the structure is the first step and needs to be clearly defined with explicit detail. Who is funding the project and what is the intended expenditure? What if there was already a structure there to begin with? It has to be cleared and the land prepared for a brand new build. Existing utilities have to be brought up to newest standards and inspected. There are many things that have to happen in an explicit order. Only then can our new structure begin. These concepts all revolve around blueprints, inspectors, building codes, contractors, architects, developers and owner(s). So who is at the top of that food chain? The owner(s)! It's the owner(s) who deserve the respect of being the most knowledgeable in what their building needs.

In a Drupal site build the above thoughts are quite appropriate to use as model.

  1. Clearly define the site's purpose and its intended audience.
  2. Discuss the intended budget from the owner(s) perspective. Transparency and communication build trust.
  3. If an old site exists, gather a content inventory list and identify if existing files (images, pdfs, video etc) can be migrated or copied to the new site.
  4. Create a new information architecture documentation list. Clearly define menus (main navigation, footer, sidebar (if applicable).
  5. Identify and document types of content needed.
  6. Identify and document fields needed for data input on content types.

I stopped at number 6. This next magical step is where a good portion of site builds begin. But for me personally as a Drupal site builder with a long data modeling discipline step number 7 is why Relativity was created. I do NOT begin the site build at step 7. I continue into a deeper form of documenting content types and fields. This step is relating one piece of content to another (potentially many others). Allowing a site owner to clearly see how content building and linking will occur and what options a content editor will see is a step often overlooked but desperately needed. This one step in itself is the magic to a CMS. Relational content is an extremely powerful concept. I could write a book just on this one step, that's how important a step it is to the success of a site launch, in the wild audience building and future growth and expansion.

So now that we have an understanding of the site's purpose, budget, inventory, content input and relational strategy, we can now bring in the folks that make it look pretty and colorful on the public web. So why did I put this design step as last? Because in my eyes and experience there is no point to designing the presentation of something unless you clearly know what is being presented and how detailed the subject of presentation needs to be. Another way to look at this is: you can make it candy apple red, with lots of chrome and sweet tires, but if there's no engine to match the elegance of the exterior... what's the point?

So to wrap this up... now we have everything we need to quote a Drupal site build to a customer. Along with that, we have clear documentation of back end, front end, pricing and deliverables. The quoting process serves as the quote itself and as a bonus, serves as the approved blueprint to actually touch Drupal.