New Drupal implementation: Pitfalls?

jfbarthe's picture

The County of San Mateo is going Drupal !...
Now, and before we get too existed and start repeating the same mistakes some of us have made, I was wondering if anybody was willing to reach out and share some of the pitfalls they encountered in the course of their migration.
I am not necessarily talking technical aspect but also how to evangelize an organization, establish workflows and maintain editorial and UX styles throughout a large government organization.
I understand this can quickly become Pandora's box but I'd be ready to help create some kind of repository or document specifically related to Drupal in Government for others to benefit from.


Thoughts on migration

klanahan's picture

We migrated to Drupal 3 years ago. When we did that, we culled out about a third of our old site content and migrated the rest. We've spent the last 3 years culling out more content, organizing it better and pushing key content.

One thing that has helped is to have a designated content editor who can review all new and revised pages while she goes through legacy content. She is the keeper of the editorial styles.

We also are stingy in handing out permissions to update pages. Pretty much nobody but core editorial staff creates new pages, but we allow trusted others to edit existing pages.

Identifying and grooming key contributors is important. We have many employees that would love to be able to edit pages, but their writing skills or restraint in creating redundant content give us pause. Working with a few individuals, refining the education process and adding a few more people seems to work well.

We also found that we need about half the workflows we thought we did. Doing things online instead of however you did it before makes some steps redundant.

We're migrating too

kartz's picture

Hi, I'm with Washington County, Maryland and we're going to be migrating as well. Employees are in a hurry to edit their own content and the solution we're using right now (Dreamweaver and Contribute) just isn't doing the job. I'm still taking some classes and learning the basics of Drupal right now and we plan to start slowly since I am essentially a department of one.

I'm going to check in here to see if anyone has any suggestions or can point me to more information. I don't want to have to re-invent the wheel, I'd prefer to learn from the mistakes of others.

Have you considered OpenPublic?

Reid's picture

The OpenPublic distribution of Drupal is designed for governments, and may be a good place for you to start. I haven't personally worked with OpenPublic, but my state agency is considering using it as we upgrade from D6 to D7.

I think some of the version control modules are included. I also think they have some "governmenty" themes you can use.

We don't let people edit their own content

jeisel's picture

We have a select few people (me mostly) who have the ability to change content. If someone wants something changed, they e-mail it to me. This is so people don't get .... creative .... when they're posting their content. (No pink text, no weird bold letters, etc.)

It's mostly me here too

kartz's picture

jeisel, sounds like we are in the same boat. Only a few people have Contribute and I only did that because I was forced. I don't like handing over control to anyone else. I've been doing it all myself for about 10 years and it's hard to let go. Most everyone emails me their changes but it really ties me down.

Contribute sucks and Dreamweaver is moving to a cloud-only platform so it's time to make a change. I just hope I'm making the right decision by going with Drupal. Contribute allows me to lock down what the users can do but it's way to hard to manage and prone to problems.

Keeping one person from

jleroi's picture

Keeping one person from having to make every single change was one of our main design goals when we instituted Drupal. We have "editors" in each division in the City. We have to make changes to the menus, blocks, and certain other features, but they can edit existing pages or create new ones as needed. We created separate content types for each so that we could restrict their access to only their pages. We have a workflow in place so that when they submit a page we have to give final approval before it goes live and we keep prior revisions just in case. The site has been live for about 3 years now (about time to revamp again) and has worked out much better than the old Dreamweaver/Frontpage site the last developer had in place.

Establish a workflow

Jabbtech's picture

If you prefer to allow users to contribute changes, while still maintaining control over what is actually published, you might consider adding a publishing workflow. The following are useful for this type of scenario:


kartz's picture

I heard that a workflow was possible and planned to look up info. Thanks for the links!

How is your site being built?

jeisel's picture

Are you getting a theme and going from there, or are you paying someone to build it and taking it over from there?

Built by Me

kartz's picture

"Pay someone to build it" isn't an option. I am probably going to create a theme or modify a theme to something not too radically different from what we have now. At least, I'll be doing that as soon as I teach myself how.

Our sysadmin and I have discussed this at length and decided that this will be a good opportunity to clean up the site, consolidate a lot of information, and do some streamlining. It's a fresh start.

content workflows

chicagomom's picture

We established departmental content contribution teams, headed by one key contact person in each department who was an editor. We have monthly (every other month in summer) content contributor meetings where I review some web-related topic, from content tagging to working with images and writing for the web. These help users feel connected and informed and help me reinforce style guides, content curation and encourage those who are going above and beyond.

We use the Workflow and Revisioning modules, and have ~20 active content contributors at this point. New page content & new document collections go through webadmin (that's me) review before publication, and it gives me a chance to work with content contributors one-on-one to discuss content strategy, their intended audience for the content, and how/where content should be cross-linked and re-purposed.

The biggest issue for us has been that building pages in "chunks" that can be re-used is fundamentally different way of thinking about content then thinking in terms of "pages". We have standardized templates for pages, so links to external sites go here, key documents go there, etc. It makes for a much more consistent presentation, and reduces maintenance (change a person's email address in one place and it's changed everywhere), but requires staff to plan and think about building pages "Lego-style". It's not as intuitive as they would like and although we work hard to make it as easy as possible it still requires ongoing training, thought, planning, and documentation.

chicagomom on Twitter and d.o.

The "Lego-style" method vs "Pages"

kartz's picture

Chicagomom, thanks for the informative reply. You all have really surprised me with your timely and helpful responses. I could get spoiled.

I would like to implement something very similar to what you describe. Departmental content contribution teams are my goal. Getting department heads and staff to understand that they need to pick someone or several someones to handle the updating and creation of web content for their department will be my first obstacle. Although it's much easier now than it used to be. No one can deny the need for a web presence or that the info must be accurate, up-to-date and easy to access.

A workflow will be a must-have. Nothing will be published without someone's review and approval except in the case of the most trusted and knowledgeable staff. Right now I don't have that level of control with some departmental pages and it worries the heck out of me every time I add a new Adobe Contribute user.

The "Lego-style" is something that I am struggling to wrap my own brain around. It seems very alien to me right now coming from Dreamweaver. It's a different mindset despite the fact that most of my "pages" are pieced together with server-side includes. Last week I asked the sysadmin how I can look at the pages on the server and he said "What pages?" and that's when it finally clicked.

So, thanks again for the info. I'm moving all these posts in Evernote for future reference.



chicagomom's picture

Lego-style is actually pretty similar to using server-side includes. We used to use those too. The goal of SSI is to create a chunk/block of content that can be included in several different places, and edit-once-reused everywhere. It's the same thing with Drupal's blocks, nodes, and panels. You're creating chunks of repurpose-able content.

So when you're creating your page templates (we use panels for this and it works well), you'll say "on every public meeting page, we'll need these items - contact information, the location of the meeting, which committee is holding the meeting, and a "see also" block with links to different parts of the site (each one different depending on the subject of the meeting)". Each of these becomes a block with information pulled from views or some other module. Then your goal is to build your content type to support pulling in that information.

Good luck with your redesign. Keep us posted!

chicagomom on Twitter and d.o.


kartz's picture

Carolyn, thank you so much for your reply and your interest. I'm working my way through several lessons on (love that site) and it's really starting to come together.

I see what you mean about planning the content and structure of our pages. Fitting the pieces together to make different layouts for different types of content. I hope of use Dreamweaver to modify a theme and create several templates similar to the types of layouts we use now. Two and three columns with headers and footers. I'm going to search the themes for something similar and go from there.

Thanks for taking the time to give me a real-world example of the concept.

Great conversation!

jfbarthe's picture

Wow! I really agree with everyone here.

Open Public is a very well build distribution aimed at the local government (full disclosure: we are in contract with Phase2, the creator). Workflow is also essential in today's environment. I am also amazed at how fast the culture changes. A few months ago, we were still blocking access to social media county wide and arguing about open source.

Now, it seems everyone gets it. We have a vibrant facebook page, colleagues understand the need for a new way of publishing information with content first.
With more people active online, it seems the content management aspect becomes less of a training hurdle if it becomes as easy to update your site as to update your facebook page...

When it comes to blocks, I also agree we need to educate about the modular flexibility of blocks (like legos). Our designers have introduced the idea of element collages (buttons, search, navigation item, titles..). Separating wireframes and design elements that can be used and reused in different areas of the page.

We are also looking at migrating the minimum. We'll start light and go from there.

DYdave's picture

Thanks a lot to everyone for your great comments!

I just wanted to add on previous comment that you might want to look into using Drupal Distributions (also called Installation Profiles).

OpenPublic is probably one of the most popular distributions for government organizations, but you might as well want to look into Open Outreach or OpenPublish for more editorial needs.
The good (and bad depending which angle you take) thing about distributions is that they usually already come "pre-configured" with predefined workflows/rules, content types, blocks, modules configurations, roles/permissions, administrative pages, etc... which could perhaps give you a wider overview of what could be achieved overall, in terms of team organization and editorial workflow.
Additionally, these installation profiles would usually define certain rules/workflows for a particular reason that was in general discussed (at length sometimes) in forums or issues and result from real life cases/experiences.
In other words, they would tend to convey basic recommended practices.

I hope you will find an interest in Distributions and will certainly look forward to hearing more questions, comments, feedbacks or concerns.
Thanks in advance!

Local government

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