Thursday, May 21, 2015

Importance of Taxonomy to Drupal

Drupal is a quite powerful content management system (CMS) that is similar to competitors like WordPress and Joomla. It is typically installed on a web server, unlike WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) local programs like Adobe Dreamweaver (now part of Creative Cloud) and Microsoft FrontPage.

Drupal is an open source platform, meaning that publicly contributed extensions have been offered to extend functionality of the CMS. Part of the Drupal Core, taxonomy is integral to what web developers and programmers can or could do with the software. Taxonomy is a system of categorization, and Drupal can use taxonomy for a number of different purposes within its framework by using various techniques and tools available for the platform. Here, we will examine the basics of taxonomy in Drupal (what it means, how it’s used, etc.) and the various types of tasks that can be accomplished by taking advantage of taxonomy within the software.

What does taxonomy refer to in Drupal, specifically?

In Drupal, taxonomy is the core module that is used to determine how to categorize or classify content on the website being built with the CMS. It is also a critical element to the website’s information architecture, on both the back and front ends.

Taxonomies in Drupal have vocabularies associated with them. As part of a vocabulary list, this helps the CMS to determine what items belong with what types of content. So, further, vocabularies consist of terms. The list of terms defines the contents of the vocabulary. These can be part of a hierarchy or simply a compilation of tags. Tags group nodes (elements in Drupal sites that contain content; e.g. articles and basic pages) together. These can then be referenced with search on the website.

Sites built in Drupal can have an unlimited number of vocabularies, so complex sites can be built using the framework. The potential number of terms possible is unlimited as well. The vocabularies and terms associated with your website can serve a number of purposes, particularly for displaying content and managing content assets. It can also be important for reference as well.

Displaying content and manipulating taxonomies

Drupal users are able quickly and easily modify how content is displayed based on how taxonomical data is manipulated with modules, such as the Views module. The Views module manipulates how nodes are displayed within a block, panel or page. At the most basic level, Views can enable developers to display a list of articles that appear only on certain pages that are tagged with certain keyword phrases that make up taxonomy of the site.

For example, on Slanted Magazine Southern Minnesota Arts & Culture’s website, the navigation bar at the top of the site includes several categories of basic pages that are the site’s publishing sections (News, Tech, Arts, Entertainment, Music, etc.). When a section tab is clicked the link brings you to that basic page where a list of articles with teaser text appears. Those article collection displays were built using the Views module that applied filters to display content only tagged with certain phrases such as “tech” or “Music”.

Taxonomy and permissions or visibility

Taxonomy and metadata can also drive the site content visibility and permissions settings, as needed for diverse business needs. The goals of the organization will determine how best to use these settings and taxonomy can play a vital role in how information within the organization is shared (public, confidential, semi-confidential, etc.) with various parties.

There may be nodes or specific content that only certain members within the organization should be allowed to edit. By using the permissions in the administration page within Drupal, developers are able to acutely assign permissions and roles for registered users of the site. This will allow powerful flexibility because developers can assign roles and permissions based on the taxonomy data that has been put together in the Drupal site.

Also, there may be a need for the developer to modify content that the public is able to view. Using the core module taxonomy in conjunction with permissions is a great way to achieve this goal as well. Again, it will be determined by the specific goals of the organization, so important decisions about the usability and navigation of the site will need to be worked out (or at least should be) far in advance to building out these elements of the site. A great outline and wireframes can go a long way when developing a top notch website using the Drupal CMS framework.

Improving search through taxonomy
Search will no doubt be improved through the use of taxonomy within the CMS. Content that is tagged or classified using vocabularies and terms within the framework can be indexed by the Drupal Search module. Additionally, the taxonomy will make your site more marketable because commercial search engines like Google and Bing will able to more effectively crawl the website and make determinations about the site’s content, architecture, design and organization of the website files.

Using taxonomy as part of the Drupal system is a key element to designing a great website on the platform and making the information work smarter for organizations. That is ultimately the purpose of any type of taxonomy. The system and its modules are quite easy to learn to use as well and multiple ways of handling the data is possible. Also, since the software is open source, there is a great opportunity to learn from a community of developers and users. There is also a wide variety of extensions available to enhance features of the CMS and its output.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Practical Guide to Content Strategy in Six Steps

A critical question you must ask yourself: what is your content strategy? Further, what do you plan to do with content assets you have and how do you take full advantage of that data?

There are many types of content, of course, and each group of assets may have a different strategy entirely. Let’s look at how you can identify that content, organize it and execute a strategy to handle it.

Step One: Identify Our Content

Let’s first start by identifying your content assets. What content do you have? How and why is it currently being used? Start by asking these kinds of questions to assess the content assets so you can later evaluate and organize that information into groups used in taxonomy (categorization of your content) and so forth.

Identifying your content is an important first step because, obviously, you have to know what you are working with before you can actually develop a plan to organize and use that available data to your advantage as an organization. Try to create some type of outline as you work through this.

For instance, you will likely want to look at all of your marketing content, employee policy content, customer and financial data and business operational data all separately. Find where all of this content lives (in the cloud, data center, computer hard drives, network drives, social media, email, wikis, etc.). This will help you move into the next crucial step of the content strategy process, which involves organizing all of your content and grouping it into categorical context.

Step Two: Organize, label, categorize

So now that you have identified all of the content within your organization’s hard (such as those in a file cabinet) and soft files (such as those in the cloud or stored on a computer), you can begin the critical steps of organizing, labeling and categorizing your content. This process involves creating an outline, hierarchy or taxonomical system for your content assets.

You will first want to start with a plan that outlines your organization’s goals for the content, with your overall mission in mind, so you will be able to develop a useful system of organization and taxonomy. Group your content assets within these groups and subgroups to create cohesion and transparency. One of the goals of your content strategy should be to make data easier to access for those with the proper access privileges. Each layer may have different privileges or added layers within. It is kind of like baking a complicated cake, using data for our ingredients.

Step Three: Develop targeted plans for each layer

Because you have these different layers of content, it only makes sense that you must plan a slightly or even widely different approach to each of those layers. For instance, your strategy for delivering employee policy and conduct information surely would not use the same approach as delivering customer marketing material to the public. They must be implemented with the user in mind.

Part of this is about identifying the user or audience in mind, but much of that process should have been already taken care of during the organization phase.These layers of taxonomy (content that is tagged or categorized for use in a particular context or definition of terms or navigation) can become increasingly complex and overwhelming, even for the most seasoned content managers, so be vigilant and stay focused on the overall strategy.

There are two good ways to do this. One is to make sure that you audit your content for consistency, accuracy, relevance (outdated information should be archived), mechanics, usability and design. The next is to conduct usability testing through each phase of the content management overhaul.

Step Four: Find a content management system that works for you

There are many different content management systems (CMS) that have varying levels of efficiency, complexity and advanced features for editing and managing your content. Each one is different and has a different learning curve.

Your job should be to find the one that works best for the purposes intended. Possible CMS include Drupal, WordPress, Joomla and several others for content like blogs, web portals and basic (or complex) websites. Sharepoint helps to manage document files. There are a number of different options depending on a particular need. You just want to make sure that your chosen system will allow you to categorize content effectively and make search easier.

Step Five: Employ good user design or user experience principles in design and navigation

It can’t be stressed enough. Make finding content easier for members of you organization. Make sure your content strategy involves looking at both form and function of content. A good information designer or graphic designer should not be underestimated. The work they do helps people navigate complicated websites or applications easier.

Designs should be clean and clear of clutter and complicated imagery. Icons and images should be displayed in the proper format so they don’t appear distorted. They should be easy to read, easy to find and easy to digest. Web users typically have little patience when it comes to looking around the page. You literally have seconds to grab their attention. Make it count.

Navigation structure and page elements should also be displayed logically and in a clean and clear manner to avoid confusion and congestion on pages. Also ensure that all navigation leads to relevant content that is useful for the intended audience.

Step Six: Employ analytics to make the most of your content

Lastly, when developing a content strategy and after all the other five steps have been completed (this is an ongoing though), you will be able to analyze your data. Using analytics tools to access insights about information can be critical to making your content strategy work for the organization. Look at how users clicked, where they clicked, what content was most accessed, how it was accessed and why. These insights will allow you to be nimble and make gradual changes over time to continually tweak the content management process.