Drupal is a very powerful, flexible content management system, and nodes are the primary means for building out web pages. And just as rights are balanced out with responsibilities for creating an effective, functioning society, so too is the need to establish a bedrock foundation of nodes, content types and fields from which flexible renderings of data can be done easily and efficiently.
The front-facing nature of most of the traditional IA and design processes, however, can make this a challenge. Strategic goals are established that then get put into visual representations through wireframes and designs. This is not, inherently, a bad process. However, problems can occur when there is a lack of clarity around how content makes it from the CMS to the webpage, how it needs to change and how this might evolve over time. Also, this is often not the primary focus or expertise of most clients (nor should it be) and makes it easy to gloss over.
A simple way to guard against this is to take a “trust but verify” approach.
You can trust that any information you need to display on a page can be done, so long as it exists and is in the proper structure for working through your content management system.
That said, it’s helpful to verify the following:
- The content exists
- Everyone knows what it is and what it is trying to represent in real life (e.g., a publication, a product, a user profile, etc.)
- Everyone knows where it exists
- Everyone understands how it can be pulled in and any parsing of the data is verified up front
- Everyone is clear what might need to evolve over time with this data
- Everyone is clear on whether the content will be updated over time, who will be updating, and how they are expected to do so
- Everyone is clear about everywhere this information needs to live on both the site and the web as a whole
It’s helpful to think of this as something of a natural revolution on the web. In the earliest days, content and styling were intertwined on every individual webpage (R.I.P. ). Later, we witnessed the rise of cascading style sheets (CSS) that work best when data is kept separate from the “presentation layer.”
We’re currently in an era where organizations need to think about a digital presence that extends well beyond their own web site(s).
In an age of responsive design websites that require choices to be made about what and how pages render on mobile devices, and with application programming interfaces (APIs) that can extend your organization’s public data well beyond your website, a fluency around how data is structured and flows needs to be at the core of any digital strategy.
This approach isn’t a “nice to have” option that companies can elect to ignore. Doing so is done at one’s own risk.