Reader Question: What Is Drupal?

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One of the most common questions we’re asked here at Talance is: What is Drupal? It’s the technology that envelopes our every single day, but that doesn’t mean that everyone – or the common Web user – knows what it is. But it’s worth understanding, because a website built on Drupal can make your life a lot easier.

First off, let’s get the name out of the way. “Drupal” is a non-grammatical variation of the Dutch word “druppel,” which means “droplet.” It was invented by Dries Buytaert, who is Dutch, in 2001. It’s pronounced “DREW-pull.” Rumor has it he tried to call it “dorp,” which means “village” in Dutch, but made a typo when he registered it.

Drupal, in a phrase, is an open-source content management system. Now hold on, all of you now thinking, “But what do ‘open source’ and ‘content management system’ mean?” I’ll decompress that phrase.

Content management system

A content management system (CMS) is a used to manage the content of a website. It allows someone who may not know anything about how to create or edit webpages with languages like HTML, to manage the creation, modification, and removal of content from a website without needing the expertise of a Webmaster. Most CMSs include publishing, format management, revision control, indexing, search and retrieval.
(From Definitions)

Open source

Open source software is usually developed as a public collaboration and made freely available. It is intended to be freely shared and possibly improved and redistributed by others.
(From Definitions)

Those two definitions get to the core of what Drupal is. It’s a free piece of software that anybody can use to build and manage a website without being a technical genius.

The “free” part means that you don’t have to pay for license fees, as you would with a system built by a company like Microsoft. You only pay development costs, which boils down to much more powerful websites for much less money.

Websites built with Drupal aren’t any old brochure websites – you can really build on to these. Drupal websites incorporate blogs, forums, e-commerce functionality, contact management, donation management, social networking tools and a whole lot more. Here’s a sample of the things we regularly put into the websites we build.

3 Sites for Accessibility

Too many websites ignore accessibility. But the ability to let people with visual or other constraints (like people using iPhones who can’t see Flash) certainly notice when they can’t use a website. The upshot: they never return.

Here are three sites you can use to help make it easier for people to use your site:

Colour Contrast Check

“The Colour Contrast Check Tool allows to specify a foreground and a background colour and determine if they provide enough of a contrast “when viewed by someone having color deficits or when viewed on a black and white screen”

“Rather than providing a complex technical report, WAVE shows the original web page with embedded icons and indicators that reveal the accessibility of that page.”

Browsershots makes screenshots of your web design in different browsers.

The Key to Successfully Kicking off a Website Project: Mind Map

Mind Map covering the issues of Owning a Cat

[Photo credit: Mind Map covering the issues of Owning a Cat by MyThoughtsMindMaps, on Flickr]

Think about what happened the last time you really considered what should be on your website. Ideas and thoughts probably flowed in on your stream of conscious in no particular order, but rapidly:

  • “We need to update the contact information.”
  • “Oh, and Chris at the front desk needs to be added to the staff page.”
  • “Didn’t someone say the other day they wanted a place to put articles about us?”

That’s a good thing. When you’re starting to plan a Web site, you want to consider every little thought or suggestion that’s come at you since the last time you updated your site. Your chief job should be to get everything down so you can process the information and make reasonable decisions when it comes to organizing the information on the site.

Here at Talance HQ, the best tool we’ve found to capture these early ideas is a mind map. “A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing,” says Wikipedia.

We’re very un-technical about it too. We take a big sheet of paper, or several scraps of paper, and write down everything we think of, drawing lines to connect ideas, or grouping the scraps of paper together.

The process is pure catharsis for website planning, and remarkably effective at helping you organize what seems like idea-chaos. Plus, since it requires no technical prowess, it’s a good activity for even the most technically challenged in your organization.

Five Mistakes That Can Kill Your SEO

Considering that about half the people on the Internet find you through some kind of search engine query, it’s vitally important that you show up everywhere you should. Such are the intricacies of search engine optimization.

Improving your SEO is an on-going task, but here are five mistakes you can make to really kill your SEO strategy.

1. Use images for headings

Some people think regular old text is too boring for headings, so they use pictures instead. A major no-no. Search engines like header tags (< h1 >, < h2 >, etc.), so use these instead of graphics. You can always change the style of them through CSS if you don’t like the way they appear.

2. Leave image tags blank

This mistake is incredibly common, but it’s also incredibly easy to fix. Whenever you have an image display on a page, make sure you fill in the so-called “alt tag.” It’s a handy place to stash keywords (search engines figure anything you illustrate is important, so they pay attention), and it helps with overall accessibility.

3. Bad spelling

Search engines are skeptical of crummy spelling. Get a dictionary.

4. Flash only

Flash is, well, flashy, but it’s not incredibly usable. It’s hard for people to navigate, and also hard for search engines to catalog. Provide an HTML alternative so make everybody happy. As an added bonus, anybody using a hand-held device (like an iPhone) will have an easier time reading your site.

5. Ugly URLs

URLs with a string of nonsensical text does nothing for your site. They’re confusing, you can never type them into an address bar and search engines hate them. Instead, make sure you’re using real English in the address. Check out this article’s address for an example.

Mix and Match Your Electronic Missives

Too many of the non-profits and religious organizations that come to us think of their communications strategies as one-way streets that never intersect. While they may send messages through their website, Twitter account or Facebook Page, many never ask for feedback or take steps to build a conversation. Instead, they’re focused on one-way announcements of ticket sales or special initiatives.

Usually, those messages never intersect with a blended communications strategy. You may see that a church has a Facebook account – but only if you happen to come across it on Facebook.

The important thing to remember is that someone who might be really interested in what you do might not be a Facebook or Twitter user. So that means that if you put all your energy into Facebook or Twitter or any other singular thing, they’ll never find you. Spread it around.

Here are a few good examples of how to blend different communications initiative:

Detailed Twitter Background

Add a custom background on your Twitter page that has information on how to find your website or subscribe to your blog. Check out ours.

Double-Duty Tweets

Send messages on Twitter that point people to useful information on your website or blog. Rather than, “Did you know we have a blog?” try something compelling like a snippet from a recent blog post or initiative, “We’ve placed a bounty on Michael Vick. You read that right. Get details.”

Use Facebook Connect

This plug-in, which works with Drupal and WordPress, in addition to other websites, lets members log onto your website using their Facebook login and share information in both places at once.

September Talance Newsletter: Healthy Website Checklist

[This little gem is the text of issue our e-mail newsletter subscribers just received. Want a slice of this foryourself? Sign up now.]

Hi, Friends.

Websites, you know, are never done. They’re as close as you can get to living and breathing for something made of lines of code stored on computers around the globe. Trends change, organizations’ missions change and outside forces change too.

One big outside force recently changed, namely Internet Explorer 8. Any time a Web browser receives a major upgrade, and people are encouraged to switch over, it means that old websites may no longer work properly. Even if you have chosen to let IE8 (which has its own host of problems) drift by without you, not all the people who are coming to your website have.

It’s important to take the time on a regular basis to make sure your website is keeping up with the technology around it. It’s a job that requires regular tending, but we’ve made it easier for you by assembling the Healthy Website Checklist you can follow.

Bookmark it or print it out so you remember to keep making sure your website still works.

Of course, keeping websites ship-shape and Bristol fashion is one of our specialties at Talance, so give us a holler (888-810-9109 or use this form) if we can help breathe new life into your website.

Your Internet pal,


New Launch: Rachel Coalition

The Rachel Coalition provides services for victims of domestic violence, but its website was limited to a few informational pages and uninspiring design. Here’s how we helped.

»Read more

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Use this checklist to fine tune your website in a hurry.

30 Ideas on How Congregations Can Use Twitter
Not sure if Twitter is right for your congregation? Here’s how to decide.

A Quick Website Tweak To Get More Donations
It doesn’t take much to make it easier to receive donations.

Reader Question: How Do People Find Me on Twitter?
We answer a reader who was wondering how people keep finding her on Twitter.

Small SEO Tweaks with Big Impact
Help search engines list you more easily.

Reader Question: What does WYSIWYG mean?
Jargon beware.

5 Painless Ways to Squeeze More from Your Website
It doesn’t have to hurt to reap better rewards from your website’s performance.

Emergency Guide for Lost Websites
What to do if you lose your domain name.

Need Some Help?

Talance has helped clients launch scores of projects, ranging from websites to online newsletters to CRM projects. Please click here to schedule a time to talk about your next project or to request a proposal.

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New Service for Killer Synagogue Websites

Synagogue Site

You’re a busy person. You don’t have oodles of time, money and technical expertise to put into your synagogue website.

And now you don’t have to.

Talance is launching a new service called Synagogue Sites 1-2-3 that makes it a breeze to have a website that truly communicates with your congregation. This is no electronic brochure.

>> Get more details and pricing here

Here’s how it works:

1. Pick your favorite design

Get started with a clean, super-powered website hosted on the Drupal content management system (CMS). It includes tools for improving search engine optimization, a Microsoft Word-like text editor and six months free Web hosting.

2. Customize

Send us your logo (if you have one – we can help if you don’t), your two favorite colors and a couple pictures to include on the homepage. You can also pick from any of these Web tools for free:

  • E-Newsletter
  • Interactive Calendar
  • Blog
  • Advanced site search
  • File storage
  • Listserv
  • Membership forms
  • Members-only section
  • Photo album
  • Registration form
  • Shabbat times calendar
  • Weekly Torah Portion (from MyJewishLearning)

You can keep updating from an extensive list of advanced Web tools.

3. Relax

We do all the set-up and configuration to get you up online fast – in just five working days.

Special Bonus: Are you a Synaplex synagogue? Mention it when you sign up, and receive 20% off through September!

Learn more and sign up today!