November 24th, 2010
In 2009 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) chose Appnovation Technologies to develop a Drupal-based community website named Adaptation Learning Platforms. The portal is a community platform which allows NGOs, researchers, and policymakers to collaborate together and look at how wildlife is affected by global climate challenges. It features community tools such as groups, discussion forums, and user profiles. Initially, WWF looked at using Open Atrium, but they quickly realized that since the site is not a project-based site, the Open Atrium version would not be as effective. WWF made the decision to develop their ALPs site on the Drupal platform because it offers all the community options they wanted to incorporate and is easily scalable.
For more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF’s unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.
Site Design and Functionalities
The design of the Adaptation Learning Platforms was the focusing of the many ideas the client had during the design process. As it is associated with the World Wildlife Fund, there were certain guidelines that had to be followed, but some leeway was afforded as it was a specifically purposed project site. Color palette and typography were provided by the client. Wireframes were created in OmniGraffle and the base Drupal theme layer is Garland that was stripped down, re-built, and named “Elan”.
Like most community sites, the ALP has user profiles, discussion forums and an events calendar to help like-minded individuals connect. The homepage has a “What’s New” mini-feed that updates as new content are added throughout the site. There is also the ability to create groups, open or private, for users with the same focus topic to discuss and collaborate on items like case studies and create a specific group blog. A specialized user dashboard was created so users could have all their options available to them from one location.
The portal’s other focus is research and information. It features a library that stores case studies, reports, and news items. Users are also able to access and create Wiki documents. This content is overseen by site administrators and is searchable by type, topic or author tags. The homepage also features a feed from the Climate Prep.Org blog with the latest news items and reports.
For the development, we used our standard environment which consist of dedicated mid-range servers (4GB of RAM, 2x CPUs @ 2 to 3 GHz). Database and web server are on the same machine.
For the deployment, we worked with the client’s IT department to optimize their servers. ALP is on a dedicated machine, not a VPS, and the specifications are very similar to our test environment.
We saw four ways to make Drupal run faster: a bigger server, optimized server, optimized Drupal, and accelerators such as mem_cache, Varnish and CDN. For ALP, we focused on optimizing of the servers, on reducing the number of modules, on replacing contributed modules with simpler custom ones where it made sense, and on optimizing our custom modules.
There were 42 modules used for the site, including 4 custom modules:
There were a number of contributed modules used for the project. Most notable are:
- Views 6.x-2.10 – The Views module provides a flexible method for Drupal site designers to control how lists and tables of content (nodes in Views 1, almost anything in Views 2) are presented
- Organic groups 6.x-2.0 – Enables users to create and manage their own ‘groups’. Each group can have subscribers, and maintains a group home page where subscribers communicate amongst themselves
- Bibliography Module 6.x-1.13 – This module allows users manage and display lists of scholarly publications
- Content Construction Kit (CCK) 6.x-2.5 – The Content Construction Kit allows you to add custom fields to nodes using a web browser
- Content Profile 6.x-1.0-beta4 – This module builds user profiles as content (aka nodes), which opens the opportunity to use all the powerful modules for content for user profiles too, e.g. the Content Construction Kit (CCK). It’s intended to be simple and useful, but is extendable by other modules
- WWF Binder – Provides functionality for Book Binders
- WWF Central – Central module for WWF’s Adaptation Learning Platforms site
- WWF Group – Provides custom functionality for organic groups
- WWF Search – Provides custom functionality for search
Other Custom Technologies
- Search Results Tabbing feature – Tabbed the search results by type for better clarity with regards to the different results
- JS Login block – Uniquely shows the login block on the top right hand with a hide and show feature that allows users to login
- Homepage Slideshow – Displays user defined content to allow for promotion of a certain content
- Groups – Able to join/add/delete/edit groups that features a certain area if interest
- Dashboard pages – Organizes a landing page for users of the site so that they can quickly do everything from one page
The Adaptation Learning Portal was built by a team of seven people:
- Four designers
- Two creative leads that designed most of the site and mock ups and two junior designers to implement themes
- Two Drupal developers
- One lead developer that architected and oversaw development and one intermediate developer to carry out development
- One project manager
Basecamp and Active Collab were used for most project management tasks and WebEX was used extensively for information sharing.