jueves, 25 de octubre de 2012

Review of O'Reilly's "Drupal for Designers", by Dani Nordin

10:19 by Rafael Flores · 0 comentarios


This time I'm into Drupal, the opensource CMS of choice. Based on the usual xAMP stack (that means, anyOS capable of running Apache, MySQL and PHP would do), it's a very powerful web system that runs on some of the most viewed sites on the Web (The Economist, the White House... there're plenty of web examples here). However, getting to that maturity level takes some time and effort, and that's where Dani Nordin's book fits in.


Dani is a Drupal Designer (all capitals) working as a freelancer and her own business called the zen kitchen who has a lot of experience (and very valuable contacts) in the Drupal world. That's where she has taken the stuff to write this book as well as three more (published by O'Reilly, here). Doing so guarantees all the things see wrote in the book are accurate and (most of them) to the point.

The book covers Drupal 7, but some of the chapters can be applied to Drupal 6 if you are into the old version. I've found it a very enjoyable reading, I like Dani's writing since it seems personal and "real, not talking about things that seem "too niche". This might be just because we are talking here about a system that anyone can set up in their own desktop or laptop, even virtualized (there are many VMs around free to download to play with, for example: Quickstart or BitNami) or then download a proper DAMP (Acquia's or others) to avoid the virtualization blues. Dani covers the setup process with great detail on the book, anyway.
On to the book then. I've found it very interesting, covering subjects that the reader will need to know about one moment or another. It is however a bit of a "mixed bag" of things, ranging from plain Drupal installation and setup tasks all the way through Project Proposal's recommendations. As such, it is a book I think I will keep close as reference since Dani's clear language helps understanding many different project's tasks. I missed a bit a complete step by step Drupal project description, however. Dani touches some tasks of a couple different projects in the book, but none of them are fully reviewed (I mean, from the Content Type definition steps all the way up to the first steps of data loading). However, here and there the book offers most of the process' steps any designer (plus developer? solo team?) must perform to create a nice Drupal site:
  • There are chapters (with doc samples, thanks a lot Dani!) covering Project Proposals and "how to deal with customers" recommendations (chapters 20 and 21)
  • Also, some deal with the Discovery Phase (2) with a practical chapter (4)
  • Others with the User Experience and Wireframing design phase (imho 3 and 5)
  • Then jumps into the tools needed or recommended for a Drupal development environment (8)
  • Drupal-only tool Drush (chapter 9). But also Drush Make and installation profiles are covered on chapter 19
  • Git (chapter 10), covered with enough detail
  • Some chapters cover the layout and themes (6 and 16). A practice on Layout design using Fireworks is provided too (chapter 7).
  • There is a practical chapter dedicated to propotyping in Drupal (12) that talks on Content and Content Types.
  • Into development duties, Modules (13) and Views (chapters 14 and 15)
  • CSS and the Less tool are covered with detail on chapter 17. Dani recommends the use of Responsive Design, so Omega theme lovers will be at ease here (I do!).
  • One chapter deals with setting up all the Drupal environment, but mix with with setting up some Modules with Drush (chapter 12). I would have divided this into two: one before chapter 8 and another after chapter 13. I think it would have been clearer.
  • There is also a chapter that deals with Features (chapter 18), I understand Dani's idea was to link it with chapter's 19 Installation profiles as the path to follow when migrating Drupal environments from Development to Test and finally into Production servers.
  • Finally, the last chapters talks about Retrospectives and their value (22)

That's a lot! Concepts such as Agile, Retrospective, Responsive Design, version control... tools like Drush, Less, Git... all "flavoured" with Drupal. Yummy! :D Furthermore, Dani adds here and there some "interviews" with colleagues from the Drupal community with varied topics, related to the chapter where they are inserted. Some of them provide some value, others are just informational. It's a nice personal touch that she adds to the book anyway, and somehow makes the read more enjoyable.
As said, I've learned a lot with this book (and not just with it but also with the "informational pointers" provided, such as the norwegian folks from NodeOne which I strongly recommend you to know about if you are into Drupal), and though sometimes I've felt a bit like "missing the path" I recommend its read to those who feel like they know about Drupal but want to become real experts on it.
Finally, reviewing the TOCs of the other Dani's books seems like those cover some of the themes that this one does in deeper detail, maybe that's just what I need now:

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