25 Nov 2007

Tweaking a Drupal site

filed under: journal  :: drupal  :: web development

(If you've come here via BlogHer, here are some of my thoughts on the issue of women evangelizing Drupal.)

After having wrestled with MovableType (and Typepad), skirted around WordPress, and dipped my toe in, and out of, ExpressionEngine, I am now quite happily esconced in the land of Drupal for most of my sites, including this one. The busiest one of those administered and published by me is Just Hungry. I spent the weekend tweaking it under the hood, as well as giving it a visual facelift.

Anyone who gets into Drupal to any kind of depth eventually installs the Views module. Views is a very useful tool that basically generates SQL queries from a web interface to allow you to generate all kinds of ways of presenting your data. The previous front page of Just Hungry relied extensively on Views - it had at one point 13 Views-generated snippets.

Unfortunately that didn't do much for site performance. The front page was taking forever to load sometimes, even with caching. When the site got hit by spikes of traffic, it would bring the server to its knees.

So, I stripped out most of the Views from the front page. The main column basically just is $content with a bit of tweaking of the tpl.php files, and some careful use of promoted/sticky modes. I've written the SQL for a couple of other snippets. I am down to 4 Views - still a lot but it seems stable so far. (Fingers crossed and all). If there are still problems I will have to think about no Views at all I guess, but I hope it doesn't get that far.

(This forum thread about TeamSugar, a much busier and larger multi-site setup, helped immensely.)

Theming Drupal gets easier and easier. It seems quite logical to me now. Besides the actual design considerations, this re-design only took a couple of days to complete, with one hour for the changeover - so only one hour of site downtime. I did the redesign on a dummy site with a duplicate of the real database, them switched over the templates and so on on the real site once I was happy with everything. The main tasks during the switchover were putting in some new blocks that weren't defined yet.

One thing I am not happy with at the moment is the handling of user accounts across a multisite installation. Just Hungry and Just Bento are multisite - in other words, they share the same Drupal codebase but use different databases and templates. The user data is shared, with the Singlesignon module, but it feels very unstable - it does a lot of redirection, which occasionally causes the sites to get stuck in an endless redirect loop of some sort. There has to be a better way to address a multisite installation with a shared user base.

Comments on this post:

I actually haven't tried

I actually haven't tried Drupal yet. I hear so much about it, it's probably time to try it myself.

Thanks for the advice on

Thanks for the advice on theming Drupal. I have 3 Wordpress based sites currently and have been thinking jumping ship to Drupal with at least one to see how it goes. But I have been concerned with the overall appearance of many Drupal sites. I want something a little more exciting but does not take forever to load.

Theming Drupal is as easy, or

Theming Drupal is as easy, or (for me anyway) easier than theming Wordpress. However, what you don't see are a lot of free or for-purchase readymade templates for Drupal, as you see for Wordpress, since Drupal users tend to want to make their own I think. There are some out there (try Googling for Drupal themes) . You do see some very attractive Drupal sites out there that you wouldn't even realize are Drupal unless you knew. E.g. the whole Team Sugar group of sites (,, etc) are built on Drupal. So is the very popular Dooce.

First of all, great theme,

First of all, great theme, very pleasing to the eye, I love it.
I've been using wordpress for sometime now and I am quite satisfied with it too, but haven't really ever tried drupal. I have heard much about it being really user friendly and everything, I think I should give it a try soon.Would it be worth the switch?

well.. i like drupal.. but

well.. i like drupal.. but have you guys ever tried joomla content manager?

i think joomla is more flexible..


I've also been considering

I've also been considering whether to move from WordPress to Drupal. If you don't mind me asking, what features did you consider most when moving?

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