Sunday, 13 May 2012

Drupal 7 admin, some thoughts


I keep labelling posts with pt1 and I do intend to re-visit them, however getting tired with that so this is labelled with 'some thoughts', I can always get back with some more thoughts at some stage. Basically for my own consumption, I want to come back later and see where the land lays regarding admin in Drupal 7 and compare to Drupal 8 as appropriate.

Admin interfaces and user experiences are improving, one or two legacy Microsoft based cms interfaces I have had the pleasure to play on were truly appalling things that only worked properly in IE etc. etc. and just made you feel like not wanting to add/edit content rather than making it easy for you to do so.

In light of the above I can see where Drupal administration can seem like a pleasant breath of fresh air, however compared to where it could be, if marking a report card for a student I think Drupal would get a "could do better". When I come back with some more thoughts then I will make a few comparisons but just for now, Wordpress is better, feels much more intuitive. If anybody who has used both wants to argue the point I would be happy for your comments. Note I am not saying Wordpress is better and I recognise that Drupal has a bigger scope but the admin in Wordpress wins out in my opinion (and many others).

Two well known tweets sum up the perceptions around Drupal vs Wordpress:
Dries: RT @chx1975: WordPress is now approximately where Drupal was around Drupal 5 w/ content types. See you in 2015.
Dries: Agreed, and fair enough. RT @newoceans_en: @Dries Drupal 7 will hopefully be where WordPress was around 5 years ago regarding UX.

Handing over a Drupal application to a client who has experience of Wordpress can be a little painful, to take a quote from Katherine Senzee when being interviewed about the Overlay (mentioned and linked to below).

I chose it (Drupal) because it was developer friendly, now it is kind of funny that I am spending my time making it end-user friendly.

Some embarrassments

Media assets

Core Drupal leaves something to be desired in the media department, this is to some extent addressed by the Media module. A contributed module, that adds a lot of functionality, however a number of issues will be addressed in version 2 of the module which is still unstable (unfortunately). Some enhancements were made via the media browser plus module but this project doesn't appear to be keeping up with or working well with the media module.

Perhaps things will look a little better on this front in a month or two.


These are all by default rather awkward to administer and apply when the taxonomies or menus are large and the widget options for editing don't provide you with something that can easily be handed over to a client.

The overlay

Maybe some people like the overlay feature, but generally it seems to cause occasional errors, hard to work with clients that have old crufty machines or browsers etc. and sometimes errors depending on what other modules you have installed (in my experience). You can hear a bit of a discussion about this here in a Drupal voices podcast..

Maybe I need to spend more time with it, but the overlay doesn't seem to offer me anything that aids in quickly helping me train clients to administer their Drupal site, by default I find myself disabling the overlay module.

Some useful helpers

Dashboard and Shortcuts

The customizable dashboard and shortcuts are a terrific boost to quickly making a site administration better to hand over to clients. Shortcuts to things that they have permissions to use appear nicely in the gray bar (assuming you are using the Seven administration) theme. You can add blocks to the dashboard and make it a the main link they can go to, to re-orientate themselves.


Maybe after one of my previous posts this may seem surprising but views really come into their own in admin, you can provide a tool for the end-user to query their data, very easily with views. Simply creating some of these views and providing a block with links to them in a block on the admin dashboard can go a long way towards making a better admin experience for end-users.