The work of writing and creating images / photos for your website is like preparing an amazing meal for guests.
Everything else on your site is structure and ambiance: stove, oven, bowls, blender, table cloths, napkins, utensils and dishes, etc. What your audience is visiting your site for is high quality words and images, well plated and in a classy ambiance.
Words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books / magazines … are the hierarchy of ingredients of traditional written communication. On websites, the genre is different, writing is more like appetizers and small plates, but no less complex.
Rethinking Ingredients and Text Communication
Some food ingredients are basic, raw ingredients, like carrots, flour, lemon zest, olive oil and bacon; the words of cooking. Other ingredients are a mixture of pre-made ingredients: jam, bread crumbs, pizza sauce, and the V-8 juice I like to use in soups. The second type of ingredient depends on the existence of raw ingredients. Your final dish is probably made of both raw ingredients and prepared ingredients.
Similarly, your website ingredients are images and words in the form of articles, titles, link text and captions. Most web pages store these ingredients in a database. The final cooking depends on data queries: that data prepared ahead of time, and stored in a database. That data waiting in the database, is in pieces that can be put together in so many ways.
A Category page only picks up a small amount of content about many items. A Product page picks up much of the content about one item. But for either use, the data is in pieces and containers in files and the database. It’s the design and processing of the pieces that makes your site unique, just like it’s the design and processing of the ingredients that makes your dish unique.
Using Drupal Structures as a Model
In a recent session of Website HELP Wednesday, a participant had some experience with entering Drupal Content but was new to the idea that the content is contained in Drupal structures. Those structures had been prepared by a developer with no discussion of how those structures can be changed, added and deleted, as the need arises. Her training was the “Click here. Click here.” method. To be fair, it could be that in the mad scramble to get the site up, there wasn’t time.
But to accomplish the task she came to do meant that she needed to understand both her content and how the Drupal Structures could be manipulated to hold the content. And, no, Nora does not know everything about a site by looking at the site by looking at the front side. Instead, I need to take a look at the Dashboard, which is like looking at the list of ingredients on a jar of sauce.
It’s like tasting a dish and trying to figure out the ingredients. From a taste, you can tell that there are tomatoes, but were those fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes. And, what type of tomatoes? Similarly, I can look at the content on the page and take some guesses, but to be accurate needs a look at the Dashboard.
The first problem was to figure out where the Content had been entered. You can use Drupal “out of the box” with the default structures to hold the data, or the developer can build custom structures to match the data more closely.
In Drupal, data is like a carrot, it’s all carrot, but it can be used in many forms: cut in ribbons, or rounds, big chunks or julienne sticks. Unlike a salad, where we can see exactly what was done to the carrot, we need to go behind the scenes to find out how the content has been processed.
Structures are dependent on Content. Notice that in the Drupal 7 admin menu, Content is the first item. Most Drupal sites have many different types of content. If someone uses Drupal without any customizations, there aren’t many types of content. It’s the difference between a wedge of iceberg lettuce with Thousand Island Dressing, and a salad with a good assortment of veggies.
Pulling the Content into your Meal or Website
Once the basic Content ingredients are in your refrigerator, err Drupal, structures can use that Content for all kinds of interesting combinations. Similarly, an article in Drupal can be in columns, or a single block. That is the layout. So, the code that creates the layout, shapes the content it receives from the database.
Are croutons a basic ingredient? No, croutons are a prepared ingredient. It takes bread and seasonings to make croutons. And, when you think it through further, bread is also a prepared ingredient. So, croutons are two steps away from raw ingredients.
A key to using your website technology is to understand what is a raw ingredient and what is a mixture of raw ingredients. Your photos are raw ingredients. The content you type or copy and paste is a raw ingredient. Then your website technology uses those raw ingredients to make the salad. For example, if you have a page that shows a list of articles on a particular topic, that is more like a crouton than like spinach. For that list of articles to exist, the articles have to exist. But, even an article is made up of words and images, like a crouton is made up of bread and seasonings. And, like bread is made up of many ingredients, your article may have images from many sources that need to be explained and the source acknowledged.
Take Some Planning Time
For many people, the tasks of writing content and preparing a meal are not something they look forward to with great gusto. Savor the ingredients and the words in your head for a while. Start with some ingredient you need to use up. Start with an idea for a fun page. If it’s joyful for you, the meal and your website will be more likely to be joyful for others as well!