By Interactive Strategies
Apr 19, 2013

A Whirlwind Tour of Launches

Since the beginning of the year, the Design and Development staff here at Interactive Strategies has been heads down with a series of launches.  The team has managed to complete four builds in the past two months.   Two of them were extremely complex builds that ran over a very long period of time because it was the release of Interactive Strategies’ first Drupal Feature Distribution.  The feature distribution is for community content driven web applications.   The other two builds were built using a combination of Drupal Core and customized features and modules built by us.  With help from our design staff, we were even able to implement responsive design into 3 out of the 4 releases. Good work, team!

Bringing Healthcare Information to Fingertips

One of the sites we recently launched was supporting a complete overhaul of a State Medicaid system.  Our goals were to provide concise and clear information about the available programs for the citizens of that state.  With the increasing number of people accessing information on mobile devices, as discovered in their past analytics, we felt that providing the Medicaid recipients with pleasant mobile experience would greatly increase site effectiveness.  We also believed it was important for the new site to ensure recipients could easily find provider plans based in their county.  If you couple that with the strong Information Architecture that we brought together, the receipents can now gain a much better understand of the state’s Medicaid program in a much easier fashion.  I know we understand it better, and we think they do too! 
The real challenge for this project was actually the timeline.  Our client had 90 days to completely execute this project.  It was a real challenge to condense our process down to this timeline.  Never the less, we still delivered on time and with the following feedback at the end too:

“It has been a pleasure working on this project with you and the whole I.S. team. I'm incredibly grateful to have had such a creative, responsive and professional group of people in our corner during this fast-paced implementation.”

 

Revising Online Education Marketing


We also just released code to a major online education company for a complete overhaul of their public-facing education site.  For this build, we leveraged Drupal Core to build a great website that will allow educators and school administrators find and access the very necessary information needed to improve America’s education programs. Interactive Strategies was engaged to provide an outside perspective to ensure that users were receiving the correct messaging and the most pertinent information that’s needed.  The interesting part of this project was that the client actually had an internal development staff that had experience with Drupal.  Often we work with IT Staff to setup hosting on their preferred hosting platforms or our own hosting platform, but we’ve rarely worked with staff experience in Drupal Development.   It’s also a rare experience to get feedback directly about code from a client.  Much to our development staff’s delight – we received the following message about 2 hours after we delivered the code:

“I also want to pass along a note of thanks.  I've gone through a good chunk of your custom code/theme and it's REALLY well done!  It can be nerve racking when we get code from 3rd parties, but after going through just a few files, I was instantly relieved.  You/Your team do awesome Drupal work.  THANK YOU!!”

It’s always a great thing to get positive feedback on your team’s efforts, but it’s fairly rare to get feedback on written code. Regardless, we always aim for quality workmanship, even if parts of our work may not be understood.
Releasing an Open Source Drupal Distribution and Launching Two Social Communities
The first of the two launches that started this whirlwind tour was built using our first Drupal Distribution release to Durpal.org.  While I’m not going to get into the specifics of our newly released distribution in this post, I will just highlight a few facts about these builds.   The development process ran well over 9 months and was a great learning experience for both the Account team and the Development staff. We’ve been able to leverage several lessons into our latest Drupal builds and even pull some of the modules we built for the Distribution back into our Drupal Core builds.  It’s also an interesting learning process to release a distribution back to Drupal.org.  There’s a lot work involved before you can even get a beta release!  There’s a lot more to come on our open source distribution release.

 

How we managed the whirlwind…


The web is littered with arguments on what framework is better than XYZ framework.  One big fighting contention in the PHP community is “Wordpress vs Drupal.”  Here at Interactive Strategies we tend to lean towards Drupal.  However, we are also committed to using the right tool for the right job, regardless of preference. One of the reasons we like Drupal so much is it’s flexibility out of the box.  As a whole, Drupal assumes very little about a site you’re about to build. This single assumption let us build a fairly simple and straight forward informational site on a state health care system.  We also built a community driven application using the exact same framework while building the informational site.  We were able to build the health site in the middle of building out a release of our Drupal Feature Distribution.  Using the same framework allows developers to jump between projects in a more seamless manner. If you happen to use Windows at the Office and a Mac at home, you’ll absolutely understand the point.  I’m sure you’d love to use the same platform at work and at home because it will greatly increase your efficiency. There’s not a need to stop and think “…wait where’s the start button?!”  This alone is one of the many reasons that we choose to continue to work with Drupal over other frameworks.

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