By gene | Wed, 12/29/2010 - 07:23
If you've ever used Drupal out of the box without having years of Web Development experience behind you it is a very daunting experience, and if you do have years of experience chances are that popping sound you heard before you blacked out was your mind. I've been working with Drupal for over 5 years, starting back in version 4.6 days and I remember those days of going "What in the heck is a Node?", watching Views and CCK mature into the amazing modules they are today. Drupal's flexibility and very large and passionate community are the major reasons so many more people are giving it a try. The one thing that has always held true for Drupal, at least up until Drupal 6, is it's user experience out of the box is not for the faint of heart. It's not very intuitive for clients off the bat, can be very frustrating for clients to be delivered a site which is very cumbersome to use despite all the power under the hood. Luckily there is help and it's available now! To start off I recommend using the Acquiapackage/install as a base for Drupal as it uses great common modules which go through a review by Acquia engineers which takes some of the headache out of the way for maintenance and creates a best practice standard. Now I'm going to tell you about the pieces I use on all of the Drupal sites I work on to make the management side of Drupal much cleaner.
The administration menu came along during the days of Drupal 5 and even had a back port at the time for Drupal 4.7. What the administration menu does is takes the items from the Navigation menu and puts it along the top of the site as a floating black menu utilizing drop downs. It does some work on arranging the menu items in a more sensible groupings. This is the first module you should install and active, and if you use the Acquia package it's on by default.
The Rubik theme is a clean administration theme developed based off the work commissioned by the Drupal Association to improve the user experience by getting "Drupal" out of the way and making it uncluttered. You do need to install the base theme Tao which lays the ground work for sub-themes to just get to the job they are intended for. Once the module and themes are installed the last step is to set the administration theme of your Drupal site by going to Site configuration -> administration theme, select the Rubik theme from the drop down and, as my personal preference, check "Use administration theme for content editing". Your Drupal site now has a very clean administrative interface which isn't tied to your front-end design any longer. Here is what Cheeky Monkey's admin page looks like with Rubik and Administration Menu enabled:
There is another module to use which provides an alternative to Administration Menu, called Admin. I personally haven't used it very much as I've become so familiar with with the Administration Menu that I find Admin to be to slow for me sometimes. This being said it is a great module and provides a great alternative to Administrative Menu for Drupal 6. Give these modules and themes a try and see what you like and get feedback from your clients and users, remember we develop sites for them and to provide a great experience to keep them coming back for more.