Many of you will be aware that my web designer and I are in the process of developing a new Landlord Law site.
The current site was originally developed by my web designer Gill Bishop in 2001, and although it has served me very well, it is getting a bit old and clunky. We have been talking about a new site for a couple of years now. Earlier this year I decided that the time had come to do it, and asked Gill to go ahead.
Gill advised that the new site should be built using the open source software Drupal, as this is a very stable platform suitable for a large site with many users (it’s the software used apparently for the White House website). So this is what we are doing. The basic site is now there and Gill and I are both working on it. It is taking us quite a bit longer than we originally thought.
Gill has done a stunning new theme for the site, which I am really pleased with. However the theme is the least of it. She has to create various types of membership (and get them to work), lots of new templates for the different type of content (Q and A, FAQ, tips etc), and the new purchasing system, not to mention a mailing system and forums and the new tenancy agreements service. To name but a few.
I have the massive task of reviewing and then copying over ALL the Landlord Law content. We have taken the decision to split the site in half, so members are going to be either landlord members or tenant members. This is good, in that it will allow me to focus more on the different needs of those groups.
However it also means that for much of the content, for example the articles, which were generally written with both landlords and tenants in mind, I now have to do two, a landlords’ version and a tenants’ version. This is taking some time.
While doing this of course I am also having to learn Drupal on the hoof. It’s a steep learning curve and it was a bit hard at first. However I am getting the hang of it, with help from Gill, the Drupal guidance, and a couple of books I bought from Packt.
Drupal is a fantastic system. We are using something called taxonomy, by which all content is tagged with a term. I can then, using a thing called ‘views’, create a page, which will show all of a certain type of content, with a certain term.
So for example I have had to do views for all the different types of FAQ – so there is a page for the landlords tenancy agreements FAQ, a page for the landlords tenancy deposits FAQ, etc, all linked from a page which has links to the links pages for all the landlords FAQ (if you follow me). And the same for the tenants FAQ. These all have to be done individually and it took me a couple of days to get it right (although we have a clone function which helps a lot).
I am hoping to be able to do something similar for the Q and A, which I know will please many of you, as you have often asked for a better way to search these.
There’s still a vast amount to do. Probably about one half to two thirds of the content is still to be moved over, plus there is some new content I want to do.
There is also the presentation of the information on the page. I want to have at least one picture on most pages, plus there are things called blocks which we can use to put information in the margins. This is all replicating a lot of what we have on the current site, but it all has to be done in a different way.
Last night I started putting links into the ‘library’, which will be a resource of links to relevant web-sites. Things I have not really got around to doing much about yet are the new suppliers area, the forums, the trails, and the new instruction procedure for ‘one to one’ case work.
Not to mention the new software we are going to be using for our tenancy agreements!
So it will be a while longer before we can launch. We are coming along, but I suspect it will be a couple of months more yet. But it will be a pretty nice system when it is done.
If you have any suggestions for content, do leave a comment and let me know.