Maxim, Drupal, And The Hometown Hotties - InformationWeek

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6/11/2012
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Maxim, Drupal, And The Hometown Hotties

Moving the men's magazine website to Drupal has given Maxim's Web developers more flexibility, including the ability to add social features to online events such as voting for "hot hometown girls."

Having reassembled the core members of his old Smart Money team at Maxim, Le Du decided the PHP coding required for Drupal customization wasn't a big leap from Cold Fusion. On the plus side, the wide variety of Drupal modules available would mean the team wouldn't have to start from scratch. "Drupal modules are very much like Lego blocks, where the blocks can do different things. How you assemble them gets you close to what you want to accomplish, and if it doesn't get you all the way there, you can add your own customizations," he said.

For example, the Hometown Hotties program used standard modules for creating profiles and for uploading files. The Maxim developers added custom coding to create a workflow allowing editors to vet the submissions, decide which ones should be displayed for the readers' consideration, and allocate the women to different rounds in the five-week contest. The function for voting on contestants was based on a standard, popular voting module, Le Du said.

So far, the main sections of the Maxim website haven't made extensive use of the social features Acquia has been promoting for its version of Drupal. Le Du said he expects to add more social features but without "trying to recreate Facebook on maxim.com." Instead, articles include the Facebook comment widget as a way of building engagement. The Hometown Hotties profiles will also pull in a contestant's Twitter feed, if she supplied one.

A very similar Acquia success story is EBay's developer website for X.Commerce, which provides documentation and community resources for the EBay, PayPal, and Magento, as well as overarching e-commerce developer technologies from X.Commerce.

Previously, there were separate developer sites for each brand. The one for PayPal, which this replaced, was based on a Jive Software community. Jive is another Java-based platform, and switching to Drupal made it possible to implement changes more quickly, according to Amy Piazza, a product development leader for x.com.

"Without a doubt, one of the benefits is the ability to iterate quickly," she said. "Before, it would sometimes take eight weeks to fix a text typo" because the text was buried in some bit of code that had to be carefully retested before deployment.

Once Drupal was chosen, the x.com team looked at Acquia's Commons platform for community sites, which had many of the features the developer community needed. Ultimately, the team decided to create a more custom experience, individually selecting Drupal components to use or modify, Piazza said. "I don't think there's anything on the site that's out of the box."

As was true at Maxim, the developer team started without a lot of knowledge of Drupal and relied on support and training from Acquia to help them come up to speed. "We were a Java shop and didn't have the experience at that time," Piazza said. Acquia provided a project manager and a support for engineering a Drupal site according to best practices, then helped the x.com team transition to being able to support the site themselves, she said. Acquia also helped migrate content from the existing developer websites so it would still all be available from the new unified developer site.

Bryan House, VP of marketing for Acquia, said his company is not "a traditional Web development shop" that would do all the development for a site and maintain it long term. Rather, its services are geared toward helping with site migrations to ensure a successful launch, he said.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

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