Best Practices for Site Admins

I'll keep a list here of best practices that will make your job easier.

Browser tips

Use a good browser

Your site should display well on any modern browser. Unfortunately, some administrator functions may not work perfectly on all browsers. Here's a list of known issues:

  • Safari: Support for text editing features, such as TinyMCE, are experimental on Safari 2.x or lower, and may not work well. Safari 3.x may work well, but test before attempting to post a long article. I've had good results with Safari 4. If there's any doubt, consider using Firefox.
  • Internet Explorer 6 or lower: These older, but still very common, versions of Internet Explorer don't have particular incompatibilities with Drupal; they're just poor products. They don't support tabs, which can make your admin job much easier (see below); they can't handle modern PNG graphics, which you may want to use; and they're horribly insecure. Consider upgrading to Internet Explorer 7, or even better, Firefox.

For a good, Drupal-friendly browser, it's hard to get much better than Firefox, but use whatever you like and works well for you.

Use browser tabs

Modern browsers like Firefox, and browsers like Internet Explorer 7, support browser tabs. Administering your site requires you to open one page or form after another; you're working with pages over the Internet, and there can be an annoying lag with every link or 'Save' button.

The job is much smoother opening every link in a new tab. Open the main administration page in the first tab

Navigation » Administer 

and maybe the Create content page in the second

Navigation » Create content

and any other often-visited pages in additional tabs.

Leave those pages open, and from there, open new administrative pages, or new content pages, in new tabs. The benefit: less waiting to return to often-used pages again and again, and while you're waiting for a page to save or open, you can switch to another page's tab and do some work there.

Site building tips

Experiment in private

If you're experimenting with big changes, overhauling the layout, or otherwise tweaking the site a lot, visitors may see confusing shifts in design (or see in-progress changes you didn't yet want to reveal). Consider taking your site off-line while you work.

Also see Maintenance and Construction Notices.

Play carefully with Themes

Your site may have multiple graphic Themes available (see Configuring Your Theme). It's fun to switch Themes and try on a new look, but be careful – some Themes will just look awful with a given site. Worse, the occasional Theme may screw up the appearance of the Themes form so much that you can't switch back to a safe Theme!

Before playing with Themes, follow this safety tip: open the Themes form twice (in two separate browser windows or tabs). Experiment using one only. If you should run into that rare bug of a messed-up Themes page, use the open "backup" Themes page to switch to a safe Theme.

Content creation tips

When in doubt, make a node

This is jumping ahead a bit to the process of creating "nodes" of content, but keep this in mind:

With Drupal, you can naturally make a single piece of content (a "node") that contains many items, such as a long list of web links, or a large gallery of pictures. Or, depending on what those items are, you may be able to make each one of those things a node – i.e., make each web link or each image a separate piece of content – and let Drupal use its powers to combine those into lists, galleries, etc.

Which to choose will depend on your goals, but when in doubt, the latter route is often best. When you embed a number of images into a node to make a gallery page, you're stuck with that layout until you edit it manually. But when you've made each image a unique node, you can then use those items freely in many ways: a page gathering some group of those image nodes into a gallery, another page gathering another group into a different gallery, a sidebar block displaying the most-viewed images, etc. All automated by Drupal according to the rules you set. 

Without question, that flexible method does require additional work in learning how to make Drupal perform those organizational tricks. Once you've learned it, though, amazing new possibilities open up. It's something to keep in mind as you decide what nodes to create for your site.

Save long text during input

It's easy to forget this when things are working well, but when you administer your site you're communicating with a server that may be thousands of kilometers away, via Internet byways of imperfect stability. Add the possibility of local trouble on your own computer, and once in a rare while, a page you're working on may go "poof!" without making it into the site database first.

If you're creating a long bit of text, consider copying the work in progress every few minutes to your clipboard, and pasting it into a word processor document locally. Just in case.

Editing text outside the site

You can even do your writing in your favorite word processor, and paste the finished work into the form for your new site page. Just watch for one thing: your word processor and your site's text fields may handle line returns and other formatting details differently; you may have to perform some clean-up in the web form after pasting in the text. But the task will in some cases be easier than doing all the writing inside your site's forms.

Research tips

Search smart on Drupal.org

Drupal.org is a big site, with documentation pages and forum posts numbering in the bazillions. A search can turn up a lot of stuff to wade through (and unfortunately, the site doesn't use Drupal's own Taxonomy features to tag content with helpful keywords). There are a few things you can do to search smarter:

The site's omnipresent search box searches everything and anything, as you'd expect. But some key site sections, like Modules, Themes, and Translations, offer dedicated search boxes that focus on their respective targets.

In addition, while search boxes are basic type-and-go affairs, the site's search results page offers plenty of options in sidebar blocks to sort or filter results.

For more search tips, see How do I search drupal.org

Let Google help out

If a Drupal.org site search is turning up too much or too little of what you want, give Google a try – not just to search the whole web, but even to search Drupal.org specifically.

Type your search parameters into a Google search field, followed by a space, and then site:drupal.org . Remember that you can narrow your search using any of the spiffy search operations that Google provides. 

The results may or may not be more helpful than what you'd find searching on Drupal.org – but it's always superior in one circumstance: When (as sometimes happens) the Drupal.org search function is temporarily out of whack due to site overload, a Google search will still work!

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