We Love the Tamar Valley is a new website project created for Tamar Valley Tourism, a group that brings together businesses in the Tamar Valley that have an interest in tourism – from holiday cottages, to bed manufacturers, to top hotels, to farmer’s markets. We were delighted to win the contract to produce this site – we have lived and worked in the Tamar Valley for 13 years, and it’s always great to be promoting a product you believe in!
The site was created to replace an older website which had been custom built in php and mySQL. It was a bit difficult to manage, and wasn’t attracting the traffic it needed. We decided to create the new site using the Open Source Drupal 7 content management system as a framework. This approach meant that we could pull together a powerful site with a number of different ways to manage and navigate the content, and do it relatively quickly. The downside was that the content had to be copied over to the new Drupal site, but as all the content needed to be checked and refreshed anyway, and we were keen to add to it, this was one way of ensuring that all of it was looked at.
All of the 200+ member businesses will have their own password-protected access to the site, and there’s also a site administrator who reviews and approves content. This was another reason to go for a Drupal 7 based approach – we were able to build customised login systems and instead of providing a standardised content management interface, we could provide forms with a lot of control over the help text provided and the way each form element worked. This is one disadvantage of the WordPress content management system, much as we love it – it’s relatively difficult to customise the administrative interface, so if that doesn’t fit what you want to do with it, it can be fiddly to provide people with a way to enter information that is clear and easy to use.
One task the website has to do is to allow invoices to members to be emailled, managed and reports produced, and we also had to make sure that a weekly email roundup of news from members could be sent. To make sure that emails reached their destinations, we enlisted the help of the brilliant Mailchimp service (highly recommended, and free for low volume use) and also brought in Mailchimp’s big brother Mandrill – a system designed for integration with websites, and for sending personalised, transactional emails, which works really well with Drupal.
Another nifty tool we used was the Open Framework Drupal theme. We chose to base our unique look and feel around a previously developed theme as a framework, because this approach allowed us to quickly develop a very flexible site that was responsive, so it adapts easily to different devices, from mobile phones to laptop computers. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we used the framework and concentrated on customising the design and building content and photography that visitors would find exciting.
The site is not exactly finished – it probably never will be! We don’t believe in finished websites, but in websites that grow organically over time that can adapt to events. We’re pretty clear that the new We Love The Tamar Valley site will be able to do that excellently.