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Specialized Administration Pages in Drupal

Even the most simple websites will often consist of multiple pages or multiple different types of content. For example, a site for a small business may contain a homepage, a "Contact Us" page so that potential customers can contact the business, a few additional simple pages such as "About the Business" and "Our Products", and a News page, which shows all of the business's announcements, but can also be searched by a visitor looking for a particular thing.

Drupal includes a wide variety of flexible ways to add and edit such content, but they can often be rather difficult to use, since they are built to be able to edit any content a site might have. That's useful, but it can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, Drupal also makes it easy to build a custom content administration interface, which is what we do for some of our clients.

What we do at Ashday is to set up one page for each major part of the site, and then an additional page from which the general content pages can be edited. With the example site above, there would be a page for managing the basic content like "About the Business" and "Our Products", and another page for managing news articles. A more complex site may also have management pages for a blog, a file download repository, user accounts, or special events which may be displayed in a calendar. These simple-but-powerful management pages give the website's content editors an easy way to search through the existing content on their site, edit or delete existing content, and add new content.

This has a number of benefits over using Drupal's default content administration tools. Each of these management pages can be tailored to fit the type of content which they are associated with. Whereas Drupal's single "view all content" page can only really show the content's name, a management page designed specifically for a type of content can show all sorts of relevant information to make it easier to find what you're looking for and to review the site's content for errors. As an example, a management page for editing the locations of a chain of stores might show each store's address and the contact info of the store's manager.

Another benefit of using these custom management pages is that it is very easy to add additional tools to them to help the content editor find what they want to edit. To continue the previous example, the store locations management page might be sortable by store name, state, or manager's last name. The page could even include filters... if there are a thousand stores, it is very useful to be able to view only the stores which are in Wisconsin, for example, rather than needing to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to find them!

This sort of flexibility is one of the reasons we love Drupal: It gives us the tools to build an entire website, from what the end-user sees to how the content manager keeps the site up-to-date. Many content management systems don't provide the tools Drupal does to create an administration interface specifically tailored to the website, and it makes Drupal really stand out from the rest.

Jay Kerschner

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