Drupal Administration: Keeping it Simple

Much like the parent who gives their child the keys to the family car, there comes a time in our client engagements where we set up administrative accounts for our clients to begin managing their own content. At Chapter Three we call this Capacity Building and try to make the process as smooth and intuitive as possible. The problem is the default Drupal administration interface makes this difficult.

In general, the Drupal administration navigation menu (see right) is simply too complex to be really intuitive. There are all sorts of options (read noise) available that have little relevance to the particular administration needs of our clients. Some of this menu can be distilled down through permissioning, but with general permission categories in Drupal like "access administration pages" its not possible to remove all the options. Plus, many of the most relevant options are buried several layers deep in the navigation. Its unlikely our clients will regularly find them on their own.

In the past we have build a static "administration page" where we listed the major administration pages and provided links to each, but with our latest project (that had a number of different editors and content managers who all needed to update the site) we wanted to improve our business practices and give our clients a better way to manage their website. The solution we came up with was to provide a constantly present top menu that would only appear for site administrators and would allow them easy access to their specific administration options in a nice drop down menu. We populated the menu through the Drupal menu system with the 20 or so administration pages that were needed to manage the site. This menu display was accomplished by using the SimpleMenu module and can be seen below.


To manage the individual pieces of content on the site we built one, general purpose "Content Management View" using the wonderful Views module. The idea here is to provide a consistent UI to manage each type of content and to allow site administrators to filter, search, and sort that content for their editorial and review purposes. Setting this interface up as a View allows us a lot of flexibility later to add additional administrative options and support different content types.


The end goal is to make it as easy as possible for our clients to easily work with the Drupal CMS and to manage their specific content. This kind of system is something we intend to refine and deploy in future sites.