Drupal Project Planning

From meet and greet to start of work

How did this go horribly wrong?

"I did exactly what the client asked for!"

Where things go wrong


  • Misunderstanding of the final product
  • Miscommunication of requirements
  • Ignoring red flags


  • Educate your client on Drupal
  • Discuss and sign all documentation
  • Be proactive

Roles in a Standard Web Project

  • Investors
  • Product Manager
  • Product Manager's boss
  • Project Manager
  • Designer
  • Front-End Developer
  • Back-End Developer
  • System Administrator

Roles in a Standard Drupal Project


  • Investor
  • Product Manager
  • Product Manager's boss


  • Project Manager
  • Designer
  • Front-End Developer
  • Back-End Developer
  • System Administrator

To handle these roles

  • Make sure the client is aware of their roles, especially in project critical ones
  • Be transparent with the project, especially if you are "project managing"
  • Be upfront with your client when there is a resource management problem

What makes a Drupal project different?

The client is receiving a significant savings by leveraging pre-existing functionality developed by the Drupal community.

It is CRITICAL that you educate the client on the fact that they are compromising cost for customization.

This sets a clear "live with it" expectation.

What kind of documentation makes a project successful?

  • Project Survey
    • Collects basic information on deadline, budget, business name, desired domain, etc.
    • Forces the client to lock into specific goals from which functionality will be developed
  • Sitemap
    • Details all functionality to be developed
  • Statement of Work
    • Outlines financials, timeframe and responsibilities
  • Design comps
    • Expresses the look and feel of the site
    • A comp for every page the client "cares" about

Project Survey - Basic Questions

  • What is the name of your company and your current (or intended) URL?
  • Please describe what your business does in a few sentences.
  • What is your intended launch date for the new site? Are there any outside considerations that may affect the schedule (e.g., PR launch, tradeshow, annual report, etc.)?
  • Do you have a specific budget range in mind for this project? Can this project be divided into phases in order to accommodate budget and timing constraints?

Project Survey - Advanced Questions

  • What are your primary online business objectives with the site? What are your secondary objectives? (Increased sales, marketing/branding awareness, reduce customer service calls, etc.)
  • Describe a typical user coming to your site. How old is the user and what does s/he do for a living? Why would they be interested in your services? (Use as much detail as possible in profiling your target user. Profile more than one type if appropriate.)
  • What is the primary “action” the user should take when coming to your site? (purchase, become a member, search for information, join your email list, etc.)

Project Survey - Design Questions

  • Use a few adjectives to describe how the user should perceive the new site. (Ex: prestigious, friendly, corporate, fun, forward-thinking, innovative, cutting edge, etc.)
  • When someone sees your site for the first time, what do you want them to think?
  • How does your company differentiate itself from competitors? Do you think your current audience differentiates you from your competition? Please list competitor URLs.
  • List any URLs of sites you find compelling. What specifically do you like about these sites?

Project Survey - Design Questions continued

  • Describe visual elements or design-related concepts need to be either used from a current project or created for the new website (logo, color scheme, navigation, naming conventions, etc.).
  • Provide a list of the content or functionality you plan on including in your website (bio, blog, e-commerce, search, etc)
  • Is there any additional content or functionality you would be interested in implementing after the initial launch of your site?

Next step: Create a site-map

  • Using the project survey as an outline, discuss with the client each of their answers and take notes. Try to capture any "gotchas" or extreme increases in scope.
  • At the end of the meeting, present a laundry list of to-dos and tell the client you will come back with an official estimate and sitemap.
  • Take each to-do item, and see if:
    • A contributed module will handle it
    • If the client can actually support the functionality
    • There is a possible conflict between items

Let's convert some requirements!

Try and break down your requirements into the basic Drupal building tools:

  • Content Types
  • Views
  • Blocks
  • Menus
  • Contributed modules

Some examples

  • Team Bios
    • User Entity (profile)
    • Team role / permissions
    • View - Page
    • View - Block
    • Menu item
  • Contact Us
    • Contrib module - Webform
    • Menu item
  • Blog
    • Content type
    • Contrib module - YouTube Field
    • Contrib module - WYSIWYG
    • Contrib module - Views RSS
    • Vendor - dlvr.it (posts to social media from RSS)
    • View - Page
    • View - Block
    • Menu item

Red Flags

If you hear a client say these things, strongly consider not taking the project.

  • "I'm very creative, and I expect to have a lot of input into how the site looks."
  • "I don't have the money yet, but I'm talking people and I think we can get a good head start."
  • "If this takes off, you'll definitely be a part of it!"
  • "I just can't seem to find someone decent to work with."
  • "I'm in direct marketing."

To sum up

  • A great project relies on great communication and clearly defined roles
  • Drupal is a cost-saving application, but it comes with certain compromises
  • Some clients simply aren't worth it
Drupal Project Planning - Google Slides