Upon my first interview with Sametz Blackstone Associates, I recall being informed that a major part of my job description, was taking on project manager duties alongside wearing the hat of a developer. As such, the Vermont College of Fine Art project, meant fully utilizing those skills from ongoing communications with our client; creating visual data models that displayed interaction between the site’s database content and social API endpoints; to ultimately adhering to the defined development schedule all while delivering quality with a smile.
The transformation of VCFA.edu began with a complete re-designed branding, strategy and discovery phase to further enhance VCFA’s messaging and identity. From there, site wireframes were produced along with content models which showed the relationships between page types, layout and user interaction.
The site contains a collection of taxonomy terms, which pipes node content to relevant course program pages. Content types consists of galleries for students and faculty members, news/spotlights for highlighting developments on and off campus, and faculty nodes for emphasizing VCFA’s talented staff. With the content types configured in Drupal, I was able to filter and organize relevant page content, based on applied program taxonomies, through an assortment of views and panels.
The most challenging piece to the site’s organization, comes from data that’s being called externally via a collection of social API’s, for each service VCFA is using (FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and SoundCloud). Since each API has different parameters around gaining authentication, calling end-points (within the API’s usage limits) and abstracting/using the data, I decided to develop a custom Drupal module, which sought to centralize and display the collective social streams in a more efficient manner.
For this to work, the module was built on the back of Drupal’s Library API module. This allowed me to use existing PHP API frameworks from which those class’ methods, became a part of my modules scope.
This allowed me to easily connect authenticate my application as well as call upon methods which pinged the collective API’s, gathering VCFA’s stream of recently published content.
The module runs automatically on a Drupal CRON job, or manually if the client chooses to push changes immediately to the live site. Data is then stored in a table – indexed by service type – and its contents, solely a large string of encoded JSON. This keeps the retrieved data cached and quickly available to pages and allows for a deeper layer of assortment, where relevant tweets/posts/images are served to their appropriate pages – based on hashtags – which check against any assigned program taxonomy terms.
There was a bit of a learning curve indeed for such a complex module (at least for me), however, the experience in building this module vastly benefit’s my knowledge as a PHP/Drupal developer.