History of Parliament Online

We were engaged by the History of Parliament Trust to work on their flagship website that publishes the results of research into the members and constituencies of all British parliaments since 1386. This data rich web site is managed by the Drupal CMS and has tens of thousands of 'nodes'. We were tasked with solving various issues with the site's performance and importing data from the DTP files used to create the published volumes.

960 Robots theme - unwanted tweets in header

You'll notice that we are using the excellent 960 Robots Drupal theme for this blog. We aim to showcase several contributed modules and themes over time to show how they can be setup and used etc - using this site as a basis for video casts - in case you were wondering why we don't use our own themes... ; )
Great theme and easy to set up with great features out of the box.
One of the features of this theme is the random tweets in the header. Nice example of how to pull an external sites API query into your site - in this case Twitter.

Kambara - Site for social media marketing expertise goes live

kambara - sociable weaversWe have worked together with Kevin Ruston for many years - relying on his wealth of knowledge to assist customers with search engine optimisation and social media marketing campaigns. So as a platform for us to work together as a tighter team, we have created kambara a new team based working community to provide SEO and Social media marketing skills along side our design and development services.

Drupal Blueprint theme playing SEO nicely with other modules

Getting your page title and metatags correct is great for SEO and enables your readers to locate your content by getting it indexed well.
In this post we'll see how to get your modules and theme to play nicley together to ensure that your page structure is optimal for web standards and indexing. In most cases this can be sorted with a simple fix.

Drupal duplicates Content Type metatags

You may have noticed if you have looked at the page source of Drupal sites that they often have two content type metatags

This is a remnant of a security fix to ensure that the page always had a content type. (you can read all about it here http://drupal.org/node/451304

Drupal Ubercart - Changing your 'cart' to your 'basket'

If you use the Ubercart module suite for Drupal to create e-commerce sites (we do and love it!) then one of the things you may wish to do is to change the default 'cart' to 'basket' - for a non-US audience. There is no setting in the Ubercart modules to enable this - but it is really easy and here's how to do it.
Get the excellant string overrides module and install it. Then set it up to swap the following fields:

Working with large (Drupal) taxonomies

Drupal is great and the taxonomy system is great - but large taxonomies (over 1,000 terms are a headache for any system) and Drupal is no different. I have a new taxonomy for a project with > 5k terms in a three deep hierarchy and using it presents some usability, performance and other issues.
So I though I would take a break and write a bit about evaluating some Drupal contributed modules for working with large taxonomies:

handling 404 errors on hosted CMS

A general housekeeping task for CMS systems such as Wordpress and Drupal and other websites and good practice to keep your site SEO high is to make sure you are gracefully handling missing pages (404 errors).
One of the routine tasks to carryout is checking for crawl errors in Google Webmaster tools. If you see any missing pages in the list it is worth making sure you have some measures in place to handle these and ideally issue a 301 redirect so that Google and other search engines update their indexes.

Sites Using Drupal

Drupal is a very secure software framework ideally suited to providing content management and social integration platforms. It has been vetted and road-tested by some of the most security-conscious web sites on the planet: Drupal powers high profile governmental websites from the U.S. White House (whitehouse.gov) to the official website for the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority (London.gov.uk). But they are not isolated examples as Drupal provides the framework for over 500,000 other sites across the web (e.g.

Drupal

Web content management system (WCMS) frameworks such as Drupal enable us to build custom website solutions based on a solid framework. This means that we can develop rich website solutions rapidly without our clients having to pay for us to reinvent the wheel.  WCMS solutions also provide the client with full editorial control over the implemented website freeing them from being tied to a proprietary solution.

Site Maintenance and Hosting

To ensure that we are able to provide the quality of website services our clients have come to expect we provide the full services of an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This enables us to provide custom, secure and high performance website solutions.  We provide services to manage the complete web presence for your website from registration and hosting through security and performance monitoring and support.

Technology Articles

Update: we have now combined this site with our main site! And all the articles are available in the one site.

We wanted to create a home for our knowledgebase and created the website technology.blue-bag.com. Here we provide a range of articles and posts covering issues from using CMS systems such as Drupal through to security articles covering securing access to your website.

Safe guard your web site with routine web log analysis and forensics

Whether you are running Drupal,Wordpress, Expression engine, Joomla or in fact any web site one of the regular tasks you should carryout on your web site is a bit of log analysis. It is often left up to modules, plug ins or someone else to protect your web site until it too late.
We all rely on Google Analytics to tell us about visitors and maybe use our log analysis software (AWStats, Webaliser etc) to report on log entries - but it is always worth using tools locally to dig deeper into your logs. These can range from simple reports on accesses to your site to more detailed forensic analysis of site activity.
By doing this we get to know better how visitors are accessing our site and can uncover some interesting answers to questions such as:

  • How often is Google actually spidering my site?
  • How many errors am I getting and what are they?
  • Who is stealing my content?
  • Is anyone trying to crack my site?

In this post I will briefly cover some useful techniques to analyse you logs and see if any one is abusing your hospitality.

Trouble shooting Cron?

It ducked!
Monday morning the sun is shining and your email box is full of emails saying cron is failing on one of your sites.
In this post I will look at what is going on, how you can troubleshoot it and fix it and how life may be made easier in the future by a) adding a bit of logging to cron and b) features in Drupal 7.

Customising your Drupal maintenance page

So you have created your Drupal site,configured to be as search engine friendly as you can, added loads of good content and all is well - traffic is building up and you are getting great feedback from regular visitors. Then some updates to your modules are available and you need to put the site into maintenance mode whilst you upgrade these - and that is when you find that the maintenance Site Offline page is in the classic minelli theme and that isn't what you want at all. In this post I will show you how to theme your maintenance pages in under 5 minutes with 3 simple steps.

Adding thumbnails to WordPress posts

One of the features of Wordpress 2.9 was the addition of support for Thumbnails in posts. One of the frequent question we get is How do I show thumbnails in posts?

If your theme supports thumbnails then on the post edit page you will see a Post Thumbnail box at the bottom of the right column.

If your theme doesn't 'natively' support thumbnails - you can fix it with a few lines of code.

The first thing to do is to locate the functions.php file in your theme directory and add the following snippet:

Module Weights

Some modules use the same hook and therefore are 'called' in succession. Sometimes you would like (need) a particular module to fire after or before other modules. An example is the XML site map module that would best fire after the pathauto module to ensure that the site map contains the final version of the urls used for pages in your site. There are a number of ways to manage this -

Linking your Wordpress blog to Twitter

In this post I'll look at using a couple of Plugins to link your Wordpress site to Twitter. This is a great way of publicising your blog and letting your viewers keep up with what is going on on your site.

Your First User, Permissions and Roles

When you first install Drupal it creates the master user (1) - this should ideally not be used to create content and it is good practice to create a new user for administrative purposes (not called admin but with an equivalent set of permissions) and an administrators group so that the super user doesn't get used - it may even be worth blocking the super user once you have done that. But be aware that some modules need to impersonate that user. If you want to restrict login for that user you can create an Access Rule to deny Admin for user name - this will effectively disallow logging in as Admin.

User Login Page not available to logged in user

Issue: In a Drupal site a logged in user gets a 403 page (access denied) if they browse to the user/login page. Well? (I hear you ask) Why do you want to see the login page if you are logged in?? Good question - but it is not really an error or an access denial issue is it - it is more a 'user path/flow' issue. A good solution would be to see the user's own profile page.

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