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4Site Hub: Virtual Legos

Millenium Falcon made of legos

Over the holidays I got to take a break from Drupal and spend nearly two weeks at home with my seven-year-old son. Just like I was at his age, my son is obsessed with Legos, so we built lots and lots of Lego sets. I’m amazed at how much Lego has evolved in the past mumblemumble years. The 1x2 plates and 2x4 bricks in bold primary colors that I remember so fondly from my childhood are still around, of course, but there are now thousands of new pieces: offset plates, hinges, angled beams, and all kinds of other connectors, in shapes that range from elegant to inspired to just plain freaky (but in the coolest possible way). Do you need to turn your Legos sideways, so that the studs are pointing out rather than up? There are now special bricks for that. Do you need to snap your bricks together at something other than a 90-degree angle? There are bricks for that, too.

Legos even come in BIG sets now (the huge, 1,254-piece Millennium Falcon set gets four thumbs up from us, BTW), with step-by-step illustrated instructions telling you exactly which bricks to snap together to create something really awesome. It’s a far cry from the big tub of bricks and plates and tiles that I had when I was a kid! But since they’re still Legos, you can make your own improvements to the set after you build it. Hey… what if that was a Ninja X-Wing Fighter?

Wow, this is starting to sound a lot like Drupal.

One of the (many!) reasons we love Drupal here at 4Site is its modular design. A fairly small core CMS is augmented by nearly 20,000 optional modules from a huge community of developers all over the world. By installing and configuring different modules in different ways, you can add new site features, or change the way an existing feature works.

This modular approach means that building a Drupal site often feels less like traditional programming and more like building a site by piecing together virtual blocks. As with Legos, there are usually multiple ways to build something, and some methods work better than others. We’ve built hundreds of sites over the years, learning which modules snap together easily to create something really cool, which ones look like they’ll work but will pop apart if you so much as breathe on them, and which ones work okay as long as you understand their quirks. We have go-to modules that we use all the time, and standard ways of configuring those modules, that save us a lot of time when we put a site together.

A lot of our clients have very similar website needs, so for many of our projects we were putting the same modules together in the same ways, over and over again. The sites looked very different, each with a custom design to match the branding of the client. But structurally they were very similar.

We knew we could save even more time by creating a base Drupal install to use as a starting point. Think of it as the website version of one of those really cool giant Lego sets. It lets us put together a full-featured site for you in a matter of hours, at a fraction of the cost of traditional website development.

Out of the box, our base install gives you:

  • An easy-to-use WYSIWYG editor and content publishing tools;
  • Pre-configured features including multi-user blogging, events, FAQs, job board, newsroom, resource directory, and more;
  • Customizable homepage with slide show, customizable welcome text, and latest content listings;
  • Full-featured form builder;
  • A customizable, responsive theme;
  • Social media sharing;
  • Search engine optimization features;
  • Easy Google Analytics integration;
  • Google Maps integration;
  • and more!

The “theme” that defines the look and feel of our base install is highly customizable. There are a number of layout options, and we can match the fonts and color scheme to your organization’s branding. It’s also fully responsive, meaning it adapts well to devices of varying display size, from smartphones to tablets to desktops.

Best of all, since our base install is built with Drupal, we can pull out our giant tub of virtual bricks and perform additional custom work, if the out-of-the-box features aren’t quite right for you, or if your needs change as your organization grows. Or even if you want to add Ninjas.

It doesn’t come with minifigures of your organization’s board. But give us a few months! In the meantime, contact us to learn more or schedule a demo.