The Deutsche Aids-Hilfe (DAH) is the leading German non-governmental organization that deals with the concerns of people living with HIV/AIDS and helps raise awareness of effective HIV prevention techniques.
As the governing body for more than 120 local AIDS service organizations, it supports this work at many different levels.
The DAH website, aidshilfe.de, is one of the organization’s main communication channels. It offers information on HIV and other sexual transmitted infections and covers the field of counseling for private matters. The website also provides contact information for local self-help-centers, a broad selection of free information material, workshops, community features, etc.
Work on the aidshilfe.de project was supported by many partners. Christoph Schüßler designed the website, which was implemented in Drupal by Berlin-based Werk21. The new aidshilfe.de is a step forward toward a future-proof system that features an attractive new design, interactive features, user-friendly community functionality and great usability.
Drupal was used because of its obvious range of functionality, which meet most of the requirements of aidshilfe.de.
In addition, Drupal’s open, modular architecture and the support by the active Drupal community make it possible to implement almost any feature easily, either as a custom module or as one of the many modules hosted on drupal.org.
The main factors behind the decision to use Drupal were:
- Open Source - Being open source, Drupal allows a website to be built on an open basis, without proprietary technology, which guarantees freedom for future development.
- Maintenance – the site can benefit from Drupal community development available in new core and module releases.
- Security - the great job done by the Drupal security team delivers the confidence and trust that is needed by a product intended for a highly privacy-conscious audience.
- Community - The large Drupal community guarantees future development and provides a valuable pool of information for developers and users.
- Modules - The availability of modules means that it will be possible to easily include advanced features and support for new services.
- i18n - The support for multi-lingual sites as provided by the i18n module is a major advantage.
- Ubercart - The Ubercart shop offers the functionality required for managing orders of brochures, information material, etc.
- User friendly - Drupal's user experience makes working with the system much easier.
Aidshilfe.de is visited by people from various backgrounds seeking many different different kinds of support.
It is thus extremely important for aidshilfe.de to show an open, friendly and supporting user interface, which is demonstrated on the new front page: The phrase "gut zu wissen" ("good to know") is accompanied by a friendly face welcoming the user.
The color scheme is also friendly, calm, and appropriate to the wide range of different content available on the site, including medical information, news, science and lifestyle articles, personal opinion, etc. It also serves to establish a forward-looking corporate identity for Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe online that can be used in Twitter and YouTube branding, as well as WordPress themes and sub-sites for specific topics.
The front page itself is composed of portlets ("frontlets"), allowing users to personalize their aidshilfe.de-homepage to showing the information relevant to their individual needs.
The look and feel is continued throughout the page using two main menus: a vertical menu with helpful information and a horizontal menu with links to dynamic pages (e.g., news, events, workshops, and contacts). The absence of hard corners reinforce the welcoming environment of the site, while subtle 3D effects help the user to recognize the various layers of navigation.
The implementation of the site was based on several established Drupal building blocks: CCK, Views, and Ubercart for the shop. These modules provided a solid framework for most of the site's infrastructure.
The portlet engine required a custom module by Werk21, which was easily implemented thanks to Drupal's modular architecture. Other modules used include are Simplenews for the newsletter, along with Simplenews Content Selection and Simplenews Template.
In many cases, the functionality provided by Drupal and its modules was more than enough to realize the requirements of the site. Some difficulties were encountered while setting up the multi-language requirements for the site, as the internationalization aspects required a significant amount of fine-tuning. Other areas requiring precision work included the menu system, which was extended to have tabs other than local tasks and splash pages.
A more detailed analysis on the use of modules and custom development will be conducted after the site has been launched for a longer period of time, but for now we can say that it was amazing how easily everything could be accomplished without patching Drupal core. Some minor patches to modules were required, but those were mostly accepted by the module developers.
In the pre-launch phase, professional usability tests were performed to ensure the site's goal of providing great usability.
Henry Sudhof, Lead Developer:
Developing Aidshilfe.de in Drupal was a lot of fun. The ideal combination of a project with a certain amount of ambition, combined with a system that makes it easy to realize the goals is a recipe for a rewarding development experience.
Fresh, friendly design
The new design invites the users to enter the page, explore its features, get the information they seek, and then come back for more.
It was very important to us to create a suitable “look-and-feel” that despite of the severity of the theme encourages people to deal with HIV/AIDS and other STIs.
Community features like profiles, comments and user pictures allow visitors to participate. This is enhanced by the customization options provided by the site.
Linking to other sources
The new site cleanly integrates content hosted on other websites, offering information from Facebook, YouTube, various blogs and other social media. Thus, the portal becomes a viable one-stop-shop for its target group.
aidshilfe.de aims to be part of the social community and to make a responsible contribution to the Web 2.0.
The forms and workflow features provided by various modules simplify the writing of articles compared to the system's predecessor. WYSIWYG editing with the advanced CKEditor is similar to working with desktop applications, offering an easy on-ramp for writers.
The simple usability of Drupal allows a nice intuitive handling of the website.
The new "shop" for the site, which is based on Ubercart, allows visitors to conveniently order free information materials. The order processing is a great improvement over the previous system used by the site. Furthermore, the ability to display products in various ways using taxonomies and views makes it much easier to present these "products" to their intended audience.
Information are a vital component of our educational work and prevention efforts. Thus, a user-friendly and flexible system was of great importance.
To summarize, we believe that Drupal was a great choice to realize the vision of the new aidshilfe.de website. Development and theming were simple, the community was helpful and the result meets the expectations. The launch was even accompanied by an ad campaign aired on national TV. We can strongly recommend considering Drupal for charity portal projects.
- Christoph Schüßler
- Johannes Stahl (Project Coordinator)
- Jan Kellermann (Technical Coordinator)
- Henry Sudhof
- Patrick Fey
- Anja Kunkel
Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, Berlin