The release of Drupal 6 isn't the only big news in February -- this week also marks the launch of a newly redesigned, Drupal-powered FastCompany.com! Fast Company Magazine has covered cutting edge business and tech industry news since the heady days of the early 90's, and the massive redesign of the magazine's site was a major undertaking for its publisher, Mansueto Digital.
The new site combines the magazine's print content with web-exclusive features, integrates the social features of Fast Company's long-running Company Of Friends business network, and gives members tools to filter through the web's river of news to find business topics they're interested in.
How was it built? Teams from Lullabot, Achieve Internet, Advomatic and Tree House Interactive worked together with Mansueto's internal development team to translate existing specs and wireframes into a working Drupal site. Views, CCK, BuddyList, and Organic Groups form the backbone of the site's structure, and a host of off-the-shelf contrib modules were used to add additional functionality. Examples include Views Fastsearch, used to build customized search screens for specific sections of the site, and the SimpleFeed module, which pulls in the content for each user's customizable news feed.
A custom-built Suggestion Engine combines each member's profile information with a record of the articles they've read in the past, and generates regular lists of news or on-site discussions they're likely to find interesting. Site members can then take these articles and add their sources to a customized personal Fast Company front page.
Complex user profiles, a mainstay of other networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, have traditionally been a Drupal weak spot. FastCompany.com uses a custom module to group variable numbers of nodes into a multi-page profile with that users can build in a step-by-step fashion. The module, Node Cluster, was designed for re-use and is being prepared for eventual release on Drupal.org.
Behind the scenes, custom administrative tools were also built for the Fast Company editorial team. One module, dubbed the "Slot Machine," allows editors to queue up internal and user-contributed content to be highlighted on topical landing pages. For each content type and each landing page, the editors can adjust the frequency of rotation, manage the queue of upcoming content, and view the sitewide publication history and release schedule of the queued up nodes. Memcached and the Advanced Caching module, along with the Block Cache module, were used to improve the site's performance under heavy load.
Custom theming work was essential for the dozens of content types, views, and customized landing pages that made up the site. Scores of other modules and customizations were used to finesse the site's appearance and behavior. Work is still under way to optimize performance, roll out new features, and integrate new content. According to Ed Sussman, president of Mansueto Digital, "Open source allows us to take advantage of the work of thousands of developers contributing back their work free-of-charge to the platform. We hope the development work we contribute back will help to improve all sites running on the Drupal platform."