Higher Ed Drupal Fun Down on the SiteFarm

By Alec Reynolds
October 27, 2017

Blog Post - Higher Ed Drupal Fun Down on the SiteFarm

Chaos on the Campus

Ah, the travails of the web services professional in a university. Trying to support hundreds, potentially even thousands of university departments, institutes, student clubs, alumni associations, and other groups, often on a "lean" budget, is a thankless task. Vendors come in as heroes and leave behind projects of varying quality. Legacy applications beg for migration and updating.

Without standardization, web services groups are left with a complex, shifting terrain to manage.

Thankfully, there are alternatives. Over the last few years, BADCamp and the Higher Education Summit have provided a forum for universities to share their efforts to standardize their web development and support programs. Groups like UC San Francisco, Arizona State University, and Stanford have shown how to deploy Drupal websites to large numbers of campus groups and provide maintenance while using scale to slash cost.

Introducing SiteFarm

This year at BADCamp Shawn Dearmond (UC Davis) and John Kealy (UC San Francisco) presented SiteFarm, a new Drupal installation profile targeted at the higher education usecase. SiteFarm is already being used by over 60 sites in the University of California (UC) system, with 200 more sites currently in development.

SiteFarm Features

  • 100% Test Coverage (both Behat and Unit testing)
  • Comprehensive Developer Documentation
  • Example End User Documentation (Adapt to Your Usecase)
  • Local Development Integrations

In addition, SiteFarm is developing an extended module ecosystem. John and Shawn mentioned that LDAP and UCSF People Profile integrations had already been developed for the SiteFarm ecosystem.

Why You Should Use It

Campus Groups

If you're in charge of the website for a department, institute, or other group on campus, SiteFarm provides a complete toolkit for you to build your own site.

SiteFarm provides a complete toolkit for you to build your own site.

That's right. You could build your own site! SiteFarm provides templates and common site components that, with a bit of training from your campus web service guru, you can assemble into a full working site. Shawn shared the story of UC Davis's fire chief putting together their new site himself during one of SiteFarm's onboarding training days.

If you need a highly customized site with functionality that SiteFarm doesn't provide "out-of-the-box", you should still leverage SiteFarm as a starting point. Your development team can use all of SiteFarm's resources and may even be able to contribute new modules to the SiteFarm ecosystem!

Vendors

As a vendor, using SiteFarm puts your campus client in a better position to succeed. Most higher education clients will eventually need to support their website internally or with the help of web services, and when that moment comes, they will thank you for using a common standard that they can easily find resources to understand.

SiteFarm puts your clients in the position for long-term success.

If you find SiteFarm constrictive, talk to the team! They'll have great ideas on how you can help expand the SiteFarm ecosystem with new modules and might be able to help you solve a problem using an existing solution.

Support Your Web Service Guru!

If you're at a university using SiteFarm, support your web services department by adopting this standard and consulting with them on the best solution set. The "killer feature" of SiteFarm isn't in the (awesome) code that's been written, but in a common community of practice. If campus employees, vendors and web services programmers are all working with SiteFarm, we can share not only code but our knowledge of how to solve the real-world problems faced by universities. That transcends Drupal, hosting partners like Acquia and Pantheon, the vendor you use, and all the other details of having a successful higher education web presence.

Big thanks to Shawn, John, Carson Black, and all the other contributors to the SiteFarm effort. Hoping to see more stories of successful SiteFarm deployments at next year's BADCamp!