Weekend progress on the website: using Drupal and WordPress together

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Effective January 1, 2010, this site does not use Drupal and instead uses only WordPress.

This weekend I made some progress on the grand website unification: how to use Drupal and WordPress together while achieving a relatively consistent look and feel across both environments. To recap, I had been using WordPress for blog entries, plus a variety of other methods to create and display other pages. Sometimes I used individual PHP files and, lately, I played with wikis. A couple of weeks ago I moved much of the non-blog content to Drupal and have been very happy with it. I like the broad range of themes and modules available, both of which mean less custom work done by me. In practice this means that I can spend more time on the content, though hacking the website in my spare time is a great way of procrastinating and avoiding writing.

Drupal logo

The WordPress theme I was using was getting a bit old to me and, since I heavily modified it so it could work with non-blog content, was out-of-date technology-wise. It did not support WordPress widgets. So for the last half month I have had the spanking new Drupal part of the website alongside the old blog part.

One possibility was moving all the blog entries to Drupal. The numbers made even considering doing this a daunting task: 2698 posts, 2806 comments, 31 categories, and 336 tags. While I am aware of the WordPress Import module for Drupal, a lot of things can go wrong. I felt that I needed a thorough understanding of the Drupal taxonomy system for tags and categories before I tried to move over 14+ megabytes of data. Finally, there are a lot of links to my blog scattered around the web and in search engines, and I could not just make them all go invalid. While I’m aware of several schemes to do the redirection, it too is something that requires a lot of thought and possibly manual intervention.

The punchline here is that moving over the blog, if it ever happens, is not going to take place soon. Plus WordPress is a really, really good environment for blogging. I have almost 5 years experience with it and there is also an extensive community of designers and developers developing visual themes and plugins. It’s a friend I’m not ready to part with. Drupal for blogging is unknown to me, though it is used by thousands of people for that and other purposes.

WordPress logo

Ok, so wouldn’t it be cool if I could use Drupal for part of the website and WordPress for the other, while having separate but similar visual themes for each? If you look around the web you can find some themes that have been ported from one environment to the other, but few that I really like. Finally I discovered that the Garland theme for Drupal had been ported for use at WordPress.com, though not without some controversy. (The theme itself is open source, but is also a signature look for Drupal.) Since Garland comes with the default Drupal installation, it did mean that many people used it, but it also meant that it was a mature and evolved theme. The port to WordPress was done in a very professional style and is very clean.

So I enabled Garland for Drupal, which was trivial, and then downloaded and installed the WordPress version for the blog. It was very odd to see my blog looking so different! The two themes are not pixel perfect, but they are pretty close. If you toggle back and forth between the blog and, say, the events character you can see that they are very close vertically but the left hand column varies a tiny bit. I can live with it.

After this it was time to start adding some widgets to the WordPress layout. I installed a few I found around the web, but basically I put the search box, disclaimer, links, and Creative Commons statement in the left column; and syndication, comments, categories, tags, and archive listing in the right. Since this is a modern WordPress theme, I mostly didn’t have to hack it itself, I could just use customization from within the WordPress administration panels. I also added a little image of me to the top section of the page. It doesn’t rotate among several images as my old scheme did, but there is always time for that.

One thing that I forgot to do at first but eventually remembered was to ad back in the code for Mint and Google Analytics. I did the first via the All-In-One SEO Pack and the second via a dedicated plugin.

I’m happy with how the two look right now, but I may move to a different color scheme for the themes if I can find one I like better. What I have now is so … blue. My sense of elegance is restored, however, in that both themes are well designed and use CSS in a much better way than I did in the past.

Someday I have to move the photo album to the same look and feel, but that can wait.

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