Drupal Roles: Wearing Multiple Hats

If you do a search for Drupal jobs, the most common jobs listed are Drupal developer, Drupal themer, and Drupal designer. If you look at the skills required for each, they say basically the same thing: HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL, and Drupal experience. If the job is graphic, you might see additional requirements such as Photoshop, Flash, etc. I wonder what the person will be doing in these jobs. Is a developer the same as a coder or is a developer the person who builds the Drupal site? Is the designer the same as a themer or is the designer the person who plans the site’s architecture, look-an-feel, layout, functions, features, modules, etc. How many hats will these roles actually fill? It is hard to tell.

Will this person be planning, designing, developing, implementing, maintaining, and managing all aspects of the Drupal site? Or, is the developer the one role the organization is missing? I suppose, depending on the person, they could fill all the roles. I assume that there would be aspects of each role the person does not do as well as others but that shouldn’t always be a concern.

When trying to decide what roles you need, you should be aware of the different roles and what they do. Then, given your schedule and site requirements, you can decide if one person or five people will meet your needs. Decide if the roles can be filled by existing staff or if contract services would be more efficient on an as needed basis.

When considering Drupal roles, the first step is to recognize that all sites have a life-cycle that can be divided into two phases: project and operations. The project roles and operations roles can be filled by the same people or by two separate groups. There are pros and cons to each approach (a topic for another article).

The table below is by no means a complete look at all the tasks associated with a Drupal site, nor are the titles of the roles intended to match all scenarios. The roles are listed in alphabetical order and therefore do not imply level of importance between one role and another. Of the roles listed, several are commonly matched together. For example, themer+graphic designer+builder+architect might be called a designer. Or, developer+builder+architect might be called a developer. When looking for people to fill roles, it is helpful to convey to the potential employees or contractors which roles they will fill and where the site is in its life-cycle. If you don’t know, then you might be committing to employee(s) that is could be underwhelmed or overwhelmed once they are on board. Recognizing the different roles can help you make decisions regarding schedule, budget, workload, and risk.

Audience (site user)Inspiration for personas. Can test usability, accessibility, applicability of the site and its content.Use and interact with the site. Provide feedback, request help, may inquiries.
Content authors/developersIdentify types of content to be authored. Identify content relationships and keywords. Evaluate legacy content, develop new content, and populate new site.Develop and post content using the appropriate workflow and business practices.
DocumenterRecord and track project progress and decisions.Record and track operations issues and decisions.
Drupal site architect (maker of the site blueprints)Create personas, identify persona tasks and data. Design workflow and establish site requirements. Create the blueprint that meets requirements for: data/content relationships, data fields, taxonomies, site organization, content flow, workflow, view, menu structures, data security. Test the blueprint.Provide architectural planning for site enhancements, expansion, and upgrades.
Drupal module developer (coder)Design and develop custom modules to meet custom requirements and unique theming solutions.Upgrade (design, develop, test) custom modules in preparation for Drupal and/or site upgrade.
Drupal site builder (assembles the parts)Perform a Drupal function/module inventory. Map Drupal functions to architecture and requirements. Install and assemble the Drupal application, existing modules, custom modules, themes, and content. Prepare new site for migration from the development to production server.Use the development version of the current site to test and build each new version of the site.
Graphics designer/devDraft and develop branding, layout, and content graphics to meet requirements and chosen themes layout.Design and develop content related graphics as needed.
Media developerPlan and develop flash and video components that will run in the theme and content.Design and develop content related flash and video components.
Project facilitatorFacilitate meetings to collect requirements, consider design options, and manage testing procedures.Facilitate meetings to evaluate site performance, identify new features, plan upgrades.
Project or Operations managerProject Mgr: Plan project efforts and ensure all tasks are completed successfully. Interface with the end user group (internal or external) to facilitate appropriate transitions.Operations Mgr: Plan and ensure the execution of routine operational tasks. Evaluate site performance and make recommendations for improvement. Interface with the end users and content authors to ensure consistent service.
Site administratorIdentify and analyze hosting environments. Assess legacy site functions and configuration. Create a plan to transition from legacy site to new site. Work with site architect to map legacy content to new architecture. Work with site builder to transition legacy data to new site. Turn off legacy site and take over from the builder.Monitor performance, perform updates, and maintain backups. Manage accounts, messages, permissions. Coordinate future upgrade procedures (from old to new).
Site editorIdentify editing requirements – functionality, workflow, interface. Test editing functions.Continuously evaluate new content and approve for publishing.
Site content facilitator/monitorIdentify and design content publishing procedures (workflow). Identify community building and support requirements (if applicable). Test workflow.Monitor content publishing. Monitor community interactions. Foster contributions. Provide assistance to the user community.
Site policy enforcerIdentify business processes, procedures, and policies that ensure quality. Identify how the site needs to support quality efforts. Test policy oriented featuresUse processes and procedures to evaluate and monitor site quality and correct quality issues.
Support servicesIdentify tools required to provide help, collect service request information, and track services rendered.Provide help and track services rendered. Provide help services to users and authors.
System/Server administratorConfigure server to meet Drupal requirements.Maintain server. Upgrade systems upon request of site administrator.
ThemerIdentify layout options. Design layout to meet requirements. Establish graphic/media requirements. Develop theme templates and CSS.Upgrade (design, develop, test) custom modules in preparation for Drupal and/or site upgrade.
TrainerIdentify training requirements for users and staff. Design training experiences to meet the requirements.Provide training services. Update training to reflect system upgrades or updates.
Trend/Statistics analyzerIdentify site performance questions. Identify measures, metrics, intervals and indicators to answer performance questions. Identify tools required to collect the metrics to be monitored.Gather data on a regular basis. Assemble, display, and evaluate data patterns to answer performance questions. Make recommendations based on findings.

Published by Cindy McCourt

I wear many hats: author, website planner, Drupal consultant, instructional designer, trainer.

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