Step-by-step guide to a well-designed travel website on the Drupal platform
Building your travel website on the Drupal platform means you’ll have a stable, extendable, and portable platform to serve your content and acquire customers. But choosing the right CMS is only the first step toward building a well-designed travel website.
In order to succeed, you’ll need to plan thoroughly and design a visually appealing site. Below we offer a step-by-step guide to help you build the travel site you want.
Drupal makes it easy to start building — and that’s exactly why you need to take the time to plan. You want to make sure you understand what you need, where it will go, and how users will interact with content before creating anything. This process will also make it easier to leverage Views, Pathauto and other modules later.
Note: We’ll assume you already know what type of travel site you want and your audience and focus on planning the actual building of the Drupal site.
You’ve already decided to use Drupal and that means you’ve got a lot of options for how to build yours site, but let’s make sure you’ve got the necessary infrastructure for your site.
You’ll need to get web hosting for Drupal. Plenty of hosting companies support Drupal, but it’s best to work with a host that really knows the platform. The hosting companies experience will make it easier to troubleshoot modules or get support if anything goes wrong.
Besides hosting, you should also consider getting an SSL certificate, a CDN if you expect to serve a lot of media, and of course your domain name if you don’t already have one.
If you’ve got all that covered, then let’s move on.
Information architecture refers to how the different information on your site will be organized, labeled, interlinked, and discovered. Start the process by thinking about all the different types of information you’ll need: how many different destinations will you have on your site, will their be sub-categories (e.g. beaches, nightlife) for each destination, will each destination be categorized further based on attributes or tags (e.g. couples destination, tourist-friendly).
Your architecture doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want a solid idea of where content will go on your site. Once this planning is done, you can start creating nodes, taxonomies and views.
Build Your Nodes and Content Types
A key thing about Drupal is that all content lives in nodes. When you see content on a page, you’re seeing the contents of a node being displayed via a content type, view or specialized script.
Use your information architecture documentation to create the initial set of nodes you’ll needs. Then start working on your content types. You’ll probably do this a few times before you’re done, but right now you really want to focus on getting the content into the right sections and have it display.
At this point you have a plan for your site layout and a basic set of nodes to work with. In the next section, we’ll look at getting an actual design in place.
Design is too creative a process for us to really tell you how to do it here. But here are a few key things to look at.
Modules are what give Drupal its flexibility. You can find modules for almost any task and feature. If you need a shopping cart, web forms, sliders, or any other special feature, then you’ll need to find a module to do it. This also includes administration features like user management and stat tracking.
The modules you want to use will have a direct impact on your site design: they can either make design easier or become an obstacle. Make sure you figure out what modules you’ll use and where before you get too far along with design. Also, check that your web hosting for Drupal will let you use the modules you prefer.
Templates or Custom?
You can find thousands of inexpensive Drupal templates on the web. Many of them are built by experienced Drupal designers, look great, and will serve you well. If you are looking to keep your costs down, then start by finding 2-3 templates that you like and seeing if you can modify them to get the look you want.
If can’t seem to get the look you want, then ask a designer to work on it. If you still can’t get the look you want, then plan to have a new template built for you.
Taxonomies and Views
Depending on site organization, you may need to have several levels of categories, sub-categories, and tags to properly organize your content. You should be able to use your earlier work to expedite this, but you’ll likely realize that you’re missing a few key categories along the way. Do the best you can for now.
Views are another way to determine how content will appear on pages and for administrators. You can combine taxonomies with Views to refine exactly what content from nodes appears on different pages and how it looks on those pages.
Putting it All Together
Once you’ve got your modules, template, taxonomies, and views setup you will have a Drupal travel site. This doesn’t mean you’re done, but from here forward it will be a process of proofing, revising, and optimizing. This is a good point to go back through all your planning, and then start sharing your site with people to get feedback.
If everything looks good, works well, and is generally liked by users, then you are done (for now).