Helping a charity on a tight budget with a complex request

The Permaculture Association is a registered charity that promotes the theory and practice of permaculture in Britain and worldwide. We’ve been supporting the Leeds-based Association for at least six years; ever since their then web manager Debbie Jones attended some meetings of the North West Drupal User Group (NWDUG) in Manchester looking for help. She got some free support from our senior developer Chris Maiden, back when he worked for a Drupal company - Menus & Blocks - that ultimately folded into Code Enigma.

We inherited Permaculture and Debbie’s heroic efforts to build and maintain various Drupal sites on a very tight budget. As a grassroots organisation without big reserves, the best way to help was to provide training and developer support to Debbie.

Permaculture approached us asking for advice about how to upgrade their website from Drupal 6, in face of the imminent arrival of Drupal 8. It was immediately obvious that a professional upgrade to the site would be prohibitively expensive; although Permaculture didn’t have money to throw at web development they did, nevertheless, built a content-rich website with a lot of transactional features.

There’s probably a warning in this; despite having to operate on tight budgets, many community-based organisations still have complex online communication requirements.

The solution we came up with was to create a simple Drupal site that can act as a sign-posting site to the old site. This meant Permaculture kept their content on the old site with essentially links back to it from the new site. They could move content across from old to new site piece by piece, as and when they see the need. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s a great example of a principle that holds for many development projects: do the simplest thing that works.

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