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Drupal's built-in data presentation tools offer several ways for web designers to clearly and attractively package their data. In Drupal 6: Online Presentation of Data, Tom Geller explains how Drupal handles data so users can set up intelligent structures and implement them with Drupal's Content Construction Kit. Tom also shows how a data-driven web site can improve its interactivity by using geographic data to connect real-world addresses to maps. Exercise files accompany the course.
This course is really about two things. First of all, it's about the Drupal software of course, but just as importantly it's about the organization of information. That is how to take what you already have and put it in forms that make sense and are easy to understand. Let's take a look at a few examples of data organization. Some of these won't be Drupal sites although all of them could be replicated using Drupal. I think a quick tour of popular sites will give you an idea of how others have approached data presentation problems and will help you plan to get the best solutions for your site.
We will start as everybody should with lynda.com. As you know, lynda.com has dozens and dozens of courses available and these all had to be arranged in some way. At the top we have these pop-up menus where you can choose by Subject, Product, Vendor and so forth. Let's just choose any subject. Oh, why don't we say Web Development and we get a list of varying products that are available for web development and all the courses that lynda.com offers for those products. This is an example where each product was actually tagged according to which subject it was in, so for AJAX, ASP, and of course Drupal these were all considered web development topics.
In addition to choosing by Subject, you could choose by Product or Vendor or by Author. So, for example, we can take a look here and see everything that Don Barnett has done. This is an example of taking some information and presenting it in several different ways. It's done by tagging each course, so this particular course for example might be tagged as Typography and Don Barnett and we'll show you how to do that in this course. Another example of data presentation is Google. If we do a search for something for example, oh let's say Drupal. We get a list of different web pages that mention Drupal in one way or another. What most people don't realize is that the Google Corporation had to figure out what information to present at any given time. So for example, on this first page after you have searched you see the title of the page, you see the URL and you see a very brief excerpt of information. Along with those, you can see additional links and in some cases you see subparts of that site if it's an important enough site.
This is once again an example of taking a large amount of data and presenting it in a useful way. In this case part of the criteria was that it be short enough so many hits could be displayed on one page. A third example of data presentation is eBay. Let's do a search for unicycle and we of course get hits of people who are selling unicycles and unicycling accessories. Once again choices had to be made as to what to show on this page. In this case, we get a picture, the title, the price, how long is left to bid on it and if you click through on any of these, you get a different set of information.
All of this is drawing data out of a database and choosing to present it in different ways depending on where you are coming from to see it. We will show you how to do that in this course as well. lynda.com, Google and eBay are all data driven sites that are mostly text-based with some graphics, however data can also appear in other forms, for example, as maps. Here is one example of a Drupal site that's presenting mapping information along with other sorts of data. It's for a real estate company in Phoenix and if we scroll down a little bit we see the map.
Now let's say that we want to see only products that are in the Goodyear area. We click on that little button and we see more information about the area, what things are available there, as well an outline around the map section that's specific to Goodyear. This is a fairly simple example, but with a bit of work Drupal can even turn out amazingly beautiful maps like these two by the Washington DC based company Development Seed. The Stumble Safely site correlates popular nightclubs and nightspots with areas of high crime. So you can decide whether you want to go there or not. Another site by Development Seed is called DC Bikes. In this case, it correlates bike thefts with different areas of the city. One more example. This site, Understand Rap, explains certain terms in rap music which you might not understand if you are not familiar with the culture, but it does more than just have a list of terms. It links up the terms with the artists and the albums and the location, so as we come down we see a map. We can click on say Dallas. Oh, Vanilla Ice, he is popular. Click on Vanilla Ice, see the albums that he has recorded, see any terms that are specific to him and then click through there and get more information. All of this incidentally is done on Drupal.
Obviously this very brief look at a few sites only scratches the surface. For example, we haven't talked much at all about charts and graphs and data visualization on the whole comprises a whole academic subject. But I hope this introduction gives you a sense of what's possible and I want to remind you that most of what you have seen here is possible in Drupal and in fact was done in Drupal.
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Q: The exercise files for the course appear to be missing.
A: Full exercise files for this course were not provided because of the unusually large amount of images, modules, and other files that would have to be installed in specific places, in addition to the database. We hope to have a solution for future Drupal courses that installs all items in their correct places.
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