Building an Association Site on Drupal Commons 3.0

When the team at Blue Coda first began thinking about launching a new community website for the 60,000-member National Apartment Association (NAA), we kept our options open.

The NAA, America's leading advocate for quality rental housing, required a bold new web presence with an integrated yet extensive and dynamic community. We were intent on creating a great, new digital experience for the NAA. Given the overall complexity of the new site and our relatively tight timeline for delivery, our team decided early on to build on a combination of Drupal core 7, organic groups and other community-based modules. Prior to beginning development, our team evaluated the beta version of Acquia’s Drupal Commons 3.0, and we were amazed by what we saw.

When we laid out the technical architecture of the new site, Drupal Commons was a strong contender. Having worked with Commons 2.0, we knew the platform could offer some key advantages for NAA. Yet Commons 3.0 represents a huge leap forward in usability, speed, performance, and stability. And while we found the beta version of Commons 3.0 to be stable, we’re thrilled that the production release of Commons 3.0 lined up perfectly with our launch of the NAA site.

In addition to the ability to support a large online community of more than 60,000, the NAA community site had to be able to handle more than 100 member groups along with documents, forums, member profiles, and a very active organizational blog. And, of course, we needed something that would give NAA a great mobile presentation. Single sign-on and multiple other points of integration between Drupal and NAA’s iMIS association management system also were critical aspects of the new site.

Other considerations for the new site included:

  • Migration of several thousand nodes of content, files, media and community from NAA’s former SharePoint site to the new Drupal Commons site
  • Management of 10 websites (and counting) from one Drupal install and document root
  • Site-wide content approval workflow

Since the launch of the new site, the NAA's site management team has been impressed by the improvements in site control and the unlimited flexibility between Drupal vs. SharePoint. Learn how to be successful in your Drupal implementation on the Blue Coda blog.

Jason Schaffer is a partner and the director of technology at Blue Coda, a full service web services firm in Cambridge, MA.