When Not To Use Field Collections [Drupal]

DrupalI rarely feel that I have much of substance to add to the Drupal community when it comes to the front end, but having seen field collections abused in 3 different clients over the last few years I am compelled to write about how not to use them. It boggles my mind that I've seen the same problem crop up so many times, and I expect that this has to do with so many new front end developers for Drupal out there in a needy market - so needy, in fact, that those who shouldn't do front end work yet are being highly paid for mistakes that should never be seen outside of a learner's sandbox.

It also speaks to the value of some technical leads out there, but with turnover rates as they are in the Drupal community, projects suffer.

The beauty of field collections is the ability to treat multiple fields as a single field within the front end. This is handy in certain use cases, such as when showing dynamic information on a specific item. The classic example of how they are useful is for a playlist. They might be useful for a library of information, a collection of quotations and any number of other bits of dynamic data. In essence, the front end gets to do some of the heavy lifting which was once reserved for the back end and custom modules. It is awesome.

It is not, however, something you use to display static content - particularly through nesting. I'm sure someone can come up with a use case for when it could display static content effectively - in fact, it seems that a few have - but the use cases I've seen do not qualify.

Now, by all means, keep doing it - it seems to get me paid to fix your work.

Just because you have a hammer doesn't mean everything is a nail. KISS. Assorted other cliches.

Online Shopping User Experience vs Design

Design vs. User ExperienceSome time ago, I swore I would never buy shoes online - and I did. Some time ago, I swore I would never buy pants online - and I did. Some time ago, I swore I would never buy a car online - and, again, I did.

These are tributes to two things: better and more informed user experiences online that mitigated the risk when I was busy swearing.

But yesterday, I was looking for shirts, and Amazon, Google and a myriad of other websites failed. It was the sort of failure that was so ubiquitous that I had to write about it - unlike buying a car stereo at instead of because of user experience (and better prices).

I decided that I would like a few mandarin collar long sleeve shirts with pockets since I've lost weight and some of my older shirts make me look skeletal. Someone on the planet would make what I wanted - I'd stopped wearing these shirts because the simply are hard to find, but resolved, I spent a few hours yesterday trying to find them and was sorely disappointed that I couldn't find what I wanted... and that, though they might be there somewhere on this big blue marble, the user experience sucked horribly.

Most sites, as an example, won't allow you to search between long sleeve and short sleeve shirts (at least for men). That is disappointing because it's a shirt buying basic. Then comes the problem where a mandarin collar is also called a banded collar (and on Google, the 'silhouette' is identified as a Roundneck).

What probably makes the problem worse is the fact that I have no patience for shopping. I don't like having to sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of shirts to find the right one. I know what I want. I know my way around search tools. I know how this search should have been designed. I know how shirts should be tagged. I know that when I search for mandarin collars, banded collars or roundnecks (not to mention 'China collar')... I shouldn't see regular collars in the search results.

Once again, we find where the algorithms are limited. C'mon, folks, get it together. 

Or hire me and let me do it for you. :-)

Site Redesigned, Again.

Platform Convergence and the Dawn of Trans-Media ChannelsIf you've visited any time in the past decade, you'll notice that it's been changed again. It's evolved, as so many sites should as the media changes.

The last redesign, done back around 2011, was me sticking to the 3 column layout that I refused to give up because - well, really, I like 3 columns.

Mobile devices, on the other hand, don't do that many columns in a usable way. In fact, it's pretty damned annoying - so I opted for - and for the first time - a fixed width design. I've opted to diminish the prominence of (since I'm no longer running an LLC) and instead feature my own name, or brand, more prominently. And I tossed in some of my own images at top.

Why did I do these things? Honestly, I needed to simplify. I can do a lot of different things and I do a lot of different things. That has been a constant issue with my website(s) - I'm all over the place in my interests. Some time ago I decided that I would divide my sites into personal (also redesigned last weekend) and professional (*this).

Even that doesn't seem to be enough as my 'professional', while still mainly software development, is not limited to software development. In an age where employers and businesses seek specialists more and more, I have become more and more general. How do you do a site for that?

I don't really know. I'm still figuring it out while doing stuff to pay the bills. :-)