The Gardengeek – Niche Social Networking
The Garden Geek is a niche online gardening community, blog and social gardening network that strikes a unique balance between what garden lovers, homeowners and everyday people desire, a visually dynamic, fun, independent user experience with intelligent, easy-to-use information and relevant content for earth dwellers everywhere. The Garden Geek is a community-created space where users can post projects, ask questions and find fellowship with other gardeners.
After years of effort in identifying the best user experience in the area of gardening, Aline Design came up with a design which is built using the latest 2.0 thinking with audience appropriate content and activities. For Ebizon the challenge was to theme this complex layout (3 Column Multiple Blocks in different pages) into Drupal with as fineness as it was in the original Design PSDs provided by Aline Design. Following were the major challenges that team at Ebizon faced during development and came out with successful results:
a) TGG required a huge plant database which was impossible to be entered manually unless lots of man hours are put.
b) Display accurate weather based on user’s Zip code.
c) Show events and locations with in X-miles of user location.
d) Custom discussion board.
e) Moderation on group level so that group admin can permit other users to become group moderator.
f) Site wide activity of a user and his friends on his profile.
Ebizon NetInfo utilized extensible open source CMS (Content Management System) called Drupal to build their website. Drupal is an appealing solution because it allowed thegardengeek.com the self sufficiency they needed to administer the new website. Drupal is known for its flexibility. We utilized over 50 modules to capture the desired functionality and features. The more prominent modules included Ad Mem Cache, Ad owner, Administration Menu, Aggregator, Ajax, Automatic Nodetitles, Buddy list API, Block Cache Alter, Blog API, Buddy list UI, Calendar, Content Taxonomy, Content Profile, Content Translation, CCK, Click Filter, Date API, Date Time Zone, Embed Audio Field, Embed Image Field, Event, Feed API Inherit, File Cache, Friend, File Field Token, Flag Actions, Friend List, G-Map Location,Heartbeat, HTML Ad, Image Gallery, Image Upload, Image Ad, Image Cache, Invite Statistics, Image Captcha, Location CCK, Location Search, Mail API, Menu, Messaging, Node Reference, Notification, Notice Board, OG Activity, OG Forum, OG View, Path Cache, PHP Filter, Simple News, Smart queue taxonomy, Tracker, Trigger, Views, Voting, WYS/WYG, Watch List, Web Form, Web Mail, etc. Ebizon provided a solution where people who are interested in gardening can share their views and discuss their matters via discussion forums, blogs, and groups. For above mentioned challenges team at Ebizon provided following successful solutions for the same:
a) Themed the complex layout using Drupal panels.
b) For plant database web scrapping, Ebizon wrote a scrapper using Java based web harvesting.
c) Initially Ebizon used METAR (METeorological Aerodrome Report) data to display current weather conditions from anywhere in the world but because more accurate results were required web services communication with weather.com API was done.
d) For displaying events with in X-miles, Drupal views and location module were used.
e) For Group level moderation, Drupal OG module was customized.
f) Displaying site wide activity on “what’s growing on” block, Drupal views module was utilized with custom coding on template file.
Several key features implemented in thegardengeek.com are as follows:
- User Own Profile
- User Public Profile
- Group discussion Board
- Group trade List
- Discussion Forums
- Displaying Events within X-miles
- Weather based on User’s Zip code
- Like/ Unlike Feature on User Status & Comments
- Comment on Comment
- Email Notification on user activity
- Plant Wiki based on Drupal Wiki Module
“I began planning my project in July 08 and first learned about Drupal. In November of 08 I began looking for a developer to work with me in the Bay Area, as it was important for me to be near the action since I was new to Drupal. In the end I wasn’t able to find a developer who could build what I was looking for within my budget.
Shortly after I realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford to do my project, that Priyanka, at Ebizon reached out to me, and inquired if I would be interested in talking with them and if I would consider using a development shop abroad to build my project.
I presented Ebizon with my business plan, wireframes and interaction strategy. they took a look at all my documentation and returned with a proposal that would fit nicely into my budget, with a development time frame that I found acceptable, from what I had learned and understood that developing in a drupal environment would allow.
But what to do about being close to the development…. I ended up traveling to New Delhi to meet and work with the Ebizon team.
Under Mr. Sudeep Goyal’s guidance, a team of engineers were able to pull the many components of my site together and either customized or developed a number of modules, and were very instrumental in finding workarounds or enhancements that would meet the goals of the site and ultimately the user. No problem was too big or unsolvable for this team, and I am happy to say that not only did I find a great development company to build my site, I ended up with a team of engineers who know the inner workings of the site, and who I am now able to contract all site enhancements improvements to, a long term technology partner there to help me evolve and improve upon my site.
My learning’s of what contributes to a successful digital product that users love and return to time and time again:
⁃A clear, simple business plan, with objectives keeps the project headed in the right direction
⁃ Know your audience, and know that what you are providing for them is something that they want to use.
⁃ Define the users goals and objectives.
⁃ Know that the digital product you are building for them will meet their goals and objectives.
⁃ Create, or have created user interaction wireframes.
⁃ Create, or have created user interface & visual design that enables to user to find and work with the features of the site, in a clear and compelling visual experience.
Armed with the majority of this information, Ebizon and I were able to create and launch a successful website that not only meets my expectations, but ultimately the goals and objectives of the sites audience.”
Founder of TheGardenGeek.com