Basic Concepts

This page is intended to provide a high-level overview of the basic concepts behind a Department Web Framework site.


The Department Web Framework is based on Drupal 7, an open-source (free) content management system written in PHP.  It also uses HTML, CSS, and javascript.  Drupal is highly extendable and customizable, and there is a global community of people who use and develop the software.  Learn more at

A content management system allows users to create and interact with content on the site without having to worry about the "technology" side of things.  They can do all their editing through the web browser, and no programming knowledge is required.  Maintenance of the software running the system is separated from maintenance of the information available on the site.

The web server hosting this software is a virtual instance on Amazon Elastic Cloud Computing (Amazon EC2).  This provides a cost-effective way of running a completely customizable web server, without the hassles of maintaining local hardware.

The Arts & Sciences web team takes care of all hosting and technology maintenance and upgrades.  Departments are responsible for managing and updating content.


Each person with an account on the site has one or more roles.  Roles determine what a person has permission to do.  For instance, someone with the Faculty role may be able to edit their own Profile and add new Research items.  Someone with the Editor role may be able to add or edit any News, Events, Pages, or Study Abroad Destinations.  A user will have the combined permissions of all their roles.  Specific roles and permissions may vary between department websites.  For most units, the roles are:

  • Affiliational Roles
    • Faculty
    • Staff
    • Grad Student
    • Student
    • Alumni
  • Functional Roles
    • Editor
    • Course Manager
    • Profile Manager
    • Authenticated (logged in) User

Content Types

A website is essentially a collection of individual pieces of content.  Content types help to structure the content into identifiable pieces, so that we can ensure that all the relevant information is collected and use logic to display items differently. For instance, an Event requires the user to enter a start time and location, but a News story does not.  Because the system is aware of the Event's start time, we can display it on a calendar or in an upcoming event listing.  Specific content types may vary between department websites.  For most units, the content types are:

  • News
  • Newsletter
  • Event
  • Page
  • Profile
  • Research
  • Study Abroad Destination
  • Course-related Types
    • Course Feed
    • Course List
    • Course Section


Many pages on the site provide listings of multiple content items.  These pages are called Views.  These Views may also appear in blocks in the sidebar or in the content area.  They are preconfigured to display content according to specific criteria.  For instance, a view for upcoming events may be configured to display five items of the Event content type, whose start date has not passed, sorted in chronological order by start date.

Views help to make the magic happen in the content management system.  A user can add an item once and be done with it.  The views take care of all the logic, showing the elements in the right places, in the right order.  Department staff will not be able to edit views directly--contact the A&S Web Team at if you have questions about how your views are set up, or if you want to request changes to their display.