I've been building websites for community organizations since 2000, starting with the website for Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Ironically, their current website is built in Drupal, but back then the website for PADP, along with most of the other websites I built for the next few years, were built as flat HTML websites (hand-coded, I'm proud to say!) Those sites got the job done, but they weren't so easy for organizations to update and maintain themselves. Keeping content well-organized and well-formatted was a time-consuming, manual task that required knowledge of web code or the purchase of often unwieldy proprietary software. I dabbled with content management systems like WordPress (which I still love for blogs) and Movable Type, but nothing really fit the bill for the kinds of sites that the organizations I worked for needed.
I was introduced to Drupal in 2005 and was sold on it quickly. Here, finally, was a robust open source content management system that, with some wrangling, could be used to create websites that were easy for nonprofits and community organizations to edit and maintain themselves, greatly reducing their reliance on outside technologists for their day-to-day website needs. I soon began my use of Drupal in earnest, and since then I've built and worked on many Drupal sites for nonprofits and community organizations. With each new Drupal project that I've undertaken – on my own, with collaborators, and finally as a founding worker-owner of Palante Technology – I've noticed clear trends in what community organizations and other nonprofits need from their websites. Although each organization is different and unique needs requiring unique solutions come up from time to time, there are also a core set of needs that most organizations have in common. Just about everyone wants to write news and announcements, spread the word about upcoming events and action alerts, post press releases and media coverage of their work, so on and so forth. Each successive site became easier and quicker to build than the last because I already had a good idea of what needed to be built and how to best get it done using Drupal and its third-party modules.
Still, at times it felt like I was reinventing the wheel as I spent time building nearly-identical solutions for each organization's website. Recent Drupal developments like the Features module have made it easier to reuse elements from old sites on new sites, thus cutting down on development time and allowing our clients' budgets to stretch farther and cover more of the customized elements of their sites: their unique design and layout, functionality that's specific to their organization's work, and integration with the other tools that they use. But with around 70% of each community organization's website feeling "standard" versus the 30% that feels "custom," we want to take that re-usability to a whole new level.
Duw will be a Drupal distribution, which is a packaged and pre-configured Drupal solution designed to meet a specific set of needs; in this case, the common site needs of community organizations and other nonprofits. Duw will incorporate the knowledge that we at Palante have developed over the past many years of working with community organizations, as well as the knowledge and existing work of other Drupal developers, nonprofit technologists, and most importantly, community organizations themselves. Duw will not only allow Palante to build better websites more quickly, but because it will be freely available it will also allow other Drupal shops and site builders, and even the organizations themselves, to download Duw and do the same. We're planning on making Duw something that's easy to maintain and update as we release new and improved versions. Duw will also allow for easier training and support of community organizations as they use their sites, since a consistent and widely-used framework is easier to support than completely custom-built sites that have many quirks and peculiarities of their own. Early plans for hosted versions of Duw will only make these things easier.
I hope that gives folks a good understanding of why we're so excited to be working on this project. Duw is still in the early stages of planning and development, but check back soon for more updates on our progress!