K4Health and Drupal
I've written quite a bit about the user feedback and usability reasons behind the recent series of enhancements to K4Health's web products portfolio, but there is also a technical reason for the changes: the lifecycle of Drupal. Drupal is a widely-used open source content management platform that JHU·CCP has been using to build websites since 2007.
K4Health's web products (the "before" versions) were in Drupal 6, which was released in 2008. When a new version of Drupal comes out, the open source community continues to support only the previous version—so when Drupal 8 is released, Drupal 6 will no longer be supported. Drupal 7 was released in January 2011, and Drupal 8 is expected within the next two years.
Upgrading websites into new versions of platforms can be a time-consuming and resource-intensive business, and we wanted to get ahead of the curve. Rather than waiting for Drupal 8's release—which would place our web products in a precarious position—we have taken this more strategic path, upgrading sooner rather than later. This will also smooth the future upgrade path; it will be a lower hurdle to upgrade from 7 into 8 than if we waited to go straight from 6 into 8.
Throughout this recent series of upgrades, K4Health has been engaging more closely with the open source community that develops and maintains Drupal. Several staff members attended DrupalCon Denver in March, and the prototype code of our Sites4Dev™ platform has been contributed back to the community under the name OpenAid (see Guy Chalk's recent post about that). Sites4Dev™ is a set of modular website features that allows K4Health to deploy a new site quickly for programs, organizations, working groups, or communities of practice whose focus areas relate to K4Health’s mission and USAID work plan (for example, the Global Health Mini-U and the mHealth Working Group).
We have full a queue of K4Health-supported websites that we are upgrading into the Sites4Dev™ platform, so there is a waiting list—but you can learn more about the system at the Drupal.org project page for OpenAid, or by contacting me directly (I’m the “website feedback” item on our Contact form).