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Ipswich Ale Brewery

Ipswich Ale Brews a New Drupal Site

How Ipswich Ale Brewery Reinvigorated its Online Presence with Acquia’s Easy to Use Drupal Gardens Software-as-a-Service

How Ipswich Ale Brewery Reinvigorated its Online Presence with Acquia’s Easy to Use Drupal Gardens Software-as-a-Service

Producing quality craft brewed beer for nearly 20 years, Ipswich Ale Brewery is one of the oldest and most popular breweries in New England. Not merely dedicated to brewing beer, Ipswich Ale is active in the region, sponsoring a vintage baseball team and numerous local events.

For many years, the Ipswich Ale web site was a low priority. Because Ipswich Ale was growing so successfully, the web site was not a focal point of attention. Built using Adobe Dreamweaver, the site was manually maintained as static brochureware. As the Brewery became acclimated to managing their growth, they looked beyond their strong success, and turned a critical eye to areas for improvement. In 2010, Jim Dorau, the Brewery’s Operations Manager, recognized that their site missed a marketing opportunity. “The problem was easy to sum up,” recalls Jim. “The site just didn’t look good. Here we are, brewing these great beers, and building a name around our passion, expertise and local flavor; our site wasn’t capturing any of that spirit.”

In a perfect example of social media networking, Ipswich Ale Brewery was introduced to their future web designers through Facebook. Susan MacPhee, a web developer and Ipswich resident, posted some insightful recommendations about the current site and ideas for a redesign. This casual discussion led to a more formal business relationship, as Susan was contracted to rebuild the Ipswich Ale web site. In addition, the Brewery also retained the services of Teri Maber, a Boston area graphic designer.

Susan has a solid track record of working with Drupal, and it was easy to convince Ipswich Ale of Drupal’s benefits. As an open source framework, Drupal sites are expandable, so the site’s functionality could grow over time without having to change platforms. Drupal can also facilitate content submission and management using WYSIWYG forms, ensuring that non-technical employees at Ipswich would directly be able to update the site. “The ability for non-technical folks to update content was important to us,” says Jim. “Part of our problem was that we relied on a single employee to update content. Now any of us with access can update the site calendars and announcements – so the site stays current.”

An Introduction to Drupal Gardens

While Susan was an experienced Drupalist, she was about to embark on unproven territory. After reviewing Ipswich Ale’s site requirements, she decided it would be the perfect opportunity to try Drupal Gardens. Acquia had just released the rapid do-it-yourself Drupal-as-a-service offering. As a commercial support provider of open source Drupal, Acquia has dedicated itself to helping people make the most out of Drupal. Based on these experiences, Acquia identified an opportunity to make creating new Drupal sites even easier.

Using an online interface for theming and configuring the site, Drupal Gardens accelerates the development process. “Drupal Gardens was so new, I wasn’t 100% sure it would meet the site’s needs,” Susan recalls the decision to use Drupal Gardens. “I was sold on the ease of development. For the size and scope of the web site, it seemed like a perfect fit. It turned out to be the right choice, as we actually exceeded expectations.”

Drupal Gardens was so new, in fact, that functionality was being added and refined while Susan was building the new site. Susan credits Acquia with helping early adopters make the most out of Drupal Gardens. “I actually made some changes to the site plan based on updates to Drupal Gardens,” says Susan. “Acquia did a lot of work in testing modules and talking directly with module maintainers on Drupal.org. Acquia’s Drupal Gardens forums were an invaluable resource as I dove into this project. The team at Acquia was spending a lot of time solving problems and communicating with the broader Drupal community, and then distilling that information into workable guidance.”

Susan understood that as a new offering, Acquia was committed to the success of Drupal Gardens, and this was reflected in the effort that Acquia put into helping early adopters.

Theming in Gardens

ThemeBuilder is a WYSWYG interface that allows developers to easily determine the appearance of their Drupal Gardens set. With both visual forms and the ability to directly edit CSS code, the extent of ThemeBuilder’s control is unprecedented for online user interfaces. Susan and Teri were about to put ThemeBuilder to the test.

A visit to the homepage of the Ipswich Ale Brewery reveals the sharp, award-winning design that the two executed together. Susan and Teri took a common approach of partnering a graphic designer with a web developer. “There was a bit of a learning curve in this regard,” recounts Susan. “Having finished the project, Teri and I better understand some of the optimal formats, dimensions and regions. Having said that, for a new offering that I had no previous experience with, it was very easy and intuitive. It’s substantially easier than traditional Drupal theming, which requires extensive manual coding.”

Just as important as ease of use, was the capability of ThemeBuilder to turn an initial design into an online reality. Fortunately, ThemeBuilder excelled at capturing a bold and highly customized look. “It went from illustration to online great,” says Jim.“They showed us the original mock-ups. These designs predated the decision to use Drupal Gardens, but when the site went live, nothing was lost or trimmed out.” Drupal Gardens also supports ongoing management of the look and feel. Creating updates to the appearance, such as seasonal mastheads, is also a simple task.

Managing The Web Site and Preparing for New Development

Because the old site was so manual and static, much of the activities, such as tastings and sponsored local events, could not be communicated using the web site. “Our new site now captures the breadth of our ales, and our role in the community,” says Jim. “We can do a better job of getting the word out, and we can get better feedback. It doesn’t just look nice; our Drupal site is helping to grow our customer base, and giving loyal fans more of what they want.”

The renovated ipswichalebrewery.com site now boasts calendars and a full events section that can be used to communicate with the community. The site has gone from static brochureware to an active extension of Ipswich Ale Brewery’s marketing efforts. The responsibility of posting online information has been absorbed into the marketing team. A Google Analytics module even tracks site activity, allowing the marketing team to measure the effectiveness of email outbound marketing, social media publishing, and other marketing activities.

With the site finished, the Brewery is looking ahead to another exciting project. A new brewery/restaurant is currently being built, and with it a new Drupal Gardens site is being prepped to play an integral part in marketing the new endeavor.“Using what we’ve learned already will really benefit the next project,” says Susan. “We’ll be able
to launch the site even faster, and we’ll be using more modules and functionality to promote all aspects of the brewery and restaurant.”

Acquia has provided web developers and site owners with a powerful new tool. Drupal Gardens harnesses the power of Drupal core and key modules, while making it very easy for sites to be deployed in minutes. Site owners with little or no web developer experience can get an appealing and functional site online easily, and web developers can very quickly turn their visions into reality.

About Acquia

Acquia is a commercial open source software company. We provide a valuable set of software and network services for the popular Drupal open source social publishing system. At Acquia, we maximize the potential of Drupal-powered solutions through our annual subscriptions for software and services. For more information about how Acquia can transform your community driven web investments, contact Acquia Sales at sales@acquia.com, 888-9-ACQUIA or +1-978-296-5250.

The results
Our new site now captures the breadth of our ales, and our role in the community. We can do a better job of getting the word out, and we can more easily get feedback. It doesn’t just look nice; our Drupal site is helping to grow our customer base, and giving loyal fans more of what they want.
Jim Dorau
Operations Manager at Ipswich Ale Brewery

Company Information

Ipswich Ale Brewery
Working With Drupal Gardens

"It was very easy and intuitive. It’s substantially easier than traditional Drupal theming, which requires extensive manual coding."
- Susan MacPhee, Web Developer