the AIMS interface has been completely redesigned to simplify user interactions

Andrea Di Sabatino from Macaroni Bros has been involved in the development of AIMS for more than 4 years and their latest task was to migrate AIMS from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7. We asked Andrea a few questions about the AIMS migration and he sheds more insights on the new AIMS website development process.

Could you explain briefly the technical advantages of migrating AIMS to Drupal 7?

Drupal 7 was released in 2011 and is now mature and stable, all new modules are developed for this new version and this makes Drupal 6 somewhat obsolete. With Drupal 7 we have a lot of new nice features that gave us the ability to improve the overall website flexibility and data structures. First of all, we have "Entity API" that lets us easily define references between contents, the old concept of nodes and taxonomies has been extended to the concept of entities: now everything is an entity and can have its own data structure.On the Frontend side we have two powerful modules: Display Suite and Panels. With Display Suite we are able to standardize contents display depending on context improving maintainability and flexibility.Panels in combination with our “Tree "panels” module gives full flexibility on the page layout structure and full control on markup, avoiding unnecessary HTML tags and thus producing semantic markup that highly improves SEO performances. Finally, the new theme layer in combination with the Foundation Framework and the SASS engine provides full flexibility and a good starting point to develop our custom themes.

How does the new AIMS differ in structure and conceptually that the old one?

We have a lot of new features on the new AIMS website. One of the most important is the new way how VEST Directory is managed, now VEST Vocabularies, VEST Tools, Datasets and VEST Medatada-sets are taxonomy terms and you can refer any content to one of them. The navigation system has been improved introducing the new "Areas of interests" taxonomy that let you browse the website by topic and let users subscribe to any term to receive notifications.

In terms of functionality what better user experience can expect?

All the interface has been completely redesigned to simplify user interactions.The new user menu with big icon buttons and the improved interface for contributing make the user experience far better than before. Now to submit a new Blog post is easier for any registered user since the "Post" button is always visible on all site pages.

Briefly summarize the next steps in the AIMS development?

The are planned developments that were identified  include (i) taking the semantic markup to the next level with, (i)  enrichring the integration and the rendering of Geopolitical Ontology tagged data, (iii) closer integration with social media, allowing syncronization logging via social media accounts from Facebook, Twitter and Google. and lastly (iv) the integration of mailgun to manage e-mails from AIMS.