Project Profile: School.Exchange.ph

SchoolEx

SchoolEx, evolved from the ‘School Directory’ portion of MomEx. All 5,100+ schools and 1,600+ comments were transferred over to the new site, and an additional 4,000+ public schools were added as well. The site now has 9,460 schools and counting in its directory, all of which are ready to be commented and rated on as usual.

The reason this was done is because MomEx wasn’t reaching its potential anymore. The School directory portion was still very strong however, and by itself was hitting 500 – 1000 visitors per day. Also, the underlying software was badly in need of a major update (it was made in 2006, and the most major update was 2010!), and was also starting to become a security worry.

A second more urgent reason was that MomEx was still using outdated Drupal 6 core and modules, which was a huge potential security risk. Here’s how its status page looked:

20160225_d6

Tech Used

Drupal 7 – Still my weapon of choice. Even with Drupal 8 well on its way I’d give Drupal 7 at least 5 to 7 years of active development still, and with migration modules having advanced as far as it has I’m sure it wouldn’t be very difficult to go to Drupal 8 when the time comes. Speaking of migration:

Migrate D2D – Migrate Drupal to Drupal is a dream to use, making transfer of nodes, taxonomy, pages, files, users, etc. as easy as clicking a few buttons. You will need a staging platform that’s an exact copy of the live host for it to work though, as the destination website opens the database of the source website to suck out its content. Previously you would have to do each task piece by piece which would probably make you want to tear your hair out. This task is best left for experts but once you know what you’re doing it can get easy.

Zen – I am a strong advocate of building off frameworks like the Omega and Zen theme and here I stuck to my guns. As a result I have a terrific responsive theme that’s easy to configure and read on most mobile screens as well. This was an enormous load off my back as the previous D6 Zen theme needed to be updated for the longest time as well as the core itself.

SchoolEx2

Two Challenges

• There were two challenges. Primarily it was vital that the comments would obviously come along with the nodes. The previous site’s comments held a wealth of information related to the school nodes they were attached to and if I lost them I would have essentially lost the value of the website itself. The initial migration attempts did not join the two and it turned out I had to transfer node and modules separately. It worked out eventually but I’m fairly sure there were a few that did not transfer. This may have been because the Drupal 6 source had also been a migration from WordPress sometime in 2008 or 09. I’m happy with the result anyway as the really good comments came later when it was already a Drupal 6 website.

• The second challenge involved making sure that the old website URL would execute a proper redirect. The old website enjoyed great SEO from searches of schools around the country, and I just wanted the ‘http://mom.exchange.ph’ part to change from ‘http://school.exchange.ph’, with the rest of the URL proceeding to the same page.

In other words I wanted:

http://mom.exchange.ph/school/makati/some-school-in-makati

to redirect to:

http://school.exchange.ph/school/makati/some-school-in-makati

I managed to do it with this .htaccess rule:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^mom\.exchange\.ph$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^ http://school.exchange.ph%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301,NE]
Options +FollowSymLinks

So now all traffic went directly to the correct site and to the correct page.

• A third semi – challenge involved the fantastic amount of spam the site immediately received once I got the URLs to properly redirect. I removed the Captcha module which proved useless and replaced it with google recaptcha, which immediately went to work blocking hundreds of thousands of spam.

So there you go I finally updated and transferred one of my most important websites to a better domain and an upgraded framework. I will be doing Kikay.Exchange.ph next.

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