Going eight rounds with Drupal8

There are many great content management systems out there that are used to serve a number of different purposes to suit the needs of a range of different users. Today we’re looking at one such powerful (and at times overlooked) CMS, Drupal - going through eight rounds of questioning to give you a spectator's view of why the eighth and latest version of this CMS is a knockout.

Round 1: What is Drupal and Aquia?

Drupal is a free, fast and highly flexible open source content management system that was originally written by Dries Buytaert as a message board before becoming an open source project in 2001. Just like it’s name suggests – Drupal is all about creating power in numbers. Named after the dutch word for ‘drop’ as in ‘water drop’ – in the same way many drops of water can change a small stream into a powerful river; Drupal encourages users to add to the collaboratively built codebase, extending it through contributory modules. Ultimately, it’s these contributed modules that are the building blocks for helping a broader community of site builders create their dream site.

Backing up Drupal is Acquia, a Software as a Service company that Buytaert started to provide enterprise level offerings and technical support for those using Drupal. And with cloud hosting through Acquia Cloud, large organisations are able to reduce cost and simplify website management while maintaining flexibility and scalability to meet their evolving business needs.

Round 2: Who uses Drupal?

Since its humble beginnings in 2001, Drupal has grown exponentially and currently acts as the backend framework for nearly 2.3% of all websites worldwide, and is the CMS of choice for blog writers as well as political, government and commercial websites alike.

Round 3: Can anyone use it? And I don’t just mean web developers?

Like any CMS, Drupal will take users some time to learn and master the terminology, page building mechanics and the ability to extend with modules and themes. Luckily due to the community based nature of Drupal, there is a large number of video tutorials and forums available online to cater to the queries of a broad range of users of all levels of experience. For even the most inexperienced site builders looking to update content without having to navigate the back end, Drupal provides unrivaled flexibility for users to edit content from the front end via its WYSIWYG and CKeditor built straight into the core.

Round 4: What do you get out of the box?

The bottom line is user friendliness. With Drupal’s most recent eighth iteration, users work from an easy to use admin interface that provides fast navigation bolstered by a number of helpful modules that have been added directly to the core, allowing users of all levels of experience to hit the ground running. As a website editor or administrator, the lingering fear of breaking a page is wiped away with responsive content management and in-line editing that negates the need for switching between the back and front end, making content publishing far more efficient.

Round 5: How customisable is Drupal?

Out of the box, Drupal lays a solid foundation for creating a great site, and with the addition of user contributed themes and an array of modules to suit just about any need, you can rest your heels knowing that a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done. However, it is highly likely that a theme or module will not fully meet your individual need, and as such, customisation will be required, and that’s exactly where creating sub themes come in. Using one of the many great user contributed base themes, site builders have the ability to apply their own CSS to bring their site in line with their vision.

Round 6: How do WordPress and Drupal compare?

WordPress has a user base that is 10 times larger than that of Drupal, so you might be asking yourself ‘Why consider Drupal when WordPress is so popular?’

Comparing the two really comes down to the intention of the site. Drupal was created with developers in mind, and therefore it can be intimidating for novice CMS users like bloggers and small business owners, who would typically find WordPress an easier option. For example, WordPress has an exhaustive range of free and premium themes to choose from, however Drupal is far more limited. Yet as discussed earlier, with Drupal, you can create something truly unique by choosing a base theme and styling it to suit your plans – but this is where an experienced developer will be required.

On the topic of looks, Drupal is comparatively less aesthetics oriented than WordPress, but while it may stumble in its appearance, it prioritises stability and scalability more so than its competitor, and as such, it’s become the CMS of choice for highly trafficked government and news sites alike.

With government bodies looking to Drupal for site development, security is a major priority, and this is something that Drupal does superbly. WordPress’s popularity is ultimately one of its handicaps when it comes to vulnerability from hackers seeing it as a familiar target, especially with plugins that can become corrupted. In contrast, Drupal’s enterprise level security offering provides in depth reporting that ensures all the bases are covered.

Round 7: Is it SEO friendly?

While Google doesn’t tend to pick favourites when it comes to content management systems, Drupal has the leg up on the competition in a couple of key areas.

Firstly drupal was designed to be built for sites ranging from one page to a thousand pages, and has the ability to maintain large amounts of traffic all at once. Having the ability to contain large amounts of content, and a user base that will stay on site is great for SEO.

Additionally, Drupal has a default caching feature which helps pages load faster – and Google takes great favour on speedy sites.

Finally, Drupal offers a number of modules that monitor activity and track analytics. It’s also able to produce automatically customizable Meta Tags or create title based URL nodes for a website.

Round 8: How does it handle mobile?

It’s never been a more important time to ensure that your site is mobile friendly, with mobile surpassing desktop for the first time recently. With this in mind, you’re probably wondering ‘how does Drupal handle mobile?’

While previous iterations of the CMS failed to prioritise mobile, Drupal8 is mobile first straight out of the box, allowing you to create a fully responsive site that is scalable for a variety of viewports. In addition, the admin is fully mobile responsive where it wasn’t previously. Finally, with Drupal8, javascript will no longer be loaded upfront, rather it will load when particular content is reached, making page speeds faster which is especially important for mobile experience.

So now that we’ve got up close and personal with Drupal, it’s clear that this CMS packs a real punch when it comes to building a great site, and while it may be a bit intimidating entering the ring with it, once you get to know Drupal, it has many advantages that make it a real knockout.

If you have any questions regarding Drupal, there is a large community of users online as well as a number of video tutorials to get you started.

Interested in building a Drupal site? As Acquia partners, we’d be happy to help.