Drupal – Will It Work For You – Technology & Design Implementation Challenges
Drupal – Will It Work For You – Technology & Design Implementation Challenges
Drupal is a very popular open source content management system. It is a powerful contender for Joomla. However, you should know that Drupal is certainly not the magic key to all types of content management system requirements. There are some situations where Drupal is the best bet where as in others Drupal may not be the best.
No doubt that Drupal is one of the most powerful content management systems that we have seen so far. Drupal was released in 2000 as a content management system in PHP. This is an open source software and it is free. After 2000, Drupal has launched number of versions with upgrades and tweaks to its original code and all the changes are for the better.
Drupal comes loaded with number of modules which are best suited for modern day content management system requirements. One of the criticisms that is leveled against Drupal is that when compared to the other open source content management systems, it is a relatively difficult content management system to deal with. However, it has to be admitted that Drupal is certainly not impossible to master. There is of course a learning curve before one could expect to use Drupal effectively. It is rather unfair to expect a content management system to have no learning curve. Even the simplest of word processing software program has its own learning curve when it is first introduced. Therefore, this cannot be a valid criticism because the same people that criticized that Drupal is difficult to master have mastered it and using them effectively for programming their clients’ websites. Do not worry therefore about the learning curve.
If blogging is all your website is going to do then you should know that Drupal is not no matter what kind of Drupal fanatic you are. Your purpose should dictate what kind of CMS to use. For blogging needs, WordPress is the best CMS. You will not do justice installing Drupal if all that your website is going to do is serve as a blogging platform. It is a waste of time and resource customizing Drupal for a blog unless you have other advanced features and functionalities for your website.
When You Need Greater Control Over URL Structure
If the nature of your website should demand that you have better or fuller control over your URL structure then Drupal will prove to be an ideal choice. As far as WordPress is concerned, you will be left with nothing but a clumsy URL structure. Having a clean URL is one of the greatest SEO concern. Drupal will help you create the best URL structures possible even for your dynamic pages and give great SEO mileage out of the page URLs. Joomla also does equally well but it has its own limitations.
If you are planning to build a community site with logins, registrations, user updates and other community site modules, Drupal will certain be the right technology to go with. It has been observed that Drupal does well with community sites. Moreover, the overall specifications of your community site needs to be taken into account before using Drupal for building the community site. Checkout with your programmer whether there will be any bottlenecks in developing a Drupal based community sites in conjunction with your specifications. If all that you in mind are just the regular community site modules then you could confidently choose Drupal and you will come out clean with a stable community website.
When Workflow Flexibility Is Required
Whenever you are using an open source content management system for your website, you are basically going with a pre-set work flow and process. You are just putting together different modules in bits and pieces to create the experience you want to give your website users. At times, you might want to give your users a specific workflow. For instance you might want your user registration process or the login pages to work in a specific way just to make your website different from rest of the websites. In such situations, a lot of flexibility is required. If you have such a flexible system in mind then Drupal will prove to be unfriendly. You will be able to create an impressive experience for your users using Drupal but it may not necessarily be the experience you want to give your users. You need to double think whether you should choose Drupal when you need a lot of work flow flexibility.
If you are too specific about the work flow of various models then you may have to develop a content management system from scratch.
Search Engine Friendliness
When you want to make sure that your website is search engine friendly despite the fact that it is a dynamic website then Drupal will give you its helping hand. Drupal offers excellent flexibility as far as meta tag optimization is concerned. You will be able to optimize the pages very effectively. All the meta tags including page title, description, keywords etc. could be optimized as you would normally do with your HTML pages. Your SEO company will certainly love it when you go to them with your Drupal website.
As far as website speed is concerned, we have reports that indicate Drupal pages are delivered faster than Joomla pages with similar specifications. In terms of website performance, Drupal will certainly not let you down. For website owners who do not like to compromise on the website’s performance, Drupal is certain the best choice. You will be able to keep your users happy with your Drupal based website.
Easy User Management
Drupal is well known for its easy user management capabilities. You will have great control over user role assignment modules. You will be able to set various user controls and accessibility controls. Creation of multiple custom roles is also simple and easy. For websites that require multiple user control features, Drupal is ideal open source technology.
Criticisms Against Drupal
Some programmers criticize that it is not a content management system in the sense Joomla or WordPress is. For them Drupal is a set of tools in a specific framework. You will hardly be able to build anything from Drupal out of the box. According to them these modules need to be worked upon heavily before you could create something useful and something intelligent. Along these lines Joomla is a much friendlier content management system.
On the one hand, some people sing the glory of Drupal in terms of its performance, there are others that complain that Drupal is not essentially a performer. Drupal websites work on caching. The overall performance of the website will therefore ultimately depend on how well the website is coded and how well caching is managed.
While Drupal is suitable for simple content based sites, if you want to build complex content based sites then you should think twice about using Drupal because the performance of the website may not be as colorful as you think. In the earlier section we indicated that Drupal pages are delivered fast and we are stating just the diametrically opposite view. In other words, your requirements decide the performance capabilities. You need to work with an experienced programming company to discuss your requirements. The pros and cons of using for handling your specific requirements should be assessed closely. Your decision should be performance based decision rather than platform based decision.
How About Drupal Support?
As far as Drupal support and community features are concerned there are mixed views. However, what we cannot deny is the fact that Drupal comes with excellent documentation. You will find many online tutorials and support forums that you could use to get through your Drupal customization job. Even though Drupal may not have top-notch support, we cannot say that you are totally left orphaned too. You will get the required support online from the Drupal community for basic queries and doubts. Advanced support is something lacking with Drupal. Unless you are an expert that could manage Drupal on your own, it is not advisable to use Drupal if you are going to build your own website. Alternatively, if you could identify a reliable company with advanced programming skills to take care of Drupal development then you need not have to hesitate.
You need to make certain that you are choosing the latest version of Drupal when you are building Drupal website. Previous versions of Drupal are not supported. For example Drupal 5 is not supported anymore.
Designing, Implementing And Managing Drupal Web Design Themes
As far as your website users are concerned, they will not know and they will not be concerned about what is going on at the backend. All that they are concerned and they will be concerned is the user interface. Is it aesthetically appealing? Does it work seamlessly without any technical glitches? Are the pages loading without any problems regardless of the gadgets used? These will be concerns of your website users. Therefore, when you are building your Drupal website, you should pay attention to these factors too. Considerable amounts of thinking and planning have to go into these matters.
It is one thing to use an existing, pre-designed theme and it is totally another to create your own theme for the website. If you want to set your brand apart from the rest of the competition, you should go for custom Drupal themes.
When you are trying to get your custom themes designed you will notice that not all web design companies are capable of handling Drupal theme design. At its best, what most companies are capable is to provide you with the design layout in PSD format, which needs to be converted to fully functional Drupal theme.
Working with a PSD to Drupal conversion company: Along these lines, you may need to establish long term association with a PSD to Drupal conversions company. You PSD markup company will have design as well as programming skills. You will however need to pick a dependable company to take care of your requirements.
Your markup company should provide you with fully functional theme, which takes care of the following factors.
Design perfection – Converting PSD design to Drupal theme accurately without any compromise on the quality of the designs. In other words they should be able to promise you pixel perfect conversions. Before you choose your service provider take time to review their portfolio and assess the quality of their work. Your website is your online face. You cannot afford to make mistakes here. Any imperfections or carelessness will immediately affect your brand reputation.
Search engine friendliness – The final markup should be search engine friendly. All the images have to be optimized and all the tags have to be appropriately implemented. Even the URL structure needs to be optimized to ensure best search engine performance.
Page loading speed – This is one of the challenging areas as far as Drupal pages are concerned. This is where the expertise of your Drupal theme conversion company will come into play. Do not work with inexperienced companies just because they are charging you less. You will end up losing money on the long run on the leads that you fail to secure.
Responsive design – Now that your users could access your website from any gadget and not necessarily from a desktop or a laptop, the pages should load seamlessly in all the devices automatically. Your service provider should be able to provide you with responsive website designs for your Drupal website. This is the need of the hour regardless of whether you are a community site or an ecommerce website because most people today access the internet through their handheld gadgets. You better be equipped because eventually more than 80% of the traffic will be from the mobile users.
Cross browser compatibility – Internet Explorer is just one of the browser types today as opposed to the only monopolizing browser of the past. Even with the Internet Explorer, there are many versions. Your Drupal website should resolve correctly in all the browsers for which careful testing is required prior to launching of the website. You should test all possible device and browser combinations to ensure correct functionality of your website so that your users do not run into glitches when they are using your website.
Scalability options – The design and the markup should take into account future scalability factors so that you are able to expand the operations without any issues. In other words when you are designing your website, it is not enough to think just for today, you will need to plan at least for the next five years.
As you could easily notice that even if you are going to hire a PSD markup company for creating your Drupal designs, a lot of care and consideration is required. You cannot select a service provider randomly but will need the top most professionals in the industry to handle your PSD conversions for your Drupal website.
To conclude our discussion on when to choose and when not to choose Drupal for your website, there are no rigid, yes or no answers. It has to be handled case by case. Most importantly, the assessment should be done by someone with vast experience. The programmer should have specific Drupal development experience. Drupal as an open source platform is a very stable system and thousands of websites are successfully running on Drupal. Regardless of what certain groups opine, Drupal is essentially a content management system. It may not be working the same way Joomla or WordPress is working as a content management system, which it need not, but it is still a CMS.
In the hands of the right programmer, Drupal could work wonders for your website. Selecting Drupal for your website without requirements analysis will be a mistake and similarly rejecting Drupal without requirement analysis will be an equally big mistake. Even though Drupal is a very powerful content management system, it is certainly not that magic box that everything that you throw in it will automatically fit. Therefore, it is in the hands of the programmer to get the best out of Drupal.
When you are in the process of selecting the right platform for your website and considering Drupal as one of the options, you should take a holistic approach. You should not limit yourself just to the SEO factors or performance factors or cross browser compatibility factors, but you should take an all-inclusive approach that will ensure a stable and robust website that functions well even under highly demanding conditions.
Before narrowing down to Drupal as your open source platform, visit some of the popular Drupal based websites and use them as the end-user to get a feel of what your customers will get. If possible, look for websites in your own niche industry, as it will help you get even better feel and understanding of the capabilities of Drupal in meeting your own requirements.