Drupal – is a free open-source CMS, which is provided as a basis with general features and thematic sets needed to solve certain tasks like web store creation, for example. Generally, the system is a website builder compiled of modules a webmaster arranges in the required configuration.
The main Drupal features encompass flexibility and opportunity to solve the same tasks in a variety of ways. This makes the system popular with professional web designers, who give preference to the freedom of actions above all. At the same time, Drupal will be a useful tool for newbies. You just need to spend some time learning the basics of its performance.
1. Ease of Use
It will be more difficult for beginners to explore the entire feature set of Drupal as compared to WordPress or Joomla, for example. However, they won’t face serious problems when mastering the platform. It is possible to go without programming skills and use only ready-made tasks or even download the software installation package needed to complete a particular task like launching an eCommerce website, for example.
You can use Drupal as a basis for the organization of the news site, launching a forum and portal with the developed social component, making online sales. Whatever idea you have, you’ll find a catalogue offering a free module or software with the ready-made feature set needed to successfully complete your task. Awareness of corresponding required skills will help a user independently create modules or edit the available extensions.
2. Feature Set and Flexibility
Drupal is more like a content management framework than a system. Generally, this is the basis a user independently fills with modules and applications needed for decent website performance.
The basis itself provides a too limited amount of content management tools. This is not the developers’ mistake, but a properly thought-out solution highlighting the system’s flexibility and its orientation on experienced developers or those, who are ready to learn, read forums and watch video manuals.
However, even such a minimalistic toolset comes with elements that matter a lot for a future website. These are, for example, pre-installed tools for the organization of personal user accounts. They help develop large-scale portals with forums and other social means of user interaction.
The basis provides only those features, which are a must for creating a CMS website from scratch. Further functionality formation is realized through integration of modules, which are responsible for the addition of these or those features. However, launching a system for similar projects from scratch is not the most convenient solution. That’s why, users have implemented an opportunity to form software installation packages that work great for the effective completion of a certain task.
Suppose, you have an intention to create an online store with Drupal. There are two ways to do that here, namely:
- To download the basic system version, find and download eCommerce modules on your own and then customize and set up the website with regard to your needs.
- To download the corresponding software installation package and set up a website with its help.
The second option is much simpler, but it comes up to the development of typical tasks only. If you create a website with insufficient functionality, then there is only one variant left here – to download Drupal framework basis and independently add modules and applications to it.
To help you understand the range of tasks you can solve with the software installation package options, have a look at the short list of thematic collections:
- Open Atrium – a business solution with a blog, calendar and To-Do list.
- Drupal Commons 3.0 – a corporate network with shared access rights, user profiles and news.
- Driggs – a collection needed to create news websites.
- OpenStore – a software installation package with a toolset required to organize online sales.
Drupal extensibility has one important peculiarity, which differs the platform from similar CMS. While WordPress makes it possible to add a certain feature by installing one plugin, then Drupal modules are mostly used in combinations. This is also the intentional solution of web developers as such approach allows modules contribute to each other’s feature sets without any duplication.
To install a module, you should initially download the file on your computer and then add it to the platform through the “Extensions” section in the dashboard. Drupal doesn’t have a convenient integrated catalogue like that in WordPress. You won’t go without modules here at all.
For example, to add pages and content, the system uses the visual CKEditor tool. To get more useful tools needed for making publications, you should enable the IMCE module. The “Taxonomy” module is responsible for displaying publications at the website. This is not to mention SEO parameters, which are absent in the basic set at all.
Drupal fits the search engine requirements by default, but to improve your website positions in the search engine results, you’ll have to use modules. Technical optimization will encompass several stages:
- Alias setup.
- Integration of metadata and micro layout.
- Sitemap creation.
Content is presented in the system in the node mode – these are the elements that come with their own URLs. Their addresses are understandable for the machines, while people may find it complicated to percept them as they differ only in numbers available in the end of the link.
To create the URL understandable for the publication or the page, it is crucial to use synonyms – these are the so-called aliases. You can do that manually when publishing the post or make the process automated by using the combination of Token, CTool and Pathauto modules.
To make the entire system work correctly, you’ll have to set up the template, but this is much more convenient than manually adding the aliases every time.
To make the meta data displayed in the editor, you should also install SEO modules. One of the most popular combinations is Metatag and Real-time SEO for Drupal. Right after their addition and activation, the section with meta tags will appear on the page of content adding and editing. Modules also have settings. For example, you can add the descriptions manually or use the text fragment provided automatically.
The sitemap is needed for correct resource indexation. To create it, use the XML Sitemap. In the automatic mode, only the homepage will be added to the map. That’s why, you need to open module settings and manually add other website pages.
|Number of Themes:||2000+|
|Free Themes||✔ YES|
|Paid Themes Cost:||$23-$58|
|Responsive Design||✔ YES|
|Sort by Industry:||✔ YES|
|CSS Code Editing:||✔ YES|
Drupal lets you set up not only the design of the user section, but also that of the dashboard as well. This is another nuance, which demonstrates the system’s flexibility. This especially matters a lot for experienced web designers, who set up the system to meet their own needs in all the aspects.
Right upon Drupal installation, a user gets access to several standard templates. You can choose one of the available variants and edit it or directly proceed to the catalogue at the official website. It offers over 2000 templates – there are the themes, which don’t even have responsive design, but you an also come across contemporary variants. Obviously, it makes sense to choose responsive templates to make the website easily accessible from other devices, except for desktop ones.
The main disadvantage is the inability to install the theme you like right from the dashboard as this can be done in WordPress. To add a new template to the system, you should initially download it on your computer as an archive file and then upload it to the website server through the Appearance section.
The uploaded template will become accessible in the general list of installed templates – you’ll only have to choose and activate it.
No matter how appealing the chosen template is, it should be customized to the advantage by adding/deleting widgets, setting up menus, choosing colour schemes, creating logos etc. To complete these tasks, Drupal offers two major tools:
- Block Layout – the visual editor, in which the general website design is set up just like that in most popular website builders – that is, by dragging the ready-made elements.
- Theme Settings – template parameters, by using which you can completely change the color scheme, specify image display parameters, set up logo and favicon.
If you cannot find a suitable theme in the free template collection or cannot set up the template as you need, you can order the design development from professional web designers. Fortunately, Drupal is quite a widespread and popular system to let you find a specialist in this sphere with no problems at all.
4. Customer Support
It’s hard to call Drupal customer support too extensive, but the options it offers cover the prevailing amount of user’s needs. This especially concerns first-time users, who try their best effort to explore and master all the nuances of the platform prior to launching websites with it.
Drupal boasts extensive community support and abundance of educative materials that provide all the required information about the system use, its specifications, major features and applications details.
There is a powerful community forum here, which contains multiple Drupal-related topics and is updated by the system users and experts of the regular basis. To get in touch with the support team, it is possible to use the email option, phone communication and even live support.
5. Pricing Policy
Drupal is available for free download or installation from the dashboard found on hosting. The system packages can be found within separate Linux collections or plans, but they mostly don’t match the required version. Thus, their application may not be quite safe.
Apart from the system’s basis, there are various collections – for example, the light Drupal version or the ready-made solution for a web store. They are also available for free download, but some software installation packages have not been updated for quite a long period of time. That’s why, downloading the basis and adding insufficient modules to it or installing the system via the dashboard available on the hosting are the safest solutions.
Nonetheless, you still have to plan a certain budget prior to create a website at Drupal. The money will be spent on hosting (we recommend Bluehost) and domain name. The latter is purchased for a year with the prolongation opportunity or could be get for free. The cost of the domain generally depends on the zone it belongs to, but you should generally count on $15-$30 per year. Shared hosting will cost nearly $3-$5, counted for a month.
6. Pros and Cons
The main Drupal advantage was mentioned several times already. This is the system’s flexibility that makes it possible to set it up with regard to your own needs. In the basic package, the platform offers the minimum set of features only, but the smart use of extensions and skills turn it into a universal project development system capable of solving tasks of diverse complexity level. Other benefits are as follows:
- Sustainable performance of the system’s basis.
- Open code, which has accumulated the advanced user community around the system.
- High security level.
- Quicker performance due to the individual system cashing.
- Rich base of free extra documents, including themes and extensions.
Any user can create modules with Drupal, but they will be added to the catalogue only after severe moderation. That’s why, if you use trusted sources, then you won’t face malware problems or those associated with poorly protected modules.
Another advantage that has to be considered here is the support system organized by Drupal users. The platform is quite difficult to master by newbies. That’s why, most users often face the need to look for the answers to their questions elsewhere. The majority of standard problems have been discussed on Drupal user forums, but if you have faced a mistake no one encountered before, then the community can help you collectively solve it with no effort at all.
The system also has its demerits, which are quite obvious, indeed. First-time users will find it difficult to plunge into the web development process right from the start. You’ll initially have to spend time to explore the engine and read the forums. The process may seem complicated as compared to WordPress, for example, but that’s not quite so – you just need more time to understand how everything is organized here.
If we keep comparing Drupal with WordPress, then Drupal has less templates and modules, which is quite obvious. All the best elements and features are provided for the paid license users. The situation is similar on other free CMS, but the amount of free offers lets you successfully overlook this drawback.
Another demerit is a technical one and it affects the website cost. Drupal often addresses the database. That’s why, it’s a must to buy more expensive hosting to support your project’s decent performance as compared to other free CMS.
Drupal target audience has always included more experienced web designers, who value scalability and power of the system above all. However, the professional user community has done a lot to make the platform valued by newbies. The knowledge database and ready-made collections have decreased the initial learning curve, but Drupal still remains quite a complicated and difficult-to-master system as compared to WordPress or website builders.
Prior to giving preference to this CMS, you have to evaluate the project complexity. It is recommended to use Drupal for large-scale projects, which set flexibility, sustainability and safety as the major priorities as compared to the ease-of-use.
If you have an intention to create a blog or a web store with a limited product assortment, then it will be much simpler to explore and master WordPress or Joomla, if not give preference to contemporary website builders. These are contemporary services, which offer functionality needed to solve an amazing variety of ideas without setting high requirements to technical user skills.