What is Drupal?
Drupal is an open-source content management system used to power websites and web applications. Today, millions of web properties run Drupal. Their content management system (CMS) can be used to create everything from a static website all the way up to a fully-featured web application, which is why Drupal has attracted clients from early-stage startups to Fortune 500 companies.
To understand what Drupal is, we need to discuss 3 main topics:
- What is a Content Management System?
- Popular Drupal Use Cases
- When Should You Consider Drupal?
If you have questions or comments about Drupal, reach out to us. Our two technical leads have a combined 22 years of experience working with the platform, building 50+ Drupal sites between them. Contact Tragic Media today for a free Drupal consultation!
What is a Content Management System?
A content management system is an application that allows multiple people – each called an admin – to create, edit, and publish content online. This content could be text, images, videos, or changes to an application. Regardless of the content, a content management system (CMS) provides a graphical user interface that is easy for non-technical users to navigate.
There are 3 parts to a typical CMS: a front-end, back-end, and database. In this example, users and administrators interact with Drupal directly, which in turn interfaces with a web server via PHP. This web server then speaks to a relational database, like MySQL or PostgreSQL.
Specifically, Drupal has a level of flexibility not found in other content management systems. Drupal allows developers to setup the data structure of their application, and how these data structures relate to one another, through the use of Entities.
Due to this architecture, Drupal works for everything from managing a static website that has its content frequently updated to creating an internal business application with user authentication. Each component – the user interactions, the data structures, the admin configuration, and more – is independent and very flexible.
For additional information on why we recommend Drupal, check out: 5 Reasons Drupal 8 is the Best Content Management System
Popular Drupal Use Cases
We have already mentioned that Drupal is flexible and can be setup to handle a large number of use cases. Here are just a handful of live Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 applications.
Companies Using Drupal
Nonprofits Using Drupal
World Economic Forum
Doctors Without Borders
Government & Education Institutions Using Drupal
University of Colorado
City of Austin
State of Georgia
Government of Australia
Sports & Entertainment Organizations Using Drupal
Sevilla Fútbol Club
The Kentucky Derby
When you should consider Drupal?
The latest versions of Drupal are full of features and can be configured to fit very specific needs. Today, companies and brands around the world use Drupal to power content-rich websites, web applications, blogs, and more.
When evaluating Drupal for clients, we ask ourselves the following questions. You should consider Drupal if you want to…
- Regularly update website or web app content without writing code
- Build a scalable, stable platform (that can support large traffic spikes)
- Benefit from a vast module ecosystem (ecommerce, calendar plugins, analytics, etc.)
- Manage multiple administrators and different content types (page, blog, video, etc.)
- Leverage content approval workflows
- Support multi-language and localization on your web property
Drupal is a must-have for complicated websites and applications. Technical leaders, who want flexibility and security, are as happy as business and marketing leaders, who demand a sleek interface and the ability to rapidly update content.
In short, Drupal decouples the infrastructure that engineers manage with the content that organizations want to promote. This allows any Drupal admin, with a few clicks and no code, to change copy, add website sections, or publish a new blog post.
Here are two client case studies where we leveraged Drupal to build them a scalable web platform that has driven real business results:
Why We Love Drupal
After careful consideration, our team found 10 reasons why we love using Drupal to build custom web experiences. Feel free to read all sections or do a deep dive on the areas that interest you most. Now, let's get started – the 10 reasons why we love Drupal!
1: Build Totally Custom Sites
No request is too big, or too small, for Drupal
Drupal is a highly-configurable platform, allowing you to keep only the pieces that you need. As a result, the Drupal content management system is suitable for projects small and large. More importantly, Drupal can scale with organizations as they grow and see an increase in web traffic.
It is normal for a client to start with Drupal to solve a specific need (providing a simple way for the marketing team to keep the company’s primary website up-to-date) and have that need expand and evolve over time.
For example, White Labs connects brewers and winemakers with the right yeast products for their exact situation. Internally, White Labs relies on a highly-customized customer relationship management (CRM) system and a website built on Drupal.
However, their team quickly faced problems: the website was not dynamically synced to their internal CRM, meaning that store listings were constantly out of date. Even worse, there was no obvious path forward. The White Labs team was forced to manually update listings once mistakes were found.
To learn more about how Tragic Media solved this business problem, while creating a better user experience for White Lab's customers, check out our blog post: Building a dynamic international store locator with Drupal
2: Easy to Use & Manage
Users have full control over their website and web app content with Drupal
Drupal provides an intuitive user interface that allows business and marketing team members to upload and update content in a flash. Unlike other solutions that leave much to be desired, users have flexibility to enable, disable, download, or build custom modules to extend Drupal to fit their needs.
Once configured, Drupal allows any content to be uploaded, formatted, and published – whether you are working with blog posts, videos, or items to sell in an ecommerce storefront. And, as we discuss below, Drupal comes standard with powerful categorization and SEO features.
For more information about managing Drupal content, check out our blog article:
Leveraging Drupal to empower Free Fashion Internships' admins
3: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Friendly
Drupal features custom URL controls, title tags, meta tags, alt tags, and more
Marketing is full of three letter acronyms like ASO, MAU, MRR, and more. Perhaps the most famous three letter marketing acronym is SEO – search engine optimization. When evaluating a content management system, SEO friendliness is a priority for marketers.
Thankfully, Drupal is SEO friendly and comes out of the box with the ability to customize URLs, title tags, meta tags, alt tags, and more. These features, all available without the need to write HTML, provide marketing leaders with a powerful toolkit as they look to scale websites and web applications.
Marketers who are looking to build a strong SEO foundation should seriously consider Drupal. Click here to learn more about Drupal's SEO features in action: How Drupal 8 empowers marketers
4: Logical & Well Organized
Drupal's taxonomy allows for easy organization and management of content
Formally, taxonomy is the branch of science that relates to the classification of systems. In this case, Drupal has a core module called Taxonomy, which allows admins to create, manage, and apply terms to any piece of content.
For instance, a Drupal admin can create multiple tags based on content type (blog, case study, company announcement) or category (sales, marketing, customer success, engineering). Once a new blog post is created, the post can be tagged so that it appears when a user filters blog content.
Categorization is a standard feature of a CMS, but Drupal shows its power and flexibility once again by making its Taxonomy terms fieldable entities. As a result, Taxonomy terms can have their own titles, descriptions, images, other content relationships, and more. With Drupal, site builders are free to choose how to architect their content, ensuring that the data schema matches the application they are building.
As a web property grows, it's important to stay organized and adjust content to provide more value to your users. Drupal's Taxonomy feature does just that.
To learn more about keeping your CMS organized, check out:
What CMS should you use
5: Security & Privacy Built In
Drupal is open source and has a formal team dedicated to security
Drupal is an open source project, which brings a high level of trust. Anyone can review the source code and vulnerabilities can be quickly patched. But the security and privacy of Drupal extends far beyond that.
In 2005, the Drupal Security Team was formed. This 33-member team includes security experts around the world, who report security holes in both the Drupal platform and the modules created by the larger community.
Furthermore, Drupal meets the standards set by Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) for secure software development. Periodically, OWASP publishes a list of top 10 security risk, which the Drupal Foundation addresses.
Out of the box, Drupal has a host of security features, ranging from brute force detection to protecting against SQL injection and denial of service (DoS) attacks. Drupal admins also have full control over user access, allowing users to only view and edit the data that they need.
6: Scalable to Meet Demand
Drupal enables you to start small and grow as big as you want
Drupal is a great CMS for organizations that want to build a scalable platform. Brick-and-mortar businesses, tech startups, and agencies all benefit from utilizing Drupal for a simple reason – you can start with exactly what you need and grow into additional Drupal modules as needed.
We can split Drupal modules into three categories:
- Core Modules: Included when you download Drupal
- Contributed Modules: Downloaded and installed community components
- Custom Modules: Written and managed by your development team
Crucially, Drupal allows you turn off any module, including Core Modules, with the click of a button. This leads to a cleaner interface and less overhead, which is perfect for getting started. As your web property grows in complexity and number of users, the thriving Drupal community has plenty of modules and guides for you to check out.
Find out more on how the platform scales to fit any need in our article on why creative agencies are turning to Drupal.
7: Robust Administrative Controls
Create new roles, permissions, and workflows for your team with Drupal's settings
The Drupal community has poured 18 years of research and development into Drupal, which has a lot of benefits for new users. In particular, Drupal offers robust user management and administrative features.
Within the Drupal dashboard, you can create new roles, assign permissions, and even develop custom workflows. For example, you can have an IT Manager as your Drupal Admin, who has full administrative access to Drupal while your marketing team can only have the ability to add and edit the content on your company's blog.
Learn more in our article about the benefits of roles, permissions, and workflows.
8: Ecommerce is One Step Away
With Drupal Commerce, you can add ecommerce to any website
While many use cases focus on Drupal for a static website or blog, there is also Drupal Commerce, an ecommerce storefront companion for any website. Drupal Commerce is one step away – whether you're looking to start selling online or already have a well-established brand.
Not only is your content and products updatable from one admin, but this suite of modules provides great opportunities to naturally upsell products in other areas of your website. For instance, you could embed product information easily inside of a blog article or customer testimonial, including up-to-date pricing and even a shipping calculator!
Drupal Commerce features a completely customizable design, social integration, programmable business logic, and much more. There are even options to create a recurring subscription ecommerce business.
Check out our blog post covering how to leverage Drupal Commerce for your subscription-based products.
9: Drupal 8 is an API Friendly CMS
Drupal 8 is built for headless site architectures and managed web services
A major update included in Drupal 8 was the introduction of the RESTful Web Service API. This web service allows one or more front-end applications to communicate to the same back-end server via API calls (such as GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE).
As a result, Drupal 8 allows organizations to decouple their content management back-end and the front-end that users interact with. This change, often referred to as creating a "headless CMS" or "decoupled CMS", enables new systems to be built.
First, the change allows designers and marketers to update the user interface without being required to update the content management system. Second, organizations can leverage the RESTful API for a portion of the website, while leaving the rest of the web property functioning as is. And third, a headless CMS allows multiple products (website, web app, mobile apps) to communicate with a single Drupal 8 back-end.
To learn more about a headless CMS, please see: Headless or decoupled CMS: What, why, and why Drupal?
10: Multilingual and localization support in Drupal
Drupal makes it straightforward to support multiple languages and localization
It's as important as ever to support multiple languages on your website. With Drupal, supporting multiple languages and localization is simple. Drupal 8 has multilingual support baked in, meaning that you can get the benefits of localization faster.
Importantly, the Drupal community understands that site visitors and administrators may not speak the same language. As a result, you can translate the configuration, content, and interface separately. In practice, this means site visitors can see a website in Spanish or French, while admins can access the Drupal dashboard in English.
With all of these benefits, it’s safe to say that we absolutely love Drupal! To date, our team has launched 50+ Drupal applications that are happily serving brands with a global audience.
At the end of the day, we measure the success of a solution by its ability to serve the needs of our clients. With Drupal, we have found a framework that keeps clients happy for years to come: something that is secure, easy to configure, and extensible.
No matter how large your needs grow, you should find comfort in knowing that Drupal – either through its core or community modules – has you covered!