When to choose Drupal as your CMS

December 4th, 2012

Fenix is widely known as the Drupal experts in Ottawa. With more than 20 deployments in the last 2-1/2 years we are clearly the forerunners for the Drupal expert award locally. The breadth and depth of our Drupal deployments is vast; we have routinely deployed Drupal for client requirements equalling under $10k and those equalling over $70k. This illustrates the versatility and depth Drupal offers. 

But we don't choose to deploy Drupal just because we love it. We actually choose Drupal based on client requirements. Very quickly, as we review the list of client requirements, all other content management solutions fall off the list and Drupal remains standing. This is why we so often choose to deploy Drupal; it quite simply meets the basic, and more advanced, needs of our clients.

The tools we most often compare Drupal against are: Expression Engine, WordPress and Joomla.

So, what criteria do we use? 

Following is a list of some basic criteria we use to determine which technology is the right fit for our clients. For all of the features listed below Drupal comes out on top and all others fall of the radar. Here is the list:

1) Bilingual/Multilingual Websites

If you need a website with more than one language, Drupal is the only CMS (of the those listed above) that offers multilingual capabilites as part of the core module. This means you can translate all content, content types, theme elements, GUI elements and more.

2) Multi site

Drupal offers the wonderful ability to host multiple websites off one Drupal install, each with their own theming, templating, content and user administration. The University of Waterloo is deploying one Drupal configuration to power 1200 departmental websites.

3) Content Types & Template Theming

Many CMS solutions come with preconceived ideas about your content, which means you have to force your content into the way the CMS works (i.e. WordPress is based on "Articles"). All of our clients have mutliple content types and Drupal allows us to build presentation templates for each of these content types, allowing us to custom build your website design to your content needs. Examples of unique content types include: About Us/basic text content type, News content type, Events content type, Product Content type and any page that requires a unique layout and presentation.

4) Dynamic Content

We often hear from clients that they want to upload content once, and have it propagate to other areas of the site automatically. Drupal does this beautifully. It allows you to upload a News item to the News area, and will automatically populate the News item on the homepage and throughout the site if needed. So you only have to add the content once.

5) File and Image Management

Adding documents and images to Drupal is easy peasy using the File Upload feature. You can add images and documents to a page or a piece of content. These are also uploaded once and dynamically added to the relevant content areas you have defined. 

6) Password Protected / Member Areas

Drupal offers a robust and fully featured member area for documents, pages and discussions that need to be put in a private location for access by authenticated user only. The ability to add users to groups using the Organic Groups module so that user see only the content they are allowed to see upon login is easy to set up. Many of our clients are using this feature to run their multiple Committees and Boards including The Ottawa Hospital Foundation and Animal Nutrition Association of Canada. They allows various users access to the specific groups and upload documents, images, presentations and pages specific to those groups.

7) Online Membership (Association or member based organizations)

Different from member areas above, these types of clients need to put their full membership (often 4000+ members) online with all related member functionality such as online payments and renewals, member search, online donations and more. Drupal integrates seamlessly with an Open Source application called CiviCRM to power membership based features and functionality. Our client the Royal Society of Canada is currently using Drupal to power their front end website and CiviCRM to power their Membership online.

8) Search & the Acquia connection

The native Drupal search feature is robust and offers excellent searching capabilities. However, should you want faceted search, Apache Solr search or the ability to search contents of PDF documents Acquia is a service we can tap into. For those unfamiliar with Acquia they offer enterprise hosting support and related services for Drupal deployments.  Our client - Cree Health - uses the Acquia search for their website and online Library (Biblio Module) feature.

9) Ease of Design Updates

Because Drupal separates the presentation layer (design) from the content, changing your site design is easy and trouble free. You can actually change the design and all of our content will be automatically reconfigured to the new CSS. Now when you want to "refresh" your site you can do it without a complet rebuild.

10) Drupal Vendor

Not really a criteria, but a consideration worth noting within this list: your experience with Drupal will come down to the vendor you choose to integrate it. Because we at Fenix have more than 20+ complex Drupal deployments under our belt we know intimately how Drupal works, what are the best practices, what pitfalls to avoid and how best to set up and configure a Drupal environment. Further, we know how to navigate the conversation with clients around content types, unique functionality and design requirements ensuring we build a Drupal depoyment that meets your expectations every time. 

It is important to choose a Drupal integrator who knows Drupal well in order for your to get the best Drupal experience. Ask for references and see samples of their work before making a decision. And if unsure, call Fenix. We can help you every time.