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In CMS Fundamentals, James Williamson defines content management systems (CMSs) and explains their role in web site development. The course demonstrates the different CMS solutions available today, including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla; reviews CMS terminology and best practices; and shows how to develop a content management strategy. Guidelines are also included for evaluating a potential CMS, whether hosted or self-hosted, open source or proprietary, and choosing a CMS based on a specific need or focus.
Currently, Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress are the most popular web-based content management systems on the market. As such, I want to discuss each of them in a little more detail, so that you can decide for yourself if one of them is a potential fit for your projects. I want to start with Drupal. Now that first thing I want to mention about Drupal is it's actually more of a content management framework rather than a content management system. So what's the difference? Mostly CMSs are built with an assumption about how the site's content should be managed.
For example, WordPress and Movable Type are designed with blogging in mind, and the majority of their functionality is focused on the needs of a blog. A framework, on the other hand, makes no assumptions about how the content is going to be used--or even what the content is. It simply provides a basic framework of capabilities that can then be structured any way that the user wishes. While this is the platform an amazing amount of flexibility, it also means that it requires more technical chops than some of the other systems.
Let's break down how Drupal works to illustrate this. At the very core of any Drupal-driven site is the content itself. The content is stored in what's called a node. Now, it doesn't matter if it's a blog post, an article, or an ad; to Drupal, it's just another node of content. Above the content layer you have modules. Modules are a functional plug-ins that build on the system's core functionality and control what you can do with the content. If you needed to create a blog, an event calendar, or even an image gallery, modules are what you'd use.
In fact, two of the functions that you use to build pages in Drupal-- views and features--are themselves modules. Now, two other core features--blocks & menus--round out the foundational elements of your pages. Blocks are ways to sort smaller sections of dedicated content that you can then just plug anywhere that you like. [00:01:53.79 For example, you could create a block to display a Twitter feed or a smaller upcoming events calendar and then place that block on any page in your site and in any location that you'd like. Menus control navigation and are incredibly flexible in Drupal.
You can have as many as you want, allow them to reference any path you want and then lay them out on any page as a block of content. On top of all of this is a theme that consists of templates and a set of functions that control not only the look of the site, but aspects of the site's functionality as well. If this looks a little like stacking blocks, then it should. Drupal has a very modular workflow that gives you a high degree of control over the sites architecture and functionality. In addition to its basic workflow, Drupal has a pretty impressive feature list.
So it's certainly longer than what I can list here. However, some of the more notable features include multilingual support, multisite support, SEO- friendly links, and taxonomy tools. Drupal also has a very powerful user management capability allowing you to define roles that govern the creation, editing, publishing, or deletion of content based on content type. One of the things you'll hear over and over about Drupal when a core feature is being described is that 'there is a module that extends this functionality'.
It seems like there's a module for almost any desired capability. In fact, using modules is such an integral part of Drupal, it's helpful to imagine a Drupal install as one where the Drupal core is installed first, followed by the modules that you'll need for the site's specific functionality. For example, the core Drupal install doesn't feature a WYSIWYG editor. If you want one for your project, you are going to have to install it as a module. As you can imagine, this means that when creating a new site with Drupal, you'll need to spend some time thinking about the best way to configure Drupal for your site's specific needs.
So what type of sites are best managed by Drupal? Well, although Drupal can handle just about anything you throw at it, it's best suited for larger complex sites that need the flexibility and functionality that Drupal provides. Drupal can be a bit of a pain to set up and configure, enough so that it probably wouldn't be worth the effort if you are doing a simple small site or a blog. However, when you're working with larger high-traffic sites with complex content requirements, Drupal really shines. That leads me to my final two points about Drupal.
Drupal is definitely targeted more towards developers than designers or non-web professionals. That doesn't mean that a non-developer couldn't install and configure a Drupal site; just that Drupal requires more technical chops to operate than some of the other open-source CMSs and that it might be wise to have an experienced professional help you, at least with your first Drupal site. Drupal's focus on developers has paid off in creating one of the largest communities of any CMS. There are hundreds of community- contributed modules that allow you to extend and improve Drupal's capabilities, a large base of developers working to improve security and performance, and a deep pool of developers that you can engage to implement a Drupal site for your organization if you don't want to do it yourself.
If you want to learn more about the Drupal community and the CMS itself, visit drupal.org.
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