Join Tom Geller for an in-depth discussion in this video Deciding whether to use Drupal, part of Drupal 7 Essential Training.
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The decision of whether to use Drupal is based on three things: first, the kind of site you want to build; second, what resources you have available to you; and third, what alternatives are out there, and whether one of them might be a better fit. Let's look through each one of these. First, consider what kind of site you're building. Drupal is especially good for sites that go a little bit beyond the basics, or that have to be updated frequently. So if you have frequent updates, you won't have to upload files and rewrite text on the server; you'll just bring it into the CMS, and it will be done.
Drupal is also good if you have multiple contributors, because it automatically handles user accounts. Drupal is good if it's a membership site for the same reason. You can set different levels so that some people contribute to the site and some people simply have more access to read the site. Drupal is good if it's going to be interactive. You can post a story, for example, and then allow people to add their own comments to it, and add comments to the comments. There are some things that Drupal is not as good for. First of all, if you have any special design requirements, it's a lot easier to do in other systems, specifically in plain HTML.
It's possible to make any kind of design you want in Drupal, but it's a little bit complicated. If you want to learn how to do that, watch Chris Charlton's course on lynda.com about creating Drupal themes. Drupal is also a really overkill if your site doesn't require any maintenance. If you just want to put up something that announces your business or announces your family, and you don't expect to have people coming there and leaving comments, and you don't expect it to change very much, Drupal is probably going to be more than you really need. Secondly, consider what resources you have available to you.
Technically, you need to have an Internet service provider that will give you the sort of access you need in order to run Drupal on their web hosting service. That means that they either set up Drupal for you or they allow you to set it up yourself by giving you enough access to put the files there, change permissions, and do things of that sort. Drupal does also have some specific server requirements. I don't go into those very much in this course because they're low enough that most web hosts already have those taken care of. If you do have any problems with your web host, however, check the documentation on Drupal.org.
Now, I can tell you personally, I'm not very good with any of those, and I manage okay, so you don't really need these, but if you have them, all the better. The third thing to look at when considering Drupal is whether there might be a simpler alternative. On this particular point, I agree with Albert Einstein who said that everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. Too often in the Drupal world, the focus is on, which CMS do I need? But often plain HTML will give you exactly what you need. Or you might be happy with a hosted solution. There are a few different types of hosted solution.
First, there are those things that are sort of like CMSes, although you can't actually take your data off and then re-host it somewhere else. Examples of those are Facebook, LiveJournal, and Yahoo Groups. Although quite honestly, LiveJournal does let you take your stuff off. It's just a little bit hard then to re-host. If you like Drupal but you don't want to have to deal with the server, you might want to consider Drupal Gardens. It's a real Drupal setup, but it's being hosted by Acquia, and you never have to do that kind of maintenance. If you're interested in this, see Drupal Gardens Essential Training, also on lynda.com. Or you might be happy with a simpler CMS; the big one in this category is WordPress.
Or perhaps you don't want something simpler, just something different, in which case you have many, many choices-- among them Joomla! and MediaWiki. So why did I choose Drupal? Well, for me it was the right solution when I wanted to build a site to promote a book I wrote in 2008. I wanted to put a lot of things onto the site. I wanted to have news feeds and original blog posts, and other information of that sort, and I couldn't do all that I wanted using just WordPress. I certainly couldn't do it with HTML. So the site demanded it. That's the first requirement met.
I already knew a little bit about working with servers, and I had the time to spend on it, so there is the second requirement. Finally, I looked at all the other CMS's out there, and then I looked at Drupal and played around with it a little and found that it was really the best option for what I wanted to do. So in the end, Drupal was right for me. Your task is to go out and look at your requirements, what you want your site to do, and consider the other options, and decide if Drupal is right for you.
- Comparing Drupal with other content management systems
- Understanding nodes
- Creating basic content
- Adding blogs, discussions groups, and polls
- Subscribing to RSS feeds
- Creating new content types
- Managing users, roles, and permissions
- Creating and modifying block regions
- Adding menus
- Extending site capabilities with modules