Drupal — the very name invites a mixed reaction from designers, developers and end users alike. On one hand, Drupal is backed by a very loyal and active user base or community, and is renowned for its security abilities and versatile set of features.
On the other hand, Drupal is also notorious for a wide number of reasons. A steep learning curve, a resource-hungry code base that is often termed to be a memory hog, and a documentation that is lacking in many aspects — when it comes to criticizing Drupal, one cannot run out of reasons.
As such, this PHP-based Content Management System stands nowhere in comparison to the popularity of WordPress. However, all said and done, Drupal still accounts for a bit over 2% of the total websites on the internet, and in a pool filled with CMSs, being noticed enough to power 2% of the total websites is an honor in anyone’s book.
So, in spite of the criticism, how exactly does Drupal fare? Is it worth your time as a designer or coder? In this article, I shall attempt to answer these questions.
Drupal: To Use or Not To Use?
Drupal: Target User Base
Perhaps the most interesting (and outright confusing) point about Drupal is the fact that its target user base can rarely be defined in strict terms. For designers, it does boast of a wide range of addons or modules, but it surely is not the first CMS that a designer would fall for. In fact, Drupal is meant more for developers and coders than designers.
Furthermore, with Symfony on board, Drupal is eyeing the enterprise user base as well. Thus, as far as I get it, Drupal is more of a Content Management Framework than Content Management System. It is not something you might pick up if you are trying to quickly create and curate content (that job belongs to the likes of WordPress and Concrete5); instead, it is more of something that you would use to manage your content in a specific manner.
Drupal: Optimized For Search Engines?
Search Engine Optimization seems to be the strong point of Drupal. It comes with custom content types as well as an in-built content taxonomy system that lets you use keyword-rich tags to the fullest.
Beyond that, Drupal can set automatic page titles and also offers native support for clean SEO-friendly URLs — a definite plus for SEO fanatics.
But what about the fact that Drupal is ultra slow?
Well, Drupal can at times be moody when it comes to speed, but I doubt if it can be called bloated. If tweaked properly, its caching mechanism can deal with multiple levels of a page and thereby improve the page load times (and indirectly boost your SEO prospects in the process).
So, Is Drupal The Way To Go?
Yes and no.
If you are happy with WordPress or whatever other CMS you are using and hardly miss anything, Drupal might just be an overkill addition in your arsenal. As such, it is not meant for you. Even more so, if your clients have no specialized needs that require the services of Drupal, investing in learning Drupal might not yield a very high return in economic terms.
Beyond that, while I do not blindly believe in criticism such as Drupal being slow or a pain to work with, I have noticed that updating Drupal is almost always a pain. Backwards compatibility is unheard of, sadly.
On the brighter side, a good number of big shots use Drupal. NASA, MIT, AOL, Ubuntu, Amnesty International, IKEA, Greenpeace UK, The White House, The Onion, and a lot many others! So if nothing else, learning Drupal can surely put you in good company.
All said and done, since 2007-08, downloads of Drupal have been growing at a good rate (in some years, the rate was as high as 125%). Of course, the total downloads’ count is nuggets when compared with that of WordPress, but the rate of growth is impressive nonetheless. Thus, if you do decide to give Drupal a shot, rest assured, the market does have demand for it and you know how it goes — when it comes to skills, demand means money!
Drupal has had some bad reputation due to its previous versions, but with each passing update, the CMS is growing well. It is far from perfect, and possibly not a solution for everyone’s needs, but it does offer a wonderful machinery under the hood, and is well worth the spin!
What do you think of Drupal? Have you used it or are planning to use it? If so, share your experiences and thoughts with us using the comments below!