Don’t drop Drupal


Apples and Oranges

Image: Suvro Datta / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Drupal was created in 2000 by the then-University of Antwerp student Dries Buytaert. Over the last 11 years, it has grown into a huge community of open-source web developers, providing a stable, flexible content management system for a multitude of websites developed by the White House, the World Food Programme, Pearl Jam, and many more.

There have, however, often been debates about the usability of the back-end in comparison to blogging CMS’ such as WordPress, particularly for the uninitiated user. As most functioning groups or organizations require a website but most don’t have the resources to hire an expert developer, there are many uninitiated users in the workplace.

Having personally migrated two research sites from Drupal to WordPress in the last year, I am currently working on a Drupal project and am enjoying the enormous breadth and flexibility that it offers.

I will echo many developers in saying this: whether Drupal or WordPress is more appropriate depends entirely on the project requirements and available resources. Drupal’s modular build offers the developer nearly unlimited options and opportunities, from social media integration, languages, custom themes and subthemes, users registration, permission sets, forums… the list goes on. However, a Drupal website needs someone to manage it. I’ve seen many untended Drupal websites fall into disrepair, and it’s not a pretty sight.

In the past, I recommended a Drupal to WordPress migration because WordPress is so much more simple and lightweight. For university research project websites, managed by a handful of students each year who have at most 10 hours per week to dedicate to the project, Drupal is just too complicated. In the quick rotation of experimenting research assistants, knowledge is lost, security systems don’t get updated, the public forum gets spammed, and suddenly, the site is obsolete and no longer supported by the university.  With a simple framework like WordPress, this is less likely to happen.

On the other hand, any company or organization with the resources to invest in a more complex site should consider Drupal. In a team meeting, a Drupal developer has the luxury of almost always saying “yes” when asked: “is this possible?”. After merely a few days of Drupal on a large scale, I am tempted to buy a t-shirt and spend my weekends buried in manuals. Or perhaps watching the excellent tutorials created by what seems to be a very young Drupal wiz with a knack for simplifying complicated concepts: tomrogers123.

My recommendation? If you have the resources, don’t drop Drupal.

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2 thoughts on “Don’t drop Drupal

  1. A website is one of the things I’ve put on the back burner in my efforts to plan a student conference. Would you recommend Drupal for a student conference that requires an online location for conference, registration, and submission details, that need only be in place for about 8 months?

  2. Hi Stacey,

    I think that you might get what you need from WordPress – the online conference location could be done with Google Maps and registration through a Google Docs form. It may be the easiest to handle. WordPress would also offer some social media functionality that you could use – especially if you want live tweeting or blogging from the conference. No matter what platform you use, you’re going to need some place to host the site – the iSchool may agree to do this. I’d me happy to discuss this further with you whenever you like!

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