CMS Review: Drupal

Drupal is a free open source content management system available from drupal.org. Designed for mid to high usage sites Drupal is a powerful and expandable system.

Pros

  • Free
  • Highly scalable
  • Very expandable
  • Large support base

Cons

  • Steep learning curve
  • Lack of themes
  • Confusing terminology
  • Requires customising

Installation

Drupal is very easy to install simply create a database in mysql or your preferred database engine noting the username and password. Upload the Drupal files to the server and navigate to the root directory. A wizard will guide you through the rest of the install and make required configurations to files.

The default theme

Drupal Default Theme Drupal default theme is Garland designed for Drupal 5 it has a colour picker option which allows some basic customising. Its a valid XHTML CSS design and is totally tableless, while certainly one of the most pleasant looking default themes it does look very corporate and very distinctive making default Drupal installs very easy to spot. You can try also some premium Drupal templates.

Skins and Plugins

Drupal refers to a skin as a theme, and its system is modular rather then a plugin, themes and modules are uploaded to special folder within the Drupal and then activated through its administration console. Modules come with their own template files and integrate into themes without the need for making coding changes. Indeed it is quite possible to develop a fairly complex sites without touching a line of code.

Search Engine Optimisation

Drupal is probably one of the best CMS in terms of SEO, it correctly uses heading tags, has a easy to manage API for meta tag usage and uses clean URLs with only one press of a button. It's basic SEO capabilities are expanded by vast array of modules include pathauto, nodewords, custom breadcrumbs.

Content Creation

Content creation is where Drupal excels both in creation but also in how it handles and displays content, again due to the modular nature of Drupal can create multiple types of content, its basic content types are story, page, blog, book each has a different use and purpose, new content type's can be created with various fields through the use of CCK.

Content can be displayed in many forms and Drupal has a powerful taxonomy system for creating categories this is one of its most versatile features but is not very newbie friendly requiring a firm understand of the terminology used.

User Interaction

Drupal does have a commenting system out of the box which can be set to work with any content type, so for example users and visitors can comment on a story or page with little or no effort, like any other aspect of Drupal this is expanded by a wealth of modules. Drupal can be used as a blogging platform though this was not it's intended purpose and requires additional modules to handle trackbacks.

Security

  • Security from hackers - Drupal has few problems with security and the Drupal team not only monitor security of Drupal but also provide security information for contributed modules as well however it is worth subscribing to the security mailing lists.
  • Access control - Drupal has a powerful permission based system, allowing users to be assigned very granular permissions as well as a role based system which makes Drupal based systems one of the most flexible systems when it comes to assigning users access rights.

Conclusion

Drupal is incredible powerful all round system, it has been developed to be modular and easy to adapt to almost any situation, it is used by large organisations such as the onion for delivering articles, but can just as easily be used to create web2.0 based applications. Underneath the front end of the system is an expandable system allowing programmers and module developers to hook into the core system without having to recode any vital files. However Drupal has a sharp learning curve and would perhaps not be suitable to webmasters or bloggers who just want to get it up and running as quickly as possible.