What Exactly Is Drupal? ... And Why Should You Care
So you've heard of Drupal (or not) and maybe you're wondering… What exactly is it? The simple answer is that Drupal is a content management system, or CMS, used to create websites and web applications of all sorts. Although that answer is simple, it also isn't really the whole story. After all, there are plenty of CMS options out there, so what makes Drupal special?
Drupal is one of our preferred solutions when building new software or modernizing an existing website, since it allows us to quickly build fully-featured websites. Drupal is especially loved by developers because of its flexibility. Many content management systems make some pretty large assumptions about what sorts of websites someone might want to build with them, but Drupal can accommodate just about anything. From publishing to e-commerce platforms to enterprise software, Drupal has the tools developers need to create sites that are stable, secure, and a perfect fit for your requirements.
Great starting toolset
Engaged supporting community
Can integrate with anything
Drupal gives us a great starting point for most projects with ways to manage the site's content and users, critical features such as login and cron management, and a whole framework for building functionality custom to the site in question. It also allows us to draw upon a wide range of contributed modules from Paragraphs (for creating flexible content editing interfaces), to Flysystem (for integrating with Amazon S3 for file storage), to Webform (for building customized registration and contact forms).
Ready-made solutions are one great benefit of Drupal, but of course sometimes they can't cover all of a website's needs. This is when we take advantage of Drupal's included APIs and other development tools to create custom modules or integrate with remote services which can't be done just by using some ready-made code. Fortunately, Drupal was designed with such use cases in mind, making custom development a breeze. That means building a website in Drupal can be both cheaper and faster than it would be with another platform, while also making available a whole range of functionality to make further enhancements to the site.
Who Is Drupal For? (short answer: everyone)
Drupal is essentially for everyone, but here are a few common needs for which Drupal can especially be leveraged to produce cutting edge and robust solutions.
Drupal for Publishing
Digital publishing is about content, and content is what Drupal was built for in the first place. Drupal provides a powerful user interface for defining whatever sorts of content types a site might need, such as distinguishing news from articles, articles from blog posts, and so on, in whatever breakdown might be desired. It can be used out-of-the-box to allow different editors access to different types of content. The included Content Moderation module can add even more subtleties to this process, for instance, allowing certain users to submit content, while leaving the revising, approval, and publishing of that content to other users in whatever workflow makes the most sense for the site.
Although displaying content on the site itself is typically key, in this day and age we often need a bit more flexibility. Here again, Drupal has us covered, allowing us to create RSS feeds and APIs for retrieving the site's content, which can then be accessed by other websites, programs, and mobile apps to retrieve the content to display it in whatever format is most appropriate to the medium.
Drupal for E-commerce
Many sites need some sort of e-commerce features. The most obvious use of e-commerce is for simple online purchases, but that's far from all it is good for. Other possibilities include sites on which visitors have a paid subscription to view some or all of its content, where users need to register for events or programs, or where they pay to get access to digital assets of any sort. Although Drupal doesn't have anything built-in for this common (and often complex) feature, there are many options available. The Drupal Commerce module is one such option, but we've found that this is one area where a totally custom solution excels, and fortunately Drupal provides all the tools needed to build such a solution. From cart and subscription management to transaction detail storage, emailing of receipts, and integration with a wide range of payment processors, Drupal can be leveraged to accomplish the whole range of advanced e-commerce needs a website might have.
Drupal for Enterprise
The needs of enterprise software solutions often vary even more wildly than those of e-commerce sites, but Drupal can still handle them. Drupal can be used to easily connect with other systems to share and aggregate information between them, and it is designed to manage complex data relationships. It can be used to provide CRM functionality or to create complex administrative interfaces for an almost app-like experience on the web. Drupal, with its included handling of caching and web services, is built to scale to whatever size is necessary to store and manage vast amounts of data, allowing for it to potentially be accessed by many users at once.
Enterprise solutions often have very specific and complex requirements, which is where Drupal's flexibility comes into play nicely. If there's not an integration out there, you can build one. If you need to talk to a proprietary system, you can. You can leverage pre-built functionality where needed, but with Drupal you are never hamstrung by a tightly opinionated platform that doesn't like to be asked to do something it wasn't built to do.
Where Are We Today?
Drupal got started way back in the year 2000 – that's an eternity ago in web time! – but is staying current with the modern web and even helping to blaze new trails through the technological wilderness.
The latest version of Drupal, version 8, is packed full of great new features, and it's our favored version to develop with. Drupal 8 takes a large step forward for the platform by switching to an object-oriented architecture which fits effortlessly into the modern-day PHP ecosystem, allowing it to also leverage useful components originally developed for other platforms such as Symfony. Drupal 8 also takes some of the most popular parts of Drupal 7 (such as views, layouts, and entity reference fields) and supercharges them, including them in core and thereby making them a full part of Drupal rather than leaving them as separate add-ons. Finally, Drupal 8 has plenty of all-new features. One new core feature we love is the dynamic page cache which can, when it is leveraged correctly, provide stunning improvements for how quickly sites load.
A Sample Of What We Can Do For You
Upgrading to Drupal 8
Easy-to-use admin interfaces
Composer library management
Custom exportable reporting
Rescuing and securing hacked sites
Complex caching systems
Custom 3rd party integrations
Design and conceptualization
Custom module development
Search engine optimization
User and role management
Automated backups and recovery
REST and JSON webservices
Headless architecture with React
Custom template creation
Custom template creation
Filesystem integration with S3
Automated task management
Doing Drupal In Arizona Since ... Forever Ago
We are based in Mesa, Arizona, and are one of the southwest's premiere providers of Drupal development services. With our extensive custom module, site building, theming skills, our deep knowledge Drupal’s inner workings, and a background of web development experience going back to the late nineties, we can offer tremendous value for nearly any Drupal endeavor.
If you need a full-service solution, our developers can work with your organization to design and execute your entire project. Prefer to have your own in-house developers? We can also provide consulting and assistance for them, and we even Drupal training to help beginners get up and running and help more advanced users navigate some of the trickier and more esoteric aspects of Drupal implementations.
We owe a lot to Drupal—it’s one of the most remarkable web technologies in existence today! So we make sure to give back where we can. Ashday as a company, as well as our individual staff members, actively support the Drupal community in the greater Phoenix area. If you’re ever at one of our local events or find us at a conference or camp further abroad, make sure to say hello—we’d love to meet you! Community is what makes Drupal great, and it also makes our work a lot more fun.
Here are some of the Drupal projects we've contributed or assisted with: