What does CMS mean, and why use Drupal?

What does CMS mean? Why use Drupal? These questions might be helpful if you are starting your own web project development. Let’s take a look at the invisible software behind numerous websites.

Fidel Chaves
8 min read

What does CMS mean?

Content management system: that is what CMS means, but that alone does not say much. CMS refers to software used to create, manage and update content, and yeah, that does not narrow it down a lot: it is still hard to pin down. But let's give it another try. A CMS allows you to create a framework, a standardized set of practices, and criteria to manage content without the need for specialized technical expertise.

 

Administrators, editors, participants, and other users, manage websites through CMS without having to write code. Instead of building a system from scratch, a content management system handles the basic infrastructure so you can focus on creating the content strategy. Using a CMS, an entire team can work in a collaborative environment that integrates managing documents and digital assets with record retention.

 

In terms of numbers, Drupal and WordPress are two of the most popular content management systems available today. How do they work?

Working with a CMS

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” - Arthur C. Clarke

 

 "Witchcraft to the ignorant, … simple science to the learned." - Leigh Brackett

 

Content management systems are such a given in our day-to-day lives that writers may not know how life would be without them. A simple task like uploading a post to a blog would require writing an HTML file and uploading it to the server. For a writer like me, that would mean learning HTML and how to set up a server, two things I could probably manage, but that would take time and effort from my actual writing. With a CMS like Drupal, the one I work on, I only have to type on a given box and hit publish. All the integration of my input and converting it into output is done automatically.

 

This implementation makes it easy to manage text, media and format, an eCommerce store, a blog, or an eLearning platform. While this might seem like a black box—input goes in, output comes up magically the other way—this is an effort from people in the past. While using a CMS is a blessing for writers, editors, and alike, these systems are regularly maintained up to date by developers that understand the inner workings of the software.

 

Today a blogger can open their laptop and publish a family recipe on a cooking site; a solo entrepreneur can sell old toys on an eCommerce store; readers can take out the phone and share this article with their followers. While all these actions seem mundane and usual, invisible software called CMS allows all these to happen.

 

It is kind of like working with your brain: it collects information from your senses, stores it by building neural networks, and manages those pathways so you can retrieve such data, be it to evoke a memory or send a message outward. You might know this theoretically, but you did not actually build this system yourself. It has already been set in place, and you thrive on the capacity of your brain to automatically do things you take for granted. That is why we tend to forget them.

Drupal 9: the evolution of content managers

Drupal is a free and open-source web content management framework written in PHP and distributed under the GNU General Public Licences. Yeah, so that is the definition by Wikipedia. Let's break it down. We have talked about free and open-source software before. This movement traces back to Richard Stallman with the four fundamental freedoms of software; freedom to run, study, redistribute and improve the program. GNU licensing is what guarantees the four essential freedoms in software. PHP is a general-purpose programming language, and that would be a story for another time. Let’s take a look at Drupal to have a better understanding of its bases.

 

Most people have never heard about Drupal, which is okay as it is usually invisible to everyday users. It is fair to say that it provides a back-end framework for at least 13% of the top 10,000 websites, and over a million websites use Drupal worldwide. These might include personal blogs, corporate, political, and government sites. Besides its general usage, Drupal has the flexibility to offer knowledge management, with eLearning systems, and business applications, with many eCommerce options.

 

As a CMS, Drupal provides a superb standard of service: solid performance, accessible content authoring, and exceptional security attributes, not to mention flexibility, delivering functional and efficiently structured content required by modern websites. With the latest Drupal 9, you can find new resources such as a WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor system, unique content workflow tools, and a new layout builder. Also, a new admin theme called Claro has been added, providing a clean and modern look and feel. Claro has contributed to the improvement of the UI and UX, and it is definitely here to stay since it is now a permanent part of the Drupal core system. This design system enables non-developers to improve content without neglecting the existing technology.

 

While other content management systems might need constant updating and migrations, Drupal 9 delivers new features twice a year without losing the benefits of the previous versions. Releasing Drupal 9, developers seek to facilitate innovation and create an easy upgrade path from versions 7 and 8. The most extraordinary achievement is that the bridge to Drupal 9 from its previous version has been the smoothest in over a decade. Given that versions 8 and 9 are very similar, now companies can migrate directly from Drupal 7 to 9 with guaranteed backward compatibility. If these arguments are not convincing as to why use Drupal, let’s see some of its advantages.

Six advantages of using Drupal as your CMS platform

Being free and open-source, Drupal has become one of the most powerful content management systems in the world. Drupal 9 launched in June 2020, the most potent of all versions so far, which boosted its main features: simplicity to create content, reliable performance, and remarkable security. Among its many virtues, Drupal offers six clear advantages that position it as a state-of-the-art system.

Flexibility

With an intuitive design, Drupal is a CMS that enables unlimited creation. It sets itself apart from the sturdiness that could define any other content management system. Adapted to fit responsive web design, Drupal allows perfect visualization on any device, and it adapts to any design or style that a developer could conceive.

SEO and Social Networks

Drupal focuses on marketing actions oriented to the success of a website, such as search engine positioning and interaction with social networks. As part of its development, the software offers a friendly SEO implementation. It includes tools to create content reports, page titles, keyword optimization, and integration with Google Analytics, to name a few. It also has intuitive modules to integrate content from social networks. Apart from this, Drupal automatically redirects an address (URL) which has changed to avoid the recurrent 404 errors that result from missing reference links.

Scalability

The platform is compatible with the dominating websites in the world, so it supports traffic peaks and a large number of visits. It also offers a multi-language system (already available in version 8), giving users translated and localized content, facilitating marketing strategies with an international positioning.

Security

Drupal complies with strict security standards that guarantee content and information traffic. It stands out for its user management system, allowing role designation for each function to be executed and controlled through permissions.

Integration

With Drupal as a CMS, you can conceive any site since it does not require additional extensions or modules. It is a multi-purpose platform that can adapt to projects in any format: stores, blogs, discussion forums. Also, it enables adding functionalities to the site as it is being developed.

Backup

"The easiest upgrade in a decade": that was the slogan of the launch of Drupal 9 because of its simplicity. It is not a surprise that the Red Cross, FedEx, MTV UK, Twitter, and thousands of other companies in the world have chosen Drupal to manage their content.

CMS comparison: Drupal vs WordPress

We have already talked extensively about Drupal, and you should know that it is our weapon of choice here at Awkbit. The difference we see between Drupal and WordPress implies developer knowledge that might need an article on its own. Each CMS has its own architecture and requires several things along the way. While WordPress is still the leader in terms of market share and ease of use, it falls short in the long run against the more complex but solid Drupal.

 

At Awkbit, Drupal is our go-to content management system. While this choice might change in the future, we find in this free and open-source software all the tools we need. Drupal lets us provide an excellent service and build the products our clients need—digital content, eLearning platforms, or eCommerce functionality. Whenever you need complex content integrations and management, a CMS like Drupal is the tool for the job. Do you need to customize your own CMS? Want to use Drupal for a solid user experience and a lasting site?

Reach Out!

Sources & further reading