Drupal – An Essential Primer


While not quite the most commonly used content management software package in existence, Drupal is certainly one of the most popular.  One estimate states that it is used as the backend for 1.5% of all of current websites worldwide.  The beginner user who is wondering whether or not to use Drupal could use a quick primer of the essential elements of Drupal.

A brief history of Drupal

Drupal began as a message board, and like many web success stories, rocketed in popularity when in 2001 it went open source.  A user community quickly formed around the software package, one which grew past “global village” to start approaching “global small country.”.

The numbers for its support are amazing.  Since 2005 there have been multiple “DrupalCons” held each year, with smaller events scattered throughout the world.  It displays contents in more than 180 languages, and is used, purporetedly, in over 200.  Its rabid fan base has used its open-source freedom to create for it more than 11,000 add-ons.  Looked at from any angle, Drupal is rock star.  As a side note, it also ranked second in a list of most secure content management software packages.

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Sounds fantastic.  Is there a catch?

First the good news – Lots of it

Well yes, there is, but custom dictates that we list the advantages first.  The main advantage to Drupal is just how many advantages there are.  This is an extremely powerful, flexible piece of software that offers just about any option that a webmaster could want out of a content management software package.  The standard release contains support for RSS feeds, user account registration, page layout specifications, video, polls, and podcasts just to start.

More importantly is that it has the programming capabilities to handle much more.  Drupal lets the webmaster program in a module-like setting that makes it easy for a user to develop a gorgeous web site from the ground up in little time: and again, if the software package itself somehow doesn’t contain what you need out of it, the many thousands of add-ons from the user community almost definitely will.

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Now the bad news – Too much of a good thing?

If the avalanche of features above seemed intimidating to you, then you have an idea of what the primary drawback for Drupal is.  This is not the most beginner-friendly content management software out there.  It is generally considered that if all you want is a simple site that you can use Drupal no problem, but that if you want more than that, you need to commit to a little bit of self-education.

Part and parcel to that problem is that Drupal is generally considered to be among the bigger and slower of these systems.  To be fair, there is some debate on this topic: one study showed Drupal to outperform Joomla, one of its main rivals.  Nevertheless the impression persists.  All things considered, if you are just looking for a very simple web site with little in the way of frills, your likely to get a lot of people tell you that Drupal is not the best place to start.

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A positive balance?

Those drawbacks don’t seem to be getting in the way of Drupal’s continued popularity.  And since many of the sites that use Drupal are high profile sites, such as Whitehouse.gov, London.gov.uk, Rutgers.edu,  Economist.com and MTV.co.uk, the new user has a lot of examples to look it.

One thing is certain: if you ask the Drupal user community, they are sure to tell you to jump right in. That’s a hard endorsement to ignore. Also, most of the web hosting companies support the Drupal CMS.

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