If you’ve paid any attention to the rate at which I post to this blog, you’d see that I’ve been very good until about two weeks ago, when my folks visited me here in Southern California from their home in St. Louis. During their visit, I had a limited amount of time to gather enough material to post daily, so I gave myself a break. Of course, having done that, I got used to the break and extended it way beyond when my folks went back to St. Louis. So besides working on my taxes, what have I been doing with my time away from the blog? I’ve been immersing myself into Drupal with the hope that I could put together another cool website using its technology.
Currently, you’re reading this blog on a Joomla installation. I chose Joomla over WordPress because I felt the latter did not have all the features I wanted. Unlike WordPress, you can host multiple blogs on Joomla. Also, you can post articles in a number of different formats. And, one thing I really like, you can put “kill-dates” on the articles so that they automagically remove themselves after a period of time. This makes Joomla a much easier environment to sell ads and maintain a dynamic web experience with many dimensions.
I’d been putting off learning about Drupal because I was happy with my current solution. But I can procrastinate for only so long, and so, besides working many hours on my taxes over the past week, I decided to take the plunge and investigate Drupal. What I found both delighted and disappointed me. I’ve broken down these perceptions in the following two lists, aptly named “Delighted” and “Disappointed”.
First, the “Delighted”. Drupal has . . .
- A platform built for social media, with programmable user levels, forums and blogs built in.
- Up to nine levels of topics. If you need more, you must be insane.
- A highly detailed permission structure so you can fine-tune the role of each group of users.
- A totally modular structure, allowing you to add any functionality you need – all you have to do is find the right add-on module.
- A highly active support group that develops a countless number of add-on modules.
- A good integration with PHP, so you can drop down and get dirty with the code relatively easy.
Now, the “Disappointed”
- Having a modular structure is great if you know what you’re doing and know the modules you need, but if you’re new to Drupal, getting even the simplest pages to display properly will require you to stitch together a complex quilt of modules and pray that it all works together.
- Though there are a lot of modules, documentation on how to actually use them is deficient. Basically, you have to live with them long enough until they become second nature. You may not have that much time.
- The most important modules, like CCK (Content Construction Kit) and something called “Views” are extremely necessary but extremely complicated as well. I found coding directly in PHP/MySQL to be a lot more direct and simple; however, it’s really difficult to advocate this type of non-scalable solution to a lot of customers.
To be sure, I could make a similar list for any web-page solution out there. I suppose what really matters is how much trouble one is willing to go through to get a solution that is highly flexible, versus a more limited “canned” solution. To that end, if you’re already highly skilled in PHP/MySQL and have had a lot of experience with other CMS packages, your learning curve on Drupal will be accelerated somewhat. But still, the question comes down to resources versus delivery schedules. So here are some rules of thumb I’ll put forth.
- If you need a website running tonight, sign up with GoDaddy
- If you need a blog running tonight, sign up with Blogger
- If you need an industry-standard blog with lots of expandable features running sometime this week, go with WordPress
- If you need a full website with lots of articles, multiple blogs, tiered membership, and you can invest two weeks, go with Joomla
- If you need a full social media website with highly customizable features and utmost flexibility and can invest a month or two, then go with Drupal
I know the above rules probably oversimplify the situation somewhat, but it can give you some idea of what you’re up against when putting together a website and don’t know where to begin.
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