Why I chose Drupal when I was a client

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Louise O'Connor

Before working at Five Mile I used to work client-side and know only too well about the internal politics and different stakeholders that need to be involved when deciding to choose the right content management system for your organisation. There are so many things to consider and different teams to please - most departments have different needs and expectations from a website.

I’ve always worked in digital marketing for B2B and B2C organisations and have been fortunate enough to be involved in website and intranet projects for all of them. This has meant that I have had to work with a number of different CMS’s including: Immediacy, Umbraco, Sharepoint and Sitefinity to name a few - all of which (from a content manager’s perspective) have in some way or form been a total nightmare to use and manage.

I’d heard in passing of ‘Drupal’ but it wasn’t until four years ago, when I started leading a complex website redesign project for a national health and safety organisation, that I was required to start researching into Drupal as a candidate CMS.

Why did we research Drupal?

If you have a marketing and IT department in your organisation then you will know that they have different needs and this is where the journey starts for researching the ‘right’ CMS. Simply put: technical vs control (and the people that will actually be using it on a daily basis). So, I initially looked in the obvious place at: https://drupal.org/ and then decided to google the pros and cons of Drupal, which led to some interesting results:

What I wanted from a CMS as a marketing manager (and I’m not a technical person!)

  1. A CMS that was easy to use and update - There are far too many CMS’s out there which are not user friendly for the content manager
  2. A CMS that was open source. Why? This equals no license fees which means that it wouldn’t be coming out of my budget and would also please my finance director and keep the IT manager extremely happy!
  3. A CMS that was functional - I wanted a CMS that I could not only develop over time, but that would be quick to add new features to so that I could meet my ever-growing list of business objectives
  4. A CMS that was scalable - What website ever stands still? I needed a CMS that would stand the test of time and one that would fit in with our long term website development plans
  5. And again... a CMS that was easy to use and update!!!

What the IT manager wanted:

  1. A CMS that was open source - Why? because it is free and meant that I wouldn’t be fighting for licence fees to come out of his IT budget!
  2. A CMS that was secure - A huge issue with all these hackers nowadays - who needs the hassle?! Drupal carries good reputation for its security record and our IT manager had this high up the list if we were going open source
  3. A CMS that was scalable - like me, they didn’t want to have to be changing platforms in a few years time
  4. A CMS that was easy to integrate with - to be honest we both had to think about this one. We needed integration with Salesforce, our email marketing system and other API’s and didn’t want this to be too much of a headache

Why did we end up choosing Drupal?

From all the research we did around other open source platforms, for us Drupal was the perfect fit. To sum up, we needed a CMS that was easy to use, was extremely secure and that was not only scalable but that was able to:

  • Handle a large number of users logging in on a daily basis
  • For these users to have lots of different permissions
  • Put the marketing team in control
  • Create a number of different content manager roles and approval processes so different teams could update their own sections of the website (so the marketing team didn’t have to do it for them - another contentious issue!)
  • Plug-in to an e-commerce feature without too much hassle to drive online sales

What you should consider when choosing the right CMS

From all of the research that we carried out and other open source platforms we looked at, it really comes down to your brief. What are your requirements now and where do you see your organisation in 5-10 years time? If your immediate or long term need is to have users logging into your site and you want the ability to add different features quickly then I would recommend from my own pre-Five-Mile experience going with Drupal. If your requirements are much lighter weight, perhaps a basic brochure/marketing website with static images and content and no real need to develop into something much bigger in the future, then Drupal could be a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut and an open source CMS such as WordPress could be ideal for running your site for a good period of time.