On Becoming a Drupal Development Shop

Two years ago we began working with Drupal. Before then, our content management implementations were dominated by our own PHP/MySQL-based CMS, which itself was the result of several years of development, revision, and rewriting. Since we began working with Drupal two years ago, we haven't launched a single project using our own CMS. And we never will again.

We are primarily a design company. The user experience is at the center of every project we take on, every design concept we create. The goals vary widely from client to client. When clients look to us to provide content management, we need a product that is flexible and efficient – one that allows us put the user experience first, without having to reinvent a solution for each project.

Our own CMS delivered in these two areas, but added a problematic maintenance burden to the development cycle. As I mentioned before, we are primarily a design company. Developing and maintaining a content management solution is not our core business.

Two years ago, when a new client asked us to review several open-source CMS products and provide a recommendation, we did some research and suggested Drupal. Since then, more than a dozen Drupal implementations have followed.

Here's why:

  • Drupal provides a presentation layer, via a robust theme engine, for customizing the HTML output of virtually any piece of the application. We can put the user experience first.
  • There is an incredibly active Drupal community. The product's maintenance is distributed across a passionate group of 1000+ developers.
  • The Drupal community cares about standards. The generated HTML code is a bit bloated at times, as happens with any generalized solution, but by-and-large its HTML output conforms to modern web standards.
  • There are literally thousands of contributed modules providing a vast range of additional functionality.
  • Often, the functional requirements for a project can be met without writing a single line of code. Specifically, the out-of-the-box flexibility provided by the Views and CCK modules is amazing.
  • Drupal offers a robust application development framework for add-on functionality.
  • Drupal is built on PHP with current support for MySQL and PostgreSQL databases, with plans for pluggable database support in version 7. Drupal is built on technologies that are among the most widely used and supported on the web today.

Over the last two years we have deployed solutions using Drupal that range from simple, "brochure-ware" websites; to websites that integrate with enterprise CRM systems and deliver real-time data for hundreds of projects worldwide; to informational websites for educational institutions; to community websites featuring user-generated content for prominent, widely recognized cultural heritage institutions. The applications have varied widely, and the final products have delivered on goals every time.

We're hooked.

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