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The time is right for Drupal products

The very best session I attended at DrupalCon Copenhagen was "WordPress is better than Drupal: developers take note" by Jennifer Lea Lampton. While I disagree with the premise - comparing a purpose-built product (WP) to a framework designed to be completely flexible (Drupal) - the session was fantastic, well-presented and raised many valid points. It sparked intense, productive discussions about usability, functionality and approach that have lasted long after the session itself. I was reminded of it again last week in a discussion that included some oft-repeated misconceptions about Drupal: "Drupal still doesn’t ship with a WYSIWYG editor, how can it compete with Wordpress?" ... "How can Drupal reach wider adoption if people have to 'get their hands dirty' to get started?" ... "We should make a minimum wish list to put Drupal on par with the competition and work on these issues!" (emphasis mine) Stop! This is comparing apples and oranges. Wordpress is a honed, refined blogging product that does one thing very well, whereas Drupal is a flexible, extensible CMS plus a huge set of tools for building websites, web applications, and integrating with other tools. To be fair, someone in on the discussion I mentioned above did point out that Drupal Gardens addresses those supposed weaknesses, "Drupal Gardens includes a WYSIWYG editor to make it more attractive when compared to platforms like Wordpress.com and Tumblr," but this is exactly what I am getting at: Drupal Gardens is a Drupal product; it can be compared to other products. Instead of comparing a toolset and a product, there are other, appropriate comparisons that businesses and developers should be making:
  • Compare a Drupal blogging distribution or service to Wordpress (Drupal Gardens does much more than blogging, but it might be the best comparison here).
  • Compare Drupal Commons to Jive or Telligent.
  • Compare Open Atrium to Basecamp.
  • Compare OpenPublish to online magazine portals.
Also keep in mind that our clients don't care about Drupal per se. Drupal is to them as PHP is to us as developers - a means to an end. It's what we build our stuff with. Developers looking for the next smart thing to work on should consider building Drupal products. Products that will compete on their feature completeness, usability and suitability for specific uses, not because they are built in Drupal. Drupal can keep "competing" for popularity among developers, but that is a completely different discussion than competition between Drupal products and other products. Now is the time for Drupal products. Pre-configured, tailored Drupal distributions or features designed to meet specific needs are going to drive the next wave of Drupal adoption and growth.

Comments

Posted on by Bojhan (not verified).

Though I would agree, in terms of user experience none of Drupal products are near their competitors (which you note as one of the primary fields of competition). If we want this to change for Drupal 7 products we need to do a serious job in attracting and employing user experience designers.

Posted on by Jeffrey McGuire.

I absolutely agree and admire the work you do improving Drupal's UX, Bojhan! Thank you!

- jam | Jeffrey A. McGuire | Senior Writer, Evangelist | jam@acquia.com

Posted on by Kayx (not verified).

Above Drupal products made by large companies & almost the core drupal coders I guess. For freelancer/small company, we have limited budget to each project.

WP is purpose-built for blogging and we can see some other products. most of them made by ONE man.

Much improve in Drupal 7, Clients would like the backend now. BUT D7 with Views and some modules, can D7 running well in share hosting ?? right, it depends.
but for a WP project, I never think of this problem. It is a simple question but always lack you start a project with Drupal. Not all of us building large site and get a server to run it.

Some of us are little people, maybe that the reason why comparing apples and oranges.

for your point, I think D5 is right for products, no need wait to D7 or whatever. Just invest money to get them done.

I love both Drupal & WP.

Posted on by contemporaryfusion (not verified).

A very interesting point Jam. I have this discussion all the time with clients, and even use a modified version of a classic decision tree to show what they should use (Drupal/Wordpress/Static HTML)

I am sure many people have seen it, but it goes along the lines of "Are you a blog and only a blog => Use Wordpress. Do you want just brochureware => Use static HTML. Do you want a website that you can control easily => Use Drupal" Its simple and seems to work. Especially when I am able to show a sample site (Which I am using D7 for now, to help test it with a variety of users)

Wordpress is great for what it does (Blogging) but Drupal as you say is a complete platform. Now the UX is being heavily worked on, and things like CCK are making it into core, I think Drupal 7 will be a good solid platform many people will choose - especially with so many government and for profit companies starting to use Drupal for their large scale corporate websites. However I have to wonder if more Drupal based products were launched if people would stop comparing Wordpress to Drupal itself? I doubt it as Drupal is primarily known as a CMS and not a Framework - but it might help a bit. Is a new marketing strategy required for D7 or D8 when it comes along?

David Thorne | Managing Director at Contemporary Fusion Computer Services Ltd

Posted on by Jeffrey McGuire.

Thanks for your insight, David.

As to new distributions and marketing strategies, makers of Drupal distributions are already hard at work promoting their solutions - as independent products - in various channels. More and more of them are springing up like mushrooms after the rain. I was shown one fully-formed distro in private beta and plans for a couple more at DrupalCamp Italy in Turin last weekend - this is such an exciting time! Acquia is also off to a promising start partnering with product-makers on marketing and sales.

I'm not so clear on marketing for Drupal per se. Perhaps with time the perception will shift and Drupal will mostly be seen as a developer tool and people will be choosing among specialized Drupal products to realize their projects?

Where do you see that going?

- jam | Jeffrey A. McGuire | Senior Writer, Evangelist | jam@acquia.com

Posted on by contemporaryfusion (not verified).

A couple of other posters have commented that Drupal needs to work out if it wishes to be seen as a framework or a CMS. I am not going to try and say it can't be both, but I think it can only be "known" as one. Maybe rebranding it as something like a Content Managment Framework (Similar to what ModX have done) could be an answer. I am no marketing expert, but I do think Drupal needs to find its place and become well known for that. No product is perfect, I don't believe it's possible. However if Drupal tries to be too many things I don't think it will work out well for the project, which would be a real shame.

With regards to building platforms within Drupal - this is something I am currently experimenting with on the D7 alphas. Drupal is a great base for a lot of products, especially with some many features available out the box (Most of CCK being added to core has also greatly reduced the additional requirements when setting up a Drupal site) Drupal Gardens is a great start - lets get more ideas like it out there and hopefully break down some of the negative images Drupal can generate in the least tech savvy people (Like the idea you NEED a developer to work with Drupal etc)

David Thorne,
Managing Director | Contemporary Fusion Computer Services Ltd

Posted on by khaledalhourani (not verified).

You are right, it's the best time to build distro/products. I expect a future of Drupal distro like Linux, you go and pick your favorite distro and involve in it's community or group.

Posted on by acquialogic (not verified).

WordPress is a CMS, beside being a blogging platform. you should know this allready.

Posted on by Marcus (not verified).

Like the previous poster says, calling WordPress a blogging platform is a misrepresentation of the platform. Even though custom post types arrived officially pretty recently using WordPress as a fully fledged flexible CMS has been possible for quite some time with plugins and extending WordPress is really easy.

WordPress also has alot of utility functions built in for a wide range of things that aren't used that much when doing your regular WordPress site but when doing more serious development the stuff is there. You can build fully fledged products on the WordPress platform and it's already been done.

I'd say that WordPress is a framework in the same sense that Drupal is a framework. I can't vouch for if WordPress covers as much ground with all its functions as Drupal does but alot of it's there. Nothing is stopping you from developing your own products on the WordPress platform and leveraging WordPress functionality for them.

The problem for Drupal is that Drupal is pretty awful as a CMS out of the box. I know that you guys think it's unfair that you get judged for this but as long as you keep calling Drupal a CMS that's what people are going to look at.

Personally I'm not convinced that Drupal has more to offer as a framework than many of the other "real" frameworks out there (I'm thinking Zend, Symfony etc.) and there's at least one CMS that's been built with a framework at its core (SilverStripe) if you want both.

You really need to sell what Drupal is and why we should use it.

Is it a real CMS?
Then you can't have a user experience that sucks and you need good presentation.

Is it a framework?
Then everything needs to be well structured with a well thought out API, is this the case now?