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Developing a website on the Drupal Content Management System (CMS) not only means professional, high-quality online products, but it also addresses some very salient business issues when conducting business online.
A website built with Drupal is easily updateable, flexible (both in terms of functionality and aesthetics), expandable and wonderfully portable. If ever there were good reasons for outlaying slightly more money at the beginning of the process of getting an internet presence developed, those would certainly be in the top five.
Before we launch into why Drupal would be good for your business, it’s probably a good idea to explain quickly what Drupal is for those who don’t know.
Warning! One absolutely essential paragraph of geek-speak ahead. Just one.
Drupal is a content management system built on a php-template foundation and running off a mySQL database setup that is used to build very complex websites. Websites that can be easily updated and manipulated to provide many different types of online systems. It natively provides the resource to create blog systems, user forums, online catalogues and many other pieces of functionality essential for a modern website.
Right, that’s done and out of the way and hopefully you’re still with me. However, the above is an important point because it underlies one of Drupal’s main attractions. Because of how it’s built, Drupal is a completely open-source project. This means it is free-to-download, free-to-install, and has a large community of like-minded people to keep it continually supported and updated.
“Free,” I hear you say. “Well, if it’s so free, how come I have to pay you for it?”
That is a fair point, but the problem comes in when developing a website using Drupal. While from a website user or administrator point of view, it is wonderfully easy to use, there is a whole lot of development work that goes into getting to that point. Because of its innate flexibility, you can do anything with Drupal. This flexibility, however, is a double-edged sword because with this ultimate freedom comes the need for the developer to do a lot of work to plan, develop, design and deploy a Drupal website. This is what takes the time and money to achieve a really professional website.
Once it’s done, however, a Drupal website provides a level of control and sophistication that would take at least three times the amount of resources and budget to achieve without it. Here are a few good reasons why Drupal makes sense for your business.
That’s MINE! Gimme!
One of Drupal’s main attractions is the fact that it can be customised to allow a business to update their website once it is built. This is an incredibly important feature. Let’s face it, the internet is here to stay and it works extremely well. And as a tool for business promotion, it has become invaluable and very few companies can afford to be without some form of online presence these days.
However, there’s a problem. To get online in any proper, professional way, you need to either hire your own pet web geek to sit in his little darkened cave all day doing unimaginable things to computers and demand a large pay cheque for the privilege. Or you can outsource: walk into a big flashy office where guys in jeans and funky t-shirts blind you with science and how you just HAVE to have this, that and the other “Solution”. Pretty soon, you realise exactly how they got the flashy office in the first place when your bill for the first six months of development and support comes in.
Both of these options have been tried and found to fall dramatically short of the needs of a modern business. Not only is it an ongoing high-cost exercise, but you end up signing a very important chunk of your business over to someone else to manage, and end up not having terribly much control over it. It’s like chopping an arm off, giving it to somebody else to use for you, and then having to pay them whenever you want to pick something up.
A Drupal system allows you to log into a fully secure administration system right there on your website, and edit your content directly in a word processor like environment. You can have complete control over how your website lives and breathes. It is, after all, part of your business, and you know best how your business operates and should have control over that.
I didn’t know there was a contortionist in the room…
Another attractive aspect of Drupal is its flexibility. Basing a website on Drupal means that your website can look like anything you want, and do anything you want.
How it looks
These days, it is getting more and more important to design your website well. Users of the internet are getting increasingly sophisticated in how they want to access and consume information. There is an entire discipline devoted to the usability of a website: how, where and why a user will look for information.
Drupal’s ability to be incredibly flexible in how a website looks, goes a long way to being able to provide for this kind of usability requirement.
How it works
As important as the design of a website is the functionality it provides. The great thing about Drupal’s open source basis is that, not only is its basic services flexible enough to fulfill many different business needs, but there are many people writing add-on modules for it all the time that extend this functionality.
For instance, it is possible to deliver a website with Drupal that will show off the conference organising ability of an organisation through client references, photo galleries and a blog service. At the same time, it is possible for another website, built on the same Drupal installation, to deliver up-to-the minute information about the activities of a school. Drupal is flexible enough to meet almost any business need right out of the box.
Plug and play. Plug and play. And… Plug and play.
A useful feature of Drupal is that it is very easy to expand your website. Once the design is in place and the initial functionality has been decided upon and built, it is relatively quick and easy to add more options to a website, like a latest news box, or a contact us email form. Using a different system, this would demand a lot of fresh programming and design time which means significant extra cost.
Well, it’s like a caravan…
I’ve seen a few businesses in horrible situations where their current providers won’t release their content to them. This is an unfortunate side effect of using content providers that have their own proprietary content management systems. Sometimes, the unscrupulous organisations (yes, you know who you are!) will hold onto the client’s business because they know it would be too expensive to set up elsewhere, making sure that they continue to get their monthly maintenance fees and effectively holding the client hostage.
One of the great advantages of the general nature of Drupal is that it is completely portable. In an hour, a business can be provided with all the information they need to set up their website again with a different provider at no extra cost.
This is something that should be emphasised: you’re not buying into anything proprietary. You should be perfectly able to pack up and move your website somewhere else and do this with ease and at no extra cost. After all, it is YOUR website.
So it makes sense
It may prove to be relatively expensive to embark on a Drupal website project, but hopefully I’ve also illustrated how it’s possible to save money in the long run.
The user-centric nature of the package enables your company to take back content control and not have to enter into expensive maintenance contracts just to update a news box.
Drupal’s flexibility allows you to get the job done properly the first time so that you can deliver the right content to the right people in the right way.
Not only that, should you decide that you need something added to your website, it is a lot less expensive to do so than with a custom-built system.
Finally, you can pick it up and take it with you without having to worry about redoing the whole thing over again should you wish to change providers.
From a business perspective, using Drupal for your website is not only cost effective; it just makes good business sense.