January 13, 2014

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The “Drupal” Experience for Web Experience Management

Drupal has evolved over the years and is now considered as one of the most popular, and preferred open source web Content Management System (CMS) solution. Organizations, irrespective of their size or the business they are in, are implementing it in growing numbers. This is substantiated by a report from a top analyst firm, which says, “Drupal added 3500+ new implementations last year”. So, when I had an opportunity, I decided to use it to understand its capabilities and evaluate its web experience management functionalities. For the purpose of this study, I divided its capabilities into seven (7Ms) categories as given below:

Master the Product

Drupal is very easy to install. It’s a LAMP/WAMP (Linux/Windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) based product, which has standard hardware setup and functioning requirements. The User Interface (UI) is intuitive, as a result, once you have developed a website on Drupal, it is simple to configure and handle, and export or create a copy for backup and migration. In addition, it is easy to customize and add features as the code is with you. On the flip side, I noticed once you start installing additional modules the system goes slow and absence of back links at some places makes navigation a bit tricky.

My Verdict: 

Manage the Content

Drupal provides most of the basic features needed to create and manage content. It offers different content types to choose while building a new web page—inbuilt page templates, display themes etc. You can drag and drop components on a web page, enable inline editing of content using a WYSIWYG editor and change the template on the fly. Additionally, multiple users can work on the Drupal platform simultaneously but they cannot create their own private workspace. Moreover, the webpages created by different users are placed at one location, which prevents the creation of any folder structure or a hierarchy.

Drupal provides a robust authorization and authentication system with the login module available out of the box. Additionally, it allows you to add a version control module to create and maintain multiple webpage versions of web pages. Similarly, you can install additional modules for workflow support, as it does not provide one by default. However, for advanced workflows, you will have to customize the module or create one.

Drupal provides a basic menu bar and a search feature by default. However, for drop-downs and other sophisticated menus, you have to either download a module from the Drupal community or choose a different website theme. In addition, faceted search is also available as an advanced option along with the modules for taxonomy building and content tagging.

For building effective websites, Drupal offers search engine optimization capabilities. Moreover, it has a module, which enables you to create URLs, update titles, and associate metadata to the web pages. Additionally, you can include a sitemap to the website.  

Drupal does not provide much support for building mobile websites. However you can utilize the RWD (Responsive Web Design) themes to optimize the website for multiple display devices. In addition, it only provides the facility to create a folder structure on the file system to store digital assets and hence lacks an effective digital asset management system.

My Verdict: 

Market Content

Drupal lacks marketing related features and appears dependent on third party products to provide these functionalities. For example, it allows the creation of multi-lingual web pages but stops you from copying a whole website into a different language at one go. Similarly, content translations and metadata updates have to be done manually. In addition, it lags in other customer engagement features such as personalization, site content optimization etc.

My Verdict: 

Move Social

When it comes to social media integration, Drupal provides a wide range of features. The list includes blogs, articles, feedbacks, surveys, rating and reviews, Twitter feeds, Facebook integration, polls, video integration, Wikis etc. While implementing, you would find some of these features do not support advanced use cases and requires customization. Nonetheless, the availability of these features gives you a jump-start.

My Verdict: 

Maneuver Sales

For online sales enablement, Drupal seamlessly integrates with multiple e-commerce products. For example, Ubercart can be installed on the top of Drupal giving an impression that you are working on a single product. It provides additional content types to create product pages, catalogs and out-of-the-box workflow for the online buying process in addition to the integration facility with e-commerce merchant sites. Drupal also offers a configurable dashboard where you can see the sales figures, inventory and existing catalog details.

My Verdict: 

Make Integrations

Drupal supports the integration of various third party products and enterprise systems such as CRM, web analytics, e-commerce, document and campaigns management, enterprise search, etc.  Drupal modules are available to integrate with these systems easily. It must be noted that most of the products Drupal provide out of the box support are open source. If you already have some paid enterprise systems in place you might need to build connectors around Drupal.

My Verdict: 

Measure Performance

Drupal doesn’t provide web analytics or optimization functionality. However, it supports integration with leading analytics products such as Google Analytics, Omniture etc.

My Verdict: 

Final Verdict

Drupal supports all the major functionalities expected from a web CMS system. It simply excels in areas such as social community building. However, in other areas such as marketing related functionalities, there is a scope for improvement. Therefore, I would give Drupal’s web experience management capabilities an overall rating of 2 out of 3 stars.

Rating Definition

 -  Needs Improvement

 -  Supports Major Functionalities

 -  Fully Capable and Intuitive