CMS selection: when Drupal doesn't fit the bill

We have responded to dozens of Australian Government tenders (RFTs) and business requests for proposals (RFPs). Recently, we have been helping businesses scope their projects and preparing briefs for other consultancies. That is to say, we have *a lot* of experience in thinking about organisations' requirements and which CMS (content management system) best fits the bill.

In the last 3 years, we have worked with a range of CMSs:

  • Sitecore, a high-end, .Net-based platform that demos beautifully at pitches
  • Umbraco, at the other end of fees spectrum: another .Net-based, but open-source-licensed CMS
  • Liferay a JEE (Java) based, freemium-licensed CMS
  • Wordpress the PHP-based, open-source juggernaut
  • and Drupal the other PHP-based, open-source behemoth.

We're going to save the discussion around which CMS to pick for another day. Today, we're going to unpack situations where a CMS, any CMS, just won't do.

There have been situations where we've recommended a non-CMS route. And a great discussion was sparked by Varun Arora's Why we stopped using Drupal for our platform post, prompting us to further explore this topic.

When Drupal does work


Drupal's flexibility means that it has been successfully used for informational sites, e-commerce, member communities and intranets.

We recommend Drupal when the project lends itself to Drupal's 'content types' model, member profile UX (user experience) or workflows.

When Drupal won't work


However we know that Drupal wouldn't be a good fit for projects that are tending towards 'web app'ification. Need a web app that manages and timesheets and invoices? Avoid implementing in Drupal. Want a web app that enables delegates to plan and track an expo or event? Not Drupal. How about a textile swatchbook web app? Expect lot's of time/money spent if done in Drupal.

As a commenter on the Why we stopped using Drupal for our platform post said:

[Drupal can cause problems] "when you want to go outside of the normal workflow, and then the normal workflow gets in your way"

It's not the tool, it's the way you use it

If your developer is taking the lazy route of avoiding a CMS so as not to have to learn how to work with the a new platform, then the bespoke-build recommendation will not benefit your business.

However, if you have an awesome technical lead developer who favours CMS X, or framework Y, or platform Z? Go with her recommendation and trust that her skills with that tool will deliver the goods :)


Want to debate the merits and drawbacks of CMSs, including Drupal, with us? Give us a holler ;)

Image credits: (1) Gifts by Opensourceway (2) Architecture by Opensourceway