Drupal: a blog? CMS? in need of a 'slogan'?

The use of technology is pervasive. However, there is often a vocabulary discrepancy between users and creators. Clients are looking for web designers, developers, blogs, web pages, and/or web sites. The semantics of those terms mean very different things, for example to a graphic designer who creates web page mockups using Photoshop and to a software architect who is designing a plugin for Drupal and your favourite CRM tool. Let's set some ground rules and agree on some common terminology.

Dynamic websites

Websites consisting of HTML pages are considered 'static'. In order to modify content, the HTML pages have to be edited. Whereas dynamic websites provide for easier access to content, enabling a site to remain updated with fresh content. A blog is an example of dynamic website.

Semantics - you say 'blog', they say '*&^@'

I specifically use blogs as an example, because to the general user it is the most obvious representation of a web publishing tool. Many blogging tools, such as Wordpress, now offer more than the display of posted content in reverse chronological order. Because blogs make web publishing easy, organisations looking to build or improve their online presence may be thinking of their new solution as 'a blog', which inaccurately sends them in pursuit of a blogging engine. Instead, they should be looking for a holistic solution, and not blogging software which treats additional features as after-thoughts. A quote from the inspiration for this article, explains the power of 'the blog' concept:

People come to online media strategists like me looking to jump on the blog bandwagon because they've heard of the blog heroes who have made millions, changed the world and ultimately created a successful presence online.

Neither individuals nor those representing organizations go around asking for a CMS. No, they ask for a blog, because the meme and the myth is "The Blog".

The quote also introduces a term I have very little fondness for: 'CMS'. The terms 'Content Management System/Solution', or even 'Community Management System/Solution', connotes very little to decision makers looking for a website.

What's in a website

Unhelpful as the term is, 'CMS' has gained whatever traction it currently enjoys, because technologists themselves are challenged to concisely describe the nature of these wildly flexible web solutions. For the sake of consistency, lets stick with 'Web Content Management Solution', and review what this offers:

  • User management,
  • Visual interface and navigation management,
  • Feature management,
  • and Content management

Smaller organisations don't have the resources to request their IT team provide a due diligence report as to the suitability of off the shelf software for their website. However, the following checklist should help organisational decision makers evaluate how suitable a solution is:

  • The website will have different levels of users: General users who can leave comments to articles, or post questions to the discussion forum. Content contributors, such as the marketing team, who will post content. Administrators, who can enable/disable site features, content, and users.
  • The website's visual presentation will reflect brand decisions. Presentation will be separate to functionality, and the site should be easily 'skinned' without impacting available features. Menus facilitating site navigation should be easily updated.
  • To enable future expansion of the website functionality should be smoothly extended. Plugins should be available, and provide for the possibility of creating plugins, which can be easily installed, enabled, and used.
  • Content should be easily publishable by non-technical users. It should be possible to unpublish data, assign it to site sections, limit access to specific users, or apply other specific rules to it.

The bottom line

If your website consists of more than a single web page, you need a web content management solution (not a blog, and especially not a static website). Re-use existing CMS software don't rebuild it. Price is not indicative of the quality of software, use free, community developed CMS software. More specifically, you need Drupal, the free, open source, feature rich, and widely deployed web content management solution: Why Drupal. (You can also take Drupal for a test drive.)

Update: original post was titled 'Your web project's ground rules'

Comments

This article was an interesting read, em, but it was not entirely about what Drupal's slogan should be. It was also about what tool to use to build a dynamic website. Drupal is great for many applications, but perhaps you should also mention web development frameworks, like Rails or Django? They have their place too.

Guest | Sun, 02/03/2008 - 02:15

This post coincided with the beginnings of a discussion within the Drupal community, regarding whether a slogan update was required. Currently, the abstruse and uninformative slogan is 'Community Plumbing'. Some great suggestions have been proposed at http://groups.drupal.org/node/7634, and hopefully the new slogan will eliminate the need to shoehorn Drupal into 'CMS' or 'blogging platform'.

It is extremely interesting to note that Jay Batson, Dries Buytaert's (Drupal founder) new business partner has waded into the discussion with: http://groups.drupal.org/node/7634#comment-23472

em | Sun, 12/23/2007 - 22:23