Drup or not to Drup(al) Apr 10th, 2009

drupal-logoWhile the simplicity of WordPress has always appealed to me, sometimes it is not robust enough for a community minded experience. If you are looking into building a community with many users, you have to take a look at something that is geared more towards a social environment. In order to handle many users, you have to start with a great content management system (CMS).

While preparing to dive into one of my recent projects, I cringed at facing the woes of Drupal or another complex CMS. While there are other great systems out there, I needed something free and I wasn’t about to learn another system; so Drupal it was.

I have designed a couple of other Drupal sites in the past, and everything was smooth until you hit a module that wasn’t quite ready for the masses. There were some simple things that were always lacking, and many modules fell short of greatness. Debugging could take hours at times for a very simple issue. These were they days of Drupal 5.

Because Drupal 6 has been public for a year, I was prepared to give the newer version a try. Surely many of the issues I encountered before would be behind me. While I didn’t expect black magic to have fixed everything, I was hoping that the hours wasted before on displaying the time in non-military format or inserting an image in a post were a thing of the past.

After doing some quick research I realized that the module development for Drupal 6 was already far along, so it seemed a safe road to travel. While getting my head around the huge learning curve of drupal, I quickly saw that some great updates like View 2 and new CCK fields had patched many shortcomings that were all too common in Drupal 5. Many usability issues were also resolved.

Drupal 6 is not without it problems. I still think the back-end of Drupal needs a major overhall as non-computer savvy content editors will still have a hard time wrapping their heads around the system. Drupal’s desire for freedom is also it’s shortcoming. I still find myself wishing that images in posts were simpler and there was a WYSIWIG built-in. Also, I found many modules still had core issues that casued me to have to browse the forums and patch the problems. Maybe with open source projects, these are things that you have to deal with. Despite all of these problems and slow community support, it is definetly a great free option.