Drupal is Rubbish (Apparently!)

Microserve's picture
May 13th 2013

I was recently in a meeting with a design agency who had to use Drupal for one of their websites and they hadn’t heard good things about it. The points they raised were common ones so I thought I would cover them here. This blog post isn’t a bash against Drupal, we are clearly huge Drupal fans! It aims to cover some of the issues people raise when they say that ‘Drupal is Rubbish’.

Drupal sites are a huge complicated mess!

One of the most common problems that people run into with Drupal is they underestimate its complexity and the knowledge you need to develop a sophisticated site with it. Sometimes people decide they want to use Drupal for all the right reasons, then they go to a web developer and ask them to build the site in Drupal. The web developer looks at Drupal and thinks ‘well, how hard can it be?’ and gets to work. It is a bit like going to your GP and asking them to perform surgery. In this example your GP would say no and refer you to a surgeon, but most developers have an overly optimistic attitude and sometimes it’s just hard to say no to the offer of work. Disaster follows, and often Drupal gets the blame rather than the web developer. Drupal is a fully fledged CMS, built and designed to compete with some of the biggest commercial platforms out there and it requires specialist knowledge to build a well-designed, stable website.

Drupal has to be complex in order to deliver the advanced functionality you need from a high level CMS platform and you’ll hear the phrase ‘steep learning curve’ regularly. This is one of the reasons that as an agency we only work with Drupal as we find that you need to be a specialist to get the best out of Drupal. Even if you are a senior developer with 5 years Drupal experience, you’ll still be learning something new every day. If a developer says they can build sites in WordPress, Joomla! MODX and Drupal, it doesn’t mean they can take on a complicated Drupal build and we would suggest avoiding developers with non-specialist experience for complicated builds.

The admin section is too complicated for our users

To a certain degree, the administration section can appear exceptionally complicated. This is also mainly due to it's extreme flexibility, in Drupal, the admin section will allow the user the ability to do more than a usual CMS administration menu. Luckily, it's very easy to set up different user levels to show less complicated administration screens to some users. Full access to the admin section is suited to users who like to be at super-user level access or to those who have been trained on how to use it. Drupal management and content administration training is something that we can offer and will allow us to take users from basic screens into more complicated task management. 

Before starting a project, doing a quick check to see whether your users are going to need the scalability and flexibility of a large Drupal solution is a good idea, it may be that your solution doesn't need that level of flexibility and a simpler platform like Wordpress may be a better option. 

Drupal is slow

This is possibly the most difficult claim to refute because quite frequently, if you haven’t set up Drupal properly, then yes, it can be slow. It is usually quickly remedied though, and there are a number of posts on the Drupal.org site which can provide you with more information on how to do this. Alternatively you can check out our high availailitity posts by our very own Mark Pavlitski - High performance in Drupal Part 1: Give your site a boost and High performance in Drupal Part 2: Lightning fast code. This comes back to the flexibility of Drupal and corresponding complexity, if your developers are not Drupal specialists, then ensuring that basic speed processes such as caching, memory optimisation and well written SQL could be missed.

We feel that given that some of the world’s biggest sites are written and run in Drupal (www.whitehouse.gov, www.louvre.fr, mtv.co.uk), we’re not too worried about the speed allegations.

Module dead ends

One of the reasons for Drupal’s success are the 24,000 or so developers that contribute code to the community, who produce a wide range of modules that every Drupal user can benefit from. Whenever something new appears, i.e. Twitter, Pinterest, an enterprising Drupal developer will bring out a module for it. Usually this happens well before the commercial CMS companies with their limited development teams and fixed development roadmaps can respond.

Sometimes, that enterprising developer who spent time writing a module, decides that continuing to support the module or upgrading it to work with the latest Drupal release is not something he or she wants to do any more. Hence module dead ends.

There are a few options for you out there if this happens: replacing it with a different module can often be quick and easy, taking over the maintenance of the module can be easily done and you can then assume control of that module. Evaluating whether a module is going to be developed long term can be an art form for Drupal developers so keep an eye out for an article coming soon on this site about the Top 5 factors to look for when choosing a module.

Summary

Drupal is a very flexible system and can be limitless in its opportunities and potential but this has to come with a level of complexity, a level that can make it unsuitable for developers without the required experience. The possibilities for doing exciting things like module customisations to fine tune Drupal to work perfectly for your site are endless, we just suggest that you employ developers with the best experience possible for your needs.

Simon Dix's picture

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