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More Than a CMS: Drupal in the Age of Digital Experience Platforms

Drupal has long been known for its flexibility as both a content management system and a development platform. It’s one of the main reasons we at Evolving Web use Drupal. But, as we hear more about Digital Experience Platforms (DXP), what role does Drupal play in the new digital landscape? If you’re rethinking your digital strategy and deciding which technologies to use, how does Drupal stand up against other technology options?

Many organizations latch onto promises to consolidate technology, adopt new techniques like personalization and marketing automation, or switch technologies as a way to show progress. Many of these same organizations are still struggling with more fundamental problems: a mismatch between user needs and the website’s actual content and organizational structure. And when we zoom out and look at cross-channel digital presence, these issues tend to persist, leading to less effective marketing efforts.

When you’re making technology choices, how do you ensure that the new technology you put in place will support better practices? A digital experience platform sure sounds like it will result in smoother publishing workflows, more effective digital content, and more accessibility and portability across channels, but will it really?

Let’s take a closer look at the future of Drupal from a content strategy perspective and what role it plays in the modern digital landscape.


🎥 For a deeper dive into this topic, watch the video of our recent webinar about the future of Drupal


Drupal is More than a Content Management System

When Drupal first became popular in the mid-2000s, we described it as a content management system. Back then, CMSs proliferated and were a huge step up from static HTML websites. The CMS promises a user interface for updating content, removing the need to code every page by hand. They also added more consistency on the front-end by providing centralized control over navigation and page layouts.

And in the landscape of CMSs available at the time, Drupal stood out in more ways than one. It provided features for content translation, a role-based authentication system, and dynamic ways to integrate custom functionality and third-party tools directly into Drupal. With Drupal, you could easily display a contact form on every user profile, create groups of users that could contribute content to a private area of the website, and integrate a transaction in Drupal by updating your custom inventory database.

Thanks to this flexibility, when I spoke to potential clients about Drupal, I naturally described it as a "Platform" instead of a mere CMS. In calling it a "Platform," I tried to set Drupal apart and establish that it's designed to be customized and integrated with other systems. It provides many features out of the box, but the power really comes in customizing it.


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The Emergence of Digital Experience Platforms

Over the last few years, the terminology has shifted again. Large organizations don't just want to talk about redesigning a website. Instead, they talk about digital transformation and implementing a Digital Experience Platform (DXP). A DXP is a label we can give to the ecosystem of tools that make up an organization's web presence.

Leaders in IT and digital communications want to show that they're making progress, and projects are often ambitious in scope, encompassing a variety of channels and technologies: websites, social media platforms, analytics, CRMs, ERPs, and third-party apps. Leaders want to show that they're solving multiple problems with a single shift in technology and using the label "Digital Experience Platform" helps justify that.

DXP is also a useful label for companies like Adobe that offer a suite of tools that make up an organization's digital presence. But these tools aren't always well-integrated, and it's not always beneficial to simultaneously shift everything to a new platform at once. Migrating to a new website and a new CRM at the same time, for example, can stretch an organization's capacity for change management and lead to project delays.

Drupal is built to be customizable and has always made it possible to integrate with other tools of your choosing. For this reason, we refer to Drupal as an "Open Digital Experience Platform." Depending on your requirements, you can integrate your Drupal website with different payment gateways, CRMs, analytics tools, social media, marketing automation platforms, and native apps.

Recent changes have formalized Drupal's approach to integrating with other platforms and solidified its role as an effective content hub. Its API-First architecture (JSON:API and REST API in core) and the addition of media management and views in core makes its content model more consistent while still being incredibly flexible.

A Vision for a Platform that Prioritizes Content

But when it comes to a successful content strategy, the implementation, rather than the technology, is often the key to success. While a tool like Drupal can enable content strategy work, adopting it won't guarantee your success. Large-scale organizations and public institutions need to step back and consider whether they are set up to communicate with their target audiences. Whatever technology you select, your digital platform should enable you to:

  • Organize content around user needs
  • Adapt your messaging when priorities change
  • Integrate content with digital services as needed
  • Make your content portable so that users can consume it across other applications and channels
  • Put in place a content governance model and enforce compliance with accessibility and brand guidelines

One impact you'll see in prioritizing content strategy is that it elevates the role of subject matter experts and content editors. It tends to give communicators ownership and encourages the adoption of a consistent content strategy across departments and branches. You should be able to offer your content editors:

  • Self-service content management tools, so they don't have to go back to the development team when the content strategy changes
  • An interface that's designed for content editors
  • Tools to create accessible and compliant content
  • An awareness of how content will be displayed or consumed across platforms or in different contexts

Using Drupal a Content Strategy Platform

In many ways, Drupal is an ideal platform for prioritizing content strategy, but it all depends on how you're using it.

Fundamentally, Drupal provides the flexibility to adapt your workflows and information architecture to support your content goals. Its content moderation tools and built-in media management provide powerful features for content editors and allow you to set up guide rails that encourage content accessibility and brand compliance. And Drupal's Easy Out of the Box Initiative is moving us towards a better user experience for content editors by default.

But not all Drupal websites take advantage of this flexibility and these features. If you're considering revamping your content strategy or switching platforms, you might start by analyzing your current content management practices. This could uncover that it's the way that you've configured Drupal that's slowing you down.

Watch the video recording about the future of Drupal for more insights on how to convert your website into a content strategy platform. And if you have any questions about how to harness more of Drupal's content strategy goodness, get in touch with us!


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