Tuesday, 26 September, 2017

Content Management Systems: A Look at the Current State of Drupal 8

Lambros Photios


Given today’s pace of change in the IT industry, content managements systems (CMS) seem to have been around for a long time. Indeed, the interest in CMS systems peaked around 2010. And yet, mature CMS solutions have consistently demonstrated a strong return on investment, and they remain a fundamental part of a company’s IT landscape, particularly for companies that rely on a solid web traffic and content to drive sales. Drupal is a fully featured, mature CMS offering, and is one of the top three players in the CMS market. In Australia, Drupal 8 has been gaining traction, particularly in government agencies. In this blog post, I will look briefly at the different CMS options before focusing in more detail on Drupal 8 – how it fits into the organisation, where it’s future lies, and some of the drivers for adoption.

What is a CMS?

Before we dive into Drupal 8, it’s worth delving into the features of CMS solutions. A strong web presence is a critical part of many organisations, driving traffic, exposure, sales, you name it. Amazing products and services mean nothing unless you gain the right exposure. The ability to quickly and easily deliver content, and to be found by search engines, is critical to success, and a CMS system is essential to this. And it’s not only sales or services companies: the effectiveness of many government departments depends on the ability to present information and content to the public.

A content management system at its core is a system designed to allow the curation, management and publishing of digital content and media. Usage of CMS systems come in two flavours: enterprise content management (ECM) and web content management (WCM). Both ECM and WCM systems have two parts:

  • A content management application (CMA) to provide backend services for content persistence and delivery; and
  • A content delivery application (CDA) providing the user interface to create, modify and delete content.


Common CMS features include:

  • Indexing, search and retrieval features
  • Revision and change tracking
  • Content publishing
  • Content editors
  • Plugins and modules
  • Customisable look and feel

Who’s in the market?

There are currently three dominant players in the CMS market: WordPress is by far the largest and most dominant player with nearly 60% of the market. Joomla comes in second with nearly 7% of the market, followed by Drupal at approximately 5%. All three are open source, PHP based, have easy installation processes, and support a range of customizations, plugins, themes and multi-lingual support, as well as a strong user communities.

Generally speaking, WordPress has captured such a large part of the market by focusing on small sites, individual bloggers, and smaller e-commerce sites. It’s the easiest to install and customize and requires little or no technical knowledge. Joomla is more complicated than WordPress, but is more suitable for complex e-commerce or social networking sites. Drupal is the most complicated to install and operate but provides the most capabilities. 

Drupal 8

Released as open source back in 2001, Drupal was originally created as a message board site, before expanding to become a fully-fledged CMS. Its capabilities and community continued to grow, with the most recent major version being released at the end of 2015.

Drupal 8 is one of the most comprehensive and powerful CMS solutions on the market. It’s the most technically advanced of the top three; the flip side being that it requires more specialized developers to extend as the use cases become more complicated. Drupal 8 has the following advantages over its competitors:

  • Performance and scalability – For most of its history, Drupal has been considered (sometimes unfairly) one of the slower solutions; however, benchmarks of Drupal 8 have shown that it’s now one of the fastest and more scalable options.
  • Security – Drupal has invested a significant amount of effort into security, and this is one of its strongest advantages. For simple blogging sites, this might be less of a concern; but for anything more complicated or for ecommerce applications, security is one of the foremost concerns and Drupal 8 has invested significant time into it. Twig security, trusted host patterns, dynamic based URL detection, removing PHP template from Drupal core and adding Symfony PHP – these are just some of the things Drupal has focused on to ensure best in class security.
  • Extensibility – Drupal 8 has also spent of lot of time on extensibility, and it has strong API capabilities. Integrating other systems into a CMS has been one of the major challenges of these solutions in an enterprise context, and Drupal 8 has a significant advantage in this area. Drupal has also significantly improved its unit testing capabilities, something that was a limitation in previous versions.
  • Community – Drupal has an amazing development community with more than 1 million active members including developers, designers and trainers. During the development of Drupal 8, there was tremendous community involvement and support, with over 4500 individual and organizational contributions.

What’s next for Drupal 8?

In Australia, Drupal is making something of a resurgence, particularly in the government sector. A number of departments (including TfNSW) and various councils are adopting Drupal 8 because of two key reasons:

Security – Security requirements for individual bloggers tends to be less critical, but for government it’s extremely important.

Integration – The improved integration and API capabilities of Drupal 8 are key selling points. Joomla and WordPress have integration with third parties, particularly for social media. Drupal is much more advanced and customizable for integration to internal systems. This gives Drupal a significant advantage in the enterprise context.

Drupal 8 is one of the most comprehensive CMS on the market, with high performance, security and customisation capabilities. However, there is always a tradeoff, and Drupal requires more technical effort than some of the other options. Developers familiar with PHP and Drupal are more specialised and can be difficult to find. In this context, it’s important to find partners with a strong history in the product, who can really take advantage of the capabilities of Drupal 8.

About the Author.

Lambros Photios

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I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey six years ago with one goal: To build a culture and technology focused company. Working with industry leaders, I’ve had the honour of delivering challenging projects with intricate specifications, and within tight deadlines.