The Secret to A Flexible Website: A Modular System
Why Drupal’s Modular System makes it the best platform for building Custom Websites.
Among the various Content Management Systems (CMS) available on the market, Drupal is hailed as one of the most powerful, extensible, and customizable. Where does Drupal get this reputation?
From being modular.
The entire Drupal system, including the core, is designed around the concept of modules. Being able to choose which modules you use to expand your website’s functionality means that you’ll never find yourself stepping around features that you don’t use, because the ones available on your website are the ones you have specifically enabled.
Building a community website?
User registration, user profiles, forums, blogs and user comments will be features you’d like to have. These are all just modules that can be enabled with a click of a checkbox, and then styled to suit your brand.
Building a corporate website?
Custom Content types and webforms (for leads) might be a couple key modules you’ll need.
Building a subscription service?
Payment modules and access modules will come into play.
In addition, our team of developers can create custom modules for unique business scenarios. However, having available modules from the community means that you don’t have to pay to “rebuild the wheel” in many cases. Or we can take the basic community module as the starting point, turning a two-month code-from-scratch project into a simpler two-week customization task.
Being a modular system is part of Drupal’s appeal and makes it a “swiss-army-knife” solution for very different use cases. The user experience, design, and interface are then built to your exact brand specifications.
What’s a Drupal Module?
“Module” is the term Drupal uses for what other programs would describe as a “plugin” or “extension.” There are roughly 5 modules that are required, but it’s not unusual to have more than 50 enabled on your site.
These fall into the categories of Drupal core modules, community modules, and custom modules built to suit. Modules extend the core functionality, and without them, a Drupal install offers a limited user experience.
However, websites that have been expanded with Drupal modules offer a wider set of features for users and admin to navigate. For example, here’s a look at our Drupal homepage:
With modules, our homepage is configured to offer:
For AdminFor Users
A navigation bar (menu module)
View/edit page toggling ability (content module)
Webform (webform module)
Navigation with site search (search module)
Links to social channels (a custom module we wrote)
That being said, modules configure functionality, not form. So while turning on modules in our Drupal install has enabled these functions on our website, the design and website architecture still need to be styled and configured.
For example, here’s what enabling the Drupal core search module looks like:
When enabled, this adds new tables to the database that are used to create indexes of words, and then matched by user entry into a search form. This phrase matching process is a fairly complex algorithm, and obviously writing your own search from scratch would be a lot of work. With a module, you get it for free and it works rather well.
And after some theming work by one of our front-end web developers, here’s how site search looks like to users on our website:
What Drupal Modules Can Do for You
Drupal’s module system is commonly compared to LEGO packs. In the same way that there are basic boxed LEGO sets and expansion packs, there are core features and modules within Drupal. Here are a few modules that show exactly how customizable Drupal can be:
Metatag: This module allows you to create meta tags - descriptive text that appears under your page’s title in web browser search - and embed the text somewhere unseen on your website’s page. For SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes, this module is incredibly useful because it allows you to have more power over which keywords determine your website’s ranking in search engine results.
Views: Allows admin to create and manage bodies and lists of content. A very common pattern for websites is to have an index page (view) followed by a detail page (content type). Views is a query builder used to create those index pages with a simple user interface, instead of having to directly write code.
CAPTCHA: A test placed within webforms to prevent spambots from submitting content on your website. Spambots run using automated scripts programmed to post content wherever they can. CAPTCHA uses a challenge and response test to verify the authenticity of the identity of the user posting content to your website.
Admin Menu: Provides navigation through the admin tools, independent of the website’s theme. The module provides drop-down menus available from a toolbar that is constantly available at the top of your screen, as long as you’re logged in as an admin.
IMCE: Allows you to upload, manage, and browse media files on your Drupal system. By creating your own custom directories, you can easily search for and file any uploaded media.
WYSIWYG: WYSIWYG stands for “What You See is What You Get.” This module provides a field and tools that will format your text into HTML, so you can create and edit content without having to wrestle with formatting them in HTML yourself. It provides the word-processing-like toolbar at the top of body areas on forms, and writes the HTML behind the scenes for you.
Google Analytics: This module enables you to connect your website with the Google Analytics system. Not only does it collect data on your website, but you can also review the data results within the same control panel that you control the other functions of your website. (If you’re managing analytics through tag manager there’s also module for that here.)
Pathauto: Pathauto automatically generates URL’s (path aliases) for your pages based off of available content types so that you have URL’s like (https://www.beargroup.com/ideas/a-list-of-definitions-for-common-digita…) instead of (https://www.beargroup.com/node/123)
Web Form: The Webform module helps you create and publish forms on your website. After your users submit a form, you can configure your webform to send them a response email and choose what systems their results are sent to, such as your CRM or marketing automation system.
Note: For more information on Drupal modules and how to select the right ones for your website, see our post How to Choose the Right Drupal Module.
Your Website, Custom Built
We often tell our clients that we build their websites to “look great and work the way they should.” By this, we mean that not only will your website look exactly the way you want but we ensure that you are totally comfortable with managing your website - adding and editing content, creating new pages - without needing any kind of advanced technical knowledge.
Drupal’s unique, reusable, module architecture aligns with our client’s goals for a custom website and our goal to deliver that as efficiently as possible. It lets you have exactly the website you want, working the way you want.
Points for Decision Makers
Your Drupal website is built and customized with added plugins called “modules.”
There are thousands of modules ready to choose from, or they can be custom built.
Modules enable functionalities on your website, not form.
It’s faster to add or delete modules than it is to custom build a website from the ground up.
Curious about Drupal stacks up against other CMS platforms? Find out more in our white paper: How to Evaluate Website Technology Platforms