Top 5 reasons why web designers should love Drupal

If you are a web designer and you haven't worked with Drupal before, you should really give it a try. Here are the top 5 reasons why:

  1. You can protect your template layouts
  2. More features available
  3. Less competition from pre-made templates
  4. Theming in Drupal isn't easy
  5. Demand for Drupal is huge (and growing)

1. You can protect your template layouts

In most CMSs you are dependent on WYSIWYG editors for large chunks of your markup. This means as soon as you turn it over to your client, you can kiss your layout good-bye. However in Drupal, you can carve out that markup and place it in your template, while still allowing you customer to update the content.

2. More features available (for free!)

Drupal has a prolific and generous community. As a result there are more modules (read: features) available for Drupal than for any other CMS out there. This means more functionality that is readily available for the web savvy designer in the know, without needing to contract with developer to build.

3. Less competition from pre-made templates

The Wordpress template market is saturated, and the Drupal market isn't. This means less competition from a low-cost commoditized market.

4. Theming in Drupal isn't easy

You may be quick to point this out as a failing of Drupal when compared to a platform like Wordpress. On the contrary, for an intrepid web designer this actually means increased barriers to entry by their competition and more legitimately billable time.

5. Demand for Drupal is huge (and growing)

Finally - and most importantly - the demand for Drupal websites is huge and is continuing to grow. This presents a market that provides a great long term opportunity for web designers,

Comments

Great little article, and some of the reasons we use Drupal for our web development. I think something you forgot to mention was how little you have to touch code! Sure, you can get your hands dirty with the API, and deep-tissue theming will always result in some PHP juggling, but once you understand how to use things like CCK, Views, Panels, etc. you can build 90% of a fairly complex website without having to open [insert favourite code editor here].

Some of the code that drupal pumps out is copiously ugly to say the least. I realise the wrappers-gone-mad approach means timid designers don't have to stray beyond CSS if they prefer, but on the other hand few self-respecting designers could stomach the messy code and for the latter, coding a design for drupal is a bitch. I look forward to the day when semantic markup modules exist for all major core and contrib modules (like the excellent Semantic CCK and Semantic Views). Until then, design for Drupal can be arduous and time-consuming in the extreme.

I originally came to Drupal knowing only html and css. I have been theming Drupal sites for 4 years and I can't think of the last time that non-semantic code that Drupal spit out prevented me from making the site look the way I wanted. For the most part I have worked with designers that didn't know Drupal, so I wasn't designing for Drupal's limitations.

Semantics seems great in theory, and there is always room for improvement, but I really don't think adding a lot of complicated logic on the module side in terms of how things are displayed is going to end up helping designers all that much. More frequent and better named classes and ID's would probably have a bigger impact.

I totally agree that the admin can be great. That said, for the *web designer* too much flexibility within the admin can actually be more challenging. I was just talking to our CSS Ninja this morning about the challenges of creating a flexible template/css that can cope with changes from within the Drupal admin. You can do it, but it does take more time.

I totally agree Joaquin, and I've found in my experience that it is definitely growing. Makes me think - maybe I should be developing new Drupal themes to sell to the public.

Spent a little time looking at some WP themes the other day, and it seems like WP has also come a long way - but some of the theme controls get insanely complex. There are some pretty nice ones, although the most popular also seem to be the most flexible, which in turn means they look almost identical to each other.

On a side note, one of my students was talking about how great WP is - and I think it's nice too.. (I actually use WP for my own blog). But seems to me that when you combine nodes with taxonomy in Drupal, you pretty much get WP (at it's core). WP is basically blog posts assigned to categories. It has no ability for creating new content types.

Not mention crazy site-building tools like Views, CCK, Panels, etc..

Nice, thanks for that link. Doesn't look too hard, takes a small PHP function to do it. In Drupal there's an admin tool for it, and you have more control over the details of the type (like how comments apply) - and user permission controls. Regardless, WP is definitely improving.

Honestly, in either of these systems, any designer/theme developer is going to need to be comfortable writing PHP code to really customize the design. The Drupal theme system is incredibly powerful, but that power comes at the cost of a learning curve. Making it simpler is a nice idea, as long as we don't lose the flexibility. Module theme_function over-rides, custom node templates, block templates, etc..

Also I would argue there is more financial opportunity to those of us working with it (at least for the moment) - most large companies and organizations are going to choose Drupal over WP and other systems.

I respectfully disagree. The difficulty of theming Drupal is a bug, not a feature. I appreciate the effort to turn a negative into a positive. But Drupal theming needs to be easy and accessible. It's an open source platform. We need to be making it better, not celebrating it's weaknesses.

Describing the challenges of theming in Drupal as a reason why you should love it, is certainly making lemons of lemonade. However it all does drive toward one overriding theme (please forgive the pun): there is more demand for web designers that know Drupal, than there are people to do the work. So if you want to: 1) make more money and 2) have more work, as a web designer Drupal is a good place to spend your time.

I think most designers would prefer to spend more time designing than learning the ins and outs of Drupal (or any other CMS, for that matter). Design used to be my bread and butter; now I'm a full time developer and a large part of my job is integrating raw HTML and CSS templates from hired designers. Unfortunately I think the real hurdles faced by designers (and, while we're at it, the developers who work with them) have gone largely ignored, but that may be changing. I've been working on a few ideas myself. Granted, it's not an easy problem.

Excuse the mini-rant. #4 just got under my skin a little bit. :/ I would probably reword that to read as a positive in that there is an incredible amount of community support available to help bridge the learning curve. In fact, I'd probably put that at the top of the list.

Cheers-

Excellent point! The community support is something that I did overlook in the list. And according to @webchick and @dries (two very influencial Drupal community members, the community - not the software - is it's greatest strength. Maybe I should strike my current #4 from the record and replace it with community...

Although I have created a couple of small sites in Drupal, currently I have been tasked to convert two pretty big sites from ASP.NET to Drupal. In spite of my prior PHP experience, theming those sites has been kicking my narrow butt for the past month and a half :) The community has been helpful but what is sorely needed is a true "Dummies" kind of resources for people coming to Drupal theming for the very first time. But since what does not kill you makes you stronger, I suppose I should come out on the other side a better man, and it will help in getting more Drupal work and the big bucks in the future :)

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About the Author

Joaquin Lippincott, CEO

Joaquin is a 20+ year technology veteran helping to lead businesses in the move to the Cloud. He frequently speaks on panels about the future of tech ranging from IoT and Machine Learning to the latest innovation in the entertainment industry.  He has helped to modernize software for industry leaders like Sony, Daimler, Intel, the Golden Globes, Siemens Wind Power, ABC, NBC, DC Comics, Warner Brothers & the Linux Foundation.

As the CEO and Founder of Metal Toad, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, his primary job is to "get the right people in the room".  This one responsibility is cross-functional and includes both external business development functions as well as internal delegation and leadership development.

A UCLA alumni, he also serves in the community as a Board Member for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, and Stand for Children Oregon - a public education political advocacy group. As an outspoken advocate for entry-level job creation in tech he helped found the non-profit, P4TH, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of entry-level jobs in the tech industry, and is in the process of organizing an Advisory Board for the Bixel Exchange, a Los Angeles non-profit that provides almost 200 tech internships every year.

 

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