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The past decade has been a fantastic one for content management systems, with a large number of out of the box solutions automating what would have previously been a time-consuming custom development cycle. Some of the leaders have included Joomla, Wordpress and Drupal, and this article will deal with Drupal web development and design.
Drupal was originally built by Belgian programmer Dries Buytaert for use as a message board engine, but when he released the source code to the public under the GPL license, it rapidly grew into a robust content management system. The core precepts of Drupal web development include the installation of a "core" module that provides the basic functionality, which can then be expanded on using a number of additional modules and themes.
Drupal web design is primarily conducted through the use of themes, which are PHP files that set the visual display rules of the website. The flexibility of Drupal allows for the same content to be skinned with different approaches easily. Drupal theme development is primarily done in PHP using the PHPTemplate or XTemplate engines, and a vast number of free-to-use templates are available for download.
One would think that all this open-source wouldn't endear it to huge corporations, but a large number of major organizations use Drupal as the basis for their web presence. One of the most notable is Whitehouse.gov, the official website of the United States executive branch. NASA also uses it as their content management system. Other corporations that use Drupal solutions include Yahoo, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Federal Express, McDonalds and more. Many celebrity sites are built on the platform too - Britney Spears, Eric Clapton and Jennifer Lopez are just a few. Universities are also using it to not only maintain public web presences but create networks for information sharing - both Harvard and Yale have released Drupal sites. Over 1 in every 100 currently active websites worldwide use Drupal as their back end, which is a pretty significant number for an open-source product.
The list above should help to convince you that Drupal web design is varied enough to support a wide range of possible uses. Sites can be simple or complex, with robust Web 2.0 user features installed as easily as finding a module. However, there are caveats to using Drupal, like with any pre-built CMS. The learning curve can be a bit high, with the administrator backend overflowing with information that can overwhelm a new user. In addition, Drupal theme development can be finicky when attempting to create a truly custom solution. Since Drupal doesn't consistently support backwards compatibility with prior versions, some themes and modules can become obsolete when a new release is published.
Those warnings aside, Drupal is an excellent solution for a large-scale enterprise content management system. It generates and delivers pages significantly faster than Joomla, its main competition, and the developer community is a spectacular resource for refining and improving your sites. Like any content management system, Drupal web development involves compromise and patience, but a well-developed site can be a godsend for a client.