Keith Nation
By Keith Nation on 18 Aug, 2023

What is Drupal?

Drupal is a leading content management system (CMS) that has been used to build some of the world’s most prominent websites and digital experiences.

The platform was first created as a university project by Dries Buytaert in the early 2000s and has since gone on to become one of the most successful open-source projects in the world with over 10 major versions and 1.4m community members. It’s used by 14% of the top 10k websites worldwide and has a footprint across small-medium-enterprise organisations,  government/public sector and everything in between

What is Acquia?

In 2008, Dries took the step into the commercialising Drupal as a managed cloud offering through Acquia, launching the Acquia Content Cloud, at the heart of which was the Drupal CMS.

This venture has since gone on to become one of the leading software companies in the world of Web Content Management, expanding into digital marketing through acquisitions of AgileOne CDP and Mautic martech campaign technology to create a fully-featured digital experience platform or DXP.

What does the Drupal CMS do?

The Drupal CMS powers the delivery and management of content-driven experiences.

It allows site creators to structure, store, and publish content to end-users, providing content editors with the ability to manage it all through an administrator interface.

As with any tech there are a few key terms that might be useful to know:

  • Drupal Core – This is the heart of the CMS platform. It’s a PHP based application and runs the main content management functionality.
  • Core Module – These are Drupal-provided code libraries that extend the Drupal Core and can be turned on or off based on your project’s requirements.
  • Contrib Module – These are third-party extensions written by code contributors within the wider Drupal Community. They allow for the customisation of Drupal Core and are often used to integrate Drupal to other systems, e.g. CRM, PIM, DAM, etc.
  • Layout – The layout engine presents content to the user, traditionally through Twig templates. There are multiple options available such as Acquia’s SiteStudio, LayoutBuilder, or Paragraphs and each have their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  • Themes – Themes style the content before it's displayed to the user. Themes apply to both the customer-facing and admin interfaces and can be purchased online or built from scratch as a fully customised look-and-feel.
  • Drupal Database – The core database that stores content and configuration and is used to power the web experience.
  • Content Types and Nodes – Content is structured within a Content Type (table/fields) with individual content entries (rows) stored as Content Nodes.
  • Users & Permissions – Controls what content users can see and the actions they can perform.

This is a mature platform with over 10 major versions since launch and the framework above is flexible enough to cater for many different types of applications, not just marketing websites.

What’s new in Drupal 10?

The latest version of Drupal is D10 which has seen upgrades to many areas of the Drupal platform, particularly the performance, security and the overall content editor experience.

Technology Features

  • Long-term support of the core codebase through PHP 8.1 and Symfony 6.2
  • Deprecated modules have been removed entirely with some moved from core to contrib (e.g. RSS Aggregator)
  • D10 readiness assessment tools such as Upgrade Status and Drupal Reactor have been included, helping to identify the migration path for a given installation
  • Automatic Updates, enabling Drupal to upgrade its own installation within a sandbox environment

Admin Experience

  • A new Claro admin theme has been created which is not just a new UI for admin, but a fully-featured design system with visual and behavioural components and patterns that can be combined into user-friendly interfaces. It’s Javascript-driven and decoupled from Drupal so that it can be fully adapted and customised.
  • Standard features of the popular document editor CKEditor5 have been included in Drupal 10 core, featuring improved UX and support for modern Javascript frameworks. CKEditor5 also includes premium (paid for) features such as real-time document collaboration and tracked changes.
  • Drupal 10 brings the ability to create new languages and manage them directly in the administrative interface by using a new language type entity provided in Core. In addition, the translation management system has been improved, which makes it easier to translate content and manage translation workflows.
  • The Drupal media integration has been rebuilt to match the CKEditor5 experience and embedded media settings can now be edited in-line in the editor. A user can directly upload images by dragging and dropping them to CKEditor5 and changes to the embedded media can be seen in the preview immediately.

Content Delivery

  • Small enhancements have been made to native rendering within Drupal, focusing on JavaScript or HTML5 (including the removal of jQuery for native JavaScript). Initially, it will support basic performance improvements, but the same approach will support more complex contrib modules. This is consistent with the API/JSON-first approach of the platform, which will focus on providing a flexible, decoupled architecture for modern applications and a more streamlined core.
  • End-user language selection improvements have been made to help deliver a personalised experience, including better language detection and a more flexible and customisable language switcher.
  • Lazy loading is now enabled for all images, and a new format for Views using modern CSS provides configuration options for grid layout when creating a View.

Customer Experience

  • Most useful to SME Drupal organisations, D10 now provides an out-of-the-box WCAG AA-conformant theme designed with accessibility in mind. It uses CSS grid with better customisability and support for CSS variables.

Why does Drupal 10 on Acquia makes sense?

As we’ve seen, the Drupal CMS is a feature-rich, well-supported CMS platform that can cater for a whole range of different content needs and use-cases.

But, as a technology platform, Drupal still needs to be maintained and looked after, and of course it needs to be securely hosted somewhere and configured so that it scales with your demand.

This is where Acquia comes in with their managed Acquia Content Cloud.

By using Acquia, you will benefit from a Content Cloud that’s pre-configured to support Drupal with built-in security and scalability features enabling you to get to market more quickly.

You’ll also get access to additional content features such as a drag-and-drop content authoring through Acquia SiteStudio, large scale multi-site management through Acquia SiteFactory, and enterprise-grade CDN and security through Acquia Edge.

Taken together, these features mean Acquia provides a future-proofed platform for managing your organisation’s increasingly complex content needs.

How DCX can help

We’re an award-winning Elite Acquia partner and we know both Acquia and Drupal inside out.

For over 20 years, we've worked with brands across numerous industries to migrate and upgrade their web estate, and to use the power of Drupal and Acquia to transform their business, delivering an improved digital experience for customers, saving money, and driving more revenue.

We can help in many different ways including:

  • Drupal 10 upgrades – our teams can advise you on the best upgrade path to take and work with you to migrate your current site onto the latest version.
  • Drupal to Acquia migrations – we can take existing Drupal sites and migrate them into the Acquia Content Cloud, helping you take advantage of Acquia’s enterprise features.
  • Non-Drupal to Drupal migrations – if you have an existing site that sits on a different CMS platform, we can help you migrate it into Acquia/Drupal.
  • Site support and continuous improvement – if you have an existing Drupal site and need someone to manage it and make incremental improvements, we can look after it through our in-house support teams
  • Training – If your in-house team needs training and enablement, we can create tailored training packages so that they can maintain your CMS and support your business with continuous improvements into the future.
  • Greenfield site builds – and of course, if you need a new site built from scratch, we can cover that, too!

To find out more about Drupal, Acquia, and how we can help your organisation deliver a better digital experience, just get in touch.

Do Drupal. Better.