In our previous articles, we discussed the reasons why Drupal is a good CMS choice and the security features it offers. Now, the time has come to dive deeper into the topic and show its content management functionalities. I hope this guide will allow you to better grasp the main content-related concepts in Drupal and to apply this knowledge in practice on your Drupal website.
What is a content management system?
A content management system (CMS) is a piece of software used to create and manage digital content on websites. It allows users to add, edit, and publish content such as text, images, and videos through an easy-to-use interface without the need for specialized programming knowledge. With a CMS, tasks like updating website content, organizing posts, and customizing site layouts can be done quickly and efficiently. This tool is especially useful for individuals and organizations that want to regularly update their website content without having to manually code changes into the website’s backend.
What is Drupal
Drupal is a flexible CMS built on the LAMP stack—a popular set of open-source software used for web development and hosting web applications. This acronym stands for:
- Linux operating system,
- Apache web server,
- MySQL database,
- PHP scripting language.
For further customization, a wide array of additional modules and themes are available to download from the Drupal.org website.
Understanding Drupal content architecture
Drupal’s content architecture is the way content is structured, managed, and presented within the
Drupal content management system. It is a framework that defines how different types of content are created, stored, and interconnected, providing a flexible and extensible approach to content management.
Let us look at its key components.
These are templates for different kinds of content on a Drupal site, such as articles, blog posts, products, or events. Each content type defines a set of fields that represent the structure and elements of that content, like titles, body text, images, and dates.
Fields are the building blocks of content types, allowing for the storage of specific pieces of
information within a content item. Drupal offers a wide variety of field types, including text (both plain and formatted), numbers, dates, images, files, and references to other content or files. Fields can be customized and reused across different content types.
This system allows for the categorization and organization of content through vocabularies and terms. Vocabularies are sets of related terms (like categories or tags) that can be applied to content items, facilitating their organization, filtering, and search.
Views is a powerful query builder and display manager in Drupal that allows users to create custom lists and displays of content based on various criteria. It enables the creation of dynamic pages, blocks, and feeds that display content according to specific filters, such as recent posts, content by author, or items tagged with a particular term.
Blocks are discrete pieces of content or functionality that can be placed in various regions (like headers, footers, and sidebars) on a Drupal site. This system allows for a high degree of flexibility in laying out content and features across a site.
Drupal’s menu system helps in creating navigation structures to help users find information on a site. Menus can be dynamically generated based on content structure or manually curated, providing a versatile way to guide site visitors.
Modules and themes
While not exclusive to content, modules and themes significantly influence Drupal’s content architecture by extending functionality (through modules) and determining the site’s appearance and layout (through themes). Modules can add new content types, fields, or taxonomy systems, while themes can affect how content is presented.
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Creating and managing content
In Drupal CMS, the creation and management of content are central to delivering a dynamic and engaging user experience. At the heart of this process are the Drupal editor, fields, taxonomies, and modules, each contributing to a robust and flexible content strategy. Let us delve deeper into how these components work together and the best practices for utilizing them effectively.
Leveraging the Drupal editor for rich content creation
The Drupal editor, typically a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface, allows content creators to format text, insert media, and create links without needing to write HTML code. You can maximize its potential through the following:
- Rich media integration: Embed images, videos, and other media directly into your content, making it more engaging and visually appealing.
- Responsive design: Ensure that the content created in the editor is responsive, meaning it adapts smoothly to different screen sizes and devices, optimizing user experience across platforms.
- Accessibility: Use the editor’s features, such as alt text for images and proper heading structures, to make your content accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
Structuring content with fields
Fields in Drupal allow you to add structured data to content types, making your content more organized and flexible. Here is how to use fields effectively:
- Custom fields: Beyond the basic title and body fields, you can add custom fields tailored to your content’s needs, such as image galleries for portfolios, location maps for events, or download links for resources.
- Field types: Choose the appropriate field type (text, date, image, file, reference, etc.) for the data you are collecting, ensuring that content is presented consistently and correctly.
- Display formats: Configure the display settings for each field to control how content is rendered on the frontend, such as image styles for thumbnails or full content, and text formats for plain or rich text.
Organizing content with taxonomies
Taxonomies in Drupal are a powerful way to categorize and tag content, improving navigation and discoverability. To effectively use taxonomies:
- Hierarchical structures: Create vocabularies that reflect the hierarchical nature of your content, enabling users to drill down through categories and find specific content more easily.
- Consistent tagging: Develop a consistent strategy for tagging content, ensuring that similar content is grouped together and easily discoverable through related tags.
- Faceted search: Implement a faceted search functionality using taxonomies to allow users to filter content based on multiple criteria, enhancing the content discovery process.
Extending functionality with modules
Modules extend Drupal’s core capabilities, adding new features and functionalities to your content management system. Consider these strategies:
- Content layout: Use modules like Paragraphs or Layout Builder to create more complex and visually appealing content layouts, giving you the flexibility to design unique page structures.
- SEO optimization: Implement modules like Metatag and Pathauto to improve your content’s SEO, automatically generating URL aliases and meta tags based on content attributes.
- Multimedia management: Enhance your media management capabilities with modules like Media Entity or Media Library, providing advanced options for uploading, organizing, and reusing media across your site.
Content publishing workflows
Content publishing workflows in Drupal are designed to provide structured processes for creating, reviewing, and publishing content, ensuring that all material meets the site’s standards before it goes live. These workflows are especially crucial for larger organizations or websites with multiple contributors, where maintaining consistency and quality control is essential. Here is an in-depth analysis of how content publishing workflows can be optimized in Drupal.
Defining workflow states
Drupal allows you to define multiple states that a piece of content can go through in its life cycle. Common states include:
- Draft: The initial state of content when it is first created.
- In Review: When content is ready to be reviewed by editors or subject matter experts.
- Published: Content that has been approved and is live on the site.
- Archived: Outdated or obsolete content that is no longer active but is kept for historical purposes.
Custom states can also be created to cater to specific organizational needs, such as legal review, SEO optimization, or localization.
Transitions are the actions that move content from one state to another. Drupal allows you to define which roles have the permission to perform each transition, adding a layer of security and accountability to the content creation process. For instance, a content creator might have the ability to move content from Draft to In Review, but only a senior editor can move it from In Review to Published.
Implementing role-based access control (RBAC)
RBAC is crucial in a Drupal content publishing workflow. This feature ensures that only authorized individuals can perform certain actions at each stage of the content life cycle. This might include creating content, editing content, publishing content, or deleting content. By carefully assigning these permissions, organizations can maintain a high level of control over the content that gets published.
Drupal’s revision system is integrated into the content publishing workflow, allowing for easy tracking of changes and the ability to revert to previous versions if necessary. This is particularly useful in collaborative environments where multiple revisions may be made to a piece of content before it reaches its final state.
Workflow modules in Drupal
Drupal provides several modules to facilitate complex content publishing workflows. Some of the key modules include:
- Workbench: Offers a suite of features to improve content management, including a customizable editorial workflow that integrates with the role-based access control system.
- Content Moderation: Part of Drupal core in later versions, this module allows for the creation of workflows with states and transitions. It is highly configurable and can be used in conjunction with the Workflows module for more complex scenarios.
- Workflows: Provides the underlying API for workflow state transitions, which can be leveraged by other modules like Content Moderation to create detailed publishing workflows.
- Scheduler: Allows content creators to schedule content nodes to be published and unpublished at specified dates and times.
Drupal facilitates sophisticated content personalization, enabling the delivery of customized user experiences by dynamically adjusting content based on various user-specific criteria. The Smart Content module stands out for its ability to tailor content within block layouts using factors like user roles, browser cookies, or geolocation, directly within the Drupal interface.
Additionally, the Personalization module introduces highly customizable implicit and explicit personalization features to Drupal websites, leveraging geolocation and taxonomy-based criteria. This enables the delivery of content that aligns with the specific interests of site visitors, enhancing relevance and engagement.
Multichannel content strategy
Drupal provides a rich set of APIs that facilitate the retrieval and manipulation of content by external applications:
- RESTful Web Services: Drupal’s core REST API allows for reading and writing of content through HTTP requests, making it compatible with any system that can communicate over HTTP.
- JSON:API: This module provides a standardized format for structuring JSON responses, enabling quick and efficient building of APIs to serve content.
- GraphQL: For more complex data needs, the GraphQL module allows clients to request just the data they need, reducing over-fetching and under-fetching of data, which can improve performance and efficiency.
Modules like Views, Entity API, and Services extend these capabilities, allowing for the creation of customized API endpoints that are crucial for optimizing content delivery and presentation according to the needs of different distribution channels.
Drupal places a strong emphasis on accessibility, ensuring that its core features and themes adhere to WCAG standards. It employs semantic HTML5 and ARIA roles to enhance content readability and interaction for assistive technologies, supporting keyboard navigation and ensuring high contrast and color visibility for users with visual impairments. Drupal prompts for alt text on images, improving accessibility for screen reader users, and ensures forms are labeled correctly for easier navigation.
The Drupal community actively maintains and improves accessibility features, with dedicated initiatives and contributed modules aimed at enhancing web inclusivity. Currently, they are working to reach the WCAG 2.1 AA standards.
Creating content in many languages
Drupal’s robust multilingual support makes it a top choice for global enterprises, government agencies, and NGOs. Notably, the European Commission website, available in 24 official EU languages, runs on Drupal. With 94 languages available for installation, organizations can deliver localized content worldwide. Advanced content workflows streamline translation management, ensuring a seamless multilingual experience.
Robust content management functionalities make Drupal an ideal CMS choice for enterprises and large organizations. Thanks to its modules, it offers vast customization possibilities, while support for multilingual content allows companies to reach global audiences. Content creators, on the other hand, will be able to manage content effectively by implementing advanced content workflows and personalization modules. Last but not least, multichannel support will allow them to effectively manage their content initiatives across different platforms.