Be a Drupal opportunist. Use the right tool at the right time.

October 14, 2011
Enhance Drupal with other products

Drupal is a powerful content management system. I sometimes joke with clients that I've used every CMS out there but I landed on Drupal because of its flexibility and power.

The truth is, I'm an opportunist; I pull together a suite of solutions based on budget and requirements. Sometimes I may do everything in Drupal. Sometimes, however, I may pull in a different solution even though Drupal could do it too. I use Drupal as the foundation, but other products can be integrated.

I think everyone should try working this way. Don't spend hours and hours to get Drupal to do something when there is a great product right next to you.

I'm not talking about several years ago when you had to link to another website and the user would get confused because the link would open in a new window, a new interface and a new URL. Today, there are wonderful tools available online where you can integrate through simple Javascript, Ajax or even a Colorbox window. Many products allow you to style the vendor product to match your website design. You can quickly integrate to the point where you can't even tell it isn't Drupal.

A few examples where I might not use Drupal

  • I have a tight budget and I need to add event registration. Sure, I could build this in Drupal and it would be great ... but on a tight budget and the data isn't really that important outside of the event, why not integrate a vendor product like Formstack.com. Quickly build the form, enter payment gateway account info and you're done.
  • I need a sophisticated home page image rotator. If there is a jQuery plugin that does exactly what I need, I use it. Let Drupal serve the content in a list, grab the list with jQuery and run it through my gallery plugin of choice.
  • I need the content adjusted just a tiny bit. I could work with Drupal to get it to output the content closer to what I need, or I can just adjust the content with jQuery. I recently had a situation where one page of my site was coming from a View. This one page was being output differently and didn't have one class that every other page had in its header. I simply used jQuery's addClass function to force this one page to include the needed CSS class.
  • I need a survey on a website. I could use Webforms in Drupal, or I can quickly build the form in SurveyMonkey, deploy the survey and reap the benefits of a tool specialized in surveys when I review the data in their sophisticated slice and dice reporting system.

Every example I can give has a Drupal answer as well — Drupal modules are great and I use more than I can count. What I want to convey is that it is okay to broaden the horizon and pull in other tools to blend with Drupal. Sometimes a specialized tool has more robust features that come with the product, while creating the same functionality in Drupal would take me a lot of time.

Let's be opportunistic: use Drupal every chance you get, but remember that you can use other robust products to enhance your project. 

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