Drupal builds websites and community for local
businesses seeking solutions to complex content management challenges
by Alan Zisman (c) 2012
published in Business in
Vancouver May 29 2012 High Tech
A year ago, Open Road Auto Group had a set of 10-year-old websites in
need of revision.
The Richmond-based consortium of import auto dealers wanted its sites
to have a common look and feel and needed to more easily update content
and videos. The sites needed centralized management and shared content
while allowing dealers to individualize content.
There are design firms specializing in auto dealer websites, but
according to Open Road marketing director Ben Lovie, Open Road didn’t
want a site that looked like everyone else’s. Open Road evaluated a
variety of content management systems (CMS) – software to build
websites with a consistent design while allowing end-users to manage
their own content.
According to Glenn Hilton, president of Burnaby web design/development
firm ImageX Media, about 30% of the web is built using a content
management system; the most popular is the free WordPress. Open Road
ruled out commercial CMS software, partly to avoid ongoing maintenance
Working with local web design house Fuse Interactive, Open Road chose
the Drupal CMS. Important to Open Road: with over 16,000 plug-in
modules, Drupal sites can include a wide range of customization. An
open source project, Drupal is free of monthly fees.
The updated websites encourage interaction between dealers and
potential customers. The sites integrate data and images from the
Chrome auto data provider for up-to-date information on the 100-plus
new car models sold by Open Road dealers. Website visitors can add
reviews of car models and of their experiences with the dealers, which
are automatically posted alongside Canadian Auto Press reviews.
Multi-language support has been built into the site, though translated
content has not been posted. Also upcoming: video car reviews. Website
traffic has grown by 50%, with more visits converting to sales.
Drupal has been created by a worldwide community of more than 15,000
volunteer developers, who make the software available for free.
Keeping them all going in the same direction can be a bit like herding
cats, said Maple Ridge’s Angela Byron, but that’s her job as director
of community development for Boston-based Acquia, a web development
services and support company whose mission is to “empower enterprises
with the open source social publishing system Drupal.”
As a Drupal Core Maintainer, she has a long-term commitment to
overseeing the development of the software’s code base. Drupal is in
its seventh major version; Drupal 8 is expected soon.
Byron noted that users often find the WordPress CMS easier to get
Because WordPress was originally developed for a blogging service as
websites grow, users often reach a point where they’ve outgrown what
WordPress can easily provide.
Drupal, she admitted, has a steeper learning curve for ”normal people.”
But Byron added that it’s more open-ended, which allows companies to
use it to get exactly what they want out of their websites.
Independent freelance graphic designer and web developer Pete Digiboy
agreed. Working with Drupal, he can build more dynamic and robust
websites for his clients; like Byron, he compares working with Drupal
modules to building with a set of Lego bricks – with no limits on what
can be created.
Some businesses may express concern about Drupal’s open-source nature.
While they might be happy to use the extended features provided (for
free) by those thousands of add-in modules, they might be less pleased
to develop features that then can be used – also for free – on their
Hilton is helping to organize a Vancouver Drupal Business Summit,
Friday June 1, at UBC Robson Square, promising non-technical business
people case studies of how local businesses have made their websites
more effective (www.drupalsummit.com/city/vancouver).