Is Drupal a CMS?

Do we even know what that means?

Presented by Larry Garfield

@Crell Pays me!
  • Senior Architect,
  • Drupal 8 Web Services Lead
  • Drupal Representative, PHP-FIG
  • Advisor, Drupal Association
  • General busybody

Act 0

As always, some history...

Drupal is an application!

Drupal is a framework!

Drupal is a framlication?


Why is saving a node programmatically not safe???

(And oh yeah, the node from could be better)


We need a dashboard with widgets!

(Wait, why would you want to reuse them?)


To put a finer point on this, the more Drupal becomes a better teddy bear (which is what the D7UX project was attempting), the less useful it becomes for all the other use cases that Drupal is currently being used to solve.

Adrian Rossouw, 2009


  1. Fewer assumptions => More flexibility
  2. Looser coupling => Easier development
  3. More flexibility => Better platform
  4. (do we really need all those demo modules?)

Ignore that last one, for Pete's sake!

Worst... Marketing... Ever...

...with components underneath that can be arbitrarily rearranged, we could build... a real CMS rather than a Framework/Application that tries to be a framework and an application in the same UI and fails.

Larry Garfield, 2009

The way to build a better application is to build a better framework first, then build the application on top of it.

Why open old wounds?

The scab is still there.

So what happened?

Smallcore became Symfony


The node add form is less flexible than ever.
The more Drupal becomes a better CMS, the less useful it becomes for all the other use cases that Drupal is currently being used to solve.

Act 1

What is a CMS?

A Content Management System

A System for Managing Content

The goal of any CMS should be to gather enough information to present the content on any platform, in any presentation, at any time.

— Daniel Jacobson, Fmr. Director of Application Development for NPR

COPE: Create Once, Publish Everywhere
True CMS's are really just content capturing tools that are completely agnostic as to how or where the content will be viewed, whether it is a web page, mobile app, TV or radio display, etc.

— Daniel Jacobson

COPE: Create Once, Publish Everywhere
A CMS must be presentation agnostic. If it is not presentation agnostic, it is not a CMS.
By creating presentation-independent content that includes meaningful metadata, you'll set yourself up for a future where your content can go anywhere.

— Karen McGrane

Content Strategy for Mobile

A System for Managing Content and metadata

A CMS consists of chunks, and rules for managing chunks.

This is non-trivial

Sadly, There is no Grand Unified Theory of Making Stuff Appear Together in Some Location

— Deane Barker

The Art and Practice of Content Assembly

"Display" is just a special case of managing.

CMS tools

  • Taxonomy
  • Fields
  • Views
  • Rules
  • Panels

The basic unit of a CMS is the content chunk

Act 2

Web Publishing Tools

A tool for publishing on the web

A tool for publishing pages on the web

WPT's capture content with the primary purpose of publishing web pages.

— Daniel Jacobson

COPE: Create Once, Publish Everywhere

The idyllic WPT is "Dreamweaver"-in-the-browser

Most users think they want this

(Do they really?)

(Do we just think they think they want this?)

WPT tools

  • Edit
  • Panelizer
  • Media
  • Many text filters


DrupalCon Denver

  1. *Real* WYSIWYG & In-line editing
  2. Flexible layout tools
  3. Drag and drop *everything*
  4. Kick-ass media support
  5. ... oh yeah, and customized for any device :-)
I want to edit pages

The basic unit of a WPT is the page blob

Act 3

When Worlds Collide

BADCamp 2012
SCOTCH Initiative Spark Initiative
Building displays
Building display rules
The editing interfaces we offer... are affordances...
If the primary editing interface we present is also the visual design seen by site visitors, we are saying: 'This page is what you manage!' On certain sites, that message is true.

— Jeff Eaton

Inline Editing and the Cost of Leaky Abstractions

On others...

A Page is a unit of business intent. --Michael Keara

— Michael Keara, @UserAdvocate

Act 4

What is Drupal?

Where does the edit form go? is a philosophical question

The answer varies per-site.

Is Drupal a CMS or a WPT?

Is Drupal a Content Management System or a Web Publishing Tool?

Is Drupal a System for Managing Content, or for Publishing Pages?

Is the "page" our basic unit of stuff?

It cannot be both at the same time

We don't need to answer that question now

We need to ask the question every day

in every issue

Because your answer is not my answer

Not just visual

  • Does the JSON for /node/1 have tids, objects, or strings?
  • Does the JSON for /node/1 include blocks?
  • What if they're stored as fields?
  • What if they're from Panelizer?

The "Drupal Learning Curve"

The supposed Drupal learning curve.

That's for WPT users trying to use a CMS

Act 5

Generals always fight the last war

The last war was Web Publishing

We need to be fighting for tomorrow's market

Play to your strengths

Our strengths are as a CMS

People think in pages... It’s a comfortable metaphor.
In swallowing the red pill of responsive design... We need to start talking about content in terms of bits, not pages. And we need systems that help us think that way.

Mark Boulton

Is there such a system?

Can you name one?

Drupal can be...

The way to build a better Web Publishing Tool is to build a better CMS first, then build the WPT on top of it.

Further reading