With so many choices of eCommerce platforms, it’s easy to get distracted into only considering dedicated shopping cart software platforms.
But to do so could have a detrimental effect on your online businesses infrastructure further down the line. That’s why here at Media Proper we often point clients towards considering using Drupal as the base for an ecommerce strategy.
The reason for this is simple: scalability. If you use a dedicated hosted, or self hosted ecommerce platform, you could be limiting the ability of your business to project itself online in the future. What happens if you want to develop another resource to slot into your existing infrastructure, for example?
Say you want to do something as simple as add a blog. You could have spent thousands on a dedicated ecommerce platform, only to find it doesn’t have robust enough functionality for a blog built in, or page building functionality is poor.
This leaves you in the unenviable position of having to bolt on blog software in some way. This creates a company infrastructure which isn’t tightly integrated and may potentially weaken its security.
But by using Drupal, you can develop a strong ecommerce solution, either from an off-the-shelf integration or built for you, while remaining confident you can take your online business in any direction using Drupal’s wealth of resources.
On top of the flexibility Drupal brings, it is also open source. This can be a very important consideration when planning for long-term development.
Why Use Open Source At All?
There are two main reasons to use Drupal rather than a dedicated shopping software solution, or another content management system:
- Drupal gives you the freedom to develop in any direction, with fewer limitations and additional costs.
- You cannot be held for ransom further down the line.
For me, this is why open source is the hands down winner. I have seen many tailored solutions over the years which start out in-budget, but over time as they become more refined and the userbase grows, the costs snowball.
So going open source with Drupal can protect you from future hidden costs.
Yes, of course you can get dedicated open source ecommerce solutions. Open cart is one such product. But we have found that you still need to hack it around considerably to get it to do exactly what you want. And at the end of that process you are still left with purely a shopping cart solution, not a platform you can build in any direction from.
Drupal Has Authority
Some of the biggest sites in the world use Drupal. This would not be the case without good reason.
First of all, the White House uses it for their website. Yes, the President (sort of) uses Drupal.
If one of the most high profile websites in the western world uses it, then they must be pretty sure it’s resilient against attack.
Other high-profile sites using Drupal include MTV UK, France24, the Louvre, the Economist, the Grammies and the Examiner.
Again, if those high-profile sites feel that Drupal offers the best combination of power, flexibility and security, then we should take note of that. These organizations have the financial clout to build everything from the ground up if they want, but instead they use an open source content management system.
Proprietary developers will argue that open source solutions are inherently insecure because everyone can view the code that runs them. Drupal is different though.
Because of its high profile, Drupal takes its security so seriously that it even has a team of security professionals on board, who actively seek out issues and patch vulnerabilities.
You will always see and read about WordPress sites being hacked. But how many Drupal sites out there moan about being hacked?
And when it comes specifically to dedicated ecommerce platforms, some of these are even more vulnerable security-wise. Because of their lower user base, security issues are often more slowly recognized, have less esources allocated and are more slowly resolved.
The other issue is that the majority of dedicated ecommerce platforms are paid products, meaning if there is a security issue, it’s not in the best interest of the developers to publicize it has happened at all.
Drupal Has A World Class Community Supporting It
With years of development behind it, Drupal has a massive user base and free support network.
This means that for most “every day” development matters, you can get good advice from the community. Obviously for more complex setups you’re going to need to get the advice of a specialist developer, but the community can deliver you a great base of core information.
For a start, they will be able to advise you on things such as whether your project can be done using off-the-shelf functionality, through existing Drupal modules.
And if you need help to develop a custom project, there are thousands of high quality developers out there who are extremely familiar with building custom modules to work on Drupal (like us).
On the downside, there may be specific setups that are not best delivered through a project developed with Drupal at its core. Here at Media Proper we have worked on many Drupal-driven ecommerce solutions for our clients. But because we also develop ecommerce solutions across a wide range of platforms, we are well-positioned to advise on the best platform for your specific ecommerce needs.
Drupal Is The Most Flexible General Ecommerce Solution
Considering both self-hosted and hosted dedicated ecommerce platform, such as Magento and Volusion, both are fantastic for certain projects. But what both of these platforms suffer from is an inherent lack of flexibility in their core, when compared to Drupal.
Drupal is highly modular, with more than 20,000 existing modules. It’s also incredibly easy to develop custom modules because of its flexible architecture.
There are also key development tools built into Drupals core that are way ahead of the tools in other open source content management systems.
For example, Version 7 of Drupal ships with the views module built in. This is basically an SQL query builder, which allows you to grab data from the database and then build custom content types.
In terms of ecommerce, this flexibility can bring power very quickly. The rules module allows you to build custom workflows, which is great for setting up custom sales passes.
You can also set user roles easily, or create them, which allows you to highly segregate people who have access to your system. This is great for many reasons, including security and community building.
And no matter how large your ecommerce site is, Drupal will cope. It has a faceted search API, which you can hook into to create highly a refined product search experience from.
Drupal Uses The LAMP Stack
Because Drupal uses LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) you can be confident that your site will always have a good home, as well as people who can manage it.
The combination of its skilled user base and heavy use of LAMP means you will always be find highly experienced developers and your webhost will rarely have knowledge gaps.
It also means your webhost will have a better understanding of how everything works quickly. If you are using a proprietary ecommerce system, then you can sometimes run into showstopping problems even during basic setup on your web host.
But because of the knowledge base, most webhosts will be able to help you. This means paying for managed hosting suddenly becomes worth it.
Drupal Builds Powerful Ecommerce Sites
We’ve already spoken about how Drupal has built in functionality that allows you to rapidly develop the core of an ecommerce site.
Other advantages of using Drupal for ecommerce include the fact that it is search engine optimization friendly. I have seen many examples where people have shifted from other ecommerce solutions and seen a jump in the search engine rankings.
The reasons for this are round source code readability to the search engine spiders and how flexibly you can structure URLs in Drupal. Although it is changing, historically dedicated ecommerce platforms have not put as much focus into search engine friendliness.
Drupal also enjoys support from all the major third-party shopping cart developers, and the major payment processing companies. So a lot of the time, there is no need to look just at the shopping cart software itself as the whole solution, but as an integration.
It also now has a fully developed ecommerce platform of its own you can build directly on, called Drupal commerce. Much like Drupal core, it is an ecommerce specific platform you can develop in any direction you want.
However, a lot of basic functionality sometimes still doesn’t work 100% out-of-the-box, whatever ecommerce solution you want to use. If you are serious about ecommerce and want to harness the power and security of Drupal, then partnering with a developer such as Media Proper can bring you long-term peace of mind and save you a lot of unforeseen expense.
Media Proper Loves Drupal
We have been developing sites using Drupal for a range of clients for years now and we love doing it.
With the combination of a flexible core, robust security and many options for development work, it has allowed us to develop dozens of exceptional client sites.
If you are thinking about creating or upgrading a website, then we would love to talk you through how Drupal could be the solution for you, when considered amongst a suite of options.
With our wide experience in working on different ecommerce platforms with clients, we can advise you in great detail in which ecommerce platform will allow you to develop a long-term business strategy, cost effectively and security. Even if that platform ends up not being Drupal.