I'm shifting to Drupal!

Submitted by nat on Sun, 03 Oct 2021 - 19:41
The 'Druplicon' mascot symbol (a cartoon character made out of a drop of water, infinity eyes, curved nose, and mischievous smile) over the word 'Drupal'

Since 2015 I've run this site on Wordpress.com as an opportunity to blog my ideas and interests, and to showcase my writing. The time has come to shift from WordPress to Drupal, and here's why...

Modern websites serve up content by using a content management system (CMS). The way this works is, when someone clicks a link or types a URL into their browser this sends a request to the site's web server, which generates a page on the fly and serves it up in HTML/CSS/JavaScript format. Back in the day you'd create a webpage by typing HTML and CSS into a code editor, but behind the scenes today's CMS is storing a web page's content as chunks of code in a database along with a set of instructions written in a scripting language like PHP or Python. There are lots of services these days which take care of all that complexity for you and allow you to focus on just creating web content. 

WordPress is the #1 content management system (CMS) used by websites around the world, with about 65% market share. Next up are Shopify and Joomla, with Drupal coming in somewhere around 6th at 2%. However, if you look at the top 10,000 websites, then Drupal comes in at #2 with about 10% market share. Many government sites and disability organizations use Drupal as their CMS including NASA, FEMA, the National Council for the Blind in Ireland, and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Why do these sites buck the trend and disproportionally use Drupal as their CMS? Because Drupal has higher standards for web accessibility.

When I recently took a course in digital accessibility I was surprised to learn that in WordPress you have to go out of your way to choose an accessible theme. There's no expectation that accessibility considerations are built into your site's structure by default! That makes a certain kind of sense, because the WordPress core principles are all about ease of use for non-technically minded authors and designing "for the majority" (not for everyone!). Shopify's principles emphasize sustainability and eCommerce for everyone (meaning, small business owners), while Joomla's mission statement emphasizes their code being free, stable, and secure. Drupal is the only CMS that specifically refers to accessibility in its core principles and values:

We [Drupal] build software that is easy, accessible, and safe for everyone to use.

That's a message I can get behind. I realized while learning about digital accessibility that I wanted to make my blog site as accessible as it could possibly be. The Drupal project embraced full accessibility many years ago by building accessibility directly into its core modules. Running a site on Drupal requires more technical tinkering, but that doesn't exactly deter me. This project will be more fun and allow me to showcase all the accessibility features I've learned and then programmed into the site. In fact, I'm rebuilding the site from scratch on an unmanaged hosting service.

From today, I'll use this site to:

  • showcase my writing,
  • present a sort of online CV and portfolio,
  • practise driving a CMS (both front-end and back-end),
  • learn Drupal by (re)building the website from the ground up,
  • and as an exercise in building full accessibility into a website and teaching others what I've learned in the process.

Onwards and upwards!