The long time to build a system is often pointed out as a drawback of using Drupal in web development. However, creating complex websites using this technology doesn’t have to be time-consuming at all. In this blog post, I’ll present you with a list of modules and tools that clearly reduce the time to build systems on Drupal.
General information about Drupal
Drupal is a system written in PHP and built from modules. There are dozens of them in Drupal's core, and several thousand are available for free download from the Drupal.org website.
A PHP developer can also create a custom module for Drupal and add any functionality. Developers often take this route. It’s apparently easier (though not faster) to write the required functionality than to familiarize yourself with existing modules to build it.
The key to reaping the benefits of choosing Drupal as a technology is to treat it and its modules like LEGO blocks from which you build a system.
Considering Drupal as a base and adding all the needed functionality in the custom code is a path to increase project costs. Ultimately, in the long run, it also translates into abandoning Drupal as a base solution for building systems. This is because no one likes to pay more than for alternative options available on the market, and nowadays, there is a lot to choose from in the web development world.
When looking at other technologies, it’s worth paying attention to how many different technologies you need to use to achieve what Drupal offers. Very often, you need to use many frameworks, libraries, or systems and combine them all. With these connections, problems and errors often arise (e.g., website A didn't correctly send data to website B's API, etc.), which take time to debug and fix.
Systems on Drupal are most often built as a single application with a single codebase (headless Drupal will also appear later in the text), and this simplifies application maintenance, development, and the new version implementation quite a bit. This is a significant advantage for applications with regular deployments (e.g., once a week), which reduces their time, eliminates potential problems, and facilitates application maintenance costs.
Code generation and no code tools to speed up work in Drupal
I’ve divided the tools that will help you speed up the time of creating complex web pages on Drupal into several groups. You’ll find here descriptions, screenshots, and short videos. Based on these examples, you’ll see how quickly you can build websites in Drupal.
Code and data generators
Code and database generators can significantly reduce the programmer’s work time. Every web developer working with Drupal should become familiar with these tools.
Module Builder is a module for Drupal that generates the files needed to make a module. Some elements are repetitive, and constantly writing them from scratch unnecessarily takes precious minutes. With the help of Module Builder, you’ll reduce the time of creating custom modules.
Drush is a tool for managing Drupal from the command line. One of the handy commands available in Drush is “generate.” Like Module Builder, this command helps you create the code needed when building modules and saves you time.
Devel Generate is part of the Devel module. This tool can generate test data. This is very useful when testing how the system behaves or looks when a large amount of data comes in. By reaching for this module, you save time creating test content and can focus on testing the application. I especially recommend this solution to testers working with Drupal.
No code tools and modules
There are certain modules in Drupal, so you don't have to write your own custom ones. You can generate data structures and application logic without writing a single line of code. Some of these modules are already in Drupal core. Combining these tools with code generators (not everything can be achieved by clicking, and sometimes you need to write code) gives you a considerable advantage when implementing applications and websites on Drupal over other solutions.
Fields is a module that is part of Drupal core. It allows you to extend entities with additional attributes - for example, you can add a “Phone” field to a user profile to store phone number information, or you can add a “File upload” field to the “Page” content type to enable you to insert downloadable PDF files.
The Views module is also part of Drupal core. It allows you to take data from a database and display it in a formatted way. You can extend its capabilities using many additional modules, such as exporting data to CSV format.
Entity Construction Kit (ECK)
Drupal core has several entity types, including Node, User, and Taxonomy. Sometimes, you need to build your own entity instead of using, for example, a new content type. You can do it by creating a new custom module (for example, using the Module Builder module mentioned above) or you can use the Entity Construction Kit (ECK) module. With its help, without writing code, you can create a new data structure in the database and use it with, e.g., Fields and Views modules. In this case, you can also perfectly see another advantage of Drupal - modules work together rather than being separate elements.
Event - Condition - Action (ECA)
The ECA module allows you to create actions on various events, such as “send an email if someone adds a comment.” The module's capabilities are vast, and if an option is missing, it can be expanded with additional actions or conditions.
A form on a web page and in an application is a common form of interaction with users. It’s often essential for website administrators to be able to easily create new forms without waiting for a development team. Marketing departments need to add them to landing pages for campaigns, and HR departments need them to collect data from employees in various types of surveys. The examples are many. The Webform module perfectly solves the necessity to build contact forms easily.
The Feeds module retrieves data from external sources and saves it to a database in Drupal. The simplest use of the module is to retrieve data from RSS, but you can also configure it for other sources, such as XML files. All data import configuration is done by clicking around the administration interface. So, there is no need to involve a programmer in this. An example of using this module could be, for example, importing job postings to a company website from an external management system or importing recent blog posts to a corporate intranet system (built on Drupal).
Content building tools
Nowadays, building new subpages on a website involves not only adding text but also inserting many components that will make a web page attractive and convenient to use for the visitor. An editor needs tools to build complex sites and a system that doesn’t limit them in creating content.
There are several such solutions in Drupal. Depending on the needs of content managers, you can choose from the many options available. Here are some examples.
The Layout Builder module is found in Drupal core. It allows you to manage the layout of elements for a content type (e.g., all articles) or specific content. The module is regularly developed, and its capabilities can be extended with additional modules.
Paragraphs is an additional module that extends the possibilities of building a data structure with the Fields module. It’s the basis of the Droopler system - a tool for quickly building company and corporate websites. We have built over a dozen ready-made components that editors can use when creating content there.
Other tools for content
In addition to the solutions above, other content-building tools are:
Integrations with external applications
Today, the number of applications that companies and organizations use is growing. Drupal fits perfectly into such an environment because it can easily integrate with external systems.
Drupal can pass stored data to other systems or accept data from applications. It has a RESTful Web Services module that allows simple and complex configurations.
These integration options open up the possibility of using Drupal as a headless CMS. One example can be found in our case study of a project for PZPN, documenting the creation of a system where the frontend is separated from the backend.
No code and code generation tools - summary
The examples described above are only a tiny part of the capabilities of Drupal modules. There are many more, and all these tools make Drupal possible to reduce the time needed to build websites or web applications.
If you plan to create a complex website, Drupal is worth considering. Is this technology suitable for your project? Take advantage of a free consultation at our Drupal agency, during which we will help analyze your case.