Finding the Proper Tool(box) for the Job
My dad had an unusually good knack for building and fixing things. When I was a kid, we would regularly take trips down to our unfinished basement to work on a project - one of the most common being readying the red Snapper lawn mower for another summer voyage. Needless to say, he was the head mechanic and I was the assistant. It never ceased to amaze me what he could accomplish in a short amount of time with what seemed like an endless assortment of tools and an even more intimidating selection of components and parts.
Although I wish I could remember more of the sage advice that sprung from these basement trips, one in particular I remember vividly. Find the right tool for the job. Obviously my dad didn’t invent this saying, but he sure did stand by it. I remember him explaining carefully to me the importance of not using the wrong tool for a job, as it will only cost you time and cause you frustration.
Unfortunately, I didn’t gain my dad’s knack for building and fixing mechanical objects, but this phrase translates directly into my industry: the mechanics of web development. Finding the right tool in my job is critical in creating a satisfying experience for the users of a website and the client that runs it daily. It is also necessary for streamlining production so that I can focus the least amount of a client’s time and money on building typical website elements and the most time on their business-specific needs.
While I am a firm believer in this idea of finding the right tool for the job, finding the right Content Management System (CMS) is arguably the most important task in building websites. There are a number of options out there, from proprietary systems built and supported by a business or open-source platforms built and supported by large communities of developers/designers. MCN used to build in (and still maintains some websites in) a proprietary system that we had built for us specifically to fill the needs of our typical client-base. The difficulty with this approach was that it became difficult for a small team to maintain over time as this kind of system needs to scale and change based both on the speed of technology as well as to include any new client needs that may arise.
So, last year, we sent our development team into the wild to scour the landscape of Content Management Systems out there, and came across one that continued to impress us both in terms of community support and scalability - the open-source platform, Drupal. After all, we build anything from small websites with a few static pages to huge e-commerce social networks, so scalability is a necessity. We needed the platform to be simple enough to do the former easily and robust enough to be able to accomplish the latter and more. Drupal provided us with this, and we continue to be amazed by what this system, and maybe more importantly the community surrounding this platform, has to offer. Although tapping into a resource this powerful comes with a learning curve and any open-source road is strewn with websites built by people who didn’t take the time to understand it - MCN worked hard to fully understand and gear this platform to meet our client’s needs.
So am I going against my earlier argument, find the right tool for the job? Not at all - the content of a website still defines the tool for the job. In fact, there are truly inspiring websites out there that are not using a CMS at all. But the reality is, as any good CMS, Drupal is not just a tool. It’s a toolbox, arguably even an entire working space. And we have been amazed at how often this toolbox meets and exceeds the expectations of our clients.
MCN has recently been dubbed an official “Organisation Member” of the Drupal Association, and what better way to celebrate this than to spread the word! But really, the greatest compliment we can pay to this community and system is this - that it is and continues to be our “toolbox” of choice for building and designing websites.
To learn more about Drupal, visit drupal.org.