Commentary on a thought-provoking recent piece in Foreign Policy which discusses the impact of AI on the delivery of government services.
After setting up the site in Joomla and being happy with my initial experience, I decided that I also wanted to try out Drupal. I just wasn't going to be completely comfortable with my choice if I didn't actually evaluate the key options. Wordpress is obviously out (that was the basic decision in this whole process), so the choice was between the next two most popular CMS platforms. After only having a few hours experience with Joomla, I had a sense (incorrectly, as it turns out) that there might be some other things I wanted to be able to do that I couldn't do in Joomla, and I knew Drupal was even more capable.
Setting up Drupal on Dreamhost isn't quite as easy as installing Joomla - there's no one-click install for Drupal. So I had to download the installation file, upload it to my server, and unzip it there. The Drupal documentation is pretty thorough - it explains the process of installation from start to finish (getting the code, preparation, DB setup, installation, etc.). The installer is interactive and makes the process easy. The only potentially tricky part is the database configuration (you need your DB name and credentials).
The installer took care of everything else for me, and before long I could log in and start working on building the site in Drupal. At first, though, the directory remapping was broken so the administration didn't work - the fix to that is described at my initial post: Joomla vs. Drupal.
Now I have a working Drupal site as well! I chose a theme and made a few basic changes to site structure and started adding menus. The administration interface is very similar to Joomla - they're both very intuitive (though there's so much you can do that it takes a few hours of poking around to start to get comfortable with doing even basic things.
Perhaps the biggest different I notice in the Drupal admin is the 'Structure' menu, which lets you specify the overall block layout of your website. In Joomla, this is controlled instead by your template. I found a cool modern template called Shaper that uses the HelixUltimate framework, and this template lets me specify a block layout in the same way:
Helix Template Interface (for Joomla):
This is a great example of the differences between the two CMS platforms. I think it's good that Drupal has the Structure component built in, instead of left up to the template. Conceptually, this makes more sense (the website structure can be seem as such a key element of the website that it shouldn't be left to the template machinery to specify), and practically speaking it's better - the structure is always defined in the same way, as opposed to having to learn a new interface for each template. Drupal is definitely more capable, but the drawback is obviously in complexity - Joomla already has a learning curve to it, but Drupal has an even steeper one, and it would be downright intimidating for most people without a lot of experience. This discussion of the relative merits of Joomla vs. Drupal has a good discussion of ease of use vs. complexity, which I think is the key issue in the choice of CMS.
So I've decided to embrace Joomla, at least for now. I'm already getting the site looking very good and populated with content, so clearly Joomla is capable without being too hard to learn. But I feel like knowing Drupal will be very valuable, so I'm going to maintain the Drupal Site and keep working on learning. Drupal. In the meantime, I can build the site in Joomla and do everything I need to do for the time being (and probably ever). It's always fun learning new tools, so I'm excited to be able to try both of them out.
Long story short, both CMS platforms are great. If you don't have enterprise requirements, you're almost certainly better off with Joomla - it's free, works great, and is very powerful without having such a steep learning curve.
Now to go work on getting some more content up!
Well, after setting the site up with Joomla, I decided also to experiment with Drupal. Drupal doesn't have a one-click installation on DreamHost, but the installation was pretty straightforward. You download the install file from the Drupal site, upload to your server and unzip, and then just go to your site in a browser where you are prompted to run the interactive installer. You will need your database information (name, username, and password). I installed Drupal in the /drupal subdirectory on my server so that I could have a Joomla site and a Drupal site running side-by-side.
After the installer ran, Drupal was running, but something was wrong. There were no images (all the menus rendered in text) and the links were all broken. I had to do two things to get Drupal up and running properly after installing:
- First, I had to map the subdirectory that I had installed Drupal in. The directory - /drupal - doesn't actually exist on my server. We map this virtual directory to the actual file location so the server knows where to look for the files. This fixed the obvious brokenness - now the Drupal menus and interface showed up, but clicking on any link gave a 'Page Not Found' error
- To fix this problem I had to specify directory rewriting in my .htaccess file. I simply uncommented an existing line and added my directory (/drupal), so that line looks like this now:
That let the web server know that this is the base directory for all links, includes, etc. Now everything is working fine: