Drupal as a DXP: an engine for your customers’ digital experience

2 February 2022

Today consumers expect a consistent and personalised experience with relevant cross channel content. This might be buying suggestions, waiting room screens, personalised playlists and viewing tips. In terms of technology, this is often based on a DXP - digital experience platform. In a DXP, content is stored centrally so that it can be presented from one channel-dependent point, tailor-made and potentially even personalised. Over the last decade Drupal - originally a content management system - has evolved into a digital experience platform (DXP). What can Drupal DXP do for your customers’ digital experience today?

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The essence of a Digital Experience Platform (DXP)

The term 'DXP' is relatively new and has only really gained a foothold since 2018. It gained momentum when Gartner phased out the web content management quadrant and introduced the digital experience platform quadrant.

Gartner defines a digital experience platform (DXP) as "an integrated set of different technologies based on a common platform." Thanks to the architecture of the DXP, the end user has a consistent, secure and personalised way to access information through many different digital touchpoints.

Organisations are increasingly using DXPs to build, deploy, and constantly develop websites, portals, mobile applications, and other digital platforms. The DXP manages the presentation layer (front-end) based on the role, security rights and preferences of the end user. They combine and coordinate applications including content management, search and navigation, personalisation, integration and aggregation, collaboration, workflow, analytics, mobile and multichannel support.

Example: The New York subway system

The New York subway system uses a Drupal platform to provide travellers with up-to-date data. Where previously they used different sources for different channels, now all media can be controlled from one central system. For example, travel information is sent to the platform signs, the website and the mobile app simultaneously.

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Drupal's evolution from CMS to open DXP

Drupal started as a powerful content management system (CMS), with an open-source philosophy, that was the focus of the development of numerous integrations. The introduction of the CMS gave companies better control over their content, for example text, images and data. Drupal offered a new way to control the quality of your online presence. However, one of the shortcomings in traditional CMSs was the interdependence between the CMS and the distribution channel. This created so-called content silos: closed areas that held important content that was restricted because of a lack of integrations.

Dries Buytaert, the inventor of the open-source digital experience platform Drupal, signalled this 10 years ago. That is what motivated him to start the transformation from content management system to an open DXP.

From Drupal 8 to an API first architecture

Until 2015, Drupal was frequently used as a framework where, along with content management, many functionalities came together in a monolithic architecture with the web as the distribution channel.

Since mid-2015 and the launch of Drupal 8 there’s been a strong focus on decoupling and working towards an API first architecture. This structure meant that you could continue to use the strong visual content modelling functionalities of Drupal, but now they are published instantly as an API and is made available for other channels.

Today, Drupal retains traditional CMS functionality - in the same way as Umbraco or Wordpress. The coupled front-end is still available, buy you can also set up Drupal API-first and use front-end techniques to display your content.

How about a bigger digital presence?

Gone are the days when a website was enough for a proper, digital presence. Our experts happily assist in bringing about a digital ecosystem - optimized and on-brand - fit to serve your business goals.

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Drupal vs (headless) CMS

Compared to headless first CMSs like Storyblok, Contentful and Contentstack, Drupal was created from a coupled CMS. For example, it includes a web back-end so that editors can get started with content immediately (mobile friendly of course). Drupal enables content editing through the web interface. Headless systems offer better options when the creation of content is on other channels, or if it is necessary to use an entirely customised editorial environment.

Does Drupal DXP fit into any IT strategy?

That’s the dream, the perfect DXP. But why choose Drupal? When you look at current expectations, which is to be able to offer a complete digital experience, Drupal out-of-the-box may score less well in terms of personalisation, analytics, optimisation, customer journey mapping and customer data management such as a Sitecore or Optimizely. Nevertheless, from a IT strategy point of view, there are compelling reasons to look at Drupal as a DXP:

1. Drupal DXP in a 'best of breed' strategy

When your organisation chooses the best available solution for each component of your IT design (a 'best of breed' strategy), you do not want to have too much overlap in your application landscape in terms of functionalities and its essential that you can easily replace systems without this having a major impact overall.

Drupal’s open source character is an advantage because it works with open standards. The large community of developers means that integration is available for most conceivable applications:

  • Are you switching from OpenID Connect to SAML authentication? Then Drupal has an integration available for this.

  • Drupal also has integrations available for many of the large marketing automation packages such as Eloqua, Salesforce, Hubspot, Selligent.

  • Drupal is suitable if you want to make the switch from marketing automation to customer journey orchestration such as Relay42 or Tealium.

  • Extensions are available for all common packages where Drupal is less good out of the box.

2. Drupal DXP in a 'best of suite' strategy

Drupal works even if your organisation prefers a total solution with one party ('best of suite') with less integration work and more out-of-the-box functionality. Acquia, the company founded by the creator of Drupal Dries Buytaert, offers a Cloud hosted variant of Drupal, that has an extensive Marketing Suite & Digital Asset Management software.

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Digital landscape

Drupal is, partly thanks to the fact that it is open source, a particularly versatile platform. There are no license fees to worry about when you start with Drupal. The biggest advantage of open-source software is that you are using software that has been built by and for others. With an active community of more than 100,000 people, there are more than 47,000 functionalities and modules available. When you work with a good Drupal partner, your platform is delivered via established and tested common standards with no vendor lock-in.

1. Secure

Drupal has an established reputation when it comes to security. Drupal can count NASA, Tesla and the Australian government, among others as their patrons. Thanks to the permanent Drupal team that works continuously, maintaining the security and the expansion of the platform. Drupal offers a secure application framework where you can let your business applications run with peace of mind.

2. Enterprise & SMB Content Management

Since the release of version 8, Drupal moved their focus from blog and campaign websites. With a strong footprint in the enterprise market, it supports content on a global and local level. With extensive content staging, editing and translation capabilities, Drupal helps editors worldwide.

3. Roadmap

Drupal is open source and tracks what is available in the market, so that you can replace linked systems more easily. This is in sharp contrast to the technical roadmap of proprietary systems that are out of your control. Proprietary systems often follow a strategy where functionalities are added through acquisitions, and the products are connected to each other.

Drupal DXP in practice: Thuisarts.nl

The Dutch health platform Thuisarts.nl makes extensive use of the possibilities of Drupal DXP. The website is the central point for all content, different channels link from there. This covers screens in general practitioners waiting rooms, mobile apps and other health websites such as Apotheek.nl and Zorgkaart Nederland. Thanks to the Drupal DXP, the content is displayed perfectly on all the different channels. These links and integrations make Thuisarts.nl more useful and more usable to more parties.

Would you like to know how to harness the power of Drupal DXP for your organisation?

With our 15 years of Drupal experience, we have helped many organisations to achieve their goals. Are you curious about what Drupal can do for your organisation? Then allow us to introduce you to the DXP and we will show you what it can do for you.

Tibor Uittenbogaard
About the author
Tibor Uittenbogaard
Digital Consultant - iO

A true end-to-end evangelist, Tibor loves guiding initially overwhelmed prospects towards salvation using iO’s expert offering. In fact, the more challenging the initial request, the better. His way of digital matchmaking consists of both asking questions and challenging answers – being a sparring partner on the offensive.

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