Drupal or Django? A Guide for Decision Makers

Target Audience

drupliconThere’s a large body of technical information out there about content management systems and frameworks, but not much written specifically for decision-makers. Programmers will always have preferences, but it’s the product managers and supervisors of the world who often make the final decision about what platform on which to deploy a sophisticated site. That’s tricky, because web platform decisions are more-or-less final — it’s very, very hard to change out the platform once the wheels are in motion. Meanwhile, the decision will ultimately be based on highly technical factors, while managers are often not highly technical people.

django-logo-negativeThis document aims to lay out what I see as being the pros and cons of two popular web publishing platforms: The PHP-based Drupal content management system (CMS) and the Python-based Django framework. It’s impossible to discuss systems like these in a non-technical way. However, I’ve tried to lay out the main points in straightforward language, with an eye toward helping supervisors make an informed choice.

This document could have covered any of the 600+ systems listed at cmsmatrix.org. We cover only Drupal and Django in this document because those systems are highest on the radar at our organization. It simply would not be possible to cover every system out there. In a sense, this document is as much about making a decision between using a framework or using a content management system as it is between specific platforms. In a sense, the discussion about Drupal and Django below can be seen as a stand-in for that larger discussion.

Disclosure: The author is a Django developer, not a Drupal developer. I’ve tried to provide as even-handed an assessment as possible, though bias may show through. I will update this document with additional information from the Drupal community as it becomes available.

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Notes on a Django Migration

Powered by Django. Earlier this year, I inherited responsibility for the website of the Knight Digital Media Center at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. The site is built with Django, a web application framework written in Python. The J-School has primarily been a PHP shop, using a mixture of open-source apps — lots of WordPress, Smarty templates and piles of home-brew code. Because it’s grown organically over time with no clear underlying architecture and a constantly changing array of publications to support, the organization sits on top of dozens of unrelated databases.

These are my notes and observations on how the J-School got into this mess, why we’ve fallen in love with Django, and how we plan to dig ourselves out.

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