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Open source CMS comparison: Silverstripe vs Drupal


Open source CMS comparison Silverstripe vs Drupal

As a web content author, you’ll want to work with an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) that ticks all your boxes. But, there are other factors it needs to achieve too. For example, it should also be a customisable, scalable, and secure CMS to name a few. A good CMS that meets the requirements of your business strategy better enables your success as a content author too. An open source CMS can be a great way to enable you to get there. So, in this blog post, we are comparing two open source CMS titans: Silverstripe vs. Drupal.

What is an open source CMS?

An open source CMS, like Silverstripe or Drupal, means you benefit from code changes that other development teams make and vice versa. To explain this in simple terms:

  • Proprietary CMS solutions are “out-of-the-box”. The code that makes up the CMS is locked down and has limited modification capabilities to protect it and provide a solution meeting mass market needs. That means if you want a perfectly customised or unique website for specific goals, you are limited by the out-of-the-box features. In other words, your business strategy or goals must flex to the CMS you are using.
  • An open source CMS is the opposite. Essentially, the CMS comes as a base, working CMS you can utilise. However, the source code is open to anyone in your in-house development team or a trusted third-party to edit. This makes it perfectly customisable – your CMS flexes to enable your business strategy. Furthermore, developers who create new features or enhancements can ‘submit’ their changes to be considered by other CMS users to have too. This is what makes open source powerful.

Another great benefit of open source is that typically, it is free from licensing costs and vendor lock-in.

Do I need technical skills to use Silverstripe or Drupal?

No, you don't need technical skills to use Silverstripe or Drupal as a content author.

For example, both are easy to use to create page types, layouts, menu items, and other content. Additionally, you can easily drag and drop elements, and see your changes in real time with the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors. Essentially, both have user-friendly interfaces and remove the need-to-know how to code for content authors.

However, your organisation may require technical support for things like hosting, special customisations, and security—we’ll cover these in more detail shortly.

What are CMS modules, and why would I use them?

Modules are like a plugin or an add-on for your CMS. Basically, they extend the capability of the content management system to add or alter existing functionality. For example, a module could include pre-built themes or layouts to change your website's look and feel without designing from scratch. Our Catalyst Starter theme is designed and developed alongside Catalyst Starter is a great example of this. Essentially it works as an out-of-the-box tried and tested version of Silverstripe and includes the most commonly used and requested features. The features have been developed and tested to provide the most value. Plus, it’s one of the most user-friendly options you could need to achieve your CMS goals. Learn more about Catalyst Starter.

Silverstripe and Drupal offer a range of supported modules. But, the beauty of open source is if your module doesn’t exist your technical team can build one and even offer it back to other users who may have the same need.

Ultimately, you can use any module for Silverstripe or Drupal, but the initial configuration does need to be completed by someone with technical skills. If you don’t have the in-house capabilities to develop the functionality you're after, or configure a module, choose an experienced CMS partner instead.

Is Silverstripe or Drupal easier to use?

After nearly twenty years of supporting clients to create great CMS for their business, Catalyst has seen great successes with both Silverstripe and Drupal – regardless, of industry or sector. When you have the right expertise and service wrapper in place to support you, both CMSs can help you achieve your goals. However, to help you decide which may work best for your content authoring experience, below are a few insights.

Content authoring in Silverstripe

  • Creating content: You can easily select a page type, like a home page, and the location you'd like the page to exist. For example, a top-level or a sub-page beneath a parent. Plus, you can easily set up where pages are shown, such as in menus or the search bar.
  • Editing and previewing: Preview your edits in real-time, with the option to have a side-by-side preview of the content you’re editing and what it looks like on a range of screen sizes including mobile.
  • Reporting: There are reporting capabilities within Silverstripe, so you can keep track of areas that need to be addressed, such as broken links and files and pages without content.

Content authoring experience in Drupal

  • Creating content: You can easily add content of various types, for example, an article or a basic page, and assign content to a specific region on the page, such as the footer, sidebar, or title. The forms are user-friendly with suggestions of what each option is best for. For example, plain text is great for titles and names, whereas long plain text is best for a description.
  • Editing and previewing: You can edit your content in blocks – one element at a time and easily drag and drop fields and change the order of components in the UI. Once you save changes, you can preview the page immediately.
  • Reporting: The reporting options relate to the site’s operation, recent log messages, and a report for top search phrases.

Does Silverstripe or Drupal have better theming?

In both Silverstripe and Drupal, you can import themes for free. A theme can instantly add a modern design and a responsive layout to your site. Furthermore, you can work with a theme as a base for your brand design or use the theme as is. Basically, themes are a great way to have a good-looking website when you don’t have the in-house expertise to design your CMS. Also, they can be a time-saving hack for adding extra functionality and the design elements you’re after.

Drupal themes

Drupal has a range of themes, starting from a bare minimum base, a standard theme, and an installation profile. You can preview the themes to see what the layout would look like before you install it. However, an installation profile requires some technical skills or technical support as it tailors the site to a specific site need, such as event management or commerce. Installation profiles are a great way to get the look and feel of your website right.

Silverstripe themes

Silverstripe has a default simple theme built in and a range of other themes you can also import. Similar to a Drupal installation profile, we have developed Catalyst Starter which is tailored for a brochure website but also forms the foundation of a much larger, more complex website. Not only is Catalyst Starter a collection of commonly requested features, but it’s complete with modern branding which provides a head start on the theming of your site. Our pre-built theme makes it easier than ever for content authors to get the best out of Silverstripe. Check out the video below.

What’s the difference between Silverstripe and Drupal?

The biggest difference between Silverstripe and Drupal is felt more at a developer level versus content author. For example, a Silverstripe developer works in the code base, and a Drupal developer can branch off in one of two directions:

  • Working solely or mostly in the code base – standard programming.
  • Site building - working with just the GUI (graphical user interface) – editing the admin experience with graphical components such as icons, buttons, and menus without working within code.

Both Silverstripe and Drupal are customisable and your in-house developers, or experienced outsourced experts can help you.

Is Silverstripe or Drupal more secure?

Ultimately, it depends on your security measures. If you’ve got the in-house expertise, you can set up automated testing to check your CMS for bugs and vulnerabilities. Plus, you can integrate Silverstripe or Drupal with automated testing frameworks. But, if you don’t have the in-house expertise to host, test, patch, and upgrade your CMS, work with an experienced CMS partner to support you.

Where can I get CMS support?

At Catalyst, we’ll work with you to build a future-proofed CMS solution for your specific business goals. Our full-service wrapper drives our work, covering design, development, hosting, and ongoing support. We already build, develop, and maintain a range of CMSs across a huge range of industries globally. So, whether you want short-term support to configure modules or need an expert guide to build and maintain a bespoke CMS, we’re ready to help.

Learn more about how our team can help you with your CMS, whether it’s Silverstripe or Drupal, our experts can help.