You’re likely to encounter Drupal at some point if you have anything to do with designing, building, or updating websites. After all, Drupal has been around since 2009 and is now used by half of fortune 500 companies. 

This article is ideal for anyone who wants to get familiar with Drupal, understand its features and benefits, and find resources to adopt Drupal for their website. 

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What is Drupal – a CMS or a DXP? 

At its core, Drupal is a content management system (CMS). A CMS gives non-developers a way to create, structure, update, and manage content on their website. Drupal also lets you build publishing workflows and various dynamic features around your content. 

Over the years, Drupal has evolved into the central component of a digital experience platform (DXP). A DXP is an integrated set of technologies that deliver user experiences across various digital touchpoints—such as websites, online ads, email campaigns, and social media. On top of the traditional capabilities of a CMS, a DXP may include customer relationship management, marketing automation, analytics, personalization, digital asset management, and so on. It’s a powerful way for organizations to adapt and grow their online presence in the fast-paced, ever-changing digital landscape. 

Drupal really shines for projects where you want to combine high-quality content with a full range of tools for your marketing and web development teams. Because we’re an agency that specializes in Drupal, Evolving Web partners with Acquia—an open-source DXP designed solely for Drupal—to enable many of our clients to run enhanced digital solutions.

📖Download our free ebook to help you plan your site and adopt Drupal

Is Drupal Free to Use?

Drupal is an open source CMS, so it’s free to use and extend—there are no licensing fees like there are with proprietary software. You still have other costs to consider when building a site, such as custom web development and web design services

Open source is about far more than getting something for nothing though. Open source software has code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance. This means that thousands of people from across the world can come together to make Drupal better for everyone. More than 7,800 people made open source contributions to Drupal in 2023 alone. 

Drupal’s large global community provides the skill, knowledge, and people-power needed for quick and effective innovation in Drupal. For example, it has provided rigorous vetting and creative applications for AI technologies in Drupal. The community also provides diverse perspectives to ensure Drupal evolves in a way that’s inclusive, accessible, and considerate of various user needs. Guided by the open web manifesto, it strives to create a web that’s a better place for all. 

What Does Drupal Include?

Drupal core provides the essential functionalities that any website needs, including main navigation, content pages, header, footer, search bar, and so on. It also provides tools to enable your team to create and manage content. 

Drupal’s out-of-the-box features include: 

  • WYSIWYG editor that enables content editors and site admins to easily draft, edit, preview, archive, publish, and update content. Drupal 10 introduced CKEditor 5 for an enhanced editing experience.
  • Layout Builder, a powerful no-code solution that allows non-technical users to quickly and easily build custom landing pages. It features templated layouts and drag-and-drop tools. 
  • Customizable workflows, approvals, and revisions so that you can track every content update and revert to a previous version.
  • Admin toolbar which gives you quick access to the most important administrative pages. 
  • Default front-end theme, Olivero, which offers a modern, responsive, accessible design for your website users. 
  • Default admin UI theme, Claro, which offers a simple, intuitive, mobile-friendly interface for content editors and site builders. 
  • Media module which allows users to upload, manage, and reuse files and multimedia assets, including local media and remote content from YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, etc.
  • Media Library, which provides additional features for finding and using existing media items, particularly useful for sites with large amounts of reusable content.
  • Web form builder for easily creating anything from a simple contact form or survey to complex, multi-step application forms.
  • Content translation module for creating multilingual websites. 
  • Customizable URLs and configurable metatags to help you create user-friendly, search engine optimized content.
  • Search module that lets users look for specific content on your site, as well as integrations with enterprise-grade search engines such as Solr.
  • Migrate module which provides services for migrating data from different sources to Drupal 9/10.
  • Regular updates to ensure security, improve performance, and provide even better features for your team and end-users. 

Drupal’s flexible architecture and modular design means there’s lots you can do to customize and extend your website once you have the basics in place.

Drupal theming allows you to tailor the look and feel of your website according to your brand guidelines and using your framework of choice. It’s common to buy a theme from a third party, or to ask a digital agency like Evolving Web to design and develop a custom theme for you. 

Drupal contributed modules enable you to add new features and extend the functionality of your website. There are currently more than 51,000 ready-to-add-on modules to choose from! You can easily search them within the admin dashboard using the Project Browser module in Drupal 10

Drupal’s API-first architecture includes support for REST, JSON, and GraphQL APIs, making it a dependable CMS for hybrid or fully decoupled configurations. This means you can use Drupal to power the back-end of your site, while using a different system to present content on the front-end. 

What Is Drupal Used For?

Now that you understand what Drupal is, you might be wondering what types of projects it’s typically used for. Drupal’s superb flexibility, out-of-the-box features, and open source model make it a go-to CMS for large, complex websites—as well as a favourite in the higher education, government, healthcare, and not-for-profit sectors. While many other CMSs focus on serving specific use cases, Drupal has evolved to accommodate almost any use case that involves digital content.

Drupal powers a wide range of digital experiences, including:

  • Corporate and institutional websites – distributed publishing workflows, corporate branding
  • Intranets – private content, custom workflows for internal processes, listings of internal content, single-sign-on
  • Online directories – advanced search interfaces, related content listings, integrations with third-party content
  • Interactive websites – features for logged-in users, multi-step forms, content personalization, custom JavaScript to create dynamic interfaces like maps and visualizations, decoupled front-ends
  • Marketing portals – landing pages that drive SEO and user experience, integrations with marketing automation tools, taxonomy and metadata management

Looking for inspiration and examples? Browse some of the Drupal projects we’ve delivered in partnership with various organizations across North America—including Planned Parenthood Direct, Beneva, SkilledTradesBC, and Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Why Choose Drupal?

There are dozens of reasons for any organization to use Drupal—we’ve outlined several below. It’s also worth looking into the benefits of Drupal 10, as well as the sector-specific advantages of Drupal for higher education and government organizations.

Reliable Security

Your organization is responsible for providing a secure website that protects user data. Drupal has a dedicated security team that regularly releases security updates to fix potential vulnerabilities before they’re exploited. It also has strong coding standards and a strict community code review process that minimizes potential risks. 

The Automatic Updates module in Drupal 10 allows you to make security updates with just a few button clicks—no coding required. Drupal also beats WordPress in its handling of sensitive data and complex security situations, while WordPress’ greater reliance on third-party extensions makes it more vulnerable. 

Powerful Editing Tools

Drupal empowers non-technical users to create dynamic content quickly and easily with tools such as Layout Builder and CKEditor 5. Ongoing Drupal initiatives are working to make the admin interface even more user-friendly. Plus, there are plenty of add-ons for enhancing the content editing experience in your website, such as CKEditor 5 contributed modules.

Control Over User Permissions 

Organizations can create unlimited user roles in Drupal, allowing them to tightly control who has permissions to view, edit, customize, and publish specific content. It’s an effective way to protect your brand and digital reputation, and to manage workflows within teams and across your wider organization. 

Support for Multisites 

Drupal’s multisite feature allows you to create multiple websites from a single installation. These sites can be managed centrally—by your web team for example—as well as by each department, sub-brand, or child company. It’s an efficient way to control your digital brand while also giving relevant teams ownership of their content. Plus, you can save time and resources by updating to the latest version of Drupal across all your sites at once. 

Check out our collaboration with York University’s Markham Campus as an example of a website that stands alone, yet connects to the University’s wider web ecosystem.

Third-party integrations 

Drupal has long provided dependable support for REST, JSON, and GraphQL APIs, enabling integration with various third-party applications. This means you can create better workflows by connecting your site to a range of digital platforms, systems, and services—and it makes Drupal ideal for a hybrid or decoupled setup. 

Accessibility for Users with Disabilities

Web accessibility is a critical consideration for any organization. It helps you reach a wider diverse audience and meet relevant laws and regulations. Drupal has several core accessibility features, including support for alternative text, captions, transcripts for multimedia content, and a WCAG AA compliant default theme. There are also plenty of add-on modules to help you design an inclusive digital experience. 

Optimized Performance

Performance has a considerable impact on your site’s success. In 2018, the BBC found it was losing some 10% of its audience for every extra second it took their site to load. Drupal significantly outperforms other open source platforms when it comes to performance under pressure. It was designed from the very beginning to be capable of managing heavy traffic loads. Drupal 10 introduced Symfony 6.2 as its underlying tech stack, allowing it to make significant improvements to speed and efficiency through caching, routing, templating and page rendering. Its front-end build process is optimised using tools such as Webpack.


Personalization helps organizations foster valuable, one-to-one relationships online by enabling them to serve relevant content to individual users. Drupal’s capacity for deep customization includes built-in and contributed personalization modules. Organizations looking to take personalization to the next level can leverage state-of-the-art tools from Acquia, a DXP designed solely for Drupal. 

Learn more about why we recommend Drupal to many clients or get in touch to talk to our experts about Drupal’s suitability for your needs. 

A Quick Drupal Glossary

When you’re getting familiar with Drupal, part of the learning curve is understanding the terminology. Don't worry—you’ll soon find it’s not nearly as complicated as it might sound. Here are some useful terms to help you get started right away:

  • Node – any piece of individual content, such as a page, poll, article, forum topic, or a blog entry. 
  • Content type – a template for a specific node type. Typically, each content type has a set of fields that authors use to create it.
  • Taxonomy – vocabularies and terms used to organize your content. For example, this allows you to tag and categorize blog posts or news items.
  • View – a list of content, from a simple news list to something more exciting like a map or a calendar.
  • Module – code that you can add to your Drupal website to enable new functionality.
  • Theme – defines the layout and design of the user interface.
  • Block – a container for displaying anything on a page (the search form, the logo, the copyright notice in the footer.)
  • Permission – a task that a user can do (e.g. viewing content, posting a comment, editing an event.)
  • Role – a type of user (e.g. author, editor, or member.)
  • Drupal core – the out-of-the-box features and functionality that Drupal provides.
  • Contrib module – add-on functionality, made available by the Drupal community.
  • Custom module – add-on functionality, built in-house to address the need for a specific project (e.g. a module that integrates with a custom CRM.)

Fun Facts About Drupal

  • Dries Buytaert created Drupal in 2001, which makes it one of the first open source CMSs ever created.
  • The word Drupal comes from druppel, which means "drop" in Dutch. It was picked after Dries tried to register the domain "" Dorp means "village" in Dutch. He mistyped it as "," and the mistake stuck.
  • Drupal's logo is a stylized drop. The Drupal community also widely uses the Druplicon, a cartoon-like drop that, in the spirit of open source, is adopted by local communities around the world.
  • Drupal's most recent major version is Drupal 10, released on December 14, 2022.
  • As of December 2023, there are 783,930 websites on Drupal.
  • Drupal is written in PHP, the programming language that powers nearly 80% of all websites. The latest version of Drupal uses modern, object-oriented code techniques and takes advantage of the Symfony 6.2 framework.
  • In 2023 more than 7,800 people contributed to Drupal.
  • There are currently more than 51,000 contributed modules available to be added on to Drupal websites. 
  • Drupal is used by 71% of the top 100 universities including MIT, University of Oxford, Stanford, and every Ivy League School. 
  • More than 150 countries use Drupal in government and intergovernmental agencies. 

Getting Started With Drupal

Reading about Drupal is all well and good, but nothing beats seeing it in action for yourself! You can try out Drupal quickly and easily with a free demo hosted by one of Drupal’s trusted partners. You’ll also find a user guide on with simple guidance for installing, administering, site building, and maintaining a Drupal website. Our Drupal 7 to 10 migration guide will help you if you’re upgrading an existing Drupal website to the latest version.

📚 Download our free ebook to help you plan your site and adopt Drupal

Planning, designing, and building a successful Drupal website is a big job. Most organizations partner with a digital agency like Evolving Web. Clients benefit from our Drupal expertise, 16+ years of experience, and team of 90+ strategists, creatives, and technologists. Our services include everything from discovery through to design and development, as well as updates, maintenance, content strategy, and SEO. We also provide Drupal training to empower teams to nurture and grow their websites with confidence.