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Front End Drupal 68

Michael J. Ross writes "Content management systems (CMSs) are created largely by Web developers using back-end programming languages (such as PHP, by far the most common choice). The free CMSs are built as open source projects, by volunteers who have many demands on their time. As a result of both of these competing factors, far less time is devoted to the front-end aspects of these CMSs. In turn, the "themes" that define the appearance of a CMS-based website are typically substandard, in the eyes of many Web designers and, most likely, countless users of those sites. This criticism has been leveled even against Drupal, although the situation is improving. A new book, Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting, is intended to help Drupal designers everywhere speed up that process of improvement." Read on for the rest of Michael's review.
Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting
author Emma Jane Hogbin and Konstantin Kafer
pages 456
publisher Prentice Hall
rating 8/10
reviewer Michael J. Ross
ISBN 978-0137136698
summary A comprehensive guide to creating Drupal themes.
The book was written by Emma Jane Hogbin and Konstantin Käfer, and published by Prentice Hall on 15 April 2009, under the ISBN 978-0137136698. As suggested by its title, Front End Drupal "is designed to help both experienced designers and rank novices get an understanding of how Drupal theming works," to quote from the book's foreword, written by Dries Buytaert, Drupal's founder and project lead. He notes that creating a Drupal theme requires knowledge of "XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP, all within the context of Drupal." These are some of the key technologies addressed in the book's eleven chapters, and it assumes that the reader is at least familiar with all four of them. The first of the two appendices explains: how to install Drupal and contributed modules on the three different platforms supported (Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X); basic configuration and administration; and installation troubleshooting tips. The second appendix comprises some of the more important example code used in the book, and brief overviews thereof. At the end of the book's 456 pages, there is a coupon code for a 45-day free subscription to read the online edition in the Safari Books Online library

All of the sample source code and themes can be downloaded from the authors' book website. The site also has the author biographies, as well as reported errata, of which there are two, as of this writing. What is most striking about the site is its styling — or lack thereof. One would think that the authors of a book on Drupal theming would have put a commensurate amount of effort into crafting an attractive custom theme for their own website — one that demonstrates their own theming skills and, more importantly to the reader, what is possible using the principles taught in the book. Remarkably, the authors appear to have done nothing more than take the Drupal 6 default theme, Garland, and change the color scheme from shades of blue to shades of brown (matching the book cover); only the blue Drupal icon is unchanged, and its color clashes with the rest of the site.

Prentice Hall makes available their own Web page for the book, where visitors will find a description, two reviews, the table of contents, and a sample chapter ("The Drupal Page") as a PDF file. The entire book is also available in electronic form.

In the book's preface, the authors briefly summarize the chapters and appendices, and define the target audience and technologies with which the reader should be knowledgeable (noted above). Readers should also be familiar with how Drupal works, have some experience administering a Drupal site, and ideally possess some knowledge of website design and development; but that last one is not a hard requirement, since the authors promise to explain the basic concepts as needed.

Any reader who begins the book by skimming the table of contents or the preface's summary of Chapter 1, may be tempted to skip that chapter, especially since it discusses team workflow — something freelancers generally ignore, and employees leave to management. Yet the earlier material is worth reading, if only that it begins to establish a baseline of terminology used throughout the rest of the book. It also provides some basic information on content structure, layout, and naming on a Drupal page. For illustrating the ideas under discussion, the authors use a number of existing websites. In fact, too many different sites: Readers probably would have found it more useful for each idea to be presented in the context of a single neutral subject area, and without distractions such as toilet birthdays (no kidding). Even better, the ideas could have been illustrated through example pages — each page illustrating one or several ideas — built from the ground up. By focusing on pages that a reader could quickly create on his own, the authors could have eliminated the screenshots of those various websites. One example is Figure 1.1, which combines two images, with the topmost one largely obscuring the one below. Most of the topics are covered at a very high level — possibly higher in some cases than readers will find valuable. Nonetheless, there is much solid advice, including some recommended theme resources later in the chapter. In the earlier section on "Topical Organization," there is a brief but excellent discussion on the relative merits of limited versus unlimited tag vocabularies.

The second chapter continues to lay the groundwork, by introducing basic Drupal theme strategies and terminology, three major modules that veteran Drupal developers use frequently (CCK, Views, and Devel), and some valuable browser-based development tools. The definitions of Drupal terms are useful — especially for newbies confused by the Drupal handbooks. One exception is the authors' alternative metaphor for "weight," which proves more confusing than the original. Readers then begin learning how to use the aforesaid modules and tools. However, several of the authors' statements are misleading: On page 43, they are instructed to install the CCK module, and then given a list of additional modules needed; the first one on the list is... CCK. On the next page, the authors state that the FileField module requires the Token module, but it apparently does not. On the page after that, the "manage fields" link is given as the "add field" link. Those last two discrepancies suggest that the book is based on outdated versions of Drupal and/or the contributed modules under discussion, even though its publication date is just a few weeks prior to this writing. Any version differences are likely impossible to confirm, since the authors fail to mention which versions they are using, or provide any guidance to the reader as to which versions to use — unusual for a programming book. At the beginning of the chapter, the reader is told he "will learn step-by-step how to create a mini portfolio Web site," but the process peters out not long after a new content type is created, and the reader finishes the chapter with no such portfolio site.

Chapters 3 and 4 move the reader one step closer toward the ultimate goal of being able to create a new theme with confidence. The first one explains how to find, install, and configure prebuilt themes — also, how to create a very basic theme from scratch, and a subtheme using the Zen starter theme. This material comprises a generally thorough introduction to the topics, compared to most documentation, with plenty of step-by-step explanation. An exception is the Zen section, in which the reader is instructed to place the directory into the themes folder; but it is not made clear whether this is the primary Drupal themes folder, or sites/all/themes (as advised several pages earlier). Secondly, in step 3, readers can only guess as to what is meant by "the main CSS file," as there are several. On the next page, the authors mention "configure" links next to the Zen and Zen Classic themes, but no such links exist for those starter themes. The fourth chapter discusses page template files, site-wide variables, menus and navigation, regions and blocks, search results, templating different sections of a site, aliased URLs, taxonomy templates, and styling for output to printers, PDF files, and mobile devices.

The fifth chapter explores the details of how to modify existing node templates, or create new ones, for all content types. This is what makes it possible to develop highly customized page content, including summaries, embedded images, image galleries, and content based upon output from the Views module. The subsequent chapter focuses on one of the most problematic types of content — forms — and how they can be created using the CCK. The authors recommend TinyMCE as one's WYSIWYG editor module, but that has apparently been replaced by the Wysiwyg API. User editing of content is a key element in building an online community using a Drupal-based site, and it is the topic of Chapter 7, which discusses user profiles, permissions, access, comments, blogs, forums, wikis, spam, CAPTCHAs, and how to make content private for members only. The next chapter addresses the theming of the administrative interface, which the typical site user will never see, but can have a significant impact upon the productivity of the developers and maintainers of a site. Readers learn about RootCandy (a refreshingly different admin theme), and how to theme error pages.

The final three chapters focus on JavaScript and jQuery. Consequently, they compose a stand-alone resource of their own, and could even have been used as the basis for a separate book. Chapter 9 provides an overview of the language, while the other two chapters cover jQuery and how it can be used as part of a Drupal-based site.

Scattered throughout the manuscript are tips, each indicated with a pencil tip icon. These help to break up the text visually, and provide valuable guidance. The contrast between the black text and the dark gray background could certainly be improved; but most of the tips are fairly short, so this does not pose a major problem.

Every chapter ends with a summary, and not a single one of them is useful or needed. Any unique information conveyed in them should have been merged with the introductory paragraphs for the respective chapters, which is where readers would be looking anyway to see what each chapter addresses.

The book has numerous minor problems, including grammatical and stylistic errors, such as dashes incorrectly performing the duty of semicolons, some URLs missing the root directory slash, and excessive use of exclamation marks (more than a dozen before even reaching the second chapter). When stating the sequence of menu items to choose in order to reach a particular admin page, the authors should use ">" or ">>" to separate the menu choices, as is done in most computer books. Instead, the authors opted to use commas, which of course turns every sequential menu path into a list of menu items, which is nonstandard and disconcerting. As is typical in a first edition, the book contains several errata: "Partnership" in Figure 1.7 (page 10), "the GiMP" (page 14; should simply read "GIMP"; after all, this isn't Pulp Fiction), "only focus only" (page 26), "Modification / Date" in Figure 2.1 (page 37; should read "Modification date"), "Content Creation Kit" (throughout the book; should read "Content Construction Kit"), "of [the] view" (page 56), "http:jigsaw" (page 66), "INSTALL [is] present" (page 79), "of [a] page" (page 100), and "to to" (page 125) — in the first quarter of the book alone.

A lingering disappointment is that some of the promised examples are not finished in the narrative, such as the portfolio site mentioned earlier. Secondly, the downloadable source code is incomplete, apparently missing the example code in the first few chapters, such as the Bolg theme files. Furthermore, the downloadable code is not organized by chapter, making it difficult to even determine what example code is missing.

On the other hand, the book has much to offer. For the most part, the explanations and step-by-step instructions are clear, and the diagrams and screenshots are all neatly presented and helpful — though some sections of the book could have benefited from more such figures. With its extensive coverage of all the key technologies, and its wealth of valuable tips, Front End Drupal is an essential resource for learning how to create Drupal themes, and fills a long-standing gap in the Drupal literature, better than any other book currently available.

Michael J. Ross is a freelance Web developer and writer.

You can purchase Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.


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Front End Drupal

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  • by diskofish ( 1037768 ) on Monday May 18, 2009 @02:28PM (#28000731)
    and I said "Good Riddance". Drupal is powerful, but not really that fun to develop with.
    • The biggest issue is that many of the CMS developers lay the page out for you. They hard code all of these little boxes. This one goes here at the top left. Under that is a banner.

      It's *not* up to the designer to decide what goes where or even if its appropriate for the site to have even a given little box. All the designer can do with it is to try to "deal with it".

      Worse yet, to move them around or remove them becomes a hideously painful exercise in hacking someone else's code base.

  • by shoppa ( 464619 ) on Monday May 18, 2009 @02:47PM (#28001027)
    What's most intriguing, is that 90% of the sites fronted by content management systems actually have no content!
    • by operator_error ( 1363139 ) on Monday May 18, 2009 @02:52PM (#28001111)

      You mean like Slashdot?

    • by sgbett ( 739519 )

      Furthermore (and the most glaring mistake, as mentioned in TFR) the website for a book about Drupal themes, has virtually no theming.

      • Knowing both Emma Jane and Konstantin personally, I would say that they are both developers and drupal community members first and marketing people second. Making a flashy site may just have been the last step that didn't quite happen. I believe it is each of their first books.

        It is definitely a weak spot for the image of the book that the companion site only uses garland (Drupal's default theme) but please try to see this in context. This is two insiders in the drupal community trying to give the rest o

  • female impersonator? Or was he that libertarian that ran for president?
  • Tired of crappy CMS' (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 18, 2009 @02:57PM (#28001171)

    I'm so tired of taking over sites where the former "developer" used a Drupal or Joomla installation.

    It is inevitable that the requirements of a custom web app will eventually exceed the capability of these systems. Knowledge of a particular CMS does not a developer make! These are tools in a toolbox and should be used as such. I hate it when people sell themselves as freelance "programmers", but really they only know how to use a particular CMS. So lets write a book and encourage this behavior - bluagh..

    --that's my 2 cents, but then again, I'm just an anonymous coward :-)

    • by revjtanton ( 1179893 ) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:15PM (#28001481) Homepage Journal

      I installed a Joomla site for a latino non-profit in Baltimore who's previous site was a mess. It was a mess because my "predecessor" threw a bunch of random things together (directory using a database and articles in plain html only) and those who run the charity don't know anything about web design at all. I came in and installed Joomla and designed a few things to work in that installation because it is easy for someone to use AFTER I step away.

      If your argument is that Joomla and Drupal have no place because web apps will outpace their development then why is the Joomla extension repository so extensive and growing? For every new app or site that comes along someone will develop a module or plugin for the CMS's because a CMS is easier to handle for a business that doesn't conduct even 50% of it's business online and so there will be a market for easy to use plugins.

      If your main argument is your other one: freelancers who install a CMS and call themselves programmers are frauds then I can't really argue with you. For someone to call themselves a developer or programmer simply because they've installed a CMS is silly, but there are plenty of us who are programmers of one type or another that still use a CMS because there is no need to completely redesign the wheel every year. I'm all for people learning to write code, but if everyone wrote code then my abilities would be worthless...

      All I'm saying is that the capability threshold of any CMS is irrelevant in terms of web applications because anything can be branded obsolete by anything else at any time (see Wolfram|Alpha [] vs. Google []); and while installing or administrating a CMS doesn't make you a developer on its own, plenty of us developers give a CMS it's value and that's what this book is pointing out!

      • I'm all for people learning to write code, but if everyone wrote code then my abilities would be worthless...

        Well, everyone (practically) drives nowadays, but that doesn't mean YOUR ability to drive is worthless. And there's still a need for people like bus drivers, taxi drivers, etc.

        • I don't think that analogy works exactly...what I was saying is that coding, unlike driving, is more specialized. It would not be beneficial for everyone in society to take the time to learn PHP or Java, however it would benefit everyone to know how to transport themselves great distances in a small amount of time. It would not benefit anyone for everyone to learn how to code, it would only cheapen it all.

          Also drivers did get paid well until driving was common...and I don't mean to sound elitist but softw

    • by Shados ( 741919 )

      The more mature CMSs (such as those you mentionned, Alfresco, Sharepoint, etc) can be extended programmatically to do pretty much anything and everything, so its just a foundation. Unlike prebaked web packages of old, where if you hit the limit, you were screwed, these are just a starting point that can be extended indefinately. Usually they're selected by the developers once the requirements are excessive to begin with :)

    • It is inevitable that the requirements of a custom web app will eventually exceed the capability of these systems.

      Citation? What percentage of these systems outgrow their CMS? I'm not much of a programmer but even I've extended drupal.

      • by hobo sapiens ( 893427 ) <ELIOT minus poet> on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:46PM (#28002789) Journal

        Ah the ever popular Request for Citation, the easy but ultimately ineffective method of deflecting anecdote.

        What, do you expect someone to have some case study that considers which percentage of all websites ever created outgrow their CMS? Argh, as if! Anecdote is the best you'll get in this type of discussion. Guess what? IT pros get paid based on their knowledge of anecdote; it's called experience.

        I agree with OP. Many of these CMS have fairly limited use cases. As soon as you outgrow that you have to hack its core, which often produces less-then-stellar results. Then you have to learn the (in the case of Drupal) byzantine and poorly documented API.

        Use Drupal if you want a blog or some kind of a news site where content is published for people to read and comment on. If you want something more, then creating software to fit your need IS NOT reinventing the wheel. It's building for your particular use case. Don't use a hammer when you need a sawzall.

        If you want a skyscraper you wouldn't make the mistake of piling prefab houses on top of one another to reach the desired height (after all, the walls are built! Why, it'd be reinventing the wheel to build walls!) If you want an eCommerce site or some other relatively complex or specialized app, then don't make the mistake using an overgrown blog site. The time you save doing things that *are* wheel reinvention (authentication, user profile, other plumbing functions) will be lost when you need to kludge something together to stay withing the framework and still fit your needs, and then have to support said kludge.

        • by rho ( 6063 )

          Then you have to learn the (in the case of Drupal) byzantine and poorly documented API.

          This is where I stopped using Drupal.

          Well, sort-of. I also had a GPL issue where I had to keep arms-length from a proprietary system in order to integrate with a Drupal system, but mainly it was trying to make Drupal scale. I don't mean scale in the sense of multiple servers, but "scale" in the sense of keeping track of a system of sufficient size. At some point you've got dozens and dozens of modules of varying quality

        • I agree with OP. Many of these CMS have fairly limited use cases. As soon as you outgrow that you have to hack its core

          Or write a module that has the functionality you're looking for. It's not that much harder than writing it for your homebrew web app, plus other people will be able to benefit from what you've developed afterwards.

  • by haeger ( 85819 ) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:12PM (#28001427)

    Looking for answers or reporting bugs is somewhat unsatisfying in drupal. To be honest not really drupal but the modules but since they're actually what makes sites useful. Bugs and supportrequests go unanswered for months unfortunatly.
    I love drupal and use it for my own site but finding support is quite hard. Usually it means going into irc and bothering people there which is a bit sad since most answers aren't searchable later. Yes I do try to add the answers I get to in case you were wondering.

    Ok, so this wasn't exactly on topic but hey, not many drupal stories show up on slashdot so I thought I'd grab the chance to whine a little.

    • I've found that if you're using more or less mainstream modules, there's plenty of activity. If you're off on the fringes, be prepared to fix problems yourself.

      • by ari_j ( 90255 )
        I've found that asking questions is a great way to avoid getting answers. Perhaps things have improved since my last attempt at getting into Drupal (n years ago for n on [2,4]), but at the time it was impossible to even find enough API documentation to develop an extension for such eccentric fringes as wanting a sane work flow for content writers.
        • These days there are modules which provide a sane workflow. I guess other people were working on them. I am somewhat dismayed at how long it is taking to bring out D7, on which I am waiting for any number of projects. D7 has the database refactoring in it.

      • which is another way to say what I said above: Drupal is fine as a blog or a news site. For everything else, look elsewhere.

  • by message144 ( 1246846 ) on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:02PM (#28002181)

    I have been developing for Drupal for 5 years, with a portfolio of many large scale projects. I am also the author of some popular Drupal modules.

    With all that said, in my experience, Drupal offers zero TCO or ETA advantage over Django or Symfony on any medium to large project. A lot of the great things you may hear about Drupal are coming from either (a) Non-developers or (b) People who have staked their careers on Drupal.

    A few reasons why Drupal cannot be taken seriously include...

    1) Lack of unified model layer and no ORM. The recent efforts to implement schema definitions are still, unfortunately terrible. All content types should be able to be defined as a model, including CCK fields.

    2) Over-reliance on Views and CCK modules. These are just fancy interfaces for a model layer. They are great for non-developers, but in no way compare to a proper model implementation. At the end of the day, you will save zero time by implementing a Drupal View over implementing a simple ORM call. Views and CCK slows down development.

    3) Lack of any solid deployment procedures. Ever tried merging changes between different Drupal configurations?

    4) Using native PHP as the templating language. This causes more headaches than one you can possibly believe. A proper templating language should be used instead which will prevent lazy or incompetant developers from adding business logic into templates.

    5) An army of incompetant, unexperienced developers contributing sub-par modules.

    6) Lack of any kind of namespacing whatsoever. "De-Facto Namespacing" is a pile of shit.

    • by timothyf ( 615594 ) on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:55PM (#28002969) Homepage

      I won't comment on the ORM, Views and CCK stuff beyond agreeing that it could be a lot better (though what we have now is much better than where we were). I'm not sure what would constitute solid deployment procedures for you, so without an example I can't comment.

      4) Using native PHP as the templating language. This causes more headaches than one you can possibly believe. A proper templating language should be used instead which will prevent lazy or incompetant developers from adding business logic into templates.

      I can't say that I agree with you on that--most of the template engines I've seen end up replicating a high percentage of core PHP--but in any case, it's a problem that has been fixed already by theme engines. Don't like phptemplate? Use Smarty: [] or develop your own theme engine.

      5) An army of incompetant, unexperienced developers contributing sub-par modules.

      I would say that's not so much the problem as that there isn't a good way to separate the wheat from the chaff currently, though it sounds like that's in the works for the next iteration of

      6) Lack of any kind of namespacing whatsoever. "De-Facto Namespacing" is a pile of shit.

      Heh. Agreed, though I think that this is somewhat a function of the lack of namespacing in PHP influencing the design.

      • by ari_j ( 90255 )
        The debate between "template languages end up implementing most of PHP anyhow, so just use PHP for your template language" and "you should maintain model and view separation, and using PHP for your template language makes it too tempting and easy to break that separation" will never end. One thing to keep in mind, for both sides, is that PHP is nothing but a template engine that has outgrown its britches. Using it to develop a CMS is bound to end up breaking model/view separation by having templates with
    • by dahmak ( 1247438 )
      I have been playing around with drupal among other crappy content management systems such as Joomla 4 years ago I gave up and that is when we decided to build our own content management system from scratch, what we wanted to achieve was an extremely easy way to integrate templates without having to be a rocket scientist, we decided to use Smarty for that, we wanted to build our own plugins that were guaranteed to work with each other without introducing security issues, now 4 years down the line we have a c
      • by gobbo ( 567674 )

        Karim, your site looks great at first but it has a huge navigation bar with mostly non-functional links -- a show-stopper. The site does a great job of promoting objectCMS up to the point where it 1) fails to describe its licensing in any way and 2) doesn't offer a way to download it.

        That's completely amateur, with slick gradients and rounded corners attached, especially for a SEO company.

        Too bad, I was intrigued, hoping to find a CMS for a large media archive.

    • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Monday May 18, 2009 @05:34PM (#28003497)

      Would you be willing to elaborate a little on your concerns, please?

      Some colleagues and I are about to start a major overhaul of a moderately large site (a few dozen pages, a few thousand users, a few hundred visitors per day). It seems like the first choice is basically between "standard framework with some plug-in custom features" (CMSes like Drupal) and "custom architecture with some standard plug-in features" (using things like Django and some common libraries).

      So far, we've been forming the opposite view to you: a lot of the site we'll be producing is static content, but a few parts will require moderately structured data (the equivalent of a few tables and some simple SQL queries), and for that balance Drupal seems like the best tool we've considered so far. We don't have much experience with these particular tools, but the guys building the system will be proper designers/developers, while the guys maintaining some of the content will be entirely non-technical. Is our situation just different to what you're describing, or are there really a bunch of problems waiting for us a little way down the line?

      • I am a LAMP developer who was kind of thrown into doing Drupal development. Maybe I can offer some insight.

        If you don't have *Drupal* developers, forget it. Drupal's famous learning curve will prevent your guys from working for a while (its been frustrating for me). Documentation isn't great. There are a few books,'s *very* complex.

        Drupal is more than a mere MVC. It does some cool things, like Inversion of Control (via its hooks) and it does some things I feel a pretty lamebrained (it's so mod

        • Thanks for sharing your experience and insights. It sounds like both your background before Drupal and your general views of development are pretty similar to most of our guys.

          We've reached the first test you described so far: we've got a test install, and established that much of what we need can be done with the core plus a few modules built around CCK and Views for the custom data. Some of it is indeed not as simple as with just writing a bit of database code, to be sure, but so far it's been close enoug

        • I think Drupal can be taken seriously, but I'm just a casual user. I'm learning how it works in my spare time by setting up a web site and seeing what works and what doesn't. One resource I've found that has made it easier to separate the wheat from the chaff (as far as modules go) is the book Using Drupal [], reviewed here []

          Maybe Drupal is an amateur CMS and all I'll get out of it is a beautiful blog, wiki or image gallery, but it seems to have a lot of potential. There are modules for e-commerce, file handlin

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by yareckon ( 1236270 )

      I disagree about the importance of many of your points in the grand scheme of things (when considered against the benefits of a very capable core platform with literally thousands of plugins).

      However, some of what you say is important, is widely acknowledged, and is being actively worked on. Deployment and change management for content and configurations in particular has been a weak point of drupal to this point, but there are now several major projects underway that attack this from different angles. I

      • "Deployment and change management for content and configurations in particular has been a weak point of drupal to this point"

        I'd agree, and that in itself makes Drupal a real pain for any kind of real development shop (dev, test, prod servers which should be more or less in sync after a release.)

        "You will need to wade into the community to get the most out of drupal, IMHO."

        Another thing I dislike. I like community, don't get me wrong. I have been working with a few developers of some popular Drupal module

    • Drupal is not RoR or Django, so don't compare apples and oranges. First, a Drupal view is not equivalent to ORM. A Drupal view is on a higher level. It takes drupal content, lets you slice, dice and display it. Maybe you meant CCk. As to not using PHP as a templating language, you can always use the smarty engine if you want, but then you are just adding another layer of stuff that could break or cause security issues.

      Now, Drupal is not perfect, but what it does it does well.

  • heh... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Gabbermatt ( 1120399 )
    And here I thought this was going to be a book about what happens to women when they grow older...
    • Ahh if it happened to women only... *sniff* here I am, 56 years old, and the proud stallion is now a tame pony :D

  • CMSes and my opinion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vamman ( 1156411 ) on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:46PM (#28002779)
    Let me take a step backwards for a second and explain my situation. I've been developing for the web for many years now and I've seen technology come and go but I've never seen an idea of an OpenSource web portal take such a strong hold as Joomla! has. PHPNuke was close but even then you rarely randomly stumbled upon a Nuke site every second search. However, unlike Nuke, Joomla seems to have taken over like a bad storm.

    I still have some websites lingering around that use Joomla but I am very much dissociated with that CMS, infact any CMS nowadays. I find the issues that these systems bring to the table far outweigh any little added productivity that a small group can sustain. There are teams of script kiddies from Asia and elsewhere scouring online websites for these systems to prove just how easy they are to hack into. If you have an online database with confidential client information, you are in trouble.

    The largest website I manage is my own and it ran Joomla for 2 years while I was working on my MSc degree. I had to deal with repeated attempts by hackers to break into this website. It was very frustrating after scouring logs on my linux server to find out that they came in through one of the "secured" CMSs. SQL injections, cross site scripting hacks, upload/media vulnerabilities, you pretty much name it that so called secure web server had one big gaping hole in it and that was Joomla.

    I peruse Joomlancers sometimes when looking for some spare cash (freelancing site dedicated to Joomla) and try to encourage local North American companies to ditch this disaster of a CMS. Not only do you have to deal with bugs and exploits at the core but when people load up this CMS with extensions that are mostly all crap (even Community Builder can't seem to get it right) you put together a nice looking template (like this guy with his book from Drupal suggests) and then put it out there for the "Mad Dogs of Vietnam" to hack into and make your online reputation look like shit.

    I salute the chap that pointed out how vastly the Joomla community is growing with its extensions and micro-economic community, its a good point really. But if you take a look at whose running these communities (Joomla Art, a popular Joomla template company, Joomlancers, and others) are all owned by a Vietnam company that has less than stellar ethics when dealing with clients - Just search the Joomla forums. I have to wonder why the top contributors and hackers are all from the same city Hai Noi =) Birds of a feather I suppose or is that just job "security"?

    I got out as fast as I got into looking after websites running Joomla. Last year we had 13 clients running Joomla and what a headache I developed looking after these sites. The previous freelancers knew how to use a CMS and after that they knew nothing. Even their half-assed attempts at building in additional functionality was more of a joke than anything. I had clients breathing down my neck over issues that were really out of my control. One day I woke up and realized that the real issue was Joomla and thats when I drew the line with it. Now a days I only work for clients that will develop from the ground up. I no longer have to deal with the types of security issues that these open CMS systems bring to the table. They are great to impress a client in a hurry with something that looks and works right away but as the days turn into months you will have the gut feeling like "what did I do..." ...don't do it. Build yourself a core set of functions and your own library in PHP and then build ontop of that individual sites. Code Ignitor among others still get a thumbs up from me. Don't use the same mysql fields all the time. Change your database connection strings up. Change critical global variables every now and then. Thats my 2 cents.
    • Somewhat off-topic, but I was wondering if you've tried ExpressionEngine? It's not open source, but it's definitely the most user-and-designer-friendly light-weight CMS I've used.

    • I work for a company that provides Business Intelligence services. While we are all highly competent IT professionals none of us are developers. Using Drupal we have been able to set up our knowledgebase and task tracking system mainly using CCK and Views modules.

      The point I am trying to make is for individuals like you who can write code, do write your code. But if your core business is not writing code and you need to create some sort of web application without having to learn to code then a CMS is a good

  • As someone who has been developing custom CMSes at various jobs for over a decade, I've gotten to know what makes a CMS work (or not) quite well, and I've given most of the popular PHP-based open source CMSes (especially Drupal, Joomla, and MODx) more than a fair chance to impress me.

    So far, I always eventually get frustrated with their arcane and idiosyncratic ways of doing things, which often require as much new specialized knowledge as learning a programming language in itself, and in the end they're
    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      Wordpress is NASTY. Jesus Christ it's horrific. Ugh. Sprawling spaghetti-code, hideously written. Nasty.
  • The fact we have a book on front-end CMS design is irony in itself.

    The problem with popular CMS systems today stems from the tight coupling of back-end architecture and front-end architecture.

    Remove the coupling, and the need for a book on Front End Drupal vanishes, leaving us with a simple API which we can integrate with our own custom or third party front-end.
    • Remove the coupling, and the need for a book on Front End Drupal vanishes, leaving us with a simple API which we can integrate with our own custom or third party front-end.

      I disagree. With decoupling you might have a simple API, but that API is specific to the CMS you're using. You might still want to have a book from which to learn how to use it to create front ends.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's