Finding the Right Modules for Your Drupal Website

February 8, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

If you’re looking for a “set it and forget it” website, the open source content management platform Drupal is not for you. But if your website needs to do more than simply provide information, the vast array of modules created by the Drupal let you customize your website to do almost anything you want it to.

In fact, Drupal.org currently lists more than 19,000 modules. But with so many modules available, how do you find and choose the right ones for your website?

Like WordPress plug-ins or Salesforce apps, modules allow you to easily extend Drupal website’s functionality by adding support for additional features — including online donations and eCommerce storefronts, integrations with third-party tools or databases, or even entire Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Other modules might provide useful tweaks or improvements to core Drupal functionality. For example, there are modules that allow you to more easily customize the layout of the admin user interface or improve built-in site search functionality.

    The incredible flexibility made possible by Drupal modules is both a strength and a weakness of the platform. There’s simply no easy way to sort through all of the module options. You’ll likely want to consult with an expert before choosing modules for your organization, but here are a few tips.

  1. Define Your Needs: The trap many organizations fall into is assuming that, since modules are free, it doesn’t hurt to download a lot of them. But unused modules just create confusion for users and could lead to security vulnerabilities if you fail to update them. It’s better to think through exactly what you need to do on your site and then search for the specific modules that can accomplish those goals.
  2. Check on How Frequently the Module Is Updated: Once you’ve begun digging into the modules that match your needs, pay close attention to how frequently its developer publishes updates. The Drupal community enforces stricter guidelines for code quality of submitted modules and maintains a longer and more thorough security evaluation than other open source Content Management Systems, which can lead to delays. But a regularly updated, actively supported module will likely hew closer to Drupal’s own update schedule, decreasing the time you’ll need to wait to install new updates to the core Drupal platform. A developer who is on top of the update calendar may also be more likely to respond promptly to security vulnerabilities or other issues.
  3. Is the Module Popular?: Unless you’re a Drupal expert, you probably don’t want to be a guinea pig for a new module. Drupal.org allows you to see how many times a module has been downloaded and the number of confirmed installs. It also has a page that allows you to browse the most popular modules. Sticking to frequently-installed modules, at least when starting out, is likely to make your implementation go more smoothly.