Drupal vs Adobe Experience Manager: Which is Better?5 min read

AEM Improvements

Core Differences

First, I need to point out that this isn’t exactly a one-to-one comparison. Both Drupal and AEM are built using different technologies and platforms. AEM is a proprietary software designed for the largest most complex enterprises while Drupal is open source and is designed to be useful for a wide variety of applications. AEM and Drupal are performing at their core, the same work. It is the way they do the work, the means and the features they are packed with that make them different. We pulled data about the market share of AEM and Drupal using data from Wappalyzer: https://www.wappalyzer.com/ The data shows that while fewer sites use platforms like AEM or Drupal, both AEM and Drupal are used by sites with high traffic. Both Drupal and AEM are leading platforms for enterprise websites that excel in reaching a large audience.

Features

Drupal has great standard features, like easy content authoring, reliable performance, and excellent security. But what sets it apart is its flexibility; modularity is one of its core principles. Its tools help you build the versatile, structured content that dynamic web experiences need. Drupal is open source and supports the creation of modules that do the heavy lifting for features on the system. Modules expand Drupal’s functionality. Themes let you customize your content’s presentation. Distributions are packaged Drupal bundles you can use as starter kits. Mix and match these components to enhance Drupal’s core abilities. Or, integrate Drupal with external services and other applications in your infrastructure. These modules include integration into 3rd party systems like a CRM, social media feeds, testimonial display, contact forms, Google Maps, photo galleries, and much more. These modules can be used by purchasing a monthly license, while others are free or support a freemium payment model. There are modules for Drupal that are designed for drag and drop content authoring for a web page. These include:
  • Acquia’s Lift service and accompanying Lift Connector module
  • Panels module
Drupal supports a content search module called Views. This tool retrieves its data through a database query. It has a robust filtering mechanism geared toward more structured content and can output lists, thumbnails, etc. It is a robust tool that offers more flexibility but carries with it a steep learning curve. Adobe Experience Manager is an all-inclusive system for content management that is equipped to build websites, forms, and mobile apps. AEM effectively manages your content and your applications in an integrated manner, leading to applications being deployed as conveniently as the content. The result is streamlined management of your online presence and that is what Adobe capitalizes on. AEM Specializes in the user interface for content authors. AEM features a highly flexible, drag-and-drop user interface for many content authoring tasks, and tight integration with many of Adobe’s other technologies including:
  • Adobe Analytics
  • Adobe Target
  • Adobe Audience Manager
  • Adobe Commerce Cloud
  • Marketo Engage
A content author can begin creating a new web page or article using pre-existing templates. The content for the page can be created or edited using “content fragments”. These are small pieces of content (text, images, or other media) that can be dragged into the page, and reused across articles. Non-text elements can be dragged in too, including images, video, and even interactive Javascript widgets. AEM is designed to make it easy to control and reuse content and designs.

Personal Considerations

Performance

Websites are expected to load quickly for users and any search engine will punish your page ranking if there are any speed or other SEO issues. How do Drupal and AEM perform and scale? Regarding performance and scalability, AEM works primarily with files, be they content, JavaScript, CSS, etc. AEM can thus take well-established performance and scalability measures such as caching, load balancing, and the use of content delivery networks (CDNs). Adobe has written guidelines for optimizing performance for AEM, but they certainly can be applied to many other web solutions. Drupal can make use of these measures as well but having the capacity to manage more highly structured data introduces scenarios that require frequent database interactions, like user-generated content on a high traffic site. Without proper planning, excessive database activity introduces performance bottlenecks and can limit scalability. The Drupal community has written guidelines for managing this, and indeed, Drupal has proven itself as highly scalable with such sites as Abbott Laboratories, Nordstrom, and Lowes.

Cost

AEM costs up to 1 million depending on the features and services used. Forrester states in its 2016 Vendor Landscape that the average cost is $360,000. Drupal is open source and has many free modules making it a vastly cheaper option, but Drupal does not come without its own cost. You will still need to implement and host your Drupal system. There are many companies that specialize in this. Drupal has a vast array of hosting options at virtually every price point. Both products will require you to look closely at your requirements and evaluate what is needed to reach your audience efficiently and securely.

Support

There is a support community for AEM, but Adobe is the main provider of support AEM. Many businesses operating on AEM hiring teams like Arbory Digital to help them use AEM more efficiently. Adobe has extensive documentation for each build of AEM https://experienceleague.adobe.com/docs/experience-manager-65.html. Adobe also provides direct support for AEM. Drupal has a massive community that supports the open-source project. Drupal relies on peer-reviewed modules and code that makes up the system. The community also supports a dedicated Drupal security team that responds to new threats against Drupal. Operating on Drupal or AEM at a large scale requires a team of people to maintain, manage, and develop content.

Conclusion

Arbory Digital works primarily with AEM but many of our clients ask us about other options for their content management system needs. In my opinion, AEM and Drupal cover different needs for a business. AEM is the best most complete CMS or DXP for large enterprises, but it is a costly system to run. Drupal is a cheaper option for companies that are operating on a smaller scale. As time goes on Drupal’s offerings will continue to expand as the community works to solve more complex problems while Adobe is targeting mid-level enterprises with more competitive pricing and more out-of-the-box solutions with Adobe as a Cloud Service.
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