In 2017, we had the pleasure of working with the talented women powering Damn Joan, an irreverent, new e-zine that describes itself as having a "visually-driven, immersive interface that lets you wander from story to story without hierarchies or verticals."

Joan's army of rebels is thinking differently about modern publishing and, in advance of launching the inaugural issue of Damn Joan, they reached out to me with this question:

“What is the best CMS for building a budget-friendly, mobile-first, visually innovative site that will allow us to push the boundaries of design and navigation?”

For all of you non-techies, CMS stands for Content Management System and is simply software that is used to create and manage digital content. 

Out of the gate, we at Makers365 knew that the main options were WordPress, Drupal and Joomla - all well-established, open source, free CMS. For complex websites, we have always felt that Drupal is superior.

However, Drupal has experienced a slow transition to its latest version, Drupal 8, which launched in November 2015. Over two years later, many developers and users continue to debate whether Drupal 8 is ready for prime time - due, in part, to the fact that not all modules have been ported from v7 to v8.

We seriously considered advising the Damn Joan team to go with WordPress, but after comparing the pros and cons, what tilted the balance for us is the flexibility Drupal 8 offers for structuring content in almost infinite ways, especially when using Thunder, a Drupal distribution for publishers. So off we went to bring Joan's new magazine to life in Drupal 8! 

To achieve maximum flexibility, we used a lego-like approach for structuring content by leveraging the Drupal paragraphs module with some additional customizations. The paragraphs module is at the center of Drupal-Thunder. As a result, Damn Joan’s content editors can now pick and choose from a menu of “lego-like bricks” that can be placed on the page and then moved up and down in order to structure the content in creative ways. Each type of “brick” has additional settings like background image, color and width that can be easily changed to achieve almost an unlimited number of variations.

(Note: As mentioned above, a concern about using Drupal for this project was the availability of modules for Drupal 8. Happily, we found only two modules that we wanted to use that weren't yet ported to Drupal 8. Not bad.)

The results of the above approach are visible at DamnJoan.com and feedback from the magazine's editors regarding the publishing and content management experience has been great. At Makers365, we are extremely proud of this site and hold it up as proof that you can, indeed, use Drupal to build a budget-friendly, mobile-first, visually innovative site that pushes the boundaries of design and navigation.

Will we use Drupal 8 for our next complex publishing project? Damn yes! Finally, after two years of transition, we think Drupal has experienced a difficult but beautiful rebirth with v8.

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