Only a limited number of small business owners have the technical know-how to manually alter HTML or redesign style sheets on their sites. Thankfully, owners with sites based on the open source content management system Drupal can take advantage of so-called modules to quickly and efficiently improve their sites.
These modules are pre-developed extensions that can help to quickly improve your site’s prospects. Out of the top 10,000 sites, around 20% will use Drupal as their CMS of choice, second-only to WordPress with half of the overall market. This means that a wide range of modules have been developed to cater various needs.
In a crowded market, we review the five essential Drupal modules for boosting a business’ bottom line, highlighting the main drawbacks and advantages of these modules through real-life costumer experiences.
The first step in helping your business succeed is making sure that users are finding your website in the first place. SEO Checklist is a module that will provide you with a “to do” list on how to help your website rank higher in the organic search result pages of search engines.
This module offers a nice step-by-step breakdown of how to improve your website’s chances to rank higher. However, the main limitation of the module is that it does not actually do any of the work for you, simply providing you with a list of tasks to complete on your own.
This is why Robert Shea from the IBM center business of government famously described this module as the most powerful Drupal module that “does nothing”.
Download SEO Checklist here.
The main objective of the XML Sitemap module is to facilitate ranking by search engines of your webpages. Basically, sitemaps allow search engines to understand how pages relate to each other by laying-out the structure of your site, which in turns facilitate overall search indexing.
The developers of vintage-record business Class Vinyl have high praise for the XML sitemap module, stating that it “works with the Google search bot in what seems to be a synergistic fashion.”
Download XML sitemap here.
Images speak a thousand words. Unfortunately, website layouts often constrain the size of the image you can include without affecting the look and feel of the page, leaving a business owner having to compromise on the resolution and quality of the image to fit within these restrictions.
Lightbox2 offers a nice way to place images above your current page, not within, greying-out the background image while the user looks at the full-size image. It improves the navigation of your site, and thereby helps with consumer experience.
Previously, many users opted for Thickbox to achieve the same functionality. That module has now fallen out of favour. As children publishing company kidsown.ie points out, “Still wondering why every tutorial on imagecache and imagefield always shows thickbox, when Lightbox2 is much better? Why does the US still use imperial measurements? Who knows! Probably the same answer to both questions.”
Download Lightbox2 here.
For e-commerce websites, Ubercart is a must-have module. It offers a simple checkout system, which can be adapted for both physical goods and digital downloads. Most users will praise this module for its usability, as it will work straight out of the box.
However, as with many open-source projects, users who are looking for slight tweaks to the basic offering or for a scalable option will often encounter difficulties implementing changes and fixing bugs.
Having said that, as web solution expert Druvision points out, “while for large sites, the e-commerce module might provide more options, for small sites Ubercart is the preferred solution. Also, the wide usage base of Ubercart makes me feel safer that it will get more upgrades over time.”
Download Ubercart here.
Small business owners will often report that setting-up a newsletter will offer them a smart way to keep in touch with clients over time. The SimpleNews module has been created to publish and send newsletters to lists of subscribers.
Michael Brinksman of expat pension expert WhichOffshore.com explains that “SimpleNews is a quick and easy way to send newsletters, it does work as advertised with minimal set-up problems. I found that it works best for simple newsletters, as personalisation of individual newsletters can be an issue”.
Download SimpleNews here.
Let us know in the comments if you have had luck with any of the other modules included in our list, or if you have any recommendations of your own.