How to make Drupal Integrations Work for You

When potential clients ask me why they should build their website on Drupal instead of a different platform, my answer is simple.


Drupal offers more flexibility than any other content management system because of its ability to seamlessly integrate with application program interfaces (APIs) of cloud-based apps and third-party services. Integrations are what allow you to create a site built specifically for your organization’s needs.puzzle parts-518364-edited.jpegThat being said, there are hundreds of integrations available to Drupal users. So how do you know what’s best for you? Your answers to these three questions should give you a pretty good idea.

What are your goals?

Hopefully this is something you’ve already thought through, but if not, let’s talk through it right now. What is the goal of your website? What are you looking to accomplish with your integrations?

Let’s say you have a website and you’re trying to sell something online. Some businesses may opt for an e-commerce system that allows for the entire purchase process to be made online. In other cases, you may just want to provide information about your products or services and entice them to fill out a form or call for more information, initiating your sales process.

In the first instance, you’re looking to drive direct sales. You want people to hit the “buy now” button with their items in their shopping cart and their payment information included. In the second instance, though, you’re not interested in driving an immediate purchase; you’re looking for leads, since your product or service requires a more complicated sales process. The difference may seem slight, but how you work to accomplish each goal can be very different. And the integrations you’d opt for would also be different.

For an e-commerce site driving direct sales, for example, you might want to integrate your Drupal site with an e-commerce platform like Shopify or Magento that allows you to customize, create and manage an online store. When you’re more interested in your funnel and the sales process, on the other hand, a very strong integration with your CRM of choice, such as Salesforce, is important.

It’s important to note that the two are not mutually exclusive in any way. Just because you have e-commerce capabilities for immediate purchases doesn’t mean that you don’t want to track user activity in your CRM. What happens when a potential customer adds one of your products to the shopping cart but doesn’t click the “buy now” button? Conversely, just because you have products and services that require a more in-depth sales process doesn’t mean you don’t want to have an e-commerce component as well for more direct purchases.

At Duo, we did a project with Loyola Medicine Gottlieb Center for Fitness. Loyola’s staff members were great clients because they knew exactly what they wanted. One of their primary goals was to have a clean calendar tool that would enable them to maintain their pre-existing calendar while still displaying content to users in a concise and digestible way. This gave us clear direction, and we were able to meet their needs by integrating their website with Trumba, a third-party calendar tool that allowed them to highlight upcoming classes and events.

How complex of integrations do you need?

That last example was pretty straightforward. But what happens if you need multiple APIs or pieces of content integrated together? This is where Drupal really shines.

Take, for example, a project we completed with Bloomberg. The news organization was looking to build a social discussion platform about business. The content had to be curated and managed by users, and the community was going to focus on market-moving news from across the globe. To create this collaboration platform, we integrated eight applications — yes, eight — to give Bloomberg what it was looking for.

These integrations included:

  • MyDigiPass: Protects users online accounts by adding an additional security layer
  • Sociative: Discovers the best real-time content online on any subject by watching what topical influencers are talking about
  • HubSpot: Inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers
  • Trendspotter: Predictive trend intelligence for brands, marketers, and public relations professionals
  • New Relic: Enables developers to diagnose and fix application performance problems in real time
  • Mandril: Email API for MailChimp users
  • Twitter: Online news and social networking service
  • LinkedIn Social Sign-Ins: Allows users to login with LinkedIn information

So many moving parts can be a nightmare to maintain, but in Drupal, the applications work seamlessly with one another, and the user has no idea of the back-end complexities. 

Burnham Nationwide, a leader in permits for construction services, wanted to build an app that allows users to easily get permit and construction details about specified locations in Chicago, New York City or Los Angeles.

“Our goal is to make the permit and construction process seamless and to simplify it on all levels,” said Carson Kyhl, president of Burnham Nationwide.

So that is what we did.

The content the PermitMapper app required was already available through different cloud-based data sources, but it wasn’t consistent. Certain municipalities only listed the owner of a particular property, while others highlighted just the contractors involved; there were variations across the different available metadata. 

Thanks to Drupal, we were able to set up the app in such a way that users are able to easily search across these different data sources and see all of the information available for that location. Now, whether you are an architect, a contractor, or just someone curious to know about a construction project down the street, you can use PermitMapper to find out everything you need about a building or construction site’s permits.

What makes PermitMapper even more powerful, though, is its integration with Burnham’s HubSpot account. Remember, Burnham wanted to drive visitors toward conversion. PermitMapper serves as a lead-generation tool because visitors are asked to give information such as their name and email to access the PermitMapper. This data feeds directly into Burnham’s HubSpot account, which also tracks user actions like CTA clicks, form submissions and more.

Do you know how to say no?

With hundreds of integrations at your disposal, the options of what to incorporate and how to customize your site are nearly limitless. That can be a problem, though. Integrating too many bells and whistles can become a distraction for the user, and ultimately serve as a disservice to you and your organization. Go back to your answer to the first question above: What are your goals?

What do you want the user to do? Do you have the resources to sustain something new? Sure, it would be great to add a fancy new tool that measures dozens of different metrics on your site where users can interact with one another and share ideas, but do these new metrics fit in with helping you meet your overall goals? Do they create an unacceptable signal-to-noise ratio? If so, it’s probably best to hold off, at least for right now.

At Duo, we worked on a project with West Communications, where we were asked to translate site content into six different languages. Initially, West wanted to create a complex solution for translating its content, but we explained that the proposed idea was going to be too detailed for the team to properly leverage moving forward. So, West said no.

Instead, we worked with West and Lingotek, a cloud-based translation service provider, to make the process as simple to manage as possible.

Final Thoughts

One thing that I’ve been impressed by about Drupal is its ability to grow with a business. If you aren’t sure how exactly you want to take advantage of integrations, you can start out small. We can add widgets on a page for you or add embed code so that you can easily begin to collect additional data about site usage and your users, and then you can build out new complexities over time.

As an aside, one of the biggest differences between widgets and integrations again comes down to flexibility. With widgets, or other embedded content, you don’t have as much freedom to have an impact on the user’s experience; you can often alter the widget’s color or size, but there tend to be few additional options. With integrations, we can create the experience for your user. Instead of having a simple form that you embed, for example, you could use Drupal to create a multi-step process that directly caters to the experience you want your user to have, presenting them with only the options that are most relevant to them.

The options are vast and the potential is powerful. How you take advantage of Drupal integrations is up to you — hopefully your answers to these three questions help.


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