Deciding between Acquia Site Studio and Drupal's Layout Builder
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Decide whether Layout Builder or Site Studio better suites your organization's needs best
Speed to market is often critical for applications especially when rolling out new sites, features for an offering, or need to create campaign pages, landing pages, and other one off content that doesn't necessarily need to follow a strict template.
The tool you use to achieve this could make or break this goal depending on your needs as well as how it is used.
In this tutorial we aim to give you the questions you need to ask yourself when trying to decide whether using Drupal Core's Layout Builder or Acquia's Site Studio offering for your next project.
Cost (both upfront and maintenance)
Acquia Site Studio is a proprietary tool provided by Acquia to our Acquia hosted customers. One license is included with each Cloud Platform hosted application with the ability to purchase more licenses to support more sites. Layout Builder on the other hand is a free open-source tool that ships with Drupal.
Although the upfront cost for Acquia Site Studio may seem big, one should also take into account that Site Studio offers a best in class editorial experience out of the box, where as a Layout Builder managed website will need time and effort poured into it to enhance and make as user friendly as possible.
Additional costs associated with each tool:
Layout Builder Acquia Site Studio Need a development team to create and theme components Comes with 2 UI kits that can speed up time to market. Additional components or changes do not require a developer to make. Requires more frontend development time to maintain Site editors, site builders, or administrators can make maintain. Requires development resources and other contributed modules to make as user friendly as possible Best in class user experience out of the box
Requires Acquia hosting
Acquia Site Studio can only be used on sites hosted on Acquia Cloud where as Layout Builder can be used by any Drupal site running Drupal core 8.5+ regardless of hosting platform.
Having said that, Drupal's community is big and far reaching and one of the most helpful communities out there that you can rely on when things get tough. Acquia Site Studio is part of that community and you can find a channel dedicated to it on Drupal's Slack under #acquia-site-studio.
The product is also backed by Acquia's world class support team.
UI based development tool
Acquia Site Studio is primarily meant for non-developers, such as marketers, that want to quickly spin up new sites, pages, or prototype new concepts quickly.
Thus, it is primarily a UI based tool which veteran developers may find initially cumbersome to deal with; particularly when it has to do with creating or editing styles for the application at hand. It is often a lot faster to search for a particular CSS string using an IDE or text editor than looking through throngs of checkboxes and styles in a web UI.
As such, a good question to ask is who are you trying to enable the most with the tool you are considering? Who is your target audience? The developer that will use it short term to build the site? Or the content editors, your marketing team that will use the tool for their day to day work?
External design system tools
When dealing with an external design system tool such as Storybook for example, Layout Builder has the advantage since it utlizes Drupal's theming and templating system and any templates necessary can be overridden in order to bring in components and code from these tools.
Acquia Site Studio can be used to create a component-based system within Drupal that lives exclusively within the Site Studio product and can be shared with other Site Studio based sites. It cannot be exported to another project or imported into from another non-Site Studio project.
Features and needs
Last but not least, one of the things to consider when deciding between Layout Builder and Acquia Site Studio is what you need each for.
Layout Builder only concerns itself with the content section of a page so it lends itself well to building landing pages/pages with one-off layouts. It can also be used to switch templates of these pages, but always within the context of the content section.
Acquia Site Studio can do all that, plus be a full theme replacement for Drupal. As such it can be used to theme the entire site and not just the content section of an application. It can also be used to accelerate the theming of:
- Page Layouts
and many more
Currently, Layout Builder layouts are not translatable. This means multilingual sites need to turn to the contrib space for translation support. Acquia Site Studio supports translations out of the box and also integrates with the "translation management tool" module.
When deciding between Acquia Site Studio and Layout Builder for your organization there's a bigger upfront cost with Site Studio which gets offset by the long term maintenance cost of custom code and contrib code needed to support Layout Builder. Layout Builder is more portable as it does not need the application be hosted on Acquia Cloud and can also support external design system tools, such as Storybook. Site Studio has a lot more features than Layout Builder if you are looking for a fully fledged solution that can support the entire application and not only its content section. It also comes with full multilingual and translation management support out of the box. Since Site Studio can control the entire page of the application a good designer/developer can quickly create an application using just the UI and empower their end users in taking ownership of their content and pages to the fullest degree.
At the end of the day, the most important question is who is your target audience and who are you trying to enable the most. As developers, we build tools that fit our audience. Site Studio shines at providing non-developer roles with an easy to understand user experience that is second to none. Layout Builder opens up the flexibility for developers to build what they need at the expense of the user experience. Choose whichever fits you and your team's needs best!