Drupal's long-term growth obstacles

Drupal's long-term growth obstacles and our strategy and current initiatives to overcome them.

Drupal 8 has been growing 40 to 50 percent year over year. It's a healthy growth rate. Regardless, it is always worth exploring how we can continue to accelerate that growth.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the power of removing obstacles to growth, and shared how Amazon approaches its own growth blockers. Amazon identified at least two blockers for long-term growth: (1) shipping costs and (2) shipping times. For more than a decade, Amazon has been focused on eliminating both. They have spent an unbelievable amount of creativity, effort, time, and money to eliminate them.

In that blog post, I promised to share my thoughts around Drupal's own growth barriers. What obstacles can we eliminate to fuel Drupal's long-term growth? Well, I believe the limitations to Drupal's growth can be summarized as:

  1. Make Drupal easy to evaluate and adopt
  2. Make Drupal easy for content creators and site builders
  3. Reduce the total cost of ownership for developers and site owners
  4. Keep Drupal relevant and impactful
  5. Promote Drupal and help Drupal agencies win

For those that have read my blog or watched my DrupalCon keynote presentations, none of these will come as a surprise. Just like Amazon's examples, fixing these obstacles have been, and will be, multi-year efforts.

A mountain images with 5 product strategy tracks leading to the top
Drupal's five product strategy tracks. A number of current initiatives is shown on each track.

1. Make Drupal easy to evaluate and adopt

We need to make it easy for more people to try Drupal. To help evaluators explore Drupal's possibilities, we improved the download and installation experience, and included a demonstration site with core. We made fantastic progress on this in 2018.

Now that we have improved the evaluator experience, I'd love to see us focus on the "new user" experience. When you put yourself in the shoes of a new Drupal user, you'd still find it hard to set up a local development environment. There are too many options, too little direction, and no one official way for how to get started with Drupal. The "new user" is not receiving enough attention, and that slows adoption so I'd love to see us focus on that in 2019.

2. Make Drupal easy for content creators and site builders

One of the most powerful trends I've noticed time and time again is that simplicity wins. People expect software to be functionally powerful and easy to use. This is especially true for content creators and site builders.

To make Drupal easier to use for content creators and site builders, we've introduced WYSIWYG and in-place editing in Drupal 8.0, and now we're working hard on media management, layout building, content workflows and a new administration and authoring UI.

A lot of these initiatives add tools to the UI that empower content creators and site builders to do more with less code. Long term, I believe that we need to add more of these "no-code" or "low-code" capabilities to Drupal.

3. Reduce the total cost of ownership for developers and site owners

Developers want to be agile, fast and deliver high quality projects that add value for their organization. Developers don't want their tools to get in the way.

For Drupal this means that they want to build sites, including themes and modules, without being bogged down by complex upgrades, expensive migrations or cumbersome developer workflows.

For developers and site owners we have made upgrades easier, we adopted a 6-month innovation model, and we extended security coverage for minor releases. This removes the complexity from major upgrades, gives organizations more time to upgrade, and allows us to release new capabilities more frequently. This is a very big deal for developer and site owners!

In addition, we're working on improving Drupal's Composer support and configuration management capabilities. This will help developers automate and streamline their day-to-day work.

Longer term, improved Composer support could act as a stepping stone towards automated updates, which would be one of the most effective ways to free up a developer's time.

4. Keep Drupal relevant and impactful

The innovation in the Drupal ecosystem happens thanks to Drupal contributors. We need to attract new contributors to Drupal, and keep existing contributors excited. This means we have to keep Drupal relevant and impactful.

To keep Drupal relevant, we've been investing in making Drupal an API-first platform for many years now. Headless Drupal or decoupled Drupal is one of Drupal's competitive advantages. Drupal's web service APIs allow developers to use Drupal with their JavaScript framework of choice, push content to different channels, and better integrate Drupal with different technologies in the marketing stack.

Drupal developers can now do unprecedented things with Drupal that weren't available before. JavaScript and mobile application developers have been familiarizing themselves with Drupal due to its improved API-first capabilities. All of this keeps Drupal relevant, ensures that Drupal has high impact, and that we attract new developers to Drupal.

5. Promote Drupal and help Drupal agencies win

While Drupal is well-known as an Open Source project, there isn't a deep understanding of how Drupal is evolving or how Drupal compares to its competitors.

Drupal is improving rapidly every six months with each new minor version release, but I'm not sure we're getting that message out effectively. We need to promote our amazing progress, not only to everyone in the web development community, but also to marketers and content managers, who are now often weighing in heavily on CMS decisions.

We do an incredible job collaborating on code — thousands of us are helping to build Drupal — but we do a poor job collaborating on marketing, education and promotion. Imagine what could happen if these thousands of individuals and agencies would all collaborate on promoting Drupal!

That is why the Drupal Association started the Promote Drupal initiative, and why we're trying to rally people in the community to work together on creating pitch decks, case studies, and other collateral to promote and market Drupal.

Here are a few things already happening:

  • There is an updated Drupal Brand Book for organizations to follow as they design Drupal marketing and sales materials.
  • A team of volunteers is creating a comprehensive Drupal pitch deck that Drupal agencies can use as a starting point when working with new clients.
  • DrupalCon will have new Content & Digital Marketing Track for marketing teams responsible for content generation, demand generation, user journeys, and more; and a "Agency Leadership Track" for those running Drupal agencies.
  • We will begin work on a competitive comparison chart — contrasting Drupal with other CMS competitors like Adobe, Sitecore, Contentful, WordPress, Prismic, and more.
  • A number of local Drupal Associations are hiring marketing people to help promote Drupal in their region.

Just like all open source contribution, it takes many to move things forward. So far, 40 people have signed up to help with these marketing efforts. If your organization has a marketing team that would like to contribute to the marketing of Drupal, check out the Promote Drupal initiative page and please join the Promote Drupal team.

Educating the world about how Drupal is evolving, the amazing use cases we support, and how Drupal compares to old and new competitors will go a very long way towards raising awareness of the project and growing the businesses built on and around Drupal.

Final thoughts

After talking to hundreds of Drupal users and would-be users, as well as dozens of agency owners, I believe we're working on the right things. Overcoming these growth obstacles are multi-year efforts. While the various initiatives might change, I believe we'll keep working on these five tracks for the next decade. We've been making steady progress the last few years but need to remain both patient and committed to driving them home. Just like Amazon continues to work on their growth obstacles after more than a decade, I expect we'll be working on these four obstacles for many years to come.

db