Educating the Drupal Periphery

Stephen Sanzo // March 2012

DrupalCon 2012 was a resounding success - bringing Drupalists from across the globe to learn, inspire, and preach the Drupal gospel…to each other. As someone who markets Drupal solutions, I like to keep tabs on what the perception of Drupal is for folks in the “outside world”. As Drupal becomes more popular, it is almost getting to the point where you can mention it to a next-door-neighbor or an acquaintance at a cocktail party and they may actually know what you are talking about.

With this success, we are seeing more and more people that have some kind of relationship with Drupal. These folks are not the developers and designers that are so ingrained in the Drupal community. They are the Drupal fringe players. Content administrators. Web editors. Managers hiring Drupal resources. To draw a bad analogy, “these are the 99%”

So what does all this mean? It means that there are lot of people using Drupal or making Drupal-based decisions that, for whatever reason, aren’t part of the “Drupal Community”. They don’t spend time on (or maybe even know it exists). They don’t know how to write PHP or develop a Drupal theme. In many cases, they may even be responsible for hiring or acquiring Drupal expertise to develop, support or enhance a website - without any real knowledge of what skills are required.

At Isovera, we are seeing a rise in what I am calling, “Triple-D” (Drupal Disappointment and Disillusionment). Basically, an organization got involved with Drupal without the proper basic knowledge to make sound decisions. Common themes include, “We had someone develop the website in-house and now they are gone.” Or “The contractor we hired started it, got stuck, and then abandoned us.”  And even, “Their portfolio of work was beautiful, but they couldn’t get the site to be functional.”

Isovera recently conducted a “Success with Drupal” survey. Here are a few tidbits:

  • Of all respondents, 49% reported separating ties with at least one Drupal vendor
  • For those with web budgets between $5K-$10K – 67% ended up separating ties with at least one vendor before the project was complete
  • For those that listed impressive design portfolio as the #1 reason for hiring – 87% ended up separating ties with at least one-firm

Where can we go from here to make sure the positive feeling about Drupal within the “community” carries over to those on the periphery? By continuing to reach out and educate the non-developers so they can make sound decisions based on a general understanding of Drupal development projects. This is starting with the Drupal Business Summits and workshops like “Drupal for Decision-Makers” developed by Acquia, but we still have a way to go. There needs to be a concerted effort to invest in this group to ensure that those who are using Drupal on a day-to-day basis are having positive experiences. By doing this, Drupal will continue to grow and foster good feeling far beyond DrupalCon.