Notes from the DrupalCon Portland 2024 Keynote

By
Notes form DrupalCon Portland 2024 keynote
The latest DrupalCon North America 2024 was in Portland, Oregon. The Opening Keynote, aka Driesnote, touched on some interesting topics about the current state and the future of Drupal. I will try to elaborate on some points from my perspective and the needs of our enterprise customers at Octahedroid.

What is Drupal Good at?

Related to the current state of things and features of Drupal, this is what it was mentioned: 

what-is-drupal-good-at

That was a fair overview of the current state of Drupal features. I was glad to see features such as Multilingual, Headless (mentioned only once during the keynote), Low-Code / No-Code, and Composable architecture included, among others.

Still trying to figure out why AI-Powered was added since no information related to this feature was mentioned.

Market Share

Drupal is used 1 in 8 enterprise sites

market-share

This fact gave us a sense of the maturity of the Drupal project and the perceptions of enterprise companies when choosing a tool to build their sites.

Regarding these stats, it could be useful to know what the other 7 sites are using to understand our competitors and better identify areas for improvement in Drupal.

Drupal 11 features

drupal-11-features

I'm glad to see the Access Policy API, an idea from the Pitch-burgh initiative, completed successfully and it was added to Drupal.

Is Drupal falling behind?

is-drupal-falling-behind

Drupal is difficult to use, and this is even more evident for content editors when they decide to invest time trying other projects such as Contentful, Hygraph, Storyblok, and Santity to compare the editorial experience.

ambitious site builders

We keep hearing about ambitious site builders, but not sure we are targeting the right user persona. What about content editors and marketing teams? These users spend more time interacting with Drupal on the graphical interface, adding content once developers and/or site builders build and deliver the site.

Drupal Startshot

Drupal Starshot

Drupal Starshot represents a significant step forward in making Drupal’s capabilities more accessible to everyone, even non-developers. The initiative was inspired by the need to keep Drupal competitive and relevant in the rapidly evolving web landscape.

It’s based on Recipes which should make it easier to deliver a superior out-of-the-box experience and speed up the innovation process and the creation of functional websites.

The Starshot demo was great, but something that caught my attention was that, regardless of the time I personally spent searching for Drupal-related content on multiple places such as Slack, Twitter, and Drupal.org, the keynote was the first time I saw anything related to this initiative and the proof of concept.

For an Open-Source project like Drupal, which promotes the Open Web, it’s really important to openly communicate something as important as this instead of building it in isolation so that most of us can collaborate on the idea based on our experiences inside and outside the project.

The big win here is that Starshot will change the future of how Drupal is distributed and used. As Dries mentioned it's a technological leap; it represents a shift in how we think, innovate, and collaborate

Experience Builder

experience-builder

Hearing the goal was to consider Design Systems and Structured content, it’s like music to my ears. However, it also sounds like it will be focused on standard Drupal installations and not Decoupled implementations because of the In-browser theming and Single Directory bullets. This is okay as an initial implementation and if that decision was based on the data compiled from the mentioned research study.

I am sure I am not the only one who would love to see the documents related to the technical analysis comparison of competitors and the data set related to the research that was mentioned where more than 30 agencies participated, to cross and match with the experience all of us have with our customers.

Final thoughts

Drupal is old and has been around for a long time—about 23 years—and powers one in forty websites globally. However, it is not an easy tool to use. It started as a developer tool built by developers with developers as the target. It has been a long road to making the tool more straightforward to use. The project has evolved a lot, and the Starshot initiative can help reduce the friction for newcomers and make it even easier to keep the innovation going.

However, there was a lack of topics during the keynote related to decoupled implementations when talking about the future of the platform:

  • Only one mention of Drupal Headless.
  • There is no mention of Drupal as API first CMS.
  • There is no mention of what Drupal is doing to improve Decoupled integrations.
  • There is no mention of how Drupal is planning to onboard new front-end developers who are used to working with modern tools and frameworks and have no interest in dealing with a template engine such as Twig, regardless of how powerful it is.

Was this intentional? If yes, it would be great to know why. If not, remember those topics next time to avoid sending the wrong message to decision-makers outside the Drupal community..

Agencies and developers working with Drupal implementations are competing directly with modern CMSes that not only provide better and modern interfaces but also focus on providing capabilities such as API-first solutions, Structured Content, integration with Design Systems, excellent editorial experiences, and out-of-the-box integrations with modern front-end frameworks.

It’s clear the project has several “community-driving initiatives”, but there is no clear path related to improving the editorial experience in decoupled implementations. See what other CMSes such as Sanity, Storyblok, dotCMS, Contentful, Hygraph, are doing.

Finally, agencies need more clarity on whether this is relevant to Drupal's direction to ensure we suggest the right tool for the job while working on Decoupled project implementations using modern front-end frameworks.

While it’s impossible to cover every single feature and topic, this keynote addresses our message related to the future of the CMS to those outside the Drupal community, people who are not fully aware of all of the community-driving initiatives, and people on marketing/editorial teams—that is, people in decision-maker positions, who, in the end, are the ones who could increase Drupal usage and keep it relevant.


If you haven't seen the DrupalCon Portland Keynote, you can watch it here.

Thanks to Ronald Aguilar for read-proofing and proposing suggestions on this blog post.

Images used in this post from DrupalCon Portland Keynote, you can find the slide deck here.
 

Take your project to the next level!

Let us bring innovation and success to your project with the latest technologies.