A Reddit Discussion on Changes In and Beyond Drupal

A discussion on Drupal

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Drupal was at a crossroads in 2023, faced with many polarizing opinions, where users and developers extensively discussed its merits, demerits, and even alternatives that might replace the features provided by this enterprise-level CMS. The dilemmas shadowing Drupal and the arguments regarding its complexities and other drawbacks were even addressed by Dries Buytaert. Some had concerns regarding the end of the life of Drupal 9 amidst the persistent existence of Drupal 7. 

A long-term Drupal user (profile name: HamCheesePickles) with more than a decade of experience in Drupal recently initiated a Drupal-centered discussion on Reddit. The individual who has used Drupal for making client websites and e-commerce businesses for his use believes that

" As a community, Drupalers don't discuss the business side of using Drupal as much as the tech and support."

The individual hoped to open a discussion with freelancers or small business owners about the recent changes to not just Drupal alone but the economy, AI, and growth of other CMSs like WordPress, Wix, and Shopify. To aid the conversation from a business perspective, he also listed a few questions, which included,

  1. Are you still using Drupal to build small websites or mainly for larger, complex ones?
  2. Has your pricing/demand changed much, and are you finding clients willing to spend as much?
  3. Has AI affected your business, and do you use it for development as well as content generation?
  4. Are there still many, mostly front-end users out there using Drupal?
  5. Do you still get many clients who come to you specifically to build or maintain a Drupal site?
  6. Have you started shifting away from Drupal and into offering and using other CMS, too?
  7. Are you concerned about the future of websites you build with Drupal now?
  8. Is Drupal dying for e-commerce because Drupal Commerce and Ubercart are inferior to other CMSs?

With over a decade of experience, one member is committed to Drupal and emphasizes its capacity to cater to complex content and data models efficiently. The user maintains Drupal usage for personal uses, e-commerce, and ads. Notably, the user expressed minimal concerns about the influence of AI on their business, foreseeing its potential impact in enhancing search functionalities for client sites. The user also adds,

"I won't start shifting away from Drupal; I hope it will continue till at least Drupal 99."

The user who initiated the discussion reiterated the comment with a reply,

"I did recently use Shopify for one of my businesses - and coming from Drupal, it was a real pain to customize and use, so like you, I’m definitely sticking with Drupal for my stuff."

Another user reflects on an 11-year journey running a business focused on Drupal development. They have witnessed the evolution from Drupal 5.x to Drupal 10 and are committed to their current business model. They emphasize long-term client relationships, operating at higher price points, and providing high-quality, high-value customer service. 

"For me - Drupal provides an amazing set of tools that get you ~80% of the way to what your client needs “out of the box,” and that's why I’m not going to change what tools I use any time soon."

The user also contrasts Drupal with other CMS platforms, noting the unparalleled modeling abilities and extensive community support.

In every other CMS platform or “content management framework” that I’ve encountered, you get maybe 20% of that “out of the box” and are told, “You have to build the rest yourself….”

The user observes that while encountering well-designed WordPress sites, they have yet to match the intricate modeling capabilities inherent in Drupal. The distinction lies in the requirement of a master-level skill set in custom PHP development, which, in essence, tends to replicate what WordPress accomplishes but with added complexity.

The individual anticipates AI impacting search on client sites but sees no imminent change in their work. Drupal's backend support for frontend sites is highlighted, contrasting with JavaScript front ends for certain projects. They remain confident in Drupal's future, citing successful migrations and adaptability, and strategically address competition from Squarespace and Wix, emphasizing education and customization. 

"I’m 45, I’ve been building in Drupal for a long time. Short of a massive paradigm shift in how people consume content on the internet, which I’m sure is on the horizon, I think I’ve got a good 10 more years in the Drupal space before I HAVE to change my tools."

Another speaker critiques the use of Drupal for small websites, emphasizing the emergence of Backdrop as a response to a market gap. They acknowledge Drupal's suitability for complex projects, emphasizing its unmatched flexibility and power, especially in comparison to commercial systems. They assert that Drupal is no longer suitable for basic websites like those for churches.

A Drupal veteran with 14 years of experience reflects their initial reluctance to embrace Drupal, transitioning from a C# ASP.NET comfort zone. While acknowledging Drupal's prowess as an enterprise-level content management framework, they now view it as overkill for small sites. They currently opt for Firebase and React for smaller projects without intricate requirements. The user shares a few thoughts that they believe to be the facts.

"Drupal experts across the ranks and roles are the highest paid in the website development market. We're an elite breed."

Many Drupal installations are hidden from view as they serve as internal enterprise platforms, often not developed by freelancers. Integrating Drupal with cutting-edge technology poses challenges, leading to the perception that building a Drupal team requires an abundance of Drupal developers, limiting diversity in talent. This contrasts with other technology stacks where diverse specialists can collaborate seamlessly on projects without requiring expertise in each team member's area.

"It's still challenging to build good-looking websites using Drupal that are built with twig templates. Only if you go decoupled can you make use of the full UI designers talent pool."

Conversely, another participant expressed reservations about the evolving landscape, citing challenges associated with Drupal's version upgrades. Faced with prolonged development timelines and concerns about the platform's future, the user indicated a strategic shift towards WordPress for its simplified update processes and automatic features. Additionally, the user raised apprehensions over Drupal's compatibility with e-commerce, implying a potential shift towards alternative platforms for online retail. One user adds,

"We often use WooCommerce, and it sucks because WordPress is such a dog, it’s slow and gets hacked even when keeping plugins up to date…"

Furthermore, a user drew attention to Drupal's evolving complexity, pointing out that it now caters primarily to intricate requirements, necessitating a more advanced skill set. However, another user disagreed, presenting an optimistic perspective on Drupal, accentuating the potential for AI to enhance coding capabilities and emphasizing the user-friendly nature of Drupal's workflows, particularly about low-code or no-code solutions for business logic.

The discussion was widely welcomed by the intrigued users of Drupal and other CMSs, contributing their opinions regarding the questions put forward by the individual. The loyal users of Drupal still stand by the CMS for its unique features. Drupal is preferred for its speed, power, and user-friendliness. While newer headless CMS options are intriguing, they find Drupal's out-of-the-box features or easily integrated modules surpass the competition. 

There are fewer criticisms about its complexity, version upgrades, and concerns about pricing. While the general notion of the discussion leads to the conclusion that Drupal might not be an ideal solution for small websites, there are no competitors for Drupal in the big game.

Head over to the discussion titled "A discussion on changes in Drupal, the economy, AI, and other CMSs" to have a detailed view of all the presented opinions and new topics discussed along the way.

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