Dries Buytaert’s Vision of Drupal
According to Drupal’s founder Dries Buytaert, Drupal is shifting all gears towards improving its user experience. Developer features, which had been the #1 concern in the past, is now pushed back to second seat. The reason for the change in focus is this graph:
The number of keyword searches for “joomla” on Google engulfed “drupal” four-fold. This graph was populated in September last year, by Dries for his State of Drupal presentation in DrupalCon Barcelona. Today I re-populated the graph, just to see how things stand almost a year later, and it still looks pretty much the same.
The reason Joomla is much more popular than Drupal, despite the fact that Drupal is the best CMS, is that Joomla is much more user-friendly. It seems that people are willing to sacrifice the features, and go for what is easier to use. That said, we can safely say that non-coders has become a big factor, if not the biggest, in the CMS game.
Dries is all for this. He has chosen 7 end-user features, and only 3 developer features, to focus on for the next Drupal release, which he termed the “killer release”. In his words,
We need to compete on the user experience. That is where innovation will happen.
The 7 end-user features are things like “Better media handling”, “Custom content types (CCK) in core”, “WYSWYG editor”, “Better tools to structure and organize content”, and well, you get the idea. The 3 developer features deal with improving the node access system and APIs.
Developers who are looking forward to seeing Drupal as an MVC framework may view this as disappointing. Drupal is moving away in the direction which is directly opposite of being a framework. Instead of streamlining the core, Drupal is adding more and more stuff to core. Plus, Dries is trying to please non-coders. That’s pretty set in stone, because he’s got a commercially-supported Drupal up his sleeves.
One can still use Drupal as a framework though, if one understands the inner workings of Drupal – how to write modules, implement hooks, theme functions, etc. But that’s a lot to learn, compared to a framework like CodeIgniter, which comes with easy-to-read docs to further reduce its already low learning curve.
No further discussion is necessary now, since in my opinion, Drupal is leaving the prospect of being a framework for good. In his State of Drupal presentation, Dries spent the rest of his time convincing developers to embrace the change and calling for companies to contribute usability experts to the community. From the video, the change and calls seemed to be well received.
I am both happy and a little disappointed by this change. As a developer, I would like to see a framework, because I feel that being a framework would make Drupal easier to code for. But also as a developer, I like to see neat usability, because that’s the showcase to the thousands of lines of code worth of work underneath. Moreover, this vision of Dries’ fits the feature I’ve dreamed up for Drupal well. So this change is making me become more of a devotee. To me, Drupal is unmatched, because of the wealth of its contributed modules and the flexibility of its core. Despite the initial steep learning curve, It saves a magnitude of time in site development and maintenance. It is becoming indispensable for web development, and will grow even more so in the future.