Drupal is quickly becoming a product where less and less custom coding will be required for new sites. With modules such as Views, Panels and Webform combined with advanced, and user friendly, themes, sites will be possible to build without knowing anything about coding in PHP etc. Drupal Gardens and Buzzr are great examples of this. Distributions is also making site building much easier to get started without coding.
Hosting companies are making Drupal very easy to install with just a few clicks. I'm not talking about the traditional one-click installs of old versions. Now these companies understand that providing good Drupal support gives them en edge on the market.
I think that we do realise that this is going to attract the same kind of users that today download and install WordPress. A lot of these new users will have very limited coding skills. In fact, most them couldn't care less about it. The only thing they are interested in is to get a software they quickly can build a site with.
Unfortunately most of these new users will run away from Drupal!
This is why:
WordPress.org Scares me
We compare Drupal with Wordpress, but have anyone really compared the community websites properly?
Spending only a few minutes on wordpress.org was a very scary wakeup call for me about how far behind we are.
What immediately struck me was that everything there is about using WordPress, not developing it. When I search for modules, themes etc the information presented is about stable releases, how to install them and so on. The closest you get to coding is a link, in the sidebar, to the developer log. That's it, nothing that can create confusion for new users!
The site also checks what languages I have configured my browser for and kindly tells me that:
WordPress is also available in Svenska and Español.
On the forum page it tells me that they also have dedicated Spanish forums.
I was extremely impressed about how well structured the site is and that they have realised that new users come to learn how to use it, not develop for it.
Drupal 7 is a fantastic upgrade and so much more intuitive and user friendly. But if we cant back it up with an equally good user experience on d.o, then we will gain only a small fraction of the potential number of new users possible.
Try d.o as a new user with no knowledge
As an exercise I suggest everyone try to get a WYSIWYG editor working on a fresh Drupal 7, including enabling it for the article content type and make the first post. Use the built in "Install new module or theme" feature in Drupal 7.
Here is the catch - Pretend as if you know nothing about coding and you don't want to learn. You also have Drupal amnesia. Push all your Drupal knowledge aside as if you never learnt it. Then open drupal.org and look at the information and imagine what a new user would do in the same situation.
Don't cheat, force yourself to really think as a novice!
I did this yesterday and it wasn't funny at all when I realised how bad state it actually is in.
The Drupal slogan is:
Come for the software, stay for the community
Even our slogan says that it is the software new users comes for and that the community is something they will learn to love and stay for.
But how many are giving up long before they find that love?
Unless you have good experience, preferable as a web developer, d.o is going to fail in providing you with what you need. It will only "confirm" that Drupal is difficult to get started with.
I think it is time to realise that we have a lot to improve...
From one extreme to another
To summarise this I can say that comparing d.o and w.o is like comparing one extreme with another:
- Wordpress.org - 100% focus on using WordPress. Every hint about what it is built in is carefully removed to not confuse or scare away new users.
- Drupal.org - >90% focus on coding. As a new user, even with some skills, it is extremely difficult to find information. Everything seems mashed together and it is more or less assumed that you already know what your looking for.
The problem is that both compete on the same market, and Drupal is losing badly!
In my option, w.o has gone too far. They have made it very difficult to find any kind if developer information and code examples. They have even hidden login/account creation from most pages. I completely understand their reasons behind this and why it is successful.
I don't want the same on d.o, but we need to understand that we need to better separate the available information based on user needs. New users want to learn how to build their sites. Later on many of them will discover all other wonderful aspects of the community.
A simple thing such as the everything listed on http://drupal.org/download must be officially released versions would be a great start.
Our strength is the fantastic developer community and the infrastructure it has created. It is a great foundation to build on.
Ask yourself - As a new user wanting to build a site, what you would have selected after spending 30-60 minutes each on w.o and d.o?
I am sure that this text would not have been written if all wanted was a site building tool a few years ago!
Can we do something about this? Of course we can!