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Trying Drupal

While preparing for my DrupalCamp Belgium keynote presentation I looked at how easy it is to get started with various CMS platforms. For my talk I used Contentful, a hosted content as a service CMS platform and contrasted that to the "Try Drupal" experience. Below is the walk through of both.

Let's start with Contentful. I start off by visiting their website.

Contentful homepage

In the top right corner is a blue button encouraging me to "try for free". I hit the link and I'm presented with a sign up form. I can even use Google or GitHub for authentication if I want.

Contentful signup form

While my example site is being installed I am presented with an overview of what I can do once it is finished. It takes around 30 seconds for the site to be installed.

Contentful installer wait

My site is installed and I'm given some guidance about what to do next. There is even an onboarding tour in the bottom right corner that is waving at me.

Contentful dashboard

Overall this took around a minute and required very little thought. I never once found myself thinking come on hurry up.

Now let's see what it is like to try Drupal. I land on d.o. I see a big prominent "Try Drupal" button, so I click that.

Drupal homepage

I am presented with 3 options. I am not sure why I'm being presented options to "Build on Drupal 8 for Free" or to "Get Started Risk-Free", I just want to try Drupal, so I go with Pantheon.

Try Drupal providers

Like with Contentful I'm asked to create an account. Again I have the option of using Google for the sign up or completing a form. This form has more fields than contentful.

Pantheon signup page

I've created my account and I am expecting to be dropped into a demo Drupal site. Instead I am presented with a dashboard. The most prominent call to action is importing a site. I decide to create a new site.

Pantheon dashboard

I have to now think of a name for my site. This is already feeling like a lot of work just to try Drupal. If I was a busy manager I would have probably given up by this point.

Pantheon create site form

When I submit the form I must surely be going to see a Drupal site. No, sorry. I am given the choice of installing WordPress, yes WordPress, Drupal 8 or Drupal 7. Despite being very confused I go with Drupal 8.

Pantheon choose application page

Now my site is deploying. While this happens there is a bunch of items that update above the progress bar. They're all a bit nerdy, but at least I know something is happening. Why is my only option to visit my dashboard again? I want to try Drupal.

Pantheon site installer page

I land on the dashboard. Now I'm really confused. This all looks pretty geeky. I want to try Drupal not deal with code, connection modes and the like. If I stick around I might eventually click "Visit Development site", which doesn't really feel like trying Drupal.

Pantheon site dashboard

Now I'm asked to select a language. OK so Drupal supports multiple languages, that nice. Let's select English so I can finally get to try Drupal.

Drupal installer, language selection

Next I need to chose an installation profile. What is an installation profile? Which one is best for me?

Drupal installer, choose installation profile

Now I need to create an account. About 10 minutes I already created an account. Why do I need to create another one? I also named my site earlier in the process.

Drupal installer, configuration form part 1
Drupal installer, configuration form part 2

Finally I am dropped into a Drupal 8 site. There is nothing to guide me on what to do next.

Drupal site homepage

I am left with a sense that setting up Contentful is super easy and Drupal is a lot of work. For most people wanting to try Drupal they would have abandoned someway through the process. I would love to see the conversion stats for the try Drupal service. It must miniscule.

It is worth noting that Pantheon has the best user experience of the 3 companies. The process with 1&1 just dumps me at a hosting sign up page. How does that let me try Drupal?

Acquia drops onto a page where you select your role, then you're presented with some marketing stuff and a form to request a demo. That is unless you're running an ad blocker, then when you select your role you get an Ajax error.

The Try Drupal program generates revenue for the Drupal Association. This money helps fund development of the project. I'm well aware that the DA needs money. At the same time I wonder if it is worth it. For many people this is the first experience they have using Drupal.

The previous attempt to have simplytest.me added to the try Drupal page ultimately failed due to the financial implications. While this is disappointing I don't think simplytest.me is necessarily the answer either.

There needs to be some minimum standards for the Try Drupal page. One of the key item is the number of clicks to get from d.o to a working demo site. Without this the "Try Drupal" page will drive people away from the project, which isn't the intention.

If you're at DrupalCon Vienna and want to discuss this and other ways to improve the marketing of Drupal, please attend the marketing sprints.

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Great walkthrough of a very

Ashraf Abed wrote:

Great walkthrough of a very important issue.

Added Mon, 2017-09-18 06:54


James Oakley wrote:

Thanks for writing that up - it's painful reading, but we as a community need to take on board what you're describing, because I can imagine it easily.

It reminds me of another issue I've been meaning to write up, where again there is a clash between giving the DA some income and helping newcomers to Drupal to make the switch. You've just prompted me to get it written up.

Added Mon, 2017-09-18 07:51

Prioritizing fundraising over user experience got us here...

A former DA employee wrote:

The whole 'try drupal' campaign has always been super frustrating. DA leadership doesn't understand why it isn't working right, and wouldn't accept the idea of us just picking a vendor to create the demo for people.

Unfortunately it comes down to leadership wanting (needing) to find advertising dollars over giving people a good experience. They also didn't want to prefer one vendor, say Acquia, which could piss off the community. Instead we have a lackluster user experience. Whats worse is 1&1 doesn't even let you 'try drupal' anymore. So in order for short term gain (money to the DA), they sacrifice long term brand quality and help re-enforce that Drupal is hard to use.

Until we see a leadership change from the board to exec staff at the DA, we're not gonna get much help improving the drupal experience.

Added Mon, 2017-09-18 13:51

Great! Things like these are

Carlos wrote:

Great! Things like these are the ones developers never see until we have to sell what we program.

One idea may be make it like Contentful with no company to select. And after the user have tried Drupal show him sponsored cool options to host Drupal.

More try Drupal conversion, more leads, more sponsored customers, more revenue for D.A.

Added Mon, 2017-09-18 20:48

First time experience matters

Paul Johnson wrote:


thanks for publishing your thoughts on this topic. I recently explored Wix.com evaluating it for my Scout Group as an easy solution for their web site. I was left with a very positive impression. The installation experience was swift, relevant to my context, presented a low barrier to entry.

Within moments I was playing with the site, I'm certain they enjoy high completion rates of setup compared to the workflow Drupal presents.

It is vital for the long term health of a CMS that potential end users have a positive initial experience. How else will they ever become actual users? Whilst we have through DA help got the first step towards a more streamlined approach, there is much to be done.


Added Mon, 2017-09-18 22:17

yes this matters, but...

Anonymous wrote:

say we solve this issue and give users a wonderful 'try Drupal' experience equivalent to the Contentful one.

Now they decide to go with and build a simple brochureware site for their company-- maybe 5 or 6 pages to start. But they want a contact for with a field for users to submit their mailing address.

They will run right smack into the composer problem. That we're on the cusp of 8.5, possible drush brokenness, and those with the reigns don't see an issue that requires addressing sooner rather than later speaks for itself.

If anyone still doubted that Drupal has ceded the entry level customer base to wordpress, those doubts should now be gone. There are people in the issue queues actually arguing that requiring local dev environments (which in turn then requires some sort of dev -> prod based workflow) and composer is a perfectly reasonable cost of entry for using Drupal for the first time for a site.

And to be fair, I believe they genuinely don't see a problem with that.

There are also several brave souls trying to explain why that is a show stopper for a large swatch of potential Drupal users.

However, as usually happens with these debates, those arguing for a particular 'regular joe' feature don't have the skills to provide the code (I am not saying they are 'unskilled', just that they are not developers), while those that have the skills to provide the code, don't value the feature.

Similarly, those that would benefit from a 'try Drupal' experience like that of Contentful are exactly those that will flee in horror when they need to develop a local -> prod and install and use composer.

All that by way of saying, there's no point in bringing a 'try before you buy' experience like that of Contentful to the masses until there's a commitment to actually make Drupal accessible to those very same users. And sorry, but composer as currently required/users, is just not that.

And so the march toward a developer centric framework at the expense of regular user experience continues relentlessly on.

Added Tue, 2017-09-19 03:23

Product vs Platform

Kyle Taylor wrote:

I don't think anyone here would argue the time difference between trying to sign up for Contentful vs trying out Drupal.

What's important to note is, Contentful is a product you're paying for, directly to that company. While logging in with a Github account for a free plan takes 2 seconds, you're now either a product of that platform or a paying customer.

Drupal on the other hand, is an open source platform that anyone in the world can download for free without giving any information. You have direct access to the code base where you can view and modify that code - but you can't do that on Contentful.

For anyone serious about putting in the time to research a CMS tool for customer or client goals - picking a product because of how easy it is to log in hopefully isn't the only checkbox on their list of requirements.

Added Tue, 2017-09-19 13:20