Drupal needs new, young developers

Published May 21, 2024
Pie chart showing most survey respondents have been using Drupal longer than 5 years.

Image used with permission from Michael Richardson from Ironstar.io.

I took a lot away from DrupalCon Portland 2024, and while one of my lasting memories from the main keynote (the Driesnote) will be the introduction of Starshot, something that has occupied a good amount of space in my brain is what happened just prior to Dries’ Starshot announcement.

At the start of his presentation (the 21:15 mark of this video,) Dries asks everyone with at least one year of Drupal experience to stand up. He then asked everyone with less than three years of experience with Drupal to sit down. The results were scary. As Dries reacted:

Oh wow. Almost nobody sat down.

This really shouldn't surprise anyone who has been developing Drupal sites for more than a few years. Drupal 8+ (modern Drupal) was considerably more difficult to get started with, and definitely geared toward more experienced developers.

Another data point

The 2024 Drupal Developer Survey results were recently announced (thanks to Ironstar.io for the huge effort in making this happen) and while there's a ton of great data in there, I'd like to focus on the Age and Experience section, which shows that only 9.1% of the 648 respondents were under the age of 30, with no respondents under the age of 21 (insert standard disclaimer about survey size and sample and this not necessarily being a scientific survey.) This is troublesome.

Maybe we shouldn't be focusing on age, but rather experience. However; the How long have you been working with Drupal question results didn't make me feel any better. Only 9.6% of the respondents have been working with Drupal for less than 4 years. Yikes.

Is this as scary as it looks?

I really don't know the answer to this question. Both of the data points listed above are somewhat anecdotal. The first can be mitigated by the fact that you're probably much less likely to attend a DrupalCon if you're new to Drupal. The second can be accounted for by the assumption that only folks who are experienced enough with Drupal to be on the right mailing lists and/or follow the right social media accounts would know about the survey in the first place.

All that being said, I don't think the trend that the data is showing us is wrong: Clearly Drupal needs new developers.

What's the solution?

Obviously, there's not a single solution. I think there are a few things that we (yes you,) the Drupal community, can do to help entice new developers to Drupal.

  1. Keep Drupal's code modern - we do a pretty good job of this, but we can definitely do better by better integrating with front-end developer/designer tools like Storybook and whatever the cool Javascript front-end tools are this month (mostly kidding, of course.) These efforts are critical, but these types of solutions tend to be longer-term.
  2. Get more people using Drupal - the more people using Drupal, the more likely they'll become invested in the platform and likely to become full-time Drupal developers. We don't need to convert all Drupal users to developers, just a portion. Clearly, Drupal Starshot is a well-placed effort to do this, but again, I think it'll be a bit of time before this has a significant effect.
  3. Create programs that introduce Drupal to students - as a Drupal trainer who is active in the community, I've heard about a few attempts at this in local communities, but nothing at scale. This is definitely a long-term goal, and will take time, money and leadership from the Drupal Association, including a hopefully re-imagined and more ambitious Discover Drupal program. 
  4. Entice organizations that build Drupal sites to hire new developers - Money (in this case job opportunities) talks. If there are entry-level jobs in Drupal, then new developers will come. Of course, there are plenty of jobs in Drupal, but not the kind of entry level positions that are going to provide an on-ramp for aspiring Drupal developers. If jobs for those new to Drupal aren't there, then the effect of the first two items above will be muted. There is an exciting, thoughtful short-term solution to this called the Drupal IXP community initiative, which will (hopefully later this year) begin to incentivize organizations to hire new, inexperienced ("IXP") Drupal developers in exchange for Drupal community contribution credits. You can get involved with IXP today by completing this survey to help us figure out which skills a new Drupal developer should have (survey closes June 1, 2024). 
  5. Attract good Drupal developer candidates with a leg up  - Companies (like Palantir.net,)  who have become involved in scholarship programs, including (the currently dormant) Discover Drupal (which aimed to not just build the Drupal talent pool, but do it with an eye toward diversifying our ranks,) and providing their own training scholarships, initiating internship programs and providing mentors for newbies have had success in building their talent benches over time by training up the people that are a good fit their organizations. It takes a bit of investment and patience, but the returns are usually worth it.  

How can you help?

If this nagging issue of too few new Drupal developers is becoming a growing concern for you, like it is for me; then perhaps you’d like to get involved in one of the above efforts to help move things forward and, maybe even spread the word to help inspire others to get involved as well.   


It was wild to me - I've been in Drupal a long time. My user id is only in the 10s of thousands. My first site was Drupal 4.7. But when it came time to sit down at that part of the Driesnote, I was, meh, just kind of somewhere in the middle.

I do think embracing contrib and selling it as part of the package (a la Starshot) can bring some new excitement here. The "look what we can do!" by blurring some of those lines between "core" and "contrib" a little... I think that will help people see.

Submitted by Chris W. (not verified) on Tue, 05/21/2024 - 09:14

Hi Mike,

This was a common theme at DCamp Fla and one that I'm really excited about getting involved with, especially since Evolving Web has such a robust training offering and that probably has a home here. Do you think we should form a committee or something? Maybe have a monthly meetup? I'm interested in your thoughts on keeping momentum on this great post of yours.

Submitted by Josh Linard (not verified) on Tue, 05/21/2024 - 10:59

I think the problem is the other way around....

Instead of thinking we need more 'developers', we need to think how to get more websites using Drupal!

Then the developers will come.

Developers will follow whatever is the hot platform (i.e. where the jobs and money are), whether it's React/Angular/Adobe...

Right now they see Drupal losing market share/sites (down 50% from peak 5 years ago https://www.drupal.org/project/usage/drupal) with the system having a very high learning curve and that is immaculately complex.

What would entice a developer into that ecosystem?

Submitted by Gary (not verified) on Wed, 05/22/2024 - 09:32

Mike, hi.
I have 15+ years of experience in Drupal, as a Senior, and I can't find a job. Why? Yes, it’s easier to hire a trainee or junior and pay less, but is it effective?
I recently switched to WordPress, where 90% of sites are shit sites, without any architecture, without dependencies, and a lot of other things. This work does not bring pleasure, but it does provide some income.
So how is it? Do we need new developers, or is there nowhere else to put the old ones with experience?

Submitted by DarkDim (not verified) on Thu, 05/23/2024 - 12:13

Interesting points. And true statements.

But I don't see the answer to the question: "Why do we need young developers?"

I wonder what we expect to happen.

My experience as a "senior Drupal dev" tells: "We need more business. We need to attract more organizations."

Submitted by Matthieu (not verified) on Mon, 05/27/2024 - 09:20

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