Ten Lessons for Online Marketers from Drupalcon Portland 2013


This May, I managed to carve out some time from my busy schedule to attend the week-long DrupalCon conference in Portland, Oregon. Even though Portland thoroughly lived up to its reputation as a dark, cold and rainy city, I’m glad I went. Portland has great music, excellent beer, and the MAX transit system is amazing.

DrupalCon Portland 2013

More importantly, DrupalCon was an excellent conference and there were numerous sessions and talks that appealed to a wide variety of audiences from tech to marketing. The talks ranged from the coming Drupal 8 core code changes, to how the White House is using Drupal to engage voters, to a hackathon to create a website to aid the Oklahoma tornado victims. The keynote speakers Dries Buytaert, Karen McGrane and Michael Lopp all delivered thought-provoking presentations to a crowd of more than 3,000 attendees. Each speaker laid out a compelling and unique vision for where the web is headed in the near future. 

While the ideas presented at DrupalCon 2013 were not 100% unique, given the large footprint of the Drupal user base, the ideas discussed there will inevitably change how websites are being built in the next year. They will also change how content is published to an increasingly interconnected mobile world. As an online marketer, you can either pay attention and fully embrace this brave new world - or you can put your head in the sand, pretend it’s all a fad, and hope it goes away.

For those who want to embrace the future with eyes wide open, here are 10 key takeaways from Drupalcon Portland 2013.


  1. If you don’t have a forward thinking content strategy in for 2013 - 2014 -- your website will be static brochureware with very limited appeal.
  2. Your content needs to provide meaningful value to engage visitors. i.e. Do Well, Do Good (a favorite quote of Dries Buytaert, the creator of Drupal).
  3. Your content strategy needs to work on iPhones, iPads, Android devices, tablets and developing platforms such as Google Glass with new hands-free, aural user interfaces.
  4. The concept of the static web page is dead. The future is content delivered in bite sized chunks to the right person at the right time and in the right place on any device.
  5. Contextualized user experiences are crucial to engaging customers and prospects. If a user is searching for a product with a specific keyword, the page they see when they hit your site should match their expectations; it should not be a generic landing page or the home page. Seamless integration of your website into backend marketing automation, analytics and CRM systems is foundational to building a contextual user experience. 
  6. Your website needs to be built on a robust and extensible content management system that can be modified, extended and updated easily to leverage the rapidly evolving technology landscape. 
  7. The entire Drupal core code base is being rewritten for Drupal 8 to use the latest and greatest code libraries (Twig template engine, Symfony2 Framework, etc). There several drivers behind these improvements. At a coding level, one of the drivers is to reduce code cyclomatic complexity of the code. If your business is on another popular CMS, you need to seriously ask your IT folks when the core codebase was last re-written. Cyclomatic complexity of the code in your CMS is not your friend.
  8. Drupal 8 will be awesome when it’s released in 2014. While large sites with dependencies on numerous contributed modules will have to wait until later in the year (2014) to migrate, the new release will be worth migrating to.  For newbies to Drupal, it will be easier to use out of the box and inline editing of content will be supported. Developers will have several new API’s that allow them to build all sorts of integrations. 
  9. If you are not using Drupal as your CMS to host your website, your technology team needs to give you a legitimate reason why and not a lame self-serving excuse. Companies and organizations that don’t take advantage of this FREE enterprise class CMS are either foolish or ignorant of the true capabilities of Drupal.
  10. Great things are being done on the Drupal CMS. Amazing websites are being built every day by entrepreneurs, corporations, NGOs and even the federal government that change people’s lives for the better.

If you’d like to learn more about DrupalCon Portland 2013, I strongly encourage you to watch the videos of the keynote speeches at the links below: