An AI generated image of a woman to signifying how much importance was placed on AI during the DrupalCon Lille conference.

November 01, 2023

Kevin Montgomery


4 min. read

DrupalCon Lille 2023 wrapped up with another great convention for the Drupal community. Developers, marketers, designers, and other Drupal fans from around the world met in picturesque Lille, France, to learn more about upcoming Drupal features, connect with experts and organizations, and celebrate the many achievements of those in the Drupal community.

The SearchStax team was there in full force to support the DrupalCon community, and to also support our DXP partner Acquia, who also happens to be a customer of ours. We were invited to deliver a lightning talk at Acquia’s booth and we were also a workshop-level event sponsor. Read more below about the workshop we delivered to help supercharge Drupal search with SearchStax Studio.

The convention kicked off with Women in Drupal awards that recognized the stellar work of Tiffany Farriss, Marine Gandy, and Lenny Moskalyk as this year’s winners. The Drupal Association and larger community continues to embrace the diverse contributions from the many members and attendees both at the show and across the world. Huge congratulations to this year’s winners!

Next was Driesnote – the keynote event from Dries Buytaert himself with a fairytale theme about Drupal developers exploring the various front-end and web hosting technologies. While no-code hosting platforms and dynamic front-end frameworks may have lured some developers away from Drupal – they don’t match the flexibility, plugin ecosystem, and contributor community that makes Drupal as powerful as it is. This philosophy is very closely aligned to our own thinking about enabling developers with more powerful tools and an API-driven mindset to ensure flexibility while also making features easier to implement and customize. We resonated very strongly with this message and the fairytale theme was a great added bonus to the storytelling!

The key takeaway is that Drupal will continue to focus on empowering both developers as well as digital marketers with some exciting improvements to Drupal Core. Additionally, the Drupal Association will continue promoting the community and garnering support by  continuing to extol the technical and business benefits of using Drupal.

Upcoming Improvements to Drupal

It’s exciting to see how the Drupal platform continues to mature and innovate with new features and updates that will benefit Drupal developers and site builders. Field management should become even easier with UI improvements and better error checking when creating new fields. Testing and integration for core modules is getting faster leading to reduced build time and faster turnarounds when developing and deploying with core Drupal features.

Expect to see big improvements in the next couple of months to the administration UI and page builder experience. UI improvements will make administering and customizing Drupal even easier with an improved side navigation bar and easier-to-reach submenus. Page builder will get a big overhaul with updated features and user experience tweaks inspired by other popular CMS and website building platforms. This bodes well from an overall DX perspective – we regularly hear about the need for these types of enhancements and it’s great to see Drupal continuing to evolve quickly toward improving usability.

AI and Machine Learning

DrupalCon sessions typically cover diverse topics from leveling-up and engaging new community members, to deep dives into technical and engineering topics. This year was no different and included several sessions focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning integration with Drupal.

Our own Sameer Maggon, founder and CEO of SearchStax, gave a lightning talk at the Acquia booth about the ongoing improvements to AI and machine learning. While technologies like ChatGPT, transformers, and RAG continue to develop and add features, they’re still not quite ready for prime-time on production websites,

JSON API, Headless, and Decoupled Experiences

Interest in headless and decoupled experiences with Drupal continued with standing-room attendance in sessions about JSON API improvements, comparisons between different headless platforms, and deploying multi-site experiences that included dynamic decoupled front ends.

Other sessions included test-driven development as well as updates and education about using DDEV and other development tools that can speed up feature creation, testing, and deployment for development teams both small and large.

SearchStax continues to embrace Drupal development with our newly released Search UI components for development with React, Vue, and other JavaScript frameworks. Our native Drupal Search API integration makes it easy to index and sync content changes from Drupal itself while also building robust decoupled and headless front ends.

Building Better Site Search with SearchStax Studio

The SearchStax team featuring Tyler Huff and Kevin Montgomery rounded out the speaking sessions on Thursday with an in-depth workshop on site search. Using SearchStax Studio, we demonstrated how to get up and running with Solr-powered site search for Drupal. SearchStax continues to expand developer resources with our new Search UI frameworks and development environments for Drupal.

Attendees to the session were able to quickly set up new search instances, configure Drupal for search, and build customized search experiences in Drupal using SearchStax Studio and our new Search UI Vue package. Also included was relevance tuning, search faceting, and other customizations to the search experience that can help improve search quality and provide tighter integration with Drupal site design and features.

What’s next for the Drupal Community?

DrupalCon 2024 kicks off next year in Portland starting May 6. Until then, SearchStax will continue engaging with the Drupal community with product updates, developer guides, and other site search and Drupal-related content. If you’re interested in learning more about adding or improving site search for your Drupal sites don’t hesitate to reach out to the SearchStax team and follow us on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

By Kevin Montgomery

Product Marketing Engineer

Expect to see big improvements In DRUPAL over the next couple of months, especially to the administration UI and page builder experience.

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