June 28, 2023

Danielle Bartholomew


6 min. read

DrupalCon is the leading conference for Drupal users to connect and collaborate. Each year the conference fosters the developer community through knowledge sharing, networking, contribution, and innovation, and this year was no exception.

This year’s DrupalCon was hosted in Pittsburgh  and SearchStax was thrilled to be one of the community sponsors that came together to celebrate and learn with over 1,200 Drupal enthusiasts.  SearchStax had several team members participate, and in this blog we continue the spirit of the conference by sharing knowledge and highlighting our own experiences and key insights we learned.

Key Observations & Common Themes

One of the best parts of attending DrupalCon is the opportunity to connect face-to-face with developers, our customers and partners, and the continuous knowledge sharing. DrupalCon is special in this sense. We participate in a lot of conferences and they are all valuable for different reasons, but sometimes conferences can get fairly abstract and overly focused on product pitches. We consider DrupalCon to be unique for a number of reasons, including the manner in which members collaborate, their core values – especially “prioritizing impact” and “striving for excellence”, and the fact that the community is all about practicing, improving, mentoring and teaching each other, and of course, the open-source aspect of publicly sharing tools and knowledge that helps drive projects forward with real impact.

Whenever I attend DrupalCon, I know that I’ll learn something concrete and useful in every discussion — my favorite example of this was one conversation in the booth where I learned that a major university is just now starting down the path of modernizing their site search experience, and also that the best selling pinball machine of all time was the Addams Family pinball machine, released in 1992, of which over 20,000 units were built and sold. Like I said, only at DrupalCon! 

Similarly, when talking site search at our booth or mingling over a game of pinball at the game station, in true DrupalCon fashion, there were ample opportunities to engage and learn. Through these connections, our team observed attendee, industry and technology trends. A few of our favorites included: 

  • Industry Focus 
    • We met with a large number of attendees at our booth who worked in higher education or government. On the first day, the SearchStax team chatted with over 15 universities! This was an awesome opportunity for us to discuss higher education’s needs in transforming the digital experience, and much of the discussions revolved around SearchStax Studio, our site search solution that has delivered value to higher education and government, as featured in our City of Nashville and Australian Catholic University case studies.
  • Federated Search 
    • You want crawlers? That’s our specialty. We had great discussions about the consolidated search use case, which was of high interest in the majority of universities and government agencies that we spoke with because they have the mammoth responsibility of managing a large number of different websites for various divisions, schools, etc. within a singular system.
  • Headless: 
    • Headless is becoming a more common approach, and we had many interactions in the booth focused on headless and composable architectures. First note, developers are typically using React and Next.js for a headless approach along with the JSON API module for Drupal. Second, headless usually means minimal tagging and formatting of content within Drupal – instead the theme, styles, and other visual elements are handled by the front end. We’re intrigued and it will be interesting to watch the continuing evolution of the headless approach.
  • Dynamic Developers: 
    • Another trend that impressed our team was the amount of knowledge and creativity that Drupal developers radiate. We learned that it is typically a lean team of Drupal developers supporting large organizations. Cheers to all the mighty Drupal developers! Our team enjoyed discussing the challenges and scenarios that you’ve managed and how you went about innovating and overcoming them. We also loved hearing the positive feedback on SearchStax Cloud from current users. They raved about how it alleviates pain points in managing Solr and assists with those challenges. We couldn’t help but agree wholeheartedly!

One final point to close out our observations about market trends — we were surprised this year at how much interest there is in search from the Drupal community. What this highlighted for us is that from a market perspective, even though many web teams are using the Drupal search module, there is a need to do more — especially across the more distributed sites that are so common now in higher education, state and local government, and use cases that are specific to non-profits.

Launching SearchStax For Good

Another strong theme at DrupalCon was the community’s acknowledgment and willingness to do good and to help others. This is not a “trend” for the Drupal community; it is a value that is present at each camp, conference and woven into the association’s innovations and teachings. SearchStax has always admired and supported this aspect of the Drupal community. It was amazing to have the opportunity to speak with so many non-profit organizations and learn about their incredible missions and how they’re using technology to innovate and drive change. This connection helped to inspire our newest initiative SearchStax For Good

SearchStax For Good is an initiative that empowers developers at non-profit organizations to quickly build web and mobile applications without the high barriers of cost or managing search infrastructure. Nonprofits get six months free of SearchStax Cloud Serverless, a solution that delivers fast, scalable, and cost-effective Solr.  After the initial six-month period ends, organizations can continue using the service at a 40% discounted rate.

DrupalCon was the perfect place to launch SearchStax For Good. We would like to thank all the community members who visited us at the booth and showed interest in this initiative. We are honored to help support the meaningful and impactful work that you do.

Community is Key

Having the opportunity to connect and collaborate in person with so many passionate people is a true pillar of DrupalCon. The SearchStax team had a great time making connections throughout the event. Some highlights included the Acquia, Lullabot and Pantheon after parties that let us reconnect with our childhoods through pinball, arcade games, bowling, and lots of great fun interactions that went beyond talking shop on the show floor. 

On a personal note, one of my favorite aspects of DrupalCon was having the opportunity to interact with and see our awesome partners. Over the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to help foster SearchStax’s partner community and it was great to have the chance to see our partners in action and creating impact for their Drupal customers. 

What’s Ahead?

DrupalCon provided our team with a lot of valuable information, learnings, and connections. We’re looking forward to leveraging these insights to continue to innovate and optimize for our customers and partners. We are also in content creation mode, working on materials based on the conversations we had throughout the conference. Keep an eye out for upcoming useful articles and content from our team including a webinar on Google Analytics 4 and new details on SearchStax For Good. 

A massive thank you to the Drupal community, our partners, and all those who attended the conference and made it valuable and memorable. See you next year at DrupalCon Portland 2024!

By Danielle Bartholomew

Director, Partner Success

Having the opportunity to connect and collaborate in person with so many passionate people is a true pillar of DrupalCon.

Get the Latest Content First