The Basics of Choosing a Drupal Vendor
by Taryn Collins
For those not deep in the trenches of the Drupal world, it can be hard to understand what a Drupalist does. Do all Drupalists do the same thing? Share the same skill set? Offer the same set of capabilities? The answer to each of these questions is definitively no, and here’s why. Drupalists – must like other types of developers – can specialize in certain capabilities, so that what one Drupal vendor offers may differ greatly from what another Drupal vendor offers.
The process of selecting a Drupal vendor for your next website project with limited background knowledge of the Drupal landscape can be a challenge, so here are five questions you should be asking.
1. Does their skill set match my project’s needs?
Before you can even consider a vendor for your project, you need to understand whether they have the basic capabilities to execute your project effectively. You need to understand the scale and complexity of your project, and determine whether each potential vendor’s experience and expertise might be a good fit.
2. What kinds of Drupalists does a particular vendor have?
All Drupalists are not created equal! And once you’ve determined the type and scope of your project, you need to find the right Drupal role(s) to match. These might include site builders, themers and front-end developers, back-end developers, or technical architects. This blog post on building a great Drupal team is a great resource to get you started.
3. Does the vendor have significant past experience with Drupal?
Regardless of actual past experience, many vendors will say they can “do Drupal,” making the incorrect assumption that it’s something their tech team can learn easily even if they’ve never done it. However, to do Drupal well requires a specific expertise in the framework, which cannot be learned on a whim. It’s important to look for a vendor that has extensive previous experience in Drupal, or even better, one that specializes in Drupal. If for some reason you are not able to contract an experienced Drupal vendor, the next best option is to leverage a Drupal expert at key points throughout your project. These key points include:
- Discovery and Technical Architecture - what and how you’re going to build your site
- Start of Development - make sure you get started with the right tools and processes
- Mid-Project Code Audit – make sure you’re on the right track and catch any issues before they become a problem
- Security and Performance Audits – audit code a few weeks prior to code freeze
4. Are members of the vendor organization active in the Drupal community?
Since Drupal is an open source platform, it’s easy to find out whether members of the vendor organization you’re considering are active within the Drupal community. Similar to looking at a person’s profile on LinkedIn, you can go to Drupal.org and find both company and developer profiles for the people you’re considering hiring. Things you’ll want to look at on individual user profiles include length of membership, past projects, and posts – which include comments, questions, and answers posted by that person within the Drupal community.
You can also check out the Drupal Marketplace to find Drupal service providers of all kinds.
5. Does the vendor have Acquia certified developers?
Acquia has developed a certification program to solve the very problem this article addresses--how do you find a good Drupal developer? Acquia Certified Developers have demonstrated they understand Drupal by completing and passing very rigorous tests. Since this program debuted in 2014, we’ve seen increasing numbers of RFPs require Acquia Certified Developers as a way of ensuring their Drupal projects are staffed with high-quality developers.
For a more in-depth look, check out our white paper, 5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Drupal Vendor.