bolt of lightning

Building Drupal 8 Sites with Acquia Lightning Cuts Costs by $100,000

Drupal is one of the world’s most popular content management systems and it drives the web’s most ambitious sites and experiences. A big reason Drupal is so popular is its massive module ecosystem made up of thousands of community-maintained plug-ins that add features and functionality to Drupal core. 

“Distributions,” such as Acquia Lightning, are powerful Drupal time savers. Distributions are pre-configured development applications with pre-selected/integrated modules enabling developers to build Drupal sites and applications more easily and in less time. Using a distribution to build a new site is like starting a 100-yard dash on the 30-yard line. 

Acquia Lightning is an all-purpose Drupal 8 distribution with around 75 modules and extra capabilities built in. Today thousands of sites worldwide are built on Lightning. It exists in an ecosystem with vertical-specific distributions like Gov CMS (government), Open EDU (education) and Thunder (publishing). Lightning provides a clearly defined bundle of enterprise Drupal capabilities and offers a default starting point for new builds. We like to say Lightning delivers everything in Drupal core, and more.

Not only does Lightning deliver a feature-rich starting point for Drupal projects, but it also accelerates development and reduces budget in the process.

So how much time and money are you really saving by using Lightning?  


Several of Acquia’s Drupal experts dug into this question by looking at two projects that used Lightning: a project being built by a new-to-Drupal team and a project being led by an experienced Drupal team.


In each case, the benefits that came from using Lightning were noteworthy.

Acquia Lightning eliminates a significant amount of effort required of typical Drupal projects (top bar) as it provides capabilities in the areas of layout, workflow, media and APIs (The portion represented in green).

After reviewing all of the tasks typically involved in setting up a Drupal project and looking at the capabilities Lighting provides out of the box, we uncovered significant time and cost savings by going with Lightning.

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For a team inexperienced with Drupal 8 and Composer, we estimated that organizations could save 640 hours on a typical project by using the functionality in Lightning as opposed to building it on their own. At an average developer rate of $150 per hour, the savings for that one web project would total $96,000. 

These savings are possible because without the distribution this team would need to research, test, select and configure about 75 modules like Entity Browser and Layout Builder Restrictions (which are already configured and included in Lightning) to gain the features they’d need. This lengthy process includes finding the module, getting familiar with it or deciding among overlapping modules and coming up with a default configuration - all things Lightning does for users out of the box. The Lightning Workflow Suite is equipped with modules like the Lightning Scheduler module that build and support workflow functions that this team would otherwise need to create from scratch. 

There’s also a continuous improvement benefit as well. By leveraging Lightning, you’re benefitting from a large community of users and the Lighting team at Acquia continually enhancing and adding new capabilities and best practices for using key features.   

For a team experienced with Drupal and Composer, we found that Lightning can still offer savings of an estimated 160 hours on a similar project. For example, Lightning may save a two-person team two development sprints. At 160 hours at $150 per developer hour, that’s $24,000. For a team of four developers, saving one sprint would add up to approximately the same savings. 

Whether you’re a new developer or an experienced team, starting with a distribution is always a good choice. The value of a distribution is that someone else has done the heavy lifting to advance your project more rapidly. And, in the case of Acquia Lightning, Acquia’s expert team are maintaining and improving the distribution over time - so it provides ongoing benefits throughout the lifetime of your site or project.  

Need more convincing? Take a few moments to watch our webinar, Shockingly Fast Site Development with Acquia Lightning 4.0 or learn more about and access Acquia Lightning here.

David Aponovich

David Aponovich

Sr. Director, Product Marketing Acquia, Inc.

David Aponovich is senior director of product marketing at Acquia, where he helps articulate the benefits of Acquia solutions including Acquia Journey, the company’s customer journey orchestration solution, and trends in digital experience.

Prior to joining Acquia, he was a senior analyst at Forrester Research, where he researched web content management and digital experience technology and consulted to Forrester’s global clients on their digital transformation initiatives. He also spent six years as web content management strategy consultant at agency Connective DX, and previously was marketing director at a WCM software vendor.