What is an “Ambitious Site Builder” in Drupal?

At Drupalcon Portland in 2022 Dries Buytaert, the original creator of Drupal, started outlining the initiatives for Drupal 11, but he also shared a concept that I am really excited about. Dries defined his vision for people who use Drupal but aren’t back-end developers. He called them “Ambitious Site Builders”. Let’s take a look:

The phrase “Ambitious Site Builder” is how Dries views the Drupal audience to be. These are people who don’t write a lot of code, but are not just drag and drop users either. Ambitious site builders are somewhere in the middle. Because of that, their typical tool of choice for website building is Drupal. Most of the configuration they do is done through the UI, but they are not afraid to write some code.

Ambitious Site Builder
Graphic from Dries Buytaert site

Dries defines the ambitious site builder as:

“An ambitious site builder can get a lot of things done by installing and configuring modules, and using Drupal through the UI. But when needed, they can use custom code to make their site exactly how they want it to be. Ambitious site builders are the reason why Drupal became so successful in the first place.”

Over the past ten years, between all of the live training, the YouTube videos, the training at LinkedIn and all the people that I’ve actually met with face-to-face and over Zoom, I’ve taught around 50,000 people how to use Drupal. A lot of those people go on to be exactly what Dries describes as, “ambitious site builders.”

Some people are content installing a module and creating a node, but most students end up becoming something in the middle. They are not hardcore developers or likely to ever contribute code to Drupal, but they can create a new theme or work on a custom module.

This was greatly enhanced with Drupal 8 and the Symfony framework, which introduced object oriented PHP instead of procedural PHP. Drupal moved to a new templating engine so creating themes and custom models have actually gotten easier for people with a broader understanding and knowledge.

In a more recent post, Dries explains the plan for Drupal 11 and unveiled the initiatives.

Drupal 11 Strategy

In the next two years we should implement:

  1. Project Browser with quality metrics stable in Core
  2. Starter templates feature in core and on Drupal.org
  3. Automated updates stable in Core
  4. Gitlab project completion
  5. Smaller Core via the Great Module Migration
  6. Keep Drupal up-to-date and secure with Drupal 11 readiness
Six focus areas for Drupal 11
Graphic from Dries Buytaert site

Initially, I struggled with the fifth initiative a bit. When I stopped and considered how many modules I have never installed, perhaps a trimmer core is a great thing.

As you scroll through the linked blog post, there are videos and explanations for each of the major initiatives. It is worth exploring more.

I am very excited about the idea of “Ambitious Site Builders”. I think this middle ground is exactly where most of my students land. Not coding all the time, but comfortable looking at code, and maybe adding to it, as needed.

One of the things I appreciate about the Drupal community, unlike some other open source projects, is that they are trying to get beyond the idea that the only people who matter are the developers. And while there is no project without the developers, there is also no project without the rest of us who aren’t hardcore developers. We are the advanced users of Drupal – ambitious site builders, and I think that’s awesome!

For a more in-depth and personal discussion about what an ambitious site builder is, be sure to watch the video version below! 


  • Rod Martin

    Rod holds two masters degrees and has been training people how to do "things" for over 25 years. Originally from Australia, he grew up in Canada and now resides just outside Cincinnati, Ohio. He has worked in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds, in small companies and large corporations. His extensive open source experience includes WordPress, Joomla and Drupal and he really knows how to help you get the most out of the system you chose. Rod plays ice hockey a couple of times a week and rides his Goldwing motorcycle pretty much everywhere he can.

    View all posts
4 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Excellent. Who I want to become

1 year ago

Thank you so much Rod for sharing your knowledge. Your approach in the LinkedIn course help me understand better how to start in Drupal. I really want to become an ambitious Drupal site builder.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x