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Leading Drupal’s Project Browser Strategic Initiative

Project Browser is one of Drupal’s six current strategic initiatives. The initiative’s goal is to foster a Drupal experience that’s friendlier to new users and site builders by making it easy to find and install modules right from a Drupal site. Redfin’s Chris Wells and Leslie Glynn are the initiative leads appointed by Drupal’s founder, Dries Buytaert.


A Likely Pair

It was almost a year ago when I saw the tweet from Dries with an ask to ​​join the first Drupal Project Browser Initiative meeting. At the time, I’d been thinking about finding a way to give back to the Drupal community beyond the ad hoc contributions I’d been making. As a co-founder of Redfin Solutions, I’m cognizant that our success in providing valuable solutions to our clients for 15 years owes more than a nod to the Drupal open source community and its generous contributors. Redfin regularly contributes to Drupal through organizing Design4Drupal Boston, sponsoring local Drupal events, and mentoring at contribution days. For me, The Project Browser Initiative is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an effort to make Drupal more accessible to a wider audience. It prioritizes supporting users with little developer experience in finding and installing modules. I joined the Slack channel right away.

When I joined that first meeting, I was glad, although not completely surprised, to see Redfin’s project manager, Leslie Glynn, also in attendance. At the time, Leslie was a Drupal Association Board member, and for years she’s been contributing to the Drupal community in ways that prioritize site building, needs assessment, and the user experience. She’d first heard about the Project Browser Initiative during the Driesnote at DrupalCon 2021.

The initiative is organized into two primary areas—the implementation group, focused on doing, and the “site builder subcommittee”, focused on research and recommendations. In the beginning, I volunteered to take on some leadership activities along with Ron Northcutt. After a call with Dries, he appointed us to be the initiative leads. Then, when Ron stepped down in September, he nominated Leslie to take his place, which Dries approved.

Since then, Leslie has led the site builder group, figuring out what challenges our target users face and turning those insights into recommendations for how to make finding and installing modules easier. And I lead the technical aspects and development work, making sure we get the work done.

Putting in the work

Since I started working on the Project Browser Strategic Initiative, I’ve been putting in about several hours each week to write and review code, groom the issue queue, file issues, and run the weekly meetings. While it’s been a lot of work, it’s also been really fun to roll up my sleeves and work on something that I know could end up in Drupal core. It also gives me the opportunity to scratch that technical itch that I do less of these days as a CTO. 

The implementation subcommittee is currently working on the 1.0 version of the Project Browser. One of the first challenges we’ve faced is that the API is inadequate for our needs. We’ve built a mock API to model how an API should be rebuilt on and a swappable plug-in system for backends to the Project Browser data endpoint so we can transition from the mock endpoint to the real endpoint when upgrades to Drupal 9. We’ve also been selected as an Alpha tester for moving from DrupalCI to GitLab-CI, which is easier to use and will be the way of the future. Right now, we’ve got minimal automated testing in place (hint, hint - help needed here!). 

Reasons to be excited about Project Browser

The idea for Project Browser is something the Drupal Community has been talking about since 2011. We know that finding and installing modules requires too many steps, and that this is a barrier for new users. This initiative gives us the opportunity to improve Drupal’s user experience and expand the community. One of the things site builders do after installing Drupal is install modules, and this will make it easier to do. 

The minimum viable product (MVP) will give users the ability to browse modules compatible with the Drupal version of their site, provide instructions for downloading and installing modules, and filter modules by category. We are developing this initially as a contributed module.

After MVP, we plan to make it possible for users to automatically install modules via Composer, add additional filters, include the detail page of the module inside of the Project Browser UI (rather than linking out to, and expand the Browser to include themes and distributions. Ideally, Project Browser will become part of Drupal core.


A screenshot of the current Project Browser UI.
A screenshot of the Project Browser MVP user interface.

After MVP, we plan to make it possible for users to automatically install modules via Composer, add additional filters, include the detail page of the module inside of the Project Browser UI (rather than linking out to, and expand the Browser to include themes and distributions. Ideally, Project Browser will become part of Drupal core.

Get Involved

We’re currently looking to fill additional roles within the Initiative and are enthusiastically seeking help from the Drupal Community, including people at all levels of experience. We need developers, site builders, documenters, testers, and more. Here are some ways to get involved:

Join #project-browser channel on Slack

This is where we coordinate and communicate. It’s the first and easiest step to getting involved. Join the Drupal Slack workspace to get started.

Join the Site Builder Subcommittee

If you’re interested in supporting research and recommendations, the Site Builder Subcommittee meets Tuesdays at 4pm ET. Meetings are hosted in the Slack channel. 

Join the general meeting

If you’re looking to do front-end or back-end development work, the  implementation team meets Wednesdays at 10am ET. Meetings are hosted in the Slack channel. 

Check the project issue queue

Just jump in and tackle open issues if that’s your speed.

Catch us at DrupalCon NA 2022 (April 25-28)

Leslie and I will be at DrupalCon NA 2022 in Portland, OR on April 25-28. We’ll be hosting two Birds of a Feather sessions on Monday, April 25. One will be an Intro to the Project Browser Initiative at 10:00am PT and the other will be a discussion about project pages at 11:00am PT. I will also be in the General contribution room every day for most of the day, while Leslie will be in the mentored contribution room on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. We hope to see you there!