Although Drupal is the third most popular open source CMS, there hundreds of highly skilled Drupal developers vying for your business. So how do you select the one that’s just right for you? To help, we’ve devised a custom evaluation methodology and handpicked the very top developers based on our criteria. The names that made the list are given in the table below. After that, we’ve also shared our methodology’s details, plus other important factors to keep in mind when hiring a development agency.
It’s important to us that our rankings are objective as well as useful. For this, we follow a comprehensive evaluation methodology that considers several critical aspects. These include a detailed examination of the services the agency offers, its portfolio, and testimonials from its past and present clients. We designed this custom methodology as though we were potential clients in the market for the best Drupal development services. These aspects, which may also aid you in evaluating similar vendors in the future, are explained briefly in this section.
In the first step in our evaluation process, we visit the company’s website. While this helps us gain a detailed understanding of the company’s services, the website is also a clear testament to its capabilities. After all, one would expect a Drupal website development firm to produce a state-of-the-art website.
Drupal has been around for some time now, so it is important for us to see if the company has proven expertise in each of the different stages a CMS must go through. While it’s not essential, it helps if the company is exclusively a Drupal development agency.
Website development is one of those services where the surest proof of credibility is in the agency’s portfolio. We compare them against our selection criteria for web development companies to check if they’ve produced attractive, fully functional websites, and we evaluate testimonials from past clients.
Finally, we see if the Drupal website developers specialize in certain niches or industries.
There are many components to these web development services. We ensure a comprehensive examination of every agency’s capabilities by looking at the following key factors:
Traditionally, Drupal websites, like websites developed using most other CMSs, are monolithic in the sense that Drupal is responsible for content management as well as rendering the front end of the website. When you use a decoupled or headless architecture, you use a separate component for the front end—while using Drupal for your content management, editorial, and administrative tools.
This is dedicated to the user experience and communicates with the CMS via a web API. The greatest advantage of decoupling in your Drupal web development services is that it future-proofs your site, letting you redesign without having to reimplement the CMS all over again. In fact, most innovative developers do this. It also enables faster speeds and truly interactive user experiences. Therefore, we prefer that the agencies under consideration have this capability.
As we’ll explain in greater detail in the FAQs, Drupal has many admirers because it allows for a great deal of flexibility and customization in its development. However, developers have to go through a rather steep learning curve to gain the expertise to use this customization efficiently. Hence, we examine if the agency can provide customized Drupal development and tailor it specifically to its clients’ needs.
Drupal apps are a smart way to shorten the website development process. Instead of downloading or creating multiple modules to add certain functions to your site, installing apps can add the same functionality within seconds to your front end. However, just as you might need custom modules for your specific needs, there’s a good chance you’ll need custom apps for functions that aren’t provided by any of the commercially available options. The Drupal developers that have experience in application development are evaluated against our evaluation criteria for choosing the top app development specialists.
Along with technical expertise, website development requires an eye for design. Since a website is the first, and sometimes only, interaction customers have with a company, the user interface needs to be attractive and reflective of the business’s true purpose. As professional web design experts, the Drupal website developers should have a cross-functional team that has a strong mix of technical and design skills.
A mobile-first approach is exactly how it sounds—designing for the smallest screen, a smartphone, and then working your way up. This is also known as progressive advancement: when designing a product, a version for the lowest browser is usually built first. More complicated effects and interactions are added for tablets and PCs later. It’s the right strategy for the website to have a mobile-responsive design, which is critical given how many users surf the internet on their phones. With this in mind, we check if the agency takes a mobile-first approach to website development.
Another critical factor is the ability of Drupal developers to migrate content and data from one website, possibly based on another CMS, to a new CMS (Drupal) and database. If the agency has this capability, it saves a significant amount of time in the website development process and saves the cost of hiring a separate Drupal freelancer or agency for the migration.
Putting a website on the internet means exposing it to hacking attempts, port scans, traffic sniffers, and data miners. Your heavy investment into driving traffic to your painstakingly made website can all go to waste if it’s taken down or defaced soon after being put up. We only consider companies that implement the latest and most effective security practices.
There are a number of important security measures that the Drupal development services always ensure. These include sitewide SSL (for website traffic encryption), the best encryption standards, obscure header info (to keep your configurations private), the use of HttpOnly and secure cookies (to prevent scripts from reading cookie data and to disallow the unencrypted transmission of cookies), protection against SQL injection and DoS, secure web server processes, and enabling HTTP-strict transport security. Additionally, any Drupal web development company should regularly test these configurations to make sure they remain effective.
These are some of the hygiene factors that any Drupal web developer should take care of. We expect all the agencies considered for our ranking to cover these areas flawlessly, but we still do a double-check to ensure it.
Services above and beyond the ones mentioned in the previous points aren’t particularly necessary, but they add to an agency’s credentials. Most clients require extra assistance like website content, SEO services, and other marketing initiatives, for which they may have to hire one or more specialists. If this assistance can be provided by the development agency’s in-house team, it certainly helps us rank the agency higher.
There’s no one-size-fits-all rule here, but a number of clients benefit from the consulting and training services provided by their Drupal developers, which allow members of the client’s team to manage the website’s day-to-day functions. The most basic of these functions is, of course, regularly updating the site. Some agencies include this initial hand-holding among the services they provide in their website development contract, and we consider it a strong positive.
No matter how strong the training an agency might provide to clients’ in-house team members, there are certain fixes or changes that you’ll require from your Drupal experts. We check if the agency has an LTS program. It’s always better when the company that originally developed your website can make future adjustments as well.
Does the company bill by the hour or project? Either is fine—and we have included both kinds of companies—but it’s important that there’s upfront clarity on the agency’s pricing model. Additionally, we check if the rates of given Drupal web development services follow industry standards, and if they don’t, we check that there’s a solid reason for this discrepancy.
Another important and often overlooked factor is that if the Drupal developer offers LTS, it should offer a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for retained hours, so you only pay for what you get.
For any service provider or vendor, sharing testimonials from past and current clients is an effective way to showcase its credentials. We consider these very important, but we go well beyond the testimonials shared by Drupal developers on their own websites, which are likely to be overwhelmingly positive.
The real assessment of client satisfaction is through the feedback shared by clients on third-party review sites. These neutral platforms include both the positives and negatives of the agency’s services.
We do realize that even the best Drupal development company with the strongest capabilities and the right intentions can end up with a few negative reviews. Unless these negative reviews exceed the positive ones, we don’t necessarily remove the agency from consideration. However, the negative reviews can provide valuable insight into the agency’s weak points and are taken into account in their overall ranking.
Now that you know our criteria for ranking the agencies, let’s cover a few essential questions and concepts you need to address before finalizing the deal with your website developer.
Your website is more than just a live design on a server. It’s the face of your business or, in many cases, your entire business itself. Before hiring the Drupal web development firm for your website, you need to be clear about what goals you want to achieve. What purposes should the site serve? It might merely exist to represent your offline business. Or it could be an online storefront responsible for a big chunk, if not all, of your sales.
The Drupal website developers you work with should be able to work with you in identifying your needs and challenges while finding the best ways to address them in a well-designed website. As you’d expect, this requires a development team that goes well beyond putting a few Drupal web design elements together to make the site look good. This requires an understanding of your business niche, along with an overall willingness to work in a collaborative, iterative process.
This point is driven by the previous one. Does the agency use agile project management or the waterfall method? In the traditional waterfall model of project management, the process is sequential, going through requirement analysis, design, implementation, testing, and maintenance. This is an opaque process that requires more time before you can check whether the final product works according to your needs.
Most smart software companies, including Drupal web development services, have adopted the agile model by now. It encourages close user involvement, greater transparency, iterative planning, cross-functional execution, and continuous feedback. The obvious benefits of this advanced approach include higher customer satisfaction, increased project control, reduced risks, better product quality, and a faster ROI.
Therefore, you should check if the agency is comfortable with changes along the development process and is open to your involvement.
There are three important points to consider when examining an agency.
First, what is the agency’s reporting process? How clear are the communication channels? The finest Drupal development services would provide you with comprehensive and comprehensible progress reports on a regular basis. It should also be up-front and clear about any problems encountered during execution.
Second, does the agency put you in direct contact with the team actually working on the project? Some agencies have different teams for client interfacing and project development, which can lead to your requirements getting lost in translation. It’s best to meet the team working on your website so you can exchange your ideas with them firsthand and receive their feedback.
Finally, is the team working on your website nearshore or offshore? It’s generally better to work with nearshore developers as it facilitates easier and quicker coordination.
Do you already have a design for your website and need a developer to take it live? Are you migrating from another CMS? Are you beginning from scratch and need everything done from top to bottom? You need to discuss your exact requirements with the agency and ensure that they have experience in the service areas you need assistance in. After all, different Drupal developers prefer to come into a project at different stages.
This is a critical point. Your website is an important investment, and the final product’s effectiveness depends on whether it passes the cost-benefit test. Website development is not—nor should it be—cheap. Quality costs money. However, knowing your upper investment limit beforehand and whether you have any flexibility in going over this limit can help you select an agency that aligns with your budgetary requirements.
If you’ve decided to work with Drupal development services, there’s a good chance you’re aware it’s known for its combination of simplicity and flexibility. Without getting into the technicalities of how it manages this, which will be beyond the scope of this article, here’s an analogy: Consider other popular CMSs as prefabricated toy trucks—easy to understand but built for specific purposes. Drupal, on the other hand, is like a collection of wheels, windshields, axles, frames, and other parts, which a toymaker can easily assemble in different ways to serve every niche.
Drupal is open source and, hence, free. Not only the core technology but even the modules are available at no cost.
Of course, Drupal’s modular approach to site building requires some investment to understand, but after that, the only limitation is the creator’s imagination. Whether you’re looking to create a news site, online store, social network, blog, wiki, or something else entirely, it’s just a matter of combining the right modules.
Drupal uses the programming language PHP for its logic and MySQL as its database management system. PHP is an open-source script code, which means there are no licensing costs. This is why Drupal has been the choice of many developers for a long time.
Drupal is a highly flexible CMS that can be used for simple websites or blogs. However, it shows its real strength with technically complex websites that are also flexible (something that many modern businesses require). It’s great for handling customizations, thousands of pages of content, and millions of views each month. In addition, it’s stable and well suited to managing global services, marketing, and sales across all digital media.
While Drupal is free, developing a website using the CMS requires working with professional Drupal website developers for six to eight weeks. Hiring a good team means monetary investment. The benchmark is between $30,000 and $40,000 for a website with minimal custom development. For Drupal sites with a large amount of custom development, various content types, and complicated workflows, the cost can be upwards of $100,000.
Drupal is known for its stable source code with limited vulnerabilities and a sizable support system. Moreover, Drupal 8, the latest version, was released with major updates and an even stronger security program. This essentially makes Drupal the most secure CMS available.
Along with a highly engaged Drupal community and a stable core, the other factors that make Drupal more secure include a dedicated security team, the security standards set by the Open Web Application Security Project, authorized access controls, database encryption on various levels, built-in security reporting, and enhanced front-end security found in the Twig template.
Drupal also scores well in the SEO department. With its many modules and automation tools, Drupal lets you control all your web page elements, making them easily discoverable by Google and other search engines. Before turning to the SEO specialists, check some of the Drupal web development services that make it a favorite among digital marketers:
Custom content types and fields: Drupal offers the ability to design a custom content structure using a simple tool without additional code. By creating a custom field on custom types of content, you can enable website editors to insert semantically correct content.