Adoption rates for Drupal 8 have been relatively slow [1]. This is likely because it significantly changes some of Drupal 7’s most celebrated core capabilities and introduces several new features. Where past version updates have not noticeably adjusted functionality or back-end site interaction, Drupal 8 really does. That has left users (and developers) wondering whether the benefits of switching warrant the hard work of upgrading or migrating a site over to Drupal 8.

 

Should You Upgrade Or Migrate Your Site Over To Drupal 8?

The short answer: Yes. Though if you’re not a Drupal expert, we’d recommend working with a developer who has the demonstrated ability to upgrade and migrate sites to Drupal 8 without compromising their functionality.

The long answer: Most changes Drupal 8 makes to Drupal 7’s core capabilities are improvements. Because of them, Drupal 8 has greater responsiveness, functionality, security, and ease-of-use than Drupal 7 [2]. What’s more, the new features included with Drupal 8 make it more flexible, more accessible, and more intentionally SEO supportive than any past version [3].

Consequently, businesses using Drupal 8 can expect their sites to provide a better user experience than those using Drupal 7. Moreover, Drupal 8 based sites will also have some natural advantages over other sites in how search engines index them. This means your website may have more reach, and site visitors will likely be more satisfied, stay on-site longer, and convert more often than they otherwise would [4]. Keep reading to find out all about what makes Drupal 8 the best available CMS for you!

 

Drupal 7 vs. Drupal 8: Key Differences

Since its launch in 2011, Drupal 7 has become a favorite among users and developers, alike, because of its unparalleled ease of use [2]. It represents a kind of best-possible-arrangement of all previous versions’ functions, with a variety of both built-in and module-based features that folks love. Drupal 8, launched in 2015, upgrades many existing Drupal 7 capabilities. Moreover, it introduces some wildly different ways to accomplish familiar module-supported functions, as it has over 200 new built-in features [2].

In the time since launching, users and developers have both discovered that Drupal 8’s built-in features supplant the need for many modules. Moreover, those modules that remain necessary to supplement Drupal 8’s robust core capabilities have since been modified to work with the newer version. That said, Drupal 8 adoption does require learning to do things differently, which is why a large number of development agencies and system integration partners who have the expertise to work in Drupal 7 effectively continue to do so (and have resisted switching to Drupal 8) [5]. However, developers failure to learn to use Drupal 8 isn’t beneficial to businesses; the current Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 user experiences and functions differ in the following ways:

 

1.    Drupal 8 Is Built To Be Fully Mobile Responsive

Community-created modules (some not included under Drupal’s security advisory coverage) and advanced coding can help make Drupal 7 more mobile-friendly, yet the platform is not mobile responsive. This is problematic, as inadequate mobile design damages 94% of people’s trust in a website (and the credibility of the associated business) [6]. This makes mobile responsive design essential to a business’s success, as more than half of all internet access happens on mobile devices [7].

Drupal 8’s most significant mobile responsive upgrades of Drupal 7’s capabilities include: optimizing site loading speed, enhancing multilingual accessibility, and automatically adjusting images, graphics, and text layout.

      Drupal 8 websites load faster because of flexible, built-in caching modules [4]. Loading speed is increasingly important to reducing bounce rate (that’s the number of visitors who navigate away from the site without converting), as 40% of people leave websites that take longer than 3 seconds to load [9]. What’s more, as many as 79% of visitors who are dissatisfied with a website’s loading speed actively won’t return to it to make a purchase [8]. Drupal 7’s caching processes are comparatively slow, and using multiple add-on modules to achieve the desired site functions will slow down loading speed even more.

      Drupal 8 has unparalleled multilingual accessibility, while Drupal 7 has much more limited multilingual capabilities (mostly available through add-on modules) [10]. People almost always prefer to conduct business through native-language websites, yet there are few good adaptive multilingual strategies for websites [11]. Drupal 8, unlike Drupal 7, has built-in multilingual translation capabilities that effectively improve accessibility for multilingual visitors. This functionality also increases search result ranking, as it enables search engines to index sites in multiple languages. This dramatically enhances a site’s reach, increases customer satisfaction, and empowers businesses to become highly competitive in otherwise underserved multilingual markets.

      Drupal 8 automatically adjusts images, graphics, and text layout to idealized design characteristics for any screen size. Drupal 7’s much-loved customizable fields still require developers to manually code breakpoints and resize images based on anticipated screen sizes. This process is increasingly ineffective as mobile screen sizes (including both smartphones and tablets) are becoming more varied. Drupal 8 addresses this growing concern by updating fields to include auto-breakpoint mapping and image formatting [12]. These features make Drupal 8 sites more visually attractive than Drupal 7 sites (the #1 consideration of 48% of visitors) while also further decreasing load time [13, 12].

 

2.   Drupal 8 Improves Upon Customized Functionality & Ease-Of-Use

Drupal 7 is much-loved largely because of its enhanced functionality and ease-of-use in comparison to previous Drupal versions. This is not entirely surprising given that almost half of CMS users rate functionality and useability as the most important aspect of CMS platforms [14]. Ease of use and functionality, along with customization, are essential to the longevity and competitiveness of a content-based site [14]. Drupal 8 takes active measures to increase the functionality and ease-of-use available to users, though they require some skill-building. These measures include its improved framework, expanded field types, increased content editing capabilities, and unified database query API.

      Drupal 8’s Twig framework makes more site functions safe and easy-to-customize. Twig empowers developers to use simpler (more developer-friendly) syntax to create fast, secure templates with flexible features. This yields more beautiful, functional, objective-driven site creation than was possible using Drupal 7’s PHPTemplate framework alone [2]. Moreover, Twig was built to replace and improve upon the capabilities of (and shore-up the insufficiencies in) PHPTemplate [15]. This creation of a powerful OOP-based engine promises users greater flexibility with easier maintenance and troubleshooting, which increases productivity and empowers innovation [16].

      Extra field types add to one of users’ favorite features. Drupal 7 revolutionized how users created and designed their content with the inclusion of customizable fields. Drupal 8 adds new fields that go one step further to simplify website development while maximizing functionality [17]. Specifically, these fields include date, email, link, telephone, and reference-specific field-types. Adding these new fields, rather than leaving their inclusion up to custom coding or add-on modules, makes Drupal 8’s built-in capabilities that much responsive to users’ most common, most basic needs [18].

      In-UI content editing reduces barriers to use. In Drupal 7, users cannot edit content from the UI. Editing requires access to the relatively complex, often-complained-about editing interface where users have to download plugins and community-contributed modules to have a streamlined content management experience [19]. In Drupal 8, added built-in WYSIWYG core modules (specifically Quick Edits) facilitate easy inline and in-context editing from the UI [17, 20]. Moreover, this tool also enables mobile editing, a function unavailable on any other mainstream CMS platform [21].

      Drupal 8’s database query API fundamentally alters database queries (in a good way) [22]. Specifically, this new-and-improved approach to database query building simplifies database use while also increasing the functionality and security of database-based sites and features. In Drupal 8, it's now extraordinarily easy for developers to retrieve a list of database contents (even from multiple databases) according to complex criteria/conditions “without needing to know precisely the tables and their syntax for each field associated with an entity” [23]. This means that users can create sites with far greater functionality, far easier.

 

New & Unique Features In Drupal 8

In addition to improving familiar features and functions from Drupal 7, Drupal 8’s 200 in-built modules introduce a variety of previously unsupported capabilities. The most significant of these — its CKEditor, multi-channel content importation, simplified built-in web services,, and improved native SEO — can transform how businesses use websites [3].

      Drupal 8’s core CKEditor functions like a desktop word processor. Unlike the capabilities of previous versions, Drupal 8’s unique CKEditor text editor uses robust visual HTML and WYSIWYG editing functions previously only available for desktop-based software as well as drag-and-drop content styling [24]. This makes content creation easier than ever.

      Drupal 8 facilitates straightforward content importing. Including from other channels, apps, and devices. This dramatically changes the content management experience [3]. Moreover, Drupal 8’s core Migrate API contains the necessary elements for importing from a huge variety of sources, including Medium, RSS and Atom feeds, Youtube content, and more [25].

      New web services modules power more capable sites. Drupal 8 includes new built-in HTTP basic authentication, HAL, serialization, and RESTful modules [3]. Consequently, Drupal 8 sites have a common language with apps, enhancing the sites’ ability to function seamlessly with payment gateways, CRMs, smart devices, and inventory management systems [26].

      Drupal 8 empowers good SEO. The greatest barrier to good SEO on CMS platforms is that they create one unique URL for a page of content, based on complex navigation paths [27]. Developers can use Drupal 8’s routing system to make readable, contextual URLs that have far better SEO outcomes [17].

 

Why You Upgrade Or Migrate To Drupal 8 Instead Of Waiting For Drupal 9

Drupal will end support for Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 together at the end of 2021 following the 2020 release of Drupal 9 [28]. As a result, despite the improvements Drupal 8 makes to Drupal 7’s user experience and functionality, some developers now argue that it’s so close to Drupal 8’s planned end-of-life that switching is pointless.

However, how Drupal has planned this obsolescence presents even greater reasons to upgrade or migrate your site to Drupal 8 now. With Drupal 9, the code changes from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 will be “trivial,” even for community-created add-on modules [28]. Consequently, migrating a site from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 will involve a simple process of updating and installing necessary patches [28]. These minimal differences in code mean that there is a far lower security risk while installing and incorporating the version update. Migrating from Drupal 7 will be comparatively complex.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.metaltoad.com/blog/sluggish-drupal-8-adoption-lags-even-d6
  2. https://medium.com/@mindfiresolutions.usa/drupal-8-vs-drupal-7-22d95b6e7fed
  3. https://acodez.in/drupal-8-vs-drupal-7/
  4. https://drudesk.com/blog/drupal-8-benefits-for-business
  5. https://www.drupal.org/project/documentation/issues/2841750
  6. https://www.business.com/articles/tyler-horvath-responsive-web-design/
  7. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/14/about-a-quarter-of-americans-report-going-online-almost-constantly/
  8. https://drudesk.com/blog/drupal-8-benefits-for-business
  9. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/308227
  10. https://opensenselabs.com/blog/articles/why-drupal-great-multilingual-sites
  11. https://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/925-multilingual-websites.html
  12. https://opensenselabs.com/blog/articles/drupal-8-mobile-responsive-what-store-you
  13. https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/20-web-design-facts-small-business-owners/
  14. https://www.cmscritic.com/functionality-and-ease-of-use-are-key-factors-in-content-management-system-purchases/
  15. https://www.drupal.org/docs/8/theming-drupal-8/theming-differences-between-drupal-6-7-8
  16. https://www.educba.com/advantages-of-oop/
  17. https://www.educba.com/drupal-7-vs-drupal-8/
  18. https://www.ostraining.com/blog/drupal/new-fields/
  19. https://www.annertech.com/blog/drupal-content-editor-deserves-easy-life
  20. https://www.zivtech.com/blog/drupal-8-content-editors
  21. https://opensenselabs.com/blog/articles/how-drupal-8-affects-content-editors
  22. https://www.anubavam.com/blogs/simplifying-database-queries-drupal-7-vs-drupal-8
  23. https://www.flocondetoile.fr/blog/make-sql-query-multiple-tables-drupal-8
  24. https://drudesk.com/blog/drupal-8-for-marketers
  25. https://ohthehugemanatee.org/blog/2017/06/07/stop-waiting-for-feeds-module-how-to-import-remote-feeds-in-drupal-8/
  26. https://internetdevels.com/blog/drupal-8-web-services
  27. https://opensenselabs.com/blog/articles/drupal-8-seo-master-guide-2018
  28. https://www.thirdandgrove.com/insights/should-you-upgrade-drupal-8-or-wait-drupal-9/