Making Moves: What to Do With your Drupal 7 Site?
Drupal 10’s tentative release date has been set to 14th December 2022. Now, several improvements come with that, including enhanced editing features in the CKEditor 5, improved page customization for enabling an exceptional UX, and even a modular architecture.
Needless to say, there has never been a better time to think about migrating from your existing Drupal 7 framework.
Still, considering that the End-of-Life (EOL) support for Drupal 7 has been extended till November ’23, you have some time to make that shift. However, there's no denying that a decision has to be made soon enough.
There is a simple solution to this issue. Yes, it lies in upgrading to Drupal 9 while preparing for the possibility of transitioning to Drupal 10. But before getting into that, let's discuss why that's necessary. Besides the obvious reasons, of course.
Why upgrade from your Drupal 7 framework at all?
Drupal 8 already reached its EOL on 2nd November 2021. And considering the looming end of Drupal 7, there’s no other choice than to migrate to Drupal 9. In short, if your site still functions on the legacy versions, you open your pages up to vulnerabilities, bugs, and redundancies that the community will not help solve.
Yet, putting in the effort now will result in several benefits for you. Take the integration of contributed modules into the core, for example. In Drupal 7, you must rely on separate panels to customize your page layout.
However, Drupal 9 developers can use the Layout Builder to perform that function much better. In short, they now have a single dedicated tool that enables them to modify one specific page, set custom preferences for various content types, and build visually appealing landing pages.
There's even dedicated media handling, meaning you don't have to install additional frameworks and then configure them individually. Merely enable the Media Library Modules, and most of the work is already done.
The best part? The mentioned features are part of Drupal 9’s core modules, alongside content and site moderation, API configuration, theme customization and many others. As a result, Drupal will focus heavily on enhancing these with every major update.
Simply put, your developers can access consistently patched and upgraded tools alongside a few experimental modules.
Understandably, these benefits may mean little when you've been accustomed to the same framework for years. However, you must also recognize that sticking to legacy Drupal frameworks will directly translate to a host of issues, including the lack of community-backed bug fixes, additional customization updates, and security patches.
Besides, why stick to a soon-to-be relic when QED42 can help you take the next step in Drupal migration?
What can an upgrade offer you?
Besides enhanced security, site functionality, and integrated contributed modules, an upgrade to Drupal 9 can offer several advantages.
Here are four of the most prominent ones:
Improved PHP support
While most Drupal 7 websites may have moved on to PHP 7, there’s a high chance that a site is still running on older variants, some even as ancient as 5.3. With the continuous improvements being made to the script, this can directly translate to security liabilities for your pages.
Meanwhile, Drupal 9's minimum requirement is PHP 7.4, thus providing better compatibility and access to more secure script versions.
All of this is made even more attractive through the provision of the Twig theme engine. Even better, Drupal 9 has made systemic enhancements to Twig, resulting in the birth of the 2.0 model.
As such, the engine breaks templates down to optimized PHP code, thus reducing the overhead time significantly compared to the regular script variant. In addition, Twig has built-in shortcuts for the most commonly used code patterns alongside comprehensive support for template development, such as automatic output-escaping, dedicated blocks, and multiple inheritances.
The outcome? Improved site performance, a better development ecosystem, and, most importantly, reduced site vulnerability.
Better developer accessibility
With all the talk around Drupal 9’s accessibility and scalability, it becomes essential to examine where exactly it differs from the previous frameworks.
First, there's the inclusion of new field types, such as dates, emails, phone numbers, links and references. Essentially, programmers don't have to describe each field individually and can directly add a new one to the current database. There are also additional avenues to add modified fields to contact forms, comment sections, and blocks.
Second, the integration of the CKEditor into Drupal 9’s core functionality gives developers direct access to a dedicated editing console. Using it, they can organize data while deploying conventional word processing functions.
As an added benefit, being a WYSIWYG tool, the CKEditor allows users to rearrange any content as they prefer in the final page layout.
The whole ‘Composer’ package
A prominent issue with Drupal 7 was the over-reliance on Drupal-specific code. That concern is entirely done away with in Drupal 9.
As such, all third-party libraries are handled by a single tool, appropriately dubbed the 'Composer'. Using it, developers can declare the required code libraries for any project, following which Composer will manage it independently.
It also provides pre-made packages that can be incorporated into the development lifecycle to solve the most common programming challenges. There’re even provisions for convenient autoloading of classes and files alongside better visibility into existing dependencies to keep them secure and functional.
Finally, Composer automatically applies patches while documenting the patch history and current version. As a result, you have a powerful new tool that eliminates several redundancies in this area.
Of course, considering it's a new tool, your team may take some time to get the hang of things. But once they become accustomed to it, they'll realize that dependency management is much easier than they thought it to be.
Simplified configuration management & multilingual modules
Drupal 7 frameworks rely on the Features module to assist with configuration tasks, requiring developers to take site-building elements from different modules. Following that, they would have to bundle all of it together to build another module which would then be used for the task at hand.
For instance, to build a blog, you'd have to go through 5 or 6 modules, take specific elements that you want in your page, and then integrate them. Only then would you be able to design what you set out to do.
Drupal 9 significantly streamlines this process by allowing database configuration to be directly exported through YAML strings.
To put it briefly, any interrelated content can be put into a format parallel to the original entity value array. In addition, the material (template, content block, etc.) can be defined further through programmable and pre-defined structures, thereby eliminating the need to sift through separate modules.
Now, this includes conventional content creation alongside menu links, media files, blocks, and many others. The result? Simplified configuration management.
This addition is incredibly beneficial when constructing multilingual pages or modifying images based on device specifications. In fact, developers have all the options they could ever want regarding image styles with Drupal 9.
What should you consider while upgrading your Drupal site?
Drupal has an entire section on what you need to watch for when upgrading your current site. Note that there are specific differences when migrating from older frameworks, such as Drupal 7, or later versions, like Drupal 8.
To summarize the requirements in broad strokes, they are as follows:
Your site must have the most recent minor version or the one previously released (for example, 8.8 or 8.9 if you are running on Drupal 8)
All created modules must be updated to be compatible with the framework you are upgrading to
The hosting environment needs to meet the minimum system requirements (PHP 7.4 or later)
Any depreciated code must either be removed or fixed (the Upgrade Status can highlight the necessary ones in this regard)
Regardless, the migration process will vary widely depending on whether you used Composer or tar.gz files to build your site. In addition, there are also specific guidelines to navigate based on which minor version your site is currently running on.
All of this can get a little too taxing on your team. In that case, you can outsource your Drupal migration, thereby eliminating any challenges on your end.
Should you hold out for Drupal 10’s December release?
Understandably, upgrading to Drupal 9 comes with the question of 'why not just wait for Drupal 10 to release?'. Well, the simple answer is you can do that.
Yet, you also have to ask yourself: Why delay the upgrade when Drupal 10 will probably be backward-compatible, just like Drupal 9 was? Essentially, any module, configuration, or data you create on Drupal 9 can be seamlessly edited, customized, and managed on Drupal 10.
Granted, transitioning to Drupal 9 from Drupal 7 involves a lot of preliminary and exhausting busy work. However, if you commit to the migration now, you will set yourself up for a hassle-free migration to Drupal 10 later.
You only need to use the Upgrade Status on your current Drupal site to get an overview of the amount of work required. Then, the provided plan will highlight the exact points where you need to update any custom code or contributed projects.
Consolidating everything, transitioning to Drupal 9 now, and subsequently shifting to Drupal 10 is the best way to go about this. After all, why wait when an upgrade sits right before you?
Adapting to a better way with QED42
Changes are always a little jarring in the beginning. Still, once they have been implemented, the benefits far outweigh the effort needed to make them. That's precisely the outlook you need to take on upgrading your Drupal 7 site.
Besides, upgrading your Drupal site can give you several advantages. Exceptional page customization, streamlined developer access through Composer, enhanced and secure PHP support, simplified site building through YAML strings—the list can go on.
If you still need convincing, here's a simple truth: Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 are done. The latter has already reached its EOL, while the former is fast approaching the same. Holding out for a year won't change that.
Granted, taking the first step in this area can seem daunting. If that's the case for you, you could opt for QED42’s migration services.
With over a decade of experience in Drupal development and framework upgrades, QED42 specializes in managing large volumes of content, complex website transitions, and risk mitigation during the site transition process. In addition, we have a vast wealth of experience when it comes to migrating from Sitecore, Adobe CQ, WordPress, SharePoint, AEM, and other proprietary systems to Drupal. Chat with our Drupal Migration experts for more information.