It’s nearly a decade since the release of Drupal 7. During this time, we have seen new legislation in web accessibility, privacy (GDPR), the rise of mobile internet, and the proliferation of high-performance devices.
The way we interact through technology has changed too. Customer expectation has risen, and interaction has become automated, facilitated by the integration of CRMs and marketing tools.
The case for 'Versions'
These social changes are why ‘versions’ of technology are released. When the world changes in such a fundamental way, it is illogical to make a historic version continue to fit. Instead, new versions are built with the way we communicate at their source.
Drupal 7 was created in an unrecognisable world by today’s standards, and by staying on D7, you remain in that past world.
If you wish to remain secure, keep pace with innovation, consumer expectations, and meet modern digital standards, it is necessary to migrate your website to a CMS version built for the new world.
These new requirements are why Drupal 8 and most recently Drupal 9, which I will come onto later, have been released.
What happens at Drupal 7’s End of Life?
In November 2021 Drupal 7 reaches “End of Life”. It is important to understand what this means to your organisation:
- The Drupal Security Team will no longer provide support or Security Advisories for Drupal 7 core or contributed modules (additional components for your website), themes, or other projects.
- Drupal 7 will no longer be supported by the community at large. The community at large will no longer create new projects, fix bugs in existing projects, write documentation, etc. around Drupal 7.
- After November 2021, using Drupal 7 may be flagged as insecure in 3rd party scans as it no longer gets support.
- Best practice is to not use unsupported software, it would not be advisable to continue to build new Drupal 7 sites.
It is important to appreciate that your website does not suddenly become insecure come November 2021, rest assured we present you several options, detailed below.
Drupal 8: What’s new?
Drupal 8 is a massive leap forward for the community and the organisations using it.
There are so many reasons why Drupal 8 (and 9) implementations appeal to Drupal 7 site owners. Here are a few which stand out:
- Content authoring experience designed with marketers in mind
- Drag and drop page builder
- Flexible page layouts with components
- Introduce modern headless front end
- Mobile-first by default
- Fast page load times, great for end-users and SEO alike
- Media library simplifying work with video, images and documents
- Social integration
- Easily exchange data with CRM, marketing and back-office systems
- WCAG 2.1 accessibility
- Ability to introduce personalisation
How to decide your Drupal 7 strategy
Your path forward depends upon your organisation’s attitude towards the Drupal 7 site. Which category does your site fall into?
Category 1 Site Owners
- Our website is critical to our business operation.
- Our website needs a redesign.
- To perform efficiently, we additional features now or in the future.
- Our website must comply with accessibility and/or GDPR legislation.
- Our website is in active development.
Recommendation: Drupal 8 Re-platform (Click or keep scrolling)
Category 2 Site Owners
- We have no plans to develop further features.
- We will retire the site in the next 12-24 months.
- Our site content and design will remain the same for a number of years.
Recommendation: Drupal 7 Long Term Support program (Click or keep scrolling)
Category 1 Site Owners:
Drupal 8 replatform
To help you consider what approach to take, consider which of the next set of categories your site falls into. Each results in all the benefits Drupal 8 offers, but takes a different journey to get there.
Level 1/3: Your site is great as is.
Your site functions with minimal issues. You want to spend little time planning and you're migrating for security reasons.
Level 2/3: In need of a refresh.
You need a visual refresh and to evaluate some features, but on the whole, your site operates just fine.
Level 3/3: Time for a big rethink.
Your site doesn't meet your requirements or business goals. It's time for a big rethink.
Recommendation: Lift and shift £
Maintain the same functionality and look-and-feel, but with a new Drupal 8 CMS.
Steps: A Drupal 8 migration.
Recommendation: Minor upgrade ££
A solution similar to your existing site, with a design refresh.
Steps: Short planning phase to deliver new wireframes, creative design, and a Drupal 8 migration.
Recommendation: Major upgrade £££
A solution significantly different to your existing site with a totally new design.
Steps: A discovery, definition, and full design process before the Drupal 8 migration.
Category 2 Site Owners:
Drupal 7 long term support
Staying on Drupal 7 is an option only if you subscribe to extended support, commercially available security updates are made available via a subscription model. This will be available until 2024.
Additionally, patching of Symfony and PHP will be necessary. Over time this option becomes less attractive since innovation is not here, the burden to maintain a secure site will grow.
What about Drupal 9?
Drupal 9 was released June 3rd 2020, built from the final version of Drupal 8. It can be considered a housekeeping release. The release removes features no longer necessary and any “deprecated code” to maintain compatibility with key underlying third-party systems like Symfony. These third-party systems that are also benefiting from security and performance updates. These changes are all centred around keeping pace with the modern web.
Moving to Drupal 8 means you are ready for Drupal 9. Once a majority of modules are ported to Drupal 9, many of which already are, only then should you update to 9.
If you migrate to Drupal 8, ensure your new site does not reference features deprecated in Drupal 9. If you do this, moving between Drupal 8 & 9 will efficient and return great value.
“Moving between Drupal 8 & 9 is the easiest upgrade in a decade.”
Drupal 8 migration audit
When deciding and planning for a migration, you must audit and consider the following:
- Integrations and 3rd Party features
- Bespoke modules and design
- Front end styling and customer experience
- Live data systems
- Data housing and quality
- Page and content structure, volume, and quality
- Back office processes
- Workflows and approval systems
It would be a missed opportunity to not tell you that we offer this service as both an initial review and an extensive audit. If you require these services, please inform me of your concerns and website address on our contact page.
Building a business case for a Drupal upgrade
Once you have identified the risks of Drupal 7, you may need to convince your colleagues, superiors, and peers. We have developed business cases for Universities, the Public Sector, Membership bodies, Legal Professionals, and Not-For-Profit organisations.
The crux comes from the opportunity deficit. While the risks of security and accessibility are clear to most, the opportunity deficit is created first by your technical knowledge, and finally by your creative application. Having been in the depths of Drupal since the beginning, we know the hidden potential of Drupal, and as such, can help you identify the business-critical opportunity a migration can bring.