Drupal 8 is in a great place for new projects, and future upgrades will be far less involved. Moving from Drupal 7 or another CMS to Drupal 8 may feel like a big step, but it is an investment that will pay you and your organisation back, both in the short term and for many years to come.
Some time away
Having been away from work and from Drupal for six months on a sailing sabbatical, I returned full of curiosity to see how Drupal was faring in an increasingly competitive CMS marketplace. We need to be confident that Drupal remains the right choice for our clients, and my time away meant I could take a fresh look at the current state of play.
Diving back in
Attending DrupalCon Amsterdam 2019 was a great way for me to check in on the health of the Drupal community, get a sense of the Drupal marketplace and understand the recent developments and roadmap for Drupal 8 and ahead to Drupal 9 and 10.
After a long week of presentations, questions, conversations and contributions, I’m convinced that Drupal is in a better place than it has ever been, so I’ve compiled my top 10 reasons to jump onto the Drupal 8.8 train right now!
1 - Hugely improved admin UX
In Drupal 8.8, the admin user experience benefits from the new Claro theme, making the look and feel for the default admin experience far more modern and easy to use. At the same time, layout builder allows site managers to quickly alter the layout of content and page structures, with no knowledge of coding required. A growing suite of additional modules extend the core layout builder for improved usability, integrate with other modules (such as Paragraphs), provide custom permissions, or even take over the entire page reducing need for the blocks admin page.
2 - Complete media management
The inclusion of full media management in Drupal 8 core is a huge step for the default content creation experience. The lack of intuitive and consistent media management has long been a pain point for content editors and a source of criticism levelled at Drupal. Now that default architectural decisions are made by Drupal core and the media embed and media library are included in core, Drupal has finally caught up with Wordpress and other popular open source systems, in terms of easy rich content creation and management, while maintaining its lead in flexibility and extensibility.
3 - Upgrades are getting much easier
With semantic versioning we have a clear release cycle, know when to expect the next release, and have a clear roadmap to new versions. Each point release brings exciting new features, providing enhancements to the system incrementally rather than in a single hit. Drupal 9 will be an evolution of Drupal 8 without all the legacy code, so upgrading will be relatively trivial. Look out for our upcoming blog post on Drupal 9.
4 - Migrate at its core
The fact that migrate is in Drupal core is revolutionary: it makes it easy to migrate data between Drupal sites and from other systems, often without any code development required. When migrating from an existing site, it is a great opportunity to improve the content model and site architecture. The flexibility of the migrate system allows developers to swiftly extend the migration mappings to new data structures such as more semantic paragraph content.
5 - API First
You will never need to move your content again! And if you do, you’ll find it easy to do so. The core JSON API provides access to all data in Drupal in a secure and extensible manner. Increasingly people are using the API to build headless or decoupled websites in other front end frameworks such as ReactJS, Gatsby or VUE.js (like our own site). This means that if you do need to refresh your brand, re-architect your site or rebuild in another system, you can still manage your content in Drupal and feed it to your website, mobile apps, syndicated feeds or other channels. True separation of content management and content presentation will allow anyone using Drupal 8 to maintain flexibility for many years to come, maybe even decades.
6 - Symfony framework components
Building on the Symfony framework has brought many benefits for developers. It is far easier to extend existing systems, reuse code, faster to debug and easier to scale. This means we can spend more time doing the interesting and innovative work which makes us, and our clients, happy.
7 - Configuration management
Configuration management is another game-changer for Drupal 8, and is maturing well. We want to allow content managers to do their jobs of writing and managing content, while being able to define, test and deploy new configuration to the live site. The configuration management initiative continues to drive this forward and support the flexibility that we need in core, while extending configuration management with a wide array of mature contributed modules.
8 - Workspaces
Workspaces in core builds on the configuration management and workflow modules to allow content and configuration staging within a single site. This means site builders can make changes to content and configuration and deploy all of these at a given point. This can be used to prepare a new version of the home page and deploy it when ready e.g. to release a seasonal edition of your website.
9 - So many stable extension modules
Drupal 8 moved a number of important contributed modules into core, most famously views, but also migrate, media, responsive images and more. This ensures that the functionality and security of these critical modules evolves in line with core versions, making updates smoother and more testable. With the number of contributed modules for Drupal 8 continuing to grow – now standing at more than 2,500 actively maintained modules - it is fair to say that we have reached the critical mass of contributed modules required to be confident of continued productivity, versatility and extensibility.
10 - A vibrant community
The Drupal Community is healthy and growing, which is a hugely important consideration for choosing any open source project. Dries Buytaert analyses the statistics on who contributes to Drupal on his blog, demonstrating that contribution continues to grow. As a user of Drupal, you too are an integral part of the community and can contribute back in many ways, not just with code. With issue credits, client organisations and Drupal agencies are gaining the recognition they deserve for the work they do that leads directly back to improvements in Drupal core and contributed modules.
I’m very happy to report that Drupal is in a better place than ever to help forward thinking organisations take control of their content in an open source CMS that is easy to manage, easy to upgrade, and ready for whatever the future holds.
Get in touch if we can help, or come along to your local Drupal User Group (e.g. Oxford, Manchester) to find out more and contribute your thoughts and feedback!
Or continue the conversation on Twitter @finnlewis or LinkedIn @finnlewis.