8 reasons to upgrade to Drupal 8

I recently had a meeting with a client who has operated their website on Drupal 7 for the past few years, and they wanted to know why they should upgrade their site from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. As I worked on answering their question, it became clear to me that there are 8 distinct reasons why it makes sense for businesses and organizations to make the leap from D7 to D8.

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Here are those 8 reasons:

1 - Ease of use

Historically, users have complained about the back-end experience of managing and editing Drupal websites. Thanks to Drupal 8, those complaints are now a thing of the past. First off, D8 comes with a WYSIWYG editor designed specifically for Drupal’s use. Beyond the traditional basics — like buttons for bold, italic, hyperlinks, and so on — there are added extras, such as easily editable image captions that come with the editor’s new Widgets feature.

Site admins can also perform inline editing, meaning they can look at the front-end of their site and make edits in real-time so that they can instantly see what their edits look like. No longer do you need to exclusively go to the back-end to update or edit content. This gives admins far more flexibility than ever before.

Additionally, Drupal 8 features the Material Design Admin Theme that was designed using the rules Google developed for all of its products. This means that as Drupal admins manage their content, they can have an experience that resembles working with a Google product — which can make editing more familiar and more comfortable.

2 - Mobile first

Drupal 8 is fully responsive out-of-the-box. There is no customization needed to make that happen. After all, it’s 2018 — any web product should be fully responsive. That means that when your site is built on D8, elements like menus, blocks, and even images will automatically reshape to work and look good on any screen size.

Additionally, D8 features a mobile-friendly toolbar that has multiple benefits to it. First off, it makes it possible for admins to manage content from their smartphone or other mobile device. More importantly, the toolbar was designed with accessibility in mind, which means it makes it easier for screen readers to easily navigate to different parts of a site.

3 - Performance

If you have a website, you want it to perform well. That’s obvious. And good performance often refers to fast load times. What Drupal 8 has that Drupal 7 doesn’t is BigPipe technology, which was first developed at Facebook. What BigPipe does is it allows your site to have far better front-end perceived performance because of how it loads and caches content. Here is a video that our CTO Rich Lawson likes to use as an example of how BigPipe impacts a site.

BigPipe is part of Drupal core, so when you upgrade to Drupal 8, you will benefit from it immediately.

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4 - Introducing TWIG

Drupal 8 introduces Twig, a widely adopted theme system in the PHP world, to Drupal. Twig’s syntax is simpler, and Twig is more secure than the PHP template-based theme system in Drupal 7 and below that it replaces. It allows designers and themers with HTML/CSS knowledge to modify markup without needing to be a PHP expert and with almost no risk of their actions causing security issues on your site.

5 - Migration plan

With Drupal 8, the process of updating the platform has changed, and it’s a change that benefits users, admins and Drupal itself. Historically, upgrading to a new version of Drupal (like Drupal 6 to Drupal 7), required an entire rebuild. It was time consuming and it was expensive. Starting with Drupal 8, that process changes. Upgrading from D7 to D8 still necessitates that total rebuild, but after that, you won’t need to rebuild when a new version of the platform comes out. So when Drupal 9 is unveiled, you want need the same type of overhaul as you’ve done in the past.

Beyond that, Drupal has changed to a new release cycle. Now, Drupal offers monthly bug fixes and security releases (for example, 8.0.1, 8.0.2, etc.) and semi-annual minor releases of Drupal core (so 8.1.0, 8.2.0 and so on). This means that if there is a bug with the platform, or a certain module isn’t working in the latest version, no longer do you have to wait years for the new version to be released. Instead, your wait time is only a couple of months, if that.

Additionally, modules are now compatible between immediate major versions, so you don’t ever have to say, “I cannot upgrade to Drupal 9 because my favorite module is only in Drupal 8.”

6 - Extensibility

Flexible content delivery is another key tenet of D8. That flexibility extends to integrations, one of the platform’s hallmarks and key differentiators. Drupal is a great foundation for web content management and digital experience management because it enables integrations with your best-of-breed technologies. Drupal 8 gives you the ultimate freedom and flexibility to choose what technologies you want to use.

7 - Future proofing

Drupal 8 makes it possible to access your content beyond the confines of a traditional screen. Drupal enables you to create and deliver content to any channel, device or application. That means Drupal makes it easier to share your content with mobile apps, voice recognition devices like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, or even Internet of Things devices (like your smart fridge, for example). You may not need that functionality now, but down the road, you may like the option.

8 - Commerce 2.X

The Drupal Commerce 2 module has been curated by commerce experts and its out of the box functionality can stand up against any proprietary platform. New features will be introduced into the core through micro-updates and major migrations will be a thing of the past, just as it is with Drupal 8 and beyond.

The Drupal community’s attention is on Drupal Commerce 2, just as the community is focused on D8 instead of D7. If you’re operating with Drupal Commerce 1, or a different e-commerce module, you’re not going to be guaranteed the same type of maintenance and security as you would in Drupal Commerce 2. When you’re focused on selling a product or service through your website, you want to make sure it is up to date with security and functionality settings.

Those are my eight reasons why I told our client they should upgrade to D8. Did I miss something? Is there something else about D8 that you want to know about? Shoot me a note and let me know.

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