Preparing Your CMS for Drupal 9

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With the upcoming 2020 release of Drupal 9 approaching, it’s the beginning of the end for Drupal 7 and 8 and many businesses are trying to understand what will be needed next. For those who are still on Drupal 7, you’ll need to do a little more work to get ready while those on Drupal 8 will just require some simple upkeep. Whatever position you are in now, don’t panic. Drupal 9 will provide a more streamlined approach to major version upgrades and will make future major release updates a breeze.

What if my site is still on Drupal 7?

Since Drupal 8 and 9 have a completely re-written core, an upgrade from Drupal 7 to either version will require some additional work, unfortunately. This extra effort mainly consists of content migration, a new theme, and rewriting any custom code used in your site. Depending on the size of your site, this could possibly require some effort, but is made easier by the many contributed modules available for Drupal migration (with Drupal 8, the Migrate module is a core one). 

Although this could be seen as a headache for some, this could also be looked at as an opportunity. If you are on Drupal 7, your site is most likely due for an update, anyway. If you have to migrate content, look at the way your content model is set up, how you are tagging content, what content can be removed, and other ways to organize your CMS. Since you will need to create a new theme, now is the time for a Redesign to make your site look fresh, enhance the user experience, and make sure that your content is accessible on any device.

I’m on Drupal 8 already, what do I need to do?

Congratulations, you are almost ready for the upgrade — there are just a few items that need your attention. First and foremost, make sure that all updates have been finished. You’ll need to check that you are using more modern versions of PHP (PHP 7.3 and higher) and databases. Ensure that your Drupal 8 site is updated to the latest version and that any contributed modules that are currently being used are or will soon be available for Drupal 9 —  a perfect way for checking this would be Acquia’s Deprecation Status Tool.

Because contributed modules play such an important role in a Drupal CMS, there have always been delays for upgrading, with many of these modules not ported to the newest core version right away. This has been a major deciding factor as to whether a core version upgrade should be completed. Luckily, since the core codebase is not changing from Drupal 8 to 9, many contributed modules should be fairly easily updated to Drupal 9. This will hopefully allow new versions to be available in weeks to months as opposed to Drupal 7 to 8’s availability of contributed modules in months or even years.

What do the end of life for Drupal 7 and 8 mean?

This means that there will be no more official development done. One of the major attractions of Drupal has always been the safety that it provides and a security team that is always looking into potential vulnerabilities of the Drupal framework. After the changeover, there will be no more security updates made for Drupal 7 or 8, which is a sound incentive for upgrading.

Drupal 9 and Beyond

How ideal would it be to press a button and have your site automatically upgraded to a major Drupal version? Well, the moment has arrived. The main goal of Drupal 9 is to streamline updates and make sure that you don’t have to completely redo your site every time a major version is released — this is true for future versions as well. This should also allow for many modules to be enhanced and newer modules to be developed.

New Drupal 9 Functionality:

  • Richer Media Management
  • Layout Builder
  • Multilingual Capabilities
  • Mobile Experience

One core Drupal 9 module that we are excited to use is ‘Workspaces’. While modules such as Features allow for migration of your content model — content types, taxonomy, et al — the Workspaces module will allow you to push actual content to different environments. This would save time and increase efficiency, as you wouldn’t have to migrate or manually recreate content on your production site that’s already built elsewhere. 

Staying Up to Date

  • Drupal 9 Release Date: June 3, 2020
  • First Scheduled Drupal 9 Feature Update: December 2020
  • Community Support for Drupal 7 and 8 Ends: November 2021

As a Drupal development agency, we can’t wait for this version upgrade along with the idea of refining existing code as opposed to starting anew. At WDG, we’re ready for this change and are prepared to help with the transition for all our clients on a Drupal CMS.

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