Why upgrade to Drupal 8?

So you’ve read our posts about when to upgrade and how to prepare for Drupal 8, but just as you’re about to jump, you ask that big question. Why am I doing this? Read on and I’ll tell you why…

Support and security

As mentioned by Rupert in his earlier post, Drupal is now made using Symfony. This means that Drupal’s standards have greatly improved. We’re now forced to use an industry standard, we’ve got object-oriented code and the latest PHP standards. This makes it easier to find more developers - you won’t need a Drupal specific developer to understand your site, any PHP developer should be able to pick it up.

As well as more developers supporting Drupal, Symfony also provides better security. We greatly reduce the possibility of XSS vulnerabilities with the introduction of Twig. Currently, it is possible for a developer to put vulnerable code into the theming layer. Twig however, removes that possibility.  

Performance

As a frontend developer myself, I’m very aware of how several thousand <div>s on a webpage can make a difference on the sites performance. Historically, Drupal is famous for its multitude of <div>s. Twig will make it easier for frontend developers to produce the exact code required to do the job with nothing extra floating around and bloating ever-precious download times. More and more users are using their mobile data connection, which results in slower download times. Large page sizes simply cannot cope, resulting in users getting bored and possibly going elsewhere. 

Because we have more control over the markup in Drupal 8, it makes it much easier to ensure the accessibility of your site is top notch. More thought can go into what screen readers see - remember that Google is the most active blind internet user there is! Better code ensures better accessibility, which in turn ensures better SEO rankings. Everyone is a winner!

Out of the box Drupal 8 has been rewritten from the ground up using a mobile first approach. This means your site is already able to work on mobile before we’ve even put our designers’ magic touch on it. Now you can even update your site easily on your phone - so you can now instantly add that breaking news feature (or cute cat photo). 

There’s a new HTML element coming out called <picture>. Chrome is already using it and Firefox isn’t far off. This new element has set the frontend world rejoicing. It means we can offer better picture quality and therefore download speeds over all your devices. This element is in Drupal 8 and ready to use. It’s even got clever fallbacks for browsers that don’t support <picture> yet. As such, we now have full control over what images appear and what the quality will be. Say 'goodbye' to long download times when you’re on the train checking out those cute cat photos.

We’ve also got the addition of key form elements already built in and ready to go; meaning we can create forms on any node. It also means we have complete control over them e.g. we're able to get placeholder text and other accessibility problems working in the first instance.

New features

We’ve covered all the wonderful new ways Drupal is built, but that isn’t all that comes with Drupal 8; it has some great new features built into it. Admittedly, most of these were contrib modules in Drupal 7 like Views but the problem with too many contrib modules is that a site can quickly become something resembling overcooked spaghetti. 

For instance, we use the Media module a lot here at Torchbox. In the early days of D7, there were several other modules we needed and sometimes these modules wouldn’t play nice with Media module. We had to wrestle with them and create custom code to get them to behave the way we wanted. Now that File Entity is in core, the Media module has been scaled down to just the best bits and it’s easier for new modules to work in harmony. Better file integration all-round is a great new introduction to Drupal 8.

For website editors there’s a fancy new Quick Edit module that gives you in-place WYSIWYG editing. No more scrolling through to the endless blocks page to try and find that one block you want to change, just click and edit. Here’s a quick Demo of it in action.

Tour module is a clever little module that I think most of our clients would like. It adds a step-by-step walk-through of the different elements to your site. Filling in a donation form for example, suddenly becomes more interactive with pop-up boxes explaining what happens at different points of the form. More information for users without the need to clutter the form with text and risking putting users off donating. 

Happy Developers

All of the things we’ve covered help to make us developers happy. No longer do frontend developers have to pester backend developers for help in creating better markup. No more “Drupal does it differently” from the rest of the PHP world. 

Drupal is reaching a maturity where it is no longer alongside its peers, but is slowly dwarfing them with its wonderfully clever qualities that have made it so popular to date.

Justine Pockc

Justine PocockDrupal Front End Developer