Many production websites out there are still happily running on Drupal 7, whilst newer ones have been started on Drupal 8. The question keeps coming up - when should you upgrade to Drupal 9 and how long do you have left on your older version of Drupal?
What is Drupal 9?
From a code perspective, Drupal 9 is a cleaned-up version of Drupal 8. It's the same as the last Drupal 8.9 version with the deprecated (outdated) code removed and third-party dependencies updated. Drupal 9 is mostly already built in Drupal 8.
Drupal 9.1, a typically more stable version of Drupal 9, was released on 2nd December 2020. This tends to be when most organisations update to from an older version of Drupal (e.g. Drupal 8).
It's 20% faster to install and brings improved frontend performance for your visitors using default image lazy-loading.
Why does Drupal 9 exist?
Since version 8 of Drupal, the CMS has benefited from being built on top of a common PHP framework known as Symfony. As a CMS user, you don’t need to know or care about this as far as publishing content and changing settings goes.
However, this underlying framework is now reaching the end of life and will not receive support and security coverage - resulting in Drupal 8 also becoming vulnerable to any Symfony exploits in the future.
Drupal 8 uses Symfony 3 which reaches the end of life in November 2021. Therefore Drupal 8 will also reach end of life.
With this impending date in mind Drupal 9 was scheduled for release to move the codebase to the new Symfony 4 framework and at the same time remove some of the older no longer needed Drupal 7 code from the CMS.
Drupal 8 and 9 have been built for content editors, making it easier for them to publish content quicker. We explain how Drupal does this in our blog on how to get your campaigns to market quicker using Drupal.
The big deal about Drupal 9 is … that it should not be a big deal.
Should I Upgrade to Drupal 9?
The window between Drupal 8 being unsupported and Drupal 9 being released is over a year - so plenty of time to plan and update your existing website if necessary.
But it’s also worth noting that the move from version 8 to 9 is a much simpler and hassle-free journey for developers - resulting in less time and cost for website owners than previous versions.
If you’re currently on Drupal 7 or earlier, It's worth planning and executing a move to Drupal 8 now - with an eye on the quick succession to Drupal 9 once the stable 9.1 version is released when you’re ready.
You should be planning to remove old code that’s no longer needed (referred to as technical debt) and analysis of your older Drupal site features.
Because Drupal 9 is basically Drupal 8 streamlined, you won’t benefit from trying to skip the upgrade - essentially going from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9. It simply means you have less time to implement the upgrade and therefore put unnecessary risk into your project.
Doing the upgrade to Drupal 8 with an eye to Drupal 9 is the best approach. You can already benefit from all the functionality in Drupal 8 with an easier upgrade path going forward.
Planning Your Upgrade
Upgrading to a newer version of Drupal is the best time to evaluate how well your website is performing.
You can analyse how well it is achieving your business’s objectives across marketing and other departments that rely on the website.
It’s also the perfect time to look into whether your website experience suits your current (and target) audience.
Upgrading your website can be daunting, we’ve created a series to break the journey down into manageable tasks complete with worksheets.
Read more on our website upgrade series, in the links below:
Step 1: Your SMART Website Goals
Step 2: Identifying your main users and user groups
Step 3: Writing User Stories
Step 4: Documenting Site Features
Step 5: Identifying and Adding Plugin / Modules
Step 6 Part 1: Why Benchmarking Helps You Find the Answer
Step 6 part 2: Benchmark Metrics and Tools To Get You Started
Step 7: How to Demo a CMS and Understand Which is Right For You
Summer has been and gone...
Version 9.1, a minor version upgrade, is often when most organisations start to upgrade their site. Many of the annoying niggles have been ironed out and many modules have been updated to work with Drupal 9.
As with all new major releases, there’s always the case for incomplete or non-functioning features to creep in. What is different about Drupal 9 is that it’s a quick evolution of the Drupal 8 codebase and features - meaning a lot of the modules will instantly be compatible without major re-architecting of the codebase - meaning less time and budget to spend on other campaigns...
To track the Drupal 9 release and new features being introduced in the upcoming versions be sure to keep an eye on the dedicated Drupal 9 Drupal.org page and the up to the minute DropIsMoving Twitter news account.
Thanks to Gábor Hojtsy for putting together the "State of Drupal 9" slide deck where the above release diagram came from.
Large, costly upgrades are now a thing of the past. Gain a competitive advantage with simpler upgrades with Drupal 9 now. Not sure where to start?