Upgrading Your Company’s Drupal Website? It’s Easy If You Do It Smart!

Post by Dan P Picture of Dan P
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Just received that email from your CEO tasking you with upgrading the company’s website to the latest version of Drupal?

I’ll show you why it’s actually a blessing in disguise and the reasons why you shouldn’t fear the ‘big’ project!

It’s actually not that scary if you follow some simple steps.

How do you make sure not to forget all the functionality and features you need?

I’ve been involved in many website upgrade projects and been on the receiving end of many quote requests for these kind of projects.
As an agency one of the challenging parts of a project like this is the unknowns.

Knowing exactly

  • how the current site works now, and
  • how the client is expecting the site to work post upgrade

As a customer it’s hard for the same reason - the unknowns!

  • You’ve probably never worked with the agency before so how do you know they’re the right one?
  • The agency is probably asking you for a ‘spec’ so how do you make sure you get all the features you want? How do you know what they need in a spec or how to write it so they understand you? Or more importantly that the agency build it to work how you need?

There are two reasons I often see going wrong;

  1. Not enough time spent on discovery or understanding the project at the start, and
  2. The brief being too technical and task based.

So if you’re a marketing manager and you’ve been tasked with the upgrade one of the keys to success is in communicating what you want and expect from the new platform in a non technical way - focus on the ways that people want to use your platform (user stories). Don’t tell the agency how to build it, tell them how you and your customer expect to use it.

At the end of the day websites are about people; the customers who use your website on the front end, your internal team that manage the day to day content of the website and the people or stakeholders who own the website.

It’s about building the website for ‘people’ so don’t get drawn into how you want the website to be built ‘technically’.

Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash

25 percent of web projects fail. These findings are consistent with studies of larger IT initiatives showing failure rates of 30%-70%.

Michael Krigsman
Michael Krigsman
Founder cxotalk.com
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So how do you make sure you’re not one of the 30% that fail?

Let’s go back to the 2 reasons I often see causing projects to fail - the first being not enough time in the discovery phases when a company is choosing an agency to help with their website upgrade.

I know it’s hard to find time in our busy working lives, but the fact is website upgrade projects might cost thousands of pounds but the value they bring to your organisation could be many times that.
So surely we should give it the importance and ‘time’ it truly deserves.

As a good friend and marketing expert of mine, Neil Simpson, often says

“It’s never about time, we can always find the time, it’s just that we need to know the Return on Investment”

So let’s start there - Return on Investment (RoI)

First step in the process should be for you to understand ‘why’ you’re doing this as an organisation?

To know whether anything has been successful means that you must have an idea what 'success' looks like. Understanding what that is for your project will help you prioritise what is most important and may also help getting buy-in from management.

Once you understand what success looks like you should be able to put a value on it and subsequently measure it later. Your project might not just be about increasing sales or revenue, there might be other elements like brand and perception, if you’re a charity perhaps. Although it’s likely there are still some financial reasons behind the project.

Is there considerable value in making the project a success?

Ok great, that should give you the impetus to spend the required time at the start of the project now.

Let’s move onto my 2nd point, how should we spend this time?
Work out the features you need for the upgraded website - but remember we need to think about the ‘people’.

So here’s a Drupal upgrade checklist that will give you the best chance of a successful project:

  1. What is Utopia? What is success for the project? Understand ‘why’ you’re doing this as an organisation.
  2. Users and User groups - start by identifying the main users or user groups of the system. 
  3. User objectives - What are they looking to get from it? What do you want them to do? What does your internal team need to be able to do on the admin panel of the site? And what are the objectives and targets of stakeholders? Does management want more leads? More sales? More orders or donations?
  4. User stories - How do your customers want to use the website?
  5. Site features - Capture high level functional requirements expected of any future web platform
  6. Your Drupal 7 site - list all the modules currently being used. Ideally why are the modules important too. Are there any customisations that have been made?
  7. Benchmark current site - SEO, site traffic and site speed.
  8. Try to have a demo of Drupal 8 or watch videos showing the admin panel.
  9. Agency due diligence- shortlist some agencies that specialise in Drupal and have the experience delivering similar projects. Find out how they work. Meet some of their team, can you work with them? Don’t worry about price at this stage. Maybe ask for ballpark figures, is it £20-£50k or £50-£100k? Do they offer website support?
  10. Choose an agency or agencies to discuss in more detail
  11. Now it’s about putting together the solution 
  12. Agreeing with the agency on what is the right solution - once you’ve got this right you should be able to get a more accurate or refined quote
  13. Start with support - Many agencies would prefer to win the larger build opportunity straight away, we would recommend a different approach. Engage an agency to support the current Drupal 7 site first. This will allow them to gather the required knowledge and familiarity of both the business and the website to be better positioned to deliver the website migration to Drupal 8 for you.

Listen to our first podcast with Paul and Mark who explain how to identify your users and ways to conduct research on our SpotifyGoogle Podcasts or YouTube channels.

Do it now!

Are you ready to start your project discovery?

No? Still not sure?

Don’t worry I’ll be putting a step by step guide together over the next few weeks to help you go through each stage above so you'll have the plan to make sure your project is a roaring success!
Sign up below to receive the guide once it's ready!

Do you want to read more on how to make your upgrade a success?

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Dan Pala

Dan P

Digital Strategy Director

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