Four years ago we made an important decision at Netstudio: We would migrate to Drupal. Drupal 7 had just come out, and despite our having mastered Joomla at online-store level, we simply could not ignore Drupal’s embedded Content Construction Kit, its multi-lingual support, safety, stability, scalability, search engine friendliness, but, most of all, the professionalism of the Drupal community.
Drupal 7 helped us undertake even bigger and more complex projects, and build all of our solutions for ecommerce and presentation websites, including even our ERP, project management tool, quotes generation and hiring systems and our project management tool. It was on Drupal we based our company’s projects, like visibility.gr and servalarm.com, as well as more than 200 websites and online stores for our customers.
Not for a single moment have we regretted our migration to Drupal, despite our having to learn a new ecosystem from scratch.
Just six months after Drupal 7 was launched, the Drupal community set off for Drupal 8. Dries Buytaert set very high standards for the new version of Drupal defining the main pillars to set it on the crest of the wave.
Four and a half years of development later, beta 10 release is here, signalling the approach of the final release in less than 6 months from now!
More than 2800 programmers − twice as many as for its predecessor − have contributed for Drupal 8 developing hundreds of new features.
The most significant structural change made was that it was based on Symfony2 framework thus turning it into an object-oriented platform. From now on, large chunks of code, such as Guzzle, Twig (the new theming system), the Composer, etc. come from the Symfony2 community.
Moreover, Drupal 8 brings along enormous changes in the way we develop websites.
Multilingual support is very important for us, since we are based in Greece and our many international clients require the operation of their website in English and the language spoken in their country. Some of our clients run multilingual websites (eg ivf-embryo.gr is available in 14 languages). Drupal 7 supports multilingual websites much better than Joomla or WordPress, but requires installing and configuring over 15 additional modules. In some extreme cases full support requires a programmer’s intervention, so it is not fully manageable by the non-technical administrator.
Multilingual support is embedded in the core of Drupal 8 requiring the activation of only 4 modules. Drupal can now be installed and operated in the administrator’s native language from start to finish. Gábor Hojtsy, heading a large team of contributors for this pillar, did an excellent job solving dozens of issues on Drupal 7, and transforming Drupal 8 into the most comprehensive platform available for developing multilingual websites and open-source-code applications!
Views in Core
For many, the views module is the basic reason for choosing Drupal. It allows displaying data to the user, without them having to write SQL queries. In Drupal 8 the Views module is conveniently embedded in Core. You can start building your website without having to install an additional module offering stability, full integration and interoperability. Furthermore, all administration screens are now Views, allowing the administrator to change fields and their appearance with just a few clicks.
WYSIWYG and Inline Edit
Content editing in Drupal 7 hasn’t been the best experience for the administrator. WordPress is still the leader in convenience and usability in this area. At Netstudio we have been installing dozens of modules in order to provide our customers with an environment almost as friendly as that of WordPress. Drupal 8 is a huge step in that direction. Its basic installation offers the content manager enhanced usability in a much friendlier environment (in fact, Netstudio has contributed some usability tests via UserFeel.com). The new release features a configured built-in WYSIWYG editor, as well as the impressive cutting-edge Inline Edit, making quick content interventions piece-of-cake for the front-end administrator.
Anything left for the next Drupal 8 (maybe 8.1) release? Well, yes. Media administration (photos, videos etc.). Although there have been improvements, additional modules need to be installed for a comprehensive solution, as is the case of the recently released Entity Embed and Entity Browser.
Now that the mobile web is a reality, it all seems so matter-of-fact. In 2011 however, at the onset of the Drupal 7 era, all we knew about the mobile web was forecasts. Fortunately, Dries Buytaert took these forecasts seriously, so he set the requirements for Drupal 8 aiming at its full compatibility with mobile devices. And his efforts were not in vain. The environment all around Drupal 8 is not only responsive, but also very easy for mobile and tablet users, even regarding contextual links, the admin menu and inline editing. The bottom line is that any administrator can manage their website comfortably commuting on a bus seat, on their bed or enjoying the sunshine on the beach!
Performance & Scalability
A platform’s performance and its ability to juggle sudden spikes of traffic have been major concerns of ours, partly explaining why we migrated to Drupal 7. Initially, Drupal 8 was much slower than Drupal 7, as shown in a comparative analysis we published two years ago. The obvious reason of course was that it was still under development and lacking the necessary speed optimization. This now has been changed. About a month ago, internal cache was set to on by default. We’re talking about a much smarter cache than that in Drupal 7. Speed racing is in progress, with developer Wim Leers in the lead. Here we expect dramatic improvements and capabilities once "SmartCache" and "PigPipe", Facebook-style page loading have been embedded in the core.
I have a crush on this one, can’t wait for it, as it solves the issue of maintaining the site configuration under version control. In Drupal 7 website configuration and content were stored in the database, sometimes in the same tables, making their management almost impossible. We have repeatedly tried to resolve this issue using features, strongarm etc, but have given up as these solutions were too time-consuming and costly. We’ve been going out of our way creating scripts to control functionality, and checking over 300 points regarding security, performance, SEO etc. before delivering a website to our client. Still, this may not be considered a comprehensive solution. In Drupal 8 configuration is stored in YML files. That makes version control management, and data transfer from website to website or from environment to environment (e.g. development > staging > testing > live) a breeze.
Another important change in Drupal 8 is the rate of publication of new releases. In Drupal 7 subsequent releases (7.01, 7.02, and the most recent one, 7.37) focused exclusively on fixing bugs and security issues During these last four and a half years only few features have been added, in accordance to the backward compatibility policy. This is changed in Drupal 8. Versions 8.1, 8.2, etc. will not comprise of "minor updates", but will add new functionality. What it boils down to is that from now on, Drupal will be integrating technology innovation much faster.
Over and above the most important new features mentioned above, Drupal 8 comes with many more innovations like fieldable blocks, a greater range of integrated field types (date, entity reference, phone, email, link), the tour module, embedded schema.org output, enhanced accessibility, content publishing preview, friendlier front-end development, and more. What’s your main reason you can’t wait for Drupal 8?
Leave your comment below.
When will it be ready?
DrupalCon Los Angeles, with dozens of developers racing in Coding Sprints for the completion of Drupal 8, is now over. Only 20 critical issues (tasks and bugs) were left unsolved!
The RC (Release Candidate) version will be released once the last of these issues will have been resolved. The final version of Drupal 8 will be released 15 days after critical tasks and critical bugs have been brought down to zero. This is likely to take less than six months, but we’ll need to wait for another few months before we see the top contributed modules upgraded to Drupal 8. Knowing us, however, I’m sure we’ll start developing some simple presentation websites on the release of the almost final version. However, we’ll have to wait for 3-6 extra months before we can use Drupal 8 in more demanding installations. Meanwhile, we can all keep an eye on the top 100 contributed modules and their Drupal 8 updating status at: http://www.bluespark.com/status-top-100-contributed-modules-drupal-8
We can’t wait for Drupal 8. Can you?
Now you know our reasons of impatience to start working on Drupal 8. What about your reasons? Do you plan on using Drupal 8? Have you used it already? What do you like most about it? Write your comment here.