Should you upgrade to Drupal 8?

Date 23rd, Feb 2017
Profile picture for user Maxime Topolov
Maxime Topolov
Co-founder / CTO
Upgrading your Drupal, Drupal 8 migration

A lot of talk within the Drupal community is about the advancements and progress that Drupal 8 has made over its predecessor. The new modules, speed, and scope of Drupal 8 has opened the framework and allows for even more complexity. However, this growth and innovation is not without its share of headaches. While many who are intimate with the framework and deeply entrenched in the community are in support of migration, a lot of consumers and clients are still on the fence. Is it worth it to upgrade? Who benefits most from migration? What are the benefits? In order to better understand where your personal needs fall it would be worth understanding both the pros and cons of Drupal 8 migration.

Pros to Drupal 8 migration

More mobile friendly and responsive – This is probably the most crucial of all of the upgrades. There is now an administrator app for Drupal, which allows for access from mobile devices so changes can be made while on the go. Also, all modules included in the Drupal core are responsive, allowing for a more mobile friendly experience for the end-user. This growing shift in mobile capabilities is vital for Drupal’s growth, as the digital world is experiencing a large shift to mobile platforms that will certainly not slow in the coming years.

Better localization options -  With Drupal being used more and more by an international audience, localization and translation options are a must to foster further growth in all markets. Better usage for non-native English speakers and for people running translation services or building projects outside of English. Improvements in translation and transliteration modules allow for both developers and clients to create localized content for their specific target market.  


Easier for content creation and management –  A more centralized and user friendly CMS allows for those who use Drupal as a CMS to create and manage content easier. This was a common complaint from those who were less tech savvy and needed to interact with Drupal when creating and publishing new content. Media files are also easier to move and view within Drupal, fields can be cropped, changed and resized as images and media content are placed into Drupal. Improved and more content friendly development and production environments are also a welcome benefit to content creators who lack technical expertise. 


Wider Developer Community – While this might be a bit of a flash in the pan for Drupal, there is a module made by Acquia called Waterwheel that allows for JavaScript to be written natively in Drupal. Potentially a a one-off of cross-language use, maybe more doors will be opened in terms of crossover within Drupal. Combined with Drupal's use of Symphony within the framework helps to further expand the Drupal dev community, more options in the future of Drupal are certainly possible. 

Faster Performance – With Drupal’s legacy connection to web based applications it makes sense that the framework would be optimized for the internet. With several upgrades to existing modules and the introduction of a new one, BigPipe module, Drupal is faster than ever. BigPipe helps break a webpage down into static and non-static elements and prioritizes which are to load first. This results in dramatically faster load times.

It’s is the future of Drupal – This is obvious - Drupal 8 is the future of Drupal. As time goes on it will become more and more powerful and the possibilities within Drupal will also grow. Patches, updates, modules will all become Drupal 8 centric as the community moves away from 7. While this will not be immediate, the clock is ticking for Drupal 7.

Cons to Drupal 8 migration

Slower development cycle – This is a given considering that the technology is relatively new, there are less people who have extensive experience with Drupal 8. Finding the right team or training your own in-house devs might cause an initial slow down and complications in working with Drupal 8 at the onset.


More expensive – Due to most Drupal developers being more familiar with Drupal 7, its less common to find people who are experts on Drupal 8. It has been on the market for over a year and devs who are deeply knowledgeable on the new framework are able to change more for their time and services. It might also be more costly and slow for companies to train their own in-house teams on Drupal 8 if they are trying to keep work internal. 


Less robust than Drupal 7 “out of the box” – While the Drupal 7 Drupal core is about as refined as it will ever be, the new Drupal 8 core requires a lot more modification out of the box to unlock its full potential. As more and more modules and content are released and tested by the community, more features will be included in the Drupal 8 core. So, as more time passes Drupal 8 will become more and more powerful and flexible, but for now it’s still “growing”


Not all modules are ported – While the general functionality of Drupal 8 is undeniable, there are still some niche modules that have not yet be ported to Drupal 8. While this is an issue for a very select few companies, it can be a major deterrent if a system's functional module hasn’t been converted yet.


Migration can be a hassle – This is probably the most common complaint. While it would be nice to be able to just flip a switch and migrate to Drupal 8, the reality is it can be a pain. For smaller applications and projects this is not a huge deterrent and the conversion can be relatively painless, however for massive enterprise level applications and programs, migration is something they would rather put off for now.


Drupal 7 is not yet obsolete – All things considered, when you really get down to it, Drupal 7 is not yet obsolete. The same reason why millions of computers around the world still run Windows XP is the reason why not everyone has shifted to 8. They know what they have, it’s still being supported, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. For some Drupal 7 does everything they would need it to, so why switch?

The Bottom Line

Whether or not you need Drupal 8 relies almost entirely on your digital needs, team, timeline, and budget. If you are a company with the financial resources to support being an industry leader on the cutting edge, Drupal 8 can be highly beneficial. Also, if you are starting or interested in starting a new Drupal project, Drupal 8 is obviously the best place to start. However, if you are a small to mid-sized company that is not largely reliant on your Drupal applications, the continued use of Drupal 7 wouldn’t be detrimental for the next year or so. However, as more times passes, Drupal 8 gains more and more advantages over Drupal 7.  An overly simplified yet apt comparison would be buying a new gaming console. If more power and being at the technological forefront is more important that having a vast and reliable library of older titles, then Drupal 8 might be right for you and your needs. For those willing to put off migration, the comfort and familiarity of Drupal 7 could tide you over for the time being.

So what is your experience with Drupal 8? How did your company handle migration? Are you still content with Drupal 7?

Date 23rd, Feb 2017
Profile picture for user Maxime Topolov
Maxime Topolov
Co-founder / CTO