The recent launch of Drupal 9 has changed the way that major updates will be made to the CMS in future. Until now, each new major version has brought a significant overhaul behind the scenes which has required just as significant an effort and investment in order to upgrade.
Anyone who's gone through the pain of an upgrade from Drupal 6 to 7 or 7 to 8 will be pleased to hear that that’s a thing of the past with the launch of Drupal 9.
Drupal's new release cycle means that the first release of a new major version will be identical to the last minor release of the version that preceded it, just with out of date code removed. If you're already running Drupal 8, upgrading to 9 should be more or less as straightforward as any of the minor updates which Drupal 8 has received over the last few years.
If you're still using Drupal 7, you have a while before security coverage is stopped but it’s worth starting to plan your upgrade so that you can begin to benefit from the many updates that Drupal 8/9 brings.
That's all well and good, but the really exciting thing about this change is that it offers the opportunity for organisations to reconsider how they approach the development of their websites.
An end to the boom and bust cycle?
Historically it might be that every couple of years when a new major version of Drupal is released you invest a lot of time, money and effort in redesigning and redeveloping your website. Then, over time, as the attention and budget which came with the big bang of a new site launch fades away, sites can often enter into a period of decline until the next big relaunch a few years down the line.
As needing that big upgrade of the CMS every few years is less of an issue now, there’s more of an incentive to keep pace with the regular, minor releases every 6 months or so. During the lifetime of Drupal 8, those minor releases have included features like workflows, better media handling and more flexible layouts. They also offer an opportunity to give an improved experience to your users.
The changes to Drupal’s release cycle mean that it’s easier than ever before to continually improve your website without ever getting to the point where you need to start from scratch to take it to the next level.
Shifting the focus away from a new site launch being the end of a project and towards it being the start of an ongoing process of constant improvement can help to prevent the gradual drop in quality which might have happened in the past.
Rather than a big investment of a full rebuild, regular incremental improvements make it easier to plan and budget. It'll also mean that your users get the best possible experience for the full lifetime of your site.
You shouldn’t just be looking for someone who’ll be able to build you a new website. Instead look for a long-term partner who you’ll be able to work with over time to understand how users are engaging with your site, identify areas for improvement and constantly work to improve your users’ experience. That should involve everything from technical updates, new functionality or ensuring that your content is working as hard for you as possible.