Usually, I don’t like to put too much emphasis on the tools which are used in creating websites - after all the end user couldn’t care less whether you’re running Drupal, WorldPress or any other CMS.
Having said that, as well as end users, it’s important as a web developer to consider your other audience - the people who’ll be maintaining the site, working with content and keeping everything up to date.
It’s coming up on two years since Drupal 8 was first released in November 2015. Version 8 brought with it a number of significant changes to the way Drupal works whilst retaining the flexibility which makes such a powerful platform for web development.
For developers and agencies who are build sites, there have been major upgrades to things like the templating language and use of modern web technologies. Many of the optional modules which were required to build most sites have now been built into the core Drupal system, meaning that it's quicker and easier to get a new Drupal site up and running than it has been in the past.
Whilst there have been great improvements to Drupal for those who are using it to build sites and web apps, it's been harder to point to any really compelling reasons for a client who’s currently running a Drupal 7 site to make the jump in and upgrade. The updates planned for 2018 are set to change that though and include features aimed at making life easier for those site owners and which should help make the case for upgrading existing website from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.
One of the upcoming features showcased at the recent DrupalCon event in Vienna is the layout builder. Previously, you’d often need to install additional modules and deal often confusing interfaces to create flexible, complex layouts in Drupal.
When the new layout builder is released in 2018, users will be able to create multi-column layouts and add content to them through an intuitive interface.
Having that kind of flexibility out of the box in Drupal will be a giant leap forwards. Web developers will be able to leverage that potential to build a versatile layout system and site owners will benefit from having that control at their fingertips in a much easier to use interface.
With any reasonable size website, it’s common to need to occasionally change a lot of site content for a particular reason. For instance, you might have a special promotion running for Halloween. You might want to advertise it on your site’s homepage, along with related blogs and special promotions across other parts of the site. That’s a lot of changes to make and get live in a short space of time. And then you’ve got to change it all back when the event is over.
With the new workspaces feature, you can build out the special version of the site in advance, even going to far as changing the menu structure if you needed to. You’d essentially have two versions of the site saved - the normal one and the special event version. When it comes to the time to launch the promotion all you’d need to go is select which version you want to go live and at the click of the button you’re ready to go. When the promotion’s over, just switch back to the normal workspace and everything as it was.
This new feature is set to make site owner’s lives a lot easier and will have countless applications.
More to come
Another significant development due early in 2018 is a smooth upgrade path from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. Because the changes in the way Drupal was built were so significant between versions 7 and 8, it’s taken a while for the features that’ll make it relatively quick and easy to update a site running Drupal 8 to be ready. But they nearly are and once that happens one of the major barriers to people upgrading will be removed.
There are many more developments in the pipeline and the new 6 monthly release schedule for Drupal means that significant improvements to the core Drupal experience are being made regularly.
While most visitors to your website won’t immediately notice the difference, the forthcoming updates to Drupal scheduled for next year will offer site owners and editors easier control of their sites than ever before. If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to start planning your upgrade to Drupal 8.