A look at Drupal 8

by / Sunday, 31 January 2016 / Published in Blog
Drupal 8 logo

Drupal 8 was released at the end of 2015.  This is a major new version of Drupal, the second most popular website CMS (Content Management System).

WordPress is the most popular CMS, and is a great solution for smaller websites and blogs. I use WordPress regularly to build these types of sites.  However, for larger sites that need more complex solutions, I find that Drupal is usually the best option.

While many CMS systems release major updates frequently, Drupal tends to be more stable. The last major release was Drupal 7 in January 2011. This new version (Drupal 8) was released almost 5 years later, on 19th November 2015.

This stability is one of the best aspects of Drupal. It allows websites to last longer and minimises the impact major updates have on existing builds. It also gives the developer community more time to create and maintain modules for the CMS, one of the reasons why Drupal modules are so much more robust and powerful than those for WordPress.

So what does Drupal 8 offer? Well, a key change is that the entire administrative interface is now responsive and built in HTML5. This makes it easier to manage a website through mobiles and tablets.

The editing interface has also been standardised and improved, previously one of Drupal’s biggest shortcomings. I saw designers try out Drupal 7, only to give up when they couldn’t fathom out how to set up a decent editing interface.

Some fundamental changes have been made to the underlying technology. Drupal 8 is built on the Symfony PHP web application framework, helping improve the development of code. While this and the other frameworks that have been incorporated into Drupal 8 see the size of the core increase exponentially, it’s a worthwhile trade off and positions Drupal well for the future.

There have also been over 200 enhancements to the software, while improvements to the technical framework have made it more powerful and scalable. It’s also easier to interact with other systems and for developers to build bespoke functionality.

The big drawback at the moment is the newness of the software. With the longer lifespan of Drupal releases, it takes time for the core software to mature and become production ready. Many of the key modules contributed by the online community are still being developed. It’s not quite ready for use on a large project. I’m testing it out on a smaller, experimental websites. It looks great but is still buggy, especially with a couple of contributed modules I use regularly.

Many of the sites we’ve built at Infobo are in Drupla 7. I’m looking forward to developing some sites in Drupal 8 this year as the technology matures.

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