Wait for Drupal 9? Or Upgrade to 8?
Drupal has removed schedule risk - You should upgrade to D8 now.
In November 2021, both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 will be reaching end of life, while Drupal 9 will be released on June 3, 2020. For Drupal 7 users, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity: should they stick it out with Drupal 7 for another six months? Or should they make the transition to the superior Drupal 8, knowing they’ll need to upgrade again in two years?
And if you are a tl;dr; person, the point of this post is: that is no longer the right question. It used to be, in Drupal versions 1-8, released over the last 19 years, that has been the right question because upgrading major versions was a big development effort. Starting with Drupal 9, they have figured this out. Going from Drupal 8.9.x to 9.0 will only mean you need to deprecate some code, not totally rewrite anything. So if you are staying current on your Drupal versions, this will be a very simple update — so the message here is go to Drupal 8 RIGHT NOW, there is no reason to try and “time” major releases anymore in your planning.
The Benefits of Drupal 8
Drupal 8 offers a lot of quality improvements over Drupal 7, including built-in web services and configuration management. It also offers quite a bit more creative firepower, with a new theme engine, text editor, and several new field types. At a more performance-based level, it boasts faster website loads and responsive images. Additionally, it offers improved accessibility features and framework support to make sure your website works as it’s supposed to on the widest possible array of devices.
Put simply, Drupal 8 supercharges what Drupal 7 was already doing, while also providing a variety of new options and functionalities.
The Benefits of Drupal 9
Drupal 9 will retain all of the benefits of Drupal 8, so Drupal 8 users don’t need to worry about losing their favorite tools. The only thing being “removed” is what’s known as depreciated code; old code that’s been rendered irrelevant by subsequent updates. Drupal 9 will also be introducing new features, including an intuitive new Admin UI designed for easier accessibility and management.
Most relevantly, as of November 2021, Drupal 9 will be the only Drupal receiving updates and support. Whether you’re coming from 7 or 8, it’s essential to migrate to 9 before 2021 in order to ensure continued security and support.
Cost To Upgrade (Once - not Twice)
Historically, upgrading has required a significant investment, in both time and expense. Upgrading from Drupal 7 to either Drupal 8 or Drupal 9 will require largely rebuilding your website, which obviously requires a significant amount of time and effort; it makes sense why so many Drupal 7 users would side-eye the possibility of having to complete a large migration twice in two years.
Luckily, that isn’t actually an issue; Drupal 9 is designed to be backwards compatible. We covered the ins-and-outs of migrating in more depth here, but the short version is that the process of migrating from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 is little more than a routine update. Everything you set up and loved about Drupal 8 should port right over.
What that means in financial terms is that most of the money you spent on implementing and customizing Drupal 8 will still benefit you with Drupal 9; you won’t have to repeat those startup costs. So the only cost here is getting your Drupal 7 (or 6!) Drupal site ported to 8.
We’ve talked before about the importance and benefits of keeping your website updated, and we stand by that as a general best practice. The conventional wisdom (from the last 19 years in Drupal) has been to try and “time the release.” With Drupal 8 onward, this is no longer the right strategy. So get to D8 as soon as possible, and start enjoying its new features - it will be the best way to set yourself up to get to 9.
We can help you figure out which course is right for your business, and answer all your questions, migration or otherwise, about Drupal 7, Drupal 8, and Drupal 9.