Our Takeaways From DrupalCon 2019

Where Drupal is Headed

“1 out of every 30 websites in the world is Drupal - we almost touch everyone in the world.” Dries Buytaert, the founder and original creator of Drupal, says in his opening keynote. Drupal remains one of the largest open source communities, with over 1000 organizations contributing. As of the time of this blog post, there are 77,361 sites on Drupal 8 (according to Builtwith).

As the web continues to change, Dries discussed the strides that Drupal is taking to be more user-friendly to website administrators and content managers, and how they seek to improve it as a tool for crafting user experiences.

Easier Version Upgrades

Drupal has announced that they will be releasing version 9 in June 2020 (with a fallback release date of December 2020). They will also be ending community support for Drupal 7 and 8 November 2021. Drupal has historically supported at least two versions at a time, ending support for versions 7 and 8 simultaneously may come as a surprise.

But Drupal is also adjusting the process of upgrading between versions, making what was once an immense web development project easier and faster. Drupal 9 will actually differ very little from version 8.9, and a majority of modules that function on Drupal 8 will continue to function on version 9.

What will be dropped is “deprecated code” - outdated code that is being replaced. Fortunately, there are a few tools that allow us to check your website and modules for deprecated code, and update the code directly.

For that reason, if you are currently on Drupal 7 (or an older version) and are waiting for the release of version 9 to upgrade your website, there’s no need. You can migrate to 8 now, and anticipate a much easier upgrade path in the future.

Some key metrics:

  • There are 35% more Drupal 8 sites in 2019 than in 2018.
  • There are 48% more stable Drupal 8 modules compared to last year, with 2,785 stable projects and growing.

Drupal's Timeline Bear Group Web Development Agency

Image via Dries

A Renewed Focus on Site Builders and Content Creators

Dries has announced a new resolution for the development of Drupal going forward, to improve the website as a tool for site builders and non-technical content creators who don’t want to depend on their developers for simple functions. Some of these features are already available on Drupal 8, and are anticipated for future releases.

This includes:

  • Layout Builder - A new way to create custom pages and templates by using a drag and drop functionality to build layouts with blocks and fields (available with Drupal 8.7).
  • An updated workflow engine - Identifies each of the website administrators responsible for getting components out the door.
  • Media - Manage reusable media, add through drag and drop functionality, and customize your media library directly on your Drupal website.
  • Automatic Updates Initiative - While the release date on this is still not set in stone, Drupal is working on an easier, direct way to automatically update all Drupal websites.
  • An Updated Admin UI - The admin interface is getting an update to its look and feel with a modernized admin panel for better accessibility and space. “If it doesn’t look modern” said Dries, “people assume it isn’t modern under the hood.”

An Easier Demo Process

The Out of the Box Initiative is intended to make demoing and adopting Drupal an easier experience. Currently being developed now, the initiative would create sample content to be included in new installs of Drupal.

Currently, fresh installs of Drupal appear very basic. Without enabled modules or custom designs, there isn’t much to see or experience until after the website has been developed. With sample content, this would allow agencies to experience Drupal directly for themselves.

Headless and Decoupled Drupal Developments

The continuation of development for headless, decoupled, and API first Drupal websites is something we covered before in our blog post, “A Quick Introduction to Drupal’s Headless CMS”. In his keynote, Dries reiterated his expectation for how this technology will play a role in developing websites.

Dependence on the internet has grown beyond interfacing with websites through a desktop. Users now access the internet through apps, smart home technology, and a number of other sources. Drupal has always been useful as a content formatting and publishing tool. By separating the administrative back-end from the front-end, Drupal can continue being a useful content management tool and delivering content to a number of different layouts.

How Can You Build Toward the Future?

The biggest takeaway for us is how Drupal is extending its reach to content managers, marketers, website administrators - the non-technical people responsible for maintaining the website and spending upwards of 8 hours a day in Drupal themselves.

Drupal is constantly striving to be the ideal tool for custom websites, both as a building tool and as a content management tool. During another later session, Dries said: “Drupal is for ambitious digital experiences...It’s not just about the size of the organization, it’s what you want to do.”

You can see the keynote for yourself here.