Drupal 9

You’re probably already familiar with Drupal. It’s a popular open-source content management system (CMS) and competitor to WordPress. It’s renowned for its flexibility and high-security standards, so anytime there’s a major release on the horizon, like Drupal 9, it’s worth taking a closer look.

Drupal 9 will ship in mid-2020 and will be the first major release for the CMS with built-in backward compatibility. This means the upgrade should be silky smooth if you’re already using Drupal 8 – and you get to enjoy the benefits of more up-to-date underlying libraries too. 

In this article, we’ll go over what we know about the Drupal 9 launch, and introduce the new features it will bring over version 8. Then we’ll talk about how to prepare your website for upgrading to Drupal 9, and whether it’s a good option versus WordPress. Let’s dig in!

What we know about the Drupal 9 release

The Drupal 9 home page.

Drupal 9 is coming in June 2020. Based on what we know so far, this new version will overhaul the way that Drupal handles upgrades overall.

In the past, every major new release of Drupal basically re-invented large parts of the platform. With Drupal 9, the development team wants to adopt a new model going forward.

As such, Drupal 9 will be built on top of the current existing architecture. The new version will continue to debut minor updates every six months, and in practice, should make using the CMS a lot simpler.

If you’ve been on the fence about trying out Drupal based on comments relating to the upgrade process, keep an eye out in June 2020, and read on!

The key differences between Drupal 8 and 9

Previously, whenever a new version of Drupal launched, it would cause a bit of a stir in the community. Newer versions of the CMS didn’t use to guarantee backward compatibility with previous ones. Updating from the previous version of Drupal used to be a pain that involved:

  1. Using a migration module to move data and content from the old core version to the new one.
  2. Checking if your modules were supported by Drupal 8.
  3. Going through your source files to find deprecated code that needed updating.

All in all, it used to be a lengthy process. A lot of modules would become outdated with every major release, or lag behind for long periods of time.

The primary selling point for Drupal 9 is its backward compatibility with version 8 from day one. This means all of your Drupal 8 components will still work with this new version. If any of your site’s key features depend on modules, you can breathe easy and update to Drupal 9 when the release hits.

What’s more, Drupal 9 will ship with support for newer PHP libraries, including the latest versions of Symfony and Twig.

At launch, Drupal 9 should feel very similar to 8, so don’t expect big changes in functionality out of the gate.

How to prepare your website for Drupal 9

At this stage, you should be using either Drupal 7 or 8. Both versions will still offer support until 2021, so you have enough breathing room to upgrade to 9 before the clock strikes midnight.

However, if you’re using Drupal 7 you’ll want to update to 8 sooner rather than later. As we mentioned, the migration process can take a while so it’s best to tackle it with plenty of time to spare before version 9 hits.

On the other hand, if you’re already using Drupal 8, the upgrade should be much simpler. To make sure it goes smoothly, you’ll want to tick off a few boxes:

  • Update to the latest minor versions of Drupal as they release
  • Keep your modules up to date
  • Check your website for deprecated code

Finally, there are several tools you can use to check your Drupal website for deprecated code. We’re fans of drupal-check (which you can run from the command line). It will detect errors with classes, deprecated code, and more.

At this point, you’ll be ready to jump onto the Drupal 9 train as soon as it leaves the station.

Who should consider using Drupal over WordPress

Both Drupal and WordPress are content management systems. They’re used to build complex websites with large libraries of content from the ground up, wrapped in a nice graphical user interface (GUI) for the end-user.

However, in practice, the experience of using WordPress and Drupal is very different. WordPress is, in our experience, a more user-friendly platform for people who are new to web development.

If you’ve been using Drupal for a while, you probably don’t need any hand-holding when it comes to navigating a CMS. However, it’s worth noting that upgrading WordPress is a much smoother experience than with Drupal.

This is bound to change with Drupal 9, which should put the update process at a similar level to WordPress. Ultimately, it all comes down to whichever CMS you feel more comfortable with, although WordPress does win handily in terms of plugins and theme options.

If you want a deeper look, we have a full post comparing Drupal vs WordPress.

Conclusion

Drupal 9 marks a shift in the way the core team handles releases. The goal is for the upgrade to be as seamless as possible for most Drupal users thanks to built-in backward compatibility. If you’re already using Drupal 8, the upgrade should go smoothly as long as your modules are up to date and you’re not using deprecated code.

Until now, updating WordPress websites was much easier than with Drupal. With the next iteration of Drupal, this will change, bringing both experiences to the same level. This means deciding between both platforms has got a touch more difficult, although, for most applications, WordPress is the clear winner.

If you’re not happy with Drupal (and the new features in Drupal 9), we also have a guide on how to move from Drupal to WordPress.

Do you have any questions about the release of Drupal 9? Ask away in the comments section below!

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