Migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8: Its Benefits, Features & Steps

By Ronak Patel   |   28 November, 2019
Migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8: Its Benefits, Features & Steps

Choosing a content management system has some serious consequences when we talk in terms of a business website. How you will develop it and what amount of money you will need to spend on it, and lastly, how the site will turn out to be – all depends on the single decision of choosing the CMS. When it comes to developing large websites and web applications, Drupal is considered as the first choice by many businesses.

Drupal is the third most popular option with a 4.7% share of the CMS market.

It can be said that there are more than 1 million websites built on Drupal.

There are 1.3 million members in the Drupal community

Moreover, Drupal enjoys the support of a strong community, making it a reliable solution for your business. Today, there are 292,784 unique domains and 416,947 websites based on Drupal.

Why it’s Beneficial to Update your Drupal 7 to Drupal 8? Features of Drupal 8 explained

When it comes to performance, security, and other abilities, Drupal 8 scores better than its former version. By using Drupal 8, it is now possible to build web solutions that are unique and attractive. While, if we look at Drupal 7, it is slowly losing its stand in the market and within its community. Every new version of Drupal brings in new things, and we will see some new changes in Drupal 9.

No doubt there are few new features which is making a move to Drupal 8 all the more significant and they are:

Twig

When you compare Drupal 8 with Drupal 7, you will notice that the latest version comes with a new theme engine, which is said to more secure and faster. This has been named Twig. By using this theme engine, it is now possible for the developers to come up with unique templates for business websites. Such themes seem to be more appealing and functional and are focused on reaching the different needs of the business. In case you are planning to redesign your website and come up with some exciting solutions, then you can make use of this engine. It will help the developers to apply innovative and appealing solutions with a breeze.

Quick edit module

Drupal 8 comes with a new module called the quick edit. Developers can make use of this module to let the users use the frontend of the website to make direct changes in the content.

Field types

The Drupal 8 version comes with support for a number of field types like date, link, telephone, email, and reference. Such support saves the developers from the task of additionally defining the field types by making the process of adding in new fields easier.

This means for the users now the content management has become more of an attractive, powerful, and simplified thing. So for the developers, now they have the ease of adding in additional fields to contact forms, comments, nodes, and blocks. This can be easily achieved just by defining field type and field name.

Responsive images

Drupal 7 was considered to be tough when it was about making use of image style based on the screen size of different devices. Things have changed with Drupal 8, and here developers have the ease of using a large number of styles across different images individually. Again, if the devices come with varying sizes of screen, you will have in here the option to use different styles.

CKEditor text editor

Now developers face no trouble when it comes to managing the content with ease as they have now the text editor called CKEditor with Drupal 8. It helps them to have quick access to the tools which can be used to work on content.

So by using this editor, the developers can get to use the rich text editor to make use of common features of word processor while editing or creating web pages. This means a special interface will be made available to the users, which can be used to work on the text with the available options. CKEditor lets the users make use of different editing functions of WYSIWYG, as it is called as a robust visual HTML editor. Such a feature was earlier available only for desktop-based software applications.

Improved views

The core Drupal 8 now has the Views not like as a module, as was in the case of Drupal 7. This means by making use of Views, a number of administration screens have been built, and so developers have the ease of editing them as and when needed. Again, without making the developers put in more effort and time, it lets them access and customizes views.

New core multilingual modules

When it comes to creating multilingual websites, Drupal 7 made developers make use of a large number of modules compared to Drupal 8. Now here, Drupal 8 brings on table new key modules which are:

  • Interface translation
  • Language
  • Configuration translation
  • Content translation

So when we are up to developing multilingual sites, Drupal offers huge possibilities through these features.

Features-of-Drupal-8

Configuration management

There is built-in configuration management in Drupal 8. Such a thing makes things simple for the developers who want to move different configuration elements like content type, views, fields, and others to the webserver from the local development environment. The website owners are happy with this thing as it increases the efficiency of development and deployment very much.

Web services

When it comes to creating web services, Drupal 8 is considered as a leading solution. It makes use of new four modules in the code to make the web service development simpler. They are:

  • Serialization
  • HAL
  • RESTful web services
  • HTTP Basic Authentication

In many cases, the project which has been built using the CMS of Drupal 8 seems to have faster development in lesser amounts of time. Such a thing leads to reduced development costs.

Better loading speed

Cache entities that are capable of improving the website performance to a great level come with Drupal 8. For improved user experience, the developers need to improve the loading speed of the website. This means that in the technical sense when a user is trying to access a web page which has been obtained previously, it will not be possible to get content from the server. Now when the content is retrieved from the cache, it will offer better speed and performance for the website.

Things to Consider while Migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8

No doubt, there are a number of reasons why you should be planning to move to Drupal 8 from Drupal 7. However, to make the transition easier, there are a few things which you should keep in mind:

Type of website

In case you are having a business website or blog built on Drupal 7, then moving to Drupal 8 will be a seamless affair. Again, you will be able to save the right amount of time, too, as most of the modules that you need are available within the Drupal community.

Core modules

There are some core modules in every default Drupal installation. Now, based on the needs, not all of those core modules will be used by the companies. However, Drupal 8 has a Symfony framework that simplifies and offers flexibility when it comes to reusing the code to build custom modules.

Custom modules

There may be some custom modules on your website. Such modules should then be ported to Drupal 8 as it is quite different from code in Drupal 8 compared to Drupal 7. It can also happen that you may find that the functionalities which are present in your Drupal website may be quite complex, and you may need some help to get done with it. In such a scenario, it would be better that you hire a developer who is an expert in migration. Such a developer will first carry out an evaluation of your website as well as plan things for migration before starting with the task.

Contributed modules

As the core modules, Drupal 8 brings on the table most of the community-contributed modules. In case the community module that you are using has not been in the form of a core module, then you need to go for the Symphony framework and update that module when you plan to migrate to Drupal 8. You need to start by identifying which of the modules have not become core modules, and you can start that by coming up with an inventory of all modules.

In case the module in question is not available in Drupal 8 then:

  • You should go ahead and hire a developer who can update the module for you
  • You can drop the plan of using that module and then move the data in there to archive
  • Check for a new community module which offers the same kind of functionality
  • Get a custom module developed with the functionality that meets your requirement

Website theme

A new theme engine named TWIG is used in the case of Drupal 8. This theme engine is considered to be secure and flexible when it comes to rendering pages. Because of this new theme engine, it is not possible to directly port the theme you have in Drupal 7 to the new updated version.

Additionally, no theme can be moved directly to Drupal 8 using any module. Another solution that you can have is to update your PHP template. However, without a developer, you will find it to be a complicated task. So the easiest way to tackle this issue is to find a theme with similar layout and features that are supported by Drupal 8.

Drupal Maintenance Services

Steps to Upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8

Before you start with everything, you need to know how your existing Drupal site is built on Drupal 7. Only once you are thorough about it, you can make the move of migrating things like modules, configurations, and content.

Prepare things before migration

Before getting any further, it is essential to know whether your organization is ready to get ahead with the migration or not. Now this includes a number of preparations like:

  • Create a staging environment for migration to the Drupal 8 website
  • Come up with a detailed inventory by identifying the core modules in Drupal 7
  • Check on the known issues
  • Update your site to the pre-version of Drupal 8 first
  • Make sure your private source files can be accessed appropriately by Drupal 8
  • Install a separate Drupal 8 site
  • Next step now is to enable the modules – core and contributing, to the new site
  • Until the migration takes place, avoid carrying out content editing and configuration
  • Plan estimating, budgeting, and resourcing to carry out-migration

There is even a Drupal pre-upgrade analysis tool available in the market, which can be used to calculate the effort and time that is needed to complete the whole upgrade process. In short, there can have some serious impact on some of the specific modules of the Drupal site due to the upgrade. So there is a need to have Drupal developers on-board, who can offer some better technical insights regarding Drupal 8 module development, which are needed during the migration of the site.

So once all the preparations have been completed, you can start the migration activities officially. The migration will take place differently based on the complexity of the website structure, whether there is any re-design with migration, the amount of content needed, and the normal experience you have with using Drupal CMS.

Configuration and content migration

In the case of previous Drupal updates, there was very little involvement needed from the side of developers, and they migrated the structure of the site. With this, the site performed well. The site configuration settings and the site content almost remained the same, and mostly, no changes were noticed in these areas.

Things have much changed with Drupal 8, and now developers need to go for a multi-level approach. They need to-

Migrate the site configuration: This includes file definitions and node content types, which are included in the editing content. Unless and until your Drupal upgrade also goes parallel with a web design update, you should not work on them manually. If this is happening, then you should work with your web development team very closely so that the new version of the re-designed site can have the editing functions replicated.

Migrate the site content: In case you manage to get done with the site configuration and prep work well enough without experiencing such issues, then it is time you migrate your content to the new Drupal 8 site. For example, you can migrate a number of things like taxonomy terms, pages, and users. There is no need for you to copy-paste each and every part of the content in there.

Migration of module

Module migration may come with issues, and you can avoid them. For the same, it is important that the team which is handling the migration project needs to have an idea of all the Drupal migration modules, which are available there to be used in the process. Some of such modules are built into the core, and once you enable them, you can start using them. Then, comes the contributed modules. In case you need to tackle some specific issues, only then you need to download them.

Now with Drupal 8, you can easily know the modules which are automatically updated and which are not, just by using its web user interface.

Different Types of Drupal Migrations

For the experienced Drupal users, migratory activities and the Drupal upgrade itself can be carried out using a browser user interface. Or else, if the users have some more technical expertise then they can make use of Drush for the upgrade process.

It is possible to complete the upgrade with very less developer efforts once you perform all the prep work, which has been mentioned above, and if no big technical issues related to module functionalities have to be handled. The modules need to be migrated first before you completely make use of the web browser.

Using Drush for Drupal upgrade

We have seen above that you can migrate to Drupal 8 using Drush, but you need to understand that it is more technical compared to the method using a web browser. This means you will need the right technical support for the job, and the same, you need to hire a Drupal agency or Drupal developers. You can even entirely depend on them for the job. The best thing about going for Drupal is that it allows you to carry out one-to-one migrations as well as get done with the rollbacks when needed. In case you want to get some better idea about how migration takes place using Drush, you can go through the upgrade guide that comes with Drupal.

Using web browser for Drupal upgrade

There are a few steps to be followed when you plan to carry out the Drupal update using the web browser. They are:

Define the source site

You should begin your work by checking the upgrade path that has been decided for your Drupal 8 site. In case you get a page not found or a 404 error, you should check whether the Migrate Drupal UI module has been enabled or not. This step in the process of upgrade is all about looking at how and where the files that are needed by the Drupal 8 site are accessed. It will be quite comfortable in here if the files directories are public. Now in case of private file directories, you need to set the paths from the beginning itself and verify that they are right. Whether you need access to individual servers or not or whether you need development assistance or not, can be appropriately evaluated by a backend developer.

Pre-upgrade analysis review

Planning to go for Drupal 8 upgrade right now can seem to be a good thing. This is because Drupal 8 has been out for some time now, and so the migrating tools you will find in the market are quite good to use now. They are much capable of addressing the common migration issues as through these years, they have been modified to be better.

Warnings of ID conflict

Have proper information about ID Conflict Warnings, which come up when some nodes or content is migrated. As you are going ahead with developing a separate Drupal site, you can be safeguarded against having duplicate content or nodes through the use of ID Conflict warnings.

Carry out the upgrade

Once you plan to go ahead with the migration, there is no way you can go back. You would be in a good position if you managed to carry out everything till now in the proper manner. In case things go wrong. Still, you have the option to revert to the older version as you have taken the latest backup of your site. You can roll back to the previous version using the backup copy.

Look for migration errors

Once the whole migration process is completed, you will be alerted regarding any errors. You can see all the errors in the migration logs. You can check the queue and go through the issues to get them resolved.

Wrapping it up

Change is inevitable, and in the case of software, the upgrade is critical. Every new version of the software comes with new features or functionality or bug fixes, and so on. So it would be good for your business site to make a move from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. However, you must do it in a proper manner with clear planning and execution.

Ronak Patel

Ronak Patel is a CEO and Founder of Aglowid IT Solutions, an ever-emerging Top Web and Mobile Development company with a motto of turning clients into successful businesses. He believes that Client's success is company's success and so that he always makes sure that Aglowid helps their client's business to reach to its true potential with the help of his best team with the standard development process he set up for the company.

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