What’s been holding you back from migrating your website off of Drupal 7?
Maybe your brand is juggling other digital projects that have pushed your migration to the back burner. Maybe the platform has been working well enough that migration isn’t really on the radar. Or maybe (no shame here) you’ve been overwhelmed by such a massive undertaking and you’re feeling a little like Michael Scott:
We get it. Whether you’re migrating to a new version of Drupal or a different platform, it’s a time-consuming process — which means now is definitely the time to get started.
While the Drupal Security Team recently announced it would extend security coverage for Drupal 7 from November 2023 to January 2025, those extra 14 months are ideally the time to plan and execute a thoughtful migration. Giving yourself ample time to plan for life after Drupal 7 is something Oomph has been recommending for a while now, and we’re here to help you through it.
3 Reasons To Start Your Drupal 7 Migration Now
1. Because Migration Takes Time
Migrating your site isn’t as simple as flipping a switch — and the more complex your site is, the more time it can take. Imagine two boats changing course in the water: It takes a massive container ship longer to turn than a small fishing boat. If your site is highly complex or has a lot of pages, it could easily take a year to fully migrate (not including the time it takes to select a partner to manage the process and kick off the work).
Even if your site isn’t so robust, you’ll do yourself a favor by building in a time buffer. Otherwise, you could risk facing a security gap if you run into complications that slow the process down. Some of the major factors that can impact timeline include:
- Developing a new site theme. The switch from the PHP Template Engine in Drupal 7 to Twig in Drupal 8 and above means you’ll need to rewrite your custom theme if you’re planning to upgrade to Drupal 10 — even if you’re not planning to redesign your site.
- Navigating custom code. If your current site relies on custom code, those modules will need special attention during the migration process.
- Migrating community-contributed modules. One of the best things about Drupal is the fact that it’s open-source, which means community members are constantly contributing new modules and features that anyone can use. While many Drupal 7 modules have a simple migration path to Drupal 10, not all do. Certain modules, including Organic Groups, Field Collections, and Panels, will need to be reviewed and migrated manually. Even if a module has a set migration path, it can be quicker to migrate them by hand (Webforms and Views are two good examples).
- Making other upgrades. You know the old saying, “Never let a good migration go to waste?” (OK, we made that up.) Still, a migration is a smart time to tackle other changes to your site, from updating your information architecture to modernizing your design. If you’re planning on a more holistic site update, there’s even more reason to start now to make sure your project is wrapped before the end of 2024.
2. Your Site Performance Is Less Than Ideal
Yes, Drupal 7 sites technically have security coverage until 2025. But if you’re still on Drupal 7, you’re missing out on the best that Drupal currently has to offer.
First, Drupal 7 is not fully compatible with PHP 8, a new and improved version of PHP that many websites are built on today. While Drupal 7’s core supports PHP 8, some contributed modules or themes on your site might not, which could create hiccups in your site performance.
In addition, the Drupal community is constantly putting out new features that aren’t available on Drupal 7. Some of the most exciting ones include:
- Layout builder, a visual design tool that makes it easier for content editors to build web pages and gives designers more room to flex their creative muscles.
- Workspaces, an experimental feature that allows users to stage content or preview a full site by using multiple workspaces on a single site.
- Better accessibility and responsive design to create genuinely useful experiences for all site users.
- API-first architecture and decoupled options to make it easier to integrate your site with any other tools or functionality you need.
- Twig, a templating language from Symfony that lets you write concise, readable templates that are more friendly to web designers.
- SaaS offerings like Acquia’s Site Studio to build beautiful pages more easily.
Sticking with Drupal 7 means not only missing out on this new functionality, but also on support from the Drupal community. Interest and activity from web devs on Drupal 7 continues to wane, which means your team may find it harder to get help from others to deal with bugs or other issues. You’re also likely to see fewer new features that are compatible with the older version – so while other sites can keep up with the evolving digital landscape, a Drupal 7 site is increasingly stuck in the past.
3. To Save Your Team’s Sanity
Odds are good that if your site is still running on Drupal 7, your team is already having trouble trying to make it work for your needs. Starting your migration now is key to getting your site running as smoothly as soon as possible — and sparing your team from unnecessary misery.
Consider these pain points and how your team can address them in your migration:
- Is your team frustrated with aspects of Drupal 7 that limit your site’s functionality?
- Is technical debt making your site maintenance more complicated, expensive, or both? Could it be affecting your hosting or vendor costs?
- Is your team struggling to find support or third-party integrations that work with the platform?
- Are they holding off on major new initiatives because the site can’t support them?
Options for Life After Drupal 7
Now that Drupal 7 is officially winding down, what’s next for your website? Deciding whether to go Drupal-to-Drupal, Drupal to another CMS, or a different route entirely depends on your technical needs and resources.
If Drupal 7 has served your team well in the past, then Drupal 10 is the logical choice. The newest version of Drupal is ideal for more complex sites with extensive content modeling, varying user roles, and workflow requirements. To make things easier, you can leapfrog over Drupal 8 and 9 and migrate your Drupal 7 site directly to the latest and greatest version.
Many of our clients at Oomph are going this route, since Drupal 10 offers both a range of new features and familiarity for Drupal-versed teams to cut down on the post-migration learning curve. If you think transitioning to Drupal 10 might be right for you, check out our Drupal 10 readiness guide (PDF) to prepare for the switch.
WordPress or Another CMS
Not sure if Drupal 10 is the best fit? If your site is on the small side or if you don’t require lots of functionality, then Drupal may be more than you really require.
In that case, moving off of Drupal altogether might be in your best interests, helping you streamline your ongoing development needs and reduce maintenance and hosting costs. Here are a few alternatives for Drupal 7 users looking for a less robust platform without sacrificing a great web presence:
- Consider a headless CMS, supported by a decoupled framework such as Gatsby or Next.js.
An Internal Stopgap
Depending on your organization, now might not be a good time to migrate or rebuild your site. This is especially true if you’re already invested in an ongoing site redesign or rebuild. If you’re still trying to figure out your digital future, consider temporary measures you can take to stay protected once Drupal 7’s security coverage ends.
One possibility to consider is rolling up your site under another digital property in your organization. Even if it’s only an interim solution, it can help you buy time to make the best long-term plan for your website. Another option would be to develop a smaller static website with a refreshed design that would eventually be replaced with the upgraded CMS.
Tips for a Successful Migration
As your site’s technical foundation, Drupal delivers plenty of horsepower. However, the digital home you build on that foundation is what really counts. It’s crucially important to make sure all the pieces of your site work together as one — and a migration is a perfect opportunity to assess and optimize.
Over time, websites tend to accumulate “cruft” — the digital equivalent of dust and cobwebs. Cruft can take many forms: outdated, unnecessary, or poorly written code; deprecated site features; or obsolete or outdated content, files, and data. Whatever cruft exists on your site, migration is a chance to do some digital spring cleaning that can improve site performance and reduce maintenance time.
Beyond digital hygiene, evaluating each element of your site strategically can help you get the greatest business value from your migration.
- Information architecture: How easy is it to navigate around your site? Do your sitemap and information architecture still reflect your offerings and user needs accurately?
- Content: Does your site’s content still engage your audience and support business goals? Think about the impact of any changes to your information architecture: Would they require you to add, change, or remove content?
- Design: Will your existing site design work with the CMS you’ve chosen? Does it need updates to meet current standards for UX, accessibility, and responsiveness?
- Integrations: Should you add or remove any APIs or integrations? Keep in mind that many features not available in Drupal 7 are now built into the core of Drupal 10 or are available as contributed modules, so you may be able to optimize some of your site’s key features.
No matter what you plan to tackle alongside your migration, it’s a big project. An experienced guide can make all the difference. Our team of die-hard Drupal enthusiasts has led many Drupal-to-Drupal and replatforming projects for clients, including complex e-commerce and intranet sites. For us, a successful migration is one that’s grounded in strategy, follows technical best practices, and — most importantly — can support and evolve with your brand over time.
Need a hand deciding which route to take for your Drupal 7 migration? We’d love to talk.