How to Optimize a Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 Migration
In the midst of Covid-19 upheaval and uncertainty, the Drupal organization decided to defer the Drupal 7 end-of-life date from Nov. 2021 to Nov. 2022. In March of 2022, with more than 50 percent of Drupal sites still on Drupal 7, the end-of-life date was extended again to November of 2023.
To many, that may feel like a temporary reprieve, but as the Nov. 2023 end-of-life date nears, Drupal development agencies will become increasingly booked and backlogged. Those who delay migration might find themselves scrambling to secure the right expertise to guide them through the process. Cutting corners or settling for sub par Drupal developers for a resource that’s as mission critical as your website is highly unadvisable.
The Drupal 9 Difference
The solution is to act now and begin to realize the following advantages of a far superior CMS sooner rather than later.
- The ability to craft layouts with the built-in visual layout builder, reuse blocks, and customize all parts of the page.
- Use of the integrated configuration management system with development and staging environment support.
- Management of reusable media in the out-of-the-box media library.
- The advantage of full multilingual support in all content and configuration.
- Better keyboard navigation and the assurance of accessibility.
- Use of the structured content-based system with which you are already familiar.
- The ability to make changes even from your mobile devices thanks to a mobile-first UI.
- Better performance and scalability with built-in BigPipe support for even faster initial page loads.
- Built-in JSON:API support for progressively and fully decoupled applications.
Big Lift, Big Benefits
The Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 migration process is not to be underestimated. The Drupal organization is referring to D7 to D9 as the last big migration, with a promise of future upgrades that will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. No more wholesale platform upheavals. Instead: a continuous innovation cycle that delivers enhanced features twice a year.
That promise has proven to be the case with the Drupal 8 to 9 migration. One slight snag there is the fact that Drupal 8 sites need to migrate over to Drupal 9 a year earlier than Drupal 7 sites. The Drupal 8 end-of-life date was not changed from the original November 2, 2021, due to its dependency upon Symfony 3, which was not supported after November 2021.
Drupal 7 is a different story. Drupal 7 sites can continue to hang around until 2023, after which time:
- Drupal 7 sites will lose Drupal community support. That means no new bug fixes.
- Absence of support-related security releases will expose vulnerabilities to cyber attacks and the possibility of D7 sites being flagged as insecure during third-party scans.
- No further development means an end to any further improvements.
- Bottom line: a lot of uncertainty.
Streamline the Scope
A Drupal 9 migration offers a perfect opportunity to ensure that the architecture, UX, and design of your website is in sync with your current brand and objectives. Doing it right takes time, the alignment of stakeholders, and calls for some very thoughtful planning. The key word: planning.
That means taking stock of your current site, and evaluating it on a wide range of factors. The following steps can serve to significantly streamline the process.
Audit Existing Content
A content inventory that flags outdated, redundant, or off-brand content is a critical first step in the site migration process. The less content that needs to be migrated to the new site, the simpler the process will be, so it’s helpful to clear out the clutter early, while identifying and prioritizing which information you want to keep (and migrate).
Look at Site Analytics
It’s often difficult for stakeholders to agree on which content and features are must-haves, and which ones can be left behind. Analytics help. Data that reveals which pages get the most traffic will bring much-needed insight and objectivity into the decision-making process. It will also identify which pages and articles are not likely to be missed because they are receiving relatively few visits.
Evaluate your site’s contributed modules to determine whether they’ve been updated for Drupal 9 or pulled into Drupal 9 core. If they haven’t been, investigate whether there is a Drupal 9 alternative that could be used to maintain the same functionality. You'll also want to evaluate any custom modules that have been written specifically for your site by your development team, paying special attention to the ones that integrate with systems outside of Drupal. Search Drupal.org for a contributed module that could provide the same functionality. If you don’t find replacements, your development team will need to rewrite the custom module(s) for Drupal 9.
Assess Your Theme
If your current site is using a contributed theme, look into whether there is a Drupal 9 version of that theme. While it is unlikely that a larger site would use a contributed theme without any modifications, it’s quite possible that your site’s custom theme is a sub-theme of a contributed theme (a base theme like Bootstrap, Zen, or ZURB). If you can keep the same base theme in its Drupal 9 form, you might need fewer changes in order to upgrade.
The next step is to determine whether there are particularly complex features or functions of the site -- such as multi-language capabilities or single sign-on (SSO). While there are solutions to these complexities, the migration process is significantly more straightforward when they are identified and accounted for early.
Consider an Automatic Migration Tool
Automatic Drupal migration tools, such as the Drupal UI Migration Tool or the Drush Migration Tool, could be worth trying, especially if your site doesn’t have much custom code. The likelihood of one of these methods’ success for any particular migration depends on your site’s architecture. If it is predominantly made of content types and fields configured through the Drupal UI and using Drupal core functionality, there’s a greater chance an automatic migration will do more of what you need.
Optimize the Opportunity
At Promet Source, we understand that your organization’s website tells your story and that no two are alike. We also understand that the series of steps to prepare for migration, which we have outlined here, are often outside of the scope of available time and resources.
Our Architecture Strategy Workshops are designed to zero in on the big picture, taking into account all factors that affect the migration to a successful Drupal 9 website. For many clients, the opportunity to achieve stakeholder consensus over the course of a one- or two-day workshop, as well as a plan for next steps, represents a breakthrough opportunity that could otherwise take months and months of meetings and analysis.
Keep in mind! Delaying migration means delaying benefits of a CMS that offers, increasingly tighter security, improved performance, greater speed, a built-in emphasis on accessibility, along with multilingual capabilities and a mobile-first UX. The impact of a Drupal 9 migration is guaranteed to go deep and wide within your organization.
If you are in the process of auditing your site for migration, interested in learning more about an architecture workshop, or are looking for a value-added partner to perform the entire migration process for you, Contact us today.