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What to Expect from a Drupal 9 CMS Upgrade

We recently implemented a Drupal 9 upgrade for Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC), a public community college in Branchburg, New Jersey. Unlike other upgrades, going from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 requires more time and resources. Rather than porting over themes and custom modules, your website may need to be almost entirely rebuilt and your developers may have to write unique code to get the site up and running on this newer technology. Many companies use this upgrade as an opportunity to audit, refresh, or redesign their website. 

If you are looking to update your content management system (CMS), here is what you should expect when implementing Drupal 9. 

Why Choose Drupal?
There are several popular open-source CMS options when building a website and Drupal is one of them with over 1.7M users worldwide. While WordPress is typically preferred by a higher percentage of sites globally, and historically for smaller websites with less than 50 pages, Drupal can handle sites with much larger scale and content administration needs.

Drupal’s biggest strength is being able to manage and organize content. The CMS can track the categorization of hundreds of pages and display information on a site in many ways and formats. For example, we have developed a calendar module on RVCC’s website that shows all the upcoming college events. The admin panel allows the school to seamlessly create information blocks on the home page or any other page, and promote events when needed. The marketing team at RVCC uploads the information only once, then the CMS automatically outputs the event to different areas of the site, in different formats and design styles. Thanks to Drupal we can replicate and distribute a school’s content throughout the website and manage this information easily.

What are the Advantages of Drupal 9?
Drupal 9, released in June 2021, is overall safer, more efficient, has more features, and is in line with the latest web development trends. Drupal 7 is 10 years old, while Drupal 9 leverages brand-new, cutting-edge technology.

Upgrading to Drupal 9 will ensure that your website uses the most secure Drupal code. It will also give you access to exciting new features such as the Layout Builder module and its easy drag-and-drop interface, out-of-the-box multilingual capabilities, and the ability to quickly make small content changes without navigating to the edit page.

How Difficult is it to Update a Website from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9?
Upgrading from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 is not an easy undertaking. With RVCC, we essentially needed to rebuild the site from scratch. We were lucky to have had developed a fantastic template in Drupal 7, with very organized content and code styles.

Migrating the information page by page is one aspect of the update. Making sure all content types, formatting styles and features follow the site’s layout is another.

The first step in the upgrade is to take stock of your current website. Which layouts and configurations need to be moved over to the new platform? This should involve an audit of the modules, content, and important characteristics. Next, you need to start thinking about a roadmap for the future.

With RVCC we had about 60 layouts, which we consolidated down to 40 before the project started. This is quite a lot of layouts and we needed to make sure that all the features and content that belong to each layout are moved properly. The difficulty here is making sure all the modules we programmed for Drupal 7 are updated to the new technology. For example, some of the code we used needed to be rewritten for Drupal 9. We also needed to fix any bugs that came along with the process.

Imagine a giant puzzle that needs to be reassembled together in the most efficient way to leverage a brand-new technology. It’s a big undertaking. We worked hand-in-hand with RVCC’s team and Acquia, which provided us with tools to ease the process.

Why is this Update Necessary?
Short term, this update will allow RVCC’s website to see an increase in performance and site speed. Drupal 9 gave us the chance to optimize a lot of processes under the hood, making the website faster to load and easier to work with.

The update was also necessary for the longevity of the site. Drupal 7 will reach its end-of-life and cease to be supported in November 2022, while Drupal 8, is already phased out as of December 2021. Drupal 9 on the other hand is a platform that is being planned to never phase-out. There will certainly be a Drupal 10, 11, and so on; but RVCC will never have to do a big migration again, according to Drupal. If this is true, Drupal 9 is an incremental update that can virtually last forever.

As Drupal 7 and 8 are going away, you should start planning for a CMS upgrade of your website. We can help you with that. To reach out for advice or a website audit, just say Our website design team in New Jersey will be happy to connect and learn more about your project.

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