Drupal 8 has been out for 2 months now, and there's never been a better time to choose Drupal for your website platform. Here are 8 reasons why!
1. Mobile Experience
Drupal 8 is mobile first. Every bit of Drupal 8 can be easily managed from your smartphone, with a responsive experience that works well right up to the widest displays.
You don't need a separate mobile site.
What's more, if you do have an app, Drupal 8's web services makes it a powerful platform for serving up content to mobile apps, other web applications, or any other place you want the data. "Headless Drupal" is fully supported, meaning whatever application your user interacts with can pull data from Drupal, without ever actually visiting the Drupal site itself.
2. Authoring Experience
In the past, authoring in Drupal has been extremely inconsistent, and entirely dependent on how much the initial developer put in place to make writing and editing easy. Out of the box, Drupal used to be very bare bones, but a large ecosystem of modules can be put together to make a really great editing experience, if the developer spent any time there.
Drupal 8 starts out with a very nice user experience right out of the box. The authoring environment has been revamped based on extensive usability testing, and now matches or beats anything on the market.
3. Expected Lifespan
Drupal has long been the go-to Content Management System for creating arbitrary databases of content online. For many smaller organizations, it easily replaces internal Access databases to become the primary business operating system. Larger organizations appreciate its strong group and role capabilities to manage access, permissions, and workflows.
Yet at its core it used to have structural problems that lead to mysterious, difficult-to-troubleshoot conflicts, extremely difficult upgrades, often incomprehensible behavior (to those not extremely experienced with the specifics of Drupal), and many wildly different ways of accomplishing the same task.
Drupal 8 changes all that. After 5 years of work, the core has been entirely replaced with an object-oriented system that sets it up for much easier upgrades going forward. All of the functionality is encapsulated and can be updated incrementally without breaking the rest of the system. There are strong guidelines that make it much more clear the best way to accomplish a given task, and far fewer conflicts.
Drupal 8 represents a maturing of the platform to a system that will be around for decades to come. Sites built in Drupal 8 today can expect to evolve with minor updates for at least a decade. Getting to Drupal 8 has been extremely painful, expensive, and a huge amount of work -- anyone using Drupal 8 now will gain the benefit of all of that hard work for years to come.
Drupal performance is off the charts. Several groups are doing benchmarks related to various PHP versions -- the new PHP 7, Facebook's alternative "Hip Hop VM", and older PHP 5.6 -- but the key thing that stands out is how much more traffic Drupal can handle compared to WordPress.
Just picking out Drupal 8 with caching enabled on PHP7, compared to WordPress 4.4 with caching enabled on PHP7. One benchmark found Drupal handling 230 requests per second, compared with only 40 request per second for WordPress -- almost 6 times as much traffic. A slightly older benchmark found Drupal handling 917 requests per second compared to WordPress at 306 requests per second -- still 3 times as much traffic.
Drupal is a complex application that is capable of extremely interactive, customized functionality. Normally this would make it a performance hog, but due to extensive, smart caching, it runs on lower hardware specs than previous versions, and blows away the competition when handling large amounts of traffic.
5. Upgrade path
Drupal is a data processing engine. Drupal 8 includes a full data migration system in its core, with complete "ETL" capabilities (Extract, Transform, Load). This migration engine already migrates content from Drupal 6 and 7, and it's pluggable to migrate content from any data source.
We're finding that the data migration from Drupal 6 to Drupal 8 is much, much faster than the data migration from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7. To migrate to Drupal 7, first we had to build all the content types to contain all the data. Then we had to write migration scripts to map data from the old system to the new system. And only then could we actually pull over the data.
In Drupal 8, migration starts by pulling over your configuration. We skip the content type building, because the migration does this for us. The mapping then happens automatically. Within an hour we can have all the content migrated (or at least the script running that's doing all the hard work). And we can run an older Drupal site alongside a newer one, pulling over content changes as they're made in the old site until the new one is entirely ready to go.
This migration is extremely useful for integrating with other systems as well, not just one-time upgrades.
6. Growth Potential
The reason Drupal is such a popular platform is how much you can do with it. And one of its big hidden strengths is how easy it is to change and grow with your organization. You can start very small, with a basic brochure site, and gradually add community features, e-commerce, groups, workflows, publishing engines, rating systems, scheduling systems, mapping systems, or whatever else you can think of.
It does not all need to happen at the start.
As the business world changes to rapid delivery, speed and the ability to change your mind about what is important is what we think the killer feature of Drupal. Change always comes at a cost, of course, but that cost can be much lower with a system designed to accommodate change. And that's what Drupal does best.
How Drupal accomplishes this "under the hood" has changed entirely -- it now uses much more standard industry practices of object-orientation and dependency injection instead of a convoluted and confusing hook system. This just makes the end result far more dependable and reliable -- the promise of Drupal can now be delivered more reliably with fewer conflicts, and less need for Drupal specialists.
7. Quality results
As web applications get more complex, quality becomes a harder job. We used to target one size of screen, and now we have phones, tablets, notebooks, desktops, and widescreen tvs -- and what will come next? Voice interfaces, artificial intelligence agents, further personalization? The web world is exploding with complexity.
Fortunately, so are the tools we have available to both develop and test the results. Drupal 8 has an order of magnitude more testing happening than older releases, and not just functional tests of code. There's a "Behavior Driven Design" framework baked in, called Behat, that lets us write tests for how users interact with a site. We have visual regression testing tools to compare every pixel on each page before and after an update.
Drupal 8 is higher quality than ever before, and when managed by an experienced team, this leads to better results than ever before!
8. Ownership, and no vendor lock-in
Like other open source solutions, Drupal at its heart is completely free. It has no licensing costs whatsoever, and because of this there are thousands of vendors you may choose from when you need help. You control the pace of change, you have full access and control over your data, the timing of upgrades, and what your site does.
Compared to Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors, you are not stuck with an unresponsive vendor -- you own everything, instead of being at the mercy of a SaaS landlord who might make decisions that have a big impact on your site.
Bonus: Freelock support
At Freelock, we focus on ongoing "Dev-Ops" of Drupal sites. We provide all the technical support necessary to operate, grow, and get full value out of high-quality Drupal sites, from server and website maintenance plans to testing to creating new functionality to end user support and training.
We can keep your site up-to-date, secure, and mitigate the risks associated with hardware failure, vendor changes, hacking, and data corruption. We actively look for ways to make your Drupal site better support your organization's goals.
If you're looking for an experienced, reliable partner for your Drupal technical needs, you've come to the right place. Contact us and let's work together to make your organization more successful!