Development

Drupal 9: Four Reasons Your Site Won't Make The Leap

Tobby Hagler, Director of Engineering
#Drupal 9 | Posted

Drupal 9 Is Almost Here

Drupal 9.0.0 will officially drop on June 3, 2020. The good news (which we’ve already covered in detail here, and here) is that Drupal 9 will not be a significant upgrade from Drupal 8. 

To recap, it is effectively a version bump, with two caveats:

  • Symfony 4 will replace Symfony 3 as a core dependency. This will improve Drupal’s underlying core functionality, stability, and security.
  • Some Drupal core code that has already been marked as deprecated will be removed entirely. This code still exists in Drupal 8 to support previous upgrades from Symfony 2 in the past, and all deprecated code has Drupal 9 ready alternatives which should be used instead. There are automated tests that can assure any organization if the project is using any such deprecated code, and will even offer suggestions to replace it.

However, just because you’re on Drupal 8 now, don’t assume you’ll be ready to make the leap to 9 when June rolls around.

It’s More Than Code

While the code part is relatively easy to prepare for, the long-term viability of your Drupal 8 AND 9 CMS depends on you following Drupal best practices as well. An ideal Drupal site (i.e. one that will last the next two years and /or successfully make the leap to Drupal 9) will be one that leverages core functionality as much as possible.

Here are some of the more recent additions to Drupal core that all Drupal 8 sites should consider using in order to be ready for Drupal 9.

1) Paragraphs vs Panels vs Layout Builder

The ability for editors to layout content has been a long road. Panels was king, but Layout Builder has since replaced Panels. Layout Builder also has the added benefit of being part of Core, so it will work more closely with other core functionality.

The Paragraphs module is still very useful for content layout. However, the days of abusing Paragraphs for controlling layout are over. Start using it for what it was originally intended for, managing complex, tightly-bound bundles of content bits, but certainly not for actual page layout. There should be no more content-specific paragraphs within layout-specific paragraphs. 

This is an area where Layout Builder can help with content placement, while still using Paragraphs for content components.

2) Media Management

The Media module is now part of core, and most asset management in Drupal will begin there. Managing images, documents, and other digital assets as content types or custom entities should no longer be the pattern. Community support of core Media is ever-growing, and this is where the community’s focus will remain in the future.

3) Workflow: Workbench Moderation vs. Content Moderation

Editorial workflow is extremely important for many sites. Drupal 8 didn’t offer anything for this at first, and the community rallied around the ubiquity of Workbench Moderation. With the addition of Content Moderation in core, which is a very close facsimile of Workbench Moderation, this is where future attention will lie.

The Lightning install profile includes some tools to help transition from Workbench Moderation to to Content Moderation, so organizations don’t have to struggle alone in silence.

4) Modern Front-End Patterns

This is not strictly a Drupal 9 readiness point, but following good component-based design patterns is essential to maintaining a modern web platform. Using baseline tools such as Pattern Lab or Storybook is a great place to start to manage the components of a website. Drupal themes play nicely with these design implementation systems, often ingesting the same templates directly.

This sets up any Drupal site nicely for using component-based layout with Layout Builder and even Paragraphs-based content components.

Conclusion

Ensuring any Drupal project is not using deprecated code is the first step in Drupal 9 readiness. Even more important is ensuring that it is taking advantage of the latest core functionality and features, as these will be where the focus of the Drupal Contrib Community will be. Taking advantage of Core as much as possible will help with cases where once-common contrib modules are eventually abandoned over time.

Tobby Hagler

Tobby Hagler

Director of Engineering