Should I Use Drupal 7 or Drupal 8?

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Drupal 8 or Drupal 7

Over the last 15 years, Drupal has earned a reputation for being the most powerful open source content management system.

Yes, Drupal may be harder to learn some alternatives, but it compensates for this with its options and flexibility.

Does Drupal 8 continue this tradition? I recently needed to find out.

I've been using Drupal 7 for several years and was asked to use Drupal 8 for a new site. This post contains my thoughts after evaluating Drupal 8 for the first time.

Core Modules

With Drupal 7, there were still many modules that needed to be added before it was truly ready to go. Drupal 8 has improved on this significantly. The 'core' package now includes many modules that with Drupal 7 had to be installed individually. Most notably - Views and the WYSIWYG editor. This makes installation much more of an 'out-of-the-box' process.

Out of the box, Drupal 8 installs following modules:

Automated Cron, Bartik, Block, Breakpoint, CKEditor, Classy, Color, Comment, Configuration Manager, Contact, Contextual Links, Custom Block, Custom Menu Links, Database Logging,Block, Breakpoint, CKEditor, Classy, Color, Comment, Configuration Manager, Contact, Contextual Links, Custom Block, Custom Menu Links, Database Logging, Datetime, Field, Field UI, File, Filter, Help, History, Image, Internal Dynamic Page Cache, Internal Page Cache, Link, Menu UI, Node, Options, Path, Quick Edit, RDF, Search, Seven, Shortcut, Stable, Standard, System, Taxonomy, Text, Text Editor, Toolbar, Tour, Update Manager, User, Views, and Views UI.

Theming

Theming is not significantly different. You still need access to FTP to create a new theme or sub-theme. The .info files have become .info.yml files that use the YAML syntax, but this is easy to use. Unlike Joomla and Wordpress, Drupal 8 still does not offer out-the-box CSS editing in the admin section. If you would rather make theming changes through the back-end interface, you can add styles, using the CSS Editor module.

OPcache

Upon installation, Drupal 8 calls for PHP OPcode caching, claiming that OPcache can improve your site's performance considerably. My shared server does not have this installed and a small site functions well regardless.

Security

Drupal 8 also takes security seriously and calls for trusted host patterns to be specified in settings.php. You need to add the following:

$settings['trusted_host_patterns'] = array(
'^example\.com$',
);

at the bottom of the file.

My first attempt created an error The provided host name is not valid for this server. I did find the answer on drupal.stackexchange.com but not surprisingly there is less of a knowledge base for Drupal 8. After all, Drupal 7 has had a long, long run.

Dashboard

The administrative interface is cleaner and easier to use, but Drupal is still harder to fathom than the likes of Wordpress and Joomla. In fact, the admin menu has not changed very much at all. The admin menu can now be viewed both vertically and horizontally at a click. However, this is not immediately apparent. It is possible to click in error and then wonder what happened to the menu bar.

Contrib Modules

The biggest concern is that many favored modules are not ready for Drupal 8. Rules, for instance, still only offers a pre-release version for Drupal 8. Its documentation is unavailable. With the #d8rules website calling for its implementation, the status of this project is unclear. That sort of thing makes developers nervous.

If you need some complicated functionality that was possible with some of Drupal 7's modules, it is best to check their status before assuming that they will be available and fully functional in Drupal 8.

End of Life

There is still no clarity on Drupal 7's end of life and there appears to be a good migration plan for sites moving to 8, so there's no huge incentive not to create new 7 sites.

Conclusion

Easier and quicker to install, Drupal 8 is a good choice if you want most of Drupal's functionality without having the cloud of future migration looming above you. If you are expecting to have all the familiar modules available and ready to enhance the experience, you may be in for a nasty surprise.

The back-end is cleaner and nicer to use. It's quicker to install with the core modules all in one package. There's no fiddling around trying to get the WYSIWYG editor to work.

If like me, you rely on forums to help you answer development hiccups, you may feel more comfortable with Drupal 7. Every problem ever encountered is well documented and help is on hand. With Drupal 8 however, you may well find yourself in pioneer country.

Essentially Drupal 8 isn't a major change and if you are familiar with Drupal 7 you should have no problem getting comfortable with the new system.


About the author

Born in Zambia but living now in Cape Town, South Africa, Libby Young started out as a journalist. She taught herself HTML when the company where she was an sub-editor made the transition from CD-Rom to the web 20 years ago. Since then she has developed content-rich websites using a variety of open source content management systems.