by David Snopek on October 17, 2017 - 4:11pm

In about a month, it'll be 2 years since Drupal 8.0.0 was released. Drupal 8 has come a long way since then, especially with Drupal 8.4.0 released two weeks ago, which is the most feature-packed release yet.

Drupal 8 is the future of Drupal. It's awesome.

However, looking at all the blogs and articles and podcasts in the Drupalsphere, we're sending a message that you should only build new sites on Drupal 8.

The common wisdom is that starting a new project on Drupal 7 is dumb idea.

While I'm sure there's lots of people who are OK with that or even think that's the right message...

I strongly believe that we are hurting the Drupal project by sending that message.

Read more to find out why!

Drupal 8 isn't ready for everyone... and might not be for a while

The root of the problem is that, while Drupal 8 can do so much, it isn't a complete replacement for Drupal 7 yet.

I'm not just talking about features, and what modules are available, and community knowledge/ability, and tooling... Well, actually, I'm talking about all those things together. :-)

What made Drupal 7 (and earlier versions) great, wasn't that core was awesome. In fact, while core was always made of well-written code, it was decidedly UNawesame all on its own.

The magic of Drupal was being able to quickly build an application with loads of features, without needing to write much code.

In fact, with Drupal 7, a site bulider — even one who is incapable of writing code — could create a pretty advanced website (say, a Facebook clone?) just by combining modules (with an FTP client) and clicking their way through the admin screens in Drupal.

In Drupal 8, the bar is currently much higher. Working on a Drupal 8 site today, you'll need to write custom code or help port modules, because the contrib ecosystem is less mature.

But even if all the contrib modules were ported and had stable versions, you're now forced to do things that are good ideas, but previously were totally optional, for example: use composer, maintain a staging site, probably use Git and specialized hosting.

Don't force out the "non-techies"

Should the Drupal community "level up" and learn how to use composer, git, etc? Yeah, that'd be good. :-) But does it really make sense to require that?

Many very successful Drupal users are not developers or even technologists. They're librarians, or volunteers, or scientists, or government employees, etc, who do need the power of Drupal (ie. Wix wouldn't work for them), but don't have the time or incentive to become "real techies."

Traditionally, Drupal democratized the ability to create advanced websites by empowering non-techies.

And they are valuable members of our community! They make many non-code contributions, not the least of which is making sure we create software usable by non-developers. And some do eventually make the leap to being developers, but they probably wouldn't have if the initial bar was too high and they couldn't make the transition gradually.

Let's not force these people out of our community.

There are some issues on Drupal.org looking at ways to eliminate or reduce these barriers. For example, looking at ways for site builders to use composer without having to learn composer. But I don't see those problems being fixed particularly soon.

The software adoption curve

Software goes through a predictable cycle where different groups of people adopt it at different times. At first, it's only picked up by innovators and early adoptors, but eventually it's ready for mainstream usage. A lot happens in the process, and not all of it is related to code or the core product.

Many of the tools and processes that we use day-to-day as Drupalists didn't come from Drupal core, but the ecosystem around it (drush, Features, etc) and shared knowledge and best practices (tens of thousands of hours of experience gained by many different people and groups, and remixed via meetups, Drupalcamps, Drupalcons, blog posts).

Drupal went through this process as it was figuring out what it was, and as the community learned how to build sites with it. I'd say the transition to mainstream happened somewhere between Drupal 4.7 to Drupal 6, and continued to mature with Drupal 7.

While all major Drupal releases up until now made big changes, they were more iterative and much about the way that Drupal worked and how our community used it to build sites remained the same.

Since Drupal 8 is nearly a complete rewrite which shook up much of what we know about developing Drupal sites, I'd argue that Drupal 8 is starting the software adoption curve all over again.

While there are some things that have remained the same, there is a huge amount of new stuff, much of it untested over the long-term. Drupal 8 is ready for innovators and early adoptors, and maybe some people in the middle, but it's not ready for all the same groups of people that can successfully adopt Drupal 7.

We're creating a false choice

By pushing Drupal 8 so hard, we're creating a false choice:

  1. Use Drupal 8 for your new site, or
  2. Wait for when Drupal 8 is capable of supporting you (... and while you're waiting, consider moving to other platforms!)

We do Drupal 6 Long-Term Support, and we've seen many people who loved their Drupal 6 sites move to non-Drupal platforms because they didn't see themselves capable of building a new Drupal 8 site, or paying for someone else to do it, or both.

But Drupal 7 is still awesome and isn't going anywhere any time soon!

Since Drupal 7 is still used by nearly a million or so sites (the majority of Drupal sites) we're going to need to continue to support Drupal 7 for a long time, whether that's in the form of official support from the Drupal project or as a Drupal 7 Long-Term Support effort.

Drupal 6 continues to be with us (via Drupal 6 Long-Term Support) almost 10 years after its initial release!

Honestly, I think Drupal 7 is going to be with us in a real way for another 8-10 years.

So, why not say it's OK to build new sites on Drupal 7?

By not saying it, we're pushing people to other platforms

I mentioned this in the last section, but it's worth reiterating:

When people see Drupal 8 as the only way they should be build new sites, and it doesn't seem to work for them, they begin to consider other platforms.

I really, honestly believe that Drupal 8 will get to a point where it can support the same groups of people (including the non-techies) that Drupal 7 supported.

But to keep those people in our community until we get there, we need to be saying, as a community: "It's OK to build new sites on Drupal 7!"

Ok, I've said my piece. :-)

I'm sure this will be a controversial opinion and that many people will disagree. I look forward to discussing further in the comments below!

Do you agree with my argument? Or think I'm totally wrong? Please leave a comment below!

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Comments

Hi Richard,

If you think Drupal 8 will work for the site and the person/people who will need to maintain it, then do it in Drupal 8! If Drupal 8 will work, it's the better choice: it'll be supported longer, there's more community energy there, the jump from D7 to D8 is still going to be a lot harder than D8 to D9, etc.

But I don't think that my opinion has changed. :-) The article above is not addressing the case where Drupal 8 will work fine, it's addressing the case where using Drupal 8 will be harder, either from a technical perspective (it doesn't support all the requirements yet) or a people perspective (the people who will need to maintain it may have the skills for Drupal 7, but the bar is too high for Drupal 8).

In those cases, I'd still advocate for Drupal 7 being an option.

I hope that makes sense!

That makes perfect sense! Thanks!

100% Agree. I've abandoned Drupal and not found a replacement, keeping me out of bidding on projects that d7 would be great for. The simple d7 website I tried to build on d8 was a disaster, requiring well known Drupal devs to fix modules and custom code. I lost several thousand dollars.

As a site builder and kinda dev tech, the D8 upgrade has been horrible for Drupal. All someone needs to do is create a few solid drupal plugins for wordpress, solid being the key here, and I see no reason to use this complicated taxing cms I once absolutely loved (I have a frickin' drupal hoodie for Gods sake).

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