Migrating From Drupal 7 To Drupal 9

Support For Drupal 7 Ends Late 2023

There is no direct upgrade path from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9. There simply isn’t an option to run a standard Drupal Core update on your version 7 site and expect everything to magically turn into version 9. Almost everything about Drupal 9, including modules, themes and settings are different.

Thankfully, Drupal has extended the end-of-life date for version 7 until November 2023. If you are still running Drupal 7 then there is no need to panic just yet. In the meantime you must continue applying the latest security updates.

Migrating to Drupal 9 can be painless, an opportunity to improve the usability of your site. You might even consider moving to WordPress, if you run a smaller website.

Allow Developers Time To Plan Their Work

For most major Drupal migrations there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The deliverables are difficult to quantify because developers cannot know in advance which modules, settings and themes a client has installed. We are only granted access to the server, after our proposal is approved. Preferably you should write a specification that outlines all the existing features and functionality available in your current Drupal installation.

The Drupal 7 migration process should take anywhere between one month to six months, depending on the scale of the website. It can then take up to a full year for staff and administrators to become fully comfortable with the new system. People need time to learn new software tools. Migrating is also a chance to improve the efficiency of the content editing experience.

The most time-consuming aspect of migrating a Drupal website will be moving the content. The bigger the database, the more labour intensive the process becomes. Developers must also be mindful not to migrate old errors and bugs into the new build.

An Opportunity To Improve User Experience

Because there is no update path from Drupal 7 to version 9, you are effectively building a brand new website. This is a golden chance to improve design and throw out anything that caused pain. Your thinking should be focused on your users now. It’s also crazy to send out a tender to developers without first preparing the groundwork. You will save on migration costs by first pruning your content and then making a back-up of everything.

Since Drupal 8 theme templates have changed dramatically from standard PHP code formatting to a Twig template engine. Which means Drupal 7 themes are not compatible with Drupal 9. However, this problem can actually be a great opportunity to build a new front-end theme and make positive design changes that improves the usability of your website. If you are paying for migration work, then little is added to the cost with a design refresh.

Popular Drupal Modules Have Drupal 9 Versions

Many of the core functions of Drupal 7 such as content types, users, nodes and taxonomy should easily port to Drupal 9 without issue. If you have a large database of members for example, then moving basic user account information will be straightforward. Usernames, passwords or any custom profile fields are not particularly unique.

However, contributed modules pose the biggest challenge. Features or apps that were specifically developed for your organisation won’t migrate. These will need to be entirely re-built. Commonly used or essential modules installed on most Drupal websites, such as Views or Taxonomy, should port over to Drupal 9 relatively painlessly. In my experience almost every useful module has a Drupal 9 version now available.

Split Migration Projects Into Sprints

With any major migration project, clients must be patient with developers. The job must be divided into smaller milestones or sprints. There are many unknowns and potential bugs or issues that arise. It pays you to prepare yourself and provide the development team with as much information as possible. Trust plays a big part in a successful upgrade from Drupal 7 or any other product design/development project for that matter.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, if you are running a relatively small scale website in Drupal 7, then it’s worth considering WordPress. Cost should actually work out about the same as migrating to Drupal 9. But the way to really save your budget is to do lots of research and preparation. Early consultation with developers will reduce longterm costs. In any event, the aim of a major website upgrade is to improve your website.

There Isn’t A Manual For CMS Upgrades

You may be wondering if there is a step-by-step guide for migrating a Drupal 7 website to version 9? You can trawl the internet for help guides and advice, but every project is different. You need to write your own manual, based on the needs of your business. And as long as you keep regular back-ups, the process should be painless.

Please drop me a line if you need advice any further advice on migrating from Drupal 7. It doesn’t have to be a painful (or costly) experience.