Drupal 8 is here - so what are we waiting for...?

Today is a landmark day for the Drupal community as the first fully supported release version of Drupal 8 is officially launched into the wild - the biggest ever update to the Drupal platform.

The latest version of Drupal is the result of the combined work of over 3,200 Drupal community developers from around the world and promises to be the slickest, most flexible and reliable version of the platform yet.

It comes with a range of great new features for both users and developers alike. On the front end, new tools and functionality include:

  • Responsive and mobile-friendly pretty much out-of-the-box
  • Significantly-improved multilingual capabilities
  • Improved user experience through the integration of slick new jQuery-based tools
  • Create and edit content with greater ease with WYSIWYG tools by default and in-line editing for making changes on the fly
  • Increased support for standard accessibility tools and technologies

From our perspective as developers, we can look forward to:

  • More key, often-used functionality included in Drupal core, so available straight out of the box
  • Improved mark-up based on modern HTML5 standards
  • Modern Object Oriented Programming (OOP) approach to coding, in-line with modern coding practices, further improving performance and security
  • Better version-control for managing changes across multiple copies of a site (e.g. development > staging > live)
  • A new approach to theming using the Twig template engine, creating many more options and greater flexibility when it comes to the design of sites

We've been exploring Drupal 8 in the background for quite a while now and have been very impressed with its new capabilities and look forward to using it "in anger" on new development projects in the near future. But will we be using it on every new site build from now on? Not necessarily - and here's why:

One of our strongest beliefs and principles here at Adaptive is to always offer best advice to our customers. We believe in offering the most appropriate solution to each project to ensure the right mix of quality and value in the final outcome. We never look to simply suggest the easiest, most-expensive (or cheapest) or 'sexist' option - it's about providing the BEST solution with all things considered.

To that end, at this stage in its life cycle, we will only be recommending development in Drupal 8 when we feel it is entirely appropriate to the project in hand. This means carefully evaluating the requirements of the project and the modules and techniques available in Drupal to deliver these requirements and comparing this to what it currently available in Drupal 8. Simply put - if a project relies on modules/functionality not yet available in Drupal 8, it could well be that Drupal 8 isn't the right answer at this stage and we'll therefore only recommending it if it feels like the right direction to go in.

This caution comes from our experiences back at the start of 2011 when Drupal 7 first launched. At that time, new potential customers were approaching us with requests for new sites to be built in Drupal 7. We advised against using Drupal 7 at that early stage for a number of important reasons, but primarily because it was obvious at that stage in Drupal 7's release that it was not quite ready for the larger, more complex site builds that were being proposed.

While the core product was alive and kicking as version 7, along with a number of key modules to add into it, not ALL required modules were available immediately in Drupal 7 and this was crucial in our decision to hold back on Drupal 7 development at that early point. To proceed would have meant risking the use of modules that were still in beta (or alpha) development at the time or, even worse, not available at all for Drupal 7 and so needed converting from their Drupal 6 equivalents if required.

While we, understandably, lost out on a handful of projects in these early days of Drupal 7 because of our stance, we felt that our caution with using Drupal 7 was very much justified at that stage. There was no clearer indication that this was the right decision when mid-2011, 4 or 5 months after we initially turned down a project for the reasons above, the customer came back to us with a half-built Drupal 7 site that had been started by another agency who, having realised that essential modules that they needed to complete the build were not yet available in Drupal 7, had then abandoned the project.

We were able to step in at that stage to rescue the project and the site was successfully launched a number of months later - but at a greater cost to the customer than they had originally anticipated due to the large amount of extra work that had to go into building functionality not yet available as a Drupal 7 module at the time.

So when it comes to Drupal 8 - we're as excited as the rest of the Drupal community about the new release and look forward immensely to working with it to bring the next generation of Drupal sites to life over the next few years. But we'll be moving forward with due caution and consideration - so don't be surprised if you see a few more new Drupal 7 sites from us before we move fully over to Drupal 8 during 2016.