June 13, 2017 by Andrew Karaptis

DrupalCon: Drupal 8 Features

Hedgehog’s recent trip to DrupalCon Baltimore 2017 got us amped up about a few futuristic facets of Drupal 8’s feature set.

Smoother Upgrade Paths

First of all, Dries Buytaert mentioned in his keynote presentation that better tools for automated upgrades from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 are still in the works and making good progress. This is great since, as we mention in our previous Drupal blog post, the D7-to-D8 upgrade path is currently manual for the most part and takes significant development work for complex websites.

Second, the folks who manage Drupal core have a pretty clever plan for smoother minor and major version upgrades going forward. They intend to make Drupal upgrades easy forever by introducing major new APIs to replace old APIs while leaving the old APIs available in v8. Old APIs will be removed in Drupal v9. In other words, v9.0 will simply be the most recent version of v8.x but with all the deprecated APIs removed. This will hopefully encourage module maintainers to port their modules to use the new and improved APIs while v8.x is still the most modern version of Drupal, meaning their modules will work in v9.0 as soon as it comes out. We like and encourage this forward-thinking approach.

Ambitious Feature Improvements

Drupal’s release cycle has become more reliable and predictable over the last year and a half. Minor revisions are still frequent, and milestone revisions are now on a 6-month release cycle. Drupal’s core feature roadmap is looking promising with active initiatives around improved content workflow, more advanced media tools, nicer experience out of the box, adding a Layout Builder to Drupal core, and much more. There are even plans to take Drupal 8’s best-in-class REST API to new heights. The bottom line is that Drupal is dedicated to continual rapid improvement. We’re happy our clients get those benefits!

Buzz About “Headless” Drupal

DrupalCon showed that lots of development teams are excited about and experimenting with “headless” Drupal. Some in the Drupal community emphasize that Drupal is API-first, not API-only, so Drupal is much more than a simple headless content management system, but Drupal has been ahead of the “headless CMS” curve since it became a buzz term. The popularity of modern Javascript SPAs (single page apps) and PWAs (progressive web apps) has caused steam to continue building in this area.

Drupal 8 supports robust REST APIs which give you the ability to use Drupal Admin as your content management platform, but consume and use that content in any outside front-end, such as affiliated websites built with different CMS back-ends, complex Javascript-driven web apps, data feeds for native mobile apps, custom Facebook Messenger chatbots, etc. This really unlocks your content for reuse in multiple contexts, an important tool in the modern fast-moving world of digital marketing where platform integration is essential.

Does your marketing team suddenly need a campaign landing page launched within the next 7 days and showing dynamic posts from several of the custom content types from your main website? No problem. Drupal has you covered, as long as you were wise enough to choose it for your main website.

BigPipe Performance Boost 

Drupal 8’s out of the box support for BigPipe is really cool and should probably be considered for all Drupal 8 projects. This is an innovative strategy originally conceived by Facebook to speed up the apparent render time of pages by loading dynamic chunks of content last. Robust BigPipe rendering support is unique to Drupal among competing PHP CMS platforms, and its improved load times are a big win for user experience on any Drupal 8 website. This is especially great for use on sites with dynamic user-specific page elements, like content related to the specific logged-in account, shopping cart summary displays, etc.

Hedgehog Brings Drupal’s Power to You

It is easy to see why some of the biggest companies in the world are using Drupal in their web platforms. 7-Eleven’s recent website relaunch is just one of many similar examples where Drupal has edged out its CMS competitors due to its rich feature set for complex high traffic websites. Contact us today to discuss Drupal’s features and how they can benefit your upcoming web project.

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