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Drupal 9: Notes (and an 18 month plan) for those on Drupal 7

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Mike Madison Senior Strategist
March 05, 2020

This post is part of our Drupal 9 upgrade series. If you're on Drupal 8 already, there's lots of useful advice below; we'll also have a post just for you soon.

Drupal 7 will be unsupported past 2021. Consider this post your 18 month friendly nudge  :-)

With end-of-life for Drupal 7 security support set for the end of 2021 and the release of Drupal 9 this summer, it's time to make a plan.

You've likely already been thinking about what to do with your current Drupal 7 site. Starting with a formal review that we outline below now (ideally by sometime in Q2 2020), gives you time to audit your existing site, evaluate needs and options, and create a budget and process plan for upgrading to Drupal 9 before D7's security updates reach end-of-life status.

And since you've been on D7 for a few years, your site's design, content and features may be due for a refresh. It's a good time to assess all these things -- and create a plan that is manageable for your team and doesn't leave frustrated and stressed in 2021. 

And here's a brief overview (our cheat sheet) of an 18 month plan: 

  • Q2 - Q3 2020: Technical audit and resource / scope planning

    • Document the Drupal infrastructure (modules, content types, features) that constitute your current site.

    • Understand what modules are core v. contributed and their equivalents in D8 / D9

    • Do a qualitative assessment of whether the site is still "working" for you. Are there current site features that have fallen out of use? Is there new functionality that you'd like to build?

    • Do we want to just replatform to Drupal 9, or take the opportunity to redesign our site as well?

    • What's a realistic budget for a redesign / replatform? 

    • Who will be on your project team when you move forward? 

  • Q3 - Q4 2020: Finalize the scope of your project, your available budget, and get started

    • Now that you know what you want, secure the appropriate resources for the scope of work.

    • Remember, major technology projects like these take time. So if possible, start your replatform / redesign sooner rather than later. This will give you time to make adjustments to your new site's features, design and content without the threat of delaying your transition off of Drupal 7.

    • Our *general* guidance is that a replatform / redesign can take anywhere from 4-6 months or more, depending on complexity and your team's availability to contribute actively to the project. 

  • Q1 - Q2 2021: Design & development is well underway

    • Depending on project start and scope, you'll likely have design finalized and development well underway in Q1.
  • Q2 - Q3 2021: Launch your new site

    • Our recommendation is that your new site launch no later than Q3 2021. You'll give yourself enough wiggle room in case anything takes more time than you thought it would. ;-)
Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 Quick Guidance
Drupal.org: If you start now, we'll be moving to Drupal 8 first to allow a seamless upgrade to Drupal 9. If the project starts next year, we're likely to start building directly in D9.

Am I going to Drupal 9 directly or Drupal 8 first? 

Well, it depends on two things: when you start your rebuild project and where Drupal 9's release schedule stands. If you were to start your move now, we'd migrate your site to 8.8 first, and then transition you to Drupal 9. If your project starts next year, we'll likely build the site directly in D9. (note: the D9 release date depends on when beta requirements are met. Current plan is to release on June 3, 2020, but it could be as late as December (https://www.drupal.org/core/release-cycle-overview).

Whether replatform or redesign, the initial audit and further evaluation of your features and functions for the new site will be critical to how and when we start the build in D8 or D9. The overall level of effort in either case is directly related to how complex your current site is -- and what new specs your team wants. Whatever the case, the Chapter Three team are experts at Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 migrations (we’ve done well over a hundred!) and we'll help your team navigate the process from 7 to 8 or 9. We're active contributors to Drupal 9 and are closely monitoring progress of core and contributed modules for all of our clients. 

The best way to get your upgrade done is to work with us! Chapter Three's contributions to Drupal 8 helped build much of the infrastructure that Drupal users see today. We know how to manage an effective transition. Contact us today and let's get your customized 18 month plan in motion.  

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