April 22, 2015

As the potential release date for Drupal 8 slowly creeps up we've launched our first Drupal 8 site and are planning to kick off several more in the next few months. Through this process we've learned a lot about the reality of what it means to launch a site on beta software and what that means for your next project.

When do you need it done by?

Drupal 8 will be here soon, but your project may not need to be. If you are just starting to think about the strategy for your project now, and aren't planning on going into heavy development until later this summer, you should definitely be considering Drupal 8 as an option.

Do you REALLY need that feature?

Many custom features are provided by the 20,000 plus contributed modules in Drupal 7. When faced with the options of: 1) helping port a module to Drupal 8, 2) writing a new module that delivers that functionality, or 3) cutting the feature, option 3 probably starts to seem like a really good idea. If you have a large complicated, inflexible scope, or like knowing that you can have your cake and eat it too then 8 is probably not the best path for you.

Don't run back to Drupal 7 just yet, many Drupal 7 modules have already been included in Drupal 8 core. Foremost in this list is Views which opens up a whole lot of advanced functionality without installing a single module. If you feel like your project is simple enough to be build with views, content types, taxonomy, custom block types (yay!) you might want to try it out.

How is your pain threshold?

Does the possibility of losing a few days or even a week of development time chasing down a core bug or upgrading from one beta to the next make you feel dizzy? Drupal 8 is still rough around the edges and there will be frustrating moments ahead. Make sure you, your stakeholders, and your development team are ready to roll with the punches and adapt in order to make your project a success.

Why would I even think about it?

All of the best developers I know are always looking for new things to learn and new tools to try. This often leads the best Drupal developers to begin to explore Ruby, Node.js, and other web frameworks and languages. The best part of Drupal 8 is you get access to what feels like a whole new framework to experiment with, best practice theme layer implementation, consistent use of object-oriented code, and it is all available to you as part of a project you already know. If you've been itching to try something new give Drupal 8 a try. That familiar territory will carry you a long way when things start to get frustrating (see: pain threshold above).

If you are a site owner and not really interested in learning Drupal 8 for your own edification what do you stand to gain? Your main benefit is that you get to be in at the very beginning of a brand new release cycle. If your project is simple now, but may grow into much more you will already be on a platform which will be gaining many great new features and enhancements for many years to come. A little pain now may pay off big in a year or two.

If you haven't yet, spend a couple days giving Drupal 8 a try on your next project. If the worst case happens and everythign comes crashing down around you, Drupal 7 will still be sitting there waiting for you.