11 Liipers attended the DrupalCon Barcelona in September 2015. We learned a lot about Drupal 8. And heard over and over again: “Start working with Drupal 8 now!”.
But let's have a look back: The development of Drupal 8 took more than 4 years and for me as a developer it sometimes seems, like no stone was left unturned. Almost everything has changed. Symfony2 walked onto the stage and brought some paradigm shifts in Drupal 8 that may prove to be a challenge for us as developers.
But the good news is that there are so much new features and tools, that make developing enterprise websites so much easier, that I would like to start new projects with Drupal 8 exclusively and never use Drupal 7 again ;-)
At DrupalCon, there were a lot of interesting sessions about exciting features for developers. My personal favourites were the following:
Fastest Drupal ever, out-of-the-box. To learn something about BigPipe, Placeholdering and other crazy stuff, have a look at the following session. ( events.drupal.org/barcelona2015/sessions/making-drupal-fly-fastest-drupal-ever-here)
No more cluttering with database-stored configuration. Configuration Management in Drupal 8 ( events.drupal.org/barcelona2015/sessions/configuration-management-drupal-8)
New theme system based on Twig. 154 theme functions have been removed and replaced with Twig templates. This is one of the most interesting sessions for frontend devs, you should not miss it. ( events.drupal.org/barcelona2015/sessions/drupal-8-theme-system)
Symfony2 as a base layer for Drupal 8. Services, Dependency Injection and Routing are some of the paradigm shifts I mentioned above. Have a look at the following session, to get a good overview.
But what about new projects with Drupal 8?
Sure, all these new features sound exciting. But what about building new customer projects with Drupal 8? The answer isn't that easy.
We at Liip already started to work with Drupal 8 and we can share some experience with other companies out there, who would like to start working with Drupal 8.
New simple CMS project with Drupal 8 will work out of the box!
Simple CMS projects that rely on Drupal 8 Core without the help of too many contrib modules will work out of the box. So many great features like Views, Page Manager and CKEditor are now part of the core. Drupal 8 matured and is now a full featured enterprise content management system capable of building websites based on structured data.
Nevertheless, there is an initial investment you will have to do, because the learning curve of Drupal 8 is quite steep. If you are not familiar with Object Oriented Programming (OOP) and Symfony2, you will have to put some effort to learn the new concepts. But as soon you managed that, your Drupal installations will become easier to deploy and ways better maintainable.
In our first smaller projects, we calculate with a 10-20% additional costs, because of missing knowledge and experience. we also will have to fix some of these early adopter bugs. These costs will be covered mainly by my personal education budget and also by some extra budget Liip AG has reserved for Drupal 8 transition phase.
If you plan to start a new project you should try to go with Drupal 8 if it's somehow possible. This will protect your investment for the next few years and make sure, that the long term costs (aka maintenance) stay low. You can expect that in the near future all new Drupal websites will be build with Drupal 8. Additionally you can profit from all the new features. Even as an end user you have a much better user experience and a lot of benefits. If you are uncertain, you may contact us. We have a lot of expertise in this field and will figure out together with you if your project will work out with Drupal 8. In the end, it will be up to you to decide which version is implemented.
For new and complex project you will have to calculate quite some extra efforts!
Bigger project often depend on a lot of custom module. For example complex media management (as we had it in Drupal 7) is not ready at all. For every contrib module you have to evaluate and test, if there is a working Drupal 8 version. If there is none, you will probably have to upgrade parts of the module or looking for an alternative.
We calculate with more than 50% additional costs, if we have to upgrade complex contrib modules or parts of it. As we would like to contribute these modules back to the community, this number can grow quickly if you try to implement the new module in a generic reusable way.
Upgrading existing big Drupal 7 project To Drupal 8: Stay away!
At the time of writing I consider it absolutely senseless to upgrade big projects to Drupal 8 that rely on a lot of contrib modules. You would have to upgrade a lot of contrib modules and also completely rewrite your custom modules. Updating a contrib module means, that you have to understand the code someone else has written and transform it into working module on Drupal 8 (where you probably are not as experienced) and in the same time discover and use the new system / APIs / services. Quite a brave mission that probably will end up in a mess. You should try to avoid that.
So what should I do now?
Every Drupal site is different and especially the customer needs are different and have to be considered on a case by case basis. You will certainly have to calculate with additional internal costs that you cannot bill to your customer in your first Drupal 8 project.
But you should definitely now start working and building websites with Drupal 8. You will enjoy all the new features and make your customer happy with a fast, testable and user friendly system. And we hope, that you also contribute and help upgrading key modules. This helps the Drupal community a lot and will enable all of us to do more complex Drupal 8 projects in the near future.