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With the Aardwarmte.be website, Wax proudly delivers their first site built from the ground up in Drupal 9, the most recent version of the popular CMS. Read on to discover our insights into the newest Drupal version and whether you should upgrade your Drupal 7 or Drupal 8 website.

The Past

In the fast-moving field of Content Management Systems, innovation is key. In previous major versions, Drupal has taken a big-bang approach. Each jump from one major version to the next, for example from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7, represented a major overhaul of the entire product. While this allowed the community to innovate in a big way, this approach suffered from a few significant draw-backs:

  1. New features were added to new major versions of Drupal, and since Drupal has a long release cycle (Drupal 7 and 8 were released almost 5 years apart), this meant that users often had to wait a long time for new features.
  2. The data-model and API’s (the interface between Drupal and custom code) differed between major versions, making them incompatible with each other. This meant that every major upgrade for an existing required rewriting a lot existing code as well as implementing a migration for the data and content of the site.
  3. Since most sites rely heavily on so-called contributed modules (open source add-ons to Drupal), and the maintainers of these modules also had to rewrite the code, it often took another 6 or 12 months after the initial release of a new major version before the ecosystem was ready and sites could actually be built with the new version.
Image showing the new Aardwarmte.be website on a laptop. To the left of the website there's a mobile phone showing the mobile version of the Aardwarmte.be website.

The present

With Drupal 8, the pain points listed above were tackled. Instead of deferring new features to the next major version, they are now being added in new minor versions (for example, in Drupal 8.6, a new Media Library feature was added.) You no longer have to wait 4+ years for new features to become available.

And instead of “breaking” the existing API each time new features are added or improvements are made, the Drupal core developers ensure that old, existing functions are kept around, so any code using them does not suddenly stop working after an update. While these functions are still present in Drupal 8, they are “deprecated”. This means that using them is discouraged, and that at one point in time they will be removed. 

Overall, by taking this approach, changes are introduced gradually, enabling companies using Drupal to keep up-to-date with minimal effort, and avoiding a costly rebuild of their sites every couple of years.

Drupal 9 Logo

The future

Drupal 9 was released in June 2020. And while previous major releases of Drupal brought a plethora of new features and changes with them, the release of Drupal 9 will actually … not change much. That is because Drupal 9 only differs from Drupal 8 in two ways: all deprecated code will be removed, and some of the libraries on which Drupal is built will be upgraded to newer versions. That’s it.

The good thing about this is that, if your Drupal 8 site has been kept up to date, the transition to Drupal 9 will be an easy one! Not that you will have to upgrade immediately though: along with the release of Drupal 9, a final “long-term-support” (LTS) release of Drupal 8 will come out, guaranteeing support until November 2021 (which coïncides with the End-of-Life) of Drupal 7. After that however, both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 will no longer be officially supported (*).

Setting up Aardwarmte.be with Drupal 9

Today, we are proud to show off our first website built with Drupal 9. And, as expected, this did not pose any problem at all for our team of experienced Drupal developers!

When Vito first contacted us with the request to build their new website, Drupal 9 was not yet officially released. However, with the knowledge that the start of the website development would happen after the Drupal 9 release, and the eagerness of our devs to start using this new version, Wax quickly decided that this would be an ideal project for our first Drupal 9 build.

And honestly, thanks to the Drupal community, a lot of the groundwork was already in place. Most of the major contributed modules had already been ported to Drupal 9, and for those projects where there was no official D9 version yet, getting them D9-ready using all available documentation was fairly painless.

Going Geothermal

Vito asked Wax to design, develop and deliver a modern, fast and accessible website where they can provide visitors with all information about geothermal innovations. Rich content pages can be built using a set of components or building blocks, giving editors an easy way to create pages both appealing and informative.

Besides the general content management portion, we have also taken care of seamlessly integrating Hubspot forms, adding a press center, making the site searchable and providing answers to all your questions in the FAQ section.

All-in-all, a successful first Drupal 9 project for our team and our client.

Picture shows a hand holding a smartphone. On the screen is the mobile version of the Aardwarmte.be website

So what does this all mean for you? 

You are thinking about a new website

In that case, there is no reason to wait to jump into Drupal 9. You can start building the website straight away in Drupal 9.

You have an existing Drupal 8 website

As long as you keep up with regular minor updates, the transition to Drupal 9 will be pretty smooth and painless. There might be some work involved in removing deprecated code from any custom modules or themes, but in most cases the process of replacing deprecated code is well-documented.

You have an existing Drupal 7 website

Drupal 7 is End-of-Life in November 2021, at which point support stops. As mentioned above, upgrading from Drupal 7 does require significant investment, so we advise you to check with us in time to see what your options are.

No matter what your scenario is, Wax can help you determine the best approach to guide your company and website into the Drupal 9-era. 

(*) It is possible to purchase Extended Support through one of the so-called Vendor Extended Support offered by a small number of vetted companies.

The talents behind this project

Because teamwork makes the dream work. 

Ivo Van Geertruyen

Ivo Van Geertruyen

Developer

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