Drupal 7 vs. Drupal 8: When An Upgrade Is A Huge Step Forward

By Kenna Poulos

Among developers, it’s widely accepted that updates to existing operating services don’t necessarily have an instant adoption rate. There are a few reasons for this, but chief among them is the sense that developers often feel that updating to a new system is a hassle, and they’re just as well off spending that time manually updating older modules. 

This is where a confident managed hosting partner can help ease the transition to an upgrade that offers more than just surface improvements. With Drupal 8, developers will see the need for backend tinkering cut down, and their ability to utilize baked-in functionality and work more fluidly with third-party services as a way of opening the door for more innovation and experimentation. 

The decision to stick with Drupal 7 or update to Drupal 8, however, first requires a thorough understanding of your specific needs, work style, and project flow. So to fully grasp the full extent of how much of a growth spurt Drupal 8 represents and how developers can maximize its effectiveness, it’s helpful to consider how you’ve been using Drupal 7, and why making the switch will allow you to spend more time building useful, versatile, and efficient sites and mobile apps. Drupal has never been known for being “out of the box” when it comes to third party integration, but the latest version balances the open sandbox experience developers have come to expect with a bit more structure. Here are the key ways Drupal 8 differs from Drupal 7.


By adding more built-in functionality right from the start, Drupal 8 lessens the time and energy spent manually coding basic elements such as italics in text or simple data fields and gives developers more freedom to innovate and experiment. 

New Text Editor

With dynamic HTML editor CKEditor built in, Drupal 8 offers developers access to rich text editing and common word processing features – similar to those found in Microsoft Word. This removes some of the tedium that can come from having to code basic text elements - bold face or bullet points, for example - and makes building out site content much more fluid and intuitive.

New Field Types

When creating contact forms, blocks, nodes, or comment fields with Drupal 7, developers were limited in terms of the specific fields they could create right out of the box. With Drupal 8, common fields such as date, email address, phone number, and link fields are already included without any additional coding. It then becomes a matter of simply choosing what you want to include, rather than having to build what you need on the backend.

Quick Edit Mode

Perhaps the most important upgrade in terms of the leap from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 is the new “Quick Edit Mode.” In the older version, developers were unable to edit content directly from the website’s frontend. But with Quick Edit, users can make content edits directly on the frontend as they scroll through web pages, making small changes much easier to implement.


Web and mobile design is rapidly evolving, and Drupal 8 has added features that will make creating dynamic and responsive digital experiences more efficient and intuitive.


Twig is a PHP template engine (part of Symfony 2) that prides itself on being easily adopted, extremely customizable and flexible, and secure – thanks to clearer error messaging to alert developers about potential coding bugs and features like Automatic Output Escaping, which prevents people from hijacking login sessions by swiping unescaped code.

Responsive Images

With Drupal 7, developers had to manually resize images according to screen sizes and the styles of individual devices. With Drupal 8, image styles are pre-set and developers can simply select from a variety of pre-existing style templates. This upgrade allows for quicker image editing and cuts down dramatically on a major source of time drain.


Speaking of time drain, your site or app’s entire user experience, audience reach, and overall effectiveness depends largely on speed. And as reach and UX increase, so does the need for smooth accessibility. Both of these concepts are top of mind for Drupal 8.

Increased Website Speed

Drupal 8 improves overall site speed by automatically caching entities. This means it does not reload content from a previously viewed page and, to further increase speed and efficiency, Drupal 8 doesn’t load JavaScript unless it’s absolutely essential.

Increased Website Accessibility

By allowing developers to use HTML5 natively (something not possible on Drupal 7), Drupal 8 makes it easier to build responsive sites that can easily adapt to both desktop and mobile views.

Core Multilingual Modules

With speed and agility comes reach. And in order to expand your reach globally, you’ll need to be multilingual. Although Drupal 7 allowed for modules to be added that helped with content translation and distribution, these elements are now baked into Drupal 8. Giving developers instant access to modules such as Language, Content Translation, Interface Translation, and Configuration Translation, they can seamlessly adapt their web or app content to suit a multitude of audiences around the world. 

Armed with a clearer understanding of what Drupal 8 offers, developers can now prioritize more clearly when tackling a project. Is this something that is going to require a lot of “making it up as you go?” If that’s the case, then you may be fine staying with Drupal 7. If your site or mobile app will have a structured framework with a lot of familiar and standard elements, then Drupal 8 will take a lot of that extra work off your hands and allow you to find new ways to innovate now that you don’t have to spend time building and re-building basic elements. Regardless of iteration, Drupal will provide flexible and versatile options.    

To learn more about how you can take advantage of Drupal’s flexible, customizable framework to improve customer experience, download our ebook:

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