To Drupal, or Not to Drupal: Part 5

January 4, 2023| by David Kirkwood

This is the conundrum some may be facing when moving away from Drupal 7.

If you or others in your organization are battling with this question, there are several considerations you should make before choosing to move away from the Drupal platform. We'll cover them in 5 short reads:

Knowledge Attrition

This article is most applicable to organizations managing their web presence internally. 

Depending on your situation, one could argue moving away from Drupal is like throwing decades of organizational knowledge out the window. Given the considerable difference between version 8+ and Drupal 7, however, one could also argue the disparity between keeping or leaving is minimal because even if you stay with Drupal, it can feel like you’re still starting from scratch. That's understandable, but easily debatable.

However, this is not the only way for an organization to lose valuable knowledge.

As mentioned earlier, Drupal is now built on Symfony, a very popular framework for PHP—the language that powers almost 80% of today’s websites. Drupal also ships with the JSON:API module allowing multi-channel, decoupled access to your Drupal content using JavaScript or any other language. In short, staying with Drupal gives your front and back end developers the opportunity to use and improve in-demand skills. There’s little need to go job hunting because the jobs will always be there.

Not all content management systems are created equal, though, even those built with PHP. As part of your evaluation process, be sure to interview other organizations currently using the platform. Ask if they are having any challenges recruiting and retaining developers who want to work on the system. Why is this a good idea?

If the system or its underpinning language/technology is not in high demand, why should developers bother learning it to the detriment of more in-demand skills? 

Extending support for Drupal 7 is in part a testament to Drupal’s popularity. Gaining new proficiencies on an already-popular platform is job-security for your developers. It also means a large pool of replacement candidates if they choose to leave.

One other thing for a large organization to consider is how much of the migration will the vendor handle? Often, the initial contract will include migration of a limited number of sites. Your developers will then be expected to use those sites as models to write migration scripts for everything else. If you lose your good developers, you may need to add long-term maintenance and development to your list of recurring fees.

Lastly, in terms of long-term technical support, learning how to do anything on Drupal is simply a matter of figuring out how to ask the question in Google. Between the documentation on the website, thousands of blog posts and freely available video tutorials, the answers to any question are out there. 

You’re not going to get that level of knowledge-share on just any CMS, and definitely not on any proprietary system.

What to decide?

The decision “to Drupal or not to Drupal” is as individual as each organization. Whether you stay with Drupal or move to a different CMS, it is inevitable A) your site will have to be rebuilt, B) new learning will be required, and C) some level of continued training and support for content editors will be necessary. 

What is also inevitable are the new, modern features you will enjoy. 

Ultimately, the question is whether the benefits of a new platform outweigh the total cost of the platform including the recruitment and retention of competent developers, if applicable. 

Staying with Drupal gives your organization a scalable platform and access to leading technology, top developer talent and a huge community of free, quality technical resources. And $0 licensing fees. So what’s not to like about that?

Full-Stack Developer, David Kirkwood

About the Author:

David spent almost 10 years working as a developer in higher education with the University of North Texas prior to joining Electric Citizen. David conducts work across a range of areas for our clients, from site building and configuration to migrations and custom features. More about David »