Drupal is an extremely powerful content management system used extensively throughout the world. It has a good history of high quality development and is built, used, and supported by an active and diverse community of people around the globe. We’re certainly no strangers to Drupal with multiple projects under our belts, the most recent being North West Cambridge Development and Cambridge Live Trust.
This latest release, Drupal 8, is build is on best of breed PHP technology such as Symfony, Twig and Zend Framework, ensuring a solid future and providing excellent tools to create large, cutting edge websites.
So what’s new?
Accessibility: Drupal 8 developers have worked hard to update the default themes, making extensive use of HTML5 and accessibility technologies including WAI-ARIA, ARIA live announcements API and TabManager. Not only does this offer (obvious) accessibility benefits, it can also provide advantages for SEO.
Authoring: Drupal 8 has CKEditor included in Core, this is a vast improvement over Drupal 7 which included no built in text editor and simply used large empty text areas by default. Drupal 8 also features an improved edit page and in-page editing, making authoring a real breeze.
Configuration management: The brand new configuration management system makes it easy to transport configuration changes like: new content types, fields, or views from development to production. This even allows use of version control to track changes in site configuration.
Mobile first: Drupal 8’s themes are now completely responsive, even admin pages now have improved usability on mobile devices. The administration experience has been improved with a mobile-first back to site button, which leads to the last front-end page.
Multilingual capabilities: Now with Drupal 8 you can translate anything that is in the system using built-in user interfaces. The system for translating has become more streamlined. You can even build new pages with views language filtering and block visibility. We’ve prototyped a localised website in multiple languages and have been very impressed by the powerful multilingual support in Drupal8 core.
Better markup with HTML5: Drupal 8 now includes the industry standard HTML5, this plays a key role in marketing, creating fully functional mobile websites. Drupal now also includes native input tools on mobile for fields like date, email and phone.
Fun and fast theming: Drupal 8 includes Twig, a fast and secure templating engine for PHP. Twig templates are written in an easy to learn syntax, meaning much cleaner (and potentially easier to understand) template files.
More field power: Drupal 8 reaches beyond the usual content structuring system by including more field types in its core, it also allows you to attach more fields to more types of content.
Views: Views are now built deeply into the core of the CMS, the front page listing is now a view, as with several other admin pages. This means that the front page is now customisable, as are listing blocks. Custom admin pages can be created, you can even customise filters and actions. Customising admin pages means it’s far easier to create tailored editing experiences for our clients in the CMS, which will save them time when managing content.
Industry standard approach: The feature we’re most excited about is the use of best-of-breed PHP technology. Drupal now is geared around object oriented code embracing the latest PHP standards and leverages external libraries such as Composer, Symfony, Twig, PHPUnit, Guzzle, Zend Feed Component, Assetic and more. Given we’ve been using these technologies at Studio 24 it makes it far easier to build more complex websites on top of Drupal, using the best tools available to us in the PHP world.
Configuration management: This may sound dull but it’s one of Drupal 8’s most powerful features. In Drupal most of the setup (e.g. types of content, navigation, etc) is stored in the database and in previous Drupal versions it has been very difficult to move this from development to staging to a live production website. In Drupal 8 a new configuration system exists which stores this setup in YAML files. This can be version controlled and deployed from our local development environments up to live websites. This results in faster, more reliable site updates and faster develpoment between team members working on a Drupal project.
Staying ahead of the game
Illustrating just how keen we are on this new release, we’ve already built our first site in Drupal 8 over the summer – The Cambridge Film Festival. This gave us a head start with Drupal 8’s functionality and the opportunity to explore the power of the new configuration and Twig templating system. It was smooth sailing all of the way and we had fantastic feedback from both the client and users following the launch of the site in August.
You can read our Drupal case study on the project on the Drupal.org website.