Should you be interested in the new Drupal 8?

Drupal 8, originally scheduled for an August 2013 release, will from all appearances not just be another version upgrade. There will be extensive improvements on issues that matter to all types of Drupal users. That last sentence doesn’t do it justice. Really Drupal 8 will be a quantum leap among Content Management Systems and Web-Application Frameworks.

Who will Drupal 8 benefit the most, users or developers? This is hard to quantify, but so far it seems that the end user will feel the biggest shift. The most dramatic changes for end users will be a simplified interface for content modification, and improved mobile compatibility. But these are not the only enhancements that are underway for what is undoubtedly the most ambitious Drupal version to date.


If you can post to Facebook, You can post to Drupal 8

Posting content will be as easy as it is on popular social networking sites. If you can post to Facebook, you will be able to post to Drupal without any additional training. The usability for site managers is also markedly improved. This is all due mainly to the Spark distribution work which allows in-place editing, see http://drupal.org/project/spark. The goal is that content creators, site managers and end users will have the option to just click what they want to edit on a page, like the title, text, or images and change them directly without having to switch to an administrative editing interface. I know that end users have instinctively tried to edit content just by clicking on blocks of text when given Drupal without any training. This update will make the process of seeing what your changes look like as you compose feel entirely natural.


Mobile

Drupal 8 is setup for mobile in multiple ways. The new Drupal is being built so that from the moment of first use, you will be able to interact with your site on both traditional and mobile displays. Additionally, work is underway towards “responsive layouts” which allow site creators to place regions of text, graphics and other elements so that everything appears readable on mobile devices and your laptop, auto adjusting size and orientation to whatever you are using at the time. Mobile apps will also be able to tie into Drupal 8.

Say you feel like logging into your Drupal site and checking on new comment activity, but you only have your mobile phone. With Drupal 8 you’ll be able to do that with an interface that works well with your mobile device; no scrolling around and trying to enlarge text. While much of this is possible with Drupal 7 with extra setup beforehand, we’re going to see this become the standard on Drupal 8.


HTML5 and High-Performance

Drupal 8 does HTML5, the shiny new version of Hyper Text Markup Language that supports video, audio, better forms, 2D/3D graphics and animation. That’s just the start of the great things HTML5 offers and it’s with Drupal 8 it’s already built in, link: http://www.switched.com/2010/05/11/what-is-html5-and-why-should-you-care.

Major work is going towards performance improvements in Drupal 8, we’ll be blogging later to explain how. To generate pages suitable for a variety of devices it is important for Drupal 8 to be quick, and major progress is already underway to enhance speed, mainly on the “front-end,” and that means on your end-user device.

Lastly, efforts are being made to include back-end wizardry which allows custom apps to connect to the Drupal database in standardized ways using new and improved Web-Services. Web Services are how different computer devices communicate with each other over the Internet. When you visit somewhere else in the world it is good to speak the language, in this case the computer’s language. Improved Web Services allow your Drupal 8 site to communicate better with the world, that is other applications, be they mobile or most anything else which speaks these standardized data languages.


Other Initiatives

The other main initiatives, overlooking all the many tweaks and interface improvements are: multilingual, design, and configuration management (and the Views module group is in core).

If you have a multilingual site, or more to the point, want a multilingual site, Drupal 8 now includes the language systems in core. So adding languages and translations is more like installing or updating modules.

Designers will also see big changes with the way themes are made using Drupal 8, and given the mobile initiatives this is imperative. The goal here is to make design (theming) work better. The end result is cleaner and more elegant web design.

There will also be improvements in configuration management. When creating sites, most developers have multiple installations of the site, development, staging and production, or minimally development and production. In Drupal 8 configuration management makes it easier and methodical to maintain these separate installations while simplifying deployment of new code, updates and alterations. Besides the time saved for developers, these procedural improvements will benefit site owners because their site can be better maintained, more stable, and more secure.

Recently the Views module has been added to core. If you don’t know what Views is in Drupal, suffice it to say that now, with a default Drupal 8 installation, site-builders will be able to make complex web applications, similar to many of the popular ones we know and love, like Twitter for instance, without adding additional external modules (of course you may end up adding just a few of the thousands of available modules to add some cool functionality). Yep, it’s excellent.

That’s a long list so far and that’s just the beginning. Drupal 8 has even more in store for all of us due the large and growing community of ambitious and hard working contributors.


This blog entry is based on an informal presentation and post-discussions about Drupal 8 given by Darrell Ulm at Drupal Camp Ohio 2012.