We’ve had a lot of clients asking us about upgrading their websites to Drupal 7, so I decided to summarize a few considerations that will hopefully help website owners make informed decisions, and plan for the future.

Is there anything wrong with Drupal 6?

Drupal 6 powers hundreds of thousands of websites, and can be properly maintained as a stable platform. The short answer is no. Drupal 6 website owners who are thinking about the long-term future of their digital communication need to weigh up two considerations: security, and website user experience.

Security

The security of any Drupal website depends on whether or not site administrators download and install the most recent security updates.  In our web maintenance work, we regularly come across Drupal 6 sites that have been neglected for months, or years. Drupal 7 and WordPress both offer fairly easy security update steps within their administration interfaces, but in Drupal 6 this feature was sorely missing. Many people don’t know how to use FTP to log in and make changes on their web server in order to secure their Drupal 6 sites.

To check whether your site is secure,

  1. Login to your site by visiting http://your_website_domain.com/user and entering your admin username and password.
  2. Type in http://your_website_domain.com/admin/reports/updates . You may have to “run cron” to check for available updates.

The Drupal community has a policy of only supporting the two most recent major releases. Currently, ongoing security updates are provided for Drupal 6 and 7. Drupal 6 will officially supported until Drupal 8 is released, at which point ongoing maintenance will be the cost-prohibitive responsibility of individual site owners. We don’t yet know the exact Drupal 8 release date, but the feature freeze is scheduled for December 1st, 2012.

Website user experience, design and interactivity

What does it take for a website to make an impact in 2012? People expect modern websites to be easy to use, focused, engaging, and even include facebook-like interaction. Many websites that were perfectly good a few years ago now seem comparatively plain.  These changes in the web are relevant because it makes huge financial sense to take advantage of the 6 to 7 upgrade process to also implement a cutting-edge website redesign.

Drupal refers to the “template” or “skin” that is used to control the site’s layout, colors, etc. as a “theme.” Themes available for Drupal 7 offer web designers easier ways to make websites smartphone and tablet ready using “responsive” techniques. Similarly, HTML 5 compliance is much more easily achieved in version 7.

What’s new in Drupal 7?

More than 3 years in the making, Drupal 7 includes the largest number of changes of any major release. The functionality of more than 50 modules have been included in the core software package, resulting in vastly superior a final product.

From the official announcement:

Easier to use

An entirely revamped administrative interface makes your daily tasks easier to find and carry out. Many improvements were added specifically for site builders and content editors.

More flexible

Define your own content structure and add custom fields to content, users, comments, and more. Extend your site with one of the over 800 modules already available for Drupal 7.

More scalable

Your Drupal 7 site will be fast, responsive and handle huge amounts of traffic thanks to improved JavaScript and CSS optimization, better caching and more.

I hope this post was useful for you! As always, feel free to contact us with any questions or inquiries. You can also consult our Update Drupal 6 to 7 special promotion to request a free quote.

Cheers!

Ryan Wadsworth

Technical Director, FatLab Web Support