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May 6, 2019   |   3 min read

Lessons Learned | Upgrading to Drupal™ 8

Expertise, preparation and long-term vision spell success.

For digital experiences, many of our clients rely on open-source platform Drupal™ as their Content Management System (CMS). It’s a scalable platform that simplifies content authoring, and it is already familiar among their internal teams. When a redesign project arises or a new version gets released, many have turned to our development team to make the upgrade—which you should always do if you want to reap the full benefits of Drupal™.

And if you think upgrading requires little more than the click of a button, you’re wrong. It’s a process best carried out by experts from a variety of disciplines: development, SEO, analytics, and strategy. If you’re in the midst of an upgrade or planning one, consider these lessons we’ve learned along the way.

What developers should know about Drupal™ 8.

Any developer who’s well-versed in the Drupal™ platform will recognize that some dramatic changes happened between versions 7 and 8. Popular modules have been overhauled, meaning their conversion isn’t quite so A to B. An experienced development team will do the manual work needed to preserve data; do not leave yourself vulnerable to the highly likely errors that come with automated upgrades.

Likewise, don’t wait and see if data integrity issues will arise deeper into the upgrade. There’s a strong chance they will—especially if your site has been around for a long time. Creating a more secure infrastructure early on can bring consistency and reliability back to current and future data.

Last, but certainly not least, approach this upgrade with the keen sense of a detective at work. There will be times when you wonder, “Why was this built this way again?” Scenarios like these are a trial of skills that call for the “reverse engineering” of site elements and their origins. Dig deep and never neglect the unknown (this will come back to haunt you later).

Play the long game with SEO—optimize with care.

During platform upgrades, SEO becomes a hot topic of discussion. To ensure no search equity is lost, you don’t want to tackle a massive list of updates right away. Rather, you want to address only the true “show-stopping” issues that are negatively affecting your domain(s). 

The other less-immediate updates should be organized into a thoughtful plan of attack to be carried out on a weekly or monthly basis. Making too many at once can make it challenging to tell which variables are having a positive effect. Run a marathon and not a sprint; plan your optimization and content strategies accordingly.

Accurately implemented tracking is a non-negotiable.

A new Drupal™ version shouldn’t rely on yesteryear’s analytics. With any platform upgrade, you should make certain your tracking tools are functioning as they should. These will give you an intimate understanding of who’s coming through your lead-gen funnel, engaging with key site elements, and downloading or sharing information. Without knowing these business-driving levers, a seamless Drupal™ 7 to 8 upgrade really means very little. Take the time to define and efficiently track performance as your site moves into its swanky new home.

Upgrading is only as easy as your developers' skill.

Whether upgrading is carried out by an internal or external development team, moving all the content and search equity you’ve painstakingly built should never be left to the ill-equipped. Developers who have experience with the Drupal™ platform and who understand its version-to-version nuances will make your upgrade a success. If you need a savvy team on your side, let us know. Otherwise, happy upgrading.

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