Drupal 8: A Look Ahead

Written by Chris Roane
Drupal 7

Since the release of Drupal 7, there has been much talk about what to expect for the next major release of Drupal. Drupal’s founder Dries Buytaert has outlined some of the goals for Drupal 8. These goals provide some insights into what we are likely to see in the next Drupal version.

A few of the goals Dries has outlined includes the following: to integrate web services, optimize for HTML5, improve configuration management, improve design and usability, and to become mobile and tablet friendly.

Web Services

Web Services are one of the central features for Drupal 8. The goal for Drupal is to use the Representational State Transfer architecture (REST) for its integrated services functionality. Drupal 8 will aim to have the ability to produce data in different formats, such as JSON, XML as well as other formats.

The reason for this is that data for a website can no longer be assumed to mostly be full html pages. These days AJAX combined with communicating via web services is becoming more of a priority. It is good to see Drupal recognize this.

HTML 5

HTML 5 is another major initiative for the next Drupal release. All indications have shown that HTML 5 is a major milestone in the evolution of the internet and is now supported on the latest browsers. Drupal 8 is setting a goal to use HTML 5 as its default doctype.

Configuration Management

This initiative aims to create more control over configuration changes. It allows configurations such as rollbacks, which can return the settings back to a particular time. It also allows the saving of a configuration change, such that changes made to one site, can be automatically applied to another site. To make these types of updates to Drupal, there are a few changes that need to be made to the Drupal core and will result in much more control for Drupal developers.

Design

One of the main goals of Drupal 7 was to improve design and Drupal will aim to push this even further. Ideally the focus here will be to attract designers, which was not achieved in in the past. There will be a new core theme, which will not only be a beautifully designed theme, but it will path the way for an improved theme development process.

Mobile Devices

The previously mentioned initiatives of web services, html5 and design are directly contributing to improving the Drupal mobile experience (including tablets). A mobile initiative has been created to make Drupal the foremost mobile platform. There is a major shift predicted from desktops to tablets and mobile phones, and Drupal aims to be ready for this shift. It will be important that the backend is usable and accessible on mobile devices.

Usability

As with Design, usability was a strong focus for Drupal 7. For Drupal 8, usability will continue to be further emphasized. Formal usability tests are being conducted to see what can be improved. This will make Drupal easier to learn, quicker to perform tasks, easier to remember tasks, reduce errors, easier to recover from errors and overall make Drupal more pleasant to use. Drupal has sometimes been criticized for not being intuitive and quick to learn, so these improvements will be one of the most important of all the initiatives.

Drupal 8 Progress

You are able to keep track of the progress of these initiatives by following the Drupal 8 Initiatives group. This group provides updates and announcements and is the best group to join if you are interested in keeping up to date with Drupal 8 news.

Overview

Drupal 8 promises some exciting changes to bring it in line with some of the latest trends. It will also improve aspects that have put people off by Drupal in the past, especially usability and design.

This article was written by Mitchel Xavier. He is a Drupal Developer in Sydney Australia

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Monday, November 28th, 2011

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