Drupal 8 is here and if you’re using an earlier version or if you’ve never used it, this is big news for website CMS users. As the content management platform of choice for over 1 million websites, Drupal 8 boasts over 200 improvements that, in a nutshell, make it easier, faster, and more accessible. The new release provides updates across the board so that authors, publishers, website administrators, and web developers can deliver a better experience to their website’s users. Whether you work for a commercial or government organization, a professional association, or NGO, a look at the changes in Drupal 8 is worth your time.

Content Authoring

If you’re responsible for creating or editing content, Drupal 8 has some new features that are geared toward making your life easier. The first thing you’ll notice is that the newly designed content creation page contains two columns, one for the content fields and the other for optional settings that are used less often. A revamped user interface uses a WYSIWYG editor and has formatting buttons like bold, italic, images, and links. The interface enables you to create editable image captions and use a drag and drop feature for removing items on the toolbar. Drupal users know that content changes have to be made by going into a back-end form which is separated from the front end where you can see the content. The new in-place editing feature allows users to click on any content field and edit it on the front end.

Mobile First

The two words that best define Drupal 8 are “responsive design.” Editors, developers, and site builders all use mobile differently, and Drupal 8 has developed a way to make it work for everyone. The new administrative toolbar follows the responsive theme and appropriately orients to both desktop and mobile screens. All core themes are now responsive and automatically reflow elements like menus and blocks. Drupal 8 has gone mobile all the way by making it easy to quickly create a site that works on mobile, build APIs that can be used for mobile apps, and edit content and images from any mobile device.

Mobile isn’t only about responsive design, it’s also about loading speed. In Drupal 8 all entities are cached and instantly updated and JavaScript only loads when necessary. Much of the excitement surrounding the cache API is centered on “cache tags,” which are strings of data that describe the object being cached. The extra metadata in the cache tag allows for better performance and a much better chance of serving the correct content to the end user.

Symfony2

Many designers can attest that creating custom layouts in previous versions of Drupal could be time consuming. In response, Drupal has replaced its PHP-template theme system with Twig which is part of the Symfony2 framework. For designers who know HTML/CSS, Twig uses syntax so it allows them to modify markup without needing extensive knowledge of PHP. Twig also makes it easier for new developers to learn Drupal and helps them build more powerful applications around it. Tightened security is an advantage as well since PHP code can no longer be embedded directly into templates.

Multilingual Features

The Drupal 8 translation systems have been completely rewritten making it possible to natively install in one of 100 languages right out of the box. It assigns languages to everything and uses language-dependent page elements. Interface translation has been improved with automated downloads and updates and protected local translations, and English is both customizable and removable. Any component of the software can be translated—taxonomy, comments, configuration, image styles, and more. The best part? What would take at least 22 modules in Drupal 7 can now be done with 4 in Drupal 8—all in core.

Accessibility

Drupal 8 is the most accessible version of the platform to date. It comes with extended support for accessibility standards with color contrast and font sizes. All of Drupal 8’s output has been converted to semantic HTML5 which helps users create interactions that are more usable. Drupal 8 also makes expanded use of WAI-ARIA practices to provide meaning on rich front-end applications such as the in-place editor and responsive toolbar. On the back end, Drupal 8 provides a variety of new accessibility tools for JavaScript, which allow module developers to easily create accessible applications. There is also an ongoing effort to provide automated testing for accessibility features via the Quail library.

Overall, Drupal 8 provides more of an integrated experience with the added benefits of enhanced accessibility, mobility, and editing features. They’ve even gone the extra distance to support your SEO efforts in helping search engines find your site. The RDFa module now outputs schema.org markup which enables Google, Bing, and Yahoo! to extract data about the information on each web page such as URLs, images, reviews, product names, and more.

Please contact us if you are interested in a web strategy, web design, Drupal development, or Drupal integration project requiring our web designers and web engineers. 

With offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Ca., New Target provides digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, web development, branding, website hosting, and creative services for prominent nonprofits, companies, and government.