Drupal 7 was officially released in January of this year, so our team at The Bivings Group has had a few months now to familiarize ourselves with the platform.  Working with our resident Drupal experts Chris Roane, Mike Lockard and Ronald Isla, last week I wrote a post outlining the things we love about the new platform.  This week we’re going to tackle the bad.  Following are 5 frustrating things about Drupal 7.

(1) The lack of working modules.

Drupal 6 has been around for a few years, and as a result tons and tons of great community-contributed modules have been built for the platform.  These modules represent hundreds of thousands of man hours put in by thousands of programmers.  Since Drupal 7 is so new, many of the modules we came to rely on in Drupal 6 haven’t been ported over yet, and many of the ones that have been are still in alpha or beta releases.  As an example, the critical Views module is still in beta and the Splash module hasn’t even been started on yet.  This can add time to the development process, as we either have to identify new modules to use or develop them ourselves.  Time will fix this problem, but in the short term it is a pain.

(2) Similarly, there aren’t as many themes to work with.

According to the Drupal theme database, there are 588 themes for Drupal 6 and 158 for Drupal 7.  This doesn’t impact us that much, as we typically develop our own custom themes, using stripped down templates such as Framework as a starting point.  But for folks who don’t want to mess with custom theming this lack of choice is a problem.  As with the lack of modules, this will be sorted out with time.

(3)  The programming learning curve for Drupal 7 is steeper than Drupal 6.

As mentioned in our previous post, for content managers Drupal 7 out of the box is much more usable than Drupal 6.  But for programmers working with the system the learning curve is higher.  According to our developers, to work with the code on a programming level you have to understand much more of the core system than you did when working with Drupal 6.  Specifically, our developers mentioned that mastering the Field API was difficult and that figuring out which hooks to use took some time.

Once you know what you are doing Drupal 7 is much more powerful than 6, but it takes a bit to get your sea legs under you.

(4) Documentation could be a lot better.

Related to number 2, Drupal doesn’t do a great job of providing easy-to-follow documentation.  Some simple tutorials or walkthroughs would make things a lot easier.

(5) The update process from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 is no fun.

Drupal 7 is a major change from Drupal 6.  As a result, upgrading from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 is not an easy task.  The lack of working modules in Drupal 7 makes it even harder.  As a result, we’re going to hold off on upgrading most of our sites for a few months until more of the modules we rely on get upgraded.  The good news here is that the community should continue supporting Drupal 6 for 3-4 years. 

And if you are unlucky enough to need to go from Drupal 5 to 7, the process is even more cumbersome.  You can’t go from Drupal 5 to 7 directly, and instead have to go from Drupal 5 to 6, and then from 6 to 7.  No fun.  For complicated sites, it is probably easier to start fresh than to try to upgrade from Drupal 5 to 7.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.