Jon Stewart, President of ZenSource
Thinking about upgrading from Drupal 7 to 9? When making the decision to migrate and comparing CMS platforms, there are some huge wins for Drupal in terms of the admin experience for your authors. Not to mention, there are also some less obvious but even

Drupal 9 has evolved into a truly open source CMS with enterprise scale. In the hands of a skilled Drupal architect, version 9 will unlock greater ease-of-use and exceptional flexibility while equipping your CMS team to seamlessly evolve site content and features.  In essence, Drupal 9 can refresh your experience and drive conversion rates even before you commit to a full website redesign project.


Enjoy the Benefits of a “Light” Redesign, Without Actually Completing One

Like most Drupal developers in the community, we’ve emphasized the value of upgrading sites built on Drupal 7, even if they arrive “as is” on the latest version. The benefits of living on the most up-to-date version are plentiful, from air-tight security coverage to the latest and greatest in community modules.  Moreover, the admin and site experience are mind-blowing, even on an older site.

The introduction of Layout Manager in Drupal 8 gave authors the tools to drag and drop content widgets, known as “paragraphs and blocks” in Drupal-speak, totally recreating the content authoring experience. Now that the tools for content organization, publishing workflow and even multi-site management have evolved, editing at scale is even more streamlined.  Beyond just Layout Manager, the in-page editing capabilities for features like navigation rules and form functionality placed formerly complex site tools right at the fingertips of authors.   
 

Flexible Page Layouts – The Content Gifts That Keep on Giving

Even in lieu of a redesign, we’ve revitalized older sites to have more life in Drupal 8 and now Drupal 9.  It was common for older Drupal 7 sites to have a lot of rigid “templates” that hindered rapid updates and agile experiments, but thanks to the flexible layouts available on newer versions, we are able to do more, and adjust quickly. 

For example, we’ll see a Drupal 7 site featuring five different versions of the same wide page template. Why? Because it made sense at the time to create a new template when a new feature was needed.  The problem is that over time, authors end up with Wide Page With Hero, Wide Page With Rail, Wide Page With Hero and Rail, and so on. This obviously grows into a confusing rats’ nest of options for authors, and it means you need a developer every time you need a new feature to layout new content.
 

Set the Foundation for a Redesign Without Tearing Apart Your Upgrade

Since embracing all of the functionality of Drupal 9, we’ve been able to build strong foundations for future redesign projects, whenever they come to fruition. If an author needs to create a new page with a different content layout than before (e.g. new columns of content, the elements of a wide page but with the nav removed) they can do it right in the admin and drag their widgets to the page.  Moreover, since the front-end code has been modernized, many if not all of these old site components can be reskinned and expanded upon when you do decide to refresh or fully redesign.
 

Using Drupal 9 Tools to Track and Score Module Engagement

While we can drone on and on about the functionality, the features are always going to be less important than the engagement they drive. Since the authoring tools provide so much flexibility to layout content on pages, we’ve taken things a step further by leveraging site analytics tools (e.g. Google Tag Manager and Hotjar) to measure content module engagement on a page. 

Specifically, we measure and score module to module performance to see which are most engaging to users and which are overlooked once a page is populated.  With our ZenSource products we’ve even been able to develop analytics dashboards right within the Drupal admin, so authors can analyze data and optimize their content in the same place.

As a result of the analytics efforts, we’re able to apply this data to the Drupal 9 Layout Manager tools to optimize page content on the fly.  We can identify high-value content that may improve engagement if moved to a high-traffic page or if paired with other on-page callouts.

The data-driven nature of this discover has allowed us to increase conversions by being smarter about where we encourage users to book an appointment, request information, get a quote, and more.  In some cases, we’re seeing year over year engagement rise over 100% by making simple adjustments to Drupal page content modules.
 

Learning from Content and Scaling for ROI

With Drupal 7 approaching end of life in 2022, now is the time to consider migrating or fully redesigning and re-platforming your sites. The tools within Drupal 9 allow for greater architecture flexibility, enabling quick wins today while building the foundation for tomorrow.  In either case, when paired with a proper tracking plan that focuses on how site users interact with your page content, comprehensive optimization that drastically improves on-site conversions is a very realistic outcome.

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