Drupal is a one-of-a-kind platform that has been creating ripples in the market with its out-of-the-box features and predictable nature of the Drupal release cycle. Once an announcement is made, you can be sure that the updates would be made on time and this reliability is what sets it apart from the other platforms. Going by the earlier announcements, a step forward is made in the next minor release of Drupal 9.
Drupal 9.1 was released in December 2020 and even though this seems to be a minor version update, there are a couple of notable updates happening in the latest release. This update will also have more deprecations and third-party package updates which the developer has to take note of.
What’s all brewing in the latest Drupal 9.1 release?
A Switch to a New Drupal Theme
Drupal has been having Bartik as its default theme since 2011. So, it has been around for a decade and serving well all these years. When Drupal 8 was rolled out, a new version of Bartik was released with out-of-the-box responsive features. But with the rapid changes in the web design trends, the Bartik theme seems a little bit obsolete and outdated. It was fine until Drupal 9 took shape but with Drupal 9 in the market, the need for a clean and modern theme became prominent, and that’s how the origin of the new Drupal theme took place.
Olivero is that theme with enough prowess to create the first impression when a user visits your Drupal project. The latest frontend theme is added to the Drupal core and is now the Drupal 9.1 version’s theme. Some thoughts are still in the brewing stage to have a stable release and make a quick swap of the Drupal default theme from Bartik to Olivero in Drupal 9.2. But for now, this theme is in the experimental phase in this release.
A Few Changes to the Claro Theme
We have mentioned earlier that the Claro theme is still in the experimental phase in Drupal 8.8. The latest Drupal 9.1 release has added designs for some of the key pages like the extensions, admin page, views administration, status reports, and so on. Even the media library has got Claro-styled designs.
Enable Image Lazy Load
What is the biggest culprit that is taking down the performance of your site? Well, it’s an easy guess, as you innocently drop high-quality images for the sake of a better user experience, it does turn out to be an ironic thing to say that it lowers your page speed. You need to improve the performance, reduce time-to-first-render by lazy loading of certain page elements, especially images. This would reduce user friction on the web drastically.
It was proven that images are the ones that take up higher bandwidth than any other resources and lazy loading of them using some Intersection observers or JS plugins will serve the purpose. Till now, in Drupal, lazy loading solutions are available in the contributed modules however, this requires complex setup and configuration to achieve. And we needed an alternative and better way to lazy load the images.
The Chrome platform uses the HTML loading attribute to defer the loading of any resources by simply setting the loading attribute value too lazy to the images. The same is used in the latest Drupal 9.1 release. This is supported on all major chromium-based browsers like Chrome, Edge, Opera, etc. This will greatly improve the performance of your Drupal sites.
Drupal 9.1 Features for Drupal Developers
Drupal developers need to keep an eye on some of the minor updates released in the latest Drupal 9.1 Features
- Based on PHPUnit 9 - Drupal 9.1 has got some news for Drupal developers as well. The testing framework in Drupal has been solidly backed and powered by a third-party dependency i.e. PHPUnit. Well, this will now be updated to the latest version. Of course, you will have the support of 8.4 for backward compatibility.
- Composer 2 - Drupal 9.1 is fully compatible with Composer 2. If you are still on Composer 1, time to sock up and update it to Composer 2. You need to get rid of the obsolete and outdated plugins that were on Drupal. This would reduce your memory and performance requirements drastically and significantly improve the experience.
- PHP 8 Support - Drupal 9.1 also offers support for PHP 8 including all of Drupal’s dependencies. However, there could be some contributed modules that are not entirely compatible but Drupal 9 is compatible with PHP 7.3 and higher. PHP 8 has got a lot of new languages even though Drupal core is currently on PHP 7.3 and doesn’t use any of what is provided by PHP 8, you can try using features like union types and custom code. Also, PHP 8 is going to be used in Drupal 10 which is going to be released in 2022.
- Drupal 9.1 is a minor release and offers backward compatibility that essentially makes modules, themes, and translations supported on Drupal 9.0.x and earlier to be compatible even on Drupal 9.1.x. Of course, there are some changes to the UI, strings, internal APIs, and API deprecations. So, minor updates are required for these translations, modules, and themes. Some overridable services are introduced and deprecation of certain methods did happen.
When should I upgrade to Drupal 9.1?
The sense of urgency was a little low earlier when you were on Drupal 8.9 and Drupal 9 was released. That was because Drupal 9 didn’t come up with many new features and it was not very different from the latest Drupal 8 versions. But things have changed now! Drupal 9.1 has some exciting features and updates. In fact, Drupal 9.1 is a stable version and it brings significant UI changes for all users including people with disabilities by improving the experience even on assistive technologies like screen readers.
How should I upgrade to the latest Drupal Versions?
If you are planning to upgrade from a previous version of Drupal, you need to be mindful of the fact that every version demands a different approach. For instance, if you are on Drupal 7, you need to migrate to Drupal 8.9 which is the easiest way, or can directly upgrade to Drupal 9 or Drupal 9.1.
Drupal 8 users can step up to Drupal 8.9 which is reaching its end-of-life period in November 2021. Since security coverage is not received for the sites on Drupal 8.8, it is better to move to Drupal 8.9 or 9 as early as possible. Drupal 9 requires Symfony 4 while Drupal 9.1 supports Symfony 5. So, you might need a Drupal Development partner to help you with Drupal updates!
Although the popular notion is that the Drupal 9 release is a path-breaking update and a huge one, we do not find any significant changes made there. Of course, there was some cleaning up of the deprecated code, but no major things were rolled out. Drupal 9.1 is in fact, the first release that is packed with some exciting features and changes we are looking forward to. It seems to be more promising for the users who are ready to take the plunge. If you need help with upgrading to Drupal 9.1 or Drupal 9, you can contact the Drupal developers at Skynet Technologies.
Skynet Technologies is known as one of the best in Drupal development company. Our Drupal developers have great experience in developing secure, modular & feature-rich Drupal CMS websites. We provide Drupal migration from Drupal 7 to 8, Drupal 8 to 9 and Drupal 7 to 9. We have an in-house and experienced team of dedicated Drupal developers to manage simple to complex task in a defined time. Get Ready upgrade your Drupal website into Drupal 9.1.
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