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Government Websites on Drupal 9

Mike Shoag

Vice President, Government Services, Forum One

As Drupal 8 heads towards its end-of-life this November, we are starting to see more government websites on Drupal 9. Whether taking a big step from Drupal 7 to 9 or an easier switch from Drupal 8 to 9, a number of agencies have successfully made the move.

Near the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Drupal extended the end-of-life dates for Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 to allow more time for organizations to migrate from either Drupal 7 to 9 or Drupal 8 to 9. While Drupal 7 will continue to be supported until November 2022, Drupal 8’s end-of-life date is a year earlier: this November 2021. This means that many government websites have already made the switch to Drupal 9, or are in process. Many others are planning the move now. 

Why does Drupal 8 end-of-life come a year before Drupal 7? Symfony 3, which is a major dependency of Drupal 8, will reach its end-of-life in November 2021. Drupal 9 is essentially equivalent to the latest version of Drupal 8 but with a current version of Symfony and other dependencies, and so any platforms still on Drupal 7 or earlier can, and should, migrate to Drupal 9 directly.

If your government agency is exploring a Drupal 9 migration, a great place to start is to read through our Guide to Planning for Drupal 9. For inspiration, let’s look at a few government websites we have helped successfully move to Drupal 9.

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Census
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • US Agency for International Development (USAID) Education in Crisis and Conflict Network (ECCN) & Global Reading Network (GRN)
  • Washington All-Payer Health Care Claims Database (WAAPCD)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA migrated their flagship website epa.gov from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9, with much of the migration work taking place in Drupal 8.

With thousands of content creators and over 80,000 pages of content, the EPA needs a robust, intuitive system for publishing content to advance its mission of protecting the environment. EPA started its journey to Drupal 9 as a Drupal 8 migration from Drupal 7. The 7 to 8 jump was a complex, custom migration as it needed to account for features that could not be imported one-to-one from Drupal 7 to 8. Leveraging the strength of the migration ecosystem, Forum One worked with EPA to create custom migration plugins that read data from the Drupal 7 database and transformed it for Drupal 8, allowing EPA to maintain custom Panelizer layouts in Layout Builder and content governance with Groups. 

A few months prior to the public launch of EPA.gov, the nearly-finished Drupal 8 site was able to make the jump to Drupal 9 to make the best use of the concentrated quality assurance work that was planned for launch, rather than holding off on the upgrade and repeating a QA pass. Minimal effort was required for the upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 and the result is that EPA now has an up-to-date website that will serve them far into the future.

USDA’s Farm to School Census 

The Farm to School Census tracks how schools buy food from local farmers and ranchers.  With an entirely new set of data from their latest census results, USDA’s Farm to School Census teamed with Forum One to build their new website directly on Drupal 9. 

In 2019, USDA conducted the third Farm to School Census to measure progress towards reaching the goal of improving access to local foods in schools. Moving away from a previous Grav website that Forum One developed for USDA to a new 2021 site created directly in Drupal 9, the Drupal 9 platform allows them to feature previously static PDFs in interactive and expandable detail pages so that users can easily print data and results they are most interested in (e.g., see results for Montgomery County Schools, VA). The site also takes advantage of a number of other Drupal 9 functionalities, including the Data Explorer tool which will launch in August and will include interactive maps.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

The National Endowment for the Arts website, which is a Drupal website running alongside Acquia, migrated its primary website from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 this June following a Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 migration last fall.

As part of a full website redesign, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) migrated its Drupal 7 website to Drupal 8 in October 2020 to improve the admin experience for its team as well as to prepare for an eventual transition to Drupal 9. While Drupal 9 had already been released, the NEA website first migrated live to Drupal 8 in order to allow for new Drupal 9 modules to mature and become compatible with their needs. 

During the initial migration to Drupal 8, Forum One worked with NEA to use modules that they knew were actively being developed for Drupal 9, and avoided code they knew would be depreciated in the new release. By the time the team was ready to migrate to Drupal 9 in June 2021, they were also able to take advantage of upgrading to the latest version of Composer (2.X) which was instrumental in being able to then quickly update contributing modules in core. Finally, as the NEA site runs on Acquia using Acquia Search, Forum One worked closely with the Acquia team to find the right combination of search modules and Acquia modules that not only supported Solr but Drupal 9 as well.

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

Earlier this year, Forum One helped the National Endowment for the Humanities migrate its flagship website from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9, following an earlier Drupal 6 to Drupal 8 redesign and migration in 2018.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) embarked on its eventual migration to Drupal 9 in 2018. Previously on Drupal 6, Forum One worked with NEH to completely redesign the website and migrate it to Drupal 6 to 8. Knowing that future migrations after Drupal 8 would be much easier, the 2018 migration was an opportunity to realign priorities and set the Drupal backend up for long-term success. 

When it came time to migrate the Drupal 8 site to Drupal 9 earlier this month, the process was straightforward. As an “in-place” Drupal upgrade—which is to say, upgrading to a newer version with the same code base rather than starting from scratch—the team was able to easily migrate the platform and its existing Drupal 8 modules into the Drupal 9 platform using a two-phased approach of: (1) upgrading modules and libraries compatible with Drupal 9, and (2) removing modules no longer compatible with Drupal 9 and ensuring that required functionality was incorporated through other modules. And similar to NEA, NEH also runs on Acquia, and so the team was able to follow a similar process in ensuring that Acquia and Solr search modules were compatible with Drupal 9. 

To keep the migration train going, NEH will be moving its EDSITEment! platform from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 in the coming weeks.

​USAID’s Education in Crisis and Conflict Network & Global Reading Network

As part of USAID’s Education-Links program, Forum One helped the agency migrate two of its largest network websites — the Education in Crisis and Conflict Network and the Global Reading Network — from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9.  

With both network websites having been developed using a hub and spoke model, the agency was able to migrate both easily from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 because the sites had a nearly identical architecture and content model. The contributed modules each site used were upgraded to their Drupal 9 compatible versions. Forum One worked with both networks to update the theme, Gesso, as well as the custom modules developed for the project to remove deprecated code.  After all the pieces were compatible with Drupal 9, the core update was installed and the sites were officially upgraded.  

Washington All-Payer Health Care Claims Database (WA-APCD)

The State of Washington recently migrated its All-Payer Health Care Claims Database from its original Drupal 8 website to Drupal 9​.

Built originally as a Drupal 8 website in 2018, the Washington All-Payer Health Care Claims Database (WA-APCD) migrated over to Drupal 9 in June 2021. As a site run on Drupal 8 for 3 years, a big part of the migration work focused on removing obsolete modules and tackling any challenges around related dependencies, and managing Drupal’s composer tool for upgrades. 

A core functionality of the website is to allow users to perform geolocation searches to find the local data they need, and so one particular challenge was in ensuring that the geolocation module for Drupal 9 would work as intended. In this particular case, Forum One was about to make a custom geolocation module compatible with Drupal 9 since a newer version, not developed for the custom use case was not. Conducting a first pass on any possible trip-code issues in a Drupal 9 migration, such as the geolocation example, is especially important in establishing expectations around how simple or complex the Drupal 9 migration will be. 

And there’s more to come…

The above sites are just a small sample of government websites that are in the process of migrating to Drupal 9, or have done so recently. We’re proud to see our government clients making the switch so smoothly so that they are well-positioned for long-term success.

Written By

Mike Shoag

Vice President, Government Services, Forum One

Migrating your .gov to Drupal 9?

Forum One works with federal, state and local government agencies to develop and optimize their Drupal-based websites, many of which (including the above agency clients) are migrating to Drupal 9. Get in touch today—we’d love to support you as you move forward.