Should you use Drupal 6 or Drupal 7 for your next website?

Since Drupal 7 was released last year we still have many agencies and customers asking us which version of Drupal they should select as their next generation content management system (CMS) solution.  Typically, when it comes to software, installing the latest generation makes sense but are you still getting the best-tested, most-documented version that your organization can rely on?

What are the improvements to Drupal 7?

Improved User Interface– The completely redesigned user-interface now allows even novice and non-technical users to interact with all the Admin sections of the site. Easy to find shortcuts and customizable dropdowns make Drupal 7 an easy-to-navigate CMS.
WYSIWYG Enhancement– Drupal 7 now offers an enhanced set of tools so end users never have to write any html code.
Speed Increase– Are you addicted to speed? Drupal 7 abandons the use of database calls to help improve the speed and performance of virtually any website built on its code. Drupal 7’s advanced caching and performance enhancement options allow it to utilize less SQL queries while giving the end user a noticeable bump in speed.
Still Free–  Drupal is entirely free and doesn’t have any hidden fees. The advantages are staggering when you take a look at the life cycle of a typical website, which typically can be three to six years.

Popularity

While winning a popularity contest isn’t always important, understanding the number of active users does give you a better understanding of the support and popularity of a CMS. Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 have benefited from wide-spread acceptance from small businesses to Fortune 500 users. So which version of Drupal is more popular? Drupal 6 was released in March 2008 and as of the week of June 17, it has 275,370 installs, while Drupal 7, released in January 2011, now has 413,393 installations in less than half that period. (Drupal 8 is shown on the chart but is not expected to be released for another year or more.)

Modules

At Drupal’s core is the flexibility of pairing thousands of modules with themes. Drupal 7 was designed not to be fully backwards compatible with Drupal 6. So modules coded for Drupal 6 will not function with Drupal 7 without being updated or patched appropriately. This is a headache for any website administrator thinking they can simply hit the upgrade button and have a fully-updated website. Drupal 7 was designed with an improved Application Programming Interface (API) to allow for better navigation and a more intuitive interaction between developers, designers, and users. 

After Drupal’s release in 2011, many of the core modules have been updated, converted, and in some instances, integrated into the Drupal 7 core.

Recommendation: Prior to development, research the modules your project will need to determine whether or not your modules are available or stable with the Drupal 7 production environment.

Security

Drupal benefits from an active community that contributes regularly to security updates and enhancements to any vulnerabilities or security risks. Drupal 6, while having fewer installations, is regarded as a highly-secure platform with an extensive library of vulnerabilities and documentation regarding its security. The analogy would be an older prison that’s much harder to break into or out of as it’s been highly stress tested and analyzed. Drupal 7 offers an impressive array of security enhancements to compliment Drupal 6 and it does offer a “update manager” utility to help administrators make painless security updates.

Recommendation
: Drupal 6 offers an easier path to security management. Drupal 7 requires periodic maintenance to stay patched, but does a much better job at allowing security patches to be updated. 

It’s essential to do a little bit of homework before committing a project to either version. Still confused or need additional assistance in identifying which version of Drupal is right for you?

Contact for a Drupal evaluation to determine which version will best fit your needs.