Higher Ed Marketers: How to prepare for the Drupal 7 end-of-life (and why to start now)

Aug 19 2023

Drupal 7’s end-of-life is scheduled for January 2025. And that means if you’re a higher ed marketer still using this platform, now’s the time to make your migration plan.

Yes, Drupal 7’s sunset plan has been announced — and delayed — several times now. That has lulled some busy marketers into a false sense of security. But the end is truly on the horizon this time, and that means sites using Drupal 7 will no longer be supported starting January 26, 2025.

That may still seem like a long way off. However migrations tend to take at least six to eight months to implement. And in higher education where numerous internal stakeholders have a voice in the process, it can take even longer. Furthermore, significant higher education projects usually take place in the summer months so as not to disrupt the academic calendar. 

That makes the summer of 2024 your best bet for rolling out your migration. If you follow a typical higher ed budgeting cycle, creating your budget and obtaining approval must take place this fall. Upgrading from D7 is expected to be the last update that requires a complete rebuild of the site, so the good news is that you won’t have to budget for this large cost every time Drupal releases a major version update.

To make the case, you’ll need to explain why migration is necessary in the first place, communicate the benefits your institution stands to gain, and develop a thoughtful budget that minimizes the project's impact on your bottom line. Let’s dive in.

Why It’s Necessary to Migrate From Drupal 7

Your website is a crucial part of attracting students to your institution and leading them through the decision funnel. To accomplish this and other institutional goals, you may need to:

If you stick with Drupal 7, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll start to experience difficulty accomplishing the above objectives.

Security Risks of Staying on Drupal 7

As a higher education institution, you handle sensitive student and institutional data that makes website security a critical concern. However, after Drupal 7's end-of-life, any security vulnerabilities or issues that arise will not be officially addressed by the Drupal community. Security features will expire, and no further patches and/or updates will be released. This exposes your users to significant risk and opens your institution up to liability should you experience a security breach.

Along the same lines, higher education institutions are required to comply with specific data protection, accessibility, and privacy regulations. Running an unsupported CMS like Drupal 7 can lead to non-compliance with these regulations. And of course, this could result in legal issues or reputational harm.

Performance and Functionality Deterioration

As web technologies advance, an outdated CMS like Drupal 7 won’t be able to keep up. Over time, it will become increasingly difficult to find resources and programs that support Drupal 7. This will lead to performance issues, limited functionality, and a less engaging user experience for visitors and internal stakeholders.

Integrations with third-party platforms may also become unsupported or discontinued. This could cause workflow interruptions and hinder stakeholders across the institution from doing mission-critical work. 

The longer you put off an inevitable migration, the more technical debt your organization will amass. Technical debt will cost you far more over time than it will cost to deal with the necessity of migration head-on.

How Higher Ed Marketers Will Benefit From the Migration to Drupal 10 

There’s no doubt that migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 10 will require a significant investment of time and financial resources. But the good news is that migrating also provides a natural opportunity to take a step back and identify ways to optimize and improve your site

Here’s a look at what your organization will gain by migrating to Drupal 10.

Enhanced Security

Drupal has always been committed to delivering a secure web environment. But Drupal 10 provides a more secure environment than its predecessors. With its updated architecture and modern security practices, Drupal 10 leverages newer methods of securing code, thereby reducing vulnerabilities to potential cyber threats. 

Full Media Suite

A key feature of Drupal 10 is its full media suite, which allows marketers to centralize and manage media assets efficiently. This suite simplifies the process of storing and reusing images, videos, and other media items, while also enabling easy retrieval through category and keyword-based searches. The result? You can provide a more engaging and visually appealing web experience for prospective students, alumni, donors, and other stakeholders.

Translation Capabilities

Drupal 10's full translation capabilities are a game-changer for institutions with diverse populations and robust international programs. Tailoring content to audiences whose first language is not English makes your website more accessible and welcoming to ESL and international students and their families. 

Providing multilingual content is a tangible way to demonstrate your institution’s sincere commitment to inclusivity. 

Component-Based Layouts and Layout Builder

Drupal 10 introduces component-based layouts and a component-based layout builder, which makes it easier to rapidly prototype and create custom landing pages and campaigns. This newfound flexibility gives you the freedom to experiment with what works and what doesn’t and make data-driven decisions about your marketing program. It also allows you to quickly develop and publish engaging content that’s tailored to specific marketing funnels and awareness stages. 

By leveraging these features to build targeted campaigns and showcase your school’s unique offerings, you can lead prospects to call-to-action points more effectively.

Easier Integrations with CRMs and Third-Party Platforms

Drupal 10 streamlines integration with CRM systems and third-party platforms like SIS, ERP, and LMS, allowing you and other stakeholders to manage leads and prospect relationships more efficiently. Seamless integration between the CMS and CRM platforms enables better lead tracking, personalized communication, and more results-oriented marketing strategies. 

Flexible Roles and Permissions 

Later versions of Drupal boast a more user-friendly experience for your web managers and content creators/editors. With customized role-based access control, content creators, editors, and moderators are presented with specific tools and options tailored to their responsibilities. This ensures a smoother and more efficient content creation and management process. By simplifying the user experience, you can focus on creating compelling content and delivering an exceptional online journey for your audience.

Accessible Themes

Drupal has always supported marketing leaders’ need to create an accessible website experience for all users. But with Drupal 10, more out-of-the-box themes and functionality come pre-programmed with accessibility in mind, making it even easier for you to ensure that your site is as accessible as possible. 

Practical Tips to Budget for Your Website Migration 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting for your institution’s migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 10. You might be tempted to save money by transferring your existing design and information architecture over to the new platform and migrating your content as is. 

Migration is an ideal time to:

To that end, what you’ll pay comes down to your needs and how you address them. 

But if your website is dated and could use a refresh, this could be the perfect opportunity to take a hard look at whether it’s truly serving your organization’s evolving needs. 

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5 Tips to Secure Your Migration Budget 

The following tips will help you accurately count the cost of your website project and budget appropriately:

  1. If an RFP is required, reach out to vendors as soon as possible to begin collecting bids.
  2. Lean on potential agency partners to provide accurate estimates of what it will cost to accomplish your website migration goals. At ImageX, we’re happy to help potential clients create accurate financial projections for budgetary approval purposes.
  3. Consider spreading the cost of the website project over multiple fiscal years. For example, if you’re rebuilding your website, you could budget for the discovery process in one fiscal year and allocate the migration and development processes to one (or more) future fiscal years.
  4. Explore your institution’s capital budget and operating budget policies. Large website projects are often funded out of capital budgets, which may require you to follow a different request and approval process but which also may provide greater flexibility to secure more significant funding.
  5. Prioritize which pages and microsites to migrate first to make the most impact on your business goals and tackle lower-priority areas over time.  

A good agency partner can help you develop a migration and development plan that makes wise use of your organization’s resources.

Keep Your Higher Ed Website at the Forefront With a Proactive Migration Plan 

Drupal 7 may have served you well, but it’s time to say goodbye. By embracing all that Drupal 10 has to offer, you can set your institution on the path to greater success. But you have to start now. 

After all, as a higher-ed marketer, your goals are ambitious, and your competition is fierce. To stay ahead, you need a supported, modern, flexible, and adaptable CMS designed to meet your unique needs. 

ImageX has worked with many colleges and universities to manage their migrations, redesign their sites, and drive results. We’d love to help you, too. So let’s talk.

Looking for additional resources to manage your migration? You may find these articles helpful:

View why Ashland University chose to work with ImageX at: https://youtu.be/6jC_SQGOwl8 

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