The surprising thing about Drupal 8 is how unsurprising it is

Drupal 8

I started writing this blog post with a different title in mind. I intended to write a list of the things that would actually surprise new users of Drupal 8, but I ended up with a very short list.

Everyone talks about Drupal 8 as being an enormous change from Drupal 7. Yes, it does bring a radical overhaul codebase. And yes, there are some visual changes such as a new admin toolbar and a new content creation screen. We’ve covered those changesΒ in previous posts.

However, I’m going to argue for ordinary users, the most surprising thing about Drupal 8 is how little has changed.

Drupal 7 users are going to be able to adjust to Drupal 8 much more easily than Drupal 6 users were able to adjust to Drupal 7.

Let’s take you on a brief tour of Drupal 8 and you’ll see how similar it looks to Drupal 7.

A tour of Drupal 8

The initial installation screens are currently unchanged from Drupal 7 (although as noted in the comments, a redesign is on the way):


After installation, you’ll see the same theme as with Drupal 7. Drupal 8 ships with Bartik, the default theme from Drupal 7:


Drupal 8 also ships with the same Seven administration theme. With the exception of some text, this screenshot below could have been take from either Drupal 7 or 8:


Browse to the content types page and again there’s a screenshot that, minor details aside, could have been taken from Drupal 7:


There are some new field options available in Drupal 8 such as Date, Email, Entity Reference, LInk and Telephone. However, only the Date module is enabled by default:


It is true that there are some new features such as Views in core, but even Views almost entirely retains it’s Drupal 7 interface:


Almost everywhere you go in the Drupal 8 interface, there’s an enormous sense of familiarity for Drupal 7 users.

So has anything changed for end-users?

The Drupal 8 changes are mostly about clean-up

Yes, there are some changes in Drupal 8. Most of them are subtle and involve a clean-up of the interface.

For example, compare the Block module area on the Drupal 7 modules page …


… to the same area in Drupal 8. Most the details have been moved under a slider.


And compare the buttons on content types in Drupal 7 …


… to the same area in Drupal 8. The buttons have been combined.


There are also some small usability improvements such as a search box for the module screen:



End-users will hear a lot of talk about how different Drupal 8 is and how much work has gone into improvements. That’s true for developers, but for end-users the changes are very subtle.

My guess is that 95% of Drupal 7 users will be able to pick up Drupal 8 within a few minutes of use. End-users will probably experience a much quicker transition than they did from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7.

For most people, the surprising thing about Drupal 8 will be how unsurprising it is.


  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.

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“Drupal 7 users are going to be able to adjust to Drupal 7 much more easily than Drupal 6 users were able to adjust to Drupal 7.”
I think you mean ‘ Drupal 7 users are going to be able to adjust to Drupal 8 …’


Thanks for spotting that, test πŸ™‚


I installed Drupal 8 from HEAD today to look at things that had changed in the last week, and I had a similar experience. I wanted to demo some things to a colleague not as familiar with Drupal, but almost came off not having so much to show off in 5-10 minutes.
However, in addition to what you mentioned I hope that normal Drupal 7 users also notice the following improvements:
– Form Display options in addition to Field Display options.

– Contact Form improvement (i.e. COPA-friendly webform in core :D)

– Adding the same block to multiple places (i.e. multiple block instances).
I think these are some pretty fundamental differences that will really effect how normal users *should* build sites or how they should learn Drupal.
Of course power users are going to see a whole lot more like Views, Configuration management, Restful web services, etc… And front-end developers and developers are going to notice a whole lot more changes.


Thanks anonymous.
Yes, there’s a lot of nice features under-the-hood. I suspect people will discover them over time rather than be hit by them immediately after encountering Drupal 8.
The new UI is very much an evolution, not a revolution.

John Rauchert

My hit was when I went to views and clicked to clone a block and was presented with a choice the type of clone I wanted to make not just another of type block.

no one special

“End-users will probably experience a much quicker transition than they did from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7.”
Unfortunately however, the contrib lag from d7 to d8 is likely going to make the d6 -> d7 lag (which was due mostly to complete rewrites of the most popular modules) seem lightning fast.
My greatest fear is that those maintainers who aren’t paid for, or sponsored by their day jobs, for their modules, will simply walk away. Hardcore devs can turn their noses up at the legion of nonprofessional devs out there all they want, but they’re part of what makes the drupal community, and contrib space, so vibrant. I just hope the immense and radical code changes don’t kill the community. Only time will tell.


Thanks no-one special. Yes, I don’t disagree with that. This post was all about the UI and a similar one written about the codebase would take a radically different tone.
In our classes, I’m telling people that they probably won’t have the chance to use sites built on Drupal 8 until 2015.

Anthony Pero

For upgrades, yes. For new sites, I would imagine a lot of people can go a long way with Views in Core and Rules. If Rules is ready to go, I could build 85% of the sites I do on Day One. That’s just me of course, and the kind of work I get. I still probably won’t, because I’m not overly excited about learning a new theme system.

no one special

True that– as long as you don’t need a single line of code or custom theming (which is probably rare, even for non technical site builders).

Sina Salek

That’s great πŸ™‚ Drupal 7 was already powerful in many ways , i guess for real radical changes from end user perspective we have to wait for Drupal 9. Another thing is that Drupal 8 comes with many essential tools and UI changes for site builders that should have been installed separately by the end user in Drupal 7, so i think that’s a great change by itself, end user has most of the things to build his site out of the box


Hi Sina,
Yes, I suspect D9 will have to bring bigger changes. It’s possible that the Bartik and Seven themes will around 7 years old by the time Drupal 9 comes out.


I think you might be testing an older version. The new installer looks different to your screenshot.

And the screenshot of the ‘administer fields’ doesn’t include the form display tab.


Thanks Lara. Yes, I was wondering about that myself. I saw those new installer screenshots, but the not actual commits. I was testing Alpha 2 from here: [url=]…[/url]
To some extent, the new installer validates the points in the blog. The installer shows the kind of radical changes that don’t appear when the install is finished.


Did you pull before writing this?? the installer is totally different looking in D8 πŸ˜›


Hey David … yes, but (see above) only Alpha 2 which came out 3 weeks ago now.


D8 is changing a lot daily, I cloned the repo thru git πŸ™‚ the alpha-2 is old! lol


Thanks Feijo. Yes, I should have done that probably.
Overall, though, I’m pleased with how similar D8 is.
We had to entirely rip up our training materials and classes during the move from D6 to D7.
This time around, I can imagine us teaching either D7 or D8 and having users on both platforms understand what’s going on.


hmmm I got your point of view. Nice that the changes wont be that drastic

For me it is, I’m helping to complete issues for D8 core so we can launch it, it has a few pretty hard with all the Symphony integration hehe

Tor Arne Thune

Also, the add new content screen has gotten an overhaul that is quite visible.


Hopefully, the module conversions from D7->D8 will not last forever. Or even drop some neat developments. Fingers crossed!


Hi Maik. The quick answers are “No” on easier conversions, but “Yes” on neay developments. Those are the pros and cons of adding Symfony.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x