22nd January 2021

The benefits of upgrading to Craft 3

When choosing a content management system to use for web development, it’s important to make the right decision. A good CMS should be powerful, flexible, easy to develop for, and easy for the end-user to pick up quickly.

Craft 3 laptop

Craft CMS ticks all these boxes. We have been using this powerful next-generation content management system for several years now, and we love how easy it is to create, manage and output content using it. Craft 3 was launched in 2018, and we’ve since helped the majority of our customers switch over to this faster and more flexible version of the CMS.

However, if your website is still using Craft 2, you need to think about upgrading. Craft 2 has already reached the end of full support, meaning that no new features are being added to the system. Security support ends on 31st January 2022 - just over a year from now.

In this blog post, we’ll explain why the Craft 3 upgrade is so important to your business. We’ll cover the benefits and the risks, the features you could be missing out on, and how we can help with the process of upgrading.

Planning for the year ahead

The end of security support for Craft 2 was originally set for 31st January 2021. Fortunately, Pixel & Tonic (the developers of Craft CMS) recognised that 2020 was a particularly challenging year for businesses and decided to extend security support for another twelve months.

We are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel with regards to the pandemic, but 2021 is still going to be a challenging year for businesses, so it is essential to plan carefully for the months ahead.

Upgrading to Craft 3 should be part of these plans for businesses which are still using Craft 2. Getting the upgrade done this year will stand businesses in great stead for 2022 and beyond.

How long does it take to upgrade?

Upgrading to Craft 3 is like an upgrade to your website’s operating system. It’s a significant change which will bring new features and benefits that will make life easier both for developers and for end-users.

There is a documented process to follow to complete the upgrade, but it’s far from automatic and may in some cases require a large amount of re-writing website code and testing.

The question of how long this will take has no fixed answer. For many smaller websites, the work can be completed relatively easily in the space of a few days. By contrast, a website using more advanced features such as custom plugins, ecommerce or third-party integrations could take significantly longer; potentially many weeks of work.

If you would like Cursor to provide an estimate on the time and cost of upgrading your website to Craft 3, please get in touch.

Why do we need to upgrade Craft CMS?

A lot has changed since Craft 2 was released in 2014. Technology changes at great speed and platforms such as Craft CMS need to keep pace, requiring regular updates through the life cycle. These come in two types: features and bug fixes.

Features add new functionality to the platform, or make improvements to the user interface, speed, etc. Bug fixes follow all new features and provide a way for developers to fix minor glitches and errors that only become apparent once a new feature has been added. These bug fixes also cover a very important issue - security.

The importance of security support

The vast majority of security breaches occur when people are tricked into giving away personal data or access credentials (“hacking the human”). The best preventative measures for these are vigilance and education, so that people know the signs to look out for and how to avoid being hacked.

However, another type of security breach comes from vulnerabilities in the code, which can only be fixed by the software vendor. These changes, usually called patches, are mostly minor but necessary to keep the software secure and running smoothly.

Once a product reaches the end of security support, these bug fixes will stop, potentially leaving your website and business exposed to hackers. That’s why IT departments remove old computers from networks and put in place a regular programme of updates.

The UK government’s Cyber Essentials scheme, which is the recommended minimum level of cyber security for all UK businesses, states that “software must be licensed and supported, removed from devices when no longer supported and patched within 14 days of an update being released, where the patch fixes a vulnerability with a severity the product vendor describes as 'critical' or 'high risk'.”

This includes software used to run your website, not just software running on your network.

Craft 3 version updates

Upgrading to Craft 3 provides peace of mind in terms of security support, but there’s lots of other incentives to upgrade as well. Each new release of Craft 3 contains hundreds of new features and bug fixes which improve the overall user experience.

Here are some of the most important features, by release:

Craft 3.0

  • Support for multi-site functionality; managing multiple websites within the same Craft admin system.

  • Image editor, with options to crop, rotate, flip and set focal points on images - ideal for cropping images on different platforms.

  • Support for the more powerful PostgreSQL database engine which is like MySQL but better, bigger and faster.

  • New Plugin store with hundreds of free and paid plugins which extend the features of Craft 3.

  • Major updates and improvements to the features available to developers, now that Craft CMS requires PHP 7 and is available as a Composer package.

  • Significant speed and performance improvements when compared to Craft 2.

Craft 3.2

  • Bug fixes and stability improvements included in Craft 3.1.

  • Improvements to the author experience, including entry pagination, more advanced export options, and auto saving of draft versions.

  • Introduction of preview targets, allowing users to preview multiple pages from a single entry.

  • Better localisation, giving users more control over which sites entries and blocks should be saved to.

  • ‘Impersonate users’ now available as a separate permission.

Craft 3.3

  • Native support for the GraphQL API. This allows users to define which content should be available publicly, plus additional schemas that require private tokens to access.

  • Headless mode, which optimises the control panel for headless implementations. This is where the front end of the site is controlled by another application, and therefore URLs and other template settings do not need to be set in Craft.

  • Stack traces on production added, making it easier to debug sites.

Craft 3.4

  • Refined UI to improve appearance and readability.

  • Change tracking on entry drafts shows which fields have changed since the draft was created, enabling collaboration by reducing the risk of overwriting others’ changes accidentally.

  • Assets can now be edited just like entries, users and categories, and there are new permissions for viewing and editing assets uploaded by other users.

  • Text and PDF assets can now be previewed just like images, while plugins can add support for other file types too.

  • More options for exporting entries.

Craft 3.5

  • Further improvements to the author experience, including new UI elements, control over where the title field appears on entries, and custom field widths. This makes it easier to provide annotations and instructions to authors within Craft.

  • Improved support for GraphQL, including the ability to do mutations (add or change element data).

  • Accessibility improvements such as using shapes as well as colours to represent entry status, and underlining clickable links.

Craft 3.6

Due sometime in January 2021, Craft 3.6 is expected to include:

  • Improved entry creation and user management workflows;

  • New CLI commands, Twig templating and GraphQL feature;

  • PHP 8 support.

Speak to us about upgrading to Craft 3

We hope that this blog post has convinced you of the necessity of upgrading to Craft 3. Not only does it guarantee security support until at least 2023, but it boasts a whole raft of additional features which will make it even easier to create great, flexible content using Craft’s intuitive admin system.

We are encouraging all of our existing customers to upgrade to Craft 3 this year. If you are not one of our current customers but your website needs upgrading to Craft 3, please get in touch and we can provide you with an estimate of the work involved.

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