Submitted by Chris McIntosh on December 6, 2019

If you are the manager or owner of a Drupal site, the chances are that you have faced some challenges with it some time or another.  It could be slow load times, security issues, or just employees having trouble using it to get things done.  These issues can hamper your customers' experience and also affect the success of your business.

Website issues that recur are a big hurdle for businesses especially if it has something to do with a day to day critical task that needs to be done.  If you have an experienced team of Drupal developers on hand,  then this is not a big deal. For those who cannot afford to keep an army of developers on staff this is hard to overcome, so read on to find some steps and a solution to this common challenge.

What's breaking my Drupal site?

Here are some common issues you may be seeing repeatedly on your Drupal site if you don't have an effective support and maintenance program in place.

  • Slow page load time
  • White screen shows with nothing on it - White Screen error
  • Security issues - hacked, malware, user information compromised
  • Issues posting content, completing checkouts for commerce or ubercart

Many times the above items are symptoms of some deeper problem, it could be that your site is running out of memory or using too much of the CPU to function properly.  Some could be because a module is out of date and no longer works with a Third-party API or payment processor.

Legacy Code & Unsupported Modules can put your Drupal site at risk

Some issues are leftover and are caused by things that went wrong in the past.  This can be from old code that was never completed all the way, problems with contrib modules, or issues with custom modules that don't work right on newer versions of Drupal.

Older legacy drupal code can slow down your website's performance and also introduce vulnerabilities into your Drupal site. This can leave it open for hackers to take it over and post malicious content or install malware that could cause damage to your visitors' devices.  Also, at some point, the older versions are no longer maintained by the community meaning if new issues are found they are not likely to be corrected.

Newer versions of Drupal can provide better features, automation, and also an easier overall development process. They also provide a host of other benefits, such as improved caching that helps speed up the performance, a mobile-first approach, and SEO enhancements.

Contrib modules and themes are those that have been created and contributed to the community by Drupal developers.  Not all of these are equally supported or are of the same quality.  Some may even be abandoned after a new version or module was introduced.  Site maintainers can sometimes struggle to find a replacement module to upgrade to.

With more developers creating more powerful modules that offer all range of functionality, many of the single-purpose modules have been getting abandoned or have been made obsolete.   These new modules can also introduce a bit of a learning curve over the older easier versions.  

Custom modules and themes, created for your project by a team of developers can probably be blamed for a majority of the issues you may be seeing on your site.   This presents another challenge because if you do not have someone with the skills needed to evaluate the module or theme it will be quite complicated to find specifically where the issue is coming from and how to fix it.  This is where services like site audits can come in handy.

A site audit allows another development firm to look over the custom code for your project and verify that Drupal standards were followed, if there are potential security issues, and places where code could be changed to make things more reliable or more performant.  This process usually takes 1 - 3 business days on a small to medium site, but can take longer if you have a site with an excessive amount of custom code.

Aside from any issues that may have been created because of poor development practices in the past,  there are a range of other issues that may also contribute to your site's poor performance due to missed maintenance updates or not updating custom code to use new features provided by Drupal.

Poor development practices and engineering decisions can create pain points such as non-standardized code.  This can cause chaos with your site's architecture and make it difficult to add or change features, increasing your costs and descreasing the speed at which your website can keep up with your changing marketing needs.

What are the Next Steps?

Performance issues and errors have a huge cost.  Downtime can errode your customers' trust and lead them to go to a competitor.  All of this can be fixed in one go, by ensuring that you have a reliable support team that makes the health and quality of your website's code a priority.  

If you have a website that’s not performing well, you have several choices before you, with varying cost implications.

You can ignore these issues and risk your business, or you can try to proactively address them. Even if you go ahead with trying to have a Drupal support team or engineer address issues on your website, there are various approaches you can take.

You can have them implement a quick patch to fix any immediate issues—but this does not necessarily prevent these issues from cropping up again. To ensure long-term success for your Drupal site, you’d have to drill down deeper into the root cause of the issue, and find a way to rectify that. Needless to say, this costs time and money.

In some cases, making sure all major issues are resolved once and for all may mean doing an overhaul of the entire website—likely to be an expensive option, but one that would have a bigger payoff in terms of value.

So, the choice is yours, and one that you should make taking into consideration how critical your Drupal site is to your day-to-day operations as well as for providing you with new avenues for growth.