Go Overseas Dives into Drupal 8 on Pantheon

With Pantheon, Go Overseas and agency Hook 42 developed a Drupal 8 site that’s fast and future-proof.

The state of the art is a moving target. Even the most forward-looking, thoroughly modern website will start to look dusty after a few years. What used to be cutting-edge is now in need of an upgrade.

That’s the situation Go Overseas found themselves in. GoOverseas.com was created to empower more people to spend meaningful time overseas. The site is a platform where travelers can explore opportunities to volunteer, study, and teach abroad. Travelers can get first-hand information from those who have participated in a particular program and compare options before they plan a trip.

In 2010, when the site was initially built, its Drupal 6 architecture was the state of the art. Seven years later, however, the technological limitations of Drupal 6 were becoming an obstacle to further development.

Andrew Dunkle, Go Overseas’ CTO, knew it was time to upgrade to Drupal 8. He enlisted Kristen Pol and the Drupal experts at Hook 42 to help with what promised to be a complex migration.

With Hook 42’s help, Go Overseas migrated to a Drupal 8 site on Pantheon, streamlining their development workflows in the process. With newfound support from the Drupal community, Go Overseas is equipped to fulfill their mission now and for the foreseeable future.

I have always enjoyed working with the folks at Pantheon and hosting our site on the platform. It’s easy and performant. We never had any doubts about it doing the same for Drupal 8.

—Andrew Dunkle, CTO, Go Overseas

Before Drupal 8: The Right Host, But Difficult Development

GoOverseas.com didn’t have an infrastructure problem: The site was already running on Pantheon, which provided a stable, high-performance platform. The problem was the site itself. As Dunkle says, “Drupal 6 worked fine when we were originally building the platform seven years ago. But we were increasingly coming up against technical limitations that prevented us from developing the project further.”

As Drupal 7 became more popular, and then Drupal 8 rolled out, Go Overseas could no longer depend on the support of the development community. “With fewer and fewer developers continuing to work on Drupal 6,” Dunkle says, “we found ourselves doing most of the grunt work when we wanted to add new features.”

The team at Go Overseas knew that a migration to Drupal 8 would bring the site up-to-date and equip the dev team for the future. “We wanted to invest in our future and have a stable platform we could build on for the next 5-10 years,” Dunkle says.

Moving to Drupal 8 was the right choice. But Go Overseas knew their small development team would need help with migrating and updating six years of custom code. They began to look for an agency partner.

Migrating to Drupal 8: Finding Better Ways to Work Together

Hook 42 is a digital agency with a dedicated team of Drupal architects and developers. Go Overseas connected with the agency through mutual contacts in the Drupal development community.

Since Hook 42’s developers were familiar with Pantheon, they spotted opportunities to streamline the workflow as they worked through the migration checklist. “[Go Overseas] was on Pantheon and liked it, but they weren’t leveraging all the best tools yet. It was a good opportunity for us to share our own tips and workflows” says Hook 42’s Kristen Pol.

Since Go Overseas had their own development team, their working relationship with Hook 42 was a collaborative one. Pantheon’s Multidev environments made it possible to work together without risking stepping on each other’s edits. “We could set up one Multidev to do updates, and then we didn’t have to worry about merge conflicts,” Pol says. “You have a little sandbox to develop and test things out before sharing, then once you’re ready, it’s easy to let others see it.”

The initial estimate for site migration was for a year-long project. With the new efficiencies Hook 42 put in place on Pantheon, the site was ready to launch early. Working through the go live checklist took about six hours, and the DNS switchover went smoothly.

The process wasn’t without its hiccups, naturally, and Dunkle and his team did learn a few lessons. “I’d advise anyone thinking about doing a D8 migration to get the content data mapping done as soon as possible, so you can start running and testing data migration,” Dunkle says. “And It’s critically important to have everyone working concurrently to keep the project moving. I’d recommend investing in a dedicated project manager.”

Drupal 8 on Pantheon: “We’re Back in the Fold”

The move to Drupal 8 has reconnected Go Overseas with the larger Drupal ecosystem, reducing the time the team has to spend developing bespoke solutions. “The biggest benefit has been getting back in the Drupal ‘fold,’” Dunkle says. “We now have access to a slew of community modules and features that we don’t need to build ourselves.”

Thanks to their work with Hook 42, Go Overseas is fully equipped to take advantage of Pantheon’s workflow and toolbox. “Multidev is very handy,” Dunkle says, “And we use New Relic (included in every Pantheon site) for performance monitoring and problem solving.”

The Future on Pantheon: High Performance Fine-Tuning

With the site safely migrated to Drupal 8, Go Overseas and Hook 42 continue to collaborate together. The agency works on strategic projects focused on performance, search, and select complex features, while the Go Overseas team focuses on site development. Multidev continues to play a vital role in their ongoing partnership. “We use a peer-review Multidev, so any issues don’t make it to the live site,” says Pol.

With Pantheon’s platform—and support from the Pantheon team—Go Overseas and Hook 42 beat their deadline to migrate GoOverseas.com to Drupal 8. Along the way, they reimagined the agency/client relationship, combining the efforts of their two teams to maximize efficiency.

Benefits

  • Multidev environment makes collaboration and testing easy

  • New Relic helps troubleshoot complex Drupal sites

  • Drupal 8 on Pantheon provides a stable environment for continued development