From Drupal 7 to WordPress by Non-developer with FG Plugin

Notes on a transition from Drupal 7 to WordPress, using the FG Drupal to WordPress plugin, which proved easier than expected for me as a non-developer, albeit with hiccoughs.

Becoming a Drupal Abandoneduser

Our long-term vision for Drupal as an open-source project to fully democratize online publishing — to make it possible for everyone to create really powerful and interesting websites just by clicking around.

Dries Buytaert, creator of Drupal, quoted in Wired

I’m a writer and photographer, set up some websites years ago to showcase my work, along with info on the environment etc. After moves from fixed sites made with Dreamweaver [! – ie html coding etc], then to cms Mambo and Joomla, I set them up using Drupal. First Drupal 5, then on to Drupal 6, and Drupal 7.

And then, my sites languished.

When I started with Drupal, it was aimed at small site owners, rather like me; a little like WordPress, a little blogging platform that growed. And growed. [Well, roughly like this.]

While sniffily thinking of WordPress as for mere bloggers, I figured Drupal was more for proper websites, able to do lots more with content, like manipulating content items using taxonomies in wondrous ways – with Views, Panels and more.

There was talk of Drupal evolving to become more user friendly, even while enabling such fancy content manipulation.

But alas, with Drupal moving onwards and upwards towards suiting mega sites for enterprises, it instead became more complex, and targeting an “in crowd” of developers familiar with things like Symfony, Drush, Composer and so forth.

Meanwhile, Drupal 7 was all but abandoned, and along with it – I believe – the small-site builders who had aimed to showcase content without lots of developer jargon and expertise.

So yeah, boo hoo; more fool me perhaps.

With Drupal 7 a dead end, and the shift to Drupal 8 and onwards looking daunting, I pretty much let my sites languish. Backdrop, a somewhat advanced Drupal 7, appeared; I did try a migration, but didn’t work out too well, and Backdrop looked like a good idea whose time had not come. Eventually, the Drupal folks came up with a relatively simpler migration to Drupal 8/9: I tried, had a bit of success in reaching Drupal 9. I even added a little info to Drupal website based on my experience, might help others by noting that could “jump” direct to Drupal 9.

However, didn’t find the site looked better; I then tried an upgrade and the site just stopped working; some sort of issue with permissions, and it seemed I’d need Composer, whatever that is [I have a little idea; but some description clear as mud; it’s “a tool for dependency management in PHP”, handling libraries], which in itself looks a hassle to install.

So, I searched to see if could move to WordPress, that “mere” blogging platform that by now has oh, roughly a bazillion users. And, was surprised to see this is indeed possible, and there’s a plugin to help. There may even be a few ways, but the plugin looked worth a try.

FG Drupal to WordPress Plugin

The plugin is FG Drupal to WordPress. While there’s a free version, it looks pretty basic; so even for someone with non profitable sites like me, best to opt for the premium one. Further paid-for plugins are available, too, to transfer more from a Drupal site.

The developer’s website has some tutorials. Well worth referring to these, and more; I’m just posting my experiences, as non-expert.

Ideally, of course, should first create the migrated WordPress site on a computer, then upload to server to become “live” site. But for me, with those languishing sites, and not much traffic, I figured I’d jost go ahead on the server.

Drupal Multisite to WordPress Single Sites

I had a Drupal multisite install; only a handful of sites, but did look into perhaps migrating to WordPress multisite. Had already found it would be best to migrate to single sites with Drupal 8 or above; and found this also looked best with WordPress.

Notably, with WordPress, multisite installs [may] share databases – which to me seems a way to really lead to some clumsiness, especially with my lack of developer ability.

So, opted to create single sites, each with its own folder. Later learned that there is some way of managing multiple WordPress sites – creating a multisite network, run from a single WordPress install. More complex; and for me it was perhaps quite enough hassle to simple create the single WordPress sites.

New WordPress Site and Migration Process

First, of course, need a new, WordPress site.

The plugin requires the Drupal site is still online – to transfer files; so if doing the process online, need a different domain. One way would be to create a new domain; but it’s easier to create a subdomain: for me, wpress.domain.com.

To create the WordPress site, I put the files for it into a new folder. For me, this also required a cgi-bin including php [7.4]; which in turn meant a bit of confusion as need to ensure the php can run, which involved some permissions for folder/files: my webhost support, at pair.com, helped; and I figured out a little myself.

So, new site created; then installed the FG Drupal to WordPress plugin, premium version.

Almost ready for the transfer process. But first:

I also found more instructions online, including advise about setting the way WordPress should create permalinks, such as with article [post] title rather than some code that’s not so friendly. In turn requires some code in htaccess file; but no biggie.

And plugin developer notes:

To manage the custom post types, the custom taxonomies and the custom fields in WordPress, you need:

either the Toolset Types plugin

or the plugins Advanced Custom Fields and Custom Post Type UI

These plugins must be installed before running the import.

Well, I found the first of these is paid only; wasn’t even sure I’d really need it, so I installed the other two plugins.

Then, on to the migration process itself. Need database info and URL for the Drupal site. A few checkboxes to tick, or leave blank. “featured image” was a novel term to me: turns out this is an image from a post, say, that WordPress can use in things like extracts with link to the post. Maybe can choose to remove the featured image from the post; so don’t get duplicate images in posts. And I’d think it best to import all images; fat lot of use having only one image per article imported, if you ask me.

Then, can run the import.

And after that, choose the option to modify the internal links; the plugin should then handle redirects from the Drupal site links to the WordPress site links [hence already decided on the permalink structure].

Next, check if anything’s working: any posts displayed? Hope so. Phew!

For me, an odd error: on homepage almost white screen of death, just with message as if WordPress had to be installed, an issue with wp-config. I checked, found this can be a cache issue; also that can add code to the file to clear it. Well, adding code led to some trouble. Even clearing cache seemed not useful initially; but I carried on with rest of site working, and issue was resolved.

Drupal 7 forum to bbpress

There is also a paid for plugin to help migrate Drupal forum to WordPress.

I thought well, let’s see what happens if I just try without it.

Turned out, if I installed bbpress, could see forum posts etc, but the forum was a mess. I also noticed bbpress has a tool for imports, including from Drupal. So I tried this too; and, not surprisingly, more of a mess; with a smaller site I found lots of duplicate posts, went through deleting duplicates.

This site, though, had bigger forum – mostly just me! Too many topics and posts to do any sort of deletion of duplicates or whatever.

So, I also noticed bbpress includes an option for purging the forum. Well, worth a try…

So I emptied the forum with this; and then used the bbpress import tool and, happily, resulted in a bbpress forum that seems ok. Initially, post and topic counts were showing as 0. Ran tool to supposedly fix post counts, which can be more necessary after import says instructions. Still showing 0 – big fat zero. But, left the site, returned a bit later, and the topic and post numbers were present and, I believe, correct. Phew once more.

But – and a big BUT if you have a Drupal forum with lots of inbound links – this results in forums and forum posts that can’t re reached by links as per Drupal site. And, without FG Drupal to WordPress plugin’s help, there’s no auto redirection. This in itself may make it worth paying for the FG add-on to migrate Drupal forums. Or, live with the new links; and perhaps do some redirects using WordPress Redirection plugin.

What, no Topic Categories?

There were further oddities; no great surprise to me – hardly expected everything in Drupal site would work just as well or better after migration to WordPress.

One frustration was finding all my posts [articles] had become “Uncategorised”, with all the categories I’d set up ignored. I could see taxonomies from Drupal listed via Custom Post Type UI, but not showing up when I tried creating menu – so seemingly useless for navigation, after I’d relied on them for navigating Drupal site.

First, I set up categories for posts in WordPress, much as my Drupal categories were; could use bulk edit of posts to create these. At top right of screen, a screen options tab led to option for listing large number of posts at once.

But I later also learned, after searching, that these screen options are also very useful for menu creation: with these, can choose to see the main taxonomy items migrated from Drupal, so can then also add these to menus.

There’s a little more I may add here, re post types, my galleries turning out weird. Perhaps later.

But can note that right now, with WordPress Gutenberg editor, I’m pretty much creating this page “just by clicking around” – adding blocks as needed for paragraphs, headings, quotes, much as Dries Buytaert once hoped Drupal would enable.

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