Moving from Drupal to Laravel

A Junior Developer’s Journey

Recently, Engine SevenFour’s director of operations Derek Martin talked about how we found the framework that worked for us. This week, one of our favourite co-op students (we liked him so much, we invited him back for a second term), Ian Paterson, talks about working with Laravel…


I've been involved in web development in some way or another for the better part of half my life. I learned HTML when I was 11, and I took a few programming classes in high school. However, I hadn't been serious about it until I started at Fanshawe College in January of 2014.

I was actually interested in a different program at Fanshawe called Internet Applications and Web Development. It seemed most fitting as I was interested in pursuing a career in web development; however, this program didn't have a co-op option, so I instead applied for Computer Programmer Analyst (CPA) because it included three co-op terms.

Because CPA mainly focuses on languages like C++ and Java that are more oriented towards software and game development, I knew I would have to study outside of school to learn the appropriate languages and skills for web development. So back in 2014, I started teaching myself Javascript, PHP and MySql. I had heard through a few people that Laravel was the way to go as far as PHP frameworks are concerned and so I signed up for Laracasts (a great online resource of Laravel tutorials) and was on my way.

When it was time to start looking for my first co-op position, I noticed a lot of other students were getting placements at large companies like banks, insurance places, etc. I was more interested in working at a smaller company with a sense of culture that mainly focused on web development. I had already heard about rTraction through a few different people and after hearing about their great sense of culture and community it quickly became one of my favorite businesses in the city. In a combination of luck and effort, I was hired two weeks later for my first co-op term.

During Ian’s first co-op with the digital marketing side of rtraction (now known as Ellipsis Digital), he worked on a number of projects using NationBuilder and Drupal. At the same time, he built a Laravel application to handle estimates and quotes, which was a great way for him to practice and learn more about Laravel. When he returned for his second co-op term, he expressed an interest in working with the Engine SevenFour team because of this familiarity with Laravel.

Drupal and Laravel are both great tools—they simply have different use cases. Drupal is a great CMS; I would argue it that it holds more capability than Wordpress while also being easy to use from both a development and user perspective. Occasionally Drupal can be a bit overpowered for a simple website and often times we go with something more simple like Squarespace in those scenarios.

Laravel, on the other hand, is an excellent PHP framework for building scalable web applications that perform well. When used properly it also makes for some very clean and organized code, which is easy because it is one of the most well documented frameworks available and comes packed with a ton of handy resources like Eloquent (a very useful ORM [object relational mapper]).

Laracasts is a fantastic resource for learning about developing with Laravel. Created by Jeffrey Way, an active developer in the Laravel community, it is generally accepted as the best place to learn Laravel. This is great because if most Laravel developers use it, that means there is an accepted way of doing things in the community, making for very consistent code across the board.

Going from Drupal to the Laravel was like night and day: while Drupal is great, with a multitude of available modules and its open-source community, Laravel allows for more freedom, and is a great MVC framework for building scalable web applications. At the end of the day, it simply comes down to using each framework for its most ideal application. Laravel just happens to be what I was more familiar with and since making the transition I’ve felt more efficient on a day-to-day basis. I’ve found working with Laravel and Engine SevenFour to be both exciting and challenging, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Is Laravel your jam? We might be a good place for you...


Ian Paterson is a web developer with a keen interest in innovation. He enjoys cooking in a messy kitchen, late-night Wikipedia browsing and obsessively following Formula One racing.