How To Build A Drupal Website Like A Ninja!
If you only had all the time in the world, you would learn all of Drupal.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case! With strict timelines and never-ending to-do lists, it can get overwhelming to build a website ground up using a full-fledged CMS.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the Drupal CMS and hopefully help you with building your first Drupal website.
John has written an awesome post about this and I encourage all of you to read it. I’m basing this post along the same lines as he did because I don’t think there’s a really quicker way to find your way through Drupal, especially if it’s your first site.
First things first – understanding distributions
To understand distributions, let’s try to understand the Drupal core first. You can call Drupal core the engine that drives any Drupal website.
If a website is based on Drupal, it is running on Drupal core.
The Drupal core part will remain the same whether you create an online shopping store or a simple magazine website. But obviously your expectations from an online store will be different from that of an online magazine. Modules take care of these things.
Two approaches that can be used to build a drupal website
The traditional way
If you go about the traditional way, you begin with downloading Drupal core and proceed to downloading the relevant modules and themes. You will also have to configure these handpicked modules to function in a particular way.
The smart way
Beginning with Drupal distributions. A Drupal distribution is a pre-configured set of Drupal modules and themes that can be used to create a particular type of website. So a Drupal distribution to create an online store will be different from the distribution that can be used to create an online magazine.
Basically someone else has done all the hard work and you are simply reusing it and saving your time and resources.
The smart way to create a Drupal website is to get your hands on the right distribution. Drupal.org lists about 900 distributions as I write this post. So just head over the site and pick a distribution based on the kind of website that you want to create.
Some popular drupal distributions
- Commerce Kickstart – This is undoubtedly the leading eCommerce distribution for Drupal.
- Open Publish – If you’re looking for the most popular Drupal distribution solution for creating an online magazine site, Open Publish is the answer. It is a widely used distribution for news sites.
- Open Church – Open Church is a hugely popular Drupal distribution for creating Church websites.
- Open Outreach – Over 300 nonprofits power their Drupal websites with Open Outreach. This Drupal distribution is tailor-made for nonprofits.
You can use modules to extend the functionality of Drupal core. They are like the apps in your smartphone. They deliver different functions. Depending upon the kind of website that you want to create, you can pick from Drupal’s official modules collection.
Some modules come shipped with Drupal core, while you have to download some additionally.
Some useful default modules
- Blog – This is the content module that lets you add content to your website.
- Contact – The contact module helps users in sending emails to the site admin as well as the other verified users on a site.
- Menu – You can create and manage menus using the menu module.
- Update manager – This module helps you in updating to the latest version of Drupal core and the other themes and modules installed on your site.
Some modules that you should consider downloading
I’ll begin this list with 2 modules that are now a part of Drupal core(V8.0).
Views – Essentially, Views lets you decide how you want to serve the content to your readers. It lets you add images, show certain posts in a special way, create archives and more. Drupal 8.0 comes shipped with this module. However it deserves a shout as it has always topped the top Drupal modules lists for a long time.WYSIWYG – A what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor helps you create content easily. This module helps a content creator in viewing content exactly as it will appear when published. This module too will come shipped with Drupal core post V8.0.
Some other popular modules –
- ShareThis – This modules enables your visitors to share content on your site. No matter what site you run, you should add social sharing options to it. This module comes handy for doing so.
- Webform – If you’re looking to create custom contact forms, surveys and contests, this is the only module that you’ll need.
- Custom Breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs are a great tool to enhance your site’s SEO. Also, it provides a great navigation experience to the users. Custom Breadcrumbs lets you add breadcrumbs to your site.
- GMap – GMap lets you map your geo location on your website.
- Google Analytics – This module lets you add your Google Analytics tracking code to your Drupal website.
Your theme decides how your website will look. This is very close to your cell phone’s theme. Drupal 8.0 pushes the envelope of responsiveness. All the themes that will come shipped with Drupal core 8.0 will be optimized for a great user experience on all mobile and tablet devices.
You can download free themes from Drupal’s official collection. However free themes often come with limitations that you only realize later. But while you’re still finding your way through Drupal, you should take a free theme for a spin. You can always upgrade later.
There are hundreds of premium Drupal themes out there. Some good places to being searching can be –
I hope this post gives you a head start for creating your first Drupal website. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below. I would love to answer all of them.
Disha is a freelance blogger and email marketer. She writes extensively about WordPress, SMEs, online marketing and nonprofits.