If you know the advantages of working with Drupal but it seems a bit like a foreign language, then we’re in the same boat. I have a marketing-heavy background and can talk all day about marketing campaigns and social media strategy, but when it comes to my training in development, I come up short. Let us Drupal beginners unite and learn the basics of content management in Drupal, the beginner version.
What is Drupal?
The basics of Drupal are simple. Drupal is a free, open source, content management system that gives you the freedom to make your site exactly how you envision it. Customization plays a huge part in what sets Drupal apart from other CMS systems. Systems like Wordpress and Wix have limitations on the modules you can choose from, but with Drupal you are able to create your own modules and personalize your site however you want. For us beginners, we’ll just stick to the modules the Drupal geniuses have already created for us and instead learn how to update the content on our site.
Speaking of the Drupal geniuses, the Drupal community is centered around the concept of giving. Developers are always contributing code to modules, patching existing code, and giving help to other members. The drupal community has an abundance of knowledge and thousands of people willing to lend a helping hand if you hit a roadblock. Feel free to reach out to the Drupal community through Drupal.org’s forum, Drupal.Org Talk With The Community, or just post a simple twitter question with #Drupal; you’ll be sure to find some answers. Another awesome learning tool the Drupal community has are Drupal camps and conferences. There are tons of events centered around nothing more than learning about Drupal! These camps have plenty of topics for the drupal geniuses, but also have sessions structured towards us beginners. I suggest DrupalCon if you’re looking for an event to attend! As someone who is not trained in development, I plan to get further assimilated to doing more advanced tasks by following those same steps.
Cruising Around the Backend
From a new user perspective, the backend of the site may look very confusing. The more you navigate it, the more it looks like any other CMS tool you may have used before. You have the availability to do endless tasks on the backend, but as a content manager, the main things we need to worry about are: adding and editing content, ramping up SEO, uploading photos and files, adding users to the site, and give users admin access. Most of these items can be found on the toolbar at the top of the page and are pretty self-explanatory once you know what you’re looking for. Beginners, just spend some time cruising around the site and see what all there is to offer. You won’t break anything. Hopefully.
Challenges I’ve Faced & Things I’ve Learned
Since being on Drupal for all of 3 months, I’ve run into quite a few challenges and quirks but found solutions for them all. These issues may or may not be something that you run into, but we’ll go over the solutions just in case you need a helping hand.
- Hidden Symbols in Code- When managing content on a Drupal site, it is common to have your content coming from somewhere else such as Microsoft Word or Google docs. Many content editors, like Google Docs, have hidden symbols in the code creating issues when you paste this information straight into your site editor. Drupal takes things very literally and will post these hidden symbols from other tools to your blog. The way to get around this issue is using apps like Text Wrangler to work as a middleman between your content editor and your site to take out all the hidden junk. There is also an editing option called WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and you are able to just paste from word in this advanced content filter.
- Accessibility- Because the internet is becoming a necessity for everyday life, there is a huge push towards making all websites accessible for everyone. This concept comes into play when uploading images to your Drupal site. With every image you upload, you must include alternative text. This text will be used by screen readers, search engines, or when the image cannot be loaded. This additional text also adds value in your SEO rankings and can help your page rank better in image search. Try to make this a short phrase or one word that correctly summarizes what that image is about.
- Decoupled- When I started at Mediacurrent we were in the middle of a website redesign, transitioning to a decoupled site. Decoupled simply means that your site is being built with two different types of interfaces on the frontend and backend of a site. Mediacurrent’s frontend is built by Jekyll and the backend is built by Drupal. While using the site for marketing tasks, the only difference I have seen with decoupled is when publishing something to the site. With decoupled Drupal, it takes a few minutes for your content to go live on your site because these two different types of interfaces have to communicate with one-another. Publishing isn’t instant, but just give it a minute or so.
As I said earlier, Drupal may seem like a foreign language for a couple of weeks, but once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless and the advantages are major. Managing content on your new Drupal site will become simple and your worries will be a thing of the past. If you have any questions about my tips and tricks or just would like to sympathize with another beginner drupaler, tweet me @malstrangee!