This guide focuses on site building in Drupal 7. If you're working in another version of Drupal, please visit our tutorial library page, and apply the relevant filters for “Site Building” and your version of Drupal.
Want to jump ahead? Here’s a list of the sections in this document:
- About site builders
- Meet some site builders
- Learn to be a site builder
- Background and prerequisites
- Core lessons
- Advanced concepts
- Broaden your skills
About site builders
Site building is the Drupal role that everyone should know, as it's the core Drupal competency for site creation. Site building involves getting Drupal up and running, and configuring the options to build a functional site. This covers tasks such as creating content types, lists with Views, menus, and setting up roles and permissions.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a site builder is that you can build a very powerful site without writing a single line of code. By understanding the many contributed Drupal modules and how they work together, you can build a complete site, or take a key role as part of a larger team that customizes on top of the foundation laid by the site builder.
Meet some Drupal site builders
Site builders have a wide range of expertise. We've interviewed a few:
Learn to be a Drupal site builder
While development skills are typically not involved in site building, you’ll need to have broad knowledge about using Drupal contributed projects, and the best practices for building a Drupal site. As you become familiar with all the options Drupal has to offer, here are some things to keep in mind:
- There are many modules that expand on what Drupal core can do. This is the real power of working with Drupal. There are over 11,000 modules for Drupal 7, which can be overwhelming. Take your time learning best practices to quickly find the right modules.
- When learning to build a site, set up a test environment to purposely make mistakes. If you find yourself with a WSOD, just start over. There's a wonderful service called simplytest.me that allows you to quickly and easily create a Drupal site with a module installed, so you can try it without building your own test site first.
- Take advantage of services like Acquia Cloud and Pantheon, which allow you to create and destroy your own Drupal installation for free.
- There are many resources where you can find help, and share solutions. You should become familiar with things like the Drupal.org forums and Drupal Answers on Stack Exchange.
This guide focuses on site building in Drupal 7. If you are working in another version of Drupal, please visit our library page and apply the relevant filters for “Site Building” and your version of Drupal.
Background and prerequisites
The most important prerequisite for Drupal site building is understanding how the web works and being able to install a web application. You’ll need some understanding of web servers and databases for getting things installed. Although being familiar with code is not a prerequisite, knowing HTML and CSS can be very helpful, even if you don’t apply the knowledge regularly.
- Installing a Local Development Server — This will introduce you to various ways to set up a test server depending on your operating system. It will give you a great overview for how web servers work in general.
- Our Favorite HTML and CSS Resources — If you want to get up to speed on some of the basics, these are some great resources.
As a bonus, you might want to check out the Getting Help with Drupal tutorial to learn more about the resources that offer support.
Site builders will need to know how to install Drupal, configure core, and add new features with contributed modules. The most important contributed module you will work with in Drupal 7 will be Views. Over time, you'll learn to assess new modules you're reviewing to be able to find and choose the best one for your needs.
- Site Building with Drupal 7 — This will walk through all of the main things you need to know to work with Drupal core, along with a brief introduction to Views.
- Using Drupal Chapter 2: Drupal Jumpstart — If you need more practice with basic core site building, this series provides a different case study and progression than the Site Building with Drupal 7 series.
- Introduction to Fields in Drupal 7 — Fields are a key part of Drupal core’s content modeling. This series guides you through the world of content types and fields that form the backbone of your site.
- Introduction to Views in Drupal 7 - With content in place and a brief introduction to Views, you should spend time learning all the ways you can use Views to enhance your site.
- Image Styles
- Choosing the Right Modules
Guides for site builders
There are definitely some tried-and-true community favorites when it comes to site-building modules. Some Drupal agencies will lean toward a certain set of modules, or even create their own custom distributions to re-use on client sites. It’s good to be familiar with all of these modules, but you should take a deep dive into at least one of the top three; Panels, Display Suite, or Context.
Build and customize pages
Build dynamic websites
Package and re-use configuration
- Exporting Panels Configuration using Features
- Exporting Panelizer Configuration using Features and Strongarm
- Exporting and Importing Panels using the Admin UI
- Exporting Bean Configurations with the Features Module
- Exporting Context Configurations with the Features Module
Backup and migrate
Create structure beyond content types
- Entities, for example Bean, a module that allows you to create fieldable blocks
- Adding Fields to a User Profile and Other Entities
- Entity Views Attachment (EVA)
Customize administrative pages
This is just a selection of what we have on this topic. To get a full list of all lessons tagged for site building, use the filters on our tutorial library.
Broaden your skills
Broaden your site building skills by exploring other topics and modules related to Drupal site building, attending Drupal events, listening to podcasts, and reading blog posts and written tutorials.
Learn how to configure Drupal to use “multisite”—where you can create multiple Drupal sites under one core installation. Those multiple sites are going to need different domains, so learn how to configure Domain Access for use in your multisite installations.
Developers at our sister company, Lullabot, have been reviewing Drupal modules for a number of years. At Drupalize.Me, we've taken some of these Module Monday articles and created video tutorials about their features and setup. You can find more Module Monday articles at Lullabot.com.
- Style Guide
- Word Link
- Publish Button
- Menu Position
- Mass Password Reset
- Node Revision Delete
- Backup and Migrate
This is just a selection of what we have on this topic. To get a full list of all lessons tagged “site-building”, please use our library page.
Another way to broaden one’s site building skills is to build sites and try different combinations of modules to see which ones work best together. One way to quickly explore various Drupal “ecosystems” is to try Drupal distributions. Drupal distributions contain Drupal core, as well as additional modules, themes, libraries, and pre-configured settings. There are over 500 distributions available for download on Drupal.org.
Explore Drupal distributions easily with Acquia Cloud or Dev Desktop 2, Pantheon, simplytest.me, or download and install directly from Drupal.org. You can still add to these distributions with modules, theme customizations, and custom settings; distributions are just a starting point.
The following Drupalize.Me podcasts may also be of interest to site builders.
DrupalCon sessions are a great way to get up to speed on the latest in Drupal development. All DrupalCon sessions are recorded and are available for free on the Drupal Association’s YouTube channel. The videos are also embedded on the session description pages for each DrupalCon, so you can browse developer tracks on the DrupalCon website and find session recordings to watch after the Con.
- DrupalCon — Find links to past, present, and future DrupalCons and session recordings.
Drupal camps, sprints, and user groups are great way to connect with other Drupal developers and learn new things.
- Drupical — Filter and find Drupal camps, sprints, user groups, and training events.
- Upcoming Drupal community events — Filter and find Drupal-related events.