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.
The What is a Drupal Site Builder? podcast may also be of interest to get an understanding of this role.
Want to jump ahead? Here’s a list of the sections in this document:
- Meet some site builders
- Learning tips
- Background and prerequisites
- Essential lessons
- Advanced concepts
- Broaden your skills
Meet some Drupal site builders
Get to know more about what it means to be a Drupal site builder through these interviews:
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. We also have a video tutorial, Getting Help with Drupal, to learn more about the resources that offer support.
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.
Site builders will need to know how to install Drupal, configure core, and add new features with contributed modules. 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.
While this is a Drupal 7 series, creating and working with Views is the same in Drupal 8, so you can apply the same lessons here.
There are definitely some tried-and-true community favorites when it comes to the tools to use for building a site. Some Drupal agencies will lean toward a certain set of modules and tools, or even create their own custom distributions to reuse on client sites. It’s good to be familiar with these concepts and tools so you can evaluate what may be useful in what circumstances.
Broaden your skills
There are many ways to grow your skills and knowledge outside of tutorials. Here are some of our favorite resources for exploring Drupal site-building.
You can broaden your site-building skills by building sites and trying 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 simplytest.me, Pantheon, 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.
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 and future DrupalCons, where you can browse the sessions and watch videos.
Drupal camps, sprints, and user groups are great way to connect with other Drupal developers and learn new things.