What's Drupal and How Do I Get Started?
Dear Chapter Three,
I'm looking for a job and I'm fairly tech savvy. I've considered taking classes for web design and media, but a friend told me that I should learn Drupal... but I've never heard of it before. What exactly is Drupal and where do I start?
Thanks for writing Jonny!
What is Drupal?
Drupal is an open source system for building websites and it fits into the category of Content Management System. A CMS is, simply put, a system for managing content. There are a ton of free CMS out there like Drupal, as well as a number of proprietary CMSs which charge for the privilege of using their system. If you want to compare, there are countless articles outlining key differences (like Jen's post last week: Wordpress vs Drupal).
Drupal stores pieces of content (referred to as 'nodes') in a database and lets you call from that to display the content anywhere you need it. This could be a single page (ie. the about page) or a page that has a list of content (ie. latest news articles, blog posts from December - just about anything you can imagine). By trusting Drupal with your content, you're able to focus on what your visitors will see and how they will interact with your site.
Drupal lets you get 80 to 90% done without having to know a lick of code whatsoever. For beginners, if you don't mind using one of the hundreds of contributed 'themes', you may not have to touch code at all. This is largely because Drupal is made up of 'modules' which are bits of code written by thousands of other people in the Drupal community. These modules allow you enable just about any features you could want on your site just by downloading a module and configuring it for your site.
What is the Drupal community?
Drupal has a very strong and compassionate community, which means we take care of people willing to learn. There are tons of avenues for getting help in Drupal, not least of which are the forums and issue queues on Drupal.org. If you prefer chat, you can also get help via IRC. Once you're part of the Drupal community, you'll probably feel inclined to help out beginners - even if just because so many people helped you. I found this to be true and have heard it from many other people as well.
The second Monday of every month, we have a SF DUG (Drupal User Group) get-together where people share what they've been using Drupal for lately, walkthroughs and tutorials covering various topics or what's been happening in the community. There's also a job board through the DUG and an ever growing "Users Helping Users" sub-group.
Ways to learn Drupal
We at Chapter Three are all about giving back to the community. Many of us have contributed modules and themes back to the community. We're all about presenting at Drupal camps, cons and meet ups, and many of those listed on our website have slides or videos embedded. We even have trainers that we send all over the world to train and consult in both private and public venues. We have a list of recommended resources for beginners and pros alike. For those of you who are just starting out, I especially recommend the book Using Drupal. In fact, from that link you can find a great video and free sampler to download.
You'll have to check our training schedule, but it looks like we're leading a Drupal in a Day training workshop on May 9th. It's specifically for beginners and covers everything you need to know to get started. You leave with a booklet that covers everything we talk about and a website sandbox that you can play with (build, break, rebuild, whatever) with for at least 90 days after the class. The class lasts the whole day and quite honestly, it's the best way to get your feet wet in Drupal. You'll leave with a solid foundation in Drupal basics and be prepared so build your first solo site! We had a series of classes last week that were sold out, so if you're interested, act fast!
Hope this helps Jonny! If anyone has any questions, please reply to this post in the comments below.