Ask Echidna: Getting to Know Drupal

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Welcome to our latest Ask Echidna blog post, where we answer your questions about Web design, digital marketing, and business solutions. Do you have a question that you'd like to have answered by Digital Echidna's team? Simply send us an e-mail, Tweet us, or drop us a note on our Facebook page.

Today's Topic: Intro to Drupal

In the comments section of an earlier blog post, Eric Nirta posed this question, "As a developer (and Echidna fan -- *editor's note: Thanks!) with only a year of field experience, I would like to ask the opinion of some professionals on what you feel would be the best route for an individual like myself to approach learning Drupal, as well as some of your preferred Drupal resources. Thanks!"

I turned to our development manager, Yan Zhang, and asked her to share her perspective on how to best get involved with Drupal.

And before we go any further, serendipity would have it that next week we're hosting an Intro to Drupal event at our office on 200-365 Talbot St., London, ON on Tuesday, Sept. 24th at 5:30 p.m.

So here's Yan's seven-step approach to becoming conversant in Drupal. And if you have any other tips you'd like to share, feel free to post them in the comments below!

1. Get (with) the program

You need to first download Drupal 7 from drupal.org and set it up on your local host. This video provides you with a primer of what you need to know before you download Drupal. It walks you through the installation process, starting with the gathering of requirements to ensure that you have all the requisite server software to support the download.

It also provides you with a discussion of the file and directory structure so that you can familiarize yourself with what it is you're actually downloading!

2. Watch and learn

When it comes to learning, seeing isn't just believing – it's retaining. There are a few videos that might help you:

3. Practice makes perfect

By watching some videos, you can get a rudimentary understanding of the framework and it will help you recognize some processes and procedures. But nothing teaches you better than actually getting your hands dirty (or at least redden your keyboarding fingers) by building your own site.

If you have an existing small personal site, you can start by rebuilding it in Drupal. Or, if you're totally new to the program, start from the ground up with a test site.

4. Join the community

One of the greatest things about Drupal is that it's open-source. And that means that there are thousands upon thousands of people out there testing bugs, developing modules, and trying to make it better. It means there are thousands of people who were once in your shoes and there are thousands of people presently wearing similar footwear.

Start by creating a user in drupal.org. Then create a profile on the git hub – and start using it.

No one's expecting you to be an active participant right away. Follow the conversations, read discussions based on topics of which you have an interest, and take advantage of an amazing learning opportunity.

And, as mentioned before, if you're in the London, ON area, come on out to a LonDUG event (London Ontario Drupal Users Group). There you'll have access to presentations, core contribution sprints, and make some local contacts who will be more than happy to help you learn about Drupal. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats -- and in the open-source world that means more dedicated, smart people helping to make the overall product better!

5. Look to other sources

There are countless resources out there of which you can take advantage. Drupal Groups has a great selection of resources and discussions about how Drupal's being used in practical applications; there are some Drupal guides and books that you can order; and there are sites, like DrupalEasy, designed to help you learn more about the system.

6. Stay up to date with Drupal podcasts

You can subscribe to the free Drupal podcast from drupalize.me. In fact, there are a number of Drupal podcasts available on iTunes, but they're not all of equal quality. Listen around and find the ones you like.

7. Make Drupal news come to you!

Subscribe to the Weekly Drop newsletter to get the latest and greatest Drupal news and links sent to you via e-mail. The Weekly Drop compiles all the best information and resources from around the Web and provides it to you in one convenient newsletter.

Conclusion

So those are some of our best starting tips and resources to get you integrated into the world of Drupal. It goes without saying that tip number three may be the most important – after all, nothing succeeds like success and once you've started playing around with Drupal and building your own projects, you'll be hooked (Drupal pun fully intended)!

So now we turn to all of you! How did you first learn about Drupal and what worked for you? If you're well-versed in Drupal, do you have any other suggestions or resources to add?

Questions Answered

How do I start in Drupal?

How do I learn about Drupal?

What resources are out there to learn about Drupal?

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