5 Tips and Tricks for the Drupal Freshman
Drupal is one of the most popular development tools for higher education websites. Here are 5 ways your institution can get the most out of it.
Learning to use Drupal does not have to be a big headache. In fact, there are many resources out there to help you create the perfect website for your institute of higher education. Getting to know some of the common developer shortcuts will help you flatten the learning curve. Here are some basic tips that will make your Drupal experience easier and more productive.
What is Drupal?
First, you need to know a bit about Drupal to begin with. If you are reading this, chances are you know the basics or are already charged with creating or maintaining a site using Drupal. But it is worth a minute to talk about what Drupal actually does.
At heart, Drupal is a content management tool. It is scalable and modular, which makes it flexible and versatile for institutions of any size. Drupal will give you everything you need to create your website while letting you skip the things that are not important for your use case.
Drupal is an open source software project. This means anyone can use, work on, download, and share it. That being said, over 1 million sponsors, editors, developers, designers, and others collaborate on the software to continue to make improvements. This allows you to focus on creating the perfect website for your business today but keep improving it as the Drupal platform develops new features.
Drupal is great for complex workflows and forms. It is also perfect for multi-sites. Drupal sites can even be configured to work with other sites, including other Drupal sites.
With that flexibility in mind, here are five shortcuts you can use to make Drupal development as efficient as possible.
1. Use pre-configured distributions in Drupal
Since Drupal is open source, there are many pre-configured distributions that allow you to instantly set up a site with the features you want and get it up and running quickly.
These are pre-built “applications” used for a specific purpose. This means there is no need to reinvent the proverbial wheel and you will not have to physically download and configure multiple modules. When working with such a scalable and flexible software as Drupal, why not benefit from the easiest possible build?
2. Fix errors in Drupal with Google
Google is your lab assistant when it comes to errors in your Drupal website. Error messages can be frustrating and sometimes confusing. When you get an error message (everyone does from time to time, so do not feel bad), simply copy and paste that message directly into a Google search. By putting the search term in double quotation marks, Google will perform a more literal search to help you resolve the problem. Usually you’ll find that the module’s issue queue on Drupal.org will have a similar issue and people will suggest a fix.
3. Back up your Database in a safe location
This may seem like second nature, something all website developers and designers just do. But that is not necessarily the case and deserves mention here. There are not many things worse than working for hours and hours, only to have something happen when your work is not saved.
Use the Backup and Migrate module in Drupal to save your work. While smaller amounts of work may be emailed offsite or to a safe location, that is not always practical for larger SQL databases or other large resources. Remember to grab an SQL dump of your content and back up often. This will save you headaches and heartbreaks when creating any Drupal website. If you’re using a managed host like Pantheon or Acquia for example, make sure you use their backups systems as well.
4. Do not forget to set up basic information
Basic information is going to be the base of your Drupal website. Standard business information includes items such as your website name, the email address to be used for any pertinent system messages, your business slogan, and your company’s mission.
This basic information will get collected and displayed. You can enter or change that information by going to Admin> Site configuration> site information. Be sure all this information is up to date and correct. Again, some may think this goes without saying, but as the old adage goes, you don’t know what you don’t know — and you may not be able to find what you don’t know you need. This can be frustrating for anyone.
5. Do active development on a non-production environment
Rather than doing development directly on your live website , you should utilize a separate environment to test new code and modules. Follow the same development rules you would on your Drupal website. Many website developers find this easier, and less problematic. If it does not work out, you can simply delete the site and start over rather than potentially create bigger issues for your live site.
When in doubt, head over to Drupal.org and cruise the forums, look through Drupal answers, or chat with others who have been where you are.
Beyond looking for peer-help online, remember that you do not have to create your Drupal website alone. You are the best at running your business, and KWALL is the best company to help you create and design a Drupal website.
Content management is KWALL’s specialty, where knowing your industry and your business is your specialty. We will take care of all the technical elements — including basic theme development concepts, creating user roles and permissions, and managing navigation menus. Call KWALL today to get your website on the right track and keep it there for years to come.