Drupal ? Creating Blogs, Forms, Portals and Community Websites

Drupal has suffered somewhat in recent months, in comparison to other CMSs such as Joomla.? Whereas Joomla, which many developers consider to be a technically inferior CMS, has steamrollered ahead, Drupal has kept on plodding along. If you don?t believe me, go to Google Trends and see how the number of people searching for Joomla has doubled every three months while Drupal has inched slowly upwards, barely doubling in the last two years. Part of Joomla?s comparative success has been its branding success. Whereas Drupal has a slightly intimidating blue head for a logo and a staunchly community-orientated focus, Joomla presents a more friendly image with a colourful logo and plenty of commercial options available.

Whether the Drupal community wants or needs to keep up with such a rapid expansion is one question, but books such as ?Drupal ? Creating Blogs, Forms, Portals and Community Websites? by David Mercer can certainly help encourage more users.

It is stronger than many other CMS books for two key reasons, First, it hasn?t been been translated in the somewhat uneven and typo-strewn manner of similar books. Second, it attempts to show people the wider picture of what is involved in building a website ? it delves into how to plan and think about your site rather than just the nuts and bolts of how to build it.

The first chapter introduces Drupal with a heavy emphasis on using Drupal.org to find out more. This is sensible as so much introductory material is available online. The second chapter on setting up a development environment is the chapter I had most problems with, because it doesn?t quite explain things simply enough for someone setting out to build their own website for the first time. If you now how to use shell command to set up a Drupal site on your own computer you?ll be fine but otherwise you?ll just be following instructions without gaining much understanding.

The book then hits its stride in Chapter 3 (administration), Chapter 4 (frontend functionality) and Chapter 5 (access control). For anyone wanting to learn how to run a Drupal site, this middle section is invaluable as are Chapters 6 and 7 deal with adding content to your site. This section alone makes the book worth the purchase price because of its numerous screenshots and clear explanations.

Chapter 8 is the theme chapter and is more involved with modifications to existing themes than explaining how to create them. Chapter 9 is an odd mixture of ?advanced features? that could do with more focus and explanation. At one point it mentions, ?use something like the following command line?? which is not very useful for beginners. Partly however this is a limitation of Drupal itself which does require quite a lot of code work to run particular task. Chapter 10 goes beyond the title of the book to focus not just on creating but on running your Drupal site, including throttling, cron jobs and SEO.

Overall, ?Drupal ? Creating Blogs, Forms, Portals and Community Websites? is recommended. I?ve given it to clients in recent weeks and will continue to do so. It explains the Drupal basics but also has enough meat to help people to move beyond to develop a more advanced site.

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