Drupal Made Easy: 6 Tips For Getting Started

Sep 16 2016

This article was last updated in January 2022.

Open-source content management systems (CMS) can be intimidating. If you’ve started looking at Drupal as an option for your next CMS, you may have found a lot of information aimed at developers, but that doesn’t mean you need to know your HTML from your CSS to become a Drupal superhero. 

Drupal’s community of developers are one of the systems main strengths; by opening up development, more creative, useable extensions and upgrades are possible, all with the power of crowd-sourcing to keep security tight.

But if you’re not a developer, don’t worry; you too can harness the power of Drupal with the following six tips.

With the power of crowd-sourcing in Drupal's community of developers, more creative, useable extensions and upgrades are possible.
With the power of crowd-sourcing in Drupal's community of developers, more creative, useable extensions and upgrades are possible.

1. Preview

No matter how great of a web developer you are, no one is above the almighty preview function. It’s the old adage of “preview twice, post live once.” Drupal includes a core preview functionality that can show you a preview of the node you’re working on, or consider a module like Page Preview for a low-impact way of seeing your node in context for the full effect.

2. Easy Editing

Your time is valuable. If you’re browsing your site and spot something you’d like to change, the last thing you want to do is spend time digging through your CMS looking for the corresponding content block. As long as you are logged in, the Quick Edit module allows you to directly make your changes on the page. You can even edit directly from your smartphone. Just log in with your browser and you’ll have the same options from the bus as you do from your desk.

3. Back It Up

When you are making changes to your website, especially if you are in a singular environment, having a disaster recovery (DR) plan is critical. It’s the same with your home computer or personal cell phone - we’ve all been there when it crashes and we lose weeks, months or even years’ worth of data. There are several options when it comes to how you back up and restore your data. Enterprise-scale clients may choose to run multiple versions of their website on separate servers that can be called to overwrite the production version in case of errors. If that’s not you, or you don’t have an IT department to ask, start with your ISP and see if they offer a 24-hour backup service. Even if they do, be sure to take a manual backup periodically, and especially before you upgrade or introduce new modules. Consider using Backup and Migrate to do so easily.

4. Learn About SEO

If you’re not a web person, your eyes may glaze over when you see terms like Search Engine Optimization, but it doesn’t have to be boring or complicated. Good SEO comes down to good standards and practices. Use titles and keywords that accurately reflect the content you have on the page, and use the golden rule of the user question - what question might you type into Google that your page answers? Make sure those keywords are found both in your content and in your metadata. Drupal offers many modules that will help you have complete, quality metadata, and, in the case of Drupal SEO Tools, an integration with analytics and dashboard reporting to help you get the full picture.

5. Don’t Go It Alone

When you buy a new car or a new laptop, you probably spend some time researching reviews and asking questions. Drupal modules are no different; resources like Drupal Forum offer a chance to see what others have said about modules so you can get a feel for how others have used them and how happy they were before you commit to trying them out. And if it doesn’t work out as you expected, you can use your fresh backup to restore your site easily before you try another solution.

Bonus Tip: If you’ve started reading about Drupal but been discouraged by the confusing lingo of nodes, bundles and forks, fear not. Drupal offers an easy-to-navigate Glossary and Acquia has free training that will have you jumping into sprints and your code RTBC.