Drupal is a fantastic, open source CMS (content management system) via which you can build modern websites; be it a personal blog you want to make or e-commerce website, Drupal can be the tool via which you can make it happen. If you were on the lookout for a Drupal tutorial for beginners to build your very own website, then you have landed at just the right place.
Compared to WordPress, Drupal has more power and flexibility which entails that there will be a few more options and configurations that you will have to get the hang of. That said, setting a website up with Drupal will be somewhat more complicated, especially for beginners. However, that shouldn’t stop anyone from overlooking the remarkable benefits it has to offer; here are a few:
- Greater functionality: Compared to other modern content management systems, Drupal is definitely more functional. That is why developers love Drupal.
- Better customization possibilities: The ability to customize Drupal with the plethora of themes, plugins and configuration options makes developers achieve their specific visions for their websites. Drupal core files can also be easily modified which is always a nice feature to have during the development process.
- Security: Drupal comes equipped with corporate level security and can generate detailed security reports. The official White House website (https://www.whitehouse.gov) also uses Drupal and the rigorous security can be seen as one of the reasons why.
After you have successfully followed all the steps in our Drupal tutorial, you will be equipped with the necessary knowledge to fix up your first Drupal website. From installing Drupal to knowing what its modules are and how they are used, you will know it all.
Note: This Drupal tutorial is based on Drupal 8.x.x core version. However, many steps listed in this guide can be applied for Drupal 7.x.x core version.
Table of Contents
- Step 1 – Installing Drupal
- Step 2 – Building a Website With Drupal
- Step 3 – Installing Drupal Modules
- Step 4 – Installing Drupal Themes
- Step 5 – Creating a Blog on Drupal
- Step 6 – Backing up Drupal
- Step 7 – Updating Drupal
- Drupal Tutorial: Wrapping Up
Step 1 – Installing Drupal
Option 1 – Using Auto Installer
The first step to set your website up will obviously involve the installation of Drupal on your Hostinger hosting. Don’t worry, it’s ridiculously simple and the process is similar on all hosting providers. Just follow these steps to install Drupal:
- Access your hosting control panel
- In the search bar, type auto-installer and select the tool from the results.
- Under most popular click on Drupal.
- Enter the details in the presented form (username, password, URL etc.) and click on Install.
- That should do it!
Note: You will have to wait for a few moments for the installation to complete.
Option 2 – Installing Drupal Manually
Don’t worry if your hosting provider does not have an auto installer or you want to install Drupal on localhost or VPS. Read on and you will learn how to install Drupal 8 manually.
Step 1 — Downloading Drupal installation files
In order to download files required to install Drupal, visit Drupal’s official website, locate the latest version and click on Download zip option.
Step 2 — Extracting installation files and uploading them to your hosting account’s directory
Firstly, you will need to extract the compressed file you have downloaded. Feel free to make a new folder on your computer to make the process as tidy as possible.
Note: for file upload, we will use Hostinger’s File Manager tool. However, the whole transfer process is quite similar regardless of what upload option or client you use, therefore don’t be discouraged from using your own preferred FTP client or other file management software.
Once you access your hosting account’s directory, you will need to find the exact path where you wish the app to be installed. In the example, we will install Drupal on a hostinger-tutorials.com domain name, so the path, in this case, will be /public_html/.
Simply upload the and extract .zip archive. The process may take a couple of minutes to complete due to a number of files present. Once it is done, your directory should look like this:
Step 3 — Preparing database for the installation
Now you can go ahead and create a new database for your installation and assign user with all privileges to it.
On Hostinger, MySQL database can be created on MySQL Databases section. Make sure to write down MySQL details as you will need them in the next step.
Step 4 — Proceeding with Drupal installation
Once all the preparation steps have been completed, you can proceed with the installation itself.
Enter the URL in your browser which directs to your uploaded installation files, and you will be presented with the following window:
On the next step you will have to choose your preferred Installation profile:
- Choose Standard if you wish to use Drupal’s core features. This profile would include all standard modules which are more common and user-friendly.
- Minimal profile gives you more freedom in terms of custom website building. This profile is designed to be used by advanced website developers.
Once again, click on Save and continue and the following step will ask you to verify your server’s specifications and check if the requirements are met.
This step will look for the ideal configuration so do not be afraid if the screen shows you that some recommended values are not met. For example:
If it shows you a similar warning message, you should not stress it too much as the script itself will work fine. However, it would surely improve its overall performance if you were able to meet the mentioned requirement.
Next step will ask you to enter the same database details which you have created in Step 3. Make sure to enter your Database name, Database username and Database password correctly, like in the example:
Note: You can find your MySQL host in Hostinger’s control panel -> MySQL Databases section.
Double-check the details you have entered and click Save and continue. This will trigger the main installation process so wait patiently until it is finished.
In the last step, you will be presented with the configuration window, where you will need to enter your website’s preferences such as Site Name and so on.
Take extra care when entering Site Maintenance Account details, since they will be used as your website’s admin area login credentials:
Once you submit the preferred values, the installation process will be finished. Now you can log in to your Drupal’s admin account and start creating your own website!
Step 2 – Building a Website With Drupal
Now that the Drupal installation is behind us, we will talk about building an actual Drupal website. You will learn just about everything you need to strap on your seatbelts and put your learning hats on.
Understanding Drupal Administrator dashboard
In order to harness the power of Drupal, you need to login to the administrator dashboard. You can access it by adding user/login at the end of your Drupal URL. For example, in our case, Drupal admin dashboard can be accessed via http://hostinger-tutorials.com/user/login.
Once logged in, you will be presented with the administrator dashboard. Here you will have all the power and the authority to start building and customizing your website. The following sections will be shown:
- Content: This section allows you to add and administer content and/or comments and/or files.
- Structure: From here, you can administer block layouts, comment types, contact forms, content types, display modes, menus, taxonomies, and views.
- Appearance: The appearance section allows you to install or uninstall themes.
- Extend: From the extend tab, you can download and install modules to enhance your website’s functionality.
- Configuration: This section allows you to tweak configurations and settings.
- People: You can manage user accounts, permissions, and roles from the People section.
- Reports: Get status reports or see log messages etc. from the Reports section.
- Help: The help section will contain all the help that you might need during the installation process.
Creating Drupal Taxonomies
Before knowing what a taxonomy is, you should know the following two words:
- Term: In the realms of Drupal, a term is a word used to describe or manage the content.
- Vocabulary: A collection of terms.
Now, a taxonomy in Drupal uses terms to present specific content. So basically, taxonomies are used to classify the content on Drupal website.
Creating a taxonomy is easy. You can do this by following these steps:
- Go to the Structure tab.
- Click on Taxonomy.
- Now click on Add vocabulary to add a new vocabulary.
- Enter the name (compulsory) and the description (optional) for your vocabulary.
- Click on Add terms to add new terms to the vocabulary.
- Enter the name, description, text format, URL alias (an optional URL to access the term directly) and relations for the term. Click Save.
- Repeat step 6 to create multiple terms.
- That’s it. Your taxonomy is now ready!
Creating Articles and Basic Pages
By default in Drupal, there are the following content types:
- Articles: The content type article was previously known as story. Articles are used to display information that can get altered from time to time and is normally categorized as well.
- Basic page: Basic pages can be used to display static content that’s not expected to change as frequently as articles.
- Blog entry: The blog content type got discontinued from the core in Drupal 8 and is now a contributed module. It gives registered users the ability to create blogs on your website. It can be thought of as an online diary or journal.
- Book page: Book pages are not enabled by default. As the name indicates, a book page is a content type that should be used when creating content for a collaborative book.
- Forum topic: With this content type, a discussion topic can be defined. Users can talk about the topic via comments.
- Poll: Lastly, a poll can be used to posit a question with a set of possible answers.
Let’s now talk about adding an article in Drupal (Spoiler: it’s simple). Follow these steps:
- From the dashboard, click on Content.
- Now click on Add content.
- From the displayed window, click on Article. You will be presented with a screen that prompts you to add the title, tags, body, text format, and image for the article.
- If you want to link the article to a menu, click on Menu Settings and then on the checkbox that says provide a menu link. Here you can add the link, title, description, parent item and weight for the menu.
- You can also add revision information, URL path settings, comment settings, authoring information and publishing options for your article.
- Now click on the preview to view the article or just click on Save and publish to make it live.
- Your article is up!
Let’s now look at making a simple about us page:
- Click on Content and then on Add content.
- Now click on Basic page.
- Now enter the title and the body for the page. As this is an about us page, you can put “About us” in the title and put pertinent information in the body.
- Select the Text format and toggle the menu settings if necessary.
- To link the page to a menu, click on Provide a menu link. Enter the title, description, weight and parent item (As this is an about us page, it can be put under a section like “Company history”) for the menu.
- You can also add revision information, URL path settings, comment settings, authoring information and publishing options for your page.
- You can click on the preview to view the page or just click on Save and publish to make it live.
- Your page is now live!
Menus are very important regardless of the type of website you are building. They help in categorizing and structuring the overall website. With Drupal, you can add, delete and rename menus and their constituent items. Follow these instructions to add a menu:
- Click on Structure and choose Menus.
- Some of the default menus like tools, administration and footer etc. will already be present and can be edited.
- Click on Add menu.
- Add the title and the description for the menu and click on Save.
- Click on Add link to add a menu link.
- On the presented window, you will be asked to add link title, path, description, parent link, weight for the link. You can also select whether you want to enable the menu and whether you want to show it as expanded using the Enabled and Show as expanded checkboxes. In the path, you can add links to pages. If you are creating a main menu, you can add a link to the about us page here.
- Once all selections/entries are made, click on Save.
- You can repeat step 7 to add multiple links to the menu.
Creating Drupal Blocks
Blocks can be referred to as the container objects that can be used for organizing the content of your Drupal website. For example, a user login (block) can be added to your website footer (region).
Follow these steps to place a block on a region:
- Click on Structure from the main menu.
- Now click on Block layout.
- Here you can see where you want to place the block. For the sake of example, we will place a block in the header region. So click on the Place block button next to Header. Note: You can also create a custom block by clicking on Add custom block and entering its description and body in the subsequent window.
- From the list of blocks, click on Page Title.
- Confirm the title, visibility and region for your block and click on Save block.
Step 3 – Installing Drupal Modules
Drupal has some highly useful modules present in its core but you can extend the functionality of your website or improve its efficiency by installing contributed modules. In this section, you will learn how to install Drupal modules.
Firstly, you have to navigate to the Drupal module search page and find the module. Once you have reached the webpage for the module you want to install (e.g. for the Chaos tool suite, the link is https://www.drupal.org/project/ctools), move over to the downloads section at the bottom of the page.
Note: The first number in module version represents Drupal core version. Thus if you are running Drupal 8, be sure to download module with version number starting with 8.
Now follow these steps to install the module on Drupal:
- Right-click on the module download link and choose Copy link location
- Now move over to your Drupal homepage and click on Extend
- Now click on Install new module
- Under Install from a URL, paste the link that you copied in step 1
- Hit Install and wait for the installation to complete.
Note: If the Install new module option isn’t available to you, you will have to enable the Update manager module first. You can find it under the Core section in the Extend menu.
Now, let’s have a look at some of the most useful Drupal modules:
- Chaos tool suite: The chaos tool suite comprises of a collection of tools and API that ensure the improvement of developer experience.
- Admin toolbar: With the admin toolbar, the default toolbar is transformed into a drop-down menu. The module is very light and maintains all the basic toolbar functionalities.
- Metatag: With the metatag module, you can add meta-tags and structured metadata to your website automatically. The module also supports meta-tags that allow you to control how content gets displayed when it’s shared on social media (Twitter Cards from Twitter, Open Graph Protocol from Facebook).
- Google Analytics: With this module, you can add Google’s web stats tracking system to your website. You can find more information on the module here.
- Webform: With Webform, you can make surveys and forms in Drupal. You can find more information on the module here.
Step 4 – Installing Drupal Themes
The way your website looks determines the first impression in the minds of your visitors and you want it to be a positive one. By default, the Bartik theme is installed but there are also some pre-installed themes available at your disposal that you can choose from. You can view the currently installed theme and toggle between available themes from the Appearance tab.
If however, you want to install a new theme there are many sources on the web, where you would be able to find various 3rd party themes for Drupal. However, the most reliable source would be the official Drupal website.
This source comes with a very useful search tool, which can be used to filter out the themes you would like to use. The most important option is Core Compatibility, where you must choose the version of your current Drupal installation.
Note: Just like with modules, make sure the theme is compatible with your core Drupal version.
The installation process is quite similar to installing modules:
- Right-click on the file you want to install and click on Copy link location
- Now move over to your Drupal homepage and click on Appearance
- Now click on Install new theme
- Under Install from a URL, paste the link that you copied in step 1.
- Hit Install and wait for the installation to complete.
By default, the installed themes are disabled. To enable the newly installed theme, click on Install and set as default button present near the Bootstrap theme section.
Step 5 – Creating a Blog on Drupal
In this part of our Drupal tutorial, we will set up a fully functional blog on Drupal.
As already mentioned the blog module isn’t a part of the core in the latest Drupal 8 version. Thus you will have to download and install this module to setup a blog on Drupal.
Once installed, the blog module should now show in the modules section. To view it click on Extend. from the dashboard again. Check the box next to Blog and save the configuration to enable it.
Now navigate to Content ->Add content. You should now see a new content type called Blog post. Add the title, body and publishing options for the blog and hit Save and publish. Your blog should now be visible under the blogs section on your homepage.
Step 6 – Backing up Drupal
It’s always important to periodically backup the important Drupal files. Doing so, using your Hostinger account is as easy as making a few clicks. Follow these steps:
- Login to your hosting control panel.
- Select the Backups option present under Files.
- You will now see a list of available backups. To create a new backup, click on the Generate a new backup button.
- A dialog box will appear asking you whether you want to replace the existing backup with the new one. Click on Yes.
- That’s it. Your backup is now ready to be downloaded.
Step 7 – Updating Drupal
When it comes to Drupal, update and upgrade are two different things. Update stands for taking Drupal from one minor version to another, for example from 8.0 to 8.1 or 8.2, while upgrade would be taking your Drupal core version from 7 to 8. In this section, we will go through steps required to update Drupal from 8.3.7 to 8.4.
To see if an update for Drupal core is available, navigate to Reports -> Available Updates section.
There are quite a few ways to update Drupal, for example, you can use SSH or FTP to update manually or automate updates with composer. The following steps can be used to update Drupal to a new minor version within the same major series of the release.
Before starting the update, it’s strongly recommended to enable Maintenance mode:
- Navigate to Configuration section and click on Maintenance Mode
- Check Put the site into maintenance mode option
- Hit Save configuration button
It can be tricky to update Drupal as you need to manually replace all core files except .htaccess, robots.txt and Sites folder. The most convenient way would be to use FTP client like FileZilla:
- Download new Drupal version and extract downloaded archive to your computer.
- Connect to your FTP account and access folder where Drupal is installed. In most cases it’s public_html.
- Select cores and vendor folders as well as all the files (not folders) in root Drupal directory and delete them.
- Now access folder with Drupal update files, select all files except modules, profiles, sites and themes and upload them to your hosting account.
- Once upload of the files is completed, visit http://yourdomain.com/update.php and press Apply pending updates to finish the update process.
- Turn off maintenance mode.
Drupal Tutorial: Wrapping Up
Drupal is one of the most powerful CMS out there and it is widely used nowadays because of its state-of-the-art features and sophisticated security and protection. This Drupal tutorial covered all the basics that can be followed by a beginner or an experienced developer to kick-start their Drupal website. Additional information regarding the platform can be found on the official Drupal documentation.