Drupal for Designers – Putting Drupal to work, with good planning and design up front – #bookreview

Drupal for Designers
Dani Nordin
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Drupal has (1) a lot of fans, (2) a lot of people who wonder what the heck it is, and (3) a lot of people who complain about it.

Sometimes, a Drupal user is each of these at the same time.

Officially, Drupal is “an open source content management platform powering millions of websites and applications.” Thousands of add-on modules and designs are available, and individuals, groups, organizations and companies use Drupal “to build everything from personal blogs to enterprise applications.” Indeed, some big and well-known sites use Drupal, including The Economist, Examiner.com and the White House, to name a few.

There is a learning curve, but Drupal specialist Dani Nordin’s new book can help you (1) get started with Drupal, (2) help you wrap your mind “around the way Drupal handles design challenges,” and (3) help you master important techniques and tools. You will also learn the importance of doing detailed site planning first and keeping up with version control, even if you are a solo designer.

The book focuses on Drupal 7, but much of the material can be used with Drupal 6. Some parts of the book are “version-agnostic.”

Dani Nordin also offers case studies involving two of her ongoing efforts, so readers can “see how these ideas work in the real world, with all the frustrations and moments of unexpected joy that happen in real projects.”

She adds: “Through these projects, I can show you a typical Drupal design process—from creating the project brief to ideation and sketches to prototyping and applying our look and feel to the site’s theme.”

Drupal for Designers is a compilation of three previous short guides, with new materials added. It is aimed, the author says, at “the solo site builder or small team that’s itching to do interesting things with Drupal but needs a bit of help understanding how to set up a successful Drupal project.”

To work with Drupal, you should have some familiarity with HTML and CSS, and you should be open to learning some PHP.

Drupal for Designers has 303 pages and 22 chapters that are grouped into seven parts:

  • Part 1: Discovery and User Experience
  • Part 2: Sketching, Visual Design, and Layout
  • Part 3: Setting Up a Local Development Environment
  • Part 4: Prototyping in Drupal
  • Part 5: Making It Easier to Start Projects
  • Part 6: Working with Clients
  • Part 7: Sample Documents (for designers, including a project brief, a work agreement, and a project proposal)

There is no one “right” way to use Drupal, the author notes. “Every Drupal designer and site builder has his or her own approach to creating projects….”

But careful planning and design work up front will be essential to your success, she emphasizes.

Si Dunn


Using Drupal, 2nd Edition – Excellent how-to-guide – #bookreview #programming #in #Drupal

Using Drupal, 2nd Edition
Angela Byron, Addison Berry and Bruno De Bondt
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $44.99; Kindle edition, list price $35.99)

Drupal is an increasingly popular open source framework for (1) developing websites, using community contributed modules, and (2) content management using plug-in modules, also community-contributed.

“The beauty of all of these modules,” says Drupal founder and project lead Dries Buytaert, in the foreword to Using Drupal, 2nd Edition, “is that they empower website builders to assemble rich and powerful websites quickly and easily without having to be a programmer.”

Using Drupal, 2nd Edition focuses on “Choosing and Configuring Modules to Build Dynamic Websites” using Drupal 7, “the latest version of this open source system.”

This newly updated how-to guide is aimed at developers who have at least some minimal experience with Drupal. But beginners can handle it, too. The writing is clear and concise, and the 467-page book has many hands-on exercises, screenshots, step-by-step lists, case studies, links to examples, and other useful and helpful information. The book is not recommended for developers seeking “hardcore, nitty-gritty details about Drupal’s API functions.”

The book’s how-to projects include building a job posting board, a photo gallery, an online store, a product review database and an event calendar.

Some big-name sites now use Drupal, including the White House, The Economist magazine, Sony BMG Records, Lifetime Television, and many others. But small businesses and individual users can put it to work, too. And this excellent book shows how.

— Si Dunn


Mapping with Drupal – How to build artful, engaging & useful online maps – #bookreview

Mapping with Drupal
By Alan Palazzolo and Thomas Turnbull
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

Drupal is an open source content management platform with a long track record, a good reputation, and many users around the world. Drupal now powers more than 1 percent of the Internet and is used on more than a million websites, the authors note.

And: “Over a quarter of adult Americans use mobile or social location-based services such as Google Maps, Weather lookups, and restaurant searches….As location becomes a core part of what users expect from websites and mobile devices, Drupal gives you the tools to create a website that meets these demands.”

Palazzolo’s and Turnbull’s Mapping with Drupal assumes that “you know how to install Drupal, install contributed modules, and enable themes; maybe you have already built a site that is used publicly.”

If you are not yet at that level, this well-written book still contains plenty of useful information and references that can help you get up to speed on mapping as you learn Drupal.

“The great strength of Drupal is its relative simplicity, and its power to interact with content on your site and outside data sources,” the writers state.

“In Drupal 7 there is an abstract data concept called an entity that is a container for a specific sort of data, such as a user account, a blog post, or a restaurant. All entities can have fields, which are structured input mechanisms. Three possible fields for a restaurant entity could be could be names, addresses, and phone numbers. You can make almost any content in Drupal location-aware without any code, just by adding Drupal modules that provide geographic fields. With the right combination of modules, you can create maps that allow your users to find geographically relevant information.”

Drupal and mapping now have a relatively long track record, the authors add. “Drupal was one of the earliest content management systems to integrate with external mapping services. The first of these services to be integrated was the Google Maps API in 2005, through the Location and GMap modules. These modules have gained a lot of traction over the years and are still being developed in Drupal 7.”

Mapping with Drupal is structured with eight chapters and three appendices.

  • Chapter 1. Why Map with Drupal
  • Chapter 2. Web Mapping Basics
  • Chapter 3. Spatial Data
  • Chapter 4. Displaying Maps
  • Chapter 5. Extending Map Interactions
  • Chapter 6. Making Beautiful Maps
  • Chapter 7. Managing Maps as Features
  • Chapter 8. Conclusion

The concluding chapter discusses next steps in map making, as well as the future of mapping with Drupal.

The Drupal website is rich with documentation, and the authors, in Appendix A, recommend a number of books on mapping and Drupal, as well. Appendix B briefly describes some common and uncommon map projections, such as south-oriented maps. Appendix C, meanwhile, is a short glossary of mapping and Drupal terms.

The book is not a dry how-to discourse, although it contains a number of code examples, tips and screen shots. The authors have long connections both to Drupal and mapping. To them, “Maps are art” and “Maps tell a story.” And this love of the beauty, power and influence of maps and mapping shines through in their text.

They contend: “This idea that maps have the power to literally define the world around us, and not just represent it, still holds true today and is in your hands as a map maker.”


Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available soon in paperback. He also is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.