Let's teach everyone a little bit of Drupal

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What did I set out to do? From day to day we get a variety of questions from non-drupal-working staff, and I thought it would be a good idea to shed some light on the basic principals that we use everyday. This would make sales processes easier "it's not quite as easy as it looks", and general project management a bit easier as they would be able to flex their basic drupal muscles which would inspire the client even more than normal.

My plan?

So I told all the staff here at Upbeat that I would give them a brief overview and a tutorial on the basics of Drupal. I would go over what a CMS actually is, how it works in regards to files and databases, what are the major platforms along with their benefits and drawbacks. They seemed to like the idea.

Drupal Specialists

From here I would move onto a preinstalled standard Drupal install for each member of staff, we would create a couple of content types and then create a few views. These features are what make Drupal so powerful, so it makes sense to show people the basics. At the end of the session, everyone would have their own mini site and feel empowered to go away and feel like they could develop this mini site with their newfound knowledge. So simple, it would easily go to plan, nothing could go wrong!

The outcome?

I would love to say that everything went to the plan I had made, and that everyone picked it up straight away...but I can't...because the start of the session arrived and I still had no plan...only a vague idea on what to say to an "end of shift" group of collegues.

Due to tight deadlines and an intense couple weeks leading up to this session, I hadn't been able to fit in the planning. Mistake number one...I didn't postpone the session. I thought I could wing it...which leads me to mistake number two...I underestimated how daunting Drupal is when viewing it with virgin eyes.

I have been working with Drupal for two and a half years, and in that time I have become numb to all the bits and bobs that are unimportant when you start building a site...when you look at Drupal for the first time, there is no easy way to understand what does what, and what impact things have on other stuff.

After getting everyone to log in I was inundated with "what does this do?", "what does that do?", "do I need to fill in this?"...Oh how I wish I had planned this session, I think I would have spotted all these problems and planned around it... I pulled my hair out, cried for a few minutes and then things started to look up.

I had the attention of my pupils and they were eager to learn, just like teenagers attending their first sex ed lesson...with constant heckling and jokes because they didn't want to appear interested...but deep down they were eager to learn how it all works. They all grasped the concepts really well, using content types to group your content, and your views to display your different content types, which in my opinion is the most important and powerful thing about Drupal.

With the addition of a quick overview on menus and taxonomies, we were almost done. With this little bit of knowledge they now have the potential to create sites with blog feeds, news feeds, basic pages. This is the foundation of any site and is scaleable from a small blog about shoes, to MTV (https://www.drupal.org/node/81898) or Michael Jackson's website (http://buytaert.net/michael-jackson-using-drupal).

I briefuly covered bits like themes, modules and generally extending the site beyond the simple "ready to go" features.

The best bit is that for those that have a genuine interest now, they can develop their knowledge at no extra cost because of the strong open source community, answers are just a play away...oh and they also have an office full of people that would love to help.

What would I do differently next time?

Hopefully this is obvious...I would have planned it, and set a goal for the "students" to take on and challenge themselves instead of just "do this, do that". I also wouldn't have it at the end of the day...and I'd also have more pizza for myself...and maybe some chocolate fudge brownies.