Last modified 4 years ago Last modified on 05/08/13 13:04:09


The Transition Network uses the Drupal software to drive and develop our website. Drupal is a Content Management System (or Content Management Framework).

Drupal is powerful, and can be very complex. The way we use it is quite complex. We use it because, carefully used, Drupal can help create a website that is tailored perfectly for our use, and is easy for an ordinary (non-technical) user to understand and work with.

The most important characteristics of Drupal to grasp are:

  • Drupal is like a pile of Lego. It doesn't do much "out of the box". Modular nature = build a website which is tailored to suit the way you work.
  • Modules - add and extend functionality. Drupal is made up of a bunch of required and optional Modules. And there are thousands more available at to add extra fanciness to your site.
  • Define your own content types. You decide exactly what types of content your users will add, and create the forms that let them.
  • Create "Views" to display content. Want a blog feed? Want a sidebar showing a list of articles related to the current story? The "Views" Module is a powerful query-builder that lets you grab anything you like from the database and display it exactly how you want.
  • Show extra information using Blocks. WordPress has Widgets. Drupal has Blocks. They're for showing "extras" alongside your main content - navigation menus, a blog-roll, a Twitter feed, or just a small bit of custom content. The Views Module can be used to create Blocks too.
  • Menus for navigation. Drupal ships with a menu system for creating hierarchical navigation and site structure.
  • Pick a Theme, for look and layout. A "Theme" is the HTML, CSS and basic logic that defines the way your website looks and is laid out. Themes (off-the-peg, or coded from scratch) include "Block Regions", into which site admins can place any available Blocks.
  • "Context" and "Panels" - layout for pros. Drupal's tools for managing Blocks get tricky to work with if you've got hundreds of Blocks, or need complicated rules to decide where and when a Block should appear. So we have the Panels and Context modules, which help us build smart, dynamic layouts.
  • Get Users involved and control what they can do (with Roles). Users can create their own User accounts, and Drupal's Roles system gives you fine-grained control of what different groups of Users can do.
  • Export and Manage Features. When the things you've built with Drupal get complex, you can wrap up bundles of functionality into a "Feature". This makes it easier to copy a fully-functioning system like a blog (made of a Content Type, some Views, some Menus and Blocks) from one site to another.
  • Do all the above with NO programming knowledge. This is the most unique aspect of Drupal, the fact that nearly all these things above can be built without needing to be a programmer. It's all done through point and click. This puts the development of powerful websites within the capabilities of non-technical people.

See how it all fits together: Transition Network Homepage explained