Web Design

Drupal: Getting Started

Something's been concerning me lately: How can we simultaneously have high unemployment and a huge, unmet demand for web designers?  This stuff is not that hard.  I never went to school, I don't have any certifications in web design.  Sure I'm smart, but so are all my friends.

I think part of the answer is that web design is considered magic, just like legal practice (which I've also done).  There's a huge aura of mystique surrounding the whole thing and everyone is convinced it's hard.  It's not, I swear!  In order to be a good web designer, all you need is two things:

  1. Don't be completely stupid
  2. Be willing to put in the effort

That's pretty much it.  Most of the web designers I know make six figures without working too hard.  It sure beats unemployment - I'm speaking from experience.

How Do I Start?

That's actually a really good question.  I just started playing around on my own and after years of trial and error, finally figured out what I was doing.  But there actually are learning resources out there.  If you want to learn, and are willing to put in the effort, here's a good rundown on things that will help:

Drupal Coding Rocks

This is a relatively new site.  They only have a couple courses up so far, but you get the first 8 week course for free.  You want an in-depth Drupal tutorial and don't want to drop any money?  Start here.  drupalcodingrocks.com


BuildaModule.com is a learning site dedicated to Drupal.  It's got a wonderful set of video tutorials.  It starts from the very basics and works its way up in a consistent way.  There's a narrative and it lets you build on your previous work.  The first set of videos is titled "Build Your First Drupal 7 Web Site" and is 10 hours long.  Perfect.

This is a paid site but well worth the money.  When people ask "what's a good resource for Drupal," this is always the first name to come up.


Drupalize.me is a collection of training videos from Lullabot, a local Drupal design firm (and one of the largest in the country).  Slightly more expensive than BuildaModule.com (see above), and it's from a design firm, rather than being dedicated to Drupal education.  But Lullabot is an excellent company and their training videos have the same high reputation.


Lynda.com is a general-purpose online learning site.  They've got videos on how to do lots of stuff in Drupal, everything from beginner level to advanced.  I've heard people praise Lynda.  This is a paid site but worth the money.

Book: Using Drupal


This is an O'Reilly book, one of the ones with an animal on the cover.  O'Reilly is your #1 source for books on computer stuff.  I've used a couple of their books to learn programming languages and have been completely satisfied.  This book is for beginners.  If you're one of those old fashioned people who likes to learn from a book, this is your best bet.  Definitely worth the money.

Drupal.org Forums

If you have a question, ask in the forums.  There's a very large and active Drupal community.  Remember, everything here is open source, which mean knowledge is free.  Drupal developers love to share.  Stack Exchange also has a nice section set aside for Drupal.  If all else fails, you can also google it.

If you're afraid to look things up, then you're not really willing to put in the effort, and web design isn't for you.  But if you're willing to put in a little effort, you'll find that all your questions have already been answered.


Nothing beats in-person contact.  The Bay Area has a large and vibrant Drupal community.  There are several "Drupal Camps" every year, in Berkeley, Stanford, and Sacramento.  There are also meetups all over the Bay, including the San Francisco Drupal Users Group and Users Helping Users (which I run).  Check Meetup.com for more.

Not only is this the best way to get your questions answered, but it's also the best way to find a job.  Within months of becoming a regular at the meetups, I was getting paid work.  I've doubled my income in the last year, thanks to the meetups.

Jump In

I didn't learn by reading a manual and I've never paid for a training video.  I learn by doing.  Yes, that involves a lot of mistakes, but some people prefer to learn the hard way.  If you just want to start clicking and see what happens, here are some resources for you:

Drupal Gardens


Want to just jump in and start clicking?  Go for it.  Drupal Gardens is provided by Acquia, the largest Drupal company in the world.  IT'S FREE.  Jump in and have fun.


Pantheon is a Drupal host geared toward high performance.  It's not cheap, but development is free.  That means you can set up a new Drupal site (or one of several popular variants) and start playing for free.  It comes with a full development workflow, including development, testing, and live, sftp, git, and drush support.  For free!  You don't pay until you go live.  This is definitely more advanced than Drupal Gardens, but gives you a taste of advanced development when you're ready.


HostGator is my own web host.  They offer a basic hosting package for less than $5/month.  They have one-click installation for Drupal, and support for ssh, sftp, drush, and git.  I've done half of my professional development on HostGator and I'm very pleased with them.  You can start your own site and use it as a showcase for your talents.  It's not high-performance like Pantheon, but for live sites it's a lot cheaper.

Now go for it.