I first became aware of Drupal when I was working as a video editor for The Battalion-The Series. The company produces a weekly online video series about the men and women firefighters around the United States. In order to get create revenue for the series, the site needed more people coming to the site and staying longer. This is when I turned to Drupal.

The company and I decided to make the site a social site, a very specific social site, one for firefighters and enthusiasts. Since the company was on a low budget, I obviously could not hire a whole team of developers to create my vision. I scoured the web for solutions. Drupal came up over and over again and I took the plunge. At this point I knew almost no coding and very little design.

As a new Drupal user I was eager to understand all I could. As of today, I am still a long way off. I remember reading some where that it would take at least 6 months to really get a grasp of Drupal. I quickly laughed that off, because I'm smart and quick to learn right? Wrong. It took me all that to go from nothing, to quickly navigating and implementing what I wanted. So there it is...my first piece of advice for Drupal users. Be Patient.

  1. Being Patient

    Drupal like most web development is not easy, and can sometimes be downright hard. Drupal makes hard things easier though, much much easier. Make it a point to be a humble "newbie" for a while until you really start to understand things. Read as much as possible before making a comment or posting a question. Read, read, read.

    Understand that Drupal is open source and a community. Most of Drupal developers do what the do for free...yup you heard it FREE. So before you complain or harass somebody for not fixing a bug or not porting a module that you just "have" to have, take into consideration that they are working on their own time.

    Once you have overcome your "newbie" stage, start helping out where you can. At first this will be testing out modules or trying new themes and providing valuable and helpful feedback. Point number two...Give Back.

  2. Giving Back

    Even though you think your not ready or you don't know enough at this point, giving back can be done in several ways:

    First and easiest is feedback. Two people working on an idea is better than one, and a multitude can accomplish amazing things. Try out a module and give constructive feedback, report bugs that you may encounter and be very detail. The more the developer knows about the bug, the faster and easier they can fix it for you and everyone else.

    Ask for Features. Maybe you thought of something the author hasn't yet. No idea is a bad idea, stupid or not practical maybe, but not bad. Fresh input is always welcome if done correctly and thoughtfully.

    The next step could be providing documentation. This is the last thing that a developer thinks about and one of the easiest ways you can help out. Contact the author and ask if you can help out. Provide easy and concise steps on how to install and other various tidbits of information about the module.

    Once you are comfortable enough, help answer questions in the issues and support forums. Then move on to helping the developers write code or come up with practical solutions. Wait did I just say write code? In fact I did and coincidentally that is my next point. Learn Code.

  3. Learning Code

    This is a broad topic, but can be quite easy. Drupal is a tool to help you achieve your end goal. But like any tool, you must know how to use it. Or if the tool doesn't quite fit the purpose you must modify and change the tool.

    In order to accomplish your end goal you must modify Drupal and in the end that means with some piece of custom code somewhere along the way. Whether this is overriding a theme or modifying a module, nine times out of ten, you are going to have to write code.

    You don't have to be an expert or know all the coding languages. Just start with the basics and expand from there. Go buy a coding book or do research online. Search engines will be your new best friend with learning code. Try out the code, and if it doesn't work try to understand why it doesn't work. But you must remember point one, be patient. Don't get frustrated when something doesn't work the first time. There is always a reason why it doesn't work, take some time and trace the steps and you will come out with a solution.

    Pick a side, modules or themes. They both interact with each other, but can be considered completely different. You may be better at one then the other or just understand one better. This is not to say that you must not try to understand both as mentioned before they work together.

  4. To sum it all up, Be Patient, Give Back, and Learn Code. Who knows you could be apart of something really big!