Why is Drupal so hard?

Thoughts from my first Drupal "Office Hours".

The first taker in my formal office hours session probably didn't know what he had gotten himself into. Mark owns a Chicago IT firm and is a fellow member of the Northside Freelance Network who is rebuilding his website and looking to learn Drupal in the process. He came to our regular coworking meetup yesterday morning, where I am well known as the Drupalista of the group.

We worked through some of the typical roadblocks that he was having while setting up his site: What's all this content on the homepage? (Set a specific node to be the site's front page under Configuration -> System -> Site Information in D7, or Site Configuration -> Site Information in D6.) Why weren't the menu links showing up? (The theme he was using didn't display them.) Why can't I drag and drop blocks? (The reason for this is a blog post in itself.)

Once we'd gotten the menu system straightened out, Mark mentioned that he didn't want to have to put his blog posts in a menu, but rather have a page titled Blog with a list of his posts. "But that's easy!" I say. "Make a view and have it be a page. Wait, no, that can be a bit confusing -- make it a block display instead." After downloading Views and CTools, setting up a view, and giving a quick tutorial on block visibility, I'm reminded that it's really not so easy for someone unfamiliar with this system. So, why is Drupal so hard?

Here is the secret.

Drupal is not a product. I repeat, Drupal is not a product. As these linked posts discuss, it is a development framework -- a programming tool used to create custom content management systems, the way builders use two-by-fours to frame a house. When I'm done building a Drupal site, all the content administrator needs to do to post a new blog post is click Create Content and Add Blog Post, and everything else is handled by the system. An end-user shouldn't need to know what a Block, View, or Node (and now Entity) is in order to use their website.

But I'm always happy to explain it if they really want to know.

Have something you'd like to know?

Ask me in the comments, or come to my next office hours on July 20th!

For further reading: