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Exploring Drupal

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There Is No Drupal "Look"

Out of the box, a Drupal site can have a specific Drupal look and feel, just as any out-of-the-box website has default settings that can identify its origin. Like many other websites, Drupal's internal URLs can identify the site as a Drupal site. However, tools such as Pathauto are among the downloadable modules that allow you to automatically customize Drupal's URLs to make them friendlier to people (and, coincidentally, remove the Drupal syntax).

Similarly, when you download Drupal, you get several default themes that specify the look of the site. Many people do not customize them at all, whereas others do minimal customization. Still other Drupal users download the many other available themes and even write their own. Thus, an identifiable Drupal look is possible, but not required.

The Drupal site shown in Figures 2.1 and 2.2 show a default theme that many people use. But, other Drupal sites have very different looks.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is a massive program to handle problems caused by the economic crisis that became apparent in 2008. A special government website at www.recovery.gov was created quickly to track the activities and investments carried out through the program. You can see its home page in Figure 2.3. Yes, it's a Drupal site.

Figure 2.3

Figure 2.3 Drupal powers recovery.gov.

Although there is no common look to Drupal sites, sometimes the internal URLs have an appearance that identifies them as Drupal URLs. For example, the URL http://www.recovery.gov/?q=content/act suggests to many people that it is a Drupal URL because its query part (?q=content/act) has the hallmarks of Drupal. It is not necessarily a Drupal URL, because the actual syntax of a URL's query part depends on the requirements of the page that will process it.

Later in this hour, you see how Drupal handles these URLs. In addition, you will see in Hour 6, "Managing URLs: Cleaning, Redirects, and Pathauto," how to modify these URLs to more standard formats using the Pathauto module.

Drupal is often used for commercial sites large and small. Figure 2.4 shows the site for City Market/Onion River Coop in Burlington, Vermont.

Figure 2.4

Figure 2.4 Find out this week's specials using Drupal at City Market in Burlington.

Sony Records has hosted a number of Drupal sites, many of which take advantage of Drupal's multilingual support. Figure 2.5 shows the Swedish version of artist Pink's site. As is often the case, only some of the text is translated. In some spheres, English, French, or another language carries an extra cachet.

Figure 2.5

Figure 2.5 Visit Pink's Swedish site (courtesy of Drupal).

Perhaps inspired by Pink, the New York State Senate unveiled its own Drupal site, shown in Figure 2.6.

Figure 2.6

Figure 2.6 The New York State Senate has joined the Drupal world.

Finally, Figure 2.7 shows the author's site, which used the Drupal Zen theme at one time. This downloadable theme is designed specifically for customization. Switching from one Drupal theme to another can be a simple process, although in some cases, customizations may need to be reimplemented.

Figure 2.7

Figure 2.7 The author's site at provides information and serves as a test site.

As you can see, there is no common Drupal "look." Many of the sites shown here have been built with customized themes (the look-and-feel), but the Drupal site shown in Figures 2.1 and 2.2, as well as the author's site shown in Figure 2.7, are built using common Drupal themes that you can download and modify. Depending on your site and budget, you can choose the path you want to take: a downloadable theme, a totally customized theme, or a slightly customized downloadable theme.

Finding Drupal Sites (And Seeing What They Can Do)

There is a Drupal Showcase discussion on drupal.org (drupal.org/forum/25). Sites are listed as discussions with comments and suggestions, as well as links to the sites, as shown in Figure 2.8.

Figure 2.8

Figure 2.8 Browse the Drupal showcase to get your own ideas.

Browse through the list to see what people are doing with Drupal. In describing their sites, people often provide insight into the process, such as why they made certain choices, how much time it took, and what (if anything) they would do differently next time.

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