Drupal beginnings

Avigail

The past six months have been challenging. I have done a Drupal internship at Agile Collective, and have recently finished my first project: building and theming a website for the British Society for the History of Mathematics. This is a career change for me – having previously been a biologist. It took some time, but choosing web development, which incorporates technology, communication, and design, is something I’m very happy with.

There are many tools and frameworks for developing websites, and it can be confusing deciding how to approach it and what to learn if you wish to enter this field. Some of the loudly advertised tools out there are actually wysiwyg editors, that allow for drag and drop without any coding, and are designed for building simple and small sites. The frameworks for more complex sites require more technical setup, and more learning to do well! The Drupal framework is one of these latter. It is an open source framework, with a large community of developers who contribute to its rich library of modules and keep an open eye for its security.

Before you can actually start with hands-on learning of working with it, there is the matter of setting it up on your local computer. Installing any framework especially on Linux machines, is something which is often feared by newcomers to programming. However, I found that this Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) installation tutorial made life much easier. Once this piece of the puzzle is in place, the next step is to interact with the Drupal set-up, and of course the HTML and CSS that lies behind it. I haven't got to grips with PHP just yet but I am already working with Sass.

While just yourself, a laptop, and a good tutorial is definitely the place to start, at some point it is best to look for an internship: it's both more lively and really lifts your learning curve. Apart from the obvious places, you can also consider visiting one of the monthly Drupal meetups in your area or try to attend a Drupal camp.

For me a somewhat random encounter led me to Agile Collective where I’ve started my internship. After a month of reading through their educational material, I had the impression that this is all very simple. However after spending several days trying to move five floating elements in a footer menu, I became more humble and appreciative of what it actually takes deliver a professional website. Another initial source of pain was working with the GIT version control system. In fact one live website site was saved at the last minute from my accidentally trying to remove its master branch. Gradually however the rate of bug generation has decreased and I actually managed to complete a few tasks. The latest one, my pride and joy, is the website for The British society for The History of Mathematics. With an initial time frame of one week I definitely surprised myself as well as others when it was up and running in less than two and a half weeks. World Wide Web here I come!

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