What's a Drupal and Why Does it Matter?

Your OneEach site uses some of the most advanced web technology available – when describing it, one finds a veritable cornucopia of techno-alphabet soup: Javascript, CSS, JQuery, PHP, and of course, Drupal.

Content Management and the Web

Long ago when the rocks were cooling, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, when we connected to the web with dial-up modems, and AOL was all the rage, web pages were difficult to create and manage. Web pages are text files that have what's called a 'markup language' in them. 'Markup' in this context means text that explains to a web browser how text should be positioned, styled, where images go, etc.; the markup portion of the text file tells the browser how the web pages should look.

For a large site, every web page and its markup has to be created, managed, and (when the site is changed) updated. It was a time-consuming task, but what made it more convenient was the invention of the content management system, or CMS.

A CMS works by storing the content of a given web page in a database; each page is a database record. The content of the page itself is fetched from a database and rendered every time the page loads. This is an oversimplification of course, but essentially that's the process for every CMS, and there are many: Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla, Magento, and many more.

Drupal was originally written to serve as a message board, by Dutch programmer, Dries Buytaert. Drupal became an open source project in 2001. The name 'Drupal' is an anglicized version of the Dutch word 'druppel', which means 'water droplet', hence the Drupal logo shown to the left. The original web site that hosted Drupal and its precusors was drop.org.

Page Layout and Content

In the image to the right, you will see a diagram of a standard web page. In a web page generated by a CMS, the header, menu, sidebar, and footer regions usually remain static and contain the same information no matter what page you're on.

The content region, however, is constantly changing. If the URL you enter is for your contact page, then the contact form appears in the content area. If the URL is for your board of directors page, then a table showing your board's images and biographies appears there.

Once a URL is submitted to the browser via the address bar, the data for the content region is fetched from the database and displayed within milliseconds.

The Drupal content management system is very advanced, and in it's configuration, can easily display complex pages. For example, what if in the above diagram, you wanted different sidebar content to appear depending on what page you were on? You can swap data in and out of the sidebar just as easily as you can the content area, using Drupal's blocks.

Blocks

Blocks are basically sub-regions – literally 'blocks' of text, graphics, or in some cases, video – that can be placed within regions and stacked on top of or next to each other. Most blocks on your site are created on the "backend" by the OE support staff and/or OE programmers, so while you can see them, you aren't able to edit them. You do have the option of creating blocks yourself; these are called 'open content' blocks. These blocks can be used in a myriad of different ways to add content to your site wihtout having to create a brand new page; they give you the flexibility to place content into different areas of a page.

As always, our support knowledgebase provides several training guides, even including a quick tutorial on how to manage blocks. Our knowledgebase is your 'go-to' for all things website management and our support team is always here to help you along the way.

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