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Drupal 101

Drupal Speak: Here are the core elements of any Drupal-based site

The most elemental concept to grasp in Drupal is the definition of a "node." A node is a single piece of content that is published on a Drupal site that is made up of related bits of data. A node can be a page, a story, an image, a video, an event, etc. For example, if you are publishing an article and you enter the author's name, a title, body copy, tags, etc., those bits of data are grouped together to form one node.

Since Drupal is a database-driven CMS, creating a node with many bits of data allows you to reuse the information you enter to create new displays, or "views." Views can be customized depending on a user's role or access level.


Modules are Drupal's plug-ins. Some modules come included with your Drupal installation (core), while others have been created by the Drupal Community and are available for download to extend your site's capabilities. Examples of modules include:

  • custom data fields

  • event calendars

  • e-commerce

  • content sorting and displays


Blocks are used to display the content you want from a given module, and can be placed wherever you want within your site's theme. Some sites use blocks as a callout for an event or a press release, to display the most recent content added to the site, or as an advertisement. You can choose the pages on which to display any block.

User Permissions

Site administrators employ User Permissions to set the access level for each user. Permissions are assigned to a role, and then individual users are added to the role. Examples of roles include:

  • Author

  • Editor

  • Publisher

  • Site administrator

Site Template

Comprised of XHTML and CSS with a little PHP on the side, the site template includes custom functions that control the output of the modules. "Site template" may also be referred to as a "theme" in Drupal parlance.


Drupal classifies content through the use of taxonomies. To customize the taxonomy of your site, you can define your own vocabularies, which are groups of taxonomy terms. Vocabularies can be defined in advance or on the fly as you are updating your content. Then, you can attach vocabularies to a content type, which allows you to classify your content any way you choose.

Regions, Blocks, and Menus

All pages on your Drupal site are laid out in regions that can include the header and footer, the main copy section, and sidebars. Blocks are displayed in one of these regions, and you can specify exactly where you want them to appear on your site.

Menus are your site's navigation. In Drupal, these are known as primary links, secondary links, and navigation.