Posted on: 7th October 2017

Back in March 2017 I was approached by Packt Publishing to write a “step by step” guide for building Drupal 8 websites. I was intrigued as to why they had nothing like this already out and available.

So I decided to accept their challenge (little did I know what would be involved). I never went to college or university and so I have never written anything of such a large scale, apart from my Business Studies report for GCSE, solution architecture documents and site audits.

I was given a brief and an outline of what they wanted, quite a lot I changed from their structure as I wanted to write a book that when I was new to Drupal I would want to learn from and understand the crux of Drupal and how powerful out of the box it is.

Beginning the book

Before I started to even write the book I spoke with Matt Glaman @nmdmatt whilst having a beer in London at Drupalcamp London, about what to expect as he had written before for them.

When I started to write the book, we had just discussed how hard and time consuming it is to do, however the reward of helping others and the personal achievement of being able to say “I’ve written a book” was what also helped me make my decision to go ahead and write the book.

Next steps

So having given the go ahead to Packt, I was given an outline of what they wanted. The topics were split and some were outdated and unnecessary. So I edited this to work with 7 types of sites that lots of people want and use.

Currently non Drupal developers/users would attempt this with Wordpress and have to write custom code for quite a lot of it.

So my aim in the book was to show others how powerful Drupal 8 is and how you don’t need to be a senior level developer to build Drupal websites.

Many people see Drupal as developer heavy and despite the learning curve being very intense, a lot can be built using Drupal core and almost nothing else. This was the way I wanted my book to done, I wanted the book to be something I would want to learn from when I started out in Drupal over 9 years ago.

Having said that I love Drupal and I’m glad I listened to John “Fintan” Galvin 9 years ago on the approach to go and not to make any short cuts, but to learn it properly.

So having decided the way I wanted to write the book and to have the ability to give it to a non developer I worked out the chapters I wanted to write.

First off I wanted to aim the book at someone who has a little bit of web development knowledge but not much.

Getting started

As with any web project you need a local development environment (ideally) as gone are the days of uploading via FTP, but of course you could do this if you don’t want to setup a local environment, although I don’t recommend it.

So once the reader has an understanding of setting up locally and understanding some Drupal terminology I proceed to getting them to build a basic blog (now that the core blog module has been removed from Drupal 8) I wanted to show how easy it is to create a content type, add fields, views and maybe some theming.

As the reader goes through the book I wanted to make it so that they are learning, and not just reading it. So to do this I just go straight into saying something similar to “Create a content type with these fields”. The best way to learn is by doing, and although there is a structured approach in the book, as well as some custom Drupal module development, it has been devised to be more of a “Look what you can do with Drupal”.

Building with minimal code

As the book is aimed at majority site builders, I wanted to allow a click and play approach. However due to the status of many contrib modules it did make it difficult at the time, but I did discover some cool contrib modules for lots of the heavy lifting. For the functionality I couldn’t find, I wrote custom code, but instead of just giving the reader a lump of code I explained it as much as possible and in as simpler terms as I could. This I felt gives the reader some extra skills, in that they are learning some PHP! (I mean how cool is that!).

Writing the chapters

As I was writing and finishing the chapters, I would submit them to my content editor who would then upload them into the Packt content editor system, but before they would do this they would be submitted to John Bloomfield — whom I’ve worked with on a number of occasions professionally. John would then outline anything that was confusing (which was very little) and then resubmit for me to amend. This was great, because I had a second pair of eyes going over how I explained things, and an actual way to test everything would work.

After all this was done, it was time to go for final review by Packt’s technical editor, and finally once this was done it was signed off and published.

What next?

Writing this book has been both stressful and a great achievement for myself, I wanted to help improve the Drupal eco-system, by allowing new blood into the community. It shows how even someone with a hobby interest in website design/development could build a Drupal site themselves or even attract school or university students to Drupal, which can also bring new skills and ideas to the Drupal project.

Feedback

I have had some amazing feedback on this book, and it has achieved what I wanted in allowing others to learn Drupal in a simple approach and not such a steep learning curve. I have given a copy to our apprentice at Digidrop and he is learning to build Drupal sites, which is great!

At the time of writing this 101 printed copies/ebooks have been sold, just after a week of it being announced.

The book is available printed, ebook, pdf and kindle.

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