Basic Web Design with Drupal 7
Drupal is one of the most popular and versatile platforms for Web design. It's free, open source and will run on Linux. Early last year, a new version was released (Drupal 7), making it even better with improvements in usability, performance and security. If you've looked at Drupal before, but didn't end up using it, you may want to take another look.
Drupal is built using a modular structure to accommodate extensions from third-party developers. These modules allow you to add features that otherwise might be unavailable. The improvements to Drupal 7 make them far more accessible and easier for new users.
This article covers the basics of creating a data scheme (that is, content types), how to manipulate that data (that is, views) and fundamental ways to display data in Drupal 7. For the examples in this article, I use products of a business site that sells writing instruments. I assume you have already downloaded the Drupal 7 from drupal.org and have installed it successfully.
A content type is simply a definition of a table of data, such as text, numbers and images. Behind the scenes, Drupal uses MySQL for storing data. When you create a content type in Drupal, in essence, you're creating a table in MySQL and setting the columns in MySQL. For this example writing instruments site, let's create a content type for the products. It will include the name and description, as well as a field for storing a photograph of each product.
To create a content type, you need to do a few things. After logging in to Drupal as an administrator, go to the Administration page. From there, click the link for Structure. On the Structure page, click on Content Types. On the Content Types page, click the Add content type link. Incidentally, in the Drupal community, navigation to this page would be described typically in a shorter method: Click on Administration→Structure→Content Types→Add content type. This menu-tree method generally is accompanied with an absolute path for the domain shown within parentheses (for example, /admin/structure/types/add). From this point on, I use the shortened method.
Figure 1. Content Type Add Fields
After you've opened the admin page for creating a content type (Figure 1), in the Name field, enter "Product". Leave the rest, and click the button that reads "Save and Add Fields". On the next page, you'll see a table with a few fields (for example, Title, Body). Let's add a couple more for the site's specific needs. In the Add new field section, type in the first box, "Product Image". For the Name column, enter "product_image" (this creates a field in MySQL, field_product_image). For the Field Type, select "Image" from the drop-down list. Now click Save. On the next two screens, accept the defaults and click the save buttons for each page.
Completion of the above will take you back to the table of fields for Product. Now, let's add another field to indicate whether an item is a pen or a pencil. Call it "Product Type", and set the Field Type to "List (text)", leaving the Widget set to Select List, so that when content is entered later, you can select the product type from a list. This time after you save, you'll see a form containing a field called, "Allowed values list". Enter in that field, on separate lines, "1|Pen" and "2|Pencil" (without the quotation marks). This is a key and value hash that will become the available choices for users. Now save your way out, accepting default settings. The field list should then look like the screenshot shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Product Type Manage Fields
You may want to experiment and add a few more fields (such as Price, Ink Color and so on). Otherwise, you now can create products on the site. To make things easier to understand, add a few pens and pencils. Search the Web for photos of pens and pencils, and grab them so you'll have images to go with the products you add. To enter products, go to Administration→Content→Add content and click on the content type, "Product" (/node/add/product). If you make a mistake and want to change a product after it's saved, or if you just want to see a list of products, go to Administration→Content (/admin/content). There, select the type, "Product", and click Filter to show only products (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Content List
Each content entry that you create, you can access individually, as an on-the-fly page, which are referred to as nodes. However, let's also create a page that lists all of the products with links to these nodes. To do this, you need to create a view. A view allows you to aggregate and arrange content on a site, and to organize and group data based on field values and other factors.
To create a view showing a list of pens and pencils, go to Administration→Structure→Views, and then click on "Add new view" (/admin/structure/views/add). This displays a form (Figure 4) for creating a page—one that draws data from MySQL and generates a Web page when called.
Figure 4. Add New View
In the View Name field, enter "Product List". In the section that begins with Show, you can select the kind of view to create. For our purposes, select "Content". To the right of this, after the options update, you may select the content type to show. Choose "Product" from the list. If you hadn't noticed, this form is something of a wizard. Now change the sorting method to "Unsorted".
Next you have two check boxes: one for creating a page and another for creating a block. Basically, pages in this sense are views and may be used to generate standalone pages. Blocks are views that can display the same information, but that may be used as components within other pages. Pages are better at this point, so check "Create a page".
In the section that opens for creating a page, type in a title for the top of the page. Next enter the file path. The wizard provides the domain name and leading slash. Just add the page name in the box as "product-list". This means that when people using a Web browser go to http://domain_name.com/product-list, they will see the results of the display. Next, you need to set the display format. For what's to come, choose Grid of Fields. Ignore the other settings and click the button, "Continue & Edit" to tweak the view further.
In the Fields section, by default, the view creates a Title field. Let's add at least two more fields. Click on the link "add" across from the FIELDS label to add a field. This lists many fields that may be added. Scan the list for "Content: Product Type"—that's the one for choosing whether a product is a pen or pencil. When you find it, click the check box next to it. Probably just above it, you will find "Content: Product Image". Check that as well. Then click the button at the bottom, labeled "Add and configure fields".
The fields configuration page opens for each of the fields you're adding, one at a time. For the Product Type field, check the box that says, "Exclude from display", since it won't be necessary to display the word Pen for each pen. Instead, let's use this field for grouping the data. Now, click the Apply button. When you see the form for Product Image, for style preferences, ensure that "Create a label" is unchecked. For the Image Style, select "thumbnail" from the list and then click Apply. Your page should look like the screenshot shown in Figure 5.