What Is It Like to Learn Drupal? Our Trainees Answer the Question

What Is It Like to Learn Drupal? Our Trainees Have Their Say

Drupal is known as one of the most comprehensive content management systems available, but many newcomers find it a challenge to learn. Still, with the right training, everyone on your Drupal team can fully understand the skills they need to take control of your organization’s digital platform.

Evolving Web offers a comprehensive Drupal training program, where learners get instruction from experienced web developers and strategists through hands-on learning, dynamic demos, and instructor-led exercises.

We spoke with four past and present Evolving Web students — Jose Colmenares, Rebecca Follman, Mathieu Boisvert, and Anatoli Skliar — to hear about their first-hand experiences with the training program. Below they share their advice to help your team members get started.

What Is It Like to Learn Drupal?

The flexibility of Drupal is what makes it one of the best CMSs available, but flexibility adds complexity, and this complexity is what can make it so challenging to learn. Colmenares, a student in the site-builder track of the Discover Drupal program, tried learning the system four times before he finally found success. He argues Drupal is more than just a tool to learn, but rather, an entirely new style of working.

“Drupal is the perfect CMS, but mastering it means learning a working style, and you can’t do that by yourself, you need a bigger team.” — José Colmenares

Follman, a web developer and software engineer in Evolving Web’s Advanced Theming course, initially got a book to try and learn Drupal, but was having a hard time translating what she was reading into real life. “I was also in the habit (and still am) of Googling for information when I didn’t know how to do something,” she says, “and I had a very hard time finding resources that would help me.”

Boisvert, a senior tech lead taking Evolving Web’s Complete Drupal Education course, agrees with Follman. He argues that the quantity of information online makes the documentation challenging to go through without guidance. “The documentation is so big that you cannot just read it the same way you would with AWS,” he says.

Unlike the others, Skliar did not find the basics of Drupal to be too difficult to learn, but the Complete Drupal Education course helped him to explore the system further. “My experience before the Evolving Web training was mostly with Drupal 7,” he says. “With the training, I learned new ways of using Drupal.”

How Did You First Learn Drupal?

As all four of our interviewees can attest to, investing in training is crucial if you want your team members to learn the Drupal system effectively.

Boisvert adds that you can’t learn Drupal simply by reading about it. He says if you truly want to understand how to use the system, you have to get hands-on experience, rather than just reading books or online forums. “With Drupal it doesn’t seem possible to know everything if you don’t use everything,” he says.

“Because of the open source nature of the whole Drupal environment and the way documentation has never kept up with development, the best way to learn Drupal is from someone who already knows it better,” says Follman.

“Watching videos is just not the same as having an instructor who knows her stuff and who can help you, and answer your questions right then and there.” — Rebecca Follman

💻 Start learning today with our free Get Started with Drupal guide

Is Drupal Worth It?

If you’re exploring Drupal as a possible platform for your project, you may be asking yourself if Drupal is worth the time and effort for your team. “Yes, undoubtedly,” says Follman.

Colmenares and Boisvert agree. Colmenares adds that it is a secure CMS that has so many essential features out of the box, and both Boisvert and Follman agree that the extensibility of the CMS makes it much easier to integrate the system with other services.

“I think Drupal gives the opportunity not just to [leverage the features in] Drupal core, but to use more enterprise services that are already in place,” says Boisvert. “It’s easier to do that with Drupal than with any other CMS.”

What Was the Hardest Part of Learning Drupal?

With their diverse backgrounds, each of our interviewees faced different challenges. For Skliar, the hardest part was the back-end templating and module development, which he says is the foundation of Drupal. “Even so, it was understandable and made easier by the trainers.”

For Follman, Colmenares and Boisvert, it was the sheer volume of information and seemingly unlimited possibilities of what the system could do that made Drupal challenging. “This was my fourth time trying to learn Drupal in a serious way, but the other three times I left part-way through because it’s not easy,” says Colmenares. “You have to read a lot.”

The open source nature of how Drupal was developed also presented unique challenges. “I expect to find it all written down in steps,” says Follman, “but with Drupal, because of the way it has evolved, because it’s open-source and has such a broad community, it really doesn’t work that way.”

How Was Your Experience With Evolving Web’s Training Course?

All four agreed that the way the courses were set up made the content much easier to learn. “The course I took last year was amazing,” says Follman. “The hour of lessons, the two days to absorb the lesson and think about how it worked and try it out, and then another hour of lessons and asking questions was fabulous. It was so helpful to me.”

Skliar found that having direct access to their instructors to troubleshoot problems and ask questions was an invaluable aspect of the EW training. “The live sessions were very helpful, the trainers were supportive and attentive and, after the course, they were readily available by email”, he says.

Because Boisvert prefers having an instructor, he didn’t enjoy many of the online Drupal courses that were available, and it was the hands-on work with Evolving Web that helped him the most.

“I was doing all the exercises and I think that helped, because if it wasn’t hands-on, I don’t think I would have understood the same way.” — Mathieu Boisvert

Colmenares found the on-demand videos on Evolving Web’s virtual platform, Kolibri, to be very helpful, and argues that the hybrid aspect of the EW training, which gives students a mix of live sessions and virtual classrooms for self-paced learning, is what really differentiates it from the rest. “To have access to the instructor and to the videos at all times was really helpful,” he says.

How Will You Use What You Learned in Your Job?

Drupal training provided each of our interviewees with skills to take back to their workplaces, and has made it easier for them to communicate with different members of their teams.

“As a tech lead, I enjoyed learning Drupal and its particularities. This will be helpful in designing Drupal-based web software", says Boisvert. As a front-end developer, learning more about back-end development in Evolving Web’s Complete Drupal Education course also helped him use the correct terminology when collaborating with the back-end developers on his team.

“When I started the class, my goal was to be able to talk to my developers with words that they would understand, and I think that goal has been accomplished,” he says.

Colmenares is now tackling site building, site customization, and working with nodes with confidence he didn’t have previously. “The first time I tried to work with nodes six or seven years ago, it was very different,” he says. “At the time, even just changing a colour was a headache. Now I’m much more comfortable and confident.”

What Advice Do You Have for People Who Are Trying to Learn Drupal?

Follman, Skliar, Boisvert and Colmenares enthusiastically encourage anyone who’s trying to learn Drupal to get training. As they’ve all experienced, trying to learn the system through books, and YouTube videos is simply not enough. They also have the following advice so learners can get the most out of their training:

Colmenares: “Get involved with the [Drupal] community. The idea that you’re not alone, you’re working with a group at the same level and you’re getting to know Drupal from the bottom up, that makes me feel more confident to try, and you always have someone to ask for help.”

Boisvert: “Be active in the sessions to have hands-on experience, to face challenges, and to dig into the documentation.”

Follman: “Just keep trying. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on bulletin boards, don’t be afraid to try stuff.”

Why Should You Invest in Drupal Training for Your Team?

Drupal is challenging, but with the right tools and support, your team members will be able to learn the skills they need to succeed. Evolving Web’s training courses provide the following benefits to you and your team:

  1. Stay on top of trends by learning from experts on real-life projects.
  2. Bridge the gap between different roles on your team, so each member can communicate in the same language.
  3. An expert instructor will walk you “the Drupal way” through hands-on learning, dynamic demos, and instructor-led exercises.
  4. Learn where to find information and how to avoid common pitfalls: in other words, learn how to learn!

If you’re thinking about using Drupal, or you’ve already started, consider investing in one of our Drupal training courses or our custom Drupal courses to help your team learn the skills they need to be successful.