Book Review: Building Powerful and Robust Websites with Drupal 6

An update to David Mercer’s now two year old Drupal: Creating Blogs, Forums, Portals and Community Websites, this version has been revised for the CMS’ latest version and guides the user through from setting up a development environment and installing drupal through to building custom themes and deploying a fully built site.

The book is designed to be read sequentially and assumes very little prior Drupal knowledge, though a little familiarity with the interface would be helpful, and a lot of willingness to explore and experiment are going to be necessary for complete newcomers. The first few chapters–focussed on explaining the benefits of using drupal and guide the user through the initial setup–are a little clunky and may deter those not comfortable with installing databases and scripting languages. The style improves as the book progresses and Mercer covers his topics well, with a considerably better structure than several Packt publications I’ve seen lately. (sadly the book retains Packt’s )

Some of those topics are fairly complex and it might have been good to have a few more directions for exploring the power of taxonomies and getting to grip with best practices in designing them. Given the range of documentation (on blogs and elsewhere) available online, more references to resources outside the book would have been a useful addition. But the fact that Mercer takes users beyond the very basics is to his credit, and it’s very good to see coverage of jquery, CCK, caching, and other topics that are key to recent versions of drupal but which could easily have been glossed over.

This is not a book for the seasoned developer coming from another platform or for those who have already have ample drupal experience (others have that covered) and it’s not really the “user manual” I’d like to find to hand on to drupal-using clients. But for those with an itch to build their own site and a sense that drupal might be the right tool, this volume is well worth a look.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book for review by the publisher. You can find it at packt, amazon US, amazon UK and all sorts of other places.

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