Getting Started with Drupal Gardens

One quick and easy way to get started with the Drupal open source content management system is with the Drupal Gardens site, which offers point-and-click assembly and WYSIWYG design.

On the Drupal Gardens site, you'll see a big yellow button that says Create a free site:

Click the button and then pick your URL, user name, and password:

Next, pick which template you want to get started with, or create your own template with the features you want, then click the button that says Create site:

Drupal Gardens starts cranking out your fresh new site. Now the fun part — tweaking the site design and adding content.

Under the Dashboard menu item, you'll see an overview of your site content, which includes sample blog posts, an About us page, and a sample news item. You can delete these or edit them. If you've used other popular content management systems before, editing the Drupal posts will be pretty intuitive:

Under the Structure menu item, you can configure blocks, create a contact form and manage content types, add menus to your site, create simple lists of content, and manage your site's taxonomy. If you are unclear about the blocks on your site, you have the option to click Demonstrate block regions (My theme) to get a better visual of which blocks you are configuring.

Appearance lets you get creative. First, select the element you want to change. I selected all secondary headers in the sidebar-a region by clicking on Navigation on the page:

You can tweak the fonts and color palettes, the borders, and the background color or images:

The Brand option allows you to choose different color palettes and add a logo and favicon to your site. Use Layout to change the number of columns and their placement on the page.

After you've changed the layout and appearance, use the People menu item to give other users access to your new site and define their roles and permissions:

Modules and Configuration options let you further customize the functionality on your site. For example, you can configure the time zone and default country, or configure the Aggregator module.

And check the Reports menu item to get reporting on your site's performance, such as your "page not found" errors or top search phrases.

Finally, hit Publish and your site is up and ready to roll.

If you want more bandwidth, storage, or more than five members on your site, you'll need to upgrade from the free starter plan to a paid plan. The Basic plan will set you back about US$ 99 a year and allow you to have a custom site domain, among other things. There are also Professional, Premium, and Unlimited plans. Under the More option, you can export your site and host it yourself.

Drupal Gardens is a great way to check out Drupal without investing any money or much time. Give it a try and let us know in the comments what you think.

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