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Navigating Drupal 8

Welcome to Part 2 of our series, Getting Started with Drupal 8. Go here for Part 1.

You’ve installed Drupal, updated it to the most current version, and know how to back it up. Next up is learning the basics of how to navigate the interface and manage your content. Let’s jump in! 




Interface Tour

You’ve installed Drupal, updated it to the most current version, and know how to back it up. Next up is learning the basics of how to navigate the interface and manage your content.

When you visit your site, you must first log in to your admin panel to make any changes. Once you do, it’ll look something like:

Drupal Terminology: Nodes and Blocks

Most information in Drupal is presented either in nodes or blocks. Node content is essentially the core content of the page, like an article, blog entry, forum post, and so on. Blocks are smaller units that usually add some basic element of utility to the page, like search bars, login buttons, navigation tabs, and other at-a-click functions featured on most websites.  

You may view all editable blocks on your current page by clicking on the upper right. You may now edit any block by clicking , followed by Configure Block. As you can see in the image below, almost any block can be configured to your exact specifications. We’ll dive more into this later.

Your Drupal Admin Panel

The admin panel on the top of the page has everything you need to create content, manage users, and perform other critical functions. It has three options: Manage, Shortcuts, and admin.

Shortcuts gives you a quicker way to access your favored site functions. For now, it shows only two: Add content and All content, though it is possible to customize this later. admin allows you to adjust your contact information and login credentials.

For now, let’s focus on Manage, where you will find the bulk of actions necessary to administer your Drupal site.

Click Manage open your admin panel.

 Tip: To alternate between vertical and horizontal menus,  click  or , as appropriate.


This lists all of your site’s content, comments, and files, and also allows you to create new content.

You currently have no content. We’ll circle back around to this later in the Creating Content section.


This is a powerful tool that gives you many ways to configure your content. Just note its location for now, we’ll explore this more in a later entry.


This is where you add themes and view ones already installed. Themes change the appearance of your site. We’ll explore this further in the Installing Your First Theme section.


This page allows to install, view, and uninstall modules, Drupal’s version of plug-ins, which add new functions to your site. Modules can be somewhat tricky to deploy, so leave this alone for now.


From here, you will execute most of your administration tasks, like content authoring, automation, basic site settings, and many other essential functions. We will spend more time in this area in a later entry.


Here, you manage users, permissions, and roles. Drupal is known for deep default functionality for user administration, and can be particularly useful for managing the efforts of larger teams with specific roles. We will user administration further in a later entry in this series.


This provides various tools for assessing the health of your site. Here, you can check for updates, read your logs, and run status reports, among other useful information.

Creating Content

  1. To get started, either select Manage > Content, or select Add Content from the Shortcuts tab.

  2. Click .
  3. You now see two possible content types: Article and Basic page. Select Article.

  4. Fill the Title and Body fields with something simple.

  5. At the bottom of the page, note the Published check box. If you clear the Published check box before clicking , it will appear as an unpublished draft on your Content page. For now, leave the Published check box selected and click .

You will now see your newly published content, otherwise in Drupal as a node. Note the web address, or URL, which ends in “node/” followed by a number. For example, Although it is possible to customize this URL, for now just note the terminology and the numbering system.

If you scroll down on the page, you will see an area to add comments because you’re viewing your post as a site admin. 

Admin view with ability to comment.

It is often informative to view your website as a casual visitor by accessing it from another browser, one where you are not logged in as a site admin. By default, your visitors can view comments, but are unable to create them. It is possible to adjust your site permissions to tweak these settings, but leave them as is for now.

Visitor view without option to comment.

Editing, Tags, and Images

  1. Return to your admin panel, then click Shortcuts > All content.
  2. Find the article you just published, then click .
  3. In the Tags field, enter a few tags, separating each with a comma.
  4. Attach an image to your post. In the Image section, click . Select any image from your local device, then click Open.
  5. In the Alternative text field, enter a short description of you image to assist screen readers and enhance accessibility.
  6. Click   when ready.
  7. Visit your page from another browser to see it as a visitor will. It should look something like:

Installing Your First Theme

  1. If this were an established site,  this is where you would back up your site as an insurance policy against a misbehaving theme. Because this is your first install, you may skip this step.
  2. From your admin panel, select Manage > Appearance.
  3. To open the Download & Extend page on the Drupal website in a separate browser window, click themes while pressing Ctrl (Windows) or Cmd (Mac).

  4. On the Drupal Download & Extend page, refine your search as follows:
    Maintenance status: Actively maintained
    Development status: Any
    Core compatibility: 8.x
    Status: Full projects
    Stability: Has a supported stable release
    Security advisory coverage: Has security advisory coverage
  5. Click . Scroll down until you see the Nexus theme, which is a relatively simple and versatile option for those new to Drupal. Click Read more.

  6. Whenever researching themes and their features, take time to read the Installation and Dependency notes. As noted in the description, the Nexus theme requires e jQuery Update module. Click the jQuery Update link to learn more.

  7. Good news! The Downloads section contains below note, so we’re good to install the Nexus theme:
  8. Return to the Nexus theme page. Scroll down until you see the green box containing version 8.x (it may read later than 8.x-1.4). Right-click on the tar.gz download link and copy it to your clipboard.

  9. Return to your site’s appearance page (Manage > Appearance). Click .
  10. In the Install from a URL field, enter the link you copied in Step 7. Click .
     Tip: It is also possible to download a module to your local device, then upload it using the Upload a module or theme archive to install option.
  11. Drupal will notify you of the result. To install the Nexus theme, click Install newly added themes.

  12. On your Appearance page, scroll to the Uninstalled themes section, find the Nexus Theme, and click Install and set as default.

  13. Once installed, click Back to site on the upper left. Enjoy your new theme! To revert to your default theme (Bartik), return to your Appearance page, find Bartik, and click Set as Default.

Installing Modules

Use caution when adding modules. Although adding modules is much like adding themes, it involves a little more risk because they can sometimes affect your site in unwelcome ways. Before adding any module, make sure you have a backup.

  1. If this were an established site, this is where you would back up your site as an insurance policy against a misbehaving modules. Because this is an early install, you may skip this step.
  2. To start the process, click Manage > Extend, then click .

  3. To open the Download & Extend page on the Drupal website in a separate browser window, click modules while pressing Ctrl (Windows) or Cmd (Mac).

  4. Repeat Steps 4 – 6 from the Installing Your First Theme section, but for your desired module instead of the Nexus theme.
  5. Repeat Steps 8 – 13 from the Installing Your First Theme section, but do so from your admin panel, using Manage > Extend admin panel instead of from Manage > Appearance.

Next Steps

Watch this space for Part 3 of our Getting Started with Drupal 8 series, where we’ll explore more ways to customize your site, keep it secure, manage comments, and more!

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