Authored by Drupal Geeks on 14 Oct 2021
Drupal Anatomy

Before we begin today’s lesson on the anatomy of a Drupal Dashboard, I’d like to cover some basic terminology used by Drupal developers.  Almost every content management system uses their own unique names to describe the features, functions and content housed within a website. Drupal’s language is no exception, so let’s take a look at the common vocabulary you should familiarize yourself with before trotting around in the user dashboard.

Nodes – Put quite simply, a node is any piece on of content on your website. This can include a page, a blog post, a forum topic, and article or anything else that constitutes website content.

Blocks – Blocks are visible and editable from the dashboard of Drupal, but not to your website visitors.  Blocks are the “little boxes” of your website that contain the various visual and functional elements that make up a webpage. To users they all appear cohesive as one webpage, but in the dashboard they are outlined so that you can easily identify and edit them.

Modules - Modules are much like Extensions in Joomla! or PlugIns in WordPress. They add additional functionality to you website. They can be added to extend functionality for your website visitors, alter the user dashboard, automate back-end tasks, and more.

Taxonomy – vaguely defines taxonomy as “….the practice of classifying things”. While defining taxonomy for a website is best left to an experienced Drupal developer or architect, it’s important for our purposes to understand that taxonomy is a system for creating vocabulary that will classify items under various “terms”. Try to think of taxonomy like “tags” (Which happens to be available as a default taxonomy term). Most people know how to add tags to blog posts to help organize related blog posts. Taxonomy allows for this to be taken further, where you can define not only tags for a blog post, but a category and sub category as well. Taxonomy is a type of Hierarchy.


Now that you know the basic terminology, let’s take a look at the user dashboard in Drupal.


Drupal Dashboard

One of the features that I love about Drupal (over Joomla! or WordPress) is that when logged into the dashboard, you can see your site as you work, eliminating the need to open a new browser tab and constantly switch back and forth to check your work. Starting at the upper left hand corner, let’s work through the menu items.


Home Icon – This button will return you to the homepage of your site and close any open menu items.

Dashboard – By default the dashboard button brings up a list of recent content and users as well as a search form. The dashboard can be customized to include additional information such as recent blog posts or comments.

Content- This is the tab that most users will utilize. If you are responsible for updating the website’s content or writing the company blog, this is the tab that should become the most familiar with. The very first item listed within Content is Add Content. You can also use the filters and tabs on this page to locate existing content on your site by status or content type. Additionally, use this tab to perform bulk operations, such as deleting several articles at a time.

Structure- This tab contains access to the items of your site that make up the architecture of your website. The items listed here include blocks, content types, menus, and taxonomy, amongst others.  If you are not comfortable with Drupal, the configuration of most of these items is best left to a Drupal developer.

Appearance- Access to all of your website’s themes is found within the Appearance tab. Both site and admin themes can be enabled, disabled, or configured through this tab.  This is also where you would go to install a new theme.

People- From this screen you can add new users, delete users, and manage permissions. Here you can manage various roles ( i.e admin, anonymous user etc) and set varying levels of access to each role.

Modules- On this tab you can add modules or enable, disable, configure, or set permissions for existing modules.  Modules are grouped by type such as Core Modules, SEO Modules, or Developer Modules. Again, until you are familiar with Drupal, it is best to seek the advice of a professional if anything on this page seems foreign to you.

Configuration- For the most part, the Configuration tab contains global settings that are applied to your website. There is a whole host of settings within this tab, but some that you may want to explore include Site Information, Regional Settings, and Account Settings.

Reports- This tab does exactly what you would assume it does: allows you to run reports. You can see error logs, run reports on the site’s operation status and more.

Help- The help section contains common information you may need to solve issues within your site, as well as links to helpful content about how to use your Drupal site.

Edit Shortcuts- Notice the tabs on the lighter grey bar? The items below the home icon and “Dashboard”? The Edit Shortcuts tab is where you go to change which tabs you would like to display there. As a default, it is suggested that you at least have “New Content” and “Find Content” displayed there, as those are commonly used.

This should give you a good basic overview of how the Drupal dashboard is laid out and where you can find the things that you need to perform simple tasks. In subsequent articles we will delve further into each area. In the meantime, we invite your questions and welcome you to subscribe to our RSS feed and visit our YouTube channel.


By Candice Downing


Candice Downing is a contributing writer and full time geek at Drupal Geeks. Located in Chicago, Illinois, Drupal Geeks is a full service drupal website development firm with expertise in Drupal development, design, and support.  The geeks are available to assist clients throughout the North America, UK and Japan.