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Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting [Paperback]

Konstantin Kafer , Emma Hogbin
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 15, 2009 0137136692 978-0137136698 1

“For Drupal to succeed, we need books like this.”

–Dries Buytaert, Drupal founder and project lead


“Drupal faces a common problem on the Web–the relative lack of new, high quality themes. Front End Drupal tackles this problem directly and is designed to help both experienced designers and rank novices get an understanding of how Drupal theming works. In fact, I’ll be the first to admit I learned a lot from this book.”

– Dries Buytaert, Drupal founder and project lead


The Practical, Complete Guide to Customizing Drupal Sites with Behaviors, Themes, and Templates


Drupal is now the world’s #1 open source content management system: Thousands of individuals and organizations are using it to build and update Web sites of virtually every kind. As Web designers and developers adopt Drupal, they need ways to quickly customize the visuals and interactivity of their sites. Drupal offers powerful tools for doing so, but little guidance on using them effectively. Front End Drupal is the solution. In this book, two expert Drupal developers cover everything you need to know to create great visual designs and state-of-the-art interactivity with Drupal’s behaviors, themes, and templates.


Front End Drupal is 100% focused on issues of site design, behavior, usability, and management. The authors show how to style Drupal sites, make the most of Drupal’s powerful templating system, build sophisticated community sites, streamline site management, and build more portable, flexible themes. You’ll also gain hands-on experience through several case studies that walk you through the customization of everything from page templates to Web site forums.


  • Prepare and organize content so it’s easier to integrate into Drupal Web sites
  • Structure Drupal page templates that are easy to work with
  • Configure Drupal with the modules and browser tools you need to customize your site
  • Utilize Drupal’s Starter Themes and themes converted from WordPress, Joomla!™, and Drupal 5.x
  • Maximize the power and usability of Drupal’s content editing forms
  • Build usable community sites with user profiles, comments, and user-generated content
  • Use JavaScript™ to make your themes interactive and to enhance usability
  • Create powerful animations and AJAX callbacks with jQuery, Drupal’s JavaScript library


About the Web Site

The accompanying site,, contains all sample code and themes presented in this book.

Frequently Bought Together

Front End Drupal: Designing, Theming, Scripting + Drupal User's Guide: Building and Administering a Successful Drupal-Powered Web Site + Drupal 7 Explained: Your Step-by-Step Guide
Price for all three: $83.80

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Emma Jane Hogbin has been working as a Web developer since 1996, helping individuals and organizations to realize both their own potential and the potential of their online presence. She creates systems that enable her clients to succeed–by using her infectious enthusiasm and ability to explain concepts without using technical jargon that puts even the greatest technophobes at ease. Passionate about helping people to acquire knowledge, Emma volunteers with the Drupal and Ubuntu documentation teams. She is well known in the Drupal community not only for her technical knowledge, but also for her engaging and humorous means of bringing Drupal to a wider audience–such as the Drupal socks and their GPLed pattern. Through her consulting company HICK Tech, and at conferences around the world, Emma has inspired people to overcome fear, uncertainty, and doubt and to tackle problems head-on. She is known as “emmajane” on and chronicles her adventures at


Konstantin Käfer started his adventures into Web development in 1999. In high school, he led the Web development and school Web site class for several years. While still in high school, he also participated in Google’s Summer of Code 2006, doing usability enhancements for the Drupal project. In the Drupal community, he is widely known for his JavaScript skills. Konstantin has been a speaker at several DrupalCons and other Open Source conferences. He is currently studying IT Systems at the Hasso Plattner Institute Engineering in Potsdam, Germany. He also works as a consultant for NowPublic, a large citizen journalism Web site based on Drupal. He can be found blogging on about design, Web development, and Drupal.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0137136692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0137136698
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Emma Jane Hogbin teaches designers how to make beautiful Web sites using Drupal. Emma's first book, Front End Drupal, is recognized in the industry as the most important book for Drupal designers. She has been teaching Internet technologies since 2002 and has been building Web sites for well over a decade.

Emma is a highly sought-after speaker and trainer. Her presentations have taken her to France, Belgium, Hungary, Canada, New Zealand, England and the United States. In addition to her engaging conference presentations, Emma has also worked as a technical college instructor at Humber College and Seneca College, and has worked on curriculum development for Humber College and the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

Emma encourages non-traditional participation in technology through craft and believes that everyone is capable of mastering the tools that surround them. To help make technology more engaging she open sourced one of her knitting patterns so that others could knit their own Drupal Socks too. Every year Emma sponsors an award for "Most Creative Use of Technology by a Senior Female Student" at her old high school, West Hill Secondary School, in Owen Sound, Canada.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book that covers more than just "theming" April 30, 2009
To properly orient this review, I should start off by saying that I know Drupal theming pretty well, so my take on things may be a bit different from someone who is totally new to theming. I've also taught a lot of folks though, on every part of the learning curve, so I can appreciate what it means to get some of this stuff to click for people. The book tells you at the start that you shouldn't be a total Drupal newbie. This book is about getting Drupal to look the way you want, but it expects you to bring some basic skills to the table. Now, that said, the first few chapters do take the time to get you oriented with Drupal; so if you are rusty, you get a refresher, and if you are cheeky and like to scoff at "prerequisites," you at least get a toe-hold of the basics before being whisked into the heart of it all. So, off we go.

As I started into it, the first thing that I noticed was that this really is not about "just" code. I was expecting to get dumped right into some hacking and instead, you are given some good groundwork first. While the first two chapters would be the stuff I'd normally skip, I'd advise reading them, especially if you are new to Drupal or dynamic web sites in general. If you are a know-it-all, then I suggest you at least skim the headings and make sure you actually know what you think you know. The first chapter covers a lot of the basics of WTH are you even doing when making a website. These are generally good things to think about and go through even if you aren't theming. Stuff like, what kind of content are you really going to need, how do things need to be listed, who will be using it and how? The chapter walks you through the questions and talks about them from a Drupal perspective. You really should think about your site before you dive in willy-nilly.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings May 21, 2009
Having never developed a Drupal theme (but being proficient in HTML/CSS/jquery), I found this a rather hard book to follow. It felt like the book really wanted to be a book about front-end drupal, but ends up spending quite a lot of time talking about abstract framework concepts, back-end features, and configurations (I recognize these are part of creating a user experience, but why the book choose to start with them is beyond me).

Chapter 3, the actual chapter on drupal themes was even more bizarre. There was perhaps maybe five paragraphs on making a theme. The rest is dedicated to talking about other subjects like converting themes from other CMS's and previous versions of drupal and whatnot.

The book feels more like "A Guide to Drupal 6 For People Who've Used Drupal 5 With the Stock Settings and Want To Know How To Customize It" than "Front-End Drupal".

I was hoping for a book that was more along the lines of "JQuery In Action" -- a book that is both readable and reference, and a book that is logically laid out from basic to complex.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Becoming a Pro Drupal web designer April 18, 2009
This book is what Drupal books ought to be, and uses the same method as other great Drupal books. I could say it takes Drupal's presentation layer apart and puts it back together again, but that would be insufficient. What it does is take the Drupal presentation layer apart in gradual stages... and has you put it back together again. It reveals the seven veils of the mystery through actual practice, and puts you in control with the tools you really need to be effective at every juncture.

And the book deals thoroughly with the domain it purports to cover, and doesn't get sidetracked. The spotlight is on web design, but it is brutally honest about what you really need to get the most out of Drupal. As a result there are incursions into other areas the professional web designer really needs to deal with. There is even an example Drupal PHP module, but the book is careful to explain that it is not a book on building modules for Drupal, and recommends the books that are for the benefit of the reader.

For example, in Chapter 1, the book dissects the Drupal presentation layer starting with its high-level business objects: the page itself and the content, and their parts, on the one hand, the concept of lists of content, page design and layout, the forms of interaction with a web page and how to guide the user to the successful completion of their tasks, where the page lives in terms of code (XHTML, CSS, browser and server based scripting languages, and a special mention of Javascript. And finally the question of the workflows you will be dealing with on a day to day basis in the course of web design work: other designers, programmers, clients, and of course the site visitors themselves.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful book, but not focused on theming November 11, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The reason I gave this book three stars is because, while I have found value in this book, it is generally unfocused and its overall goals unclear. I assumed that by using the phrase "Front End Drupal" in the title, the authors meant that the book was about altering themes. I was disappointed to find that that is not the case. The book has security information, design information, a discussion of the Document Object Model, javascript, jquery, etc.

While there is information on starter themes that are meant to be customized, there's not a lot about how to customize them. I was better off watching online videos for that. Throughout the book there are little tidbits about how to set up the .php files when altering a theme, but they are hard to find. Mostly, this book seems like a conglomeration of information about Drupal, none of it covered in much detail.

For instance, there is a section on how to incorporate anti-spam tools along with a list of modules that might be good for this. There's no real advice on implementing the modules, or why one module might be better than another. This is the way the theming section is as well. The authors focus on the Zen theme, which is fine, but there's no clear advice on why the Zen theme as opposed to other popular themes.

If you are looking for a good starter book that clearly discusses altering themes, try Using Drupal instead.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Drupal 6, not 7
Drupal 7 is mentioned twice which is why it came up in a search for "Drupal 7", but it is a Drupal 6 book which I unfortunately found out after buying the Kindle version. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Peteypete
5.0 out of 5 stars If Drupal Theme seems like a mystery, then read this book
Most times when I review a book, I am well versed on the subject. Drupal themeing is a hard concept to understand. Read more
Published on January 10, 2012 by Scott L. Wolpow
5.0 out of 5 stars One stop shopping for creating "curb appeal" in Drupal
Looking at websites is a lot like shopping for houses (ok, metaphors might not be my forte, but just go with it! Read more
Published on September 24, 2011 by chives
3.0 out of 5 stars Good on theory, week in code
I read this book after the excellent "Using Drupal" by Angela Byron et al, which is the first book to read if you want to learn Drupal, and contains a chapter about basic theming. Read more
Published on July 24, 2011 by Francis 55
2.0 out of 5 stars Terrible job
Honestly, I've owned this book since it came out, and it has disappointed me every time I've picked it up. Finally decided to just write a negative review. Read more
Published on June 7, 2010 by Raymond Brigleb
3.0 out of 5 stars Confused and confusing
I found this book disappointing. It seems to be a hodge-podge of information without a clear sense of purpose or direction. Read more
Published on March 7, 2010 by Lawrence Baldwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for Drupal Themers
I have read Chapter 1 & 2 and then skipped back to see what chapter 9 and 10 were all about with Javascript and jQuery. Read more
Published on February 10, 2010 by S. Hunter
2.0 out of 5 stars Front End Drupal = Back End Config Tweaks?
I was astonished to read that Drupal's look and feel is accomplished via the admin console (this book's pages are filled with instructions like "go to admin > themes > display > ad... Read more
Published on November 14, 2009 by BetterPath
3.0 out of 5 stars It was ok, not what I expected
I expected a more in depth look into modules, hooks, theme override functions etc. The book is ok for beginners but leaves a lot of information unaddressed. Read more
Published on November 13, 2009 by Shean Hoxie
5.0 out of 5 stars So far, so good.
I've made it through the first four chapters and am very happy with this purchase. The case studies are easy to follow and the examples are based on a foundation of best practices. Read more
Published on July 31, 2009 by Amazon Customer
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