If you took a look at our outline for the project process the other day, you’ll know that we’re taking an iterative and user centered approach to this project. That means that at regular intervals through out the project, as well as doing all this online stuff, we’re also going to sit down with real people in ‘real life’ and let them use our design work while we observe them and make notes about what is working well and what requires improvement. This is sometimes known as Usability Testing.
Now, Mark & I are going to be doing a bunch of this ourselves, and our friends in the Drupal Usability Group are also going to be helping out as much as they can (thank you!), and Jeff at Acquia will also be helping out – but (as we did with the d.o redesign), we’d like to invite YOU to help out with some usability testing as well!
Why on earth would you want to do this?
As I see it, there are three main reasons why you’d get involved in something like this:
you’d like to get some (or some more!) experience in usability testing. This is an opportunity get some experience under your belt, or find out what doing usability testing is like. You may have students or interns who need to get some experience, here’s a great project to keep them busy AND use their time to contribute to a great project.
you want to see for yourself how other people interact with the design. One of the main reasons that we do usability testing is that it is very easy to design for ourselves and often incredibly difficult to design for other people. People come to Drupal with all kinds of backgrounds and understandings, and very often what is clear as day for us is impossible to understand for them. (See the video we posted of Mark & I installing Drupal for some evidence to this point).
you love Drupal and this project and you desperately want to see it succeed: one of the key ways to reduce the risk of failure of this project is to get it out in front of people and see what they make of it. Not only does this ensure that we’re not designing and releasing something that is broken and unusable, it makes us feel confident that the decisions we are making are the right ones and that they will have a significant and positive impact on the user experience of Drupal.
As we move forward with this redesign and start to make some concrete decisions, we are going to have some tough discussions about ‘what users do’ – the BEST way to have these discussions is with *real* experience of our future end users, and not just sweeping statements about users in general. Help us build up that body of knowledge and inform yourself in the process.
How will it work?
As you can imagine, we don’t do this kind of thing every day. We tried this on the d.o redesign project and whilst lots of people voiced interest, the only person who actually did any testing was me! However, we still think this is a good idea and we suspect that, with a little more structure and a fixed schedule, it might work. So, here’s the current plan:
one week before Test Time we will release a description of the audience type(s) that will be appropriate for this round of testing. You should then recruit as many people who fit that description as you think you will have the time and/or inclination to interview/test. You should allow around an hour for each interview, but don’t schedule more than 4 or 5 in a day (trust me, your brain will melt and you will make a LOT of data to analyse)
a few days before Test Time we will release:
the Prototype that you will be using to test (starting off with PDF/Paper prototypes and moving onto web-based interactive prototypes as the project continues).
an Interview Guide that you will base your interview on, listing all the key tasks and issues we want you to cover in the interview
During Test Time (or as close to it as you can) you conduct your interviews. If you can (please!) record your interviews on video and post either the entire video or some highlights from it to the YouTube Group (or elsewhere if you prefer). We will also provide a place for you to log your test findings (TBC, we’re looking at a few options here, ping me if you have suggestions!)
We will then include your findings in our analysis of the design work to date and use it to inform our design decisions going forward.
The Testing Schedule:
We have penciled in some dates for ‘Testing Time’ throughout the project… these are subject to change, but if you are thinking of participating, perhaps see if one or more of these dates works for you:
29 June – 1 July
Need more help?
Over the coming weeks I’ll post some more information that will help provide support for those who aren’t seasoned researchers. Things I’m thinking of posting include: tips for a good interview, tips for recruiting, suggested software/hardware for recording/editing sessions… can you think of anything else that would be helpful?
I’m really excited about this exercise and I hope you are too. Please leave a note below if you’re interested in participating or if you have any questions, need more information, have any feedback on the proposed process. If you know of people in schools or companies who might be interested in participating, please send this on to them!
I really look forward to working with you on this!
At the beginning of this project we invited you to do a ‘show and tell’ of anything you’ve done to a Drupal Admin System that you think we should pay attention to – anything from a customised administration system, to a better view of content, to an in-line editing tool – whatever you think we should see. Happily, we’ve seen a few people participate and some interesting concept. (You can see some of there on our YouTube group).
You may also remember a little exercise we did for the Drupal.org project where we invited anyone to submit a wireframe of a page they though needed some attention and what they’d do to it (you can see the original post here)…
well… now is the time for us to bring that all together and to kick off ‘Pimp Your *Imaginary* Admin’ for the D7UX project!
Here’s how it works:
pick *something* or *somewhere* in Drupal admin that you think is particularly in need of love
get out your pen, pencil, visio, powerpoint, whatever works best for you (I’d encourage you to consider pencil!)
sketch out how you think it *should* work.
post your sketch(s) somewhere we can see them – the Flickr group is ideal for this if you’re a Flickr member (or inclined to become one) but if you post it on your own site, or wherever you share pictures and link to it in the comments below we will *definitely* take a look.
this is optional but we would consider you most excellent if you do it – take a short movie of your sketch(es) and talk us through them. Your movie should include: a) a statement of the problem – what are you fixing? what is currently wrong with it? b) an overview of your solution – how it works, why it solves the problem. Post the movie to YouTube and add it to our YouTube Group (again, same applies here, if you’d rather post it elsewhere, just link to it in comments below and we’ll make sure it gets looked at!)you can see a kind-of example of what your video might look like in the prototype walk-thru we do around 3 mins into this video.
go fast! Don’t spend too long on it – try to spend no more than a few minutes on a wireframe. If you’re not happy with it (and you probably won’t be at first!) just put it to one side and start fresh. You don’t want to labour over them too much at this stage.
you don’t have to be good at drawing: just take a quick browser through the images on the Flickr group if you want to get a sense of how un-pretty our wireframes usually are (particularly mine!). They’re not meant to be pretty, they’re meant to communicate. Even if they don’t do that, we have the video :) Don’t be shy.
everyone’s invited (not just ‘designers’) – Don’t think you have to be a designer or a UX person to participate in this exercise – this is all hands on deck. If you’re not an experience Drupal user or designer, you may actually be at an advantage in this exercise!
Really, really, really looking forward to seeing what you come up with!
As you may have noticed, this is not your typical design project… there are things about it that are pretty unusual, but there are also some pretty standard aspects as well. We thought it might be useful to give you a high level view of the approach we plan to take.
On a project like this, however, a highlevel view is really the only one we *can* give because, in all honesty, we’re not exactly sure what we’ll be doing in 2-3 weeks time let alone 2-3 months time. We have a mud-map though, and this is roughly what it looks like.
We are working with the team at Acquia on this project and they run an Agile shop, so we’re going to be trying to synch into their iterations as best we can.
One of the biggest challenges for User Experience and Design work in an Agile environment is getting the strategy and vision of the design worked through – to that end we are very thankful that our friends at Acquia have been flexible enough to give us a nice big chunk of time which we’re calling ‘Iteration Zero‘ and in this time we are doing a whole load of thinking, and strategising and talking with you to work out what our overall strategy is. This is why we’re asking about audience, and tone of voice and those more ‘abstract’ questions.
By the end of Iteration Zero, which for us is around 14 April, we hope to have an overarching strategy and ‘framework’ for the proposed interface for D7 in the form of some pencil sketches and a sitemap, an agreed experience strategy, audience matrix and tone of voice. We will have tested framework using some low fidelity (paper) prototypes with a range of participants across the spectrum of our audience matrix and we will feel confident that we know what we are doing and where we are headed.
During this time we will be working closely with the Drupal community to understand *how* our framework can best be implemented for release with D7.
The remainder of our time on the project, (which runs until around the end of July) will be spent working through exactly how the strategy is implemented, looking at the very many fine details and issues that will need to be resolved, whilst also testing and iterating the work we have done based on the results of our testing.
How and when can you get involved?
During iteration zero – it is VITAL that we get the foundations of our strategy correct so please engage and continue to engage with us as we work through the strategy, audience and tone issues. This will be mostly in the form of you reviewing what we’ve come up with and providing us with your feedback.
Get involved with the framework design – we’re going to be posting (very soon) some initial sketches that show the direction we’re heading in – we would love to have your feedback on that.
As we did with the d.o redesign project, we’ll be doing a CrowdSourced Wireframe activity that we would invite you to participate in where we’ll be asking you to take a part of the Drupal Admin you think needs work and drawing up a solution (or, if you’ve done it already, why not submit a screencast to ‘Pimp Your Admin’ on our YouTube channel!)
We are also going to re-launch the Crowdsourced Usability Testing for this project – this time with a little more warning and some more structure – so we would invite you to help us test our designs with people around you and contribute to our understanding of what is working and what is not, and help validate our approach. In the coming week I will be releasing a lot more information around this, including some timings, so it would be great to have you on board with this exercise (and it would also make a great exercise for interns, students, people new to usability/UX who want to get some experience doing usability testing).
As the Acquia team start to take designs from us, they will also start releasing a working prototype that you will be able to review and comment on – I’m not sure on timings for that but I’d expect probably mid-late May (I’ll update when I know more).
So as you can see – there will be LOTS of ways for you to contribute all the way through the project, and, don’t let us limit you! If you have ideas we need to see, or other ways you’d like to contribute – please let us know!
You may have noticed that this is a WordPress blog. Both the D7UX and the Disambiguity blogs run WordPress. Mark Boulton Design uses Expression Engine. Since we first started working with Drupal there have been questions (and the occasional shout of #fail) that we continue to use these platforms and haven’t switched to Drupal.
Don’t we know Drupal can do all that WordPress can do and more?! Don’t we love Drupal?!
Well, yes and yes. We know Drupal is amazing and we love it (well, more to the point, we love the people all around Drupal), but unfortunately, for the time being, it is too broken for us to be able to do the work we need to do on this project at the pace that we need to do it. We don’t have time to ‘learn’ Drupal, nor the skills to bend it to our will (and make it look acceptably pretty), we can’t even get a blog post on the homepage (as you’ll see in the videos that follow the installation video about which I’ll post as soon as they finally make it up to YouTube).
We appreciate all the offers of porting this blog over to Drupal, but to be honest, I really like using WordPress and nothing I’ve seen of Drupal makes me want to switch over at the moment.
See, I love the *idea* of Drupal, but the sooner we all agree that from a User Experience perspective it is horribly broken and concentrate on FIXING that, the better it will be. Admitting this doesn’t make us Drupal Haters, far from it. It just makes us honest and informed. After all, we use a whole raft of tools to make and administer websites all the time – we actually have a pretty good perspective to be making this call.
If we didn’t *really* care about making Drupal amazing, we wouldn’t start difficult conversations like these ones. And there is a big reason why one of the key success criteria for this project is that once this project is done Mark & I will *want* to switch from WordPress and Expression Engine to Drupal.
And what of ‘eating our own dogfood?’ – well, again, back to that success criteria of Mark & I using Drupal once the new UX is implemented. If we’re not using Drupal then, I’m happy to be called on this. For now, the fact that we are NOT entrenched Drupal users is actually a great advantage to us, rather than a disadvantage. It gives us perspective, distance from the project that allows us to see things differently, to challenge accepted ideas and approaches, to re-hash conversations that have been had a thousand times already and have them a little differently. It helps us not see that things might be impossible (and, at this stage of the project, that’s a good thing).
We’re not entirely ignorant of Drupal, not at all. And becoming less so every day. And we are surrounded by an incredibly informed and amazingly helpful community who give us *way* more help coming to terms with Drupal than the average ‘newcomer’ would have.
We know that Drupal is not WordPress, and we have no intention of making it so, but using WordPress helps us get our work done faster and easier for the time being, and it helps us maintain perspective and distance – and for now those things are really important to us.
But if, this time next year, this blog isn’t running on Drupal and if it doesn’t look amazing – then please come and shout #fail as loudly as you can. Because then you’ll be completely right, we will have failed.
Let’s not do that. Let’s make Drupal amazing.
And thanks so much to everyone who has come on board and started to help shape D7UX by responding to our initial Experience Strategy, Audience Matrix and Personality Quiz. The feedback has been incredible and insightful. We’ll have more for you to look at soon!