Drupal7UX – How does Drupal talk? (on brand, personality and tone of voice)

So, there we were, just starting to work through the workflow for Drupal – we got as far as the login screen when we thought ‘let’s write something nice on this screen’, and, pen poised… we were stumped.

We wanted to write something friendly like Moo would. Or Innocent drinks. We wanted to make it visually interesting like Vimeo do. Or Picnik. But… is that Drupal?

We realised we have no idea what Drupal’s personality is. And it would make our lives much easier, and help make a much better User Experience, if we can work out what it is.

Isn’t this completely touchy-feely and a waste of time?

Well no. One way or another, words will go on screens and a personality will emerge. Or, worse still, a few personalities, or a few dozen personalities. Much better that we spend a little time and give a little thought and see what we can come up with.

So, here’s where you come in:

The Personality Exercise:

Take a minute to v quickly answer the following five questions. Go with your gut reaction, don’t over think it. Try not to read everyone elses’ responses first. Don’t worry about being silly! (This is a kind of silly exercise after all, albeit useful)

  • If Drupal was an animal, what would it be?
  • If Drupal was a celebrity, who would it be?
  • If Drupal was a car, what would it be?
  • If Drupal was a profession/career what would it be?

So your answers might look something like this:

Drupal would be a squirrel/Paris Hilton/SS Commodore Ute/Teacher*

Get to it – what do you reckon?

*the opinions expressed above are not those of the author. Except for the SS Commodore one.

DRAFT: Drupal.org Experience Strategy

The redesign project for Drupal.org will be guided by an experience strategy that will inform our decision making in all aspects of the redesign and which will, we hope, be able to be used as ‘a star to sail our ship by’ (as Jesse James Garrett would say) – as a clear objective to design towards.

What is an experience strategy?

An experience strategy is a clearly articulated touchstone that influences all of the decisions made about technology, features, and interfaces. Whether in the initial design process or as the product develops, such a strategy guides the team and ensures that the customer’s perspective is maintained throughout.

- Subject to Change, Creating great products and services for an uncertain world, Merholz, Schauer, Verba & Wilkens (Adaptive Path) 2008

This is a good example of an experience strategy:

Google Calendar Experience Strategy

How it worked out for Google Calendar:

Google Calendar Stats

(hat tip to Peter Merholz for images)

Experience Strategy for Drupal.org (Work in Progress!)

  • Drupal.org is for anyone who is interested in Drupal (not just developers!)
  • Drupal.org will make building a site you’re proud of as painfree as possible (from deciding to use Drupal through design, development and deployment)
  • Drupal.org is the home of the Drupal community.
  • UPDATED: Drupal.org is the project management and release tool for the Drupal software (thanks Robert Douglass)
  • Drupal.org will support people and companies from their initial experience of the product and community and as they continue to increase their knowledge and experience with Drupal and become more active in the Drupal community.
  • Is a showcase for what can be done with Drupal

What we believe:

  1. Drupal.org is as much (if not more) a social site than a content site
  2. The Drupal Community is as important (if not more) than the Drupal Product
  3. The Drupal product is a market leading CMS solution
  4. The ‘end point’ (goal) is not getting more people to download Drupal, the end point is to get more people to have a Drupal site running that they love (with as little pain as possible)
  5. Anyone can find out what they need to know about Drupal on or from Drupal.org
  6. We must flatten the learning curve – anyone can learn as much as they want to learn about Drupal
  7. Modules are easy to find and evaluate and are an obvious asset to Drupal
  8. People can see/learn and align themselves with Drupal’s (and Open Source) values…
  9. Drupal.org is a living organism and, with the help of the community, will continue to grow and improve.

How this plays out

Drupal Family

Drupal.org has two equally important audiences – people who are new to Drupal and people who are already part of the community.

Drupal.org needs to inspire and educate people who are new to Drupal – the end goal being that they become active participants in the Drupal community who have a Drupal site (or sites!) up and running that they are proud of.

Note: getting people to ‘download’ Drupal is not the end point. If anything, it’s just the beginning.

Drupal.org also needs to be a comfortable and safe home for members of the Drupal community, wherein participants are both able to develop their own skills and experience (grow up), as well as help others on their developmental path (help grow others up).

Things we need to do:

  • be nicer to ‘outsiders’ (non drupal, non developer)
  • encourage people to engage with the community (starting by showing them that it exists!)
  • work at flattening the learning curve
  • get all the right content on the site and keeping it updated
  • show the community in action (without ruining it)
  • make things findable (IA)
  • communicate drupal/opensource values
  • help Drupal users kick ass

Getting past the brick wall

Brick Wall

As one person I’ve interviewed described it: ‘I can get Drupal downloaded and installed and get an ugly blog that I don’t want, but then I hit a brick wall’ – Drupal.org’s job is to help people over that brick wall – to help them get the site they want using Drupal.

Helping Users Kick Ass

Bert Boerland pointed me to this great diagram that Dries posted a while back (inspired by Kathy Sierra) which I think really nails a big part of our strategy.

Drupal Users Kick Ass

So, that’s what we’re thinking.

Over to you now. What do you think of this as an Experience Strategy for Drupal?
Questions? Comments? Suggestions?

(Remember, there are lots of ways you can point us to things you think are important for d.org)

The general public myth (or, the whole world is not your user)

This feels like pretty basic stuff to me, but it’s incredibly important not to overlook the basics, so let’s talk about it.

I was prompted to think about this again when taking questions after talking at the GUADEC conference in Istanbul recently and someone asked about how you design a good experience when you’re designing for everyone – technical experts and newbies, people in countries around the world.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the answer is quite simple.

Just don’t. Don’t design for everyone. It’s impossible.

All you end up doing is designing something that makes everyone unhappy. Who needs that.

But why does this happen? I call it the myth of the general public.

So, there is this idea of the general public … but have you ever met *anyone* who considers themselves to be ‘the general public’? I don’t think I have.

This became particularly clear to me on a research project I was working on a few months ago where every single person I met told me about how unique their particular area of interest was, and how my client, a museum, only catered to ‘the general public’. The people I talked with complained that museums have ‘dumbed down’ so much because they are talking to ‘the general public’ and said that this made museums less useful for them to interact with, because of their specific interest and expertise.

This is what happens when we design for everyone – we ‘dumb things down’ to the point that they become useless or inefficient for most people. How does this happen? Well, because although everyone in the world might want to use your product or your website, they’ll want to use it in a very particular way.

In order to design your product well for them, you need to understand how they’ll use it and design to support that behaviour.

But wait! That means that all of a sudden the whole world is not my target audience! Horror!

Never fear, all is not lost. Despite the fact that you’ve design the experience beautifully for the specific audience (or audiences, you are allowed more than one!) that you have selected and understand well, other users will insist on using your product/service/website even if they are not in your target audience. In fact, the glowing recommendations that your audiences will provide will encourage others to use your service.

Yes, some audiences may have to work a little harder than others, but some audiences are better equipped to work harder. And at least the audience you *really* care about is being well looked after.

Josh Porter in his recently published book ‘designing for the social web’ (which I recommend that you read because if you don’t know everything that’s in his book, you should) makes this argument a lot more succintly than I have here so I’m going to quote you a slab:

Get as Specific As You Can

Question: Who is the audience you’re targeting?

Wrong Answer: Well, anyone really. Our application has a very broad set of uses.

Right Answer: People who do this very specific activity…

This is a discussion I had with an entrepreneur who was starting a new software company. He was targeting  his software at what he called ‘the general public’. And on the surface of things, this makes sense. He didn’t want to limit his softward by saying that it was for a particular audience, as that would make it harder to swim with the current if that strategy didn’t work out. (Investors like flexibility too). For whatever reason, his software ended up being for all audiences.

In practice, however, software built for the masses rarely works. Even in the cases where software has gone to the masses, it started off in a nice and then grew outward, as people realized that it doesn’t have to be used in any one way.

Targeting a broad audience is precisely the wrong approach. The more specific you can get about how to use your application, the more your software will resonate with your potential audience.

Del.icio.us, the social bookmarking tool, is about as broad a tool as you can get. Anybody who wants to bookmark web pages can use it. That is to say that their potential audience is everyone on the web.

Byut Del.icio.us doesn’t fall into the trap of designing for everyone. They do a good job providing specific use cases.

And, if your software is flexible and can be used by many different types of audiences, choose a few profitable/big ones and be specific about each. The more specific you get, the better.

See. What Josh said. The general public is a myth. Don’t design for it.

Heathrow Terminal 5 – Another rant about respecting conventions

This seems to be my theme at the moment. Respect conventions.

Respecting conventions doesn’t mean that you have to slavishly follow them, that would be boring and unnecessary, BUT if you *are* going to break with convention then make sure it is very well sign posted, otherwise people will make mistakes.

I give you terminal 5 at Heathrow. 

Firstly a quick question – how long before an international flight do you need to get to the airport? 

The vast majority of people would say that the conservative answer is 2 hours but they don’t usually give it quite that long. 

Another quick question – how long before a flight to a European destination do you need to get to Heathrow? 

Again, most people will give you an answer around the 1 hour mark.

Now… you may already know this, but if you want to fly from London Heathrow Terminal 5 to Istanbul in Turkey (as I did the other day – yes the weather is beautiful, thank you!) they want you to get there not one, not two, but THREE hours before your flight.

We arrived an hour before our flight the other day and were severely reprimanded and had to be given ‘permission’ to proceed from the check in desk to try to get our flight. Fortunately (for us) the entire security software system crashed and massive queues meant that most flights (including ours) were delayed and we made our flight with plenty of time to spare.

So, given that getting to the airport 3 hours before the flight is apparently a big deal for BA, and given that T5 is relatively new, and given that in all my years of international flights, I’ve never been expected to be anywhere any earlier than 2 hours before the flight, you might expect that BA would make a big song and dance about this 3 hour requirement.

You’d be wrong.

They *do* make a big song and dance about the fact that we were leaving from T5 and that T5 is a new terminal. I definitely knew that because they advised me at almost every interaction I had with them regarding this flight (and these days there are quite a few touchpoints between purchasing the ticket and boarding the flight). But what did they tell me about time?

This is an excerpt from the email they sent me one week before the flight, specifically to help me to prepare for my upcoming flight:

IMPORTANT: For flights departing from Terminal 5, you must pass through ticket presentation and security at least 35 minutes before the flight departs. For other important information about passport, visa and UK domestic flight security checks, please visit ba.com/t5information.

So, honestly. Do they *really* expect me to turn up 3 hours early when this is the information they give me.

Perhaps they do, but I can tell you that a good portion of the passengers for the Istanbul flight were stuck in the security queue with us, having arrived much later than 3 hours before. And I doubt that it was because they were being naughty travelers, or that they liked the adrenaline rush of almost missing a flight. They just assumed, as we did, that turning up an hour before a flight from London to somewhere in Europe was the right thing to do, because that’s what we’ve done many times before.

This is what we do as humans. We make assumptions based on past experience and if we think we *know* how something works we don’t bother investigating it in detail, because we could spend our time and energy investigating things we think are new and interesting.

If people are making assumptions about your product, service or interface design and you’re *not* following the conventional approach, make sure whatever you’re doing differently is very clearly signposted. And then signposted again. Otherwise mistakes will happen.

And a customer who is making a mistake is very rarely a happy customer.

(disclaimer – yes, yes. I know that technical Istanbul is both European and Asian, doesn’t really make a difference to the discussion tho’)