Why Drupal needs a Design Community Manager

I’ve been working with the Drupal community on design projects for coming up to 12 months now – a splash in the ocean compared to many in the Drupal community but long enough to get a feel for how things work.

The ‘paid’ time I have left on the d7ux project is almost run out and I’m left feeling frustrated – not just by the work that I’d like to be able to continue to do on the Drupal 7 User Experience, but also by the great potential for building a critical mass of great designers and UX people in the Drupal community and the different types of activities that could spur this on, and the impact this could have on Drupal adoption and sustainability as an Open Source software project. So much opportunity, so little resource.

Despite the fact that I think there are probably a contingent within the Drupal community who are hoping that Mark & I are just going to go away once we stop getting paid for d7ux, the fact is that this is unlikely to happen any time soon. For various reasons and in various ways, I think we’re both kind of hooked on Drupal, or at least it’s amazing community.

Having said that, I know for myself it will be difficult to carve out any significant amount of time from the paid project work I’ll move onto and the demands joy of a family with a young child – I have long since given up on a social life!

At best, I hope to commit to spending a hour a day (or 5 hours a week) on Drupal post the official d7ux project. This is *far* less than others commit for ‘free’ each week but much more than many are able to consider committing.

(Having said that, have you seen that Matt Webb video I posted just before this post? What are you doing with your 100hrs?)

Here’s the thing… I really want to make those 5hrs a week count. At the moment, the logical place to spend those hours is bickering in the issue queue. Whilst some time does definitely need to be spent there, I think for the Design & UX community to spend too great a proportion of their time battling out grassfire by grassfire is not productive use of our time… but what can we do with just 5hrs?

I think the answer lies in crowdsourcing our time around big projects. Creating and managing projects that lots and lots of people can contribute an hour here and there to, and yet great and coherent value is created. I have some thoughts what kind of projects these might be:

  • creating/maintaining/applying an design pattern library
  • consulting with developers who are in the early stages of developing a module that has UI elements and providing them with assistance *before* they code a UI
  • concentrated work on known difficult interfaces that should be easier. (edited to delete unnecessary snarky remark at a specific module)
  • more microprojects!but my absolute favourite pet project is:
  • crowdsourced usability testing video library: create a library of video snippets of usability testing conducted by people around the world and tagged so that they can be used as a datasource to support design decision making AND to be pulled out over and over and over again to help maintain awareness of people-who-use-Drupal-who-are-not-us

Each of these projects (and I bet there are dozens more just as good or better!) provide:

  • ways for designers and UX people to contribute in a rewarding way to the Drupal community (contributing to the issue queue is v important yes, but can at times be incredibly frustrating and demoralising)
  • opportunities for new people to contribute to the community from their first interaction (rather than being smacked on the nose, told that everything has already been thought of and given a list of issues to read before proceeding),

Growing a vibrant design & UX community within the Drupal community in the long term and allowing Drupal to benefit from that (beyond finally starting to see some gorgeous looking sites that are Drupal-powered) is going to require some nuturing and creativity.

It needs someone to create and faciliate these ‘crowdsourced’ efforts and to promote them with in the Drupal community and within the broader Design/UX community.

But there is one big problem – in order to provide the framework for hundreds of people to start contributing their 5hrs a week, you need someone setting up and managing said framework. I think that this role is a Design Community Manager, I think it needs to be a paid role, and I think it should probably be about 2 days/wk.

So the three questions are:

  • this is something pretty different for the Drupal community… is this something we’re willing to try?
  • who’s going to sponsor this initiative, as in, put up the cash (and no doubt win the love and respect of both the Drupal and Design communities)
  • who is the guy/gal for the job (but let’s answer the first two before we get into this. Be assured there are some great candidates)

‘But is expanded choice good or bad?’, from The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

I use this study as an example with *so* many projects these days that I thought it might be useful to share the original source with you here. Schwartz is sharing the findings from a series of studies titled ‘When Choice is Demotivating’…

One study was set in a gourmet food store in an upscale community where, on weekends, the owners commonly set up sample tables of new items. When researchers set up a display featuring a line of exotic, high-quality james, customers who came by could taste samples, and they were given a coupon for a dollar off if they bought a jar.

In one condition of the study, 6 varieties of the jam were available for tasting. In another, 24 varieties were available. In either case, the entire set of 24 varieties was available for purchase.

The large array of jams attracted more people to the table than the small array, thought in both cases people tasted about the same amount of jams on average.

When it came to buying however, a huge difference became evident.

Thirty percent of the people exposed to the small array of jams actually bought a jar; only 3% of those exposed to the large array of jams did so

For the detailed answer(s) to ‘why is it so’ you should buy the book (and I strongly recommend it, as I said, I reference it *all* the time). For the short answer – people don’t do well with a lot of choice. Be a good designer and help them by guiding them towards good decisions, even if not the perfect one. A decision made can be remade and refined, which is much better than not seeing your customers for dust.

Matt Webb on design & scope at Reboot 11

I had the pleasure of speaking at Reboot11 recently and one of the best things about it was seeing this inspiring talk from Matt Webb which you should watch immediately and share with any other designers you know.

Design In the Open Community for Open Source User Experience Design

Just a very quick post to let you that I recently created a Ning community to allow designers and user experience people who are working in (or interested in working in) Open Source and Free Software communities to share their experiences, their projects, their questions and their mental health breakdowns!

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, come join us here: http://www.designintheopen.org/