There is a design game that I like to play when I’m working face to face with my client (and when there aren’t thousands of stakeholders!) which involves everyone on the project sitting down together and individually sketching up some wireframes that then get shared back into the group.
Aside from being good fun, it is also a really great way to uncover good ideas, common themes, and a whole raft of information and assumptions that haven’t yet surfaced in the project but that are important to us getting the design and information architecture right.
I don’t see why we should let our ‘virtual workspace’ stop us from playing this game, so, let’s do it. Let’s do some wireframing together!
Here’s what I want you to do:
pick a page on Drupal.org – it could be the homepage, it could be your profile page, it could be a project page, it could be a page that doesn’t exist that you think *should* exist – just pick one that is important to you.
have a go at sketching out what you think might go on that page. What are the content and functional elements, and which ones are the most important.
post the page somewhere – if you’re using Flickr, you can post it to our Flickr Group, or perhaps you want to post it on your blog and put a link to your post in the comments here, or you can email it to me if you like and I’ll post it – whatever you prefer. You might want to add some notes as to why you’ve approached the page the way that you have or, if you’re like me, to decipher your handwriting.
You can use whatever you like to wireframe – I tend to use pen and paper to start with or sticky notes. Then I’ll use Omnigraffle a little later. You might prefer to sketch in code. Whatever works for you. As you can see from the example I’ve posted above, early wireframes are usually pretty rough (mine disintegrated into a list at the bottom!) and not so pretty. This is fine. It’s not about how they look or even whether they’re right. It’s about getting ideas down on paper – to paraphrase the old saying – a wireframe is worth a thousand words.
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.
Don’t think you have to be a designer or a UX person to participate in this exercise – this is all hands on deck. Even if you’re not an experienced Drupal user and you were flummoxed by your experience of Drupal.org – what did you *want* to find on the homepage?
I know there have been lots of discussions over the years about various parts of Drupal.org – let’s roll up our sleeves and get stuck in! Yay!
OK, there are two important first steps you need to take when contemplating a design (or, in this case, a redesign) – understanding what the business/organisation wants the design to achieve, and understanding who your audience/customers/users/potential users are, and what they want to achieve, what their goals are.
A really common way to capture this information about users is in the form of personas. The personas can then be referred to throughout the design process to test that what you’re designing is actually the right thing for your end users, and to help you to prioritise functionality and content on the site. Basically, to stop you trying to be all things to all people, which as we know, is the fast track to failure.
Now, I’m the last person to suggest that personas are highly scientific (although some people do work very hard to make them statistically sound) – to me, this is not the best way to spend project time. It is imperative that personas are based on research though – going out and actually meeting a bunch of people who form your target audience, because very often, the personas you need (or, at least, the way you ‘break down’ your audience) is what it might first seem.
The Drupal Community put together some personas a while ago, featuring characters like Mary the Manager, Tim the Tool-User, Wendy the Webmaster and more. As you can probably guess, they are based on the ‘role’ that users are playing in relation to Drupal. At first blush, this seems like a logical way to segment the Drupal audience.
It is an important segmentation but – as I’ve discovered over the past few weeks – I don’t think it’s the most important one. Firstly, as we saw in our survey, and this was supported by what I heard when talking to members of the Drupal community, very many Drupal users work across a range of different roles. They do some developing, some designing, some decisionmaking, some sales… all kinds of things. I don’t know this as a fact, but I’d hazard a guess that the ‘pure’ Drupal developer is actually a minority. Just a guess.
At any rate – it doesn’t really make sense to have Danielle the Designer as a persona we’re designing for because Danielle is much more likely to do some code, some design, some content administration, some dealing with clients. The role based persona doesn’t accurately reflect the kind of people we’re meeting out in Drupal-land.
Proposed segmentation – outsiders and insiders
I think our audience segmentation for Drupal.org should actually be a lot simpler than personas – it’s about ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’ and the path that people take from their first encounter with Drupal.
Insiders are those of you who are close to the Drupal community – who know and love Drupal and the people who gather around it. You understand ‘Drupal-speak’, you know who’s who in the zoo, you ‘get’ open source. You’re clued in, and you’re also incredibly important to the ongoing success of Drupal – both through the project work that you’re doing (if you’re an ‘insider’ you’ll know what I mean by ‘project work’, if you’re an outsider, you probably won’t – see, Drupal-speak in action, I’m rapidly being indoctrinated!). Also through the community work that you’re doing – Drupal ‘insiders’ are critical to getting people over the ‘brick wall’ I was talking about in our Experience Strategy, they are the people who help ‘grow others up’, or to educate them in the mysterious ways of Drupal. They’re very important people.
They are most likely to be, but not exclusively, developers. Or, at least, to have written code in a past life. This is why Drupal-speak is very much techy-speak.
Outsiders don’t know much about Drupal, although they have have installed it and gotten a site (albeit ugly) up and running. They may not know what a module is, although they may have posted on the Drupal forums seeking help. They definitely don’t know about the IRC channel where the insiders live. They are facing a fairly steep learning curve (including learning Drupal-speak!). They haven’t ‘hitched their wagon’ to Drupal – yet. They might get a better offer elsewhere.
Along the engagement pathway:
Some of you will identify as Insiders and some as Outsiders, but very many will fall somewhere along one of the ‘engagement’ pathways I’ve scrawled in the picture above. Some of you know a LOT about Drupal, but you’re not a developer so you don’t feel like you’re a ‘proper’ insider. Some of you are well on your way to becoming an insider, having gotten access to the right tools and – more importantly – the right people! Some of you used to be much more of an insider but have other things on your plate at the moment that have drawn you away a little. Some of you have tried to head down the engagement path, but are being thwarted or scared off.
As we move forward with the redesign, this is the model that I’m suggesting we use to evaluate the work we’re doing – to consider this engagement pathways and to plot some key points along it and to see whether what we’re suggesting is going to support users at each of these points on the pathway.
This way, we avoid designing only for those of us who are loudest (and probably most engaged in the community), and we maintain a focus on the range of experiences we need to support on drupal.org – maintaining focus on what matters – the people who use the site, rather than the technology, or the tools or anything else that needs to be wrangled into a good user experience.
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.
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:
Drupal.org is as much (if not more) a social site than a content site
The Drupal Community is as important (if not more) than the Drupal Product
The Drupal product is a market leading CMS solution
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)
Anyone can find out what they need to know about Drupal on or from Drupal.org
We must flatten the learning curve – anyone can learn as much as they want to learn about Drupal
Modules are easy to find and evaluate and are an obvious asset to Drupal
People can see/learn and align themselves with Drupal’s (and Open Source) values…
Drupal.org is a living organism and, with the help of the community, will continue to grow and improve.
How this plays out
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
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.
If you’re following the Drupal.org redesign project, you will no doubt have noticed that we’ve been busy getting to know the Drupal community. It’s been fun so far, and we look forward to doing much more.
I thought you might enjoy a little heads up of what we’ve done and what our plans are (keeping in mind, of course, that a project quite like this has never been planned before, so we reserve the right to switch course at any point in the future if another course looks better!)
‘Lies, damn lies and statistics’
Now, as you can probably tell, we place a lot more stock in talking to the community than poring over numbers (‘what’ is interesting, ‘why’ is much more useful!), but we’re looking at whatever statistical information is being thrown our way (none of it lies, I’m sure! I just really like that quote)
Here’s a little sample you may or may not be familiar with:
Drupal.org has 300,000+ users and gains on average 300 new users per day. There are 375,000 discussion threads between the forums, mailings lists, groups, etc. Our community is active with a 5:1 response rate on general discussions, 4:1 response rate on support discussions and 10:1 response rate on development discussions. Our community is large, engaged and growing. (excerpt from the Redesign Project RFP)
We’re looking at search terms, paths through the site, and other bits and pieces that are somewhat interesting. But nowhere near as interesting as talking… so, onto that part.
Mark and I were fortunate to be invited to attend Drupalcon in Szeged, Hungary a couple of weeks ago and we took the opportunity to meet some of the Drupal community whilst we were there. I think we ended up conducting about a dozen depth interviews, between 30-60mins each, with a wide range of participants from a well known ‘maintainer’, through experienced and less experienced Drupal developers, to complete newbies, to people who sell Drupal solutions to their clients – and people from all over the world!
During these interviews we talked a lot about each persons experience with Drupal, with Drupal.org, with the Drupal Community – online and in ‘real’ life. I also asked people to show me a little of how they used Drupal.org which was very enlightening – allowing me to better understand what are the really important bits of Drupal.org for different kinds of users, and which ones of these are all but hidden from the uninitiated!
This was an incredibly worthwhile exercise and really fast-tracked us into understanding both the key issues with the drupal.org website as well as the dynamics of the Drupal community and the different types of experiences that people have of Drupal.org depending on where they sit on the ‘Drupal Learning Curve’.
Recruiting for research participants – the survey
No doubt you’re aware that we’ve had a ‘survey’ running over the past week or so – the purpose of this is to get in touch with people who are willing to help us out with some more structured feedback once we start getting into the design phase and we have a prototype that we’ll be iterating very regularly (at least weekly is the current plan).
If you’ve completed the form, you *may* get an email from us in the next few months asking for your help – this will involve us taking about 45 mins of your time to have a virtual interview – we’ll be using some screen sharing tools so that you can take a look at the prototype, and we can watch how you’re using it, and we’ll have a bit of a chat, ask you some questions etc. as well. It will be fun, and it will also mean that we won’t waste piles of time designing something that isn’t going to work well for the community OR for people who are new to Drupal because – happily, we have recruited lots of people who know little or nothing about Drupal to help us with this exercise – hurrah!
Want to know more about who responded? Here’s some snippets (apologies for the cut off text on the graphs, this is what Google is giving me and I don’t have time/inclination to remake them!):
1024 people have completed the survey so far. Respondents represent 78 different countries and speak about 56 different languages!! (Not including C++, en-au, English (UK), Java, PHP, E Bonics which some people offered as their native language – we take your point!)
10% of respondents don’t know Drupal at all. We’re looking forward to meeting them! Looking after these guys is one area we really need to do better with on drupal.org
Of course, we also need to look after the existing community well – and there are lots of opportunities for improvement – fortunately we have 540 people from the Drupal community who have already put their hands up to help out.
My favourite thing about this chart though is the 359 people who answered ‘not yet!’ when asked if they were a part of the Drupal community. It might not be particularly scientific, but it really does give a sense of the potential that we’re working with here!
Personally, I was quite surprised with the spread of ‘roles’ that people said they were responsible for. Most respondents selected more than one ‘role’ in this survey and that maps with the interviews we did when we were at Drupalcon – for this reason, we’re leaning towards the view that ‘role’ isn’t really a very good way to break down the different types of people we’re designing for (into personas, perhaps) and we’re leaning more towards a breakdown based on ‘closeness’ to the community. More on that soon.
And what are people doing here?
12% seeking ‘overview’ information about Drupal and what it can do
5% looking to be ‘sold’ on Drupal
28% looking to use Drupal to build a website (introductory information, tutorials, modules, themes etc.)
9% comparing Drupal with other CMS options
20% looking for API-level details about Drupal as a content management framework
21% looking for themes, looking for information on how to make Drupal beautiful
40% looking for an answer to a particular problem I’m having with Drupal
51% looking for Drupal modules
22% participating in the Drupal community – I’m a regular
22% exploring the Drupal community – I’m a lurker
30% checking up on Drupal news
9% other (which was frequently to do with checking on projects, issues etc.)
We’re also live on Twitter (twitter.com/drupalredesign), Flickr (flickr.com/groups/drupalredesign/) and Slideshare (slideshare.net/group/drupalorg-redesign-project) and taking feedback, suggestions, inspiration – whatever you can throw at us.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has participated so far – even after such a short time, I really feel as though we know so much more about this project, its rather long history, and some of the background to issues than we would without your input.
We have to work very quickly on this project, so we don’t have a lot of time to labour over all of this information, but we will continue to work openly so if you don’t see us paying attention in the work that we’re putting back to you, there are lots of opportunities to set us straight!
My name is Leisa Reichelt. I am the Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service in the Cabinet Office.
I lead a team of great researchers who work in agile, multidisciplinary digital teams to help continuously connect the people who design products with the people who will use them and support experimentation and ongoing learning in product design.
If you're interested in working with me or would like to talk more please email me