Drupal.org – more thoughts on the Information Architecture (Part 1 – Projects, Downloads etc.)

Thanks to everyone who gave feedback on my initial thoughts on the information architecture – it was certainly food for thought and, as a result of that and some more work on our part, we’ve moved on a little in our thinking – I’d like to share some thoughts and some questions with you now, for your consideration.


In my previous post I suggested that perhaps two different faces on essentially the same content could be valuable – one being ‘download’ which would be used by people who were using Drupal as a tool and looking for the core, modules and themes to download and use, and one being ‘Project’ which was targeted at developers involved in further developing and, of course, maintaining Drupal, the project.

After hearing all the feedback to this, I now agree that this is not a great idea – in a nutshell because, as you have said, we don’t want to create such a void between using Drupal and contributing. Also, given that we have a ‘getting started’ page, people who are less familiar with Drupal will be directed there, and from that section they can be given an easy guide to what to download and from where.

So, based on your feedback to date, let’s remove ‘Downloads’ as a section or sub-site.

Information Scent for Core/Modules/Themes/Translations: I’m thinking of a word that is *like* ‘Project’ but makes sense to ‘outsiders’

That leads me to one of the reasons I suggested ‘Downloads’ in the first place – being that ‘Project’ is a very ‘Drupal’ word. To someone who is versed in Drupal-speak, ‘Projects’ means ‘things that we’re working on, like the Core project, Modules, Themes, and even Translations/Localisation. But for someone who is NOT Drupal-speak-savvy, ‘Projects’ or even ‘The Drupal Project’ is not good information scent for really important (perhaps some of the most important) content on the site.

Non-Drupal-speak-savvy people will not look under ‘Projects’ for Downloading Drupal, Modules, Themes or Translations… so we need to come up with a label for this part of the site that makes sense to everyone. (Or, at least, gives them a clue of what might be contained within, sends them in the right direction).

The card sorting exercise gives us the following insight:

  • When asked to categorise ‘Contributed Modules’ participants who identified as ‘outsiders’ used terms like ‘Development/Developers’ and ‘Downloads’. 
  • When asked to categorise ‘Themes’ participants who identified as ‘outsiders’ used terms like ‘Designers’ and ‘Downloads’. 
  • When asked to categorise ‘Translations’ participants who identified as ‘outsiders’ used terms like ‘About Drupal’ and ‘Developing’ 
Now, we know that we don’t want to use ‘Downloads’ because it doesn’t reveal the ongoing project work and encourage participation. I have given quite a bit of thought to creating ‘Developer’ and ‘Designer’ sections and splitting content off that way, but my gut feeling is that is a highway to pain – primarily because both the content and audience are rarely clearly divided into one of these categories – I imagine there would be an awful lot of crossover – and also because it seems unnecessary (and less than ideal) to divide the Drupal community by role.
That leaves us with the enormous question of – what do we call the section currently called ‘Download’ (on the Drupal website) and ‘The Drupal Project’ (on our proposed IA), from which the Core project, Modules, Themes and Translations can be accessed. It’s got me stumped for the moment, so I’d love it if you can throw some ideas at me. 
Or perhaps the whole idea of having one section to house all of this is the problem, and we need to expose the contents of this section at a higher level?
Any thoughts you have on removing the ‘Downloads’ subsite and re-naming ‘The Drupal Project’ sub-site would be most welcome! (Insiders and outsiders both!) :)

Drupal.org – what makes up Drupal.org Community?

I’m going to call on your expertise again to help me think through an issue for the Drupal.org redesign. This time we’re thinking about community.drupal.org, which is theoretically the community ‘hub’ of drupal.org.

At the time I proposed it, I imagined it being a place where both Groups and Forums would live and potentially also Planet Drupal and other community type ‘stuff’. Now that we’re starting to get into prototyping (yes, you’ll see it very soon!), the devil, of course, emerges in the detail…

The major part of Forums is – at least to my eyes – support. That being the case, putting it under a ‘Community’ label is not the clearest way to direct people to this support.

Other (apparently less important) content in the forums includes News & Announcements, General Discussion, Drupal Showcase, Events and Paid Drupal Services. Now, short of ‘General Discussion’ each of these other items have natural homes in the proposed new IA.

I’m also aware that there is a very active ‘groups’ section who have all manner of discussions going on (and, perhaps, quite a bit of duplication with forums?)

So, here is what I’m thinking… what if we pull forums apart a little. We *might* rename ‘Documentation’ to ‘Documentation & Support’ and include the support forum topics there. And we might retire the forum topics that are now duplicated in the main information architecture (paid services, news, events etc.). We might keep the ‘general discussion’ forum in Community, because it seems like a good idea to keep a nice ‘light weight’ place for all kinds of topics to be discussed, but the bulk of the Communities section would be groups.

The more we work on this project, the more obvious it becomes that Drupal.org is, in its entirety, a community site – so in our context, what does a ‘community’ section mean? I’m thinking that it means a place where the *topic* is more about the Drupal Community than it is the about the Drupal Project. But also that we want to intertwine these two much more than they are at the moment, so contextual linking is also going to be important.

How does that all sound to you?

Drupal.org – what we learned from the card sort

If you’ve been following this project you’ll know that we’ve been doing an online card sort recently to help inform the information architecture for drupal.org. To date we have had more than 200 people participate in this card sort exercise, which is a tremendous effort and a bucketload of data! Thank you all!

In particular we were interested in understanding how we group and label different types of content, and whether the language (as in terminology) varied between insiders and outsiders.

The card sort is still running but we have done an initial analysis of the results to date – the findings are not really so surprising, but nonetheless, useful to have available.

Essentially, what we found is that insiders and outsiders generally use similar words to group and label content where that content is not particularly specific to Drupal, or doesn’t involve ‘Drupal-Speak’

So, for example, for both insiders and outsiders there were lots of occasions where a significant majority of users grouped terms into the same category, for example:

  • ‘Local User Groups’ was grouped into ‘Community’
  • ‘Installation Documentation’ was grouped into ‘Documentation’
  • ‘General Concepts’ was grouped into ‘Getting Started’
  • ‘Getting started’ was grouped into ‘Beginner/New/Getting Started’ and ‘Documentation’ – both equally split in this way in both groups!
  • ‘Features and Mission of the Drupal Project’ was grouped into ‘About’
  • ‘Administer Drupal’ was grouped into ‘Documentation’

However, when it came to content items or terminology that was particular to (or used in a particular way within) the Drupal community, the split became  more apparent. Drupal ‘insiders’ familiarity with the current structure of the drupal.org website also seemed to come into play – in fact, sometimes people actually responded with a specific URL! (eg. groups.drupal.org). Examples of these kinds of content include:

  • Contributed Modules – responses from ‘outsiders’ were all over the place and didn’t show much of a trend at all. Terms included community, customise, design, development, features, modules, enhancing Drupal, understanding Drupal, getting involved, mastering and  more. On the other hand, ‘Insiders’ showed two very strong categories – Download (where modules reside in the current IA) and Developer
  • Core Project – most ‘outsiders’ put this in a category called ‘About Drupal’, where as ‘insiders’ unsurprisingly used the same cateogories as for Contributed Modules (both are considered ‘downloads’ in the current IA
  • Themes – again, the categories suggested by ‘outsiders’ was wide ranging, but most commonly suggested was ‘Customise’ and ‘Themes’, were as by FAR the most common category suggested by ‘insiders’ was ‘Downloads’.
  • Same for Translations, which clearly went into a ‘Downloads’ category for ‘insiders’ but left ‘outsiders’ perplexed – again, no clear trend emerged from them and suggested categories ranged from Customise, to Advanced Help to Projects.

You  may also have noticed that, in general, suggested categories were quite broad – there was extensive use made of the categories ‘About’, ‘Community’, ‘Documentation’, ‘Developing/Developers/Development’, ‘Get Involved’.

So, what does this mean for our project?

A card sort is never intended to ‘set’ the information architecture, but is rather used as a ‘probe’ into the existing and potential audience to get a sense of how they make sense of the content that you are trying to organise. We are not going to take the labels suggested by most participants and map the content to those labels and call that our IA, but we have learned some very valuable lessons. Including:

  • We need to be very careful and aware of Drupal-speak – it causes no end of confusion for people who are not familiar with Drupal. This doesn’t mean that we abandon it – after all, it is part of the efficiency of communicating within the community. But we need to make sure that we don’t use it for major ‘sign posts’ in the information architecture and that when we do use it, we add ‘supports’ for new players (outsiders)
  • Opportunities for cross-referencing – there were several instances where a piece of content showed more than one ‘trending’ category, for example the inclusion of ‘getting started’ content in both a ‘beginners/getting started’ category as well as a ‘documentation’ category. There are several instances like this where we can ensure that content is cross-referenced from one section (or sub-site) to another based on expectations shown in the card sort data.
  • Category naming – for example, a term like ‘Community’ is not currently represented on the Drupal.org website but are widely expected by both ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ alike. This supports the consolidation of the more ‘social’ aspects of Drupal (groups, forums etc.) into a major section labeled ‘Community’.

Going forward

We will use the insight we have gained to date from this card sort to help inform the proposed Information Architecture for the Drupal.org website, which of course we will continue to share with you as we proceed.

It is *possible* that we may conduct a further card sort in the near future, however this one will be a ‘closed’ sort, where you will be asked to place content into a set of pre-defined categories. I’m only half convinced that this is a good approach (having had mixed success with closed card sorts in the past… ), so I’d be interested in any thoughts you have about whether this would be an interesting and useful exercise.

I’m glad to hear that several of you really enjoyed participating in this exercise and I do thank you for taking the time to do so.

Drupal.org – Initial thoughts on the Information Architecture

Firstly, I want to start by thanking you all for your participation to date in this project – it has been beyond helpful! Of course, now I’m going to ask for more, as we move forward to working out what the Information Architecture for the new Drupal.org is going to be.

If you have been following this process you will know that the overwhelming response to the question of ‘one site or many’ has been – many. And for many very good reasons, covering issues from technical and implementation through to community, scalability and usability. So, it should be no surprise to hear that we’ll be proposing to take that approach to the information architecture.

In terms of how it breaks down, here are some initial thoughts on which I’d value your feedback.


We propose that Drupal.org have, in effect, two homepages. On ‘not logged in’ and one ‘logged in’.

The ‘not logged in’ homepage would serve as the public face of Drupal to ‘outsiders’ (those with little or know knowledge of Drupal) and will be the place where we can introduce Drupal and ‘sell it in’ – showing it’s features, capabilities, reliability, the scale of it’s use across industries and around the world, and it’s amazingly active community.

We will encourage people to ‘join’ Drupal.org so that they can access the ‘logged in’ version of the homepage. The purpose of the ‘log in’ is not to ‘hide’ content, but rather to ‘activate’ the homepage as a tool for managing the vast amounts of content and activity that make up Drupal.org (or d.o as the ‘insiders’ call it!)

We imagine the ‘logged in’ version of d.o to be similar in approach to Netvibes – the idea being that there are a range of ‘widgets’ available that you can select and arrange as best suits your needs – so depending on what you are most interested and engaged in, you can ‘tailor’ the content on your homepage to best reflect this. Developers might also be able to develop new ‘widgets’ and submit them for use on the d.o logged in homepage.

We believe that a single login solution is imperative (and we’d like to suggest that supporting OpenID would be an excellent idea).

We also advocate a unified search across all of the d.o content, with a search results page that better identifies the type of content found and it’s source, and good filtering capabilities.

‘Portal/Network’ Header

Although we agree that the ‘many site’ approach is the correct approach for this project, it is important that we resolve a current issue with the information architecture which is that many of the current sub-sites are unfindable – we need to make these visible and easily accessible to all.

The logical way to approach this is to use a ‘network header’ which is global – shown on all pages of all d.o sites – and which contains links to each of the sub-sites in the d.o network.

A different visual treatment may be developed for some or all of the subsites to allow for their specific purpose and character, whilst clearly positioning them as a part of the Drupal online presence. We want to balance the need for flexibility and scalability with their inherant threat to usability.

A few people mentioned jquery.com as a reference site and – broadly speaking, in terms of the header/sub-site treatment, this is a guide to the approach (not to any great level of detail and not from a visual design perspective of course!)

It is quite a big task to decide what ‘sections’ are required and what requires it’s own ‘sub-site’, but here is a first run at what we are thinking.

Sections of d.o (but not their own separate subsites):

  • About (includes marketing information – features, benefits, demo etc. – also information about Open Source in general)
  • Jobs (pulling it out of the ‘groups’ site and making it more prominent)
  • Events (also pulling it out of the ‘groups’ site and making it more prominent)
  • News (similar content stream to current d.o homepage. Include link (at least) to Planet Drupal here)
  • Get Started (a quick start guide for new players, helping to get them over the hurdle of getting their Drupal site up and running and showing them how to access the community and other help)
  • Get Involved (an overview of ways that people can get involved in the Drupal project and/or community)
  • Professional Services (a directory of hosting, design and development services for rent, possibly paid listings?)

Sub-sites of d.o

  • Community – the social hub of d.o hosting groups, discussion forums etc.
  • Documentation- where all drupal related documentation is hosted, including Handbook and API
  • The Drupal Project – the project management aspect of the site for core, modules, themes etc. Issue lists etc. live here
  • Download – essentially an alternate ‘window’ on The Drupal Project, but focussed on helping people locate then download core, modules, themes etc. (rather than the ‘development’ aspect of them)
  • Association – as per the existing Association content

Feedback required:

As I said, this is the first run at the structure and I’m looking for your feedback on where we need to make improvements. Specifically feedback that I’m looking for is:

  1. Is something missing? Is there an important part of d.o content that you don’t see fitting into one of these categories?
  2. Technical issues. Is something that I’m suggesting here going to cause more technical pain (which will equate to implementation delay) than it’s worth? Let me know.
  3. Drupal Project / Download – two windows on the same content – what do you think of this idea? I’m not sure that it’s entirely right, but we *do* need to resolve the fact that people who access modules just to ‘download’ them seem to have entirely different needs to people who access them to ‘develop’ them.
  4. Design and UI – perhaps this is just my personal mission (I hope not!) but I’d like to make an information architecture that was more appealing to people like me who might want to get involved with the project. I was toying with creating a section specifically for design/UI/UX… but it didn’t feel quite right. At the moment I’m imagining it living under The Drupal Project… what do you think?

I have some images that I’ll put up shortly to roughly illustrate these for those who prefer pictures to words (don’t we all!) – my internet access doesn’t allow me access to my images at the moment… grr.. but I thought I’d get this up now rather than wait.

Looking forward to your thoughts on this!

Updated: here are a couple of images that might illustrate my thoughts a little. Larger versions available on Flickr (via links below)
Larger version available here.

Larget version available here. (Note: this is not the proposed design for the header, just a sketch of all the ‘bits’ that might be in it).