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)

Drupal.org update – staging site

Over the last few months of last year you have have seen or, hopefully, engaged with the project to redesign the Drupal.org website.

It’s been a while since we’ve posted an update, but I’m really excited to say that despite the quiet here, the Drupal community have been busy working on the new site and it is really starting to come together beautifully.

Want to check it out? You can find it over on the staging server at staging.dosprint.org – the username and password are “demo” (not sure exactly why it’s protected, but, nevermind.

There’s still lots of work to do, but we’re really happy with how it is looking and really impressed that the community has been able to pull together and get so far with the work so quickly – well done all! We look forward to seeing it get closer to going live.

Drupal7UX – Pimp Your Admin

You might remember we mentioned that we were going to kick off an activity we call ‘Pimp Your Admin’ at the recent Drupalcon conference – we have a few interesting screencasts already and now we’d like to invite you to join in!

One of the great things about Drupal is that you can bend it to your will – get it to do just about anything you need it to do. Same goes for it’s administration interface (admin).

Before we get to work on the Drupal7 Admin, we’d love to see what you out there have done to make the Drupal Admin System do what you need it to do, or just to work better for you and your project.

Here’s how we want to do it – simply take a little screencast, it seems to take us about six or seven minutes – and walk us through your admin system and show us what you’ve done, even if it’s just something tiny – to make Drupal work better for you.

You can check out some examples that others have done at the Drupal7UX YouTube Group then once you’ve recorded yours, upload it and post it to the group so we can take a look. (Of course, if you’d rather host it elsewhere, you can just leave a link to your preferred location in the comments below (thanks Brandonian, we’ve got a note of yours!)

We’re really looking forward to seeing your work and to see if some interesting trends start to emerge!

update: for those who ask, we’ve been using Silverback to record our screencasts. If you’re a Mac user and interested in User Experience you should have Silverback. It’s great and ridiculously affordable.

Understanding our Audience (Part 1) – Drupal7 UX Project


We’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to develop a framework to understand and frame the Drupal7 Audience in such a way as we can successfully design for them. We thought you might be interested in seeing some of our thinking to date, so we recorded a quick chat about it in the video above. (I really should do my hair before videoing myself!)

As an overview, here is the outline of what we’re thinking:

There are three important user attributes: role, type of site, and size/complexity of the user ecosystem(number of users in the system and no. of different roles defined).

Important roles:
- end user (define here)
- editor
- site builder
- site administrator

Important site types:
- blog
- news/publishing
- groups
- events

Important ecosystems
- single user
- 2-5 users
- 5-15 users
-more than 15 users
(need to work out a way to define number of user roles as well)

This is still very much work in progress and there is more thinking to be done – stay tuned. Meanwhile, I think we need to come up with a fancy word for our little audience prototype thingy.

[x-posted at http://groups.drupal.org/node/20073]