George DeMet (gdemet) is a member of the Drupal Association Advisory Board and Chair of the Drupal.org Content Working Group.

Seven years ago this month, Dries presented the State of Drupal in front of a few dozen developers at the Open Source Content Management System Summit on the Yahoo! campus in Sunnyvale, California. Drupal 5 had just come out, PHPTemplate was all the rage, and everyone was abuzz about the news that the Nigerian Prime Minister was using Drupal for his blog.

Today, Drupal is used by the President of the United States and nearly every other government on the planet, DrupalCons are attended by thousands of people, and PHPTemplate will soon be replaced by Twig in Drupal 8. The Drupal project and community have grown rapidly in a very short amount of time.

With this growth has come a lot of change, and while our community as a whole has done a great job of embracing that change, our website has struggled to keep up. Drupal.org is full of outdated content, it is difficult to navigate, and it does not accurately or adequately reflect the Drupal project or community to the rest of the world.

In order to address this, the Drupal.org Content Working Group (DCWG) has drafted a roadmap to overhaul the content and design of Drupal.org and to launch a redesigned and improved version of the site in 2015.

Who?

DCWG is one of three working groups chartered by the Drupal Association that serve as the collective product owner for Drupal.org. DCWG is responsible for managing the content strategy for Drupal.org, including the overall look-and-feel and voice of the website. The group does not have jurisdiction over the issue queues or project documentation.

For the past 10 months, DCWG has been working quietly behind the scenes to help make Drupal.org a better home for the community, and a better resource for people who want to learn more about the project.

Why?

Drupal.org has grown organically since its launch in 2001, relying primarily on content provided by volunteers, with minimal editorial resources or oversight. Even browsing or searching Drupal.org today regularly surfaces posts written back when Justin Timberlake was still a member of N’Sync.

The site’s growing pains were already apparent by 2007, and in his Sunnyvale keynote, Dries challenged the community to improve the experience of using Drupal.org. The result was a redesign that began in 2008, launched in 2010, and is still in place today. This redesign project was a huge step forward for the project and the community, but was limited in scope due to budget and resourcing constraints.

Drupal.org has always been a de facto “hub” for our community, and it should be a truly shining example of everything the project and community has to offer, empowering, connecting, and engage people who work with Drupal or want to learn more about it. Drupal as both a software project and as a community has come a long way in the past few years, and we are better situated than ever before to take Drupal.org to the next level.

How?

The plan is to first conduct user research to identify and understand our existing and target audiences, so that we can serve them better. Then we will audit the content on Drupal.org and develop a comprehensive content strategy for the site. After that foundational work is done, we will then have what we need to begin the redesign process in earnest.

This will be a lot of work, and even with the full participation of volunteers from the community and Drupal Association staff, we will need assistance from professional consultants who will help provide us with the perspective and focus we need to make Drupal.org a resource that will continue to grow with our community.

When?

In the coming days, the Drupal Association will be releasing a Request for Quote (RFQ) for the user research and persona development component of this project. Our hope is that we will have the opportunity to conduct in-person interviews with a broad range of Drupal users, developers, and evaluators at DrupalCon Austin, in addition to remote interviews with other Drupal users around the world. We also plan to share the results of this research with the community, both online and in person at DrupalCon Amsterdam.

As always, we welcome any questions, concerns, or feedback you might have. The Drupal community is the ultimate product owner for Drupal.org, and it’s important that the work done on the site reflect the values that we share as developers and users of open source software.

Comments

"Drupal is used by the President of the United States and nearly every other government on the planet"

[citation needed]

Tempted to post a LMGTFY link, but I'm nice today: https://groups.drupal.org/government-sites

Oh, wow. I had no idea that list existed. That's amazing.

The user research and persona development component is welcome news. Here are a few Drupal folks to consider among many who deserve the spotlight:

The youngest delegate at DrupalCon Portland, where he met Dries for the first time while live on JAM's podcast
https://www.acquia.com/resources/podcasts/acquia-podcast-117-greatest-hi...

A blind Italian student who was just finishing high-school when the Drupal community crowdfunded $5k to fly him to DrupalCon Portland
http://openconcept.ca/blog/mgifford/drupal-crowd-funding-success

The talent behind the '70s OJ-Simpson-a-suit campaign, using Drupal since version 3
http://firstwebcam.com/jeffrey-hoffman

 

One thing that I'm not completely clear on is if this is an information architecture overhall or a visual refresh as well? I would like to comment but I don't think I'm able without know the intent here.

Hi Lewis,

this is both, IA and visual refresh.

A visual refresh or overhaul is something I have to disagree with. What happened to building, learning, and iterating? Do we really expect drupal.org to stand still 3-4 years while we design and build the entire site over again?

Bluecheese has barely been touched since it was launched, D7 upgrade aside, why start again from scratch for no good reason?

Even while this effort is ongoing, Drupal Association staff, community volunteers, and others will be continuing to work to improve Drupal.org and add new features to it. These improvements include landing pages with information targeted at specific audiences (site builders, themers, module developers, etc.) as well as things like the recently-announced Job Board (https://association.drupal.org/content/drupal-job-board-will-be-built).

Drupal.org is too big a site to stand still while this process goes on.

 

I agree and I'm sure the site will continue to improve in other areas, but I only meant the visual design. Why not evolve the visual design incremtentally over time to accommodate new new needs as they appear instead of another multi-year effort where we can't test or measure anything with real users.

It will be a great job, today the visitor wants to get the information quickly and accurately, that's why we need to reformulate the content and design.

I'm wondering can you use the "Acquia Lift " for redesigning ?

Thanks a lot

 

There are lots of resources for noobs with books and videos. The ninjas read the code or have been there, done that. The mid-level developers get an error message that says "see system administrator", but they are the system administrator and the message is not helpful. I think this is an overlooked persona.

I don't really want to be *that* guy, but considering that we only just got d.o onto D7 (and I think there are still open issues being addressed) doesn't it seem a bit premature to go down this path? Considering that the redesign also took ~2 years (and with limited scope according to this post) it also seems highly unrealistic to expect this to be done in 2015. 

I don't want to be negative, but I'm highly skeptical this is going to be a huge amount of effort and cost and that it is going to distract us from our other goals. It kind of feels like other projects that I've been on when a new team is brought on board and the first reaction is to redo everything or when a developer approaches a legacy project and decides to recode it. 

is there not a more iterative, evolutionary approach we can take rather than a more revolutionary one? Is there a list of specific grievances / limitations / shortcomings of the current design/IA that this project is aiming to address that can't be address another way? 

Is there a list of specific grievances / limitations / shortcomings of the current design/IA that this project is aiming to address that can't be address another way?

Valid questions. I'd also like to know the answers.

I totally appreciate and understand these concerns.  The Drupal.org redesign was a huge and difficult undertaking for our community, as was the D7 migration. The DCWG includes key community members who were heavily involved in both projects, so it is by no means a "new team" that is taking this on.  We understand the work that's been done in the past (both what went well and what didn't), and we are committed to making the process less painful and more productive this time around.

We're also much better positioned than ever before to effectively execute and implement this kind of project due to the increased staff, management, and financial capacity of the Drupal Association. This means that we'll be able to more effectively leverage the talent and experience of the community while pushing other project tasks to staff or outside consultants. In terms of timeline and scope, we want to be realisitic about what can be achieved; what we've laid out is a roadmap that can be tweaked or changed as needed. Decisions about how to structure the actual redesign and its implementation will not be made until the foundational work (user research, content strategy, etc.) has been completed.

In terms of this project as a distraction from other goals, making Drupal.org shine is one of the key imperatives outlined in the Drupal Association's 2014 Leadership Plan, along with cultivating a successful launch of Drupal 8. The Association has been working on raising funding to support various Drupal.org improvements, and either has hired or is in the process of hiring several staff members whose exclusive focus will be on Drupal.org, includiing a CTO. These folks and others will continue to address issues and make incremental improvements to the site while this more long-term process is ongoing.

There are literally hundreds of open issues relating to content and design issues with the current site, some of which can be more easily addressed than others. One of the reasons we're approaching the project in this way is that we want to not only to better understand the issues existing users are having with the site, but also the way the site is perceived by people visiting it for the first time. One of the larger goals here is to increase traffic and engagement on the site and to better reach out to audiences who we're missing right now.

 

 

 

To offer some support to this, it's important for us to remember that Drupal.org is a primary resource for finding information about the Drupal project, and it's the first point of entry for many in the community, playing a huge role in a person's journey into learning and using Drupal. Making sure that the content people see—of all experience levels—is vital to getting people to continue working with Drupal in the long term, and to the growth of the community.

Hi Ryan - One other thing I want to address is that we won't necessarily take on a full re-design that gets rolled out over the whole site all at once. I think that approaching the redsign from the inside out - one persona/section/etc.  - at a time will allow us to learn as we go before we make sweeping changes across the entire site. As far as distracting us, Drupal.org is our PRIMARY goal here at the Association, and we have anecdotal and analytics evidence that suggests we need to take steps to improve the site for a variety of audiences. This audience examination will allow us to understand those trends more fully and make evidence-based choices. 

"The plan is to first conduct user research to identify and understand our existing and target audiences, so that we can serve them better."

Maybe this is just a plan detail, but in addition to identifying audiences there should also be some effort to identify the *metrics* that we will be using to define "better". And those metrics ought to be tracked and implemented *before* any changes are made to get a baseline for how sucessful the site is now.  Also those metrics ought to be public.  Ultimately I'd like to see a very clear, quantified definition of what sucess looks like. With feedback loops added to the site, like 'did you find this article useful?' etc.

I would see that as a primary part of the research that's being proposed here. The point of personas isn't just to identify a bunch of stories; it's also to identify key pain points these users are experiencing, potential features that might help, and key metrics that will be used to figure out if those features are actually helping.

I do like the direction this is going.  My main concern though is that we're not starting from ground zero on this front. Quite a lot of work has been done in 2011 & 2012 with the Prairie Initiative. There are many ideas that have been fleshed out in detail and could be implemented pretty quickly if there was the political will to do so.  

I've spent quite a bit of time going through the issue queues & GDO discussions to get a sense of what some of the problems & possible solutions are. I do know that this has been a frustration for some as I've linked together ideas, expanded on them and worked to build prototypes for implementation. 

Ultimately there seems to be a fear of failure.  Perfect is the enemy of good.  This is a website, we aren't going to see perfect.  But we have to be able to iterate more quickly and experiment.  We need A/B testing so that we can try things with either our anonymous users or our members and know if it helps us or not.  That's all about being able to make incremental changes on a regular basis and guiding our decisions mased on the metrics. 

I'm totally in favour of this RFQ.  I'm sure that there's a lot we're going to be able to learn from it.  I'm happy with what I've seen come from the DA lately and I know there are a lot of catching up to do on d.o infrastructure. But we don't need to hear the results of this survey to make changes to the /start & /community pages. We can't have it take 2 years to make simple changes like this.  And yet I think these little things can have a big impact for onboarding new individuals. 

We need to start using Drupal.org as a community building tool.  There are lots of ways to start along this path simply in the next month.  When we have the persona's we can use that to build on the survey from 2012 and allow us to move forward more effectively and with more confidence. Let's just make sure we don't put good initiatives on hold now because we might have some more insights in Amsterdam. 

As I mentioned in my post, several members of the DCWG were involved in both the 2008-2010 redesign effort. Some of our members were also involved in the Prairie Initiative. We'll certainly be digging back into that research and those ideas throughout this process, and updating them to meet the needs of the Drupal.org audience in 2015 and beyond. 

And as I mentioned in an earlier post, we'll also be continuing to work on and improve Drupal.org even as this effort is ongoing. Drupal.org will not stand still.

We need to start using Drupal.org as a community building tool.  There are lots of ways to start along this path simply in the next month.  When we have the persona's we can use that to build on the survey from 2012 and allow us to move forward more effectively and with more confidence. Let's just make sure we don't put good initiatives on hold now because we might have some more insights in Amsterdam.

I love this idea.

I have to guess that 80% of Drupal are male engineers. (I could be more specific and cite something but we don't have any data about that, please note irony here). I say this with great love and affection and to frame the conversation that in general this means a distinct allergy to any conversations, money spent, or initiatives about marketing, sales, business strategy. 

Some will decry this as an "it-ain't-broke, don't-fix-it" plan but that's perhaps an engineering pov. We can agree that the current drupal.org houses over a million users, a million pages and it has not been pruned and organized in a long time. Just like anything that grows organically, periodic renewal is essential to well-being and health. It doesn't mean this one initiative has to encompass all ills with the site. But identifying our users, creating user stories, understanding their needs and pov is a good first step.

As a community, we need these big, bold initiatives. Why? Because Drupal's adoption rate is declining*. Yes, it's growing because the CMS universe is expanding but our percentage of the marketplace is not. Why? Well, we can all speculate but until we know who the users are, why they adopt, why they leave, why they choose another CMS, what they want/expect, we are in the cosmic dark.

"Drupal is used by 5.4% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 1.9% of all websites." ** The room for growth here is dramatic. What if we had 5% of all websites? That would mean 250% more Drupal business for everyone. 

This isn't meant to be a negative or a scare tactic post, just a point of view that while Drupal may be humming along from an engineering view, those of us looking down the road 3-5 years out aren't that encouraged with today's forecast. We need to turn current trends around if Drupal is to be a viable in 2020. Resting on our laurels of the White House is dangerous business. We can't keep selling what happened at the beginning of Obama's term as President. 

I am deeply appreciative of the work done and also of the arduous journey ahead. Holly Ross and team are doing solid work with limited talent and resources. They are building an association that is self-sustaining and poised to do great things.

When one is inside their own bottle, they can't read their own lablel. We're all inside the Drupal ecosystem and we can't see our universe as an outsider or new user anymore. So let's forge ahead. Let me know how I can help.

 

http://trends.builtwith.com/cms/Drupalhttp://w3techs.com/technologies/details/cm-drupal/all/all
**http://w3techs.com/technologies/details/cm-drupal/all/all

We're all inside the Drupal ecosystem and we can't see our universe as an outsider or new user anymore.

Very well said.

I personally feel that the DCWG team (and Drupal content allies) will have a tough year ahead getting a more vivid and refreshing point-of-view with the layout & content choices in the upcoming (still no roadmap tho) Drupal.org redesign.

It's almost akin to a magazine or newspaper editor position, I think. Every choice you make from the placement of headlines to the folding (breakpoints) and printing affects the global "tone" of the agency and its subscribers (in our case, Drupal users & contributors). No space or corner left unturned. Boundries of the press universe fully chartered.

You bring up a very good point that the CTOness and the editorial usability of the site are very different roles. I believe the new CTO will at least be able to drive these types of decisions with clarity and vision and persistence. Great thougt though and one I hope is adopted. I hear TNG music when reading your line "No space or corner left unturned. Boundries of the press universe fully chartered."

I have to guess that 80% of Drupal are male engineers. (I could be more specific and cite something but we don't have any data about that, please note irony here). I say this with great love and affection and to frame the conversation that in general this means a distinct allergy to any conversations, money spent, or initiatives about marketing, sales, business strategy. Some will decry this as an "it-ain't-broke, don't-fix-it" plan but that's perhaps an engineering pov.

 

Sorry Susan, I missed your irony, and I know you're not attacking, but I found your broad generalizations of the limited interest range of male engineers - without presenting any facts - to be a bit offensive.

 

Is this opposed to female engineers, who presumably love marketing, sales, and business strategy, on top of engineering?

 

If we were to make broad generalizations about the limited interest capacty of female engineers, you might not appreciate it.

TL/DR: proposed focus on doc moderation / trend + search mechanisms instead of eyecandy.

In our experience, the documentation could include better moderation (“highlight doc”/“outdated”) and some sort of rating/trending mechanisms for doc pages and the front page / dashboard:

The “What's happening now” isn't very helpful for people working on the site, a trend like “most recent issue followers”, “recently tagged _outdated_” or “module download peak” would guide people looking for everyday info.

A rating on search pages could help for better results; this shouldn't be done via star ratings but a more subtle approach like mechanisms in the Radioactiviy module (www.drupal.org/project/radioactivity) though.

When finding good ressources, I sometimes tried to embed some sort of link on the doc pages or copy the manual index for better searchability. Do Drupal planet posts get included in search results or would some sort of aggregation/reference for external ressources be possible?

Another radical approach for documentation could be to move it to another area of the Drupal.org site (concentrating on UX for documentation only) or even manage it by some Git or wiki project. Devs would probably vote for this direction.

First off, I applaud the D.A. for re-launching this initiative. Overhauling Drupal.org's outdated content and landing pages has been on several volunteer's do-to lists for 2-3 years now. We'd make progress, then run out of steam when we didn't know who else to turn to for answers / feedback / more help!

I do also share mgifford's concern that there's heaps of existing research, content strategy effort, and IA/ design effort already on g.d.o. and d.o. but I think we just have to ensure they aren't forgotten, e.g. the proposed landing page designs could be revisited or used in user research sessions. And all the previous research findings is useful as a reference and as a steer for future research, but fresh data is required, especially now that there's more targeted research goals.

Exciting stuff!