Hard to do site builder usability testing

tsvenson's picture

The work being done by Bojhan and others in this group, as well as within the Spark and other initiatives is simply amazing. It will undoubtedly lead to better UX and usability for especially those that will work with content.

As a site builder I am very eager to be able to get more involved in this work. Personally I am most interested in helping to test the usability and UX when constructing these editing interfaces, and provide feedback on that. Especially since it is those interfaces I as a site builder will be using the most in my work.

However, this is not always so easy. For Drupal 7 for example, its wasn't really until alpha 4 or 5 that I was really able to install and get it working. By then core where already delayed and developers felt more pressure to get it ready, leading to that it was very difficult to get any improvements to the site building experience done. There simply wasn't much time to change things...

I think it would be very helpful if it was possible for us site builders to be able to get involved earlier in testing. Especially as it is in most cases not until you try and configure something that you also will discover limitations, bottlenecks and other things that makes constructing (UI configuring) features too complicated.

This doesn't necessarily have to be working site builder interfaces, although that of course would be optimal. But just being able to see mock-ups/prototypes of the interfaces we will use would help us to at least better visualize how things will look.

Personally I would love it if this also could lead to a site builder usability team that focuses on the needs and challenges site builders are faced with when configuring site features in the UI. I am convinced that would be a great addition to the work already being done to make Drupal easier and better to us, and I would for sure be the first one to sign up to help out with that.


I think it would be very

greta_drupal's picture

I think it would be very helpful if it was possible for us site builders to be able to get involved earlier in testing. ...this also could lead to a site builder usability team that focuses on the needs and challenges site builders are faced with when configuring site features in the UI.

God, that is far too sensible. It will never fly. Besides, it is not as though we lowly site builders have any value in the Drupal community.

Trust your just being ironic

tsvenson's picture

Trust your just being ironic here. I have spoken to so many core, initiative and other developers here at DrupalCon Munich, plus over my several years in the community, and none of them have anything against us site builders.

They do want our input and they already try to figure out a lot on their own to about what we need. Still, there are much more that can be done. We just need to figure out how we can do it better as well as earlier in the planning stage of new functionality.

This is not a simple issue to solve. Creating a great site builder experience and at the same time make it flexible is difficult...

T: @tsvenson | S: tsvenson.com

Thinking about the big picture

User Advocate's picture

Thomas, I applaud your initiative and agree that the site builder role is at the hub of pretty much everything that we do with Drupal installations. Although I also understand there can be tensions between different roles over how much control each can have to shape and manage web sites. I think problems like this stem from challenges along many fronts: technical, design, communication, etc.

At the same time, Drupal as a platform has to compete with many open source and commercial alternatives. As a community we have to find a way to overcome these challenges if we are to see Drupal live on. Not easy problems to solve.

My perspective is coloured by the fact that, in my 4 years of working with Drupal, I’ve crossed many of the role boundaries (developer, site builder, content manager, themer, UX designer). As I’ve stated many times before, my vision of a successful site building UX is an ‘outside-in’ approach. The architectural changes for D8 can support such an approach.

I know many UX designers share this perspective (hence the Spark initiative) but we have to be careful not to miss the implications of this as a core UX strategy. If we don’t grasp fully what this means in terms of core UX design we won’t reach that potential.

My latest description about outside-in site building UX is a video I posted last week. As a ‘gestalt’ vision of an outside-in UI system, it leaves out many important details. I’m happy to delve into any of these details if others feel it is a worthwhile direction to pursue.

Michael Keara
User Interface Systems Architect,
The User Advocate Group


jpw1116's picture

Everyone should watch Michael's video for a very contemporary take on the subject.

Together with Thomas's writing and charts (along with a few other efforts from community members like eliza411) you have the making of a new collaborative input initiative—a little like Prairie and Spark meeting with IdeaScale—but tuned to UI/UX.

I don't know if those competing platforms have anything similar. What could it be named?

The un/under-appreciated

greta_drupal's picture

The un/under-appreciated thing about Sitebuilders (or WebAdmins, for that matter) is that we are (often) the only one who deals directly with the client end user. So, we are the ones who know their roadblocks, and we are the ones who have to resolve them. ...If only to rewrite help text to make better sense.

And, if developers are not going consider/respect the feedback from sitebuilders, they should be REQUIRED to use the Drupal UI for everything that they do. Not Drush, not command line, not GIT. They should test their modules the way that a beginner user would use them -- from download, installation, configuration, implementation, update.

For a developer to say "cannot reproduced issue" without having tried it that way, is unproductive.

Whilst this is not the right

John_B's picture

Whilst this is not the right place to open up this important community topic (and there is a real issue here), this group http://groups.drupal.org/usability is a great example that the ideal of sitebuilders spending some time to contribute our experiences, and developers inviting our responses and doing their best to take them into account. It is also a fantastic example of Drupal developers working to make Drupal easier to use. This improvement is much needed, as anyone will agree who feels a bit overwhelmed by this session on controlling layout in D7 from DrupalCon Munich http://munich2012.drupal.org/program/sessions/different-ways-control-you... . After hearing that session, I was just wondering whether there is more I could do to help with this excellent project....

No, they should not be required!

tsvenson's picture


While I do understand your frustration about these things, I also know this is a complex nut to crack. Its definitely not going to be solved by demanding the developers to also try and figure out what we site builders need.

I have spoken with so many people about this, including a lot of core and contrib developers. Including at DrupalCon Munich. Please believe me when I say that they are not trying to overlook our needs. Its also important to understand that much of the work they do is long term improvements to Drupal. This is development that is not always so easy to find resources for as they seldom can be related to client work.

If you look at the role map I created on http://www.tsvenson.com/blog/2012/08/the-drupal-site-building-experience you will see how the communication flows should go between roles. These flows are there for a reason and that is that they are defined by a provider and user principle as I defined in the "Roles After, Before & Parallel to Yours" section in the same post.

We site builders have the experience and know-how about what we need to be able to build great usability and easy to use features for the users of the sites. This is something that has taken us years to gather, including spending a lot of time talking to users and understanding how they work.

The only way we can improve the site builder situation in Drupal is to find way how we can better work together on this. That includes how we, the site builders, can find methods to make our knowledge and needs easier available for developers.

I'm talking to a few people right now and hopefully we will be able to announce an initiative about this soon. I'm very optimistic about that this has a great chance of improving things. Maybe not as quick as you would like, but definitely get the ball rolling.

T: @tsvenson | S: tsvenson.com


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