[consulting] A defense for new users

Kieran Lal kieran at civicspacelabs.org
Fri Feb 24 19:33:26 UTC 2006

Here's the future of Drupal:

"but unless we manage to make Drupal more accessible to new users and  
to get back to the basics, we'll find the ground shifting beneath our  
feet." -Dries

I am trying to get a new administration interface into Drupal that  
will improve the user experience of administration.  Here's the work  
that has gone into making this happen:

Feb 2005 attended 3 day conference on open source usability with Neil  
Drumm and Chris Messina conducted live user experience experiments  
with new Drupal users about how to accomplish basic tasks.  Lesson  
learned: administration is feature based not tasked based so new  
users can't learn the system because they are overwhelmed with  
features and can not accomplish their tasks and goals.

March-April 2005 Wrote a detailed multi page over view of how to  
conduct card sorts for categorization of menu items and how to  
implement custom menus in Drupal.

April-July 2005 added context sensitive links and standardized  
administration help through a single source documentation system  
based on the drupal handbook http://drupal.org/handbook/modules

August-September 2005 conducted interviews with a broad range of  
Drupal users to understand how they used Drupal administration, their  
situation, their goals, their tasks.  We used this data to conduct an  
online survey with 877 users classified into different user types.

October 2005 - February 2006 worked with David Reed and Earl Miles to  
develop a task based administration interface to help users  
accomplish their goals.

Our team of professional information architects advised us to develop  
a new administration interface that was task based and that helped  
administrators create an experience for their users.

Unfortunately, we are no longer able to make progress. The criticism  
from the most advanced users to build an interface that meets their  
needs over the needs of new users is too strong.   New users don't  
understand what "users" means, they don't understand what "content"  
means.  They have goals they want to accomplish and tasks they need  
to complete and those things are too obvious for the critics to  
tolerate because they know too much already.

So after 13 months of trying very hard, recruiting the best people in  
the industry, spending a lot money and time I am at a stand still.    
I have no set vision of how this administration interface should be,  
but I do know we need to help new users accomplish tasks and goals,  
not just give them a categorization of an overwhelming amount of  

I need some people to stand up for the new users, to put aside their  
personal needs and opinions, to look at the data, understand what it  
means for users to not already have a conceptual model of a CMS, and  
help these new users accomplish their goals.   I'll walk you through  
the data, show you the advice of Usability PhD's, the recommendations  
of our advising information architects so that we can build an  
objective argument that I have failed make.

Please help me create a defense for new users.


Contact me at kieran at civicspacelabs dot com

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