Drupal, Presentations

Creating Usable Websites: Do It With Drupal!

Jeff Robbins of Lullabot asked if I’d speak about ways Drupal developers can learn more about user experience and make more usable websites at their Do It With Drupal conference, held in New Orleans in December 2008.

Since “making more usable websites” is a pretty broad topic, I decided to focus the talk on interaction design patterns, and the many libraries that exist to guide people in making design decisions. This got me thinking about a pattern library that could live on Drupal.org, which I think would be a good way for people to share design solutions and code.

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3 thoughts on “Creating Usable Websites: Do It With Drupal!

  1. Hey, Karen

    So I spend a lot of time working on the usability of Drupal and actually defended against pattern library for the following reason. It is hard to build patterns that are applicable to the wide variety of contexts a certain form element is used, although most libraries try to do this – they rarely pick a larger context, but instead go micro solely on the interaction and not it contexts.

    We have taken a stab at it before, but just creating patterns – means we are setting the standard for a lot of elements that are widely discussed to need a revamp. So I think not just because of the first constraint, but mostly because of the second constraint we will not encourage more design thinking within the community – rather we throw ready-to-be-used-but-not-really patterns at them.

    What is your take on Jared Spool talking about this on the UIE podcast? He discounts using pattrens to solve these kind of problems.

    • digitrix6 says:

      I hear you about the utility and extensibility of pattern libraries. Many interaction designers feel the same way. The problem pattern libraries try to solve usually goes way deeper than a pattern, and the hard part is articulating what the problem is to begin with!

      That said, I do think a pattern library would be a useful companion to Drupal’s module library, even in a very limited sense. For example, if you have lots of different modules that provide ratings functionality, right now there isn’t much context provided about why to choose one or the other from an experience design standpoint. So you might hear from other developers about which modules work better than others, but you don’t get the context about why to choose a star rating over a thumbs-up rating in terms of how you want the user to interact with it. So I think providing more description and analysis in the form of patterns would help Drupal developers make more usable sites.

  2. I agree that it might help create Drupal developers create more usable, in turn them creating more usable Drupal core. Right now it kind of happens like that, as we work hard on creating a good interface pattern in core it gets reused in every single contrib so the impact of core is immense.

    Been reading http://www.slideshare.net/iswinson/ixda09-postcard-patterns, on this as well. But still not sure how to truly tackle this beyond, its a good idea.

    Vertical tabs, which is a patch that went in Durpal core lately (http://civicactions.com/blog/2009/apr/19/vertical_tabs_drupal_7_core_how_open_source_does_usability_process) – after this happened, a lot of new patches went up that applied vertical tabs as well but completely losing the context it was build for, hence making it bad.

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