Last night, I was up until after midnight studying the submitted bids for the Drupal.org redesign. This morning I continued my evaluation at 6:00am. Why? Because tonight the Drupal Association will select the design firm that will be responsible for a redesign of Drupal.org.

Originally launched in 2001, and last redesigned in 2005, we have outgrown the current Drupal.org website. Based on the results of last year's State of Drupal survey (see also Drupal.org wishlist), the Drupal Association has made the Drupal.org redesign one of its top priorities. The goal of the redesign is to better serve the existing Drupal community, but also to better communicate Drupal's strengths and benefits for users that are new to Drupal. By improving the navigation, the design and the organization of the site, we hope to further expand Drupal's reach and to provide us better tools to communicate and collaborate.

Tiffany Farriss of Palantir, a Drupal shop in Chicago, did an excellent job leading the RFP process on behalf of the Drupal Association. She posted the RFP on drupal.org and reached out to world-class design firms, evaluated all bids based on 9 evaluation criteria, connected with some of the design firms by phone, reference checked portfolio clients, wrote a 7 page report for the Drupal Association, and more.

Tonight, the Drupal Association's Board of Directors will meet and Tiffany will present a summary and analysis of the proposals with a recommendation. If all goes well, a vendor will be selected and we can kick of the next phase of the Drupal.org redesign. The winning design firm will be invited to present their (preliminary) plans at Drupalcon Szeged. Attending DrupalCon Szeged will allow them to interview Drupal.org users and to get additional insight in our community.

Hopefully, we can also start making rapid progress with the Drupal.org upgrade to Drupal 6. That upgrade is currently blocked by modules such as the project module, used to power the bug and patch tracking functionality on Drupal.org. As a community we need to step in to help fix that problem or the Drupal.org upgrade will soon be in the critical path of the Drupal.org redesign. Not good. Nothing should stand in the way of a Drupal.org upgrade at this point. (Yes, I made the mistake to release Drupal 6 before Drupal.org was upgraded.)

Once we upgraded Drupal.org to Drupal 6, we should also start work on the Drupal.org wishlist items that are not covered by the Drupal.org redesign. Personally, I'm really excited about the idea of having a new and improved Drupal.org. Hopefully enough people step up to help -- either by offering their technical skills or by donating money to the Drupal Association. Just help!

Comments

Anonymous designer (not verified):

Very good news !

  1. This is the next level towards becoming the "Apple" of the CMS/framework arena (without their arrogance).
  2. Thank you for not choosing "wisdom of crowd". Often in term of design, crowd and community brings only bad consensus choices. In term of design, "wisdom of professional web agencies" is better (even if it's not me that get the money !!!).
  3. I hope that the Drupal icon will get also a serious relifting as it look amateurist. The idea is good, but outdated graphically.
  4. Next issue: bringing Drupal 7 (or 8) interface as elegant as iPhone or Adobe products in terms of their interface!

webchick (not verified):

We have some challenges ahead. It's not enough to ask technically capable people to help, and the inability to effectively use our volunteer resources is the most critically important thing that we as a community and especially we as the Drupal Association need to address.

I've seen it happen time and time again.

Karen, the Keen Community Member pops up and says, "I love Drupal! I want Drupal.org to rock! I have a really good idea to improve $x, and I even have the technical know-how and time to pull it off. Show me where to sign up!"

Karen is met with one of the following responses:

a) "Sorry. We can't do anything with $x right now, because we need to get Drupal.org upgraded first. More work on Drupal.org at this point will only stall the upgrade further." Which is fair enough. But jumping in and porting Project module to Drupal 6 is not something just any contributor can do, no matter how eager they are to help. I'm speaking as someone who was silly enough to volunteer for the job during the 4.6 -> 4.7 cycle which resulted in the subsequent loss of both my hair and sanity. ;)

b) "That's great! In order to solve $x, here are the 21 other dependent issues that need to be solved first. Looking forward to your contributions!" Again, usually these are Project module-related, and Project module is non-trivial to get up to speed on, even with helpers like Drupal.org testing profile.

c) "Hey, sounds like that idea has a lot of promise. Let's spend a few weeks gathering community feedback, where you need to fight tooth and nail to defend your idea. If we ever come to a definitive consensus (which could take weeks or months), then we need to wait for the already over-worked security team to perform a thorough review of all required modules. And finally, we need wait for the already over-worked infrastructure team to implement it, by which time a) is probably going to apply. Good luck!"

When Karen is met with this sort of response (and I've seen it happen time and again), it serves to either kill her enthusiasm for helping out entirely, or else it causes her to go setup shop elsewhere, outside of Drupal.org where she has more control. Either way, Drupal.org loses, and our home continues to have a leaky roof and a mouldy bathroom.

We need to figure out a way out of this mess, before this call for action is ready to be heeded by the community. I don't have a lot of answers, but here is some brainstorming:

  • Time to say bye-bye to Project module? Despite heroic and legendary efforts by Derek, Chad, and Adam to make Project module generic enough to be used outside of Drupal.org, with very few exceptions, we're the only ones using it. Every single release, Project module holds back Drupal.org's upgrade and requires a Herculean effort to move it forward.

    However, there are hundreds of thousands (of not millions) of sites using modern modules like CCK, Views, Taxonomy, etc. Let's throw out a community challenge: Take a stock Drupal 6 install, and get as far as you can duplicaitng project module functionality in "stock" modules, and document how you did it. Who knows? It might end up being pretty close, and while it would be challenging to migrate over, at least this would be the last Drupal.org upgrade that's held in limbo for 9+ months.

  • Appoint someone (and perhaps pay someone) to "own" Drupal.org. Gerhard and the infrastructure team do a great job of keeping the servers running. The webmasters volunteer team does a great job at dealing with spam, keeping the front page tidy, etc. Tiffany and Kieran are doing a fantastic job managing the larger, over-arching, top-down redesign efforts.

    But there's a tremendous gap between, of adding additional functionality to Drupal.org or fixing obvious problems, that's currently in limbo, with no clear "goto" person with authority to say "yes" or "no," and the leeway to dole out permissions or whatever needs to happen to get it done.

  • Break the monolithic Drupal.org into sub-sites, with a management team for each. docs.drupal.org, downloads.drupal.org, support.drupal.org, each with modules specific to the job, none of which hold back the "flagship" site from upgrading each release. We could be more generous with permissions, and allow more creativity in site configuration, and truly make *.drupal.org a showcase for what Drupal is capable of.

    Yes, there are challenges around this sort of decentralization, like searching, single-sign-on, etc. But we are smart people. I know we can solve these. :)

But fundamentally, the number one issue we need to address, right here, right now, is we need to draw a map for how we guide someone like Karen from idea to completion. Even if that map right now does involve a 4-week layover in the "get community consensus" and a 2-month stop at historic "wait for approval from security team," it still shows that things can change on Drupal.org for those willing to do the work. But currently, I'm not at all sure how to draw said map, because my experience has been that we simply have no path for Karen to follow. :(

Olivier (not verified):

"Time to say bye-bye to Project module?" and "we're the only ones using it".

Well, http://jquery.com/ is using it (I think) and I'm pretty sure I've seen it in a couple of other places.

Also, why has sourceforge.net not yet migrated to it? Their release management sucks, their forums suck. I just can't imagine anything attractive about their service for open source projects but their name. Maybe they can adopt project.module if they don't want to be eclipsed by code.google.com et al?

Anonymous (not verified):

Just wanted to know what you meant by "I made the mistake to release Drupal 6 before Drupal.org was upgraded."

For Drupal 7 will we see Drupal.org running a release candidate? I seem to remember this is what happened with D5.

JohnForsythe (not verified):

I also agree with Angie. My suggestion is to open up Drupal.org to anyone who wants to help. Release a full dump of all the non-sensitive Drupal.org data, and let users play with it. Who knows what neat stuff you might get in return ;)

Geshan Manandhar (not verified):

I really hope the UI is simple and easy. The search and pagination in theme and module listing pages are better. Hope we get to use a great Design and more user friendly than now.
Geshan

Tj Holowaychuk (not verified):

I agree with the whole Apple thing, no one really beats apple in terms of usability and clarity for such a behemoth. I think the Drupal logo is fun, but yeah its somewhat comical and may not be the right image to portray at this level in the game. (Think old rainbow apple logo vs new crisp metallic logo)

MacMladen (not verified):

There are two big issues with Drupal.org:

  1. The look
  2. Information architecture

Both issues push Drupal to geeks and makes it "marginal" e.g. people usually lean toward more attractive solutions like WordPress and to lesser occasion Joomla.

It is only when someone hits the wall (like me) and then receives enlightenment (like me) then they turn to real solution.

It does not bother me that Drupal is not most spread or favored CMS. All three leading CMSes have their market and strength and it is logical that some people cant deal with complexity of Drupal. For me, it is cake easy, for some it is academy hard.

Not once I have faced that clients were disappointed with ugliness although I did tell them it is only structure, I'll work on appearance later.

So... yes, Drupal needs fancy logo, good branding and fancy site. Some purists won't like it and still prefer www.useit.com style but that is not good for Drupal, its perception and overall acceptance.

When you mention to client that you will build on Drupal, they go to site and expect to be stunned. If they are not, you'll have to do more explaining why did you choose to go with Drupal.

Some say that PDFs are needed. Yes, they are very welcome, along with videos. But what really matters is IA, the way information is organized. Things a scattered around and same thing could be found on various places. Also, quality of presentation varies quite a bit.

That confuses both experienced and casual users.

Greater care must be taken for all key areas: modules, themes and doc/support.

There should be pattern for modules as well as themes that must be followed and someone should be in charge to approve submissions.

Modules should have ratings, downloads, requirements, dependencies, install, uninstall and upgrade procedure, related modules, tags (taxonomy), tutorial or best practices, tweaks and hacks.. Some should be obligatory, some highly recommended, but clearly structured (learn good things from http://drupalmodules.com/)

Themes should have also clearly stated qualities (standard conformance, hooks, etc..) it takes a lot of time to figure out that something is wrong and then there is no turning back.

As for Drupal itself... it should also learn good practices form competitors. I read that one of the main things for next WordPress would be autoupdate. That is one of my biggest wishes for Drupal, to be easily maintainable.

To conclude this looong post, Drupal is excellent piece of work but there is always room for improvement. Whatever Mark Boulton Design could do for appearance, Drupal itself has to to its homework.

@webchick: as Apple proves, it is not necessary to break monolithic site to a number of smaller ones, I would not recommend that for various reasons (could elaborate if desired).