Drupal's steep learning curve filters out far too many smart, motivated people who could benefit from Drupal. We see it all the time in the Drupal.org forums, in my "State of Drupal" surveys, on Twitter, when talking to customers, and on the web. Even though we've made significant progress with making Drupal easier to use, a lot of work is left to be done. With other content management systems such as Joomla! and WordPress making strides to catch up to Drupal in terms of development flexibility, if we want Drupal to remain competitive, we have a challenge we have to face: we need to create a user experience that makes it easier for people new to Drupal to discover all of its richness and power.
With the success of the drupal.org redesign in mind, I wondered if it would be possible for Mark Boulton and Leisa Reichelt of Mark Boulton Design (MBD) to help us improve usability in Drupal itself. They have done a tremendous job with the drupal.org designs that are currently being implemented, but why stop there?
Since one of Acquia's key goals is to help expand Drupal adoption, and improving Drupal's usability is key to that, I thought it would be right for Acquia to finance Mark and Leisa to help us work on Drupal 7, for a couple of months, too. The consensus among my colleagues was that hiring Mark and Leisa would be a both great way to help Drupal conquer the world, and a really good contribution Acquia could make to the Drupal community.
Mark and Leisa were both instantly excited about continuing their work with the community. Starting in March, they will spend time working on making Drupal 7 easier to use. We've asked them to do all their work out in the open, in the Drupal community, just like they did with the Drupal.org redesign, so that the community can be involved and give input every step of the way. We have also encouraged Mark to dare to envision wide-ranging, far-reaching usability improvements, rather than incremental usability changes on the status quo. This is a great chance for us to all collectively think "outside the box" about how great Drupal's user experience could be.
Both Mark and I have been in contact with key members of the Drupal usability group. They are going to be deeply involved in this effort by including Mark and Leisa in their planning and by giving feedback, guidance, and assistance. As a starting point, we've pointed Mark to the existing Drupal usability reports, and he has already been brainstorming with some members of Drupal's usability team about what aspects to work on and how to work together. Mark and Leisa will not be able to start before March, but it's important that this work starts as early as possible.
Now that we have Mark and Leisa, leaders from the Drupal usability group, and Acquia on board, we're finally ready to publicly announce this initiative and to proceed in an open and transparent way, involving everyone in the Drupal community. Mark and Leisa bring a lot of Drupal expertise to the table; they are armed with use data and test driven methodologies; they have a track record of working well with our community, so I think we're set up for success. This is an opportunity to get the community fired up about usability, and to bring more outside design and usability expertise into the project. And with your help, this should be a pretty awesome move for Drupal 7! :-)