Breaking the silence – what we’ve been up to!

Here’s a rough transcript of the video content, if you read this you won’t miss out on any content covered in the video:

It’s been a little while since our last ‘update’ so we wanted to check in and let you know what we’ve been up to on the project in the past couple of weeks.

We’ve been moving through a transition in the project from the high level, strategic ‘iteration zero’ (in Agile terms) phase of the project to a much more detailed, tactical, concrete phase. Until now there’s been lots of thinking and communicating ideas, now we’re moving into a phase where we need to get our heads down and plough through a lot of detailed work, and we’re finding it harder to get the time to give updates. Part of the way to address this was the creation of the Project Framework and there have been lots of little discussions going on in those threads, but we do need to find a better way to communicate regularly these more granular pieces of work – stay tuned as we figure out the best way to do that (and we welcome suggestions of course!)

Mark describes this phase with a diagram (of course), that show the communication decreasing as the fidelity increases (and us at the cross roads) – it’s not something we’re happy with, so we’re working on it.
Fidelity Vs Communication

There has been work a-plenty though, starting with a great workshop we had over two days in London in late April – Jeff Noyes and Jason Reed (the Acquia designers), Roy Scholten (yoroy) and Dries gather round a table with Mark & I to work on the D7UX design work and see if we could break it. Jeff has a great write up of the workshop here and I managed to grab a tiny bit of video for you (of course!)

Since then, I’ve been working on defining the interfaces and interactions in some wireframes and Mark has been working up the visual language, and we’ve started working with the engineering team at Acquia to start getting this built. We hope to have something that you can touch and feel in the not too distant future (how exciting!) This is just the beginning of the journey and we still have a lot of refinement to do, and the whole system will continue to evolve as we work through more challenges and learn more and more.

In the wireframes we’re identifying a whole stack of ‘needs attention’ issues – these are things like ‘the WYSIWIG menu needs special UX attention’, ‘the idea of a media library needs special UX attention’ – they are kind of smallish chucks and fairly modular and we’re hoping that we might be able to throw these out into the community and ask for your help to take the lead in working through the details of these kinds of challenges. We’re not sure of the best way to engage/manage this – your thoughts and guidance would be appreciated (issue list seems the logical place, but is it?)

In the next couple of weeks we’re going to get back to focusing on usability testing and user research in a much more regular way. We’ve kind of dropped the ball on Crowd Sourced Usability Testing in the past few weeks (and in retrospect our schedule was pretty aggressive)  but once we have a working prototype it will be much, much easier for us (and you) to be much more active in continuing to test and gain insight into what is working and what needs refinement in the interface and overall User Experience (UX). (by the way, did you see that WordPress have just opened up usability testing to their community as well? interesting huh?)

Finally, we’ve started working with an awesome authoring tools accessibility expert  Ann McMeekin, to help ensure that we’re making Drupal7 an amazing user experience for *everyone* – especially given some of the more ‘fancy’ interactions that we’ve been proposing – there’s a new section of the Framework for Accessibility and I’m pleased to report that Ann is pretty happy with the approach we’ve taken so far and working with us to help take advantage of some of the newer interface options available to us thanks to ajax and JavaScript without negatively impacting the UX for those of us with special needs.

So, that’s about it for now. Expect plenty more from us in the coming weeks. And, as ever, let us know what you’re thinking and don’t forget to keep track of what you’re most interested in through the comments and content in the Project Framework.

D7UX Process – Where we’re at, why we’re paper prototyping, where we’re headed

We talked a little earlier about the process we think we’ll be working to for the D7UX project, and we thought you’d like a little more of an idea of what point we’re at with it now, and why we’re doing so much work on paper at the moment, and what we’ll end up with.  Mark talks you through it in the video above. The key points are:

  • we’re moving on from learning/listening (although we’ll continue to do that throughout the project, of course) into ideation – coming up with piles of ideas, rejecting many of them, moving forward with some of them, until we get to the point where we think we have something we like, that works, and that is exciting both in its simplicity and its potential.
  • we work a LOT on paper at the moment. The main reasons for this are that it is:

    a) fast – we can get a lot of ideas down quickly,b) we don’t get precious about our ideas, because we scribble them down so quickly, there’s no time to get overly attached to a bad idea (unlike if we’d photoshopped it up beautifully, or started coding it), bad ideas get thrown away fairly painlessly, and

    c) they’re great for user research – at this early point in the project we want to get really honest feedback from people who are looking at our concepts. It’s generally accepted (and certainly has been true in our experience) that if you use low-fidelity prototypes at this stage people are much happier to tell you if they think your idea is rubbish. With a higher fidelity prototype people are more reticent to do this because they assume that you’ve put a lot of thought and work into the concept, this does two things – it makes them not want to offend you, and it also makes them think you must have thought of things that they haven’t yet, so you must be right and their initial reaction must be wrong.

  • We’re going to be posting our initial concept/direction for you to take a look at very soon, and look forward to hearing what you think of it! We’ll be talking your feedback, the results that flow in from CrowdSourced Usability Testing and our own user research and testing and continuing to iterate the prototype and solve lots and lots of complicated problems as we move through all the requirements that Drupal places on it’s UI.
  • At the end of the process we are *really* hoping to be able to hand over a ‘library’ of interaction patterns and rules that can be applied by the community as Drupal continues to grow, allowing the intergrity of the User Experience to be maintained within such an organic environment.


Project Process (how we’re doing this)

As you may have noticed, this is not your typical design project… there are things about it that are pretty unusual, but there are also some pretty standard aspects as well. We thought it might be useful to give you a high level view of the approach we plan to take.

On a project like this, however, a highlevel view is really the only one we *can* give because, in all honesty, we’re not exactly sure what we’ll be doing in 2-3 weeks time let alone 2-3 months time. We have a mud-map though, and this is roughly what it looks like.

We are working with the team at Acquia on this project and they run an Agile shop, so we’re going to be trying to synch into their iterations as best we can.

One of the biggest challenges for User Experience and Design work in an Agile environment is getting the strategy and vision of the design worked through – to that end we are very thankful that our friends at Acquia have been flexible enough to give us a nice big chunk of time which we’re calling ‘Iteration Zero‘ and in this time we are doing a whole load of thinking, and strategising and talking with you to work out what our overall strategy is. This is why we’re asking about audience, and tone of voice and those more ‘abstract’ questions.

By the end of Iteration Zero, which for us is around 14 April, we hope to have an overarching strategy and ‘framework’ for the proposed interface for D7 in the form of some pencil sketches and a sitemap, an agreed experience strategy, audience matrix and tone of voice. We will have tested framework using some low fidelity (paper) prototypes with a range of participants across the spectrum of our audience matrix and we will feel confident that we know what we are doing and where we are headed.

During this time we will be working closely with the Drupal community to understand *how* our framework can best be implemented for release with D7.

The remainder of our time on the project, (which runs until around the end of July) will be spent working through exactly how the strategy is implemented, looking at the very many fine details and issues that will need to be resolved, whilst also testing and iterating the work we have done based on the results of our testing.

How and when can you get involved?

During iteration zero – it is VITAL that we get the foundations of our strategy correct so please engage and continue to engage with us as we work through the strategy, audience and tone issues. This will be mostly in the form of you reviewing what we’ve come up with and providing us with your feedback.

Get involved with the framework design – we’re going to be posting (very soon) some initial sketches that show the direction we’re heading in – we would love to have your feedback on that.

As we did with the d.o redesign project, we’ll be doing a CrowdSourced Wireframe activity that we would invite you to participate in where we’ll be asking you to take a part of the Drupal Admin you think needs work and drawing up a solution (or, if you’ve done it already, why not submit a screencast to ‘Pimp Your Admin’ on our YouTube channel!)

We are also going to re-launch the Crowdsourced Usability Testing for this project – this time with a little more warning and some more structure – so we would invite you to help us test our designs with people around you and contribute to our understanding of what is working and what is not, and help validate our approach. In the coming week I will be releasing a lot more information around this, including some timings, so it would be great to have you on board with this exercise (and it would also make a great exercise for interns, students, people new to usability/UX who want to get some experience doing usability testing).

As the Acquia team start to take designs from us, they will also start releasing a working prototype that you will be able to review and comment on – I’m not sure on timings for that but I’d expect probably mid-late May (I’ll update when I know more).

So as you can see – there will be LOTS of ways for you to contribute all the way through the project, and, don’t let us limit you! If you have ideas we need to see, or other ways you’d like to contribute – please let us know!

Any questions? Comments etc.?