Notes on the Drupal Usability Report

Indeed, this is a great usability report.

I scribbled these notes as I read it:

  • Statuses (such as "publish", "unpublish", "promote to frontpage") should not use checkboxes -- they should use BUTTONS. Clicking a button helps ensure that a user understands the gravity of their actions -- which is extremely important. These buttons should show a certain amount of intelligence. "Unpublish" or "Save Changes" for live content. "Publish" or "Save as Draft" for new content, and "Publish", "Save Changes" for unpublished content... etc...
  • "Promote to frontpage" is a checkbox that wants to read "Show on frontpage". It's a checkbox, because its an attribute that piece of content can have -- not necessarily an action the user makes on a piece of content. Above all it is of lesser importance than the buttons listed in the previous note -- forgetting to promote a piece of content to the front page will probably be a lot less embarrassing than what could appen if someone accidently publishes a less-than-ready draft. Especially when our interface merely reads "save" -- which is deceptively safe looking.
  • The "story" content type needs to either die, or be renamed "article".
  • "Book pages" should become simply "pages" with pages as we previously understood them thrown away. The behavior that I think users expect from "pages" is what the book module does best. The book metaphor isn't extended that much -- "child", and "parent" are the main terms used in the interface -- not "chapter" and "page" like you'd expect in a book.
  • Settings like front page path are deep enough in drupal admin hell, that a quick fix may have to be a special help box that appears in certain circumstances. Messages would read something along the lines of "Your frontpage is currently set to "/blog". [link] Where can I change this?" These boxes could serve as bandaids for some of our more complex usability problems that aren't going to be solved in a single release.
  • admin/content is important enough to have its own unique section dedicated to content management, and content management only. Site settings, user management, and content management are three very different things afterall. I believe they deserve their own individual sections outside of our behemoth misadministration console.
  • Yes most users really do expect a wysiwg editor of sorts. I speak of our userbase -- e.g. people who'll never visit, or would ever need to know what kind of CMS is running a website. At bare minimum, it should let users add links, images, lists, and blockquotes. A message should instruct users that "[return] = paragraph/ [shift-return] = linebreak. TinyMCE is evil because of the number of options it provides.
  • Permissions themselves should be split out perhaps. There is quite a big difference between content related, admin related, and user related permissions. Perhaps splitting these permissions out into more intuitive locations (e.g. content permissions are found in content type settings) and offerring overview pages of what various users can do with various site components would help alleviate this problem.
  • There should be a region, and navagition devoted to admin tasks. I think it belongs at the very top of the page (but is not so high that it takes up too much room). Its separated from the main theme, and is design is always consistant no matter the theme currently being used.
  • The top admin bar, and admin page (as well as perhaps the content creation pages) can be modified, but not quite as readily as a "theme" as we know it. This roadblock frees up theme developers (ESPECIALLY NON DRUPAL EXPERT ONES) to focus on how sites look to their visitors -- they shouldn't nomrally need to worry about how the sites look to their admins/content managers as well. That should really be the the association of drupal ninja's concern.

Overall -- drupal's flexibility and configurability seems to be a curse to our users. The out of the box drupal should aim to offer a few good approaches to common needs that people are trying to satisfy with their website. Like an object, the more that we encapsulate these distinct needs and settings the better. Perhaps we lose "flexibility" -- but if I wanted pure flexibility, I'd write things from scratch, no?