Capital Camp Review Part 1: Keynotes

I went to Capital Camp DC, a Drupal conference in Washington DC the last couple of days. I figured to make sure I remember what I learned that I write a blog series about it:

  1. The Keynotes
  2. Design & User Experience
  3. Workflow
  4. Site Building

Disclaimer: I thought of writing this/these on the way home so my notes weren't built to be a full-on accurate thing. But I took them, and that's way better than raw memory.

So, the onto keynotes.

Friday: Nikhil Deshpande - Drupal in State Government-Lessons Learned

Nikhil is the Director of Georgiagov Interactive, and was responsible for the choosing and using of Drupal to redesign This process took 50+ different departmental websites

Selecting a technology: being a state entity, they looked at a wide variety of possible candidates for being the guts of the new site, which included Sharepoint, documentum, wordpress and a host of other systems I've never heard of. Through the selection process they used a variety of criteria that knocked other sites off the list of possible candidates. In the end, they chose Drupal because it was opensource, robust, had a lower total cost of ownership and it helped that ran it.

Technology Partners: I thought it was telling that he referred to the team that built the site as 'partners' instead of just developers or site builders. They worked with Phase 2 (thanks Annie Stone for correcting me) and also partnered with Acquia (for hosting) and Mediacurrent (for migration) to help with the build-out. They built each site as a multi-site install with one codebase and separate databases.

Design: Because groups of departments served different audiences and would want to present to those audiences in a particular way, they decided to create four different theme styles, with two color variations for each style. This allowed elected officials to use a 'patriotic 'theme, while departments for child services and the like had a style they called 'friendly'. There were two other theme styles, but I forget their names. 

Saturday: Dharmesh Mistry - Improving Collaboration between Programmers, Designers and Researchers by Dharmesh

Dharmesh Mistry is the senior UX designer for Acquia, and apparently the main guy behind UX for Drupal 8. Good stuff.

After the best introduction ever (not really -but you had to be there), Dharmesh introduced us to the world of what he called the democratization of experiences.  He wanted to convey that a lot of popular websites (twitter, facebook, forums, community sites, kickstarter etc) are large and awesome becasue of user generated content. People log on, talk, communicate, collaborate and the like. He made a nice analogy to this by saying Drupal and other open source projects are growing not because of user generated content, but from user generated code. I thought that was a real cool point.

So, just as Drupal is user-generated code, the last two releases of Drupal started focusing on, not just developer tools but also, how to make the site easier for both end users and administrators. He wants the Drupal community to know that "we are responsible for the experiences we build". Though not explicit, I also found this as a recurring theme in a lot of the design sessions where the focus was on client interaction, building a team and whatnot. So it isn't only the code, administrators and end users that need attention, but also the process of building sites with clients (which is something I've been thinking a lot about lately, fyi).

Dharmesh also talked about how it's unsung that there are hundreds if not thousands of people who contribute to the community of Drupal but don't get recognition via their profile pages. So, he's the senior UX guy behind D8, but if you go to his Drupal profile, you'll see no kudos. I'm not sure if anyone is actively attempting to push some kind of solution either within or outside of (see: certified to rock) the drupal community, but I thought it was a good point. Disclaimer: I'm a co-host of the Philadelphia Drupal meetup and would like that to show up.

Another thing he mentioned about user experience testing, which was similar to what I learned from the UX testing session by Danielle Sheffler was nicely put "listening is good, observing is better". He didn't get into a lot of the usability testing for D8, which I would have been more interested in, but oh well.

Don't forget to check out the other parts of the series:

  1. The Keynotes
  2. Design & User Experience
  3. Workflow
  4. Site Building

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