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What "About" the Webform module and the Drupal Community?

· Drupal,Webform,User Interface,User Experience,About

For the past year, I’ve been experimenting with how to integrate content within the user interface of the Webform module with a goal of improving the overall user experience. These experiments include adding inline videos, help documentation, a "How can we help you?" menu, and promotions. As I work towards a stable release, it’s time to document the lessons that I’ve learned from these experiments and decide on a final approach.

The Webform module makes it easy to build feature-rich, powerful, and flexible forms. Within this user interface, I’m aiming to provide users with user experience that helps them understand the Webform module and the Drupal community.

Providing help and documentation is a requirement for all software, including Open Source. The open source nature of Drupal led me to have three primary requirements:

  • Make users feel comfortable and supported when using the Webform module.
  • Promote the Drupal community to new and existing members. 
  • Raise awareness of my work. 

Making users comfortable

The most immediate way to make someone comfortable is to start a conversation - to talk to them, to ask questions and to listen. Early on, as part of the Webform modules development, I started producing video tutorials and demos to provide a show-n-tell experience. At the end of more recent videos, I promote myself using the question, "How can I help you?".

Overall, I’m happy with how the videos have been received by the Drupal community and I think this feature is going to remain AS-IS. Once the Webform module has a release candidate, I’m going to redo all the screencasts and apply some of the Drupal community's recommendations, one of which is talk slower.

Promoting Webform, the Drupal community, and myself

Promoting the Drupal community, third-party services, and myself has posed an interesting challenge. Though I did get some negative feedback, the simple fact that all promotions can be disabled calmed a lot of nerves. I’ve realized the best way to promote something is to just tell people about it. Storytelling is a meaningful way to relay information to others - additionally, it also serves as an invaluable tool when it comes to teaching. I’ve come to the realization that my experimental "How can we help you?" menu, dialogs, banner, and videos just need to be consolidated into an "About" section.

Most organization websites have an "About" section and even software includes an "About" dialog or page. Wordpress, the other CMS, has a dedicated "About" page. I think the time has come for the Webform module and even Drupal to start including an "About" section within the software's user interface/experience.

I don't think I am alone in feeling that Drupal needs to promote more information about an installed project. There’s even a ticket to "add links to Drupal.org contrib project (and issue) pages to module listings". I’ve decided to go one step further and move content from the project page into the Webform module user interface and experience. Aside from modules needing better promotions, I feel that the Drupal Association would benefit from being able to promote itself more directly with end users and developers.

The simple fact that most users who are posting issues in the Webform issue queue are not members of the Drupal Association indicates that people are not aware of, or do not understand, the importance of the Drupal Association. Personally, the Drupal Association maintains the infrastructure that we rely on to support the Webform module and our community. I don't think membership fees will solve the DA's financial challenges, however, it’s membership that increases awareness and grows the Drupal community.

Creating an "About" page within the Webform module admin page allows me to contribute and share more than code and help build our community. And yes, I’m also able to promote the Drupal Association and myself directly to people using our software.

So here is a screencast about the new 'About' tab.

Next Steps

For now, the Webform's "About" tab will contain very static content, along with some videos and links to external resources. Ideally, this "About" tab could evolve to include an RSS Feed that highlights recent releases, features, issues, and general information. I’m also seeking an easy and appropriate way to give credit to people and organizations that help to support the Webform module.

Conclusions

Please provide any feedback below. If you don't like the "About" section, please disable it. If anyone wants to contribute content, particularly to the "About Drupal" tab, please create a ticket. Finally, if you want to sponsor a feature or hire me, feel free contact me.

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