Newcomers to Drupal will be aware of the hours of research needed to choose an Image management strategy. And for WYSIWYG editors, you have a fairly broad choice: TinyMCE, FCKEditor and many more.
Doesn’t standardisation = better user experience?
One of the main reasons cited for Microsoft gaining dominance of the Office suite world was the consistency of its interface. You could go from Word to Excel to Outlook and have the same menu structure and icon sets. This easy familiarity led to people being able to get productive because they could find their way around the software intuitively.
Not so with Drupal. I recently made a point of signing up to a number of Drupal communities to research how their interfaces were built. Did they use WYSIWYG? Do they allow uploads? What content types to they allow? Do they have any funky features that I haven’t thought of in my own communities?
Each one differed enormously. Which was frustrating. Abduzeedo, an excellent design community has a clunky, ugly WYSIWYG editor, and none of the standard content types are in use. The Grateful Dead community simply allows fan photos to be uploaded, has no WYSIWYG at all, but has a forum enabled.
The problem – as I see it – is that the lack of standardisation doesn’t lend itself to making Drupal intuitive. Look to WordPress: standard text entry with the ability to disable TinyMCE if needed. A unified media uploader that is also searchable, so you can retrieve anything you’ve previously uploaded.
Drupal versus WordPress
I’ve heard the argument that Drupal wants to offer flexibility to developers. And that’s fine, I’ve got no problem with that.
However, you can flit from one install of WordPress to another, and be in familiar territory. In my book, that’s a benefit, because if you’re opening up a community, you want your users to be able to use it easily and without problems.
WordPress, with its standard interface means that users can write tutorials on how to use it and those instructions are consistent for the vast majority of sites. And yes, I know Drupal isn’t trying to be WordPress, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned from it.
Now, surely it can be possible to offer a core Drupal with preferred modules to enable certain functions? Why not? Ship it with TinyMCE and Image module (or Imagefield/CCK) and allow developers to override those if they so desire.
What are the potential benefits of this?
Well, I’m just speculating, but my theory is that creating a better default Drupal setup will be good for the platform.
- Better for new users – the confusion of what modules to choose for simple functionality is reduced.
- Better documentation – recommended modules will have a naturally higher user base, therefore more reliable and generic documentation will cater to the bulks of users.
- More focussed development – I think more development effort will flow naturally to the recommended modules, making them an even better default option. The fragmented development going towards different modules/same functionality is really wasted time and expertise.
- Higher Drupal adoption? – Why not? A better out-of-the-box Drupal experience would mean faster implementation times and less frustrated developers and end users. More word-of-mouth that Drupal really is an easy to set up/easy to use CMS. More people considering it, more people using it.
In some respects, Drupal is getting closer. Its installation profiles are certainly an interesting concept.
I’ve mentioned image handling and WYSIWYG editing for a reason. I see a need to integrate functionality between these, and possibly other multimedia modules for video and audio. Integrated media/WYSIWYG would be a major leap forward for Drupal. In my humble opinion.
I’d love to hear the thoughts of other Drupal users. Am I off-base, or do other people crave the day when Drupal comes with recommended modules for basic functionality?