07 Jul Design 4 Drupal

By guest blogger William C. Lundin.

Design 4 Drupal is a three day conference focused on design, UX, and front-end development for Drupal websites. On this occasion, the conference also addressed the processes and challenges that businesses face in the Drupal arena. It was hosted in Boston at MIT’s Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts this past June 26th-28th. This year was my first time attending the conference, and I could not be happier to have attended. Whether it was the amazing speakers or the many sponsors that attended, being part of the conference left me feeling informed and connected with the Drupal industry. With over 100 attendees, I was able to make connections with a vast array of industry professionals ranging from small start up firms to government agencies.

The first session I attended was titled ”œLeveraging Qualitative Research to Power Your Brand” and was delivered by Rob Levinson, a Principal at LEVERAGE Advisors. LEVERAGE Advisors is a firm that offers branding, creative, and digital strategy solutions to a wide range of customers to optimize their competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. Rob stated that the most important factor contributing to a successful product, brand, or website was qualitative user research. He emphasized that the main focus is to stop talking and start listening to your users and customers to improve their experience with your brand. I learned that being in tune with what your customers want first, is extremely important in the operation of any business, small or large. Rob outlined a general format of how to tackle such task with a series of steps.

First, you must conduct a business strategy document review, which means examining the vision, mission, strategic objectives, plans, and performance management metrics of the firm. Then, you must conduct a communication audit of their online presence and how they are reaching their customers across different media platforms. The goal of this audit is to highlight any inconsistencies in their outward appearance or message to the general public. The next step would be to examine their positioning in the market and where they fit in with their competitors. This would then be followed by conducting qualitative research with the goal of uncovering an emotional connection or association that drives customer’s behaviors.

The overall goal of conducting this type of research is to highlight emotional alignment differences between a firm’s employees and their customers. More generally, this research should delineate how internal workers view and describe their business as opposed to how the general public and customers view such business.

On the second part of his lecture, Rob focused his time discussing in detail how to conduct qualitative research for your customer or business. I learned that interviewing a wider array of clients would provide one with a better scope of insights. Learning how to listen to your client’s customers is the key to this step. All customers desire validation, a need to know that the business acknowledges that they exist and have personal opinions. They also desire to have a platform upon which to speak, which highlights the importance of listening and empathizing with them.

After that, I attended the keynote speech on ”œBeing User Friendly” and what it really implies. The keynote speaker, Miriam Suzanne, a founder at OddBird, has more than 15 years of experience with front-end architecture and is the creator of many other popular open source tools. During her speech, She focused her attention on what users really want, which is no one specific thing. She put forth the idea that users are the experts and we should focus more of our attention on their input in the process of creating.

Miriam also discussed how we should go about balancing creativity, expertise, and expectations in our projects. I learned that we can approach problems and solutions during the design process in a different way, looking at them as opportunities to receive user input on pain-points in our design. Another key idea that she discussed was the mission statement and philosophy of the web. Introduced in 1989 by the World Wide Web Consortium ”œWeb for all. Web on everything.” became the general philosophy of the internet. Miriam suggests that we should apply this very same inclusive idea to web design and user experience. She specifically notes that we should apply this to how we use HTML & CSS in web design.

Lastly, I attended Christina Inge’s speech on ”œCustomer Journey Mapping” to build sites that make perfect sense to users. Christina shared that the goal of creating a customer’s journey map is to design a more user friendly website by collecting data on the way customers are currently interacting with your site and more specifically, how they want to use your site. I learned that the difference between what we want our customers to know about us and what our customers actually want to know, is an important distinction. Therefore, we must interview our customers and empathize with their needs.

We must understand the customer’s goals in visiting our site and what information they are seeking for. Once we have established this, we must map out their touchpoints from the beginning to the end of their search. This mapping will help UX designers understand which parts of the website would make users feel lost, and how to design the site in order to keep users on track. By using consumer goals we can also organize our information in such a way that the most important information is easily accessible, with the underlying goal being to reduce home page clutter.

Additionally, I learned the importance of having a common sense UX experience, based on user needs. Examining several different types of users will give you the best data set for you to narrow down the most common pain-points and identify the areas for the most gain. This achieves the goal of giving users what they want, which results in less work for us and leads to happy customers, who will comply with the desired outcome you set at the beginning of the journey.

These are some of the things I learned during Design 4 Drupal which will be directly applicable during my summer internship. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have attended the conference and I look forward to seeing all these pieces come into play during my internship at Thoughtlight.

About William C. Lundin

William C. Lundin is an intern at Thoughtlight this summer. He is a rising Junior at Bentley University, majoring in Economics – Finance and minoring in Law. In his spare time William enjoys hiking and running. William is interested in practicing business law and hopes to work in the Financial sector post graduation. You can connect with him on LinkedIn!

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