Technical, IE News

UX and Accessibility reign supreme at DrupalCon

The IE team came back from DrupalCon fired up with all the latest developments and initiatives in the Drupal world – including some great news for newcomers and beginners to the platform. Accessibility and User Experience were key themes, along with the ongoing importance of contributions from the whole community. 



Some of IE Digital’s Drupal development team were excited to spend an intense few days in Amsterdam recently for DrupalCon Europe 2019.

It was our first time at the conference and part of IE Digital’s ongoing commitment to our favourite Open Source web platform. An opportunity for the team to soak up the latest developments, immerse themselves in their specialist areas, and exchange knowledge and ideas with like-minded DrupalHeads. 

DrupalCon brings together the entire community of developers, designers, content strategists, editors, translators, end-users and more. It’s one of the largest open source communities in the world, and one we’re proud to be a part of. 

 

Joelle, Nathan, Eli and Ed at DrupalCon Amsterdam, and a view as they walk from the hotel to the venue

 

User Experience and Accessibility were key themes throughout the conference: For Drupal users. For beginners. And for website end users. Here’s a few of our highlights, as shared by Ed, Eli, Joelle and Nathan from the IE team:

Bringing Drupal to beginners and non-experts

One of the key themes we heard loud and clear was the need to prioritise the beginner experience for people new to using Drupal. There was a recognition that while Drupal experts absolutely love working with the platform, it is less accessible to beginners than some of its rivals. Although far more powerful, Drupal lacks the easy, visual editing experience of the likes of WordPress, SquareSpace and Wix. 

Creating a more welcoming experience for newcomers is therefore a key strategic priority for the Drupal community. A new page designer module, along with others such as a layout builder, aim to address this. There are also plans to add guided tours, simplify the terminology, and add a marketplace of themes. 

Improving the Drupal Admin user interface

User experience is a big focus for the Drupal Admin user interface (UI), which hasn’t been updated in years. There’s an initiative to modernise the design and improve user experience and accessibility, in three main parts: 

  • JavaScript changes in core
  • UX changes in core
  • UI changes in core

 

Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal talking about a post-browser world and Cristina Chumillas talking about the future of the Drupal Admin User Interface

 

The existing UI is being updated with a new design system – clearer, accessible, greater flexibility and more powerful. We also saw an exciting preview of the future accessibility-first Drupal Admin User Interface, planned as the official back end in Drupal 9, from next summer. 

Accessibility is set to improve in line with AAA standards, including the ability to reduce motion, a high contrast setting, dark mode, and more support for right to left (RTL) languages. There will also be greater personalisation options, such as brand colours. 

An accessible web for all

On the subject of accessibility, Helena McCabe gave a really refreshing and energising talk, where she stressed that accessibility guidelines are a great tool to help us to craft excellent experiences for all users – not just the able-bodied ones. Far from being just a box-ticking exercise, these guidelines can help us all to foster a more accessible and inclusive web. And because Drupal 8 is now fully accessible out-of-the-box right down to the administrative UI, there's no better platform on which to do so! 

 

More on what we heard about accessibility in a future blog. 

Collaboration is key

With all of these accessibility and UX improvements in the pipeline, there was a specific call to arms for more UX designers to boost the Drupal community. As an Open Source CMS, Drupal can only thrive while the community contributes. Tens of thousands of developers – from all around the world – have been involved in building the software, but we need thousands of UX designers too, to improve the Drupal UX for future generations of users. 

One of our highlights of the conference was the Drupal Contribution Day. This was an opportunity for everyone – from first time contributors to experienced regulars – to play a part in maintaining and improving the platform. 

 

Eli and Joelle, senior developers at IE Digital, taking part in the DrupalCon contribution day. Amsterday, October 2019.

 

Nathan, Eli and Joelle spent the morning collaborating with developers from all around the world to help solve core issues in Drupal, while Ed contributed to the Promote Drupal initiative. The Drupal community is awesome!

 

The message we heard loud and clear from DrupalCon is that the community is well and truly committed to growing and improving the platform, and to ensuring that Drupal becomes as loved by beginners in the future as it is by experts right now. 

We’ll continue to play our part in that journey, and invest in growing and developing our awesome team. 

Creating a more welcoming experience for newcomers is therefore a key strategic priority for the Drupal community. Tens of thousands of developers – from all around the world – have been involved in building the software, but we need thousands of UX designers too, to improve the Drupal UX for future generations of users.