Jan 29 2013
Jan 29

When we first announced the Spark authoring experience initiative for Drupal in May of last year, we chose Drupal 7 as our target in order to develop the features and get them in front of testers as quickly as possible. After DrupalCon Munich in August, the team shifted efforts towards Drupal 8 core instead, in order to more directly improve the experience of Drupal itself. Since then, we have successfully worked with the community to drive home a redesigned and mobile-friendly toolbar, support for draft revisions, in-place editing, numerous mobile improvements, and have WYSIWYG and unified in-place editing on the way.

This has kept the team pretty busy, however, and so the Drupal 7 version of Spark has not been receiving many updates in the meantime. Olivier Friesse (noisetteprod) of Radio France graciously offered to sponsor work to help things along. Thanks to this sponsorship, we were able to have Théodore Biadala (nod_) of Acquia's Professional Services team spend 3 weeks on getting the in-place editing feature production-ready for Drupal 7, including:

  • Full backport of Drupal 8 code, including Create.js/VIE.js integration
  • Integration with CKEditor module to provide WYSIWYG support for rich text areas, which resulted in numerous upstream improvements
  • Removed requirement on jQuery 1.7 so that Edit module can work on stock Drupal 7 installations without jquery_update module
  • Removed requirement on PHP 5.3 so Edit module can also work in PHP 5.2 environments
  • Basic support for Views/Panels in-place editing
  • Numerous bug fixes to help further stabilize the code base

Working towards a stable release for Drupal 7 naturally identified bugs with the Drupal 8 implementation of inline editing, which are being tracked in this issue: https://drupal.org/node/1894454.

In short, the needs of Radio France have brought tremendous value for the entire community, in both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. If you'd like to try out the work that we've done, download the 7.x-1.0-alpha7 release of Spark or Edit 7.x-1.0-alpha6!

Thanks once again, Olivier and Radio France, for your support! If other companies would like to sponsor further work on Spark, please let me know.

Jan 07 2013
Jan 07

A major focus of usability efforts in Drupal core has been around making it easier to edit things on your site. In Drupal 7, we introduced the Contextual links and Overlay modules to make it simpler for content authors and site builders to jump directly to the parts of the administration that relate to the things they see directly on the page, such as blocks or menus. Drupal 8 has now upped the ante with the new in-place editing feature, which allows for direct modification of content on your site, within the context of the page it is displayed on.

The next logical step is to take in-place editing to the next level by unifying contextual editing paradigms: combining the concept of "edit mode" with the ability to contextually edit more than just fields on content, in order to allow for contextual editing of everything on the page, in a mobile-first way.

Specifically, we need to address the following challenges:

  • Conflicting patterns confuse users: There are contextual gears to edit content, local tabs to edit content, and "Edit mode" to edit content. These patterns need to be streamlined.
  • Tasks are not intuitive enough: Seemingly simple tasks can often result in "pogo-sticking" around in the admin backend trying to locate where to change a given setting.
  • Unnecessary information slows users down: Drupal forms tend to be long and full of advanced/confusing options, which can overwhelm users trying to complete simple tasks.
  • Interactions don't work with smaller devices: With Drupal 8's Mobile Initiative, it is critical that these tools be as easy to use on the desktop as they are on a smartphone or tablet.

Here is a video showing what we'd like to propose for solving these problems in Drupal 8 core:

We've now performed several rounds of internal usability testing on this functionality, and it has tested really well so far, with a high emotional value: in general, people can't believe this is Drupal. :-) Check out the prototype yourself at https://projects.invisionapp.com/share/U2A4IAGX.

I'm very excited about these changes, and feel that if we can get this into Drupal 8 it could be game-changing. But what do you think? If you like it, we'd love help with implementation and reviews in the core issue at http://drupal.org/node/1882482.

May 31 2012
May 31

The goal of the Spark distribution is to incubate authoring experience improvements in a Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. It was announced earlier this month, and since then we've been hard at work on initial research and design.

The Spark team's primary focus is on improving Drupal's content authoring and editing experience, and the first feature we're prioritizing is in-place editing: the ability to edit content, menus, etc. directly on the page, without the need to navigate to a separate edit form. Think of it as "true" WYSIWYG.

Members of Acquia's design team spent time analyzing how some of the most widely adopted Open Source as well as proprietary CMSs do in-place editing. We then prototyped some initial ideas, and performed usability testing on those prototypes to see what works and what doesn't. After a number of iterations, we're happy to report that the usability testing has validated Spark's general design direction. People loved the prototype. Now is a good time for us to share our initial prototype and to solicit further feedback from the community so we can shift gears into implementation.

The following 5-minute video walks through the HTML/JS prototype, and also provides a bit of background on the Spark project:

Our goal is to deliver this functionality in a contributed module for Drupal 7 first and foremost, which will live at the In-Place Editing project on drupal.org. This module will be bundled into the Spark distribution. Depending on how it is received, I hope we can also target this functionality for Drupal 8 core.

From a technical architecture standpoint, we are currently in the process of selecting the WYSIWYG editor to use in Spark for in-place editing of HTML content. For now, we plan to focus on supporting only the Filtered/Full HTML text formats in order to get us to something testable faster.

Later, we are hoping to branch out into other areas of authoring experience too, including helping with the content creation form improvements that the Drupal usability team has been spear-heading, as are well as the layouts UI work being actively discussed in the usability group. The Drupal usability team is doing an incredible job with these issues, and once fully staffed, I would like to see the Spark team help implement these improvements for Drupal 8 and backport them to Drupal 7 so we can ship it with the Spark distribution. (Did I mention that the Spark team is hiring? ;-))

As you can see, things are starting to move along quite nicely. Please join the discussion in the Spark issue queue if this functionality sounds exciting to you and you'd like to help!

May 01 2012
May 01

At DrupalCon Denver, I announced the need for a strong focus on Drupal's authoring experience in my State of Drupal presentation. During my core conversation later in the week, I announced the creation of a Drupal 7 distribution named "Spark" (formerly code-named "Phoenix"). The goal of Spark is to act as an incubator for Drupal 8 authoring experience improvements that can be tested in the field.

I hope for Spark to provide a "safe space" to prototype cutting-edge interface design and to build excellent content tools that are comparable with the experience of proprietary alternatives. While not a final list, some initial thinking around the features we want to experiment with is:

  • Inline editing and drag-and-drop content layout tools ("true" WYSIWYG)
  • Enhanced content creation: auto-save, save as draft and more
  • Useful dashboards for content creators
  • Mobile content authoring and administration support

The vision behind the Spark distribution is to be "the Pressflow of Drupal authoring experience". Pressflow provided a "spoon" of Drupal 6 with various performance enhancements that made their way into Drupal 7 core while it was in development. The same improvements were made available to Drupal 6 users so they could easily be tested in the field. With Spark, we want to test authoring experience improvements in Drupal 7 on real sites with real users and real content. We also want to target the best improvements for inclusion into Drupal 8 core.

I'm excited to announce that Acquia will fund the Spark distribution. Core developers Gábor Hojtsy and Wim Leers will work on Spark full-time starting in late May. They will work along side Angie Byron (webhchick), Alex Bronstein (effulgentsia), myself and other members at Acquia. While we have some promising candidates so far, Acquia is still seeking applicants to join the Spark team (with a strong preference to candidates located in or willing to move to the Boston area):

The Spark team will collaborate with the Drupal usability and the core development teams.

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web