What Are Users Saying About Drupal 7?

This is a live blog of the sessopm “Minnesota Usability Study : What Do Users Have to Say About Drupal 7?” by Angie Byron, Jen Lampton and Brad Bowman at DrupalCon London.

This session covers a usability study done on Drupal 7 in May of 2011.

They were asked to do tasks that would basically fit into OSTraining’s Beginner and Intermediate class levels:

  • Create a content type
  • Enable images on a content type
  • Create a block etc.

There were many usability issues in Drupal 6 such as:

  • Menu structure
  • The terms for creating content
  • Admin/front end separation

Many of the Drupal 6 problems were related to the overwhelming nature of the admin layout.

In Drupal 7 a lot was changed, including:

  • The dashboard
  • Information architecture was reorganized by task (a huge improvement)
  • Contextual links (the little gear that appears in a block etc.)
  • An editable shortcut bar for power users (the grey bar below the main dashboard)
  • Terminology updates (for example, Story and Basic Page became Article and Page)


Things are getting better with the advent of Drupal 7:

  • Adding content is much easier for new users
  • Everyone understood the difference between page and article
  • The color module (to change the colors of the appearance) was really easy. The preview was really good. However it raised expectations for the preview in other areas.
  • The toolbar tested very well (which jives with our experience at OSTraining)

At first, people’s responses were very positive. But …


  • Terminology – this is a well known issue. Drupal terminology just doesn’t make sense to everyone. Even the term “module” created confusion for people (again, none of the participants had Drupal experience).
  • Theme and Region names were confusing.
  • When asked to create a block, they went to create content. Users didn’t differentiate.

What We Learned

  • Users expected immediate visual feedback during their site building tasks.
  • Confusion between Main Menu and Navigation terminology. We need a demo page for this.
  • Can I add a block here? They were clicking on the yellow area when looking at the theme regions.
  • Content Preview is something people really want and the options aren’t clear at all.
  • Adding Modules to extend Drupal – there is a consistent lack of understanding that you can extend Drupal. People are completely overwhelmed when trying to find a new module and add it to the site. So Drupal initially comes across as limited.
  • When they finally get to Drupal.org its completely overwhelming to the end user to find and install the right module. Testers were asked to find and install the Webform module. The videos of the users trying to do this are pretty humorous… except that its the experience of almost every new user to Drupal.
  • More confusion – what am I supposed to download? Work needs to be done to improve the process from finding a module, downloading and installing it.
  • Every single user needed to use a help desk phone call.
  • After 75 minutes – “that was just hard.”
  • Key Words – customizable, organized, confusing, time consuming, too technical, overwhelming and frustrating were the top words that people replied with.

Next Steps

  • Work on the issues
  • Perform additional research on parts of Drupal they didn’t test
  • Attract more designers to help work on solutions.


  • Rod Martin

    Rod holds two masters degrees and has been training people how to do "things" for over 25 years. Originally from Australia, he grew up in Canada and now resides just outside Cincinnati, Ohio. He has worked in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds, in small companies and large corporations. His extensive open source experience includes WordPress, Joomla and Drupal and he really knows how to help you get the most out of the system you chose. Rod plays ice hockey a couple of times a week and rides his Goldwing motorcycle pretty much everywhere he can.

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