Questionnaire Confirms: Designers Aren't Clear How To Help Drupal 8

Since my last blog post "Catching the Community Train", Lisa, Bojhan and myself have been lucky enough to receive some very interesting feedback, in regards to designers getting involved with Drupal, as the result of sending out a questionnaire to existing and previous contributors. Below are the questions that were asked and some of the great takeaways I personally gathered from the answers given. Moving forward this information will be extremely helpful in creating a solution to the existing problems of not enough designers getting involved.
 

Question 1: As a current and/or former contributor to design in Drupal, what have been your biggest hurdles to contributing (can be anything from tech hurdles to interpersonal)?

 
There was a general commonality in the hurdles given by designers—they were missing a clear and concise way of figuring out how, where, and if they even could, get involved. With designers already having limited time this hurdle ends up being a critical blocker to take the next steps. My guess is, for designers considering contributing to Drupal, this is the make or break point. 
 
If assurance of how and why the designer should contribute was more clear and calculated, more designers would make it past this hurdle and be on their way to high level involvement. These insights further proved to me that having a website to act as a hub to clearly deliver resources to those designers interested in contributing would be incredibly useful in getting over the aforementioned hurdle.
 

Question 2: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about designing for Drupal/Designing for open source?

 
This question did not have as common of an answer among those asked but certainly gathered some interesting insights. One that really stuck with me was that there is a misconception that designing for Drupal is special, or different than designing for anything else. It is not and I personally think this is true about design in general, there are foundations in design and we need to remember that at the root of any design challenge those foundations can be drawn upon to offer great solutions. Realizing this is important in that it reminds us that just because somebody isn't familiar with Drupal does not mean they don't have solutions. If the Drupal community transparently acknowledges and embraces this, more designers will feel motivated to contribute.
 

Question 3: If you found a new, enthusiastic designer who wanted to contribute to Drupal, what resources would you want available to help them get involved? The sky's the limit. It can be documentation, videos, or a red telephone to Drupal design mentors.

 
Not very surprisingly, the idea of organized mentorship came up quiet frequently. When used correctly, having a mentor eliminates the feeling that we are left to our own devices. Of course, finding somebody to mentor you could be just as hard as figuring things out on your own. You are now not only relying on your own time and resources, but someone else's. In order to be successful there needs to be a structured, organized process.
 
A wide variety of other suggestions were also given which in my opinion means there is a need for a site that houses all of these resources and makes them easy to navigate and utilize. You could have a thousand tools but without a place to organize them all you'll be just as unproductive as if you just had one. Without organized resources like mentorship programs we fall into the same pattern of spending all of our time searching in different places and, as a result, being exhausted of time when finally stumbling across what we were looking for.
 

Question 4: What can we do differently to attract and retain new design contributors?

 
The idea to create enthusiasm and excitement by celebrating good design was suggested quite a bit. If designers see that good design is being appreciated and gaining wins they will be more excited to get involved themselves. It's no secret people thrive on knowing they are making a positive impact. Without that knowledge it's easy to feel like all the hard work is benefiting no one. Though vastly different, Dribbble does a lot of this, and because of it thousands of people contribute in hopes to gain some recognition. Again, we need a place to showcase our design wins and also losses. Whether viewed with a critical eye or with admiration, designers just want their work to be seen.
 
In conclusion, with anything, getting involved requires an understanding of the space, and without that understanding you lose people who would otherwise get excited at the opportunity to be a contributor to something as great as Drupal. I can't share every single answer we received but I want to emphasize how helpful and interesting all of them were. I also want to thank Lisa and Bojhan for the time put into the questions. Moving forward we now have a more detailed understanding of the problems at hand and have solutions straight from existing and previous design contributors. In my opinion all of this feedback has reaffirmed the fact that the site we are working towards creating will be huge in getting more designers involved. 
 
Obviously the generalizations I formed are just my own opinion based on the feedback. I would love to hear everyone else's thoughts, feel free to comment or contact me directly, designer or not. Open source fortunately means access to so many great minds!

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Comments

So here are my two cents on the survey that I wish I had been part of. I am a front end developer and as part of my job, I have to work with graphic designers on all aspects of our sites UX. When I first started working with Drupal theming, I kept reading the support forums and project descriptions in awe at the amazing collaboration taking place in front of me. Coming from the graphic design side and now working as an accomplished themer, I still struggle with finding a place where I can be useful for the community. Every time I read that I have to get into some IRC chat channel to take next steps my enthusiasm deflates. I think, for me, it would need to be a more accessible option, perhaps a web meeting where some already identified interested candidates can be shown how collaboration already happens at the development level so we can get our feet wet and start helping. I would love to be able to contribute and have something to show as part of this community. At the moment, I am just another front end developer, very passionate about Drupal but still a bit lost when it comes to contributing.

Thanks for your insights Rodney, much appreciated! You are more than welcome to email me your thoughts on the rest of the questions as well, and we will be more than happy to add them to the group of answers. That also goes for anyone who wants to give their two cents, it's always welcome. I think your experience is quite common, especially to designers, and that is why we are putting the time into this research in hopes to figure out the best solution. People like you, with good ideas, are crucial in moving towards a more managable process of contributing. Thanks again for the feedback!

I'd comment from the same position: I agree upon the “nothing special” viewpoint and emphasize the portfolio thing: In our early years we found it very motivating to be featured on sites like www.selected-webdesign.com (itself a Drupal site) with a visual look equal to “sleek” static sites, proving to our customers, that the framework itself doesn't dictate layout and design choices.

Apart from that it's more of a meta-approach regarding frameworks (how images get treated, multiple use of content, text structures …) that gives designers coming from a static website background a hard time to consider in their layouts.

Thanks for the feedback, I agree and think it's especially true for visual people (like designers) who need to see it for themselves to buy into it. You also bring up the importantance of having your skills validated by being featured. As a designer, I myself struggle with being super critical of my own work, as I know a lot of designers are. Getting featured is not only gratifying but motivating in getting you to do even better on the next project. 

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