cellear's picture

I've been looking for a way to document some suggestions I have for modifications to the Backdrop user experience that I think would improve the product experience for a significant chunk of users.  I have a few different approaches to documenting these suggestions -- lists of existing and desired features, workflow analysis, wireframes, comparisons to other products -- but each seems to only address a subset of what I have in mind, while introducing its own baggage.

So I wrote this story -- a vision of what a typical session might look like for a typical user of some version of Backdrop.  I'll back this up with a wireframe and some backlog items, but I wanted to set the stage with a vision first.

Coffee Fanatix

Kris owns a small business, and she has a Backdrop website that she uses to provide marketing information and customer service.  The business consists of a small chain of three cafes, a food truck, and a catering service.  One of the cafés hosts various events, and the site offers a calendar of events.  There is also a blog section, where Kris and a few members of her staff blog about food, coffee, and community issues — both to stir up social media interest, and also because they find it fun and rewarding.  There is a feedback section where patrons can submit feedback — negative experiences are handled as customer service events, and positive comments are published as testimonials, if permission is granted.  There are also online menus.

The site was built in 80 hours by a local web development company, and while the company provides 24 hours/year of scheduled support, the day-to-day upkeep is handled by Kris and her staff.

About once each week, typically on Monday afternoons, Kris logs into her site.  The social media features are good for the business, and the staff bloggers enjoy the creative outlet, so Kris looks forward to the time that she spends on her site.  She opens up her tablet’s browser to her administrative page — www.coffefanatix.com/coffeenaughts.  As always, she admires her clever logo and the warm, comforting background picture of coffee beans spilling out of a burlap bag, types her user name and password on the parchment-textured background, and hits return.  She’s eager to see what’s happening on her site, and she’s not disappointed. 

The welcome screen is uncluttered and welcoming — it has plenty of white space (or, in this case, parchment-colored space) and fits without scrolling onto her tablet screen.  Nevertheless, it manages to convey a considerable amount of useful information.  At the top, it welcomes her with a friendly message that lets her know she’s in the right place, logged into the right account, and there are no emergencies that require immediate attention:

“Welcome, Kris!  Your Backdrop 2.14 site is up to date and running normally. (3 updates are available: info)”

If there were a security update available, this message would be less sanguine.

Below that is a small control panel that gives her a little information about how her site is doing.  Most interesting to her is her visitor count, presented as two graphs.  On the left, 10 bars tell her how many visitors she has received each day in the last 10 days.  Next to it, a second graph shows traffic over the previous six months.  The user information is generated internally by Backdrop as it serves pages.  Her consultant explained that if she were running a bigger site with more traffic they would have substituted an external analytics package to provide a more complete picture, but for Kris’ modest needs Backdrop’s built-in analytics is fine.

Below the graphs is a table that summarizes the administrative activity. She can see that 5 out of her 19 employees have logged in recently (“recent” for her is set at two weeks, but she knows she can change that in the settings panel if she wants.). In that time, they have written eight blog articles, which makes her smile. She clicks into one of them, anxious to see what new foam-art Maya has come up with this time.  Wow, that dragon looks awesome.  She promotes it the front page; the customers get a kick out to it, and Maya doesn’t mind the attention.  Everybody wins.

Back to the admin page.  She is momentarily alarmed to see that Jack has updated the lunch menu, but when she checks she sees that he noticed and fixed a typo.  Good catch, Jack — nobody wants a Vanilla "Late."

She’s happy to see that Andre has updated the concert calendar; it’s good to see he’s gotten ahead of that, and has even booked some holiday parties, already.  Satisfied that her staff is functioning well, she updates the food truck schedule, then sits down to write the blog article she thought up on her drive into the office this morning.


This imagined dashboard looks like a good place to put a message about how many comments need moderation. I was thinking about this recently when looking at comment admin screen.

What is most powerful for me about this story is the picture it paints of the business involved and the range of functionality it wants in its software - and by implication the huge demographic that Backdrop can appeal to if, once-again, drupalistic sites can be launched, maintained and upgraded at an affordable price.

Speaking as an end-user who is currently (comfortably) locked into Drupal 7 and its eco-system of contrib modules, it is finding a way to harness the collective will  of that demographic that ccould really give Backdrop the momentum that it needs. Or if 'will' sounds like a slightly contestable  factor, the dollars.