Friday, August 28, 2009

The Drupal Divide

Recently there has been a lot of chatter about friction between the designers and developers within the Drupal community (see posts by Earl Miles and Greg Harvey). The Drupal community is huge and dynamic and is bound to have various skirmishes as members with different backgrounds and needs try to get what they want out of the platform. But I didn't really expect that the divide would be along the lines of developers and designers. I thought it would be between high-end adopters (like media companies) and low-end adopters (like individuals, small companies, and non-profits that make up the bulk of the Drupal community). Or it could have been between people who see Drupal as a business application and those who see it as a development framework.

The Drupal community is keenly aware of the importance of usability and has done a lot of work to identify issues. With the upcoming version 7 release (code freeze any day now), Drupal upped their usability efforts by bringing in some high profile designers to participate. The transition from being developer-dominated to having a more even balance between design and development is important for the Drupal platform as a business application. Mark Boulton and Leisa Reichelt conducted a very open process to incorporate peoples design ideas and feedback. Now that I think of it, this rift between new ideas and the old Drupal guard was pretty inevitable. This kind of transition is not easy. Both sides need to adapt. I don't think there will ever be total harmony between pure developers and pure designers but I do think the project can achieve a healthy level of tension that improves the software.