February 13th, 2015
Back in December, as part of our ongoing efforts to improve Drupal.org, we kicked off a content strategy project with Forum One. Drupal Association engineering and marketing/communication staff partnered with the Drupal.org Content Working Group and met for a two-day workshop to help get the project team from Forum One (content strategists and user experience designers) up to speed on Drupal.org and the ecosystem of sites and services that our community uses to build and use Drupal.
Over the past month, we have pulled together many detailed documents to help guide our work. While we are only about halfway through this project, we wanted to share a bit of the work-in-progress that will influence Drupal.org’s content strategy in the coming months.
What is Content Strategy
Content strategy is the practice and process of planning content creation, delivery, and governance. Its purpose is to create a repeatable system that defines the entire editorial content development process for a website.
Drupal.org is a very unique website. It serves many purposes:
- Drupal.org is the home of our community. That makes different things to different people, but at its heart, Drupal.org is about the collaboration that allows us to build Drupal the software.
- Drupal.org is the canonical source for Drupal the software. Drupal.org binds together the respositories for Drupal core and contributed projects, issue queues for requesting features and reporting bugs, and packaging for automated building of releases that are tied to an integrated update process.
- Drupal.org is the hub of our commercial ecosystem. Companies that sell Drupal services and/or Drupal hosting are brought together with customers of Drupal the software—organizations using Drupal to power their websites.
- Drupal.org is a communication channel and it feeds other communication channels. We link to a lot of content on Drupal.org and the homepage gets lots of unique traffic.
- Drupal.org is a source of information. The site provides information about Drupal the software, Drupal.org the site, and the Drupal Association.
- Drupal.org is a place where people go to evaluate Drupal. Developers, Designers, CTOs, CIOs, and more go to Drupal.org to read about features and success stories to make a decision to use the Drupal the platform to build their content management solutions.
- Drupal.org is a starting point for support. Many users ask their first questions to the community using the Drupal forums or issue queues. The find answers by searching the Internet and being pointed back to the answer on Drupal.org.
- Drupal.org is a collection of documentation. Our canonical API documentation is generated from the repositories associated with Drupal.org. Our community has built pages upon page of documentation to help users understand how to build with Drupal and how to contribute to building Drupal.
With so many purposes and competing objectives, a cohesive content strategy that takes in input from many contributors and users of Drupal.org is critcal.
Setting a Content Strategy Vision
To keep us aligned, we outlined three major areas to keep measuring our work against: the big ideas, key messages, and our objectives for content on the site.
- Drupal.org is the home of Drupal and the Drupal community. It is the source of code, information and collaboration, which enables people all over the world to build flexible and scalable technology solutions together.
- We are a global community of web practitioners—from project managers and writers, to designers and developers—contributing our unique skillsets to building and growing the adoption of the free and open source software that is Drupal.
- Drupal is used by nonprofits, government, and Fortune 500 companies to architect customized, appropriate solutions for a wide array of organizational needs.
Content Strategy Objectives
- Improve quality and findability of relevant content so that users can efficiently move through proficiency levels.
- Reframe Drupal.org around all user roles and proficiencies so that all audiences are addressed.
- Develop content governance for Drupal.org to improve the overall quality of content.
- Improve user engagement within the Drupal.org community so that members form deeper relationships and become Drupal promoters and contributors.
Identifying Content Types and Gaps in our Content
We have 17 active content types and over 1.2 million pieces of content on Drupal.org. (Really, this is just nodes, we have even more taxonomy terms and views that also represent displays of data.) That’s a lot of content. It’s more than 29,000 projects (modules, themes, distributions, etc.) and over 789,000 issues posted to those projects. We also have over 330,000 forum topics being discussed.
The Curious Case of the Book
With all of that content, 17 types does not quite give us the flexibility or degree of classification that we need to provide truly structured content. We have some content types that are used for so many different kinds of content that they’re virtually meaningless. We have over 12,000 nodes in our “book page” content type. Our book pages can be anything from documentation to landing pages to resource guides to topical pages to module comparisons… really we use them for just about everything.
During the content strategy project, we will explore ways to break our book pages into more meaningful content types that help new users find what they need.
What’s in a Forum
Another content type that gets used for more than it should is the forum topic. We use forums to post news, security announcements, discussions and even support requests. Yet at the same time, it is clear that forums are used far less now than several years ago. We had over 50,000 forum posts in 2008. We had only 11,000 in 2014.
For support and questions, our forums do not have comparable functionality to systems like Drupal Answers—powered by Stack Exchange. Many community members that provide support have already moved to that site to answer questions. Drupal.org is still a starting point for many newcomers to Drupal. One goal of the content strategy project is to make some decisions about where we can best direct newcomers for support.
Where are the Marketing Materials to Help People Choose Drupal?
A key classification of content that we are missing in our information architecture on Drupal.org is marketing materials. We create tons of documentation and handbooks, but we do not have a ton of great materials that tell business evaluators (CIOs, CTOs, managers, and decision makers) why they should choose Drupal. We have a good start with content created to promote Drupal 8, but there is a lot more we can do to help sell the qualities of Drupal.
Auditing What We Have and Mapping What We Want
We took the time to map our community’s content production over time and the totals were amazing.
The height of our community’s content creation was in 2012, when we created more than 195,000 nodes on Drupal.org and Drupal Groups. As Drupal 7 has matured, we have slowed down a bit. In 2014, we created 116,514 nodes on those two sites. That is still a huge amount of content.
Nearly 39% of all of the content on Drupal.org and Drupal Groups was created before 2010. More specifically, 55% of all book pages were created prior to the launch of Drupal 7 in 2011—that’s 5,665 book pages. Only 32% of those book pages have been updated since. That gap of 23% of all book content is a good place to begin an audit.
We are working now to finalize a process for identifying what content could be archived or removed and what content needs to be updated. The community has done admirable job of classifying our documentation by page status, but there is more work to be done. We need an automated process for regularly auditing our content.
We need a better map of related content—content we have and content we need—that can be used to build a better information architecture for new users.
One of the key deliverables for our content strategy project is a site map of what we want the site to look like in 3 months, 6 months and 1 year.
Creating a Governance Plan to Better Support our Community of Creators
We are hard at work reviewing and documenting community processes for maintaining content on Drupal.org. If users have been around for a while, they might have found their way into the content issue queue and wondered at the process and how to start helping. They may also have jumped in and helped edit a documentation page in one of our numerous books. (6,452 of community members have edited 12,326 book pages over 92,000 times.)
The problem is that these processes are not well known and not built into our tools at a level that helps users know what they should and should not do in the system. Learning the “right way” to contribute requires finding policy documentation that is often difficult to get to, and sometimes out of date. Therefore, along with our new content types, we are assessing and testing the user experience for creating, curating and maintaining all of the content on Drupal.org.
As we document the existing rules that govern how contributions are made, it’s become clear that one of the greatest barriers to contribution, especially for new users, is the sheer difficulty of learning the “right way” to make a contribution. We want to change the way these users interact with the site, so that the correct process and procedure for each type of contribution is baked right into the workflow.
Making our Communications Count
The last key deliverable that is being finalized as part of our content strategy is our communications plan. We have 50+ channels that are used by Drupal Association, working groups, social media volunteers, and maintainers to communicate with the community—everything from Twitter to newsletters to the Drupal.org homepage. We do not want to flood you with too much information, but we would like to be able to give you the information you want to see when you want to see it.
Right now, Drupal Association staff and the Drupal.org Content Working Group are mapping our messages to our audiences, our message to our channels and our channels to our audiences. It will be easier than ever to subscribe to the information you want—both email and on the site itself—in the coming year.
We will be wrapping up our content strategy work as March comes to a close.
We will publish more findings along the way. Stay tuned for new content types on Drupal.org—including news, posts, topic-based taxonomy term pages, and better ways to access and help write documentation.