Improving Drupal.org download process with web analytics
by Kieran Lal
In the month of June we enabled Google Analytics on Drupal.org as part of an effort to build a user experience toolkit. The toolkit was designed to provide insight on: what users were searching for, what traffic patterns and workflows vistors were following, and what usability feedback we can get from field studies. If you are interested in Drupal.org analytics you should attend the web conference on key performance indicators tomorrow.
To start we decided to focus on an important destination in any website, the landing page. One of the most important landing pages for a software project is the download page. Dries has just released the download statistics and our growth rate is healthy. It is important to note that Drupal download numbers should be viewed critically. There are two key factors that impact Drupal's download numbers. First, Drupal is multi-site out of the box, so users may download Drupal less frequently since it's so easy to set up another instance of Drupal. Second, the Drupal community is a strong development community and many users prefer to manage their Drupal software using a code repository. That means that they get Drupal by first extracting Drupal via a CVS checkout, and then check it into their own code repository where they centrally manage Drupal for their development organization. That means that Drupal downloads don't necessary compare well with other projects that are being downloaded and should be viewed critically.
Despite strong growth in downloads and lots of re-use of Drupal tarballs we decided to focus on measuring the Drupal download landing pages and see if we could make some improvements. In the charts below I present the entrances, exits, and bounces on key Drupal download pages. You will notice that two of the four key download pages have significant problems.
Drupal's powerful project management and release system are part of the problem. It is important to understand four key content types and how they impact our Drupal downloads process. I have included the charts to show the corresponding traffic patterns. If the images are too small for you, click on them to see them in larger sizes and they are also listed at the end of the post.
1) Drupal project category page. This page categorizes the Drupal project types of which there is only one. This double presentation results in lots of text explaining the category of the Drupal project and the Drupal project. It does not provide the calls to action we want to provide users who are looking to get started with Drupal.
2) Drupal project page. The page explains the Drupal project but does not have the necessary calls to action for people who are looking to download, install, and get started with Drupal.
3) Drupal release announcement, frequently due to security concerns. The Drupal project releases minor updates due to critical security issues that have been discovered. With the release of Drupal 6, Gabor Hojsty has done a good job providing a detailed and visually organized release announcement. While it makes for a good release announcement, it's not a good starting point for new users because it's too information dense, frequently focusing on advanced topics like patching, and descriptions of security vulnerabilities.
4) Drupal release page. Drupal's project management system creates release pages for every release. They are frequently detailed and assume detailed knowledge. They serve their purpose well, but they are frequently accessed through navigation of the download process by new users. The result is these new users find themselves confused.
There is also a fifth page which is a category display of Drupal projects.
5) Drupal project category page. This page is a part of the logical organization of Drupal's project management system. In that sense it serves it's purpose well. However, as a first click from the download primary navigation tab it fails to meet new user expectations.
The dual usage of project management pages and categorization pages as download pages has lead to confusion particularly for new users and resulted in high bounce and exit rates for the Drupal download workflow.
The most popular download page is of course the modules page.
6) Drupal modules page. This page is the gateway to the thousands of features provided by the Drupal community and it gets the bulk of the traffic and direct visits.
And now let's see if we can reduce the bounce and exit rates from our two most problematic pages. By adding buttons and actionable help links we hope to reduce the amount of bounces and exits from Drupal's download pages.