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Making Module Installation Easy for Acquia Search

Jeff Noyes (our Simplicity Guru), Linea Rowe, Peter Wolanin and myself sat down to discuss how the install process for our Hosted Search Service would look (yes, we’re getting close – Private Beta is out in two weeks)! Typically, when you have a faceted search engine, there is a set of filters on the left and search results on the right, with the sorting links generally horizontally aligned somewhere near the search box.

Here are a few examples from around the web:

Newegg.com - 15
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stuff : Clearance : Target Search Results
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pancakes, Books, DVDs Movies items on eBay.com
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And here is our current implementation:

Search | Dries Buytaert
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Here is the same shot, but broken down in “drupalish”

Search | Dries Buytaert
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I think it works okay, but we’re concerned that when people enable the module, they will have a hard time getting this together. Here is a series of screen shots of a user, enabling and setting up the module:

Modules | ad
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This part is simple (if you use Acquia’s hosted search), you just enable one module and you are done configuring the connection to Solr.

However, you standard search ends up looking like this:

Search | ad
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To get all the nice sorting and facet filters, you need to know (somehow) to go to admin/build/blocks and drag the ApacheSolr: blocks into regions like this:

Blocks | ad
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So what do people think? Should we just enable a few blocks “out of the box” and hope you are using garland and have a region named “left” or “left-sidebar”? If so, which blocks? Alternately, how can we provide a good workflow for people to know they need to do that extra step to setup their search. The other option Jeff suggested (which is most usable) is to have one block, where you can select what filters you want in it. The downside is that the user loses flexibility about where to but filters (maybe they want sorting on the right, etc).

I’d like to get some feedback on:

A). How to make this process so simple that it really is just checking that one box on the modules page and letting cron run and it looks great for 90% of users.

B). What the default blocks to enable are, and where they should be on the screen

C). How do we address this problem of multi-step installs which want to setup blocks in a more usable way for newbies?

See ya!
jacob

Comments

Posted on by timmillwood (not verified).

I think to give the ideas of the results being drilled down from the search a vertical display would be ideal in my eyes, but if the facets and sorts are block then these can be arranged depending on the use case within the theme's regions.

Posted on by Jacob Singh.

Hi Tim,

Thanks for the comment, can you elaborate on what you mean? How are you suggesting differences from any of the cited designs?

Thanks for your feedback!
Jacob

Posted on by Stephanie Pakrul.

I come from a perspective of offering themes that don't have those region names, so I'm a little biased ;)

I think Drupal users are repeatedly trained that simply enabling a module doesn't really "do" anything -- there's usually the step of configuring some settings, enabling something on a content type, adding a block, etc. Staying consistent with this makes sense to me -- I wouldn't be too thrilled if just enabling a module threw some blocks in a page for me.

What about putting something in the message when the module is enabled, like "Now go put the ApacheSolr blocks in your regions to sort and filter on your search"? With a link to admin/build/block

Posted on by Jacob Singh.

Hi Steph,

Thanks for writing!

I got pretty much the same response on my site and replied: (http://pajamadesign.com/2009/01/14/acquia-search-installat ion/#comment-297).

I pretty much agree with you, but since we're looking at this product for a truly mass market (you can enable it without using Drupal before), we are trying to consider the total newb, and it is a lose-lose.

My guess if a user who was totally new saw the message you wrote above (which is totally clear to me, and I couldn't say better)

This:

"Now go put the ApacheSolr blocks in your regions to sort and filter on your search"

Would become:

"Now go put the [WTF] [WTF]s in your [WTF] to sort and filter on your search"

Maybe (hopefully) I'm wrong, and Jeff is wrong in his research of user behavior. I can't really suggest better ideas, perhaps because I'm fully "drupaled". Maybe the trick is just to show some little "Drupal is a bunch of building blocks stacked up on the page" sorta video during the Druapl installer and reference it upon install of the module. Maybe we should make it really complex and provide a new way to add blocks wherein you could actually go to the page, see the blocks as enabled, and drag/drop/hide/add settings inline.

Best,
J

Posted on by Boris Mann (not verified).

"we're looking at this product for a truly mass market (you can enable it without using Drupal before), we are trying to consider the total newb"

Umm...have you experienced an out of the box Acquia install? Very little is enabled, especially "typical" things. So total newbs are already going to be lost.

You can try enabling blocks by default in your default theme, but then, that's what you should be doing anyway. Improve the Acquia install profile so it has more things enabled / configured out of the box, and you can turn on this search with the default theme that you've selected.

Anyone that already has Drupal up and running will have to be knowledgeable enough to click on / configure the admin/block links in the enabled message.

Posted on by Jacob Singh.

Hi Boris,

Thanks for chiming in. You make some good points. I think the whole process of installing modules really needs work, and Acquia is taking a really critical look at it.

I often can't help but think of synaptic or YaST when looking at the Drupal package manager. In those systems there are a couple critical differences though:

1. Much better interface for searching through modules / filtering by groups.

2. You can download modules from the web

3. There are "meta-packages" to make multi-module installs simpler.

4. Some modules(pacakges) launch their own configuration wizard post install to assist users in getting it going. I don't think we have explored this possibility enough in the Drupal community. The workflow can be a little tough if you are enabling a bunch of mods, but I think the idea is that every module has a "configured" switch which is set to off when it is enabled. The user can either run through that module's configuration screens now, or if they decide not to, they will be nagged to until they tell the system not to nag, or they move through the configuration screens.

I think the development and usability of said config wizards would be a major differentiator on how users felt about a given module and what it does for them. Plus it would probably reduce developer stress by nipping support requests in the bud.

Best,
jacob

Posted on by mojzis (not verified).

The checkbox "configured" and a "configure" link beside the module name, which could lead to some easy guide-through steps seems to me as the best solution for this. Those steps could include a detection of a "standard" theme and proposition for automatic insertion of blocks (with an undo option, in case the theme calls left something else :-).
I think even more than blocks the right management is intricate in this ...

Posted on by Sonal (not verified).

Typically, when you have a faceted search engine, there is a set of filters on the left and search results on the right, with the sorting links generally horizontally aligned somewhere near the search box. - Forsikring