by Matt Edmunds
Hello, I’d like to introduce myself as the newest addition to the UX team at Acquia, where I've been fast at work getting my hands dirty with Drupal Gardens. Even as a beta tester, I was impressed with Acquia’s vision to make Drupal more accessible through Drupal Gardens. Like with any open source projects, if there are easy ways to start using a platform adoption can increase dramatically. Automattic figured that out with Wordpress.com, and it has been a huge success for their platform. I hope Drupal Gardens continues to help in the adoption of Drupal in much the same way.
A little about me. My name is Matt Edmunds, or as I’m known on the interwebs and drupal.org, tinycg. While I'm a new addition to Acquia, I've been lurking around the Drupal community for a long time, finding it way back in 2003. At the time, I was searching for a full featured CMS. I wanted something to run a site, not just a blog. Something that would allow me to more easily create content and not have to code every page.
Drupal’s flexibility won me over. It had a cool name, a small passionate community, and put me in the driver’s seat in terms of what I wanted to do with it. Things like anonymous user sessions had just been added, and thoughts of a web installer, install profiles, views and CCK were but pipe dreams to the community. I remember learning the finer points of taxonomy, digging through the handbooks. The milk and egg taxonomy concept still sits with me to this day. Then there were these things called nodes, ah... nodes. I remember it all fondly. That’s not to say Drupal wasn’t without its frustrations -- I am a designer after all. Entering into a vast community of developers was scary, and I remember that too.
How far we've come. Drupal's thriving community has kept me coming back, and I've seen it grow in new and amazing ways. I’ve always loved going to drupal.org to see the next big brand to adopt open source and run with Drupal, or seeing the next big module to make a splash in the community. I remember CCK hitting and changing how we think about content types, the concept of views and seeing both modules mature into truly great additions to Drupal. Having used Drupal for a variety of projects, and consulted on Drupal integration with other platforms, it’s great to be part of a company that understands the value of open source.
With a background in UX and UI design, prior to Acquia I worked at several enterprise SaaS companies. Most recently at an on-demand SaaS presentation provider known as Brainshark. As the Senior UI / UX designer I was responsible for their entire core web product suite. I also lead several mobile initiatives that included designing the iOS app SlideShark, an award winning presentation software solution built on Brainshark’s platform. Not to mention enterprise mobile content portals and several Android projects. I understand the mobile landscape and the challenges facing the market as users continue to do more and more from portable devices.
Before Brainshark I was designer and front-end developer at Mzinga, a SaaS social media platform and e-learning solution. At Mzinga I helped lead a redesign of their platform, working alongside designers, developers, product managers, and senior management to develop a compelling enterprise update to their aging platform. During my time there I worked closely with many of the world’s top brands, broadcast networks, and retail giants.
Couple that with several years of freelance design working with other Fortune 500 companies and I’m no stranger to building compelling enterprise solutions in a rapidly changing marketplace. Nor to the demands of the enterprise ecosystem. Being around Drupal for the better part of the last 9 years I'm also no stranger to the needs of the Drupal community. I see a place where both can coexist and where the enterprise can continue to help fuel innovation within Drupal. There are big things in the future for Drupal, and with it an exciting time for Acquia and Drupal Gardens.
In my spare time, when I'm not staying current on the latest design and technical achievements the internet has to offer, you'll find me volunteering my time to various charitable causes and Drupal initiatives. As an avid gamer it's particularly rewarding to volunteer for charities that are growing around the gaming community. It's a very rewarding use of the free time I can scrape together.
All of us here at Acquia are deeply aware that it's a community effort, and know that Acquia can't reach its goals without Drupal reaching its own goals. With the growth and success of Drupal comes the growth and success of Acquia. I spend a lot of time looking at what is going on inside and outside of the community and like a lot of other open source projects that lean towards developers Drupal continues to struggle to adopt a design first mindset. Drupal can still learn from other open source projects that have done a better job in recent years creating a strong ecosystem around design, something that Drupal still lacks.
Getting, and keeping designers engaged
With that being said, efforts like the Drupal design group are continuing to work to bring designers into the Drupal ecosphere. I’m cautious that while these events continue to attract attention of all types they don’t lose focus in attempting to attract designers into the value of Drupal over teaching developers design skills. The later is not a bad thing by any means, but the main focus should be in attracting design talent to Drupal and teaching developers and designers how to co-exist. Leveraging each other’s strengths builds a healthier community versus attempting to create a bunch of lightning in a bottle uber designer-developers to solve all our problems.
I strongly believe that to be a successful designer the most important skills are to observe and listen. Without the ability to observe you can’t find what needs refinement. With no ability for us to listen we won’t hear what others want and need. That includes listening to ourselves and the community (and yes that includes developers), without doing this work gets wasted. Meaning valuable effort is poured into things that don't meet everyone’s needs or solve any problem. It's important when people are pouring their spare time and passion into something, that it be as efficient and inclusive as possible. Nobody likes to work on something that gets tossed aside. The more inclusive we can be as a community, and the more we can listen to each other the better Drupal gets. We all want that.
As a designer the stronger you can observe, listen and communicate, the better you can articulate your vision, and seek feedback on it. Feedback is just as valuable, but if you don't listen to it, the same thing happens, wasted effort. Acquia understands how valuable feedback is, and I'm fortunate to work with a dedicated usability team that makes it easy to facilitate this type of feedback and iteration in the design process.
While Acquia has been growing quickly, it still has a small family feel. I've been welcomed with open arms and made to feel at home very quickly. When coming in to a place where everyone cares and the passionate is evident, it's easy to get excited. The people here are as awesome as Drupal is and that's pretty awesome. The drive and direction to see Drupal succeed is evident. We dedicate a lot of time to making the Drupal user experience stronger, not just for Acquia's benefit but for Drupal's benefit. This commitment to usability and user experience is evident throughout the organization and I'm proud to be a part of it.
I'm very excited to be here, at the challenges we're tackling everyday and the passion everyone brings to the table to meet those challenges head on as we strive to mature Drupal Gardens and listen to the passionate community that calls it home.