Design for Drupal 8

Attracting more designers to Drupal is an important goal in our quest to create a well-rounded ecosystem and to attract more users to Drupal. While we made some great improvements in Drupal 7, we need to do more of the same with Drupal 8, and then some. After conversations with various Drupal designers and front-end developers, I decided that adding a new theme to Drupal 8 core is a great way to attract more designers, both as end-users of Drupal but hopefully also as contributors to the project.

I wanted to kick this off early in the Drupal 8 development cycle, and have asked Jeff Burnz to be the Initiative Owner for the Drupal 8 Design Initiative. This is the third official Drupal 8 initiative after the Configuration Management Initiative and the Web Services Initiative.

Jeff will guide the community through a design process with the goal of producing a beautiful theme that can be added to Drupal 8. The emphasis of this theme will be on design to show the world that Drupal can be used to create delightful experiences.

As important as a new theme for Drupal 8 is, so is the process of selecting the design and building the theme itself. Another goal of the the Design Initiative is to define and execute a new process for the selection and development of new core themes. Jeff has gathered a small team of Drupal UX-ers, designers and front-end developers to drive this process forward. You will be hearing a lot more about this in the coming weeks and months and your input will be sought -- this will be an entirely open process, with full community collaboration an important part of the process.

Last but not least, hopefully we can continue to improve Drupal's mark-up, CSS and theming capabilities along the way, as well as further educate the Drupal community about the importance of design.

Long story short, this should be a great initiative for Drupal 8. If all goes well, not only will we get a new theme for Drupal 8, but hopefully we'll raise the bar for design for Drupal in a significant way. If you want to learn more about this initiative, you can find additional information in Jeff's announcement blog post.

If you want to get involved please see this discussion on drupal.org.

Comments

Larry Garfield (not verified):

Welcome to the team, Jeff! Make us look good. :-)

April 21, 2011
Jeff Burnz (not verified):

Thanks Larry, that's certainly the plan ;)

April 22, 2011
John Albin Wilkins (not verified):

I’m really excited to see this job become formalized in Drupal 8. I essentially was the self-appointed holder of this job in D7. Making it an official D8 initiative means it will get much more exposure than I was able to with my Drupalcon presentations on the subject. :-)

Congratulations, Jeff!

April 21, 2011
stephthegeek (not verified):

Awesome!! Looking forward to helping out with this, so glad it's getting the attention it deserves!

April 21, 2011
Hadi Farnoud (not verified):

upgrading to D7 is a big step for those who have D6 right now. now that all the attention is at D8, that made me think whether I have to upgrade to D7 or simply wait for D8? why cant we just make that theme for Druplal 7?

why are we focusing on D8 so much? at the end of the day it's just a theme!

April 22, 2011
effulgentsia (not verified):

Hi Hadi,

Not sure if you were wanting a long response, but here it is anyway. I hope it's helpful :)

There are many thousands of people who work to make Drupal better. Many are currently doing this via D6 modules, themes, documentation, books, videos, translations, etc. And many are doing it via D7 modules, themes, documentation, books, videos, translations, etc. D7 offers a lot of improvements, but since it's still pretty new, many contrib modules for it are still in alpha or beta, so understandably, everyone will pick a different time at which to make the switch.

I disagree that "all the attention is at D8". That's where the attention on Drupal *core* is right now, because that's the version that's in development. D7 has shipped. It's frozen. People continue to find and fix bugs, but we don't make significant changes to a released version. Now is the time to be working on D7 contrib modules, themes, and websites, but not on D7 core. If you like working on Drupal core, D8 is where the action is.

Dries, however, is not the project lead of Drupal contrib modules. He is the project lead of Drupal core. So rightfully, he's now giving D8 a lot of his attention, to help set it up for success, by identifying the most important initiatives, and leaders for those initiatives, so that people who want to contribute to Drupal core, have the support structures in place to be effective in doing so. Therefore, this blog, and the blogs of the initiative owners, are giving a lot of attention to D8. But you'll probably find that the tens of thousands of other Drupal related blogs are predominantly focused on D6 and D7.

That's how it works. If what you care about is building a website today, then you care about D6 and D7. If what you care about is Drupal continuing to be successful in 2 years, then you care about D8.

Should you upgrade to D7, or wait until D8? Depends on what your needs are for the next 2 years. If D6 will serve you well until D8 comes out, then sure, you can skip D7. I did this with D5. I had built several sites for clients in D4.7, and none of them needed D5 features, so they and I stayed on 4.7 and then switched to 6. But that was back when 4.7 -> 5 took nine months and 5 -> 6 took one year. Major releases are taking longer these days, and correspondingly come with bigger improvements, so I suspect most people will want to upgrade to D7 rather than skipping it.

Finally, this initiative is not just about a core theme. Please re-read this blog post, and Jeff's blog post. It's about attracting designers to the Drupal project, making the process of designing for Drupal and contributing design work to Drupal a more delightful and rewarding experience, and thereby, making Drupal more impressive to more users. Creating an awesome core theme is a vehicle towards that goal, just like the Seven and Bartik themes for D7 were part of the process of attracting usability and accessibility experts to Drupal and solving D6 usability and accessibility problems. Some of this D8 design work will likely require and foster changes and improvements to Drupal architecture. That's why it makes sense to do it for the version of Drupal in which we can make those changes without destabilizing existing website installations.

However, anyone with a passion to create the next killer D7 contrib theme is more than welcome to do it. PLEASE, DO IT!

April 24, 2011
John Coonen (not verified):

Excellent, excellent strategy for 8.0 - design! Glad to see Jeff on-board. Engineers and architects, co-habitating! Yikes!

April 22, 2011
Hiro (not verified):

All this talk of Drupal 8 seems premature when people are currently complaining about the performance of Drupal 7 on shared hosting accounts. How is Drupal going to be more accepted if it performs sluggishly on shared hosting while Wordpress and Joomla fare better? How is Drupal going to attract more designers, when the potential audience is going to grow smaller because of server requirements? I was even considering starting a Drupal theme company. I am reconsidering at the moment because of the initial reviews of Drupal 7.

The people that are new to Drupal are not going be using VPS or dedicated servers. It is a disappointment after the wait and fanfare to find out that Drupal 7 performs worse and has the potential to turn off loads of newcomers.

People are making decision right now about which version of Drupal to use, or whether to even use Drupal at all, and a lot of the reviews out there are not good on the performance front for Drupal 7. These types of reviews could cause people to choose something else because if they start a Drupal 6 project, there is not a good upgrade path if they want to continue using shared hosting. It makes it hard to recommend Drupal to clients with shared hosting because what happens when they need or are forced to upgrade. The initial reviews of Drupal 7 are seriously making me reconsider recommending Drupal at all.

I love Drupal and have developed several sites with it starting with Drupal 5, but the reported slow performance of Drupal 7 is making me question the direction that Drupal is going in. The direction I see so far leads to a smaller audience, not a bigger one.

For any CMS to be widely used and accepted, it first has to perform well on shared hosting. That is the entryway to wider acceptance, not just design.

April 22, 2011
Lathan (not verified):

@ Hiro Have you not been watching the number on the issue queue's? The number of bugs over the past week or so there are falling rapidly... There will be a release soon.

April 22, 2011
Larry Garfield (not verified):

There are a number of issues open already to improve D7's performance. The performance profile of Drupal 7 is very different than it was for Drupal 6. It works much better than D6 on the high end, when you know how to trick out your server, at the cost of being notably slower and more memory hungry on the lower end. This is a known problem.

There's only so much that can be done without vastly rearchitecting Drupal 7, though. And if you vastly rearchitect Drupal 7... you have Drupal 8. ;-) Rearchitecting for better performance, not just scalability, is one of the thrusts for Drupal 8 and a key factor that both Greg and I are keeping in mind for our respective core initiatives. But that sort of redesigning takes time and effort. We're talking about Drupal 8 already because if we want Drupal 8 to ship in a year or two with vast improvements over Drupal 7, we've got to start now. If we wait a year while tweaking Drupal 7, then Drupal 8 won't be able to be anything more than a marginally improved Drupal 7.

We want Drupal 8 to rock the socks off of Drupal 7. That is a lot harder than it sounds. :-)

April 23, 2011
Hiro (not verified):

I think it looks really bad for there to be a release of Drupal that the Drupal community cannot use or recommend to their shared hosting clients. Wait for Drupal 8? That makes us that recommend Drupal look REALLY BAD. Joomla and Wordpress are not making these sort of miscues. Performance was one of the many advantages Drupal had over the competition and now that is completely gone.

I really think it is a major blackeye and kills the adoption of Drupal. This kind of mistake hurts the reputation of Drupal and before it was stellar. I work on over 40 Drupal projects each year and that number is going to drastically drop until this situation is resolved, so the adoption has been killed for me. How many others have to make the same hard decision?

What do we do until Drupal 8? Stick with Drupal 6 which will be unsupported once Drupal 8 comes out? Why even come out with Drupal 7? Put it back in beta. It is better to own up to a mistake than to cripple Drupal potentially forever. Drupal is known for great programming that balances performance and funtionality. That is completely gone. The reputation that Drupal has worked so hard to create is being erased as we speak. I am raising a warning bell. I hope someone listens.

It has shaken my confidence in the direction of Drupal and I am sure it is shaking a lot more peoples' confidence. Up until Drupal 7, I had a big love affair with Drupal and was going to center all my business around it. I was about to start a Drupal consulting business and start a Drupal theme business this year. Those plans are on hold now. I had gotten to the point where I would not work on old client work that was created in Joomla or Wordpress. I would convert them to Drupal. I can't do that with any confidence anymore. I have to decide what to do with clients I am converting right now. I definately can't convert them to Drupal 7.

The majority of sites that use Drupal are not high end sites. They are on shared hosting. Personally, Drupal 7 is killing Drupal. Drupal 7 is a release I will probably never use. If you read the Drupal 7 tests blogs out there, people install Drupal 7, see how slow it is, and go back to Drupal 6. That is terrible! What a terrible first impression. My whole bookshelf is Drupal 5 and 6 books. I feel silly for recommending Drupal to friends and clients for the last three years. My confidence is really shaken.

When people think Drupal now, they will think poor performance.

When people compare the current versions of Joomla, Wordpress and Drupal, they are going to go, 'wow, Drupal is really slow.' Perception is everything and that is a terrible first impression, and we want more Drupal users? How many new major publishing and political sites are we going to lose over this in the future? What do sites like Popsugar do? Do they too ignore Drupal 7 and wait for 8? That looks terrible.

For Drupal to grow and maintain the reputation it 'once' had, Drupal needs to be tweaked pronto. It looks really bad and our community cannot afford these types of mistakes. This post seems to be about creating a bigger audience and there is a release out now that is killing that. To save face that has to be fixed and fast. I am one of those designers that was going to work hard to beautify Drupal. What do I do now? Keep making Drupal 6 themes and ignore Drupal 7, or just move on to making Wordpress or Joomla themes because they have not done something that is killing their audience? I have not installed Wordpress and Joomla in years. I had no need to. I am now. Guess why? Drupal 7.

I have been boasting about how great Drupal is to another designer for a year trying to convince her to try out Drupal. I did a walk through in the last few weeks of how to install and get Drupal up and running. I had to completely ignore Drupal 7. I feel like an idiot for raving about how great Drupal is for the last year. Working with her made me see how difficult Drupal is to newbies already. We also installed Wordpress and she felt more comfortable with it. I could not even bring myself to keep pushing Drupal because I can't even recommend the current version. I would have never done that in the past.

This reminds me of the mistakes Myspace and Digg have made, features over performance, lose of direction, and we all see what is happening to Myspace and Digg right now. No one care about the next version when the current version doesn't perform. Have you seen how many users are jumping ship from Myspace and Digg? It is not enough to say wait for Drupal 8. If this continues, the damage to the reputation of Drupal will be irreversible.

I would say go back to Drupal 6, and put Drupal 7 back in beta and get it right. In order for Drupal to grow, we have to get things right. This has to be addressed RIGHT NOW. Think of Digg and Myspace as compared to Facebook. We cannot ignore mistakes and let them sit around a year or two while we wait for Drupal 8. The Drupal crowd will be forced to find another solution. We are taking a page out of the Digg and Myspace playbook in my opinion.

Would Digg have been better admitting they messed up and gone back to Digg 3 in the first few weeks Digg 4 was out? I think so. They would be far better off right now and Reddit (Wordpress and Joomla in our case) would not be reaping all of the benefit.

Sorry for being so passionate about Drupal, but we are pulling a Digg, or a Myspace right now. Consider this the alarm bell.

April 23, 2011
Larry Garfield (not verified):

I share your concerns about Drupal 7's performance, and have been trying to highlight it for some time myself. So have a number of others, who have been trying to improve Drupal 7's performance for the past year. There are still issues open to try and tweak Drupal 7's performance further as well.

The key is that Drupal 7 focused on scalability, not on performance. IF you have the infrastructure to leverage common web scalability tools (APC, memcache, varnish, etc.), Drupal 7 can scream. Witness Examiner.com, which is a top-100 website and serves a bajillion pages a day, without page caching. Drupal 6 could never hope to pull that off. The trade-off is underlying complexity which, in turn, hurts single-response performance.

However, it is simply impossible to "undo" Drupal 7. You can't put it back in beta and "fix it", because the performance challenges Drupal 7 faces are architectural, not just a matter of a few slow queries that we could find and fix. By the time you've made enough changes to Drupal 7 to make it super-fast again... it would be called Drupal 8. That's one of the key reasons the architecture geeks in the Drupal world are chomping at the bit on Drupal 8, because it's our opportunity to make the deep architectural changes necessary to improve Drupal's performance, not just its scalability.

The sky is not falling, but we do need to be watching for clouds and keep that in mind for Drupal 8. The sooner we can make Drupal 8 faster, the sooner we can get Drupal back onto a fast-track. That's why all of this talk about Drupal 8 is so important.

If you care about performance in Drupal 7, though, you can help out here.

If you'd rather focus your energy on refactoring Drupal 8 for better performance, you can help out here and here.

If your business or business model depends on Drupal being fast, then please, help us help you and help make Drupal fast. Drupal doesn't get faster on its own; we have to make it faster.

April 24, 2011
effulgentsia (not verified):

Hiro,

Can you please post links to the reviews that you mention?

Thanks.

May 4, 2011
Lathan (not verified):

I have had a thought, after using grid systems for a while now. I was thinking of a core drupal gird system? I have seen many grid calculators before and think it should be pretty darn easy to get one going in core that could be adjusted and a page could output a grid of x columns etc.. If one could also allow that manipulation down to a field level (ie tie a field to a column number in the gird)... Well let's just say regions sorta go away.

Duno I dea I have had for a while and think this is a good place to get some feed back. Oh and congrats Jeff we all hope you get a nights reast in the near future ;)

April 22, 2011
Arthur Abogadil (not verified):

Nice to hear about this initiative dries! one of my plans which i hope to accomplish in the very near future is to create a themes store for drupal but this is currently on hold as i'm still learning various intricacies of drupal theme development. Do you think you can add to one of the goals of this new initiative is to create any sort of documentation on how the theme was created from start to finish? so after it was done, theres a walkthrough that developers like me can follow on how to build a theme, like a very detailed case study discussing the issues, decisions and the actual coding process, converting of photoshop or illustrator files, etc. Thanks! and more power.

April 22, 2011
Jeff Burnz (not verified):

To be honest I think our process is so bespoke I'm not sure a wo-to-go guide will be relevant to many other use cases, but certain parts of it will be of strong interest to some groups such as UX so we will certainly be summarizing these and presenting them as handbook or wiki pages.

I know the docs team are working hard on the D7 theme documentation and we'll definitely be documenting as much as we can during the actual D8 theme build.

April 22, 2011
Phil (not verified):

Awesome. Great call.

Especially at this early phase, making design a priority and actually implementing it will provide real-time feedback on the design process that Drupal 8 provides, providing oppourtunity to improve it. It's win-win!

April 22, 2011
Joris (not verified):

Dries,

why don't you organize a big drupal contest, with attractive prizes? You can even give the winner(s) a job at Acquia!

You could divide it in:

Design
Theming
Design + Theming

Joris

April 22, 2011
John Albin Wilkins (not verified):

This will never happen in the Drupal community while I’m around. We are not going to have any design-related contests. It smacks of spec work and will immediately alienate and insult the designers we’re trying to attract.

Fortunately, Jeff is well aware of these issues. See his blog post for more info. http://adaptivethemes.com/drupal-8-design-initiative

April 22, 2011
Michelle (not verified):

My guess is because he doesn't want the entire design community to hate him... ;)

Michelle

April 23, 2011
Camille (not verified):

This is a nice post. I will take a look at the drupal 8 and maybe I can use it in the near future thanks a lot for sharing this idea

April 22, 2011
yoroy (not verified):

Right on. My hope is this won't only deliver The One Core Theme, but grow the supply of beautiful themes in contrib as well. Go get'm Jeff!

April 22, 2011
Mark (not verified):

Good idea! I hope part of this will include drop-down menus--making them simple to enable and having them well-documented. Right now this is an area, along with end-user editing (wysiwyg editor including image insertion) that makes Drupal out-of-the-box appear weaker than it should.
And I share Hiro's concern above about the importance of D7+ performance on shared hosting.
Thanks!

April 22, 2011
Trika (not verified):

@Hiro

Shared hosting users are no more the Drupal's mainstay - it is used sectorially now by bigger players or major users like Government Depts. Forget about performance, the sheer file size of Drupal 7 forbids many users who once used free 1 oe 2 mb accounts or low end shared accounts to host, test, and use Drupal 4x or 5x and made it popular. They formed the major thrust once behind Drupal, but Drupal has declared itself as no longer a hobby project. And to run a site with bigger audience you need $$$ to have services like Acquia in which case CPU performance issues hardly matter as you are already using ded or at least high end VPS.

The internet has also lost those shared users who used to use Drupal or various other CMSes to add variety and a real internetwork of multitude of sites. While CMSes and forum scripts largely lead the show once, the internet sadly now is monopolized by social nets, scripts of which were actually never brought up by the free and opensource devs like the way CMSes were. Thus internet now means Search = Google, Website = Social Net = Facebook and some ecommerce portals like Amazon. Geocities was killed by Yahoo. And majority of those who has their own pages using CMS like Drupal now use more and more the cookicutter pages of the monopolistic data selling giant facebook.

Even if shared hosting users do have their sites using Drupal, majority of their crowd, by their own choice, has shifted, sadly for the net, slavishly to facebook and the similar pages. So it hardly matters :)

April 23, 2011
Hiro (not verified):

@Trika

Totally disagree. You would have to provide stats to backup what you are saying. There are new sites popping up everyday in Wordpress, Joomla, and Drupal. I seriously doubt they are all power users that are not using shared hosting, and I am talking about people creating standalone websites or blogs, not people creating facebook pages. If someone things a facebook page will suffice, then they are not really the audience for any CMS.

The majority of people just starting out with a website go with shared hosting. You would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. That is the biggest potential audience for Drupal to grow, not big major sites. If Drupal wants more designers, then its audience has to grow. It can't just say we are for big sites, screw shared hosting, and expect to attract designers.

It is simply a numbers game. Wordpress and Joomla are not growing because of a few power sites. They are growing more widely accepted by the masses because they are perceived as easier than Drupal and they work on shared hosting. You think the masses are all going with VPS?

The Internet creates thousands of new sites everyday. You think they are majority power users and going directly from no website to vps or dedicated? You honestly think that no one is creating websites anymore, just facebook pages? That is not very realistic.

Everyone is trying to start Wordpress blogs nowadays to make money online now. You buy any book on how to start a web business and they usually have a section on Wordpress. You think these people are going with VPS or dedicated? Not very likely.

Run a poll and ask the Drupal community how many of their sites are on shared hosting, vps, dedicated or in the cloud. I am willing to bet the majority are on shared hosting. It is not logical to say they the majority will be on VPS or Dedicated because the majority of the web is on shared hosting. To say otherwise defies logic.

April 25, 2011

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