Drupal 4 Design 2014

Beginning in 2009, members of the Drupal community seized on the notion of promoting Drupal design and theming. The leaders of this movement created a group called Design 4 Drupal, or D4D, which has morphed into a very active community within the community. Their enthusiasm quickly resulted in organized Drupal design camps.

Now hundreds of Drupal designers, developers, and site builders convene each year at MIT's Stata Center to share ideas, gather design inspiration, and learn new techniques for Drupal design and theme development from some of the brightest minds in the Drupal design community.

Four CommonPlaces team members traveled to Cambridge for this year's D4D Camp. They attended the first two days of the conference, taking in seminars on a variety of topics. Day One was devoted to Project Management and client issues, with Day Two focused specifically on Drupal design.

Lemuel Santos

This camp was mostly about front-end performance. It's a very specific, focused conference on theming and design, unlike the big DrupalCons, such as the one I attended in Austin. DrupalCon covers everything in a big, broad range of topics. Thousands of people attend, and there's something for everybody.

Events like this demonstrate that the Drupal community just gets stronger and stronger. There are Drupal meetups every month. There are Drupal camps going on all over the country, all the time, catering to the many interests of the Drupal community. This one, though, was particularly well organized, and presented in a gorgeous setting.

I was really happy that a couple of the Saturday sessions were about responsive design. Because they talked about things that we are currently doing here at CommonPlaces, it gave me a good feeling about the direction that we're taking with mobile design and development.

Ben Hopps

The Responsive Javascript session was probably my favorite. It covered the basics of writing Javascript for responsive design. I learned a lot of new functions that can be used with JQuery, and gathered many techniques that will make my job so much easier.

Catalyze Your Creativity was all about open source tools and resources that we can use to get the job done quicker, faster, and under budget. It covered copyright and licensing issues, as well as the Creative Commons approach. He gave us the links for a lot of image and font resources that we can use for free, either with or sometimes without attribution. For instance, any image published by a branch of the U.S. government is free to use. After all, our tax dollars paid for them!

Why Did They Say That? This session made it clear that we have to define all technical terms that we use because the client may not tell you that they don't understand. I got a better idea of what the client expects, and how to present it. This will really help our clients get better communication, faster timelines, and smoother projects.

Bryan Campbell

All the speakers were great. They related well to the audience, to the point where many sessions were more like dialogues. I really enjoyed those, because it was a free exchange of ideas. I took away a lot of valuable, useful tips from every session that I attended. This is probably because it was unified. Maybe everybody wasn't speaking the same dialect, but they were talking the same language. There were front-end developers, back-end developers, project managers, and account managers; but they all belonged to the Drupal community.

There was a session called From User Personas to Testing, and it introduced me to something called Behat. This tool creates and runs tests on personas you create based on the typical user of the website. It was a cool way to get the front-end planning side to meet the development side.

There was a great discussion called My Brain is Full. Since Drupal 7 was introduced in 2010, front-end development has drastically changed. Javascript libraries have changed, responsive websites are now important, we have to consider user context, device capabilities, physical interfaces, performance, personalization... where does it stop? And how can we stay on top of things, even as they rapidly evolve? This was a conversation asking if we need to separate the front-end more from the back-end as it applies to Drupal. They referred to this as Headless Drupal, and it raised a lot of interesting points.

Amanda Downie

Real-time Multi-device Theming demonstrated a tool called Browser Sync. Together with Google's Web-starter Kit, it creates an environment that allows the user to streamline multi-device theming and testing. It's an ideal tool for me, since I do so much front-end work. I have to preview and test work on so many devices, and every time I do it's a constant hitting of the refresh button. With this tool you can have five browsers and as many devices open as you wish, and they will all update the page that you are working on simultaneously. That session directly related to what I do on a daily basis, and it was great.

I also want to mention Saturday's keynote address, Rethinking UX Research. The goal of any project is to make the website as great as possible; but to do that you have to walk in the shoes of the user. She told us about Doug Dietz, who spent years developing an MRI machine. He was so proud of his design, but when he demonstrated it at a hospital, he saw a little girl who was terrified of it. This made him realize that it doesn't matter how cool the design is, or how easy it is to install, what matters is the little girl who has to use it. So he started over, resulting now in a machine that kids are excited to use. Apply that to website design. The end goal is to have the user as happy with the results as possible.

Photo Credit: http://boston2014.design4drupal.org/sites/all/themes/design4drupal/images/bg_stata.jpg

Gary Locke
By Gary Locke

A semi-professional hyphenate and the Content Editor for CommonPlaces. He has enjoyed a long career in theater and multimedia, and still hopes to one day drive the Batmobile.

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