Planet Drupal

Simple Website Approach Using a Headless CMS: Part 1 I strongly believe that the path for innovation requires a mix of experimentation, sweat, and failure. Without experimenting with new solutions, new technologies, new tools, we are limiting our ability to improve, arresting our potential to be better, to be faster, and sadly ensuring that we stay rooted in systems, processes and...
Significance of Voice Interface for Media and Publishers Shankar Sat, 11/24/2018 - 12:00

“Read out the headlines on the front page of today’s edition of The New York Times newspaper”. Say something like this to Google Home or Amazon Echo and you will get to listen to a voice reading out the news. Forget swiping, scrolling and typing, just talk to a voice assistant and hear what you want. Voice interfaces are all the rage in recent times.


Not only is it helpful for your personal use, but organisations from different industries can find it meritorious. When it comes to new publishing opportunities, voice interfaces are right up there alongside artificial intelligence, augmented reality and blockchain. This world is not a part of a fairy tale and voice interface do pose a few challenges. Before we see how publishing companies make a great use of voice assistants, let’s explore voice interfaces a bit.

What exactly are voice interfaces?

Voice user interfaces (VUIs) enable the user to communicate with a system through voice or speech commands. Amazon Alexa, Echo dot, Google Home, Google Mini, Siri, Cortana and the Google Assistant some of the great examples of VUI.  The primary advantage of a VUI is that it enables you to interact with a product hands-free, eyes-free.

The primary advantage of a VUI is that it enables you to interact with a product hands-free, eyes-free.

Applying the same design guidelines to VUIs as to Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) is impossible. There are no visual affordances in a VUI. That means when you are looking at a GUI, you have no apparent indications of what the interface can do or what are the options available. When designing VUI actions, it is of paramount significance that the system clearly lays down possible interaction options, lets the user know what functionality is he/she is using and limit the amount of information to an amount that the user can remember.

Now, why are they important? It’s growing at an alarming pace and Gartner, a research firm, says that it is a trend, no discussion. You can see ‘Virtual Assistant’ in the graphical representation of emerging technologies below.

Source: Gartner

VUI is getting better and better. In just an year, the betterment is apparently visible. Whether it is Google Home or Siri, advancements are impeccable as can be seen in the following graph.

Things that publishers need to know

There is a land grab to own skills and in the arena of VUI, skills can be split into two categories.

First is the branded skills that are connected to your brand and could not be owned by any other organisation. Skills like TED’s ‘play the latest TED Talk’ action and the Wall Street Journal’s ‘What’s News?’ come into this category.

Another category is the one that encompasses more generic skills like “Alexa, give me the headlines on sports” or “Okay Google, give me the stock market news”. Ownership of such generic skills would give you the sole authority over all the categories from the creation of first-mover advantage in the market as brands race to the capturing skills before they are gone.

This can make things tougher for brands who are looking to extract market-specific skills in both the generic and branded categories. And like most things, it is all about finding the right target.

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners stated in a study that Amazon Echo customer spend 66% more than average Amazon customers. This goes to say that Amazon can now afford to sell Echo devices at a lesser price than originally planned. They can even occasionally take a loss on devices for gaining a greater share of consumer spending. The inference that we get from this for the publishers is that optimising for voice search could result in a revenue boost.

Benefits of voice assistants for publishers Emphasising on Customer Experience

Fabrice Rousseau, Amazon’s general manager of Alexa skills, emphasised on reinventing customer experience with the help of voice technology in his keynote address at the CMO Digital Insight Summit. He said, “When we moved from desktop to mobile we didn’t bring the desktop experience to mobile, we invented a very specific mobile experience”. He further stated, “When you move from mobile to voice don’t bring your mobile experience. Just invent an experience that is unique to voice.”

One of the greatest examples of the importance of customer experience through voice technology can be seen through Amazon Audible. If you are a fan of audiobooks, the odds are that Amazon is your preferred place to shop. Of all the ways Amazon has been able to prove its hegemony in the book market, its share of audiobook sales probably represents its most formidable dominance.

Branding with skills

It is of utmost importance to note that, as far as most of the publishers are concerned, although the VUIs have been storming the market, there’s still plenitude of advancements in the pipeline. In spite of early triumphs with branded skills and flash briefings, VUIs still operate at a fairly low level such as following the commands to play music or read out your appointment dates. With that being said, many publishers are already working on plans for expansion. With the land grab to own skills still underway, the ones who make the first move will taste the success in the future.

What are the major challenges? Dearth of personality

Voice assistants’ dearth of personality is one of the foremost concerns of publishers. Chris Gathercole, the head of FTLabs at the Financial Times, and his team used Amazon Polly for converting existing text articles into audio that is then delivered by ‘Artificial Amy’. What they observed was that ‘Amy’ was quick to learn and was also cost-effective but her lack of human-like characteristics was irksome and killed the humour or nuance of a piece.

Banal and disturbing

Automated voices are often either of banal nature or straight up disturbing which can put users off. An amalgamation of artificial and human voices could temper the issue with a voice actor reading parts of the text and a computerised voice contributing further snippets.

Automated voices are often either of banal nature or straight up disturbing Privacy concerns

There are privacy concerns hovering around the ownership of devices that are essentially perpetually eavesdropping on your home. Consumer Watchdog, a customer advocacy group, stated in a study. “These patents show that smart devices target moments in between screen time to monitor sleep habits, listen in on dinner conversations, and track when users shower. Access to this data can flesh out Google and Amazon’s profiles of their users in order to help them more accurately server targeted ads”.

Conclusion

Conversations will evolve into an integral element of digital experiences. Interfaces that enable people to use natural language - from chatbots based on typing and reading to voice interfaces that are based on speaking and listening - are highly popular but also very immature.

However, with more devices without screens being connected, more consumers will look to voice for controlling their efforts and to perform more intricate tasks. Enterprises including publishing companies need guidance from Customer Experience (CX) pros so that their efforts at building conversational interfaces help customers instead of driving them away.

Looking for CX pro? Looking no further than OpenSense Labs as we strongly believe in offering a wonderful digital experience through a suite of services.

Contact us at hello@opensenselabs.com to know more about the benefits of voice interface for a publishing company.

blog banner blog image voice assistant voice interface media and publishing Blog Type Articles Is it a good read ? On
As Agile practitioners we work to transform complex, environments, could our knowledge, experiences and skills be cross pollinated to transform the very complex! i.e. society? Continue reading →

I had a 'fun' and puzzling scenario present itself recently as I finished moving more of my Drupal multisite installations over to HTTPS using Let's Encrypt certificates. I've been running this website—along with six other Drupal 7 sites—on an Nginx installation for years. A few of the multisite installs use bare domains, (e.g. jeffgeerling.com instead of www. jeffgeerling.com), and because of that, I have some http redirects on Nginx to make sure people always end up on the canonical domain (e.g. example.com instead of www. example.com).

My Nginx configuration is spread across multiple .conf files, e.g.:

During the Innovation Showcase at Acquia Engage, I invited Mike Mancuso, head of digital analytics at Wendy's, on stage. Wendys.com is a Drupal site running on Acquia Cloud, and welcomes 30 million unique visitors a year. Wendy's also uses Acquia Lift to deliver personalized and intelligent experiences to all 30 million visitors.

In the 8-minute video below, Mike explains how Wendy's engages with its customers online.

For the occasion, the team at Wendy's decided to target Acquia Engage attendees. If you visited Wendys.com from Acquia Engage, you got the following personalized banner. It's a nice example of what you can do with Acquia Lift.

As part of my keynote, we also demoed the next generation of Acquia Lift, which will be released in early 2019. In 2018, we decided that user experience always has to come first. We doubled our design and user experience team and changed our product development process to reflect this priority. The upcoming version of Acquia Lift is the first example of that. It offers more than just a fresh UI; it also ships with new features to simplify how marketers create campaigns. If you want a preview, have look at the 9-minute video below!

If you’ve been reading about new -- and promised -- easy-to-use page builders, you many not be aware that the Drupal community has been working on a super ambitious visual design tool, Layout Builder, that will be included in the next version of Drupal, Drupal 8.7, scheduled to be released this Spring, 2019.

Tags: acquia drupal planet

There is exciting work being done in the Drupal community to improve the Admin UI, including the JavaScript Modernization Initiative and an overhaul of the look and feel of the Seven theme. Meanwhile, I've been working with a group in the Drupal community to research what user experience improvements we should be making for content editors.

So far, we have conducted a survey to get feedback from content editors, performed a card sort to see how content editors group their tasks, and recently, conducted a comparative usability study that looks at the authoring experience provided by other content management systems.

We chose four content management systems that offer different experiences: Craft CMS, Contentful, SquareSpace, and WordPress with Gutenberg. In this article, I’ll walk through the different aspects that we tested: first impressions, the editing experience, the publishing workflow, and what we can learn.

The setup

Going through the process of setting up several other content management systems was an eye-opening experience. I highly recommend it for anyone involved in building Drupal websites for a living. The setup process gave me lots of food for thought about the onboarding experience for new users, what configuration comes out of the box, and the language and positioning of Drupal in the CMS landscape.

We recruited volunteers with Drupal content editing experience (from 1 month to 9 years of experience!)

My colleague Annika Oeser and I conducted the studies using a script that we had put together. We asked participants for their first impressions of each platform, then asked them to do a few simple tasks: creating an article from content in a Google Doc, editing and previewing it, and then deleting the content. Then, we asked what they thought of the platform.

First Impressions

First impressions are important. Each platform that we selected had some type of content editor dashboard that we presented to users. While some platforms have more of a learning curve than others, it’s obvious that platforms with a more inviting dashboard will encourage new editors to like the tool and want to use it more.

Contentful

Right away, participants found Contentful intimidating. One even said it looked “scary”. The dashboard’s messaging is not aimed at content editors (although in the setup process, it asks if you're a content editor or developer), and the terminology is just obscure enough to be intimidating. As one participant pointed out that “None of this says build an article”. That being said, the interface didn’t prevent authors from performing their task, it just made them more apprehensive.

On the content overview page, there are filters to narrow down the list of content. Because of the colorful button-like design of the filter, some participants mistook this for the link to add content.

Craft CMS

Overall, participants liked the fact that Craft CMS has a form to create content directly from the dashboard. Putting content creation forms on the dashboard makes it clear that this is a platform designed for content editors. That being said, everyone complained that the form was too narrow, and made the experience of filling in the form not great. Participants all liked it better once they were on a dedicated content creation page.

Some participants mentioned a solution, removing the “Craft News” block form the default dashboard to free up space, which is possible by configuring the dashboard if you know how to do this. I also think that having a button to expand the form or jump to the content entry page would be incredibly helpful.

Squarespace

The Squarespace dashboard gives content editors the impression that it would not be ideal for larger, more complex websites. Everyone mentioned that the UI seemed “simple” or “for a blog”. I found this an interesting observation. The editors in our study were all familiar enough with their requirements for a CMS (a large amount of content, taxonomy, content hierarchy) that they felt that the simplicity of Squarespace might be too good to be true, and that they would be alright with a more complex UI if it meant a more featureful one.

WordPress

Participants described WordPress’s dashboard as “clean”. They see right away that it's an interface designed for them. Although there are more advanced features presented (e.g. Appearance, Plugins, Tools, Settings) the UI for creating and editing content are prioritized. Granted, some of our participants had WordPress experience, giving this particular UI the bias of familiarity. One mentioned that "They don't change the interface often, which is good."

Content Editing Experience

To assess the content editor experience, we asked participants to create an article and then add some standard elements to it (an image, a link, bold text, a quote). When building the study, we selected four CMSs with very different editing experiences:

Contentful

Contentful provides a content structure similar to Drupal, with content types broken down into fields. It has some very particular terminology which will be unfamiliar to most people. Instead of a WYSIWYG editor, it provides a markdown editor with a tab for previewing the content.

It’s amazing how important labels are. Participants were confused by labels like “Slug” and the subtle difference between the purpose of the “Description” and “Body” fields. Another thing, most content editors don’t know markdown. So as much as developers might love having the markdown editor tab and a tab for previewing the content, this experience seemed like a big hurdle to content editors. A minor experience gap that we noticed was in the way the link button in the editor pre-fills “https” at the beginning of the link. Since most editors copy and paste a URL instead of write it out by hand, this led to mistakes and frustration.

Craft CMS 

Craft CMS has a WYSIWYG editor for editing long text, but instead of a large main content textarea, it provides a UI for creating sections, such as headings, text, images (this works similar to Drupal’s Paragraphs module).

All the participants easily understood the UI for adding sections to create the Article Body. It was somewhat confusing to have two ways to add some elements, for example an image or a quote can be added through a Text section, or by creating a new Image or Quote section. If anything, this maybe shows content editors’ eagerness to add content "the right way" and their willingness to work within a content structure rather than having one large WYSIWYG editor.

Squarespace

Squarespace provides a much more visual editor. The editing interface appears in an overlay. Users paste everything into one text area. There is also the notion of adding new elements (images, quotes, etc.) to this text area using a + button.

There were a couple ways to add images in Squarespace. Adding a “Thumbnail” image in the metadata of the post, which is used in the teaser version of the post. Or, using the + button to add an image element, which can then be dragged/dropped above or below other elements, such as text, buttons, etc.

None of the participants found the + button without help. I had always assumed that this UI was easy-to-use, but for a content editor not expecting to use a page building experience to add images to content, it was clearly not obvious. As one participant said "I would never have found that, it's so not clear."

Another sticking point was that the thumbnail image field in the "Options" tab doesn’t adequately explain to users that the image won’t be displayed on the full post page, only in teasers. This is something I see a lot on Drupal sites, that have images that are used in content listings, but without a proper help text to explain this to editors.

WordPress

WordPress’s new Gutenberg editing UI provides a similar experience to Squarespace, in that the editor is visual and invites users to create components, such as headings, text, columns, or media.

One participant described the interface as having an “instant preview” quality. It seemed like they thought that the way the article they were creating looked here would be how it would look as published content. "I like this a lot". "The paragraphs are clearly divided with white space". One called the different components that were created "blocks".

"The great thing here is that I can see everything". Almost all the participants brought up the fact that they assumed they could edit the HTML. "I assume I can go to the source code if I need to".

Publication Workflow

We asked authors to preview, edit, and then delete the content they had created. We knew from user surveys that content editors want autosave, but from watching them go through these steps for each CMS, we realized the anxiety that the publication workflow can cause. Content editors really want to be reassured about the state of their content.

Contentful

Contentful is designed as a backend for a decoupled website. So the preview provided is not an actual preview, but a read-only version of the fields of content you’ve created. Unsurprisingly, content editors found this confusing. In terms of workflow, users found it difficult to delete the content, because the current state of content and the fact that it needed to be unpublished before it was deleted was not clear. It seemed like the status of the content was unclear, and users ended up back on the content listing page to change the status.

Craft CMS

Craft CMS has a “Live Preview” that provides a side-by-side editing and previewing interface. All the editors liked seeing that when they add content, it looks like a page right away. One exclaimed “I'm great at this, look how good it looks.” The one part of the workflow that was confusing for editors is when they click “Save” from the initial dashboard, and they’re not redirected to the page they’re just created. If this button was "Save and preview" and it went to the edit screen with live preview, that would be more natural.

SquareSpace

SquareSpace doesn’t provide a way for authors to preview content before publishing. They expected that clicking on the content in the listing would display the preview. Saving and publishing the content was intuitive for users.

WordPress

Overall, the publishing workflow in WordPress seemed to be the most clear to users. Having the status of the content, and the links to preview, publish, and delete in close proximity seemed natural to all users. The only part that participants got stuck on was the phrase "move to trash". Some users suspected that this meant they had to empty the trash. One other sticking point was the preview. The WordPress Gutenberg UI looks so much like the front-end of a site that users are surprised or disappointed when they realize that the theme enabled on their site looks different and perhaps less good.

Takeaways

We learned a lot from this usability testing. Here are some of the most interesting takeaways:

  • Editors appreciate that a more complex UI is necessary for a more complex website. This doesn’t mean we don’t need to create a user-friendly admin UI, it just means that some degree of complexity is expected.

  • A content editor-friendly dashboard, with content-editor tasks prioritized and easy-to-understand terminology will help smooth the learning process.

  • Sometimes editors find it hard to distinguish between the admin UI and the front-end UI when learning a new platform.

  • Editors have anxiety about clicking save and what this will do. Having autosave and a clear workflow for previewing content will make this process smoother.

  • Editors feel like they should be able to edit the HTML. They don’t want to learn markdown. That being said, I think the goal of a great content authoring experience would be that authors don’t feel that they have to edit the HTML, because they have the right balance of flexibility and content structure.

  • Editors want to know what the state of their content is, and they want clear options to Preview, Save, and Delete. The state of the content and the links to change the state should be in close proximity.

  • Even with a small number of participants, usability testing can help inform improvements in a user interface. We learned a lot from testing with just 5 participants.

What’s Next?

Now that we’ve taken the pulse of how content editors interact with these CMSs, I think it would be helpful to look more closely at the experience of creating more complex content. I would like to do a follow-up study looking at authoring of structured content, something Drupal is highly valued for and excels at, and more flexible, landing-page-style content, something that Paragraphs has been widely used to for over the last couple years. I think it’s essential that Drupal provides a great interface for both these use cases (whether in core or contrib). Testing how editors edit both styles of more complex content will help us understand how to do this better.

How Can I Get Involved?

The Drupal Admin Experience group that includes Cristina ChumillasAntonella Severo, Jessica Becker, and myself. If you want to get involved, join the #admin-ui channel on the Drupal Slack.

A huge thanks to my colleague Annika for planning and running the usability testing with me and to McGill University for providing the venue for the testing.

+ more awesome articles by Evolving Web
Political activists at the tech conference The Kalamuna Team Mon, 11/26/2018 - 12:18

This October at the Bay Area Drupal Camp (BADCamp,) we soaked up Drupal talks, gave a few of our own, high-fived friends, and fomented literary political activism. How? In line with this year’s circus theme, we turned our sponsor booth into a place for BADCampers to step right up...and send messages to their elected representatives.

Categories Articles Drupal Fun Nonprofits Author The Kalamuna Team

Some weeks before I had to overcame an interesting task. A media webportal in Drupal 8.x with more than 4k articles decided to change the site default language from englush to greek (mainly for SEO reasons but this doesn't matter).

What our clients are saying

...took my less than mediocre site and completely revamped it into a beautiful, professional, and easy-to-navigate site
I realized that I had picked the right company to work with soon after beginning a project with Peerless Design, Inc.
I would highly recommend her for any position requiring IT design and development
I had a very tight deadline and budget, and they met it, seemingly with ease.
...your punctuality, your casual and open personalities, and both your hard copy and online portfolios speak very highly of you and your business as well
I would highly recommend her for any position requiring IT design and development
...able to translate technical information in an accessible way...
I love directing our customers to our new site knowing that they are going to be able to find exactly what they are looking for...
Thanks so much for everything!
...a pleasure to work with, combining patience (for my busy schedule and at times overwhelmed brain) with her strong motivation and energy to keep me going
I'm so happy we chose to work with PEERLESS Design.
...we just want you to know that we are appreciative!
... they also made suggestions which showed me that they fully understood what I wanted to accomplish.
... incredibly impressed with what you brought to the table
...dedicated, competent and driven to get the job done and done well.
A great experience and a much improved website.
...able to take my abstract ideas and add their expertise to bring them to life in a way that was better than I could have imagined!
...continued to monitor it closely and is still always available to help me if I have any questions
...creative, independent, responsive...
I have seen the first layouts and they are awesome...
" PDI provides us prompt, effective and efficient service in maintaining our Drupal based website."
...I have no doubt we will have the best site in the 2010 election of any PA candidate
...provided us with excellent, expert service in a professional and personable manner.
...can do anything any other designer can do and generally quicker, cheaper and better.
...very responsive to our questions and needs