Designing for the 80%

Recently, an article on Accessibility appeared on Planet Drupal which caught my eye, so I clicked on it. When I was taken to the article page on, the banner across the top of the page caught my eye (as it was intended to do!):

Our UX Principles:

  1. Make the most frequent tasks easy and less frequent tasks achievable.
  2. Design for the 80%.
  3. Privilege the content creator.
  4. Make the default settings smart.

I think those four principles, especially numbers one and two, should be the driving force behind any web or product design.

Number one, making frequent tasks easy, makes a lot of sense... especially for *you*, the developer! Why is this? The most frequent tasks should be drop-dead simple, because if they are not, you'll be getting a lot of (a) angry and/or frustrated support calls, and (b) less referrals. Following this rule makes everyone's life easier.

Number two, designing for the 80%, is actually a very freeing rule to live by: you can spend a lot of time working on features that will impact the greatest number of people, and then some of the niche or less used features can wait until you have some extra time to implement them.

Number three, privilege the content creator, is important for the Drupal project as a whole, because Drupal is a system built to facilitate multiple-author or community-driven websites... but it's not as important on other types of websites. For a website that will remain relatively static, or without many 'community-oriented' features like blogging, commenting, and content sharing, number three would likely change to "Privilege the anonymous visitor."

Number four, make the default settings smart, goes hand-in-hand with number one; if you have sensible settings to begin with, people can worry more about the quality of content on their sites, and less about the little things, like performance-tuning their websites, setting complex configuration files via SSH, and changing security settings. All of the tweaks people do are simply more steps down the road to disaster. It's better if non-programmer types don't have to deal with "settings.php" or "httpd.conf" files, because things tend to get messy.

I'm glad the D7UX project has embraced these principles, and if the latest Drupal 7 developer snapshots have been any indication, we're in for some wonderful growth in the Drupal community, directly related to Drupal's out-of-the-box usability.