Connecting the dots with Drupal

How can one website meet the individual needs of thousands of users? Nneka Hector asks—and answers—this question every day in her work as a Senior Web Developer for DSFederal. Nneka supports DSFederal clients with new website design, migration to new platforms, API integration, and UI/UX enhancement. Although she focuses largely on Drupal development, her job doesn’t stop with the front end—Nneka and her team touch every piece of code that makes a website work, from the GUI to the middle tier to the site architecture to the databases that power the back end.

According to Nneka, her government clients recognize that government websites are not always the most user-friendly. Agencies want to improve the user experience for visitors to their websites, but they must first learn who their users are. Site users could be one-time visitors searching for a quick answer to a single question, or power users who will spend much of their day waist-deep in the site. The challenge is to build a site that is easy and convenient for casual visitors, and robust enough to serve users who live on the Web.

While this challenge is mostly technical, an important step takes place before a single line of code is written. In user-focused brainstorming sessions, Nneka helps her customers to develop user personas. Using data-driven tools such as Google Analytics, asking thoughtful and detailed questions, and then role-playing a variety of user scenarios, Nneka and her clients learn who their visitors are, what they’re looking for, and how to help them find it “without clicking over and over.” With this insight, Nneka can build a site that is beautiful, functional, and easy to use.

Drupal, according to Nneka, is the tool of the present and the future. “I don’t see anything on the horizon that’s likely to take its place any time soon,” she said, emphasizing that Drupal (especially Drupal 8, the latest release) is ideally suited to the modern Web. “According to one client,” she said, “more than 70% of their visitors access the site only on mobile devices—they never use a laptop.” This statistic makes Drupal’s mobile capabilities indispensable. Combine mobile responsiveness with powerful development tools, robust customization capabilities, and “a great open source community,” and it’s easy to understand why developers love Drupal.

Nneka has worked with various releases of Drupal for over ten years, and is well known in this community. An active member of Washington DC Drupalers and the DC Area Drupal Meetup Group, she also served as a panelist at last year’s Drupal GovCon, and was a guest on “The Dave and Gunnar Show,” a podcast dedicated to open source development. She’s already looking forward to this summer’s Drupal GovCon, where she’ll be a featured speaker. Combining sharp technical savvy with dedicated concern for the human beings whom her clients serve, Nneka exemplifies DSFederal’s focus on connecting the dots between people and technology.


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