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Researching the state of Emulsify

Randy Oest
Randy OestSeptember 9th, 2022

The Emulsify project has grown a lot since it first launched in 2016. We have thousands of people using it across Drupal and WordPress and a vibrant community of contributors. To celebrate, we are working with you, the community, to create a roadmap for Emulsify that will guide us into the future.

Emulsify Playback

The Emulsify project has grown a lot since it first launched in 2016.

We have thousands of people using it across Drupal and WordPress and a vibrant community of contributors.

The best way to commemorate this six-year milestone is by refocusing our energy on Emulsify. We are working with you, the community, to create a roadmap for Emulsify that will guide us into the future. To make this happen we have hired Greg Storey at Airbag Industries to research the market surrounding Emulsify. Our goal is to have a roadmap to a strong, better Emulsify that serves your needs.

If you want to skip ahead and just read the Research PDF, jump to the bottom of this article.

The Project Team

Research

The team conducted a series of conversations with project stakeholders, design system subject matter experts, and Emulsify contributors and users. In addition, a public survey was conducted the week of July 25, 2022.

Key Insight Highlights

The following are a few of the insights from the research.

  • There is confusion regarding Emulsify’s past state as a design system and its current state as a bespoke design system builder. Today, developers see Emulsify as a Drupal Theme with Atomic components and basic tokenization.
  • Emulsify should continue development beyond Drupal while engaging deeply with the Drupal community.
  • Investment in proper analytics is essential to assess progress towards milestones.
  • People want to contribute to Emulsify but are confused as to what and how. Pull requests and contribution approvals take too long.
  • Emulsify is a great way to introduce code cohesion, development principals, and process alignment between developers.
  • FEDs want to use Emulsify to improve their work with designers and get designers to be component driven (where it makes sense).

SWOT Analysis

Strengths

  • Able to flexibly support dynamic content distribution needs at scale.
  • The sweet spot for higher education, government, and media organizations with integration to Drupal.
  • Open source solution built for the Drupal community by the Drupal community.
  • Emulsify is a proven, dependable tool currently deployed at all scale levels.

Weaknesses

  • Identity Crisis: Developers are unsure what Emulsify’s grand intention is - a design system or a tokenized theme, or both.
  • Uncertain if decoupling design components from starter makes sense to anyone outside Four Kitchens.
  • Lack of dedicated evangelism.
  • Contributors have to wait too long for pull requests and submissions.
  • Incomplete data on distribution and downloads, No data on downloads through Github or CLI.
  • Emulsify needs better representation on the Drupal website, a primary marketing tool.
  • The Emulsify website needs improvements to be on par with other design system management and template/theme products.

Opportunities

  • Design systems and tokens are still in their infancy in their shared definition and successful use at scale.
  • Grow thought leadership through teaching and advocating best practices.
  • Increasing clarity of what and how people can contribute to Emulsify.
  • Evangelism on design systems and Emulsify at large. Bring designers and their work into the product.
  • Find ways to bring designers into the project as contributors.
  • Create a multi-tenet tool that works across teams and tech stacks.

Threats

  • Too much confusion on what Emulsify is and what it does (design system tool vs. design system).
  • Current users are dominantly FEDs who only see their design system as a tool.
  • As most Emulsify users see the product as a Drupal theme, there are a lot of competing “design systems” for Drupal.
  • Investment costs in Emulsify are low, and switching tools is too easy.

The Research Document

Emulsify Research Playback v1.1

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