[Opinion Wanted] How would you improve the Community Site homepage?

[Opinion Wanted] How would you improve the Community Site homepage?

  
Hi everyone,

I'll be honest here: Every time I go to our Community Site's "Recent Activity" page (http://www.outsystems.com/Network/NetworkHome.aspx), I don't particularly like what I see.

While the concept is sound enough ("A date-ordered list of everything, with a small preview of each item") I personally find it clunky in terms of layout and the info it conveys.

So, I keep wondering how we could improve this and today I decided to put this to all of you, who ultimately are the users of the site. Not only that but between all of you, you probably have been to a bazillion community/forum sites so your collective experience outside these walls is awesome.

Can you tell me what do you personally like and don't like in this main page? For example

- Do you like the "mixed" list approach? Do you like or dislike that each "row" looks similar, regardless of it being a forum post or a component? Or would you rather have separate sections for latest posts, latest components, latest articles etc?

- Do you think "latest" is an interesting sort order? Would you suggest some other more relevant metric to display what really matters to you?

- Do you think having a "first couple of lines of latest post" preview useful? Or the poster's picture? Or would you rather have the screen estate used to fit more posts?

- Do you use search a lot as a means to get to the interesting stuff because navigation is cumbersome?

- Do you even use this page? :) Or do you get your recent feed from the email digest/RSS instead? Or maybe you just visit the forums' pages directly?



These are just some starter questions: you don't have to conform to them if what's really bothering you (or your proposed solution!) is something else entirely!

Feel free do drop a line here and lets bounce a few ideas back and forth!

Many thanks,


Miguel
@Miguel

I would like to provide feedback in regards to business development/product development, which would evenutally lead to growth of the agile community. 
(I already have a number of outsystems staff/managers/executes on skype but would love to speak directly to the CEO Paulo Rosado - would love to know how he ticks ;) ) 

But thats another thing all together!

Ok in regards to the community, on the top of my head...
1) Make use of facebook and/or linkedin integration!
Allow user to signup/login with 1 click. (the user's entire profilo can be filled out, with the user having to do completely nothing) 

2) Internally add analytics to your website!
Discover what features/pages are being viewed, how long a user spends on each page and all that useful information that you could use to help improve and build a better product (ie website/community)

3) Start featuring weekly tutorial videos on youtube and create a following!
You should link your youtube videos back to this forum where your community can ask question and discuss your tutorials videos! 

Note:  Do not create boring tutorials just about basic fundamentals, instead build a real product, and solve a real world problem using outsystems agile platform.

So pick a commonly used, type of product that most of your enterprise customers / entrepreneurs are interesting in building, such as CRM, ERP, CMS, SaaS/Cloud App etc

Start building the product and teach fundamentals in between videos! This should help attract new or existing developers learn how to use the outsystems agile platform to built real products to solve real world problems using outsystems agile platform with outsystems best practices.

First of all, get rid off the right column with old stuff ... :-)
Sometimes I use this page instead http://www.outsystems.com/NetworkForums/Forum_Home.aspx
Or just jump from the mailupdate to the topic I want to see.

Take a look at http://stackoverflow.com/ for a new fresh layout... start using tags
Use the Twitter Bootstrap http://twitter.github.com/bootstrap/index.html as layout to give it a crisp look.

I don't use the RSS, search I don't use because it does not work properly :-(
I like the mixed approach, because I am interested in everything.

The right-column is for people who are not familiar with Outsystems imho, so get rid of it or make it more for us :)

Furthermore it's more about how the threads are visualized

- It always confuses me that the "avatar" on the left is not the person who wrote the last reply.
- make it visible somehow a member of Outsystems has replied in the thread.
- stack-overflow apporach, people ask a question and they cannot set a replay as the answer, which is too bad,
   because I'm interested what the actual answer was.
- TAGGING, I never know if the question is about 5.1,6.0,7.0 etc.
- confused when threads are new and when they become old... (the icon I am referring to)
be able to go to the seperate forumns directly, now I have to click on forums -> technical...

- digest the posts when a new version is being released. If you are "lucky" you seen 90% of the items about
Integration Studio 7.0.0.10
Service Studio 7.0.0.10
Platform server
Release Notes
[opinion wanted]
Service studio 6.0.1.x
etc.




on a side note, it would be awesome to create a dummy action on the fly as a post, to explain a little what you want to achieve, instead of screenshotting ytour service studio...


ps. I don't use the email or rss feed. would be ace to have an MOBILE version of it...
@Joost, Agree, a mobile version would be nice!

built using outsystems own mobile web framework? 
I'm a follower of the RSS so the entry page isn't such a big deal when on my computer.


I would leave the right column and make the rest of the page visually similar to the Weekly Digest e-mail: title-only and organized on top, all the details below.

@Robert:
We already have quite a lot of analytics we work on, but the problem is that there’s just too much of it to synthesise it easily into a cohesive opinion. :) e.g. if someone does a search, is it because he normally likes searching or because the info wasn’t available in the first page? If he follows links from the first page, was he genuinely interested in that or he just clicked because “it was there”? How long did he take to find something to click on? Could that be optimised without breaking it for everyone else?

I find that asking is normally a better approach, at least a starting point, for several reasons:

- Instead of working on an “average” you probably capture the opinion of those people who really have an opinion on the matter, enough for them to answer;
- You obtain “strategic” qualitative opinions like Joop and Joost’s “get rid of the right column”

 

@Joop and @Joost:
Right column not being that interesting to habitual users - check. We will need to work what best to put in there to improve navigation and access to evergreen info.

Tags - don’t get me started on that one. :) I’ve put that on the backlog and, I myself, have secretly implemented the basics for it last year (as a CM, I’m not really supposed to code, you see lol). Trivia: the OutSystems Certified Post and OutSystems Supported Component badges are implemented with tags. But we still haven’t been able to bubble that up in the to-do to actually get the thing done. But it is coming!

The Post preview lines - I also agree the info they show is not quite right. Having a stackoverflow “replied” mechanic and visual cue is a great idea. I’ve always liked the idea of knowing that a certain type of person is already involved in the thread: not sure if I would limit it to “outsystems staff” but it is a starting point.

 

@Nuno:
So you like the existence of the sidebar, am I correct? If so, would you prefer some other content there?

As for the rest of the page, dividing it into sections to make it similar to the Weekly Digest may be a good compromise. What window of time should we show? Do you believe having the details below would work visually in a web page? Maybe having a collapsible “show additional info” would flow better?

 

Many thanks, and keep posting guys!

I just subscribe to the nightly newsletter, and I rarely go to that page except by accident.

What I *would* like to see is this part of the site cleanly integrated with the main OutSystems site. I feel like we're kind of hidden in the background, while really we are a main engine of the ecosystem and sales process. No one wants to buy into an environment without a community, so why hide the community in that final dropdown menu on the main site?

J.Ja
Miguel Melo wrote:
@Nuno:

So you like the existence of the sidebar, am I correct? If so, would you prefer some other content there?

As for the rest of the page, dividing it into sections to make it similar to the Weekly Digest may be a good compromise. What window of time should we show? Do you believe having the details below would work visually in a web page? Maybe having a collapsible “show additional info” would flow better? 

 
@Miguel:
The sidebar is more for curiosity, than a real need. Maybe some tips/FAQs, video of the week.

My ideal window of time is last seven days. Less that that, you may miss a day or two, more than that is too much to process and will probably display repeated unwanted info. But if you create a weekly routine to visit the site, it can be done. Of course, any registered user should have an option to change the timeframe like in the Mail Digest.
Make it collapsible definitivelly.
Hello Miguel,

Don't vistit the home page much always go by the rss feed, some points:

1) As Joop, Joost and others said, remove the right colum. The 'external' options (twitter/facbook etc) are the only things that could be handy (and fit in the subject 'community'). I would like to see some things about the platform. Instructions video's about functionalities (lifetime/ seo url/ tips & tricks) or newer version releases (like Joost said if there is a new version the whole home page is full with version release posts). Maybe OS twitter feeds? Or other updates?

2) About the RSS widget one thing I don't lik it that when I vistited the post, the rss image is changed so the browser know if read it. When somebody replies on the post it's still shown as post I've read but thats not really true anymore. But think that more browser functionality then OS functionality.

3) The structure of displaying the post is fine, I would rather see more information of the post that are show. Some icon so its directly clear to which subject it belongs (academic, version release, WotC, OS update etc). Also like Joost said, show not only the last post but also the image of the last poster.

4) A constuction to 'set' one post as the good example which would be shown under the first post.

5) I search a lot, but mostly the same thing with different names to get the right results. The problem in the search is that there are a lot of post for older verions (and I talk about version 3 and earlier) that aren't relative anymore. There are also a lot of 'service studio help' post in it and thats not where I want so search in. But I can only 'disable' it by selection only the forum (instead of forum, downloads or academy). That is why I mostly search, don't see the correct result on the first page, change the search word and search again.

6) Would like to see the submenu when hoovering on a menuitem. For example, want to see latest platform version, I need to click downloads and only then I can click the sub menu. Would be nice this is possible directly when hoovering over the menu item.

7) Split the 'community' and 'working' part. When visiting the community there are some options in the menu that are less part community (like: sizing, project) put those on another OS link or at the end of the menu. So menu would more be: Community | Downloads | WotC | Academy | Sales. Other would be available trough other links or entries.

8) Tags.

Like I said, don't visit the homepage much use the rss feed a lot :).

Kind regards,
Evert




- Do you like the "mixed" list approach? Do you like or dislike that each "row" looks similar, regardless of it being a forum post or a component? Or would you rather have separate sections for latest posts, latest components, latest articles etc?

Maybe splitting them would be nice, but given that for software updates you really only want the latest ones, you might jsut want to have a small section with "latest releases". Not on the main body, though.

- Do you think "latest" is an interesting sort order? Would you suggest some other more relevant metric to display what really matters to you?

If there's an order, it should be latest. That being said, I'll echo Joost's point: the avatar should be from the person who replied last.

- Do you think having a "first couple of lines of latest post" preview useful? Or the poster's picture? Or would you rather have the screen estate used to fit more posts?

I personally find the preview useful. What would be more useful, though, would be something telling me if it has been answered or not, or if it is a new question.

- Do you use search a lot as a means to get to the interesting stuff because navigation is cumbersome?

No. And that is a very leading question, if I ever heard one :P Main use case for me is through mail notifications as well.

- Do you even use this page? :) Or do you get your recent feed from the email digest/RSS instead? Or maybe you just visit the forums' pages directly?

E-mail digest is the main way for me, though I'm not that active - and I guess that the fact that most people use RSS or email as entry point to the site conveys the notion that the community workflow is very much a reactive one, unless when someone needs to ask a question. As such, navigation and search take second stage - what you need is to make people aware of what's going on, where they actually are. 

What would _really_ make it work, though, would be integrating with Service Studio, namely:

- Post directly from SS, with optional screenshot and or OML attachment (since we don't have code snippets);
- Notified in SS if someone has answered my question;
- Small (optional) notifications of new posts in forums I'm (optionally) subscribed to.

I'm sure you might have that in your backlog as well ;)

Cheers, and good to see you all here!
Paulo
Thanks guys for keeping the comments coming. I'll address some of the more recent points here.

Community Visibility: I'm with you on this 100%, as a great deal of any enterprise product's evaluation process is looking at "is this company, its technology and ecosystem here to stay?", so even for the less-developer centric profiles checking out the Community is a great bonus. As for Evert's specific comment, you'll be happy to know that "cleaning up" the Community site by removing extra tabs (that only some people see anyway) is one of the main drivers in the current process. We want the Community to be by Developers, for Developers! :)

Sidebar: A sidebar is a nice and ubiquitous design idiom these days, so we're still undecided if it stays or goes... but if it stays, it needs to stay because it has useful content so I'm actually re-evaluating what goes there if it should stay.

Post previews: The general consensus seems to be "it's ok", but should at a glance yield more information about its contents.

Conversation starter: what if the Main Page, by default, gave center stage to content tailored to the user (login required, obviously) rather than the current "everything and the kitchen sink ordered by date"?

Cheers,


Miguel
Joop Stringer wrote:
search I don't use because it does not work properly :-(
 
 Can you elaborate a bit more on this, Joop?

Thanks,


Miguel