Welcome back. I’ve been up in San Francisco the past few days for my wife’s graduation ceremony.. she got her Master’s degree, making her officially smarter than her husband (previously, it was only unofficial). The weather and scenery were excellent, but after an 8-hour drive, it’s good to be back in Redlands.
In this week’s post, we’re reviewing results from the recent survey, Where Would You Like To See the Support Center Improved?
(the survey is now closed). Once again, thanks to all who took the survey and/or promoted it on your blogs. The feedback you’ve provided is going to influence the focus and prioritization of our efforts to improve the Support Center web site.
For those who may not have taken the survey, a little background: This survey targeted three Support Center areas:
- the Home Page,
- the Search Results page,
- and Technical Articles.
Within each of those areas, several ideas for potential improvements were presented. Survey-takers indicated the helpfulness of each idea: “not helpful”, “somewhat helpful”, or “very helpful”. The survey also allowed survey-takers a place to offer their own ideas or comments. The survey also collected some info about the survey-taker’s profesion and forum usage.
Scoring the Results
To score the results, I applied a point value to each answer:
- -1 point for “not helpful”
- +1 point for “somewhat helpful”
- +2 points for “very helpful”
Here are the total scores for each idea in the survey. The text descriptions are the same as what the survey-taker saw.
- Search Results: Improved Interface (185 points)
More intuitive filtering and sorting options.
- Search Results: More Relevant Results (180 points)
Consider content popularity and feedback when ranking search results.
- Search Results: Clarify the Content Type (161 points)
Clearly show the type of each result (forum thread, Web Help entry, technical article, etc.)
- Tech Articles: User Comments Section (155 points)
Add your own helpful comments to an article, wiki-style, to make the article more helpful to other people.
- Home Page: Better “Latest Additions” section (150 points)
Improved presentation of latest content. Addition of “Most Popular” and “Support Recommended” sections.
- Tech Articles: User-Specified Tagging (136 points)
Add tags (keywords) to an article, to make it easier for yourself and others to find the article when searching.
- Home Page: Customizable Content (129 points)
Personalize the home page to show just the information you’re interested in.
- Home Page: More RSS Feeds (117 points)
For Latest Additions, Announcements, and other frequently-updated content.
- Tech Articles: Usefulness Meter (97 points)
See at a glance how useful other people have reported an article to be.
- Home Page: Usage Tips (69 points)
On each visit, see a different tip for getting the most out of the Support Center web site. Option to turn this feature off.
Leader: Search Results
So it seems that what you really really want is a Search tool that’s intuitive to use, effective in function, and returns the results you’re looking for in a clear and scannable way. We knew from past surveys and usage data that the vast majority of you use the Search (versus browsing) to find answers, and now we know that you want improving the Search to be a top priority as we plan future Support Center improvements. All right, we’ll make it a top priority, and we’ll work on improving the interface on the Search Results page first. Watch this blog for further info; we might even have a few improvements ready by the User Conference.
There are two other comments about the Search that I want to mention:
- About 10% of the surveys included comments suggesting/asking/demanding that the Support Center Search work more like this one. With all seriousness: We. Are. Looking. Into. This. I’m not saying anything will or won’t happen; I’m just saying that we’re looking into it. Please be patient while we investigate; I’ll have more info to share in future posts.
- On a closely-related note, there were also a number of survey comments from people who have figured out an alternative to using the Support Center Search. (Hint: it involves using the syntax “site:support.esri.com” to search the Support Center using advanced functionality of a certain popular search engine.) Your success with GIS is our overarching goal, so hey, if you find an alternative that works better for you than our Search does, please use it! All we ask is that you still give us feedback on the improvements we’ll be making to the Support Center search; who knows, perhaps one day you’ll find that our Search works just as well as (or better than) the alternatives.
Runner-Up: Tech Article Comments Section
The next-highest scoring idea was to allow user comments on Tech Articles, incorporating a bit of wiki-style functionality into what are currently read-only documents. Done well, this would result in articles enhanced with special conditions, caveats, alternative workarounds, cross-references, and other useful information. Of course, this could also be done poorly, resulting in misinformation, confusion, or worse. We’re looking at how other wiki-style online resources do this, and it’s clearly important that the body of contributors (all of us, the User Community) be largely self-governing
. Your judicious use of the “Alert Moderator” button in ArcScripts and the User Forums suggests that self-governance won’t be a problem, but it warrants some careful thought. I’ll explore this topic with you further in a future post.
The other runner-up ideas won’t be ignored or forgotten; some of them will wait in the wings, and some we might try to do in parallel with the other improvements we’re working on. But for the moment, we’re going to focus on the Search Results (because you really really want improvement there), and RSS Feeds. Why RSS Feeds? Because they’re relatively straightforward to implement, and it makes good sense to have them: if we (as a Community) are going to be making improvements to various Support Center content, RSS feeds can help everyone become aware of that improved content.