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Is this too large of a UI change

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I'd like this general forum format but I have a very specific use case approach I am trying to satisfy that frankly I do not see offered by any vendor today. I don't know how heavy a lift this would be from a custom development perspective, but I assume it could be quite significant. But I think it can be handled in a modular format via dbase, hence I want to find out if my "pipe dream" has a chance in Hell of being possible.

I want to have dedicated discussion "areas" per individual products. So Product "X" has its own forum link -- pretty similar to what we see here. However, when visiting product "X" -- there will be a "GENERAL DISCUSSION" thread that is top-most that is where folks should post general comments. There can then be individual threads underneath this GENERAL DISCUSSION THREAD. It's basically following the same model as we have here, where the first/topmost topic is a GENERAL DISCUSSION AREA and members can create a new topic thread if they wish to. That's fine.

But here is the real ask and use case I'm after.....

I'm seeking a UX experience for each product area that when you go to the area, there is a tab interface provided. The default first tab is the discussion area mentioned above -- which is what this Forum supports today. But now we are introducing some additional use cases and TABS to the user interface as follows.

Imagine a second tab that is labeled, "Ask a Question". This tab takes you to a new 'mode'. The concept here is that a user can submit a single specific question (only one at a time) that anyone can answer. As a next big step associated with this, the "Ask a Question" interface would feed to an automatic FAQ generator. This "FAQ" tab is the third tab in the interface. The way this works is that one or more administrators of the topic (who have FAQ authoring privileges) can decide if they want to edit and "promote" the Question and best associated answer to a master FAQ sheet.

So the tabs in the interface are as follows:

  • Discussion (default)
  • Ask a Question
  • FAQ

This creates a new workflow. So in a nutshell, users ask questions, and as questions get answered the administrator can decide which of these answered questions is 'worthy' of being edited and 'promoted' to a single FAQ document that lives in that named TAB area. The editor will also have the ability to reorder the Q&A in this FAQ area (the sorting order that Q&A is presented is important as some questions may be related). This provides excellent customer support because it not only allows one to ask a focused question, but these valid Q&A entries can feed and update a dedicated FAQ for that product so customers can easily download and print the latest FAQ associated with that product that has been buidling over time based on Q&A that has been submitted.

I hope this makes sense.

So the overall forum interface would provide the following: Again, I think this is a very heavy lift for a customer developer, but it addresses a very important need I have for our association site that supports hundreds of boardgaming products. The #1 issue is folks being able to ask questions and have a resource to access the latest FAQ for a game. I think the above methodology would serve this need perfectly. But is it (a) practical, and (b) possible using this product as the baseline to build from? The purpose this serves for the particularly industry I serve is that folks want to get answers and support right away for a product without having to "fish" for answers or search them out. The FAQ takes care of that, and it also provides the customer an excellent mechanism and workflow (the "Ask a Question" area) where they can enter their own questions which ultimately may help built out the quality of the FAQ as well that all will benefit from. That's it in a nutshell. I'm sure this can apply to other industries and needs just as well. I've never seen anything again like this (especially with the FAQ concept). I think Jive comes fairly close in that one can mark a posting as a question and track if something has been answered and folks earn points for answering, but it doesn't provide a focused area for asking questions nor does it provide a mechanism to built out an FAQ based on the Q&A entered. That is the big missing link that no solution appears to provide today.
  1. [*]Each product has it's own area, or folder, or whatever you wish to call it. [*]This area defaults to the first enabled/default tab, which is the DISCUSSIONS tab. Much like what we have here today. [*]The Discussions tab will have a GENERAL DISCUSSION thread topmost, and one can have the option to also create or post their own individual threads associated with that given product if they wish (much like this forum software provides). So, this "Discussions" default tab will support individual threads besides the top-most GENERAL DISCUSSION thread one can enter. [*]The next tab over in the UI is the "Ask a Question" Tab. This is where the interface changes so one can view all questions asked (they could be treated as individual, threaded discussions I suppose). [*]The third tab is the FAQ tab. This is a very special area. It will present all Q&A for that product, much of which is fed by answers provided from the "Ask a Question" area. The editor(s) of the FAQ can decide which Q&A gets promoted to this area, they can then edit the Q&A to improve it, and they can decide the order of all Q&A captured on this page. This page will be typically printed by the customer. I imagine as specific questions get answered and get promoted to the FAQ area, the questions that were first entered in the "Ask a Question" area can either be removed, or perhaps better would be that they stay but get a special label to them that indicates they have been promoted to the FAQ so the customer knows that question made the cut and is covered in the FAQ sheet they can print out for the product. [*]The wishlist does expand into having this "central" forum location for each product to have sidebars that list uploaded files for the product, as well as images associated with the product. The key is that the view has to be integrated into the single product discussion view. I suppose these could have been additional tabs as well, one for Files and one for Gallery, but perhaps a sidebar approach may work better.

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Some of this could be done with custom skinning alone, however the FAQ generator approach you spoke of would likely require some custom PHP code. Ultimately I believe everything could be accomplished with custom skinning and hooks, so no source code modifications would be required.

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Brandon, I appreciate your response. That would be unbelievably good news, namely for the reason that it means I may not disrupt the ability to upgrade to future versions of your platform. I was highly doubtful such big changes could happen without core customization based on the tab interface and workflow -- not to mention needing to alter how image gallery and files are integrated into the product 'home' view concept as well.

I'm on a different forum platform at the moment so this would be a HUGE decision and project to work through. My basic question is the following, "who is best to work with to help ensure positive results in terms of properly scoping out such a project?" I'm not familiar with this community and some of the marketplace/consultant links appear out of date, so I'm a bit gun-shy in not knowing how to pursue the next step of finding a highly-qualified resource (someone that speaks as confidentially on the matter as you). I need a true expert to work with here.

Thanks again, Brandon. I hope I can get lined up with the right party for this request.

One step at a time here....

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Your best bet would be to contact some developers listed in our custom services section. They are the ones advertising the ability to write custom code for clients.


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