While we’re finishing the first version of STOIC Answers, we’ve decided to re-build our website from the ground up, on top of the STOIC platform. We still have a ton of work to do, but I’d like to share what it looks like so far, and give everyone early access to the very first prototype (Warning: somehow not working on Safari). Most pages still need to be built, but a first level of integration with STOIC Answers is done.
If you click on Get Answers, it will take you to our cool new Q&A site powered by STOIC Answers. Don’t bother actually entering a question, because the search engine is not implemented yet. It will be built using elasticsearch, which we hope to integrate next week or the week after.
The homepage’s design is still something that we’re debating internally. In a nutshell, I’m trying to build a site that is highly interactive, so that it can address the needs of a broad audience made of both business users and technical users. Since we’re not targeting any group in particular, many different people will visit our site, and our goal is to quickly give them what they’re looking for, in an action-oriented fashion. And because we’re building a fantastic question-centric knowledge base with STOIC Answers, we felt that a search engine metaphor would be appropriate, as long as we can implement it properly, which remains to be proven.
If I manage to implement what I have in mind (and that’s a big IF), when a user enters a question like "How can I build a CRM application with STOIC?", a page will be dynamically generated, with a list of relevant questions and answers. If we feel particularly lucky (à la Google Search), we might just take the user to a particular question page. And we will include additional content that we feel will help the user, such as:
- The best set of templates to start from
- Any relevant application sold on the STOIC marketplace
- A few partners located near the user (localized based on her IP)
- A few consultants who have relevant expertise (based on reputation and tags)
At least, that’s the vision. I’m not entirely sure whether any of this is doable or not, but it sure would be really cool if we could build all that with STOIC, without having to write too much code (or any code at all for that matter). The main reason why we’re sharing our prototype so early on in the process is to get your feedback and ideas about it, so make sure to use the Disqus box at the bottom to tell us what you think!
For its part, here is what the Q&A site looks like:
All questions and answers that had been posted on stack.stoic.com by Thursday last week have been migrated to the new site. Comments have been migrated too, but are not yet displayed on the user interface. Authentication is not implemented either, hence it looks like you’re logged as me (lucky you). And posting and editing have yet to be turned on (don’t try to impersonate me). Nevertheless, navigation and sorting are working, and so do tags and users. The list of badges is live, but badges themselves have yet to be implemented.
The question page looks pretty good (Cf. What is STOIC?). I’m especially proud of the way we’ve integrated a markdown editor into it. Just go at the bottom of the page and start typing your answer using the markdown syntax. If you don’t know it, click on the help button on the right (question mark). This is a great example of how technical documentation will be embedded into the product and the user interfaces it generates.
I’m also really happy about the way we’ve implemented tags. Check the marketing tag for example, and see how the list of questions gets filtered to only show questions with that tag. Yesterday, François added a new control for it, which will be used in the question editing form. It looks positively gorgeous, pretty much like everything the guy does!
As we’re building STOIC Answers and our new website, we’ll carefully document our progress and show you samples of code used to build it all. Later on, these two projects will be used for our training and internship programs. Also, the entire website will be offered as a template that you can use to build your own website. It will include the following features:
- User management (including registration)
- Partner management (including geographic territories)
- Product management (including lists of features)
- Customer portal (for managing cases)
Now, I’m going to finish migrating all the contents from stoic.com.