Thanks so much for the response. I really do appreciate it. I don't know the best way to follow-up to get clarification on some of your responses and perhaps nail down the use case and workflow I mentioned above. It's important that I properly convey how the forum would be linked to the images and files, for example, besides the Q&A workflow and FAQ concept that should all reside within a given topic thread. Should I try to send an email to support directly or should I try to outline in greater detail here?
Thanks again for your time and consideration. Much appreciated and this makes me hopeful that I can spec out exactly what I need to accomplish using this platform (I probably have to generate a few UI mockups to ensure what I'm thinking is in the realm of feasibility -- custom coded or not).
I'm trying to upgrade my WebCrossing site of many years that covers the boardgaming hobby to something that will best meet the needs of our community. I'm basically looking to take the forum concept but integrate it with other services as follows.
A forum is always specific to a given game title, but what I want to support are two specific modes within a given forum topic. Each game topic forum would have a 'General Dicussion' thread _AND_ a "Questions and Answers" thread.
The "Questions & Answers" thread is where a member is posting a specific game question that needs to be entered (only one question at a time). I don't want this to be part of the standard 'General Discussion' area for that game, hence why I want to separate them out.
Each Question should have a status as either 'Answered' or 'Unanswered' so one can easily filter and look up all questions that have not yet been answered.
The poster of the original question (or topic admin) should be able to mark which answer provided is the "best" or "official" answer to the question posed. There should also be admin rights for the topic moderator to edit/fine tune any answers (just as they can do with normal postings).
Any answered questions should be able to be moved to a special area (separate tab?) called "FAQ". This FAQ will be comprised of all answered questions the topic admin wants to promote to the FAQ area, and he should have the opportunity to place a specific appearance order for them as well. This FAQ area should have a print option so one can easily print out all contents of the FAQ area, which was generated by answered questions.
It would be a nice touch if we could track for each member how many questions they have answered -- or specifically, how many questions their answer was chosen as the 'best/official' answer (which may also appear in the FAQ area).
Each topic should have a separate image library section. Rather than the dedicated image gallery that exists for IP.Board today, I need to have a solution where all images that pertain to a specific game topic can be easily viewed from the discussion area for the game in question. There needs to be some sort of tagging scheme that allows one to upload pictures and attach them to the specific game discussion topic. The benefit for the user here is that when they enter a specific game topic, they can then easily switch modes to view the image gallery for that specfic game as well.
Files related to game topic. Similar to the image gallery concept that is tied to the specific game discussion thread, there needs to be a file library option that equally applies and is mapped to that active game discussion thread. The benefit for the user here is that when they enter a specific game topic, they can easily switch modes to view all files (which can be categorized), that are specific to the game in question.
Given all of the above, how difficult would it be to implement something like this AND still be able to leverage future IP.board upgrades and patches? The #1 problem with Web Crossing and most forum software is that when there are hundreds of postings for a given topic (in this case, a boardgame support forum), that members are desparate to find a way to filter postings and drill down to questions/answers only. That's the reasoning behind the Q&A and FAQ sections, to provide this type of solution...besides general chat.
My concern about customizations to this degree is that it may break the ability to upgrade the software moving forward.
Oh, and the bonus round question -- I will need to import my individual game discussion forums that exist today on WebCrossing so they can be the basis for the "General Discussion" area for the new IP.board for that given game topic. I know that will take some legwork as well no doubt, but I think the XML scheme WebCrossing uses can somehow be figured out to import all those postings.
Very interested to see what Invision thinks about the use case above.... Boardgamegeek.com does something similar by integrating files, images, with threaded discussions, but this approach is different with the forum being the centerpiece, the Q&A/FAQ section being unique, and the images/files acting as a linked compliment to the game discussion in question.
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.
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:
[*]Ask a Question
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:
[*]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.
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.