It's been a busy couple of months for the Sitefinity team. Earlier this year we asked for your opinion on the Sitefinity Product, Support service, and Documentation. Your feedback was really constructive and to the point, so I wanted to use the occasion and thank you all for taking the time and letting us know where we've done well and where we should improve further. We took the time to carefully review and analyze all of this information and come up with an action plan.This post will focus entirely on one part of the plan - the new Sitefinity Documentation portal.
A change, just for the sake of doing change can be a double-edged sword. A smart change, driven from constructive feedback, strategic analysis, and innovation is much more likely to deliver successful results. And yes, we did change - as in the smart type of change. We're not going to stop there, this is just the beginning of our long-term goal to deliver you a solution built form the bottom up to serve a single purpose - helping you find the answers you are looking for. Here's a highlight of the first batch of improvements we've done with the new Sitefinity Documentation
With the new Sitefinity documentation we introduce versioning.
You can now browse the documentation that's written specifically for your Sitefinity version (currently available for 7.2 and 7.3).
You can easily switch between versions, read and compare features and requirements, and see what changed from Sitefinity release to the next.
Apart from the content differences our versioning also organizes the Documentation articles in a different structure. This way we ensure navigation that's adapted to the features included in the particular version you're browsing.
2. Content organization - get your context right
We changed entirely the way we represent content. In order to create the best user experience we’ve taken a more task-oriented approach in organizing the information we deliver to you.
- Topics-based structure - We didn’t want to show you what our software does, but what you can do with it. So, we grouped content logically by topic and task, not by guide and function.
- Overview pages - Each topic has a dedicated overview page, whose purpose is to provide an overview of the most important tasks you can complete with the feature. And each section inside the topic that has child articles contains Section contents - so you can get an idea of what’s in this section with a glance.
- Related articles - Want to learn more? No problem – we tried to gather relevant resources to provide you with a knowledge hub from related documentation articles, Forums, Blogs and all Sitefinity resources we could put our hands on. This way we put a start on improving our integration with the Sitefinity Developer Network resources, and making sure the important things won't be left unnoticed.
3. Navigation - know your way
With such a major change it the way content is organized, we had to make sure we provide you with the best means of navigating through it. We wanted to ensure that every time you browse the new documentation you get the best and most productive journey. We focused on building and integrating a series of navigation widgets custom-tailored to a particular section of the site. This way we help you to accomplish the most important task - finding the answers you are looking for.
- What’s new – Being up to date with the latest trends is cool. We now provide you with instant access to the latest articles generated in our Documentation. It's right there, in its dedicated What's new section on the Documentation home page.
- Install, upgrade and deploy - right on the home page, standing out form the rest to ensure the essential operations are one click away.
- Topics SiteMap - When we decided to group content logically by topic and task this imposed a big challenge for us. We could no longer rely on one TreeView to facilitate the main navigation, because as you'd all agree, a TreeView with 18 root topics, and complex hierarchical structure is neither user friendly, nor scale-able. That's why we've come up with the Topics SiteMap. The Documentation home page now shows all root topics we have, along with the top 3 articles for each topic. This is our way of showing you the big picture, and offering an easy and more transparent point of entry for each topic.
- TreeView – Once you're in a particular topic we wanted to ensure that the navigation is focused only on its contents, thus creating a uniform sub-site experience. The TreeView on the left-hand side of the screen will guide your journey through this particular topic's structure
For the TreeView we grouped content into logical types, each type having an icon identifier as to what it applies to – an Overview, a Tutorial, Reference article, information For Developers. Thus, with just a glance, you know whether this article suits your needs and answers your type of question – be it a conceptual one or a specific task at hand you need to know how to complete.
- Topics DropDown - If you need to change the current topic, we offer a smart entry point for that. Just click on the Topics DropDown expand arrow and you'll be presented with a list of all topics, logically grouped for better navigation. This is you entry point to any topic from anywhere in the Documentation. The Topics DropDown also serves as a link to the current topic's Overview page - just click on its name.
- Breadcrumbs and Next article - And just to make sure you feel on the right track, we throw Breadcrumbs on your way, and a Next article link so each step of the way, you know where you’ve been, and what comes next.
4. Search – find your way
Maybe you are looking for a task that's too specific and cannot figure the right path to it. Say you need to work with FieldControls? Just type it in the Search bar and enjoy the instantaneous search results, which you can now filter by freshness (default) and Relevance. The Sitefinity Documentation uses Google Search Appliance, so you don't need to change your search habits - Just do it in the same way you'd do it if you're searching on Google. AutoComplete, Wildcards, Exact word match, etc. it's all there.
5. Redesign – look and feel the difference
We know you are not only about code, but aesthetics as well. We tried to make your experience on our new documentation portal more pleasing to the eye, and, most importantly – to make content more readable and well organized. Articles are easier to read and go through – we applied new styling to make important information pop up and each special bit of example, note, or advice – stand up.
6. Feedback widget
We write our Documentation especially for you. Hearing your opinion about it is the single most important thing for us. It’s your feedback that got this whole project started, and we want to ensure this is just the first step. That’s why we’ve changed the way we gather Feedback for our articles. We’ve made the Feedback widget more visible and easier to work with
- Accumulated rating – the more feedback we receive the more accurate the accumulated rating for this article becomes. We know which articles we should focus first, because you can tell us.
- Provide us additional feedback – apart from rating the article you can let us know about specific things you’d like to see changed. And we will - it's an honest promise, we've kept to so far, and we won't stop doing it.
Some final words
And you know what - it all runs on Sitefinity! Embarking MultiSite, each with thousands of Pages and Content items, Comments, Load Balancing and so on... but we'll blog about this in a separate post.
We hope you all find the New Sitefinity Documentation an easier and more productive tool helping you find the right answers. Keep on providing us with your valuable feedback. It was our starting point, and will continue to lead us though the rest of the improvements we have in mind.
A thank you note
You might have noticed that this post was written predominantly in first person plural. With each "we" you encountered while reading it I wanted to mark the contribution of all the people who took part in the project. The guys from the Sitefinity SDK team, who worked really hard on the new Documentation architecture, integration and implementation with Sitefinity. They also had the busiest final weeks (and weekends) creating and modifying the content to accommodate for our new structure. The guys from Sitefinity Engineering - who supported us by providing all the knowledge and hints without which none of this would have happened on time. The guys from Sitefinity UX - for coming up with this great design and as usual - making the frontend look fabulous. The SEO experts - for helping us deliver powerful SEO compliance. Last but not least - the members of our Application Services team - who stood next to us and accommodated each request we had during the development and testing of the new site. That was teamwork at its best.