This week, we're excited to be rolling out a revamped Help Center. Huzzah! This is a project we included in the 2012 Ning Product Roadmap, and one that is very much a group effort by the Ning advocacy team.
When our product managers and engineers prepare to roll out a new feature for the Ning Platform, it's the Ning advocacy department's job to document the nitty-gritty details. We dive in and quiz everyone involved about nearly every detail of the upcoming product release. We take the answers to our many "okay-but-can-it-do-this" questions and marry it to the wealth of content that lives on our internal wiki. We combine it all — from first spec to wireframes to release notes — to create articles for our knowledgebase; a.k.a., the "Help Center."
This is the fourth incarnation of the Ning Help Center. The previous Help Center has served us very well — and for a long time. For the past three or four years, it's been a highly trafficked site visited by tens of thousands of Network Creators each month. The previous Help Center had an understated elegance to the design that encouraged customers to search and find what they needed. Over time, though, the content in the knowledgebase grew. Finding helpful articles through search wasn't enough. This has been especially true for brand-new Network Creators, who have often requested a way to browse content based on their skill level. First-timers, in particular, are better served by introductory videos, a list of Top 10 Newbie Questions, and a downloadable PDF launch plan. They need guidance and friendly advice more than they need to find out if the new Chat lets you block out swear words. (BTW: It does!)
Here are a few of the high-level goals that guided the Help Center redesign:
First and foremost, we wanted to make the home page and everything that sits beneath it much more visual. We needed visual cues, FAQ lists for complex articles, asides and tips, the ability to put different types of content on a page, etc. It needs to reflect the always-changing document it actually is, and it should have the personality and "Ning Voice" that we've always cultivated in our Creators community and elsewhere.
We absolutely knew customers would enjoy more options for discovering content, and we definitely wanted a step up from asking customers to search and find. We created an understandable top navigation scheme; an always-available feature list for drilling down by feature; quick access to our often-used troubleshooting articles; exposed tags for those who use them; inviting landing pages for special topics; an attractive home-page slider with revolving content that can easily be changed to announce new product releases; and much more. Most important: We now have the flexibility to change all of this as needed.
We took this opportunity to unify our popular Best Practices articles, Inspiration gallery, and Getting Started guide under one umbrella. Previously, this content was distributed in different locations. Now, nearly everything that isn't part of the Creators Community is located in the Help Center. Long-time Network Creators may have seen some of this additional content, but now it's all in one place for everyone to access.
Our old system was a bit of a bear for us to update, so we wanted to make it incredibly easy for every Ning advocate to jump in and make a quick change on the fly. Further, we want to encourage our advocates to get creative and really share their expertise. They speak to customers every day, and we want to give them more power to immediately add new content to the Help Center based on specific feedback from our customers.
Those were a few of our main goals, and we think we've got a great start on making the Help Center more friendly and usable. Take a look at the old and new home pages, side-by-side:
And, take a gander at one of our most popular articles, which covers the complex task of setting up a custom domain:
It's a marked improvement. Of course, this migration to a new Help Center is just a beginning and not the end. We still have more to create. Now that all of our advocates can get in there and add new content, here's a few more things we may be doing going forward:
Those are just a few of the ideas we have for this next generation of the Help Center. Feel free to let us know your thoughts and feedback, particularly about how those last few things should work — or whatever else you think would help you find and get information you need to help you build and grow your Ning Network.
Beautiful and Thanx
Awesome new look!
If there's one topic that is in dire need of a VIDEO walk-through (not screencasts) is domain mapping. That seems to be the most intimidating feature of them all, and the one that people seem to mess up the most. I didn't see one, but maybe I missed it.
Absolutely, Diane. That's a tough one, and we will put that one at the top of the list. Thank you!
thats really not so hard acrtualy the only thing is it differes by domain registrar, i mean only how you access and edit dns records the rest is super easy
i think the wakthrough and the videos make it more comolicated by trying to step by step each and every registrars dns editors
instead of just a super simple 3 line tutorial
steap 1 paste in the ip for the a record
paste in your ning url for cnames
if you want to upload pics by phone add these mx records..
now go to domain mapping and set the domain you want forwardd to
thats how easy it is it seems complicated because theres 10 sets of directions for 10 registrars..
It's not hard for someone with your skills, soaringeagle, but this is definitely one that vexes our customers. Most of them don't know the difference between an A Record or an MX Record, much less what an IP address is. Some of our customers don't understand what a registrar is or know that they've purchased a domain from another company. I mean, even for some of us in the software business it's complicated. It is a challenge to make it seem simple without making it feel complicated. I think it's worth a video. Open to more suggestions about what processes need the screencast treatment.
Of all the things I've had to learn since my first network way back when, domain mapping was the least of my concerns. I guess everyone has their Achilles Heel. Mine is image editing, I know it's ridiculously simple, but I can not for the life of me get anything right when it comes to that. LOL
well image editing is not as easy as some make it seem lol i can play around and do a few cool things but most of the cooler image editing stuff i cant figure out either
Then I'm in good company! =)
Patrick: Image editing is easy for me since I have some background with it, but I totally agree with you. A brand-new NC with no design program to use has lots of ambition but little knowledge of how to get there. So thank you for bringing up this point! On my list of tentative articles is one that would show you how to make a header with a free online image editing program (there are many such services, and they have gotten much better over time). What do you use for image editing now? This is excellent feedback, so please let me know what tools you (or anyone else) use now for image editing.
Since getting this new computer, I now have Photoshop Elements 9. However, I was speaking about such tools as the now defunct Picnik or Aviary. It's not that the tools are difficult to use, but my images always seem to come out blurry or less sharp than when I uploaded them. I don't have this problem with photographs I've taken, only images that were created using Photoshop.
Now once you start talking about Photoshop and Gimp, I get dizzy.
i guess thats true t cause i buy so many domauns i ebneded up selling them myself haha so i help alot of folks with all that
they wouldnt need to be all inclusive just a practicle uses guide that had sokme basic workable examples that teach the basics and give a fair understanding of how css and js work.. and then once ppl know the basics they can look elsewhere for more in depth stuff