Today we are going to make one of the biggest changes yet to SUMO, the Mozilla Support site, and this blog post is about what changes we are making. The changes will effect you the most as a user, but there are a number of changes for contributors as well.
First, a little history, what’s the SUMO team been up to this year?
For the last 9 month the SUMO team has been working on a new way to let users access our site content. Until recently the only way to reach most of our articles was by search, or by following links in articles. This is how wikis traditionally work. Of course that way of accessing content only works for a part of our visitors, some people want to search and some people want to browse to the solution, drilling down with ever finer topics to reduce the number of article that are related to the issue.
To come up with a new information architecture that would let people drill down like that, we first researched the mental model of our site users, how they think about issues and in what categories they would look for them. Based on that we created a small number of base categories and assigned our articles to those categories.
The next step was figuring out how to make this information architecture visible. We started to lay out a number of alternatives on paper and tested with real people in a lab. This paper prototyping gave us a way to test a number of ways to lay out the information very quickly. After a number of iterations we settled on the final designs and workflows.
Now we had everything to start adapting our site, but since this would be a big redesign, and we’d soon switch to the new unified One Mozilla design anyway, the decision was made to use this opportunity to rebuild the site based on the new theme, and that’s why the changes today not only affect the KB, but every part of our site.
So, what is changing? What does it look like?
The main change is, that we now support several products from one start page and all articles can be accessed by browsing. Let’s start with the start page:
We have the main topics on top, they allow you to start browsing by selecting your issue first, and then the product you have issue with.
One step below you can see the hot topics. Those are actually articles, things that came up recently and affect a large number of people. By providing them upfront we save a large number of people the hassle of searching or browsing for their solution.
Below that we have the product picker, this is a way to navigate our content by choosing the product first and then narrowing down the topics.
No matter what way you select, topic first or product first, you’ll end up narrowing down the number of articles to a scanable few and proceed to read one of the articles.
The important thing for localizers to note is: all of this is automated, there is no need anymore to create navigation pages and all the confusion that brought with it.
So, how did the article view change? On the surface not much has changed, but because we keep track of topics, we can now offer you a way to move to related topics, which is particularly interesting for people landing on articles from external searches:
Much, much more has changed, but this is the gist for the KB part of the site.
So, what has changed for forum contributors?
While the new iA did not touch the support forum per se, we took the redesign as an opportunity to improve a number of factors in the listing of questions for our contributors.
The new design is more friendly and clean, but at the same time gives more information about the thread content at the same time. This is especially helpful when contributors scan the thread listing page deciding which thread to pick next.
We already started rolling the design out to our contributor base over the last week and will start rolling it out to 1% of the general audience today. If everything goes to plan we’ll make it available to the general audience on Monday. If you want to try it out now, just register an account, and if you have any feedback, please use the comment section below.
The new information architecture will open up our content to a whole new group of users and make it much more accessible, while our new design is more coherent, taking into account all of the features we added since our first release while also being consistent with the Mozilla sites in general. All of this makes us very excited and hopeful that we’ll get that much closer to our number one goal: Happy users!