Prototype of Forums Instant Answers


I recently posted my ideas for cutting off the duplicate questions in online web based forums.  I’m enjoying all the feedback, but I was most impressed when Lee Holmes who took my PM art to the next level and created a functioning prototype to further the feedback process. In Lee’s words:


He suggests that sites (such as the MSDN Forums) integrate a little live search feed to the right of the “Post a Question” form. It’s a great idea.


Now, here’s a little compressed version of the Microsoft product cycle. Being a Program Manager at Microsoft, he was nice enough to even draft a rough mock-up.


Now, being a developer at Microsoft, the next step in a project is to mock up a hack-and-slash technical prototype. At this point, you’re really just trying to prove to yourself (and other technical folks) that the idea is possible. These prototypes also give you a basis from which to make a development time estimate for the feature. I’ve posted it here, although there was really no question that this specific feature is technically possible.


Check it out and let me know what you think.  The one piece that is missing is that, by default, the search results space would be filled with a combination of the most viewed and editorialized FAQs.  Also, it should be noted that the search results on Lee’s page are simply coming from the MSN site search for now the results would look different using the forum search engine. 


http://www.leeholmes.com/projects/answer_suggest/answer_suggest_hifi.html


Side Note: Not to blog about blogging, but I’ve never met Lee or had any agreements with anyone that he would do this. Nor would I ever have been able to send mail to the right group of interested people that might be able to spend the time building a prototype. I simply blogged my idea, the idea found the right people, and we’ve made a bunch of progress that will help ensure the right feature is delivered to our users. 

Comments (5)

  1. Rohan Thomas says:

    Everyone know that its good to search for an answer that you are looking for in the forums before posting. This works 99% of the time too.. But i guess efforts have not been made to encourage the user to search!

    I have to agree, Lee Holmes’ idea will definetly lessen quite a bit of those redundant posts on the forums if implemented!

    Great job!

  2. Its a great effort. Two observations for UI

    1) It looks a lot right now like Google Ads when populated. Which the eyes have been trained to ignore. So it needs a better Visual Representation.

    2) This one is a bit tricky. Right now its perfectly un-intrusive – which could be a good thing. It does it thing I do mine without worrying.

    I think there needs to be some more visual clues to indicate me to look in the column for answers. Since its an unusual interaction – not one might expect to happen. Hence once I focus out of the textbox there should be something interctive to pull my eyes to SEE the results rather than continue typing out my problem without looking the results pulled out.

    it turning out to be a great idea!

  3. I just tried it. This feature works incredibly well. I think you should make it standard ASAP!