Findability is extremely important for web apps and product help communities as they are usually found through SEO and site searches. Findability is extremely important for not only product managers and customer service people but for the customers. The more answers your customers find in your knowledge base, the less they’ll be frustrated or have to call into your support center; saving you time, money and user frustration. To rate the sites in Findability, our judges used the following principles:
- On-Page Content Organization
The Microsoft Internet Explorer Developer Center is easy to locate from search engines like Bing and Google. Searches for “developer resources Internet Explorer”, “errors HTML 5 Internet Explorer”, and similarly obvious search strings yielded links to the Microsoft Internet Explorer Developer Center, although, many of those “hits” went directly to content that contained those keywords, but wasn’t immediately identifiable as useful. This is a common problem and not something limited to Microsoft sites.
Curation, in my view, is the act of selecting and organizing content around a theme, as art museum curators do when selecting artifacts and art works to present in an art exhibit. The Microsoft Internet Explorer Development Center does a poor job of corralling content into content exhibits of benefit to its site visitors. For example, the HTML 5 “tutorials” page would be a great place to start educating developers about the most recent update (a major one, by any account) to the W3C HTML specification by leveraging existing resources into a cohesive education path. Instead, the site presents a mishmash of “tutorials” (often little more than help topics), “blogs” (articles about tangentially-related topics) and “samples” (more accurately “examples”, although it is not clear exactly what they are providing examples of.
As the site navigation and information organization is so poor, users will often be forced to rely on search, which, suffers from typical problems of poorly structured, less-than-optimally implemented search. A search for “drag and drop example” yields irrelevant content. Ironically, it fails to find a post on the “samples” page added September 13, entitled “drag and drop” which “contains four drag and drop code examples” according to the item description. Searches for other items the exist on the site turn up similar results. The big problem here is not search. It’s findability, or lack thereof. #Fail
The Mozilla Developer Network understands the need for making content findable. After all, if a community member cannot find the content, well, there’s really no reason to create it. Like the Microsoft Internet Explorer Developer Center, the Mozilla site is easy to locate from search engines like Bing and Google. Searches for “developer resources Mozilla”, “errors HTML 5 Mozilla”, and similarly obvious search strings yielded links to the Mozilla Developer Network, although, like the Internet Explorer site, many of those “hits” went directly to content that contained those keywords, but wasn’t immediately identifiable as useful.
The Mozilla Developer Network does a good job of curating content, especially on “topic” pages. Videos, articles, news updates, and documentation are married with comments from users and mentions of the related topics on Twitter (brought in automatically using an RSS feed of tagged Twitter tweets). It’s still not where it needs to be, although it is a good first step. It could be improved dramatically if someone actually took the time to figure out what content is missing and Mozilla either created it themselves, or better yet, asked the crowd (the community) to help them do so. While their site architecture allows for content to be created and uploaded to the site by members, there do not appear to be many “calls to action” or campaigns designed to encourage content creation. By asking the community for help, and promoting the need for content (and feedback about what’s missing and what could be better), Mozilla could easily identify areas in which improvement is needed.
As far as search is concerned, the Mozilla site can make some improvements as well. For instance, a search for “mobile add-ons” (ran from the same page in which a “popular mobile documentation” headline reads “Build Great Mobile Add-ons”) fails to deliver search results that actually include that item. Upon closer inspection, it appears the URL for that article does appear as the second item in the found set, but the title the search engine pulls is “Mobile | Mozilla Developer Network”, which is meaningless in a world in which users can find sets of information for valuable keywords. Mozilla could stand to work on this problem, which is likely related to metadata management, tagging, and fine-tuning search.