SUMO development in 2012

Kadir Topal

We are more than halfway through 2012 and this seems like a good time to stop and take a look back at the year so far. In particular I’d like to provide insights into how we used the available development time and what we were able to achieve for the community this year.

Search and Browsing on SUMO

Late in 2011 we had found out that our site needed some serious improvement in it’s search and information architecture. We tackled our search issues right away, and with the help of our UX designers and Susan, our information architecture expert, we spent the first 3 month of this year to come up with a site structure that would not only speak to our current users, but would also be flexible enough for future products. And while we implemented some of the resulting suggestions right away, we then took another quarter to test the new information architecture rigorously in the real world, before we wrote the first line of code. I’ll have more to say about that in a future blog post, but I wanted to take the time today to look at our development efforts for this year.

In very broad strokes, we spend the biggest part of our development time on moving to a new search engine and tuning that engine to return much better results than before. We also spent a large chunk of our time on measuring and displaying our key performance indicators (KPI), the metrics we take to measure our success as SUMO. More recently we have focused the majority of our effort on implementing the proposed new information architecture and a new “One Mozilla” design that will bring us visually closer to the existing Mozilla ecosystem.

Where did all the time go?

For the first time this year, we also tracked what user roles we served with the development time we had. The following table charts the number of points we spent, each point stands roughly for one day of development. As you can see the total number of points varies throughout the year as the constellation of the development team changes. We separated the user roles into “contributor”, “user”, “sumo-team”, and “dev”, which is used for infrastructure work. That is not to say that the classification was always clear cut. For example a lot of the development timeĀ  spend on contributors was also beneficial for the sumo team and the other way around. You can see all individual sprints on Scrumbugs, if you want to have a closer look.

 

Legend:

  • Contributor: Code changes that affected contributor of the site the most
  • User: Code changes that affected visitors of the site the most
  • SUMO Team: Code changes that affected SUMO staff the most
  • Development: Infrastructure work that didn’t benefit any one role in particular.

Community Focus

As is clear from the data we put our focus on the user experience this year. However we also invested heavily into the experience for the most important aspect of SUMO: contributors. I don’t want to list the dozens of individual bugs that were fixed and smaller feature that were added as you can quite easily see each of our sprints on Srumbugs. but I wanted to take the time to mention some of them as a reminder of what we worked on for individual contributors this year.

Forum contributors

  • Forum contributors can now add links to KB articles easily by searching for them in the “add link” overlay, which removes the need to open a new window, doing the search and linking manually.
  • We are now hiding questions that are older than 90 days and don’t have any answers from most parts of the site, as well as hiding all threads that are older than 180 days, so that we can focus on the threads in the forum that need our attention the most
  • We added a feedback indicator to the forum, that now tells us how far we are away from our goal to answer all incoming questions within 72 hours.
  • Forum contributors can now use the magic hat, that will offer them various small snippets that they can use to ask for more information, or answer recurring questions with 3 simple clicks.
  • Also, we are now only bumping questions to the top when there is a reply and ignoring other activity, to make sure we can focus on the most important questions.

KB contributors:

  • KB contributors can now send messages to all recent contributors of an article, even if they approve their own edit.
  • We added a remaining characters counter to the search summary. Google only shows the first 160 characters of a site as the preview, and after deciding to make that the search results summary we also added a counter to make sure we stay within the limits.

Localizers

  • The “approved” mail notification now mentions the approver and the changes in the body, so that people can save a round trip to SUMO.
  • In the same way, the “ready for localization” email now features a diff, so contributors can tell from their inbox how much effort a new update would take.
  • We are now showing messages above English articles, if the visitor is coming from a localized article, and we ask people to help us with the translation of that article into the language of the visitor.
  • Localizers can now see all navigation articles on their L10n dashboard, which saves us searching for it on various documentation pages.

Army of Awesome:

  • The Army of Awesome snippets can now be easily edited on SUMO, since they are KB articles now, instead of being in code.
  • The Army of Awesome has now statistics that more accurately display the effort of our community and our goals.
  • SUMO members can now stayed signed in on the Army of Awesome and answer tweets without having to log-in to Twitter each time.

All:

  • We have added a simple quoting feature for private messages, that now makes it possible to cite text in a reply and giving context to a reply.
  • We have adjusted several time frames on the KB dashboards to be able to react to changes more quickly
  • Most parts of SUMO now feature time stamps that consider the time zone of the user instead of being fixed to Pacific Time
  • Support forum and discussion forum posts of users are now displayed on the profile pages of all users for quick reference.

What’s next?

All in all I’m very proud of what we all have done so far and I can’t wait to see in production the many changes that are planned for this year, the most important of which is currently under development: The new information architecture and redesign. The new iA has been on our minds for most of this year already offers tremendous wins for users and contributors alike, and I’ll soon blog about the project and its expected effect on our site. For now, a big thank you goes out to all sumo developers, contributors and members. You are what makes SUMO so awesome!