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InfoQ Feature Set: What Do You Want To See?

by Floyd Marinescu on Apr 09, 2010 |

What’s next for InfoQ? What are some of the areas we should be focusing on feature wise?   This last month we’ve been reaching out to you to collaborate on our future plans, and in this post we’d like to share some of our thoughts and ask you where you’d like the site to go from a feature-set perspective. 

The Past

InfoQ hasn’t changed very much in the last four years even though we’ve had an active development effort all these years. Back in 2006, we spent our first 6 months building out the core feature set for our end users including:

  • Personalization (tags and feed)
  • Custom CMS for news, articles, videos
  • Forums and AJAX goodies
  • Everything else you can see and have grown to love

We then spend the next couple of years focused on things that may not be readily visible to many of our users including:

  • Internationalization so we can build InfoQ.com/cn, InfoQ.com/jp, and InfoQ.com/br off of one system sharing content and supporting translations
  • Building out our contextually mapped advertising infrastructure so we could run a sustainable business (we initially launched the site without most of our custom ad units so we could launch early and iterate improvements afterwards)
  • Tools for reporting and tracking both our content, demographics, and advertising

Along the way we also got distracted by a few consulting products that helped us build more financial stability (especially during the economic downturn); in hindsight, those took us away from focusing on InfoQ itself, which I regret. That’s going to change going forward. Evolving InfoQ and giving you what you want will be our main focus.

The Present

There is so much that we’d like to do, but only so many developers to do it.  We have been slowly adding features to the site, although not all may be readily apparent. Here are some of the things that have been deployed in the last few months that have been requested by you, our our dev team, or by our customers:

  • MP3 download feature to our videos and interviews, which has been among your loudest requests for us
  • Length parameter visible above our videos and presentations
  • Share buttons on all of our content connecting to facebook, twitter, and others
  • 300x250 banner on the rightbar.   This was debated at great length internally, but we need it in order to scale our business and as a result our content services to the community. Due to the simple design of the site however there was no choice but to put it ‘inbetween content’
  • Moving to JQuery from an old version of prototype for all JS and ajax goodness on the site
  • Moved from 1 database to a Master/Slave 2 DB combo so to improve site scalability, fail-over, and move CPU-eating reporting processes off of our production bosses

In the last 6 months we had also been going back and forth on a mockup for a small site redesign that would have added a 4th column to the site where we could put widgets for accessing hot/most discussed content and others, but after our recent user survey we abandoned the idea; we read some user comments that the site felt like an ‘endless series of columns’, so adding a 4th would have made it even worse. Since then we've changed our thinking to a 2 column layout with an expanded header, as in this rough mockup I made, and this mockup submitted to us by one of our users (thanks Christian!).

But despite our best intentions, InfoQ is still lagging behind many of the world-class media sites out there. We may not be the New York Times, but we are one of the largest independent news/community sites for the enterprise software development community, so looking at what we have vs. sites like nytimes.com, guardian.co.uk, even Facebook, makes it clear that we've got a long way to go. InfoQ doesn't even have an archive browser beyond our tagging and search window!

The Future

The future is a clean slate and we hope you'll help us set our direction for where you'd like the site to go.   What do you think are some of the key areas of the site that we should be addressing?  Please vote in this poll below:

In terms of raw features, the two most common features we've heard people ask for is an audio RSS feed allowing our interviews/presentations to auto-sync with iTunes, and also downloadable video. We are actively considering these ideas but we are not ready to embark on the downloadable video route until we have a clearer understanding of how it will affect our traffic, costs, etc.  We are also thinking about what might go into a redesign of the site, but have not begun an active redesign effort since abandoning the last 4 column layout.

Please let us know what types of features you'd like out of InfoQ!  You are welcome to engage with us through one of the following feedback channels:

Thanks everyone!

Floyd Marinescu (InfoQ CEO and co-founder) and the InfoQ Team

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Please stay with KISS by Georg Ragaller

...sites like nytimes.com, guardian.co.uk,...

Please don't go their way, infoq.com is much more readable, because of its
clear and simple layout/structure.

Presentations more mobile friendly by David DeCesare

Flash isn't available on many mobile phones so I'd love to see change here for presentations. With several YouTube apps for iPhone and Android phones, one approach would be to post videos there.

BTW: I agree 100% with Georg's plea to keep the UI design simple and easy to navigate.

Re: Please stay with KISS by Floyd Marinescu

Thanks Georg, that's a good reminder to keep us true to our values and background as a site for software developers. :)

For the most part keep it the way it is by Matt Giacomini

Hi Floyd,

In general I think you have done a great job with the site, and for the most part I like it the way it is.

I agree with the above, keep the UI simple.

One of the things I like best about the site is the interesting interviews, please keep them coming.

Thanks,
~Matt

Not just page. by William Martinez

Hello Floyd.
Yes, simple is better. Still in usability, I would like to be able to zoom on presentation and / or video for instance.
But, look and feel is not all that it is. Adding the operations community is great news, and maybe there are some other improvements as well for content.
I mentioned some time ago some, like a Spanish channel.

Cheers!

William Martinez

Vote for a FEED for the MP3s of the videos and interviews by Ilya Boyandin

Many thanks for making this website and keeping it up to date! Special thanks for adding the MP3 downloads feature! But I find it only a half-way solution, because it is not very easy to use this feature with an iPod. It is quite tricky to find the audios on an iPod (they all end up in the Music folder), to listen to them and to choose and download new ones.

So it would be great if you could add a feed of the MP3 downloads. Ideally, feeds with the audios which reflect the "Personal feeds". Then we could subscribe to them as to podcasts. It would be then much easier to download new records and listen to them on an iPod.

Rework with your viewers' objectives in mind by John Jorgensen

I find InfoQ uniquely useful as an information source. That's not to say that no improvements are possible. But before you add features, consider what your objectives are: you want your viewers/users/customers to be able to do [what]. If you want to be a community of interest (CoI) site for a series of subjects, there are certain minimum requirements that accompany the CoI implementation (e.g., wiki, knowledge management repository, 'start here' tutorials, internal social contact site, etc.). If you want to become a professional certification portal, then different minimum requirements apply (knowledge linkages from articles to professional growth / education, tutorials that link to educational resources, and so on.) On the other hand, you may want to continue being an information source for unique and detailed information. But it's a deliberate decision about the site's objectives that should guide the features and functionalities you add. New features added 'because you can' do not increase usability or utility for any given user group. New features added to provide a completely new way of interacting, are worth adding if there's a market behind the new method of communication.

Re: Vote for a FEED for the MP3s of the videos and interviews by Floyd Marinescu

So it would be great if you could add a feed of the MP3 downloads. Ideally, feeds with the audios which reflect the "Personal feeds". Then we could subscribe to them as to podcasts. It would be then much easier to download new records and listen to them on an iPod.
Got it Ilya, we've had quite a few requests for this and we hear you! thanks! :)

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