Through research and discovery, we distilled GIC’s primary goals for this new site:
- Organize GIC Intellectual Property (IP).
- Simplify the discovery and consumption of GIC IP.
- Streamline the communication of new information and upcoming events.
- Facilitate communication between coaches.
- Enable and encourage senior coaches to share their experience and insights with the community.
Dashboard and Activity Stream
The dashboard serves as a centralized space to quickly discover and interact with the GIC community. Much of the work done for this page involved designing consistent ways of associating various content. Six main bodies of content exist above the fold, and allow a member to quickly discover and navigate through bodies of information.
Scanning below the fold, a member can quickly see recent activity in the GIC community. This includes recent ‘formal’ communication such as new blog posts as well as ‘informal’ communication such as new forum posts and recently announced events.
Enhanced WordPress Search
Implementing good search functionality is difficult.
This is due to many factors, which boil down to:
Computers are good at doing computer things like tedious repeatable tasks and complex computations. Humans are good at human things like language and associating different but similar ideas.
Consider that we as humans know intuitively that:
- ‘Coaches’, ‘Coaching’, and ‘Coach’ are all nuances to an idea of coach, and that we expect to get references to all of those terms when we search for any of them.
- A single instance of the word ‘Coach’ in the title of something, likely has more relevance than one buried in the content as a job title for a testimonial author.
We expect a computer search to “find what I mean, not what I say”.
A good search experience is possible and requires balancing performance, cost, and design.
Implementing a richer experience for the coaches meant improving core WordPress functionality in two major places:
Improving WordPress User Functionality
WordPress’ user functionality allows for complex interactions on the site. Out of the box though, WordPress’ user implementation falls into two general roles: content creators and subscribers. This is of course fine for a simple publishing site, but the complexity grows quickly when a site is to facilitate content creation and communication between users.
BuddyPress is the only real choice for creating the rich user interactions that are required in a membership site. In particular the use of activity streams allow the activity of the site to be agregated in one place. Users can view new ‘activities’ which are created for all sorts of actions on a site:
- New posts published
- New events created
- Responses submitted to forum topics
Improving WordPress Search Functionality
We researched a number of different ways to improve WordPress’ search functionality. Three solutions stood out as possible implementations:
Elasticsearch would definitely be capable of enhancing WordPress search, however the complexity of setting up, monitoring and managing another service seemed overkill for this project.
This left us with a choice between Relevanssi and SearchWP. Both plugins improve WordPress Search using the existing tech stack and by tightly integrating into the WordPress admin.
The ultimate decision to use SearchWP was easy due to the fact that SearchWP allowed us to search custom post types and custom meta without needing additional premium plugins. Being able to search custom post types was a hard requirement since all information pertaining to GIC downloadable content was stored in a ‘download’ custom post type.