Retiring the old support forums

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Update 11/26/2016: As of November 26, 2016 the forums are no longer available. If you need support, please visit https://easydigitaldownloads.com/support

Eighteen months ago, the team here at Easy Digital Downloads started the process of migrating our support system from an open forum to using Help Scout to manage our interactions with users and customers. So far it’s been a tremendous improvement that has helped us to provide top-notch support at scale. The goal of migrating from an open forum to this email-based support channel was to be able to manage support threads easier, get better reporting to where we needed improvement, and offer a more personal experience.

Over the past year and a half, we have left the support forums available for viewing, but have restricted the addition of new topics and replies. In this time, much of the content that’s in these forum topics has become stale, incorrect, or irrelevant. Topics like these pose a few problems, including confusion on the current state of Easy Digital Downloads, its features, and offerings. It’s for this reason we’ve spent the last year focusing on updating, improving, and writing new documentation that is easier to maintain and update to be accurate with the most recent changes to Easy Digital Downloads. As we’ve been doing this, we have added automatic redirects for forum threads that have had documentation written or other resources created to meet the needs of the original issue. This ensures that readers who find the old forum threads are sent to an up-to-date documentation or product page with the relevant information.

In the last few months we have found over 100 forum topics that were either outdated, had been turned into features, or ended up becoming extensions. Each of these topics has had a redirect put in place to ensure customers still find the answers they’re looking for. These topics were not just selected by hand. We used our data to identify which forum topics were being viewed the most via organic search results and analytics, and focused on those first. With each of these topics, we read over the thread and either found a relevant documentation article, blog post, or product page that met the needs of the resolution, and setup redirects. You see, over time, we’ve been focusing on streamlining the customer experience of on-boarding, self-help, and support, but we noticed a trend. People would use search engines like Google, and end up on our support threads. Some of these threads either alluded to functionality that we’d already built or provided suggestions that were no longer relevant. This typically ended up in support tickets being opened by confused users. As with any documentation platform, the goal is to allow users to provide self-help for most tasks, and our forums are simply not cutting it.

Allowing the forums to remain visible is hurting both customers and our team. It is leaving a source of outdated information that results in lost time on both our end as well as the user’s end.

With that said, in the next two weeks, we will be taking any remaining forum topics and redirecting them to our documentation homepage at http://docs.easydigitaldownloads.com. Once the final redirects are put in place, the forums will be removed completely and will no longer be accessible.

When we first made the announcement that we were transitioning away from the forums, we said “No. The forums will never be deleted.”. Obviously we have reversed this decision and are doing it because we genuinely believe it is the best for everyone.

We have had many discussions about these forum topics and their value to the community as a team, and we fully understand some people will see this as a ‘removal’ of historical information related to our support. This is something we don’t take lightly and, while something we can sympathize with, we feel is outweighed by the need to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information possible to our users. Keeping the forum threads simply is not an option so long as they continue to reference out-dated and/or incorrect information.

As noted above, we will be leaving the forums available for viewing for a two week period, in order to allow anyone who has bookmarked a specific forum thread to go and save the information they find valuable to their own location.

We appreciate and welcome any feedback or concerns you have, and we’ll be sure to address them in the comments.

Comments

Rob Davis

This makes perfect sense! Godspeed to all of you at EDD. You’re the best.

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Thanks for the words of encouragement Rob!

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I realize you might not be able to get into specifics, but I’m curious about how your switch affected traffic from search engines. Were there any surprises there?

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Hi Darren,

This is a _fantastic_ question.

At this point it’s too early to tell from a long term perspective. I will say that we did this with as much SEO in mind as we possibly could.

By using tools like the Webmaster Tools Search Analytics, we were able to isolate forum topics that were receiving traffic that we considered significant. Over the last few months we’ve been reviewing each one of those topics and did 1 of 3 things.

1) Wrote new documentation that clearly explained the issue the original forum topic was for.
2) Updated existing documentation to be sure it met the needs of the original request as well.
3) Found an existing doc or landing page that met the needs completely.

Once we had done one of those, we setup a 301 redirect to the new location. This would allow search engines to be informed that we’ve changed the location of the relevant information.

Since the forums have remained mainly available to the search engines, as this process went on, we had to keep continually re-checking our traffic to make sure all articles that ‘bubbled’ their way to the top were handled. All in all, it was a major undertaking, but was worth it in the long run for people attempting to find the correct solutions to their questions.

In the coming months, once we fully remove the forums from the site, I believe we’ll start to see an impact that we can measure (either positively or negatively) and we can start to adjust our future plans from there.

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An update here: as of today the forums are no longer available.

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Aleksandra Angel

very bad – need to see resolution of existing problem – see such topic in google, but reverted to this page 🙁

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rachid Ait ouaissi

Please help this is my email rachid.aitouaissi@gmail.com i want to mark all commissions for a vendor as paid “all commissions” thank you

Reply

For technical support please use our support form located here:
https://easydigitaldownloads.com/support

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B. Schuiling

It’s very annoying when support questions – and answers – are moved from publicly visible to private for the specific customer only. I was mostly able to fix issues using previous answers, which is less time consuming then write a request myself.

All plugins that don’t have public support I find much harder to use due to lack of answers on not-so-common issues. They are also not adressed in the Support section which is also hard to search.

Reply

We certainly understand and appreciate the frustration this kind of change can cause, though please note that the forums have been closed to new posts for more than a year now. While there was still a good amount of relevant information in the old forum posts, we were consistently finding that the vast majority of information was becoming very quickly outdated and, in many cases, highly incorrect as they did not take into account changes and updates we have made since the posts were created.

If you have any feedback you’d like to share about what makes the new documentation difficult to search, I would love to hear it.

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B. Schuiling

Sure. What I usually like about open support forums is :

– Checking if I’m the only one or this is an known EDD issue
– Conflicts, crashes and other external issues that might pop up but have no place in the docs, is of great help often.
– Code snippets – the chance is higher a customer thought of doing something, than the chance that somebody thought of documenting that.

Then for the docs :

– In the documentation as it is, I never know if my problem is in ‘FAQ’, ‘Advanced’ or ‘Developer Docs’.

– It’s a multi-page system which means that CTRL-F ( like hooks) sometimes means I need to click through several pages.

– It’s incomplete by definition. Documentation will never be as complete as a good archive of tickets imo, because it takes a lot of time and effort ( no blame here, I know it’s a drag to keep those updated ) and thus cost. (and reasons mentioned before).

I often just browse the source if I need to know something, but the support tickets were always of some help figuring out where to look. Hope this helps.

Reply

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