The Playland Demo Application

For demonstrating some of the possibilities of a Rails application in conjunction with Infopark CMS Fiona, Infopark provides the Playland Rails application.

Unless otherwise stated, the functions described below are provided by the Rails Connector itself, not by third-party software.

To install Playland, please proceed as described in the instructions part of this Rails Connector documentation.

In Playland, Infopark has exemplary implemented several modern features: Access control (in the Investor Relations section), rating, voting, commenting, a wiki (based on third-party software), among others. These features help to make Playland livelier because they are oriented towards interaction with the website visitors. The implementation also demonstrates how user-generated content, e.g. comments, can be processed and displayed.

Website functions such as rating, voting , and commenting are not solely meant to provide feedback to the company operating the website (e.g. for the purpose of improving the site or the company’s products). For this, much more precise instruments exist. Instead, these functions mainly have a community effect. From the number of ratings given by visitors, from the number of votes in polls, or from the postings in a forum (not included in Playland), a visitor can see how popular a site is. Visitors new to the site recognize that a community has formed around the company operating the website. The existence of a community makes a company more attractive because the company must have been accepted first. To non-expert first-time visitors a company with a large community is more likely to be helpful with issues related to the company’s business.

If such features are used properly, new visitors or those just happening to be passing may feel inclined to spend a little more time on the company’s offerings. Generally speaking, the community features available to visitors serve as a platform for exchanging ideas or criticism, for example, or for the provision of information.

Rating

A rating function enables the visitor to rate the entire site or individual pages. To do this, the visitor clicks an icon to communcate the mark the page deserves. Sometimes, the website operator asks a question that narrows down the aspect to rate: "How do you like the way the content is presented on this page?", "How do you like this article?", "How helpful is the information on this page?". From the ratings the average mark is calculated and displayed. The option to reset the mark is only available to logged-in administrators.

The more restrictive the rating function is handled the more credible is the operator's implicit interest in the visitors' feedback. For this reason, the rating function should only be available to registered visitors. Also, multiple uses of this function by the same visitor should only correct the mark given before, instead of counting as new marks.

In general, the average marks are not differentiated enough to conclude from them how visitors rate the quality of a web page. However, if the marks are linked to individual visitors (this can be achieved by means of the OMC Connector), targeted measures can be initiated.

In Playland, ratings are user-generated content. The marks as well as the CMS objects to which they refer are stored in the live database. The rating element can be individually switched on or off for every CMS object. To process the ratings, e.g. to associate them with the WebCRM customer accounts concerned, additional code is required.

Commenting

The commenting function enables website visitors to attach notes, critcism, enhancement proposals, questions, etc., to a page. Usually, the comments are visible to all visitors to encourage discussions about the content offered on a page or website. Mostly, comments are displayed below the content:

To reduce the risk of abuse as regards content, appropriate protection measures, e.g. moderation, should be implemented. In principle, it is advisable to have a notification e-mail sent to a moderator after a new comment has been posted. Also, spam should be avoided. Additional functions like these are not implemented in Playland.

The website operator should analyze the contributions at regular intervals. For one thing, contributions sometimes provide valuable information that can be used to improve a web page, the website as a whole, or the products or services offered. Furthermore, escalating discussions can be detected and stopped early.

The number of comments a visitor may post is not limited. The comments are stored in the database in the order in which they are posted. Every comment is associated with the CMS object to which it refers as well as the required user data.

Personalization via WebCRM Integration

Next to the Rails Connector, this functionality requires the infopark_omc_connector gem.

More and more websites offer personalization options to strengthen customer loyality, for example. There are several other benefits for website operators: Premium customers can be given access to premium content. Users are enabled to keep their account data up-to-date. Using a suitable backend for storing the account data and other information helps to keep the data consistent.

Personalization requires an infrastructure that enables users to register, log in and out, and to change or reset their respective password.

Logging in

Infopark Rails Connector provides this infrastructure. As the backend, Infopark WebCRM is used. Playland utilizes the functions and views supplied by the Rails Connector to connect the Rails Connector with the WebCRM. User roles defined in the WebCRM control the visibility of (premium) content and the permission to delete comments.

Based on activity types in the WebCRM, you can have the Rails Connector create forms. For every field of the desired activity type (or a selection of these fields), a corresponding input field as a part of the form is created:

Generated form

When a logged-in user submits such a form, the Rails Connector can be used to create an activity in the WebCRM. This activity includes the field values of the form. Thus, numerous procedures (event participation, registration, support cases, etc.) can be handled on the website. The data involved can be transferred to the WebCRM for further manual or automatic processing. Additionally, this data can also be used for event management purposes, mailings, etc.

Polls

This functionality is not supplied by the Rails Connector but has been directly implemented in Playland.

By means of polls, website operators can get at the website visitor’s opinions. Usually, a poll consists of a question and several answers to it of which the visitor chooses one.

A poll

If votes have been casted, a chart illustrates the percentages of the votes for the individual answers. Administrators can easily create, edit or delete polls.

With clear questions, a poll might produce useful results. However, the voting results are usually not representative and can easily be misinterpreted.

Technically, the casted votes are handled and processed like the marks given in ratings, meaning that the visitors’ input is stored in the live database for later analysis.

Wikis

This functionality is not supplied by the Rails Connector but has been directly implemented in Playland.

A wiki is a platform on which simple-structured web documents can be created and maintained by several authors. The attraction of a wiki lies in its ease-of-use. It can be opened to a large group of users who are enabled to produce a large amount of information in short time. Wikipedia is the best example of this. A wiki’s openess, though, may cause content quality to vary and inconsistencies to sneak in. However, a wiki is a fast publishing medium most suitable for closed user groups (such as intranets) and for internal documentation purposes.

A wiki

In Playland, wikis can be inserted into the structure of the CMS content using placeholder objects. Thus, a wiki can show up in navigations, it can act as link destinations, etc. In The Playland Rails application, wikis are made available by means of a plugin.

Other Website Features

Search
A core aspect of any website is the navigation. An integrated search provides a site with extra navigational functionality, allowing users to quickly find the information they need. Requires Infopark Search Server.

PDF-Generator
By means of the PDF Generator, PDF documents can be created on the fly from web content so that the visitors can be provided with offline content.

Time Machine
Many websites change regularly. The Time Machine makes it possible to inspect the state of a website at an arbitrary date in the future.

RSS feeds and podcasts
RSS feeds and podcasts help your visitors to automatically stay informed about news on your website.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
By providing metadata exclusively for search engines, the search engine rating of a website and its visibility can be noticeably improved. Additionally, a sitemap XML document can be generated automatically to aid search engines in the indexing of your site.