HP Support Forum still a work in progress
May 4, 2011
Initial reports about the June 1 migration from HP's support portal show that the HP 3000 customer might have been shown the door from HP's support -- just in time.
Bill Hassell, HP-UX guru and former HP SE, is still holding out hope for HP's replacement for its ITRC portal. The ITRC Forums still contain thousands of posts about support for HP 3000s and MPE/iX. But after a conference call and web preview last week, Hassell -- who's now the HP-UX expert for Source Direct -- is waiting for a clear content path to emerge. Right now, there's more emphasis on new functionality like podcasts and webcasts than evidence HP's maintained links to fixes from prior years, when the vendor was still supporting the HP 3000.
"The current Forums won their awards based on content, navigation and participation, not web designer creations," Hassell said in a report he forwarded from a LinkedIn post.
The user interface needs work. Too much white space, very little in site navigation, way too many clicks to get to a meaningful category or topic. In the current Forums, there are 20 major categories, all non-ambiguous and with 3-5 popular related categories listed under each category. All told, there are about 100 direct links to technical content with just one click. But on the (albeit preliminary design) Enterprise Business Community, there are the ever-popular Converged Infrastructure and Business Support Forums.
HP seems to be using its support arm to steer customers into new product architectures and models. Regular users of the HP Web services might be more likely to need platform-specific directions to these user-contributed answers. With this loss of direct access, the ITRC migration makes the web pages from the HP 3000 indie support vendors even more of a value. "Like most technical users," Hassell says, "we need answers quickly."
In this month's version of the HP Support Portal of the future, the HP 3000 has become an Appliance Server. It now takes three clicks just to get to the top of that category.
The changes don't all fall into the status of declining service. Hassell reports that an improved search engine is coming online. Perhaps best of all, for 3000 managers still searching this information on a free basis, the new Community pages won't lose any of the ITRC Forums' content.
There will be a new search engine to replace the aging ITRC search capability. One of the reasons that HP is moving to Lithium is the age of the Forums code -- it is difficult to maintain and enhance as a lot of it is two decades old, with a lot of expertise having moved on to other opportunities. Lithium's products are very well suited to the type of user interface found in the Forums and will constantly be enhanced and maintained. The Advanced search has 4 useful search refinements:
With all the words
With the exact phrase
With one or more of the words
Without the words
I did ask about the new search engine's limitations with respect to special characters, a common oversight with technology searches. A summary of special character capabilities and restrictions will be forthcoming. I know that most of us will be concerned about characters we can't use in a search.
HP's taking experts like Hassell on another tour on May 18, and there's an indication that the migration deadline is being rolled back to mid-June while the vendor works to get customers satisfied with a site that won an award in 2007.