Last week, Corel rolled out a major upgrade of our communities, including the CorelDRAW and the Painter ones. I think most of you would agree on the word major (some might even argue the sites are entirely different). We are still going through a few tweaks and changes based on your initial feedback, and are trying to make the adjustments to make it as useful and friendly a community as it was in the past. Overall, the new community will provide an excellent foundation for our future growth, making the site available on any device. It will also enable us to add more benefits for the members, including an ideation tool enabling you to vote of features and ideas.I also wanted to take a few minutes to details the history of the communities, the recent changes and why we undertook them now, plus some insights into what it means for the future.

I wanted to take the time in this post to details the history of the communities, the recent changes and why we undertook them now, plus some insights into what it means for the future.

As some of you might know, the platform we are using to run our communities is developed by a company called Zimbra (formerly Telligent). When we went live in May 2007 with the CorelDRAW community, this platform enabled us to get going very quickly and provide a combination of forums, galleries and blogs in one site. Back then, we evaluated many different options, and settled with this platform as it provided everything we were looking for in an easy to deploy and maintain package (yes, we did look at open-source solutions back then). These two criteria were (and remain) very relevant as we prefer to focus our development efforts towards the product and not the community site, yet we all feel strongly in the importance of having these sites in order to have ongoing discussions with all of you. We initially launched on version 2.1 of CommunityServer. Within a year, we had rolled out additional communities for Painter and WordPerfect around the same platform, We also continued to do incremental upgrades of the CorelDRAW Community to newer versions of the platform (first to version 3.x and then version 4.x, ultimately ending up at version 4.5). Here is a screenshot of the original test site we had (the copy was not final then):

One of the features some of the members of the CorelDRAW community had started to rely on heavily was the option to use the forums through NNTP / newsgroups instead of the web interface. Back in 2009, when Telligent introduced version 5 of CommunityServer, they also made the announcement that they would no longer support the newsgroup access to the forums. At that time, we took the decision not to upgrade the platform and stay with the version released in 2008 so that we could keep access through the newsgroups available. While that decision was great at the beginning, we began to experience an increasing number of problems over time for running an older community engine. Some of them included support of mobile platforms (we did develop a custom iOS app to access the communities from iPhones, but the cost would have been high to do the same on other mobile operating systems), as well as the growing problem of supporting modern web browsers (Chrome didn't even exist back then, and IE 6 was still the default browser). Other concerns were that the engine we used wasn't compatible with more recent and more secure versions of the web server and that it was getting increasingly difficult for us to maintain as the version we used of the platform was no longer officially supported by the vendor.

Fast forward to 2014. While our communities continued to grow significantly, we were also having an increasing number of challenges supporting it, and an increasing number of users not able to access the community from their modern web browsers. We also continued to see an increasing number of users accessing the site from mobile devices, as well as using High-DPI displays. As we reviewed the go forward plans, I took the hard decision to undergo a major upgrade, going from version 4.5 to version 8 of the platform, knowing that the shift would not be as smooth as if we had done regular updates over time. I understand from the feedback we've got since the upgrade that some would have preferred the old community to stay as is, but sadly that wasn't an option based on the needs of the majority and the changes in technology. 

The new platform provides the community an excellent foundation for going forward, including a focus on the content through a clean look that adapts on the device you are using (desktop vs mobile), compatibility for high-DPI / Retina displays which are increasingly common. And with the new ability members have to participate in discussions through email, we can already see how this helps some of you to increase your participation. This new iteration of the platform also enables us to keep the team working on the back-end engine to a minimum, enabling us to focus on developing products and participating in the forums. Over the next little while, we will continue to optimize the new communities, including the CorelDRAW one, based on your feedback. Things on our to-do list include adjusting the font sizes as well as introducing a better navigation in the forums. Beyond these changes, we are looking at providing additional benefits, including an ideation tool that will enable members of the community to vote on features and ideas, helping us prioritize our effort.

I look forward to continuing the discussion in the forums with all of you.