Designing a Content-Based Platform – A General Insight into TechSoup.pl

Today, many content-based companies live up to the ‘the more the better’ maxim. However, it is not the same for each and every company or enterprise. In fact, there are many tools other than publishing content that answers the problem of expanding a business influence on the market.

TechSoup since 1987 has served as a bridge between the social sector and the technology products, services, funding, and knowledge, that are essential for improving lives. TechSoup’s mission is to build a dynamic bridge that enables civil society organizations and changemakers around the world to gain effective access to the resources they need to design and implement technology solutions for a more equitable planet. TechSoup runs software donation programs all over the world partnering with many corporate partners, such as Adobe, Cisco, Microsoft or Google. Products of these partners are offered through TechSoup to non-profit organizations in 236 countries and territories around the world. Being the most popular platform for NGOs, TechSoup has many NGO partners and branches across the globe including the Polish partner – TechSoup Poland.

TechSoup.pl started with an idea: they wanted to expand its business capabilities and influence the voluntary sector by providing a regular, technology focused content. After a few workshops and detailed business analysis with the TechSoup team, we decided to build a platform oriented around user’s easy access to different types of content, like articles, events’ descriptions, tutorials and products

What makes our platform unique?

What makes our platform one of a kind and differs it from a typical CMS are the mechanisms to freely link, relate, promote and suggest content such as offered products and services.

In other words, we built this system on the edge of the database and an advanced search engine that features the possible control over the search results and suggestions, as well as content correlation across the platform.

The advanced search engine mentioned above is the Elasticsearch search engine. The main strong points of Elasticsearch are the real-time data insight with adjustable filtering and near real-time full-text search with ratings of given elements. Moreover, Elasticsearch searches through full text, and not only titles or tags added by the publisher. The database elements may be linked together. This gives the TechSoup platform user a full and thorough searching capability. Additionally, the potential client will also see items, such as blog posts, tutorials, and products related to the phrase or keyword they seek.

What does it mean for TechSoup? Better opinion in the eyes of their users, possible rating upgrade of important products and content to place it in the preferred position in the search results, as well as deep, real-time insight into platform database and statistics.

Going mobile without an App – The matter of responsivity

Let’s be honest, a responsive web design is nowadays a standard procedure. Thus, we naturally decided to make TechSoup design responsive as well.
Thanks to the responsive web design, TechSoup platform users can enjoy the same elements with the desktop version and any of their mobile devices. Of course, each device has slightly different layout adjusted to the given device (including IPhone and IPad) settings and requirements, but the content and possible interaction stay the same. This is a big fund-saver for TechSoup and a considerable time saver for the platform user as they don’t need to download a separate app for each device.

Another characteristic of the design that is worth mentioning is modularity. The modules we implemented feature blog posts, tutorials, products list as well as a calendar with important dates. Basically, a user of the TechSoup platform has easy access to all relevant data and content in a simple and clear manner. We also equipped it with direct links to TechSoup’s social media pages and an easily accessible subscription form to their newsletter.

How did we do it?

To make the partnership with TechSoup easy and rewarding for both sides, and to provide a workflow without obstructions, we were basing on our favorite technologies and frameworks. Next to already mentioned Elasticsearch, we used Python-based Django server framework (with Django REST framework). This gave us and our partners more time to think about the project itself, instead of spending numerous hours on building servers from scratch. Likewise, we used AngularJS. It’s usability and the fact that we specialize in AngularJS makes it a perfect tool for such undertaking. For our deployment and testing needs, we used Docker. This gave us the opportunity to build, ship and test the TechSoup platform without worrying about environmental inconsistence.

The partnership with TechSoup was based on mutual respect to each other’s ideas and design suggestions. We were getting regular feedback from the TechSoup team and we gave them access to each stage of development. Thanks to this, working together with TechSoup was effective, fast and without unnecessary misunderstandings.

Our main goal is to support NGOs and social institutions in the effective use of innovative technology to raise NGOs efficiency to the next level. We all need to work better and faster to build a clear and consistent social community of NGOs, social activists, and IT specialists to create a good, self-supporting environment. Because of our technological focus, we decided to partner up with TEONITE to build a reliable and user-friendly platform. Thanks to mutual respect and good teamwork, our goals and ideas were molded into the TechSoup.pl platform.

Karolina Dudzic, TechSoup Poland Product Owner

The result

Together with our partner, we came to an idea - instead of building a simple CMS, let’s make a complex, but user-friendly, accessible system better suited to resolving set business goals. In the end, the TEONITE/TechSoup partnership bears fruit in the form of a complete platform that was a perfect answer for their business goals.

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