SQLServerCentral Design–QotD

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This is part of a series of posts that look at the changes to the SQLServerCentral design, bringing us to v3 of the site. You can see the other posts with the SQLServerCentral tag.

We’re a few weeks in and the site is stabilizing a bit, but a lot of work still to go. This week, I wanted to write about the changes to our Question of the Day section, which are likely more backend than front end, but still an important part of the site.

When we started the question of the day, it was a whim from Brian Knight, one that annoyed me because I ended up being responsible for most questions. Over time we allowed users to submit questions and enhanced the way the testing worked, but it took a bit of a step backward in v2 of the site. We had more restrictive forms for loading the questions, not supporting images in the explanation or even any HTML at first. We enhanced this over time, but the marking of multiple choice questions, scoring, awarding back points, and more were somewhat broken for a long time.

I got quite familiar with running direct “fix-em-up” queries against the database to correct issues.

When we talked with the developers about the new system, I wanted a more flexible way to get questions written, scheduled, scored, and even fix when we corrected issues. There are a number of plugins for WordPress that allow quizzes, but none that really fit our paradigm.

A custom plugin was written which allows a more flexible editing system for the question and explanation, similar to what most users are familiar with for writing posts in WordPress. This is more visually appealing, and easier to author a question.

On the front end, things are very similar, though we have reformatted a few things in the last couple weeks to show more information:

  • We let you know if you were right or wrong
  • We give you the correct answer, or if you were wrong, we tell you what you picked
  • We give you the percentage and count of people answering each choice.

Many of these changes were simple, and some added back functionality that was lost when we launched the new site, but the changes were quicker and easier than in the past.

That’s a good sign because in the process of building this out, there are a few things missing. We still need to award back points for poor questions. Right now I’d be reduced to making a database query, but I need a “award everyone points regardless of answer” button built.

We also want to start collecting items into a test that might quiz a user in some particular area. In other words, rather than a question a day, we want to put questions more into a group like a certification test. Since the items are all linked in a more normalized fashion, and this would in some sense mirror what we’ve done with the Stairway series, I’m hopeful we can add this.

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