Answerbase Review

(September 9, 2011 09:09)
Last Version 2011 (2011). Released under Proprietary License.
Resources Website Answerbase Website Download Host your Forum...
Company LuminCreative.
Price Basic $15/month, Professional $45/month, Business $200/month.
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Answerbase is a Q&A community software, where the goal is to share experience between members, some asking questions, while others answer if the know the correct solution. This forum software way of managing members popularity and relevance is hence based on the total count of questions a given user was able to answer correctly. Indeed, after receiving answers to his question, his owner will select among the answers which one is the best, and mark his question as solved.

Answerbase is doing hosting services mainly, which basically mean you do not need to install anything on your server, everything is managed remotely on Answerbase's servers. Under the hood, Answerbase is using ASP.Net technology, and provides all classical DNS tools in order to make your Q&A installation hosted on a subdomain of your main website.

Why reviewing a Q&A community software?

In many aspects, Q&A community software are close to our classical definition of a forum software: you manage a community of users, questions and answers are finally another representation of topics and posts, but really focusing to this specific domain of solving users' problems.

Pricing

Basic Plan - $15/month
Provides main features, including custom advertising and use of your own domain name.
Professional Plan - $45/month
Basic Plan + CSS Customization, Mobile Phones support, Social Network integration, Widgets, API...
Business Plan - $200/month
Professional Plan + Standard Single Sign On and Phone Support
Enterprise Plan
Mainly needed if you need to tweak your Q&A site in a way that Answerbase administrate panel cannot do. This plan is also probably required if you ask for additional or custom services (integration, theming,...)

Review Updates:

  • September 15, 2011: First Review.

Answerbase is recommended for Large Community.

(and supports smaller communities perfectly as well.)

Client Requirements

Browser & Client Requirements
Compatible Browsers
List of Compatible Browsers.
Mozilla FirefoxMozilla FirefoxInternet ExplorerInternet Explorer
Google ChromeGoogle ChromeOperaOpera
Apple SafariApple SafariKonquerorKonqueror
Mozilla SeaMonkeyMozilla SeaMonkey
Required Plugins/Technologies
Additional or Basic Requirements from Client Side.
HTML, Javascript, AJAX, CSS.
Localization
Languages supported by Answerbase.
No.
No.

No additional languages supported yet.

Answerbase - Ask a Question

As an hosted solution, the Q&A software AnswerBase is really simple to configure and install: after filling a small form, your application is ready to receive its first questions and answers. By default, your Q&A application is hosted on a subdomain of AnswerBase (http://yourwebsite.answerbase.com), while administration interface is hosted on http://yourwebsite.admin.answerbase.com.

Compatibility with Smartphones
Compatible SmartPhones
Compatible Cellphone Brands and Manufacturers.
  • AndroidAndroid
  • iPhoneiPhone
  • BlackBerryBlackBerry
  • Windows Phone 7Windows Phone 7
Application Distribution / Type
How it is distributed / App Store Availability
  • Web Application

Answerbase Administration - Mobile Header Image

AnswerBase provides a specific layout for mobile phones navigation, which makes it really convenient when accessing to your Q&A application using your smartphone.

Forum Threads & Posts

Forum Threads / Topics
Forum Style Threaded Forum Organization
  • Forum Categories
  • Sub Sections
  • Tags
Thread Icons No Topic Tags Yes
Hot Topics Yes Unread Topics Yes
Hidden Topics No Sticky Threads No
Related Threads Yes Detect Duplicate Threads Yes
Announcements No
Posting Messages / Answers
Message Editing Form
How to Post Messages.
  • Plain Text
  • Formatting Buttons
  • Preview Button
Post Editing Format
Supported Markup Language (HTML, Wiki, BBCode,...).
  • Plain
Spell Checker
Checks typos on posts and topics.
No
Image Attachment
How Images can be Attached and Displayed in Message Posts.
  • Upload via Advanced Attachments. Images can be placed in the flow of message text.
  • Use BBCode or HTML. Need to type the URL of an already hosted image.
Embedded Videos
Videos and Media Websites Supported in Message Posts.
No.
Posting Features
Quick Reply Box No Smileys No
Attachments Yes Syntax Highlighting No
Message Rating
Yes Message Quoting No

Answerbase - Question Answers

Only image attachments are allowed, using a nice form that is asking you from where you want to integrate your image (from your local computer or using a URL). The same integrated form allows you integrating links to your answer.

By default, system is checking whether the question you are asking does not already exist, which is really useful to avoid duplicates in your content.

Of course, some of our fields here are not exactly matching Q&A software terminology, but our goal is also to prove that it could be similar and could be a nice alternative to classical forum software, depending on what you plan to do with your forum. For instance, we consider it has Related Threads as Answerbase detects related questions, and Message Rating as answers are rated by other users.

Traditionally, Answerbase offers two way of classifying questions:

  • Dynamic Tags: Questions will be sorted based on different tags users are putting on them. This makes your Q&A community more dynamic, but a little bit harder to organize. The main advantage here is that visitors can easily look for questions about the same topics by clicking on the tag they are interested in.
  • Hierarchical Categories: This is the classical way of organizing topics. You, as administrator, define several categories where members can pose their questions, each category (sub-categories are supported) listing current answered/unanswered questions.

Additional & Technical Features

Additional Forum Features
Poll Creation No
Private Messages
Users Can Communicate using an Internal Messaging System.
Yes
Instant Messaging
Discuss with Visitors and Members in a Chat Window.
No
Calendar
Topic, Member Birthdays, Events are available from the perspective of a calendar.
No
Online Users List
Connected User List (Often Found in the Forum Footer).
No
Members List
Search and Consult the List of Members.
Yes
Technical Features
Bundled Software
Additional Software Available with the Forum.
No.
RSS/Atom Syndication
Posts and Threads Exported to Feeds Aggregators Syndicate.
R
Friendly URLs
URLs are clear and contain information about the topic (title, message,...). Highly recommended for SEO purposes.
Yes
Post by Email
Post Directly From your Email Box.
No
Remote Control
Remote Control from External Software/Websites.
No.
Cache System
Cache pages to optimize bandwidth and load times.
No
Template Engine
It is easier to theme a forum using a known template engine (more docs & examples,...).
No.

Answerbase - Member Point Summary

If needed, a member can also ask directly a question to a particular user, which is particularly useful when targeting an expert member (calculated with his points and successfully answered questions) on a specific domain. This is what we consider as Private Messages here.

Note additionally that Answerbase also supports generation of Sitemap, which is really useful to be correctly crawled by search engines.

User Profiles & Options

Some details about Answerbase features regarding members.
Member Options & Features
Bookmark Threads
User Profiles Keep a List of Followed Posts and Topics.
Yes
Email Notifications
Receive Emails When New Messages are Posted in Followed Threads.
Yes
Export private messages
Private Messages can be Downloaded by Users.
No
Payment Subscriptions
Paying Membership Subscription.
No
User Profiles
User Profile
User Information and Settings.
Yes
Avatars
Pictures of Members, Useful to Easily Identify their Posts.
Yes
Signature
Signatures Added at the Bottom of Each Message.
No
Ranks
Tags and Labels Identifying the Members, based on specific criteria (Total Posts Count, Credits, Moderation Level...)
Yes

Answerbase - Account Settings

By the way, members are ranked based on their skill of answering questions correctly, and they can reach the Expert status, which makes their answers more relevant for readers.

You can watch any questions you are interested in to follow newly posted answers, and you can configure your email notifications in order to get information once someone replies to one of your questions.

Gallery of Answerbase Themes

Moderation & Users Management

Answerbase Administration - Moderation Area

Moderation of asked questions is of course possible, and all members are allowed to report any invalid answers and questions.

If you are subject to spam, you can also decide to publish questions after moderating them, or directly let members publish their question without validating them. The same applies for answers, which can be pre-moderated, or post-moderated.

Moderation & Threads Management
Moderation
Pre-Moderation In pre-moderation, every post needs to be validated by a moderator before being published.
Post-Moderation The moderation is done afterwards, if an administrator notices a problem or if a member reports something wrong. Each message is therefore directly published.
Reactive Moderation By reporting any problems, members are reactive against moderation problems. Moderators' main objective is to regularly check user reports, without having to follow each threads.
Distributed Moderation By organizing the forum around moderators, who are usually power and experienced users, moderation is self-powered and only depends on the community.
Moderator per section Yes
Global Moderator Yes
Move Threads
Move Threads from Topics
Yes
Shadow Topics
When a thread is moved, the previous position is kept in order to inform users of this modification.
No
Close/Lock Threads
Close/Lock Problematic Threads
Yes
Users Management
User Groups
Organize and define groups of users, and apply different actions and settings on them.
Common Groups: Guests, Members, Moderators, Administrators,...
Yes
User Registration
  • Free Registration
  • User Account created by Administrator
  • Confirmation sent by email for validation
Limit Features For New Users
Features are limited if a user has created a small number of posts.
No
Guest Posting No
Multiple Administrators Yes
Send Warnings to Users
Inform users by email or PM that they infringe the board rules, and could be excluded for such behavior.
No
Forum/Section Restricted Access
ACL could be use to determine if a user or a group of users can access (in read only, post message) to some sections and topics.
No
User Banishment Yes

Answerbase Administration - Users

Moderating, modifying and banishing users is of course possible from the Administration Panel

Administration & Support

Answerbase Administration - Dashboard

Administration panel is really convenient to use, and is hosted on a dedicated admin subdomain, different than the default site domain, which is quite useful to separate these two functions.

Database Management
Backup Database
Backup forum datas that you could store somewhere else.
No
Prune Database
Remove old and unused datas from your forum.
No
Restore Database
Restore a backup of your database if the previous install crashed.
No
Administration Tools
Statistics
Statistics about posts count, users, traffic...
Yes Error/Notice Log Viewer
Forum Logs could be consulted.
No
Tasks Scheduler
Maintenance tasks are regularly launched and could be scheduled.
No Mass Mailing
Send an email (newsletters, advertisements, information,...) to all users.
No
Installation & Upgrading
Installation Method
How this forum software could be installed.
Installation Wizard
Upgrading Method
How this forum software could be upgraded.
Upgrade Wizard
Updates Notifications
The Admin Panel informs you when a new version is released.
No
Forum Migration
Convert an existing forum to Answerbase.
No.

Answerbase Administration - Weekly Statistics

Administrators and members can see interesting statistics about your Q&A base, with number of clost (correctly answered) questions, pending questions, expert users,...

Answerbase Administration - Export Data

This Q&A community software is too far from classical forum software to allow migration and importation from other tools to this, as it would not have any sense. However, maybe there are plans in the future for supporting importation of data from other Q&A software and services.

However, note that Answerbase allows exporting of its own data, which is particularly rare in hosted service. Another good point for this community software.

Security & Spam Protection

Security & Spam Protection
CAPTCHA
Captcha protects your forum against spam bots.
e.g., Syndicate
Yes
Complexity: [++[ Hard
Abnormal Behavior Detection
Detect users or request strange behaviors, and try to process proactive actions.
No
Words Filtering
Offensing Words are automatically replaced.
No
User Blacklist
Prevent specific user accounts to register (based on email address, name,...) and disable potentially harmful members.
No
IP Blocking
Prevent access to spam robots and other scripts that could attempt DDOS or Brute Force attacks on your forum.
No

Answerbase - Recently Active Members

Captcha protection is ensured by the famous Google reCaptcha service, which makes answering them a bit harder, but this service allows small typos and errors, as it does not always know itself what symbols it sends mean.

Customization & Social Networks

Customization
Plugins
Add new features to your forum installation.
No.
Themes
Modify the style of your forum easily.
Yes.
~3 Available Themes.
Custom BBCodes No Smiley Packs No
Custom
Thread Icons
No Additional User Profile Fields
Ask more about your members with custom fields.
No
Integration with Applications, Social Networks, Intranet...
Social Networks
Users can share information from their social network account...
CMS / Blog Bridges
Integration with existing Web publishing tools.
No.
User Accounts Integration
Do users be able to log in with their corporate, Google, Facebook,... accounts?
Content Aggregation
Forum allows to integrate news and content from other website, using an aggregation protocol (RSS, RDF, Atom,...).
No.

Answerbase Administration - Site Customization

Integration of OpenID, Facebook connect and Twitter accounts are a really important and useful thing for making subscriptions fast.

Last but not least, Answerbase supports Single Sign-On by configuring some cookies and web services information on the Administration panel.

Answerbase Administration - Template

Customization of Q&A site colors and layout is of course possible, across several Administration sections. In addition to selecting the main theme (called template here), you will be able to define a specific Header Image, a Background Image, and customize the different Colors of your website (Global Colors, Title, Subtitle, Text, Links,...).

Answerbase Administration - Content Areas

If you need additional or more specific control on your Q&A community software, then Answerbase provides way of customizing the CSS stylesheet, different content areas (Header, Footer, Left Column Bottom, Right Column Top, Right Column Bottom), as well as system and HTML page Titles, Meta Description Tags, Favicon Image, User Profile Icons...

Mobile phones are not forgotten either, as you can specify a specific mobile header image for them.

W3C Norms & Accessibility

Norms & Accessibility
HTML / XHTML Markup
XHTML 1.0 Transitional.
XHTML 1.0 Transitional
Click to see if it respects HTML norms.
CSS Stylesheets
CSS 2.
CSS 2
Click to see if it respects CSS norms.
Accessibility (WAI)
Web Accessibility ensures that the forum is usable by people of all abilities and disabilities.
Conformance to AA level.
AA
UTF-8 Support
Default encoding used to support all locales and countries.
Yes
Conformance to W3C Norms
Does Answerbase correctly follow (X)HTML and CSS norms?
Yes.

Unique Features

Key points and major differences that make Answerbase unique:

  • Questions & Answers software are targeting really specialized websites, but are definitely more suited than classical forums when the website's objectives are linked to this concept.
  • Integrating social networks account and providing a single sign-on features makes this hosted service really open to the external world, and you would not have the feeling that this remote service is hard to customize.

Final Words


Great!

We are pleasantly surprised with Answerbase. This software provides a really easy way of configuring and providing a Q&A module to an existing website, without many possibilities to integrate it with your main website layout and userbase.

These kind of software are indeed getting more and more popular (look for instance Yahoo! Answers and Stackoverflow for success stories), and are particularly suited to what Web users are looking for: simple pages, answering exactly to what they are asking. Indeed, thanks to friendly user URLs, Answerbase is ready for SEO, and results of long trail questions should definitely be populated with existing pages of your Answerbase service, if it applies of course.

Answerbase provides many price plans for all kind of structures, from small communities to big businesses, and you should easily be able to find the one that suits your case.

Additional Resources:

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Comments (1)

I really like Answerbase

I really like Answerbase because it's an innovative twist on the relatively boring PHP templates. We need more stuff like this, and less bland, flavor-less copycat templates.

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