When users purchase or install blog software, it generally has the functionality for quickly posting information to the Internet, but the interactivity with the reader — usually through forum software — generally isn’t well implemented. One company, Invision Power Services, has taken a different approach, offering its users a high-quality forum package complete with a blogging, gallery and chat components. This in turn has spawned a separate, burgeoning support business, Invision Internet Services, to help customers get the most out of their software.
Invision Power Services (IPS) issued its first forum software release in mid-2002. The company then spent the next two years building the framework and perfecting the base product, making it stable and full featured.
Invision Power Board also featured a professional look and feel once installed; something many companies ignored in favor of working on other software components. Company CEO Matthew Mecham told MacCentral that IPS knew early on that users wanted a nice look to their forums, so they hired a professional design firm to make the default theme.
While development turned to version 2 of the main Invision Power Board software in 2004, Mecham said that they recognized users were not only looking for more features, but they also wanted different components to allow blogging, photo galleries and other functionality. This was to be a decision that would lead IPS from just making forum software to a company that offered a complete Web site package.
The goal for IPS was to be able to integrate the different Web packages with the board software seamlessly, allowing the site readers to go from one component to the next using one registration and having a consistent look and feel. The integration of Gallery — IPS’ photo gallery software — and Community Blog — its blogging component — has given IPS a unique position in the market of having a quality, modular package that is being used by companies like Sony, Sharp, Nvidia, EMI, NASA and many others.
Support, Support, Support
Having a tightly integrate software package for its customers is proving successful for IPS and while the company has its own support forums, John Fisher saw an opportunity to enhance the support offerings for the software. Fisher launched a company called Invision Internet Services (IIS) that works with IPS and offers customers a variety of solutions from hosting to Web design and more.
“We bring Web design, consultancy, marketing, search engine tools, hosting, commerce solutions and of course, all of the add-on modules like blogging and photo galleries for the customers all in one place,” said Fisher.
In Addition to IIS Fisher also launched Invision Resource Center, a Web site dedicated to all the products introduced by Invision Power Services. While most community support sites rely strictly on community involvement to help solve problems, Fisher said Invision Resource Center adds more to their solution.
“Not only does the community itself provide help for the products and services, but we have on staff about 15 talented individuals that specialize in different parts of the products,” said Fisher.
Fisher said he believes this eliminates many of the problems people have when they first start a hobby or professional Web site — ongoing problems with the hosting company.
“Market research shows that the average user will change hosts more than two times in the first year,” said Fisher. “That’s because in those first couple of months they don’t get the support they need, so they change. We give the customers the support and products they need.”
One of the things that users want the most is to have their site look different than anyone else’s. To handle this task Fisher brought on staff Kim Ritchie, a talented graphic designer that dedicates her time to creating a custom look and feel for customers’ Web site. (Examples of themes provided by Invision Internet Services can be seen in the screenshots below).
“Invision Resource Center was designed to be the baseline example of what a tier one resource site would be. People go there because they are getting the type of secondary support that they just can’t get elsewhere,” said Fisher.