Industry: Computer Software
Ansys initiated a developer relations program in early 2022, and they launched their developer portal at the beginning of 2023. The company decided to use the Zero Gravity Developer Portal Solutions to have private and public content side-by-side without physically storing the information in separate places. One of the key requirements was to provide a seamless user experience and have everything in one place. With Zero Gravity, Ansys has many flexible options to manage its developer portal.
Industry Leader in Simulation Technology
Ansys is focusing on advancing simulation. As they state on their main website, ‘our nearly 6,000 employees are singularly focused, our spirit of innovation is reflected in 580+ active patents, and we are proud members of S&P and NASDAQ-100.’
With Ansys’ simulation software, one can analyze real-world engineering scenarios and outcomes. ‘This simulation superpower also speeds time-to-market, lowers manufacturing costs, improves quality, and decreases risk.’ Tools, such as 3D Design, Digital Twin, Optics and so on, create an opportunity to gain important inputs, and see how an idea will perform - before the actual building. Ansys’ software products also have deep integration hooks that allow engineers to build end-to-end simulations using a variety of software tools. However, up to now, developer documentation has been hidden away on a wide variety of websites and formats and was often only accessible on request.
To dissolve the documentation silos, Ansys wanted to build a developer portal for internal and external use, where content can exist side-by-side, and the developer portal can function as a self-service hub. This is the point where Pronovix came into the picture.
Goals and Outcomes
Ansys preferred an open source solution for their developer portal, preferably based on a full-featured content management system, such as Drupal. Pronovix’ Zero Gravity developer portal was an optimal fit and served as the basis for further development of custom features.
The goal was to provide a seamless user experience, so users can find what they need quickly and easily. First and foremost, this translates to quality content, which is a demand in the simulation industry as every sector is different and requires high-level expertise. In addition, Ansys wanted to offer intuitive navigation and quality search to their users, and make the publishing flows smooth. They also wanted to have a clean look and feel on their developer portal, which incorporates the company’s design.
Planning has been started with close collaboration with Pronovix’ UX team. During the sessions, Pronovix helped Ansys to paint a clear picture of the planned sitemap, and user journeys.
The Ansys Developer Portal went live at the beginning of 2023, and within 5 months, it has already gained 1100 registered users.
The Ansys developer portal serves two functionalities to the business:
- giving external support and information to customers and Ansys partners, and
- enabling internal users to share information and resources.
‘The compelling purchasing decision for using Zero Gravity was the fact that you guys could respect that we wanted to have public and private content side-by-side. We are export controlled. We do talk about stuff that we can’t share, but we don’t want to have physically separate homes for that.’ - Chris Harrold, Developer Experience Program Director, Product Manager at Ansys.
As Ansys has both internal and external users, they use vocabulary-based access control. This method allows the Site administrators to restrict access permissions on a per page and per user level. Additional access vocabulary terms can be added later by Ansys, which gives them unrivaled flexibility to govern content access as needed.
User roles - in this implementation, as vocabulary terms - are assigned automatically during the SSO process. It’s also possible to assign registered users to different access groups individually. Also, a Site administrator can change access restrictions on each page on the fly if necessary.
Coherent Developer Documentation with Custom Importers
Before launching the developer portal, Ansys had to battle with having too many silos. These silos were created in part because Ansys has been growing by acquisition: more documentation was added with each new business unit. Pronovix helped them to build custom importers, which makes it easier to import dozens of already existing documentation packages.
With the Zero Gravity developer portal, it is possible to migrate already existing documentation from GitHub (currently supported input types are JSON, MarkDown or Doxygen-generated HTML).
Ansys’ teams prepare documentation packages through their already defined processes and most importantly, using the tools they already know. They then only have to change the way they output the docs, by flattening, file transformation, and packaging into a zip file. The system imports and sorts the content by the imported package, editors don’t have to change anything individually. This way, the documentation can be consistent and unified with a matching look and feel across disparate tools and product lines. It also helps to highlight where doc standards are missing and need improvement over having individual processes and publishing.
The consolidated documentation also provides SEO benefits, as the externally available content will be indexed by Google and emerging generative AI platforms. This supports discoverability (how users know about a documentation package and where it exists) and findability (the user experience finding the information they seek). Furthermore, it ensures consistent branding and styling, provides access control, and can capture intent signals for marketing.
What is on the Ansys Developer Portal?
Unlike many developer portals, Ansys’ site does not have many API reference pages at the moment, because they are still busy with building out comprehensive product APIs. Currently, API Reference pages on Ansys’ developer portal are available for three initial REST APIs. As that library of APIs grows, Ansys will be able to add to the portal easily because it is possible to upload API reference files in .yaml, .yml, and .json.
The current focus of the developer portal is providing use cases and documentation for their growing collection of client libraries. These libraries are in a variety of languages and offer client-side tools for building complex simulation workflows. This required a deeper level of customization and support from Pronovix and the ability to adjust the documentation model in Zero Gravity to support libraries instead of the traditional APIs found on most portals. This was a major decision factor in choosing Zero Gravity for Ansys.
On the developer portal, the Knowledge Base lists several articles, ebooks, guides, and webinars. All of these elements contribute to Ansys’ business strategy.
Guides: helps the user on their programming journey.
Articles: tips, tricks, cheat sheets for the users.
E-books: downloadable content.
With the help of the developer portal’s CMS, time-sensitive content can be scheduled to be published and/or unpublished at a desired date and time. This gives the Ansys team flexibility to author content when it is convenient for them and then publish as required by circumstances. An example would be their annual presence at the PyCon conference and upcoming LevelUp event.
Ansys relies on a best-of-breed third-party forum called Vanilla. The forum has three main categories: Product Questions, General Language Questions, and Announcements. These three make it possible to communicate both internally and externally, and a discussion can emerge. In addition, like the Portal, the forum allows private, Ansys-only conversations to be hosted on the same platform as the public conversations. This rapidly accelerates the ability to promote information to the public from those internal conversation sources. Just like Zero Gravity, this was a major factor in choosing a platform for the forums.
The integration between the developer portal and the forum is achieved in two ways: SSO (makes it easier for the user) and matching headers (for brand and user experience continuity).
Building a community requires constant feedback, that is why the forum has an important role adjacent to the developer portal. Users can also contribute to make Ansys’ software better.
Ansys desired to incorporate feedback mechanisms into their developer portal. In addition to advocating for developer portals, Pronovix aims to facilitate others’ success by acting as a partner and advisor: they wanted to avoid imposing a solution on Ansys that might not align with their needs. Following a comprehensive evaluation, Pronovix recommended that their partner utilize Hotjar. Acting on this suggestion, Ansys proceeded to enlist Hotjar’s services to gather additional user feedback.
After providing a rating, one can explain their experience via written feedback through Hotjar. This way, Ansys can discover their users’ needs and, based on that, make adjustments if necessary. Hotjar can also be further configured to run separate feedback widgets on different site sections, giving the Ansys team flexibility to respond to newly emerging requirements.
The Ansys developer portal also has the capability to build and configure forms on the portal itself, and display them in various parts of the site. The Ansys team can modify this text, and specify what types of data is collected in the agreement. Submitted form data can be downloaded in various formats and fed into miscellaneous compliance monitoring systems.
If you seek specialized assistance with your API strategy or with your developer portal, talk with us to learn more about Zero Gravity developer portals and how they can accelerate and simplify your work.
According to Chris Harrold, having only one developer portal which caters both internal and external users can create gravity towards the portal. If they focus on that portal, they can provide high-quality content, which is a key element of developer experience. And slowly, it can become a self-generating system.
For the future, Pronovix will build importers for more package types. Moreover, Ansys has many plans such as building out access control further, creating their own GitHub-fed Wiki where they can give editorial flexibility to their users, and providing more content. They are also building out their cloud sandbox which will let developers experiment with the Ansys tools directly as a major step in the developer journey.
More immediately, a comprehensive search solution across the developer portal and the user forum is high on the wishlist. On Pronovix’ advice, Ansys is going to use SearchStax Studio to index both systems and expose relevant content regardless of source. SearchStax Studio allows the Ansys team to configure many search parameters themselves, react swiftly to emerging user needs, and simultaneously rely confidently on a feature-rich and cutting-edge search service.
The continuous partnership between Pronovix and Ansys will facilitate answering their changing and growing needs. The underlying highly flexible developer portal framework can easily expand and adjust to those needs.
Developer Success podcast with Chris Harrold (Developer Experience Program Director, Product Manager at Ansys).
'The compelling purchasing decision for using Zero Gravity was the fact that you guys could respect that we wanted to have public and private content side-by-side. We are export controlled. We do talk about stuff that we can’t share, but we don’t want to have physically separate homes for that.'