An Online Thesaurus Solution for a North-American Company

Challenge 

A North-American provider of online training aids was looking to develop a full-blown, feature-rich online thesaurus solution to provide comprehensive linguistic support for multiple languages.

Envion was selected by the client as result of a rigorous selection process thanks to the previous relevant experience we had. The client’s online thesaurus solution is geared toward both adults and children, and provides a number of advanced functional capabilities. The concept  of the solution is to explain
the meaning of the more complicated entries with the help of simple words that are already known to the user. There are two main versions of the solution:
a Web-based application, and a desktop application.

The search functionality of the application provides multiple search options that include making a search based on multiple predefined criteria, or word part, displaying lists of the more frequently used words by letter, and searching the thesaurus in its entirety using multiple search options, including the various possible word forms and text strings. It is also possible to search some specific part of the provided vocabulary  in accordance with the user’s level of language command (beginners, intermediary, advanced). All entries are accompanied with an audio prompt. The online thesaurus comprises three separate parts: Comprehensive, Children’s, and Illustrated.

The Illustrated version displays pictures of objects and phenomenon associated with the meaning of an entry. This section of the solution also includes 4 games that can be played by both adults and children in order to better memorize the meaning of a word.The desktop version of the application is integrated with Windows, and it allows displaying the meaning of a word when it is hovered over in Windows.

Solution

The project has been ongoing for over a decade now, and it has been burdened with major challenges throughout the implementation effort. The project requirements have been modified frequently and significantly to include both new functional capabilities, and entire new versions of the system. Initially, 
we were requested to create a Web-based version of the software. To implement this part of the project, Envion put together a highly qualified team consisting 
of 3 PHP and Perl software developers. However, later on the client decided to develop a desktop version of the application, integrated with Windows.

To implement this sub-project, the Envion team developed a launching program and an integration component. Additionally, to provide storage
for the entries and media, we also created two custom compact formats. Implementing the media storage format was instrumental in achieving
an acceptable program launching time. After the desktop version had been delivered to the client, they requested E. to expand the Web-based version
by adding more advanced functionality, including a dictionary-editing capability. The existing structure of the system database did not allow adding
the requested functionality.

Our project team had to design and implement another DB structure that made it possible to easily and flexibly create an unlimited number of editing interfaces (sets of settings) for different purposes. The new set of requirements also included implementing a secure and scalable user registration system, and paid subscription. In order to provide transactional support for the latter, the system’s integration with PayPal was performed.

As our North-American client marketed the solution not only to end users, but to other vendors as well, the Envion project team had to customize it multiple times to support diverse vendor-specific requirements. For example, we developed a special format that allowed one of our client’s customers to use thesaurus data in their C++-based desktop applications under Windows and Mac OS X. In another instance, a customer of our client’s requested that we enable them
to use illustrated topics from the thesaurus to accompany several lists of their own entries, each containing 12 000 words. The illustrated topics were
to be provided as printable PDF files. In solving the task, E’s developers used PHP and JavaScript (for implementing topic generation), and an Open Source library (for converting HTML to PDF). The latest stage of the project commenced 2.5 years ago, when the client requested us to develop an illustrated, Flash-based version of the application. We created one more cherry-picked project team comprised of two Flash developers, a designer, and a PM.

Exceedingly satisfied with the results delivered by both our project teams, the client has recently requested Envion to develop a HTML- and CSS-based version of the solution the functionality of which will be similar to that of its previous versions.Currently, the Envion project team is engaged in creating educational games for the HTML version of the application. They are also implementing teacher-learner classroom interaction-related functionality for the Web-based version of the system.

Technology Solution

The Envion project team used the following technologies in creating the main version of the application:

  • PHP
  • MySQL
  • Javascript
  • Ajax
  • HTML + CSS

The following technologies were used by the project team to create the desktop version of the application:

  • C++
  • MFC, COM, VBA, InstallShield (for Windows)

For the illustrated version of the software, the Envion project team used the following technologies:

  • Flash
  • Action Script 3
  • Green Sock
  • HTML5 + CSS3
  • AngularJS

Result

Implementing the online thesaurus project has allowed the client to successfully enter the online linguistic services market with a highly competitive product that has been easy to both promote and commercialize through paid subscription. They have also been able to attract several B2B customers. 

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