Forum Design feedback time

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    Posted: 14 September 2012 09:32 AM

    Greetings, all

    It’s been a little over a week since the new design went live. As we indicated, we intentionally turned a bit of a blind eye to feedback, initially, focusing only on true bugs and ignoring a lot of what might have simply been change resistance. We knew there would be plenty of both the former and the latter, and we needed to get the former fixed while letting the latter settle in.

    Now that both have been dealt with, it’s time to look for the real feedback. What I mean is—you’ve had a little over a week to get used to things here, and now I do want to hear your suggestions. Speak freely, of course, but I do ask that you be as constructive as possible (i.e. ranting is fine, but please try to have specific, actionable suggestions peppered in there somewhere, eh?).

    Before we move on I do want to say this: we reached out to several of our more active members here for feedback long before this design went live, and unfortunately we got very little in return in the way of feedback. I know you’re busy, and that’s OK (we’ll let you remain nameless). But we had to go with what we had… and our Prime Directive for this design (for both the site *and* for the forums) was to make things cleaner and simpler. I share that because it remains our Prime Directive, and we’re going to be very judicious when it comes to adding things in. Still, our goal is also for this to be an enjoyable and functional forum for you, and that’s what this thread is about.

    We’ll let this thread percolate for a few days or possibly even a week, and then we’ll compile things, make a list, and get to work on tweaking things for you all.

    Right out of the gate, there are a couple of things I want to address about the thread view pages (i.e. those pages with posts on them… like this one):

    1) Adding navigation at the top. Yup, we agree, this should be there now that we’re using it, too.

    2) The width—it’s funny. I read some threads that say, “you need to make the left sidebar narrower so there’s more room for the post text. I liked it the old way better.” What’s funny about this is that we removed the entire right sidebar (and the ads contained therein) from the thread view so that the post text is a LOT wider. We could make it wider still, but based on the comments I’m not sure that’s what you want.

    I’m looking forward to this discussion. Let’s go!

    [ Edited: 20 June 2014 09:41 AM by Intruder ]


    -Dave Hamilton / The Mac Observer / Mac Geek Gab / Dave on Twitter
    When you find a big kettle of crazy, it’s best not to stir it.

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    Posted: 14 September 2012 10:14 AM #1

    Hi Dave,

    I’ll number my suggestions for easier reference.

    1. Multiple themes might be one way.    I’m constantly surprised by how many people like certain colors. 

    2.  Report and Ignore:  For linky cleanup, perhaps the Ignore and Report can be hidden in a profile.  If spam is under control and common courtesy remains high, those links become less relevant.

    3. (aside):  presumably there are engine issues which affect certain functionality which is out of my ability to comment effectively

    4. Link for Last Post:  In the main list of forum threads, we need to have a link to LAST POST.    Even in short threads, I like to cut to the chase. 

    5.  Thread appearance:  I’m currently at a loss as to how to explain / compare old and new threads.  I just like the old style.  Perhaps, I can dig up a screenshot of old style.

    6. Sustained login issues —presumably, cookies, or a database issue ?

    (more news later—car needs sudden repair of fuel line)

    [ Edited: 14 September 2012 10:17 AM by Treehouse ]      
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    Posted: 14 September 2012 10:23 AM #2

    Hi Dave,

    just try to use it from a iPhone, preferably over a slow line: do some reading and posting.
    You will find for yourself a huge bag of issues which must be resolved to make it again usable on a iPhone.

  • Posted: 14 September 2012 12:05 PM #3

    The largest issue of all is the huge amount of extra white space everywhere.  Both horizontal and vertical, but especially vertical, the white space MUST be reduced significantly.

  • Posted: 14 September 2012 12:05 PM #4

    1. Make the forums work on the iPhone.  The experience on the iPhone is just plain brutal.  Go see for yourself

    2. Fix the logout issue

    3. Stop using up so much white space on short posts

    4. Make ignore work again

    5. Fix the navigation issues that everyone else has mentioned.

    6. Return the functionality that allowed users to see who made the most recent posts on a thread

    7. Make the thread view more space efficient.  Users are forced to do way too much scrolling now.

    8. Make the post preview function work again.  It too is broken.

    9. Make private messages more accessible.

    You guys seem intent on making this change, but if it was up to me I would scrap this entire redesign, return to the old format, and go back to the drawing board.  Forum design is well established now.  I just do not understand the rationale for heading off in a direction that appears unique to this site.  “Great artists steal”.  There are countless examples out there of how to do forums properly.  All the issues your users have would go away if you just did what other sites are doing.

    [ Edited: 14 September 2012 12:15 PM by Lstream ]      
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    Posted: 14 September 2012 12:21 PM #5

    1. Lack of differentiation between read/unread/stickied threads.
    2. Lack of who posted last in a thread.
    3. I’d like to see more threads on a page.

  • Posted: 14 September 2012 03:16 PM #6

    I hate being logged out so often. Even if I check the “Keep me logged in” box I get logged out every time I visit, which is getting much less frequent.

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    Posted: 14 September 2012 07:44 PM #7

    Redo quoted text as I described in the other thread, and make the persistent search bar collapsible.  Or get rid of it completely - personally I don’t think it’s useful enough to warrant persistence.  I might understand if it had navigation links, but even then, I still hate the way it messes up Page Up/Down scrolling.

    Report/Ignore/#whatever could be done as icons instead (well, the first two can), and then you can put them all on one line, reducing the minimum amount of vertical space a post uses.  Or hey, put some of those stars and things in all that extra space you have to the right of the avatar.

    I get that you guys are going for a specific look, but I agree with others, the amount of whitespace is a little excessive.  This is a website, not a business card.  Use an appropriate amount of whitespace to increase readability, no more, no less.  You might also consider increasing the font size a bit.

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    Posted: 14 September 2012 10:14 PM #8

    Part repost, part new stuff:  (I still hate the gray text entry background btw):

    The Blue Bar of Doom™:  The persistent blue bar really gets in the way when posting on iOS.  Try to zoom in when typing, or even start a Fast Reply, and you’ll see what I mean.  By which I mean you can’t see the first line of the text you’re typing because the Blue Bar covers it, until you zoom back out or something.  It also doesn’t seem to work correctly.  You’ll tap ads when you intend to check your profile.  Extremely annoying.

    Profile PMs and stuff:  AWOL.  It shouldn’t be this hard to check PMs, or know you have them.

    New posts heads-up, like old times:  And before you get the idea that I mean, “make it the way it was”, well, this is the way it IS, kind of, in this very specific view:
    Funnily enough, it doesn’t catch all the new posts or active topics…

    Report and Ignore - completely broken.

    Monochrome:  It’s harder to tell when there’s a new post - impossible to tell who posted it (the Ignore list I’ll save for another time).  The old system was “hokey” with old-timey graphics, but effective.  Look, it doesn’t ALL have to be like the now-colorless world of Mail under Lion/Mountain Lion. 

    Width:  Well, you could make it the left side narrower and keep the right-side text the same width (net narrowing the page)  As I demonstrated in my username test from a week ago, the left-hand space only ever has use when someone has a ridiculously long user name.  And no one here does.  As for the right-side text indentation, just cut the distance by half to start and see what everyone thinks.  Btw, these tweaks would make a BIG difference on not-so-big screens like iPad and particularly iPhone.

    Navigation Redundancy:  Having forum navigation and page links at both the top and bottom was perfect last version.  If it could be retained, that’s be awesome.

    [ Edited: 14 September 2012 10:18 PM by Mav ]


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  • Posted: 15 September 2012 08:39 PM #9

    Dave Hamilton - 14 September 2012 10:04 AM

    Hey, all—I posted an update in the suggestions forum soliciting feedback from everyone who uses the TMO forums. I’d love to see and hear your thoughts there.

    I will say this: we do care, and we want the forums to work for you. We have no hidden agenda here to ruin your experience. wink

    That said, I believe it’s important to point out that this change was not a surprise to some of your more active brethren here on AFB. During the design process (and early in the forum design), we reached out to several AFB members. We showed them the alpha version and asked for comments. We got very little feedback and proceeded with what we had. Clearly I’m sure several of them now wish they’d paid a little more attention during that time. wink It’s fine… we’re here now, we’ve gotten over the requisite period of change resistance, and now it’s time to open up the suggestion box proper.

    I’ve explained some more in detail in the other post, so with that please head over to the official feedback thread and let’s have a discussion over there. I’m looking forward to it!

    Warm regards,

    Well, until the land mines are gone (see above) that launch video, I’m gone.  It’s bush league and you know it. 

    Edit:  I finally was able to see PMs advising me about Ad Block.  The point is, it shouldn’t be necessary.

    [ Edited: 16 September 2012 12:22 AM by ByeTMO ]      
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    Posted: 15 September 2012 08:59 PM #10

    -Not having auto sign is convenient and not having it is a bit of a pain.

    -Currently, the last time and date is posted on each thread but the author of the “last post” is useful too.

    -Putting the pages of a thread at the top and bottom of each page makes navigation much quicker and easier.



    Tim Cook: iPad is 91% of all tablet web traffic. I don’t know what these other tablets are doing.

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    Posted: 16 September 2012 09:43 PM #11

    As long as you are spending time to tweak and fix the forum, please consider putting the forum on a standardized platform using either vbulletin or phpbb.  Users will love you, visitors will skyrocket and TMO/AFB will be even more popular and successful.  Why try to reinvent the wheel?


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  • Posted: 16 September 2012 09:58 PM #12

    My apologies if this has already been pointed out, but when you quote a previous post, then preview it, the preview doesn’t actually show what it will look like.  It doesnt show the previous post in a box, which is what it happens if you go ahead and post it.  In other words the final result (quoted post in a box) is what I wanted, but it does not show properly in the preview.

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    Posted: 16 September 2012 10:04 PM #13

    Hi Rudyo,

    We actually used to be on phpBB up until the rollout of the previous design (several years ago). Expression Engine is one of the biggest publishing platforms on the Internet, and one of the benefits it offers is the ability to have the forums and article comments integrated. Your forum login works on articles and vice versa.

    This is in addition to the articles themselves being managed by the same engine.

    When we dropped phpBB for EE—again, several years ago—we decided at that time that the value of this integration outweighed the individual strengths of phpBB or any other forum engine.

    To emphasize, the previous site design, article comments, and forums were also on EE. The new design and engine is an upgrade to EE2 and not an effort to reinvent the wheel.

    As Dave has already stated, the new design represents an intentional effort towards simplicity, and some of the loudest complainers were invited to help us test the new design long before it was rolled.

    They offered no feedback then, but are complaining now. It’s somewhat fascinating to me.

    As Dave has also said, we are certainly willing to add features that make sense to add (in some cases this would mean restoring functionality) and to tweak the interface and design of the forums.

    I have my own list of changes that I want to see, but it won’t happen overnight and the process will be facilitated by people who engage with us, rather than bitch, whine, and demand. The latter just isn’t helpful, whereas your post, Rudyo, was IMNHO awesome.


    Editor - The Mac Observer

    Favorite (but less relevant than it used to be) Quote: Microsoft’s tyranny lies not in its success, but in the way it achieved and maintains that success.

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    Posted: 16 September 2012 10:09 PM #14

    qualitywte - 16 September 2012 09:58 PM

    My apologies if this has already been pointed out, but when you quote a previous post, then preview it, the preview doesn’t actually show what it will look like.  It doesnt show the previous post in a box, which is what it happens if you go ahead and post it.  In other words the final result (quoted post in a box) is what I wanted, but it does not show properly in the preview.

    Thanks, qualityte, I hadn’t noticed that as I tend to not preview my posts.  I added this to my list o things.

    I just tested it and see what you mean. I would guess that the style sheet isn’t being applied to the preview.


    Editor - The Mac Observer

    Favorite (but less relevant than it used to be) Quote: Microsoft’s tyranny lies not in its success, but in the way it achieved and maintains that success.

  • Posted: 17 September 2012 04:37 AM #15

    oh tried to edit my last post

    The following errors were encountered You are not authorized to perform this action

    please add that to your list of fixes