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    Xilef
  Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:02 pm
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Staff

Big Dumb Guy

Location: UK
I have a number of suggestions with improving the flow, layout and consistency of the forum, it will take some work to implement the changes, but I will give my reasoning behind each one.

Portal Page
I'd remove all the elements highlighted in red in the image below and expand the top navigation bar vertically so the buttons are bigger and easier to click.
I'd expand and inflate the mini forum directory on the left of the portal, and remove all search boxes, leaving just the single advanced search button that never changes location.
For the posts shown on the portal, I'd get rid of any user-generated content and only show site officials such as announcements or summaries of current site business and events (Maybe in the form of an e-zine).
Content Hidden


Forum Main Page
I used Chrome's inspect ability to change a few elements around.

First of all, I'd remove the "Welcome" bar at the top, it's huge and is just full of links that don't need to be there, the forum itself should be simple to navigate, needing links to specific locations just shows it's not easy to navigate.
I would also remove the red colour theme and make it a calm blue so the forum seems overall softer on the eyes (Make the default theme aqua, it's the theme I use and it's less of an eye strain).
I'd also reduce the length of the categories descriptions, so completed games would say "A collection of finished games" or Game Design and Development would say "Discussions of the development process in general"
Content Hidden

I would change the forum categories to:
Site Officials
  • Announcements
  • Introductions & Farewells
  • Feedback
  • IRC Chat Room <- This is the only time a second link to the IRC appears on the same page
Game Development
  • Projects in Development
  • ...Recruitment
  • Completed Projects <- No new threads can be made here, projects in development must be moved to this forum by staff
  • Resources <- Threads are tagged music, graphics
  • ...Resources Requests
  • Coding <- All RGSS scripts in here too
  • ...Code Requests
  • ...Code Support
  • Game Engines <- Discuss engines
  • ...Engine Support <- Support with RPG Maker, Construct 2, GameMaker, and Unity
  • Game Development Discussion <- Discuss the development process and developers
  • ...Story and Design Support <- Post your plots and design docs for critique
The Other Hand
  • General Discussion
  • ...Rec Room <- This is where post pictures of yourself should go and other spammy threads
  • Video Games and Technology <- Discuss/get support for games, software and hardware
  • Other Entertainment
Private Forums
  • A load of forums for specific development groups to utilise, must donate to gain a private forum

Creating a new thread
There's two things I'd change, move the preview of the post to under the editing section and reduce the number of Topic Icons, there are too many that are rarely use/can be combined.
I'd have these:
  • Character Sets
  • Tile/Chip Sets
  • Windowskins/UI/Icons <- For cursors, windowskins, icons, etc
  • Graphics/Facesets <- Such as title screens
  • 3D Models
  • Music/Sounds Effects
  • RGSS Script
  • GML
  • JS/HTML5
  • Native Languages <- C/C++, .NET, XNA
  • Tutorials
  • RPG Maker
  • Contruct2
  • GameMaker
  • Unity
  • Game Engine <- Used when discussing other engines

Unify the forum's systems
I would remove the arcade, remove the resource HUB and remove the Game Engine downloads (Why is it called GameMaker Downloads?), the arcade can be reduced into the Completed Games category, the Game Engine downloads can all be in the Game Engine section and the resources in their own dedicated section.

Tiny Changes
I'd change this: (based on users active over the past 120 minutes) to 15 minutes and also have a list of usernames in the IRC chat room (Can be done in PHP) and I'd remove the affiliates and leave them visible on the portal and allow donators to get their buttons there.
I'd also remove the birthdays section and change those icons to be consistent with the forum theme.
Finally, I'd remove all forum themes and leave just a default one (Like aqua), so everyone is under one banner of the forum, it would make maintenance much easier too.

EDIT: I'd also put this in the logo rotation and remove the one about the photoshop trial running out as it blurghs up the consistency, although it is the only one of them that made me laugh out loud.


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    Amy
  Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:25 pm
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Staff

Big Dumb Guy
Hi! Thanks for taking the time. I am going to try and be constructive with my responses.

Quote:
I'd remove all the elements highlighted in red in the image below and expand the top navigation bar vertically so the buttons are bigger and easier to click.
I'd expand and inflate the mini forum directory on the left of the portal, and remove all search boxes, leaving just the single advanced search button that never changes location.


Why? The search box does not take up much space, is in the logical go-to place for a website (as demonstrated when we had a twitter box there instead and people kept searching in it accidentally).

I agree with the smaller in-portal search box however.

Quote:
For the posts shown on the portal, I'd get rid of any user-generated content and only show site officials such as announcements or summaries of current site business and events (Maybe in the form of an e-zine).


The intention is to show that it is the users that make the site, and not the staff. We've shown with the TWODO and other things that the staff just can't commit to that kind of content over and over and, well, we have amazing users doing it already, and it's nice to show that off.

Quote:
First of all, I'd remove the "Welcome" bar at the top, it's huge and is just full of links that don't need to be there, the forum itself should be simple to navigate, needing links to specific locations just shows it's not easy to navigate.


A good amount of users navigate the site solely using these links so they are vital to be kept. They could be displayed differently maybe, but we need them.

Quote:
I'd also reduce the length of the categories descriptions, so completed games would say "A collection of finished games" or Game Design and Development would say "Discussions of the development process in general"


I like this idea, or, showing the description only when hovered over.

There is a button at the bottom of the page to remove category descriptions for seasoned users.

Quote:
I would remove the arcade, remove the resource HUB and remove the Game Engine downloads (Why is it called GameMaker Downloads?), the arcade can be reduced into the Completed Games category, the Game Engine downloads can all be in the Game Engine section and the resources in their own dedicated section.


Why? I see no value in their removal and they are already integrated into the site since they use the same old forum system quite nicely. They exist to make it easier to navigate. Putting them in other forums or whatnot would make it difficult to navigate the site. They don't harm anything by being there, but their removal would represent a loss, so I don't see any reason why they shouldn't stay.

Quote:
I'd change this: (based on users active over the past 120 minutes) to 15 minutes and also have a list of usernames in the IRC chat room (Can be done in PHP) and I'd remove the affiliates and leave them visible on the portal and allow donators to get their buttons there.


Makes sense, except for removing the affiliates.

Quote:
I'd also remove the birthdays section


Again, it's used by a lot of our members and doesn't really cause harm being there.

Quote:
Finally, I'd remove all forum themes and leave just a default one (Like aqua), so everyone is under one banner of the forum, it would make maintenance much easier too.


It would make maintenance easier but for the fact they're all the same theme anyway, just different colours. Again, I see no value in their removal (but perhaps we should have better ones when we do the redesign).


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    Xilef
  Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:58 pm
User avatar
Staff

Big Dumb Guy

Location: UK
My reasoning behind the removal of features is because of reducing the amount of visual noise on the site page, the less there is for the eyes to scan the quicker someone finds something, so removing the block of links at the top reduces what there is to see and highlights the forum itself as the directory of navigation.

With the arcade and resource places, they aren't used and already part-exist in the forum itself, so it's like having two places for the same function and that function is being spread thinly across them.

With the search function, what I meant was reduce the number of search buttons and boxes, there's like 3-4 search boxes and buttons on one page, just one at the top of the forum should be enough, perhaps replace the Advanced Search in the top links with a search box and an advanced button next to it?

Removing the affiliates at the bottom is to reduce the clutter there, perhaps they should be brought up to the top of the pages under the nav bar? I feel it's an under-used feature and could be a great opportunity to get people advertising their games through the function and even a one-time donation to the site for their button to appear in that space.


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    Brewmeister
  Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:40 pm
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lv 99 Balance Wizard

Location: 42.655713 N 82.619282 W
Hey, nice in depth analysis. It's good to have perspective from someone 'viewing it from the outside'. (as it were)

We definitely need more continuity between the home page & forum. Problem is: the home page was an 'add-on', and many of the typical sub-pages that would be separate sections on a typical website are actually just forums with modified layouts/themes. Problem 2 is/was: the amount of time & resources the staff has available. We did have higher expectations, but we ended up compromising on a solution we could implement.

I HIGHLY agree with fewer post tags (Topic Icons). The 'retarded' ones need to go. We also need the ability to offer different tags based on forum. i.e. the Resources forum needs resource type tags (char.set, tileset, gameover, etc...), whereas the scripting forum needs a completely different set (system tools, menu sys., battle sys., etc...)
Then, the biggy that we don't have: the ability to search and filter based on the tags.
This also addresses condensing some of the forums. i.e. one "Coding" or "Resources" forum would only work if users could filter only the "XP" threads, et.al.

On Themes, this is also a result of multiple development by many people. It really does need to be cleaned up. It's just that it's a pretty big job. It's on the "List" to-do.
Only about 3 of the themes are widely used. And these could be condensed into a single "Style", using one template with separate image sets & stylesheets.

We'll definitely be discussing these things, and including your ideas in the discussion.

Thanks for your input.

Be Well

_________________
"Of course that's just my opinion. I could be wrong!"


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