Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

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Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 09 Jul 2015, 21:38

Below these first couple paragraphs, you'll find an image of the proposed site redesign concept...And the name of the new home page is...

The Spot
This page is called "The Spot". It is designed to be the primary entry into the forums for a user, creating "the spot" to view all the information at a glance, sorting active threads to the top of the stack, with priority given to other users marked as "friends".

Comments, Questions, Suggestions
This design is open to comments, suggestions, and questions. Questions will be answered if able; comments and suggestions will be considered as the process iterates.

Image

Concept
The concept for the page is to function more like a social community while still existing as a forum, providing the user an easier experience for engaging in the community.

Problems Being Addressed
First issue This redesign attempts to address is an issue with the current version where a returning user visits and it seems as though the site is empty when nothing has been posted new since their last visit. This manner of presentation (showing only "new posts") ignores the 84,000+ posts that have been made on the site which simply aren't new.

Second issue This redesign also addresses an issue that didn't exist a decade ago when the original "My Spot" page was created, where the majority of users are visiting sites via a Mobile interface. Mobile visitors aren't prone to type long-form responses in comment or article form, and may sometimes feel compelled to avoid short/informationless posts. This design promotes the short response, with the option to move to a full editor experience for long-form writing.

Design Considerations
Reinventing the forum display concept is challenging in that there are many conversations involving many people, with varying degrees of conversational awareness (read: "different people left off at different places in the thread"). The challenge is similar to a shared email inbox maintaining state for individual users with access to the email conversations.

The approach with this design is to create a more fluid experience for the user, allowing as much interaction to take place without leaving the page as possible...while consolidating all the information available into only what needs to be displayed at the time.

tsnSpecialReport is only displayed when the user hasn't seen it before. Additional updates posted to it will be in the form of "unread posts" that show up in the My Spot section.

My Spot is a chronological ordering of the threads/topics posted in the forum. The viewing user will have the ability to alter their My Spot sort order, giving priority to other forum users the viewer marks as "friend". This listing of posts will be an infinite scroll experience, as the user traverses back through all accessible topics.

tsnForums will still be available to navigate to the full forum concept to view the topics in their natural state: categorical conversations.

Technical Challenges
Implementing this design will require a layer of technology that doesn't currently exist for the phpBB forum system: a template that turns the content into an API request so content can be built from the existing forum logic. This type of template will have to be created for the data to become available, in addition to the templating involved in the visual display. More details on this will be available at thepizzy.net as work proceeds.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 09 Jul 2015, 21:51

I'm actually quite excited for this...experiment, really. I've learned a lot already in the 7 months I've been with a digital media agency when it comes to websites, and building them for the modern web. I work with a lot of talented people, and have gotten to bounce some crazy ideas off other people who aren't afraid of crazy and it's been a great experience.

Building something like this will definitely take many months of work, but when it's done, it'll be satisfying to know that I'm no longer tied down to the phpbb forum experience - I'm turning it into the experience I want for the site instead.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Pam » 14 Jul 2015, 00:04

I like having just the threads or posts that I haven't read yet be what shows up on the MySpot page, with the most recently commented on threads at the top. But maybe that's just me.
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Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 14 Jul 2015, 08:03

If facebook did that, you'd never go back to the site. It's about engagement...when there is nothing right there for the user to engage in, they will not engage anywhere else.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 19 Jul 2015, 22:48

I've started working on this over the weekend, spending the days leading up to this weekend thinking about how it should be implemented.

I'm using this as an opportunity to learn how to do some things I should already know how to do, but have only learned enough to get by over the years.

A quick overview of the things I'm doing differently with this that I haven't done, or couldn't do, with other projects:
  • writing the code in a cloud-based VM
  • using the front-end framework we use at work to help create a truly responsive page
  • using some php standards for importing some of the code I've been using in other projects on thepizzy.net
One of the other things I'll be doing is creating what is essentially a new theme for phpbb - which was traditionally the hardest part of redesigning this site. This time, though, the new theme is going to be the easier part of things, since I'm creating one to return pieces of information instead of display a webpage.

The whole project is full of unknowns and new ideas for both myself, and the phpbb community. I'm not sure how long it will take, but when it's done, it'll open the door to things like mobile apps and other services. More technical information will be available on thepizzy.net as things solidify. The work this weekend was for setting up the github projects and making sure the imported code could be used, and the front-end framework could be compiled. The next focus will be testing whether the new theme can be created and accessed from outside the forums themselves, turning the forums into an API.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 01 Dec 2015, 07:50

I've taken the last few months to think about this redesign concept, and learn more about the creation of APIs and all the services needed to get this working. I have a blog post up on the tsnBlog about the expansion of this idea to include some of the existing social media sites.

The details on implementation are light in that post, but it's because they're fuzzy, time consuming, and potentially expensive to implement in my current understanding of them.

Since nothing has been posted on this site in nearly 6 months until now, I'm viewing this more as a learning experience than a hope for the revival of this site. Maybe it'll bring the components needed to make this site flourish again - maybe it'll just be a labor of education. There's a lot about this site and its code-base I want to change, but it's a large undertaking for one person to do.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 14 Jul 2017, 16:32

I'm glad I didn't put a lot of time into this design... seeing as how the site didn't really take off during the relaunch, and given that I had no idea what I was really doing as a designer.

I will say though that I am at least getting to do something along these lines with my current job (having switched back to software development from websites). Here's the Style Guide I made with some of the mockups https://sketch.cloud/s/M3p7
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Punix-GT » 10 Aug 2017, 01:12

Crazy it's been 2 years since the last post. I didn't even realize it's been that long ago. Pretty much just memories now
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Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 01 Sep 2017, 19:32

Yeah, they are. I sometimes think I want to get back into the social network game, but then I realize it's all outdated stuff - the dominant social networks have been online for a decade now, and the younger kids (which I can't/won't keep up with) are turning to direct, ethereal messaging. Everything is mobile and self-centered, gameified and frivolous. The only good thing that came out of redesigning the site this final time was moving everything we talked about behind a permission wall, and visible only to those who joined before a certain date.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 15 Jan 2018, 13:13

Looking at this site's current design today, it's obvious to me how much of my 2012-2014 job is present in the style, as I work through the code at that job now that I rejoined it in 2017.

There is a mixture of what we were doing at the time in our product, and what I wanted to copy from the Material Design (but apparently failed) and then substituted what I didn't know how to do with jQuery UI elements (all the light-blue buttons and dropdowns).

Now, I have a much better understanding of how all this stuff works (though still no expert on some aspects), and I would redesign it all again - but what's the point?

I doubt that Forums will ever return to the default, especially this style of Forum that was replaced with Social Media - even as the death-throws of Facebook are around the corner.

It would be the only hope I still have for this place: that Facebook either goes back to its roots of focusing on what friends are doing/saying instead of what business/pages/friends are sharing/posting...or that Facebook just gets too spammy with the fake news stories being shared without being read or vetted.

Then maybe we'll lose the website of our dreams... but...

[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 29 Nov 2018, 09:30

It appears that facebook is indeed declining. And I know I've toyed around with the idea of revamping this latest iteration several times, and apparently it's always at this time of year, every year.

This year I will probably actually look into it, since I probably need to do updates to the phpBB backend, and I've learned even more since last December.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 30 Dec 2019, 12:56

I guess it's time for the yearly "I should redesign the site" consideration, and it apparently comes around every December, for the past 15 years, since I first had to redesign the site after being forcibly removed from ETBU back at the end of 2002... thus spawning the first break away from etubers.com to convert it to the-spot.net.

This time around, however, I know more than I've ever known (since that's how knowledge works) and there are more resources available to me than have ever been. I have been working on designing this same project at work since I started back here in 2017, and even in those intervening 3 years since beginning, I have learned quite a lot.

My intention this time is to go through this site again, and convert it all to using a Material Web Component library from Google's Material Design standards. I am using a custom-built version of these components for my project at work, but that is because I need them to do a specific thing, in specific ways. Here, however, the only requirements are that I can manage to keep up with the updates to the forum software and implement their changes as they release fixes...that will be the tricky part if I diverge as far as I intend to from their default theme.

The theme of this site has always been closely related to the prosilver theme, with some tweaks to the CSS, until tsn8, when it was built as a new theme, and using their Plugin functionality to move everything that makes it "tsn" into a plugin that anyone could install.

I have to say, I'm not looking forward to the chaos that is the PHP code of phpBB, but I am looking forward to writing a better version of this front-end theme that doesn't rely on the bare-minimum understanding of some of the stuff I picked up at Lifeblue, and the use of jQuery UI components just dropped into place without any effort.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: Site Redesign Concept - "The Spot"

Postby Neo » 02 Jan 2020, 19:28

Progress is being made, and code is being written. I'm also doing some incremental updates to the current tsn8 templates, since upgrading to phpBB 3.2.8 brought with it some template changes that I could not successfully reconcile with the custom work I did for tsn8...so some things are broken in the custom templates.

Additionally, I have removed all the templates where custom work was not required, and am falling back to the default proSilver theme in order to minimize the amount of work that has custom effort vs the work that is standard template conversion.

I am hopeful that what I come up with will make for a more pleasant forum experience, and then I'll put in a more concerted and custom effort to bring back people from the members list, if they still exist in the world...as I hope they all do.

To see the first bits of progress, you can go to tsn/my-spot (this will later change to ./index)
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

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