This forum’s design – how to improve?

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  • This topic has 37 replies, 9 voices, and was last updated 1 week, 4 days ago by Vivian Unger.
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  • #25923
    Maxwell Anderson
      • New Member
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      • Posts: 10

    Glad to see a forum launched!

    However, IMHO the whole point of a forum is in its structure, which should assist the participants. The forum has to be built by someone who has knowledge of how people communicate within the group, who integrates that into building the forum structure.

    This forum is apparently set up using the facilities of WordPress.org, which means just about any features should be possible.

    At the moment, it seems to be set up as the equivalent of a simple blog. That is, it has a list of topics in date order (except for the rules pinned to the top). This is, of course, entirely unsatisfactory.

    This is not my area; I suggest there are others more knowledgeable, such as George Hill.

    For now, what I would suggest it needs are:

    – A set of major categories within which people put their new topics

    – An email alert system with the usual options (immediate, daily, weekly, responses to particular posts)

    – Real names of participants (and preferably profiles with email addresses) rather than fake usernames

    – compact one-line entries in the table of contents rather than spaced-out two-line entries

    #25947
    Maxwell Anderson
      • New Member
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      • Posts: 10

    A fifth thing needed (unless it’s already somehow available) is
    – ability to start a sub-topic (sub-thread) within a topic (thread)

    – and possibly the ability to edit, delete, or rename posts, or move posts to a different position in the topic tree

    #25950
    George
    • British Columbia
      • Moderator
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 46

    So I have been given some access to try and improve things. I am not sure how much I will be able to do but I will keep everyone posted here if I am successful with anything.

    As for Max’s points:

    1. I am working to see if I can set up. Tree structure, if people have suggestions for what this tree structure should look like I would really appreciate the help.

    2. I’m not sure if this is possible but I will take a look. Have people tried the get email reply’s option and is it working for them and is it working?

    3. In order to do this we need to protect the forum for privacy reasons and I do hope to do this. I would like us to have like a Yellow Pages of members only available to members. I will work on this and keep everyone posted.

    4. This might be possible but I don’t know how to do it yet. I’ll give it a shot.

    5. This is not possible I think with bbpress, the forum software we are using. Also I don’t think I support it as it split a thread into multiple conversations rather than focusing on one conversation at a time. If something is substantially different a new topic should be made.

    6. Edit and delete I agree. But the other stuff should be for moderators only (and it is available to us). If you want something done for now just let me know and I can do it.

    There are a few things that bother me currently:

    7. On mobile the text field width is only 90%visable. Which is annoying.

    8. The new post editor is very code heavy and a visual HTML editor would be nice. Also allowing all members to post in full HTML should be allowed but right now it’s not.

    9. The top banner of the site stay over top over everything when scrolling down on desktop which is annoying and hides 20% of the forum.

    10. It would be nice to have a topic be bolded black when there is a new reply.

    11. General aesthetic is very poor and could use improvement.

    Does anyone else have suggestions? Let’s keep going with the numbering so we can refer to specific upgrades as we implement them or talk about them.

    #25953
    George
    • British Columbia
      • Moderator
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 46

    12. I would like to be able to lock topics without it greying out the topic.

    13. Each time a post is edited it logs it which is annoying. I wish it would just say last edited at this time.

    #25966
    Maxwell Anderson
      • New Member
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      • Posts: 10

    Regarding #1 and #5, I see “you can scale bbPress up to hundreds of thousands of topics and replies”.
    The key is, while bbPress doesn’t allow ordinary users to create the tree structure, it allows moderators to arrange some structure.
    It does this by allowing the moderators to create different big subject areas called “forums” (which can be grouped into ‘categories’), each “forum” then having original posts called “topics” in newest-first date order, and then each topic receives “replies”. (You can see a reflection of this bbPress usage of the word ‘forum’ in the fairvote.ca URL: note the “s”: https://www.fairvote.ca/forums/…)

    For examples of bbPress,

    https://support.dev4press.com/forums/ uses 13 ‘forums’ arranged in 3 groups or categories, which in total encompass 240 topics and 751 replies.

    https://wordpress.org/support/forums/ divides their WordPress support into 9 forums, which together have a huge number of topics and replies.

    https://thebloodsugardiet.com/forums/ uses 9 forums to sub-divide their subject matter.

    Regarding #2, I haven’t been able to find email alert system options (other than when posting or replying, when there’s a checkbox for “Notify me of follow-up replies via email.” Is it possible that such options just haven’t been turned on yet?

    By the way, is “George” here George Hill?

    As to the request for suggestions for #1, the structure, perhaps a list of 10 forums like this would suffice for this year:
    Promoting PR – Events
    Promoting PR – Social Media
    Promoting PR – Videos
    Promoting PR – Writers, Op Eds etc.
    2019 Canada Election
    Evaluating PR systems – MMP
    Evaluating PR systems – Local PR
    Evaluating PR systems – Overseas
    Photos, Graphs, Memes
    Fundraising

    Other people might have different ideas for how to break the subject up.

    #25967
    Maxwell Anderson
      • New Member
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      • Posts: 10

    This shows the usage of ‘categories’ (i.e. forums that don’t have topics, just sub-forums): https://bbpress.org/forums/topic/how-to-create-categories-to-structure/ (IF I understand correctly.)

    #25974
    George
    • British Columbia
      • Moderator
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 46

    That’s me!

    5. I meant that I do not think threaded replies within a topic are possible. (kind of like facebook where can have replies to the the topic and replies to the replies – that is two level threading, whereas bbpress I believe only supports one level threading).

    2. I need to do more digging – I will let you know what I will find.

    1. That almost seems like too much splitting of hairs for how many forum users we have right now. I would really like the forum to foster active communication and discussion on topics rather than having thousands of topics with only 2 responses since this makes the forum look like people are not engaging with each other and will not feel comfortable chiming in. This requires a really good structure of not only forums, but also of topics.

    #26016
    LiamM32
      • Visitor
      • Posts: 3

    This forum desperately needs a preview option. I don’t recall ever seeing a forum without one (aside from text-only chatrooms). But when it’s possible to post pictures, we need to see how they will appear before posting them for others.
    This is especially a problem when we can’t edit our post afterwards.

    #27301
    Chealer
      • New Member
      • ★★
      • Posts: 12

    Hi Maxwell,
    Forums are communication tools. Structure is not the point of forums, but it can be a tool to make it more relevant.

    It can be difficult to structure a forum from the start. It’s easier to create forums as topic categories become evident, and as volume justifies categorizing. For example, at this point, there could be:

    1. An Infrastructure forum, to discuss the forum, the website and other tools to assist contributors
    2. A Policy forum, to discuss the stances FVC should take
    3. A French forum, to discuss translations to French and for French-speaking contributors who can’t write English
    4. An English – General forum, for the rest

    Regarding “email alert system”, see the Subscribe link at the top.

    Regarding usernames, these are not fake. These are reliably unique names chosen by users. Real names do not offer uniqueness.

    The ability to edit posts is already present.

    As for compact “tables of contents” and the ability to delete or move posts, these are basic features. A good forum engine should allow that. I do not know bbPress, but the only free software engine which is not too bad is phpBB. vBulletin is another option.

    #27450
    George
    • British Columbia
      • Moderator
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 46

    I really like the structure suggested by Chealer. And it is something I will definitely consider when I next do a round of forum improvements.

    #27613
    Chealer
      • New Member
      • ★★
      • Posts: 12

    I must correct myself – there is another free software forum engine which may not be too bad – Discourse: https://www.discourse.org/
    I haven’t used it enough to judge its quality, but I know it received much more work than phpBB in recent years.

    #31542
    Vivian Unger
      • New Member
      • ★★
      • Posts: 6

    I agree that the forum needs to be sorted into categories. As long as it’s sorted latest-post-first, nothing distinguishes it from other, more established discussion groups like the Google group and the FB group. And that means there’s no reason for people to switch to it. So until the forum has categories, it’s going to be underused.

    Here’s a suggested hierarchy:

    
    Promotion & Outreach
    	Education
    	Marketing
    	Advantages of PR
    	Strategies
    Systems
    	MMP
    	STV
    	Other
    Levels of government
    	Federal PR
    	Provincial PR
    	Municipal PR
    General Discussion
    

    I’m sure it can be improved upon, but it’s a starting point.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by Vivian Unger.
    #31604
    Alan E. Dunne
      • Member
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 31

    1. It would also help to fix the problems. What is prominent to me personally is whatever has stopped me twice, in June and October, from posting specific things, but I think there may be a fair number of others.

    2. Certainly if Topics are no longer to be in order of last posted on, there should be a quick way for someone coming on to the Forum to see what Topics have recently been posted on.

    3. I suggest an Other category under Government in the specific organization you gave as an example.

    #31605
    Vivian Unger
      • New Member
      • ★★
      • Posts: 6

    Good idea. Perhaps all categories should have on “other.”

    It looks as if I have the authority to change the forum. Does anyone mind if I go ahead and implement this?

    Vivian

    #31606
    Chealer
      • New Member
      • ★★
      • Posts: 12

    Vivian, I see nothing intrinsically wrong with the structure you propose, but IMO splitting a forum which has had 10 posts over the last year into over 10 forums may be exaggerated. It is best not to categorize too late, but over-categorizing too soon is not better.

    This is particularly problematic as bbPress seems to be most basic and does not allow identifying active forums super-fast. With mature engines like phpBB, forums which had activity since the user’s last visit are visually distinguished from those which did not, allowing to find what’s new with just a glance. If bbPress does not offer that, users who come to read would have to think about the moment of their last visit and compare that to the value in the Last Post column for each forum.

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