Old 05-06-2009, 02:10 PM #1
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Join Date: Jun 2008
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DWells55 is on a distinguished road
Default Few site suggestions

Now that LPF is running new forum software, now is a great chance to make some real changes and turn it into a real "LPF 2.0". I figured I'd throw out a few suggestions on how you could really help improve the site.

Skin
I can't say I'm really a huge fan of the new skin. My major grievances are that it just doesn't seem to match very well in its graphics, the use of a dark background color and a light font (reduces readability), and the unnecessarily large post font. I know there are skin options available, but I don't really feel that this is the best solution.

I recommend picking one skin and making it the only available skin. In my experience with forums, the overall user experience is best when everyone is viewing the forum the same way. This way, font readability, color contrast, signatures, etc. appear the same for everyone and allow people to make good choices on what's visible and what's distracting.

Graphics
In the event you do pick a new theme and set it as the forum default (or the only choice, as I suggested), I think a new forum logo/banner would be a good idea as well, something which compliments the new theme's appearance.

Forum options
I suggest changing the default post view that makes it so you only see threads active within the past month. The default option should be to view all threads, otherwise new users will be under the impression that there is a lot less content here and will have a more difficult time finding what they need. Additionally, I recommend having the user's name and information that accompanies a post placed as a table to the left of the post rather than a table above it. The above placement results in unneeded vertical scrolling as well as a larger vertical gap between actual post content (especially if a user has a signature) which makes conversations harder to follow.

Ad placement
You may want to consider changing the placement of the ads that appear on the site. Perhaps a better layout would be to have one ad at the very top and one at the very bottom of the page, randomly alternating for fairness. As it is, a large gap is created between the site logo and page content. It's good web design practice to place important site content "above the fold" meaning that it's viewable without vertical scrolling. The current setup presents users with a screen full of ads on each page and may not leave a good impression.

Forum categories
The forum uses category grouping currently to divide the large number of subforums, which is a good idea. Personally I feel that the current setup is actually too many subforums (leading to scattered discussions, lesser organization of inforumation), but merging and removing forums is a lot of work, so I'll leave that off the table for now. What I do suggest is taking a handful of the current subforums in the "Lasers" category and placing them in different categories.

First off, I'd suggest a "Sales and Reviews" category. It would contain the Buy, Sell, & Trade, Deals & Discounts, Group Buys, Reviews, and Companies subforums. Next, I'd suggest a "Technical Discussion" category. This category would contain the Optics, Tutorials, Help, and Repairs, Experiments and Modifications, Laser Shows, Science and Lasers, and Safety and Legal Issues subforums.

On a side note, The Tutorials forum has the word "tutorials" misspelled and the Geek's Corner should be "Geeks' Corner" since it implies a plural possessive usage of "geeks'". Additionally, the forum categories are missing their descriptions currently and instead display "!Forum description".


So, there's my feedback. I sincerely apologize if I sound like I'm telling you how to run your site, particularly since I'm not really a well-known member around here. However, I like to think that I have a decent idea for what I'm doing and think the forum could definitely benefit from these suggestions. This seems to be a great website full of useful information and a strong community, so it makes sense for it to have an effective user interface to match those positive traits.

Let me know what you think. I'd be willing to help in anyway I could, including taking an attempt at making a banner to fit any new theme that shows up. I'd still keep the actual forum logo intact though, but i think I'd use the simpler "light emitter" design from the old forum logo.

-D. Wells


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Last edited by DWells55; 05-06-2009 at 02:13 PM.
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