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Inside AP.net: The Forums
Inside AP.net: The Forums
06/06/11 at 05:45 PM by Jason Tate
Ok, after reading the comments below - I have a good idea of what my faithful blog readers want to see in regard to the new website. I know the forums were really popular, which makes sense -- if you signed up for an account and are posting in my blog, odds are you're a pretty consistant member and probably hang out in the forums. So, let's talk forums. First of all, I'm going to do this a little different. Instead of putting images inline, I'm going to just link to them and then talk about the image. This way I can include more. Pictures say more than words. Or whatever that saying is ... so, yeah.

Note: There are some options in these screen shots that are from a staff member's point of view. So there are a few additional options that may not be available to the "regular" member that's viewing the forums.

First up is just the basic forum view. What I tried to do is clean up what we already have. It's not dramatically different than what you're used to seeing. It's just ... well, cleaner and has a facelift.

Viewing a forum

Some of the changes are based on a conversation I had with users a few months ago in the forums. For one, under the thread is a preview of what's in it ... and if you hover over the thread you get who posted it. This is reversed from how it is on the website now. Also, instead of bolding/unbolding threads with "new" posts in them, there will be a green dot in front of "new" threads. This is how it is on the mobile website, and I think it works better aesthetically. Clicking the green dot will take you to the first "new" post in the thread. I cleaned up the columns on the right, and you can still click the "last post" column to go to the last post in the thread.

The search box is now more prominent. The search itself is also more powerful. You can have it return threads: image, and then keep searching (on the right), or re-search and return posts. From the search results you can also immediately reply to the post.

Each thread also now has a tiny little menu button on it as well. Clicking it will give you a pop-up menu of some well used options:

1) Go to new post: if there's a new post in the thread, you can go directly to it.
2) Go to last post: jump to the last post of the thread.
3) Follow/unfollow thread: quickly follow or unfollow the thread.
4) Who's posted? See a list of the users that have posted in the thread.

The new posting page (if you click "start a new discussion") has been completely re-done.

Image of posting page

Virtually everything has been streamlined. Adding a poll, adding attachments, customizing your notifications ... all right there. Plus, if you try to create a thread with a title that's similar to one already made, you'll see a little notification letting you know. This should cut down on some duplicate threads (better mod tools will help merge dupe threads as well).

Threads themselves are pretty damn sexy. The biggest change is that they all have a right side module now. HOWEVER, I know there are purists out there that won't want this. So, I've coded in a hot-key for members that will collapse the side module, and set a cookie to remember your settings, and you won't have to see it. However, I think I'll keep the side module open ... it's got some cool tools.

A thread.

For starters staff can add an image to "official" threads. So the really, really popular threads that a lot of people use each day -- can be defined. The example shows the official Dexter thread. Under the image are quick sharing options for the thread (tell your friends to come join you via twitter or facebook or email), as well as a tools menu that works just like the one on the previous page. Same options + a "post a reply" option). So you can post a new comment in a thread without having to go to the bottom and use the QR if you know what you want to say right away. That kinda thing.

The top nav bar took me forever to figure out how to get it to work how I wanted. I played with about 90 different iterations. I wanted something that had breadcrumbs so you could be in a thread and quickly get back to the forums if you didn't want to use the pulldown menu at the top. And I wanted a way to navigate through the pages of the thread without adding a full pagenav system up at the top. I found it ugly. So now you can use the little arrows at the top to quickly scream through a thread. Clicking the right one will take you up a page, left back a page. It's extremely handy. Double clicking the right arrow will take you to the last page, and double clicking the left will take you to the first page. Plus, you can use the search at the top to find a specific post in the thread. After using it - I just knew it was the right fit. It's intuitive and keeps you from having to scroll to the bottom of every page to get where you want to go.

Ohkkk, next: Quick reply lets you know who you are responding to. And your pagenav buttons are at the bottom.

The other module on the page is a "related threads" module. It lets you know if there are similar threads or other threads kinda like the one you're viewing. So, there might be stuff worth checking out / commenting on in there as well.

That's pretty much ... the forums. If I can think of anything I missed, I'll post later. If you have any questions, hit up the replies and I'll do my best to answer later as well.

Ok, now I have some more admin stuff to fix up. The admin/mod tools are one of the last big things the new website needs. Then it's more tweaking and perfecting. All this while listening to "War Paint" and enjoying the rarity of a band staying aggressive on their sophomore album and maybe having even more angst than their debut. Not usually how it goes. Loving this CD though.
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