Let's make phpBB look cleaner

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alancast
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Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by alancast » Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:48 pm

5 or 10 years ago I would say: the best forum engine is phpBB (and most people would agree).

But now more visually clean software is being developed, and that's a big challenge. At least for visual-kinesthetic people like me, cluttered space feels "heavy".

Look at this:
01-visual-clutter.png
Aren't some unnecessary info elements there?
  • Two buttons "New Topic". (Two is meaningless.)
  • Two lines "Mark all topics as read * 1 topic * Page 1 of 1". (Two is meaningless.)
  • "Mark all topics as read" is meaningless at all because they all are already read / marked as read.
  • BTW, not on this picture, but in general the block of Statistic (how many users & topics) is not interesting for many (probably most) of users.
Now compare the first picture with this:
02-less-visual-clutter.png
...

Which one is better?

People feel intuitively that they want less clutter but more functionality.

I like phpBB, and I think that's important for it to flourish.

And it can be done very easily:
03-visual-clutter-remove.png
1. Check in JS if there are double buttons/lines seen on screen. It's easy - just a couple of lines of code.

2. Check in PHP (I think) whether all the topics are already marked as read - then remove that line at all. It's a couple of lines of code, perhaps.

3. Make "Statistics" go into option "Show new users AND STATISTICS" or not. It's couple of lines of PHP & HTML.

And we have modernized cleaner look for now and future:
02-less-visual-clutter.png
:)

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KevC
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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by KevC » Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:53 pm

You're basing some of those criticisms on the fact that you only have one post in there.

Look at a longer forum of 25 topics. The New Topic button is at the top and bottom because you might be at either end of a long page and it means you don't have to scroll to the other end of it to post.

Likewise the mark all read option. Yes it's silly on a page with one topic in it. Not so silly on a forum with several (hundred) topics. Especially if you were a new member and didn't want to physically read them all to clear the flags.
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warmweer
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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by warmweer » Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:59 pm

alancast wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:48 pm
But now more visually clean software is being developed, and that's a big challenge. At least for visual-kinesthetic people like me, cluttered space feels "heavy".
You have a point, however ..
a) once there are many topics/posts, the page you view has the button on the top, and the buttons on the bottom. Those are not simultaneously visible on most screen and removing a set would force scrolling far up (or far down) to perform a necessary action.
b) removing stuff from a template is far easier than adding stuff, and taking that into account my stance is generally to keep everything in a default installation so that the end users (the admins) can perform simple modifications in a relatively straightforward way.

edit: submitted by accident before editing to remove point a) allready mentioned by KevC
Last edited by warmweer on Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by david63 » Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:53 pm

As there is a new style for phpBB currently in development I would suggest that you head over to area51 and make your observations there where you can participate in the discussion and add your contributions.
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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by Lumpy Burgertushie » Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:27 pm

and, if you don't like that latte style, use a different one.
and last but not least, all of this is simply your opinion. not a wrong opinion but just an opinion.

I can't stand dark styles no matter how cluttered they may be, but that doesn't mean that phpbb should stop making dark styles available for those that want them.

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alancast
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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by alancast » Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:56 pm

Maybe I didn't explain my point well. I said:
Check in JS if there are double buttons/lines seen on screen.
"Seen on screen" means simultaneously, together.

It's not about removing the second control area completely, unconditionally - othewise Javascript check wouldn't be needed.

I'm talking about removing them only when they are seen both, cluttering the space, and though that can be not the case when there are many topics in the list, it still can be the case when there are not many of them. So in such cases phpBB seems "clumsy and outdated", compared to modern minimalistic engines.
KevC wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:53 pm
You're basing some of those criticisms on the fact that you only have one post in there.

...

Likewise the mark all read option. Yes it's silly on a page with one topic in it. Not so silly on a forum with several (hundred) topics. Especially if you were a new member and didn't want to physically read them all to clear the flags.
Again, there is a misunderstanding. What I said had nothing to do with unconditional removing of that line.

I said "whether all the topics are already marked as read - then remove that line".

It doesn't matter if there are few or thousands of them. You press "Mark as read", they get marked as read, and still the program offers you to mark them as read.

Is there any sense is that?

I suppose that the engine knows, are there unread topics or not; and that is shown by icons. Right? Then it's not a problem for the program to hide such link or button in such cases.

Otherwise it feels as unresponsive to the situation and meaningless. In 2018 keeping irrelevant links or buttons is not stylish. :) And hiding unnecessary controls feels much better, it helps your attention to move on and concentrate on the matter.

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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by SeriousOldschool » Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:07 pm

alancast: I wholly agree with your post about keeping things aesthetic and visually pleasing. to me, thats 90% of keeping a user on your site! if not 100%.

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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by Jodi-86 » Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:32 pm

When i'm reading forum sites, i can't say i spend much time looking at buttons on the site, i read the topics i want to read then hit reply if i want to reply, some forum admins spend hours trying to improve the theme on their forums but at the end of the day it's mainly the content of the topics that keeps the members coming back

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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by Lumpy Burgertushie » Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:11 am

there ya go. I would venture to guess that the people that really care one way or the other about the style would be a very small minority of the total users.


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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by alancast » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:20 am

From what I hear, people flock to Telegram web site from Twitter and Facebook, to Medium from LiveJournal, and some prefer Quora to Reddit and LinkedIn, even though latter ones have strong professional communities. Why?

Of course content matters, but when there are pretty much equal conditions for exchanging content, people move from cluttered design sites to clean ones. I know no opposite examples.

And now some developers create pretty strong competitors to phpBB, which look more interactive and clean. I think that plays its role in the impression some people state of phpBB as "a bit outdated".

Is it really "outdated"? I don't think there is much basis to say so. Except that sometimes it looks old-stylish. But it's possible to improve templates, making them look minimalistic and clean and modern... But some core functionalities should be tuned too, in order to provide cleaner, more sensibly reactive environment.

Maybe for many users template's look and feel doesn't matter much, especially if you just came by for a second, to get some particular info. But as you can see from popularity of those sites, people tend to "live" where they feel clean, responsive environment.

So please think of this proposition. Maybe there is some value in moving to that direction, especially as it wouldn't require much work.

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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by david63 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:29 am

david63 wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:53 pm
As there is a new style for phpBB currently in development I would suggest that you head over to area51 and make your observations there where you can participate in the discussion and add your contributions.
alancast wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:20 am
Maybe there is some value in moving to that direction, especially as it wouldn't require much work.
Are you sure about that statement. Redesigning the core phpBB style is a massive job so I am sure your input would be appreciated.
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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by Lumpy Burgertushie » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:40 am

what I find amusing is that most styles/looks that many people consider new and modern are just a throw back to what was stylish 15 years ago.

look at some of the proposed styles over at area 51

most of them look like phpbb 1 or early phpbb 2 styles, like subsilver etc.

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alancast
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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by alancast » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:07 am

david63 wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:29 am
Are you sure about that statement. Redesigning the core phpBB style is a massive job so I am sure your input would be appreciated.
I mean that, as an obvious first step, it would be great to do the three things which I proposed in the original post. It's a small patch.

And then, taking into account such things (a need for cleaner and more context-sensitive UI), the development might naturally expand in that direction. Step by step, as usual. (No need to attack redesign in Mozilla-style, like when they made once great Firefox into just another clone of Chrome).

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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by canonknipser » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:04 am

Just my personal opinion:

You mentioned the "New topic" buttons appearing on top and bottom of the topic list even if the complete list is visible:
I would prefer to stay them there. When I read on my tablet (or on my office desktop monitor positioned in portrait mode) and if I have a quite long list of topic - I prefer to have the chance to create a new topic on both ends ;)

Context sensitive is a great think, but don't break it down too small.

I would avoid sites that look different every time I visit. I expect the same look and feel the whole time I'm visiting the site. Disappearing and Re-Appearing buttons remember me about the so-called "ribbon"-menus used by Microsoft office products - I hate them. The same about those newspaper sites telling you every few seconds: "There is new content, please reload" with a big popup.
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Re: Let's make phpBB look cleaner

Post by warmweer » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:25 am

SeriousOldschool wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:07 pm
alancast: I wholly agree with your post about keeping things aesthetic and visually pleasing. to me, thats 90% of keeping a user on your site! if not 100%.
So the site content adds max 10% to keeping user's on my site, perhaps even 0%?
Damn, had I known that I wouldn't have invested 90% of my time in content.

Seriously, yes, looks can be important and can be the first thing that attracts, but looking at this from a human relationship point of view: it's the content, not the packaging which increases the probability of a long lasting relationship.
Last edited by warmweer on Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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