First of all I acknowledge this progress report is a month and a half late. I originally intended to post it in early December.
Forum activity, measured by page views, dropped off significantly during the first month after the migration but has slowly returned to normal levels since then. It is impossible to compare forum activity based on the “current visitor” widget because the old widget “averaged” the data whereas the new widget does not. The averaged data made “current visitors” appear to be more numerous than they really were. The truth is visitors are coming and going continuously.
A few members have commented “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” thus insinuating that the migration to the new forum platform was unnecessary, that we did it on a whim. That was not the case. There were altogether 6 reasons for the migration.
- The foremost reason was that the previous “Eve Community” platform was not compliant with new European rules regarding privacy rights.
- A secondary reason was the previous “Eve Community” platform lacked responsiveness to screen size and orientation.
- The third reason was that the previous “Eve Community” platform was no longer under development; it was an old platform that was being maintained but not updated or improved.
- Our contract for the new forums has a renegotiated flat rate that is less than the previous amount which grew incrementally each month.
- The flat rate makes it possible for us to allow unlimited image file sizes.
- Uploading image files is something many members complained about, the new platform handles that chore in a more modern way.
The EU passed guidelines in 2017 aimed at protecting individual data privacy rights. Those guidelines are called “GDPR,” or General Data Protection Regulations. Our previous forum platform (Eve Community) was not compliant with the GDPR. Eve Community was an older platform that was no longer being updated or improved and therefore it would have never become compliant with the GDPR. Due to our large number of European members we had no choice other than to migrate to the new platform …. Or operate in violation of those rules until somebody complained.
The new platform features "responsive design" as all new website and forum platforms do. Such platforms are designed to make their lay-out adaptable to viewing screens of all sizes and both wide (landscape) or tall (portrait) orientations.
I revised the lay-out of the older forums in 2006 to take advantage of wide screen LED monitors which were new in 2006. Laptops (notebooks) were just entering the marketplace, tablets and smart phones were not in use at all. Many members in 2006 were still using old style CRTs with 4:3 aspect ratios. So I received complaints back then that the lay-out was too wide. I know many members today miss that wide screen lay-out, but more and more people are accessing the internet via tablets and smart phones; change to accommodate how people view the internet is inevitable today … and shall always be inevitable well into the future.
I would like to point out that if you liked the old wide screen format, if you miss it, the same person who designed the appearance of the old forums has designed this new one. Me! I have not grown less capable with age.
The lay-out of our revised forum is quite common for any platform designed to be "responsive" to screen size and orientation. Most "corporate" web sites are configured the same way, with main content on left-center, and widgets on right-center. Widgets contain non-essential content because they are intended to drop-off the screen entirely when a phone or tablet is oriented vertically. The backgrounds, where we have a tiled b/w picture of a Pantera, are often filled with advertising or other space filling content. Any forum platform employing responsive programming shall be laid-out the same way as well. Websites and forums that aren't configured this way are running old "non-responsive" platforms. It is inevitable that those websites and forums shall eventually migrate to responsive platforms too, simply because older platforms are not being developed (updated or improved) by their providers and shall not remain compatible with internet standards forever. PLUS Google's search engine algorithm began penalizing non-responsive websites in 2015 (this was called "mobile-geddon").
Prior to going “live” my graphical decisions were ONLY based upon what I could envision. My intent was to make the new platform retain the appearance and lay-out of the old forums. However the new forums weren’t populated with content until the morning of the migration thus I had no idea what a topic (thread) would look like, or what the directory would look like, until the forums went live. I was pleased with how they looked when the new forums went live. It wasn’t until we all started using them that I realized how my graphic decisions impacted using them. My graphic and content decisions “concealed” many of the navigation features of the new platform, it made some text hard to read, and the lay-out of the content was not as visually intuitive as it should have been. That was completely my fault. I spent weeks 2 through 4 altering the graphics and content to emphasize the navigation features and to make the lay-out more visually intuitive. I think this process gave some folks the opinion that the new platform didn’t have all the bugs worked out. This is not true, we weren’t working bugs-out of the HOOP.LA software; I was altering my graphic and content decisions and figuring out how to revise those graphics and that content. The HOOP.LA platform has been around since 2014, it was designed by professionals who understand the issues at hand better than you and I, and it is a fully mature product.
I am currently using standard content boxes and widgets provided by HOOP.LA, with the exception of the introduction on the home page; you know the one that features a member posed with their car. I may investigate the possibility of "customizing" the recent topics content box in the future to minimize the number of lines or the amount of text. I agree with those of you that feel the title of a topic would be enough ... and by eliminating the excessive text we ALL would have a little less scrolling to perform.
This brings me to my next topic, i.e. scrolling. To view the entire directory (which was called the summary page) of the old forums required a bit of scrolling due to the number of categories and forums. However the new format requires even more scrolling because the content is vertically oriented.
There is a situation that becomes obvious when you stop to think about it. A wide screen accommodates tall content easily, but a tall screen cannot accommodate wide content at all. If the content of a web page was laid-out horizontally then people accessing the net with a "tall screen" would have to continuously scroll left and right to read each line of text. By orienting the content vertically people accessing the net with a tall screen need only scroll up and down occasionally, when they’ve read to the bottom of their screen … but people used to a wide screen format have to scroll more often than they previously did.
The width of the content boxes and the widgets is fixed. I can never make the main content box or the directory as wide as it used to be. Even if I could it would be counter-productive to do so, it would negate the responsiveness the designers programmed into the platform.
If you log-on once per day you do have to scroll a bit, but not through multiple pages, just one page. The number of entries in the widgets and content box are adjustable; I've tried to adjust that number to more than cover the amount of new content that accumulates in 24 to 48 hours. If you log-on less frequently then you may get into a situation where reviewing new content requires clicking on the continuation links at the bottom of the widget or content boxes (those continuation links have names like “all topics, complete activity stream, or load more” or the continuation link may be a list of pages).
This brings me to yet another topic, finding new content. The old forums presented two ways to search for new content, the new topics widget on the home page and the directory on the summary page. However, between the forum home page and the forum directory page the new forum platform presents widgets or content boxes for activity streams, recent posts, and the forum directory. The navigation bar is available from any page, including on tablets and smart phones. If you hold the cursor over "forums-directory" one of the selections on that drop-down menu is "all topics". Or hold the cursor over "activity" and one of the selections from that drop-down menu is "all activity". Those are 5 ways new content is displayed. 3 more than the old forum platform had. I'd encourage you to try them all, and to explore other possible methods for finding new content, with the hope that you'll find one that suits you best.
There may be other widgets that display new content in yet more ways, I haven't experimented with them all yet. If I find one I think members may like I will make it public so we can all give it a try. We shall all continue learning how to use this new forum platform together.
Other things we have learned;
- Content in the widget column, i.e. right-center, disappears when a tablet or smart phone is oriented vertically because widgets are designed to do that.
- Folks who had a list of favorite posts, those lists did not survive the migration. You can begin a new list of favorite posts by using the “like” feature … your list of liked posts is accessible in a couple of ways.
- Uploading photos is much easier, but once uploaded the photos need to be embedded into the post, and the attachment box needs to be collapsed. These are two steps that most members are forgetting to perform; I’ve been doing it for you. It would make life easier on me if you could please remember to make those two steps yourselves.
- Photo albums were converted to topics with multiple attached image files. People who had photo albums that were important to them should go back to those albums and embed the photos.
- The photo captions of photo albums did not survive the migration.
Debbie and I realize that change is hard on people. We’ve listened to your concerns and done what we could to accommodate them. Your comments have all been helpful in one way or another. The forums we have today benefitted from the input of those who took their time to express their ideas to us. And those improvements are not finished yet.
Thanks to all of you who have stuck by the forums even though you’ve experienced various amount of discomfort or inconvenience due to the migration. Thanks to all of you for your patience with this process. And thanks to all of you who have chosen to make this community, its mission and its members, more important than the software platform it is presented on.