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Community Building and User Generated Content Forum

    
Bad Forum Design
BBS Software clichés and Trendy layouts - Don't Do It!
limbo




msg:1559458
 3:23 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

All sorts of quirks, additions, extras and plugins can be employed by BBS designers to 'enhance' and 'personalise' a Forum - What features about BBS really bug you? If you were the all knowing BBS God what would you banish from this earth forever?

I'll start the list of misjudgements with the obvious one

Avatars - I shudder, and so does my bandwidth!

 

rogerd




msg:1559459
 3:38 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Bad - signature files
Worse - graphic sig files
Worst - graphic sig files that repeat every time the member posts, even on the same page

Timotheos




msg:1559460
 3:39 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Agree wholeheartedly about avatars! Same goes for signatures especially with large banner graphics. I hate having to search for the real content. Thanks to WW for not having these.

Webwork




msg:1559461
 4:02 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Ditto rogerd. I see that stuff crapping up some popular forums. To what end? Ego gratification? Self-promotion? Silliness?

ScottM




msg:1559462
 4:54 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Undated messages.

Titles for each post

Memberlists

encyclo




msg:1559463
 4:56 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Definitely smilies. Especially those horrible animated smilies which bounce around and take up half the page, which show mouths wide open, or angry smilies which go red and shoot at other passing smilies. Yes, those ones that appear in your nightmares.

;)

pleeker




msg:1559464
 5:22 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Not necessarily related to the software clichés ... but bad forum design for me includes Subjects and Topics which have cute/trendy names that make you wonder what the heck is being discussed. (Like if Brett had named this forum "If you build it, will they come?" Eek.)

rogerd




msg:1559465
 8:29 pm on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Big pet peeve: Having to scroll past headers, banner ads, more headers, "sticky threads", announcements, etc. before I get to the actual thread topics or the first post. I've seen forums that take two full scrolls to get to the content.

dvduval




msg:1559466
 2:07 am on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

I hate having to join just to READ a post. I don't mind joing to be able to write posts, but if I have to join just to read, I generally leave the site.

Mr Bo Jangles




msg:1559467
 6:36 am on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Agree 100% about avatars and graphic sigs. and I've modified my forum to eradicate the avatar option. I searched for some smilies that were a nice momotone silver grey and replaced the multicolored garish supplied set.

Basically, I can't buy Brett's BestBB, so I'm making mine look and perform like it *_*

troels nybo nielsen




msg:1559468
 10:41 am on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

<embarrassed to disagree with rogerd>
Methinks that sigs may have their merits. If they are short. And text only.
</embarrassed>

Leosghost




msg:1559469
 10:54 am on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

We call em "pokemons" ...that appears to be who uses them ..what they say sounds like pikachu on dust ....the quality of the grafix ..even my son would be ashamed ...

Worse is yet to come ..I have heard of work being done on "video bites" and "sound bites" ...for when we all ( who is all? ) got multi meg broadband ....
Just imagine ..sifting through fora with moving images talking heads and "ringtones" type sig files ....

And pron spam and trolls and ........in technicolor ...
Emails going this route too just as soon as they can shove it through the pipe fast enough...

And some of you dont like flash ....wow

ccDan




msg:1559470
 7:23 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't mind avatars, to a certain extent. On my own "under re-construction" forums, there is an avatar feature. But, the avatar images, designed by myself, are on the server, and are the only options the user has. They are small and quick to load. It gives people some means to express themselves, but without being a nuisance. I don't like forums that are a free-for-all, where people post huge pictures of themselves or some animal they thought was cute, etc.

Signature files are okay. Just limit the number of characters, and maybe have them display in a different color or something so that it's easy to pick them out from the actual content of the user's message.

I don't generally like forums where you have a lot of font and color options. Used tastefully, it's okay. But too many people use them ransom-note style and it distracts from the content.

I also do not like silly user names (sorry to those of you that use them!). I require real names on my site. I let people choose their own password, but not their user ID. So, "Bob Smith" might have a user ID of "bsmith", and his posts would show up as "bsmith (Bob Smith)".

I also find that a fair way of dealing with people that request questionable user IDS; you know, the ones that are or sound similar to offensive words. By creating user IDs based on their name, you eliminate the hassle of explaining to people why some IDs are allowed and others are not, especially helpful when you have situations where words in one region or country do not have the same meaning as they do in another.

Jenstar




msg:1559471
 7:51 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

My pet peeve is the all the phpbb message boards out there that never change from the default phpbb subSilver design. That combination of blue and orange leaves a lot to be desired!

It never ceases to amaze me all those message board owners who don't take the time to install a new design template, or at least play around with the default color scheme in the control panel.

TheDoctor




msg:1559472
 8:07 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

This isn't just the case with phpBB. I sometimes think I'm the only forum owner who's heard of CSS ;)

Maylin




msg:1559473
 11:14 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Anything that MOVES! Especially those trendy webcam animations in avatars. You know, those ones where someone takes a picture of their face in several different "cute" positions that don't flow, like looking up and smiling, then looking down and frowning, then looking contemplative, then making a kissy face, then wrinkling the nose, and so on, then throwing them all together in an animation so each one shows on the screen for 1 second. Ugh. Any animation is bad though when you scroll down through a whole page of them when all you want to do is read!

If avatars or signatures were allowed, I'd disable gifs just to keep people from making them move.

ccDan




msg:1559474
 11:19 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Maylin writes:
Anything that MOVES!

When I got around to it, I've been planning on adding animated avatars to my site. :-)

Perhaps it's not whether avatars are good or bad, but rather whether they are appropriate for your board.

If you have a professional forum, something like WebmasterWorld for example, avatars are maybe not a necessity.

But, if your forum is more recreational, why not have avatars? It makes the site more fun!

Perhaps the discussion should be around the appropriateness of certain bells and whistles for the type of forum you are running rather than their appropriateness in general.

Maylin




msg:1559475
 11:28 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Personally, I have no problem with avatars. I agree that on a Pro board they can be unnecessary, but in general, I like them. I only dislike the ones that move and are overly flashy because they distracting, especially when you have a long topic and you have to scroll through several screens full of moving graphics.

grelmar




msg:1559476
 12:20 am on May 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

phpBB in general annoys me. It doesn't resize depending on whether or not you have the sidebar open, but defaults to the full browser width. So its either close the sidebar, or scroll side-to-side to read messages. A minor inconvenience, maybe, but an annoying one nonetheless.

I've seen phpBB boards that have this fixed, but they're by far the minority. And its such a minor glitch, I can't for the life of me figure out why the developpers haven't gotten around to fixing it.

The "I'll never return to this board again" peeve has got to be the boards that use too many colors/ The rainbow effect makes me ill.

Hmmm, oh, and there's an effect out there that's new and badly used. Message body backgrounds that change color when the mouse pointer goes over them. That's another "I'll never return to this board again" offense.

pleeker




msg:1559477
 4:46 am on May 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I also do not like silly user names (sorry to those of you that use them!). I require real names on my site.

ccDan, I think your comment a few posts later about avatars being appropriate, possibly, on recreational boards has to apply to usernames, too, doesn't it?

I'm assuming your board is a professional community. One of my more popular boards is hobby/recreational, and I could never imagine requiring real names.

As you say, it all depends on the board on some of these issues we're discussing.

WebBender




msg:1559478
 6:11 am on May 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

This is very much an 'it depends' situation regarding the theme of one's forum.

Better Forum software will allow a user to turn off Avatars and smileys.

My policy is not to allow any animated avatars...I feel that is a bit too busy and distracting.

However, Avatars and signature files and custom user rankings are some of the things that give a forum it's own 'personality'.

Just like a website, we need to design our forums for our visitors and target audience.

A forum for database software and a forum for magic would have two very different themes.

Some forums are purely to be functinal and impart support/knowledge. People can use the deafult themes for those sorts. For others, it's best to customize it via CSS and small graphics IMO.

Regards,

WB

rogerd




msg:1559479
 6:23 pm on May 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Good point, WebBender - in short, in some cases it's not so much "bad design" as "inappropriate design".

ccDan




msg:1559480
 8:14 pm on May 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

pleeker writes:
ccDan, I think your comment a few posts later about avatars being appropriate, possibly, on recreational boards has to apply to usernames, too, doesn't it?

I'm assuming your board is a professional community. One of my more popular boards is hobby/recreational, and I could never imagine requiring real names.

Actually, mine would be more professional/recreational. I can describe it better, but my description is also one of the URLs so I can't do that here.

To an extent, I suppose you're right. I mean, I could go into a place calling myself "Bob Smith", and it's not illegal, unless I'm doing so for some illegal purpose. So, why not the same in a message forum?

If you have some sort of patient or crime victim support board, I can see the need for some degree of anonymity. I don't have such forums, but I do have (er, will have) forums where people can ask questions anonymously.

Requiring real names has another benefit in dealing with troublesome members. If "Bob Smith" causes problems and you boot him from the forums, but he signs up again as "Rob Grumbles", you have grounds for termination of the account because that's not his real name.

Granted, it's not an easy thing to enforce and you're not going to achieve 100% compliance. But I think it does help to weed out some of the potential troublemakers early on.

I also require a valid mailing address, so if their welcome letter comes back as undeliverable, poof!, there goes their account.

Then too, my forums are not open to the general public and only registered users have access. So, people may be more comfortable using their real names in such an environment than they might elsewhere.

But, yes, it can be an appropriateness issue. If you run a forum that allows kids, for example, you may have to have pseudonyms to comply with children's privacy laws. Myself, I used to allow kids, but since the new laws were passed a few years back, I now restrict it to persons 18 or older.

It's somewhat unfortunate, since I do not allow offensive language or have adult content, so my forums were always pretty kid-safe, but the costs in time and money of compliance necessitate keeping kids out now.

limbo




msg:1559481
 11:30 am on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have been monitoring this thread - some interesting points have come out, not least that we should be flexible and design the forum based on user choices. Allowing them to select all these things (listed) if they want, and opposingly allow others the ability to remove all of them completely, without the necessity to alter browser settings. But I thought I'd make a list of the ones that everyone has metioned so far:

* Avatars (debatable!)
* Sig files (particularly graphic ones!) (In some cases short text only ones can be acceptable)
* Undated messages.
* Titles for each post
* Memberlists
* Smilies ;)
* Subjects and Topics which have cute/trendy names e.g. "If you build it, will they come?"
* Scroll past headers, banner ads, more headers, "sticky threads", announcements, etc
* Join just to READ a post
* Moving images, talking heads and "ringtones", basically any pointless extras that distract from the content!
* "Ransom-note" style font use for posts.
* Default phpbb subSilver design
* The rainbow effect (otherwise known as the 'techicolour yawn' ;) ) ergo: Too many colors

Looks like it's generally not functions or formatting of the forum sites, but the garish and the distracting that are getting the votes.

Ta

Limbo

Maylin




msg:1559482
 11:49 am on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Perhaps the discussion should be around the appropriateness of certain bells and whistles for the type of forum you are running rather than their appropriateness in general.

I mostly agree but I consider my dislike of movement in forums universal. It has nothing to do with lack of professionalism or not fitting a theme. I just find it annoying to see lots of things moving on the screen at once in annoying repeating patterns that never end while I'm trying to read. I can see how it can be completely appropriate if you own, say, www.animatedgiflovers.com though.

isitreal




msg:1559483
 9:06 pm on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

My pet peeve is the all the phpbb message boards out there that never change from the default phpbb subSilver design. That combination of blue and orange leaves a lot to be desired!

Implementing a css solution on the basic tpl components of phpbb is difficult, to put it mildly, I've done two just to see and it was not easy, I was tempted to create a new template for them with all items having css id and classes so they would be easy to change, currently you have to try to work around the html, which is also pretty bad, but then I lost interest in the idea, somebody is probably working on a real css template now, or it's already done.

However, there are some pretty basic things you can do, for the forum width, just make the main container table have say 90% width, or fixed width, that helps a lot, very simple css too.

As for people not changing the default, there's not much you can do about that of course, most people just take the default installation of any software they get, windows, office, msie and never change until they are forced to, this of course gives users who do change an edge up, since their stuff looks less generic.

rogerd




msg:1559484
 4:23 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Another pet peeve: Excessive "sticky" or "pinned" threads. These are the permanent threads at the top of the thread list that never move, often used for announcements, FAQ, etc. (This relates to my earlier comment about forcing the visitor to scroll to get to the content.)

I don't like these for two reasons. First, if there are too many, it pushes the "real" threads even farther down the page. Second, 99+% of the viewers of the page will be regulars - forcing them to hunt for the new posts is bad policy, IMO. Even though they no doubt tune out the sticky threads, they must visually scan them each time to locate the good stuff. Why make your members work?

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