Important! The New Test Site Is Open – Your Comments Will Be Appreciated!

ChantalS

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AgentPete

Capo Famiglia
Guardian
Full Member
Narrator
May 19, 2014
London UK
I’m delighted to say that, after working through so much helpful feedback, the new test site for the Colony is open for your comments. Thank you again to everyone who took pains to contribute their highly appreciated thoughts.

Here’s the link:

https://www.mediabongo.com/


You can log in using your existing name and password. And you can make posts etc just as you would normally do here. However, please note:

IT’S A TEST SITE!

It will be deleted in a few days, when any posts, messages, uploads etc you may have made there WILL ALSO BE DELETED!

Please don’t confuse the test site with the main one (here).


Lots of points to cover. Please read the below as you peruse.



HOME PAGE

  • The design, colors etc are obviously similar… no point in change for change's sake unless there’s a good reason.
  • There is now a light / dark “switch” on the top menu bar (the moon icon). This has been a much-requested feature. Please let me know how the dark mode works for you, we can tweak it if necessary.
  • Each main section (“main Forums” etc) is now shrinkable. This means that you can click the little triangle icon on the section bar to hide its contents and make the page less confusing / cluttering. A number of people have commented on the baffling number of options on the home page, this is one way to make it look more manageable.
  • New members’ orientation: still a work in progress. I want to get the new site up and running first, then this and other WIPs as below will be added.
  • Maximum profile message length now 750 characters (was 420)
  • Writers’ Room now merged with Cafe Life. CL has always been our main community area and dividing discussions into writing / non-writing forums isn’t particularly clear or logical.
  • New forum – Self Publishing. In truth, there’s more crossover between “trad” publishing and self-pub than you might think, so this will also be the forum for us to discuss such topics as book marketing, author promotion etc. You don’t needs to be a card-carrying self-publisher to take part :)
  • SIGs – never quite hit their mark. May try again in future in a slightly different way.
  • The Book Club will now have its own dedicated main-area forum – if there are any other SIGs that need to be carried over, let me know.

ARCHIVING
Threads in Cafe Life will now auto-close 45 days after the last live post is made. Let me know how this works, and whether the number of days needs to be changed. I did consider setting up new archive sub-forums, but moving threads to and from might be problematic. Keep old threads in their originating forum makes more sense. Locked threads can be resurrected if a Guardian is asked.

NEW MEMBERS
Still working on the new member initiations rituals :) If you log out, and then go to the Home page, you’ll see a new section appear – “Here’s Where To Start”. This will be developed shortly, and will display to every new member until they’ve made 30 posts. The aim is to cover many of the great points made in the Suggestions thread, e.g. how to create a profile, write a hello post, etc etc.
There is another idea that I’m keen to develop, which is “Litopia Angel” or “Litopia Parent”… a small team of folk who take new members under their wings for approx the first month, show them the ropes etc. This is not yet implemented, but I’d like to.
While talking about membership, we will soon be moving membership processing (joining, renewing etc) off the Colony site and onto the main Litopia.com site. This will give us far more flexibility to create special offers, etc.

THE WORKSHOPS
Renamed – the main section is now “Critiques, Beta-Readers & More” which is far more explanatory, and the forum itself is now “The Laboratory” which avoids puzzling members who may think “workshop” means seminar.
Like reactions in The Laboratory have been removed.
The Laboratory will still be open to all members Basic or Full. However, a time & posting test will be applied, to avoid seagulls swooping in, getting a tasty crit and leaving on the next boat. New members will not be able to use The Laboratory until they’ve been here for 3 days and have posted 5 times. Let me know how this works.
Our system of critiquing. Many nice comments on this, thank you :) I will be developing the system here to make it more functional and give new members in particular a very clear steer to use our system, and not start pretending to be a writing coach. More on this in the next few weeks.
Points system… I feel this is simply too complex, and risks detracting from a single-minded focus on our unique system. Will expand to include ancillary writing such as blurbs.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS
We already have a sticky thread in Cafe Life called “What Are You Reading?” but in addition, there’s now a new Prefix called “Book Recommendation” for you to use when starting a new thread specifically to recommend one particular book that’s impressed you.

WRITING SUCCESSES
I agree we need to celebrate our successes – even minor ones – more than we do. We already have a “Fanfare” prefix in Cafe Life which isn’t quite enough, and currently is used for… well, anything. We need a new prefix – ideas, please. At that point, any posts in Cafe Life with that magical prefix will automatically picked picked up and featured on the home page. You can see this working on the test site at the moment, it’s picking up any post with a “fanfare” prefix.

MEMBERS PROFILES
Various new fields added as suggested (optional for member to complete).

BOOKMARKS
Several members have complained that they can’t easily find posts that they find interesting once they’ve moved away from them. We actually do have a “Bookmark” system in place, although you may not easily see it. At the top of each post, on the same line as the post number (#1, #2 etc) you’ll see a couple of small icons – the first one is a social share button that lets’ you share the post on other social media. The second icon – like a bookmark – let’s you create your own bookmark that’s saved in your list of bookmarks. Click on your own name in the top menu bar and you’ll see the list of bookmarks right there. Hope that’s clear.

HASHTAG
We already have a tagging system in place. However, tags seem a throwback to a previous Web 2.0 era. If folk find them useful, we can certainly enhance the tagging system a lot more. Let me know.


AND OTHER OFF-COLONY STUFF…

Twitter

I’d be delighted if someone / or some people would volunteer to look after our Twitter account. I simply can’t do this myself, other than posting Pop-Up updates. But it might be fun for someone else to do.

Huddles
Scheduling is always a problem for live events if you’re working across multiple time zones. That’s why we tend to focus them at weekends, the idea being that 5pm UK is 9am west coast… still not terribly convenient, but better than 9am on a weekday which many would find impossible because of work commitments. Always open to suggestions.

Pop-Ups
There was a comment about participating but not feeling appreciated… I really do try to thank everyone in the Genius Room, and I try to read out as many comments as possible. If you can think of anything else I can do, please don’t hesitate to tell me.

Mastodon
Litopia will always be an experimental community inasmuch as we will try new things first before others do. EG podcasts, etc. Some will work, some won’t, but all will give us knowledge. Will keep the mastodon server going until at least the end of this year, then will consult with members.

Weekly Zoom meetings
We use Zoom for Huddles and the Book Club, but I’m more than happy to make it available for members to hold other meetups… again, just let me know if you’d like to organise something. The initiative rests with you to decide what you’d like to see… e.g. genre-specific meetups.

Image Compression
We now use a different algo, please let me know if the over-compression is still a visible problem.
 
I’ve had a quick look on my iPad.

to me, it still looks so busy, there’s so much going on on the main page and then this is further complicated by the large posts/banner running down the right hand side. It doesn’t look much different from the old one.

I would think less is more on the home page from a user pov. I’m so used to assuming side banners are just a bunch of adverts so I I never pay any attention to the one on this site.

not sure if that’s helpful!
 
I’ve had a quick look on my iPad.

to me, it still looks so busy, there’s so much going on on the main page and then this is further complicated by the large posts/banner running down the right hand side. It doesn’t look much different from the old one.

I would think less is more on the home page from a user pov. I’m so used to assuming side banners are just a bunch of adverts so I I never pay any attention to the one on this site.

not sure if that’s helpful!
Give me an example of a forum home page site that works for you.
 
Also, is it the banner ads you don’t like - or the whole sidebar?

There are two diametrically opposed forces at work here, as so often with design choices. One is to present the member with as much info and as many options as possible on the home page, without endless clicking (generally, the more clicks you force people use, the less likely they are to do it). And then, there’s the urge to make things clean, simple and user-friendly. Difficult to reconcile.

We’re using forum software whose roots essentially go right back to the mists of internet time. It does feel old-fashioned, when most websites these days look like this:

Clock Strikes Twelve

But it does give us a ton of options.

Personally, I find what they’ve recently done with Facebook's look and feel pretty disastrous, confusing to the extent that I really don’t want to go near the site. Hopefully, the Colony doesn’t have that effect on you, but let me know either way.

It’s possible to have another default design as the home page – for example, we could simply have a list of new posts since your last visit. How about that?
 
I had a quick look and liked what I saw. But perhaps, having been around here for a while, I don't see clearly. By which I mean that I come for the content, and have been doing so for long enough that I don't see the site any more. I simply trust the content.

Also,
We’re using forum software whose roots essentially go right back to the mists of internet time.
And many users here, I expect, have also been using forums since those mists and navigate intuitively. I mention this, Pete, to reassure you that there is almost certainly a section of Litopia's user base who don't really mind what you do with the layout. We'd come pretty much regardless.
 
Just want to say, within the constrains of time, I think you do a great job of appreciating pop-up input. Other than saying individual names, thereby making the program 3 hours long (don't), I don't believe there's any more you can do.
Flower Pot Thank You GIF by Hello All
 
Though many like dark, I find white writing on a dark background much more eye-tiring to read (which seems to go against the grain of most people), so please do keep the daylight mode too.
Oh, we will.
It's odd, personally I only use the light theme on a desktop (or laptop) but find dark far preferable on mobile...
 
Give me an example of a forum home page site that works for you.
Here are two I know of for comparison I appreciate they are not writing forums.



They both feel a bit more modern imo.
 
Also, is it the banner ads you don’t like - or the whole sidebar?

There are two diametrically opposed forces at work here, as so often with design choices. One is to present the member with as much info and as many options as possible on the home page, without endless clicking (generally, the more clicks you force people use, the less likely they are to do it). And then, there’s the urge to make things clean, simple and user-friendly. Difficult to reconcile.

We’re using forum software whose roots essentially go right back to the mists of internet time. It does feel old-fashioned, when most websites these days look like this:

Clock Strikes Twelve

But it does give us a ton of options.

Personally, I find what they’ve recently done with Facebook's look and feel pretty disastrous, confusing to the extent that I really don’t want to go near the site. Hopefully, the Colony doesn’t have that effect on you, but let me know either way.

It’s possible to have another default design as the home page – for example, we could simply have a list of new posts since your last visit. How about that?
You’ll never make everyone happy, Pete. I prefer simple, user friendly. I can ignore adverts but I also ignore the whole banner. I only recently noticed it was there!
 
Here are two I know of for comparison I appreciate they are not writing forums.


We have two public-facing landing pages. This - the Colony itself - and the "wrapper" site, Litopia.com.

The site you link to above is more like our wrapper site. It’s a pitch. Designed to interest potential members. From my point-of-view, it’s a bit “Litopia Lite”. But others may take a different view (which I respect, btw).

The Colony homepage is pretty hardcore, you get a total overview of everything here, where you want it or not. It is pretty in-your-face, but honest… wysiwyg.

This isn’t what I’d identify as a forum. There’s the remnants of a forum structure, pretty heavily subsumed into a frontend that’s all clickbaity. I don’t want Litopia to go that way… the opposite, really.
 
I have to agree with @LA Thomas. I prefer simple and modern. There is still so much going on, it's hard to know where to focus. I realize that you have huge technical challenges to streamline the interface within the forum framework, but I'd like to see 'Latest Posts' and links to all the key forums along with Huddles and PopUps in the top area of the site, without having to scroll down the page to find them.
I'd also like to see differentiation between Community (members' posts) and the Colony information and promotions, which seems to be clearer on the business forms site shared by LA.
A tall order, I'm sure!
 
Fantastic! Thank you for all the efforts and inclusive discussions around making the site even better. I think the new changes are great. I mostly come onto the site from my computer (not phone), and I am familiar enough now with the layout that I can usually find what I'm looking for quickly. I find I use the "alerts" to navigate around to what I've been involved with. I like the light vs the dark, great that there's a choice.

I have two questions/possible suggestions.

Currently the home page and the forums page are the same (is that correct? Or am I just not using it right?) I think this has been suggested already, but having a more personalized "home" page would be cool, with your status, (so you could update it easily, which is not that easy atm to get to), and with the status of the people you follow (easy to see/comment), along with the threads that you have commented on or bookmarked. So a more personalized home page to quickly access "your stuff". This might also help those who find the main page too busy?

Then for the forums page, to help navigation, perhaps a second menu bar at the top of the forums page (below the main menu bar which doesn't change) with all the different forums (main forum headings, with drop down subheading, like "Main forums" -> "Craft Chat"), so that you can navigate to them quickly, without having to scroll down. Not a big change, but it might help make the forums page a little easier to navigate? (I hope that made sense?)

I found multiple menu bars on sites like The New York times, and Quora. There's a ton of menu bars on WOWhead.com and some on Substack.com, but no site is really comparable to what we have on Litopia. I also tried to find a site with homepages that show you your personal stuff, but again, I'm not really on another forum like Litopia, so it's hard to find something comparable, but I think that's pretty self explanatory?

Thanks again for all the effort and love that goes into this community. There's nothing else like it!
 
I've been away for too long, but when I saw 'dark mode' now coming, well, how could I not resist taking a (non-squinting) peek? My tired old eyes thank you.
 
We can’t do everything mentioned above last night, but we’ve made a stab at it. I’m numbering everything so you can refer to it easily when making comments.

1) Sidebar ads gone.

2) Sidebar – “Since You Were here” now lists the 5 most recently-changed threads since your last visit.

3) Sidebar – “Folk You Follow” now lists the 4 most recent status updates from members you follow. Also lets you quickly post your own update.

4) Sidebar – “Fanfares” as before picks up Cafe Life posts from members who have some good news to report.

5) Menu – greatly simplified. Redundant items either moved or included in sub menus.

6) Menu – icons will appear above main meni iterms (not yet finished).

7) Menu – New item “Your Stuff” lets you quickly go to member-specific areas.

8) Menu – Forums now includes comprehensive listing of all main forums.

9) Home page. Main Forums section now tops the list, Welcome Forum has been incorporated into our main forum, Cafe Life, with a new prefix, “I’m New!”. Looking for other ways to declutter...
 
I have to agree with @LA Thomas. I prefer simple and modern. There is still so much going on, it's hard to know where to focus. I realize that you have huge technical challenges to streamline the interface within the forum framework, but I'd like to see 'Latest Posts' and links to all the key forums along with Huddles and PopUps in the top area of the site, without having to scroll down the page to find them.
In addition to the new sidebar item “Since You Were here”, there's also a prominent "New Posts" button that gives you a whole page worth of new postings.

Re getting all key stuff into top area of site (above the fold, on a laptop or desktop) would be to reclassify. CL, Huddle, The Laboratory, Pop-Ups... they would all become "Main Forums”. Other forums would appear below. (Not thought this thru yet…)

I'd also like to see differentiation between Community (members' posts) and the Colony information and promotions, which seems to be clearer on the business forms site shared by LA.
A tall order, I'm sure!
Logged-in members of more than 30 days standing now wouldn't see any promos / how-tos at the top of the page.
 
Currently the home page and the forums page are the same (is that correct? Or am I just not using it right?) I think this has been suggested already, but having a more personalized "home" page would be cool, with your status, (so you could update it easily, which is not that easy atm to get to), and with the status of the people you follow (easy to see/comment), along with the threads that you have commented on or bookmarked. So a more personalized home page to quickly access "your stuff". This might also help those who find the main page too busy?
Yes, they're the same.
Tried to customize it more as per your suggestions, take a look at the test site and give me your reactions.


Then for the forums page, to help navigation, perhaps a second menu bar at the top of the forums page (below the main menu bar which doesn't change) with all the different forums (main forum headings, with drop down subheading, like "Main forums" -> "Craft Chat"), so that you can navigate to them quickly, without having to scroll down. Not a big change, but it might help make the forums page a little easier to navigate? (I hope that made sense?)
Main menu has been simplified. All forums now listed under "Forums" item.
Second menu... not had time to investigate this yet, let me know your thoughts on the latest incarnation...

Thanks again for all the effort and love that goes into this community. There's nothing else like it!
You're more than welcome :)
 
There’s now a secondary menu instead of a long drop-down from the first menu. Not tested on mobile yet (could someone?).

Might be easier to use…?
 
There’s now a secondary menu instead of a long drop-down from the first menu. Not tested on mobile yet (could someone?).

Might be easier to use…?
I went to the test site on my iPhone. Not sure I am a good guinea pig as technology tends to freeze whenever I touch it, but here is what I found.
1) Essentially you have to scroll down through Main Forums, Critiques etc, Huddle, PopUps, Writers Seminars, Videos on Writing Life and the Marketplace before you get to Latest Posts, which seems backwards. After that comes 'Since you were here' which is a shorter version of Latest Posts (not sure this is relevant), then Thought for the Day and What's new in the marketplace.
2) OTOH, the side menu (three lines) will take you directly to any of the main stuff. Why not start the home page with Latest Posts get rid of the scrolling?
3) What's missing from the top bar on mobile is a Search icon.
4) However, there is a little Harry Potter sign (lightning symbol) in the top bar that opens a more relevant 'Home page' featuring 'What's New'. Not sure I would have clicked there if not tasked with job to check out the site and provide comments.
Attaching a few screenshots if helpful.
 

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In addition to the new sidebar item “Since You Were here”, there's also a prominent "New Posts" button that gives you a whole page worth of new postings.

Re getting all key stuff into top area of site (above the fold, on a laptop or desktop) would be to reclassify. CL, Huddle, The Laboratory, Pop-Ups... they would all become "Main Forums”. Other forums would appear below. (Not thought this thru yet…)


Logged-in members of more than 30 days standing now wouldn't see any promos / how-tos at the top of the page.
Great to see lots of good ideas and new stuff being tried out!
For me personally, it is important to see the latest news first. I don't really care about the latest updates just from people I follow -- I'd rather have an overview of the entire colony's latest posts.
Finally, as we can more easily access everything directly from the top and second menu bar, is it really necessary to show these sections on the main page?
 
I really like the dark mode. Makes me feel kind of villanous.
Overall, I am not a fan of change. I really want the kids to stay off my lawn.
But the new site works just as well for me.
 
BIG question for everyone...

As of now (16:30 UK time) the test site is currently configured to display just new posts on the home page... and nothing else.

Is this too radical?

Or very useful?
Love it! Clean, modern and feels more like we see what is new and then choose for the rest (nice change from most social media sites these days...). Hope others feel the same!
 
Hmm, sorry to be contrary, but I don't like it. I prefer a forum homepage where I can scroll around and see which subforums have new posts and, over time, build up a sense of which subforums are most active -- that's to say, I like the basic idea behind the way the live site is now.

And also, and again forgive me for being contrary, but I don't think Litopia is a "social media" site. It's a forum. There's a difference.
 
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