Forum site balance between functionality and ease-of-use - is it right?

Do we need a Cessna or an F-15?
Background and objectives: 

The topic of "ease of use" of the forum site has come up various times. Depending on the results of this poll I may try to address the issue. Please understand that almost invariably increased functionality means there's more to learn (and more to go wrong!). Learning to fly and land a single engined Cessna takes 10 to 20 hours, To do the same for an F-15 or Tornado takes considerably longer I suspect. Is an F-15 "difficult to fly"?

We have a lot of functionality here, arguably unnecessarily - groups, subscriptions and notifications, polls, blogs, forums, news items, categories, glossary, multiple level of access, user roles, and more. It's all there for a reason, but in some cases perhaps there's just too much.

So this poll is not asking whether you consider the site easy or difficult to use, nor whether it's functionality is insufficient or excessive, but whether the balance is right. Maybe we don't need a Cessna nor an F-15 but something in between?

Is the balance right? Good? Adequate? Poor? ...

Very good
12% (10 votes)
Good
43% (36 votes)
Adequate
24% (20 votes)
Inadequate
17% (14 votes)
Poor
5% (4 votes)
Total votes: 84
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Thanks undone. The way

Thanks undone. The way comments are displayed can be changed. I ran a poll ages ago, and was surprised to see that the majority vote was to leave it as it is with the "threaded" comments. The way comments are displayed here (in the poll) is a simple flat structure - newest comment at the top. Not so versatile, but very simple.

The location of the comment form can also be set to be at the top rather than the bottom of the page, so again using this poll and its comments as a working example, you would not have to scroll to the bottom to add a new comment.

I'm actually not sure just who thinks the site is "difficult to navigate" - it's often cited by Lucky Jim in particular, and I have no information on just what is "difficult". I think some people may be put off by the relatively large amount of information - all the different blocks showing recent comments, recent blog posts, etc, etc. I wonder if that's part of problem.

Posted by ng on Wed, 22/07/2009 - 14:39
Ng, at the outset let me

Ng, at the outset let me thank you for all the effort and fine work you have done with this site on behalf of all KSF depositors (creditors). I am not much of a computer person but I have found it relatively easy to manoeuvre through the site as after logging on I simply click on the My Unread in the upper left-hand corner to bring myself up to date. However, as many threads tend to become quite lengthy, finding the new material does on occasion require one to scan down through a series of past postings and frequently those replying to a previous post do not always make their cross-reference very clear and if several individuals have replied to the same post it can be difficult to tie the previous ones into the subject matter.

I have often wondered if it may be easier if all postings were numbered and the latest postings were presented at the top of the thread. That way anyone posting a reply to a previous post could simply reference the number to which their post refers. I'm getting carried away with the root word 'post' but I hope all will understand.

Cheers and thanks again for this site. It has been an enormous help to me throughout these past 9 months.

Posted by Anonymous on Wed, 22/07/2009 - 13:22
Thanks for feedback,

Thanks for feedback, Bromley86 and Peasant. With hindsight, had we believed that fundamentally what was needed was a forum system, then using a generic forum package would probably have been a good decision. That's exactly what I did with www.whenbankscrash.com which is based on SMF.

Here, the decision to use Drupal was actually not mine - I arrived on the scene a few days after it had been set up. Drupal is not a forum system. It's been described as a CMS (Content Management System) and CMF (Content Management Framework.). I've described it here as a Meccano kit. It's a very good generic platform for rapidly building sites, web and intranet applications. You might find the Drupal Case Studies page interesting - many well known names there such as AOL, Yahoo, Sony and MTV. Professionally I focus on Drupal for SMEs - As an example, Interfax have recently switched to Drupal and I know from my contact there (one of owners) that they are very happy that they did. But they don't use it for their forum (they have a legacy forum system).

Yes, I have considered and continue to consider migrating the forum site to something like vbulletin. Another possibility is switching to Drupal's advanced forum module, which would provide some features of more typical forum systems. Ideally we would do a full needs analysis and then make a decision. That's not likely to happen.

What I think is clear is that there is a huge range of needs. How can 13% here think the balance of functionality is very good yet 6% think it's poor? (I know the number of votes is small, but it's an indication.) The most likely explanation is range of needs, plus perhaps range of IT literacy. A one size fits all solution is probably not feasible.

Anyone reading this by email, please vote on this poll if you haven't already done so.

Posted by ng on Wed, 22/07/2009 - 11:58
40 weeks ago I

40 weeks ago I wrote:-
"Please don't take this as adverse criticism. You're doing a great job. Personally I'd have started with vbulletin http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/ . That would involve keeping the old one as an archive and starting afresh, not to be undertaken lightly, although I do know of a case where it's been done.
If you can tweak the drupal software to look more like http://drupal.org/forum it would improve legibility and navigation."

I have always found this forum confusing, IMHO, less would be more or as a US president said KISS!

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Posted by Peasant on Wed, 22/07/2009 - 08:22
Do bear in mind that, I

Do bear in mind that, I suspect, many potential voters haven't voted because they find the site too confusing. With the greatest of respect, I meant it when I said that this is the most obscure board/site that I've ever visited.

i.e. The new forum structure, with loads of limited-access boards and (all members) hidden away half-way down the page.

Posted by Bromley86 on Wed, 22/07/2009 - 06:02
Thanks for the 200 hours

Thanks for the 200 hours info. So, I think my metaphor works. The poll seems to indicate that what we have is about right - it's not a Cessna, its not an F-15, not sure what it is but it seems about right.

Posted by ng on Wed, 22/07/2009 - 02:20
200 hours apparently. You

200 hours apparently. You wouldn't be Top Gun material though :) .
http://mysite.verizon.net/res0cs5r/id29.html

Posted by Bromley86 on Tue, 21/07/2009 - 21:59
If anybody does know roughly

If anybody does know roughly how long it takes to learn to fly an F-15 (from scratch) please say, so that if I ever use that analogy again I'll be better informed!

Posted by ng on Mon, 13/07/2009 - 23:46