jase
 admin, 3549 posts
 Cogito, ergo procuro.
 Carpe stultus!
Fri 7 Apr 2017
at 06:21
New site design
It's with no small amount of trepidation that I post this.  As some of you may be aware there's been a lack of updates to the site for quite some time.  What most aren't aware of is this has been due to a major visual rework that's been done behind the scenes.  It's very hard to make identical changes to two different code bases so I (wherever possible) have been maintaining a single code base that is dealing with the aforementioned visual layout changes.  Great features have been suggested by members but I'm unable to action them until the visual modifications are complete.

Why change?  I believe without some changes that RPoL runs the risk of stagnating.  Google, with their search engine dominance and ability to stipulate pretty much whatever they like, have clearly stated that unless you have a responsive layout as well as https (which is already available for testing via https://rpol.net or https://www.rpol.net) then your website will be ranked lower.  I don't want to introduce anything that will alienate the existing player base, but I'm also realistic and know that if there's not a reasonably steady flow of new members then the site will slowly wither.

So what's this war and peace post all about?

This requires more text.  Sorry!

I've tried adapting the current layout to be responsive, but as soon as you give the directive to mobiles/tablets to do this, everything goes awry.  I tried updating the current table-based layout to be responsive, but I was pushing a round peg into a square hole and it was getting messy, unreliable and really time consuming.

Ergo a fully responsive, designed from the ground up, website has been in development for quite some time.  It's using more modern (but not bleeding edge) web design and zero javascript (besides what we've already got).  Requirements for a fully functional website are any major browser beyond ~2011, but it'll degrade for older browsers.

Why the trepidation?  A few reasons.  Firstly I realise that some people have a lot of fondness for the existing layout, myself included.  For desktop browsing it's not broken, though it certainly could benefit from some readability improvements.  Secondly the beta site is very unfinished, but despite that I want to give you all the opportunity to see what's in development, and I think that will cause issue for some.  Lastly it's been designed from scratch, so it doesn't carry over much that's... familiar.

If it's unfinished what's to see?

A few things.  Though it's not many they're the important parts.

  • The general framework/layout of the site.
  • The responsive (adaptive) design.  If on a desktop reduce the browser width and you'll see it adapt at two different "break points" (800px and 695px wide).  Not every page has a breakpoint at 800px, but you will notice it at 695px.
  • How the main menu, game menu, thread view and compose screens look and work.  These are somewhat, but not completely, finished.  Same for the cast screen, though that doesn't adapt down the best and needs more work.


What's not finished?

  • Everything.  So please don't nit pick.
  • The colours.
  • Pixel perfect placement.
  • Dice roller, game maps, game introduction, sheets, descriptions, searching, help/faq, GM menus.  Anything else I haven't explicitly listed as (somewhat) finished.
  • Stickylist, help, faqs, create a game.. you get the idea.


OMG it's so different, and for that I hate it.

Sure is, but give it time and it'll hopefully grow on you.  Besides the adaptive layout there's some major changes that aren't responsive centric.

  • The font size is larger.  Small fonts actually decrease reading speed and recognition.  A lot of recommendations are to go even larger but we've set a compromise between recommended and what we've currently got.
  • The site has a maximum width of 1100px.  Going any wider ends up with a crazy view and actually doesn't fit any more text on the screen, as the wider you go the bigger the line height (the gap between one line and the next) needs to be to maintain readability, so longer lines results in the exact same amount of text.  Keep in mind that later on you'll be able to customise the theme and I hope that will include site width.


What do I expect from you?

  • No FUD.
  • No blanket negativity.
  • Constructive feedback.  Doesn't have to be positive, but all feedback (even positive) needs to have a point.  "I don't like the new layout because _______", "I like the new layout, it _____".  "The cast list gets confusing when it wraps, what if it _______".  Fill in the blanks.


Remember, if I wasn't interested in your thoughts and input as well as trying to find a compromise that will please as many people as possible then I'd just roll out the changes and not bother posting here.



TLDR version;  Step 1: check http://beta.rpol.net, step 2: don't panic.
pdboddy
 member, 518 posts
Fri 7 Apr 2017
at 11:05
New site design
I think the layout looks good.  It'll be better once we can colour it to our tastes.  It seems very responsive.  Though, I cannot even get into one of my games to see how it looks.  You did say that there's a lot that isn't set up yet. :)

I think it's a good step in the right direction, and your reasoning for it is sound.  And I appreciate the effort you're taking to not break the site for as many people as possible while moving to a more modern layout.
byzantinex
 member, 88 posts
Fri 7 Apr 2017
at 15:16
New site design
I have looked over the beta site several times since I joined RPOL and other than the colors I feel it's a VAST improvement over the current design in terms of usability on mobile.

Mobile is really the way we need to push the site in order to help the user base grow, as well as increasing involvement from current users.

I've messaged you about a mobile app I would love to assist with, and I even wrote my own script (link to a message in this forum) in order to make the site work better on mobile for myself.

My vision for RPOL would be as an app, or at the least a mobile site with push notifications for games. Most people don't/won't use the site on their phones because it's so unwieldy with the pinch/zoom. But imagine how much faster games would move forward if every time a post was made on a game your mobile buzzed (special thanks to the Unofficial RPOL notifier app), you clicked and were taken right to the post and had a very mobile friendly interface for posting.

This is what I do now with my custom script and it allows me to make far more updates than when I was using the default RPOL site on mobile.

Instead of people "waiting to post until I'm at a computer" I think the involvement would skyrocket.

Heck, I don't care if the entire site is pink with care bears flying around, if it works on mobile I'm going to pee my pants with excitement! :D

And as I've said in several other posts, I'm a web dev with over a decade of experience and I would be more than happy to help you in any way possible. This site saved my relationship with RP and I've made my positive feelings and apprecaite toward RPOL.net really clear :D (link to a message in another game)

Thank you so much for your work jase.
steelsmiter
 member, 1704 posts
 AWE, BESM, Fate, Indies
 NO FREEFORM! NO d20!
Fri 7 Apr 2017
at 15:54
New site design
Were I to object, the only objection I would have would have been if you had changed navigation to something like what vBulletin sites or E does where you have to dig for your own topics (and in some cases can't even divide your game into threads), I'd probably object. Since you didn't, I don't.
nauthiz
 member, 512 posts
Fri 7 Apr 2017
at 22:15
New site design
One thing that might be helpful is to get some definitions for, what I think are, new terms.

The main menu now contains

Your Games
Watched Games
Watched Forums
Discussion Boards
Deleted Games
Support RPoL

Clicking on these from the main page doesn't seem to do anything, as I assume they're not working yet.

Though I could be wrong as I can't seem to find a reference to what a "Watched Game" is on the current iteration of the site (at least in the Help/FAQs), so I'm not sure if this is an old concept I'm personally unaware of, or a new one being introduced.

Therefore I don't know if I have any "Watched Games" on the Beta site that should now, or eventually, somehow interact with that link in some way.  So knowing what falls under these new(?) categories vs "Games You Own", "Games You Play In & Peruse", etc once that information is relevant would be useful.



Overall, on the desktop at least, the layout seems functional and intuitive for current users.  It retains enough elements that seem fairly itterative of the current layout to make it feel familiar while still being quite quite functional once you find your way around.

The only real issue that I'd have as a user is that at 1080p resolution, the text under the "Thread Details" portion of individual threads is a little on the small side in comparison with the "Thread Title" text.  In most general threads this isn't too much of an issue, but in the "Wanted - Players" it seems to be slightly worse.  Perhaps because there's three lines vs two, or maybe the combination of small bold text alongside small regular text, but it seems less easy to quickly scan through the System and Genre info for individual posts vs the current design.
horus
 member, 117 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Sat 8 Apr 2017
at 01:23
New site design
I'm not at a location where I can pull this beta site up on a tablet, but I've looked it over on a computer screen (1920 X 1080) and it does not look too shabby!

I get the 1100 pixel width constraint - that should work neatly with most small tablets at 1280 X 800 resolution.  I do not have a phone worth testing with (an old Motorola Moto-E), so can't help there.

Looks like you're headed the right direction.  Is there anything else we can do to help?

Later On,
D
aguy777
 member, 185 posts
 Join Date:
 Fri, 29 Nov, 2013
Sat 8 Apr 2017
at 02:02
New site design
The color scheme will take some getting used to, but it seems a lot easier to navigate. I don't have any issues on my computer or my phone (Samsung Galaxy S4).

EDIT: I entirely missed that the colors are not set in stone. Whoops. My bad. Lol.

This message was last edited by the user at 02:07, Sat 08 Apr.

ericca
 member, 118 posts
 Just a chillin
 having fun
Sat 8 Apr 2017
at 02:21
New site design
To be a bit dumb here. But can I simply say thank you for all you do. And no matter what I will always be an Rpol'er.

Now that being said, I do like what I see happening.
Skald
 moderator, 766 posts
 Whatever it is,
 I'm against it
Sat 8 Apr 2017
at 05:21
New site design
Being notoriously against any form of change whatsoever ("What do you mean it's Saturday ?!!  I LIKED Friday !  Why did you change it ?") ...

I like it.  Didn't think I would, but I do.  Under the skin, it's not a million light years away from the current layout, so there's enough of the familiar there that it doesn't feel entirely alien.

Couple of things to get the ball rolling:

1) I assume that Post a New Topic at the bottom of the game thread should be Post a Reply ?  I know we have Post a Reply on the This Thread menu at the top, but I'll be looking at the last post down the bottom of the page when I want to reply and it'd be handier not to have to scroll back up.

2) "The cast list gets confusing when it wraps, what if the" Tag sat underneath the character name to allow more width for the other columns, so the last game login and last game post time/date stamps columns can be widened slightly so they don't wrap.  It'll still be two lines per character, but it'd improve readability (and while some games use Tag for ranks etc, I suspect most will read "player" and we already know we're in the player section of the cast.  Now if I could just work out how to save even more space so we could get the portrait on there too ... (completely unnecessary, but would look pretty <grins> )
Utsukushi
 member, 1409 posts
 I should really stay out
 of this, I know...but...
Sat 8 Apr 2017
at 06:06
New site design
OMG, Friday was awesome.  This newfangled `Saturday' needs to go.  And don't even get me started on Tuesday!  Ugh.

I don't really agree that RPoL needs to aim for the mobile user -- until typing becomes a whole lot more convenient on mobile devices, there's nothing RPoL can really do to make itself more usable that way.  It can be easier to navigate, more readable, yes, but actually writing a significant post from my phone?  There's nothing jase can fix right now that will make me want to do that.

But meeting Google's list of demands... yeah, I'm afraid that makes sense.

The new layout is definitely going to take some getting used to, but, yes.  I could get used to it.  I'll agree that it doesn't feel `familiar', but I can see where you really tried to preserve a lot of the underlying structure and ideas we have now.

Um, yes, there are lots of tweaks and changes that need to be looked at, but you disclaimed pretty well that it's a work in progress.  It looks good!  Or at least.. acceptable.  Not too traumatic?  My eyes didn't melt, at least, so that's a good sign.

I'm finding it a lot harder to make out which Group different Threads belong to.  I mean, I found it, but even having found it, it doesn't stand out very well.  I like where that is now, but at least something to make it stand out better - maybe even just making that Bold?  "For Group 1 by The All Seeing Eye with 472 replies."  I think that would help.

And... I know you said it's still much in progress, so I get that we're not looking for debugging issues yet, but I'm getting some weird effects with the list of people to possibly post Private Lines to -- sometimes there's the drop-down menu as with Styled Text, and sometimes there's just a bulleted list going down from the spot where the drop down should be.  And once it was a list set in transparent boxes.  I'm trying to figure out some pattern to when this is happening.  It sort of seems like clicking the "Post a new Topic" most often gets the shadowy boxes list, while using a "quote" or "reply" link from a post either gets the dropdown list or the bulleted list?  Sort of?  It seems to be a consistent difference between different threads, but I don't know what's different about the threads.
bigbadron
 moderator, 15320 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Sat 8 Apr 2017
at 08:54
Re: New site design
Utsukushi:
I don't really agree that RPoL needs to aim for the mobile user -- until typing becomes a whole lot more convenient on mobile devices, there's nothing RPoL can really do to make itself more usable that way.

Agreed (Wait, what?  It's the End Times!).  I use my phone to check RPoL occasionally, but never to post anything more than OOC one-liners.  Why?  Because typing on the phone is a nightmare.  And as Utsukushi said, there is nothing RPoL can do about that.

Frankly I'd rather see work put into a single version of RPoL that benefits the most users (like the version currently being worked on), rather than splitting efforts into two different versions, or focussing on something that would just encourage me to post less.
byzantinex
 member, 89 posts
Sat 8 Apr 2017
at 11:13
Re: New site design
@bigbadron and Utsukushi

I do most of my posting on this and my own forum from my mobile phone and tablet.

I actually built my own forum with vanilla forums specifically because it was mobile focused.

I run a few games on there.
My players almost exclusively post from their mobile devices as well.

Maybe this is a generational thing? I'm 32 and I type on my phone all day long or use speech to text so saying it's a nightmare to type on a phone seems weird to say.

Fewer and fewer people even own desktop computers and laptops. I've been focusing all my development work on mobile first focused projects for almost 5 years now. Mobile devices rule king on the web.

Anyway, if any community wants to survive it has to evolve and attract new members. It's my professional opinion mobile first is the way to do that.

p.s. I just typed that entire response from my tablet using the custom developed page I created to make RPOL mobile friendly...

p.s.s. The average person I've met on RPOL is 30-40 with a full time job, married with kids. If we attract those younger people who are interested in D&D and were born with smart phones in their hands they 1) Have more time on their hands 2) we could teach them to play the best game in the world, and one without graphics and 3) A rising tide raises all ships, so younger people with more time on their hands getting involved in our games will mean more frequent postings.

This message was last edited by the user at 11:42, Sat 08 Apr.

bigbadron
 moderator, 15321 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Sat 8 Apr 2017
at 11:43
Re: New site design
quote:
It's my professional opinion mobile first is the way to do that.

That is, as you say, your opinion as a developer who creates mobile sites.

quote:
I'm 32 and I type on my phone all day long or use speech to text so saying it's a nightmare to type on a phone seems weird to say.

Odd... to me it seems like a perfectly natural thing to say.  *shrugs*