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IP.Board 3.2.0: Front-end Changes Afoot

While we aren't quite ready to show off IP.Board 3.2.0 in its entirety yet, I wanted to talk a little about what you can expect from our new front-end skin - our thinking behind development, areas we've focused on, etc.

Goals
Before development commenced, we created a list of goals that we aimed to meet. These include:

  • Improving the experience
    We've been accused in the past of having a 'clunky' experience in some areas, so we've worked hard to improve the user experience in key areas. Some of these are usability changes, while others relate to reducing clutter on the screen or relocating elements.
  • Making the skin easier for 3rd party developers (and ourselves!) to use
    Another focus was on making our skin - particularly the CSS - easier to use, for skinners, developers, even our own team. We've found that as new features were added, whole blocks of existing CSS were copied, pasted, then tweaked to suit the new feature. This creates some resource overhead, not to mention more work for skinners and developers. To remedy this, we've begun introducing a new approach to our CSS: more modular units that can be reused and combined easily to make many interfaces easy to implement. This will be gradually introduced throughout the skin as areas get updated in future point releases. Already, we've been able to remove large sections of old CSS as the updated areas make use of the new modular CSS.
  • Modernizing the display
    It's been 3 years since we first began working on IP.Board 3.0, and the internet has come some way since then. We decided it was time to refresh the visual style of our default skin. While it will still be clearly recognizable as IP.Board, we've added some polish to the overall style, and made more use of technologies such as CSS3.



Areas that we've focused on
A huge number of areas have had minor tweaks here and there, too numerous to list here. But other areas have had significant updates, including:

  • Global wrapper
    This is probably a given, since it influences the rest of the skin. Parts have been made more streamlined, with a new member & moderator bar, a new application bar that now supports as many apps as you choose to install, inline sign in and more.
  • Forum view
    While the basic concept of listing topics inside a forum hasn't been altered, we've made big updates to the presentation, including rethinking the display of non-essential items and a new, friendly topic preview.
  • Topics view
    As with forum view, the basic structure has not changed (familiarity is a good thing!), but numerous elements have been tweaked, changed, and tidied. All in all, reading topics should be a more pleasant experience for your users.
  • Profile
    Our profile view was in need of overhauling, so that's what we've done! It now sports a vastly cleaner display while keeping all the relevant information accessible. Data from 3rd party apps is easily incorporated without fear of breaking the tab bar as in 3.0. In addition, we have merged profile comments and status updates, giving members a modern 'wall' in their profile.
  • Calendar
    We've previously posted blog entries about new features you can expect to see in Calendar, and to go along with that, we've completely revamped almost every aspect of the calendar display - hopefully making it a more inviting place for your community to share events.
  • Registration
    We identified some time ago that our registration routine was less than optimal, especially when considering communities that make use of IP.Nexus, with its ability to sell packages at registration. To remedy that, we have rethought the registration routine, to present Nexus packages in a better way, get rid of unnecessary steps along the way, and above all make it quicker for your prospective members to register
  • Moderation
    We will elaborate on this point at a later date, but we have made the various day-to-day moderation tasks easy to access and use - a boon for your moderating team.
  • View New Content
    Our View New Content area has steadily grown more complex as additional sorting and filtering options have been introduced, so we felt it was time to improve the display of those options to make it all a bit easier to use.
  • Posting Screen
    We've updated the new topic/reply screen to be more streamlined, as well as integrate some new goodies that we'll talk about later.
  • Redirect Screens
    The old-fashioned 'you are being redirected' screens are now a thing of the past. Every area has been updated to use a new inline notification display, which doesn't get in the way and fades after a few seconds.



Teasers

To whet your appetite, here's some teaser shots of the new front-end. We'll be gradually showing more as we discuss new features in later blog entries.





While these are just teaser shots, over the next few weeks we will start posting blog entries about new features on the front end that will also contain screenshots of new skin elements so keep an eye on our blog for more updates!

Feel free to comment on this blog entry below or, if you have feedback unrelated to this blog entry, start a new topic in our feedback forum. Be sure to check the What's New in IP.Board 3.2 topic for a running list of announced changes!
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The error isn't that you aren't logged in.

The error is that you don't have permission to access the forum. It is possible (and IPB has no way of knowing) that if you login you WILL have permission, so we provide a quick link to the login screen. Unfortunately, until you login and we know what group you are in and so forth, there is no way to know if logging in will give you access or not.

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Personally, I don't like the IP.Board error system/messages at all - they're very "hard" and not being logged in isn't strictly and error, just an oversight or permission issue.

I think "softening" the on-screen error reporting should be considered as part of any front-end revamp. Maybe even bury the error code details in the HTML (as a <-- comment -->) so that admins can still find and report it to IPS, whilst at the same time giving a simple, clean, soft message to the member explaining that they either don't have permission or need to login:

"You don't seem to have access permission for this content or feature. This may change if you login."

Get rid of the DANGER red background too - much as it highlights the error text, it also compounds the HARDNESS of it.

Sorry, I'll stop, I'm waffling again ... but it would be nice if errors could be softened for our members.

Cheers,
Shaun :D

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So, what does this mean for our current skins? Complete rework required?

I hope not....

In short, I do hope you will maintain compatibility - changes between point versions of the board software has been dramatic for quite a few skins already, and we happen to use 7 non-Invision skins right now, with another in the making....

Regards, W.

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[quote name='wimg' timestamp='1300504229']
So, what does this mean for our current skins? Complete rework required?I hope not....In short, I do hope you will maintain compatibility - changes between point versions of the board software has been dramatic for quite a few skins already, and we happen to use 7 non-Invision skins right now, with another in the making....Regards, W.

This is why I've been requesting them to show us whats being changed (in full) for months, it doesn't seem to be happening though so we can't make plans. (although I'm guessing 3.2 is a long way off anyway)
Personally, I won't be bothered so long as the skin has been improved as the current one is poor.

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Looking more sleek and modern. Please remember the 3rd party skinners though, I cannot install a skin now from my IBSkin subscription because they only last a few months before a new update breaks their skins, so I'm left with either having old out of date features and a nice skin, or nice new features and no skin. IBSkin for example have to update all of their skins to make compatible with Gallery 4.x for example. Many skinners have given up (Skins by Dragonfly etc) and this is a shame. I was expecting more in this update or another to discuss this point and how IPS were going to better support them in the future to make life easier.



Oh God no. Please make that an AdminCP choice?

we have merged profile comments and status updates, giving members a modern 'wall' in their profile.

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[quote name='The Old Man' timestamp='1300612127']
Looking more sleek and modern. Please remember the 3rd party skinners though, I cannot install a skin now from my IBSkin subscription because they only last a few months before a new update breaks their skins, so I'm left with either having old out of date features and a nice skin, or nice new features and no skin. IBSkin for example have to update all of their skins to make compatible with Gallery 4.x for example. Many skinners have given up (Skins by Dragonfly etc) and this is a shame. I was expecting more in this update or another to discuss this point and how IPS were going to better support them in the future to make life easier.


While there will likely always been some updates to perform between versions, introducing modular CSS should help somewhat because it means interface elements are shared across pages more consistently - so if we add a new feature, it should make use of the styles that already exist more so than now. We have ideas to further reduce the work in later versions.

The 'wall' isn't an admin choice (in the sense of choosing a way of displaying it) - it's exactly the same functionality that already exists.

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[quote name='marklcfc' timestamp='1300535089']
This is why I've been requesting them to show us whats being changed (in full) for months, it doesn't seem to be happening though so we can't make plans. (although I'm guessing 3.2 is a long way off anyway)Personally, I won't be bothered so long as the skin has been improved as the current one is poor.



We can't show you the new skin in full because the new skin isn't finished yet. It's very much in heavy active development.

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[quote name='bfarber' timestamp='1300714295']
[quote name='marklcfc' timestamp='1300535089']This is why I've been requesting them to show us whats being changed (in full) for months, it doesn't seem to be happening though so we can't make plans. (although I'm guessing 3.2 is a long way off anyway)Personally, I won't be bothered so long as the skin has been improved as the current one is poor.



Would it be possible to show us when available so that the community can provide feedback?

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[quote name='c u l8er' timestamp='1300309383']False,I already found a bug :) look at picture #2. Shouldn't that say 1 user is online? Instead it says 1 users are online.
Well, still no grammar module...

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