For those of you who haven't seen it, here's a brief run down of the new features and changes:
- Omni-Search-Navigation - In the header you will now see the new search box. You can use this to search for anything across the site, navigate anywhere in the site or search for members. Just start typing the forum you want to go to, the user you’re looking for or the term you want to find, and the results will start appearing as you type. For example, if you type ‘Xbox’ in the search bar you will see the Xbox Forum, followed by the ability to search the site for the term ‘Xbox’ and then any members with ‘Xbox’ in their user name. Hitting Enter after typing your search term will bring you to a search results page as normal. Pressing the down arrow on your keyboard and hitting enter when selecting the forum will navigate you to that forum. When in a forum, you can start searching and this time you will have the option to search within that forum only, or the whole of Boards.ie. The other search result options are also present.
- Breadcrumbs - Just below the Boards.ie logo we’ve placed the breadcrumb trail. Here you can see exactly where you are, and the ability to navigate up levels.
- "Sticky" header - the menu and omni-search and breadcrumbs will remain floating over the content as you scroll up and down the page. This can be disabled by going here, un-ticking the box beside "Use Sticky Header" and then clicking the "Save Changes" button on the bottom of the page.
- Category Navigation - The categories are all listed along the top of the site. Move your mouse over the category and the menu will expand. Click the expand icon () to show the subcategories. When you find the one you’re looking for, click the text link to navigate.
- Follow Forum / Thread - This feature is now more prominent on the site and should be considered the primary means of navigation in combination with the Omni-Search. You can go to any forum and ‘Follow’ it by clicking on the grey Follow Forum button beside the New Thread button. This will then be added to the ‘My Forums’ dropdown in the upper right of the screen (beside your name). If there is new content in the forum, there will be an ‘*’ at the end of the forum title.
When you follow a thread (either by clicking the ‘Follow Thread’ Button, or replying to the thread and subscribing to it, it will be added to the ‘Followed Threads’ list in the Member Dropdown (hover over your name). As threads get new content you will see the number increase. So, for example, if you’re following 10 threads and 9 of the threads have had new posts (there could be multiple posts in any given thread, but it will be counted as a single update), you will see a ‘9’ in the notification counter to signify that 9 of your threads have new content.
- Notifications - As well as adding a notification beside your name in the header, you can customise what you want to be notified of - Private Messages, Followed Threads, Visitor Messages and Friend Requests. You can set your preferences in the "Appearance Settings" page.
- Button Positions - The buttons around the site have been repositioned to make them more consistent. When reply, the reply button will always be on the right, and have the primary action colour (in this case blue). Everywhere on the site, when there are multiple buttons, the primary action for the group is always the button in blue.
- General Design - We’ve increased the amount of padding around elements around the site to make it easier on the eye and easier to read. Because we’ve tightened up the header, the amount of content that you see on screen is generally the same as the old version of Boards.ie.
- Customisation - as mentioned above, there is an "Appearance Settings" (in the Member Dropdown menu when you hover over your name) page where you can, if you wish tweak and alter some of the appearance of the site and choose what notifications you wish to receive. My personal preference is "Cosy Mode" which reduces padding on things and squeezes a bit more into the page.
We are currently working on 2 new colour schemes based on this new layout; a black based one for all you fans of the old Cloud skin and a third more neutral coloured one so your boss doesn't wonder what it is you're up to when they see your screen
As a part of all this, and this is something most of you reading this won't realise, we've also completely re-done the Registration process which should go a long way towards tackling the spam bots which have been plaguing us in recent months. The Log In and Log Out pages have also had a face lift too.
So, if you spot any bugs or problems with the new skin, it would be a huge help to us if you could post them here on the Site Development forum.
Known, common issues
- iPad compatibility - We know there are issues with iPads. Full testing has not been done on any iPad. The skin was designed for full computers like netbooks, laptops and desktops with the idea being the touch site may see improvements similar to the new skin in the future. This isn't to say we're leaving iPad users in the dark, but that they're not our target audience currently but we will improve things as we go along. It would be useful for you to report any bugs you find so we have a record of them anyway, but it won't be a priority.
- Jump to unread posts/spacebar/pgdn/pgup scrolling can get blocked by the sticky header - We are aware of this and are working on a fix.
Thank you again to everyone who helped us out with the testing on this over the last 4 weeks or so and a big pat on the back to Paddy and the rest of our tech team as well as Derek and JD on the Distilled Design team who added a lot to this project and especially to our new man Tony who was sort of thrown into the deep end with a project near completion when he joined the company about 10 weeks ago.
What if I'm afraid of change or I simply don't like it?
Well you'll see a "Switch to old look" link on the right hand side of the grey breadcrumbs bar in the header. None of the old skins are going anywhere, but we will no longer be supporting them when we add new features to the site (and we have been saying for over 2 years that they will be going away, so this shouldn't be coming as a shock to anyone ). As I said, we're working on alternative colour schemes for this new look, I'll update you with an ETA for them when I can get it.