Well, here's the real crux of the arguement - we're not entirely sure that it does work for everyone. One of the biggest issues we have is that a huge number of people say "I'd sign up only I can't figure out where anything is on your site" or "I find things on your site via Google, but don't know how to navigate around" which means that clearly our layout and organisation of things isn't working. Now, the layout is a much bigger issue and we're putting a lot of work into that at the moment in the office between our design team and the new UI/UX person we've hired (he starts in about 3 weeks).
I submit, for general review, admiration, scorn or ridicule (pick what you think fits), what I have in mind for the front page and a new menu - this of course hasn't been approved by anyone else in the office - this was just me spending 15 minutes with Balsamiq (really great little tool if you're ever in the need to do rough sketches of things). PLEASE don't take this as some sort of official plan for a re-design, this is just what I think based on some of what we've been talking about here and some of what we've kiced around in the office in order to help us develop the ideas further.
To explain what I'm thinking for the menu -
Boards.ie - replicate some of what the Beta Menu does - links to Thread/Post of the Day, FAQ, etc Doubles as a return to the home page link too.
<member page> - I'd like to change the way User CP works and make it easier to understand and so this would be the link. If you're not logged in you'll see a great big "SIGN UP" link instead.
My Forums - self explanitory, could be replaced with a "Log in" if you're not logged in - sits nicely beside the "Sign Up" if that's the case.
Talk To - this is, we hope, going to become our main source of revenue for the site. It makes a lot of sense to separate it and take it out from general discussion.
Topics - hover over and it shows our current categories - mouse down over a category and it shows maybe the top 5/10 forums and a "show all forums in this category" link.
Region - I think the Regional forums work slightly differently to "Topical" forums anyway in that you're talkinga bout a range of things local to the area, so again, it makes sense to split it out from the main "Topics"
Search - this would be a general search with "smart" features like Mr Presentable has mentioned above.
I've put a "topic cloud" under the logo - quick access to stuff that's popular for anyone who's not looking for anything in particular.
Announcements - I'm sure many of you have seen this style of box on other sites (quite a lot of Blogs have them in particular) that cycles through a list of current "whatevers" that the site wants you to see, so I like the idea of using something like that for the current Announcements we do on the front page each week.
The rest is unchanged really - the ads on the right and the listings of latest posts etc as they currently appear.
Do you think that something loosely based on this will work? I don't need to hear "you need to move that more to the left" or stuff like that, this is a quick prototype design to see if the changes to the menu and organisation of categories makes sense. Our new UI/UX person as well as the design team here in the office may just laugh when they see it and dazzle us with a far better suggestion