Forum Features you think should be common/default?

Discussion in 'Community Forum Software' started by CM30, Sep 28, 2013.

  1. CM30

    CM30 Regular Member

    Jul 1, 2012
    Likes Received:
    What forum features (that don't already exist) in many scripts on the market do you think should be made into default ones found in all/most forum software?

    For me, I think the following would be really useful in future forum scripts:

    1. A major upgrade to the promotion/usergroup system

    And ideally, I'd want it to integrate two amazing things found in exactly two paid forum scripts; vBulletin's joinable usergroups and Lithium's expanded permissions/rank/promotion system.

    The former because let's face it, the option to let people join custom usergroups with their own different perks and things has quite a lot of great uses that very few people ever considered. Like using it for a forum clan/group system in the same sense of the 'races' in a tabletop game or MMORPG. Or the type of 'alignment' system found in Western RPGs like Fallout. It's also possible to use this kind of thing for stuff like forum groups based on experience or hobby or whatever, like how The Admin Zone has you join the exchange for things like post exchanges and things, or the review team, or maybe the Big Board admins group.

    But that's only scratching the surface. How about a feature that lets you set up these groups to be based on things like payments (therefore integrating the subscriptions system from the likes of IPB) or even things like age, karma/likes/reputation, etc? That way, you could have a system where you choose to join an optional group and get accepted/turned down based on what you did elsewhere on the site. Lots of potential there! Heck, maybe they could even integrate a sort of 'welcome quiz' function where you have to get a certain amount right to join the optional usergroup!

    As for the latter... it's one of those things Lithium did right years and years ago that no one other forum/community script has even bothered to implement. Basically, it lets you promote someone based on MORE than just their post count. So for instance, on the old Nintendo Nsider forums, this is what someone needed to become part of a usergroup:

    As you can see, it's not just based on posts, it's based on time active and page view count. There were other factors too I think, like number of messages viewed (30,227 for the above rank), logins (47 required for the above rank) and board views (1,762 required).

    It's a far better way to have people rank up to be honest, since it's pretty much impossible to 'cheat' by mass posting garbage in the form of fluff posts, and it meant that no spammer ever got past the first rank before getting their ass banned.

    Now obviously it'd need to be modernised a bit... the old Nsider boards never had a reputation/likes system due to how they were got rid of back in 2006 or so. So perhaps another criteria could be something like 'X amount of likes given to your posts'. And another one could possibly be 'referred X amount of new members'. But the point still stands, the things counted as 'criteria' for a rank up/group promotion should be significantly expanded to include more than just post count.

    Why is this useful? Because at the moment, titles and post count are rather meaningless measures of member 'quality' and participation. They're also too easy to cheat by posting absolute nonsense like the hordes of Russian/Indian spammers/SEO 'specialists' who add things like 'Page rank is important. Please use Google to promote your website'.

    The expanded system would completely destroy this kind of spammer, since they couldn't just join and post a ton of crap 'hit and run' style to get their signature out there. And hey... no spammer on the planet would bother to continously log in for a week straight and view a bunch of other topics just to get their signature out there. By implementing this, user groups and ranks could actually have meaning again.

    2. Category/forum icons as default... implemented in a simple way

    Another thing I want to see made into a default feature in most forum scripts are category icons/forum icons. You know, those unique icons used on forums and placed next to each section's title to represent the content found in it.

    Because honestly, it's kind of disappointing how few forum developers realised how useful this kind of feature is. Really, just having one 'unread' and 'read' icon isn't good, it just looks ugly as hell and as unexciting as you can possibly get.

    So we need these as a default feature in pretty much all forum scripts. But do you know what else we need?

    These to be implemented in a simple to use, logical way.

    Seriously. vBulletin tried to add these once, and they just messed it up big time by making it so you had to name the icons in some restrictive forum like '1' or '2' to match the forum ID. IPB had a mod that lets you add these... but it doesn't let you define the theme directory the icons are stored in and uses the same ones across all themes in use on the site.

    So how it should work is as follows:

    Just that. Simple, easy to understand and effective.

    Technical Note: How it'd work is that you'd have a folder in the 'theme specific images' one called 'forumicons', with the script being designed to look for any PNG, GIF or JPG images in said area. Then, if you set the forum icons via the above interface, it'd find and display the right icon as entered in the box. Unread/read/locked forum specific icons would be in the format of 'find anything with a file name matching the 'icon file name' field that has '_unread', '_read' or '_locked' in the url regardless of file format.

    Each theme would then have its own set of forum icons, defaulting to those included in 'clean' or 'master' if no such folder/directory is found.
    Forum icons should hence be another feature that's included in all forum scripts, and ideally designed to work in the above way.

    3. Back to simplicity for forum designs/images

    The next thing on my list isn't really a 'feature' as much as its a design/coding philosophy.

    Basically, I want forum designers to realise that most of their audience are not pro web designers or front end developers and simplify how the style is put together to accomodate that.

    What do I mean by this? I mean the following:

    A: CSS sprites should not be used. They may be 'clever', but they're annoying for anyone who doesn't want to spend hours on messing with CSS code and image editing. Just go back to forum icons and images treated as seperate files please, that way your average Joe can just upload the replacements they design without having to fiddle around with a bunch of pointless technical crap.

    B: CSS code should be kept simple, commented, spaced out a bit and seperated by function. Ideally, it should also not exceed a hundred kilobytes in size if possible.

    C: There should be a way to visually edit things via the front end. So instead of sticking the variables and things in a big form in the Admin CP with vague descriptions, you'd click say 'the category divider' or 'the logo' and then immediately be able to type in things like what colour you want it and what image you want used (or various other things. And then see the results in real time.

    D: All front end stuff related to mods should be editable via templates or the like. Really, we shouldn't have to delve in PHP files and code just to edit out appallingly poorly written legacy code inserted by the various add ons you can find on the likes of, the XenForo resource manager or IPB's marketplace.

    E: Display useful error messages. Maybe not to the end user (to avoid security issues), but whenever an admin/moderator account is viewing the forums and it all goes wrong, the script should display what actually caused the error rather than a useless message like 'there is something wrong with the database'.

    Above: Gee, I would have never figured this one out!

    And no, error logs are not an excuse for not doing this. We're not all tech geeks who like crap like the command prompt or giant text files or whatever, many of us are normal people running a forum who should be given more 'hints' than what the script is actually providing.

    Oh, and don't treat people like idiots please.


    [part 2 in next post]
    Brandon likes this.
  2. CM30

    CM30 Regular Member

    Jul 1, 2012
    Likes Received:
    4. A good, decent CMS system as an add on or feature

    Not Wordpress, not Drupal, not Joomla... just a simple CMS add on that does mostly what a basic site needs a CMS for and that can let the staff add pages easily.

    Indeed, do you know what the likes of IP Content and others get wrong?

    They make it either too complex or too feature lacking to be usable.

    For the latter, what we need is just to be able to make a bunch of pages (static and otherwise) that van be saved to a different domain/subfolder/directory with a system that lets the admin choose how they want to display them. Don't just do like vB and stick them in the forum wrapper with minimal functionality.

    But for the former, we don't want to have go overboard with programming and PHP and whatever else just to get content displayed. All we really need are the following things:

    A: Blocks that can be laid out in any order and can contain both static and dynamic content.
    B: Comments functionality/form/list on any page where its activated, which ties into the forum.
    C: The ability to make templates with dynamic variables that you can slot into different places. So for example, if your site was coded like this (as static HTML):

    [code here]

    Then we should be able to turn this into a CMS template by just doing the following:

    <!doctype html>
    <title>My page</title>
    <div id="leftcolumn">
    <div id="main">
    Or in other words, by just taking our already made template, sticking in the database or theme files or whatever and just using generated directives/content that automatically take things from the database/blocks/widgets and stick them in different parts of the code.

    Yet not one forum comes with a CMS that works in such a simple and easy to understand way. It's almost like developers hate simplicity and things that are easy to use, as if they're scared that such things would put 'em all out of work! So instead we either get half assed solutions like vBs or ridiculously complex and poorly documented ones like IPB's instead.

    Fix this please.

    5. Supported integrations with other scripts/IP Connect style features

    Finally, I think more forum scripts should have properly supported/inhouse integration with other scripts, especially ones a lot of the population uses.

    Why? Because very few people ONLY use a forum script and the official add ons for it, and many use other software in combination to run a site with more features.

    And so these people likely want a quick and easy way to integrate the member database of the forum with the rest of the site. Why not make it simple to do this?

    I mean, it's not like all scripts out there ignore the need for this. IPB has IP Connect (which in theory allows for this integration) and I think Coppermine Gallery actually has built in integration with forum scripts like phpBB, so why don't all forum scripts do this?

    Accept that forums don't operate in a vacuum any more and move on. Support integration with other scripts and make it easy and convenient for site owners to use it.

    So hey, those are some features I think all forums should have nowadays, what ones do you think should be made default that don't already exist?
    Brandon likes this.

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