4 Replies Latest reply on Dec 13, 2017 7:12 PM by gwideman

    Element 14 discussion discoverability is broken

    gwideman

      Please please fix the ludicrously bad forum (aka discussions) navigation/discoverability. It's bad for us users, and it surely must be bad for the development of community which you seem to want to promote, and it makes element 14 look rather clueless in comparison with every other site that implements forums in a consistent manner.

       

      The main problem is this: It's relatively easy to stumble onto the main "place" page for a topic. Here I'll use Altium CircuitStudio as an example:

      www.element14.com/community/community/manufacturers/altium?ICID=menubar_discuss_altium

       

      But on that page there's a blizzard of rubbish, including TWO lists of distractions: "Featured Content" and "Recent Forum Posts".  But it's virtually impossible from this page to discover how to get to the actual forum message listing at:

       

      www.element14.com/community/community/manufacturers/altium/content?filterID=contentstatus[published]~objecttype~objecttype[thread]&filterID=contentstatus[published]%7Elanguage%7Elanguage%5Bcpl%5D

       

      In fact, realizing that you are not using standard forum software, and seeing the "Recent Forum Posts" list, I suspect most users assume that this dumbed-down arbitrarily truncated list is the actual forum message list, and don't realize that there's a proper list at the link I just mentioned.

       

      The only way I ever manage to find the real forum message list is by these convoluted steps:

       

      1. Somehow google or otherwise get to the All Places > Manufacturers >[specific manufacturer page]

      2. In the "Recent Forum Posts", select a post and navigate to it. I don't care about that post, but that allows me to...

      3. At the top of the single post page, click on the Discussions link in the breadcrumbs.

      3. Ahhh -- success. This finally takes me to the actual posts list, with author, date of last activity, whether there are any replies, and so on.

       

      Why oh why is this so obtuse? Why isn't it just like any other forum system has been for the entire 21st century?

       

      Here's an example at your main community competitor:

       

      1. eevblog.com

      2. Click on the Forum link in the prominent menu.

      Boom, you're on the right track to finding the group you want to look at. And anybody who is likely to be a community member of element14 is likely to be very familiar with how to navigate in that structure.

       

      Look, it's fine that you've developed your own community software so you can mix/muddle together forums, blog posts and other content. It just seems a tremendous wasted opportunity when you make plain simple features like forum discovery and navigation work so poorly that it makes you look stupid, and frustrates goals of both yourselves and participants.

       

      Sophisticated plan for how to fix it:

       

      On each All Places > Manufacturers >[specific manufacturer page]:

      1. get rid of the dumbed-down "Recent Forum Posts panel

      2. replace it with a nice big (say 48px height) link labeled "Go To Forum".

       

      Done.  Graham

      • Reply
        • Re: Element 14 discussion discoverability is broken
          gwideman

          FWIW, I belatedly notice that the forum to which this message thread belongs, has a "place" page:

          www.element14.com/community/community/support

           

          .. on which the Recent Discussions area is followed by a link to View All Discussion, which does what I propose a link should do, point to the forum's main message list page. However, that link does not appear on any other place pages that I visited. Furthermore, it's rather lost in the clutter, and would need to be significantly more prominent to get participants reliably to a forum's main message list.

          • Re: Element 14 discussion discoverability is broken
            beacon_dave

            It looks like the place navigation bar is missing from the Altium CircuitStudio place, so you are ending up in the place 'Overview' tab with no easy route from their to the 'Content' view.

             

            If the place navigation bar was enabled, then you would be able to select between the 'Overview' and the 'Content' page tabs which would give you a more forum-like listing.

             

            For example, If you look at either of:

            Feedback and Support

            RoadTests & Reviews

            you will see the place open in 'Overview' tab of the place navigation bar and by selecting the 'Content' tab you will get the forum-like view which I think you are looking for.

            1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • Re: Element 14 discussion discoverability is broken
              Matt Collinge

              Hi Graham, thanks for the feedback. Like Dave said, normally there's a set of tabs on the Overview pages.. but whoever set up that page decided to turn the tabs off. I've gone in and switched them back on, so that should help alleviate the issue you encountered.

               

              There's a team looking at site usability/navigation so I've made sure they're aware of all your feedback & suggestions.

               

              Thanks,

               

              Matt.

              2 of 2 people found this helpful
                • Re: Element 14 discussion discoverability is broken
                  gwideman

                  Hi Matt,

                   

                  Thanks for fixing that menu issue -- that's already a big improvement.  And as long as you have a team looking at usability...

                   

                  Overview page discoverability of forums.

                   

                  On the Overview page, even with the reinstated menu, the path to the FORUM is only through the menu item CONTENT.

                   

                  That is not the obvious name for "Place where you'll find the Forum". Indeed, on the Overview page, the "FEATURED CONTENT" and "RECENT FORUM POSTS" are two entirely separate blocks, like even the author of the Overview page doesn't think Forum is a sub-idea of Content.

                   

                  Further, the only place on the Overview page that you do surface information relating to the Forum is that RECENT FORUM POSTS list (and it's the only in-page-search hit for "forum"), yet there is no link to the Forum!  The same applies to the FEATURED CONTENT area.

                   

                  And now about the "Content" list page.

                   

                  Using as an example: Altium CircuitStudio

                   

                  Turns out it's not a forum. It initially looks like a forum, but it turns out it's actually a random muddle of mixed items.  AAAARRRRGGGG! 

                   

                  Though a  user may sometimes want to see "what has appeared lately", most of the time the user will want to browse these different types of "content" in entirely different ways, according to their vastly different life-cycles. Forum messages more likely by search, or date, or following-this-topic. Documents and Videos, which are longer-lasting, by topic (not date), and so on.

                   

                  The Content-type Filters

                   

                  Sure, you can filter the list using the row of icons at the top, and the list can become tractable. But that UI is a case study in extremely poor usability. Part of the problem lies in "Responsive design" gone mad, and part in poor mapping of requirements to controls.

                  Element 14 content filter

                   

                   

                  -- With a window  width of < 1366px or so, there's no clue that the icons even implement a filter

                   

                  -- In < 1366 mode, there's no clue what the individual icons filter for unless you hover the mouse. Is there a compelling reason why those labels disappear? After all, there's a text label for "All Content" (which makes no sense unless you understand this is a filter), and on "Filter by shared content", a meaningless option  so far as I can tell. And the tag filter UI is broken and takes up twice as much space as it needs, see below. Also there's no point in showing filter categories for which there are no results.

                   

                  -- In <1366 mode, having selected a filter, there's no indication that the filter is selected, nor even that they are toggles.

                   

                  -- There seems no way to select multiple filters (say Documents and Videos) except by selecting All Content, which swamps the list with Discussions.

                   

                  -- In short, the currently-inscrutable filter-select icons would be 1000% more competent as just checkboxes with labels that didn't vanish on window width < 1366px.

                   

                  Filter by Tag

                   

                  In passing, I note that the UI elements for Filter by Tab seem to be either redundant, broken, or both.  There seems to be an initial state where there's both a link "Filter by Tag" and also a choice in the combobox that initially says "Filter by Language" but can select "Filter by Tag". Activating either causes a separate Filter by Tag combobox to appear (with text slot and Clear link), and at that stage both comboboxes have only one item, so are pointless.  But I have a great idea what to do with the space saved by fixing all that -- use it for labels on the content-type filter selectors!

                   

                  The Info in the list

                   

                  I guess that the icons that indicate filter type are related to the left-edge icons in the list to indicate what type of a thing that item is. Except those list icons come in many different appearances and colors, evidently indicating sub-type or status of the item.  But there's no tooltip on those icons. So they are pretty much relegated to being random decorations.

                   

                  Next the list's fields: Currently you have Title, Author, Latest Activity date, Views, and Likes,Bookmark,Replies.

                   

                  It's good that you list latest Activity Date.  But also needed is Latest Respondent. That way a user can tell at a glance if they were the last respondent, or whether  someone responded since. Latest Activity Date only serves that purpose if the user can remember when they last posted.

                   

                  That would require a bit more column space. But that can be fixed by rendering the date in YYYY-MM-DD hh-mm format. Which is an ISO standard universally  understood worldwide, with no ambiguity as to MM-DD-YYYY or DD-MM-YYYY, and no need to render the month in English. (And hugely better than "one week ago").

                   

                  In short, there are some good opportunities for increased user engagement by just fixing basic UI issues.

                   

                  Graham