Changes coming to AVForums soon

Status
Not open for further replies.

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
The plan, in a nutshell
Coming soon, we are
  • replacing the reviews, news and articles on AVForums with an all new editorial section
  • migrating the forums to a new forum platform
  • implementing a completely new design
Although we have set a provisional date for the launch within the next few weeks, we're not announcing it because some aspects are still in development. Migrating the forums will require us to be offline for a time and we have worked towards keeping this down to a few hours. We will give you plenty of notice prior to taking AVForums down so that any time-critical outstanding activities on the forum can be appropriately dealt with.

To answer some FAQs right off the bat
It's still going to be the same AVForums. Your existing login details, account information, threads, posts, private messages, iTrader feedback and Thanks will be transferred.

So why are we doing this?
Because
  • editorial - we are improving and amalgamating the editorial areas (hardware, movies and games), as well as integrating editorial into the forums so there is a more natural flow of readers between the two. This is the first major overhaul of the editorial side of AVForums.
  • forums - the move to a better forum platform to improve the user experience is long overdue. In fact as I explain later in this thread, we don't have any choice about moving platform.
  • design - we need a new design which brings together the improved editorial and forum areas. While we have changed designs several times in the 13 years since we started AVForums, the use of a new form platform changes the basic design, so we decided to take the opportunity to do a proper job of it.

Hear the team discuss the changes here:

Time: 00:42:30 | File Size: 59mb | Direct Link
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
Front and Centre – the new AVForums editorial
A few words from AVForums editor Phil Hinton

We first added an editorial element to the forums back in 2003 with the introduction of DVD disc reviews. Even back then I had ideas of how the section should grow and become an integral part of the forums experience. Starting with a team of two volunteers, we have come a long way in the last 10 years to finally be at a point where we can present our editorial content in the right way. We now have a team of 16 contributors adding news, articles and reviews covering TVs, home cinema, tech, movies and most recently, games.

Because the editorial has, in the past, been part of the vBulletin forums layout, it hasn’t always been easy to find the latest news, reviews, articles, videos and podcasts. The old design made it more difficult to find the hard work of the editorial team, which can be hidden behind menus or parts of the site that feel distant from the community at large. We have always wanted to integrate our professional editorial content to be a major part of the community, where it is front and centre in its presentation and encourages our community to get involved.*
We are finally here.

The new look AVForums incorporates the editorial into the heart of the design. We will have a new home page with instantly clickable content boxes, the latest forum hot topics, videos and podcasts in a media player and a wealth of the latest breaking news. Plus we have 'hub' (read home) pages for Home Cinema, Tech, Movies, Games, Videos and Podcasts. Each hub is easy to find from the new menu in the header of every page. The hubs provide even more content related to those subjects.

We will be extending the types of content we produce to take advantage of the new design. Finally articles will be a major part of the editorial, where we can delve deep into the subjects making the news, or look at classic films in more detail and explore new technology stories. The editorial also feeds into a full product database which members can use to compare items and find the right choice of kit when it comes time to buy. From the product pages you can also find related content such as reviews of the items, articles and news stories. We will also post full photo galleries for newly announced kit and continue to build our video content to cover major events like CES.


A key part of the new editorial layout is how you as a member can become involved. Each content piece will have comments sections so you can share your thoughts. Plus, there will be a user review section, where you can take the time to enter your thoughts on a product you have (or used to own), helping the community to gather more information on products they are interested in.


Finally, the Critical Media team have managed to realise their initial design brief from me, which was for a beautifully laid out editorial that looks modern, with big images and easy to read text in a contemporary, glossy style. I am hugely excited about the new editorial and I look forward to your feedback in the weeks and months ahead.
 
Last edited:

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
Big changes to the forums
For the first time in 12 years, we are migrating AVForums to new forum software. We are moving from vBulletin to Xenforo.

What is Xenforo? And why are we changing to it?
Xenforo is a relatively new forum platform released in 2011 by the original developers of vBulletin. These guys built vBulletin and grew it to be the market leader in forum software. But while vBulletin is, in my opinion, failing in the hands of new owners, the Xenforo team have moved on to create an efficient, user friendly, innovative, contemporary forum platform which we will all benefit from using.

Who else is using Xenforo? Here is a list of big forums.

What's new?
Too much to put into one thread. But here are some highlights.

New User Interface (UI)
The new UI will be the biggest change you will notice about AVForums using Xenforo.

The fundamental way that the forums work is the same. We have forums, threads and posts. Though they are referred to as forums, discussions and messages.
The approach taken to developing Xenforo was to look again at how everything works and build the new forum platform from scratch, from the ground up, taking the best possible approach.
The new UI moves some elements around, adds some neat, new features and removes some out-of-date techniques.


These changes are all improvements based on feedback from forum users like us here at the AVForums community.
While the new UI is intuitive by design, some elements are different to what people are currently familiar with, and it will take a little time for all of us to get used to the new way of using the forum.

Speed
I'm not going to make any promises that the new site will be faster than the current one. In the first few hours after the migration, the site will likely be slower because we have caches to rebuild. But beyond that, under normal operation, Xenforo is vastly more efficient than vBulletin, and in theory, there absolutely should be a performance improvement. Whether or not people will notice that is unknown.


Private Messages become Private Conversations
With the following improvements
  • A conversation is presented like a thread rather than as a series of single messages which means you can easily read the whole conversation from the start.
  • Option to allow the conversation starter or all participants to invite other people to join.
  • New participants can see the whole conversation.
  • Participants can leave conversations.
  • Multiple recipients, recipient groups, an autoresponder, conversation attachments and even more features will be available to our more active members.

Usergroup Promotions
Still under consideration is the proposition of allowing more active members to earn more features and privileges. By participating in the forums more (e.g. by getting your posts Liked or Thanked, or by writing your own reviews), members will be able to earn extra privileges like larger inboxes, the ability to bookmark messages and enter exclusive competitions.
At launch, current members will find themselves with access to more features and privileges than they have now. There has been much emphasis on adding rather than removing features. Members will, for example, have the same sized inbox but will also be able to create their own home entertainment room Showcase.

Likes, Thanks and more
In AVForums right now, we use a Thank Post plugin which is very popular amongst vBulletin forum owners. We have nearly 1.5 million Thank Post records.
In the years since vBulletin was created, the internet standard Like method has evolved and become the de-facto way of indicating approval.
In keeping with the latest internet methods, Xenforo uses a Like system on messages. By accumulating Likes, members increase their trophy points (awarded for positive contributions to the community).
However, I don't feel that Like is the same as Thank, so in order to retain the same sentiment going forward, I have implemented a post ratings addon for Xenforo which gives us the ability to express
  • Like
  • Thank
  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • Funny
  • Useful
and the current Thanks received by members will be moved to the Thank rating in Xenforo, earning members their appropriate trophy points.
All the above ratings except for Disagree count as a positive rating towards the poster's overall post rating count. Disagree is a neutral rating because we don't believe in giving negative ratings.

Trophy Points
Trophy points are awarded for activity on the website such as posting messages and receiving Likes. Earning trophy points gets members additional privileges.
When the migration is complete, members logging in for the first time will get several alerts that they have been awarded the trophy points. These points will be awarded for the posts and Thanks which the members have accumulated to date.

Alerts, Watching and Tagging
Members have an all new Alert system which they can configure to show them an alert when various events happen which relate to them. So, for example, if you chose to Watch a thread (the equivalent of subscribing to it), and someone posts a reply, you will get an alert.

Also if someone Tags you in a post, then you can also get an alert.

When typing a message, you can type a @ symbol followed with a member's login name. The system will pop up a list of matching member names as you type:


You can select the member to tag from the list or just continue typing.
By default your alert preferences will be set to notify you when someone tags you in a post. But you can turn this off in the alert preferences page of your profile.


New Features
...and there's more...
I mentioned above that members can create a Showcase for their home entertainment system. Here is a sneak peek of this new feature.


As for the other *really* useful, interesting and fun new features, we're keeping the details under our hat for the moment.
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
New look AVForums
You'll have spotted from the screen captures above that we have a new look for AVForums which brings together the new editorial and the new forums. It's a contemporary design which has evolved over several months and being applied to the new platform by Xenforo design experts Audentio. (This work is still ongoing, so the screen captures we have in this newsletter are not quite what the final site will look like.)

The colour scheme is mainly black, white and greys with some red-violet. Some people will call it pink.
While we don't have a problem with pink, the closest match we've found is red-violet, and that's how we are referring to the colour.

According to Wikipedia:
Red-violet is a rich color of high medium saturation about 3/4 of the way between red and magenta, closer to magenta than to red. It is classified in color theory as one of the purple colors - a non-spectral color between red and violet that is a deep version of a color on the line of purples on the CIE chromaticity diagram. Both its saturation and brightness falling short of 100%, red-violet is not a pure chroma.
|Whereas Pink is quite different:

As we get used to using the new design with the forums and the editorial, we will most certainly tweak some elements over time to evolve it further.
We also changed the logo, introduced a new icon and got a new set of over 30 smileys.
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
The Back Story
I stated over four years ago that we would not be moving forward with the vBulletin forum platform we use to run AVForums.
In January this year I posted how in the years since my initial post, my fears for vBulletin have come to fruition.
So the move to Xenforo is unavoidable and at this point very desirable.

The Work
This is a big deal. It's the first change in platform since 2001 and we have worked hard to get it as right as we can. We have hired the best people we could:
  • Critical Media to create the design
  • Mike Creuzer of Audentio Design to implement the design in Xenforo
  • Jake Bunce to prepare for our import
  • Chris Deeming to create new addons for Xenforo to provide us with the functionality we need, and
  • John Warwick of Sugar Coding Ltd to write a new editorial Content Management System (CMS) and front end system from the ground up.
In addition
  • Vicki and the editorial team have to helped refine the new CMS and front end.
  • the moderating team have assisted in devising better addons for AVForums on Xenforo.
  • Tim Dunton at Nimbus Hosting has been working out of hours and beyond his remit to ensure our servers are optimised and our databases have been set up correctly for both the import and the new site.
  • I have been working primarily on getting the Xenforo AVForums to retain as much of the functionality we need from the vBulletin AVForums. More on this below.
The amount of work involved has been huge. The work on the new CMS and editorial system started last year. And getting the import down to just a few hours has been a highly technical and involved process lasting several months.

Over the 12 years that we have used vBulletin to run AVForums, we have built up a large set of fairly unique features in both the front and back end. I have spent the last few months organising what addons we need, sourcing them where they already exist and commissioning them where they don't.
For example, a bunch of front end features we need relate to trading. One thread per person per forum, no under 18 trading, members' ability to archive ads, custom ad creation form and, of course, trader ratings.
A small but important unique feature we have is the contact form with selectable recipients.
More obvious features are the concise forum list, competitions and a display of the number of viewers reading each forum and thread. We have had to commission all these addons for Xenforo.
Meanwhile behind the scenes, the back end also requires some unique features. The biggest being our moderator checkpoint system which allows the moderators to better monitor the forums.
In all, we have over 40 addons installed on to the standard Xenforo installation.
The majority are oriented towards giving our members a better experience using AVForums.

What will be missing when we migrate?
At this point, some elements of AVForums will be late in moving over or won't be available at all.
There is so much to do that rather than rush some elements, we are deferring them until later in the autumn when we can re-launch them properly. And some elements of AVForums which are generally under-used will be dropped in order to maximise on efficiency and speed of the rest of the site.
Missing will be
  • Voucher Codes section
  • Picture Perfect campaign pages
  • Blogs
  • Gamercards in place of avatars
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
Post Ratings

For a number of years now, we have been able to thank posts on AVForums.*It's a nice way to quickly show our appreciation without padding out threads with lots of 'thanks' posts.*And we can quickly see how many thanks we've given and received.

The feature is actually a 'plugin' for vBulletin and the first thanks was given on on AVForums on Wednesday, 18th January 2006 at 00:07:25 GMT.*In the following 7.5 years, there have been over 1.5 million thanks given.

In the interim years, however, Facebook has made 'Like' the defacto method of showing approval, and 'Likes' have been adopted as core functionality by Xenforo, the forum platform we will be moving to.
Therefore, there is no way to give 'Thanks' in the standard Xenforo software and this presented a bit of a problem for us as moving to Xenforo could potentially mean that everyone will lose their 'Thanks'.

The way we have tackled this problem is by adopting an addon for Xenforo.

Post Ratings is a very slick and popular addon for Xenforo which allows us to choose from a selection of ratings to give to a message including 'Thanks'.

We have enhanced the import process (which we will be using when we migrate to Xenforo) in order to bring vBulletin 'Thanks' into the Xenforo Post Ratings 'Thanks'.
This has been tested and we're confident that everyone will keep their current 'Thanks'.

(Note that the number in the screen captures below are from a recent snapshot of the forums)

|

Within the forums, you will be able to award one of six different ratings to a post.
They are 'Like' (which we will use to replace the standard Xenforo 'Like'), 'Thanks', 'Agree', 'Disagree', 'Funny' and 'Useful'.
All the ratings award the recipient a positive rating point except 'Disagree' which does not award any point.*We decided not to allow any negative ratings.

The various ratings awarded are shown under each post and totals are shown in each members' profile page (as seen above).
Accumulating positive ratings by posting valuable/useful/funny messages will earn rewards.
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
Membership Promotions

Did you know that we already have membership promotions on avforums? New members are not permitted to use the private messaging system until they have created a post. This is designed to stop PM spammers and scammers. Although the scamming is thankfully a rare occurrence since the Ainsworth gang were convicted this time last year.

We're extending this concept of member promotions in order to reward more active members with some nice additional privileges and features.

The plan (which is subject to change) is to have four levels of free membership, plus a paid premium membership. Members advance up the levels automatically as they contribute to the forums. Contributing involves posting messages and receiving positive post ratings (e.g. 'Likes' and 'Thanks').

The first level, New Member, is for members who register after the launch of the new site and will impose some minor restrictions to discourage spammers and scammers, and also to encourage new members to contribute to the community.

The next levels are Member, Active Member and Well-Known Member.
Because your current thanks are being transferred, some members will find themselves automatically promoted to Active Member or Well-Known Member.

The kinds of things available to Active members are larger inboxes, attachments in personal conversations and bookmarks.
Well-Known members get even bigger allowances for things like their inbox, conversation recipients and allowable tags in messages.
Plus we will be holding exclusive competitions for our Active and Well-Known members.

Premium membership will cost £5/month or £50/year (subject to change) and will entitle the members to the biggest allowances across the board, access to a private forum, banner ad removal and more.

As time goes on, we will evolve membership promotions to help members earn valued rewards for contributing to the community.
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
New look Competitions

The competitions system on AVForums has run successfully for years, automatically processing entries and picking winners. Just recently it picked one lucky member to win a £7,000 JVC projector!

Since Xenforo has no built-in competitions system, and there was no existing competitions addon, we have created one from scratch.*It is based on our current competitions system, but we have made improvements using the feedback from our members.

You told us that you didn't like entering your real name and address when you entered competitions, so we don't ask for that any more.*Now you just have to click the right answer and click the Enter Competition button.*Winners will be contacted for prize delivery information.

You told us that you want some competitions reserved for more loyal members, so we've added permissions options which are compatible with our new membership promotions system.*This will allow us to create competitions for new members, but also set some aside for veterans.

And we added competitions into the new alerts system, so you will automatically be sent an alert if you win a prize.*Plus competitions have been included into your new user profiles, so you can see which competitions you entered and, if you're lucky, which you have won.

(The image below is from a test environment which only a small number of people had access to. This is why the same people appear to have won competitions. They were not real competitions, just test competitions.)
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
Showcases

We love the home cinema gallery forum so much, that we wanted to give the posters there a better way of presenting their setups.*Threads are all well and good for lots of purposes, but they don't do a fantastic job of showcasing home cinemas.

Enter the Avforums Home Cinema Showcase section.

It allows members to use tabs to compose separate pages about their project.*The pages are entitled The Backstory, The Plan, The Kit, The Build and The Results, and you can use any of these that you wish, though we would encourage people to use all of them to tell the complete story.

In each of these pages, you use the same WYSIWYG editor which is available to compose threads.*So you can format the text, include links, and embed images and video if you want.

In addition you can upload images to create a gallery page and associate your showcase with your original gallery thread.


We can create showcases for any subject if there is enough demand. We're thinking PC build showcases, movie collectibles showcases and members' garages. What do you think?

Discuss the changes in this thread.
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
The New Message Editor

We've used the same basic text editor for creating messages on AVForums since 2001. The new editor is much better.

Auto save draft
I used to occasionally hear from members who were frustrated by losing their long messages when they hit the Post button.*A session on the forums lasts 15 minutes, and if no activity has happened after that time, the session expires and unless the 'remember me' option was clicked when logging in, the member would be logged out.*The huge message being compose for more than 15 minutes would be lost when the browser displayed the login form.*And the back button wouldn't redisplay the message.

It seems that browsers are better at redisplaying messages after pressing the back button these days, but it can still be frustrating if you need to exit a page half way through composing a message.

Enter the Auto Save Drafts feature.
While you are typing a message, every 60 seconds, a draft of your message will be automatically saved. If you reload the page later, your message will be automatically re-shown. Drafts will be automatically pruned over time.


Each draft is associated with a particular piece of content, such as a thread, forum, or conversations. A draft reply that you start working on in thread 1 will not be shown to thread 2 and so forth.

Pasting images
If you use Chrome or Firefox and have an image in your clipboard, you can simply paste it into the editor. It will automatically be uploaded as an attachment if possible. If the upload is successful, this works exactly like uploading an image and then clicking the "full image" button.

Note that in Chrome, the image data must be in your clipboard (such as from pressing print screen). In Firefox, you can either have image data or you can copy a file that's an image and paste that.

Drag and drop uploading
Provided your browser supports it, you can now drag files into the editor to upload them:


Responsive Design

A responsive design adapts to fit smaller window sizes. The new AVForums has a responsive design. When you view the site on a tablet, you get pretty much the same experience as on a desktop. If you view it on a phone, the elements on the page are rearranged to enable easy viewing. Some elements are discarded altogether without compromising the usability.

Let's look at how that works on an iPad.



In landscape mode the sidebar (containing the Members Online Now list etc.) is shown along side the forum list.

In Portrait mode it is moved to the bottom of the page.





On the iPhone, the narrower width means the search box is only shown when the search icon (the magnifying glass) is pressed.

And the menu changes to show different number of items to fit the width.



The responsive design means the AVForums works well on mobile phones without using an app.

Contextual search boxes

We have a new Search tool to help you find the content you want on AVForums. It's found to the top-right of the header on every page.

Just click in the Search box and type the key words you want to search for. If the search box is not visible, click the small magnifying glass icon to activate it.

When the search box is activated, different options are available depending on what type of page you are viewing.

The normal search box offers some standard search options. You can search within titles only, posted by specific members and newer than a certain date.

If you elect to find messages from a specific member, as you start typing a name, matching members are displayed so you can more easily find the one you are interested in.

If you are viewing a forum, you also get an option to search the current forum only, plus show the results as threads instead of posts.

If you are viewing a thread, you also get an option to search only the thread.

If you click the More... button at the bottom, the advanced search page is displayed where you have all the options to search the site.

And lastly, the little button bottom right of the search drop-down shows the useful searches we have always had on AVForums, which help you quickly find your threads and posts.

The new search engine is much more flexible, giving us the ability to search more types of content including the editorial news, reviews and articles.


Sticky Header

The new AVForums header (see above) sticks to the top of the page when you scroll down. We think this is a very useful feature because it means that you always have quick access to your account information and the navigation menu.

But when you scroll down the page, you don't want a large header taking up valuable screen space, so it animates to a compact header layout (see below). When you scroll back to the top, the header animates back to full size. This is the sticky animated header.

Don't like the way the header animates? No problem. In your account preferences, you can select a different header type.

Choose Sticky compact header to always have the smaller header. No animation and less screen space.

Don't like the header sticking to the top of the page? Choose Scrolling full header and the header will disappear off the top of the page when you scroll down like the header on most websites.


Behind the scenes

While there are lots of new features on AVForums which are obvious, there are a great many which you would not notice including

Sprites
Most of the common graphics used on AVForums will be sprites. A sprite is a single image file which contains many smaller images. When the system displays one of these smaller images, it uses a portion of the sprite. In this way, while the sprite is much larger than the individual images, there is only one image (the sprite) loaded by the server instead of lots of smaller images. By saving on many server requests, the website is faster.

Image sprites is a modern way of efficiently serving images and in the new AVForums, we use sprites for the main suite of icons and smileys.

SVG Sprite
Furthermore, the main icons sprite is an SVG. SVGs are a new way to display images on websites. They are vector graphics, meaning that you can zoom in on the website and the images remain crystal clear (great for retina displays). We use a script to display a PNG alternative where SVGs are not supported (like in Internet Explorer 8).

HTML5 Microdata in the Breadcrumb
For a few years now, Google has been showing HTML5 microdata of a website's breadcrumb in its search results. When they are included, it gives people the option of clicking directly through to the forums in the breadcrumb which lead to the search results page. AVForums' breadcrumb will also contain this HTML5 microdata.

Discuss the changes in this thread.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Similar threads

The latest video from AVForums

Podcast: Home AV, TV, Tech News & Reviews, Plus The Best of July 2020
Top Bottom