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The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 1:54 pm
by morphine
Gerbils, we bring you good tidings. As some of you may have noticed, our forum software has become a little outdated, lacking niceties like SSL support, a modern UI, and a responsive design to better fit mobile devices. After a hefty upgrade, those features are now all at your disposal. Feel free to visit the updated forums and enjoy all the new goodness.

Much like the main site, you have two themes at your disposal: a default white-based theme called Canvas, and a darker option called Black, which is actually inspired by the old-school TR blue. To change your forum theme preferences: click on the little person icon in the top-right corner, select User Control Panel, then click on the Board Preferences tab.

As an additional note, if you have images in your signatures or posts, we request that you change them to the SSL version. That is, when possible, link to them with URLs starting with "https," to avoid browser notifications about mixed content.

The upgrade to the forums was a long process, but we believe the results are more than worth it. Some of you may wonder the reason why we went through such massive changes, though. Let us answer in a typical Q & A fashion:

Q: I hate change! Why did you change the themes?

A: Because our previous themes, despite being based off the standard phpBB "Prosilver" look, were heavily customized. That required us to fiddle with custom backend code and two themes every time we wanted to upgrade phpBB. Trust us, this was time-consuming and not pleasant at all.

Q: But still, they're themes. Themes are HTML, it's easy!

A: The thing is, not only do we have a customized header and footer, we also need to worry about integrating (among other things) the several layers of spam filtering, the forum advertisements, sponsorships, and of course, the subscriber badges. That's all now accomplished using multiple TR-written phpBB "Extensions" instead of the old way of altering phpBB's HTML and PHP code.

Q: The forums looks a little too big now?

A: Yes, that's a compromise between desktop and mobile devices. The information density was far too high before, making it a little tricky to use the forums on phones. They should be much more pleasant and clean-looking now.

Q: You're only securing site logins now?

A: Most definitely not. We did that before, though it went unnoticed sometimes. This time around we're using SSL for the whole forums.

That's all, folks. If you notice any issues, please post below.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:17 pm
by bthylafh
Different but I think I'll like it. Thanks for the work.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:20 pm
by morphine
bthylafh wrote:
Different but I think I'll like it. Thanks for the work.

You're welcome, and thanks. This was a pretty big project, moving from a re-re-re-re-re-hacked setup.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:29 pm
by killadark
My eyes, its too bright for me :(

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:31 pm
by morphine
killadark wrote:
My eyes, its too bright for me :(

Let me point you to the article:
Much like the main site, you have two themes at your disposal: a default white-based theme called Canvas, and a darker option called Black, which is actually inspired by the old-school TR blue. To change your forum theme preferences: click on the little person icon in the top-right corner, select User Control Panel, then click on the Board Preferences tab.

;)

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:40 pm
by killadark
morphine wrote:
killadark wrote:
My eyes, its too bright for me :(

Let me point you to the article:
Much like the main site, you have two themes at your disposal: a default white-based theme called Canvas, and a darker option called Black, which is actually inspired by the old-school TR blue. To change your forum theme preferences: click on the little person icon in the top-right corner, select User Control Panel, then click on the Board Preferences tab.

;)

My knight is shining armor :D

looks much better :)

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:52 pm
by FireGryphon
Looks good! I can't believe it took 16 years to do this :P

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:53 pm
by NovusBogus
Holy scrollbars Batman, Gerbham is being attacked by The Biggifier! Couple of requests:

1. Is it possible to turn the second banner ad (between forum navigation and forum details) into a sidebar? Neither theme uses horizontal space effectively and putting it over there will lessen the blow of having decreased information density. Dark isn't as egregious as Canvas, but even on Dark the unstickied threads don't start until the bottom 35% of the screen.

2. Canvas theme includes the long forum description below the forum name, and both elements are way too big with way too much whitespace for what's essentially fluff text the user already sees when clicking the link from the top level. Fixing this to be more like Dark theme would free up about a thread's worth of space--kind of a big deal when the theme only manages to get less than three full threads in the first ~1080 pixels.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:55 pm
by FireGryphon
Also, I like the darker theme. If feels modern, but very comfortable, like the OG color scheme.

Also also, how come this thread isn't in the 'hot threads' section of the front page? I have to click through another post to get here. What's up wit that?

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 2:59 pm
by JustAnEngineer
morphine wrote:
killadark wrote:
My eyes, its too bright for me :(
Let me point you to the article:
Much like the main site, you have two themes at your disposal: a default white-based theme called Canvas, and a darker option called Black, which is actually inspired by the old-school TR blue. To change your forum theme preferences: click on the little person icon in the top-right corner, select User Control Panel, then click on the Board Preferences tab.
;)
I'll even provide a link to the relevant page of the User Control Panel:
ucp.php?i=ucp_prefs&mode=personal

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:01 pm
by DrDominodog51
FireGryphon wrote:
Also also, how come this thread isn't in the 'hot threads' section of the front page? I have to click through another post to get here. What's up wit that?

Because this is a pinned thread. The other thread was created purely to draw attention to this thread because few ppl check the announcement subforum often.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:03 pm
by FireGryphon
DrDominodog51 wrote:
FireGryphon wrote:
Also also, how come this thread isn't in the 'hot threads' section of the front page? I have to click through another post to get here. What's up wit that?

Because this is a pinned thread. The other thread was created purely to draw attention to this thread because few ppl check the announcement subforum often.


Nah, I can only find the locked thread in the forum. This one is nowhere to be seen...

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:05 pm
by morphine
I believe Announcements don't go to the Hot Forum Threads box. Nevertheless, users can just click through, shouldn't be a major issue.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:17 pm
by just brew it!
Hmmm... the dark theme is similar enough to the old blue theme that I'm not going to get too bent about it. I can certainly see the advantages for mobile devices as well; if you're not going to have a different layout for mobile, this is a reasonable compromise.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:18 pm
by Captain Ned
morphine wrote:
I believe Announcements don't go to the Hot Forum Threads box. Nevertheless, users can just click through, shouldn't be a major issue.

Announcement threads have never hit the Hot Threads list. Stickied threads also don't hit the list.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:19 pm
by morphine
Yeah, the staff eventually deemed that the "responsiveness" of either theme is plenty acceptable to allow for mobile phone usage.

In fact, while on this note, we also took care of adding all the "switch to mobile/desktop" links in the footer, and using our mobile header when the user is on a phone.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:20 pm
by morphine
While I'm on this note, I'll have to say... I've used the dark theme forever but Canvas is really growing on me. Either theme is so much nicer than what we had before, but Canvas is particularly polished.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:31 pm
by Dizzytaz00
BRIGHT LIGHT!! BRIGHT LIGHT!! I feel like gremlin! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grrADdmfrSI

Liking The New forum look, but i had the switch it to black, alot easier for me to read!

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:46 pm
by biffzinker
Clicking on logout gives me "Information The requested topic does not exist.."

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:07 pm
by Waco
Man, I never thought I'd say this, but it's too big. I'm going to end up disabling scaling for TechReport, because even on a 4K monitor, **** is too tiny with DPI @ 175%.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:14 pm
by Rand
I like the layout of the dark scheme but prefer the colorization of the Canvas scheme, I don't suppose we could have an option that combines the two?

Aside from that I don't really have any real complaints, it's perfectly fine. Information density is rather low with the Canvas scheme on desktop but I can switch over to the other one and fix that and I suspect it works better on mobile. The previous forums were never ideal for mobile browsing.
The top header being sticky when I scroll down is a huge pet peeve of mine, but tons of sites do that so I'm probably alone in disliking it. I can always block the stickified element in my browser to remove it anyway so it's not a big deal.

Basically I'm pretty apathetic to the change, just wish I could have the white colorization with the black layout. I typically hate major redesigns, so apathy should probably be considered a big thumbs up.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:39 pm
by biffzinker
Rand wrote:
I like the layout of the dark scheme but prefer the colorization of the Canvas scheme, I don't suppose we could have an option that combines the two?

How about it morphine?

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:39 pm
by blahsaysblah
As an additional note, if you have images in your signatures or posts, we request that you change them to the SSL version. That is, when possible, link to them with URLs starting with "https," to avoid browser notifications about mixed content.


Firefox, set to true, open url: about:config
security.mixed_content.block_display_content

Dont have to worry about it. ;)

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 5:13 pm
by morphine
biffzinker wrote:
Clicking on logout gives me "Information The requested topic does not exist.."

We're looking into this, thanks for the heads-up.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 5:31 pm
by the
FWIW, my immediate impression is that I'm not a fan of this flat look.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 5:34 pm
by Captain Ned
the wrote:
FWIW, my immediate impression is that I'm not a fan of this flat look.

The "black" theme is much less flat than Canvas. In the testing phase I wasn't (and still am not) a fan of Canvas, mainly due to the flatness.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 6:32 pm
by Aphasia
Took a bit before I found the "Show new posts" since it is now on the menu button. But seems decent so far.
Although is it only me, or is there no longer any icon that marks a post as new since last visit ?
That is on the canvas team. Switched to black, and there you have a tiny ring that shows post status. Can we get that on Canvas as well ?

Also, if it's possible, one thing I really liked with Ars Technicas last overhaul was that they added an icon to each topic where you can jump to the first unread post in any topic in the forum, which is really nice if you follow a topic. I used the old graphic marker here at Tech Report for quickly finding where the thread was the last time I was logged in.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 6:46 pm
by morphine
morphine wrote:
biffzinker wrote:
Clicking on logout gives me "Information The requested topic does not exist.."

We're looking into this, thanks for the heads-up.

Okay, this should be all fixed now.

Logging out from the site will leave you back where you were, and logging out while in the forums will land you in the forum index.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 6:50 pm
by morphine
blahsaysblah wrote:
As an additional note, if you have images in your signatures or posts, we request that you change them to the SSL version. That is, when possible, link to them with URLs starting with "https," to avoid browser notifications about mixed content.


Firefox, set to true, open url: about:config
security.mixed_content.block_display_content

Dont have to worry about it. ;)

DON'T!

If you do that, you're basically telling your entire browser to not let you know if, in a secure page, an unsecure element was loaded. Usually this is as harmless as an image, but you should never ever take that for granted across the interwebs.

Re: The Tech Report forums got a big upgrade

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 7:03 pm
by biffzinker
Thank you morphine.

Quick question, are you planning on doing anything with the place holder image where the avatar would be shown when viewing a profile?