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Some Issues When Contemplating Hypography Design Changes

Posted by Tormod, 18 September 2008 · 1008 views

I am thinking about how to improve Hypography's design.

No, not the color scheme, logo or typography.

I am thinking about how it is so 100% obviously a vBulletin forum (even in the blog section). There are the boxy boxes, the straight columns and the endless horizontal bars.

Certainly there must be ways to improve it?

vBulletin has a major problem in that it is using a table-based layout. Add to that a rather comprehensive modular template engine, tweaking the design sometimes takes ages - and as soon as a new version is released, the template changes need to be reapplied.

If we also consider the third-party extensions like the quiz scrip, the link directory, the news system and the arcade, the task is too big to handle without a dedicated design team and a well documented upgrade process.

So what are the options? Well, here are some thoughts.

We could focus on reducing clutter. Take away columns. Many websites now feature only two columns. Most forums actually only have one, at least in the actual discussion pages. We have gone from three to two columns lately, and the forum listings (apart from the forum index) now is using a single-column template.

In addition, we could minimize and remove advertisements. A forum is generally difficult to monetize, particularly when it's such a non-specific niche as "science" with such a nondescript target group as "everyone". Therefore it's necessary to use advertisements to maintain a steady income. But would a nicer, cleaner-looking design perhaps *improve* ad conversion rates so we could have less ads and still make what we need?

Can we centralize the content? The actual information in the columns is overloaded. Who needs to *constantly* see the updated topics, latest news, and topics without replies? Maybe these boxes belong to the front page only? But the problem here is that very few pages actually visit our front page. They go directly to a sub page. How can we work around that?

There is also standard things to do, like tweaking the CSS and layout without touching the templates. We could add more Web 2.0-looks, rounded corners etc. But these things hardly make the forums more effective - only prettier.


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