Hey there everyone!I'm so excited to finally share the results of all the work we've done over the past couple months to completely redesign our website and migrate all the data over to the new site. That was some 70K+ user accounts, 200K+ private messages, 164K+ topics (now called Threads), and 1.2M+ (yes, million) posts!
As you can see, we have an all new look and feel to the site! But the new stuff doesn't stop at the surface. Below, I will attempt to summarize some of the more useful features. I will also try to call out some caveats and minor issues, just so you know and understand what you may experience while browsing the site.
Why the Change?Quite frankly, we were running on some old software. While there were newer versions of phpBB available, they hadn't made quite the strides of their competitors. It's understandable. PhpBB is free open source software. So, this time, I've opted to spend some of the website funds on brand new software.
Over the years, people have asked us about adding many different features, but due to software limitations, we simply couldn’t provide them. I have looked for various add-ons for the old software but found them difficult to use and no longer had the time to code things myself. The new system is fresh and modern and comes with multiple amazing features that are popular across many of the larger social media sites (in addition to being very customizable with various add-ons).
Another driver, from a selfish perspective, is that this new system is much easier to manage. The moderators will find many things easier to do. And as an administrator, there are more features for managing content. Let's face it, when I started this site 21 years ago, I was a young and single geek who had a ton of free time. Now, I have a wife and family... so time to manage the site is harder to find. Simplifying the process means I won't be the bottleneck for many things. End result... a better website for all of you!
Look & FeelI think the most obvious thing you've all noticed is that everything looks very different. Well, with the new software came new template options, which give the site a more modern feel While I’m proud of the designs for the site that I’ve come up with over the years, the site has gotten a little stale.
Most importantly, we were not very "Responsive." This is a term in the web development world meaning that pages display nicely on computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Sure, I made improvements for mobile, but we weren’t quite where we needed to be... especially given that around 80-90% of all our traffic comes from mobile phones.
There may be a few bugs with the template (font sizes being awkward, etc.) since I adjusted the base template, so if you do find UI (user interface) issues, please do let me know by starting a new thread in the Website Support & Feedback forum.
The New FeaturesNew Post Editor
If you've tried to post, whether it was a new Thread, a reply, or a Conversation, you've likely noticed that new rich editor! We finally have a "what you see is what you get" (aka WYSIWYG [pronounced wi-see-wig]) editor. You can adjust the font size, color, embed images, links, etc... and you can see how it will be displayed while you type. There are still BB Code tags behind it, but you can now enjoy a more natural experience when typing your post. The new editor has many other great features, so just check it out.
You can mention another member with the common syntax used on many social media platforms these days. @beardie might want to know about this particular thread, so that syntax can make him aware of his mention. Of course, all members can decide whether they get an email notification, or just an alert when they login.
If you've used a computer or mobile phone, you might have heard of something commonly called the "like" button. I know people have been asking for this as a feature for a long time now. Well, we finally have it... along with love, angry, and several other "reactions."
Many of you have used our User Image Uploader tool. Let's face it...it sucked! It was better than not having something, but it was limited, buggy, and wasn't very well integrated into the site as a whole. I can say that since I wrote it myself years ago. Well, this new system has a Media Gallery that is well integrated and far more feature-filled than before. This includes comments and Reactions. And for those of you who did use the old User Image Uploader, I've worked to migrate all your images, and update the forum posts so any embedding of the images still works.
Member Resource Articles
For members that have taken a more active part on the forums (i.e. posted more than 300 posts or so), you will automatically be enabled with permissions to create "Member Articles" in the resources section. I am sure many will not use this feature. But I know many would like to share stories or write helpful articles based on their experience. Well, now you will have a place that you can. Before this, I was the only one who could "publish" articles on the site. Of course, basic site policies still apply. Keep it clean (PG-13), keep it polite, and of course no violation of laws (including copyright).
Resources can be used in a few ways, and I'm interested in seeing how our community ends up using them. One possibility... create a Resource that you plan to have regular updates to... maybe a living story about your bearded dragon. Others can "Watch" your Resource and be notified when you submit an update.
It happens. People forget their passwords. On the old software, you needed to know the email address you registered with and your username in order to request a password reset. Many people create an account, get help and don't come back for a while. Then, they forget their username. Understandable. The new password reset process is simpler. You just need to know your registered email address.
I am very aware of the topic titled "The New Plague: Ads" in the old Website Comments forum (now called "Website Support & Feedback"). While we still need ads on the site to pay the bills, we do not need to burden those of you who already help make the site and community what it is.
So, option one, be an active member in the community. Help people out, post questions... After 100 posts, you get a user promotion that will give you an ad-free experience on the site.
Option two, you can be a "sponsor." Originally, the ability to donate a small amount to the website was a request from members. I had setup the ability for people to donate a few dollars a month. In exchange, they got a little "Gold Sponsor" logo next to their name to let people know that they're helping fund the site. Well, now that same amount gives a little more back than a sparkly image. You can have an ad-free experience on the site.
More subtle features
Selected Quotes - If you select text from a post you're reading, you get the option to reply with the selected text being quoted.
Drafts - You have the ability to prepare a reply or new thread and save it as a draft if you're not ready to post it yet.
Attachments - When posting, you don't need to go and upload your images somewhere else first... just directly embed and upload while posting!
Issues & ChallengesUnfortunately, not everything has migrated over perfectly, and there are probably a few things I don't even know about that some of you may find. But here is one thing to look out for.
Past Conversations (aka PMs) are a bit of a mess. Due to limitations between how the old software and the new software work, it wasn't possible to maintain "threading" of conversations. So, if you look, you'll notice each reply on past conversations is showing as distinct conversation. Any new conversations you have will be much more nicely threaded.
So far, I think that's it. It took some time to smooth out the migration. I am hoping there aren't too many kinks now that you're all starting to use the new system. If there are any major issues, I will certainly try to take care of them.
The New LogoSome of you may have noticed that our banner (logo) has changed. It can be a bit shocking since the beardie image had been used on the site since its inception in the year 2000. Well.... I think that after more than 20 years, it was time for a change. The bearded dragon on the original logo was my first bearded dragon named Cailyth, and my inspiration for starting the site. Well, rest assured that Cailyth is still present with us on the site. The new logo is a sketch recreation of another image of him.
What Now?Go! Enjoy! I am very interested in seeing and hearing about what you find helpful, beneficial, or even problematic. Feel free to reply on this Thread if it seems on-topic. Or if you have new issues to report or a general question about using the site, please do post a new Thread in the Website Support & Feedback forum.
I am hoping that this new system and all the new features will help improve and grow our little community.