Layout Appeal?

Martin Instructor Burnaby, British Columbia Posted   Latest   Edited  

While Diagnostic Network continues to grow, it still feels like something missing and given comments from some others who either do a "drive by" or do participate, the initial impression is that the layout is more dysfunctional than functional. There is some excellent high quality content within, but what appears to be lacking is "curb appeal" for visiting potential new members.

It is well-known that many members came from "over there", where a traditional home page and forum layout has been used and feels like an "old pair of slippers". In comparison, arriving here at Diagnostic Network, there is no formal home or landing page, from which one can choose from obvious options, or get a true sense of direction.

For want of a better expression, it feels like arriving at a house that you've never been to before and entering through the back door, rather than going in through the front door and being received or greeted. When arriving each day, the most recent posts are there, staring you in the face. There is a header bar that functions like a task bar and side bar menus that identify trending topics, but no formal layout that is particularly intuitive for visitors and members.

So, while some of us do frequent the site because we know what lies within, others express that they simply dislike the format enough not to bother coming back. I feel that having a formal "front entrance" with welcoming committee (user-friendly intro or readily recognizable category map) where visitors can select from a menu which "meal" they would like, could serve to better attract both newcomers and those old stalwarts amongst us, that prefer a bit more of a traditional layout for interactive forums. 

Now, I fully understand and appreciate that to display nicely on small devices, de-cluttering or having reduced content on a landing page might be desirable for a clean look, but there is definitely something lacking that is clearly deterring visitors when they arrive.

Now, again some of this may be related to formatting the site to fit mobile device apps, but arriving at what is essentially a sequence of posts of the "flavour of the day", reminds me of an old Cadillac technician user group list serve, where we received messages as posted via email. While serving fine for mobile devices, many still use PCs or laptops and find the layout leaves something to desired.

Maybe it is just me, but a nice house should have a grand entrance to be proud of, rather than the feeling of entering through the back door. I read that other visitors are not seeing what I believe that might actually like if a proper home page and introduction was in place. If they arrived via the front door and could learn about the site and some basic navigational or posting skills in an organized layout with headings, I have a feeling that they would see the value of joining and participating in a far better light than they do at a glance. First impressions are everything and if the house doesn't have curb appeal, we may be missing the opportunity to draw in some very knowledgeable members whose contributions to the site would be most welcome and valuable.

These are purely my own opinions. Others may share similar views or have opposing opinions and that is fine. However, when viewing comments of other visitors it is hard to ignore the fact that some express leaving after a visit, feeling underwhelmed with the format. Is that something that can go ignored or should be given consideration to create a more user-friendly interface as a "welcome mat"? 

I fully understand that in light of recent events, that some improvements may have been sidelined, but with some simple tweaks Diagnostic Network could be made to appear more inviting to potential members.

Regards,

Martin …

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Rob Owner/Technician
Nanaimo, British Columbia
Rob Default
 

Spot on Martin!!! I'd like to go from "free membership" here to a paid subscription but curb appeal has not enticed me yet.

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Jeffrey Manager
Yuma, Arizona
Jeffrey Default
   

Excellent post Martin. As I said earlier today I agree on all counts. It‘s Truly a shame that the resources of DN have been totally hamstrung by a frivolous lawsuit while we struggle to better a profession that is already looked down upon by the general public. I think big positive changes are coming to DN and the timing is great in light of iATN2.0

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Samuel Technician
Somers Point, New Jersey
Samuel Default
 

I enjoyed the read and the thoughts on ways to improve. A "welcome mat" so to speak would be great! I am used to it now to an extent. For a new arrival, I can see a lack of direction. My only concern is not to become cookie cutter, have our welcome page, yet still be unique. There in lies the challenge.

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Anthony Technical Support Specialist
Kirkwood, Pennsylvania
Anthony Default
 

Hi Marty: You raise valid points. One that I think is just as, if not more important, is post tracking/positioning. Take this thread for example: diag​.​net/msg/m286lbtg5m… Unless someone is directly responding to you (you'll see this in the e-mail notification) or responding to someone soon after the other person posted, you're hard-pressed to know who someone is responding to…

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Tom Engineer
Claremont, California
Tom Default
 

Are you saying the notification email needs more context, or are you having a hard time following the indentation of the replies on the web view? I do think both could be improved, of course, but was curious which you were referring to.

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Anthony Technical Support Specialist
Kirkwood, Pennsylvania
Anthony Default
 

Hi Tom: I'm not too gripped about the former though I can imagine some may be. The latter is where I see an issue. The example that I used may've been extreme since it is probably up there in rank as a post with the most responses. We both know there are ways to address it. We both know that this may not be the most opportune time to do so. That's ok. I'm not a fan of "not having time to do it…

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin Default
 

Hi Guido. I do agree that the example you cited is a "busy traffic" post that makes it a bit more of challenge to know exactly who is responding. I'm also an "armchair athlete" when it comes to webpage design! VBG. Martin

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Tom Engineer
Claremont, California
Tom Default
   

Hi Martin, When you haven’t logged into DN we do show an introduction on our homepage, and we do plan to use that area to better explain and show off DN for new people in the near future. In terms of navigating, it couldn’t be easier to navigate DN directly from the homepage. Just click on the title menu dropdown, which is named “All Messages.” From there you can choose any combination of…

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin Default
 

Hi Tom. Thanks for the clarification. I do understand the intent of the modern user interface, but to be honest it looks and feels more clunky that the traditional "ancient" layout that so many feel far more comfortable with. While we do become accustomed to and familiar with using features with practice, it is like a wrench in our tool box in that if it doesn't feel quite right, it tends to…

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Steven Mechanic
Spokane, Washington
Steven Default
 

I agree with some of that. Mostly for new members who would benefit from seeing what DN has to offer. It would be good for marketing because it could show the features and options, and maybe some "how-to" video links for new members. For members who know all about DN, then I think a "formal" home page would be more of a personal preference, and it might be a 50/50 split on which members would…

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Tom Engineer
Claremont, California
Tom Default
 

We see DN as being more like an app, and it will likely head further that way as we progress (culminating eventually with the release of native mobile apps). So although it makes sense to me to further improve the “welcome mat” we lay out for new people that are not yet signed in, the goal is going to be to get everyone directly into the discussions as soon as they hit DN. After all, that’s…

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Geoff Diagnostician
Lahaina, Hawaii
Geoff Default
 

Totally agree, Martin, but you knew that. Tom explains it, that he see DN being like an app. I don't use any apps, I like the web as a resource, (it's purpose, afer all) and web pages to look like web pages.

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin Default
 

Exactly my thoughts Geoff. I sit at my desk using a PC rather than squinting at a phone like some do, where the simple format may be more familiar to users. I also don't used "Farcebook" or "Linked" for more reasons, but also format. I guess there are "App lovers" and those of us that prefer a traditional layout, at least in terms of entering through a "front door" and deciding what we like on…

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Geoff Diagnostician
Lahaina, Hawaii
Geoff Default
   

I don't even have a smart phone Martin. I have multiple Macs at home and there are three PC at the shop. Nothing is more annoying than people in restaurants or the grocery store playing on their phone. Unless you commute using public transportation, I can't imagine any "good" time to use one, rather than using a normal computer.

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Gail Technician
Garner, North Carolina
Gail Default
 

I HATE the threading of the posts. Almost impossible to know who is responding to who. Plus the software does some weird stuff when typing. I'll stay till spring for the content then I'm out.

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Geoff Diagnostician
Lahaina, Hawaii
Geoff Default
 

yes! About a week ago I noticed there is no longer a cursor when I am typing. Makes it quite hard to edit.

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Tom Engineer
Claremont, California
Tom Default
 

Can you tell me what browser you're using when this happens, Geoff?

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Geoff Diagnostician
Lahaina, Hawaii
Geoff Default
 

Firefox

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Tom Engineer
Claremont, California
Tom Default
 

I wasn't able to reproduce this on the latest Firefox (v70) on MacOS Catalina (10.15), so I checked the logs and see you're using Firefox 45 on macOS 10.6. On that browser/OS combo I am able to reproduce it, so I'll file a bug report on it.

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Gail Technician
Garner, North Carolina
Gail Default
 

I'm on Chrome 64 bit Win 7 Pro. I will be typing and it will jump down several lines randomly. I'm sure it's my ineptness at typing and I'm hitting a wrong key. But this site is only place it happens.

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Tom Engineer
Claremont, California
Tom Default
 

So far I'm not able to reproduce that bug using Chrome 78 on Windows 7. If you find a scenario or pattern that allows you to reproduce it consistently, please let me (…) know how you're able to do it, including any screenshots or video of it happening if possible, as we can probably fix it if we can reproduce it. Thank you.

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Geoff Diagnostician
Lahaina, Hawaii
Geoff Default
 

It worked fine until about a week ago, so it's something you did. Same problem on the newer Mac upstairs. It is roughly 10.13 with ESR 52, IIRC.

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Tom Engineer
Claremont, California
Tom Default
 

The common link here are browsers based on really old versions of Firefox, which we don't normally test due to the low use. I am attempting to find out what changed to trigger the issue.

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Geoff Diagnostician
Lahaina, Hawaii
Geoff Default
   

classic mistake, assuming every one has brand new stuff....or decent internet speed. Those self-populating drop-downs on All-Data have a fit somedays at the shop...LOL I have too many classic (discontinued) programs running down here to give up on this old girl anytime soon. Like WindowShade-X and Appleworks. I only ever got a newer one upstairs becasue I need new tax software every year. Just…

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Tom Engineer
Claremont, California
Tom Default
 

I don't make development decisions based on the browser I'm using, I base it on what the majority of my target audience is using. Based on our analytics, 79% of our users are on a modern browser with a version released in the last year or so. Another 7.5% are on IE11, which while extremely old, we still test against due to the amount of people using it. Unfortunately, as a single developer, I…

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Geoff Diagnostician
Lahaina, Hawaii
Geoff Default
 

it works! Good job.

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin Default
 

Hi Tom. I'm one that does use IE11 predominantly in my work until GM gets everything sorted as in my response to Geoff below. I use Google Chrome for uploading video clips and some content that doesn't function in IE11. The few quirks that any of these browsers and others that don't function at all for my work are bearable, barely worthy of mention and certainly not worth any of your…

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Tom Engineer
Claremont, California
Tom Default
 

Thanks for the kind words and the feedback. Just wanted to let you know that the IE11 logo placement issue should now be resolved. I actually had opened a bug for that back in May 2018, but it got lost as it was not impacting IE11 on newer versions of Windows. Let me know if you notice any other really annoying IE11 issues going forward.

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin Default
 

Hi Geoff. I agree. I still use IE11 for most of what I need, not just from habit, but because that is/was the required browser. Edge is considered a "light" browser and Chrome never allowed plug-ins required for graphics viewers in GM SI. See the image below for how the header displays when using IE11, while it is okay in Chrome. Since the current SVG viewer in SI that replaced TIFF and CGM in…

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Rudy Technician
Montebello, California
Rudy Default
 

Gail- Agreed. I started putting peoples first name in my response so that they would know I was responding to them.

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