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This post is in two parts, the first part explains what I don’t think is good about the forum and the second part explains how I would fix the problems I think it has and improve on the forum.
I feel there are many problems with the homepage of this website. The homepage is supposed to represent the website and is likely what many newcomers will see first.
The first thing that newcomers see is a vibrant colourful bar promoting the website’s breathing course. Under that is the alerts that newcomers unsure entirely of what the website is would not understand. Then there is a search bar to search through the information centre, which only consists of 8 articles, some of which are not completed. Then finally, there is something that could indicate to newcomers what the website is about, the about section. Unfortunately the about section is extremely cryptic stating “We are in a global health crisis - the collapse of human physical and psychological form.” Clicking on the read more button redirects you to the about page which is just as cryptic and does nothing to really clarify what this website is. The homepage is a terrible introduction to the website for any newcomers.
The main forum page:
I feel that the main forum page also has many problems. The banner at the top of the website may have been appropriate for the front page of the website but in all other parts of the website I feel that it is just too large and takes up too much space for no reason. The placement of the buttons to navigate the website I feel is very unintuitive, it is under the banner whereas most websites would have a header at the top of the website to navigate the website. Then under those buttons is a bar that gives the option to see recent posts and has the notifications and the search function there. This once again feels very unintuitive not to have the search bar at the top of the website, and to not have the notifications next to your account. Then there is the warning which is necessary, but that combined with the description of the forum pushes the actual forum posts, the important part, three quarters of the way down the page.
There are also many problems in the design of the account page. The first thing you see when opening your account is your dashboard. Of the dashboard’s seven buttons to the side, five of them are about orders and payments from the website's shop. A shop which consists of only one item and is largely irrelevant to most users.
Below the dashboard is the users forum profile where they now have a second option to change their account details but in this one they are able to change their profile picture but not their email address and vice versa in the account details button in the dashboard. You are able to view both your forum profile and dashboard at the same time but if you press any of the options in your forum profile you are no longer able to see the dashboard.
How I think the forum can be fixed and improved:
Starting with the main forum page.
I think the banner should be removed and there should be a simple header at the top of the website to navigate the website, as well as the login option, search bar, and notifications. I think the header buttons could turn into drop down menus to more pages making it easier to navigate the website. The description of the forum could be in a box to the right rather than on top of the forum posts and to the left is where the add topic button could go. And a sort by function would be much more useful than the recent posts button.
I find that the forum tends to be very disorganised and messy which makes it difficult to have a productive discussion. I think this could be solved with a better tag system and a filter function. The current tag system allows for anyone to make any tags for their post which has lead us to having over 700 tags, many of which refer to the same thing e.g. “MSE” and “Won moon MSE” and many of which are only used for one post as they are overspecific. This defeats the whole purpose of the tags, which is to group similar topics together. Not to mention that many posts do not use tags at all. I think the tag system could be improved by having a preset list of tags to choose from and requiring posts to use atleast one tag. Paired with a filter function, akin to the one in the mockup but with more tags, this would help group relevant information and discussions together so that users could keep up to date on the areas relevant to them and would more easily allow users to see past discussion before adding to it. Perhaps a subscribe function to the tags could be helpful too. In a past thread Allixa says that many people do not know how to use forums and that all discussion should be specific to one topic in one thread and constantly bump it when new points or questions come up, but with so many threads talking about the same things it is not clear what thread should constantly be bumped, and so I think an improved tag system would be more effective at keeping discussion organised.
Another way that the forum tends to become unorganised is that threads often go off topic and discuss things different to what the thread was originally designed for, making it difficult to find information. I think that this could be solved by allowing people adding to the thread to add more tags to the post. So that if, for example, a thread that started with talking about mse started to discuss the dna appliance, users would be able to add the appropriate tags allowing other users to more easily find that information.
I think for the homepage the banner is appropriate. The about section should be a lot less cryptic. I understand that my description in my mockup is not all encapsulating but it is less cryptic than the current about section. I think the information centre would benefit from having four more specific articles. An FAQ article could help introduce newcomers to the website, many newcomers are likely coming from the Mews and mewing, so the FAQ could clarify those things and what this website is. An article on theory, a very large article that would encapsulate the things that have been figured out, the effect of breastfeeding, of allergies, of diet, of mouth breathing, of swallowing, and of oral habits, sutures, bone biomechanics, expansion appliances, orthodontic damage, etc. An article on evidence, evidence supporting the things in the theory article, like Weston Price’s works looking at non-industrial societies, palaeolithic skulls, Egil Harvold’s primate study, etc.
And an article on the current state of discussion, this article would summarise previous discussion and where discussion is currently at on various topics, and would also explain the different groups of thoughts there are. For example it may explain the previous discussion on expansion appliances like the hype around AGGA and how it disappointed, and explain current discussion and thoughts like how people now look to other appliances such as MSE and DNA, how some people think you need to split the suture and some don’t, how some people think you should push up with the posterior third and some people think you should pull it down with suction. Basically just a summary on the different thoughts and theories of the people in the forum.
I feel that for a newcomer the FAQ would introduce them to the website, the theory article would inform them of the things already worked out, the evidence article would verify these theories, and then the state of discussion would allow them to see the different theories that people have and they would be informed enough to then add on to the discussion in the forum.
I feel that this homepage would be a better introduction to this website.
State of discussion and tags.
I think that the state of discussions article and improved tag system could be nicely integrated together. If a user were to filter using a tag it could give a bit of a description of that tag on the right and give the option to read more about the tag, redirecting you to a part of the state of discussion page which talks about the discussion around that specific tag and the various thoughts and theories on it. For example if a user were to filter the posts by those with the tag Rate of Expansion, it would give a box on the right under the description of the forum previewing the state of the discussion article, and if the user were to click read more, they would be directed to the part of the state of discussion article which explains the thoughts on slow, semi-rapid, and rapid expansion.
The account page:
Once again I think the banner should be gone and replaced with a header, I think the profile stats should be displayed simply just as text next to your name. I think that it would be useful to be able to have an account description, just below your profile stats. This description would allow users to put in their opinions on topics, for example whether they think rapid or slow expansion is better, or whether they think the tongue should be pushed upwards or ballooned in the mouth etc. Under the description would be their forum activity rather than in some other page. On the side there is only one button for account details and messages rather than multiple. There is a button for subscriptions, and there is one button for orders that can include orders, downloads, addresses, and payments.
I think this account page is more functional and clean than the current one.
I think that the website as of right now has many problems and I feel that it would be really beneficial if these problems were addressed. I understand that the information articles I suggested would take a lot of work to write and that for the improved tag system to work effectively all previous threads would need to be assigned to appropriate tags, which is also a lot of work. If these changes were made despite the effort though, I feel that the website would be much better at spreading the message and informing, as well as better facilitating productive discussion. In this thread, Silver basically states that there is not much discussion left to be had anyway, and while I disagree, I still feel the changes would be beneficial to inform people more effectively.
Feel free to post any of your own improvement suggestions here too.
Massively appreciated! I will give this a deep dive and we will go for another round of website improvements once the course is properly up. Some of these things require a little bit of code development to fix (account page being a big one). The information centre page will make more sense when the articles have expanded, for now they are largely placeholders. Good call on having something there to make the website purpose immediately obvious.
This feedback is really appreciated and will be a part of the eventual circling back to website development.