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New website and forums: the jury's still out - waaaay out (but glad at least it's her

Discussion in 'Site Feedback' started by MGarrison, Jun 29, 2011.

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    MGarrison

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    Early going here, but it will be interesting to see if the design of these new message forums will have appeal to users. It appears there are far less configuration options (ok, none that I can find, so far...) than the old forums for personalizing one's forum preferences. Losing features like avatars and signature lines/pictures isn't all that big a deal, but, unless I'm just not finding where to adjust them, a user not being able to configure the forums to display the most recent messages all together, or thread-subscription with email options, as is so common with many message-board designs, is going to make using the forums less convenient. 13 thumb-wheel scrolls (on my laptop at least; a bigger screen would be less scrolls) to get to the bottom of the message forums front page, just to see which forums might have new threads, is cumbersome, compared to old forum's option of 'display new message posts'.

    Having the thread, subject, and who posted the message or thread listed all together with new posts was convenient as well, it was easy to see the messages one might most be interested in. Now, it appears we'll have to click into each forum topic with new posts to be able to get that far - much more time consuming. Looks like forum navigation overall is a nuisance compared to the old forums as well - more clicks to get to messages, and so on. I guess there may be something to be said to limiting forum viewing from anyone who's not logged in, but if a member wanted to follow or catch-up on the forums from a remote computer that wasn't their own without logging in, it looks like that wouldn't be possible. Interesting choice to be able to start a new thread and select the appropriate forum without having to navigate to that forum first - downside of that may end up being users mis-placing threads (even accidentally by a mis-click) or all variety of threads all stuck together in one place that would more appropriately belong elsewhere. If the new options for posting messages cover what could be done with bb-code, then that's easier than those bb-code tags, but figuring out how to use bb-code tagging is hardly rocket science, and a good bit easier than than the html formatting which these forums seem to do, so I hope we didn't lose functionality in that regard. It looks like the only way to display an image is by having it hosted remotely and then, I guess, using the flash "Image" control-box functions, which is certainly more of a hassle compared to having the forums being able to handle some image-displaying. At the moment, trying to use that button is showing the preview pane full of what apparently is a bunch of latin, which I can't seem to delete in either Firefox or Explorer, were I to try to post a picture using that function. Hmmm... can't change font colors? Again, hardly crucial, but it was something we could do before, and is one less-fun option than we had. The previous forums one could participate without being a member, I wonder if that's the case now - I thought it was useful to see if someone who was posting was a club member or not. As far as forum message readability, jury's still out on the new forums. I can say the size of the text for a thread title is way too big, and makes the content text of the message look to small and difficult to read in comparison. If replies are boxed, why not the original thread or main message? I find the bright blue "top-of-reply" banner distracting, again making it harder to visually get to the message text. Sure, kinda looks pretty, but one's eyes automatically move to such a bold graphic element. One reason our old message forums were readable, as are so many others, is that those types of graphic elements were subdued enough to not become a primary visual focus. One thing with the new-thread, or post-reply box, that I've never come across in any other message forums I've ever used, whatever my browser security settings happen to be, it's saying I can't copy and paste and have to use keyboard commands, because of the browser; so, that's a nuisance, I suppose I have to change some browser setting that I've never had to before anywhere else just to be able to copy and paste text in the forum's 'message-creation' box?

    Although it's a totally different forum 'look & feel' compared to what we've had, if this message forum's usability, functionality, and ease-of-use fall too short from what we've had, or most folks are used to having elsewhere, the club may find the forum's appeal to members and users to be limited.

    Perhaps I missed something, but I find myself disappointed that apparently club members were completely ignored as a resource for even any thoughts about a new website or forums, once the decision was made to do a new site. First I heard of something about a new website or forums was a post on the message forums several months ago, I'm sure long after the project was well underway. Considering that this club is primarily funded by membership dues (correct me if I'm wrong), I would have thought it would have been appropriate to solicit member feedback about what members might like to see or have in/on a new website & forums. That's not too much of a stretch, is it?

    Did I miss a survey?? And if not, how hard would it have been to throw that up on the message forums? The national office surely doesn't think that club members who've been using the club website(s) and forums since they were first implemented might not at least have an opinion worth relaying?? 75k members, and even out of the small fraction of the membership that actively used the website, surely there might be some pithy insight or ideas beyond what had been given already since the last website re-design? It's not like national would actually have to take advantage of any suggestion or ideas that might have been offered, but it would be been nice for members to be included at the beginning of the idea-gathering process. Yes, I know we had a feedback forum, which I presume was tapped for some issues which needed addressing, but a survey would have allowed for people to be specific and focused in offering any ideas for a new site.

    It's always a big deal to totally re-design a large, complicated website, and I know there were functionality problems for users attempting to do various things, and complications for the national office from that. Yes, all that needed addressing, and I hope the new website here makes everyone's life easier compared to those issues with the old site, but, ignoring the club membership as a feedback resource for something as substantial as a complete website & forum re-design, I feel is a substantial oversight.

    The new site here hase a nice, clean look to it (maybe too clean, possibly to the point of bland). I find myself expecting a "home" page, it's not obvious that the home page tab IS the BMWCCA logo graphic pic at the top left. The layout on the "Events" page seems a bit less than logical - wouldn't it make more sense to stick text at the left instead of what apparently is a corral picture (since we read first, and the pic doesn't do anything else). It's a bit of a odd disconnect - the picture is of a corral, the 'Featured Event' says only "Concours" (and you have to read the small text to answer the question that comes to mind, what concours and where), and then when you click on the "Learn More" button, you get a link to a San Diego driving school... huh?? (This appears to have been addressed since I started this message, but I still think the text should come before the picture...) Even on my laptop, that corral pic is too big, as is the word Event - it's not close enough to the blue bar across the top of the page, making me have to scroll down to see what's on the rest of the page, which, after taking the effort to scroll, (at least it's within the range of one thumbwheel scroll), it wasn't really worth the effort to scroll down, as the text that was half-obscured by my browser's scroll bars was only a couple of words. Point being, I think the pages could be layed out a bit more laptop-friendly, without getting visually too crowded. We're not all looking at the website on a 4 foot x 6 foot flat panel display all the time, y'know. The "About" tab appears to be the contact-us page, which is where I would more appropriately expect there to be some information about the club, who we are, what we do, and so on, including the history bit that's under the "Community" tab. I find the placement of the BMWCCA Foundation under the "Community" section a bit odd, as the foundation seems to me a bit more than only part of the BMWCCA 'community'. The link to the Foundation's website, once you get to it, when clicked on, changes the page to the Foundation's website page, taking you away from the BMWCCA website - at least there, it should be formatted to open the link in a new tab, or page, instead of moving one off the BMWCCA site entirely. It's totally odd that contact information for BMW NA is placed with the Foundation's info blurb and link - appears to be stuck there as a random afterthought, that should go someplace more logical. I think maybe the old website had a more cohesive design vision in some respects. I'm not quite sure of the logic behind what's thrown in under the 'membership benefits' page after you dig down to it from the 'Community' page. The community page is talking about the online community, but you drill down to membership to see explanations of the other membership benefits which are part of being a club member, not just online, and why are the SIG's buried down there? We don't have to be a member or part of the 'online community' to be in with the various SIG's, do we?

    I find the implementation of addressing the prospective new member's question of "Why should I join and pay to join this group?" a bit scattered. I think there could be a clearer presentation here (somewhere) of what the club offers and why someone might want to join. It's all there, in some fashion or another, but it seems slightly hodge-podge. Needs to be more cohesiveness between the images used, and banner text, and image-links sub-text. Under the membership benefits section, wouldn't it be better for it to say "Premier Membership" than "Premier Benefits"? "Premier Benefits" leaves you questioning "Benefits of premier what?" And, although it's a beautiful sunset pic with a pretty girl, it doesn't quite lead one to immediately see that the point of the pic is supposed to be showing someone stranded in the middle of nowhere with darkness oncoming, and that premier membership's roadside assistance is the solution to the problem. I think I looked at the pic 20 times and only saw it wasn't a model posing with a Z3 at sunset until really thinking about it - too much mental effort to get to what the pic is really supposed to be about. "Vehicle Rebate" (the blue banner text) is a little generic for the Membership Reward Rebate program, which to me at least is a bigger deal than just some ol' rebate. It gets hard to make it a two word summary, but even "BMW Rebate" would be better. The subtext would more clearly explain it if it said something more like "Up to $1500 back on a new/CPO BMW after 1 year of BMWCCA membership." The "CCA Rewards Visa" banner text also would be clearer if it was "BMWCCA Rewards Visa", as anyone unfamiliar with the club is unlikely to know that we commonly abbreviate a reference to the club simply down to just "'CCA". Along those lines, folks are not going to be able to intuit that the Roundel is the club's magazine - you click the "Roundel" tab, and you're put in the "Roundel" zone, which is... what? No explanation there what the Roundel is.... wouldn't it make more sense to put the "Magazine" sub-tab first, and go there when you click the main Roundel tab? Shouldn't the Roundel Zone be where one accesses the current & past online Roundels, and perhaps current select articles? What's the intent there? I guess I could assume potential advertisers could find the "Media Kit" tab and know what it is, seems something like throwing in the words "For Advertisers" might more directly lead the blind squirrel to the acorn, though.

    Changing things is always a problem for consistency - I don't know what the club's goals are for having a message forum. It can never become a useful resource, particularly for the diy, how-to, & both general & model-specific maintenance issues, if we keep nuking the forums every few years. For those of us that have at least tried to actively participate and be helpful to others in such matters on the forums, it's also de-motivational; why bother putting the effort in when that effort is disregarded, or even discarded, every few years? That would leave the only reason to do anything with the online message forum being just offering up comments for the fun of it, or to kill time. I hope that the old message forums can be archived and accessible, and not just temporarily, as the forums before them were. Even if these new forums are here to "stay", as it were (given the impermanent nature of easily-changed electronica, including websites and forums), unless more functionality and user-configurability is yet-to-come, as I mentioned earlier, I'm kind of skeptical about how much member-participation will be forthcoming in these new message forums. Ahh... just found this out, isn't it nifty to be automatically logged out after some period of time, particularly when composing a message, and in being thrown to the login page after hitting the "save" button for the message (because, you know, you didn't KNOW you were automatically logged out), and in logging back in, finding that your former message went bye-bye with the page transfers and loading. Oh well, learned long ago to compose long messages elsewhere and copy and paste them rather than trust they'll survive in some flash application. I wonder if _anywhere_ on the site it explains that the system will log you out automatically after what it perceives is "X" amount of time of what it thinks is inactivity. What a nuisance to have to log in repeatedly day-after-day, to check the message forums or whatever, too. Ahhh.... joy. But.. hey... don't bother to note anything I have to say, because, you know, the club's members that supposedly ARE part of the 'online' community, we couldn't possibly have anything worthwhile to contribute to, say, the club's online presence and functionality from a user's perspective, would we? Or...... once this thing is up and running smoothly, will there be some systematic solicitation of feedback, vs. what whatever thoughts some folks opt to volunteer in the feedback forum?

    Congrats on getting the new site rolled out, I imagine everyone's exhaling a collective sigh of relief over that, at least. Despite my being non-plussed about a few specific issues here, everyone at the national office who works hard on all fronts to keep things rolling for the rest of us are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to the club.
    • Member

    MGarrison

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    so much for the html

    Is there the ability to edit a new thread? Does the site url: http://www.bmwcca.org/ still showing the unveiling page mean we're still not out from under wraps yet? What about private messaging and emailing between members, the members list for the forums, being able to report posts, quoting parts of threads and posts, or the polling features of the old forums?

    The wysiwyg 'input format' (would be nice to not have to navigate to that) says html <img> tags are allowed, but I can't seem to get any image displaying?

    [IMG]

    Ok, can at least get a graphic up using the flash dialog-box, and it's not showing the mass of latin text that's in the preview box in the message... thankfully.

    A couple of thoughts about the "Magazine" sub-tab under the Roundel tab... again, a bit generic... wouldn't "Roundel Magazine" be better?

    Here's the quick descriptor from the "Magazine" sub-tab..

    "Roundel is the magazine of the BMW Car Club of America—a great way to share your passion for the marque with fellow enthusiasts every month, in print or online!"

    I'm thinking it's perhaps a bit of a stretch, I don't necessarily think I'm sharing my passion with anyone by reading the Roundel, more like passively indulging said passion, although I know that doesn't sound quite as snazzy. If I gave away every Roundel I received, perhaps that would sound more like I was sharing. I tend to think of the Roundel more as the best and most interesting monthly compendium of BMW-related information and stories just about anywhere, but I know that doesn't have the "jazz-hands" factor needed for an exciting summary sentence describing the Roundel, either.

    Anyone involved in the project solicit any feedback from Bill Howard about these message forums?
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    wretched

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    Forums

    The forum has taken a huge step backwards! I can't believe the first post can not be edited! I didn't catch a really bad typo and can not fix it! Nested forums should have been left in the 90's! It is nice to have the site back along with the digital Roundel but my favorite resource is useless now. I also really miss the links to catch up on new threads and post. Gone is the very handy subscribe link... Please stop logging me out so fast! I better stop here my thoughts are not as composed as the last two post...
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    tiFreak

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    The new forum design is honestly the worst set up I've ever posted on, nothing seems intuitive even with my years of posting on various forums. The rest of the site isn't bad I don't think but I really think we should go back to the vBulletin or something similar

    EDIT: seriously? the posts go in reverse order?
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    MGarrison

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    Re: the reverse order thing - ya, I know, that's bizarro too...

    ack! even weirder, a reply to a main thread reply gets jammed in between that, and the reverse ordered main thread replies... to read in chronological order we'll have to go to the end, and up, and down.. and... and... eeeeek! WTH?!
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    wretched

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    Yeah I noticed the reverse order after my post and discovered even more rage about this new forum!
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    MGarrison

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    Yep.. and it just gets more oddball with more and more sub-reply replies....
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    CSBM5

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    worst forum design I've ever seen

    Wow, this is unreal. It's almost impossible to believe at this point in the evolution of s/w and the web that the club has selected this forum s/w. Seriously, if this is an example of the leadership of the club, you can see why they are going to have immense problems attracting young, new members. Sorry to be so blunt, this this thing is truly horrid.

    I'm done with it before it even starts as there are other web forum environments where the usability is VASTLY better and model-centric expertise resides. I'm guessing if the club does not adopt a proper forum s/w platform, this site will languish as best. I know I'm highly unlikely to return anymore...in fact, just removed the link to the CCA forums off my favorties bar.

    Regards,
    Chuck

    sonicflood guest

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    Not very happy with the new forum. If it does not improve, I'm afraid we'll lose contributing members.

    The delay in getting the web site up and running including not having the old forum available was a lack of proper planning issue. Most organizations will leave the "old" web site active while they finish the new. Once that is done, it is a seamless transition, not a "dead" site for a week.

    I am optimistic that things will improve but during my lack of being able to log in to the forum for an extended period of time, I searched out and joined a few alternate forums that are pretty good.

    I like the clean look and will give it a chance. I am the first to admit that I am resistant to change in something I've grown familiar with like our old site/forum.

    Thank you to all those responsible for trying to improve our experience here!

    Scott
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    MGarrison

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    Not having replies in chronological order is insanity

    Really, really difficult to find the most recent replies, and follow things in order with this setup! Agh!
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    eam3

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    New format

    Have to agree with Scott. The new format is not working for me either and I also think that we'll lose a lot of people that used to contribute regularly on the old board. I'll still give it a chance, and I can certainly understand that all things change but this change seemed to have happened for the sake of change, not an improvement over the old forums.

    Ed

    Neil22 guest

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    Hmmm

    I'm seriously confused why a more standard forum software wasn't used. phpBB is free. Vbulletin is also pretty much standard for most of the boards I use. I had high hopes for the redesign but it's pretty evident that most people will simply stay on their respective forums.boards they're already used to. It's simply too cumbersome to use this board.

    I'm starting to question why I reupped my membership when other sites I frequent are free?

    EDIT: Why on earth are the responses posted backwards chronologically?
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    steven s

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    There is very little I can do here, but I think I reversed the chronological order.

    BMW CCA

    Pyewacket guest

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    Not to pile on, but...

    I have to agree with the other posters here.

    The new forum is anything but user friendly.

    However, I 'm going to give it a few weeks before passing final judgment. Maybe some familiarity will ease the difficulty in adjusting to the new site...
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    hutten

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    Site :- (((

    So far, this site gives me a migraine. I'll give it some time (hopefully to be de-bugged!) I surely don't understand the loss of previous post from the old site.. Valued info gone?????
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    MGarrison

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    I believe the plan is to archive the old forums and make them accessible....
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    Brian A

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    Nice to be back

    Have been on the road for a while (since before the site went down) (headed back home tomorrow!!). Have been having trouble reading the new format on my iPod Touch since it is over 25 words per line (lots of side-to-side scrolling) (have not yet completed MGarrison's original post). Feeling a little bit of technology fatigue; don't want to have to learn new single-site specific protocols. I guess I will do it as I really like you bunch of crazies. At home (if I ever get there), my "technology" project is moving all my music CDs to Apple Lossless format to play through my new digital-to-analog converter (Musical Fidelity V-DAC); enough new technology for me right now.
    I am eager to see the old site content up. Its a great knowledge base. I am also eager to see the old Gallery content back since I used the Galleries almost as a bit of a personal blog; I post photos and comments of car stuff I want to remember. It alarms me that it is currently gone; even just temporarily.
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    JMCLBMW

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    All that info gone? Is it possible?

    I'm not computer savvy by any means, although I remember something about saving your work.

    It's allmost as if someone decided to just do the change for the sake of change and get it done,like someone was sold a "lemon"

    345861 guest

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    No Member Input for New Web Site

    "Perhaps I missed something, but I find myself disappointed that apparently club members were completely ignored as a resource for even any thoughts about a new website or forums, once the decision was made to do a new site. First I heard of something about a new website or forums was a post on the message forums several months ago, I'm sure long after the project was well underway. Considering that this club is primarily funded by membership dues (correct me if I'm wrong), I would have thought it would have been appropriate to solicit member feedback about what members might like to see or have in/on a new website & forums. That's not too much of a stretch, is it?

    Did I miss a survey?? "

    +1 on this! There are SO many things wrong with the new web site, it looks nice but clearly is not ready for prime time. And what about all the old classifieds and forum posts? So, we're just starting over? I think the CCA was sold a bill of goods on this one.

    Pathetic...
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    Brian A

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    I think it is too easy to react too quickly

    Yeah; the forum doesn’t look very inviting at this point, but presumably CCA Central is just getting something “out there†for us members to shoot at so that it can be refined. We don’t even know if this was a free revamp done by club member volunteers (shame on us for criticizing them so soon) or a professionally done revamp. … Perhaps there are a few website-savvy club members who can volunteer their time to fix things up.
    My concern with the new format is that it is currently much more difficult to see what is new. It was the new posts that always sucked me in. With the log-in requirements and the linier page-based delivery of content, I won’t be hitting the site nearly as often anymore. (Presumably there is now better functionality for targeted search-based research of a particular topic. In the old forum format, we did have to reiterate standard answers to repeat questions so many times since the site couldn’t be searched very well.)

    I am very worried for the old content. We need it back. (Gimme my Gallery back!!!) I still lament the loss of the old-old content from the prior-prior version of the website (2 versions prior to this one) where there was all that old-guy knowledge captured regarding 2002s, where Mike Miller participated on the forum almost compulsively and where there was a full index of Roundel Articles from the 1960s to late 1990s. This knowledge base was never reloaded in the last version. I would be so disillusioned if the content from the old site was not loaded back up, I don’t know if I could participate again. There are other, better places just to be “social†if there is no (car related) theme.
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