The BuddyPress UI Design and conceptual approach to Social Networking
This thread is intended to serve as a companion to the one running on API design and serve the purpose of exploring the UI nature of BuddyPress.
It is hoped that within this thread feedback can be accumulated from those developers with UI interface experience, those building and deploying communities as to what is found to work and what is possibly open to better design.
Noted will be aspects that are brought to the attention of developers by real world users that are potentially causing confusion.
Debate as to the best approach to overcoming these issues in interface design can be discussed with the aim of hopefully providing clear feedback for the mid tier development team to work from.
The thread is not intended to simply ‘moan’ but to try and arrive at positive solutions or potential solutions to issues raised.
What the thread should not be is a further place to simply report bugs found, the Trac system is the correct place to report bugs.
Yep, jivany, you’re right. But I think it’s important (as you imply) that we keep in mind that thinking as developers (‘Well, it’s all just posts! Text data in the db, after all!’) can be a dangerous trap — we also need to think as interaction designers, in terms of what users are doing and want to do. The function before the form, again.
The stuff like posting pictures of your newest pet or latest vacation – that “personal interest” and “personal interaction” stuff that makes people warm and fuzzy and feel like they belong to a group/community.
Precisely. Anyone who’s been running web communities for any length of time knows how absolutely important this kind of thing is to people. A community without it, unless it’s grounded offline in some real-world way, will die. And it happens in forum-style discussion threads.
@jivany (“On a typical WP installation, blog posts are written by site owners and/or their chosen authors. This means only certain selected groups of people can start a new discussion point/thread. Forums typically allow everyone to start a new discussion and have their peers comment on that topic.”)
I use Marius Ooms groupblog plugin in a custom theme with P2 front-end posting. Group members are automatically added as blog authors, so they can all post on the group blog and comment on what other group members have posted, in threaded comments with hide/show toggle. They can post short Twitter-like ‘status updates’ or full blog posts.
@stwc Agreed – I’m a developer – I can (mostly) make BP do what I want it to. I’m not a community builder because there is really no such thing. As a site owner, I can only offer up tools that I think my site needs to help it become a community. Once a community forms, the community will be what drives new site features as they will use the tools provided in the manner they see fit.
As @lph2005 (basically) mentioned, you can’t force people to use a site they have no interest in. Yes, some might discard that particular example because it’s “kids” but think about it – kids are the ones that are going to be most able to pickup a new concept. If they can’t figure BP out and it doesn’t interest them then there’s a huge problem with BP.
@peterverkooijen based on your setup description, I don’t understand your BP forum complaints. You don’t use forums because you have basically replicated the forum concept in blog posts/comments. The only advantage I see of this setup (without looking in great detail) is the benefit of using the more robust WP commenting system.
Fundamentally you have created a forum.
@jivany (“I don’t understand your BP forum complaints. You don’t use forums because you have basically replicated the forum concept in blog posts/comments”)
Exactly! My point is that integrating an external forum like bbPress into Buddypress is unnecessary and only creates a lot of confusion, undermines the structure. Less is more. KISS.
I would like Buddypress to consolidate on the smallest number of parts, leverage what’s already in WordPress, instead of adding database tables and external scripts that partly overlap/clash with other parts.
But bbPress seems to be taking over Buddypress. Wrong direction imho.
My vote goes towards adding a usability/interface design expert to the team. The work the programmers are doing on Buddypress is amazing and I am really impressed by the progress that’s being made, but a lot of functionality feels a bit clunky and unnecessarily complex to use. The design might feel logical and usable to more advanced users who work with computers a lot, but for those with less experience I can imagine it’s a different matter.
I think buddypress should be designed for the average user and not for the average programmer.
@peterverkooijen said: Why would you need forums? What makes forums so great for collaboration?
You’re confusing me now. You don’t see the benefit of forums yet you have basically created a forum on your site.
Everyone has to think outside of the box because “forums” != bbPress. I’ve spent many many years on many different “forums”, all the way back to USENET and “newsgroups” and BBS’s. Forums are a useful tool on any website unless you are trying to create the next twitter clone where no one really cares what anyone said 5 minutes ago.
I do agree that it might be nice for BP to drop bbPress and embrace the multiple post-type functionality that WP 3.0 offers. Stuff like Akismet could then be used for comments/replies to “forum-thread” post-types. No duplication of functionality, etc.
Maybe an alternative would be for “someone” to write a forum plugin leveraging the new WP3.0 post-type functionality that also plugs into BP activity streams, etc.
jivany is saying precisely what I was getting at. A ‘forum’ is not a specific tool or product: it is a way of structuring online conversation. I continue to argue that it is an essential one.
If I could rip bbPress out of BP and slot in Vanilla (for example) as the forum-interaction-service-provider and have it integrate nicely with the rest of the app, I’d do so in a freaking instant.
My ONLY beef with the forums is it does not work like the activity stream. I would have it where the replies work just like on the activity stream. Somebody can post in the topic or reply to a post in the topic But each time somebody replies then that topic goes back to the top like a forum. Activity streams move too fast and things go under the fold too quickly for forum/ blog based discussions. Facebook fixed this problem by giving you the option to filter your news feed by popular topics. I suggest adding that to the activity stream as well as a last replied commented filter. So things that get replied to bump to top.
My vote goes towards adding a usability/interface design expert to the team. … I think buddypress should be designed for the average user and not for the average programmer.
This. Most definitely this.
Sounds like your setup is exactly what I suggested many posts ago in this thread. P2 functionality was totally overlooked in the whole BuddyPress design but it seems to me to be a great fit. Give me a P2 groupblog with a cleaned up groups feature and BuddyPress is relevant again. Would like to see your example of this btw…
You do know that Andy (who’s the main BP dev) was one of the people who put together P2, right? I wouldn’t imagine that it was ‘overlooked’ precisely. In fact, that pretty much useless ‘What are you doing/Post something’ textarea on the Activity page was lifted directly from P2.
@xspringe You are correct. The BP interface should be designed for the end user. This keys off my peeve that BP is marketing itself as enabling social networking “out of the box”. Yes, it can but not without some tweaking for each specific site application. And I’m not talking about simple template colour choices or layout modifications.
If we look at Facebook or Twitter, both of these do the same basic thing once a user logs in. The user is taken to the page that has all of your friend’s/groups/pages/forums/etc. recent updates. This is a user-centric focus. It plugs the user directly into what they are interested in in the shortest period of time. It can be done with BP but it’s not the default. If it was the default, I think all of the other components would tie in nicely in a very intuitive way.
@modemlooper I agree – the disconnect between the activity stream commenting and everything else is a huge usability hole. It sucks. At the moment, my only solution is to disable commenting on those activity stream items (which you can with an existing radio button on the options page IIRC). That makes it more confusing for the user but at least we don’t “lose” replies.
Yes I’m aware of Andy’s involvement in P2 and there are obviously elements of it in play in the activity stream. As you say, it comes across as useless in that context, but not so much if used as a primary community blog for a BP install. Just seems to me it was an obvious part of the solution that would ‘ground’ the community’s activity and provide a jumping off point for users into groups, etc. I can’t imagine it was overlooked either.
@scotm (“Give me a P2 groupblog with a cleaned up groups feature and BuddyPress is relevant again…”)
That’s kinda where I’m trying to get to. Marius Ooms as well. One of my frustrations is that I can’t figure out how to put the ‘group blog home’ on the ‘group home’ page itself without breaking the Ajax. The connection between group and group blog is very unclear. Still need to work on that… Also managing all the different settings is unwieldy. This plugin helps, but it would be nice if it all was part of the core, integrated with better management.
I use it on Web2NewYork.com. You’d have to register to test it, which you’re welcome to do. The site is mostly for event registration. Members so far ignore the blog/group/posting features…
I agree – the disconnect between the activity stream commenting and everything else is a huge usability hole. It sucks. At the moment, my only solution is to disable commenting on those activity stream items (which you can with an existing radio button on the options page IIRC). That makes it more confusing for the user but at least we don’t “lose” replies.
@jivany Using Rich’s subplugin for Forum Extras allows Activity Stream replies to forum posts to appear inline with the actual comment in the forum thread. It is excellent as a workaround for this particularly glaring problem, but the fact that it (and all the other tweaks that we have to make) is necessary is in and of itself indicative of the interaction design issues we’re discussing.
I tried that Forum Extras plugin and it’s not the same thing as the activity stream and throws in a different workflow for people to get used too. Also I had so many bugs and problems with it that I ended up deleting it.
It’s been working flawlessly for me.
and throws in a different workflow for people to get used too
Don’t see how — it consolidates rather than adds, the way I’ve got it set up. *shrug*
It made the forum replies go all weird. Anyhoo people should not be able to comment on something and it show up elsewhere, thats bad UX.
Heh. I’m not disagreeing with you in principle, but taken in the context of Buddypress itself, that’s pretty ironic, with forum comments (and everything else) showing up in Activity streams as well as where they were originally posted.
(and in this specific case, it shows up inline, thread-indented on the Activity item and indentically inline, thread-indented on the forum comment itself, and that’s pretty intuitive — may not be best-practices UX, but I’d say it’s better than the default scenario. My great worry these days is that the dev community is being compelled to fix problems with usability of core BP, as much or more so than extending what’s there.)
@stwc (“My great worry these days is that the dev community is being compelled to fix problems with usability of core BP, as much or more so than extending what’s there.”)
That is my hope. Don’t extend. Fix problems first.
I think we agree, then, for the first time ever: that Andy &co should be focussing on fixing problems (usability and otherwise) and the dev community can extend core where they like.
My great worry these days is that the dev community is being compelled to fix problems with usability of core BP, as much or more so than extending what’s there.)
And which is one of my concerns too, and is evident in many posts on this site with developers rushing out fixes to usernames for example as is perceived as being a problem highlighted by one person.
What worries me is that moving forward in this manner is not necessarily the best approach to developing a rock solid core app as you have perceived issues being dealt with in a slightly haphazard manner and the setting up or configuring of BP dependent on finding many and various disparate third party snippets of code.
I’m sure Andy&co are focused too an extent on fixing problems but also it may well be a case that ‘Problems’ are not necessarily perceived as problems- part of the reason I thought that this thread was a necessity; to try and flesh out what were considered existing UI/design flaws and provide that as good solid feedback to work from. I note that in the ‘roadmap’ it states that there are periods of consultation? to garner feedback for version features, I would like to see that process in action and to see developers helping guide these future releases; as I agree that it’s now not simply about adding ‘Features’ but far more importantly on providing a core that works and that developers may extend upon.
It feels as though BP is reaching a momentous milestone or crux point in it’s development, and that perhaps the core dev team ought to take a breather, take time out and review what is right and what is wrong and that needs addressing. Foxly made the point well in his ‘ spammers are coming'(sic) thread discussing his suggested approach to tackling the spam issues surrounding BP where he asserts that BP is reaching this crux point where if it wants to grow from simply a “Science project for hobbyist sites” to a fully mature app that can serve business / enterprise it has to tackle certain issues and is why he considers taking some time to tackle this issue he sees with spam is of paramount importance. I would not disagree with Foxly for one moment and what he has reported on thus far on the issue is commendable but I do not think a developer should be tackling this, taking time out from working on hugely useful ‘Feature’ plugins to work on something that – if is agreed to be an issue that must be dealt with – is essentially a core development issue and really ought to be handled by the core development team not by a third party developer (Obviously this is not to say it won’t be as things are in early stages and speculative at this point)
So, yes extending must slow down for a while and issues of a UI / design nature must be thrust to the fore and I would hope there is a means of collating some of the very apposite and useful comments and suggestions that have appeared so far in this thread.
The irony of “BuddyPress shouldn’t be about forums”, and “if you want a forum, don’t use BP” and “bbPress is a parasite in BP…” is that the FORUM is the center point of activity here on buddypress.org. Almost all of the live activity here among you developers, admins, etc. is based in the forum. When was Andy’s last blog post – almost a month ago? The Forum is the bread and butter of this site.
There is nothing incompatible about Forums and social networks. It is perfectly appropriate to use forums in a social networking framework. Forums are central to buddypress.org, LinkedIn, and other thriving social networking sites.
There was a specific need for forums in BP, and that’s why bbPress was directly integrated into BP as a core function. The bbPress-based bp-forums component is one of the most solid parts of BP, and Andy has pledged to reveal even more of the Forum features of bbPress in upcoming versions of BP (such as tag support).
I’ve spent a lot of volunteer time working to strengthen and troubleshoot the BP forums, and add key functionality to it for the benefit of the whole BP community. I appreciate the fact that Forums are central to BuddyPress. I would be dismayed if BP did an about-face and decided to abandon forum support. Fortunately, I don’t see many of the “anti-forum” comments coming from key developers.
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