New Features in WoltLab Suite 6.0: New Forum List With Live Updates

This article is all about the forum list, which is the start page in many forums and is of great importance for them. In the following, we would like to explain why we decided to revise the forum list with version 6.0, what difficulties we encountered in the process and what the improved version looks like.

The Weak Points of the Previous Version

The presentation of the forums has been unchanged for a long time and has at best been marginally adjusted in recent versions. A major problem with the existing display is that a disproportionate amount of space is dedicated to information that is not relevant for finding interesting content. For example, the most recently discussed thread receives only about one-third of the available space, so longer thread titles are often cut off. The associated loss of important information is a significant issue that is even more severe on lower resolutions, such as tablets.

Another weak point is the insufficient accessibility, for example the configuration-dependent high density of links as well as the lack of labeling of certain information. As a result, click areas are too small, making it more difficult to access the desired link. In the meantime, some of these criteria are also actively assessed by search engines and thus have an impact on the ranking of one’s forum, so that this is also becoming increasingly relevant for site owners with rather few mobile page views.

Challenges in Implementing Improvements

The forum list comes in different variants, for example the selection of ignored forums. Even within one display variant, there are a variety of settings, some of which have a significant impact on the type of display as well as the information displayed. The complexity is further increased by controlling the display of sub-sections.

One measure we have taken in the course of the revision is the removal of the option to hide the last posts. From experience, this option is used extremely rarely and hiding is already very easy to implement with just a few CSS statements. Removing this option reduces the logic in the template as well as the different cases that have to be considered by us and style creators in the overall design.

Also removed was the option to display the users active in each area. This only affects the listing on the forum list, the detailed view when accessing a category or forum remains unchanged. In addition, forums without a category are now always displayed like a container, thus avoiding optical illusions where a forum is mistakenly appears to be belonging to a preceding category.

The Innovations of the Revised Forum List

The revised layout allows the last two threads from the forum to be displayed while taking up a similar amount of space, thus adding value for users. We also decided to move both the statistics under the forum title and remove the display of labels (UPDATE June 5th: The labels will remain to be visible in the forum list). This allows most thread titles to be displayed (almost) in full.

Our goal was to make the forum list clearly structured for visitors and to make content easy to find. The new structure relies on conveniently designed click areas and limits links to the essential content. The expanding and collapsing of categories was revised and implemented accessible, together with the enlarged click areas the ranking of the page in search engines can be improved. Categories from the 2nd level on are interpreted as an implicit forum and now aggregate the content from the contained forums so that they do not just represent empty space but also provide added value for users.

The mobile layout has been further improved and also focuses on displaying important information. The forum itself as well as the displayed last reply are individually linked, while we use enlarged click areas for the best possible user experience.

The simplified display of forums, for example for the list of ignored forums, has also been revised and uses a layout similar to the forum list, but compressed. This is intended to help users find the area they are looking for more quickly in a layout that is as visually similar as possible.

Live Update of the Last Posts

The forum list is a useful overview of the different sections of a forum and offers a high density of information by displaying the last two threads of a forum. This information is collected and processed when the page is called, but remains unchanged until the page is visited again. Without a page reload, there is no new information.

With version 6.0 we extend our existing feature for live updates to the forum list as well. As soon as someone else makes a new post, the list of recent threads is updated in real time, providing an up-to-date overview of ongoing discussions. Of course, all permissions are fully taken into account.

The live update of the latest posts is exclusively available to customers of our hosting plan “WoltLab Cloud”. This feature is active in all plans automatically and without additional costs.