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  • Discreet site reviews.

    My name is Drew and I am willing to give discreet, professional reviews of styles, similar to the one I posted in another thread recently. First, a little about me. I am a 36 year old systems administrator and developer, fully licensed and certified for both the Microsoft and various POSIX based operating systems and development platforms, including Windows, Linux, Visual Studio 5/6/.NET, Apache, PHP, and MySQL. I have been in private practice for over twelve years and took up designing my own websites five year ago. A few credits to my name, not all are forums, include the following:

    http://llrocks.com - Lindsay Lohan's Official Site.
    http://ashleyroseorr.net - Ashley Rose Orr's Official Site.
    http://wizardingrealm.com - My own alternative Harry Potter forum.

    I have registered well over twenty domains in the past five years and still retain a few of them despite thier being inactive. I will give honest, unbiased and professional reviews of your style. I will include written comments regarding several areas of the design, citing things I liked, disliked and the exact reasons why. Please note that with any review, it is subject to the reviewers point of view and isn't definitive in regards to what you should or shouldn't do with your site.

    If you would like to obtain such a review, please email me at [email protected] and I will gladly reply with your review. I will not publically post such reviews, however, if you would like to share said review, please feel free to post it yourself.
    House of Night Forums - An online House of Night roleplaying community,

  • #2
    This style used to be for sale, but it no longer is available for purchase (but isn't downloadable either). So I think it is alright for me to request a review on it.

    http://www.vbulletin.nl/community/?styleid=47
    vBulletin.nl Professional Style Package - 1.3 for vBulletin 3.0.3 (Alternative)

    I am open for suggestions, contrustive critisism and any feedback to helps me realize how good or bad it is, what I should work on to improve it, etc. Your review may be posted here in public.

    Note to those who like it and want it: Sorry you are out of luck.

    Comment


    • #3
      Certainly Floris, here is the review. Keep in mind that no suggestion need be taken. How good or bad the style is depends on the beholder. The below details my impressions and reactions to your style only.

      First Impression:

      Floris, I must say I really liked the impact the style had when first viewed. It is crisp, clean and is very well laid out. I really like the light earth tones used as it is a combination not frequently seen. The attention to small details is wonderful. For exaple, the small quarter-round corners you have in place to soften the border work wonders on thier own. I am a big supporter of the "KISS" principle.

      Content:

      The focus of your site was very easy to determine as your logo includes descriptive captions along with the more traditional "logo". You even provide translatory links, which is great for those who do not read english. Your welcome_guest message is thoughtfully contructed, using alignment, formatting, and excellent wording to help new users get acclimated to the site. I have not joined, nor logged on, but I would think that with this much detail, you would also have a secondary welcome_registering and welcome_member message as well. If not, consider that a suggestion as it further aides the user experience.

      Features:

      I like your front page alot. I think it's the most clean I've seen in a while. Simply listing active threads, a single, clear message, a few ads, and the info box, in the manner you did, is complimentary to your site and works well.

      Templating:

      I love the template work here. The way you used alt1 and alt2 on successive rows is a nice tweak that, by itself, isn't much, but overall adds just that extra little difference that sets a style apart. I also like the postbit changes, however, I would like to see how the use of fieldsets to contain information looks in the legacy style. This, of course, would be out of curiosity as I prefer that bit myself. The introduction of category icons on the index is also a nice little plus. Moving the navbar out of the header is a grand idea, leaving that space for the logo. I don't know how many times I have considered that myself. Your buttons and icons work follows your style accurately. They have easy to read text and are not overly large. The footer is also well thought out. I would like to see the upper right cell nowrap-ed out of personal preference however.

      Detractions:


      I see no detractors worth mentioning here as most are purely deviations from my personal preferences.
      House of Night Forums - An online House of Night roleplaying community,

      Comment


      • #4
        First Impression:

        Floris, I must say I really liked the impact the style had when first viewed. It is crisp, clean and is very well laid out. I really like the light earth tones used as it is a combination not frequently seen. The attention to small details is wonderful. For exaple, the small quarter-round corners you have in place to soften the border work wonders on thier own. I am a big supporter of the "KISS" principle.
        Thank you for the quick review - and yet so complete. You have done an amazing job writing it out. Your feedback is appriciated and allow me to place a few comments. The Keep It Stupid, Simple principle is what makes a site work. You do not get a lot of data to load aside the actual content, and that is what users want I guess. Also, the way things are presented is mostly due to simple but effective tweaks to the great layout that Kier and his staff has put together for version 3. Finding a balance between what I want (and because I sold the style) and what the general public wants is the result of that what you see there. I guess that worked out quite well.

        Content:

        The focus of your site was very easy to determine as your logo includes descriptive captions along with the more traditional "logo". You even provide translatory links, which is great for those who do not read english. Your welcome_guest message is thoughtfully contructed, using alignment, formatting, and excellent wording to help new users get acclimated to the site. I have not joined, nor logged on, but I would think that with this much detail, you would also have a secondary welcome_registering and welcome_member message as well. If not, consider that a suggestion as it further aides the user experience.
        I believe adding a logo might be overkill, so I tried to get a merge between my logo and my title - and include a description instead to make sure it is clear. The first impression someone gets could determine if they continue to search or even ever want to come back. The welcome message to unregistered and new members is a small tweak that would hopefully be more informative then intrusive or even annoying. There is always quite some confusion when novice users find the site through a search engine and have no idea what a forum is, but still want to know where to find what, or what is going on. The introduction text should clear that up. Registered members of course get a different text, more information or simply see less. This depends on their activity and status on the forum. KISS principle kicks in here again. If you want to take a peek without signing up you can use the test/test account to login and browse.

        Features:

        I like your front page alot. I think it's the most clean I've seen in a while. Simply listing active threads, a single, clear message, a few ads, and the info box, in the manner you did, is complimentary to your site and works well.
        Besides the frontpage we also had a 'style' section but that is closed because the style isn't for purchase anymore. We also have a chat section so users can get live-chat with the staff and other members and guests. Quite fun, we have Kier jump in the chat once every 6 months or so. And Scott idles there or chats with us once every other month and Zachery and I are there usually and Tony from vBulletin.org/vBulletinTemplates.com and Xenon from vBulletin.org and bunch of others too. It uses the same build as the frontpage. Talking about the frontpage, this is powered by nothing more then the vBulletin features and functions. And uses the variables through templates so it generates the unique layout and inherits the style selected (or language for that matter). For those who want is: Sorry .. we have to stay unique!

        Templating:

        I love the template work here. The way you used alt1 and alt2 on successive rows is a nice tweak that, by itself, isn't much, but overall adds just that extra little difference that sets a style apart. I also like the postbit changes, however, I would like to see how the use of fieldsets to contain information looks in the legacy style. This, of course, would be out of curiosity as I prefer that bit myself. The introduction of category icons on the index is also a nice little plus. Moving the navbar out of the header is a grand idea, leaving that space for the logo. I don't know how many times I have considered that myself. Your buttons and icons work follows your style accurately. They have easy to read text and are not overly large. The footer is also well thought out. I would like to see the upper right cell nowrap-ed out of personal preference however.
        I wish I had more time to apply the alt1/2 rows instead of columns to various parts of the site. Like threadlist and forumdisplay. It isn't done throughout the site yet. But we are slowly getting there. I really like that setup more then having things in columns. But I understand why columns are picked. We allow our users to switch between the postbit and postbit_legacy by going to their user control panel. This way everybody has what they want. You can try it out using the test/test account. Oh about the navbar, if you like that - just wait for the next tweak. Yeah, the little issue with the footer is always fun. I tried to keep the things that only staff see on the second row, and the normal links on the top row. But -Top is the last one and gets moved to the second row. I wanted to save a conditional so I just didn't tweak it yet. I have a solution to do it without a conditional - I just need to be a bit less lazy.

        Detractions:


        I see no detractors worth mentioning here as most are purely deviations from my personal preferences.
        That is good news. Sounds like I scored quite well. Thank you for visiting our site and I hope we will see you in the future again and maybe even as part of the community Great review and thank you for your time.


        Floris & Staff of vBulletin Fan Site
        Last edited by Floris; Tue 2nd Nov '04, 8:59am.

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Drew,

          I know you said to e-mail you, but since I really don't mind public opinions about my style (in fact, I'm rather intrigued) and any criticisms or suggestions are taken in to consideration for possible further changes that I could make - I don't see any problem, feel free to make the review public..

          Here are my 2 styles (temporarily abandoned my 3rd one);
          http://www.gamerseuphoria.com/forum/index.php?styleid=1 - Default Style
          http://www.gamerseuphoria.com/forum/index.php?styleid=2 - White Style

          Comment


          • #6
            Here are your reviews. Keep in mind that no suggestion need be taken. How good or bad the styles are depends on the beholder. The below details my impressions and reactions to your styles only.

            Default Style

            Impression:

            Oblivion, I recall this forum by url only from recent Board of the Month threads. This alone should be a good indicator of what I thought of it. It seems like everybody and thier grandmother runs either a clansite or gamin forum. Not all are remembered. This one I did recall. I especially like the header, which has a faux techno look to it without actually being overly technical, intricate, or gaudy. As an avid gamer, recently having purchased Battlefront, I may be a tad biased in this review. I promise to be as objective as possible.

            Features:

            I see you have several of the more common interactive hacks installed. As I have not used these it's hard for me to determine what, if anything, was altered about them.

            Templating:

            The header is wonderfull and fits well in several resolutions. The footer did not seem to have too many changes, however, the average use isn't going to care how long the page took to load or how many queries it used. Why not use a conditional to display that line only to admins and/or mods? The Gaming Platforms box is also really nice but I find the icons a tad too dark for my liking. The site is already using the darkest possible background and the subdued icons make it look even darker. It wouldn't take much brightening of the images to counter the effect without compromising the overall feel of the site, or making them look neon-like. I like the fact that you've used a vbmenu_register call to drop down the list of interactive options instead of wasting screen real estate on individual links. It doesn't appear that you've substantially altered your postbit, however, I must say that, being partial to the legacy style, your css work here really makes a post stand out. The offwhite borders are great. White probnably would've been too stark.

            Detractions:

            First, there are those that do run at higher than 1024x768. In those instances the fonts used in the header may be too small to read. In addition, with so much grey in the header, and so little throughout the rest of the site, it appears a tad top heavy. Possibly too much, but that's a matter of opinion.

            White Style

            Impression:

            I had not viewed this style when I visited before and I was pleased to see a gaming site offer a light colored theme! ALmost all gaming sites invariably have a dark theme. Why is that? Remember that not all consoles are black. The early Nintendo's were off white. Be that as it may, I think I like style a touch better than the dark one.

            Features:

            As this is the same forum, my comments regarding features are the same as the above review.

            Templating:

            This is a very clean looking job. Have you set cellspacing to 0 here, or used border-collapse? The effect on the tables is great. You may want to try alternating rows as Floris did. I think that, in combination with no border lines, the result would look even more outstanding than it already does. Your icons look much better in my opinion against the lighter background than in the dark theme. I see you put the postbit user details into a fieldset. I was wondering how that would look and I like it. Mind if I use it at some point? The buttons are also really nice and readable.

            Detractions:

            This header, board, footer does not appear top heavey as the previous one did. I still think the header text is a little small. Regular links can have thier size overridden, but that isn't true with imaged text.
            House of Night Forums - An online House of Night roleplaying community,

            Comment


            • #7
              Serenarules: Im glad to see your own thread on this. Yours i am looking forward to its growth

              How about a review on this one?
              http://support.4databaseconsutling.com/
              Rebel Designs Studios

              Comment


              • #8
                rebelsrock, I commented a bit on your static site as well as your forum attempts to integrate into the motif.

                Here is your review. Keep in mind that no suggestion need be taken. How good or bad the style is depends on the beholder. The below details my impressions and reactions to your style only.

                Support Forum

                Impression:

                Looking at this was an interesting experience. I think you've got it right when it comes to what a 'support' forum is really about. I've seen way too many 'support' forums that are really fronts for business communities, containing a great many categories and forums. Yours focuses on what it should announcements, questions and answerers. In general, the static part of the site itself is an excellent example of a business from end. Things are clearly labelled and easy on the eye. The use of images is also well done. None are overbearing and all add a sense of color and character to the front end.

                Features:

                I see no outstanding features or add-ons to comment on.

                Templating:

                There doesn't seem to be a lot of customization here. The footer is nice and clean. I also use the horizontal approach to display the status icons. Anything to bring down the overall display width and height of the board is worth doing, assuming it's time effective. Considering the limited width of your forum, I concur with your use of the new template bit. It allows for longer sentances before word wrap occurs.

                Detractions:

                While the overall concept, coloring, and design behind this forum is great, I would change a few things. The header image uses primarily earth tones, yet the forum icons remain pastel blue. This is a contrast that doesn't enhance the forum any. One can colorize, or have it done for them, the standard icons in almost any paint program (Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, etc...) if you download the GDK. The second would be to introduce one or two earth tones into your forum color scheme. Not too much, only to highlight certain things. That would make it 'fit' better within the sites overal color scheme rather than appearing as a seperate, but embedded, entity.

                Having, hopefully (I don't want to make an assumption), set a precendent for forum reviews, I encourage anybody who wishes to review a site, do so in the same fashio I have, or a similar one. Provide clear statements, descriptions or your reasoning, offer suggestions and make all comments positive, even if your are discussing a negative element. I ask this now because my impressions and reactions are certainly NOT definitive for a particular site. It takes a cumulative look at several reviews to properly diagnose the success of your skinning abilities. I am not vain and will never pretend to know it all. At this point, considering the amount of requests I've gotten, I'm opening up the floor now for such third party review.

                Mods, if this get's out of hand, feel free to delete posts that don't adhere to the above requirements.
                House of Night Forums - An online House of Night roleplaying community,

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm interested in a site review as well! You can just post your opinions here, I don't mind who reads it.

                  I warn you though, it's nothing fancy since I barely know what I'm doing! I'm trying though!

                  Any feedback would be appreciated!

                  Home Page: http://www.onlinechristianparents.com

                  Forums: http://www.onlinechristianparents.com/forums/

                  Thank you!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Pamela, here is your review. Keep in mind that no suggestion need be taken. How good or bad the style is depends on the beholder. The below details my impressions and reactions to your style only.

                    Impression:

                    I'm pleased to see that even in the Christian community, webmasters are turning to vbulletin as thier forum of choice. This particular forum is very pleasing to the eye and doesn't overdo the typical Christian imagery. This is a plus as a lot of non-christian visitors are turned off by "in-your-face" religious messages. I will probably point this one out to the members of my own church.

                    Content:

                    I was immediately able to determine the content type and topic subjects. I think the organization needs a little work though. Perhaps moving the Announcements topics to the top, followed by the Welcome topics. This way visitors can see them without having to scroll down.

                    Features:

                    This site offers the common bank and store combination for that added touch of interactivity. I am not sure that gimmicks like this are required on a forum, however, that is intrinsically there for a greater good and do not tend to lend themselves to idle chat.

                    Templaing:

                    I didn't see a whole lot of templating changes except for those to the header and the footer. The header was excellently done and well balanced. I found the footer a bit off though as it took a moment before I realized the scrolling area at the bottom was a shoutbox. The work done on a few custom pages, such as the Fundraiser page, was a nice touch. I was fully expecting to be taken to a topic list.

                    Detractions:

                    The major detraction for me was the large icons used in the forum descriptions. Perhaps if they were all the same relative size and didn't throw the text off so much, they wouldn't be so bad. With status icons already in place, I don't see the point. The minor detraction was the floating "Jesus Saves" text. While a nice piece of javascript, it serves no real purpose for the end user and winds up simply being a distraction, if not a showstopper for older browsers that can't handle it.
                    Last edited by RagingPenguin; Fri 5th Nov '04, 2:42pm.
                    House of Night Forums - An online House of Night roleplaying community,

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Serenarules
                      This particular forum is very pleasing to the eye and doesn't overdo the typical Christian imagery. This is a plus as a lot of non-christian visitors are turned off by "in-your-face" religious messages.

                      Thank you so much! We did try to find a nice balance between looking “Christian enough” and “too Christian” by trying not to overdo the religious imagry, so I am happy to hear that!

                      Originally posted by Serenarules
                      I will probably point this one out to the members of my own church.

                      Oh yes...please do! The more the merrier!


                      Originally posted by Serenarules
                      Perhaps moving the Announcements topics to the top, followed by the Welcome topics. This way visitors can see them without having to scroll down.
                      Good point! We used to have it that way and then bumped up our fundraiser forum for a bit of “promotion” (because we're poor! lol) and then never did change it back. I’ll be definitely making that change. Thank you for pointing that out to me!


                      Originally posted by Serenarules
                      This site offers the common bank and store combination for that added touch of interactivity. I am not sure that gimmicks like this are required on a forum, however, that is intrinsically there for a greater good and do not tend to lend themselves to idle chat.

                      Yeah our members like to have a few fun extras, so the Board Store was very well received. I tried not to overdo the add-ons though, so I just added a Store and Pet hack, since I didn’t want to distract too much from the purpose of the forum (for example an Arcade, while fun, would take people away from our Bible studies which is a priority in our forums).



                      Originally posted by Serenarules
                      The header was excellently done and well balanced.

                      Thank you! Another member here recently reviewed my site and didn’t really like my header so I’m so happy to hear that!

                      Originally posted by Serenarules
                      I found the footer a bit off though as it took a moment before I realized the scrolling area at the bottom was a shoutbox.

                      Yes, it used to be on the top of the forums and it drove people nuts trying to scroll past it. But since some members really liked it we figured we’d move it to the bottom and out of the way a bit.



                      Originally posted by Serenarules
                      The work done on a few custom pages, such as the Fundraiser page, was a nice touch.


                      Thank you! I would prefer to have them a bit fancier but I'm just amazed that I was even able to figure out how to make a new vBulletin page! I’m really new at all of this so that’s about the best I can do for now!

                      Originally posted by Serenarules
                      The major detraction for me was the large icons used in the forum descriptions. Perhaps if they were all the same relative size and didn't throw the text off so much, they wouldn't be so bad.

                      I like them actually (I’m a girly-girl so I think they’re cute! ) but you make a good point about making them all about the same size. When I have some extra free time, I might look around for some replacement smilies.


                      Originally posted by Serenarules
                      The minor detraction was the floating "Jesus Saves" text. While a nice piece of javascript, it serves no real purpose for the end user and winds up simply being a distraction, if not a showstopper for older browsers that can't handle it.

                      LOL…then you would have really hated it when it was on every page! I wanted a little extra touch so I thought it was cute but decided to put it just on the main forum page where people aren’t trying to read replies and see them floating by every few seconds! Maybe it’ll help if I reduce the number that float down…so then it would just be a tiny accent instead of so noticeable.


                      Anyway, thank you so much for your very detailed and thoughtful review! I appreciate you taking the time to point out specifics of what you liked and didn’t like (rather than just saying “I liked it” or “hated it”) as that gives me something concrete to work with.

                      Thank you again so much!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Pamela, one thing to consider regarding the floating text, some older browsers simply cannot run such scripts. Some of the really old ones may even crash the page, rendering it unviewable to them. This would rule out a whole segment of your possible viewers from even seeing the site. Here's a suggestion. Surround the template code that links in that js script with the following conditional.

                        Code:
                        <if condition="!$show['old_explorer']">
                        <!-- place the hardcoded or linked in script here -->
                        </if>
                        This will at least help keep the client failures down to a bare minimum.
                        House of Night Forums - An online House of Night roleplaying community,

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My turn. Would somebody please comment on the following preview of a new style I am working on. Please note that this style remains unselectable on the site itself as I've only just started coding it. Please comment only on what you can see in this image. No portals or add-ons of any kind are being used other than a small hack I wrote for the collapse/expand routines and another for a specialized mouse over on the left hand menus.

                          Preview
                          House of Night Forums - An online House of Night roleplaying community,

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            404 error
                            Rebel Designs Studios

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Sorry, I'll explain why shortly.
                              House of Night Forums - An online House of Night roleplaying community,

                              Comment

                              widgetinstance 262 (Related Topics) skipped due to lack of content & hide_module_if_empty option.
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