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YaBB SE Community  |  Development  |  Portal Discussion  |  Topic: What makes a good portal « previous next »
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irbrian
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2003, 11:59:38 AM »
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Thanks Coyote, I'll take a look at that tutorial later and see if its got any useful info.

Keep me informed on Typo3; I may very well decide to install it myself, until I get far enough into my own project. I'm just concerned that the learning curve may take up too much of my time to be worth it.
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Peter Duggan
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2003, 08:35:33 AM »
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By far the most common, portals are pretty much just for people who want a site up and running quickly, without having to do any work. Thus they are One-Size-Fits-All and very difficult to customize beyond the simplest template modifications; they almost always maintain their blocky, cluttered appearance (I say cluttered, but usually that cluttered appearance is due in large part to the requisite weblog/newsfeed on the front page).


I'll admit to feeling so uninspired by the average portal-based site that I usually bail out straight away when I arrive at one. So I'm presented with this home page composed of a stack of similar looking boxes and some kind of login, there's nothing to draw the eye and tell me what I should be looking at and I'm left with the impression that it probably wasn't aimed at me and I shouldn't really be there at all. So I leave...

Sorry if that's harsh, but it's the way it is for me at least! :-\
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2003, 09:43:09 AM »
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Peter, I'm working on making the original YaPP into (I hope) something better. It, like most, have the standard 2-3 columns of info on the main page. Take a look at www.computers4gaming.com and tell me what you don't like about it.

Would you rather see one long column on the left and the right instead of little blocks? (Note I can get rid of the right or left side at will). Would you like to see more layout option in a portal so you don't look like everyone else?

Do you hate seeing the "news" on the main page like most portals? What would you like to see?

Note that it is a test site, so it has no pre-defined purpose yet, so if you're left wondering what it's about, it's about nothing at the moment. :) Also, the colors and layout can be changed (using stock yabb template at the moment) so disregard that part.

Since I'm working on improving what you see there, it would help to know why some folks don't like portals so that I can make one that hopefully they would use. :)

Thanks, Mad Moya
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irbrian
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2003, 12:08:38 PM »
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I'll admit to feeling so uninspired by the average portal-based site that I usually bail out straight away when I arrive at one. So I'm presented with this home page composed of a stack of similar looking boxes and some kind of login, there's nothing to draw the eye and tell me what I should be looking at and I'm left with the impression that it probably wasn't aimed at me and I shouldn't really be there at all. So I leave...

Sorry if that's harsh, but it's the way it is for me at least! :-\


Exactly!! Peter, you worded that very well, and that's exactly how it is for me.

Mad Moya: Peter's last post actually gave some VERY good insight into what it is people like him and like myself don't like about Portals.

For me, putting all design issues(/flaws?) aside for a moment -- the next most frustrating issue is that many portal sites DON'T TELL YOU WHAT THEY'RE ABOUT. This may be because the news feed / weblog takes up the main page and doesn't really allow room for a blurb of text to tell you what the page is about.

However, I'll admit that I've probably been to many portal-based sites that say what they're about right at the top, but because of the generic visual design (3 columns, weblog, standard login, etc), I've never even noticed and instead been driven away.

A website should draw in its visitors, like Peter was saying. A great example of a page that does this is (drumroll) http://www.yabbse.org.

You'll note that the main page immediately tells you what its about in no uncertain terms -- the design is pleasant and CLEAN (a huge asset and one that many portals fail miserably on), and even interesting. The menus (in my opinion) are unobtrusive yet impossible to miss, the YaBB Evolution Cube (which probably isn't what its called but I think it should be called that ;D) is interesting and unique, and I'll state again that there's lots clean, crisp white space to fuel the imagination. :)

Contrast that with an unmodified portal site -- cluttered, with no clear indication of what the site is about (amplified painfully by the generic design), with little or nothing to catch the eye and draw you in like Peter said.. nothing to get my attention and make me want to stay. News itself is useless in that regard... for instance, am I going to be terribly interested in browsing a local newspaper if I'm not sure what town it belongs to? Probably not. News is only useful for the people who know what the news is about in the first place, why its important, and whats really New about it.

I can't really tell you what I'd LIKE to see in a portal, Mad Moya, because when it comes to any CMS the whole point is that I shouldn't have to specify. If I'm designing a site using a CMS, my imagination should be the limit, not the software. And I shouldn't have to turn it into a whole new product to do so, either. And if I'm visiting a portal based site (not designing it) -- its still not for me to say what should be on it, because its the responsibility of the web designer to draw me into his/her OWN vision.
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2003, 12:54:06 PM »
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In some ways you're asking for a CMS that includes a copy of Dreamweaver in it. :)

Seriously, on to some more questions on what you might like in a portal:

Standard header and menu for each page, so that no matter where you are, you see the same menu structure (usually up top) to get you back to main parts of a site. I'm not saying rigidly code that menu, but have an easy way for it to show, and an easy way to add/change/delete. There is also only one menu up top (not two like here) to keep it simple.

A more in-depth menu (usually on the left) which is totally customizable (eg: your own hyperlinks, images, code). Perhaps this one is variable, showing different options depending on where or who you are (or do that with the top menu).

Changeable, customizable home page. It might default to news, but you can point it to any page on your site, or dump your text/html/images into a block of some sorts.

Get rid of lots of little blocks in each column, and make it more seamless (blocks may be there to set it up and organize it, but stylistically they could look like one long one. Or sub-blocks within a block for a combine look, but still have the option of additional blocks if that's what you want.

Lots of features that are easy to enable/disable like News, Articles,Forums, FAQs, Downloads, Gallery, etc.

An easy way to add new functions to your site. Perhaps a easy way to point to a module you've written or downloaded. I'm not saying it will inherit all your styling, since that's dependant on how the module was written, but find a way to make it easier.

Lots more templating possibilities... not sure how to do this, only that we need a way for each site using the same portal to look different, and to do it easily. Maybe a built in Theme Builder?

Am I getting close? :)
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irbrian
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2003, 01:19:04 PM »
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Yeah, I'd say you've hit on some big ones there. Implement those, and we'll see how for it takes us. ;D

In all seriousness, I still say that portals have their place. For existing web communities, they are a great way to get up and running quickly. But the more customization and individuality you allow admins, the more your product will be respected, especially if you keep it accessible to newbies. In fact, if you do everything you said in your post and still make it as accessible to new users as YaBB SE, I expect you'll quickly have the most successful portal there is.

As for your dreamweaver comment.. ;) I should clarify that I was defining in large part the differences between the average portal, and a really good CMS, which is what I've been really trying to drive home since I started posting in (some might even say hijacking! :-X) the threads on this board. A really good CMS needn't include dreamweaver -- or any HTML-specific editing capabilities at all, for that matter. It simply needs to allow access, in straight, readable HTML, to every element of the software and site, so that the designer can design the site (in dreamweaver if he prefers) and then translate that very easily to the CMS.

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Michele
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2003, 02:13:16 PM »
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On the Dreamweaver thing... you know how you can edit the template now in YaBB SE? Is that editor good enough for what you'd want for your other files... basically you could cut and paste from dreamweaver, frontpage, HTML-Edit or whatever you wanted right into that textarea box. Just have more files accessible that way...

Whaddya think?
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Peter Duggan
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2003, 02:15:28 PM »
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@Mad Moya

Just to let you know I saw your post a couple of hours ago, had to stop to teach a couple of piano pupils and have just come back online now. First impressions from your link are (so how can I put this nicely and be constructive?) that it's the kind of page I was talking about, but I'd like to be as helpful as possible and try to provide some answers to your questions from my perspective.

As a bulletin board user, I find myself staring in a kind of cross-eyed manner at portal sites because they hit me (sorry, I know this is cruel!) like BBs that haven't quite rendered correctly. So, as far as I'm concerned, a good portal template needs to look less like a chopped-up BB without the familiar landmarks and more like a good poster, book cover or magazine layout. Not that I'm suggesting an inflexible, print-style layout (which should be anathema to far more web users), but something with a far more involving sense of ergonomics than all the cloned boxes. Try asking yourself whether you'd cross the street to read a poster (or enter a shop to pick up a book) that looked like the typical portal site, or think of the difference between logical and physical HTML markup and try to imagine the blind user struggling through the physical markup with their voice browser when a few <h1>s, <em>s and <strong>s might have helped!

Hope I'm making some kind of sense, because I'd hate to think I'd ever criticise anything for the sake of it. Like irbrian, I agree that portals meet a real need for many, many web users, but I feel they could be ever so much more attractive. Most of it seems to boil down to page layout/design considerations, because I'm sure the code behind the old 'cloned box' portal could serve a more dynamic and involving layout equally well. :)
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Michele
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #23 on: January 23, 2003, 02:23:05 PM »
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Peter I'm not insulted... that's mostly original YaPP there, I didn't write it. :)

What I wanted to know is where to go from there in writing/modifying it. Find out what's turns off so many of you off from these things and find a way to make it better. I'm starting with the YaPP code because Chris C. and Eric M. did some amazing backend stuff like allowing php in standard blocks and pages.  What I want to do is build on that code, adding features and adding some style flexibility.

I'm not the greatest php coder out there, by any means, but I know how to build on good code. :)

Thanks for everyone's suggestions!
Mad Moya
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mephisto_kur
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #24 on: January 23, 2003, 04:12:40 PM »
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The first step is to separate all the visuals from the code.  This has been an issue for me since I started being displeased with the inflexability of YaPP and YaBBSE.  I never wanted to start stripping it out because it always seemed to be such a huge undertaking.  But this is essential to making a  piece of software that can satisfy both the beginner and the advanced web-visual designer.  

Absolutely, tho, this should be the first step once YaPP 0.6.2 is out and we can start hammering on it.  What I would like is to box it up and send it out with the standard portal theme for those that don't want a hassle, and a good alternative theme that can show what she can do, if you understand what I mean.
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Lance L
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #25 on: January 23, 2003, 04:50:21 PM »
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FWIW, the original developers of postnuke are off on another portal project which I think is going to separate design from content; e.g. more like a true CMS instead of the typical portal.

You can find out more here. http://www.xaraya.com

I had been looking at Postnuke as the best of the nuke varients, but never quite felt comfortable. Then the messy fork (or split, or whatever the heck) and I have been just watching ever since.
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irbrian
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #26 on: January 23, 2003, 08:31:01 PM »
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On the Dreamweaver thing... you know how you can edit the template now in YaBB SE? Is that editor good enough for what you'd want for your other files... basically you could cut and paste from dreamweaver, frontpage, HTML-Edit or whatever you wanted right into that textarea box. Just have more files accessible that way...

Whaddya think?

As a matter of fact thats exactly what I'm talking about. :)



FWIW, the original developers of postnuke are off on another portal project which I think is going to separate design from content; e.g. more like a true CMS instead of the typical portal.

You can find out more here. http://www.xaraya.com

I had been looking at Postnuke as the best of the nuke varients, but never quite felt comfortable. Then the messy fork (or split, or whatever the heck) and I have been just watching ever since.

Wow.. ok, so right now it sounds like I'm going to have the most direct and worthy competition from Xaraya, Typo3, and PfaBB, as these products evolve.

Funny, I've been searching for months... wish someone had brought this topic up sooner!

Any other contenders I'm not aware of??
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Lance L
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #27 on: January 24, 2003, 09:25:10 AM »
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irbrian: The xaraya project is open source as well, if I had the time I would be tempted to help John (John Cox, the PM) put it together. You might want to go that route as well. I do not know the size of the team, but my thinking is that a good percentage of the original Postnuke team went with John when the split happened.

I have exchanged e-mails with him in the past as he is about as nice as they come. Good guy, from my POV.

I do not know what happened in the Postnuke dev community, but it did not appear to be pretty from the outside. I think the existing team is doing okay with Postnuke, but I am still waiting to see what comes "next" before making a decision on that.

I agree with the comments here about most portals being entirely too uniform. Probably why I have been reluctant to jump on any bandwagon.
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irbrian
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #28 on: January 24, 2003, 06:15:54 PM »
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I looked through the specs on Xaraya the other day, after you mentioned it. Looked promising, alright, but my own ideas and goals will hopefully keep my own project a little further away from the complexity of the Xaraya project. I believe in keeping your program as simple and streamlined as possible, and just as important, in keeping it as easy to use as possible. Xaraya may reach that point, but in my personal opinion for all its usefulness PostNuke is a very bloated and complex application -- more so than is needed -- and Xaraya is a port of that system.

So I will continue to work on my own project. And of course, if anyone else is interested, just IM or E-mail me. ;D
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Re:What makes a good portal
« Reply #29 on: January 24, 2003, 06:30:30 PM »
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irbrian, I've managed to make the home page customizable, and am working on the block styling of PfaBB. It's not ready yet, but would appreciate any suggestions... http://www.computers4gaming.com.

I haven't finished removing the hard coded fonts yet, but I've started with the NTS problem. :)
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