I entirely agree. I don't really like this new direction at all. I have enjoyed the forums here for a long while, but the new look completely turns me off from this site. I'm enduring a strong headache from the theme just to type this, and I'll likely not be back until I'm given a theme that doesn't burn my retinas. Even once that is changed, I'll probably drop this from my reading list if the community moves in the direction that the new site seems to be leading. I don't visit social networking sites for a reason, and if this site is walking away from its competency in technical discussions, it doesn't have a purpose for me any more. I can understanding wanting to target younger generations, but it'd be a shame for that to come at the cost of the experienced professionals that make up the foundation of these forums.
I have to say that I'm unhappy with the new site. I liked the old one, and while it definitely needed improvement, I wouldn't call what we have now anything more than a step in the right direction.
1. De-emphasis of the forums - For some reason the forums feel even more hidden away than they were before. It takes an extra click to go through the drop-down menu now, and the recent topics menu has been moved all the way down the main page. So much emphasis is being placed on the Careers and Articles sections, even though GDNet does not excel in those areas. Looking at the Careers page is pretty pathetic, and the articles section hardly ever has real technical content. I thought the new site would focus more on the forums, which are GDNet's strongest feature.
2. Web 2.0 - I think it's easy to see that they went way overboard in this area. Every page feels cluttered with tons of junk that isn't even that useful. Why are there sharing buttons all over the place? Why is so much space wasted? What is the point of friend lists? Why are there status updates next to the forum listing? It's like all this stuff was added just because they could. GDNet is not Facebook, and it is not Twitter. I don't see why it should be trying to emulate them either.
3. Death of GDNet+ - I think you guys are really shooting yourselves in the foot here with this one. You've cheapened GDNet+ significantly by giving everyone journals and avatars, when instead you should have been trying to add as many new things to GDNet+ as possible to make it more attractive and a more viable source of revenue. I mean, this is now listed as a primary feature of GDNet+:
"Up to 500 personal messages (10x more!)"
Seriously? You're touting an increased MAILBOX SIZE as a selling point? I've been subscribing to GDNet+ for years now, but I think when the renewal comes around again I'll be dropping it.
4. Widescreen Users - Why have we squished everything together, when everyone and their mom is moving towards widescreen monitors these days? It just makes no sense at all. So much horizontal space is lost, which in turn increases the vertical space required to read anything. Very frustrating.
5. Losing the Rating System - I know the rating system has always been controversial, but what you have now is completely pointless and should not even exist. No more down voting removes any incentive to keep your posts to community standards. As long as you don't do anything explicitly bannable, you can get away with whatever you like. Additionally, voting on posts and not users leads to run-away inflation for users who post a lot. Want more reputation? Just post more! It emphasizes quantity over quality, which is never a great idea. Finally, the rating is so hidden now that it might as well not even exist. The way I see it, you should either do it properly, or just remove the feature entirely if you feel GDNet users shouldn't be worrying about ratings at all. One or the other; not this middle ground.
6. Sane Defaults - I like that notifications are now very customizable, but someone wasn't thinking when the defaults were set. I started receiving emails for all sorts of useless events here, such as a user adding me as a friend. So much so, in fact, that GMail started putting everything coming from GDNet into the spam folder. Another questionable default is that of allowing people to be friends with you; apparently the default is to let them add you as a friend without you having any say in the matter. Now that they're friends, I have no way of getting rid of them, so they're not really friends as much as they are fans at this point
Some of these problems are expected from a new software product, and I'm sure some will be fixed in the months to come. Unfortunately, I think a lot of them are explicit design decisions that have already been made. Hopefully not everything is set in stone at this point.
The old forums had a subtle yet significant selection of layout where the post was the only element to take up significant space with all the other information being squashed into a tiny space proportional to it's importance in discussions.