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[web] [WebDesign] Simple Forum Layout/'Theme'

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I'm creating my own forum software and I need some ideas for how to lay it out. It will have a theme system, but I need a default theme that is extremely plain and simple. I want to keep it EXTREMELY simple, which means no images at all if possible and just enough CSS/javascript/etc to avoid deprecated tags without looking like complete crap. At the very least, it needs to work on all version of major browsers from the last 2 years or so, so I'm thinking absolute minimum complexity. I have no artistic design talent at all, but I put up a barebones idea at Forum Example. The green bars divide 'pages'. It doesn't look TOO bad in my opinion, but I'm sure that anybody with any design talent at all could improve upon it a billionfold. I also made Forum Example 2 based on other's suggestions and it looks much better but the color don't work for me. This version seems to have many extra line breaks 'automagically' inserted by the H? tags(somebody said H? works better than font size for search engines or something like that). Any suggestions/examples/etc would be greatly appreciated.

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It'd be really cool (and wise) if your forum layout was completely CSS. According to various creative professionals like Adobe's Mark Asher, CSS is quickly becoming the Next Big Standard for Web design. Even better than that are CSS templates.

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Yeah, CSS layouts are really nice, if you can get it to work on every browser.

I too would encourage you to go straight CSS, it would be quite lightweight, though, with what you're doing now you won't notice too much size difference.

I'm working on a color scheme now, but I'm automatically doing it all with CSS... heh. Habit.

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In most cases, the requirement for standards-compliance subsumes the need for browsers-compliance. You have to consider your target market though. My corporate site is XHTML Transitional because my clients and prospects are people within big corporations where Internet Explorer is the standard browser; thus, we unfortunatley have to opt for browsers-compliance while remaining standards-compliant.

If Extrarius's forum software will be open source, standards-compliance is the way to go.

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CSS is actually the only way to go. As time goes by, tags of html are becoming deprecated, and later may not even be supported in future browsers (although I deem this highly unlikely), being replaced by usage of classes and id elements via CSS. CSS let's you do so many things that you would be without going straight HTML alone. Provided there are some quriks but I, myself, have figured out hacks and tricks for most problems and when you get CSS working with every browser (basically Mozilla and IE), it's a great feeling. Also, css allows portablity and easier management of the actual meat of the page, and allows you to change themes in a snap. I advise you 100% to go with CSS, you won't regret it.

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Extarius, I hacked together a basic three-tone style here. I would do more, but I'm tired, and was working on three different things at the same time.

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I don't care at all about standards compliance because the point is not to make a proper website but to make a universally usable one. I'd like it to work well even in text-based browsers (and thus no images if possible, etc) if possible.

If it can be standards compliant and still look nearly the same in all browsers (and look bad in none of them) then that is fine with me.

I don't care which technology needs to be used (HTML/XHTML/CSS/etc), I just want it to Work(TM) well across all platforms.

In addition to suggestions on which technology to use, I'd also like some suggestions on the artistic aspects of the layout itself. Like I said, I lack any artistic taste so I'm not sure what could be considered 'functional but not hideous'

Katta: Thanks! That looks very nice and is a big improvement on my two attempts.

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Heh, standards-compliance is inherent to universal useability. Non-standards-compliant browsers like Internet Explorer create problems which force Web designers to create non-standards-compliant workarounds to non-standards-compliant browser problems which then make standards-compliance nonexistent.

If you want examples of functional layouts, the best examples are probably the bulletin board systems of GameDev.net, Bioware, vBulletin, and phpBB. I don't know of any groundbreaking and functional BBS layouts. Although, I really like Packet Storm's BBS layout. It's too bad they're currently offline until September 1, 2004.

http://www.packetstormsecurity.com/

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The problem with the bulliten boards you listed is that they're "pretty". Think of it like Windows XP default theme vs windows 3.1 default theme. Both get the job done, but XP is flowerish with all kinds of gradients and nice rounded edges that just don't need to be there while win3.1 has just the minimum you need for a nice clean interface (not that I would go back, the layout was horrible but the simple level of graphics is the point I'm going for).

I want a forum look that is function without being ugly or overly extravagent. I don't want it to be the kind of forum you refresh every 10 microseconds waiting for a reply, I want it to be 'read, post and come back later' almost like the kind of feeling I have towards newsgroups.

[Edited by - Extrarius on August 19, 2004 1:56:28 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by Adraeus
Actually, Charles Hwang, there are quite a few features of CSS that Internet Explorer doesn't support--properly or at all.


Yes, that's correct, because Internet Explorer is not standards compliant. But for most unsupported attributes of CSS (in IE), there are corresponding "hacks" that allow the same effect. Take for example, min-width. Min-width is a very valuable property in CSS that IE doesn't support, but I emulated that function in my site. Take a look at the code.

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Quote:
Original post by Extrarius
I don't care at all about standards compliance because the point is not to make a proper website but to make a universally usable one. I'd like it to work well even in text-based browsers (and thus no images if possible, etc) if possible.

If it can be standards compliant and still look nearly the same in all browsers (and look bad in none of them) then that is fine with me.

I don't care which technology needs to be used (HTML/XHTML/CSS/etc), I just want it to Work(TM) well across all platforms.

In addition to suggestions on which technology to use, I'd also like some suggestions on the artistic aspects of the layout itself. Like I said, I lack any artistic taste so I'm not sure what could be considered 'functional but not hideous'

Katta: Thanks! That looks very nice and is a big improvement on my two attempts.


Well, you just disagreed with your own point. To be universally uasauble, your code *should* be standards compliant because other than IE, all other browsers are strivign to be standards compliant as time goes on. To test this theory, get one version of code to work in Firefox and not in IE. If you view in every other browser out there, the output will be virtually the same (maybe some discrepencies in margins and pixel widths).

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I didn't disagree with my own point, I just said I don't care about standards for standards sake. If that is the way to be univerally usable than of course I'd use standard code, but that doesn't seem to be the case considering the most widely used browser (MSIE) isn't standards compliant.

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Quote:
Original post by Extrarius
I didn't disagree with my own point, I just said I don't care about standards for standards sake. If that is the way to be univerally usable than of course I'd use standard code, but that doesn't seem to be the case considering the most widely used browser (MSIE) isn't standards compliant.


Well that's not completely true. IE is mostly standards compliant actually. As for your intent on having it universally viewable, I would suggest you go to CSS.

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Quote:
Original post by Charles Hwang
Well that's not completely true. IE is mostly standards compliant actually. As for your intent on having it universally viewable, I would suggest you go to CSS.


Many of IE's CSS errors can be fixed with the correct DOCTYPE. I personally think that CSS is the way to go - all modern browsers have almost perfect support for it. Like anything though, if you choose CSS then make sure you test it in the main browsers to make sure. Although IE has dominance in the market, they lost several % last year to Mozilla and Opera. I think the trend will continue.

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Quote:
Original post by Rob Loach
I am really fond of the Invision Power Board system setup and layout. Example.
I don't dislike the look, but it won't fit my forum (or at least I don't think it will and thus won't make such a thing the default theme) because of the unusual feature set I'll be implementing.

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Quote:
Original post by LessBread
This topic should be in WebDev not the Lounge.


..I'm confused. I've only seen this thread in WebDev..and have posted my replies in the webdev forum....?

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