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  1. #1
    Junior birdhorse's Avatar
    Weasyl
    collargogglebirdhorse
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    Jun 2016
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    Suggestions to enhance the "Browse" page

    Hi there, long time member, first time suggester.

    Just to front-load the upcoming negativity, I really love the site. As a professional web designer and web dev hobbyist for well over a decade, I can recognise love and attention in a site when I see it. I hope for great things for this site.

    With that over, my big gripe with Weasyl is the "Browse" page. It's prominent, it's the second link on the entire navigation, but to me, this page doesn't make the act of browsing particularly fun or intuitive. Even worse, I think that in some ways the browse page inhibits the user's ability to discover new things, which in turn affects the experiences of the artists.

    This is my case for how (and why) you should refocus the browse page away from 'just lists' towards proper content discovery.

    -----

    The browse page is currently composed of four main sections: search, recent submissions, recent characters, and recent journals. The first is a tiny (if prominently coloured) search box, the other three are rows of thumbnails/avatars with accompanying text.

    I would suggest you...

    Drop the search entirely.
    It's duplicating functionality that's already in the masthead of every page, where it has much more prominence.

    It's not particularly conductive to passive discovery either, as it involves the user having to actively interact with the search form and determine exactly what they're looking for ahead of time. In the instance that they use the search form the user knows what they're looking for already, so they're not browsing.

    Either drop or make characters and journals less prominent.
    Personally speaking, I have very little interest in any of this stuff unless I know the person who posted it already, in which case it's going to be in my notifications box anyway.

    Journals particularly are often contextual to the person—be they about personal events, changes to commission status, or a meme questionnaire about an upcoming convention—and are effectively irrelevant without the context of knowing the person.

    It's not the focus of the site and doesn't meaningfully contribute to discovery, so I'm inclined to say that it should go elsewhere or be dropped entirely.

    Make tags more prominent by adding them to browsing.
    Tags are a big yes as a way of organising images, it's just the best way to do it. The problem is that there's no real context to what they do or how they should be used.

    I've seen that tag autocomplete/suggestions are in the existing suggestions list, and that would go a long way to resolving some of the usage issues, however that still wouldn't fix the problem of discovery. Tags are buried away at the bottom of submission pages, and despite being both required when uploading and being the crux of the search system, how they're used by users is fairly inconsistent, possibly because people fail to see the value in using them.

    This could be remedied by making them more prominent. The use of a tag cloud on the browsing page (most popular tags within a certain period perhaps, to stop them getting stale) would make passive browsing easier for the user and contextualise their purpose for uploaders by making them a more obvious part of the browsing and searching components of the site. Listing the tags on 'browse' differentiates it from 'search' by telling the user what they can look at, rather than expecting the user to tell you.

    To take this further, I would borrow the 'trending topics' concept from Twitter, Facebook and other social networks by listing 'trending tags' (tags that have seen significant use in the last few days/last week but not outside of that period). This would surface short-term-but-popular trends that would otherwise fail to appear in the longer term tag cloud such as conventions, memes, fads, etc., and ultimately encourage users to contribute to those trends by aiding awareness of them in the first place.

    A tag cloud would also add some visual interest to the page, to make it look more unique as a top-level navigational page, and less like 'yet another page with a bunch of images on it'.

    Make browsing scroll infinitely.
    I'm aware that this can be a total pain in the butt and can lead to some performance issues if not done properly (believe me I've had to build it for plenty of clients), but infinite scrolling is awesome for passive discovery. There's reasons why Tumblr does it, Twitter does it, loads of news and clickbaity sites use it—because it encourages users to go on and on without end. No clicking around, no finding the next number in a pagination list, the user has to do nothing but scroll to get new content.

    I realise this one is a fair amount of technical work to implement properly—progressive enhancement for accessibility and SEO, lazyloading/unloading images that are out of the viewport for performance, pushing to browser history so users don't lose their place if they click away then hit the back button, and so on—but I feel this would be an amazingly useful way of presenting content to users in a fairly passive way. This could possibly be rolled out to search and other pages too, should it work well enough in practice.

    -----

    So, those are my suggestions. Sorry if this comes off a bit preachy or critical, especially for my first post on these forums, and I realise there's a lot of technical work that'd need to go into implementing some of it, but I genuinely think that the browsing section of Weasyl isn't as good as it could be. And, y'know, I wanna help with that.

    Thanks for reading!
    Last edited by birdhorse; 06-11-2016 at 10:32 AM.

  2. #2
    Regular Bornes's Avatar
    Weasyl
    Bornes
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    Oct 2012
    Location
    Hawaii
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    92
    I like all your suggestions except this one: "Either drop or make characters and journals less prominent."

    I really like being able to browse those. The fact that Weasyl doesn't make these things "less important" and other sites do is part of why I like Weasyl. That being said, I think it might be more beneficial to have thumbnail overlays that denote what type of content a submission is.

    Keep journals separate, and allow access to segregated lists based on what the content is (but don't put it at the forefront like it currently is), but otherwise throw all submission types together in 'browse' by default. Then the thumbnail overlays will quickly tell you what something is: little note in the corner for music, maybe a Weasyl Weasel silhouette for characters, piece of film for media, etc.

  3. #3
    Junior birdhorse's Avatar
    Weasyl
    collargogglebirdhorse
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bornes View Post
    I like all your suggestions except this one: "Either drop or make characters and journals less prominent."

    I really like being able to browse those. The fact that Weasyl doesn't make these things "less important" and other sites do is part of why I like Weasyl. That being said, I think it might be more beneficial to have thumbnail overlays that denote what type of content a submission is.

    Keep journals separate, and allow access to segregated lists based on what the content is (but don't put it at the forefront like it currently is), but otherwise throw all submission types together in 'browse' by default. Then the thumbnail overlays will quickly tell you what something is: little note in the corner for music, maybe a Weasyl Weasel silhouette for characters, piece of film for media, etc.
    It's why I put the secondary option of just making them less prominent! As much as I don't see much utility in it personally (if anything it's a barrier, meaning I always have to scroll down and click "More submissions" to see what I'm actually looking for), there's probably some people out there who find use in it.

    I don't think merging it into the main browsing experience is the right move, however. This is principally an art site, and mixing journals into the main content stream seems like a distraction from that. I'm more willing to give characters a pass on that though, given character submissions typically contain art or prose of some sort.

    A compromise here would be to be able to filter the 'browse' content stream to include different content types, have journals as an option but have it turned off by default perhaps? Just wary that adding too much filtering functionality would start to distract from the passive part of passive discovery.

    Anyway, I need to go catch a plane. Look forward to seeing any other suggestions/criticisms of this!

 

 

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