@Everybdoy!!! And especially Xhin though.
I wanted to post in my capacity as Ad Committee member, but wanted to do so here because I feel like no one in our committee is left, and because why shouldn't anyone-who-wants-to chime in?
I've had a lot of thoughts about this site and things I've wanted/been planning to do as a staff member, but I've been really busy in my personal life lately. Xhin's post about planning a week-long party finally moved me to action, and since I don't have to work today, I'm just gonna share some of what I've been thinking.
I haven't wanted to do any advertising until as least some of this stuff gets addressed.
My fellow GTX0ians... you don't realize for how long I've been wanting to do a deep and thorough cleansing/re-organization of this site. One day I thought I would get started on this process so I spent a couple hours clicking around and taking detailed notes of exactly what I wanted cleaned up and moved around. I realized that in order to make my notes comprehensive, I would need more time, so I set the project aside for a while, and now I've lost my notes. D: So I guess I'm just gonna type up what I can remember off the top of my head, and crowdsource the rest to all of you. Leave comments if you've seen anything that needs to be fixed up!
Home Page & About Page. Listen I want to be delicate but I just gotta say that I don't like the home page. It isn't inviting. It looks pretty low-tech with all the HTML-looking links and lists. A lot of its links and descriptions aren't worth sharing there/aren't really in the spirit of GTX0 currently/would belong more in an About page. It doesn't feel like a gateway to the site, it just feels like an obligatory placeholder. Xhin, have you ever Googled "how to make a good Home Page" or "best Home Pages"? I made myself a website when I was doing my freelance editing, and Googling stuff like that was a huuuuuuge help.
Same applies for things like About Us pages and the like. I think GTX0, if it ever wants to attract more members, needs some good pages like those. And our facade just needs a facelift so it doesn't look like it was coded in the 90s.
Site Documents, Stickied Threads. This was the bulk of the notes I had taken. We just need to go through these with a fine-toothed comb, deleting the ones that are taking up space and editing the ones that could be helpful. I think some stickies should be made into documents (my rule of thumb is that if it's a permanent fixture and there's no reason for people to be commenting on it, put it into a document). Also, I think many of the stickied threads/documents in "Help" could be merged. All that involve site features, for instance, should probably be a single document. Comment if you know of anything that needs cleaning, moving, deleting, merging.
Some documents need to be more readily accessible. Like, put them where they are going to be convenient. Maybe some should be fixed to every forum somehow, or to the top of GTX0. Threads/documents that come to mind for this are: Site Rules, Staff Lists, All Formatting, and maybe some other user/feature guides. Some of these are always at the bottom of the page. Good thought, but they're hard to find down there IMO. Comment on when/where/what you need accessible.
Duplicates, Dead Links, and Broken Things. Just gonna jump into a list here. First, there are two hyperlinks called "Help." Yeah, maybe I'm just too dumb to notice which is filed under GTX0 and which is filed under NIFE, but I keep clicking the wrong one, and it's kind of a pain. Someone recently posted in the wrong one too, I think. Give one of them a better name. Second, the document called "Site Disclaimer" is in both Announcements and Help. Not sure if that's necessary. I think it's the only document in more than one forum right now.
Third, there are some broken links. The ones I remember are in the Site Rules document. I feel like there were others, but I can't find them right now. Comment if you know any.
Fourth, I'm testing out some of the toggles above this text-field. The in-site link one just did something weird; I don't think it works? Does the Youtube one work? I know the "Preview Message" thing doesn't work for all of the formatting I've used/tried to preview on GTX0. Fifth, [In-site Links and GT Terms and Acronyms] looks messed up. Sixth, I've had problems using quotation marks under the [hide[ tag. I don't remember exactly what, but it's something like, if you end a paragraph with " then the rest of what you have under that toggle disappears, or something. Uhhh.... I don't know. Any other broken stuff that you guys know of right now?
P.S. some forum headers are missing stuff. Like they'll say "Moderated by: [blank space]."
Make GT User-Friendly Again
Look, I'm an average guy with average intelligence. But I'm pretty sure that, as a newcomer, I wouldn't be able to figure out how to use this site's features without reading a lot of miscellaneous documents/stickies, which are stored in locations unknown to me (OK, to be fair, they're mostly stored in Help, which is intuitive enough). Like yeah, making and commenting on posts is the easiest thing. But beyond that, figuring out GTX0's features is kind of a mess. It's easy if you've been coming here a long time and were there when the features got implemented. But I'm really doubtful that this site is at all user-friendly to an outsider.
Making an Account. I just tested this out and it actually worked fine, both using the link at site's top and using the link that appears when you try to comment while unregistered. Sorry for being surprised, I just thought this system was still that whole messy deal where like an Admin had to manually register you or something? Anyway, looks good! Good job!
Usernames. The "Primary Username" vs "Account Username" thing is confusing. Also I'm pretty sure I'm still not receiving notifications when people tag Cetasaurus instead of KM8. Not sure if I receive messages either. When I send messages, not sure if people are receiving from KM8 or Cetasaurus. It's such a weird system IMO. I should just make a new account so that my Primary Username and Account Username are the same, and then never change names again. Or the system could be a better, different one.
Private Messaging. Nobody new/returning ever knows how to work this system or if we have one. It isn't clear that "Alerts" equals "Private Messaging," and once you realize that, the system still kinda sucks. Messages aren't stored, text field is tiny, and you have to manually type people's usernames with the correct spelling for it to work (heaven forbid, right? But seriously there should be a drop down menu when you type in that field or links on people's usernames when they comment or something).
Make a clear, single list of all features. Do we have this anywhere? I don't even know what all features we have. They get announcements when they're made and then we just remember them? Would like a list/guide of some sort. [Features] exists but needs editing and updating. I'd be willing to try to compile a Features Guide, maybe, if I have time. Or we can all collaborate too; that would be nice. I could volunteer to do any final editing.
Clean up tutorials. We have some tutorials that are helpful. Moonray's User CP Guide. LLight's All Formatting Guide. Let's make them into documents and keep them up-to-date, I think. And we need to merge some other things into them. The In-Site Links part of [In-site Links and GT Terms and Acronyms] should be merged into "All Formatting," along with [Text Tricks] and [Posting Images] and the bottom of [Features]. Maybe others need merging too – I'm too tired to be thorough today. [Edit Mode] should be put in the Features guide, once we have one. I'd be willing to make all these changes and more, but feel like I need some kind of permission or something.
Some of these tutorials should be accessible no matter where you are on the site... I'm thinking of "All Formatting" in particular. I know we have the "Posting Help" toggle above this text field. It's an OK solution once you figure out what all those hieroglyphs mean. It isn't comprehensive though. Earlier I had to open a new tab, go to the Help forum, click on a stickied post I happened to know was there, and scroll down to find out how to use the "bigger text" formatting that I also happened to know existed.
Also the "Complaints Process" and "Register Complain" links should probably be in the Help forum too. They are hard to spot at the bottom of the site.
Why do we need tutorials. Why aren't GT's features more intuitive. I know diddly-squat about computer programming and interface, but it seems to me like using GTX0 is a bit too unintuitive. When I visit a site, I don't usually end up reading long documents on how to use it. Sometimes FB will introduce a new feature and give me a little step-by-step run-down on how to use it, but it only takes, like, a few sentences to explain and then it makes sense forever. Does anyone with a background in website development have any info on what makes an interface easy, good for consumers, etc.? This should probably be researched and accounted for whenever a new GTX0 feature is introduced.
Speaking on the consumer side of things, without that development background, there are certain features that I just expect modern sites to have. For starters, why do I have to code my own formatting? Where's the button that just says "Bold"? "Size"? "Color"? "Bullets and Numbering"? "Insert image"? And why can't I make hyperlinks? And where's the "My Posts" button, or like a "My Activity" (yes, I know about the Filter feature).
Navigation and Aesthetics. GTX0 is a real chunky cat no matter where you go. It's makes me think of a bunch of bricks stacked on top of each other. In some ways it's convenient. Most of the time I like that I can load a page (like a forum, thread, or document) and still have the navigation bricks stacked on top of it. But it's kinda ugly. I really don't know. I need someone with more of a background in design to draft some thoughts on this, I think. Maybe it doesn't need changing. But I do feel like navigation can get clunky sometimes, especially when you're looking for those documents that should be readily accessible. And like, not everything needs to be a rectangle in a horizontal stack. We could put a rectangle in more of a vertical stack, just a real neat little menu, if we're thinking about adding to the navigation bricks. And hey, maybe not every page needs the navigation bricks on it. I am undecided. A Home Page/Portal page without the bricks could be nice.
Advertising/Getting New Members
This section is gonna be less about advertising and more about how to get anyone who may drop in to stay. We need to have a framework for retaining the members we attract in place before we attempt to attract them. But definitely comment if you have any good advertising strategies to share!
Action Begets Action. Part of the problem with getting the people to come here is that they see it is dead and then they leave. Meanwhile, threads that are the most active will tend to snowball, with people becoming more attracted to them the more they see that they are active. So my proposal is that we need a team of people are just gonna comment whenever they see a new or returning face. A Welcome Team, so to speak. It could be the Advertising Team, or it could just be literally all of us on the website currently. Comment even if it's not a forum you usually comment on. Like, if someone pops into Roleplaying, just greet them. "Hey, I don't usually visit this forum but welcome (back) to the site! Good to have you (back)!" Or even strike up a conversation. "I don't usually visit this forum, but it's good to have you on GTX0. What do you like most about [something pertaining to the forum they're in]?" Even commenting to argue against something they said will keep them invested. We should just have a group of people ready to engage any new faces that might show up. I think it would even be fine if their comments were slightly off-topic. A new face posts some discourse in Politics? Someone could jump in and say, "Hey [name] – don't think I've seen you around before! Welcome! Let me know if you ever want to talk in the General forum." "Feel free to make an introduction post to tell us a bit about yourself in the General forum!" I don't know. Be creative.
Rating System. I think a big reason Mike's GT had any success, other than fitting its zeitgeist, was that we could rate each other's tips, and the best-rated tips got moved to a special forum. There was competition involved, as well as reward and social recognition. That's what social media is really all about: judging and being judged. Plus the tips that got highly-rated would also be able to snowball activity. I found GT because its high-ranking tips kept appearing in my Google searches. I advocated for GTX0 to bring back tip-ranking ages ago, and I still think this place could be more successful with some kind of rating system.
Personal Bios. This could also be a helpful feature. Judging and being judged, or simply knowing and being known. That's what people tend to seek online, whether they think so or not. People like making bios and talking about themselves. Plus, once they've invested the effort into making a bio, they will be more likely to stay on the site. It's the foot-in-the-door effect in action.
Would love to hear any other ideas for retaining users.
Please comment. Please please.