Looking for Suggestions on Site Improvement

Discussion in 'HTML & Website Design' started by Archivist, Sep 3, 2017.

  1. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    The site is http://therpg.org/

    I'm looking for suggestions, recommendations and such to help improve my site. I get that the current set up doesn't work for Millennials. I'm told it doesn't draw people in- the biggest problem is that there's only one person doing any kind of design work on the site. This is why the subdomains have not been done or redone whichever the case may be. And I am not fluent in coding for mobile devices.

    There's not much I can do about the forum at the moment, not until it's been upgraded to the current version. So, the focus is on the index page, a false CMS page that has been in place for many years. It's easy to read and navigate. It is set up the way it is because The RPG Organization is an umbrella site or game host if you prefer. We call our various games "venues". Each one has its own forum section and subdomain. At least that's the plan. As I said, there's only one person working behind the scenes. I would much prefer having a team. The members don't step up because of real life demands on their time. This is understandable.

    One thing I definitely need is a registration form for that page. People keep telling me to just unlock the forum and allow people to register there directly. The problem with this is that bots and spammers hit the forum on a daily basis. I do not have the time to sift through 50 to 100 registrations (per day) trying to determine which ones are real and which ones are spam or bots. Locking the forum registration was the only way to stop this. Setting up an auto responder email message didn't work. The email either bounced back, or the person chose not to respond.

    So I am at a loss- which leads me to ask for constructive suggestions and ideas on what to do. I know there are things wrong with the site, I have ideas on what to do and how I want it to look- the problem is I can't do it all and what I envision doesn't or may not work for mobile access. I have looked into prefab web design - templates, but I would much rather avoid having a site that looks like everyone else's.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
  2. My first suggestion would be to get someone who can help you set it up, someone with both coding and graphics skills would be handy.
  3. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    I know 2 people who are good with coding and graphics. He wants $1,400 for the entire project. She wants $200 per site or subdomain. This is for the static pages- not the forum. I don't have this kind of money.

    The org is a hobby site, membership is free.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
  4. Hebe

    Hebe Newcomer Game Owner

    There are a lot of links on the page and it's hard to figure out exactly how they are organized. It would be useful to have a main "this is what this site is" and then either a tab menu across the top or along the side to split the information...
    venues - affiliates - resources - ... etc.

    What is the registration for on that page? Is that to see the other venues?

    It's not very intuitive to use - I'm not really sure where to click or where it would take me. I think the first step is to make a flow chart of what you want to see and a goal of where you want people to go.

    Depending on how big your chart of pages is, it shouldn't be hard to code. I made my own info pages for my site (instead of using the thrasher wiki that Nova uses) and most of the work was content rather than coding. Once you have the main page done, all the rest are copy/paste essentially.
  5. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    The design of the index page is based on the front page of a content management system. I don not use a real one because I do not trust them. I used one one time and the site got hacked. We lost a lot of information - specifically story posts, and a lot of members as a result of this hack.

    With the current index page, each link is part of a block, and each block has a title.

    Venue Sites, On Site Resources, Off Site Resources, Forums, etc.

    The registration page is supposed to be in place of registering directly on the forum. The plan is to have it be an application form with the information being e-mailed to me. The system that was planned for use is no longer available. My domain host has stopped offering it.

    Yes, I could use Google forms, but I don't know this system. In the past I have tried the form creator in FrontPage but can't get it to work- all the gets mailed is a horizontal line of asterisks.This is annoying. So I typed up instructions on how to apply. Again, annoying but it's better than sitting at my computer and sorting through 50 to 100 mystery registrations that may or may not be actual people.

    The venue subdomains are not online. I've put these on the back burner for the time being- opting instead to focus on repairing the damage done to the stories when we introduced the Dragon Rider series, among other bits of damage.
  6. Achera

    Achera Newcomer

    I'm not sure if you have this with registration but if you have them answer a simple question like "what is 1+1" that usually prevents a lot of bots from signing up. My site has it where we have a simple question in place and only allow guests to post in the affiliate, first timers, and link back sections. We get a lot of bots a day but very anyone that signs up or posts so that may be a good solution.

    As for the site, I may be able to help depending on what you're using for the code to help you adapt it but again, it all depends. I know how to code, but forum codes are a bit newer to me so it's possible I wouldn't know how to go about it completely but I could try to help.
  7. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    Thanks Achera, right now- until it gets updated, I'm not concerned about the forums. It's the static pages that need work.

    As for the security question- I tried that and got a number of complaints about having it. I've also tried Captcha - People either e-mail me or hit me up on Facebook saying things like "I'm 'age' - Why do I need to confirm my age?" or "Open the forum for registration and set it to admin approval." When I explain to them the problem with this they opt to not respond and I never hear from them again. So, I'm at a loss.

    The conflict is just one of the many reasons why the site doesn't get done.

    As for coding- I use FrontPage - despite the many 'oh no, don't use THAT program'
  8. Verridith

    Verridith QUEEN of GOLD !! Game Owner

    I would actually suggest that you move to a host, at least for now, that allows for greater customizing for free - PHPBB I've heard some good things about, but you also need to have an experienced coder, and unless you find one on a resource site that wants to work for free... it's not likely xD

    Jcink is a spectacular host with excellent customer service; they will also upload your data file (if compatible) for absolute free! It's incredibly customizable and is one of the most popular forum hosts out there - plus, free! Very anti-spam, and easy to set up. Plus, there are tons of resources available, and the admin of Jcink, John, is an incredible guy. <3

    I know this seems like a drastic thing to do, but coming from someone who has switched platforms five times (three of which we went back to our pet-site original home haha!), it is honestly the best choice I have ever made and I will probably never leave, unless Jcink itself goes completely down. Let me know if you have any questions!
    Elena likes this.
  9. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    I'm sticking with Hostgator, this is a cost I can chomp on with my personal budget. My package is a flat fee and covers all of my domains- personal site, writer's site, novel blog site, and therpg.org.

    The biggest thing that would help me right now is getting the archives done and on the forums. The archives are past story threads that had been on previous installs of the forums. I had removed them for preservation following a hack that resulted in my changing hosts and installing a new forum. Ultimately, I want to place them on static pages within their related subdomains.

    I've used a variety of forum systems over the years and always go back to phpBB. I used to be able to upgrade it on my own. When I moved to Host Gator- they had auto-update in their control panel. Currently, this won't as I missed several update periods. Fortunately, I know a guy who is adept with phpBB and upgrading it. And he won't charge me.
  10. Verridith

    Verridith QUEEN of GOLD !! Game Owner

    Oh, that's good then! I would then suggest posting code search on various directory sites for phpbb skin makers, and those who can help with design for free. They are out there, but as phpbb isn't widely used, you may have to do some searching. I can recommend a list of directory sites with those areas if you need me to, just let me know <3
  11. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    Usually, I go through the directory on the phpBB community site- but the more the merrier. Venturing off this site was how I found this one theme that I love.

    I still have skins from back before 3.0 was released. I keep them burned on a disc in the insane, futile hope that someone would be willing to upgrade them to for use with the most recent release of the forms. Why? What's the point? Haven't you ever found a style or theme that you absolutely loved? I have found a few and these are the ones I keep.

    They used to be called themes, today they're called styles. I will never understand why this change was done.
  12. Achera

    Achera Newcomer

    I noticed there seems to be a little bit of a confusion in here? There are two different kind of hosts being talked about.

    The first is the server host which is where you host the actual forum on the web. That would be what GatorHost is and since you have that, that's already a huge step in the right direction.

    The second is the forum host. That would be what jcink, mybb, iceboards, etc. are. They are the programs that you run that help to build a forum without having to do all the intense coding from scratch. Forum hosts are essentially a program that you then would host on a service like GatorHost.

    Sorry, I just had to make the small word-blob about it xD I would check with that guy who knows phpbb to see if he can help you out a little more! Definitely hit those community boards and try to get some help if you can!
  13. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    Are you talking about sites where you have a forum instead of installing a forum directly onto the domain?

    Instead of therpg.org/arenas it'd be something like therpgorg.mybb.com ?
  14. Achera

    Achera Newcomer

    Kinda. Places like icy boards are kinda a combination and are limiting in what can be done for free where as like mybb and phpbb have a lot more freedom.
  15. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    The downside in moving the forum is losing what members there are. Inactivity is one thing but they may not register at a new forum.
  16. Since we do seem to be getting a little clarity as to what is what and since you are using Hostgator as your server provider, it seems to me that you now need a solid base for your forum. Your initial fear of losing members when moving to forum hosts (SMF, Jcink, Icyboards) etc etc, may well not even come off. My daughter has over the last seven years moved hosts three times and never once has she lost members because of it. Then it comes to choosing which forum host to use, in the end its personal choice for you, but the essential things you need to look at in a forum are the following.

    1/ flexibility
    2/ updates (that is how often the forum provider updates their security protocols)
    3/ ease of use
    4/ support
    5/ look and feel (aesthetic appeal)
    6/ mobile friendly
    7/ the last the most important to you; safeguards- how secure can you make it.

    Quite often, moving to a new base, with a new look and appeal will bring you more members which in the end is something you are looking for isn't it?
  17. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    My initial fear of losing members because of moving hosts or forum providers is based on past events. We have lost members when moving from one forum provider to another. Your daughter is lucky that it hasn't happened to her.

    I have used phpBB for over 10 years. I chose this one because of its ease and flexibility to set up, manage. and maintain. And my tech guy doesn't charge me when there's something I need help with. The system is frequently updated, and the support - like I said, my tech guy is free. and HostGator backs up the system weekly.

    With the look and feel- there are countless designers creating styles for the system on a constant basis.

    # 6 is still an issue

    # 7 we haven't been hacked since moving to HostGator. I'm confident in their security.

    Honestly, I do not see how moving the forums to another site will create new members. This doesn't click with me- doesn't make sense.
  18. Quite simply pupBB hasn't kept up with the times. While it is very easy to use even for a Novice, its quite possibly right down on the bottom of the list as far as choices go from RPG sites; I know this because it was the first forum provider my daughter used via the free version at the start. When she did avail herself by going with a server host, what was on offer from phpBB wasn't much to write home about. But again, its up to you.

    Three years ago we never considered the site as being mobile friendly important. Now we wouldn't go without it as perhaps at least 80% of our members will at some point or another log in with their mobile devices and there are those now who won't use anything else. That is one plus where you'll get new members. The other aspect is as I said, some folks will sign up with you merely on the look of your site; eye appeal says a lot for many.
  19. Archivist

    Archivist Resident Game Owner

    I agree that aesthetics are at the top of the list. The various styles will help with this.

    As for the other forum systems, I never heard of them until joining rpg fix. Every RPG site I've been a part of has used phpBB. Honestly, I find it much more appealing than what I've seen on the forum sites I've visited in the last few days.
  20. There are literally quite a lot of them. Off the top of my head, starting with VB4, SMF, phpBB, Zetaboards, Icyboards, myBB, Jcink, Nova and I am sure at least another half dozen. Of those, Vb4 and SMF are more or less copies of the phpBB system, in fact the people who run SMF were coders from phpBB who branched out on their own. The difference being SMF will offer you a little more. Every host has something, for example from what I've read on other resource boards Jcink was specifically designed with role players in mind. It really depends on how much you wish to give your members as for some fussy folks, features are everything. Only yesterday on another site I was reading that some people won't join unless you have a variety of themes to choose from, for example both dark and light.
    valucre likes this.