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Website improvement ideas

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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 06:01 #114919
GeoffM
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4277 posts
We had a developers' meeting a couple of days ago and one of the points raised was that this website is not friendly to new users. We had intended to discuss it within developers but I don't see why everybody can't be involved.

So, be as brutal and honest as you like, what can we do to improve the website for new users? I'm aware of CSS issues, especially with Apple devices, and the need to remove approvals before downloading files.

TIA.

SimSig Boss. Website issues: Check here first: https://www.simsig.co.uk/Wiki/Show?page=newwebsite
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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 10:39 #114924
Peter Bennet
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4510 posts
If there's anyone with expertise in website design (by that I mean from a marketing perspective, not a coding perspective) their input would be invaluable. Input from new members of their experience would be helpful.

I've just gone back to look at the page www.simsig.co.uk which would be the normal landing page of a new user. I'm not sure that that page really sells SimSig to someone who has not got a clue what it's about.

We have a shoutbox filled with (in the nicest possible sense) gibberish and at times arguably not the most edifying of first impressions.
We have "Newsflashes" telling us of the latest releases (there are 5 flashes, the oldest being 10 months ago)
And 3 pictures scrolling across, two telling us of the latest releases and one "Welcome to SimSig", the latter perhaps being of some use in "selling" Simsig; except that that links you straight to a couple of "In your face" slides that tell you how to install SimSig.

Putting myself in the shoes of a new user - I'm still somewhat in the dark as to what SimSig is actually about.

Perhaps the home page needs to be a bit more informative and perhaps include a short embedded video/animation Simsig in use?
This old web page is informative https://web.archive.org/web/20010720015312/http://www.simsig.co.uk:80/docs/about.html it tells you what SimSig is about.

Anyway - random thoughts from someone who's been around for more years than I care to remember.

Peter

I can promise you this, if I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I’m certainly not going to pay the price for the things I didn’t do. - Frank Underwood
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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 11:44 #114925
Red For Danger
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70 posts
I too have just gone back to the landing page to look again at what new users see. I agree with Peter that the shout box and forum boxes should be hidden, but the upcoming events and users should be kept as they are generally friendlier and it shows that we are a community. I think one of the immediate comments I would make is what you see after the 'Get Started' button is clicked - it takes you straight to how to install the system files without any explanation of what SimSig actually is or what you are actually installing. Maybe some screenshots and brief explanation would be good to wet the appetite before you are faced with the instructions on downloading files, which seems to scream at you from the page. Most new users may be daunted with this bearing in mind how security conscious we all are nowadays and I for one would be hesitant in downloading something I did not know more about in case it turned out to be malicious.


The other thing that needs to be fixed straight away is, assuming the new user gets past the 'download the files' page, is the next link at the bottom that says 'Next: Playing SimSig' - instead of giving more information, takes you to a news page from 2017 that tells you about the new release for the Cardiff Sim. It does not give a good first impression and would suggest that most casual / new visitors would probably give up at that point.....?


Hope that helps.....

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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 12:06 #114927
RainbowNines
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263 posts
From a content perspective, it doesn’t feel very intuitive if the ultimate aim is to get people going quickly.

If I might, I’d say that the front page feels designed for the existing SimSig member, rather than the new. I appreciate the news flash section is a good advertising space, but it feels a bit too dominant. The Shoutbox I couldn’t care less about seeing, but strikes me as something that should be seen inside once logged in, and not just on the front page.

I haven’t downloaded anything from the site directly for a while but that was always a bug bear for me... very unintuitive, probably bound by the download system you use?

I guess it all depends on what you want the website to be. My content design experience all lies within government, where content best practice essentially spoon feeds people the information they’re looking for. I don’t know if that’s what you want SimSig to do, or whether you’d prefer to guide people to investigate manuals, etc for themselves to save a deluge of flapping on the forum when someone who didn’t read anything gets stuck after five minutes.

Happy to chip in with support or further thoughts, if you’d find them helpful.

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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 12:42 #114929
jc92
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2463 posts
Would a "getting started" option be a good idea on the homepage which links to an initial page that explains exactly how/what to download and update initially and common FAQs for initial issues? That way anyone new can immediately find clear instructions rather than having to enter the forum.
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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 13:11 #114930
Meld
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479 posts
Following on from Joes idea above how about a simple new homepage with a brief description of SimSig and 2 links one for getting started and the other to the main forum side of the site.

The getting started page would then give everything a newcomer needs to get up and running finishing with a link to the main site again

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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 15:23 #114933
Humorist
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There seem to be two different audiences to be served, (1) the existing SimSigger, who like me always arrives at the site already logged in via an existing "RememberMe" cookie, and (2) the newbie, either totally new to SimSig, or someone who is looking to run his first sim after downloading and installing the system files and the latest loader. Maybe that's even three, on reflection?

Does that not suggest some differentiation is what is served up?

Some other points:
1) - "Deep" forum threads. RAIB reports, a valuable resource, now runs to 15 pages, and it can be a bit annoying to be served up the first page, ditto some of the meet simulation speculation. In those cases, I should like to go straight to the last or latest post first. You do that from the "Forum" box on the left, but go to the first from "Forum > Latest Posts".
2) - I should like to have the option to mark all other threads as "Read", even if I have not read them. I really don't care about the red blob on "Introductions", and there are others.

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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 16:30 #114935
pedroathome
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464 posts
Meld in post 114930 said:
Following on from Joes idea above how about a simple new homepage with a brief description of SimSig and 2 links one for getting started and the other to the main forum side of the site.

The getting started page would then give everything a newcomer needs to get up and running finishing with a link to the main site again
I think what I’m thinking of has been outlined by Yorkshire and Joe above – Actually, I think what I’m thinking goes exactly along the lines of what Meld has said., but if I expand my thinking slightly
Some websites have got a landing page (Or whatever they’re called), something before the main website. Would something work along the lines of having two options.
1 – New User – A link to a page, or group of pages outlining SimSig and how to get started, download system files, running first simulation, etc.
2 – Existing User – Bring the user to the main (existing) website, where there is effectively what we currently see.

James

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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 16:42 #114936
Steamer
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2898 posts
Looking back, the home page of the old website was much clearer:

https://web.archive.org/web/20160304033410/http://www.simsig.co.uk/

How about placing the content of the old page underneath the current scrolly advert display?

Incidentally, the scrolly bit is stretched vertically- this is particularly noticeable on the picture of the Voyager at Rugby. The sizing was correct when the new website first launched, but it went wrong not long after. While on the subject, it would be good if the pictures associated with the scrolly text were associated with the news being advertised.

"Don't stress/ relax/ let life roll off your backs./ Except for death and paying taxes/ everything in life.../ is only for now." (Avenue Q)
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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 17:00 #114938
bugsy
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375 posts
Hope that you don't think that I am rambling, but I have just a few observations.

Meld in post 114930 said:

The getting started page would then give everything a newcomer needs to get up and running finishing with a link to the main site again
I agree that the getting started page could be simplified and made more user friendly.

Firstly, it should be made clear that the system files need to be installed before any sims can be played. It would appear that some new users are not aware of this. They are probably downloading the sims and expecting them just to run.

I have just clicked the ‘Get Started’ button on the Website home page and the second line of text says ‘Start by going to the System Files page, etc. The link in that line of text is coloured green and unless you hover the mouse pointer over it, if you are new to the site you probably wouldn’t even realise that it was a link.
I think that links should be made more obvious, either by changing the colour to perhaps red or actually saying click this ‘link’ which as I said above, needs to be made more easily identified.
Also, I think that the ‘getting started’ button should be visible at all times.
Both of the ‘read more’ buttons for the most recently released sims don’t actually provide any information other than what you can see on the screen anyway, so seem to be pointless and perhaps a wasted opportunity.

jc92 in post 114929 said:
Would a "getting started" option be a good idea on the homepage which links to an initial page that explains exactly how/what to download and update initially and common FAQs for initial issues? That way anyone new can immediately find clear instructions rather than having to enter the forum.
I totally agree with this idea.
Peter’s suggestion of a link to the old website’s ‘what SimSig is about’ page should also be included.
Perhaps the button at the bottom of a refreshed ‘getting started’ page could be used for this purpose instead of taking you to the Cardiff Newsflash page, which is nothing to do with playing SimSig.
RainbowNines in post 114927 said:


I haven’t downloaded anything from the site directly for a while but that was always a bug bear for me... very unintuitive, probably bound by the download system you use?

I have also experienced this difficulty sometimes. This is a link in the Wiki, to a list of the sims that are available to download: https://www.simsig.co.uk/Wiki/Show?page=usertrack:areainfo

If you click on one of the sims, for example ‘Aston’, shortly after the ‘Introduction’, there is a link to the ‘User manual’. If it was possible, it would be useful if there was a also a link so that you could download the sim as well. And if it was possible, maybe this new link could be placed in the ‘Browse Downloads’ section.
Not being a software developer, I don’t know whether any of this is possible, but it would be an easier way to find the sims that you want to download.

Just a thought

My goodness, that was difficult, but I managed it.
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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 17:13 #114939
Steamer
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bugsy in post 114938 said:

If you click on one of the sims, for example ‘Aston’, shortly after the ‘Introduction’, there is a link to the ‘User manual’. If it was possible, it would be useful if there was a also a link so that you could download the sim as well. And if it was possible, maybe this new link could be placed in the ‘Browse Downloads’ section.
As all simulations* are now installed via the Loader, there are no simulation files to download.

*Excluding the few remaining .exe sims

"Don't stress/ relax/ let life roll off your backs./ Except for death and paying taxes/ everything in life.../ is only for now." (Avenue Q)
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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 19:02 #114942
bugsy
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Steamer in post 114939 said:


As all simulations* are now installed via the Loader, there are no simulation files to download.

*Excluding the few remaining .exe sims
Ah. I wasn't aware of that. Makes life simpler. Is that made clear to newbies?

My goodness, that was difficult, but I managed it.
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Website improvement ideas 20/01/2019 at 19:47 #114943
SamTDS
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Steamer in post 114939 said:
bugsy in post 114938 said:

If you click on one of the sims, for example ‘Aston’, shortly after the ‘Introduction’, there is a link to the ‘User manual’. If it was possible, it would be useful if there was a also a link so that you could download the sim as well. And if it was possible, maybe this new link could be placed in the ‘Browse Downloads’ section.
As all simulations* are now installed via the Loader, there are no simulation files to download.

*Excluding the few remaining .exe sims
I weirdly like to play the old exe sims with some nostalgia.
As for the download links in the brief description page it is more of a case of whoever wants to edit the wiki to add them in. I find the payware sims the link for them doesn't goto them but the long list of payware sims available. I think I might try and make a small mock up with Dreamweaver as a guide of what I think would be good (minus CSS (I don't like doing css))

SamTDS - STDS
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Website improvement ideas 21/01/2019 at 12:33 #114952
andyb0607
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222 posts
Got a view from a total novice! Both Simsig and websites! Spoke to Mrs B and asked her to look at the website from the point of view of someone who has landed on the here for the first time.

She seems to agree with a lot of the comments before me.

Looking at the homepage she says it is very cluttered and seems to be aimed at previous visitors. ie Shout Box, News items, forum posts, games and meets.

Even seeing those she has no idea what Simsig is about from looking at the first page. Says she would be put off of going any further by the page.

What she would prefer to see is the Welcome to Simsig box as an entry page, with a little bit more information on what it's about and how to get it. Then click options for newbies or existing users. The newbie click goes to the installation help and the existing members goes to the current homepage.

Lastly, she did concede that people landing on the page are likely to be looking for signalling sims, rather than those who know absolutely nothing about signalling or simulations. So their perspective would be slightly different to hers.

Personally, I don't think anything else would need to be done beyond that. The current page is fine once you've installed the software and need more information.

As you mentioned, Geoff, the only other issue at the moment is the CSS stuff and how the pages appear on non-windows machines, including tablets. The mobile layout seems fine, but display on tablets is a bit hit and miss. The mobile view isn't great but neither is the desktop view, Although the mobile view is the better of the two on a tablet.

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Website improvement ideas 21/01/2019 at 13:05 #114953
SamTDS
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84 posts
Mobile mode dies more well but an improvement there could be bringing the simsig colour scheme over. As for desktop mode on mobile devices and devices with smaller screens the links under the hamburger menu are very hard to see gray against the dark green background.

As for the who's online and upcoming games and meets, I find them to be obstructive on mobiles showing at the top making it hard to see if you changed page.

SamTDS - STDS
Last edited: 21/01/2019 at 13:07 by SamTDS
Reason: None given

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Website improvement ideas 21/01/2019 at 21:31 #114965
Tempest Malice
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71 posts
Probably won't help for new users, but i do find it a bit unintuitive that you can't get to the event/meets from the fold down menus at the top, and only from the little box way down the side.

I'll also echo the suggestion that it would be better if the photos on the news items actually were relevant to that item.

Also looking at the getting started link from the front page, the images you get after that are a bit big and in your face, perhaps bit more of a description of what simsig is and why you would want to download it might be wroth adding before jumping into the how to download it stuff.

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Website improvement ideas 21/01/2019 at 22:26 #114966
BarryM
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2054 posts
The Front/Introduction Page should include a "Warning/Censorship" piece then the "What's it all about" screed.

At the Bottom Left hand corner of the page a "Read More" button and the right hand corner a "Members Login" button.

My 2 bobs worth!

Barry, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Last edited: 21/01/2019 at 22:29 by BarryM
Reason: None given

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Website improvement ideas 21/01/2019 at 22:41 #114967
GeoffM
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4277 posts
BarryM in post 114966 said:
The Front/Introduction Page should include a "Warning/Censorship" piece
?????!

SimSig Boss. Website issues: Check here first: https://www.simsig.co.uk/Wiki/Show?page=newwebsite
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Website improvement ideas 21/01/2019 at 23:07 #114969
BarryM
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2054 posts
GeoffM in post 114967 said:
BarryM in post 114966 said:
The Front/Introduction Page should include a "Warning/Censorship" piece
?????!
'Oldies" having a heart attack!! Simsig is not for the faint hearted!

Barry, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Last edited: 21/01/2019 at 23:09 by BarryM
Reason: None given

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Website improvement ideas 22/01/2019 at 08:23 #114972
Peter Bennet
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4510 posts
Tempest Malice in post 114965 said:

I'll also echo the suggestion that it would be better if the photos on the news items actually were relevant to that item.
I'd not noticed that but you are right, the Manchester South Advert shows Wilton Junction and I'm not sure where the Voyager is but I'd hazard a guess it's not in Wales or Herefordshire. That, unfortunately, comes across as a bit sloppy (to be blunt as requested).

Peter

I can promise you this, if I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I’m certainly not going to pay the price for the things I didn’t do. - Frank Underwood
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Website improvement ideas 22/01/2019 at 08:45 #114974
RainbowNines
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263 posts
I think this inconsistency also bleeds into the Wiki.

It has got a lot better in recent years but still some pages are awash with information and others are sparse and rather terse (both sim manuals and other pages) - yes I know anyone is able to change it, but wholesale rewrites of people’s hard work is not something that should be done at the drop of a hat, and in some cases that’s what’s required.

Definitely with jc on a “getting started” tutorial option, and with links from relevant parts of the site to a revamped, consistent wiki, I think you’re starting to approach a good experience for the newer user.

... then you have to consider what us curmudgeonly old buggers want

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Website improvement ideas 22/01/2019 at 11:05 #114978
norman B
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90 posts
The entry page needs a ^Draw you in ^ feature/gateway to the main content.

Then a more detailed intro/home page with the options such as getting started,Tutorial links for the newcomers,whilst offering the members a different route to detailed contents ,forum,shoutbox etc.

The Wiki needs a Wiki editor who will standardise the layout,information and the writing style used.within all of the simulation description manuals.Some of the information used within the sims and the site has inconsistencies much like the old Railway rule book which had a rule,followed the an exception followed by one or more other exceptions .We need a consistent standard applied throughout the site

A much cleaner looking site ,with a dynamic content would make the site much more attractive to the casual browser.

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Website improvement ideas 22/01/2019 at 15:03 #114979
pedroathome
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464 posts
Looking back in time, the old website (Or older again, or older than that) did outline what SimSig is about. This is to me defently clearer than what the current site portrays this.

Looking at the site today, you have a very brief introduction on the home page on one of the three scrolling images, where as the second two just repeat the news flashes which are slightly down the page

https://web.archive.org/web/20120115054841/http://www.simsig.co.uk/

Edit - Dont expect the above link to load quickly, it dosent

Last edited: 22/01/2019 at 15:04 by pedroathome
Reason: None given

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Website improvement ideas 22/01/2019 at 16:54 #114981
Steamer
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2898 posts
RainbowNines in post 114974 said:
It has got a lot better in recent years but still some pages are awash with information and others are sparse and rather terse (both sim manuals and other pages) - yes I know anyone is able to change it, but wholesale rewrites of people’s hard work is not something that should be done at the drop of a hat, and in some cases that’s what’s required.
Could you provide some examples of pages that need changing? I'm happy to take a look at them.

Norman B said:
The Wiki needs a Wiki editor who will standardise the layout,information and the writing style used.within all of the simulation description manuals.Some of the information used within the sims and the site has inconsistencies much like the old Railway rule book which had a rule,followed the an exception followed by one or more other exceptions .We need a consistent standard applied throughout the site
As above, some examples would be welcome. In terms of standardising layouts, I've done quite a bit of tidying on the Wiki over the years, to try and keep things in order. Again, I'm happy to take a look at anything that needs tidying up.

"Don't stress/ relax/ let life roll off your backs./ Except for death and paying taxes/ everything in life.../ is only for now." (Avenue Q)
Last edited: 22/01/2019 at 16:55 by Steamer
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Website improvement ideas 22/01/2019 at 19:02 #114983
GeoffM
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Steamer in post 114981 said:
RainbowNines in post 114974 said:
It has got a lot better in recent years but still some pages are awash with information and others are sparse and rather terse (both sim manuals and other pages) - yes I know anyone is able to change it, but wholesale rewrites of people’s hard work is not something that should be done at the drop of a hat, and in some cases that’s what’s required.
Could you provide some examples of pages that need changing? I'm happy to take a look at them.

Norman B said:
The Wiki needs a Wiki editor who will standardise the layout,information and the writing style used.within all of the simulation description manuals.Some of the information used within the sims and the site has inconsistencies much like the old Railway rule book which had a rule,followed the an exception followed by one or more other exceptions .We need a consistent standard applied throughout the site
As above, some examples would be welcome. In terms of standardising layouts, I've done quite a bit of tidying on the Wiki over the years, to try and keep things in order. Again, I'm happy to take a look at anything that needs tidying up.
One of the actions from the meeting the other day was that sim manuals will be standardised and follow a specific format in terms of sections. It'll take time to update existing ones though.

SimSig Boss. Website issues: Check here first: https://www.simsig.co.uk/Wiki/Show?page=newwebsite
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