In an ongoing effort to improve the performance and user experience on dpreview, we've rewritten and redesigned the forums, and will be launching the new version in a few days. From a look-and-feel standpoint, we made an effort to stay faithful to the core of the old design (no point throwing out the bits that work well) and from a functional standpoint, we focused on adding, rather than removing features.

The new forums look a bit different (nicer, we think) and are built on totally different code, so there will inevitably be a few things you'll have to get used to. Below you'll find some images of the new design and descriptions of what's new, and what's been changed. We encourage you to provide feedback, positive or critical, as we make the finishing touches. We're nearly ready, but if there's anything we've missed, we want to know before this goes live. 

As we set out on what ended up being the major task of redesigning our forums, we had two main goals. As well as adding some long-overdue features that bring our forums into the 21st Century, we also focused on addressing the most common comments and criticisms that we get in user feedback.

For example, there is a lot of great information and advice shared in the forums every day, but it is often difficult to find. To solve this, we implemented a number of new navigation and design aspects that will both help users find what they were looking for, and hopefully, discover a few things along the way.

Here's a quick outline of the new forums - please let us know what you think.

Top-level forum pages:

The new forum index pictured above shows off the new color schemes and increased spacing that pervades the rest of the forums design.

Posting and viewing pages:

The posting and viewing pages have also been substantially reworked:

The posting panel is now a full WYSIWYG interface, with buttons on the right for directly linking to an image on the internet, for uploading from your computer or for pulling an image from your dpreview gallery.

The main viewing screen has a number of changes. Dots next to each post appear white for unread posts and turn grey once read. At the forum level, partially-read threads will be represented by half-white dots. Note also the ability to preview a post by hovering over the post.

The record of which posts you've read will now be stored on our servers, not in your browser, so the read status of threads will be correct whatever device you log-in on.

Questions and Answers

For years we've been discussing ways in which we could make it easier for users can find the information they are looking for on dpreview in general, and the forums specifically. We've made some progress on our product search and comparison tools, but we recognize that forum threads often contain extremely useful information on a wide range of topics, and it isn't exposed very well. To this end, we've introduced a new thread type, 'Questions', which enables you to specifically mark a post as a question.

Once you're happy that the question has been answered, you can mark the best, most useful response as a 'top answer' for all to see. We plan to begin displaying the top questions throughout the site on product pages and widgets to help existing users and newcomers find the most interesting and useful posts.

The original poster can identify which response best answers their question. Once marked as answered, subsequent visitors can jump straight to the selected answer.
The selected answer post is clearly marked, but can be de-selected if a better answer is given later. Answered and unanswered threads are easily visible and can be used as filters, so you can find questions still in need of an answer.

User and post ranking

It has been a long time coming, but, we've added user rankings into user profiles. In this initial version a user's ranking is defined simply by the number of posts they've made and the date they signed up. However, in the near future we will be incorporating a considerably more complex logic which uses forum and site activity to influence ranking.

Additionally, we've incorporated ratings into the forums, so as you browse through threads you can up- and down-vote posts. This will later be tied-in to user rankings and will also allow us to add a feature to rank posts by popularity - making it easier to get to the most interesting threads.
Individual posts can be up- or down-voted. Note also the white dots for unread posts and
Each post has voting tabs. Votes on the original post appear at forum level.

We realize that many users are so used to the existing design, for better or for worse, that we wanted to provide some options that will help put the choice in your hands as to how the forums work for you.

There's an option for a collapsed view, which more closely resembles the current forum view. And, at the bottom of the page, an option to view in the legacy custard colorscheme.

Full list of changes

New features:

  • WYSIWYG text editor (no more markup)
  • New 'Question and Answer' threads
  • New 'breadcrumb trails' and quick-jump navigation at the top of each page
  • New (larger) buttons for creating threads 
  • New search bar, removing an extra click
  • Voting on threads and individual posts
  • The ability to preview a post by hovering over it with your mouse
  • User rankings
  • Community mods – better moderation, based on feedback
  • Image viewer mode / lightbox for going through image (or text) heavy posts
  • More filter options and an easier-to-use feedback form for 'For Sale' threads
  • Direct upload of images into forum posts
  • Dialogs to insert image from web, from file, and from gallery
  • Read status of threads persistent across devices

 General style changes:

  • Fonts and rows are larger throughout the forums
  • Search is more prominent throughout forums
  • Compact view mode which condenses more posts vertically
  • A legacy color mode enabling users to view in yellow rather than blue
  • Improved icons throughout the forums
  • More keyboard shortcuts
  • More filter options
  • Post contents will be hidden if down-voted enough
  • User can one-click subscribe to thread updates
  • Ability to hide posts' 'subject' in threaded view (avoiding repetitive “Re: Subject” titles if subject is unchanged)
  • More prominent actions (Reply, Quote, etc.)
  • Easier to use controls for managing your 'For Sale' thread
  • EXIF (if available) from all sources of attached images

The key thing to realise though, is that, while these initial changes may not seem huge, they represent only the visible aspect of the months of hard work that has gone into totally re-coding the forums. There is a lot of data in the forums and we prioritized speed and consistency in how we approached this upgrade.

The old forums were originally written in 1999 and have done an admirable job in helping to build and foster the dpreview community into what it is today. But the software industry has come a long way since then, and adding new features onto a software platform that is no longer supported, as well as maintaining it was not an option if we wanted to provide new and exciting features to the community.

Now that the new forums are using a software platform with modern conveniences, we can react quickly to feedback provided by the community and easily add new features. (Different 'skins' for instance)