8 things wrong with the XF2 mobile experience

Mouth

Well-known member
The XF2 mobile experience is terrible, when compared to what we can expect and receive today. For development purposes, the mobile use scenario needs to considered the primary audience, both now and for the future. The mobile experience is 50% workflow (how your primary users interact and engage with your content) and 50% presentation (the look 'n' feel of the content itself). Without strength in both areas, the mobile experience translates to loss of visitors and members.

For the purposes of this post, /xenforo.com/community/ is the home or canonical starting point. I'm using a Samsung Galaxy S7E with Chrome browser. Since I'm well versed with XenForo, I've sought out the observations of; i) my wife (W) with many years of end-user weekly usage of community discussion sites (forums and social) and is almost entirely a mobile user of the internet these days, and ii) my daughter (D) whom is internet savvy, socially engaged through snapchat, instagram, and what Facebook is (not yet a user, but seen and read plenty of times) etc, but very minimal experience exposure to community discussion sites. Together, they represent examples of my sites target userbase - mature audience that is experienced with community discussion sites, younger audience more experienced with social media and just getting started with community discussion sites.

1. Landing Page ( xenforo.com/community/ )
(D): What am I looking at? What is this website all about? I see sections with headings, do I need to got into these to find stuff? Far too much scrolling, if I have to flick more than twice, it's all too hard. What is New Posts highlighted at the top, what does that mean? Oh, I've scrolled all the way to the bottom and it looks like the content is here. (Latest Posts/Resources)
(W): It's very busy and bland, really two colours only. What's in the hamburger menu? Hmm, I guess What's New is where I would go to find the content, or I scroll down from here to a forum that interests me. Lightning bolt means latest activity? Never seen that used anywhere before, thus not natural that I'd look there.

2. New Posts (tapped What's New button at top of the home page)
(D): I was expecting content here, it's just a list of headings? At least I don't have to scroll anywhere near as much as the home page. There's a lot of wasted space at the top - that should be done much better. So I should tap on What's New on that top highlighted line now? What are posts Dad? Just these headings? (Explains difference between topics and posts). So shouldn't it be New Topics instead of New Posts then? Confused. Scrolls down, clicks on a random topic
(W): Yeah, agree, lots of wasted space in the top 1/3rd. Those avatars are too small, thus quite meaningless, should just remove them. What is the second line immediately below the topic titles, is that the section it's in? Not much point to that, not what I'd generally do here, should remove it so it's less busy. Those text lines below are too small and hard to read anyway. The username and number of replies is probably only interesting. That scroll bar (carousel) at the top is quite confusing, very prominent, but not sure how or why I'd use it, what's the intention for me to use it?. Scrolls down and clicks on a topic that looks interesting

3. Thread display ( /community/threads/example.1/ )
(D): So here's the content, that took a while to get to it. Why wasn't it on the front or 2nd page? Yeah, I like this. No wasted space at the top, and straight into it. They should integrate the little image and author name into the post at lot more, like wrap the text around it. That would also really help show the difference between the posts, as it's a bit hard to tell. (Taps device hardware back button, back to New Posts, taps another thread. It happens to be a Resource thread). That weird line (carousal) is back again at the top - why? The top half the screen is taken up by heading, some really small text difficult to read, and that funny line. The text is the bottom half - why so far down? Not impressed, taps back button and doesn't bother staying here with it like this
(W): Good idea (daughter), wrap the text content around the avatar and username would be much better and differentiate them much easier. Floating up arrow is good, but why the down? Why would I want to skip to the bottom? (Swipes a few times to the bottom). Is there more? Don't they just load and appear when I get to the bottom? Oh, now I see the page numbers and next. They're really small, why are they so hard to see and tap. Surely they should be much bigger and easier, isn't that most people should do? The Share icons are a nice touch, well represented. But, why are they bigger and more prevalent than the page numbers and next page actions?

4. Exploring through Threads and Posts
They, (W) and (D), spend a few minutes exploring, switching back and forth between New Posts page and Thread Display page. Both always use the device back button. Never use the lightning bolt icon in the site header, never use the floating down icon, paging numbers and next button are regularly mentioned as needing to be much better and easier to interact with. Both agree the footer at the bottom is wasteful and detracting and why/what would they use it for?, (W) suggests it should either be a tap to expand/reveal section or only shown on the top/home pages and not constantly repeated in the deeper content pages.

5. Wanting to explore and see all new posts together
(D) asks how she can just see a listing of the new posts - the text/content - like Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat all do it. I explain there's no functionality for this, and she looks at me like I'm a freak. Huh? WTF? Why???? is her response. You mean I have to constantly switch back and forth between the page with headings, and click them to see all it's text? Why not just combine them all together - that's what everything else I use does.
(W) discovers the Latest Activity page, off screen, via the horizontal scroll bar at the top of Thread Display page. Why isn't this the default? It's much better and easier to use. Shame it only shows part of the text though. (Shows it to (D), who says Yeah that starting to get better, wants to take phone from Mum and have a play with it). See, if this page automatically loaded the next content when I got to the bottom, that would be great. (D) agrees, yeah this starting to look more like what I'd expect and am used to. How did you get to it Mum, show me. Wow, why is it so hidden?

At this point, I ask them to Register and see what they think ...

6. Registration (/community/register/)
(W): I like the FB, Twitter, G integration. Why is my DoB needed (enters a fake one!). Not bad, size should be larger, and that Register button is a bit hidden in the bottom right. It should be much bigger and use the yellow highlight colour. Shouldn't it say Submit or something too, I'm already at the Register function. Maybe it's small and a bit hidden, because it starts the Register process again?. Oh, now I'm not sure what will happen when I tap it. Will I lose everything I've already typed in?
(D): Cool that I can use my Twitter or Google (OffTopic: asks Mum & Dad again why we won't let her have Facebook yet :rolleyes: ) account. Entry boxes text is too small, and why so wide? The box could be beside the label and save me scrolling up and down while entering stuff in. Agree Mum, that Register button is too small and should be Submit.

Now logged in, and exploring as a logged-in user. I ask them to write/contribute something.

7. Post Thread
(W): That yellow button at the top is good. Easy to find/understand. The pop-up of sections is good. That entry box is yucky, the device keyboard appears and the page scrolls, all I see is the entry box and the keyboard. Those icons are far too small, and I have no idea what most are - some are familiar from Word etc. Picking a smilie is really hard, they're too small and my finger tapping is about the size of two of them. Dictating to Android microphone and having the text appear in the box is great, glad is supports that, I use this all the time for SMS/WhatsApp and Google searches etc.
(M); Yeah, agree Mum, so rare for me to type I just speak to Siri too. Glad it supports that like Snapchat does. Urggh, those emoties are sooo hard. Why can't they be easy like Snapchat and Instagram.

Hehe ... my (W)'s test thread above was moved to a different forum, so she still picked the wrong one despite studying the Node listing and thinking she had picked an appropriate one.

8. Resource Threads
(W): Yuck! The top half of the page has so much wasted space. They must do that better. I see the point of that horizontal line (carousal) at the top now. Yuck, that's not the way to do this. A tap menu/button would be better, and assist with wasted space removal.
(D): No more Dad, haven't I given you enough already? I doubt I'd use it, it's just so much easier with Instagram and Snapchat. Don't make me, how about I do the dishes instead? :eek::LOL:


Overall thoughts?
(W): No, I'm not attracted to it. It certainly wasn't good and easy to use. Too many confusing areas, small sizes where I'd usually interact, and not consistent with the way I use other sites and apps on my mobile. Nah, I'd look elsewhere for the content that the sites has.

... I cannot disagree with them on any of that feedback.
 

Mouth

Well-known member
I disagree strongly with a lot of the comments
Which are those, and why?
It's important to remember that the userbase/audience of the vast majority of XF sites are not site-admins. They are people like my wife and daughter. You may disagree from a site-admin point of view, but it is their experience and impressions that matter as representative of the majority of XF site's target audiences.
 

RobParker

Well-known member
Which are those, and why?
It's important to remember that the userbase/audience of the vast majority of XF sites are not site-admins. They are people like my wife and daughter. You may disagree from a site-admin point of view, but it is their experience and impressions that matter as representative of the majority of XF site's target audiences.
Exactly my point. You did this with a site (xf.com) tailored very specifically to people extremely familiar with forums (i.e. us) when the majority of XF sites are much more new user friendly than here.
 

diretur

Member
My 2 cents: I don't understand why most admins worry about the traditional workflow. Most of my forum users come from google search, and they are redirected directly to the thread. If you own a forum that's not brand new, that should be your case too.
I started a new forum nearly one year ago, and already now the users coming from google search are more than 50% of the total. The older ones have something like 70% and more. 15/20% are returning users, and they know the forums very well.

I'd say, let's focus on the content aka the threads.
 

RobParker

Well-known member
You didn't make any points. You just said you disagreed strongly with a lot of it. What exactly?
A lot of those issues are XF.com specific ones, not XF specific ones. This site is tailored specifically for forum admins. There are lots of XF sites where most of the issues raised wouldn't apply.

The rest of the issues seem to relate to the misconception that a forum is facebook/instagram/whatever. If someone's on a forum, they're there for a purpose and generally have an idea why they're there. They wouldn't come on to a forum and go "where's the content, what's a thread, what's a topic".
 

sami simo

Well-known member
There are lots of XF sites where most of the issues raised wouldn't apply.
Fixing similar issues takes a lot of addons, too many templates edits.. CSS costumization and money of course.
I have administered forums for more than a decade, and never received so many emails with almost the same question:
How to post on your site?
People find it easier to send an email via the contact us form than to post in the specific forum.
 

Mouth

Well-known member
You did this with a site (xf.com) tailored very specifically to people extremely familiar with forums (i.e. us) when the majority of XF sites are much more new user friendly than here.
So you are agreeing that the XF2 mobile experience has been built for the audience of XF.com/community and not for the vast majority whom are the audience of XF.com customer sites? An thus, the XF2 mobile experience is inappropriate for XF customer sites without heavy customisation for the presentation, and have to live with the functional workflow being designed for site-admins?

There are lots of XF sites where most of the issues raised wouldn't apply.
I'm interested in what you feel those issues are that don't apply, and why they wouldn't apply to the vast majority of XF2 sites?
 
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Mouth

Well-known member
and already now the users coming from google search are more than 50% of the total. The older ones have something like 70% and more. 15/20% are returning users, and they know the forums very well.
If you feel the target audience for your site is results from organic google searches that come, read for 30sec, and bounce elsewhere then a good experience is not important to you. If you feel that the target audience is those that participate and contribute, converting ad-hoc visitors into regulars, then the full community site including any add-ons and additional functionality is equally important, and the functional workflows of how these regulars have a good experience contributing and creating content across many nodes and add-on content types is very important to you.
 
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diretur

Member
If you feel the target audience for your site is results from organic google searches that come, read for 30sec, and bounce elsewhere then a good experience is not important to you. If you feel that the target audience is those that participate and contribute, converting ad-hoc visitors into regulars, then the full community site including any add-ons and additional functionality is equally important.
People look at forums because they search for information. Some of them stay there, some not.
In my new forum (11 months old) the average session duration is 6:27 minutes. In the "old one" (15 years old) 4:13, mostly because we have a big news (wordpress) part where people maybe read an article or two and then leave.

So, my target audience doesn't bounce that easily, but what I wanted to say is how people mostly enter the site, and that's often not the way you depicted in your first post.
 

ichpen

Well-known member
Fixing similar issues takes a lot of addons, too many templates edits.. CSS costumization and money of course.
I have administered forums for more than a decade, and never received so many emails with almost the same question:
How to post on your site?
People find it easier to send an email via the contact us form than to post in the specific forum.
I second that. I've had to put up all sorts of notices for new users on how to post. Yes there are addons but in my mind this should be at the forefront. It's one good thing that the Discourse platform attempted to address.

XF is still great but the workflow needs to be modernized a little for desktop and mobile. It still requires a little too much attention for a complete newb which I know is putting some people off.
 
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n00bsaibot

Well-known member
To be fair, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook have awesome dedicated apps. But the mobile browser experience is garbage or completely unavailable.

I'm in the mobile app is the only mobile solution camp. But a surprising amount of people will respond about how great responsive design is in 2017....
 
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abdfahim

Well-known member
I have administered forums for more than a decade, and never received so many emails with almost the same question:
How to post on your site?
I have a community-driven support forum for a very specific topic, not a large one ~15k posts and ~1.5k users (a majority of them are non-returning though). Still, I receive regular queries sent via contact form instead of posting in the forum.

More annoying and more frequent thing is, people just post their question as profile post (status), I guess because they can post it in the sidebar directly. Sometimes, they also take time to come to admins' profile and post their question as profile post.

So, I have to agree with the above-quoted statement, however, I think the new post button in the home page and the quick thread option at each forum would help the issue with XF2.
 

Veer

Well-known member
quick thread option at each forum would help the issue with XF2.
Not just on each forum node, but also on the forum home.

XF should take bold steps regarding posting content. Think about posting every content right from the forums landing page. Like facebook does on their newsfeed. For god sake dont say we cant compare forums with facebook. We should not mind picking good ideas from any where. See how facebook allow users to create all kind of content from one single editor, we should also be able to create new threads, polls, media directly from home page and from one place. Believe me that would boost new content posting and new gen users will start posting in forums without any confusion.
 

Dakota Storm

Well-known member
Not just on each forum node, but also on the forum home.

XF should take bold steps regarding posting content. Think about posting every content right from the forums landing page. Like facebook does on their newsfeed. For god sake dont say we cant compare forums with facebook. We should not mind picking good ideas from any where. See how facebook allow users to create all kind of content from one single editor, we should also be able to create new threads, polls, media directly from home page and from one place. Believe me that would boost new content posting and new gen users will start posting in forums without any confusion.
Yes, Facebook has a dead easy way of posting, but what you're not seeing is, look at the type of crap that gets posted on Facebook daily. Do we really want to open forums up to that type of junk? Forums are meant for deep, mid to long term, archivable discussions. Having a facebook-esque type editor on the front page is a bad idea.
 
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Arty

Well-known member
They want to see content faster, but how could it be achieved? Forums are not social media websites. On social media people just post stuff like crazy, not discuss, so showing latest content is quite easy.

Forums are meant for discussion, so showing latest posts would make little sense. Posts might be inside some thread, so showing latest post would often result in out of context weird message. Show first post? Would make sense on social media, but not on forum. Thread is a discussion, there might be replies, so showing first post would result in people replying only to first post, ignoring the rest of discussion.

Forums are not social media websites. They aren't meant to work in similar way. It takes a while to get used to forums and its not a bad thing.

Social media -> sh**posting
Forums -> discussion

But some functionality could be improved. Overall I think it was a decent feedback.
 

Infopro

Active member
(I’m using an iPhone 7+, FWIW. I’m adding my comments as I read the thread, scrolling down in order.)

1) Bad example using these forums, or any forum with this many areas. Neither of your test cases would be here. That is, unless they were thinking of opening a forum. Colors are subjective and irrelevant here, IMO.

2) There is some ‘wasted space’ at first glance by an inexperienced user I suppose. You might call it, comfortable though for all that’s there. I would think teaching W & D to drive a car had it’s drawbacks as well. Once they learned though, off they go like second nature.
Touch and hold any title and a new menu on phone opens to open in a new tab to read any content linked to from here.


3) This isn’t Facebook. Although you might look at a forum like a library and each thread is it’s own small book. Check one out and learn something, seems easy enough.

4) Browser button or the device button, which is better? Sounds like a topic for another day. The footer is distracting? It’s a footer.

5) See item #3 above. Latest activity can be set as home, IIRC.

6) SMH

7) All you need to start a new thread is an ‘entry box’ and keyboard.

8) The carousel is a new idea and will take some getting used to, indeed. But it is useful all the same. You should get a dishwasher so your D has more time to post silly messages to snapchat or upload duck faces to IG.


Footnotes:

- If this forum is too busy, and those folks are your audience, you might consider having less forums as a way to make your forum easier for them to use. To start with. Then change the colors and hide some buttons they’ll never use on the ‘entry box’ screen.

- A forum will never be snapchat, Facebook or instagram. Ever. Give up all hope here. Ask W & D to dig me up a post from 2016 on snapchat, facebook, or instagram about something specific. Now try that here on ‘a’ forum. Any forum. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

- I agree 100% with @RobParker’s disagreements, and here are some points of my own since @JamesBrown asked.
(Side note, the xf.com just sold for 7 figures! Using it here due to laziness only helps inflate it more I would think.)

- @Veer, you can. Your post reads to me like you haven’t looked close enough at the xenforo forums home page and click the “Post Thread” button yet.

- I’ve been managing many types of forum software since 2000. Xenforo forums is a forum, it is also the easiest to use forum on the planet. Mobile or desktop. Xenforo 2.0 takes that to a whole new level too!

But it is still a forum and always will be. So, see item #3 above.
 
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