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Integrate Showcases into the forums so that it's natural to use it

Discussion in 'Showcase Support' started by Stuart Wright, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Member Showcase

    At AVForums we have a thriving Members' Home Cinema Gallery forum. (It's called Home Theater in America).
    For years, our members have used threads to create their home cinema galleries with photos attached or embedded. Often they are like diaries of the build. As the build develops, they reply with the latest updates and photos. Other members reply with advice and encouragement.
    You can see the forum here: http://www.avforums.com/forums/members-home-cinema-gallery.152/
    So I implemented the Showcase addon with a home cinema category in the hope that people would use it instead of having threads in the home cinema gallery forum. But nobody has used it. Actually 3 people have and one of those I prompted.
    The problem for me is that I haven't integrated the showcase into the forum. I don't use the sidebar module because it's too resource hungry (as I recall, the images were not being resized to thumbnails and so were bigger than necessary, and several more we're loaded than were immediately visible. I may be wrong, here, but that's what I recall about it.)
    While the Showcase link is in our community menu, there is nothing which really prompts the members to use it.

    What I think is needed is to maybe integrate the showcase into every thread in that forum by default. So that everyone in there sees the showcase tabs on their threads. If a tab is empty, it's displayed anyway, with default text saying that the member hasn't entered their information, yet. That would surely prompt them to start taking advantage of it.
    This would mean creating a Showcase for existing threads. Maybe the next time a member visits their thread, they get a prompt to invite them to convert it to a showcase.
    They do this by selecting which images are moved to the image gallery tab and which videos are moved to the video tab. There would need to be options to move the contents of selected posts to particular tabs so that the process is really easy.

    When starting a new thread in that forum, the Create Thread button needs custom text. I would change it to Create Showcase to familiarise people with the term 'Showcase' and emphasise that it's more than a thread. And, of course, a new Showcase would be created by default.

    All this effort has gone into the Showcase addon. For it to be adopted by the community, I think we need to put its advantages right there in front of them as part of their habitual use of the forum rather than making it a separate section that they have to make an effort to visit.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2014
  2. mouth

    mouth Member CAS Premium RMS Premium SC Premium UBS Premium Sportsbook

    I really like the way XenAtendo has integrated in this fashion. When accessing the specified event forum(s), the 'Post New Thread' button is replaced with 'Post New Event' and click it loads the event creation input screen. The event is created, and a discussion topic too in the currently selected forum.
    It would be ideal to do similar with Showcase - within showcase ACP options, select existing forum(s) that you want to transition to Showcase, and have the post thread button replaced as per above, and then (brain storming/farting here) have this forum automatically 'integrated' as a category within Showcase too?
     
  3. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Member Showcase

    Some addons (e.g. Hotspots) can be set up as nodes in the node tree, and will draw some attention to themselves that way. But I think the critical thing here is that people are used to using forums in a particular way and that is the main reason why they come to our websites. Addons need to enhance that experience in some way. I think people are much less likely to use peripheral functionality than integrated functionality.
    Hence my suggestion to have people create a showcase when they create a thread. But the discussion is the default open tab when people visit the thread.
    The wife suggested using the same kind of functionality for Showcases as we have in our editorial integration. We show an image above the threads which links through to the content. The thread is used for comments on the content.
    temp1.jpg
    Maybe a showcase could show some images from the gallery when there are enough. The images wouldn't necessarily link to anywhere, but they would make the thread look a bit more special. That plus the tabs underneath should make the Showcases more interesting and more integrated with the core functionality and might stand a chance of being utilised.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2014
    woei likes this.
  4. mouth

    mouth Member CAS Premium RMS Premium SC Premium UBS Premium Sportsbook

    Well, that settles it then! :) I'm my household, I know whose the both the boss and the minister for war and finance :)

    I think Showcase is close to what you ask, and could improve with your suggestions too.
     
  5. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Member Showcase

    LOL @
    . Always good to get a female perspective.
     
    mouth likes this.
  6. Ludachris

    Ludachris Active Member AMS Premium CAS Premium RMS Premium SC Premium UBS Premium

    I think this is a battle all forum sites face. Your typical forum site over the past decade has had very little, if any content located outside of the forum, and that has pretty much molded user behavior and expectations. Forum visitors tend to not use top navigation bars, they use the forum index, expecting everything they would need to show up there. I hate it, as I don't like being forced to use forums to accomplish everything on the site, and throw links to every section on the forum index page. It has made implementing features (like Showcase, for example) difficult to implement because it's not part of the typical forum structure. Just when you come up with a great new solution that the users will benefit from, you find that if it's not something they can post as a traditional thread, the majority of users might not embrace it. I wish more forum owners would post more quality content and features outside of the forums to combat this a little more.

    With that said, I've had some success in vBulletin using solutions like vBadvanced Dynamics for a Classifieds solution and vBa Gallery, which lived outside of the forums on my site, and cross promoted it through "recent post" widgets in the sidebar and on the homepage. I think I had a link to it on the forum index for a while, with a description pointing people to find it in the top navigation bar. Stuart, I see that you mentioned the performance hit of the sidebar, but I think without it, there's no real effective way to cross promote or cross merchandize content that lives outside of the forums.

    I will continue to implement solutions that live outside the forum structure and cross promote it in various ways, hopefully to slowly change user behavior and expectations over time, at least for my sites. I think we all need to do it, so that we can stop being seen as more than just a forum. I think being classified as only a forum might come back to haunt us one day.
     
  7. Bob

    Bob Developer Staff Member

    IMO, the solution to Stuart's situation is to not let people create new threads in that forum (or forums) and have showcase add a "Create Showcase" button that would be in the same place as the create thread button normally is. (obviously, this would require functionality on Showcase that currently does not exist).

    In the mean time, letting them continue to create new threads in that Forum is part of the problem IMO. All that is doing is letting them continue creating threads instead of forcing them to use Showcase (or something else). You should remove Permissions that allow them to create threads in that forum as well as post a sticky thread explaining that they need to use the Showcase Addon to create their theater Showcase and that a discussion thread will be created automatically for them.

    IMO, it would be a nice bit of functionality to add a "create showcase" button in forums that are set to have threads auto created by showcase.
     
  8. DaveM

    DaveM Member Showcase

    What I would like to be able to do is tag forum area that would be a showcase forum area. What I mean here is when a member is browsing that forum area besides the normal post option they should have a create showcase option. Something like this that I did this using notices. Possible also have a small thumbnail slider of the items in this category for this forum area.

    Postbits175 Apr. 07 08.52.jpg
     
  9. DaveM

    DaveM Member Showcase

    Well from my side I would like to see both options as I have forums for different motorcycle models and members would also need to create threads in these areas for technical questions and answers. So for now I have used the notice option to create it looking like this for those areas that they could also showcase their motorcycles.

    Postbits175 Apr. 07 08.52.jpg

    What I am thinking about here is to tag forum areas that can also be showcase areas and showcase would create a category for those forum areas and place the Create Item option with the Post New Thread option. It would also be nice to be able to add a mini slider at the top of these forums with those showcased items for that forum area.

    Right now in my main Showcase forum I do not have the ability for members to creat a new thread and I have it looking like this.

    Postbits176 Apr. 07 10.43.jpg

    My For Sale/Trade section I have both options for a thread and a Showcase
     
  10. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Member Showcase

    That's easy to do, also. Just create an addon which allows us to specify the text and action of the Post New Thread button for each forum in the forum edit page. @Chris Deeming has already created the first part of this where we can specify the text. (The addon is working on AVForums but not released on Xenforo, yet). We just need to be able to specify the action as well.
    Then if it's easy to make the button link create a new Showcase in a specific category, we're a long way there.
    The only thing is that people will be expecting to be able to post a thread and so maybe when creating a new showcase, we can have an option to start with the discussion tab open by default? That last suggestion needs discussion and input.
     
  11. Ludachris

    Ludachris Active Member AMS Premium CAS Premium RMS Premium SC Premium UBS Premium

    I think when you give the members the option to Create a Showcase or Create a Thread, they're going to create a thread 9 times out of ten, because that's what they know. If you added tabs to the submission form and made discussion open by default, you'd likely get very few showcases created.

    In vB, I created a section of forums that are moderated Articles. I replaced the New Thread button with a New Article button with template edits and sent everyone to a static page explaining what's expected for that section, then displayed the links for all of the sub-forum posting forms below the instructions. We still had people posting questions because that's what people do with forums.

    I guess it depends on how much of a focal point you want the showcase feature to be and how much you think people will want to use it in relation to discussion forums. We will likely have to force the issue a little and not give members the option to create threads the way they're used to, otherwise they will likely only create threads and the plugin will get very little use.
     
  12. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Member Showcase

    I'm advocating forcing members to create a showcase. No choice. But when creating a showcase, they are taken to the discussion tab by default so that they get the experience of creating a thread as they would expect. The associated tabs at the top would prompt them, hopefully, to enter their showcase information.
     
  13. Bob

    Bob Developer Staff Member

    The creation of the associated discussion thread is not something the USER does. It doesn't use the core XF create thread architecture (nor does the Resource Manager). It is CODE that auto creates a thread in the background AFTER the showcase item has been created/saved. The Thread Title uses the Showcase Title. Post #1 of the thread is a specific phrase that is created using data from the Showcase Item itself. The owner of the thread is the same as the Showcase Owner (same for Post #1).

    Creating a Showcase Item (or Resource) is almost identical to creating a threads. The input starts out with entering the NAME of the Item (that is the same as entering a Thread Title). Both have the option of a Prefix while doing so. Showcase adds an optional Item Description under the title. Then the next step is input CONTENT with the Editor. Showcase has MORE of them because of the use of Tabbed Content.

    There are THREE buttons on both and they do the same freaking thing... Create Thread vs Create Item. Upload a file vs Upload Images to Gallery and Preview. Showcase has an option to save as Draft where as Thread has the option for Polls, Watching, Sticky etc..

    There is not a whole hell of a difference. The "experience" of creating a showcase item is no different than creating a thread. They can PREVIEW and see all the data that they input into the editors (for the main content), The uploading of attachments is the same (cept Showcase is for the Gallery, not for inserting into the editors).

    A Showcase Item is its OWN content type (its OWN entity). A discussion thread is its OWN content type (its OWN entity). They both use completely separate architectures and run independently of each other. Like the RM, Showcase has the ability to "associate" a thread with an item. That doesn't mean the Item turns into a thread and vice versa, it simply means that there is some ASSOCIATION. The association is that when viewing the Item, a HTML Tab with the title of Discussion is rendered. Clicking on the tab actually goes TO the Discussion thread itself (which is processed with its own controller, not anything showcase related). Post rendering of that thread I insert some HTML that creates some TABS that have URLS that take you back to SHOWCASE (which is processed with its own controller). For some reason, SOME (not all) people have this idea that associating means that they are MERGED into ONE "thing" and that is NOT the case.

    When viewing a Showcase Item, 100% of the functionality is driven by Showcase. When viewing a discussion thread (whether it is associated with something or nor), 100% of the functionality of that thread is driven by XF. Showcase has absolutely NO control over the Discussion thread and Vice Versa.

    I hope that clears things up on the actual functionality.
     
    DaveM likes this.
  14. Bob

    Bob Developer Staff Member

    That should be an OPTION setting, probably per showcase category. That way you could (if you want) let people create threads or showcase items (or other things).
     
  15. DaveM

    DaveM Member Showcase

    Something I cannot get my head around is that my members feel it is a mission to create a Showcase item and I cannot see that, it is the same amount of effort as creating a thread with attachments. I think for us it is just a case of getting them over the first phase of noticing that it is just formatted a bit differently with tabs for some of the information. I hope that the introduction of the option above those forum areas to create an item will make them more at ease with the process
     
  16. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Member Showcase

    Thanks for the clarification, Bob. I am aware that Showcases and threads are two completely different entities. However, the use of tabs in a Showcase to include a discussion tab effectively makes the two a single entity from a user experience point of view. And the same applies when viewing a thread with the various Showcase tabs right there at the top. Which is all good because this is, as far as I'm concerned, from a user experience point of view, seamlessly integrating the two. It will therefore be fine, I think, in certain forums, to replace the Post New Thread button with a Post New Showcase button (or whatever) and have Showcases created by default instead of threads.
    An option setting for admin, yes. So admin choose which forums are Showcase forums - dedicated to hosting the showcase discussions for specific categories - and in which the create new thread button is changed to create a new showcase in that category.
     
  17. DaveM

    DaveM Member Showcase

    The thing is here with my forum I would need to have both options as the forum area are related to a motorcycle model. These forum can have both technical and Showcase threads in them. Remember some members logon and go straight to their motorcycle model forum and have little interest in other forum areas. If I could only have one or the other option it would me duplicating all the different motorcycle model forums and that could get a bit messy. Right now I have it split three ways Café Racers , Choppers, Bobbers and Customs, Showcase - Discussion Area (this is for all the standard models) and then Classics for all the older motorcycles
     
  18. Bob

    Bob Developer Staff Member

    don't worry about it. It won't be FORCED to a single setting, if I do anything, there will be MULTIPLE options because not everyone has the same needs. At the minimum, there would be an option to do nothing (which would be default), then an option to Add a Create Showcase button to the forum and another option to disable the Create Thread button. Doing anything else would make no sense IMO.
     
    DaveM likes this.
  19. woei

    woei Member Showcase

    I was wondering if it possible to improve integration, the latest comments on showcase items are also included in the new posts option? I think that would really give it more visibility. At the forums we use the New Post function very much, and for the Showcase I don't use threads because I want to have them reply in the Showcase items for a better user experience but now those reactions are only visible if you visit the showcase and see the latest comments block.
     
  20. woei

    woei Member Showcase

    Also a solution would be to display the discussion thread under the general information tab. So members won't have to click a tab to participate in the discussion. Then posts made to an item would show up in the new-posts and improve general visibility of this add-on.
     
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