since the forums are the most important place of the whole site for the community, special focus should be put on how it behaves and how it looks. And because the admins are about to fine-tune the updated software, I think this might be the right moment for a few proposals. Here are a few (highly subjective) suggestions for how to make the forums a better place for us all.
Reply text in Email - The email notifications on replies are great. But they would be even better if the email contained the actual response and not only a link to the post. This would especially come handy for those reading emails on their smartphones.
Email reply - As an addition to the first point, it would be great if one could simply answer to the email instead of having to log in on the forums and write the answer there.
Syntax hilighting - Python syntax highlighting, at least as an opt-in, would increase the readability of posted code a lot.
Rearrange links on top of the forums - The “View unanswered posts • View unread posts • View your posts • View new posts • View active topics” links on top of the forums summary pages are great shortcuts, but I bet most of us need the second link the most, so I suggest switching it with the first one.
Lighter color theme - The current theme blends perfectly within the rest of the site, but unlike the blog or the manual it features some low contrasts and too much detail in some places. These are caused by the blue background colors in first place and the high text density in second place. Here’s my suggestion for a lighter theme that is easy on the eyes, easier on your brain and still fits the color palette: dl.dropbox.com/u/40941273/forums2.png . The pictures show the current theme on top and my suggestion below.
Bigger link to last post of a thread - If you take a look at the first screenshot from the last point, you should notice that on the most right, the icon is bigger than usual on my mockup. On high frequency threads I’m often interested in the current status and that’s why I click on that little icon a lot. If you think the same, then the icon should be bigger and have its place in the line.
More prominent link to last unread post - Take a look at the first screenshot again. On the current theme you’ll find little orange icons on the left of the thread name. These are links to the last unread post. I think they’re badly misplaced there. How about using the bigger icon on the left (the circle) for that link?
Remove “online” badges - A small issue that bugs me a little. I don’t want others always to know whether I’m online or not.
This involves major changes to phpbb3 and unless you can suggest readily available mods for this they aren’t likely to be implemented. I do agree that syntax highlighting would be great.
That looks great, but I don’t have the time to invest in such a major retheme.
That makes sense. I’ll look around for a bigger icon.
I’m reluctant to deviate significantly from the established phpbb3 layout in this regard.
I considered removing this, but I think it does add something - it tells people that the forums are an active place. If you don’t want others to know this then you can disable it altogether in your UCP or disable it for a particular session at the login form.
As for the re-theming, I’d be proud to help. I even have a few days to spend. Is it okay for you if I rewrite the CSS files this site uses and send them to you? This way you don’t need to give me access to anything, but simply switch the CSS files on the server.
Regarding the “last unread post” icon, I could try to use some of my CSS-Fu to keep the HTML the same and still have a link on top of the circle icon.
And thanks for the note about the possibility to opt-out from the online badge thingy.