I've been thinking about posting feedback here, and seeing this
sort of sealed it. First, let me say that I think that this site is a fantastic resource, and that the following is 100% my personal opinion, and I except that it may very well be completely wrong and that anyone is capable of having very solid reasons for disagreeing with me. This place is full of invaluable tips and tricks and support and I've learned a lot just from lurking. That being said, it's always confused me that this place isn't hopping. There's a million and one reasons why activity could be slow on any given board at any given second, but I thought I might point out a few things I noticed just in case it helps in some small way.Non-RPer Users
In terms of the resource forum, it seems like you have gone RP-specific and I understand why. I'm sure that's what most of the Jcink forums are, these days and - heck - I'm a RPer myself. But a resource forum like this can alienate other users, who I'm sure still exist. I would recommend making a guest-only section at the top of the board titled 'what the heck is roleplaying' or 'what happened to the old resource forum?' with a quick explanation, tips on how to navigate and an assurance that they can still use codes developed for RPing to make their [whatever] board better and maybe some quick-links to the sort of things they used to have quick access to on the old site.Guests Who Don't Join
Now, I know every resource board has a whole slew of lurkers who never intend to join, and they're valuable in their own way. I guess what I best have to offer in this section is feedback on why I, personally, hesitated to join when I first saw it. The main reason, I think, is that this place is really massive to the point of feeling initially over-whelming. There are /so many places/ that it makes me feel like I'm biting off more than I can chew, and it makes the place look so much less active than it actually is. I would really recommend condensing everything after the directory, and then putting the directory last.
Some things seem redundant or don't make sense to me at the first glance, and if a user has to struggle more than a few seconds to understand a site they'll just go on to the next one. For instance, I think the 'skinning' and 'coding' section can be compacted into one - it'll make it easier for me, as a user, to understand where to post and it'll be easier for me, as someone who like to help the community, to know where to check to help out. On top of that, combining things makes it look less spread out and deserted. The critique section can also just be chopped up and moved to the other relevant sections (the same thing goes for the tutorial section) - for instance writing critique would just be in the writing section. It's confusing to think I've gone over everything coding has to offer, for instance, and then find that there's more. It makes me feel scatter-brained. And if I jumped the gun and posted asking for a writing critique in 'writing discussion' I would be embarrassed as heck.
Which leads me to the following suggestion - if you're going to keep the critique section etc, but it before the graphic / writing / coding / skin section. It's easier to keep track of that way. The same goes for the request section and, additionally, I would suggest moving it to the front because I think requests - being able to place them and get them filled - are a big draw for any resource community, and it's a good idea to put them front and center.Challenges
To be honest with you, I would love to participate in more challenges but it really confuses me, and if it confuses me it's going to confuse other people too. I would change challenges and collections to challenges and portfolios and move the portfolios there - or at the very least move the portfolios to the bottom of the site. (New users and guests are not really interested in that content, so taking up important real-estate with it just adds to the frustration of trying to navigate a new site. Members are the ones who care more about that, and they're more willing to put in an extra click to learn where something more obscure / less immediately relevant is located.)
Again, I'm confused - how is a writing collection different than a writing portfolio? I'm sure to you guys it's obvious, but for the lowly noob it's a nightmare. Also, it seems to be that challenge voting / challenge winners / awards collections would be good subforums to add to a new forum to add to the top of the collections section, along with a thread explaining what challenges are / how they work / what we can win etc. When I first tried to enter a competition I was lost, and I still kind of am - a good landing spot at the beginning of this section would be so helpful, and it would be a good place to file away some of the other stuff that is more to do with bureaucracy and such.
I'm still confused about why some challenges get you a button on the front page and some don't, honestly. It's one of the reasons I haven't checked out more challenges, and given that there are no buttons in any of those slots I would really recommend making all the challenges button challenges, because most - not all, but most - people do those things for the advertising. I would also add the 'directory spotlight' to the bottom of this section, if I were you - I cannot tell you how many times I have spent far too long trying to find that specific part of the board, space cadet that I am.Debates
Now, this is a really personal thing - I might be the only one that feels this way. But admin participation in the debate section really throws my game off. It doesn't really matter to me one way or another on other sites, but I guess my biggest thing here is as a company that is now accepting money directly from its customers, it's a little odd to see this sort of interaction happening. It's like seeing a lot of political stickers on a company car. I mean, I get it - I'm college aged, an activist, a minority in several different ways, and all of my friends know I've got big opinions and that I'll call them out if I feel morally obliged. I think my opinions are right and true just like everyone else, but I know when it comes to business it is not always appropriate to broadcast that, especially on a site where the people involved in the debates are also the ones in charge of deciding when they've gone too far - even if you're 100% fair about it, which I'm sure you would be, people are going to inevitably call out 'censorship' when they get their feelings hurt. That's just my two cents, though.Directory
I only have a few quick notes about the directory. In the rules it says that premium isn't available yet - it also doesn't let us know the frequency with which we can bump, which you might want to add. I had to do some digging and find that here
so it could be useful to put all in one place. Additionally, I feel requiring a bump every two weeks is pretty frequent, and I would encourage you to extend it to a month. I'm sure you have your reasons for this and it's not the end of the world, it's just really easy to forget to bump something that frequently. Some directories require their button be shared, and even if you don't adding it there with a quick HTML code there might increase traffic to the site.
Also, in the side-bar you have an affiliates section, but no affiliates actually linked. Are you actually accepting affiliates? Also, if you are, will you accept those which are not hosted in Jcink? It'd likely bring in some traffic to network with some of the big, established places out there.Staff
You guys are great, helpful and so friendly. But I hesitate to ask for help here for a few reasons, and I think I'm not the only one with these hesitations. Firstly, there are only two admins. In terms of John I, personally, don't won't to bother him with stuff because I know he's working on developing a lot of cool stuff we're all really excited about. And Crystal, you're so awesome and friendly and helpful, but you're just one person. It's not, in the slightest, your fault that you can't be expected to do everything, but when the two of you are both busy this place comes to a grinding haul, and I think it really arrests the development of what this could blossom into.
In addition I only see a handful
of other mods who are all great in their own right, but who aren't recognizable names to me in the RPing world. That's not a big deal on it's own, but it would be nice to see at least one mod, if not two, with a clear focus for every section (graphics / coding / writing / security / directory). I think that will mean more contest participation (as we get to know, rely on, and get comfortable with different individuals) and people who are more willing to ask questions because they know there will be someone to answer them. I think that addressing your staff like this and condensing the board a little / switching things up to make them more intuitive will increase membership and loyalty to this resource site, and it would mean less members would fall through the cracks.
Also, I know that maintaining running lists is a lot of maintenance but I know stuff like 'a list of all accepted codes' or 'a list of all writing documentation' or 'a list of all current challenges' would be put to good use. A small blurb at the top of the page or in the sidebar any time there was a poll would likely stir up more activity for those things too. Anyway, it looks like I wrote a novel when I intended to write a note. Let me reiterate - I love the service and I think this place is a great help. I think it's a solid service the way it is, I just thought I'd make note of the few little things I think could stand some switching around. I understand if you don't implement any of this, and thanks for your time in reading it.