August 11, 2009
Topic description basically says it all, but I'll go into detail anyway.
I work for an online community which revolves around gaming and a very important part of it is the Forum, which has to be customisable, user-friendly, capable of numerous functions and upgradable with as little possible expense as possible in terms of money, time and man-power. Accordingly, we've evaluated and switched Forum software a number of times to find one that meets our needs and has decent support. Our most recent move was to Simple Machines Forum – SMF for short – and we've found it to be just perfect for fulfilling all the criteria above, with a few modifications to add extra functionality that our community expects; which has us all smiling. However, I personally have issue with one part of SMF that quite annoys me; and I wondered if anyone may know of a solution.
To put it quite simply, the ability in SMF to manage your friends, as of the latest version 2.0.2, is incredibly inefficient and non-intuitive. First of all, to add a friend, one has to visit the profile of each person they wish to befriend and click a link labelled "Add to Buddy List"; this gets tedious if you have a large number of friends who have joined the Forum, not to mention the link is not always easy to notice.
The other annoying part is in managing your current Friends List. In SMF, it is possible to rearrange the order of your friends in the list; the specified order by the user defines details such as which friends appear as examples of who a user's friends are on the user's Profile (SMF by default shows the six at the top of the list; an add-on we have called Ultimate Profile allows this to be changed to between 3 and 12 with the option to view a "My Buddies" page which shows all of them in the order specified). The problem here is the re-ordering controls are seriously bad. The method to reorder entries involves simply moving each entry up or down in the list until it's in the position you desire; however this involves clicking an "up" or "down" button several times until it's in the position you want; you are not able to move an entry several places at a time, which is also tedious. In addition, the actual positions of the entries appear to be stored as numbers in the database; the problem is it's possible after adding several friends and changing positions continually for the order in the DB to not go 1-2-3-4-5 etc; but for two or more entries to share the same number, which can result in an entry moving to completely the wrong place on reordering it or for entries to even swap around when one shouldn't move at all – I've personally observed this a number of times. Quite frankly, I'd consider the ability to specify positions by self-numbering them or an AJAX drag-and-drop system to be much more intuitive.
These are really personal problems; I'm yet to see other members of the community complain about these experiences (maybe because few people actually seem to use their Friends Lists very actively or are just more tolerable than myself) – however, it's beginning to seriously annoy me. I wonder, therefore, if anyone would be aware of a MOD, script or other tool which allows the friend system in SMF to be changed to a manner much more intuitive and manageable for a person like me. Could anyone suggest one?
Thanks in advance for your time.
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