Read Tracking and other Enhancements
Next Major Upgrade - Version 4
The next major release, 4.0, is scheduled to be released the end of Q3 ~ Q4 this year. There are a lot of new features and enhancements that are aimed to greatly improve the user experience.
I am going to discuss one of the important enhancements we have planned for version 4.0 here:
Read tracking - effectively remembers user's read history
One of the common complaints I receive for version 3 (and all previous versions) is that the Message Read Tracking mechanism is not good enough. The way we track the message read history now only records the activity for your current session (visit).
This mechanism is effective when you usually read all the latest messages every time you log on to the forum, or you leave your browser open after occasional browsing.
The problem with the current implementation is that users don't usually have the time to read all messages at once, or remember to leave browser open after browsing
Also, if you come back to the forum after closing the browser, but before your previous session times out (typically a user's session times out after 30min of inactivity), all your read history will be erased, meaning you will see all posts you have read previously marked as New again. This behavior is not intuitive and usually makes users think something is wrong.
In Version 4, we will implement tracking on the server side to address the above concerns. The new mechanism will
- Remember exactly what you have and have not read;
- Works even if you close the browser, explicitly log out of the forum, or log on to the forum using a different device (iPhone)or computer;
- Correctly show the New Message indicator for forums containing unread messages. Currently, even if you have read every message in a forum, you still need to mark the forum "read" manually to turn off the New Message indicator;
- Will not have performance impact on the forum software (but will require a bit of space because we need to track history using database);
This new implementation is sure to make users happy and more "productive" without them having to guess what they have (have not) read previously.
One of the areas we spent a lot of efforts on for the next version is the User Interface. Based on the user feedback we've received over the years, we specifically want to make the software more intuitive to use and take the guesswork out for new (less experienced) forum users.
I will discuss several of the UI improvements we have for Version 4 in the next post.