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Rethinking the ACP home page

Started by Arantor, May 28, 2022, 06:25:58 PM

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Quote from: Antechinus on May 28, 2022, 06:22:17 PMIMO that whole page is pretty much pointless. There's nothing here that isn't handled on other pages.

I'd argue that it's an improvement on the 2.0 admin home, which had a partial subset of the admin functions shown there. At least 2.1's actually shows the admin functions.

Would anyone like a tour of what other platforms show as their admin home page for inspiration?

(Also, maybe split this to a new thread?)


Sure, go ahead with the tour. But I wasn't arguing that it was not an improvement on 2.0.x admin home (which I think it pretty pointless too). I was just saying that it's a page that does not really do anything much. It's basically an intermediate stop, on the way to where you actually want to be to do some actual admin work. The only thing it is really useful for is new patch notices, which IMO would be better handled in index.template.php, like the maintenance mode notices.

Sir Osis of Liver

Been playing with this.  I don't know....
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley." - Robert Burns

Sir Osis of Liver

Hmm, I've removed Support and Credits from sidebar menu as posted above in Admin.php, it's redundant.  What will that do to mobile view?
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley." - Robert Burns


As promised, first up a tour of ACP home pages: Flarum, MyBB, IPS, vB 3/4/5, Woltlab, XF, Vesta, Sngine

Flarum - ACP dashboard gives you a headliner graph for showing off the current state of the forum and whether it's growing (or not), then has signposting and big chunky icons pointing to the... same as the sidebar, each of the big icons points to the area for each plugin (because in Flarum each major feature that you see listed is really a plugin)

IPS - the ACP dashboard is probably the most comprehensive on offer; it's a dashboard made up of blocks which you can add on demand and rearrange to suit. The navigation is also pretty well organised given how much functionality the full IPS suite really pushes on offer.

MyBB - server versions, MyBB news, admin notes. Sound familiar?

vb3 - frames! Honest to goodness frames! Also, server versions, admin notes, admin search, credits.

vb4 - lots borrowed from vb3, and lots of news stuff (I must have nuked the news in vb3 some time ago), extolling the virtues (hah) of vBulletin 5. Otherwise basically looks the same as vB 3's admin panel except with more/different navigation because this is the CMS edition.

vb5 - a more modern take, but the same information presented the same way - server versions, admin notes, admin search, credits.

Woltlab - news from Woltlab, and everything else is in the sidebar navigation. Minimal, and possibly even less useful.

XF - user search, graph showing the general progress of things, big icons pointing at key ACP areas (maybe for mobile use when the sidebar isn't practical), server environment/versions, some high level stats about engagements, admins online, file health (XF keeps a list of all the files it ships with, complete with a record of what the file's content should be). Note also that there is an admin search function squirrelled away in the top right corner that is unified (one search for settings, templates, language strings)

Vesta - one almost no-one here will have heard of, but that's OK. It's a forum written by an ex-SMF modder (that never hung around here, found the community too toxic, ironic given their own community) specifically for RP purposes. Some similarities to StoryBB, some differences. But again, admin notes are pretty prominent. Also that *hideous* turd-brown colour.

Sngine - it's not a forum, I know, but it's a social network platform (basically, your own micro Facebook, but less nice). I only just got access to a test site, so I thought I'd quickly throw in a comparison. Again, metrics and graphs are the key focus of the day, even if they are presented in a way I personally don't like much. And yes, the sidebar really is that long. It's... not ideal.

Some immediate thoughts:

* it interests me how only MyBB actually tries to fuse its navigation. I'm not sure if I gave MyBB a different theme if it would carry across but it at least looks like the default theme. It's the only platform reviewed here that actively looks like it's consistent. Flarum, IPS and WBB are at least thematically consistent but not *really* reusing structural items. They're full screen admin areas with maybe a link and some menu navigation to take you back to the main platform.

* I am interested how many platforms ship with some kind of admin notes widget.

* It's interesting to note how the more modern and explicitly 'more professional' platforms (XF, IPS) go in for having dashboards showing metrics and stats about the community, while older platforms devote large amounts of space to news. I should note that IPS and XF do devote space to updates but it's mostly banners at the top of the admin area when relevant telling you there is an update if a) there is an update and b) your licence is suitably up to date to receive it. (In XF's case the warning is about your licence having expired. I don't remember what the IPS one says.)

* It also interests me how all the platforms went in for sidebar navigation. I think IPS's 'two tier' (that isn't really two tier) navigation is surprisingly effective, e.g. we're on the System section here and you can see that we're on Overview > Dashboard within that. I think there is quite a lot of discovery here given how much functionality needs to be exposed (again, this is the full IPS suite). MyBB is also interesting by going down the tabs+sidebar route, as opposed to everyone else who seems to have gone down the route of sidebars that open out (a lot like SMF).

What would I do with this?

* Ditch everything on the SMF ACP homepage. As @Sir Osis of Liver and @Antechinus have pointed out, it's fluff that you don't really need. I might add that the point was made unnecessarily often, I heard you after the first few dozen times it was whined about.

* Following on from the above, I'd completely rethink how admin notifications of updates were handled. I'd also ditch the 'serve SM files' setup so that raw JS isn't handling this - I'd have the file be a JSON blob indicating the current version, parse that server side and if there is a new version I don't have, display it as a banner. Maybe even an alert to admins that there's an update pending.

* I'd build a dashboard out of blocks (as I outlined, I'd build a solid block system into the fabric of everything), and I'd fashion the ACP to have an overview of the state of the system - graph showing history of maybe 30 days' worth of posts/registrations. (I'd also gut the stats page and all its associated fluff and move it into the ACP.)

* I'd add an admin notes block. This is more complex than on other platforms because for the most part the assumption is 'an admin can see the entire ACP', there's surprisingly little partitioned permissions support. They operate on the principle of 'an admin is an admin', so notes visibility is less complicated. I'd probably set it up so that 'anyone who can see any part of the ACP can see the notes block' by default and let the admin change block visibility if that's not appropriate.

* Probably make the admin search more prominent - it currently sits in a visual blind spot. But I'd also beef it up to include things like language strings and maybe even members. Probably not the online manual option though.


Autocorrect is my worst enema.


My 2c: XF is the most visually appealing, but the IPS menu is more functional.


Note that the XF menu is expandable (I just didn't picture it, nor did I picture the very-big-menu that the cog icon shows) because I wanted to focus more on the ACP homepage itself.

It was just that navigation was bound to turn up in passing while we were looking at the ACP homepage especially if we're going to talk about duplication or, rather, deduplication of function.


This is going to come down to personal preference, but I've been thinking that I might just make the admin drop in the main menu have links to the main sections of admin, and simply not bother with the admin home page at all. Although obviously I would have to do that in conjunction with a better way of displaying upgrade/patch notices (index.template.php FTW).

Sir Osis of Liver

My feeling has always been that ACP should be strictly business, no frills, but I think there should be an ACP homepage.  Sidebars work best for me, loading into adjacent panel.  Just need to fill the panel with something useful until a menu option is selected, that's what I've tried to do here.  Only mobile device I use is 7" tab (my reader), it displays the panel content with dropmenus across top, looks ok and works fine.  Can't see the menus in FF phone emulations, touch features don't work.

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley." - Robert Burns


That's kind of the point of this topic, to establish what would be useful to have on the ACP front page...

Sir Osis of Liver

Well, the version info is a nobrainer, that's essential information and often needed here in support.  Nobody reads the news, but it's a nice feature and could be updated more frequently, and fills some space.  Support resources would be helpful to new admins.  Never looked at it before, maybe could use some cleaning up.
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley." - Robert Burns


Don't you think its odd though that only the older platforms bother to include news as a big ol' chunk of their ACP homepage?

Note that a big banner about "you have an update" is separate from the "here are the last updates we think you'll love to read every time you come into the admin panel" and that the newer platforms don't have that self-promotional blurb.

Sir Osis of Liver

You'd have to come up with something new, then.  Only other thing that's currently in ACP that I didn't use is credits, which isn't particularly useful.  Really just a matter of filling space until a menu option is selected, or using one (Features and Options, Server Settings?) as homepage.
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley." - Robert Burns


Go read post #4. I compared and contrasted other platforms, and outlined what I thought. When I wrote it, of course, it was the first post in the topic.


Here's an idea: make the package manager, or the news, the home page. Package manager is what you will want for patches or mods. News is something you are likely to use even if the rest of the forum is ticking along nicely.

IOW, instead of trying to think of (probably superfluous) stuff to fill an empty page, just start with a page that already does something useful, and add a couple of extra handy bits to it.


OK, so taking the time to actually look at what everyone else does and go 'hmm, I wonder why they do it that way' was a waste of time, especially when looking at applications that put things on there that aren't available elsewhere and don't use it for plugins or upgrades.


I was thinking of a quick and easy option for SMF as it stands*, not a complete rewrite for a future version of SMF. Complete rewrites are a whole 'nother issue.

XF's content looks to be the most useful, out of those examples, although the duplication of the main menu sections (as "blocks") could be skipped.

*This in response to Sir Osis.


I was talking about features for the next version, hence this being in the Feature Requests board.


Yes, I know, but there was a comment inserted about working with SMF as it stands, so I made a suggestion for him. :)

For future features: I'd be inclined to use something "nuts and bolts", like SMF version info + PHP info (and maybe) + load balancing. Stuff that is going to be needed in a hurry, when it is needed.

Things like stats and graphs I'd be inclined to put in a standard admin section (wherever they fit best). Which could work with your idea of ditching the standard forum stats page (because frankly, who cares 99% of the time?) and bunging that somewhere in admin.