TurnKey Linux Virtual Appliance Library

TurnKey website refreshed

I've just finished updating the TurnKey website with a range of improvements designed to smooth over existing rough spots and better accommodate the needs of the project as it expands with the upcoming release. 

Veteran community members using modern browsers may also notice the site looks just a bit more visually pleasing now. Otherwise I've just been obsessively tweaking the stylesheets for nothing.

Motivation

Part 2 of the release will more than double the number of solutions in the TurnKey appliance library. Up until now the main way to find appliances was to browse by category, but that can be unnecessarily cumbersome with large numbers of appliances and categories.

Unfortunately, the site search wasn't very good either, so for example if you searched for "LAMP", a forum post would often come up instead of the appliance you wanted.

Also, our most active community members complained that navigating the site involved too many clicks, and that the site forums may be lacking the organization required to make sense of the great mass of content within it.

Highlights

Search

  • Front page live appliance search (I had to write a custom Drupal module to do this!)
  • Added search filter to appliance categories
  • Revamped site search
    • replaced core search with Lucene API search
    • give preference to appliance and documentation content over forum posts.
    • allow refinement of search results by content type
    • cleaned up display of search results

Added forum tagging

  • Each post can have multiple free tags. Users and moderators will use this feature to better organize the forum contents.
  • Each tag can be viewed as a "virtual forum" (e.g., tklpatch tag)

That's it in a nutshell regarding this latest crop of changes. Those interested in more detail on how the site works behind the scenes, may want to read the Drupal showcase I published back in January. There have been incremental improvements since then but the basics haven't changed.

As usual, feedback is welcome. Especially if you come across any bugs. Got ideas for further improvements? Share them and it may just end up on my todo list. I'm not done with the website yet!

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Comments

Basil Kurian's picture

Nice improvement

I liked the live search very much . I got one suggestion too . I think the site's brownish theme need to be changed to something more pleasing, which is similar to the new look of Ubuntu 10.10 and 10.04. When i write this the site which came to my mind is http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/ , whose theme is similiar to Ubuntu 's new look. Liraz , are you good at graphic designing too ?


Liraz Siri's picture

I experimented with changing the colors but nothing stuck

Thanks for the feedback Basil! I've been a bit out of touch with the community these last few weeks as all of my TurnKey time was devoted to development in preparation for the upcoming release.

Adrian and JedMesiter also mentioned that the site's brownish theme was getting a bit stale so I took a stab at changing the color scheme, but I couldn't come up with anything I felt was a significant enough of an improvement to warrant the large amount of work that would be involved in changing the design.

To compound matters I'm also red-green color blind so I don't really trust myself to pick colors.

If anyone in the community with actual graphics design skills (and color vision!) wants to take a stab at it, they're more than welcome to try come up with mock-ups (e.g., static HTML or Gimp/photoshop images).

Noticed the refit early this morning. Nice job!

Nice job! Haven't checked whether urls have changed. Should I be changing my links to threads and appliances?

Best wishes,

Rik


Liraz Siri's picture

URLs shouldn't have changed

I changed the URLs to a few internal pages (e.g., community/development => help/dev) but everything else should be the same. Especially the forum links. In general, breaking existing URLs is something I would like to avoid and if it has to be done, it's usually possible to set up redirects so that the old links still work. We did that last year when we changed the URLs of the appliances (e.g., even now http://www.turnkeylinux.org/appliances/lamp still works)

Jeremy's picture

I can't believe that I didn't notice!

I posted a couple of things on the forums before I even realised but now I've read this and had a poke around overall I think it's a great improvement. Here's some feedback:

The Good:

  • Search
    • Front page live search: Nice feature.
    • Weighting: The search feature will be much more useful for newbs now for sure now that when you do a search for 'everything' it prioritises the appliances first then the docs.
    • Quick Search: The drop down is brilliant and intuative!
    • Not sure quite what you did but the results do somehow look 'cleaner', can't quite put my finger on it though.
  • Navigation:
    • Drop downs: As I said before - brilliant!
    • Left sidebar: Better layout.
    • Footer Site Map: Nice touch.
  • Forum tagging;
    • This is awesome! What a perfect solution! It keeps the simplicity of the plain dual forums (general and support) but gives the flexability of countless tag based virtual subforums.

The Bad:

  • Search
    • Forum weighting: I'm not sure how it currently works but the forum search results for generic terms sucks. The first forum hit for 'mediawiki' is a post about a problem from 2009 that was fixed in a subsequent release that year.
    • Advanced search gone!? - I think we want an option for advanced search. I see the stuff in the left bar but I don't think its enough.

& the Ugly:

  • I'm sorry Liraz but the salmon pink background tabs on the front page are horrific! :-p Seriously I think they need to be changed asap! (There is also an outline around the 'Learn More' button in the same colour.)

Ideas:

  • Advanced Search: Be great if we could have an advanced search back, but even better than before.
    • Going on from my complaints about the current search weightings/rankings, I think it'd be fantastic if searchers could rerank the results themselves. A couple of example use scenarios: sorting by date, sorting by number of replies, sorting by containng posts by username.
    • The links (in the left bar) to somewhat refine the search are good but perhaps tags could be used there too - as they are when browsing the forums? I think that would make it more useful.
  • Search Weighting: I think that we should assign values (perhaps use tags?) to differentiate the relevant TKL version the forum thread relates too. It could either be a separate value or could just be a tag. My only concern is that if tagging is used too heavily it will increase the noise thus reducing their effectiveness.
  • Tagging: I would like to see some discussion around the tags and their application. Perhaps even a basic guide to their use so they can stay consistent. I think that will make them a powerful tool. Just to throw a few ideas around re tagging I have started a wiki page.
  • Colour Scheme: We've had this dicussion before :)
  • Spell check for forum posts. Another old favourite gripe of mine :)
Liraz Siri's picture

Good feedback

Thanks for taking the time to provide such a thorough critical review of the changes. The earlier feedback you and Adrian provided was in the back of my mind when I got back to working on the website. A few thoughts:

Regarding "horrific" colors: the salmon pink background tabs on the front page looked perfectly eye pleasing to me. Unfortunately this is exactly the range where my red-green color blindness has the most effect so I'll have to take your word for it that is in indeed terribly ugly to someone with normal color vision. I've tried changing it to use one of the colors in the background but I don't know if I've made things better or worse.

Here's another idea. If you (or someone else) happens to have FireBug installed, you can select the tab and experiment with changing the color to something that looks good to you, then report back.

Search: I'm not really happy with the Lucene API search either. As far as I can tell, there's no easy way to weight by date or the number of comments. It's easy to implement because it's a PHP only solution but ideally we would be using Apache Solr which is more powerful and faster. I'm going to experiment with that in my development box and if all goes well may replace the default search soon.

Advanced search: is a feature of the Core search. It's not available in Lucene API search but we can implement something analogous. For example, it should be possible to add sorting results by date, which I also miss. What other specific search features do you think would be useful?

Tags in search: once we start using tags extensively in the forums I will add a search facet that lets you filter down the results according to tags.

Tagging: I'm not sure how use of free tagging will evolve but part of the beauty of free tagging is that conventions can emerge from the bottom up rather than be imposed from the top. We shouldn't worry too much about the tagging getting unorganized and messy because we have a lot of power in editing and organizing them later on. I think it's easier to make a mess and then clean it up every once in a while than come up with something perfect from the get go. It takes time for this sort of group behavior to emerge though. The need for a list of tklpatches was something I personally felt was necessary so I hunted around for those and added them myself. In the future, if a forum moderator feels it would be useful to provide additional such listing to existing posts, they can edit the forum.

Perhaps it will be intructive to look at how we've been using tags elsewhere. Before introducing them to the forums we've been using tags on the blog and to categorize appliances. In these cases, tags have served two purposes:

1) Finding related content: Tags make it easy to group related content. So if you're interested in reading more posts about django, or seeing other content management systems, you just click on the tag and a list comes up.

2) Describing the current content: supplementing the title, the tags can serve as a nice compact representation of the content. So imagine a post tagged "lamp, apache, security, faq". You know quite a bit about what you can expect to find in there even before you read the title.

Spell checking: I'm looking into this again. The default spell checker that integrated with CKeditor is a third party online service that is often slow and has annoying ads.

Jeremy's picture

No worries :)

I appreciate that you listen and take it on board and/or explain why you do or don't think its a good idea...

Colour: Much better, but I will take you up on your suggestion at some point and have a play with FireBug.

Search: Sounds like we're on the same page there. See what pans out.

Tagging: That all sounds very reasonable. When I get some time I might start having a bit of go taggin some old posts and see how it all goes.

Hey, good work Liraz!

First, it's nice to see you finally giving a bit o love to the site. My first opinions:

- The search at the frontpage ROCKS. It's very nice and powerful. I mean the search of the appliances (your custom drupal plugin?) Good work on that.

- I agree with Jed, that salmon pink background tabs sucks. 

- I still believe the primary navigation links of the site are not ideal. Maybe include appliances at least as a link, that should be the first PRIMARY link, I know the front page has the appliances list, but not always you come from the front page (I usually begin at the forum). More sugestions:

  * FAQ under help.

  * No sublevel for forums (just take them to the forum main entry)

  * Development should be one of the Primary Links.

  * Move the frontpage's about tab to a page under Help -> About (and leave only the benefits)

- The search filter on the appliances library doesn't work as nice as the one on the front page. :( Search Core for example, excelent results on the front page, but on the appliances page I didn't get turnkey core.

Keep the good work! More feedback next year!!! Family's waiting!

Liraz Siri's picture

I'll do a bit more experimenting

Thanks for the feedback Adrian. Looking forward to more!

Navigation: I'll do a bit more experimenting on my dev VM and see how your suggestions regarding navigation work out.

Colors: As I responded to Jed I've tried replacing the colors on the front tab but I don't know if I've made them better or worse for people with normal color vision. If you could play around in FireBug and suggest an alternative color that looks better but is still distinct that would be helpful.

Search: The appliance search filter and the front page filters are implemented in an entirely different way so you're discovery is unsurprising. Anyone that bangs on them enough will discover that they are in fact both imperfect. I'm hoping they're good enough for the time being. Future improvements will probably involve switching out to something entirely different (e.g., a custom module that ties into the Apache Solr API).

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