Developing Luna #4 – Designing Luna

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Compared to ModernBB, Luna will feature an all new design. We’re working hard on this part of the software, as it will be an unique feature to Luna. We want Luna to be different from other board software, design is an obvious part of that, after all, it’s the first thing people see. And I can tell you, for boards, Luna will get a quit unique design. Scroll down for a TL;DR.

Boards have come a long way, nothing is doubting that. There is only 1 thing that botters me a bit. Here, have a look at phpBB as it looked like 12 years ago:

PhpBB_2_0

This is phpBB 2.0. Now, take a look at how ModernBB, and board software in general, look like today:

software

Does somebody notice something? I do. Let me give you a hint: look for the differences. Well, you’ll have a hard time, because except for the fact that it is supporting a different design, there are no differences. We’re 12 year further, and yet, nothing changed. In fact, if I was able to find a phpBB 1.0 installation, it wouldn’t make a difference either. Idem dito for basicaly every board software out there.

It’s still what it is: index with categories, forums, topics within the forums and posts within the topics. Further we have a statistics panel at the bottem, a menu with the userlist, search, admin panel and profile, and a heading with logo and additional actions. It is a design that has proven it works, yet there are better ways to do this. Just take a look at the index and realize, how useless that page is. What does it display? Categories and forums, and the last active topic in each forum, and for the people that are actual able to remember for each forum how many topics and posts there are in, they can calculate the difference at their next visit.

Seriously. We can do better?! The index page can be much more usefull. For example, display recent active topics right there! Not just 1 for the each forum. As many as you would like for every forum! For example, the 20 most recent topics for the whole board, on the front page. The categories and forums can be resized to a sidebar where you can use them, kind of, like filters.

Yes, we can do much better. And we will do much better with Luna. When designing this, I decided to not even give other forum software a glance, not even ModernBB, to come up with a fresh design, that might just work. And I think I’ve got one. Now, I’ve never made a mock-up of it, so the screenshots you’re about to see are HTML and CSS based things already! Also, keep in mind that you’re going to look at screenshots from the 0.0.4 milestone, they are a lot, but finished isn’t one of them. We barely have some design, this is more to show you guys what you can expect in the future.

Let’s kick off with a planned new feature that is coming to Luna, the notification center.

notifications

Gasp! A notification center (in recent builds, it completely different)? Yes, indeed. The notification center will be responsible for keeping track of everything that happens within Luna. For admins and moderators, it will show for example, when an user alters a settings and which one it is. It’s for admins also a kind of action list, showing  what which person did. Bans, reviews, posts, everything is listened. Luna will also warn for updates in this view and tell you when something isn’t right.

That for the feature, the reason we’re here, however, is the design. As you can see, some elements may look familiar. Especialy when you’re using the ModernBB 3.5 dev version from GitHub or visit this site – which you are. The design of the menu is mostly copied from our ModernBB.be style sheet. Notice also that this is front-end, the Mainstage. The grey box at the right hand side of the menu is the notification idicator, by the way.

For Luna, we’re currently going with a simple flat design. It sure can use some improvement and we’re working on that. And again, this isn’t final stuff, the above screen might look completely different by the time we release Preview 1, let alone Luna final.

When you’re writing a new thread, you get a page with some options and so in ModernBB. In Luna, we revamped an aweful lot of this design, our goal was to make it simple, more minimalistic. And we managed to get to that goal quit well. Have a look.

newthread

This, my friends, is the design of the new thread page from Luna. As you can see, it’s quit different from ModernBB. First of all – I’m going to ignore the header, it’s not finished yet – did we remove the breadcrumbs. It’s now a back button, that returns you the the section you are posting in. There isn’t a home button anymore, for the fact that the section this button sends you to is part of the home page. When the page is loaded, the “Subject” field is selected by default so you can start typing the subject. As you can see, most of the panel that is the editor in ModernBB, doesn’t exist in Luna.

We kept the toolbar in the same order as it is in ModernBB, no reason to reinvent the wheel here. However, you might notice the button at the begin of the bar. This button makes a pinned thread, the replacement for a sticky topic. This used to be an option with a checkbox in a option menu below the post panel in ModernBB. This panel is, as you can see, gone. For the footer of the post panel, the Preview and Submit button are replaced to the toolbar, the back button has been removed, as your browser has this build in, and the BBCode indicators are also gone – for the simple reason that there is no BBCode – yet – in Luna. Result is a fresh looking design. Quick post – or “Comment” like we call it now – has a similar design.

user

Alright ladies and gentlemen, our next stop, the redesigned “Users” page, previously better known as the User list. For the sake of color, I added an avatar to my profile in this screenshot. Here, you can see an feature that actualy works. This page does load data from a database – a ModernBB test drive database. The User list as seen in ModernBB has a list of users, showing avatar, username, group, posts and registration date. As you can see, the new cards in the Users page displays exactly the same information, but much better, cleaner, and more users fit on this page. Which is nice. (Also, the ModernBB placeholder avatar is the only file from the ModernBB core that is in Luna) Anyway, as you can see, the search feature has been reduced to a single bar, no, it’s not capable of doing what the old search feature could do (can do, in fact), but those additional settings will return in a later update to Luna, as we told you guys before.

Talking about search, why isn’t there a “Search” option in the navbar? Well, we’re going to do search differently from what you might have gotten used to in ModernBB. Each page will feature a search bar (at least, in the default design). Index, threads, sections, they all will have their search features ready at any given time. The Users and Profile pages will have search bars to look up users. Advanced search won’t be returning to Luna, it’s not planned for now. We hope to make the new simple search a better engine to search with. In fact, I have to tell you guys, that the search function in Preview 1 will only tell you that you can’t search in that version of the preview. The ability to search on the board – you can search for users – will be added in a later version.

TL;DR: Luna is getting an awesome, fresh and clean design that evolves boards, none of the screenshots feature final design! Have fun!

TL;DR2: Screenshots are from an early concepts and design is mostly changed already.

Developing Luna #3 – Features

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When we write forum software from the ground up, I think you can expect that not all features of our current ModernBB will be available in Luna. Sure, we will try to get everything up as good as possible, but we can’t bring you everything at once. That’s why I show you guys which features will be available when and which won’t. This are only front-end features from Mainstage and Backstage.

Features that have been replaced

  • Categories – replaced with section groups
  • Forums – replaced with sections
  • Topics – replaced with threads
  • Posts – replaced with comments
  • Add a reply – merged with Quick post
  • Topic labels (moved, sticky, closed) – replaced with ThreadStatus
  • Sticky topics – replaced with pinned threads
  • Style engine
  • Subscribe – replaced with starred

Major features new to Luna that do not appear in ModernBB

  • Notification center
  • Login from every page (available in Preview 1)
  • Search everywhere (available in Preview 1)
  • Threaded view (available in Preview 1)
  • Reading list

Features from ModernBB that won’t be available in Preview 1 but will be added later in development stage

  • Search board
  • First run
  • Cookie bar
  • Support for databases other then MySQL

Features that won’t be available until Luna 1.1

  • Advanced search for user list

Features that won’t return

  • Redirect topics
  • Show emoticons as text in this topic
  • Forum view
  • Views per topic and related settings
  • “Moderated by” listening and related settings
  • Statistics panel and related settings
  • “Check for updates everytime the Backstage is visited”-setting
  • StopForumSpam integration
  • Advanced search

Developing Luna #2 – Introduction

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A couple of days ago, we announced Luna. Today, I’ll kick of a series of blog posts about the progress we’re making. As you know, we do not develop Luna in public, no worries, it will end up being open source. Just not yet. We’re developing Luna behind the scenes, and are making progress. Today, I want to talk about some basic stuff.

How this is going to work
Once again, we develop Luna 1.0 Preview 1 behind the scenes, away from Git, away from GitHub. As soon as we think we’ve got something worth showing off, we’ll do so. In fact, that’s probably the point where we hit Preview 1. Starting from that point, we will start developing Luna in the ModernBB repository in a branch we will call “luna1.0” or “lunastable”. Then, all of you can follow us on our progress in development. We will rename the ModernBB repository to Luna as soon as Luna goes stable (to prevent conflicts with ticket numbers).

After Preview 1, we’ve planned another couple of previews, we do not know yet how many there will be before we hit beta. Neither do we know how many betas there will be before we hit Release Candidate. Neither do we know how many Release Candidates there will be before we hit final. That’s up to the future. But again, you’ll be able to follow every singe commit we make from that point on!

Versioning
When it comes to versioning, we’re not out of it if we are going to use a X.Y.Z scheme, and X.YY scheme or an X.Y.BBBB scheme. For some examples on those 3 schemes:

Versioning Example Description
X.Y.Z 3.4.1 The versioning scheme we’re now using for ModernBB. And the scheme we’re making a mess of, Z releases should only contain bugfixes, yet since 3.3, they also contain small feature improvements… A feature update should require Y to go up by 1, or X.
X.YY 1.72 A version scheme, similar to what Sony uses for its PlayStation Firmware updates. Allows small updates without breaking non-written rules. Yet not every version bump is clear. Feature updates require YY to go up to the next number devidable by 5, 10 or 50, depending on the update size.
X.Y.BBBB 6.3.9600 A version scheme, similar to what Microsoft uses for much of its products. Build numbers don’t indicate anything when it comes to how large an update can be. This gives us more freedom, through it might become a little bit confusing. Feature updates don’t require X and Y to go up, through.

We want to go with a rapid release schedule for Luna, and the first one doesn’t apply for that very well. Both other version don’t do so either. The second one because numbers would go up to the sky, the second one because build numbers might not be the clearest things in the world when it comes to versioning.

Just like ModernBB, we’ll have a codename ready for every release of Luna. We will get ourselfs something more decent through, instead of our current random choise of names. More on that when we’re going for version 1.1 (or 1.10 in case of the second versioning schedual).

Releasing updates and support
As said above, we’re going for a rapid release schedual. We’re going for a monthly release, thus you should see us release at least 12 updates a year (not including patches, they can be released whenever they’re ready). With this, we hope to get you guys the latest and greatest features when we’ve got them for you. This means, however, that there might come a time that we only have bugfixes and small improvements ready after a month of hard work. Or that we’re having fun with major features in a development branch. Due to this, we will only support our latest release, and nothing else.

Design
When it comes to design, Luna will be totaly different from ModernBB. We’re going with a nice, flat and clean design. I’ll share some screenshots of the new design in the future, I’m also planning to talk with you guys about design too! Keep an eye on our blog here and on Twitter! What you have to know is that we took the ModernBB design, and simplyfied it even more, it will look awesome!

But I do understand it if you want to give it your own design, that’s kind of the point. That’s why we will be working on an advanced – more functional – styling engine. We want to give you more freedom. Luna won’t work with templates anymore, like ModernBB does today. This is also something we will spend some serious time about in a blog post for the future.

Website
As we might end the usage of the ModernBB brand, we might also move our website to an address to reflects the new name of the software, which we should have found by the lanuch of the first preview. For the website itself, we are already working on an updated website. Major changes will be done to the documentation, which will get its own separate website. For the websites structure, not to much will change.

Developing Luna #1 – Announcing Luna

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A while ago, I posted a tweet on Twitter, showing you guys my desktop wallpaper. I announced that something was “coming soon”. That was, perhaps, a little bit too optimistic. Anyway, I think regular visitors are familiar with the name “Luna”. It has been a codename for a while here, first planned for ModernBB 2.5, then for 3.0, then a complete rewrite and start from scratch, then back to 4.0 and then to 3.5. Anyway, it didn’t stay at 3.5, as it is now, again, the codename for version 4.0. Or 5.0, it depends how long development will take. Through we are also considering to go back to 1.0. That’s why Luna is currently developed in the 0.x-branch.

And today, I’m happy to announce that we are working on the next generation of ModernBB, named Luna. Before we get started about this – you’re about to read an awful long text about this project – I want to say that we will keep working on ModernBB 3.x. Our recent release, ModernBB 3.4 is prove of that , through most of our attention will start going to Luna from today on. We’ve still planned some updates for ModernBB 3.x, so stay tuned on that, more information will follow.

Hit it
So, lets kick of the future! Luna will be a major update. This means that the whole codebase will be changed, so will the interface, both Mainstage as Backstage. We will not use the current Random-styles and Aurore 5 for those 2 components respectively. The good news, however, is that Luna will be able to understand your ModernBB 3.x database. Or much of it. Luna will require some serious changes to the database., and because of this, we will only support upgrading to Luna from the latest version of ModernBB 3. This is currently ModernBB 3.4.1, but can Always change, of course.

Luna will provide you and your forum’s users a brand new experience, focused on communication and social interaction. And this is kind of the reason I post this here today. On the following part, we want some feedback. Luna will not use the concept of “categories, forums, topics, posts” anymore. Instead, the index will provide you and your users an overview of threads from all sections (threads are the replacement for topics, sections for forums). Threads will be labeled with a nice colorful label to show from what section they come. Clicking on a thread’s name, will bring you into this thread.

Of course, you can filter easily on a per-section base by clicking the sections name. The section and index view allow you to see which topics are closed, solved, pinned, followed by you, how many comments they have and who started the thread. The main page, will in fact contain more of a log of what’s going on on the forum. Who logged in, what’s the newest topic, what’s the newest post, etc. Sections will function close to this (but this is a feature that isn’t planned for the first Preview).

Threads will have a horizontal design by default (means: profile information above posts instead of left or right). This gives us more space to show more content, like the sections list, which will be always visible inside the index, section and thread views. The new thread view allows us to build in a new feature, “threaded subjects”, which means that posts can be nested into each other. It’s another way to quote someone without having to copy the actual text. A “threaded” view is optional, and we will allow to use the traditional view like it is today, with only one level of posts.

Profiles
Luna will provide a completely redesigned profile. For starters, we will put more focus on the content the user has created on the forum, both threads and posts in threads made by others. We will also add a nice view to follow up on the topics and posts you have starred. Luna will also provide updated personality settings, like new social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and more. We do consider the ability for other users to comment on peoples profiles.

The settings, both personality as board settings, will get a separate file in the structure of Luna. It will have an updated design, through mostly work in the same way as ModernBB 3.4 does today. The administration for the users will happen here to, and contains some new useful features.

Backstage
Once again, the Backstage will be present in Luna. Through redesigned and build from the ground up as well. We’re planning to make the Backstage a more modular setting page, allowing developers to add new abilities to it without the need to  modify the actual Luna Core. This redesign will be familiar to you, as it will be based on our website’s design (ModernBB 3.5 also has a design similar to ModernBB.be). The function of the Backstage, will not change – there isn’t much to change, it’s meant to manage, nothing more, nothing less – through we will provide new possibilities, of course.

Installation and upgrade path
The installation of Luna will be similar to that of ModernBB, through I’m now planning to make it a 3-step installation (making the database connection, making user, basic settings). If you want to upgrade from ModernBB to Luna, you’ll have to update the the latest version of ModernBB. For now, the preview supports updating from ModernBB 3.4.0, 3.4.1, 3.4.2 and 3.5-dev. This will change in the future. As soon as 3.5 is released, support for upgrading from 3.4 will be dropped. So you’ll have to be on the final version of ModernBB to upgrade to Luna.

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s a lie, I’ve not been asked anything about Luna, especially not “frequently”, but I can imagine some of you wanting answers on this anyway:

Where can I download Luna?
Nowhere, you can’t. I’m currently developing Luna on my PC, away from GitHub, away from Git, for the matter.

When will you put this on Git? When can we try it out?
I’ll put it on Git (and thus GitHub) as soon as I think I’ve got something worth looking at. That will probably be the same day I release Luna Preview 1. Preview 1 is planned for late Summer 2014.

When will we get a final release?
I can’t tell you. There is a lot of work to do. Preview 1 will contain just basic features, nothing to fancy. Starting from that point, we will have to build up most of ModernBBs current abilities. When I think we’re there, I’ll release the final build.

How many development releases will there be?
I don’t know yet, through for now, I want 3 alphas out (Preview), 3 betas, 2 RCs and the final build. This can take a while, I can’t tell how much time will be put between those releases.

What about future updates for ModernBB 3 & ModernBB 1.6?
We’re planning to support ModernBB 3 after the release of Luna for another 6 months. Of course, you shouldn’t expect any feature updates anymore. As soon as Luna hits RC, we will round up our feature development in ModernBB 3. As you also know, we are currently developing an update to ModernBB 1.6, our very old – and very first – release. Version 1.6.6 is supposed to be the final release (which wasn’t planned in the first place). So don’t expect any updates at all after 1.6.6.

And Luna?
For Luna, we will add more frequently new features, we’re not out of how we’re going to do this, because the current X.Y.Z versioning would make our numbers go crazy. We’re looking into using X.YY version numbers for the future, but that will be decided later on.

Stop with that “Luna” thing, just call it “ModernBB 4”, why would we need a codename?
First of all, this isn’t ModernBB 4. Also, I like codenames for stuff. Like we had Blythe, Zoe, Odd, Mellow, Vanellope, Neon and Kate in the past, Luna is one of them too. What do I mean with “this isn’t ModernBB 4”? Well, I’m not sure if I want to keep hanging on ModernBB as a brand. Sure, the software is now known under that name, but it sounds like I had a moment of non-inspiration when I thought of that name. And heck, that’s exactly the case. With other words, this major rewrite might bring a rebrand too.

Is Luna this final name, you ask? No, it isn’t. Through it has potential to become the final thing. As you know, there has been a time I wanted to rename the project to “Vanellope”, this name is now out of order for my project. Luna is for now the only candidate, so it might end up being the final name. But then again, “ModernBB 4” is also in the running to become the final name. I guess time will tell. So will the first Preview. By then, the decision should be made.

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