Reviewed Leaguecraft - League of Legends Fan Site

lllAE86lll

Computer Technician
Joined
Jun 13, 2007
Messages
193
Software Type: IPB
Software Version: 3.1.4
Members: 70,440
Topics/posts count: 286,612

Site Name: Leaguecraft
Site URL: http://leaguecraft.com/ & http://forum.leaguecraft.com/

About: Leaguecraft is a fan website relates to League of Legends, a popular F2P RTS game. Leaguecraft provides guides to the players and further more resources.

I would like to have a full review for my forum community and looking forward suggestion to improve and maximize my forum abilities.

Thank you.
 

Medora

The New Architect
Joined
Feb 8, 2006
Messages
1,999
lllAE86lll

Hi. Your request for a full review is Approved; a Reviewer will review your forum.
 

Medora

The New Architect
Joined
Feb 8, 2006
Messages
1,999
Hi.

As someone not in your target audience, I went to your website wondering if it is for role-play in general, or even a unique role-play system or story. I did not notice an About page, or a topic explaining the website's purpose, though I would not be surprised if I simply overlooked one that should have been apparent enough. Of course, I knew I could just look at your opening post afterward to quickly find the answer, succinctly put:

[noparse]... a fan website relates to League of Legends, a popular F2P RTS game. Leaguecraft provides guides to the players and further more resources.[/noparse]

Again, though, you apparently effectively target your audience and just by reading the title your fans would know what the website is about and rejoice, so why bother with a guest welcome message? Nonetheless, I wonder if you might have a notable percentage of guests stumbling into your website who are not familiar with its subject, and if an opportunity can be utilized to capture their interest and get them involved.

In addition to the summary of the website's purpose quoted above, I am thinking a link to a page with more information about the game. Also, you might link to a few notable topics, including official ones like rules, or maybe a few of those guides or resources you mentioned (please see "Edits and Notes" below for more on this).

Here I go bugging another forum administrator about guest welcome messages. I think these messages are great because they allow you to provide a lot of useful information for the guest all neatly organized in one place, specifically a place guests are likely to notice foremost (such as above the forum listing of the index page, or on a About page well placed on the menu).

Relatedly, I wonder if a guest welcome message might be better use of space than the shoutbox when it comes to guests. Before you think that I am one of those guys who hates shoutboxes and sees no use for them, I assure you that is certainly not the case. In fact, I wrote an article defending their use.

Nonetheless, I think if you are to use a guest welcome message it might be best to hide the shoutbox from view for anyone logged out, so that the forum listing is not pushed farther down, and since the message would do more to entice the guest than the usual interaction taking place in the shoutbox (or so I simply assume). Alternatively, I can see the shoutbox being placed below the forum listing, but my concern is only with the forum listing being pushed down if a guest welcome message is added, and I think that the shoutbox is fine where it is.

In any case, your community is apparently doing well and I do not mean to suggest that a guest welcome message is anywhere near crucial for you. Indeed, your forum will has been and will be successfully building and maintaining community regardless. That in mind, I still think a guest welcome message is not useless even for your website, and that the possibility remains that guests who stumble upon your website not familiar with its subject can be won over most likely with an informative message.

By the way, going back to the shoutbox, I am curious about how frequently it auto-refreshes, if indeed it does. I have a shoutbox at my forum and one of my new members recently posted in it saying that he wonders if the shoutbox may be disabled because his "work tracks our internet hits and this refreshes way too much for me to sustain." That is not a concern I was aware of before that comment, and I was curious if minimizing the shoutbox, which I see is an option for yours too, would have any effect. If not, I suppose the option for each member to disable the shoutbox in his profile would be best, though I have not figured out how to get it to work through the use of user groups.


While on the subject of resource use by the shoutbox, I was at your forum long enough to see the following message appear in place of the posts inside the shoutbox:

We've noticed that you've been inactive for over 10 minute(s).
We've stopped running the Shoutbox due to your inactivity.
If you are back again, please click the I'm Back button below.
I am assuming this measure is to minimize resource use. My understanding is that IP.B provides a professional-quality shoutbox, and indeed that is what I gathered from seeing that same shoutbox at many IP.B forums. However, from this message it occurs to me that I can add to my point earlier about the shoutbox being shown to guests: The shoutbox uses resources, so it might be best to try minimizing the effect, at least to a small degree, but hiding the shoutbox from guests on the index page.

Forms (Sign In, Registration, Etc.)

Now I wish to talk about forms on your forum community. To start, I know IP.B has gone farther than vBulletin3 (the software I am most familiar with) when it comes to providing alternative methods of login (aka one-click login options). Most commonly, I see Twitter and Facebook provided as an option for registration and login, and corresponding buttons are often added both on the index page (right beside the Sign In option), and on the Sign In page (with larger buttons to the right of the form). Besides Twitter and Facebook, I have even seen an option for Google or OpenID login at some IP.B forums.

I do not know if these alternative login options are available as free plug-ins, or if you have to pay for them, as I have never used IP.B. However, if the former, I am wondering if you are against using one-click login options, or if you simply have not thought to add them? (I recall arguments made here at TAZ against the use of one-click login options, so I recommend reading that if you were simply not aware of one-click login options and are interested in using them.)

These one-click options are not a big deal to me and your forum clearly does not need them. However, I wonder for how many potential registrants these features may be convenient for, especially when it comes to Facebook, a websites that, as I mentioned in a previous review, has recently surpassed even Google in popularity.

When it comes to the registration form, it is definitely most interesting to me that you have a customized registration page built into the website that integrated with the forum. (I see someone also had fun with a few of the sentences below the fields, heh.)

As the registration form is to-the-point and only asks for necessary information, my only question is if members are allowed to choose a "display name" (or "login name") in his profile after registering? It is my understanding that IP.B has a built in option that allows members to choose two user names: one that is only used for logging in, and one that everyone sees throughout the forum (with a member's posts, in his profile, etc). Apparently, the use of this feature is that, if a member's password is discovered, he would still have to figure out that member's login name.

That said, I would not mention the absence of this option from the registration form if I did not consider it a useful security feature. I am worried most of all about how many members would not use the feature (if it is present), but would have if the option were included in the registration form.

Since I am talking about the registration form, I am compelled to know: How well as the CAPTCHA been working? Do you still get plenty of spam bots? I never had much luck with CAPTCHA so I instead used a Question & Answer: "Which planet is closest to the sun?"

Speaking of CAPTCHA on a form, I noticed your Contact Us form does not have one. Has this not been a problem? I remember receiving a few spam bot emails from the Contact Us form of my forum before I used the Question & Answer, so I am most curious.

Index Page and Layout

IP.B layouts are so well designed. For your default layout, I like how the Sign In and Register links are apparent as can be by being placed in a well integrated bar above the banner.

I switched to one of your alternative layouts, Brave, and discovered a few notable differences, all of which may be classed as additional features that the designer took liberties to include. For example, the ability to change the background of the banner area, which I assume you took advantage of by choosing a background relating to your subject which gave an aura of fantasy and role-play.

In addition, the More option of the menu, which includes a drop-down for any Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube pages you may have. If you do have a Twitter/Facebook/YouTube page for your website, perhaps you would be interested in adding those links (at this time, the home page for each website is loaded), and placing these links elsewhere in your default layout. Otherwise, it may of course be best to remove the More option of the menu, though that is a trivial issue.

In regard to placement of the Twitter and Facebook links, maybe as a menu option or icons in the header or footer, or included in a block in the sidebar area, which has a lot of space, at least for guests. If in the sidebar, the following video may be helpful, in that it shows such a feature added on xenForo by the designer Miko: [noparse]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxjKlLGsbHk[/noparse] (Notice the buttons on the index page 1 minute into the video.)

What was most notable to me, however, was the presence of a guest welcome message! Although the message is not customized, it includes a neat Register (in a different color for emphasis), Sign In, and Hide Message/Show Message button. I wonder if the guest welcome message, if added to your default layout, could be made to look like that. At any rate, your Brave layout allows you to see right away the look of your index page with a guest welcome message present.

All your regular layouts are dark, but I see that Brave is not as wide, which may appease those who enjoy the benefits of a narrower layout. I see, as per every IP.B forum, you have a layout specifically for people using mobile devices. I believe you have a decent selection of layouts that accommodate many people. I would suggest a light layout, as there are a great many people who prefer one, but I take it that dark layouts are meant to fit the subject of your forum, or that you just do not like to use a light layout.

As another observation about your default layout, I noticed that the descriptions below each forum name on the index page is a dark gray, which is much more difficult to see than the white text almost everywhere else on the index page (e.g., the menu options on the header, the text below the Stats category of the forum listing, the posts in the shoutbox, text in the headers, etc etc). What do you think about the idea of making the description text white, or maybe even just a lighter shade of gray, so that it is easier to read? I believe a lighter shade would not mess with the overall attractiveness of the layout, and may even have the opposite effect (albeit a small one).

The description text is also dark for the Brave and IP.Board layouts. The Brave layout: Since the forum name text is white, though, maybe it would be better to just use a lighter shade of gray? In fact, I noticed that the posts in the shoutbox is brighter than the description text and looks white, yet it is not as light as the white for the user names displayed in the shoutbox. Maybe you can use that color instead? As for IP.Board, I believe white description text would look good.

I know descriptions are not the most important part of the forum by any means, but I believe them notable (especially with the large amount of forums to choose from on the index page) in helping a member find what he is looking for.

Now, if I could be afforded a nitpick about your descriptions before talking about something else: The first word of the description for each forum under the "LeagueCraft Champion Creations" category are not capitalized, whereas the first word for every other forum description is. Also, I am guessing there should be a question mark in the description for the Skin Suggestions forum ("Have a cool idea for a skin Ask for it here!"). I am almost sorry for pointing that out, but I could not help myself, heh.

I would usually advise against so many forums (28, in this case), but your community and amount of content is big, and 19 of your forums have thousands of posts, while 6 of the last 9 have hundreds of posts, so I believe your content and activity well distributed across the forum.

Unfortunately, since I am not knowledgeable about your forum's subject, I cannot hope to competently advise on what forums may be expanded in purpose or merged. For example, I see that most of your forums with the lowest post counts are centered within the Champions category, but out of ignorance I assume those may be important resource forums so it would be silly to suggest Champions be made a forum and everything in the former category be made sub-forums.

Edits and Notes

Earlier I suggested select guides or resources being mentioned and linked to in a guest welcome message. Well, how silly of me to not pay much attention to your home page until now, as I see that several of these guides and resources are listed. In that case, I suppose it might be a good idea to instead mention that these guides and resources are listed on the home page (including a link to the home page) in case a guest stumbled straight into your forum (whether the index page, inside a topic, or elsewhere) and was never aware of your home page.

Speaking of the home page, it occurred to me that it may not be linked to on the forum from the index page. Have you thought of adding a Home tab (next to the options like "Forums," "Members," etc)?

Next, upon viewing the page found in the directory Home > General Game Guides > The world of Tanking!, I noticed a Facebook Connect button! but stumbled upon it quite accidentally because it was not on the home or index page where you would expect to find it. Indeed, it seems many pages do not include the Facebook Connect button or the other options with it in the toolbar found at the top of that "The world of Tanking!" page; not even on the General Game Guides page. Have you thought of adding the Facebook Connect button to your forum index, or on your home page? Perhaps you are just still working on integration?

Anyways, I will now use the review template for the rest of this review. If a category from the template is missing, that is because I covered it above (or made an ultimately feeble attempt to). In addition, I left out the "Theme" category of this review, which has always been a perplexing category for me that I have run out of nonsensical statements to add under (heh).

Logos and Banners: I know nothing of graphic design, so I cannot hope to give good commentary here, and I do not want to give the impression that I know any better. Speaking only as an average guest, then, I like the banner, though I must admit that I prefer to see it on your other layouts.

On IP.Board for instance, the dark blue of the background and border of your banner seems to go with the dark blue on the background of the forum listing, shoutbox, and other area. Also, the Sign In area on the top right means much less empty space in the header area.

On Brave I like how the banner fits even more because its blue background fits the image behind it like glass, and the image provided by the designer makes the header area so lively and strikes me as relevant to the forum's subject (as mentioned earlier).

That said! I think your banner is good the way it is and I do not mean to imply that there is something wrong with it.

As I was typing about your banner the thought occurred to me to ask a friend of mine who is a graphic designer. He also thought the colors could have been made to match, but that the banner is fine as it is. Also, he said it is his preference that he would have placed the blue edge on the opposite side.

Finally, I just paid better attention to your banner on the website and saw that the colors match there. Really fits in and looks neat, and the right side alignment of the blue edge makes more sense.

Advertisements: In "Edits and Notes," I detailed a few discoveries I made about aspects of your forum I already commented on. At the time I discovered the Facebook Connect button and the lists of guides and resources, I also noticed the advertisement banner on the header to the right of the banner (that empty space I complained about), and that tower banner to the right of several pages on your website (excluding the forum). I believe your advertisements are well organized and integrated, and I take no issue with them.

By the way, I assume you intentionally left the forum free of advertisements? When a website uses advertisements I usually see tall banners on the sidebar area, or sponsor ads below the first post of each page of each topic visible only to guests.

Favicon, Buttons, and Other Graphics: I noticed that you have a favicon, and that the default layout has customized new posts/no new posts icons. Also, I see no problem with any of the images. No complaint here.


Feel

Sense of Community and Participation Overview: Even for a forum with almost 300k posts, your
72k+ members strikes me as a huge amount. I noticed that as a guest I am able to view member profiles so I was concerned that there may be plenty of spam accounts created to silently spam by leaving a URL in their profile for search engine bots to pick up for a back link, if I understand how this spamming business works. That said, I do not know if you actually allow for URLs to be included in a profile right after registration, or if they can even be displayed in the profile. I hope they do not.

Since guests are able to view the member list (linked in the menu near the header), I did a search for members with 0 posts, and got 3171 pages of results (20 members per page), and just on the first few pages I noticed that there were no shortage of such accounts in existence for many months. Have you thought to prune members who never post since registration? I know this is easy enough to do in mass on vBulletin3, and I have no doubt that the same can be said about IP.B.

In addition to some of these accounts possibly being used for silent spamming, they also represent a waste of space, and your forum does not need an inflated member count when a much smaller community being responsible for almost 300k posts speaks much louder about its strength and health.

As for the quality of content and interaction at your forum, I looked at topic after topic after topic in most of the forums to gauge that, and found several detailed posts and no shortage of meaningful interaction between members (more important than the length of posts, obviously). Also, I noted that it was hard to spot topics without replies. No complaint here.

As a final step, I look at your activity level and see that you have 30 members with over 1000 posts, and 10 with over 2000. This in a forum of almost 300k posts. When thinking about this level, I compare my own of 55k+ posts, and that there are 11 members over 1000 posts, 4 over 3000. Now when I look at the members with hundreds of posts we both have plenty. Conclusion: You have done well to garner activity.

Postcount and Quality: See above. I saw a rich amount of meaningful interaction between members, and the expected percentage of active members for a community.

Contests, Games, and Diversions: The home page alone is clearly a treasure trove of extras for members. IP.B supports profile visitor comments and a shoutbox, which is notable because it increases the means of interaction between members in the forum
—always good to see. I also see evidence of a cash system because of the "Economy" option on the menu on the index. Finally, several sections on the index page may be thought extras for members, such as the Skins Corner section with its custom skins and modifications. I believe you have this category covered.

Management

Points of Registration: I complemented the high visibility of the registration link on the header, and also that a customized form was created on the website and integrated with the forum. I noticed also the registration link on the website login page in addition to the forum login page.

If you choose to include a guest welcome message on your Carbon and IP.Board layouts, I think it is another good place to add a registration button like that shown in your Brave layout. Another idea would be a box below each topic (in appearance much like that box showing who is browsing a topic, and showing the currently active users) with a short message encouraging registration. My thought is that a lot of guests are going to spend time going through topics, and may be enticed by knowing there is a link to registration at the bottom of each page of the topics they are going through.

Rules, FAQ, and Privacy Policy: Hard to miss rules posted as an announcement. I like how your rules were organized, including bulleted lists and descriptive titles highlighted in red.

Quickly saw the IP.B FAQ linked as Help on the top of the forum beside Register Now! I did not notice an official FAQ detailing specifics about how your particular community works, but I believe your Help & Support/Bugs forum sufficient for that purpose.

As for privacy policy, I never much cared for this as I only ever ran a stand-alone, general discussion forum, or the last type of website where people would care a great deal about such a policy. I would not hold it against you to not bother with a privacy policy, but it is simple enough to create one if you want to inform that notable minority who are interested about how their information is used on your website. I created a privacy policy because several members wondered about how information was used. If members of your forum have likewise asked about it perhaps a link to one can be included in the footer so you can just point to it.

Quantity and Activity of Staff: I wonder if you thought I would look at all the administrators you have and scream that there are too many. Well, I have three fellow administrators at my forum. Why so many fellow administrators? Partnerships? Have guys focused on the website with admin access just in case? Just great friends you knew a long time and trust dearly and want to be able to handle administrative duties in case of others being absent? I am thinking probably the latter, or something else, as every administrator is over 1000 posts except the one with almost 400. I looked at the profiles of your many super moderators and saw similar activity.

With so many guys running the show, I think it would be cool for you guys to have a topic stickied in the introduction forum where each of you talk about yourselves, how you got involved in the forum, and what you do (e.g., maybe one administrator is more about technical stuff instead of community management). Or maybe such a page is another thing I missed by not paying attention to the home page (heh)?


Overall Impressions

Great home page; lots of articles listed for viewing, a lot of resources at your finger tips, and all of it well organized. If I had a suggestion about the articles listed on the home page it would be for content from these articles (i.e., guides, resources, latest topics, etc) to be shown on that page to further entice viewers to dig in, much like is done for the home page of AboveTopSecret.com.

You chose a good forum software and have raised an impressive community on it. Having found your niche and built a substantial foundation upon it, you already have something great. Of course, whether big or small a website and its community will always have its dedicated administrator thinking up how to better highlight content, how to entice registrations, and all that stuff.

Now, if you will excuse me I must collapse on the floor.

—Oh, I hope in that wall of text was enough that is actually useful for you. I was hoping not only to give suggestions to implement right away, but to stimulate ideas. I like to write my thoughts as they come to me as I browse the forum being reviewed, and it apparently shows (heh).
 

lllAE86lll

Computer Technician
Joined
Jun 13, 2007
Messages
193
Thanks for the awesome review. Really appreciate it and will read it through with the staff to improve the site potentialness
 

Medora

The New Architect
Joined
Feb 8, 2006
Messages
1,999
lllAE86lll, I am very much glad that you are grateful for the review and found it helpful. That in itself is the only reward I care for as a reviewer.
 

Eds

The Slave Driver
Joined
Jan 22, 2011
Messages
96
You say that's the only reward you want, but for a review of that quality and depth, you sir, deserve a round of applause. Excellent review from the snippets of it that I did read.
 

lllAE86lll

Computer Technician
Joined
Jun 13, 2007
Messages
193
You say that's the only reward you want, but for a review of that quality and depth, you sir, deserve a round of applause. Excellent review from the snippets of it that I did read.
Yes. You really do a good job reviewing a site. Giving us crucial point and made it look like i was reading a book of knowledge.

Once again. Thank you so much :worship:
 
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