This week we have had the team back at partial strength in a holiday week. Nonetheless, we have continued an intense focus on the performance of the site, as well as some of the other issues. In particular, there has been a lot of work on the primary workflows: starting with a thread list ("What's New", "Read All", or a topic's "Threads"), going to read a thread, and back. Several rounds of incremental changes have been pushed in; we have optimized lots of code paths shaving off 50 milliseconds here and a hundred there. Cumulatively the impact is significant, and in these workflows we are approaching the speed of the old site.
It is true that the architecture of the new site involves download of larger pages, especially on the initial load. For modern browsers, that cost is only incurred once and the data is 'cached' or saved in the users machine and not reloaded. That architecture conveys a lot of benefits that COPA volunteers will reap down the road as we are able to more flexibly configure the site without resorting to programming or outsourced labor. It does mean that older browsers will not run the site as well. The most extreme example is Windows XP with Internet Explorer 8. We made an early design decision NOT to support that configuration. I have seen posts where it was claimed to have a 30% market share, but COPA's data shows that in November 2013 we had only 2.5% of our visitors using that browser. And, come April it will be orphaned by Microsoft, left without security patch updates. Its apparent large market share is largely a function of 3rd world bootleg markets, not a primary COPA demographic.
On the other end of the spectrum, there have been problems with Microsoft's very latest IE11 browser. We have been asking members to run it in 'compatibility mode' which makes it look like IE10 to our site. This has been due to a Microsoft bug in the ASP.net understructure of our site, and we will be deploying a patch next week to resolve that. We had held off on that to now due to our primary focus on the performance issues. In general, the newer the browser the faster our site will run, and future browser updates will speed it further.
All of the speed improvements were all code based primarily in the areas of red numbers and recursion of the hierarchy that is custom and unique to COPA. These latest rounds of improvements had nothing to do with the hardware or the database. We had optimized that as best as possible before the holiday. The next set of improvements will be in the areas of the client. We will work on those early next week.
In addition to the performance benefits mentioned above, we also made some UI changes. We again increased the font contrast to make it nearly black. We reduced the line height on all text making it more compact. In the forums we customized the posts view completely restructuring the footer of each post making it shorter in overall height. When we combine these changes with our previous round of post footer changes, we have reduced the height of each post by nearly 2 inches.
We will be interested in feedback on how the speed of the site feels to people; for anyone experiencing significantly slow response, it would be very helpful to know what computer/device, OS, and Browser version you are running. Once we have an adequately performing platform, we will be able to spend more time on some of the social engineering issues people have raised.
I use Windows 7 and Explorer 11 in compatibility mode. Moving to compatibility mode not only resolved my editing issues, but coincident with that it also seemed to move faster. Currently, I find it a little slow to load initially, and it takes about a second to change pages. All said, no longer abnormally slow to me. I'm getting used to the new format. Personally, I'm beyond the speed/familiarity hump that was inhibiting my use of the site; it's a meaningfully improved experience for me.
Addressing the user name will help, as real names do add to the sense of community. (Personally, I found changing my user name to be pretty easy.) Also, as I've mentioned before, and speaking of sense of community, I'd really consider discontinuing the Leader Board and point system. Suggests that there's an "in crowd" or some kind of elite group...it's so contrary to what we're trying to be. Alternatively, I could do more "+1's", grammatical suggestions to other members, get in arguments about plaintiff lawyers, and join the hot section, and thereby move my way up in the standings.
All in all, one user's experience is moving in the right direction, and is past the "arduous to use" stage. Thanks to all that have worked so hard and taken so much input.
Fully agree on the "leader board". I've had quite enough of "leaders", thank you very much. Competitiveness, and especially about meaningless things like who has the most posts (or the most ratings) shouldn't define COPA. Especially not just because it's a feature of the software we bought.
There's a fine but very important difference between having the number of post displayed in small print next to an avatar (tells you something about what the guy has to say) and having a screen-filling ego wall.
The speed has improved considerably for me, slow first page, reasonable performance thereafter. (Win7 pro sp1, Chrome version 31.0.1650.63) I love the restructured footers!
Thanks for all the hard work!
I too noticed the changes - getting better. I also installed ICOPA on my IPAD - just to try it... and have a different experience - I normally spend long hours in front of my big desktop - and jump over to occasionally see what is new. I was very impressed with the performance of ICOPA - and in many cases - it is faster than the big desktop for the simple browsing function.
I see, many comments about the "leader board". One thought - instead of who has the MOST posts - or MOST accomplishments - more effort on the NEW PEOPLE - and helping them become active members - while it would take some effort - something along the lines of... when each user checks in - (I try never to actually log all the way out) - a script in the background - that might alert that there is a new person - I have not developed any fully thought out process - but - helping the new folks is the goal... so helping to identify and connect - would be a long term goal -
I admit, I am not a web page designer, however, I do find that I get frustrated when there are short posts - that in order to display the tree structure down the left side of the page, we have a huge amount of blank space.
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