Tag Archives: UX

WYSIWYG and What You See is Awesome: Authoring Experience on iToysoldiers

Well…  Not yet.  So one of the things that’s been killin’ me is the inability to add photos easily – especially on mobile devices.  I swear it’s like some of these module developers have never heard the word responsive.  They also love to hard code things in the most bizarre spots.  But I’m rapidly descending into a rant so I’ll go back to taking about what’s next for iToysoldiers and that is WYSIWYG and some improvements in the “authoring experience” and how images are handled.

Right now it’s nigh impossible to upload a photo from your phone onto iToysoldiers.  The window doesn’t scroll, you can’t zoom it in or out and it has a gutter on the top and left sides that prevents you from getting to the submit or close button.  That’s a huge problem and it’s been preventing me from posting stuff.  And if it’s preventing me from doing it I’m sure that it’s even more frustrating for other folks.  I’m pretty close to having this fixed.

The next thing that’s kind of a drag is the lack of a handy editor on text fields (in which you can put images inline).  No body wants to remember all the various html codes in order to make the text of their post bold or what have you.  I don’t even like doing that.  So the next release of iToysoldiers will include a major authoring experience improvement: a Wysiwyg editor built into each and every text form.  Yay.

I’m going to be offering up two flavors: Basic (the default) and Advanced.  The difference?  Basic only has a couple of buttons – the most useful.  Advanced will open up all the formatting options to you.  Things like lists, headings, and the like.  I think mostly Basic will cover everything you might want but…  The option will be there.

So that’s what’s going on right now.  iTS Release 5.1: Tolstoy is coming soon.

Rob

What’s Inside iToysoldiers Version 5.0

Greetings, commander! I’m deliriously excited to announce the release of iToysoldiers Version 5.0. As befits a major release, there’s just a ridiculous number of new things and improvements.  I’m going to try and itemize them all here for your reading enjoyment. Of course the best way to experience all the new stuff is to visit iToysoldiers.com and experience it yourself.

Improved Site Design

Probably the most obvious change is the site layout and theme.  I’ve opted to dramatically simplify the menus and various widgets on the page because I got a bit carried away with trying to be clever.  The end result is that pretty much everything you might want to see and do can be done from the navigation bar at the top of the page. I’ve also tried to bring all of the features and menus in line with the five major categories of the site.  Navigation is hugely improved as a result and I think you’ll find it easier to explore both the features of the site and the exploits of your fellow commanders.

A change that I think you’ll really appreciate is the “Add Content” menu.  It’s been broken down into categories so the list of things you can create to show off your miniature armies is a bit less… well… random. Here’s how the categories work out:

Gaming: putting the dice on the table (or planning for it).  Battle Reports and Army Lists.

Modelling: Building your models and putting paint to the plastic (or resin, metal, whathaveyou).

Narrative: Telling the story of your armies and their exploits: Narrative campaigns and Army Profiles

Theater: Where, when and with whom you play: Events, tournaments, clubs, and battlefields.

Community: Kind of everything else: Player profiles and leaderboards, Blogs, Galleries, and Forums/Discussions.

There’s a final section – for you technically minded folks – I’m calling Core.  It represents backend and UX improvements that really aren’t really player facing. Oddly enough, Core elements, even though they’re not necessarily obvious, you’d hate the site if I didn’t give them some TLC.  This is stuff like making sure I’m using the right libraries for various things, author experience, performance things, and the like.  Boring, Sydney.  Boring.

I’ve put a bit more consistency into the site.

Comments look the same (ish) whether you’re posting on a forum post, a battle report, or an image that someone’s uploaded.  Author content blocks look the same on all the various content types.

The activity stream on the front page (for those of you who’re logged in) has been dramatically simplified.  I removed that timeline bar from the display so it doesn’t take up valuable space when you’re using your mobile device or tablet to look at the page.  I also did some work on the formatting of how items show up on the page so they’re a bit more consistent.

The layout of pages – both for the battles, lists, blogs, etc that you create as well as the pages that list site wide content have (mostly) gotten a bit of attention.  The display of content is a bit more consistent across the site.

Image galleries are now formatted in such a way that it’s easier to view them and interact with images (like commenting on them or seeing larger versions).

Maps are back

Once upon a time, iToysoldiers had a number of different map based views.  Over time they’ve been disabled – largely ‘cause of technical issues.  Well, that’s changed!  I have a beautiful new mapping repository and library which makes creating maps easy.  Two maps have returned: The battlefield map for battle reports and the battlefield display for players – it shows where a player has engaged in battle.  Gotta tell you, I’m excited to add more.

Categorical Improvements

Since I’ve taken all this time to consolidate the site into five major categories, I should probably list improvements the same way, right?

Gaming

Player battle stats have gotten a major overhaul.  Rather than lumping all of your stats together, battle stats are displayed by faction.

Player battle stats also have “raw data” tables that can be manipulated with various filters to allow for more in depth analysis of your battle results.

The battle report pages have gotten a major facelift.

You can now link a battle to an army list entry on the site.  You can even create an army list from the battle report screen.  It’s totally optional. I’ll be providing real stats for army lists in the near future.

Modelling

One thing I’ve wanted is a list of my models, by army and unit, with how many I have and how many are completed.  Well.  It’s there now.  You can see an example, mine, here.  <insert: http://itoysoldiers.com/user/16/modelling/collection>  Fair warning: I don’t have all my models up yet but I’m working on it.

Community

You didn’t think I’d leave your player profile alone whilst bringing everything into a more consolidated look and feel did you?  Well, even if you did, I didn’t.  Player profiles are now way better because they consolidate your miniature wargaming exploits (and other site activities) into the five major categories.  There’s now a tab for gaming, modelling, narrative, theater, and community.  When you and others peruse your profile they’ll (and you) will have an easier time drilling down to what’s important to them (or you).

Core

There’s a ridiculous number of backend fixes and improvements. Most of it was removing deprecated stuff that didn’t hold up to the new categorization system.  Stuff like that helps improve the performance of the site in general ‘cause there’s no need to reference things that aren’t there anymore.  However…

After much internal debate I’ve decided to use UserVoice <insert link> as iToysoldiers Help Portal. The main reason?  I really value the “I suggest you…” feature.  See, UserVoice is not only a support ticket tracker, it also does an amazing job of helping me prioritize what should come next with iToysoldiers.  It’s also one less thing I have to manage and that’s a good thing.

Speaking of which…

So that’s Release 5.0.  I’m excited.  I think it’s one of the more helpful releases I’ve done.  That said, I may have missed some things.  I might’ve introduced a bug.  It’s even possible that there’s something iToysoldiers doesn’t do that make showing off your miniature wargaming armies easier. That’s why I have the support portal.  Let me know! Really.  Zip over to http://itoysoldiers.uservoice.com and tell me about what I could be doing better.  Of course you could reply here or send me an email at rob@itoysoldiers.com as well.  I aim to please.  I hope you like the new version of iToysoldiers.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

Some Thoughts On Presenting Battle Stats

So on the iToysoldiers site I still have a legacy forum that asks for feedback on how to improve the site.  It really shouldn’t be there ’cause I really want to get “backend” type content out of the site proper.  However, every so often there’s a post there and it gets me thinking. In particular, I’m thinking about player battle stats and how to generate/display them.

If you’re interested, the post in question is here:  http://itoysoldiers.com/forum-post/8th-edition-stats.  Essentially the ask is to allow players to “reset” their stats when a new edition of a rule set comes out (or whatever reason floats their boat). I think this is a fair ask to a certain extent. But here’s the rub: I don’t think a player really wants to “reset” stats.  I think what they really really really want is the ability to display stats with more granularity and customization than I currently allow.  Allow me to explain:

The Problem

As I was first building iToysoldiers I made a design decision to force players to pick specific elements representing their battle from a list I provided.  For example: You couldn’t just add an army faction.  Missions went into the mission field.  Points per army went into the points field.  I did this so that there’d be a way to aggregate data specific to a particular meta item and display it relative to every battle on the site.  For sure this helped keep my stat displays under control but unfortunately, it also means that players were only provided battle stat combinations that I created.  This is the problem.

How am I fixing this?

Well, the good news is that I’ve already started to do so!  The first major step to addressing this came when I allowed folks to add any faction into the “Army” field.  Yeah, for sure this has caused some problems – specifically with folks adding stream of consciousness type values into that field.  But as more players participate in the site that’s becoming less of an issue.

The second part of a fix is what I’m working on now.  Player battle stats are now tiered.  To explain: there’s high level stats based upon every game.  Stuff like win/loss/draw, # of battles, and that sort of thing.  But there’ll also be a specific page for each army that a player has entered battle reports for.  To use me as an example, I’ll have CSM, Dark Eldar, Ynnari and World Eaters as my armies and I’ll have a specific page for each.  Kinda like this:

iToysoldiers Battle Stat Teaser
What the army specific stat page looks like

There’s also an advanced filter view without graphs for detailed comparisons:

iToysoldiers Battle Stat Teaser 2
Advanced filters for iToysoldiers Battle Stats

So each army that you play will have these views.  Now, if you’re playing a new army or something it’s pretty easy to “reset” your stats because they’ll be army specific.  And since you can enter anything you want into the Army field a player could reset their stats by using a new army tag. But…

It Could Be Better

Yeah.  It could be better.  And here’s what I’m thinking.  What if there was a world where a player wasn’t restricted to the elements of a battle that I consider important?  What if this world allowed players to tag a battle report with elements that they thought were important instead of having to enter data in a fairly ridiculous number of fields?  What if every meta item was treated the same and battle stats could be generated using a selection of meta elements rather than specifically associating a meta item to a particular input/output field?

That’s what I’m thinking about now: How to revamp the battle reports to be more flexible, easier to use, and more useful when looking at battle stats.  Right now it’s just a seed of an idea and thinking about it is drawing attention to some of the really iffy design choices I made early on.  It’ll be a fair amount of work to do this.  Not so much to build it an put it into effect – but rather make old battle reports obey a set up like this.

So what do you think? I really really really want to know.  It’s feedback that spawns improvement in the site and this is a great example: One forum post and suddenly I’m think of huge improvements.  Drop me a line at rob@itoysoldiers.com, visit our support portal at http://itoysoldiers.uservoice.com or comment here.  I aim to please.

Rob @ iToysoldiers

What’s In the Pipeline at iToysoldiers

Ahoy, Commander!

So I just wanted to let you know about what’s currently being worked on for iToysoldiers right now. I have a release scheduled for next week that’ll include the following:

Achievements

  1. I’m redesigning the look and feel of the Achievement pages. They’ll be cleaner and it’ll be much easier to see who’s earned a given achievement.
  2. I’m fixing the “bulk award” achievement rule so that it doesn’t generate quite so much email. This is a little thing ’cause it’s not often that I introduce a whole bunch of achievements.
  3. I’m going through and fixing some of the older achievements to use better code.

General Stuff

  1. In an effort to make navigation a bit easier I’m totally revamping the left nav menu.  Rather than being clever with titles like, “Order of Battle” I’m going to be using the categories of Gaming, Narrative, and Modelling for the major features.  Theater will still be events.  Think, “Where, when, and who to play” and Gazetteer will be collapsed into Community.
  2. General bug fixes that probably won’t really be noticed.

Bug Hunt 2017

Oh, and don’t forget that Bug Hunt 2017 is running right now. If you have any bugs, feature requests, or comments, do not hesitate to zip over to the iToysoldiers Help Portal and submit them.  You’ll be entered for a chance to win $25 at your favorite game store.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

iToysoldiers Ragnorak Brings a Better Wargaming Calendar

iToysoldiers is pleased to announce the release of iToysoldiers 4.5-rc1 – “Ragnorak”.  Ragnorak brings some major improvements to the miniature wargaming event calendar and listings as well as some much needed improvements to the features of gaming clubs listed on the site.

Calendar and Events

The biggest change in this release is the look of Events on the site.  They’ve been totally overhauled and present the event’s necessary information way better than before.  Take a look at the calendar and a few of the events and let me know what you think!

Another pretty huge change is part of the “Regroup and Sally Forth Project”. In order to make iToysoldiers a bit easier to use I’m rethinking how all the myriad options and features on the site are presented to you. The first real step to this is collapsing some of the features.  Specifically events, leagues, tournaments, etc.  It’s annoying and/or confusing to have to pick the right one right from the get go.  Well, Ragnorak helps by collapsing the Event and Calendar Only Event types into a single form. One form to rule them all and in darkness bind them.  Ultimately the plan is to collapse leagues and tournaments into the Event form as well but that’s a pretty big undertaking and I need to plan that out.  But in the meantime, if you want to post your miniature wargaming event on iToysoldiers – and even leverage some of the management features we offer, you can do it from a single form.

A minor change to Events is a switch to indicate whether you’re the event organizer or not. This is pretty cool, actually.  Here’s the use case: If you’re just posting an event as an FYI to the community you may not want to be listed on the page as the contact for the event.  I mean, you’re just sharing the info, right?  Well, now your name only shows up as the event organizer if you flip the “I’m the event organizer” switch on the form.  Of course, if you’re enabling the iToysoldiers features this switch will be flipped automatically.

Oh, and I fixed the ability for event organizers to edit registrations if they need to.  Still need to address the issue with this for Narrative Campaigns but it’s a start.

Gaming Clubs

Events can now be tied to a gaming club.  If your club administrator has given you permissions to create events for the club you can either click the link on the club page or select your club when creating an event.  All the members of the club will receive an email notification when you do so.

Oh! And speaking of club notifications…  They’re better now.  They actually provide a link to the content that was created.  This has been something that’s been preventing me from using the club functionality all that often.  It just didn’t really help at all.

Clubs now have a calendar tab!  So now that you can tie an event (or a league, or a tournament) to a club, so what? Well, now folks can peruse the events that are coming up on the club page.

Along with the new calendar tab is a refresh to the look of the club pages.  I think it’s better for sure.  I used a similar look and feel to the events since they kind of share similarities as far as the types of info they provide.

Errata

Removing Text Format options.  It killed me to do this, but part of the “Regroup and Sally Forth Project”, I’ve decided to disable the wysiwyg editor on iToysoldiers.  To the folks who used it, I apologize.  To the rest of you: Welcome to a cleaner interface when authoring content on iTS.  I plan to be diving into the wysiwyg functionality again but before I enable it I need to address some of the issues it has when being used with mobile devices.

Some various patching and security updates for the site.  Yawn.  Boring.

Fixed the URL to the iToysoldiers Help Portal in emails from the site.

Whew!

And there you have it!  Ragnorak is all about bring better miniature wargaming event lists and entries to the world. If you know about an event that’s coming up, why not take a moment to share it on iToysoldiers.  If you have any issues, suggestions, or feedback I’m all ears! Comment here or submit a request on the iToysoldiers Help Portal.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

iToysoldiers Release Announcement: 4.5-BG575 – introducing Emoticons

Greetings, commander! iToysoldiers is pleased to announce a wee little release to address something that’s kind of been a problem for a long time but really reared its ugly head in the last couple of days.  As of January 23rd, 2017 iToysoldiers fully supports utf8mb4 encoding!  Isn’t that exciting?  Sounds impressive doesn’t it?  Well, what it means is that if your comment, post, whathaveyou has an emoticon or other special character the site will no longer toss an error and trash your content.  This was a particular issue when using a mobile device.  But it’s fixed now.  Yay!

Just one more in a long list of improvements to authoring content on iToysoldiers!

Now… I know there’s other annoying things so if you have any that are really driving you batty please let me know.  The best way is through the iToysoldiers Help Portal.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

Ragnarok: Planning the Next Major Release

Greetings, Commander!

So I’m giving thought to what’ll come after Kilgrave.  One thing that comes to mind is that the event pages are pretty lame.  So the next major release will be “Ragnarok” and it’ll deal with the the lists/views/display of Warzones and Events.  It’ll probably also address event/warzone views for clubs and battlefields.

So if you have any suggestions on what you’d like to see on event type listings let me know at our Help portal or comment here or drop me an email at rob@itoysoldiers.com.

Carpe Acies!
Rob

Kilgrave mK III: Modelling Stats and a new Dashboard

Ahoy, Commander!

So I’m working on Kilgrave mK III, the last mark of this particular release and here’s what I have planned:

  1. Modelling Project Stats
  2. A Revised Dashboard that shows things that require attention.
  3. Bug fixes identified by mK II.

Now, that’s not to say that I won’t go back and revisit the profiles and player stats.  It’s just that I think I have this bit sorted for now – or more accurately that I’ve achieved the goal of providing certain features.  So if you’ve found a bug, have an idea for an improvement or what have you… Bestest: Support Portal.  More best: Comment here.  Best: email me at rob@itoysoldiers.com.

Carpe Acies!
Rob

Kilgrave mK II is now live: Content Stats!

Greetings, commander!

On Friday I released the newest version of iToysoldiers: Kilgrave mK II.  In addition to all the really slick stuff that was part of Kilgrave, there’s now content stats!

If you visit your player profile you’ll see a “Stats” tab.  Click on that.  Then click the “Content” sub tab.  There you’ll see an overview of the content you’ve submitted to iToysoldiers along with some page view, comment, and salute values.  I wanted to make sure that if you’re using iToysoldiers to chronicle the glory of your miniature wargaming armies that you can see that folks are reading your stuff. The detailed statistics are largely based on the kind of information that Blogspot provides.  I figured if it was good enough for them it’d be good enough for us.

Also there’s some bug fixes – specifically new players and how their profile displays.  Now there’s no more floating headers without content. I’ve also tweaked some bits of the theme to be a bit more “what you might expect”.  Little fiddly bits (like the logout button doesn’t show up if you’re not logged in – stuff like that) which weren’t huge but needed to be addressed.

So now, Kilgrave has all the above plus what was announced here.

If your curious here’s what the Kilgrave release contains (including all marks) to date:

  1. Updated Player profiles
  2. Updated Home page for anonymous visitors
  3. Updated Stats page layout
  4. Updated Content page layout
  5. Updated Battle Stats
  6. Updated Content Stats
  7. A new Help Portal
  8. Various Bug fixes

Now I just have to get Kilgrave mK III in the wild and then I’ll be able to start work on “Ragnorok”.  Yay!  As always, if you have any comments, issues, suggestions, I aim to please.  You can email me at rob@itoysoldiers, comment here, or submit something on the Help Portal.  Zip on over to iToysoldiers and checkout the new hotness!

Carpe Acies!
Rob

And Now… Kilgrave mK II: Fixing some stuff on Player Profiles

Good morning, Commander!

So last week I released Kilgrave which did some really cool things for player profiles and battle stats.  Alas, as per usual, I found some stuff that made me unhappy when it actually hit the site.  The most glaring of these is for newish players.  Profile and stat screens had headers all over the place and no content in the section.  Why? Well, it’s cause there wasn’t anything to display.  That’s kind of annoying.  There were also a couple of other bugs introduced by some of the backend stuff I put into place.  Nothing huge but still…

So… What I’ve been working on this week is Kilgrave mK II.  It’s primarily a bug fix release but it’ll also bring content stats into the stats page (stuff like how many page views, salutes, comments your blogs, galleries, modelling projects, etc have).  Hopefully I’ll have this released by Friday.

After that I’ll start work on Kilgrave mK III.  The plan for this bad boy is to address modelling project statistics and the dashboard (which I’m going to be revamping).

So that’s the short term plan.  If you haven’t checked out the new stuff then zip over to your player profile and take a gander.  I’m pretty pleased.  Oh! And of course, if you find any issues do not hesitate to let me know.  You can either visit the new Help Portal or drop me an email at rob@itoysoldiers.com.  ‘course you could comment here.  I’m pretty flexible.

Carpe Acies!

Rob