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Feedback For The Next 9rules.com

Written by Mike Rundle on November 10, 2006

We’ve been hard at work on the next version of 9rules.com for a bit now, and will soon be getting various parts of it out to our members for beta testing. The current version’s codename is Phoenix, which represented our blossoming into something beautiful (take that how you want!) and the next version of our site is called Ali, as in Muhammad Ali. Paul and I have been busy rewriting a lot of the 9rules codebase to make things faster and easier to manage, and we wanted a name that represented tremendous strength and agility, thus Paul came up with Ali, one of the greatest boxers there ever was.

Ali TeaserNow our upcoming Ali release represents a lot more than just sleeker code, it also heralds the release of 9rules Notes 2.0 (many new features, bug fixes), 9rules Communities 3.0 (making our great Community pages even easier to use), and a brand new section called 9rules Live which I’m keeping my trap shut about πŸ™‚

The challenge with this website is the tremendous volume of content and types of content we need to display. We have over 200 members (soon to be more!) across 30+ verticals, all their entries, favicons, titles, screenshots, etc. For 9rules Notes we have over 700 entries, 6000 comments, and about 1500 registered users, all of which need proper visibility and highlighting. Since Communities and Notes work with and drive traffic to one another, their integration is key to make the user’s total experience as valuable and interesting as possible.

We’re not really into formal surveys (I always hated quantitative usability testing!) but we do have 2 questions we’d love everyone to take a second to answer: Keep in mind that more RSS feeds and profile editing are already in the works!

  • 1. Do you use 9rules Notes? If not, tell us why… if yes, tell us what we could improve upon.
  • 2. How can we improve browsability? More/less entries on the homepage? More excerpts on Community pages? Something else?

Any other feedback, please let us know!

  1. seanrox Says:

    What an exciting post and announcement. I would love to help kick the tires and beta test the upcoming 9rules.com site.

    I’m currently a user of notes and have a couple suggestions which a couple have already been mentioned in your post but it doesn’t hurt to show support for them πŸ™‚

    1, we need a way, even if for only 180 seconds to edit our notes. Recently I forgot to close a couple list and link tags, so an edit feature would be nice.

    2, Scrivs already mentioned this but a way to edit our profiles would be nice. I already noticed the password edit feature which was great. No more looking up the default password I was given.

    As for browsability, the site is pretty good already I think, however a site map would be good to find a few things with only one click.

    9rules Live… now I can only imagine what that will be… sounds very exciting if it’s what I’m thinking.

    When you say soon, exactly if you can say is the timeline of the upcoming additions you’re talking about?

    Keep up the good work guys (and gal – hi Tyme).

  2. Ankit Says:

    Thats a great news Mike. I am really anticipating the new 9rules, and I m sure it would again boast with great set of features and improvements.

    1. 9rules Notes? >>
    I haven`t use them much, but have found some interesting discussions out there. Adding avatar or a favicons, might helps members visualize others more easily.

    2. How can we improve browsability?
    You have a lot many channels. Its like giving too many options to members. I would suggest you merge few channels into one. Less no of channels can definately help people in selecting the channel which they are actually interested in more easily.

  3. John Baker Says:

    When I get down to the bottom of the Home page or the Notes page, it would be great not to have to scroll back up to the tope of the page agin to move on to another menu item.

  4. Joost de Valk Says:

    If you need beta testers, i’d love to test πŸ™‚ for now I think you’re on the right track by what I can see from your writings πŸ™‚

  5. Volkher Hofmann Says:

    – possibility to edit notes (I’m sure that’s coming)
    – my old pet peeve: display some more tag hints/help for those 9rules readers who aren’t experts at placing href links etc.!

    I have no real suggestion on how to improve browsability, but I agree that content is being spread out a bit too widely. I just have no idea how else to do it.

  6. Andrew Faulkner Says:

    Maybe some Digg-type coolness on the homepage/communities for latest stories?

    I always feel the communities pages don’t really update with posts – that could be tapped into.

  7. Billytheradponi Says:

    Edit notes, profile page.

    I think the browsing ability, is fine, sometimes content can be hard to find, but can that be improved with so many sites/members?

  8. Colleen Says:

    1. I haven’t used the notes much, but perhaps seeing the benefit of using them I might in the future.

    2. Personally, I would like the communities to be more visible, seeing that is a large part of what I surf 9 Rules for.

    It sounds like you all have some neat things in the works! I’ll keep checking back for updates!

    Oh, is 9 Rules Live going to be *like a web cam where we could just *like watch you guys all day or something. πŸ™‚ That’d be cool.

  9. David Says:

    It’s funny that I am dropping my Phoenixrealm.com as you are dropping your “Phoenix” code. πŸ™‚ Good luck with Ali.

  10. Shawn Blanc Says:

    I hope Ali is going to be as cool as it sounds because it sounds great. You guys are taking it to the next level. Very cool.

    I love what Andrew said about having Digg / del.icio.us on the home page. A way to promote other blogs right from 9rules.

    1. Notes: I haven’t used notes enough to give any feedback. I like them. I think they’re cool.

    2. Improve Browsability: I love the homepage. I like the communities. I’d hate to see them be slimmed down into fewer. Maybe have a ‘blogs of the month / week’ where you feature one from each community or something.

  11. Amos Says:

    Let’s see:

    1. I use 9Rules Notes and find it easy and enjoyable to do so. You have profile editing coming so there goes that suggestion. Editing your entry would be helpful also. Maybe allowing people more link options to share pieces of themselves in their profile, i.e.; Flickr accounts and whatnot. I tend to gobble up “About” pages and the like so I enjoy lots of info on people. Could be superfluous details though.

    2. I enjoy the “Latest Entries” section on the homepage. I’ll stop by once or twice a day and grab a bunch of headlines that interest me. So based on how I use it more latest entries would be nice… I agree with Colleen I’d like the communities to be more visible. I don’t delve into the them all that often. Not sure if it’s me or if it’s the way they are presented that stops me from doing so. Probably a combination.

    At the risk of turning this into a long comment, I read an article a few years ago about a group of social scientist who conducted a study on consumer consumption and choice. They set up two displays of various mustard jars in a grocery store. One had something like a hundred types of mustard to choose from. The other had around eight.

    One of their findings was people spent more time browsing the display with 100 choices but actually bought more mustard from the display with eight. I can’t remember where I read it or the all the conclusions the scientists drew but in terms of a site like 9Rules it might be helpful to keep in mind sometimes restricting choice can benefit the product.

    Of course having a ton of choice might make people linger longer but not become as invested. Who knows? You could take it a bunch of ways but your post on a new version of 9Rules made the memory bubble up and I share.

    Best of luck with the changes. I’m eager to see y’alls creative visions spring to life.

  12. J Phill Says:

    Honestly, I love the way the Notes are now. I haven’t really thought of a particular feature that would make them better. I like how the top note is the latest one commented on.

    The only thing I can think of for browsability would be to maybe add excerpts to the posts on the front page, maybe on mouseover (if possible)?

    Looking forward to whatever the hell this 9rules Live thing is though.

  13. polaris Says:

    On the 9rules blog, it would be great to include the entry date either below the post title, or after the post. At present, the only way I can figure out when the post was made is by clicking on the post, and going to the comments, which all carry their respective dates.

    I am relatively new to browsing 9rules, so I’m not sure if the dates were present before and then removed for some reason. I do think that having a post date is better.

  14. Devin Says:

    For notes I need to keep track of a lot of discussions which isn’t possible right now. Being able to see new comments on discussions I am (and am not) active in, would be nice.

    I’m excited to see the changes. Something I’d also like to see for 9rules is it’s own IRC server. You can manage your own technology and make it a true community by then including chat applets in community pages (creating different channels for different discussions, like notes). I think this would facilitate even more interaction for everyone.

  15. Justin Kistner Says:

    I didn’t notice the Notes for a while when I first saw the current 9rules design. In fact, I didn’t understand that it was a forum/blog style community until Scrivis posted the rankings. Now that I know about Notes, I really like them. My suggestion would be to differentiate them from the blogs a little better.

  16. Mike Rundle Says:

    This feedback is awesome, thanks!

    Ankit, we do have Gravatar icons next to everyone who posts, but sometimes the service is down and you get a default one which is kinda lame. I think we’ll make them bigger on this next version so that they stand out more, great suggestion!

    As for combining/modifying Communities, we actually do this pretty regularly but don’t announce it. We’re constantly shuffling and renaming, merging, but we have so many varying topics it’s difficult to merge things like Automobiles with Comics for example πŸ˜‰ To better find content we’re going to start utilizing the technology in 9rules Search to produce new verticals based not on Community but on topic… like “Spiderman”, “Katrina”, “President Bush”, etc. Hopefully that’ll help a bit with browsability.

    “Maybe allowing people more link options to share pieces of themselves in their profile, i.e.; Flickr accounts and whatnot. I tend to gobble up Ò€œAboutÒ€ pages and the like so I enjoy lots of info on people.”

    Actually Amos, you’re describing a brand new site/project that we’ve been working on a bit. This is even more deep-cover than 9rules Live as it probably won’t be out till early next year, but it will have these features plus a whole lot more.

    Polaris, you’re totally right, that was an oversight on our part. I’ve been redesigning how we display blog entries and Notes a bit, and dates/metadata are incredibly important and are being integrated back in.

    Justin, making Notes stand out a bit more and differentiating them makes a lot of sense… we’re going to be doing just that with Ali.

  17. Andre Says:

    I really just look at the homepage for the latest posts from 9rules members, and that’s it for the most part. I’d love to see more entries on the homepage; maybe even a customizable homepage that lets users filter what new posts show up on the index? (that’d be really cool)

    As far as communities, I’d like to see more on the pages, I guess. Recent posts from members in the group, recent notes, all the members (as well as random featured sites) and so on.

  18. Mike Rundle Says:

    Hey John, that’s a great suggestion as our page lengths get a bit unwieldy, thanks!

  19. Scrivs Says:

    The reason we don’t use the latest poster for that Note on the homepage is because we feel if you post a good note and it stays on the homepage for some time you deserve that recognition. For now you can see those usernames point back to their sites so maybe they are getting a couple more visitors per day because of that.

    You wouldn’t be able to tell by username anyways if the same person posts 3 replies in a row for example. Number count and RSS feeds are the best way to go to stay updated.

  20. Andy Says:

    Notes are great and I can’t think immediately of major ways to improve them. The home page is a different matter – on two of my machines the box of topics people can investigate doesn’t display correctly in Firefox. As a writer, I can’t see the ‘writing’ community thereon as it drops below the visible line.

    How about a way of asking visitors what they do, what they want, and making suggestions rather than laying out the entire world buffet? You could give examples to help them decide, essentially providing a friendly search and/or drop-down menu which would be less intimidating.

    Say, writing. I’m a writer, I tell the widgety thing. So it offers up the writing community. The same would pop up if I said I was a poet, an editor (for which I might get non-writing editorial relevant categories) or a scriptwriter.

    I’m no coder so don’t know if this would be hideously complex or not. x

  21. Andy Says:

    Also, some channels should be merged or made more encompassing – my pet gripe is religion, as I feel it should be spirituality as many don’t consider themselves religious – seeing it as too structured or orthodox – but do consider themselves to be spiritual, be that generally or specifically.

    But a dropdown menu and friendly search are definitely better options than that sprawling green box of topics, which is really intimidating. x

  22. Jessica Says:

    Hi Mike and 9rules

    When I am on the homepage I see what you all see. It is split into thirds. But these thrids should be carried over into the three sections of the homapage also save for maybe the notes section.

    Designing using a 1/3, 2/3 rule could be well implemented into the latest entries section. More importantly than the post title, the community it is posted in/for should be more prominent than said title. Also the icon/favicon/ of the blog should be larger say beside the larger community text. Then the post title could be underneath. The first three could have a few lines of body text within them. Visually people will remember images (icon), and the community name before they remmebr the post title. The post title is the grabber for the click-through but not the first thing people should see/read.

    All things should not be created equal on the homepage. Notes, posts and communities right now are equally weighted.

    The communities could become a cloud of sorts? Perhaps the latest ten posted to, being larger than the rest so the human eye will browse individual titles rather then see a green ocean of text.

    I think visually Notes works well as is. The communities and Blog entries section just need a little more hierarchy for us skimmers to peruse more easily. Aestetically this would be pleasing to the eye also.


  23. LorriM Says:

    I eagerly await the new 9rules…how exciting!!

    Ali…what a perfect name, representing strength!!

  24. Mike Rundle Interviewed at BloggerTalks at The Blog Herald Says:

    […] The interesting thing I noticed was the talk of the next 9rules entitled 9rules live. Mike opens up questioning over at the 9rules blog. Feel free to jump over there and over some helpful insights on how to build up the 9rules brand. I’m excited to see how many sites 9rules brings into the fold and how it effect their growth. Following that evolving Blog Community is always fun. Even if I tend to get a bit snarky. […]

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