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Per other recent discussion, the archives on-site here have kind of awkward usability and can be unapproachable for new users. Here's a set of ideas on how to improve it, a little scattered since writing it up in more detail would take even more time than it already has.

First, walking through things as they are now and pretending we're a newbie.




Quote:
Woah, what's all this? I have a TI-84; is that an 84pce?

This is really bad; it assumes the user knows exactly what they have and what programs work on it.



Quote:
I just want games, where are the games? I guess I'll try "Assembly" programs? What are those anyway,
why should I care?

It's rare that you actually care how a given program is implemented, just that it does what you want. Implementation language should remain a filtering option, but should not be used by default- if you need it you can use it, otherwise you might not even notice it as an option.



Quote:
Okay, there's something that looks like a game here. I guess I'll download Double
Dragon. It's in bold; does that mean it's good? What are these other things- I don't
understand what their descriptions say.

This is becoming a lot of hierarchy. Try to get rid of it.



Quote:
Oh, these all look like games. How do I know which ones are good? Have to guess?
I don't want to read all these descriptions..

This page is kind of a wall of text, and it only sorts by name- very unhelpful. The little rating icons are slightly helpful, but much too small. There are two links to the details page, and showing the filename doesn't seem helpful- you don't care what the file you would download is called, and it's unclear that link is actually a download link.



Quote:
This looks pretty cool, though I don't understand what Doors CS 7 is, or what
CALCnet is. I guess I can download it by clicking the link at the top?

The information here is okay, but organized weirdly. A couple highly-placed screenshots at the top with a big clearly-delineated download button would make this easier to understand. Descriptions are limited to plain text, where it may be helpful to allow links to be inserted. For that matter, we can do away with a dedicated screenshots section by allowing images or videos to be inlined in the description so we don't enforce a single organization for all programs where that may not be useful.

All of the things on this page seem to run together because there's no vertical separation (except around reviews). That's a relatively easy change.

Let's think about how to better organize things.

The fixed filesystem hierarchy is really bad for browsing. Rich tagging!

Tagging

In the simplest form, consider a tag to be an arbitrary string. If you know which tags you're interested in, it's an easy search to find items with that tag. So how to discover what tags you care about? We provide a semi-fixed set of tags. For instance, the 8x tag might indicate anything that works with 8x-series calculators (83+, 83+ SE, 84+, 84+ SE).

To make it clearer what tags mean, we can permit more detailed descriptions and try to use obvious tag values that don't require explanation.

So now how do you discover tags? We could present a big list of them, but that's pretty bad. So we have a tag hierarchy (or more accurately, a set of parallel hierarchies).

Neat refinement of current semantics: have runs-on and works-with tags that correspond to platforms or calculators. For instance, rom8x works-with 8x calculators and runs-on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Because this is somewhat complex, let's look at the existing hierarchy and see how it maps onto a new tag hierarchy. For some kind of simplicity, I'll denote potential tags and their hierarchy with ->.


  • 83plus: runs on->83p

    • asm: implemented in->z80 assembly

      • games: activity->game
      • graphics: I don't actually know what this is
      • levels: activity->game-><whatever game>
      • media: activity->media

        • audio: activity->media->audio
        • images: activity->media->images

      • programs: ???
      • shells: activity->launcher?

        • modules: activity->launcher-><shell>->extension?
        • old: ???

      • sound: activity->media->audio

    • basic: implemented in->TI-BASIC->Z80

      • ...

This means the browse interface becomes something more like a group of selection controls, where you can multiselect tags within the hierarchy, where each independent hierarchy is a separate section of selection controls. So you have a group of filtering controls allowing you to quickly drill down to programs for a given use or that runs on a given platform, then a sortable table or list of programs. Sort options might include:


  • Most downloaded (default?)
  • Most recent downloads
  • Best rated
  • Most recent

Details page

Make the download link prominent. Maybe a sidebar at the top containing that and some meta-information like the author link, statistics, etc.

Descriptions become rich text (think Markdown). Paragraphs and images allowed and encouraged. Have a single slot for a representative image or video which is shown first, and can be used on listing pages too.

We should support modern image formats. Animated gif is okay, but these days you'd like better things- native video is very nice because it's seekable, and it would allow authors to make fancier "marketing video" type things that are richer than simple animated screenshots.
For the purposes of organization, I'll go ahead and include the relevant section of my previous post here:
commandblockguy wrote:
We could also try making it easier to find the games. On the archive root directory page that users see immediately after clicking "Downloads", we could add two large banners side by side for CE and monochrome games that link to the assembly games directory for the respective calculators. We could also have the banners redirect to a different page, which would be more "curated." It could be similar ti84calcwiz's interface and show a screenshot next to the title of the program and a one-click download program. It could also have multiple categories, like "Most Popular", "Newest", "Featured", "Random", and "Top Rated" (if the rating system is ever improved). This would also have the benefit that people would be more likely to link to it, which would help improve search engine ranking.

If we really wanted to go for ease of use, we might be able to use WebUSB to send programs to a calculator using only a web browser. Adriweb already has a proof of concept for such a system. Considering that a large number of students are now using school-issued laptops which either do not support TI-Connect CE, in the case of Chromebooks, or are not possible to install programs on due to regulations. It would also allow users to install programs from an Android tablet or other mobile device using an OTG adapter.


Additionally, I'd like to add that sorting by most downloads first might not be the best option, as that would cause the top downloaded programs to be downloaded the most, while newer programs of equal quality might sit further down on the page past where the average user reads. Perhaps we could use a system which highlights both new content and popular content at the same time as the default method, with the option to select order by popularity or by date uploaded.

As for ratings, I feel that they currently aren't a very good metric of finding programs. Most programs only have 1 or 2 ratings on them, which would not portray an accurate idea of the program's quality. We should encourage users to rank programs more, and I feel that editable rankings would incentivize people to do that. Currently, I don't feel like giving a negative review if I feel that a game could improve in a future update, which is a lot of games.

I'll probably post more thoughts tomorrow; it's rather late for me.
I think that most of the proposed changes here would still be confusing to newcomers just looking for a game to put on their calc.

Instead of having a named folder representing what calc they have, just display a picture of the calc and its name. Include instructions on determining what the name of the calculator is for confused newcomers. Most people will be coming for CE games, and it's distinct enough from the other calcs that it should be fine.

I agree with the idea of getting rid of the Assembly and Basic categories. The README file should include instructions on how to run the program, at any rate. I also agree with the idea of tagging, but I think it's too complicated.

I think we should leave the current categories of math programs, games, graphics, etc, as they are.

Once the user tells us what they are looking for, show them popular programs in that category with lots of downloads, good reviews, and screenshots. Give them the option to sort for new programs, by number of reviews, by recent popularity, etc.

I also agree with the sentiment that nobody wants to look at walls of text. I would love to be able to use markup in my program description, but I think adding images is a bit too far. It will just clutter the page.

Instead, I propose that people can upload one screenshot that will show up on the downloads listing, in addition to the screenshots shown on the page. For existing programs, we can probably default to the first screenshot uploaded. Edit- commandblockguy suggested that it chooses the first static screenshot for reasons of size.

Unfortunately, this will have a large impact on page loading time, and it's pretty clear that search engines don't like pages that take ages to load. Because of this, an even stricter file size limit would be applied to this screenshot, but the limit for other screenshots (only shown on the downloads page) will be the same.

Thoughts?


Edit, would have made an actual fancy mock-up but I'm running low on time so here's one scrawled on the back of the homework I'm supposed to be doing. Click to enlarge.


Edit x2:
The menu where they select what kind of program they're looking for is the simplest menu and probably doesn't cause any confusion. It should stay, lest we cause further confusion.

If they're looking for math programs, don't lump that in with shells and such.

Edit x3: I did a mockup, here's the code. Click to enlarge either of the photos.




I think it looks reasonable, any ideas?
The mockup looks pretty good, though we also need to consider how it can scale down to phone-sized displays.

Your comments on complexity make sense, but they're not mutually exclusive with rich tagging; we just make the landing page behave a little differently, or even have a "simple" landing page that has that alternate presentation. I do think having a simple entry point that might basically be pictures of calculators would likely be helpful to beginners.

commandblockguy wrote:
Additionally, I'd like to add that sorting by most downloads first might not be the best option, as that would cause the top downloaded programs to be downloaded the most, while newer programs of equal quality might sit further down on the page past where the average user reads. Perhaps we could use a system which highlights both new content and popular content at the same time as the default method, with the option to select order by popularity or by date uploaded.
As you observe, ratings are not common enough to be very useful, so I think download count is the best overall predictor of "you'll want this." Perturbing ranking to avoid ossification might be useful, but there's a lot of prior art to draw from in trying to rank items in a list like this- this kind of wants to resemble a recommendation engine like you might find on the Reddit frontpage.

Handy references:
Whoop, thought I'd posted an update here!

I added a mobile view to my mock-up:


The updated gist.

If I have nothing better to do, I'll write a script to sort the files, using data attributes sent with the HTML, as the mock-up shows. I've done this much, might as well complete it Wink
Nice. This looks really good.

Some suggestions for filters:
-popular (default)
-new
-most downloaded
-alphabetical
-author search

And I agree with what was stated earlier about having pictures for the calculators instead of the names, I downloaded several TI-84 Plus and TI-84 Plus CSE games when I was new before finding the ones for the CE. Also, when you get to the section where you pick from games, shells, etc. the name of the calculator is already shown at the top of the screen, so the “TI-84 Plus Assembly Games” seems a bit superfluous. Just make it “Games”, “Shells”, “Math”, etc.

EDIT- Having a place for a promotional video/trailer would be nice, too (possibly embedded from YT). This could be accessed from the “More info” in _iPhoenix_’s mock-up. Maybe there could also be a “User screenshots” section in the reviews page, like Amazon has. If there is no screenshot provided for the file, one of these could be displayed.

EDIT 2- Looks like Commandblockguy beat me to a lot of this stuff. His categories would be better, and I really like the rich text idea.
I love your concepts _iPheonix_! What about on mobile, or even the PC when the the program titles are super long like "Advanced Wait State Changer. (Make your CE 30% faster!)"? Will there be length restrictions to keep the page looking clean?

I agree, promotional videos for the programs would be pretty neat. What about auto-playing them? Would there be an option to turn that off? I know I sometimes tether to my phone when there's no WiFi around and I absolutely hate it when videos auto-play and burn up my data with no way to turn them off.

Finally, I think it'd be a good idea for there to be links to video tutorials for how to send the programs to your calculator and what to do if something doesn't work. Kerm, TI84CalcWiz, TI-Planet, and I already have some great tutorials, perhaps we could look into linking them to the Archive page? A drop down menu under a 'tutorials button might work. The only issue I foresee is if one of the videos is updated, the link would have to be changed.
TheLastMillennial wrote:
Finally, I think it'd be a good idea for there to be links to video tutorials for how to send the programs to your calculator and what to do if something doesn't work. Kerm, TI84CalcWiz, TI-Planet, and I already have some great tutorials, perhaps we could look into linking them to the Archive page? A drop down menu under a 'tutorials button might work. The only issue I foresee is if one of the videos is updated, the link would have to be changed.


I'm not a huge fan of this idea.

First off, I don't think it's right for Cemetech to officially sponsor tutorials like that. It just feels wrong to me.

Second off, if someone's tutorials don't make it in, it'll probably leave them felling bad. If we accept every one, we will have 800 billion redundant YouTube videos.


I guess having the ability to link a YouTube video to the page would be nice, but the videos can be edited after the fact to be spam/or contain inappropriate content, etc. It gets hard to moderate when there's an entire archives full of videos. I think the admins could better allocate their Cemetech-related free time than by watching endless amounts of program video ads. It would also slow down the review process.

Additionally, hosting images takes a lot of disk space on the server- I don't think user screenshots is a good use of that.
It could be a ton of fun to have a section of the website dedicated to tutorials and instructional videos about calculators. There's so much stuff that could be explained in a lot of detail, which is not always obvious when you're getting started. We could have the videos sorted into categories (like what calculator model the video applies to, or maybe a computer software section or whatever)
We could have the users chime in with suggestions as to what the videos should contain, and it would allow us to explain things in a lot of detail. Of course, videos could be updated with additional information every now and then and if necessary, the videos could link to other videos (for example, a video about axe could link to a basic video, since you are expected to already be comfortable with basic before jumping into axe).
The videos could be hosted on the site or we could make an official cemetech youtube account if we're lazy.
mr womp womp wrote:
The videos could be hosted on the site or we could make an official cemetech youtube account if we're lazy.

Create a Cemetech Youtube brand account. Allow the top Cemetech developers access to it to upload videos. This way, it's still a Cemetech video, but should be associated with the uploadee.
As to editing the YouTube videos, that would be pretty easy to handle. Just have a “Report video” button somewhere, or copy the videos over to the official Cemetech account, as Acagliano suggested earlier (under a promotional videos playlist or something). This would be a good way to get awareness out about the site, as well. This is a pretty niche community, and I think that a lot of the Cemetech programs are good enough to get promotional videos for them pretty high on the trending list. Just look at the Need for Speed Heat trailer- not many people play it, but still, it got #1 on trending for a few days.

And archives submissions are fairly rare when compared to forum posts and other activity, so this wouldn’t waste too much moderator time. If this is a big concern, there could be a time limit on the YT videos.
I guess I don't see why the promotional video has to be hosted on Cemetech or something, just post it to the site like normal and include a link in the description?




Anywho, I added sorting to my mockup. I think I'm finished here for now.
Nice! Got any new screenshots to share?Because I don't feel like running the code myself...
mr womp womp wrote:
It could be a ton of fun to have a section of the website dedicated to tutorials and instructional videos about calculators. There's so much stuff that could be explained in a lot of detail, which is not always obvious when you're getting started. We could have the videos sorted into categories (like what calculator model the video applies to, or maybe a computer software section or whatever)
We could have the users chime in with suggestions as to what the videos should contain, and it would allow us to explain things in a lot of detail. Of course, videos could be updated with additional information every now and then and if necessary, the videos could link to other videos (for example, a video about axe could link to a basic video, since you are expected to already be comfortable with basic before jumping into axe).
The videos could be hosted on the site or we could make an official cemetech youtube account if we're lazy.
We already have some of this in the resources section, but it's kind of awkward to find. That could stand to be improved some for sure, and it may be helpful to include a link to the resources page from the archives; even ticalc does this!


So improving the resources pages and linking to them basically handles what you suggest when combined with the forum for discussion.
I've only been able to quickly skim this thread so far, but the ideas expressed here sound similar to ones I had wanted to do for ticalc.org for so long.

The directory-based system just doesn't scale anymore, and it doesn't help sort out the complicated program-compatibility relationships among shells and the many TI calculator models that have come out over the years. Maintaining the archive organization has become increasingly difficult and messy as a result.

I'm imagining an archive page primarily based on the user entering keywords related to what kind of program they're looking for and having integrated filters available for program compatibility (determined by things such as calculator model, language, library usage, etc.) and then category/type/genre. Maybe there could even be information links providing explanations for the various “compatibility” categories. For instance, categories for a shell such as Doors or Cesium could have some sort of help bubble or link to an external page explaining all about what a shell is, the purpose of this particular one, and what is needed to run programs requiring this shell.

There are so many files out there these days that a lot of categories are needed to prevent an overwhelmingly long list in any particular area. But having tons of categories adds complexity and confusion and increases the chance of programs being classified inaccurately or inconsistently. I have found this an especially painful problem with managing ticalc.org's archives, and it just gets worse every time more categories are added. But then again, if a search box is used as the primary interface for browsing the archives, then perhaps it isn't necessary to have quite so many categories since users can just type keywords related to what they're looking for. Maybe a clever search algorithm could even use the keywords to infer when the user is looking for files of particular categories and show more of those toward the top of the list.

Overall, I think program compatibility is going to be one of the biggest challenges in making a good, user-friendly, usable search interface that makes it easy, especially for newcomers, to find appropriate software for their calculator setup and figure out how to make it work. TI's model-naming scheme probably hasn't helped, either; despite the descriptions on the top-level directories in the ticalc.org archives, I've still had to answer a lot of emails from users who try to run color 84+ BASIC programs on monochrome models or vice-versa and don't understand why text display is messed up. And with the limitations of ticalc.org's current system, there simply isn't a good way to arrange files by some of the compatibility characteristics. Usually, pure-BASIC programs will run fine on both the CE and CSE, so the two models actually share a BASIC directory on the site (which causes some weird, subtle quirks in other areas of the site because this arrangement was never done before and isn't expected by the data architecture). But now, there are BASIC programs requiring libs that only work on either the CSE or CE, which means more user confusion; yet separating the directories would lead to a lot of duplication for all the vanilla BASIC programs that do work on both. The ancient ticalc.org management system does not make dealing with this easy or fun at all. And this isn't the first time: There have been other issues like this in the past, such as whether to separate 83+/84+ programs when the 84+ was released, as well as those for the 89/92+/V200 family.
  
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