I am continuing to work on tools to develop the upcoming package of paid services for the users that are interested in the new planned services, so there are only a few new things in the PHP Classes site to talk about.
* Package screenshots thumbnails
One of the things that was added is a thumbnail of a screenshot image of a package, at the left of the screenshots listing, if there are any.
If there is more than one screenshot image, the site shows the first in the listing. To let authors choose which of multiple screenshots will be displayed, there is now a new field of each file record that lets the author define the file listing priority. This field is only visible to package owners.
The listing priority field is evaluated before the file name to determine the listing order. So, the screenshot file that authors want to show as thumbnail should be given a greater priority.
* Packages with files in multiple folders
While adding the listing priority field to the file edit forms, I also added instructions to let authors understand how to define the path of the folder of a file, in case the package has files in multiple folders, that may eventually be nested.
* Package page section reordered
Another thing that has changed a little is the way the information about each package is displayed in the respective page. As you may have noticed, the order of the sections of the package pages have been switched.
Some users expressed the interest to see the detailed description of each package before they decide whether they are interested in downloading a package. Therefore, the detailed description now appears first, right after the listing of the groups that a package belongs.
The files listings were now pushed to the bottom of the package pages. The reason for this change is to make more noticeable some sections with important information for the package users, like for instance related links, dependent packages and others that used to be below the files listings.
I am not sure if this is already near the ideal layout order. I think that some users will like it, and at the same time other users may dislike it, as they may become a bit lost or for some other reason. Since it is hard to please everybody, I hope the change is appreciated by more users than those that did not like it.
Still, I appreciate constructive feedback, as usual, from people that think that may have better ideas on how to improve the layout of the site pages further.
* Site redesign proposals
While I am addressing the subject of site presentation details changes, I would like to mention that once in a while (maybe once a month) I get proposals from site users that would like to help by redesigning the site presentation.
As much as I appreciate the concern of the users that offer themselves to help, unfortunately it is not quite viable to redesign presentation the site now.
One of the problems is that some aspects about presentation design are subject of tastes. Tastes vary from person to person. Changing the site from one design to another, there is no guarantee that it will please more users than those that it will displease.
Given that the site had so many redesign offers, another problem would be to determine which offer to accept, without hurting the feelings of all the others that would not be accepted? I think that any proposal would have to be accepted by giving a fair chance to anybody that is interested to help.
Another problem is the fact that the site layout may not be changed arbitrarily for several reasons. One of the reasons is related to the fact that the site depends on the advertising revenue to sustain itself.
Advertising is only useful for those that pay to place it, if it shows in places of the site pages where it is noticeable and draws the attention of the users that may be interested in what is advertised. Therefore, the current places where the advertising banners appear were carefully selected to maximized the chances of being noticed.
Given all these problems, as I mentioned in the past, what I have in mind is to provide in the future means to let interested users customize aspects of the site presentation. Not everything will be customizable, but things like colors, fonts, styles, icons, and some layout details will be allowed to change.
The idea is to allow each designer users to create site presentation themes that others can use when they access the site. Due to the extensive use of server side caching of the site pages, it will not be possible to allow every user to use a different site theme. Only one site theme will be used for all the site at once.
To make it democratic, all the proposed presentation themes will be subject of a contest on which all users can vote on the theme of their preference. The winning theme will used in the site at least for a while, lets say 3 months. The winning author will get full credit. After that period, a new design contest will be started to give other designers a new chance to contribute and be reckoned for the effort.
* Privileges for paying subscribers
I plan to make it possible for subscribers of the upcoming package of paid services, to be able to pick their own site theme regardless of the results of any contests.
Paying subscribers will also be able to access the site without advertising. The subscriber fee will be small (say USD $5 a month), but that is enough to offset the costs of not showing advertising, as well the additional server load and disk space to compute each navigated page with using a different site theme. Other privileges will be made available besides these.
Well, as you may imagine this idea will take some time to implement, so do not expect it in a near future. I will be back to these matters later when there is some progress that you can see. Stay tuned.