Future Site Feature Plans

So, obviously I'll be taking it easy for a little bit here since we just got the whole site upgrade, but there are some notable features that are missing at this point, and I'd very much like to fix that. In addition to this I'll probably introduce some new features along the way, and any thoughts or opinions on this are very welcome.

Site Search: The big glaring thing that's missing at this point is of course the site wide image search. We've had versions of this in that past that were varying levels of successful. I wanted to include this in the most recent upgrade, but there are a lot of moving parts to a really successful and useful search utility, and I didn't want to release a half-baked version of it as I have in previous releases. Our next search utility is VERY likely to be apache solr driven, and since I'm a bit of a software toy freak, I'm going to take my time on this and make sure it's done right. I actually attempted this 2 years ago when I was working on the initial upgrade path, and really it was too soon. Now I should be able to do what I wanted, or at least very very close.

In case you're unfamiliar with what the heck "apache solr" is, it's a search engine that provides faceted search options which is a really powerful way to narrow down what you're looking for. It means if you were searching for "lightsabers" you might have a couple of links on the side that had a list of the most prolific artists who've uploaded lightsaber images, and then you might also have another set of links that let you choose between "jedi" and "sith". You could then choose to use one or both of these facets and end up with pictures of lightsabers drawn by a particular user that were categorized under "sith". This is a completely contrived example, but given enough time, it's also completely practical and likely.

Images on Comments: This is sort of an interesting topic. If we do this it will likely be only for guild members, and I'm really interested to see what the feedback on this is. I once cloned an image Mercy created into a blog post and made a few tweaks to it to show her an effect I was discussing in the comments of her image. It'd have been a lot more effective to be able to upload an image right there on the comment, but if we did that, displaying those images becomes and interesting question, and of course I have to figure out how to give us a practical administrative ability over it, so this is kind of a "maybe" but I'm interested in feedback here.

Customizable User Dashboards: I REALLY want to do this. One of the things about SWAG that has always bothered me was that we have enough content that you (individually) have to have a bit of a system to keep track of it all. Do you care about newest blog posts? How about forum posts? Do you only want to see specific forum posts that you've comment on? Do you want to be able to stop seeing those? And a lot of this is done manually by navigating all over the website. A lot of the stuff I just mentioned is TOTALLY possible. It's also possible that you could pick which things are important to you and build a bit of a dashboard for yourself specific to the stuff you want to see. Doing this is complicated though and doing it "right" is even more difficult. Still I'm likely to dabble here a bit and if I get something that I feel like can actually work, you will be getting it.

My Gallery OCD: I don't really like the gallery in its current state. The responsiveness of it is cool (If you've not seen this, shrink your browser window left to right and watch what it does. Most of the pages except the front page and your user page work this way seamlessly), but the images aren't centered top to bottom, we have some that actually break the next line, and really, I can do better, I just wanted to get this out since functionally, the site was ready to go.

Front Page & User Page Tweaks: Just as I'm not particularly thrilled with certain aspects of the gallery, I think the front page and user pages are really just a "good enough" first pass on my part. They need some serious serious love, and again I just wanted to get the site upgraded since I felt it was functional at this point. I'm really interested in feedback here too since I'd like to know what you all want to see on the front page.

There's other stuff too, but these are the things that are really high on my list. They're not necessarily in this order, though the search is really high on the list. Let me know what you're thinking, and if you're a guild member and want to discuss stuff I didn't mention here, there's a "Wish List" discussion happening in the private forums that you should participate in.



I think embedding images in comments could be really cool for threads where community members want to share photos from their games, maybe demonstrate SWAG art in use, or show off custom minis or battle arrangements.

I wouldn't want a feature like that limited to just Guild members. I think it could be a really cool interactive tool, and might encourage more RPG-related discussions and sharing.


Oh, I totally forgot to mention the Request workflow!

Request Workflow: Requests right now are, and always have been, pretty helter skelter. It's a lot of manual work on the part of admins to move stuff from the request forum to taken, to finished, and then there's no tracking for the Guild Members who have taken one. I mean we have this soft limit of no more than 2 working at a time, but that could actually be enforced, and the moving from one forum to another could be too. Likewise we could do things like associate WIP blogs and final images with the Request and keep a history of everything that happened. I've done a LOT of this sort of work over the last few years for customers, so this isn't even pipe-dream realm, this is SUPER doable. It is also really high on my priority list and will probably make an appearance close to the same time as the search feature does.


Automatating the process of claiming a request and moving forums would be nice.


I just realized I can click on images in the gallery and download the full size.


This is so awesome!


I'm about to head to a convention for a week (business stuff) and then probably up to Michigan to hang with my employer for a week, and then off to Colorado for some vacation time. That all being said, SWAG's back on my radar in a big way and there are a lot of features I intend on pushing through in the near term. This follow feature was just the first. :-)