New Website Ideas

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We are in the planning stages of an updated sidefx.com website with more modern technology and would like to get feedback from the community regarding what you would like to see in the new website from both a design and technology point of view.

You can either email me directly at rmagee@sidefx.com or post to this forum. Links to existing websites that offer the kind of user experience you would like to see would be very helpful.

Robert
Edited by - Sept. 11, 2015 17:03:31
Robert Magee
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One thing that comes to mind is some consolidation of the Orbolt and sidefx.com sites (although I'm guessing that's an obvious goal that you've already thought of.) It seems that many software companies are diversifying from being just product providers (ie.Houdini) to being service providers. Orbolt was a first step in that direction, but I'm thinking it probably doesn't tap the potential cloud content market to it's full potential. Game Engine editors like Unity and Unreal should ideally be able to interface nicely with Houdini driven cloud based asset services that provide either tools to generate assets, or finished assets. LOD generation should be optional for everything. Support some kind of abstract material representation perhaps.
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1. a Public RFE System where you can add a RFE Proposal and discuss the RFE with others.

2. integration of a forum to the houdini help system. there are a lot of community help files on the forums on odforce or sidefx forum. it would be nice if there is a way to have it in the houdini support system as community marked help files with links to the forum.
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Great news!

Wider website, Larger fonts and generous spacing between elements .

Please don't use smoothing on scroll wheels and fancy animations.
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fast.
back in the day web site had to be efficient because no one had the bandwidth to handle huge amounts of graphics etc…but these days there is the assumption that everyone has some kind of broadband, right or wrong a consequence of this is that web sites have ballooned in size and complexity with very little benefit to the end user.

so I'd suggest:

save the fancy graphics and bells and whistles for the product pages

update the forums to something that
can be searched properly
has better user authentication to reduce the spam

support page:
it would be nice to be able to view our past RFE and Bug submissions….editing and updating them would be great but might conflict with whatever you have in house, so that's cool.

Learning Materials:
some kind of tagging system would make the tutorials searchable and help people find they information need…

honestly if these things were implemented I'd be happy with the current site.

but just make it fast


EDIT - I forgot about Orbolt…presumably there is some intention to integrate/unify the sites (which is good) but again, nothing fancy - Orbolt is a store - it should be easy to browse, and easy to buy…get in, look, find, get out. Nothing on the site should distract from that.
Michael Goldfarb | www.odforce.net
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1. a Public RFE System where you can add a RFE Proposal and discuss the RFE with others.

+10

Xenforo for the forum software (probably the most modern forum software right now):



The current forum software is severely behind the times. You can't even search properly.


For developers on Orbolt, a similar experience to github. I have so many HDAs but it's too slow to upload each of them on Orbolt, and also keep track of new changes and ensure Orbolt has the latest versions.

Ability to download multiple HDAs at once as packs so people don't have to install 100s of HDAs one by one.
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update the forums to something that
can be searched properly



Learning Materials:
some kind of tagging system would make the tutorials searchable and help people find they information need…

honestly if these things were implemented I'd be happy with the current site.


^
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- I love the public RFE discussion / feature request idea.

- It'd also be cool if the developers who were posting in the forums had some sort of special ID/halo around their forum posts, which would help us to zero in on the posts we knew were solid.
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1. a Public RFE System where you can add a RFE Proposal and discuss the RFE with others.

2. integration of a forum to the houdini help system. there are a lot of community help files on the forums on odforce or sidefx forum. it would be nice if there is a way to have it in the houdini support system as community marked help files with links to the forum.

especially that first one is super useful,
a great example is Trello for Unreal engine 4:
https://trello.com/b/gHooNW9I/ue4-roadmap [trello.com]

overall I think having a great tutorials section would be vital,
and some VFX sites have amazing intro screens such as rise CFX:
http://www.risefx.com/ [risefx.com]

menu off to the side, and a main view showing off amazing work.

I would also really showcase the apprentice version, so that newcomers see try for free, indefinitely immediately. all us already convinced are not the people you really need to persuade, its the newcomers that you need to grab in 15 seconds or less!

looking forward to the result guys!
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I would also really showcase the apprentice version, so that newcomers see try for free, indefinitely immediately. all us already convinced are not the people you really need to persuade, its the newcomers that you need to grab in 15 seconds or less!

Projecting forward for the next 10 years; a pre-Apprentice web-trial. Test Houdini in a browser like OctaneVR.
http://render.otoy.com/includes/xio_launch.php [render.otoy.com]
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1) Help improvement.
Submission/comment form in help pages where strangers can report problems such as help incompleteness, wrong, obsolete or ambiguous information, maybe even contribute. And not with a bloated Media-wiki engine of course.

2) http://www.sidefx.com/docs/houdini14.0/vex/functions/ [sidefx.com]
With an extension of VEX library in last versions, the VEX functions page turned into a long list with about a half thousand of functions. It is totally okay that all functions are all one-line annotated and available on single page, but grouping in Tab-menu-like categories will make the page more readable.

3) Journals compact view overhaul. I propose one-line form without comment cutting. E.g.:

“2015-04-28 14.0.318 Fixed possible generation of corrupt Alembic files for geometry that changed topology frame to frame and had indexed string attributes. This kind of geometry is prevalent in simulations which utilize the ”name“ attribute.”

Now it is two-line and a comment is useless due to shortening:
“Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Houdini 14.0.318: Fixed possible generation of corrupt Alembic files…”

4) +1 for open bug/RFE system and trello.

5) +1 Orbolt overhaul. Personally, I miss quick and direct download of free content. It is good if Orbolt will develop its “exchanging” and “learning” side, in addition to a “commercial store” side.

6) Maintaining some parts of $HH/vex/include folder in publicly available repository? It is always cool to contribute. Maybe vop_displaceAlongVector can be finally reworked that way…

7) Not sure if website related: please remaster some of the available learning videos SOUND if possible.


Thank you Side Effects! ♥
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Great suggestions so far!

I'd add, on the technology side

- human readable, succinct URLs; apple.com does this nicely. For example try getting the URL for the documentation pages, it's a monster! http://sidefx.com/documentation/ [sidefx.com] would be much easier on the eyes and easier to remember.

- no more Flash dependency; the Solutions section for example has Flash-based content on almost every page, I can't watch them anymore.

- no more picture-as-a-page; I've seen this on a few pages, it looks as if they were snapshotted from a PDF or so.


…and on the content/design:

- +1 for sidefx.com + orbolt.com integration, and overhaul!

- some cool tech company sites at the mo:
https://www.ableton.com [ableton.com]
http://unity3d.com [unity3d.com]

- I especially like how ableton.com has a continuous news feed that has items in all sorts of categories, neatly on the front page.

- no more carousel please http://shouldiuseacarousel.com [shouldiuseacarousel.com]

- I really love how you can get behind the scenes info about the development of Houdini; the journal pages, easily accessible daily builds, dev presence in the forums, etc. Shows how much the devs care, and what they are up to. So, big thumbs up for that, addition of the mentioned RFE system would be perfect.

- updated/reorganized tutorial pages. with tagging/filtering. lots of cool stuff in the learning section, but sometimes difficult to find.

- Houdini in Film and the Demo Reels pages are a great idea, but they seem outdated and should be much more prominent on the front page than tucked away in a menu. Same for the community gallery. Maybe spice it up with tagging and filtering too.

That's it for now, looking forward to the new site!
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Keep web FAST!!! = efficient :!:

E.g.:
That unity3d.com is disaster! When I open the page I see some ugly video on the background with no point. I click at Unity at the top link (why should I scroll down? There is ugly pointless video in front of me so I made (wrong) assumption that there is nothing more at the bottom of the frontpage and a lot of people will never scroll down on that frontpage too),
than I got to other page with some colorful image with some hidden (colorful) buttons. Now I have no interest to look anymore further, I don't have time to search in that mess.

That video on the background is awfulness and is very, very slow (and has no point, no information, no esthetic value either).
It's similar like video on the vimeo.com intro page (that one is nicer at least and vimeo is video host provider, that is BIG difference) but it also make that frontpage very slow (usually I has to log in to vimeo through different address because frontpage is too slow to process).

Those fancy video on the background, big pictures, zero information styles are good as presentation for bad musicians.

Continuous feed isn't bad but if it's too long it's not readable, it will just crash the web browser (not everybody uses 64GB ram to surf web pages).


1. Keep it fast! Lightweight, Efficient, Fast to load, Fast to read(for the forum it has to be - if it's slow nobody will use it (Autodesk forum is great disaster example))

2. Keep it readable - we need to solve problem fast, we look to this forum (help/docs) to find help/answers as fast as possible. There are other webpages for the people that have nothing to do (facebook :wink: ). Put there only what has to be there and only if it helps. If doesn't, get rid of it (shelf/header with full of gradients over half of the screen is bad design).
Keep it compact. Nobody want to scroll page 3 times on full hd display just to roll between 20 topics (especially on the phones - AD forum again).

3. High DPI ready.

4. Widescreen support for the forum.

5. Tags (so people could tag forum content for better/easier search)

6. Bookmarks/List of followed topics (odforce is good example)

7. Better search function for the forum

8. Dimmer color schemes for our eyes.

9. Keep the eye candy stuff for the PR part of the web.

10. Keep backup of this forum (if you will not be able to move content to the new one). There is too much valuable information.
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Back in the time of Softimage 7 was OUT (with ICE), the team had build up a website who where a sort of a forum doubled with some sort of sharing of compounds (HDAs) integrated in some way with the software
Today we had some sort of same functionalites but without the Social part

I strongly think you need a community forum mixed up with some sort of last shared files or screenshots

but in the other hand you need to keep that simple as your users don't whant's fancy interfaces. so you have to build a mix between classic forums and this sofrt of beatifull ones http://www.discourse.org/ [discourse.org]
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Would be great to have the forum behave on mobile devices, either in the browser or via some standard app like Tapatalk.

Same goes for the site, of course. And journals
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- Could we merge the Houdini documentation with the Hqueue docs? One resource to rule them all?

- Topic tags in the forum, allowing all users (not just the thread poster) to specify what the thread is discussing: FLIP liquids, Pyro, Sand, Crowds, VOPs, etc.
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I would like to see a Python support forum added to the list of forums. As the user base grows I would expect that more users, like myself, will be diving into python. Having the questions floating around in various forums, as they are now, does not help them get answered quickly if at all.

Just creating the slot on this board is not enough, however. For this to actually work SideFx would need to assign a moderator who actually has the knowledge to answer most python questions. Or at least offer guidance to solutions.

You could model this after the BlenderArtist [blenderartists.org] coding forums. Break it down for python, hscript and vex. Also having a forum for support on released HDAs might be nice too.
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my thoughts:

# keep it fast
no unnecessary images, flash or JavaScript

# keep it clean, clear and uncluttered
also make use of nice URLs

# perhaps change the colors
remove all the black areas of the website and just make it white with black text

# make the site a little wider

# simplify the menus and navigation

# Orbolt really needs a facelift
looks kind of old, cluttered and a bit unprofessional

# new forum (maybe in the style of StackOverflow? with points and ratings)
- or at least a way to mark a question as solved, with the correct answer on top

- maybe it's nice to have the possibilty to mark some topics as “Documentation” or “Tips/tricks” so that you can easily search for those topics
or give replies a point/credit: for example
in this topic: https://www.sidefx.com/index.php?option=com_forum&Itemid=172&page=viewtopic&t=37602 [sidefx.com]
some posts might be handy to mark as useful, for example:
"and an implementation in Houdini https://github.com/Azmisov/snow [github.com]“
this would make it easy to spot useful topics to check out and learn some new stuff

- add an overview of the 20 latest updated topics from all forums, so that it's not necessary to visit multiple pages to see what's new
- in general make the forum ”smarter"

Unreal Engine's website is pretty good:
https://www.unrealengine.com/what-is-unreal-engine-4 [unrealengine.com]
Edited by - May 10, 2015 14:33:56
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+1 for integrating orbolt.com inside sidefx.com and make pages dimmer which is more eye friendly in long reads. in overall make the look more professional.

add bugs and RFE tabs beside other tabs in Orbolt's assets pages.
this way every issue that customers facing will be easily traceable by the asset author.
obviously this is not necessary for simple assets but a true need for big assets. specially when asset leveraging some codes.
something like what www.creativecrash.com has done.

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rss feed, per subforum or the whole thing
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