Modern UI and good user experience

Hi all,

my organization is an Elgg user over years now ( We are a community for digital, marketing and communication managers.

The big struggle for me is, that Elgg does not offer a modern and most importantly easy to use UI from scratch. Maybe a clean install with the standard theme is somehow ok, but as you start adding plug-ins that are cruical for the use of Elgg, the user experience gets messy.

It looks just very dated compared to competitors like, (though quite chaotic as well) and others.

Some examples:

  • Especially pages like users notification settings are very bad designed. Even here on it does not look very user friendly.
  • The whole notifications system at all is a complete mystery. Maybe for those who programmed it, it is somehow self explaining. For admins and users it is not. I have no overview of who gets when an email and just somehow making the emails looking good and user friendly is difficult. Clean and clear e-mail notifications is such a important thing to drive engagement.
  • It is a mystery for many users if they are now inside a group or at the generall wall (we did some improvements manually)
  • Mentioning others (@) does work just partly with plug-ins (on the wall but not on pages or in discussions)
  • And so many more things

Often for every other thing you need a plugin that then is not consistent and breaks the already not so good design and user experience.

I do think there is an strategic issue here. If Elgg would have from scratch a very clean, modern, consistent, future proof theme with good options for plugin developers to extend without breaking the ux concept, it would tremendously help. I also think that many who are evaluating social media platforms don't take Elgg simply of the dated look and feel as well as the inconsistency you get if you install plugins.

I would be even happy to invest into a real new clean modern user interface.

Open for thoughts. What do you think?

Cheers, Volker

  • @advatera, It seems that your my.advatera is currently running on WordPress. Have you worked with Elgg before in your projects or business?

  • Elgg 3 is in beta and comes with a new theme written from scratch and improved UX. When I worked on it, I had concerns such as these in mind, because like you, I was getting tired of things that were state of art, when they were introduced, but over the years turned into headache that was extremely hard to weed out. HumHub is only 2 years old, Elgg was incepted over 10 years ago, with all the baggage that comes with it.

    I have been working on a set of new plugins to help address a number of other issues, including mentions, autcomplete, etc, as well as a number of admin tools. I will make them available in my new e-shop when 3 is released. I already have 30+ plugins and many more need to be upgraded from Elgg 2, and I hope they will make Elgg experience more pleasant for developers and site owners, as well as users. 

  • @Tom is solely running on Elgg. You might have accidentially checked out which is running on Wordpress.


  • RvR, that it is a framework needs to mean that it comes in dated look and feel and inconsistent UI and UX? Don't think so. It puts a unnecessary hurdle on all Elgg users, as they then themselve have to repair ux problems all on their own instead of starting from a good UX. Your example themes on your platform might look great in the first run, but if plug-ins are added I am pretty sure we run into the same problems.

    This is not a criticism of the people that did great work in the last 10+ years for Elgg, Ismayil Khayredinov is right - part of the problem might be the long history of Elgg. But stil it is a major strategic problem for the platform in the future then. Because if people keep not going for it because of the dated look and complex UX reparation everybody would have to do on his own as you suggest, the growth and health of the Elgg community will be hindered. Should it be in future a product for a small group of Elgg lovers because they are historically so connected with it, or should it grow and flourish?

  • Ismayil Khayredinov sounds good. Though I think all the improvements should be part of the core and of the standard delivered theme. Also to convince newcomers that it is an fresh, modern and easy to use product with a great history and great dev community around.

    Is there any way we can still help with UX improvements? Would it help to invest into a independet UX testing of the new theme, maybe plus some of your plugins? Of course not to blame anyone, the solely goal is to help improving.

    Edit: with UX testing I would mean an external person; we don't do that, we are not an agency; just to clarify. But I would invest some money for it;

  • @ advatera, UI/UX design for future Elgg engine requires input from all corners of industries. Your input will be highly appreciated. Here are some great works of designers who are trying to shake and improve things even better for next generation

  • It's impossible to integrate Elgg with a CSS framework without breaking every plugin ever written. I tried to make Bootstrap work, but it's just too much work.

  • It would take a lot of work to do it in a way that would somehow minimize breaking changes. CSS frameworks are excessive, they come with a ton of JS on top of CSS, they are opinionated about the markup.

  • Elgg can and will grow further. 

    I am writing a theme just now, and it has become much easier to do things - Crush CSS variables are easy to share between plugins, components and page elements are consistent, margins and paddings have been standardized, grid is quite flexible - so you can do almost anything you want without an overhead of using a CSS/JS framework.

    Major CMSs has started off with using a framework, Elgg never had the luxury. I have used a bunch of CSS frameworks, but in the end I tossed them all away, because they come with too much junk. CSS frameworks are not meant for collaboration in a plugin-driven environment. You end up with hard coded CSS selectors that are really hard to override. They are great for developing an end product, where you have a design, you customize your variables, and then write the markup from scratch to accommodate your theme. With plugins doing their own thing, you end up with 5 different button sizes and styles.

    There were two problems that made it hard to work with Elgg themes: layouts and navigation. Both have been addressed in Elgg 3.

    But yes, let's build Elgg themes. As a proof of concept, bring me a PSD and I will turn into an Elgg theme.