How to preserve side bar in Elgg 3x desktop view

In Elgg 2x the default theme is responsive and behaves excellently on both desktop and mobile devices. The desktop view is compact and has a side bar that has the user photo and description and other menu items. It does not need too much scrolling for the eyes from side to side.

In Elgg 3x the side bar is absent in both desktop and mobile view, as if it presents one-solution-for-all. Its a deviation from the excellently crafted and thoughtful UI present already in 2x. The main problem in desktop view is the huge amount of white space (white space is good, excess of it causes emptiness and depression) present horizontally, text box areas are unnecessarily and massively wide and the eyes have to scroll a lot from left to right and again and again massively from left to right, making reading rather uncomfortable and unpleasant.

Please consider a plugin that solves this problem (any kind hearted plugin dev with some free time to spare for the community) or a change in the approach by any core Dev ( any kind hearted Dev who can see through the problem and foresee future advantages) or any reasonably priced paid solution that wont die with Elgg 4x, 5x and future versions. Many thanks in anticipation. Also, the menu tabs getting stacked in smartphone view is taking up a lot of vertical space of the mobile screen real estate and really uncomfortable.

  • You sound so dramatic. There is nothing in the new theme that can't be fixed with a few lines of code, it's a lot more flexible.
    Re: tabs, has been asked and answered
    Re: sidebar, the layout is adaptive and will show a sidebar if there is one. When there is no sidebar it can either show you an empty sidebar like aalborg did or just extend the content area. Given most themes these days use flex card layouts stretching is a more appropriate behavior, than showing whitespace you loathe so much.
    Re: width, it takes a simple hook to change the layout width or any other CSS variable for that matter

  • Thanks @Ismayil Khayredinov
    I think certain side bar items / menu items have been taken up in the top navigation bar. So there will not be side bar actually to show side bar. Absence of side bar in newer and wider desktop makes a lot of unacceptable scrolling for the eyes, specially non English Indic languages.

    I think I saw the answers but none probably provide exact solutions.

    I mentioned a reasonably priced paid version that will "mimic" Aarlborg as many sites upgrading from 2x to 3x will have endusers or site members missing the used-to and regular appearance provided by the Aarlborg theme.

    Maintaining an actual site with sufficient users and actual content is SO difficult these days ( in face of facebook and Apps, which have killed independent internet because unlike html for App you have to slave of Google or Apple first ) that simple hook and those things are really not easy for many who will be downloading Elgg zip for personal non profit webs.

    Many thanks Ismayil Khayredinov, for your inputs and the very useful plugins by you in repo. Regards

  • Imho many things can be fixed or tweaked by those who are downloading Elgg. But providing an out of the box solution (which in any case was there in the 2x) that is UX / UI friendly not only helps the existing users but also those who adopts it new. I dont think I am the only one - there may be a very much silent majority.

    This is what people all over the net are saying :

    ""The glaring issue with this approach is having super-wide columns of text. A body of text 30cm wide isn't going to do your layout any favours aesthetically, but, more importantly, the readability will also be reduced.

    """The width of a line of text is typographically referred to as the "measure", and in order to preserve readability should aim to be around 45 to 75 characters in length. Too many characters and it becomes difficult for the reader's eye to move back across the text and locate the beginning of the next line. """

    """so designers often think of responsive web design as a way to make their layouts mobile friendly.""" but responsive needs to be friendly on desktop too!

    ""The optimal line length for your body text is considered to be 50-60 characters per line, including spaces (“Typographie”, E. Ruder). Other sources suggest that up to 75 characters is acceptable.
    Readability: the Optimal Line Length - Articles - Baymard Institute"""

    The new gen desktop screenshot of Elgg 3x I provided above as in the Activity screen should best be avoided out of the box instead of leaving it for the user to change css etc.

    The newer desktops are really wide and there are no UI ( non code non dev ) groups or UI / UX testers for Elgg. Accepted that its a code base that can be easily altered - but "easy" is not easy from the adopters viewpoint. I think if there is paid solution that does not "break" 2x theme outwardly with whatever serious improvements have gone inside for 3x ( as listed in changelog for 3x ) it will be a great welcome in the repo.

  • Elgg is a framework, not a plug-and-play solution for a 100 different use cases. As I said, you can add a sidebar to your theme for the activity page. Core has nothing to add to a side wide activity stream.

  • Point 1: Elgg 3 is not yet final. So, it's maybe too early to ask for themes just yet. And any outlook (regarding compatibility) for Elgg 4 or 5 is really over the top (maybe UI won't even change so themes would continue to work) or someone comes up with some really great new ideas for a default theme you don't want to miss... First thing first: release of Elgg 3, then we see what might be necessary regarding theming.

    Before Elgg 3 can be used by it might also be necessary for some that 3rd party plugins be updated. So again, first things first: we need a final Elgg 3 to be fully able to upgrade and release 3rd party plugins - and the time to do the upgrade. That's the time I see what I like or not like in the UI for real.

    Of course, you can ask for someone to do the work to come up with a theme for free. But then you need to accept that it might take a bit of time for someone to do the work. I agree that the Aalborg theme is a good theme and some elements of Elgg 3 seem not ideal. Of course, if you have some knowledge in coding you could fix what you don't like. Otherwise, you need to either pay someone or wait until someone comes up with a theme that suits you better.

    I see some valid points and some points I don't fully agree with in your suggestions:

    Width of main content area: YES. I also think too wide. Good for images and videos but bad for readability of text. I also haven't seen any site yet that has a body area that wide. If Elgg 3 comes with this unchanged I will surely have to come up with some solution here (for me in the first place but then I guess I can release it as a plugin if it's there anyway - but I will first work on my plugin to get them all working on Elgg 3).

    Stacking of tabs: YES. Should be as a row if possible. I don't yet how it can be done but that's one other thing to deal with in case won't be fixed anyway in making the tabs displayed as row (possible with usage of flex-wrap -

    Sidebar: NO. At least not necessarily. The question is if you want the owner-block on all pages or not. Personally, I don't see much sense in having it everywhere. If you want a exact copy of the Aalborg theme you might think otherwise. But the point here is: it's easier to hide or display the owner-block on pages with Elgg 3, so it can be displayed or not with a theme easier than on Elgg 2. I would prefer to have relevant stuff in the sidebar first and not having to scroll down below the owner block to reach any contextual page menu entries. In the end it might be not that many pages without a sidebar. Possibly the activity page, the profile page and dashboard but no others. Sounds rather like an improvement.

  • A huge thanks iionly. Imho "if its not broken do not fix it". The code beneath Aalborg may be completely rewritten but the UI had no complaint as far as I can see in forum and github. The desktop view specially the current desktops seem alright with Aalborg. When the text area is made readble perhaps with 960 px ( or little more or less ) there is room for more columns and a side bar perfectly fits the bill. Desktop views allows one to click directly rather than clicking dropdown or burger menus for example in the screenshot of Activity page for 2x one can directly:

    Bookmark / Report / RSS

    Thus making the side bar both helping in reducing width ( making text readable ) as well as utility-full. End users / members accustomed to using Bookmark / RSS etc from the side bar in desktop will suddenly be at a loss as to what is happening.

    Elgg 3x is not yet final : so I thought this may be the right time to shape it (clay while it is soft can be shaped and modelled). In one opinion it is early, in other opinion this is the time to give it direction or start alpha or beta "Aalborg for 3x" ( with new code but same UI )

    Horizontal Tabs have no problem in mobile view in 2x and if a page has more tabs it can go in a drop down OR made to be seen in swipe ( other social scripts like Buddypress Wordpress themes are doing this ). 

    Its rather unfortunate like many of the original Devs moving away to real life jobs or other priorities are no longer available here. This is a true scenario in many projects for example the huge number of plugins like those in 1x and 2x will never be available for 3x. Thus many Elgg sites using those will either be defunct or have to look for hosts supporting older php versions. The Aalborg dev is sadly no longer active. Hence a paid version. I mentioned 4x or 5x because if the paid version dev is not committed for future versions ( some scripts have "future" pledges so that users are not left in the lurch ) then one will be stuck up with 3x and will not get web hosts in future. Thus much better than paid solution is the solution imbibed in core. If that is not happening : community plugin or yes, a paid version. 

    Many thanks again for chiming in.



  • Thanks Ismayil Khayredinov. Its not about 100 use cases. Just one and only one use case. The current Elgg org UI only. It fits the bill perfectly for most sites who are using this theme. From dev point of view its a framework I agree but from real life users like me its plug and play. If there are no users like me / us there will be no point in framework. The reason is already what I told : the internet as we know is shrinking too fast in face of facebooks and apps. I think it will be like Titanic : while the ship was sinking many were still making merry!


    There is no harm in providing a stunning, eyecandy UI to a framework out of the box. Also there is no question of 100 use cases. Just the use case we are using now in Elgg org. I see no complaints or github issues with the structural usabilty of the current Elgg theme as in Elgg org. 

  • Its not about 100 use cases. Just one and only one use case.

    It's a thing of perspective. For you it's just one case. But for 100 people it's 100 cases.

    The underlying code for the UI has changed A LOT between Elgg 2 and Elgg 3. And for a reason: it's much easier to adjust the UI in Elgg 3. On Elgg 2 it was easy if you were happy with the Aalborg theme as it came out-of-the-box. But it became difficult if you wanted to make adjustments. And a lot of people LIKE to make adjustments because they are necessary for their use case of Elgg. Now on Elgg 3 this is much easier because the code is more flexible AND allows some major changes more easily because there are CSS variables that only need to be changed in one place. Now the theme as it comes with Elgg 3 does not look exactly as the Aalborg theme does. But it's much easier to change the UI on Elgg 3 to look like the Aalborg theme did as the other way round.

    As I understand you have mainly 3 complaints. The tabs can be easily made horizonal again ( The width can be adjusted by changing some CSS variables (see The maximum width is currently 80rem (1rem = 16px so 1280px). Reducing the default 80rem for example to 70rem (or what seems fit) and the width is reduced everywhere! The variables can be easily adjusted using a plugin hook ('vars:compiler', 'css'). Even if you can't write a theme on your own that would do just that I'm pretty sure someone will come up with a theme once Elgg 3 is out that will give you at least some starting point if it doesn't fit your needs exactly. The last of your issues with the sidebar can also easily be fixed. It would just be necessary to add a river/sidebar view with the code to be displayed in the sidebar, e.g. the owner-block. Or adding the extra menu items there again (e.g. rss or reported content). So, even if it looks a bit different by default on Elgg 2 as it does on Elgg 2 the changes are not that big and more easily to fix as if the Aalborg theme would have been kept unchanged.

  • Once more a huge thanks Iionly. My words are not complaints, even if the tone be. My apologies. It is just *discussion*. In discussion there are arguments and counter arguments. If anyone is using Cpanel in webhosting heres an interesting tit bit. It did not come with log out button in its initial versions and when I "complained" ( many years ago ) I was sort of accused as 'your one use case' type things. Nowadays you cannot think of Cpanel without proper login log out buttons! 

    Elgg org is being used by 10,000 users at least. Thus there has been no complaint with UI for these huge number of users. How it can be my perspective only or just one use case ? I am not demanding any NEW feature :  Its an existing working thing already being used daily by hundreds of users in this very site. As I say changing the code is great but not the outward appearance when nothing is broken.

    There is no web interface theme customizer in Elgg core ( as in Wordpress ) or as plugin (as in Drupal ) that lets you easily adjust text width, side bar or no side bar etc etc. Thus even if it is easier for *devs* to handle things in 3x, for *users* it is not and for *end-users* *real life site members* it is broken usability (from 2x UI to 3x, for example Lady Xyz exclaiming and upset " oh no! Now where did my bookmark/ report button vanish?" and ...they may not bother to re-learn and just shift to another site!

    I do not mean to keep unchanged Aalborg CODE but mean not to change the visual elements / bars / blocks grids whatever. Doing that will be fixing what is not broken.

    However, posts like this made by me is an energy sink. It takes away actual dev time. As Ismayil has already pointed "dramatic" ... its true as long words and going round really does not help. Here I am to blame myself. Actually I was upset with the sudden change in UI as it take long years to develope a real site, get the plugins which are also time consuming to get updates - when I was just mentally stable with Aalborg UI, the changes in 3x sort of upset what was already getting launch ready.

    The *actual* solutions provided ( by Iionly) is REALLY massively helpful and assuring. I will be trying that and posting specific questions or issues - precise and concise queries for code help where I cannot. Closing this thread for myself for now. Massive and massive thanks and gratitude to Iionly. It will be great if you have fully secure payment bounty gateway or amazon wish list where we can contribute. (It applies to all devs actually)   Thanks a lot Ismayil, RvR and others for your time. Regards.

  • The time for discussions is over. You should have been following and participating in Elgg development in the past 2 years and vocalised your opinions when peer review was taking place. Now it's too late - hire a developer to build a theme that satisfies your needs. The core template (not a theme) was built with extensibility in mind, not it's out-of-the-box look. Elgg is not a marketing gimmick. You can't question design decisions after people have invested thousands of hours into making a release happen. This type of needy attitude is what's killing open source and puts away people like me from doing any more work on otherwise useful alternative platforms such as Elgg.