Elgg - Structural Analylis and Feature Suggestions

Last updated by Joss Comments (6)

This group of pages (and I will add additional ones as I sort out all my notes) are my observation of Elgg based on the creation of a community site.

I have been working on an installation of Elgg for a fishing club with just a few hundred members - so a very small use of the soft ware. My reasons for choosing Elgg is that it most closely resembled Liferay Portal which I have been using to design a much larger, more complex community for a game.

I am not a programmer. If I am anything, I am a community organiser, I suppose, having been involved with the creation and speculation of online communities since the late 1990s. My official job is in advertising where I work as both a composer and a copywriter and have for 30 years - so I have some experience of looking at target audiences and evaluating what they want, need and are prepared to cope with.

In working on Elgg I have been impressed by its simplicity, but equally, I have been frustrated by the lack of easy customisation and core settings that make creating a specific online community intuitive; if there is a constant need to create plugins every time a small variation is required, the process can become cumbersome and alienate non-programmers who may have a better or at least as valid a handle on the needs of the users/client than the tech team.

As a non-programmer, it is very difficult for me to give back to the developers for having used their software for nothing, and indeed to the band of community developers who have brought so many plugins to the table, since I have not the knowledge to contribute to code. But I can offer a careful and friendly analysis of the system from the user and administrator perspective with the hope that either as a whole or in parts it may be of use in the future design of this extremely well conceived application.

I have broken up my comments into a series of subpages. Because of the way the menu system works, these will probably not appear in the order I have written them, so forgive me if they appear to jump around.

As a clue, the first page should be "Defining the Core"




  • Great stuff. You've put a lot of thought into this and it shows. I see some items that can become Trac tickets right away (such as providing a better method for organizing pages). I'll be adding comments to the different pages as I work through them.


  • Thanks Cash

    It make sense that people who know Elgg and its structure better than me cherry pick from it all - I am too new at this.

    My one advantage is that I tend to look at everything (including application) as to "what sells." In other words, if something has functionality I will always test that functionality from the point of view of a user first stumbling across it, rather than from the point of view of the developer joining up dots.  In voring advertising speak, does it have a USP - Unique Sellign Proposition.

    Normally you would associate that with a marketing campaigne, but you can apply the same rules to how useable something is. I remember a car manufacturer once explaining his design philosophy - he said the holy grail was to design a car to the point where it had two buttons: "Start" and "Stop" and nothing else.

    The fact that that meant that what was beneath the surface was increadibly complicated should have nothing to do with the user - they would buy the car for the start and stop buttons.

    Translating that into Elgg - the ultimate customer is the user, not the administrator. The version of an Elgg powered site that they are using has to make sense to someone who has no interest in how it works, has extremely fixed needs and really does not want to adapt.

    The Elgg administrator, therefore, needs to have as many flexible tools as possible to be able to fulfill that need. But the Elgg administrator's needs are to be able to create the final product as cleanly and as easily as possible without having to get their hands dirty - they may have the ability, but they should not have to go to the trouble.

    Whoa - I am waffling, and I have work to do!



  • Joss,

    This is some excellent quality and volume of work that has gone into it. Not had the time yet to go through it all in detail. But a big thank you for putting it all together!


  • It is a pleasure - it seems a good payoff to me. I get to use the sofware, and you get some hopefully usefull thoughts.

    Well, I am trying to make them useful!

  • I'm sorry to tell there, but have no forum where to post. I have a feature request, and this is the closest place where to write my suggestion. Is it possible in future elgg releases, to see an auto update function as wordpress does? It's frustrating that i have to reinstall all of the stuff, including configuration, all times i have to update the web site. Sorry for asking here but have no place where to do. Thanks in advance, your engine rocks!

  • HI Klez

    Most groups have a discussion page - click on groups to find the right group or click on the discussion link to see the most recent discussion topics.

    The discussion board for this particular group is here: