The MLA Commons has a fresh new theme this week, designed with the principles of simplicity, clarity, and ease of use. The boxes and lines of the previous design have been removed, giving the site a freer, more open feel. Gradients, textures, and 3-D elements have also been removed in order to flatten the design and focus on the content. The bright red and orange color scheme has been replaced with a subtler and more legible palette of grays and blues, and the typography has been renovated, using typefaces from Adobe Typekit. We think you’ll love the new look. Following is an in-depth description of the aesthetic and technical changes you’ll notice in the new theme.
Much of the Commons user interface has been simplified. The previous design featured as many as three buttons on a page for a group’s e-mail options and two areas for navigating through the pages of a forum. These redundant elements have been removed, and the site’s organizational hierarchy rendered clearer. Some functions of the Commons have also been consolidated. The site-wide wiki page, for instance, has been replaced with the group functions Forum and Docs. Those who have created wiki pages will find their documents in their profile pages, under the Docs tab. The Announcements function has also been removed to promote greater use of the group forums. Group administrators can now leave an announcement for a group by creating a forum post and marking the post as “sticky,” which will make the post appear at the top of the topic list. The home-page section “Getting Started” has been moved to the help menu, and the feedback panel handled by UserVoice has been substituted for the resources available under the help menu. Soon, file attachments to group docs will also be disabled in favor of the existing Files group function.
With the release of this new theme, the WordPress plug-ins that constitute the Commons software suite have been updated to their latest versions. These changes bring fixes for a number of known bugs. With the release of BuddyPress 2.0, page loads are faster than before. For a more complete list of the changes in these updates, see the change logs for Commons in a Box 1.0.8, BuddyPress 2.0, BBPress 2.5.4, BuddyPress Docs 1.7.0, BP Group Documents 1.7, and the other peripheral plug-ins packaged in Commons in a Box.
Since the MLA Commons runs almost entirely on free and open-source software, we’ve been able to make many of our improvements available to others, so that institutions using the same software suite can benefit from our development. Our simplified theme for BuddyPress Docs, for instance, is awaiting review from its package maintainers and should provide future users of the plug-in the option to use our cleaned-up user interface. Bug fixes and improvements of ours can also be found in the most recent versions of the Commons in a Box theme, BP Group Documents, and the WordPress command-line-interface tool’s BuddyPress plug-in, among others. For a full list of our contributions and to try out our latest code, visit the MLA’s repositories on GitHub.