Unions: Version 2: (Thread Created 8/2/06)
NOTE: I'm not updating this thread anymore, because The HeadCrab Union has moved off of GameSpot because of a loss of hope that this project will ever see the light of day. It's up to you what you want to do with your union, but think before you act.
Just to give people some back story, The HeadCrab Union was going to move off of GameSpot, but I was contacted by Greg Kasavin (Read the conversation here) asking us not to leave, and to give the union system one more chance. He told me to provide him with a list of things I thought unions should have, so I took a couple weeks and brainstormed ideas, and tried to put them all together. All my ideas can be found below.
The Inside of a Union:
The first half of this large site enhancement deals with the insides of a union. Everything from what is displayed to how the staff manages their union's content can be found here. I'll start by showing off a concept image of what my vision is for the new union system, and then I'll explain every feature in detail. I'll be using The HeadCrab Union in every example.
We should have the ability to show off our affiliated sites and unions in a highly visible location, and the best spot for this is the affiliates bar at the top of GameSpot. Affiliating with other sites or unions gains us permanent advertisements on the other end, but we need to be able to display these affiliates in a visible location on our union, or it isn't really worth it for other sites or unions to affiliate with us. There would be a section in the admin tab that allows us to input two pieces of info, the affiliate's name and link for that affiliate. If a union has so many affiliates that they can't include all the names on the bar, then they could input the name "More," and then link it to an article or thread within the union that displays the rest of the info.
Customizable Double Navigation System:
The customizable double navigation system is one of the most important features in this thread. It's the very thing that connects a viewer with the rest of the union. Content driven unions would find this extremely useful. This feature would allow a union to replace GameSpot's navigation system with their own content, allowing visitors a great way to find information on the union, and union leaders the ability to show off their content easily. When you click on a section in the top navigation bar, the bottom navigation bar expands on what you selected with more options. Don't worry about getting back to GameSpot's features, since they'll still all be linked at the bottom of any page on the union.
We'd be able to do other things too, such as arranging the navigation buttons in the order we want them to appear, or separating sets of buttons. For example, the gray buttons in the example image are union pages, and the dark gray buttons are game pages that we could create.
The biggest reason why this is so essential to union leaders is because it takes a massive amount of time to build a navigation system of our own. Take The HeadCrab Union's current navigation system for example. It took me about three months working on it before it was complete. The entire nav system consists of hundreds of images, and replicates GameSpot's nav system. Why not create a system where a union's nav system doesn't have to be created manually with images of all things. Why not take three days to set everything up instead of three months?
Content pages are exactly what the name implies. They're pages that hold content, whether they're news articles, game guides, previews, interviews, videos, downloads, forums, etc... Content pages can be created the current quick way using the Publish page. I say the quick way, because in this version of the union system, the publish page is a shortcut to creating content pages. The more official way of doing it in Unions: Version 2 would be by using the content page management system in the admin tab. With this content page management system, you'll be able to create content pages, and then take advantage of the new double bar navigation system by naming the page, and putting it somewhere in the navigation system. You can either make it a main content page on the top bar, a sub-content page that goes on the bottom bar, or maybe something even lower, such as an article.
The point here is that this is where you create content pages and choose where they'll go in the navigation system.
When you first start a union, you'll have to setup your navigation system, and that starts with creating content pages and arranging them onto the nav bars. You'll be able to create main content pages such as a Features page (In the example image above) that holds the union's features, and any others that you want. Once you create these main pages, name them and anything else you have to do to them, you can link them onto the top navigation bar. After your main content pages are all setup, you can work on creating the sub-content pages. These will appear in the bottom navigation bar under any of the main content pages that you select. For example, a path that we chose in the HCU's navigation system is Features/Game Guides/ Half-Life 2: Episode One Game Guide. The leader will need to set this whole navigation system up the way they want it.
After we create the content pages and organize them into the navigation system the way we want, we'll need to arrange the content page setups using something I call the widget system. This allows you to alter any content page to make it appear however you want it. I'll explain this widget system in great detail later on.
There's one other option we should be able to have when creating content pages that hold things like previews, interviews or game guides in them. Some of these require more than one page to display all the content, so it should be possible to extend a content page using the previous and next buttons onto another page. I currently use image page buttons. For an example, check one of our game guides here, and look at the page buttons at the bottom.
Before I go further, let me make it clear that these are the customizable buttons on the union I'm talking about right now. The other set of navigation buttons appear under a union's banner exactly where they do now. These buttons are too important to the union, and need to be there always. Notice that I've added the "Track - Join" buttons there and gave them a different color to increase their importance. Moving those buttons there will make it easier for users to join, since it's more visible. After the join button is clicked, it will disappear unless that member resigns from the union. That's another important part. The only way to resign from a union would be in the member's profile under the Unions tab. I don't agree that members should be able to view the admin tab of the union. Anything in there should be private, and only for the leader or officers to see. Union officers or leaders will also have extra buttons displayed. They are Publish, Upload, and Admin. Publish lets an article writer post an update aka content page. Upload lets them upload images, videos, or files. Admin takes them to the administration section of the union.
First Time Visit:
Joined or Tracked:
Leader or Officer:
Customizable Union Invitations:
There is also another button called Invite that is viewable by anyone in the union. It's a more obvious way for people to invite others to come visit the union. It would no longer be hidden this way.The Invite section could allow users to email their friends about the union, or send out a customizable invitation. There should be a place in the admin section where the union leader can attach a message that would be sent out with all automated union invitations, which will give a little preview of the union to the possible new member. The member sending the invitation should also have the ability to enter in a little message to the person they're sending the invitation to.
Living in the Shadow of GameSpot:
Part of the reason why the ability to create a double navigation bar of our own is so important, is because it would would help us stand on our own, and not live in the shadow of GameSpot. Instead, it would allow us to show off our features, and not GameSpot's features. It would help the union members and visitors to feel as if the union wasn't just a tiny feature of GameSpot's, and instead, it was something big that just happens to be located on-site. This would give viewers and outside visitors a bigger reason to respect us. I don't want them to consider us just another forum attached to GameSpot.......We're much bigger than that. I think unions could become as big as GameSpy's planet sites, but GameSpot would need to grant us that freedom by unchaining us from their navigation system, and allowing union leaders to build their own.
Get Rid of the Union Level System:
The union level system has had nothing but a negative impact on unions and their communities. I mentioned this before, but some admins disagreed with me saying that the levels are what make unions different or special. I say that if it has a negative impact this bad then ditch the whole system. Spend time creating union site enhancements instead of constantly fixing the broken level system.
Most people create unions only for the sake of trying to level up and become more popular. They have no plans for the union. People spam unions with game threads all the time in an attempt to try and level up. Every single time they gain a new level, they need to celebrate it with an article, which is spam by the way, and isn't what unions should be about. People overlook other better unions and head only for the higher level unions, not even knowing that a lot of them are spam unions that spammed their way up to the top. Union leaders get frustrated, since their level isn't going up, so then they make the mistake of trying to order around their members to go post on the union board, and then it all falls apart from there.
I want people to have a reason to make a union other than leveling up. With the level system gone, I would imagine only the union leaders that are serious about their unions (delivering quality news and content)would continue with them, and the union leaders that only have a goal to make the level meter go up would stop, and the spam unions would all die out.There wouldn't be anymore reason to spam the union, because it would be accomplishing nothing. All the non-serious union leaders would have no reason to continue. This would hopefully mean we'd have a smaller closer tight knit community of quality unions.
Randomized Horizontal and Vertical Union Banners:
We should have the ability to link as many union banners as we want, and whenever the page is refreshed, the union would randomly pick one out of a selection to display. We could also take this idea further and allow certain pages on the union to show specific banners. For example, the home page could have banners showing off the union's name, and one of our game pages such as Half-Life 2 would feature banners based on that game. There should also be a way to add vertical banners on the left and right columns. Officially Sanctioned unions can do this.
The stats page could be redone to show off more interesting things, such as the amount of unique daily hits certain pages of the union gets. That's another thing.....instead of us using 3rd party hit counters to track union activity, GameSpot should implement their own stat tracking, so it makes it easier on leaders to make decisions based on the amount of page hits their content gets. Leaders should be able to pick any page out of the union and put it in a tracking list for other members, or only the leader to see. Other things that should be added here are all the union game associations. They shouldn't be located on the front page, because it makes it look cluttered looking. Also, unions such as mine need more slots to add game associations, because we've passed the ten game limit. This gives us advertising on gamespaces since we're endorsed, so it's important to list all our associations.
The union article archive in its current form is absolutely useless. There are only five categories, and most don't even apply to many unions. What's worse is that putting a union in certain categories don't even allow them to be viewed on the front page, which defeats the purpose of making the article in the first place. The archive needs to have customizable categories, so that a union leader can actually find a use for it. In the admin section, there should be an extra tab called "Archive." First I'll display this new tab's content, and then I'll explain its features.
Instead of having the default article categories Bulletin, Story, Op-Ed, Guide, and Rant, article writers would be able to create their own customizable article categories. We would be able to create as many categories as we want, and even create sub categories, which give us the ability to better organize our articles, so that our members will be able to locate the articles they want with complete ease. Right now nobody uses the archive because there is almost no organization, and it's impossible to find anything. If somebody wanted to look up a certain article on a Half-Life 2 mod in my union, they could do it by following an obvious path: Half-Life 2 Mods > Mod Name > Article. See how easy it is to look up important info? It even gives people a reason to come back to the union, which is to get info whenever they want it.
Article writers would need to select the category when they're creating the article. They'll also need to choose the navigation path, sothe path registers on the double bar navigation system. For example, using my example navigation system, the path of an article I create could be located here: HL2: EPS/Articles. This would highlight the HL2:EPS button on the top nav bar, and it would bold the articles button on the bottom nav bar. This makes it so the article's path is visible.
About the widget template drop down menu. If you remember, I said I'll get to the widget system later on.
There were some things that I thought of after I had already made the images, so I'll list them here. There should be a way to move a category/sub category into another category/sub category,turn a sub category into a main category, make a sub-sub category, etc... There should also be a way to add an article to multiple categories when creating it, since it's definitely possible that an article could relate to multiple categories.
This is a very important addition to the union system, and certain parts of it might be too much to handle for a lot of union leaders, so it might be necessary to make parts of it available to endorsed unions only. It would allow article writers to upload images, videos, and files to the union for redistribution to its members and in articles.