We all know and love that spot that shows who posted the post we’re looking at. The poster information panel is one of the most important aspects of forum posts…or is it? We place so much information in there it actually becomes the most ignored part of the post. Information overload takes over and we block it out as we read.
Other websites use this area differently and bring back the importance of this information through minimalism. Reddit and Tumblr only display usernames, while Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Digg, and blog comments display only a username and avatar. Forums have somehow fallen behind this trend; Forums are the only places where the poster information panel includes post counts, karma, gender, group info, and more.
Besides being messy, many of the buttons are completely unnecessary. We don’t need any buttons for going to the members profile, viewing their website, emailing them, what gender they are, or their social networking identities when their name already links to their profile – where this information is much better served. Having this information on members posts can double or even triple the length of posts, forcing viewers to scroll more and driving readers away.
Below you can see the default poster information panel (and a handy key to help you understand what each element is), and the one you could have at the end of this guide.
How to Make Your Poster Information Panel More Compact
You can find the code responsible for the poster information panel in the Display.template.php file found in your Themes directory. If your theme does not have one of these files copy one from Themes/default into your themes folder before editing.
On a default install the poster information panel starts at line 240 and looks like this:
If you made it to the end of that code, congratulations, you are ready to do this! It looks a lot scarier than it is, so let’s take a moment to read and understand what we’re looking at. If you take a moment to notice the lines starting with “//” these are comments. They’re used to explain what the code is doing so anyone can follow along and understand. We know this is the right section of code because it says “// Show information about the poster of this message.” which is the information panel to the left of posts.
For the most-part you can simply remove blocks of code in accordance to these comments to trim your poster information panel down.
Removing the Custom Title
Custom titles are given to members via their profiles (based on permissions). Business forums commonly use these to identify staff roles further than membergroups. For example if you have a marketing membergroup you can use the custom title to say a specific marketing team member is an “Events Manager” or “Merchandise Coordinator”. To remove the custom title remove this block of code:
Removing the Membergroup and Postgroup Info, and using Badges
If you have custom badges for each of your membergroups displaying the badge and the name is superfluous and wastes valuable space. For this reason I recommend using badges to identify groups, and removing the post group and membergroup names from the equation. Post based groups are groups members gain access to by posting (everyone has one).
Remove this portion for the membergorup title:
And this portion for the post group title:
Removing Post Counts
Post counts aren’t important in many places, so to remove them you can simply remove this section of code:
Karma can be disabled or removed from the Administration Panel. You should disable it in there if you do not wish for it to show. If you wish to remove karma totals while karma is still enabled, however, remove this section of code:
Removing Personal Text
Personal text is a short bit of text similar to custom titles but displayed after the avatar. To remove them simply remove this block of code:
Removing the Gender Icon, Personal Text, and Profile Button, Custom Icons, and Messaging Icons.
Each of these are theme settings. They can be disabled in the Theme Settings section of the Administration Centre (on a theme by theme basis). The Custom Icons and messaging icons are disabled through the Profile Fields part of the Features and Options section.
Removing Custom Icons, Messaging Icons, and Other Buttons
If you don’t want to disable the custom/messaging icons fully (as suggested above) you can simply remove this block of code (which will also remove the website, profile, email, and pm buttons):
With all of those superfluous bits gone you should have a much smaller poster information panel. Depending on what you choose to remove you should expect to see a huge difference in page lengths, and members may be more inclined to fill out their profile because the forum seems to not know much about them.
With these small code snippits you should be able to figure out how to move things around in the panel as well. Just be sure to keep the HTML in the right areas (don’t put a list item outside of a list for example!) and nothing will break.
Have you re-done your poster information panel? Show us a picture in the comments below and you might inspire others to clean up their panels too!