If you head over to the official Xbox forums at forums.xbox.com you will be greeted with a much different picture than you are used to. The forums received a redesign, and its very questionable if it has been an improvement on the old.
This redesign was rolled out a few weeks ago and even given some time to settle into the new look and feel, many users are not happy with the changes. After discovering the changes recently I am inclined to agree.
Nearly everything has been changed, and the old forums have been left behind. All the old posts are being archived “for a limited time” on a separate site and will not be transfered over automatically. This means many of the thousands of strategy guides, discussions, and bug fixes that have been written by the community will be lost. The Community User Levels (CUL), which are supposed to identify regular and helper posters, have also not transitioned smoothly, with some people having their level reset or lowered.
The new features people are supposed to be excited about are the addition of “Help Sections”, and a “Consolidated forum structure”. However efficient design was apparently not considered. Head over to the forums right now and see how long it takes you to get to the main index. You would think the “Forums Home” button would get you there but no, its actually located in a dropdown menu above the banner near the top of the page (which is conveniently located directly below another dropdown button which if you accidentally hit, makes you wait a few seconds before it minimizes).
The new consolidated structure have made the forums much less user friendly. The past forums were simply a list of every Xbox 360 game, which while quite long, was easy to navigate. All you needed to do was scroll down to your game or use your browsers find feature. Now the games are broken up into categories; A-D, E-K, etc. So when I wanted to go to the forum for DiRT 3 instead of just scrolling down the alphabetical list I had to click through over 7 pages of the “A-D” games and wait for the slow loading time. Sections no longer have page numbers, so you cannot skip or go to the beginning or end, you have to navigate page by page. Another baffling change is that the list of games forums were not automatically brought over (like the post and CUL levels also should have been). If you head into the Arcade Section you will see almost all the games have no forum, leading users to hijack them for their own purposes. For example the Section 8: Prejudice section is full of posts about Perfect Dark Zero and Pinball FX 2.
They allowed images in users signatures which lead to some people using pornographic images or images that break the layout of fill the screen. They also created a extravagant posting interface that interferes with the right-click context menu in browsers.
Ironically the new forums also have problems with Microsofts new Internet Explorer 9 browser. One user wrote, “I bet Magellan had an easier time navigating the world than he would have on this site.” The Feedback section is filled with threads complaining about the changes. I can see this new layout being very discouraging for new users and making it difficult to find what they need. Have any of you readers encounteredproblems or complaints with the new forums? Post your thoughts in the comments below.