I haven't really been following the discussions concerning the new system, so apologies in advance if my comments recapitulate what has already been said.
I understand and appreciate the fact that StyleForum is an affiliate-supported website, but all that click-through traffic comes here primarily for the StyleForum community of posters. Experienced, knowledgable posters- the ones who make the website "sticky" in the first place- contribute mostly for their own leisure, and are the ones most likely to have the amount of time they choose to spend with the forum influenced by those intangibiles of look-and-feel. (People who are in a panic becaue they don't know what to wear to their interview tomorrow will manage to find their way here even if the forum were designed with rainbow gradient horizontal rules, a starry-sky background pattern, and Geocities circa-1998 animated gifs of burning torches.)
With the right sidebar as it currently is, the website is visually fatiguing. It's like the visual equivalent of a CD with overbearing, aurally fatiguing compression; the listener might not be consciously aware that anything is wrong, and they may think the music is great, but for reasons they may not even be conscious of, they just find themselves reaching for the CD less and less.
It is difficult for me to focus on the text with all those multicolored graphics in the sidebar in my peripheral vision. By the time a user gets to a thread view page, they have already seen the sidebar on the forum view page and on the subforum view page, so why would they need to see it a third time, especially when it's crowding valuable screen real estate? (Unless the sidebar is appropriate, like in B&S.) It seems to me that most of the click-through traffic you'd get from those affiliate ads would be from lurkers or Junior Members anyway. More experienced members are already familiar with the affiliates and already know what their options are. If you don't remove the sidebar entirely in thread view, or move it back to the top, perhaps you can make it disableable under "Account Details" for Senior Members. What are the chances I'll use the affiliate links if I just want to make Kyle-has-one-nut joaks in DT, or call people socialist nazis in CE? (Hell, a 100 post count is required for CE, so if they haven't visted the affiliates already, they're probably not ever going to.)
The avatars are too small. Honestly, I felt the avatars were too small even at 120x120 px. The smaller the avatars, the more a forum feels like the product of some roll-your-own-ersatz-webforum site like Yuku or Yahoo groups. Avatars are a way for posters to express their personalities and interests, they're part of that one-of-a-kind community experience that a user can't find anywhere else. At their current size of 80x80 px, they can be almost twice as large and not require any additional horizontal space to be added to the leftmost column.
If people feel there is too much vertical space being taken up by the information in the leftmost column, the blank space between join-date and location can be eliminated, username and custom title can be reduced in font size, and the online/offline graphic can be reduced in size. (Additional look-and-feel complaint: username and title should be moved back on top of the avatar, and username should be bolded, as in the previous system. There's too much undifferentiated information crammed together in one place as it is.) Try to avoid using slightly-different sizes of the same typeface in close proximity, like those between the custom title, online/offline indication, and postcount/joindate/location. Additional vertical space can be relaimed by allowing the leftside information to overlap the red post-time row, as well as the flag/like/quote row.
There's too much leading in the text on both the forum view and thread view pages, and it appears too "light on the page". Subtracting a pixel or two from the leading would improve readability.
Also, I don't know if this has been mentioned, but there seems to be a bug where, whenever a post containing a linked video is quoted, non-quoted text is subsumed into the quote field.
Thanks for listening,
Edited by tagutcow - 7/29/11 at 12:03am