My thoughts on the OGF interface

Posted by Yuanls on 27 March 2020 in English (English)

After the previous diary post, I have decided to compile my thoughts and ideas on interface changes that may help to better introduce and inform new OGF users.

Problem 1: The way OGF presents itself

When a new user visits the OGF site for the first time, a box appears. This box introduces OGF at a conceptual level, but no deeper.

OpenGeofiction is a map of an imaginary world, created by a community of worldbuilders. You can take part in this project too.

You are then presented with two options: to 'start mapping' and immediately sign up and begin, or to 'learn more' and read the FAQ page. The FAQ page, I will address later.

I imagine most people would be overjoyed that they found a free-for-all mapping site. I certainly was. Geofiction is a niche and specific hobby, and I figure most new users would be eager to map asap. The presence of the 'start mapping' button is a literal incentive to start mapping off the bat without consulting any information whatsoever. This is a problem.

So, first suggestion: remove the option to 'start mapping immediately'. Display one option only: 'Learn More'. Every new user needs to be aware of how OGF functions. It is still possible to create an account straight away, but the option is now less desirable and less visible. Fewer people will act out of compulsion.

Problem 2: The FAQ page

This page looks like a fridge instruction manual, or the contract you have to sign before you get a WhatsApp account. Seriously, has nobody thought about restructuring it?

When a new user opens up the FAQ page, they see a wall of text. This doesn't sell OGF very well to new users. 'Getting started' is 7 sections long, and 'Mapping basics' is 18 sections long. What's worse, the actual, useful About OGF page, is contained in another link. Even more reading!

Second suggestion: Merge the 'Getting Started' section of the FAQ page into the 'About OGF' page. Have the 'learn more' button link to the latter. It tells people how OGF works, what the context is, where to map and what the user can expect from OGF. As for the rest of the FAQ page, I'd restructure and condense it. 'Mapping basics' is still 18 sections long. I feel we might need a separate section, or even a separate page, for JOSM questions.


Improving the introductory system has the potential to solve many problems new users have: misplaced expectations of what the site is about, unrealistic and/or incorrectly placed mapping, and simply being dissuaded from mapping in OGF due to some combination of the two. If OGF is not for you, be this because of the rules, or the context, feel free to leave. Those kinds of rule breakers will never set foot on the map. On the flipside, if OGF leaves a good first impression, users would be more willing to stay and be more receptive of advice. You will have a better time if you know what you're in for, even if you do experience setbacks. Ultimately all users should become productive and integrated members of our community.

Feel free to back me up or shoot me down, I'm interested in your thoughts on this. Any input from admins or ex-admins is appreciated. You're the ones who control the site interface, and you're the ones who deal with the new users.

Comment from stjur on 28 March 2020 at 00:31

I think the Start Mapping button should link towards the about page, just like the Sign Up button does. Learn More could maybe link towards the FAQ. I don't really see why including the Getting Started section of the FAQ in the About page, most of that information is either already on the page or not meant for the very beginners. If you have the time and passion to restructure the FAQ page, feel free to propose a new restructured version for it.

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Comment from Rhiney boi on 28 March 2020 at 00:44

Well said, and I agree.

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Comment from Ernestpcosby on 28 March 2020 at 00:59

I'm not an admin or former admin so maybe not the best to speak on this but personally I think you're hitting the nail on the head. We have these but it feels like we still don't quite communicate any of it well enough on the front end. Both proposals to me seem like they make a lot of sense and could help.

Another thought of mine would be to more explicitly include resources on the main bar. A combined About/FAQ and a separate Resources tab with more obvious links to like the scale helper, JOSM download, and the tip pages would probably make the info more obvious and more likely to be looked at.

I think a lot of it is also like what you were saying- willingness to accept feedback. A lot of this is really contingent on how they're approached. While we need to focus on fixing the front end in the expectations of new mappers, I also personally think all more-experienced mappers active in giving advice to newer mappers need to become much better at constructive criticism so that we're able to properly encourage newer mappers to improve rather than to fight or leave the site.

Honestly, in addition to tweaks on the new mappers side, an "OGF:How to Give Constructive Respectful Feedback and Advice" page is probably in order for the older/more senior mappers here. I've discovered even myself just these last couple months that a lot of newer mappers that can be standoffish if confronted in an antagonistic manner are more than willing to take advice and tips if given directly, kindly, and with encouragement and respect. If our response to newer mappers is basically "your mapping is crap and you should feel bad", of course their response will be a defensive one rather than receptive.

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Comment from Lithium on 28 March 2020 at 11:31

Yes. Total agreement.

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