We were lucky enough to catch up with Justin - the lead designer of MyBB earlier this week and he took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us.
For those people who live under a rock, could you describe what MyBB is?
MyBB is a free, open source, easy to use, and powerful forum software. It powers hundreds of thousands of communities across the internet, and it has a feature set rivaling any other in the industry, free or paid. Simply put, it’s a fantastic solution to organize and manage discussions - and that’s what forums are all about, right?
You joined MyBB when you were pretty young (15, if I recall). How did you become a part of the team and how long was it before you became Lead Designer for the software?
I first started using MyBB back before 1.0 was released. They had started a wiki to document common support issues, but it was lacking in content. At some point I began writing some additional documentation, as did former team member Ryan Gordon (who I knew from the RollerCoaster Tycoon community). The team took notice and decided to offer the two of us positions on the newly-formed MyBB wiki team. That pretty much remained the case as 1.2 was developed and ultimately released in 2006.
At the time, some work was being done to redevelop and redesign the MyBB website. We had a solid base, but we decided it could use some more work, so I was tasked with coming up with a fresh new design - which remains as the MyBB website you see today.
I became more involved in design of the software as 1.4 was being developed. I had a few ideas for improvements to the new Admin Control Panel, which was being developed at the time, and was ultimately tasked with creating the layouts for a large number of pages in the control panel.
I’m not entirely sure when exactly I took on the title of “Lead Designer,” as it was sort of a progression from my previous role as the maintainer of the Wiki to becoming the lead designer of the software. However, I would say I had certainly completely taken on the role by the time I first posted about 2.0 layout mock-ups in the MyBB staff forums, which was in early 2009.
What does your role as lead designer entail compared with other designers on the team?
For a while I was technically the only designer on the team - everyone else on the development team were tasked with strictly developing the software. Recently, though, Mike Creuzer (also known as Audentio) was brought on to, initially, develop a mascot for MyBB. He has since been made a full member of the team. He’s been working on other graphic design related items, such as creating a new MyBB logo.
My role, on the other hand, is related more to interface and website design. I’ve mostly worked on designing the interfaces that the other developers ultimately implement into the software. One example of this was the new User Control Panel dashboard for 1.6: I designed the layout, and it was ultimately implemented by the developers. The same will be true for pretty much the entire MyBB 2.0 interface.
As Lead Designer of MyBB what areas of the product have you been working on and where in MyBB can we see your handy work?
Though I was not responsible for the overall design, I was responsible with creating the layouts for many of the individual pages within the Admin Control Panel. There are also a few other places throughout the front end of the software that I have designed, but most of the current theme is left over from long before I joined the team.
As I mentioned earlier, much of the design of the MyBB website was my doing. Recently, though, I’ve mainly been working on continuous improvements to the MyBB 2.0 theme prototypes, and developing a new website, likely to be launched with the release of 2.0. Both the 2.0 theme and the website have been rebuilt from the ground up, and they have entirely been my work (with input from the rest of the MyBB team, of course). So unfortunately, right now you cannot see most of the work I have done as lead designer - though as development of 2.0 progresses you’ll certainly be seeing much more.
What would you consider are the "selling" points (obviously not literally, since MyBB is free!) of MyBB that sets it out from the crowd?
From the beginning, MyBB has been designed to be extremely easy to use, from installation to administration to the discussions themselves. Even as the software has grown and new features have been added, it has remained an approachable and intuitive software. Its wide variety of features makes it extremely powerful, and it’s easy to add features of your own with the extensive plugin system.
Our goal is to build the best forum software possible. I feel we’ve done a great job so far and will only continue to improve as we move toward MyBB 2.0.
Do you think MyBB will ever move from free to purchaseware?
No, MyBB will never move to being a paid software. It is, and will remain, a free and open source product. In fact, we have a bit of a saying at MyBB - that “free never tasted so good.” We’re going to keep it that way.
When MyBB ran the donation drive to purchase the .com domain name, did your team expect quite the support you got from the people who use the software?
I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but I think, for the most part, we did. Though the MyBB community is not as large as those of some other forum softwares, they are incredibly supportive of MyBB and eager see its brand, software, and community thrive. I think we wouldn’t have gone forward with the domain donation drive if we didn’t think the community would support it - and fortunately, they did. We have a few ideas to further garner up community support in the future, but I can’t specifically comment on what those are, unfortunately.
We have seen people asking on your support forums about MyBB 2.0 along with the repeated answer "When it's ready" - are there any plans in place for 2.0 yet? Can you share any sneak peaks, if there are?
MyBB 2.0 is still in its early development stages. The basic framework is there, but the team has recently been focusing on getting MyBB 1.6.5 and the Spam Ninja plugin out the door. Once full development of 2.0 kicks off, however, the goal will be to take the extensive set of 2.0 theme prototypes I developed and turn them into a functional forum software. Currently, there is no official (or unofficial) timeline for 2.0’s development.
There is also some information about 2.0’s development in the Developing the Future blog post from June. I’m also fairly certain there’s another 2.0 development update coming sometime soon, but I honestly don’t know the details about that.
One thing I have been granted permission to briefly talk about is the new user profile. If you’re familiar with MyBB, you know the profile page in 1.6 is pretty basic. We’ve decided 2.0 is a good time to add some new functionality and, as is the norm with the 2.0 theme, redesign it from the ground up, making it cleaner and simpler in the process. I can’t really show the whole page - we don’t want to reveal too much and then change it later - but I do have a small screenshot from the 2.0 profile prototype I can share:
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When you're not working on MyBB what do you spend time doing?
Studying, studying, and more studying! In all seriousness, though, I am a full-time Civil Engineering student at The Ohio State University and classes and studying are a major part of my life. Naturally, I also enjoy hanging with friends, watching movies and a bit of light television, and being an avid member of the Buckeye Nuthouse and Block O student sections (men’s basketball and football, respectively). On top of that, I also run an awesome RollerCoaster Tycoon fansite called RCTgo and develop a nifty virtual-flashcard/studying website called Quizli.
And finally Tell us something about Justin that we don't know!
I actually just mentioned this, but I’ll say it again anyway... while I love doing web and interface design as a hobby, I’m pursuing another interest of mine in civil engineering. I’ve always loved structures and bridges and roads (and building all of the above in the sand) and so I’ll be doing that as a career. Concrete and steel for me!