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Just a bump that I have actively resumed work on this.
Banner area will change; mobile design will lead, and the desktop version will be a fuller version of that, rather than our previous method of desktop first, then try to shrink it down some.
Sidebar likely going away, or at least minimized/less prominent. The important stuff people seem to like up top anyway, and those ads already get shuffled to other parts of the page for a majority of users.
Forums...I'm still torn. While I do see the desire from many for a traditional style, phpBB is not a thing that will or even can happen. We may be able to simulate some of the presentation/organization of traditional forums, but one of the main reasons for doing the layout as it is was for the community to be featured on the main page more often...by promoting a forum topic to the main page. To most easily fit in on the blog, forum topics were made to look like blog stories. The previous site actually used a hybrid presentation: all blog posts were actually forum topics that just looked like a blog on the main page. But we didn't have threaded comments or any of those bells and whistles, and this was because the back-end was a comical frankenstein of duct-taped-together systems. Are threaded comments on the blog or here even helpful? I find it difficult on most sites that thread conversations to find the most recent content, as it's mixed into the wall of other stuff.
/end of current mind dump.