Please have a look at the comparison screenshot (click on the thumbnail). On a much thinner slice of my screen (room for expansion?) I immediately get an overview over twice as many threads and immediately recognize which threads I have visited before, which posts have not been answered - all I need to know, while enjoying a much cleaner interface.
May I register a shrill cry of protest!
Colors. Without arguing aesthetics, I couldn't read a forum that uses yellow (ack!) on black background. And red. Such color schemes are truly, physically
unreadable to me, so much that it hurts my eyes and the tiny print appears to flutter like in those optical illusions
. There's way too much contrast, and the colors are all glaring neon at me.
I realize this is the preferred color scheme for most gaming sites, for example - perhaps to do with the cool grungey feel they like to elicit, so maybe it's culture-bound to a degree, no matter. I know for certain that if I open up a forum that looks like the left-hand part of your screenshot, I close it immediately and never return unless by mistake. I would never read DC that way.
(One solution for when I really want the content is to read such sites via Google RSS readers, which imposes its own default black-on-white style.)
The same goes for dpreview, incidentally. I've used it when I really wanted to read the reviews before purchasing cameras, but it is painful.
Then there's the layout. Why do books waste paper on margins? Because white space helps readability. It is true that the "dark" forum in your screenshot packs more information into a single screen, but that isn't necessarily a good thing. There are certain things that need to look like an Airbus cockpit, and most of them are Airbuses
To put that much info on a page you need that small font and narrow line spacing, which to me produces clutter. It's hard to keep eyesight focused on a single topic line, because the neighboring lines intrude.
I'm not saying my way is better than yours, only that there are certain designs that put me off to the point of physical inability to read a site. I've nothing against custom themes - I just never needed them at DC, since the current layout and color scheme are about perfect to me. It's clear, clean and eminently legible. The amount of white space seems to be just about right. I don't even mind the profile icons, since I hardly notice them at all. The only clutter I see comes from personal signatures and avatars (I'm guilty myself).
(There was once a highly informative thread on light vs dark backgrounds
- interesting to see how widely basic preferences differ.)
PS. What I'd like to have would be a configurable number of posts per page. I'd set it to something large, like 500, to reduce the number of times I need to click the index numbers at bottom to read a whole thread.