To be honest you should be using your site analytics to inform the best suited UX pattern. I'm going to guess that ~70-80% of your traffic is going to pure discussion and runite discussion + their sub categories. (If this is the case) it doesn't make sense to have these sections buried in categories half way down the forum. They should be prioritized.
I'd also guess that most of the traffic is coming from mobile devices (and if not it's probably because it's so terrible on mobile and most people would just give up). You should definitely be at the very least experimenting with a mobile first concept.
Tip: you probably have three different general user personas:
- Staff and admin (Moderation tools are key. Primarily desktop users but having an 'on the fly/stripped down mobile' moderation toolset would be handy for them)
- Content creators (primarily desktop. These are the people uploading aftermath topics and media)
- content consumers (probably a 50/50 split between mobile and desktop. These people probably want a mobile experience and an intuitive navigation pattern which the site currently lacks)
*You can extrapolate "jobs" that a user fitting under one of these personas needs to perform on a day to day basis, these jobs can then be broken down into customer journeys. Eg: content creator wishes to upload an aftermath video + aftermath description + 5-20 supporting aftermath pngs. -> map the steps they must take in order to complete this job. How can that process you've just mapped out be simplified.
Identify which are your most pressing UX jobs/problems (like content creators and consumers not being able to find categories relevant to their interests) and prioritise them.
In an ideal world you'd then concept, design and prototype the proposed new solutions to your most pressing UX problems and test it with actual users, gather feedback and then iterate. But I know that probably won't happen lol. Just keep it in mind.
My advice would be to do some wide market research, even so far as outside of ipb skins and see how other forums solve the issues the three personas above face. (Mobile and navigation are probably your most pressing issue outside of site optimization)...
Check out the oculus vr forum for an example of 'good' forum experience. They use a platform called vanilla forums.
This was a rushed post so no bully pls