This is a sub-thread of the what i don't like / what i do like about flarum post. @jordanjay29 suggested i break it into a separate post.
Anyway, here is what bugs me about categories in this system.. along with some proposed alternative ideas..
It is not readily apparent how to navigate back to categories. This format could use breadcrumbs ( or some other similar system ) to make the navigation through it much easier. ( i understand you can back-navigate using the buttons on the top, but it's not evident this is a breadcrumb although it kind of is.. )
In the category list on the left, it should be apparent that a category has sub-categories underneath it. This lack of indication goes a little too far into minimalism. Maybe folders aren't the appropriate visual metaphor, but perhaps just draw an 'angle bracket' down from the category parent to the category child, or something like that?
And perhaps a plus sign on a category that contains a sub-category could be an easily understandable visual metaphor for that..
Category display on a mobile device would be very poor on a large board like mine with a diverse set of Categories and sub-categories. This is where PhpBB gets things right. Instead of the current crippled view, just have a link to the main overall categories list and let the board owner have their way with the CSS or use an extension if they want a phpbb/vbulletin/etc style view..
The header that says that post name and the subcategory could take about 1/3rd of the vertical space with a breadcrumb system that basically says home > category > subcategory > post name on desktop mode. I have this implemented in PhpBB through a template hack and it works well and looks good.
Categories on the left disappear in posts, but there is easily space for them on desktop screens, and these category labels are less intrusive than say, the left hand side of facebook, so i think it won't contribute to visual clutter to have those there for screens wider than say, 1000px or so.
Also it will eliminate a few clicks/scrolls even if the category list has to be scrollable in itself.
Say you're bored with a thread in a category and want to hop over to a different sub-category rather than wade through the list of new posts? well, it's right there.
I think improving the category action display will go a long way for satisfying phpbb/vbulletin/smf/etc users who are used to hierarchical navigation with breadcrumbs. The categories on the left is already a huge improvement over phpbb etc; it's just that i can be loads better in a stock configuration with some tweaks.