When returning to a web forum, what should be displayed are either all posts which are either new, or which are immediate ancestors to a new post. The non-new posts should be displayed grayed out, since they're there for context, to avoid the annoying practice of people having to manually edit quoting in improperly threaded systems.
Posts should be displayed properly threaded, with indenting used to indicate responses. But the standard simple way of indenting each response one level more isn't quite right, because it leads to way too much indenting. What should happen is that if there is more than one response to a post currently displayed then the responses get extra indentation, but if there's only one displayed then it gets the same level, with a graphic included to indicate that it's a response rather than a separate post. Note that this only takes into account posts which are currently displayed. Not currently displayed posts are irrelevant and shouldn't affect formatting.
There should of course be indicators and expanders for ancestors and undisplayed responses to displayed posts, and those should change the formatting of everything appropriately when hit.
If someone views a thread which has no new posts, they should simply be shown the entire thread.
There, that wasn't so complicated. Now please get it right!