A brand new discourse.org

Originally published at: A brand new discourse.org

This week we unveiled a completely revamped discourse.org! When our original website was first launched in 2013, Discourse’s features were quite novel. Concepts like “infinite scrolling”, “dynamic notifications” and “mobile-friendly” were state of the art for open source community platforms, especially stuck-in-90s era forum software. Now these features are taken for granted, as they should be. That…


I was shocked after a first look at the front page to find no traces of

“There is a free version to use on your own web server”.

Instead there is a main menu link “Pricing” that links to a page to pick one of three paid plans.

To me, it is a sad move to hide away the awesomeness of being a free open source software to run for free on my own servers.

(I think I finally found it hidden here)


There’s this on the front page:


If I would be the average user looking for a “free” forum for my community, I would not be convinced by a link to a software hosting website.

On the other hand, I have not a single clue about the intentions of the re-design of the website in terms of payments.

Maybe it was by intention to focus on paid plans to get enough money to be able continue the development of discourse.


I may not be everyone, but when I’ve looked for forum software in the past, I’ve typically started from discovering it running on another site, then gone looking for it. That is to say, I’m not using the front page as the page to get me to buy or install the forum. There’s a huge community of people devoted to stealing PHP forum software for a reason: people like what they find and want to use it, no matter what.


I like it how WordPress.com does it:

They simply put another column “Free” on the paid plans page.

This makes it very clear to me what my options are.


For anyone who spends more than a few minutes to look at discourse.org it is clear that you can self host Discourse for free.

People who aren’t willing to devote those few minutes to evaluate Discourse as a forum platform on the basis of it’s strengths are also pretty likely to skip or ignore the minimum requirements and standard install instructions, but nonetheless post support questions on meta. This is a waste of time for Discourse’s support team. (Who, by the way, do an excellent job, regardless of if the user asking a question is a paying customer, or a non paying “consumer”).


Sounds to me like “You gotta prove to us that you are worthy to use our software” ;-).


Thanks @Mooash and @EducatorWaji for those bug reports, I have fixed those issues with a few blog CSS rules.

More like “You can have it free, but you should read the instructions on your own”

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I notice the header bar in the blog and the landing page has different font weight.


Well, more like are you smart enough to click a few links to figure out how to use it … for free. :wink:

I believe most developers are familiar with how GitHub works, and can follow our 30 minute EZ install cloud doc… which is directly linked from there.


I still do feel that you should include a “free” pane on your plans page or put back the “or install it yourself” link next to the “View plans” button on the call to action, at the very least. I’m not completely knowledgeable with programming stuff and I tend to skim a bit, so it took me quite a bit to see where the free version of your software was on your site.

Also, I feel if you guys want to grow as a more popular piece of forum software – you have to appeal to everyone. You should probably link directly to the install guide on GitHub, as well as to the GitHub repo itself.

Finally, I still feel you guys should at least mention some of your forum’s biggest features – such as infinite pagination, Markdown, and notifications – in text form somewhere near the bottom of the page, instead of just being on a separate page. Take Flarum’s site for instance. They do a good job of quickly advertising their features with a simple scroller in the middle of the page (near the “Learn more about Flarum’s features” button).

Sorry if I’m sounding nitpicky, I’m just a staunch believer that good UX can make all the difference.


Seen some of the fellow members suggesting to follow wordpress’s style and Flarum’s style etc. I won’t suggest to copy or take ideas from other designs or other people’s design. Let me be clear, what attracted me to discourse was it’s simple and straightforward UI. I never had seen anything like this. At first I was skeptical, but I fell in love with it when I kept using for a long period of time.

I love discourse blog’s present design.


But there is not free hosting offered by Discourse.org, so that would be misleading. Also, the comparison to Wordpress.com is wrong in that respect, as the equivalent would be to use Wordpress.org and host yourself. Wordpress.com offers a free hosting plan, Discourse.org doesn’t.


I am distinctly underwhelmed by the new discourse.org. Not for the same reasons as other users but sometimes orbiting around similar issues.

On the positive side, Discourse should be defined by what it is and who you are - I could easily say “who we are” given the strong sense of community. So please don’t waste your time looking at WordPress, Flarum or whatever. There are logical pitfalls in doing so. For example, free WordPress is an integrated service provided by Wordpress.com whereas free Discourse is not.

Some issues and unanswered questions

I’ve chosen three main issues and added questions for each - I’ve made an effort to be clear but I am watching sports games at the same time.

  • The home page lacks a passionate pitch.
    Q. How to instil a sense of passion and stronger direction?

  • Free Discourse should be ABC.
    Q. How to clarify access to the free DIY option?

  • Discourse doesn’t need everyone.
    Q. How to assist prospective users to self-select?

Some suggestions

The home page lacks a passionate pitch so How to instil a sense of passion and stronger direction?

I feel that the home page lacks passion because it doesn’t strongly suggest either action or clearly present problems resolved. Discourse.org so clearly represented passion that I committed to it before having any need for it. Perhaps I need to let go of this but I don’t think so.

From @erlend_sh’s blog entry, both early and late goals are presented but I don’t see either realised.


What problem can Discourse solve for YOU?


We ultimately settled on three “pillars”:

  1. Emails don’t scale.
  2. Problem solving is best done in public.
  3. Communities ought to be owned by their creators.

The structure and text simply doesn’t make it clear. Instead I read three out of four as warm fuzzies:

  • “your team”
  • problem of “email silos”
  • “solutions together”
  • “your community”

Also the term “email silo” is relatively obscure - do a search to see - which is why I would leave it out. It is one step too far beyond more easily understood terms.

Free Discourse should be ABC so How to ease access to the free DIY option?

At a very basic level, the issue of paid versus free is confusing because free includes three very different concepts:

  • free trials
  • open source licencing
  • self-managed installs on a non-Discourse host

Then there is the issue of using different language/imagery/concepts on different pages. I’d prefer to see basic and consistent descriptions repeated across various pages so less educated visitors can clearly make the right connection the first time they encounter each instance. For example:

  • Managed hosting seems less helpful than official Discourse hosting
  • Fork us on GitHub is cryptic compared with install Discourse yourself in the cloud. But confusion also arises because neither mention that you need to get your own host.

Here’s a table quoting the text on the various pages for the four topics I’ve mentioned. The situation gets even more unclear with Digital Ocean and community installs added to the mix.

On web page Paid Free trial Free install Free licence
www.discourse.org Managed hosting Start your free trial Fork us on GitHub an open source project
.../about official Discourse hosting Start a free trial install Discourse yourself in the cloud Uncompromisingly open source, etc.
.../features ? ? ? 100% open source
.../pricing .../buy hosted Free 14 day trial self-install ?

I do like the etc. on the about page:

There is only one version of Discourse – the awesome open source version. There’s no super secret special paid commercial version with better or more complete features. Because Discourse is 100% open source, now and forever, it belongs to you as much as it belongs to us. That’s how community works.

Discourse doesn’t need everyone so How to assist prospective users to self-select?

Discourse shouldn’t appeal to everyone because everyone doesn’t want or need Discourse. We should also remember that Discourse is represented by the quality and effectiveness of its installs.

  • Select whether I really have a useful need for Discourse.
  • Select the most appropriate Discourse implementation including the no Discourse option.

The best example of self-selection that I can think of is clarifying the “free” use issue above. Other examples would be show-stoppers that are disappointments when revealed or confirmed in the forum:

  • hosting requirements that trip people up, i.e. versions of Linux, Docker, etc.
  • clarifying supported versus unsupported installs
  • cutting out those unprepared to leave behind traditional tools like PHP and mySQL

That IS true, but it at least would tell people there was a free version. Maybe “hosted by our awesome Discourse team” could be a ‘feature’ for all the columns except the free one, hm? Or maybe just bring back the “or install it yourself” link next to the Try it out button from the old site. I’d be fine with either change, honestly.

That is true. I meant to appeal to more people, not just everyone, because some people really want a traditional forum layout like the likes or XenForo – or heck, maybe they want a personal social media page like Mastodon or Enjin!

THIS. So much this. “Install Discourse yourself” makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE than “Fork us on GitHub,” because new and prospective users don’t really use Git or know the process of forking that goes with it. It should be “Install Discourse yourself for free” or something similar.

Also this. You guys really should keep on advertising the features that makes you guys different from traditional forum softwares, such as infinite pagination, notifications, replying while browsing the site, but you guys decide to push for generic, blurry things such as “Help manage your team and grow a community” like that’s so vague, people need to see the features they’ll be using on the forum if they want to buy/install the software themselves. I know that stuff is on the feature page, but as I have said before, there needs to be some remnant of it on the front page so that people know to click over to that page.

Honestly, Remah’s post is probably the best response to this site change yet. I think the devs should pay attention to what they’re saying.

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Unless something has changed, we don’t want people forking Discourse! We want people to use the official version, forks just cause issues down the road.


My post started empassioned and was pared back to cautious but “F**K THIS” was my original response to that blunder.


To be fair, I’m pretty sure that line was on the old website too - but regardless it needs to be revised.