A layout for community projects

This example site is a proposal on how to advance the community forum of a volunteer project I’m part of. The goal is to move ahead from having a conversation-only community forum towards having the community at the center of the project.

The categories are: Talk, Share and Act. Team areas are only tagged. The idea is to keep teams accessible across the board and not segment the community with categories.

For this proposal I also adapted the Assign feature as Lead and the Solved plugin as Completed. Selecting Solved on a topic unassigns it by default and this actually works well here to: Lead will only show uncompleted activity leads.

It also goes well with using the Event feature to schedule activities. The only adaption here was renaming Going/Not going to Join and Leave for attendance. Out of the box it will list activities on the Upcoming events calendar, which seems handy.

How did you setup Discourse for community collaboration? I’m curious to hear of more approaches beyond a plain forum setup!


Thankyou so much for posting this. I’m just planning a Discourse setup for a very similar use, and it’s thought provoking and inspiring to see what you’re doing.

I’m not going to post my ideas and solution here, as it’s probably best if there’s a seperate topic for that and we keep this focused on discussing your ideas.

  1. I love how clean and simple it looks.

  2. Your division of Talk / Share / Act seems really clear, I love the clarity of it. I’m not sure I want to use it though, because I’m not convinced it’s how things actually work in my community. I’m not sure who would be helped by the distinction, when someone would e.g. want to browse Talk but ignore Share.

  3. Your left column is nice … is that a theme component or custom theme?

  4. What is the purpose of having “Categories” adding in the top menu, when you have them at the top of the left sidebar?

  5. Your idea of adapting the solved plugin as “Completed” is very interesting, I will try that.


Thanks for your feedback, Jonathan! And yes, it’s a good idea to not set up this topic as a collection of different solutions, I adjusted the title and text of my op!

on 2) And yes, I didn’t want to suggest using these same terms as such. There is a general suggestion though and it’s not dividing the community into subgroups with 1st level categories. I made a mind-map to visualize this. To me, anything you can put in a similar white bubble would support this layout well:

  1. I’m using the Custom Layouts plugin and all of it’s current widgets: Category List, Profile, Custom Html and Topics List. So the navigation menu listing the tags (community, design, development, marketing) is a custom html list.

  2. I’m only using the sidebar on desktop view, not mobile, that’s why I show categories in the top navigation as well. Also, there might be more categories that I wouldn’t want to give a similar spotlight on the sidebar menu.


I really like your way of thinking. When I first started learning to write discourse plugins I also made the mistake to focus too much on categories. I think its good to imagine what it would be like to do the actions we do on discourse in real life. Imagine going into a category and “creating a new topic”. It feels unnatural to me. I can’t remember I did something similar to that in real life. I think it feels much more natural to commit actions like “start a conversation” or “ask a question”.
Actions should be something that would actually feel natural in real life. “creating a topic” feels mechanistic and maybe even a bit rude to me. Thats why I am building an api to replace the actions of the composer with something custom in the plugin I am working on at the moment. I also like your idea of creating a community with a purpose. I feel like my goal to create a collaborative dictionary based on discourse goes in a similar direction. Discourse needs to be customized in some way. Otherwise its too close to a facebook group and the friction of facebook groups is very low.
I hope couchers.org will succeed. I used couchsurfing.org back in march when I arrived in taipei and haven’t used it since but I heard from other travelers that it had a bit of a meltdown :slight_smile: vc money ruins everything :crazy_face:



That’s quite close to how we use Discourse to manage projects at Pavilion. We use

  1. Assign for assignments
  2. Discourse Event for events
  3. Closing topics to indicate completion
  4. Categories for “teams” (e.g. each client of ours gets their own private category and group)
  5. Tags to distinguish “projects” from “tasks”

We also use our Layouts Plugin and Layouts Category List Widget for our sidebar :slight_smile:

I’m curious why you chose not to use the mobile layouts view?

We’ve chosen to hide the categories dropdown entirely (in a theme component). I’m curious if you’ve made any tweaks to the Category List Widget to select specific categories? Or if you’re using the excluded_categories setting? I considered added an included_categories setting (or something like that), as that might be useful to some people.

I actually recently enabled 3 tiers of categories on thepavilion.io to allow for a different knowledge base organisation. We’ve previously had


We’ve now moved to


I resisted making this move for some time, as three tiers is more complicated, particularly for plugins and themes to handle. For example the layouts category list widget didn’t support 3 tiers (I just recently added support).

However, we now need three tiers in the knowledge-base for organisational reasons (e.g. we need to pull certain knowledge topics from the api on a category basis). As might be expected in a project / work based discourse the categorisation can be influenced by organisational needs, as opposed to discussion themes in a more discussion-focused forum.


I’m actually just happy with the mobile view as it is. I also find it useful not to get too fancy with adaptions. So the basic navigation through the site works with the standard navigation menu.

I now looked at it and, as feedback, had some difficulties understanding how it’s supposed to work. It sounds like it’s another hard-coded html menu. I’d try to avoid that as well.

Yes, I excluded some categories from the widget settings. And I think to include them would be more intuitive, as that’s how most settings work. Could probably populate that list with all existing categories when you first enable the widget?

Overall, I really love the discourse_layouts plugin :star_struck: and left more feedback on it’s widgets here:


Great feedback! I’ve responded over on thepavilion.io :slight_smile: