Are forums limited to gamers and tech communities?

(Alexandra) #23

Hi @jasonwhat, I am managing a decidedly non-tech community for language learners. It currently has about 200 users, 60 percent are women, 40 percent are men.

My view is that Discourse is not really harder to grasp than other forum software. Things like posting into the right category, quoting etc, tend to be problematic for non-tech users, no matter what the platform is. That said, I do think that Discourse does a good job making it easier for those new to communities.

I have quite a few users that expressed their worries about not being “computer literate” at sign-up now happily posting away.


I’m hoping others have good examples of Discourse or similar programs being used in communities for women or other groups that fall outside “techy” types.

Can I just chime in here and say that this is a false dichotomy? Plenty of women are “techy” types. Plenty of “techy” types are women.

I’m not even sure what a “techy” type is, and I would love the myth of “what a tech person looks like” to die. In fact, the majority of users of many major websites and apps (Facebook, Tumblr, SnapChat, etc.) are women.

I invite you to examine why you think there’s going to be a problem for “non techy women” and to be more specific about exactly what you’re concerned about. What exactly are you asking? What exactly do you think should change?


I have a private forum in testing. When it is live it will have a majority of women users, perhaps two-thirds of an initial 300 users.

The other five testers are all women and only one of them would be considered techy. Ironically, that was a nickname I was given as a teenager.

I’m sure that there are other forums like this which can’t be used as example because they are private.

The key characteristic of many of these groups will be that they are an adjunct to existing social relationships and you are introduced to the community by a real world personal invitation so the cyber invitation only follows later. This is very different to most public forums which usually introduce people online who don’t know each other in the real world.


  • clubs and special interest groups
  • churches and other religious communities
  • personal support groups
  • other restricted membership groups

(Kane York) #26

I can see one actionable thing - tech and games are featured too much at the top of the /customers page.

(Mittineague) #27

Not 50 - 50 but significant

Facebook’s and Twitter’s executive leadership are still the most white among big Silicon Valley companies - Recode

(Matt Palmer) #28

That’s a graph showing employment, not aptitude. There’s a strong body of data which indicates that women are at least as capable of being “techy” if they aren’t constantly dissuaded from being so, and that a lot of “techy” women pursue careers in other fields because the “tech” industry is so hostile to their presence.

(Muíran Shíoraí) #29

I’m trans and I’m working to engineer features that address diversity from both a UX and UI perspective. Feel free to followup on this with me and forward my contact information to parties concerned with this use case.


(Andrew Waugh) #30

I’m not sure I follow you. The distinction between an onsite and an offsite resource isn’t cultural. You can configure Discourse to open external links in a new tab, but some users will find that annoying. A popup warning the user that they are about to go offsite (regardless of if via a new tab or replacing the current) would annoy most users.

In your own post above you link to an offsite resource (Telescope). It’s highlighted in blue, has an indication of how many people have followed it from your post, and the cursor changes when you hover over it:

Is this what your users find confusing?

Many of our users took a while to grock how much information is presented by the Discourse UX. If you explain the meaning of the various elements then most users will figure it out. Some will not be interested in what they see as “fluff”, others will feel more at home. At a “soft” level the problem is that people are disconcerted by not knowing, so the grey circle with a 6 in it may bother them until they know what it indicates. Once you’ve explained what it means then the discomfort goes away, even if they aren’t interested in the least to know how many users have followed the link.

The slider on the right is a masterful piece of UX. (It’s at the level of IKEA assembly instructions.) in the sense that it presents a large amount of information and reacts dynamically to the thread/screen without getting in the way. Not everyone wants to know the details, and that’s fine, but most people will benefit from a tool if you show them how to use it.

Years ago I was running inhouse IT for a medium size business. I needed to book a flight, and I happened to be near the office of the secretary who handled that, so I dropped into her office. I explained where I needed to go and when, then watched as she opened a word document, scanned through it until she found the country I was going to, then retyped the airline URL (by hand) in her browser.

I took a moment to explain copy/paste, google, and bookmarks, and walked through a few examples with her. When we were done she said “You must think I’m terribly stupid.” my answer was “Not in the least, if anyone is stupid it’s whoever didn’t explain the most basic aspects of the technology with which you do your job, or decided that merely purchasing the kit and putting it on your desk was all that needed doing.”

Training/explaining is still necessary, regardless of how intuitive a UX is.

Quote with links drops the link
(Alexander Wright) #31

I’m running a site with a 1.2k user base with over half active in the last 30 days. This is for the Campaign For Real Ale, a membership organisation with 188,000 members.

We used to use a range of Yahoo groups, email lists and an old phpBB forum (that was used by about five people). I’d initially wanted to move the phpBB content, but the large percentage was unusable, so we started from scratch.

Setting up categories for the Yahoo groups and giving them a dedicated email address overcame most objections, and as a significant percentage subscribed to several groups, it soon became clear that having a single access point was greatly preferable.

I’m still having to do a lot of training, and am about to create a dedicated presentation, as a lot of our members are less technically able. Once they are shown how to do what they want to do, they are fine, but they have limited ability to explore for themselves.

(Alexander Wright) #32

One thing I do worry about is UX changes. Every change carries with it a ‘training debt’ that must be paid to bring users onto the updated system. It is something that is hard to pick up from Github changelogs.

Does any particular update change the UI in such a way that I need to issue training to help users? Without installing it and looking, I have no idea.

(Andrew Waugh) #33

As far as I know (with one exception) changes have been incremental additions to functionality.

Between discobot and reviewing your site specific user guides every now and then you can keep things up to date, but I suspect that once you’re built a certain level of community your users will start helping each other. We’ve reached a point where the users generally explain things to each other, or point people with questions to the user guides. I used to check the guides for veracity after every update, but now I just wait for someone to point out that the UX has changed significantly from the guide and update it accordingly.

(Alexander Wright) #34

Sorry, I may have come across unduly negative!

I’m pretty happy with all the incremental changes, and yes, users are helping each other. (Recommendation for people thinking of setting up Discourse: Create a Site Help or Site Feedback category).

I just have a slight uncertainty that I’ll not pick up on a significant to my users change from the release notes. As a software engineer myself, I know that what seems like an incremental change to me is not necessarily so for the less technically able.

I don’t have a solution though!

(Robert McIntosh) #35

I’m working on a Discourse forum for wine lovers, but ours is closed at the moment while we do testing

I know of many fora that are not techy - but you can check out this as an example:

(sujato) #36

Cool, thanks for the info.