Custom sidebar sections being tested on meta

Recently, we decided to extend the level of customization for sidebar on meta. We have enabled the ability for you to create your own sidebar sections with links (using the enable custom sidebar sections setting).

How it works

To display the form, you will need to click plus button at the bottom of the sidebar.

You will need to provide the title of the section and at least one valid link. A valid link contains an icon, name and correct URL within the Discourse forum (absolute and relative URLs are accepted). For example:

After form submission, the new section will look like this:

New section in sidebar

Future work

Site staff will be able to create a global section visible to all forum member.

I’m eager to receive your feedback :slight_smile:


It is on footer of the sidebar? Well, that is an issue then. With iPad/iPhone, no matter if I’m using the hub or Safari, the footer is visible only once when a page is loaded very first time.

Same happends here too. When I opened Meta the footer was visible. I opened group-page and came back to home, and it is gone.


It is actually there but I can reach it only if i choose smaller font from settings of my profile and pinch screen smaller and I keep my iPad in vertical position. If it is horizontally I can see the footer when pinching but can’t use it, of course

This isn’t actually new thing. It has bothered all the time after new sidebar came.

So, this I see now:

But when I pinch (this screenshot wasn’t the easiest task :wink: ):


Becuase it’s not just a new button, I think that the icon should be changed to a pencil, signaling edit, not just make stuff.

Also, add a link to /u/username/preferences/sidebar in the modal.


Thank you for reporting it. Footer should be always accessible, so I definitely will look at that.

Technically, we are creating a new section in sidebar. Later, when custom section is edited, we are using pencil:


I have this set up here now, thanks so much @kris.kotlarek :hugs:

screenshot of my shortcut section (priority report, top features, top bugs)

I define top bugs as:

Open bugs ordered by likes on the OP. (same definition for top features)

Bug report:


I think we should have a rule in sidebar that only 1 thing can ever be selected, prioritize custom links over other stuff?


Cool — I think this has a lot of potential.

Because I jumped right to it rather than reading carefully, I found the “Link” section confusing. It isn’t immediately clear that this needs to be a same-site URL which currently resolves to a valid page of some sort. It might make it more clear if this would only take relative URLs (and if it auto-completed and showed the possibilities in a list? maybe too many to make that reasonable?)

Will it be possible to add “active” links like categories or tags which use the correct category color (or icon, with that theme component, I hope?)

Will there be a mechanism for adding fancier things? I’d love a custom search which gets an indicator or counter when there are new results. Or a way to have a sections show, say, my most recent 5 bookmarks, or last 5 topics…

I’m assuming the global section you mention will replace the current “Community” section? Will this be individually editable as well?


As an admin, it would be nice to customize it for all my members. Is it possible to customize the default view?


Not yet, but totally on the cards


Interesting but maybe not very easy to use currently (I had to read your post again to understand that the links should be internal^^). Would it be possible to add a link from the category/post we are currently reading, like a “add to custom links” at the bottom?


I was too hasty and forgot totally one small thing called /safe-mode. When I disable everything else than official plugins footer is visible as it should.

But have you guys change something here? Because the footer is visible now here too.

What ever. I’ll try custom sections here and wait for one or two updates before I’ll start wondering why my forum is a little bit broken.


One step toward customization would be to allow admins to define the order of sidebar sections. For example, I would love to move chat channels further up… (for all users)


I second this, but it’d be nice to also allow users to re-order from the default. (Maybe only optionally…?)

One problem I have no idea how to reconcile with maximum-user-level customization, though: what if an admin wants to add a new link to some section?


I minus one this unless admins can only set defaults and users can change those as they want — because of what @sebastianh suggested :wink: I don’t want someone dictate the the order and showing for me something that I use rarely, bacause I just don’t care what someone else does.


But different sites may have good reason to emphasize or present things differently.

For example, if the primary activity of the site is chat, and there are certain main channels, that makes sense to put that at the top. But if a site is focused on asynchronous, longer-form communications but still allows chat… site staff may want that not even on the sidebar.

I have a site primarily organized around tags. I want to show that, plus some select categories. I don’t care if users reorganize that — but if we have changes to the categories, I want to be able to make that visible to everyone, even people who have altered the default.

This does seem like an inherent design tension.


Yes just as a default, users should he able to reorder (mine are not tech savvy, few will use that)


I agree it would be fantastic if the admin could define the order too with the UI. I haven’t tried this new feature yet, but this CSS tweak is what I use currently to move the Categories and Tags section farther down, causing Messages to move up:

.sidebar-section-categories {
  display: flex; /* Setup a flex layout so you can reorder things */
  flex-direction: column;
  order: +1;

.sidebar-section-tags {
  display: flex; /* Setup a flex layout so you can reorder things */
  flex-direction: column;
  order: +1;

And again — that is not a decission of stuff to make. Staff can allow or disallow chat totally, but not go over users how they want to use a forum.

Sorry if this sound too harsh but not in this reality you, or any admin, know better than me what I want.

Yes, but now you are suggesting it should be the very first, last or third component on nav because you have made your mind. So you can, and should, setup defaults, nothing more, and let me make my own decission what and where something is shown.


It really, really depends. Discourse is a versatile tool. I don’t think I would disable choices on Fedora forums, but if I were setting up an instance for a narrow use case (support tickets or something) I might want to enforce a particular view.


I think there are multiple goals mentioned here that aren’t very controversial that we’ll reach in time:

For custom link sections:

  • ability to add external links
  • fancier features like new/unread topic activity?

Sidebar in general:

  • default custom sections added by admins
  • default ordering of sidebar sections by admins
  • user defined ordering of sidebar sections
  • user edits to the “community” section

To support this (and probably more!) I think the + button in the footer will become an “edit mode” for the sidebar. We still need to figure out the design for this.


This is the key one for me. I wouldn’t use custom links in the sidebar unless I could link to something external.