I thought about whether this should go in the Praise category but it’s not all praise so I guess it doesn’t belong there.
I migrated my forum from XenForo 6 weeks ago. The migration itself was done by the Discourse team and was done superbly. They couldn’t have been more helpful in organising it and in re-running some parts of it because of unexpected issues.
Anyway, I just thought it would be useful to post up some of the feedback I’ve had so far from the switch.
I won’t be able to say this often enough without boring everyone so I’ll just say it once at the start: this might all read like criticism. It’s not intended that way. I wouldn’t have switched if I didn’t hugely prefer Discourse. I don’t regret switching, I’m getting very positive engagement and I’m still new enough on Discourse that there is still plenty of learning for me and our members to go through. I’m conscious of the expected migration experience. I just think it’s more useful for me to mention a few of the more “controversial” experiences post-migration as feedback. I’m conscious that most of these things will have been heard before, and much can be disregarded but in my mind it’s useful to share it anyway.
I think it’s fair to say that overall reactions have been mixed. Most people are either positive about the move or largely indifferent to it. Nearly everyone has had an opinion. I expected a bit of reaction alright because it’s a reasonably radical change but I didn’t think as many members would want to articulate their views, whether positive or negative.
There are a few members who absolutely hate it. Some/most of them are what might be termed “troublesome” members. I have plenty of those, in fact that’s a large part of my site for historic reasons.
Of more concern might be the small number of less troublesome members who haven’t been as vociferous in their objections but have drifted away. I’ll try and explain why below.
After the switch this was the focus of most reactions. There were those who had objections to the lack of pages - we have some really really long topics that probably exaggerates the impact of this change.
After a couple of weeks most/all of the negative reactions to pagination have disappeared. I think nearly everyone now sees the lack of pages as either a positive or a neutral change. The one remaining issue is that some users used to like to randomly click on Page 417 or whatever in the list of topics and start reading there for some reason. That’s not as easy to do now but I can’t figure out why anyone would really want to do that.
This was the second big “controversy” and has remained a bit more controversial. There is a lower acceptance for the default behaviour that we don’t include quotes automatically when you’re replying to a post.
The quote button in the editor has helped with this problem in desktop but the alternative of highlighting and quoting on mobile hasn’t been popular due to various browser glitches, the effort involved etc.
The nesting of quotes is also something that became quite garish. On migrating from XF we still have behaviour that involves a lot of quoting - more than you might see on here for example. That leads to a lot of nested quotes. On XF we only saw the last quote and if that was longer than a certain number of lines it gets hidden with a Click to expand link. I tried some really ugly CSS to suppress everything other than the last quote which unfortunately breaks quotes when there are multiple paragraphs. I still prefer that to the alternative of seeing 3 tiers of nested quotes in one response which really distracts from the new content.
I understand all the logic for not quoting automatically to let the reading flow etc but I think the XF behaviour of showing the quote but clipping it to a max length is a nice alternative and might be a nice option to have.
Anyway, again the initial heated reaction to this has died down a bit but it’s probably lingering as a bit of a gripe for some members, unlike pagination which is widely accepted as better now.
I think this is the biggest issue. It probably materialised third in terms of complaints after the migration but it’s staying around the longest. There are plenty of issues of posters not being able to cancel draft posts, not being able to quote posts, having cursor jumping issues, having the background reloading when they’re trying to write a response etc.
I’m not saying these are all flaws - some of them are caused by user behaviour, some by older browsers etc etc. But there are enough of these issues occurring to be frustrating. And my own mobile experience (on a Windows Phone) is less than perfect. This isn’t unique to Discourse of course, but to me anyway, it’s the biggest deficiency/gap to Discourse looking like the future.
I should point out that we used Tapatalk and had our own branded Tapaptalk app on our old software so the change isn’t just from one platform to another but from a combination of an app and a responsive website to just a responsive website.
There are obviously plenty of little things that members have issues with which I may as well mention here too.
Post ratings: we used to have a plugin on XF to rate posts across 10 criteria (Like/Agree/Dislike/Old/ etc). The change to just Like was unpopular. Again, I think most people have adapted easily to the new system and actually post a response, instead of just marking a post as Disagree.
Suggested topics: For reasons I can’t fathom, nearly everybody hated the Suggested Topics box. It was simple to switch off of course. No lesson to be learned here - just don’t understand why it met with such universal hatred.
Tracking topics/notifications etc: Lots of little comments around unread behaviour, the blue numbers etc that were all over the place after the migration but now that everyone has learned how to use it, those complaints have all gone away.
And, just for balance, here are the things that have been most positively received:
The live updates of the topic list and of topics themselves. We get a high number of posts during football matches taking place. Staying on the one page and never having to navigate to a new page number or refresh the page to stay in a 90 minute conversation is frankly nearly worth the move alone.
The latest view. We only ever had one “forum” with all our content because I hated segregating content. We used to try and use prefixes and other hack type things to get that one forum to make sense to different people but the structure of Latest posts with New/Unread/Categories makes so much sense.
The editor and live preview. I thought this would be something I liked and others hated, coming from BBCode. It’s not the case at all. Not a single complaint about it. Only issue is mobile where we don’t have the toolbar. A full-screen mobile editor that has been mentioned a few times might solve that.
Just the general slickness: the user mentions, the seamless navigation to last post, the clean look: they all point to a modern looking forum. It just makes people quickly realise that they’re on something modern and shiny and with a different but new thought process behind it.