Links inside this topic are in French
I created in 2018 a discussion on another popular video game forum (Canard PC), where I suggested a migration from their vBulletin to a modern platform. I talked about Discourse since I already had prior experience. Users didn’t seem to be favorable.
I restarted the discussion recently 3 years after and talked a bit with other users.
Interestingly, a lot of people seem to dislike Discourse very much compared to vBulletin or similar forums. They especially don’t like the infinite scrolling/timeline.
Some users mentioned that Gamekult, another large French video game forum, migrated to Discourse (from an unknown engine) in 2017 and that it was a disaster.
I was intrigued, so I took a look at the topic about the forum migration to Discourse: Le nouveau forum - Forum Jeux vidéo - Gamekult
The first feedbacks from the community were pretty harsh.
I noted several things that users disliked - some were fixed, some weren’t.
The flat, white, and kinda “empty” design. It first used the default Discourse style, but you’ll see from the link that it now has its own design.
The pages’ width. Users complained that the forum doesn’t take advantage of wide screens, and that reading in a thin column layout feels like reading on mobile.
Lots of small things regarding the navigation, because people weren’t used to Discourse yet, and had to re-learn how to navigate and learn to use new features
That’s kinda the same thing, but people disliked the fact that they’d have to spend hours and hours on the new forum to be used to it, and felt that they couldn’t use the forum as efficiently as before without learning how all of this work.
Some usernames were changed because Discourse doesn’t allow spaces or other characters in usernames.
A lot of the previous data has been badly imported (encoding issue and stuff like this), but this is not a Discourse issue. The import wasn’t good enough to keep the data clean.
Lost features like signatures, custom large smileys
A lot of negative feedback regarding the infinite scrolling
It has been 5 five years now, and after reading the first 400 posts from this 2017 topic, I created a new topic to gather feedback from users today.
From long-time and new users.
I asked them how they felt about Discourse after being used to it, and, for those who didn’t know the old forum, if they liked the current forum, what were the bad and good things, etc.
There are only a few replies yet, but already interesting things have been said.
But let’s go back to a user opinion from Canard PC, which currently uses vBulletin. So the opinion is by someone who does not uses Discourse daily, or may not have used Discourse at all.
He said that having a stream of posts may encourage people to skim through the posts instead of reading them with attention. He also seems to think that having the “reply to” system which doesn’t quote the message and where you have to click to see it gives the impression that we actually read most of the posts, where in reality, we missed things. It’s a bit hard for me to explain since English isn’t my native language, and what he tried to explain is a bit subtle.
He thinks that Discourse’s interface and navigation could make users prone to have a more individualistic logic in their behavior instead of a community-based logic.
In the end, he interestingly says that the community’s success and identity may rely on constraints that are absent from Discourse. He doesn’t explain more, but from what he said previously, I suppose he’s talking about stuff like the pagination system, a slower pace needed to use vBulletin since actions are a bit more tedious…
Now, in the Gamekult’s new topic’s first replies, what a very long-time user - from 2004 - says among other things:
Discourse made a lot of people definitively leave the forum.
Even after 5 years of using Discourse, he still misses the pagination and he finds the infinite scrolling/timeline not very practical
When a lot of users left, the remaining users seem to have gathered around the most active topics
The notification system orients the user to the topic in which they have been active/mentioned in several ways, and it tends to make users rely mostly on the notifications to participate in the forum and not discover and browse other topics. If I translate in English, he says “I short, notifications make us navigate, not ourselves…”
The forum interface and navigation (I believe he’s talking about features like infinite scrolling, few formatting message options, real-time topic updates…) make people write short messages as if it was a chat system.
Likes tend to create the following behavior in debates: “I have the most likes so I’m right”
He says that the topics list layout is bad and because of this, they feel that creating new topics is useless because it won’t be seen and read by others - but it may be related to how Gamekult shows the topic list (no category displayed for each topic ).
Another user agreed explicitly that they themselves rely on the notifications to be active on the forum, and thus they won’t discover new content by themselves.
I find these opinions interesting because I almost never read bad reviews from Discourse users or admins. The only one that comes in my mind is Unfortunately I had to pull the plug)
My three migrations were all absolute successes in terms of community happiness. I had almost never, if not at all, bad feedback from my users.
I have no conclusion… And would be happy to have your opinion on all of this and/or testimonies of other migrations that didn’t go well and, most of all, why they didn’t go well.