"How do I start my new Topic" - UI / UX Improvement Request

(Bcguy) #1

This is a common problem my Discourse discussion forums for regular users:

I now that Jeff has a strong belief in making it hard and counter-intuitive for users to join and contribute to forums, believing that the barriers to entry make a better forum of more dedicated and users - and that may be true in the really high volume technically-oriented user sites like Boing Boing and Stack Overflow - but I don’t believe that is true in the regular forums that are 98% of the potential user base.

Is there any evidence that the many non-technical people that are turned away from our forums because of the UI/UX barriers to entry, are actually going to be unhelpful/negative participants in our forums. Basically what we are really doing is turning away and confusing our less technical users. This is not a helpful strategy for all the forum owners who don’t have the most technical, internet savvy user base.

(Bill Ayakatubby) #2

Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment and turn the question around:

A. How many people are being turned away from your forum?

B. How do you know?

@codinghorror has a strong respect for data. If you can provide concrete data that support your position, your request is much more likely to be successfully and seriously considered.

(Bcguy) #3

I get about a 90% bounce rate off the discourse forums based on Google Analytics and discourse dashboard data. This is about the same as with the Jive Forums that was designed 8 or 9 years ago. Sure - you could say that its no worse - but expect better.

(Jeff Atwood) #4

Well, if you want to move the Create Topic button around, that should be possible via CSS. Note that everyone arriving at the homepage as a logged-in user should see the Create Topic button at top right, so it’s not exactly hidden:

And as per FAQ/Guidelines - Discourse Meta

One way to improve the discussion is by discovering ones that are already happening. Please spend some time browsing the topics here before replying or starting your own, and you’ll have a better chance of meeting others who share your interests.

(Sam Saffron) #5

One big issue I see is how hard it is for anon to reply / create topics.

Anon is possible in 2 flavors:

  1. A user who never logged in
  2. A user who is accidentally logged out (new browser, new computer, cleared cookies)

Anon has a terrible experience, all the reply buttons are stripped, create topic button is stripped.

Instead, I suggest:

  1. We keep the reply button and create topic around for any topics or pages where all users can reply or create topics.
  2. On click, we either:
    1. “highlight” the area on the screen where they can click to log in.
    2. or, just pop up the login window.

I think this will do a lot to help out with this particular issue. Makes it much easier to onboard and make it way easier to deal with people who are accidentally logged out.

(Bcguy) #6

I totally agree Sam - those would help a great deal.

I also think that moving the “create topic” button to the left side of the screen where it is in the natural flow of people’s visual scan of the page - would greatly help in this issue.

Most of the forum software that I’m familiar with has the “create new topic” link/button on the left side of the screen where everyone looks. This is how Jive Forums was, and over the many years I used it I never had people asking me where the “create topic” link/button was. I know I could probably hire someone to modify the CSS to move the button to where I would like it and to design a more user-friendly page - but I really think that this is something that you guys might want to do for a broader audience.

(Jeff Atwood) #7

You are completely ignoring that this is 100% intentional. I feel like I’ve said this to @BCHK a hundred times, but I’ll just keep saying it because I think it’s that important:

You should not reply until you’ve at least tried to read the whole conversation.

Otherwise those anons will get to the first reply that pisses them off / triggers something strong, and then mash the reply button as hard as they can, leading to

Also, by not even trying to read the rest of the conversation

  • you may be repeating something someone else already said
  • you may not have heard the complete set of perspectives in the conversation
  • you may be responding to something that was already resolved later in the topic and dredging it up again in a way that’s derailing the topic


Hence, the reply button is at the bottom of the topic which is a reward for those readers who are willing to read all the way to the bottom. These are the new users you want replying, not the hair-trigger finger new users waiting for a single post to set them off in some way that precludes any further reading.

Now should we have a “screw up the experience for everyone by allowing lots of barely engaged drive-by users to reply to the first thing that triggers them rather than trying to read the whole conversation which is the entire meaning of the word Discourse and why I founded this project in the first place” setting? Perhaps. But it’d have to be opt-in, not on by default.

(Sam Saffron) #8

It may be 100% intentional, but it impacts first time users pretty hard. Especially people that log in with chrome and then use firefox to access the forum.

Also we are a tad inconsistent, we have “Log in to Reply” button, but do not have a “Log in to Create” button.

Regarding the “we are not building 4chan argument” consider this:

I agree, I don’t want to build 4chan, but I also don’t want a system that is harsher on nubies(or accidentally logged off users) than Stack Exchange is.

(Jeff Atwood) #9

I have some objections here.

  1. Data, fact and science based Q&A is not social opinion-based discussions. The strategies used for one do not apply to the other. At all. Not even a little.

    For that matter, SE mostly allows completely anonymous participation with zero login whatsoever. So explain to me again why login even matters in that scenario, when you don’t have to log in at all to post an answer? (or question, almost anywhere other than SO.)

  2. There is no way I should need to explain this to you since you, of all people, worked with me at SE. But for those that didn’t, please watch this presentation.

  3. All this has been covered multiple times on meta.discourse already. Read it and weep. Many other examples, but frankly I am bored with repeating this same discussion over and over and I have better things to do right now.

  4. This is all basically off-topic given the title is “how do I start my new topic”, e.g. customize your CSS to move the create new topic button wherever you like.

(Sam Saffron) #10

I think one point here is on-topic.

Showing a “Create Topic” button to anon, when clicking it highlights the login avatar or launches login window.

This sets expectations that “Create Topic” is always there.

I just don’t understand why we have “Log in to Reply” and don’t have “Log in to Create”

(Jeff Atwood) #11

May I suggest reading our /faq?

One way to improve the discussion is by discovering ones that are already happening. Please spend some time browsing the topics here before replying or starting your own, and you’ll have a better chance of meeting others who share your interests.

What’s more dangerous? Twenty bad replies by new users, or twenty bad topics by new users? Because I can tell you which one poisons the homepage faster.

(Bcguy) #12

I would really like to see a “create topic” button always there - even when logged in, on every page. It is just one more "barrier to entry " for people to post - to have to click to go to the main screen before you can create a new message. I frequently read a thread and that sparks an idea for a new thread - but I have to click home to then go to the button to create a new thread. Bad UX/UI in my opinion.

(Erlend Sogge Heggen) #13

Can’t there just be a plugin/option for stuff like this, and then we’ll have some real data to talk about?

(Jeff Atwood) #14

Which is exactly why “Reply as new topic” is available on every post, in the right gutter.

This makes it one click to start a new topic, and even better, captures the relationship between the two topics so they can be linked together and people can find them.

Furthermore, we now notify the user whose post you replied as new topic from, so they know to find the new topic you started.

(cpradio) #15

Only if they have access to the category the new post is posted in right? For example, if I start a new reply from an existing topic in a staff only category, will the original poster be notified?

(Jens Maier) #16

Bad topic spam is bad, yes, but alienating potential new users might be much worse for small to medium communities.

Maybe a compromise could work, like gating newly registered users who clicked on “Log in to Create” through a page that encourages them to read the top topics and ‘hides’ a link back to where they first clicked the log in button at the bottom of the suggested topics list? If they follow through with that they might actually have a valid reason to start a new topic… :wink:

(Jeff Atwood) #17

This gets into moderation queues for new topics (or posts), which we have definitely discussed but not even close to implemented yet.

@cpradio that’s kind of a party foul – you shouldn’t reply as new topic on a post in a public category with a new topic in a private category. So for now I’d say “don’t do that.”

(cpradio) #18

I’m thinking from a Staff standpoint. We see a topic that is borderline or gray area to our forum rules and would like to discuss it. How best do you see that scenario working?

Granted, I know you can technically flag it, but if X number of flags occur, it may get hidden. Also we’ve noticed that if a member flags it, they are then able to see any discussion that the staff may want to discuss…