This is more or less UX/UI question. Otherwise we are back to the main issue — how can we beat Facebook
Short answer is… we can’t, unless Facebook (I refuse call it Meta) does something really bad and masses will abandon it. And they don’t do that without plan B. It was actually expected that Facebook will come so damn big and forums shall be basically dead.
Most of forums are tech-based, for coders and/or for support, like this. There is only one reason why Meta here is in dominating situation: no Facebook-group, and Discourse is more or less targeted to higher tech skills. WordPress is a giant because it is so easy to setup and maintain (and even then it is too hard for too many). But: most of WordPress-sites don’t get any comments or discussion, even it is easy for users.
Most, or all, platforms aren’t user friendly. Those are tech/dev/corporate-friendly and that is totally different thing. Yes, matter of WYSIWYG’ish editor is huge, but not here where everyone is happy with markdown and html-tags.
But is even that so big question? Perhaps not. Facebook or Twitter offers no editing tools at all.
If a user can easily
- sign on and in,
- read topics with a mobile
- answer to topics
Then tech-wise all that matter is done.
Spirit of a forum is important. Or is it? The biggest Facebook-groups aren’t known to be nice and friendly environment.
To do some UX/UI-testing is essential. Same with more… spiritual aspects, like how users handle basic matters, off-topic etc (here Discourse offers really powerful tools, moderation-wise anyway). But even then there is two major-class questions where tech or rules/policy of a forum doesn’t play that big role:
- how to get random users to forum
- how to get same users returning to forum
And there is two answers:
- sharing links (Google is what Google is)
- creating meaningful content when users are passive or there is just few
There is third thing: if you have an active FB-group, stop creating and publishing content there and share only links to forum. And if you are another just-admin that just approve new members and kick out bad apples… you’ve lost the game.
Rule number one (again): users are not after technical experience; 90 % of users are after answers and 9 % are looking for an arena where to tell theirs opinion (twitter-like monoloque) and the last 1 % is after discussion.
So, testing like that should do, but more humanly way and trying to understand how a random user feels and acts, and why he/she does something AND why he/she doesn’t. What a webmaster/dev/tech wants or does means absolut nothing.
I’ve worked a lot at UX/UI-testing and -planning and it is way too easy sink in tech-solution when should understand why people act as they act. Sorry, if I’m not pollite enough but technically UX/UI-testing is not a job that random Discourse-webmaster should do. It is a job of Discourse-team (sure, choosing a working theme and understanding pointlessness of sidebars are webmaster’s job). But creating content and offering safe (at some sane level) environment is webmaster’s area and that MUST test every now and then.
Community experience is really hard term because it is so wide. Too wide I would say.