Improve Your Community Experience Using a DIY Community Health Check | Blog

Interesting reply, the needs and wants of a user are truly the determining factors one should use in defining and improving the user’s community experience. Using that would create a more complex set of steps for a non-design-minded community manager to follow. So I tried to make this article more concise as we were hoping to answer this question community owners/managers usually ask us:

How might I check how well my community is doing?

True to what you said though, using the needs and wants of the user can give a more wholesome answer to that question, but would be over-answering the question and may be seen as confusing as it would be doing more of re-strategising the community as a whole and not doing a health check. It would also become a more complex set of steps to follow and would go outside the scope of the question we were looking to answer, so I figured this should be simpler.

If you still want a guide to follow on how to improve your community’s experience using the needs and wants of their users, I developed an extended experience map with inbuilt prompts that anyone can follow, see here:

I also recently wrote a small guide to accompany this map, see here:

There you’ll see something more detailed with respect to following the needs and wants of the users or community members. Do let me know if this helps.


You have a very good suggestion there. That is one way to beat FB. Draw the users from FB to your forum by just posting a link (and maybe a one-sentence description). This will both keep your FB group alive, but redirect more people to your forum. Why put everything on FB where there will be no reason for someone to visit your forum? Dangle those carrots! :wink:


Right, you know how in real estate the most important things are

  1. location
  2. location
  3. location

Well, in online community, the most important things are

  1. content
  2. content
  3. content

Unless you have compelling content, you’ll never attract users. If you are lucky then you are Lady Gaga / The Kardashians and you have a massive audience built in, waiting to go wherever you go and gobble up every post you make.

If you’re not famous already, then you have the tough slog of creating content, and that’s the work of getting people to show up, day after day, and participate – starting with your staff and your own team! 90% of the job is showing up, day after day, and engaging with others.

So the job of the UI/UX tooling, in this case, is to make it easy to show up, drop in and hang out and contribute. (This is why chat is so important as an upcoming feature to Discourse – it vastly reduces the barrier to contribute, no need to think of a topic title, or even decide which topic to look at… just drop in the same general channel as everyone else and type “sup”) And reminders for people to come back: emailing them weekly summaries of the most interesting discussions if they haven’t been seen in a week, and sending them notifications when another person is talking directly to them when they haven’t been on the website for a few hours.

Will any standalone site ever beat the “well, I am always logged into Facebook” effort barrier? No. But they should first make sure they’re offering something unique and interesting that you can’t get on Facebook.


Of course.

But if UX and UI, and tech in generally, is too difficult to use or access is behind too many walls, it doesn’t matter how good content you are offering.

Facebook, Instagram etc are really easy to use. Anyone without tech skills can share and create content (and quality doesn’t matter). I have thousands users on FB-group that create and consume quality content, but they won’t come to Discourse. And for that is one and only one reason: they don’t understand how the editor works.

Actually the most important thing to do in Discourse is remove tool bar, or leave there only buttons for media uploading and perhaps the big three: bold, cursive and simple list.

But Discourse has one thing they praise: quoting and how easy task it is.

But that is only technical side. There is The Biggest Issue To Solve Out™: mobiles and how impossible writing with those is.

We are in quite strange situation. Creating content is not matter of knowledge. It is matter of physical tools.

Working audio recorder could be one solution — actually any social platform doesn’t offer audio. Videos, gifs etc. yes, but not just audio. Discourse has audio player that is wonderful option — but it demands an user can record audio using same gizmo he/she records video and takes photos, and they just… can’t.

Most of users consumes, not create. That has been fact all the time and won’t change. So we are back in square one: amount of users. We need a lot lurkers to get creators. And we get creators only when they have easy enough tools for that. And we get lurkers, if they understand how to use platform.

Content is king. Or queen. Really important anyway. But this is very much same than SEO. All you need is content, and environment where googlebot has access to the content.

And mostly we spend hours after hours thinking how we make life of googlebot more easier and effective. Why don’t we put same effort to UX/UI for human users?


Sure, but that’s a universal constant – the devices already offer audio transcription (which is usually terrible, but it is the best mega corporations with billions of dollars in revenue can do). People send plenty of texts on their phones, so the focus is on shorter written communication, e.g. the rise of chat.

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Exacly! And that’s why the future of all forums is… not so bright. Bright in the meaning we have a platform to discuss. The whole scene is going back to SMSs, chat and passive consumption of content.

It is wonderful we have chat in Discourse. But it is not improvement. It is something that every platforms are heading to now. Well, that is reality nowadays and I realize why Discourse as company took that step. But please, it has nothing to do with quality content, or with content at all. It is just meaningless small talk.

But that’s how things are, and that’s the reason why we can’t beat social media without being part of it — sure, that is one direction, but there you/we are several miles behind all others.

People don’t want to use audio. Most of users don’t want to do video either. Perhaps someday speech-to-text works with other languages than english (and even english is not so top notch) and it can change playfield big time. But it is not Discourse’s job.

So, the only logical, and technically, direction is understand, that most of users never create anything. That is one reason why creating an account is so… last decade :wink: Conversation per se will be, and is already, only enjoy of few and everyone else just sit there and follow.

That’s why three major operations must be

  • make creation of all kind of content as easy as possible
  • tools must be targeted for creators, and commenting must use different toolbox
  • all devices must be served, and mobiles come first

Forums are relics from pre-facebook era. Now same platforms must be… like WordPress with commenting, but much better. And we all know, or should know, how succesful commenting on WP-sites are… :wink:

Sorry — I don’t remember anymore where we started :rofl:

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I disagree with this. Chat is the kindling that you use to start larger conversational fires. :fire: Consider all the things you don’t have to worry about with chat:

  • a topic title
  • a topic at all (we can discuss anything)
  • browsing a list of topics (everyone just posts in the general channel)

But, for example, something could come up in chat like

Hey me and my family just walked out of the movie The Batman because we didn’t like it

and I can now in Discourse, with a few clicks, launch a new topic, a structured discussion based off that chat message titled

What movies have you walked out of?

with a description in the first post clarifying (you paid your own money to see it, etc), because to me it is fascinating the times when you’ve paid your own money to see a movie, and still decide that the movie is so bad it’s not worth your time to even sit through what you paid for and thought you wanted to see…

Well, no… annotation systems fail for a reason. Nobody wants to read annotation systems:

They want to belong to meaningful communities, but a bunch of comments (or annotations) slapped on a page isn’t a community. It’s a bunch of drive-by strafing where the angriest people are most incentivized to post.

We’re talking about systems of building communities, and checking their health and pulse. You’re right to be concerned; concerned is why I started Discourse. This may be an instructive article:


I don’t think “forums” have to be relics of the pre-facebook era, because I agree that:

For me, where I struggle with many Discourse forums is the focus on, or allowance of, long-form discussion. I know that there are settings to allow maximum characters per post, yet it seems that those settings are often set super high and the UI caters to longer form discussion.

I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with that, as I can like that discussions have topic limitations and no length limitations. I think for me, I just don’t think forums have to equal long length.

For example, Guilded, which is like Discord, has a forum channel type and I find the entries to end up being shorter. I also don’t know if they have strict limits on length but they tend to not be as long as sometimes on here…which can encourage me to engage more from a phone.

Sometimes I’ll see on here one paragraph and then a reply of a paragraph and then another reply of a paragraph and then someone replies with three pages of text (kinda like I’m doing here) and it can disrupt the flow. And also when I see that, I sometimes feel a heavier burden to reply because there’s so much in there.

So I’ll stop for now: does anyone set the max post length to a much shorter length? Do you also find that a very long reply can throw off the dynamics? Anything else?


We’ve observed the “fast lane / slow lane” dynamics for quite a while. Megatopics for example are a cry for chat:


I guess what I’m wondering is if it always falls so squarely into those two distinct categories. Is it possible to have “discussion, coherent sentences + paragraphs, permanent, on-the-record” that is at max one paragraph at a time?

Conversely, having long, three paragraphs minimum discussion that becomes “disconnected / incoherent words, ephemeral, lettin’ it all hang out, off-the-record”?


I’d say based on my observations over the last decade, it does generally tend to fall into one of those two categories, like a two-lane highway.

One lane is for people who must go fastfastfast … and the other lane is for people who are satisfied with the journey at the traditional speed limit. This way both groups of people can be accommodated and have safe travels.


This is what I do every day with my telegram chat with my ambassadors. I use it to find a new topic for out community dicussions… using Discourse itself is amazing!


What do you base that conclusion on? Have you done a poll? I’m genuinely curious what percentage of your users find the editor to be a fundamental barrier.

For my part I’m fairly highly confident that most people don’t move to - or at least stick with - forums because they have to make continual effort to go there. Facebook (and other social media platforms) are massive aggregators of content and users to interact with. They are very “sticky” platforms by design. And if you have multiple interests, you don’t have to go multiple “places” to satisfy that. It is really really hard to beat that. I’d be shocked if that factor isn’t the single biggest barrier for most people.

I wonder if my idea of a topic+chat hybrid might blend advantages of (or user base preferences of) the two…


Yeah it’s not difficult to “understand” the editor at all. It’s a box on a web page where you type words, then press the Reply button. That may perhaps have been novel to people in 2010, but not here in 2021…

The inexorable gravity of “oh I am always logged in to Facebook / Instagram / Discord” is, as you pointed out, a much bigger point of friction.

At least social login does make the login situation far better than it was even 5 years ago. And Discord does the “go ahead and type (if the site allows it) and you can claim this account later" thing, too.


The base is amount of questions from active forum writers, and what I’ve asked because I’ve a ton of active members on Facebook who just looks a topic at forum and disappear.

The answer is always same: composer is confusing. Buttons don’t act as expected in the meaning what they are expectind to see. Making tables is horrible task. And iPhone-users just can’t find upload button because it is not where other buttons are.

I’m still wondering if Discourse should take similar road as social media: there is no buttons at all.

Well, that would be too harsh action, but most could be hidden and upload and emojis are only visible ones, by default. But there could be one button that will show those hidden buttons (and even setting for that on profile).

It sounds every now and then that has been forgotten reality: most on people just can’t tech, not even basics — they can’t update OS of devices, but thay can comment and send photos, as long there is not scary unfamiliar actions.

I will quote you next time. Actually quite soon because one is asking how she can make

a link. She will be really happy when knowing it is not difficult at all.

Really, that is dangerous way when someone tells to others who are struggling with something that it is easy task and giving an image that they are just stupid. Because that reaction will happend.

You can say such thing here because this is closed environment and no ordinary joes and janes don’t come here. But please — don’t say something like that in public.

Or even a year ago. This is something you guys have done really good, including docs.

(And now I don’t know why I sended this comment early. I tried copy and used ctrl-c, but the keyboard of iPad wants cmd-c. That is one example why it is so dangerous start changing somethin that is almost as standard)

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The learning curve for the editor isn’t steep, but the style of editor is unfamiliar for a lot of people. Even as a developer it took me a week or two of getting used to. Absolutely love it now, but I remember the awkwardness of the first week, which actually put me off the platform alltogether.

And this goes for a number of non developers on our instance. Some of them just don’t get the editor, but after one or two posts they’re fine. I found that running a welcome session where I just got everyone to just post a picture of a cat was pretty helpful. If I did that again I’d run a session where they have to post a picture of a cat, use some headers and write a silly bio about the cat as well, just to encourage them to use markdown(many of our users are not familiar with markdown).


That’s true. But the issue is how to push a new comer who is not a bit tech savvy to start learning new things (and again we are at the old topic: how can we beat social media). They will start a reply, they get something they didn’t expect and shall leave. That is the main reason why I would like to get as minimalistic toolbar as possible for the new user.


This reminds me in particular of city builders in the late 90s, early 00s like Caesar 3. You would start the game with a minimal toolbar, and unlock more of it as the game progressed. The idea(correctly) being that the full toolbar is not needed to begin with, and in fact reduces your ability to act successfully because you are presented with advanced options before you even learn the basics. The question in Discourse is, how best to differentiate between users who are already capable of using the advanced features and those who are not? Trust levels?


I’m at TL1 on one Discourse because I started there a couple days ago. But I can use the composer/markdown — a little bit anyway but I can do even basic tables :wink:

So, TL may not be the best option because it is part of trust, obviously, and is more or less showing how good you are known.

Preferences could be better place and then everyone could chose will one use ”expanded” toolbar or not. But it would bloat options and that is not stylish way either.

WordPress has this:

My setup is far away from good, but the idea is clear: we have a button that shows and hides extras. I don’t code but how hard job something like that could be?

Are we/I offtopic now?