Improving the mobile experience for my users

I have a self-hosted forum for my small, but growing community, on Discourse. I work with a wonderful developer who helped me customize and integrate with my education site. But…

Most of my users use my forum on their phone and find it not particularly easy. Mostly, the lack of notifications for chats causes them consternation.

My developer suggests building a custom app for the phone to allow for a ‘download-and-use’ experience. The primary goal would be to have a stand-alone app that tells people they have a message through symbols (red-dot on the icon) and push notifications they can customize.

Before I pull the trigger and start this project, I’d like to know if there are any inexpensive solutions to accomplish my desire to:

  1. Allow people to download an app that has only my forum
  2. Get notifications for both iPhone and Android on the phone for both topics and the new chat feature.



Push notifications should be working on at least Android and iOS now if you install the forum as a PWA (“add to Home screen”). This doesn’t require app packaging and deployment to the app store and is very easy.

Note that not all updates are posted as notifications.


Great! and it works for the chats as well?

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It indeed works for chats as well. If you have a busy forum, you can configure it so that it only works for chats. This helps keep the noise on your phone at a reasonable level.

Be aware though, the response time is not at the level of a native app. It typically takes 2-10 minutes for notifications to come through if you aren’t actively using the PWA. If you need instant notifications, then the expensive and rather high maintenance app packaging is probably the way to go.


My experience of the notifications on iOS Is that, with up to date releases:

  • the red dot on the icon Is not possible to activate (maybe I didn’t find how to do so?,
  • on the chat: you have to specifically specify a group or a person in each message for him to be notified.

For the red dot at least, it seems to be ok on Android, but I have not in depth experience yet.

Does anyone have other and more complete experience on iOS?


Absolutely. The “Whitelisted app” that allows you to package your forum for both the play store and the iOS app store (whilst taking advantage of the One Signal notification service) is very good and open source but maintenance of it and the process of deployment is very involved so be prepared to have a decent budget.

My fork of the One Signal plugin (meant to be used in concert with the above) provides for more frequent chat notifications. You are of course welcome to use it but I do not provide support for free:

(NB the changes have not been PR’ed as most will not want every chat message to be sent as a notification and it doesn’t implement safeguards to manage One Signal rate limits. However this was not a concern to my client at the time. It could be further developed to make the algorithm smarter)


That is configurable, albeit not easily.

For personal chats, the default is being auto-notified for every message. This can be turned down for each chat thread by the user.

For channels, the default is as you describe. Users can change that to every message if they wish.

The last time I looked, the only way to change the default behaviour was to delve into the Rails console. Getting this into the UI could be a worthy feature request

Does this work as is, or does it require the whitelisted app as well?


Requires the Whitelisted app as that is what provides the client calls to the One Signal API.


This is very helpful. So…(here’s my hail mary effort to make a decision on my choice!)

I’m a mid-level-tech-savvy person and can manage a little diving into the details of the apps. Most of my users are simply interested in logging in and having it work without more than a click of 1-2 settings that are visible on the initial setup. e.g. 1) do you want to see notifications for ‘texts’ (chats) and 2) do you want to see notifications for forums. (Think Slack or FB)

I know how customizable discourse is but I am witnessing firsthand the need to educate people in the first critical month of use. Once they are enmeshed and invested in conversations, they’ll tweak and adjust.

All that is to say, what would YOU DO for creating a SUPER easy first month experience of people getting on my forum on their phone and easily creating the ease of set up comparable to, say, slack or instagram? I have a budget of $2,000, if necessary. Native app or existing tools?


That’s configurable and exists so you don’t get useless notifications in every other device while actively using Discourse in one device.


Improving how notifications work out of the box for chat is pretty high on our list, but it’s not quite at the top yet.

We are currently focused on getting an initial version of chat threads off the ground. Once our effort there has enough momentum, I expect we will turn some more of our attention to notifications.


Thank you - that is good to know, as tweaking this could be a game changer for us (and stop us using a 3rd party service unnecessarily).

However, I can’t find any settings for this in the UI, either site or user. I also can’t find any documentation about it.

Where should I be looking?

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The setting is named push notification time window mins.


@Duane_Whitcomb you are best to try this out before thinking of the full app route.

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I’ve had a dig, and noticed this:


So for PMs we only wait 20 seconds by default!! I guess that it isn’t that much of a problem to drop the time. At least not for PMs (and Chat). Could see it getting annoying for ‘lesser’ notifications though.

I wonder if this needs an overhaul now that we have chat. I’d suggest these as defaults instead:

  1. push time window 10 mins (everything but chat / PMs)
  2. email time window 10 mins (can this be combined with the first setting?)
  3. personal message time window 2 mins (no longer needs to be ‘instant’)
  4. chat notification time window 20 sec (new setting)

I can see the notifications working on my android. I’m trying out an iphone for research and added my forum as a PWA. But no notifications :frowning:

To make sure I have this right, I opened my forum on safari and clicked “Add to home screen”. That’s a PWA, correct?

Am I missing something?

There’s possibly some setup required on iOS and note that not all Chat notifications are push yet I believe?

You might want to read this Topic: