Information Overload - Some insight through qualitative interviews

I don’t have a mobile device, but looking at those screen captures I’m wondering if the problem is really “information overload” or if it’s a “wall of text” problem.

For me, the avatars help to define areas and provide a visual “anchor” while I read the topic titles.


That’s what I was thinking too. We initially shied away from avatars on mobile for performance / bandwidth reasons, but it might be better to bring them back now.

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Yes, the avatars help a lot.

If your site doesn’t use many categories, I would suppress them on mobile. They are not needed for basic navigation, and add to the perceived clutter.

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Just added and enabled a mobile customization with these adjustments :heart_eyes:.

Here’s what it looks like


Yes, I have heard this many times from non-tech people.

This new interface is good but I think it can use moar white space, specifically between posts.

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About mobile, or desktop? We’ve simplified front page a lot on desktop over the last year, see for yourself :wink:

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Yeah I know, and it was a heavy improvement!

I was thinking something along the lines of this:


Maybe clicking on the avatars should link to the post.


Why randomly right justify? Why remove category color entirely? Why remove post count (and thus also any possible notification of new and unread) entirely? Why make categories look like tags? Are we in total bikeshed mode now? If so then I’m out of here, because this topic is now a complete waste of time.

I’d prefer to stay on focus, which is the legit complaint about wall of text on mobile, rather than randomly right aligning text and removing key fields just… because.

(also psst look at how tags already look there…)


Ok, that was just a fast chrome dev tools mockup of what I was trying to say about white space.

People come from image-heavy websites and get afraid when they first see discourse and the wall of text. But they never gonna see an UI like instagram (photos app) on a most text app.

What I was trying to explain with the mockup (whatever the text-alignment) is that by hidding some elements, like you guys did on Desktop over the years, or you suggested here:

can be good, because the first impression isn’t that scary.


I can support making the mobile topic list date very suppressed, e.g. constant very light grey. @zogstrip can you turn off the age color mapping on last post dates (for mobile), and switch to a constant very suppressed grey color – let’s use the light/dark functions so it works right on dark bg sites as well.

Also as @simon noted tapping the avatar should jump to the topic in this case.

Other than those two changes I think we should ship this as default. :+1:


A department at my company recently told all ~ 200 of their employees to sign up for the internal Discourse instance that I manage. Many of them are older PhD level researchers – many recognized experts in their fields – and there was A LOT of griping about their VP telling them to use Discourse. Much of the feedback and vitriol that they emailed to me (full of hubris, signifying nothing :wink: ) sounded very much like the quotes I included here from the first post. It looked way too confusing to them, notifications made no sense and they didn’t understand why they had to use them, what was wrong with just firing off emails and copying the entire group, etc.

Several complaints were about the fact that they thought using @ to mention people was confusing and they never would remember to do it. I really would like to have a way to force all new members, even if they join through an invite link, to enter their full name. Our IT group is scared of all non-MS stuff and won’t let us integrate with SSO. It’s fine, but makes it a big pain to accommodate large influxes of new users. I spend a lot of time going through the user list and manually adding people’s names.

Slowly, some of the less noisy people are starting to use it to communicate. We’ll have to wait to see if others take it up in time. I think they will. I think the email integration is what will get them there. In the meantime, however, I get to roll my eyes about 10 times/day as I get cranky emails from people who can’t understand why Discourse might work better for group collaborative discussion than email.

But yeah… my gripes aside, I love Discourse and I don’t find it cluttered at all. Neither do any of the members of my immediate team who have been using it for over a year. New members, however, need to see a good month of active posts germane to them to finally start to see the light, in my experience. A lot of that has to do with overcoming the confusion factor. It might also help if they could choose a certain category that would represent their personal Discourse “home page,” since many of them just want to ignore things outside of the category their department uses.

p.s. Outlook 365 online now also uses @ to ‘mention’ people, or something like it.


“Users choosing their own homepage” comes up again :slight_smile:


For me, browser bookmarking works fine.
Maybe making the various “filters” that can be appended to URLs easier to find / more prominent (a Pinned HowTo ?) would suffice?
AFAIK @cpradio has a comprehensive list of them somewhere

Changes are now live :wink:


Yes only the mobile page. Non of them used a computer. I don’t know how they would feel about the desktop layout, but I think that is irrelevant in my case, since it seems that this is a very mobile demographic.

I think you’re right, that this is about perceived complexity, and the wall of text is doing that. Avatars will probably help with that, and some white space.

Choosing their own homepage is not needed in this particular case. The problem is the initial impression, and making the user understand Discourse well enough to dig through settings and make them design a homepage is not a solution.

Not so convenient for mobile. Or if you use multiple computers.

I believe you are referring to

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Ok this change is live hope it helps with the mobile homepage perception of being “overwhelming”


The inclusion of avatars makes Discourse [mobile] feel much more personal, which is fantastic… in the right instance. I wish it was an option though. Can it be an option?

With avatars there’s a significant mood change or “feel” to the forum, taking Discourse from a more professional feel to more personal feel. More personal works for some, but there are instances — especially for businesses — where more professional is appropriate and more intimate/personal is not.

There are also significant performance costs for all the extra images on mobile, as @codinghorror mentioned. And for those of us who live in lands of poor Internet, or who have significant user bases in lands of poor Internet, the difference between loading an extra image per user on mobile is significant. Performance was a valid-enough reason for no avatars before so has the performance costs of avatars decreased in any way? Or is the performance cost no longer a valid argument because someone has decided that avatars are a good idea on mobile?

Finally fallback avatars are less effective and more confusing: avatars lose a lot of their personality and effectiveness when users haven’t or don’t upload a personal avatar, which is especially relevant for new instances of Discourse and the reason @HerrHoltz started this topic — because “Discourse is initially too confusing”. Inexperienced new users rarely grasp what fallback avatars actually represent. Most inexperienced new users believe the letter in the fallback avatar refers to a category or topic or something of that nature, so when there are just a whole bunch of fallback avatars and no photos this new topics list for mobile simply adds more information that needs to be processed; much more information that needs to be processed. Can anyone can post a screenshot/mock of the new “with avatars” mobile view where only fallback avatars exist (and no photos) because if you look at that through the eyes of a new user you’ll see how much more information that loads on them.

Overall I love this new change and believe it’s brings much value to Discourse… but only in the right instance.