Isn’t it kind of hard to figure out that there is a mail/messaging system?

First off, I love discourse so much, kudos to all of you, etc.

Here’s my thought: I find the way to access the messaging system pretty obscure. Unless I’m missing something, the flow goes:

  1. Open user icon
  2. Click the envelope
  3. Click the envelope again

There’s no visual indication whatsoever that you can get to the messages interface after you’ve clicked the envelope once.

I’m pretty sure that none of the users on my site (unless they knew about the discourse messaging system from elsewhere) were aware that there is a messaging system at all until they received a message from me (or if they went through the tutorial, of course).

I suppose this could be by design, to encourage people to post rather than private message? But in my case I have found that new topics spin off of group discussions in the messaging system (which is amazing and I love it).

Could there be a compose/new button above the list of recent mails when you click on the envelope the first time?


I hadn’t realised you could click the envelope a second time! Though clicking the down arrow (below the message titled) has the same effect.


I try to dm users as they join. Then they see at least one message when they click the envelope under their avatar. Maybe adding a little explanatory text there if the mailbox is totally empty?


That’s more of a shortcut; the idea is you’d visit your profile and look for the messages tab

Discobot also PMs all new users immediately after signup, so it’s difficult to argue that there’s no exposure to messaging as a new user…


Yes, it’s useful and I use it a lot.

Fair enough, it’s true that there’s exposure. I still feel like the paths to understanding that there is a mail interface is obscure.

Clicking on one’s user icon is very clear, but what happens then? I see the mail icon. I click it, and I get this:

Clicking on user icon

Okay, “I’ve got mail”, to coin a phrase, that’s pretty clear because as you say discobot has sent me a mail. So, if I click one of those, I get a message interface:

The big envelope does indeed express the idea of a mail, I guess it should be obvious to me, PBKAC. But all I can say is, on other discourse sites (where I first learned about the system) it took me a while to figure out that I was “in” the mail functionality of the site — messages look mostly indistinguishable from topics. Maybe this is a matter of aesthetics, and I could dig into modifying a theme make messages blatantly distinct enough for my impatient, clicky mind to appreciate.

(I hope my comments are constructive, it’s because I think that the messaging system is awesome that I’m making the observation. Quite honestly, I have made friends through it that have truly helped me during the pandemic, so thanks again.)


Seen this? Personal Message Bubbles


Oh that’s interesting, thanks!


Well, we could mirror this element from notifications, the button at the bottom of the notifications pane, which is “show me more notifications!” → “show me more messages!”

What do you think @awesomerobot ?


the  v ? it should already be there!


Is there a reason to send people to the messages page on their profile? or is this more about making it clear to people they can initiate messages at all?


Well doy, :man_facepalming: yes, we do already have that. So I’m not entirely sure what to make of this topic… on top of that, the message button is on every user card…


Okay, PBKAC I guess. Thanks for the discussion.


Well, I definitely hear where you’re coming from. One thing we’ve noticed is that PMs and regular topics are awfully similar looking, so we might add a one-time education panel for new users when they enter their first PM (that isn’t from discobot).


:point_up: I agree, I’ve had problems with this. But is this issue really a matter of education? I am a site admin and I am familiar with the concept of PMs. What I miss is just a clearer visual indication that makes things obvious… even when I am going back and forth through different browser tabs.

Education is fine for new users, but I believe there’s room for improvement beyond that. Thanks. BTW, I am loving :heart: Discourse!


I like this discussion. Thanks for raising it, @amundo!

Personally, I don’t think the message system should be more prominent than it is - in most cases we want people to join public discussions, but in the event they get a message or need to reach someone directly (esp staff) they should be able to access it directly.

Some takeaways for me:

  • the ‘shortcut’ links across the top of the user menu are a useful and quick way to get to user pages, but are not easily discovered. So exposing it to the user is needed either built into the UI or in just in time user education education messages. In the UI, we could display a small text link just below the menu with an arrow to e.g. " → All Messages"
  • the v at the bottom of user menus likewise is not immediately discoverable, either, but go to the same places as the links at the top instead of just loading more as I would expect. I’ve stopped using these links. If we made the links at the top more obvious and self-explanatory, we could save space and simplify the UI by just removing the v links at bottom.
  • messages and forum topics do look very similar, which leads to some confusion. I’ve heard reports about this before. I think the bubbles theme component is a bit much but we could do something to make messages and message lists more obviously different from public topics and topic lists.

I agree too, especially to new users.

I don’t think this should be done from a UX perspective, because it’s not only about it being a link to the messages page, but also to make it explicit that may be more messages than the ones displayed.


I don’t really agree with this? I think “and there’s a lot more, the list continues…” is a logical place to put things at the bottom. However, it is at the bottom, so not super prominent in the UI, but that’s OK because…

I also agree with the overall sentiment that it’s a bit weird to make the messaging system extremely prominent; the focus should be on public discussions.

I think one-time user education panels make the most sense for this minor issue, e.g.

Both for “this is your first (non-discobot) PM”, and “this is the first time you’ve looked at this panel”.


An education panel for PMs would be great, but if it’s only one time the message may be forgotten. What about showing it for every first message in the PM topic for TL 0 & 1 and periodically for TL 2 & 3?

“If your message could be useful for other community members, please consider making a public post instead of a private message.”

There are some styling options that can help.


Before making more education panels and demonstrations, a necessary prestep is subtle but always available UI hints that you’re looking at a PM. The envelope icon is evidently not enough, given the complaints.

I remember some sites describing styling changes they made to PMs to make it more obvious, perhaps we can review these and see if one is suitable for core.


There are 2 theme components, one for more subtle color changes, another for a more involved “bubble” change.


I think this is true for all the tabs in the notifications window. It’s counter-intuitive and an uncommon UI pattern for a button to change behavior after you clicked it once - especially if it doesn’t change at all. Once you know it, it’s great! But it’s hard to discover.