"It's too complicated" complain the users. How did you find the user migration experience?


(John Reid) #1

I’m probably being over sensitive here.

How did you find users took to using discourse when you moved them from other forum software?

I would have thought that someone in the forum might have said, “Hey, this is pretty nice.”

Instead just comments about how it all looks complicated and difficult in the old forum while they can still post instead. No doubt they’re just used to the fact that the login button hasn’t moved in 6 years might have something to do with it! :wink:

So basically, I’m just wondering what kind of feedback admins and mods got as they moved people over about the UX. What kind of issues can I expect?

Sorry if I’m a little off-topic.


(Jeff Atwood) #2

Atwood’s Second Law

I think it’s difficult to make a credible case that Discourse is actually more complicated than typical forum software, e.g.

What most communities struggle with, when they make big changes in their discussion software, is simply change itself. It depends on the nature of the community, of course, but we find that there is a transitional period of 60 to 90 days where:

  • the change will be the biggest topic of conversation

  • a lot of expressed anger and unrest about the change

  • much feedback about improving, changing, or modifying the behavior of the new software

  • some members will decide they don’t like the change and leave, either silently, or in a public disavowal

Eventually this will trail off as the community adapts, but a transitional period is inevitable.

One way to mitigate some of this is to announce the change well in advance, pointing everyone to try.discourse.org and other live Discourse instances, etc, so it doesn’t come as a shock and surprise. There should be a loud and growing drumbeat of change as the date of the change approaches. Ideally you can get your influential members, at least some of them, familiar with the new software in advance so they can answer questions about it.

The worst way to have this change is overnight and immediate, with no warning. That creates maximum shock.

But if you’ve already made the change, then you can’t go back in time and ease your community into it. Some suggestions:

  1. Teach them about meta category and meta topics, so they’re asking in the correct category – and can learn how governance and feedback works.

  2. Patiently answer questions about how Discourse works, point to documentation or examples as needed.

  3. Be an example of the way things are supposed to work. Demonstrate by doing and answering and posting in the “new system”.

I also don’t think it’s a good idea at all to run two forums in parallel, for both technical (duplication) and social (I will stick with the old ways) reasons. You should announce the change, and have a switchover date.


Discourse for me... 6 weeks in
(John Reid) #3

Haha. There’s no possible way to be more complicated than an existing forum :smiley:

I warned them that a change was coming but didn’t want them to see discourse up front - but have taken on board the other points you’ve mentioned so I’m glad I’m on the right track.

I realise that the current members want it both ways:

  • They complain that there are no new members signing up (because of
    existing forum software being somewhat of an anachronism - something
    I was all too aware of before Discourse came along)
  • They’ve got too comfortable with how the existing system works - giving the impression of it being simple.

Which resolved somewhat satirical tweet of mine yesterday.


(jon r) #4

With three different (new) communities, I see little different behaviour.

  • The first community consists of young students and activists. They got Discourse quite quickly and post to it sometimes. They make little use of formatting and Stars, etc. But they are reacting to each others actions.
  • The second community is very heterogenous group of activists within the emergent commons based economies of all ages. Some know how to use Discourse, but it is too complicated, they say. Too many buttons. (I don’t see that : I love it especially for its simplicity.) They love E-Mail, but are aware of its limitations. Probability of change equals zero. They want social change, but resist personal change of workflows.
  • The third community answers to notification emails; despite they are sent from no-reply@. They call themselves a tech/hacker community. They claim to research and build decentral social networking tools, yet all communication runs on Facebook.

In general people seem to resist to have yet-another-site-to-check, why most stick to e-mail. It’s flexible=distributed, quick (and annoying). Hand-crafted e-mail distribution groups are the non plus ultra in self-organization circles. People tend not to want public searchable archives, as that drops the responsability for writing clearly and unoffensive.

Most of the tension that could help new online communities is taken from Facebook and e-mail : both the worst online communication tools I could imagine. Because fact is: people are online, and that even for hours. But they like to stick to tools they know. I have no solution how to mitigate this.


Like in end-user documentation? Where is that?
If it is not existing, I am offering again to be part of a community initiative to create and maintain it.
The hows and whats could be discussed a little in advance, though.


(Sam Saffron) #5

This is really not Discourse’s fault, you really should set up POP3 email integration for all forums where users expect to interact via email. It is a huge oversight to miss this.


(jon r) #6

Yes, thanks for reminding me. I did just that today :wink: . I’m running a four site Discourse multisite on a voluntary basis. To try things out and donate the service to users. But as it’s free for them, I suppose it becomes harder to appreciate what they have in front of them.

The bigger problem is how to make users try out new interface metaphors. I have absolutely no clue!


(ampburner) #7

Hey everyone,

I’m in the process of moving my classic forum (Invision Power Board) to a discourse version.
The old forum was a video game message bored that has been around for 12 years.

I’m getting some resistance from the regular users, they’re also saying “It’s confusing”.
An often heard complaint is that they are not used to the idea that the home page is in the form of an activity feed, showing posts from all categories.

I disagree that this is somehow “more complicated”, in fact I would argue that it is simpler.
But the fact that they are finding it confusing is a real problem.

I am definitely getting the feeling that it is not anything particular about Discourse, but that it is change itself which people find uncomforting.

I am going to experiment with setting “Categories” as the default view for the homepage, as described over at New Relic

I’m hoping that the members of the old forum will find this view more familiar.
It might work for other communities aswell.


(jon r) #8

I even like the old category view with cards as it is still being used over at Categories - remoteStorage Forums.
I wonder if there’s a config switch or a theme that returns this behaviour to Discourse.


(Toby Erkson) #9

No kidding, where the ^%#&! is documentation? :confused:


(Jeff Atwood) #10

It’s in the new user welcome PM that is sent to all new users. We just revised it for V1 with screenshots, if you update to latest.


(Toby Erkson) #11

I think that documentation is way too sparse AND it should be in a place easy enough for people to find so I created a topic in our site’s Meta and placed it there. This way I can updated it with additional info as I learn it, too.

We’re on version 0.9.9.13 and I don’t see screen shots.


(Wint) #12

My users grumbled a bit at first but I made my Welcome to Discourse post a bit of a guide that outlines the nicest features of discourse. They LOVE the @ tagging stuff, and I think they’re coming around.


(Jeff Atwood) #13

If delivering it directly to your inbox with your name on it – every new user gets a rather nice guide with screenshots as the welcome PM – doesn’t get people to read it, I don’t think much else will.

Some other ideas

  • pin a meta topic
  • add a banner topic

And you really need to be on latest, not just the last version number, to get the most recent changes.


(Toby Erkson) #14

Just because the document has been read does not mean everything in it will be retained. That document is also very sparse, for example, nothing in it about how to create a poll. There’s a lot of neat stuff about Discourse and it’s not all intuitive.

No idea how you differentiation is between “latest” and “last version number”. What’s the difference? I’m not in charge of updating our site but it appears to be done automagically after the latest…or last?..version number.


(ampburner) #15

@codinghorror I find this statement very surprising coming from you, it seems to be mis-aligned (if not completely opposed) to your views as you expressed them in your latest blog post

Do you really believe that when people run into a problem or a have a question (sometimes weeks after having originally registered), the automated welcome-PM is the obvious place where they will remember to look?

Nope. Most people will discard an automated welcome message and discard it as spam or superfluous information at that time (if they even look at it).

I agree with your blog post, it’s all about making the right information easily accessible at the right moment.
simply notifying users post-registration is not optimal. Ideally you would have help (FAQ, tooltip) directly available at the time when it’s needed. Or at least easily discoverable.


(Brad Huber) #16

Our users HATED it at first. We’ve only been up 3 days, but most have come around.

Our original forum was a pretty terrible home-rolled mini-forum. Only showed 5 topics at a time, only showed the first 3 replies to a topic until you clicked on “read All Comments”, had a 300 character limit, all text, literally no other info on the page besides posts, username, and timestamps. Oh, and its all wrapped in a terrible 2009 fake iphone UI design because its mostly used on mobile phones. We started having to restrict the amount of topics available to just the last two days because the users used it so much that it was literally accounting for half of our infrastructure costs. This meant chats would roll off the main screen to like page 20 if someone didnt reply in it for 5 minutes, making it near impossible to ever find anything.

So I thought a new forum with clear categories, great replying features, images, links, a search feature, etc, would be welcome by all.

Nope. The first day was like I told them all I had just kidnapped their first born. It was a super depressing day for me.

After a few days, once theyve found their way around, figured out the green post count box is also a nav box, learned how to quote, tag, use emoji, etc (and also with the help of a few custom badges), I think a lot of people are enjoying it more now.

Like Jeff said, its just a resistance to change, and our user base specifically (adult-aged Disney Theme Park fans) is probably even more resistant than other demographics.

We still have issues popping up with people using their Kindle (guessing its the Silk browser having issues), and some random iPhone 4 and 5 page loading issues that seem to pop up more often for users using 3G and 4G (which is frustrating because thats like 40% of our user base), but for the most part, if you provide fast and detailed answers to any questions, I’ve found that helps out a LOT. Explaining how replies show up at the bottom and are nested in different places, explaining the green nav, etc.


(Jeff Atwood) #17

No, the main purpose of the initial welcome PM is to teach users that there is

  1. A notification system at the upper right
  2. PMs exist

… after signup. Most of the welcome PMs are viewed, since the view counter goes up on them. Remember PMs are “just” regular topics with some limitations and behave the same way. Reading a PM is not far afield from reading a topic.

The point I am making is that most people will never read anything, even if you drove to their house, knocked on their door, and literally placed the text under their nose.


User can choose language during registration
(jon r) #18

But still, as me and many others claimed in the past, an end-user-documentation that they could browse, a manual, maybe even presented as tutorials with use cases, would be highly appreciated. If you said in which format you wanted to see something like this (Wiki, Documentation generators, …), I am sure there would be many people collecting questions and turning them into proper explanations. The multilingual translation is then only the tip of the iceberg …

It is, that such a community initiative, would love the official approval and goodwill. Just denying the request feels faint-hearted.

I feel sorry if that sounds mean here, but many people in this discourse appear to have strong opinions, so is mine.


(Jeff Atwood) #19

OK, feel free to create whatever you feel makes sense. It didn’t make sense
to do this before V1 anyway.


In your opinion, what is the best wiki engine to be associated with discourse?
(jon r) #20

Referencing two other discussions:

Edit: The documentation engine will be based on the results of the discussions within the linked topics.


Best practices for migrating to hosted Discourse from other forum software