List and explain Discourse specific features to new users?


(Coin-coin le Canapin) #1

Hi. I’m about to launch my Discourse forum, which is a phpbb import.
Both are forums, but they have a lot of differences.

I would like to create a topic on my forum that explains the basic functioning of Discourse, addressed specifically to new, regular, also often phpbb users.

Stuff like:

  • What are “likes” and why they should use it
  • How to properly quote people
  • How to post images
  • How to post emojis or write quicker with keyboard shortcuts
  • How to track topics
  • How to see the preview then writing a message (by default, there is a “similar topics” window or another message to the right to the editor, and sometimes we can miss that we can close it in order to see the preview)
  • Look at their own profile page to fill custom fields if there are some
  • How to change the default home page
  • Etc.

I can, of course, gather these info myself and there are resources about this (for example What are “Likes”?), but I wonder if people here have already made a topic like this for their community. Or maybe here, to the intent of curious, new users that just want to know more about the Discourse experience as regular old-school forum users.
Plus, as I’m not very familiar with Discourse myself, I may miss some interesting features.

So, Is there any topic here or elsewhere which explains all of this? Do you see any feature that could be worth to mention and explain to my users?


(Joshua Rosenfeld) #2

FYI all of these are covered by the discobot tutorial that new users should go through.


(Jeff Atwood) #3

One caveat, migrated users won’t get the PM from discobot on signup because they never “signed up”, they already exist. So perhaps the instructions should be “how to trigger discobot for existing users”


(Coin-coin le Canapin) #4

Good to know, I didn’t thought about that!


(Jeff Atwood) #5

You can also refer them to our blog entry which @jomaxro did not mention, though I’m not sure why :wink:


(Dave McClure) #6

I’ve created dedicated topics for many of the things you’ve listed. I often do so providing additional context that is relevant to our community, and using screenshots from our forum so they look like what folks are seeing.

I tag them with a particular tag, so it’s easy to reference them all with #forumname-tip. As I see examples where people could have used a feature, I’ll link to an existing #forumname-tip or write up a new one and link to it as a moderator note.

Moderator note: instead of creating several replies in a row, check out how to quote reply multiple people in one post. See other tips at #forumname-tip

Having those atomic tips then makes it possible for folks to reference these without leaving your site and also to reply to ask clarifying questions. Creating them just-in-time when you notice a need saves you from having to guess what they all might be up front.


(Jeff Atwood) #7

I strongly recommend this approach. Building things speculatively based on what you think people might need usually ends up wasting 90% or more of your effort.


(Christoph) #8

May I suggest a couple of improvements for that blog post to make it more accessible for new users?

  1. Don’t use latin sample text.
  2. Provide anchors for links to each heading so we can direct users to the specific section they need.
  3. Clearer separations of the different sections. A lot of extra white space. Perhaps even a horizontal line or a fancy text divider.
  4. make replying, quoting, mentioning, emojis, and oneboxing separate sections with their own heading

(Robert McIntosh) #9

I wrote some of the guides you are looking to create when I started my own community - at least in part so that I knew how it all worked and could explain it better to my new members (as you can see it was a lot of work and was still unfinished, but members themselves were beginning to create the missing content which was a useful exercise).

Feel free to re-use any of these articles and see the structure I used (a separate how-to category with sub-categories, and wiki post with links to each, with topics in the sub-categories hidden from the Latest feed)

I do not necessarily think this is what you should do, but it helped me so may be of use to you too:


(Jeff Atwood) #10

I don’t agree with this feedback, so I won’t be changing that. It’d also be a pain, as I have to re-record gifs, just because “someone doesn’t like lorem ipsum”.

Ok done! Try https://blog.discourse.org/2016/12/discourse-new-user-tips-and-tricks/#navigation

The existing <h2> headings seem rather clear to me, so perhaps this comes down to a personal preference?

Good idea, done, this will have the effect of adding more “space” in the post, so maybe it will achieve the goal of what you mentioned ↑ above? I see what you mean now, it definitely looks better with more headings. :+1:

Also @robmc the way I look at this, I try to visit a new forum where people have never seen Discourse before, and gather the frequently asked questions. It does tend to vary a bit depending on the composition of the community etc.

For example on the wine society – what would you say are the top 5 things that new users frequently asked about, or often got confused by such that they had to ask for help? We need to make sure those top 5 recurring questions are covered by the blog post.


(Christoph) #11

Yes, I agree. Works well.

It wasn’t the animated gifs that I had in mind but the screenshots. FWIW, the reason I suggested this was not personal preference at all but simply that I found myself looking at those images for a second or so because I didn’t intuitively recognize what I was looking at. So I thought that new users are likely to have even more problems and hence might be turned away.

My interpretation of the cognitive process going on is not that the use of Lorem Ipsum snippets per se is a problem but that it is not immediately recognizable as blindtext, especially not to users who need this blog post most badly. The benefit, on the other hand, of using real world examples would be not only to avoid this kind of alienation but also - perhaps even primarily - to help the reader understand what s/he is looking at, e.g. a row in a topic list:

Users familiar with discourse will of course recognize what this is, but they’re not the typical audience here. Try and look at the above with the eyes of someone who has barely seen a Discourse forum and I think you’ll realize that there is no way to understand that all those letters and words represent a topic title, a category, and the first letters of various usernames. So, as I think of it, I’d even make sure the avatars are recognizable as user avatars.


(Evgeny) #12

I think there are good examples and we can create something like this:

https://www.discourse.org/features

https://stackoverflow.com/tour
https://www.stackoverflow.help/support/home

For example, using: ProCourse Static Pages

Good documentation is written even more for the administration to better understand what to do in a given situation.

We similarly try different options for this

https://toxu.ru/features

Pages associated with issues other tools of Discourse give 100% to do my best. :tada:


(Jeff Atwood) #13

OK, you have convinced me, at least for the top 2 images, I’ll re-do those with plain English text.