This is interesting – someone put together a Minimal Discourse by removing parts of the UI via CSS:
It’s worth reading the goals:
Essentially, discourse is too complicated and has too many features visible for most of the population to understand. We want to simplify the interface to make it easier to undersatnd for those whose primary mode of communication online is email and Facebook comments. We need the simplified interface that Medium brings with the complexity of a forum.
I agree with this, and we’ve been slowly moving that way ourselves (removing topic list columns and topic UI where we can), however, there is a big difference between a single-user blog pulpit like Medium and a multi-user conversation like Discourse. To some extent, these are opposing and mutually exclusive goals. It’s easy to be minimalist when you are posting a blog entry as a person. Much less easy when you’re attempting to have a conversation with a group!
Here’s specifically what was suppressed in CSS:
- Automatically go to the Categories listing upon initial landing.
- Top bar filters are too numerous. Minimal only allows Starred, Top, Latest, and Categories. New and Unread are removed.
- Notification icon changed from a talk bubble to a bell.
- Private categories should have a lock icon, not a group icon. (BROKEN FOR CATEGORY DROPDOWN LIST)
- Remove Activity, Users, and Posts from the topic overview.
- Remove Latest, and Topics from the category overview.
- Remove the category list from the hamburger menu.
- Remove the user stats below the OP’s post
- Remove zebra stripes from category list
Visually, like so:
(also no zebra stripes, which I am kind of mixed on myself… I did not picture that here, but I no longer think we need them everywhere and particularly on the main topic list. @awesomerobot?)
First, all this stuff is totally fine to remove / customize, and I think it’s great that we can enable customization like this through simple CSS that you can paste into Admin, Customize CSS / HTML. There does need to be an out of box “one size fits all” UI but I can totally see a “minimal” discourse fitting some communities if they want to do that via CSS, and it’s not a fork, so it will survive upgrades properly.
Few other observations:
Removing New and Unread is … kind of crippling. That’s probably the main thing I would advise against here. You now have no way to filter big topic lists to just “your” stuff. We’ve seen sites do this before and the users get really confused. It’s been bad.
Stars and starring somehow survived, even though I am leaning towards removing starring altogether and relying on bookmarks instead. That surprised me. That’s the first thing I would remove from the screen at this point, all stars and starring.
The bell vs. conversation bubble; I think it’s really important to emphasize that this is a conversation site and we’re letting you know that people are talking to you. That is more than a bell to me.
It is interesting that views survived, but post count didn’t. Not sure about that.
Lock vs. Group icon on private categories is going to conflict with closed/archived topics. Not sure that’s a good idea, or at the very least, you now need another glyph to indicate closed/archived. This also implies private messages should be lock icon vs. envelope? Dunno, not sure about this.
I think simpler UIs are definitely a good idea, and there is some good food for thought here. I like to frame these sorts of discussions less as “LETS CHANGE EVERYTHING” (too broad, too hard to talk about) and more as “what part of our UI would you vote off the island first, right now, today?” and for me, that’s stars and starring.
This is a nice bit of stuff for us to ponder, simplicity is always a goal at Discourse, and I’ve invited Karissa to reply in this topic if she wants to.