My latest forum... but it's not running Discourse - here's why

(Mittineague) #6

I think a “My first Discourse forum post” tutorial type of thing is a great idea.

OT - @AstonJ any reason this topic started in the “Uncategorised” category?

I also believe tha familiarity is a major influence of preference. eg.
every time a reskin of our vB forum happened there were some that liked it as well as a large number of complaints, though after time most got used to the change.

But perhaps comparing Discourse to other forums is a bit “apples to oranges”? Some features follow the lead from features found in non-forums i.e. Facebook, Twitter. etc.

(Rikki Tooley) #7

This, exactly. Infinite scrolling, dynamic updating and notifications are mainstays of social networks, not forum software, leading to confused habits among users… ironically enough, forums and bulletin boards were one of the original forms of social networking. With Discourse we come full circle :smile:


Interestingly, this is exactly why we decided NOT to go with XF. vB has become cumbersome and antiquated and I felt that a move to XF would take with it a whole lot of the old behaviours that were defined due to the restrictions that vB placed on us.

(Sam Saffron) #9

We have some of these features, our design is responsive, you can watch categories.

Paid subs is something @eviltrout is real keen on. Friend lists is something we avoided for now.

I do find it kind of depressing that the “state of comfort” in forum design is so white space heavy, its kind of sad.

Discourse takes an orthogonal approach to the above.

That said I do see us competing feature by feature with the traditional forums once we have a more complete extensibility story and more plugins. We are going to spend a some time solidifying the plugin story post v1, work on tagger and so on. A lot of what you are describing fits into plugins quite snugly.

The Right Gutter - Other Uses and Mental Tricks
(Bcguy) #10

wow - XF feels like I’ve been transported back to 2001. That design is so old school. I am so glad DC has avoided that look and feel.

I do, however, like the ads that you can put up for people who aren’t logged in. Very helpful.

(AstonJ) #11

Thanks Anton!

Welcome to Ruby and Rails, and Discourse! :smile:

This is pretty much my thinking as well right now - I am itching to try Discourse on a new site. I have one or two in mind, although, one I was intending to merge another (vB) forum into… and that might not be possible as I don’t think DC has any vB importers yet.

I think it’s great that you are ploughing ahead with your vision of what a community platform should be for the next decade or two. However I do think it’s worth looking into why someone might still prefer vB (or XF) over DC.

vB didn’t become the industry standard without good reason - there was/is something about it that led to forums using it becoming more popular than other forums in the same niche that were using different platforms. I think on the now defunct ‘Big Boards’ site, around 80% (don’t quote me on that!) were using vB. So although we know it is now heavily outdated, there is still a certain something about it that end-users like, and I think that DC may need to observe or mimic that, or offer something that is just as compelling. (Or risk users continuing to favour vB or XF?)

I think perhaps in some instances, it’s just little things here and there - such as the tabs on the forum homepage. We have ‘Latest’ (which makes sense) and then ‘new’ and ‘unread’. I think the latter two may be confusing people - should ‘unread’ replace ‘new’ (and show all threads with unread posts) and unread changed to ‘watched’ to show threads that the user is watching (i.e threads the user has replied to). I think this may be just one reason why some are feeling a little lost, and because it is so prominent, it has more of a lasting impact.

I wasn’t sure it fit well into any of the other categories… which do you suggest?

It think that’s true to an extent (although for us, we experienced the exact opposite), but as I mentioned above, I think we need to recognise that there was a reason why vB became the industry standard in the first place, it had, indeed still does, a certain something that users just like.

I agree that it’s nice to see forums get great features :slight_smile: though I am personally still not convinced about the infinite scroll - I am just not sure I like it yet. I do on thread listing pages, but not so keen on thread view pages. Maybe a pseudo nav might help? (Clicking on a page number, or percentage jumps to that part of the thread.)

Interesting. What did your users think of the move? How long was the forum running vB? Have you got a link, I’d be interested in reading the threads following the migration…

Must admit I chuckled at your post Sam, given DC probably has more white space than any other forum platform around.

Having said that, we did try to close the gap for guest view but didn’t get around to it due to time and being unfamiliar with XF (this is our first XF forum). To logged in members it looks more like this: (Many users have sigs too)


Our post bits are designed to give the poster a sense of ownership, for them to stand out and not just get lost in a wall of text. However, I appreciate each designer/owner has their own taste and preference. I would simply advise they seek feedback from their users …and ask them which design they would prefer - they are the ones who hang out at the site most of the time after all.

"You have no unread topics" is a lie
(Rikki Tooley) #12

I agree that this could be the case on default Discourse, however you just need to look at @vikhyat/ @radq 's customisations on Hummingbird’s Discourse to see what’s possible. Check out the topic and profile pages especially.


Good question, I’ll let you know! This is where we’re currently at.

The forum has been running on vB for around 15 years. We’re pretty large and established.

(Steve) #14

Ha your blog post lead me to here yesterday, I love this software and have already set up a test environment. Very keen to move two busy vbulletin forums that are starting to suffer.

(AstonJ) #15

Looks good :slight_smile: very recognisable as DC (I’d love to see some that look as different to the stock skin as Breedia’s does to the XF skin)

Awesome, I love the SP redesign, and I completely agree with your points about community moderation. I do have a niggling concern though, will we see a kind of mob mentality ruling our forums - where cliques just look out for each other? I hope that doesn’t happen, and that there are some sort of measures in place to combat it.

Will you be sharing your vB importer? What sort of plug-ins have you developed and how have you found working with DC?

And good luck! I look forward to seeing it when it goes live :smile:

(AstonJ) #16

In what way are they suffering Steve?

(Jeff Atwood) #17

Nobody sane actually “likes” vBulletin today. You might say they got used to it. In 1999, those early web design decisions might have made sense for the people, devices, and conversations on the early web – but in a world of users that grew up on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr… and iPhones and iPads… vBulletin makes about as much sense as a fax machine.

Do people still use fax machines today? Sure. Are there some people who prefer fax machines to learning email and photo attachments? Probably.

And for the record XenForo is a lot better than vBulletin, it is arguably the best traditionalist forum software. Still not open source, and written in crusty old legacy PHP and MySQL, but it’s at least decent unlike vBulletin.

(Tomo Vukasović) #18

I have been your forum member since 2005. Learned lots of good things, but at some point I felt that it is not really place for me. I am not sure why I stopped. It could be that forum was more newbie oriented at the time, but at the end I can say that Sitepoint mods/advisers are the reason why I stayed for so many years. It wasn’t the actual forum design, look. It was the people who were kind and helpful even to the most retarded questions on the planet.

To truly make this statement one have to try each software under various environments. I have one community that is so particular that no other forum software can deliver what IPB does and same thing with XF, Discourse etc. Little things that Discourse does better could be achieved by other forum in same way that discourse is planning to achieve what other forums have.

(Andy Crichton) #19

I am very keen to implement Discourse as we have a forum (more like Q&A) that is small enough to change over before it gets bigger, which it will, with the strategy we are implementing. By the by, but my view is that there is a place for slick and minimal, and other times, less can sometimes be less!

e.g. Usability studies have shown that where e-commerce cart forms are “dumbed down” with tabs that open drop down fields perform worse than bigger old fashioned forms where everything is on display. The inference being show the user upfront what they are expected to fill in.

Same principle with CTA’s. You cannot assume readers know what to do next, you got to tell them. Click here, sign here, do this do that.

So with discourse, I wouldn’t change a thing below the header area, the hierarchy is great, but first timers and less inquisitive I think would stumble at the first hurdle. i.e. They arrive, shoot what do I do now? This doesn’t look like a forum I ever went on before!

The first thing I would ask the person running our forum to do would be to change the header area, so CATEGORIES were open and the Search was prominent standout.

These are the two navigation methods that us dinosaurs recognise and also having the search prominent, you show users straight away what in my mind is the amazing aspect of this forum, how easy it is to find stuff with the search engine.

Once you are where you want to be, I think a user would then feel somewhat in control and start to click buttons to see how to reply and how to open threads up.

I just need to find a smart cooky to employ to install this for me on and change the css a bit and I would be happy to report back

(Michael Downey) #20

There are also those of us who would (and did) leave a bank (or any vendor) who insists on use of fax machines, because they’re so outdated and we gave them up decades ago.

Sure, I’m a modernist and want to tie my fortunes to those who adapt with the times. Does that mean that there won’t still be those who are stuck in the past status quo because it’s comfortable? Of course not, those folks will always be around and for some communities (particularly not tech ones) that’s probably OK.

Experimenting and trying new things is one of the best ways for a community to keep attracting new people and energy. If it doesn’t, it’s surely going to suffer attrition.

(Jeff Atwood) #21

This is a good point. Most of the existing “traditional” forums are slowly dying and losing users precisely because the format is so archaic. I hear this a lot. They fail to attract new users, but the old timers stick around. This is not a formula for survival.

Even great stuff like Metafilter, sadly, is losing steam, traffic, users, because the software isn’t adapting – it still has that old 1999 style design.

(AstonJ) #22

It’s not the format or the design that’s the main reason causing forums to go into decline imo, it’s that the platforms haven’t evolved and kept up, or, better still, responded to the draw of FB and Twitter.

That’s the real challenge, tempting people away from FB - and why I think forums don’t just need something to catch up, but to offer something FB or Twitter never could.

(Steve) #23

great question that one, i suspect a lot have moved on to facebook and twitter. plus the forum software is old and new users aren’t compelled to join. Truth is i’ve even lost interest compared to the old days.

Infact, the last 3 days is the most excited i’ve been about forum software since I first discovered it in the very late 90’s.


I’d bet the biggest reason a forum would lose members due to “archaic”-ness, is that a lot of those “archaic” forums don’t work well on mobile devices, which are gaining more and more steam every year. In a bit of irony, that is one of the things Discourse has extremely poor support for as well.

(Sam Saffron) #25

When it comes to reading content mobile is quite good. The main 2 pain points in my opinion are

  1. Adding comments, position fixed just makes stuff really annoying to get working right

  2. Image sizing is real tough on mobile cause with need to use percent width / heights that make pages jiggle quite a lot on first entry in mobile.

I am super curious to see forums that solve these issue without giving up and doing tapatalk, we do have plans to improve this.