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