Rationale Behind Latest As Default Homepage View


#1

In the default topic, “READ ME FIRST: Getting Started,” it says:

“We strongly recommend sticking with this homepage for small and medium
communities until you start getting lots of new topics every day.”

Is there a discussion anywhere around here that gives some background on this recommendation? I ask because it’s not what I’m used to as a forum administrator, and I’d like to make sure I’m not missing anything before I consider changing the default view to something more traditional like Categories.


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(cpradio) #2

I can’t speak for Discourse’s rationale, but over where I moderate and help extensively on all things Discourse, we’ve recently switched from Categories as Homepage to Latest and our engagement has seen very promising rises. We are getting more views, more replies, more topics, et al.

We originally went with Categories as latest to make it feel more like vBulletin, but in the end, it didn’t serve any benefits for our community. Latest gives you a quick synopsis of what is being discussed. That seems to be of value to our visitors and our users.

Sure we had a few people complain but I think all of that has died down now that everyone gave it a good honest try.


(Luke S) #3

A quick search does not show a discussion beyond Why was the Latest page chosen as the landing page?

Mostly, the idea seems to be that small communities can get lost in the noise of their own category system. I know that personally, I find navigating smaller communities or ones I only visit occasionally, easier when I can do so via a list of latest posts. Categories are better when looking for all info I can on a very specific topic.


(Mittineague) #4

I think a forums “list of categories” page is good for an overview of "what kind of things do they talk about here?"
But once I know that, the page is simply links to category pages .

The Categories List page does show a few of the latest topics for each, but Pinned topics may bump some / all of that category’s latest topics from showing there.

The list of Categories appeals to my liking of things to be “organized” and less “chaotic” but in reality once I am not New it’s usefulness is much lessened

IMHO as long as the Latest page makes the category a topic is in easily discernible if one has different levels of interest in different categories they can easily scan through the list

And a user can always go to a category’s page to see topics in only that category if so desired.


(Joe Seyfried) #5

Exactly - this has been discussed before, imgur are using the approach I like the best: if you enter the site by its canonical domain name (forum.domain.tld or www.domain.tld), the new user gets the category list and can get a grip what is happening there. Users of the site will click the logo to return from browsing stuff, and should get redirected to /latest instead of /categories. They can also add /latest to their browsers’ bookmarks.

And that’s why I created this tiny plugin: Redirect / for non-logged in users? - with that, you can configure where a logo click takes your site visitors.


(Tom Newsom) #6

Perfect. That’s exactly how it should work.


(Tom Newsom) #7

Hmm. Well, I tried this out and got the “blank page when logged in as admin” bug so uninstalled it. Might be a conflict with another plugin? I don’t have time to test.


(Joe Seyfried) #8

Eew, yesterday’s commit is missing - I will push that today so that this does not break stuff

Are you on the latest Discourse version?


(Tom Newsom) #9

Yep, bang up to date with tests-passed


(Joe Seyfried) #10

Sry. That’s most probably the problem. I need around 4 hours to get to my home computer and commit the changes. I will post here again, then you can give it the next spin…


(Joe Seyfried) #11

Should work now, @Tom_Newsom - at least it does on my staging instance which I have pulled to the latest tests-passed. :wink:


(Tom Newsom) #12

Cheers. I’ll give it a whirl later on today


(Robin Ward) #13

For me it’s part of the paradox of choice.

When a user arrives at your site, the first thing you’re going to do is present them with a list of choices to drill in further?

I think it’s much more interesting to show them what is popular. What are people talking about right now? That’s the stuff about your forum that is interesting long term.

Of course if the user is coming for something specific they can drill down into a category or tag to find it. But they should know what’s active!

Another upside is it feels much less empty in smaller forums (also: brand new forums!). If you started by creating 20 categories, each with one or two topics, a user is going to feel like nobody uses your forum when they enter each category.


#14

Thanks for the input, everyone. I suppose I can buy that categorization is more outdated and less necessary than we may have assumed, but I still struggle with how to marry this concept with what we’re trying to do. Let me try this:

What’s the smartest way to use Discourse to set up a community that offers discussion for regular users of a product and separate discussion for developers of that product? We don’t want these audiences to be so separate that we have two different forums on separate URLs (the developers in particular may provide value in the normal sections), but we don’t want the two audiences so intermingled that they have to wonder when scanning through the latest posts whether a given topic is “for” them.


#15

Hi, Robin. You’re probably right if you’re talking about the choice between viewing only recent first vs only category headings first, as that choice currently exists on Discourse. I think the jarring thing for people used to more traditional forum software is that this choice isn’t typically necessary. A traditional forum landing page shows most recent topics beneath a number of main category headings, so it’s a combination of the two views that allows users to easily see what’s recent in the section(s) they care about. The dichotomy we’re talking about is imposed by Discourse.

This is important because different categories may appeal to different audiences, and any given user may belong in any number / combination of audiences that given forums serve. Discourse does allow you to view what’s most recent in any category, but 1) you have a to make at least one click to get there, 2) you can’t see this view for more than one category at a time. Both of those can be legitimately regarded as undesirable limitations.


(Jeff Atwood) #16

Er… What? This is not true at all, the Discourse category page also shows recent topics in each category.


#17

Jeff, sorry, I was thinking of subcategories. If we want to make the primary category division of our forums between normal users and developers, any topical divisions we want to make within those categories must be accomplished with subcategories. But the subcategories don’t serve as organizational headings for the Categories view and have no bearing on the Latest column.


(Jeff Atwood) #18

Still not following. Topics in subcategories will be shown on the categories page under each category, as a rolled up list of recent topics for that category and subcategories.

And the subcategories are shown under each category as well.

Can you perhaps mark up a screenshot so I can understand what you are talking about?


#19

Jeff, sure thing. This first image is the sort of organization we’d ideally like to have for the landing page:

This second image is what Discourse offers when you use the Categories sort as the landing page:

In the circled portion on the left, you don’t see what, if any, topics exist beneath each category. And in the circled portion on the right, you don’t see which category each topic belongs to.


(Jeff Atwood) #20

Just to be 100% clear, so we’re on the same page – in your picture where it says

  • Release Notes
  • User Questions about Images
  • Test Topinc in Top Level Category

Those topics you see there can come from either

  • “Discussion for Users” parent category

or

  • any subcategory of “Discussion for Users”

In other words, the “Latest” field here reflects the latest topics in any subcategory under Discussion for Users, including topics in the parent category alone.

(Also, I’d be really careful with extra long and wordy category titles like “Discussion for Users” as Discourse is a discussion solution; the discussion part is implicit. Better to make the category “Users” and have the extended explanation of what the category is about in the category description.)


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