Rename Users to People

Don Norman, a person who is well-known and respected for pioneering the UX field in the 1990s and beyond, often reminds us that wording is important and we should focus on our goal of helping real, thinking, feeling people – not users. Humans . When we call them customers or users, we distance ourselves from the people who use our products by labelling and objectifying them.
- read full article here

I have always preferred to not use the term Users, except when doing backend stuff. I am thinking of renaming Users to something else like People. Initially, I was thinking of handling it inside a theme or a theme component, but then I thought building a plugin to load a custom locale file might be the easiest way to hack it.

Also from the same article as above:

I think it’s okay to stick with ‘users.’ The word is easy to understand, whether you’re a UXer or not, and it makes sense. It’s generalisable. And it’s widely used.

So before I even start writing any code, I would like to ask for expert advice on whether I should even proceed with this effort? Would it have any conflict with how Discourse works?


In my opinion as a lifelong developer (though not a Discourse expert), whether you should proceed with this effort depends upon the weight of impact versus weight of effort as measured from your perspective. The weight of impact could be subdivided into internal (for your own benefit) and external (for the benefit of others) weights. While we sometimes (or often) need to do certain things for our own benefit, when it comes to developing communities, I feel like the benefit of others takes precedence over the benefit of ourselves. Then again, the community you craft is an expression of yourself and as the architect you need to decide what impact you are trying to impress upon your _____. What are they to you? How do you want them to perceive themselves?

A bit philosophical, I realize, but hopefully helpful. :slightly_smiling_face:


No need to do any hacking as Discourse lends itself to easy customization of any text. Simply find the specific instances of user and users you want to change. :boom:


Although changing text is an option, it will only change the current locale. It would be useful to be able for plugins, themes or theme components to handle custom locales as proposed in the OP. Is there such a functionality?

In French, one could use « usager » instead of « utilisateur » or « utilisatrice » which brings back a meaning that disappeared recently where « usager » – meaning someone you serve with respect and attention – was superseded in public transport with privatization: now privatized transports prefer to use « passager » (passenger) or even « client » (customer). This is a small semantic shift but it means a lot, and in languages that can make a difference between users/utilisateurs (what is using the program) and people/usagers (who the program is made to serve), it can very meaningful to make the effort from an intersectional perspective.


I think user is more relevant than people.
People includes everyone who does not use Discourse.

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Getting positive re-affirmation from a total stranger is always my favourite thing about the internet :heart:

Ah yes. I have considered this for one particular use case – I need other people to be able to start their own communities using my custom Discourse instance (also via Docker, maybe) that already has localisation configured. Those localised configurations would include UX improvements, which includes renaming Users to something like People, among other things. I imagine using the built in text customisation feature would solve this use case. However, my main concern about using this feature is that it doesn’t actually change the word itself, therefore it would not translate properly into other languages, right?

To illustrate my point (values in the table below are direct translations without context):

English (EN) Malay (MY) Chinese (ZH)
User :arrow_right: Pengguna :arrow_right: 用户
People :arrow_right: Orang :arrow_right: 人们

Allow me to add more context to my original post:

My site will cater to a broad audience within a very specific geographical region ie. people from :malaysia: Malaysia. Unfortunately for me, Malaysia contains speakers of 137 living languages. Although I don’t plan to support all 137 languages myself, I am kick starting the effort with Malay translation (as I speak and write both English and Malay natively) and hopefullay I can crowdsource a few other common languages used here in Malaysia. I hope to pave the way for other native speakers in Malaysia to also start the effort to translate the site in their respective mother tongues, and in turn, will help the site to be more accessible to more Malaysians.

:100::+1:t2::sparkles: I want to make the language tone in my site as pleasing and as inviting as I can. Other than using the admin replace text feature, I can only think of creating alternate locale files. I don’t want to override the default locale files in Discourse, hence I thought of creating an alternate English locale file, which later anyone can base their translations from.

I am approaching this problem from a UX point of view.
Q: How can I help reduce frictions for non-tech savvy people to set up their own online community?
A: Do what Discourse has been doing – pre-configure the software out of the box :laughing:

Q: How can I help reduce frictions for non-tech savvy people to add custom language to their site?
A: Erm… upload YML file via plugin? :thinking:

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I haven’t lock that one yet :sweat_smile:. Since my site would serve my entire country, I initially thought of using the term Malaysians instead of Users. However, I don’t think I should restrict non-citizens from signing up, so I created a Malaysian group instead and settled on People for now, until I find a more fitting, more friendly term.

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This very dilemma seems to me an impetus behind the trust level (TL) labels (Basic, Member, Regular, Leader, Elder) of Discourse. The “roles” that your ____ have can be based upon the nature of the community.

An example hierarchy for a trade-related community could take a hint from history and have Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master Craftsman. For our German-speaking friends here, these would traditionally be Lehrling, Geselle, and Meister.