Reply text box as alternative to current button approach

Continuing the discussion from How difficult would it be to make the Discourse UI more like Flarum?:
I’d like to suggest we have the option for…

I’d be curious if others agree with my armchair psychoanalysis of how this alternative approach feels and what behavior it may encourage or discourage in average users.

Note that this “text box” really acts kind of like a button in Flarum. So I am not suggesting a radical change to how the composer works. The outline of the text box appears on-hover, and your cursor turns into a text caret, but when you click into the “text box” it opens a full Compose window with the topic title as normal:

Flarum works a bit differently for preview than Discourse (and Discourse is superior in this regard IMO), but basically a Discourse version of this would just move the avatar up to the header, and open the two pane editor as normal where you see the single pane in the Flarum example above. And it wouldn’t necessarily have to work fully as Flarum does, e.g. the text caret appearing, that seems more complicated. Just the design as inspiration is what I’m wanting to highlight and discuss.


That’s quite a cool idea! It can probably be created using a theme-component and putting the looks-like-text-area-but-its-actually-a-button-to-open-the-composer thing in the outlet we have for the topic end.


That sounds promising. Is there interest from the team in implementing it, or were you just saying that it should not be too difficult for someone to do if they had interest and the right skills? (I lack the latter, sadly :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:)


Responding to some comments from @codinghorror over in the originating thread: How difficult would it be to make the Discourse UI more like Flarum?

The “text input box” (not really a text input box) is only at the bottom of the topic. It does not replace all reply buttons, only the last one that in Discourse is highlighted in blue. I think what it does is encourage response, but not premature response.

As a “very online guy” myself, I seldom have trouble feeling confident to respond, but surely you know that many people do. Initial participation in forums can have a high barrier to entry, and this is one of the things discussed (and not yet resolved IMO) in threads like this one: vs Discourse

Obviously you want to avoid the problem you raised: people responding too quickly, knee-jerk, etc. But hopefully we can trust that by the time they reach the bottom of the topic, they’re ready to respond. Or at least, Discourse already seems to trust that, so… :wink:

Depending on how this will work, the text box at the bottom of the topic might make even more sense then…

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Not really, no – we want to avoid the “here’s an empty textbox, proceed to type whatever is on your mind” phenomenon that pervades the internet. Sometimes you want a little friction, and this is one of those cases. Otherwise you always get XCKD 386. Heck, I’m considering adding a feature that won’t let you reply at all until you’ve read enough of the discussion (assuming the discussion is of reasonable length, of course).

As a theme component someone could install on their own site, have at it!

(Also, this was discussed many times years ago, but we might have culled those old discussions by now. It’s also a great approach for chat, where typing momentary content that will disappear in the memory-hole after a day or two is kinda the objective.)


Sure, but the friction remains the same under this idea until you reach the end of the discussion. Yes, it modestly decreases friction for a reply at that point, but not in a functional how-many-actual-clicks way, only perceptually.

More importantly I don’t think a “Someone is wrong on the Internet!” rage-poster is going to be much affected by the difference between these two approaches, whereas someone who is anxious about participating might well have a more measurably different response to the two. I don’t have studies to back this up (if you need some, maybe I can find some though :grin:), but it at least makes intuitive sense to me. And ultimately, IMO, is worth trying because I think you’d quickly see what the results would be in any decently active forum.

I’m still confused. The “reply text box” feature requires you read all of the topic before you see it.

That said, I get it, this is something to try to do in a theme component. So, any takers? One of these days I’ll just have to bite the bullet and learn how to program for god’s sake. But right now a bit too much on my plate unfortunately. :expressionless:

Also, you and I have potentially different views of how chat should be handled. If there is a way to preserve valuable content from chat, then by all means it can be ephemeral. But I’d want at least a week, if not longer, to determine that (i.e. chat retained for that long). Ideally that will be admin-controllable. But I digress from the topic of this, er, topic. :smiley:


True, what you are proposing is essentially a very fancy reply button, but I wonder if people will be confused by the fact that they’re clicking a fake “input box” and then our editor overlay pops up. I think they’ll wonder why there is an overlay editor instead of typing directly on the page… the resulting UI would be a bit odd IMO… does “your” fake placeholder post disappear once you click and the overlay editor arrives? Does that fake placeholder post stick around in the topic? Does it update in real time as you type in the overlay editor? If so, that would be three places that your typing would be mirrored:

  1. in the editor
  2. in the editor preview pane
  3. in the fake placeholder post

… one way to measure that potential confusion is to try a theme component.

Sure, it’s off topic here, but that does make sense.


I’m pretty sure most of these concerns are because you haven’t had the opportunity to test the Flarum example yourself. But you’re right that testing it in a theme component makes perfect sense. So I await someone interested and able to do that (or the free time to materialize that I can learn it myself). :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


thank you for bringing this up! i’ve been trawling through discourse themes trying to find if someone has the code for this. We are trying to get our online community up and going, but have a feeling some people may be a bit shy / not used to interacting on forums so want to make this frictionless as you said


I’m also the person who likes Flarum’s UI style significantly more then Discourse style (but not functionality and not community and devs support).
But exactly this item was NOT invented by Flatum, it seems similar to long-time existed “enticement to commenting” at WP and wpDiscuz etc.
So when it looks really nice and attract users to write something, I don’t think that it’s truly useful. It does not bring any additional functionality and it’s the true space wasting. At aspect of the “better offer to reply” functionality-style - I more prefer the always visible big “Reply” button above the navigation bar as at Flarum - it’s more useful and more compact at once!
Also in terms of Discourse UI there are many more important thing to do, at my opinion.

When its smart by default for most mass any-users communities with topics up to 10-50 messages… for a communities of professionals or just smart&responsible persons - it’s the opposite! The always visible big “Reply” button above the navigation bar - are really useful and obvious that it is much more comfort to start write your answer instantly after each message reading… instead to read whole topic which can have 100-500-1000-10’000 messages - by the end of reading which you will simply have forgotten what and to whom you wanted to answer… it’s obvious. Also when user start to write his answer while reading - in the course of reading user can add more other users nicknames to which he will address his answer, etc.
Current Discourse small “reply icon” is not very visual, just an icon and a little too far from the center.
It’s easy to make a such option at dashboard or as additional plugin - with it professional communities will display the always visible big “Reply/Share/Favorite/Report/Follow” buttons above navigation bar, mass mess community will hide them. Very simple, very useful.
But still I agree with your rationale that moving Reply/Share/Favorite/Report/Follow to most bottom must minimize useless parasite actions. But still at professional communities those buttons placed as at Flarum at right side and always visible - is more “visually comfortable”.

The distinction that the text box is at the bottom of the discussion is no different than “comment box at the end of a New York Times article”, and we all know how that story goes… we’re advocates for thoughtful friction:

And, we are on the verge of shipping built in chat, so you can switch from the slow lane to the fast lane if you want to brainstorm and have a rapid back-and-forth conversation that won’t end up immortalized in Google’s index for the rest of time. It is possible to have your :cake: and eat it, too.

Heck, sometimes you want conversations to go on for years, like this one… :wink: