Suggestion: Short description on main page and category pages

(Dave McClure) #1

I poked around at a few of the other forums out there running discourse and something struck me - it wasn’t clear what the forums were about. This ‘meta’ forum solves the problem with the pinned Welcome topic.

While looking around at other forums, its clear that this isn’t universally done, though.

It feels like having some short about section that states what the forum is about would make sense.

Other forums help solve this by including excerpts of the posts or descriptions of the categories on the main page. But I have seen in other posts that this was experimented with here on Discourse before being deemed to be too much clutter (which I agree with).

On the Categories page, something similar may be appropriate. Currently, the description is shown when the mouse hover’s over the label, but I know there is a desire to make everything work without hovers since tablets are a first class citizen.

So I think a simple ‘what is this forum about’ line above the list of topics could be a good way to address this in all cases. I’ve attached a mockup of what the FAQ category page may look like after doing this.

Or perhaps the description line belongs above the row of Filter tabs and Create button…

(Dave McClure) #2

Another possible approach, that may also address the sentiment expressed in this post about pinned topics:

Is it important to have the ability to pin longer form topics somewhere for a forum or category? Why?

Presumably because you want to strongly encourage new users to read those things first. But do they really need to be there for returning users?

What if there were an ‘About’ or ‘Read Me’ filter to the left of ‘Latest’.

‘Pinning’ a topic would be synonomous with labeling it as ‘About’ or ‘Read Me’.

When on ‘About’ you would see only these pinned topics. Unread pinned topics would still show up at the top of ‘Latest’. But after they are read, they would only show up on ‘About’…

EDIT: oops. something similar is already discussed here

(Sam Saffron) #3

Also, keep in mind, we are probably the only forum software out there that allows users the flexibility of unpinning stuff.

(Brentley Jones) #4

But it’s a very very good thing :slight_smile:

(Jeff Atwood) #5

But we already have automatically pinned category descriptions for every category:

The category definition topic explains what the category is, and hosts discussion about the category.

(Notice what you see when you mouse over the faq category… and guess where that comes from!)

I’d be open to some alternative rendering strategy where the pinned post shows the first 200+ characters of the first post underneath it, for example…

(Dave McClure) #6

Right. That’s pretty good. I could get behind showing an excerpt only for pinned categories. There should be a pinned ‘Forum definition’ too.

When I was looking around at other people’s forum’s running discourse though, it was hard to figure out what the whole forum was about from the main page!

Regarding the mouse-over, I like it, but I have also seen the desire to remove dependencies on mouse-over events cited in other topics.

(Jeff Atwood) #7

This is something of a universal issue that does in fact come up on virtually every Discourse instance: what the hell is this place?

Since it was written, we do expand the pinned topics to include the initial text without clicking through, e.g.

We don’t enforce having a pinned “welcome and WTF is this” topic in the forum, and our pin rules are a bit different than other forums (e.g. must have no category to be pinned to the top of the homepage) too.

Thus, I’ve seen Discourse forums add hardcoded descriptions even higher in the header, which I understand but have mixed feelings about – how do you suppress a hardcoded HTML header for regular visitors? At least the pin can be cleared.

I am thinking the “WTF is this forum” should maybe be a mandatory site setting that we can somehow display for the forum in a way that

  • doesn’t require understanding pins, even classic pins, at all
  • can be cleared or is auto-dismissed for regular users

… as it is so universal.

(Dave McClure) #8

Do you think the current mandatory pinned category description topic satisfies the requirement for categories?

If so, perhaps the main issue is simply that there is no mandatory pinned topic for the forum.

You could still lean on the ‘pinned topic’ feature for the home page “welcome and WTF is this” topic, just by making it mandatory to create it, perhaps.

Then you could just continue to make tweaks to how description topics are displayed, (like you have already done by including the text without click through for category descriptions).

Another possible tweak along those lines would be to hide most of the other metadata for description topics:

  • don’t show category, users, posts, likes, views, or activity dates for these topics
  • have the text span more columns

But I’m basically just agreeing with you and and delving into implementation details…

(Jeff Atwood) #9

One thing we could do is create an

Welcome to our discussion forum!

pinned topic in new installs (like we do for the meta category, etc) with content of

The first paragraph of this pinned topic will be visible as an intro message to new users on the homepage. It’s important!

Replace this with a brief description of your forum:

  • Who is it for?
  • What can they find here?
  • Why should they come here?

@sam can you make this so next week.

Meta Topics for Forum's Usage and Features
(Sam Saffron) #10

Will do, but can you write up the body for it first as an md file in discourse/docs at master · discourse/discourse · GitHub

(probus) #11

This sounds good. Description topics should be more different from regular (pinned) topics, because people tend to skip (and hate) reading pinned topics. And when they skip reading them, they most likely don’t understand that they can unpin them.

There should be much hand holding here, since this is one of the first tasks for new users. How about clearing the pin from topic list by clicking the thumb tac icon? Tool tip saying click me to unpin this topic? Auto-clearing it after first read or certain amount of time?

Allow welcome pinned topic to be unpinned for regular users
(Sam Saffron) #12

This can not be done, cause we do not have the forum name at the point of seeding, we would have to hook in to site settings save, dig up the pre-created topic and change the title. Total huge pain in the behind, plus it will look wrong on first boot.

Instead I am going with:

“Welcome to Discourse”, they can change it if they will.

(Jeff Atwood) #13

OK, I updated the copy in the repo. So hopefully every new forum will realize that yes, they do need to explain what the hell this forum is to everyone who arrives.

Also reminder, if we can’t use the real forum name, that’s fine, I think the topic title should be

Welcome to our discussion forum!

We’re also trying to make the no-category (homepage) pinned topics use two columns, e.g:

(Kane York) #14

This is now implemented and working!

(Dave McClure) #15


I can’t tell you why, but after looking at it, I feel like it’d be even better looking if it also spanned the user column. What do you think?


Spanning user column:

(Jeff Atwood) #16

Damn you mcwumbly! Another good idea!

The line length does get a bit long when spanning 3 cols though. We also have something of a pin “addiction” on some sites

(Dave McClure) #17

FWIW, here’s a comparison of the line length spanning 3 columns vs the line length here in a topic post:

A bit on the long side, but not terrible… If there’s a way to make it a little shorter without too much trouble that could be nice.

Pin addiction is really tough I hear… hard on the family too.

(Jeff Atwood) #18

We could take up some space by showing just the topic creator instead of the full participants summary of 5 avatars.

(Dave McClure) #19

Here’s a mock with the single avatar since seeing is believing

(Jeff Atwood) #20

Eh, I think it’s a bit too long that way. Easier to just align with users – and you could have some discussion on the pinned topic where you would want to see the cast of characters as well.