Try out the new sidebar and notification menus!

We’ve been working on some significant new navigation features, and we’re now at a point where we’d love to start getting more feedback from you!

Over the years, Discourse has grown to serve a larger set of communication and collaboration needs for diverse groups within the communities that rely upon the platform. Many communities with large numbers of categories and tags are now adding chat channels as well.

As important as it is to have a single place for everyone to interact and see all the latest discussions, it’s just as important for you to have an easy way to stay on top of what is most important to you.

Today we’re introducing a new sidebar and a new notifications menu into Discourse to help you and your community members find and focus on what is most important to you.

The new sidebar lets you customize your navigation so you can get to your favorite parts of your community, and the new notifications menu that lets you more easily decide which of your notifications deserve your attention now and which ones can be dismissed or be saved for later.

These features can be enabled by admins on all communities with experimental site settings that any admins for any community can turn on and are now enabled on Meta.

These new features are still experimental, but will eventually become the defaults for new communities.

New sidebar

The new sidebar includes a community section that has some common links everyone will need to access, and additional sections for your favorite categories and tags, your personal messages, and any chat channels that you’ve joined.

Anonymous users (visitors who are not logged in), see sections for the most popular tags and categories.

Add categories and tags to your sidebar

Click the pencil icon next to the categories or tags sections to be taken to your sidebar preferences page to add categories or tags to your own sidebar. Counts for new and unread topics are shown alongside any categories and tags you choose to add to your sidebar.

Adding categories or tags does not automatically watch or track them, so you won’t get additional notifications unless you choose to do so separately.

New notifications menu

notifications-menu

The new notifications menu has tabs for each type of notification so when you’re looking for those two recent replies but have gotten a few more recent likes and mentions, you can find them easily without navigating away from the current page.

Counts for different types of unread notifications are shown on each tab so you can see at a glance what kinds of things may be waiting for you. Dismiss a subset of notifications on a given tab when you want to clear one out but still want to follow up on the others.

Configuration

A few site settings are available to admins to enable and configure the feature.

Enable the experimental features

enable-experimental-sidebar-hamburger

The enable experimental sidebar hamburger site setting disables the old hamburger menu and turns on the new notifications menu. Separately you can choose between the sidebar and the new hamburger menu.

Enable the sidebar or hamburger menu

enable-sidebar

The enable sidebar site setting enables the sidebar, which replaces the hamburger menu. When it is disabled, a new hamburger menu is used instead for sites that prefer it find it more compatible with their existing theme customizations.

The old hamburger menu will eventually go away.

Configure default categories and tags

sidebar-default-categories-tags

Site administrators can use the default sidebar categories and default sidebar tags site settings to configure what new users have configured in their sidebars by default.

Share your feedback

Come hang out with us in the #sidebar-feedback chat channel and share your feedback and questions as you try it out here on meta and on your own sites. And help us create topics tagged with #sidebar for issues or ideas that you feel are worth tracking longer term or discussing more widely.

We’ve got more planned for these features and will continue to be updating it regularly! And special thanks to everyone who has given feedback on the earlier sidebar plugin that was included in Discourse for Teams and helped to inform the design of this feature.

63 Likes

The categories are listed by alphabetical sorting. It would be useful to keep the order selected in the default_sidebar_categories

When clicking the + sign next to the Community header the create new post modal is popping with the sidebar being still open causing a bit of confusion on the top side of the screen.

10 Likes

We initially had it implemented this way but found it even more problematic in earlier testing. Part of the problem is that the UI for choosing things doesn’t allow you to easily reorder them. At some point, custom ordering may be on the table, but we need a better UX for that if we want to support it. For now, alphabetical felt like the better tradeoff.

I’m not sure I understand this one. Can you clarify what you mean by “causing a bit of confusion on the top side of the screen?”

7 Likes

5 Likes

I don’t have a definitive opinion about these changes since they are brand new, but a few things nonetheless:

  1. The animation starts with a reduced post list width, which makes some titles “jump” as they fill 2 lines, and then 1 when the resize ends:


    Is there a CSS I can edit to see how it would look without transition?

  2. I’d prefer to have the “personal menu” as the first icon instead of the last. Also, none of these icons have title attributes.
    image

  3. The “Everything” button under the Community section leads to /unread instead of the homepage…
    image
    Very confusing to me. I expected to see everything (as the button says) and couldn’t figure out why I was not seeing all the topics at first. Note that I also never use New, Unread, or Top nav buttons.

19 Likes

I second that, I got RSI from the last 15 minutes already :wink:

4 Likes

The new user menu is great :star_struck:

I wish that the sidebar wasn’t required on my forum for it though.

2 Likes

You can try out the “new hamburger menu” instead if you’d like. To do that, turn on enable experimental sidebar hamburger and turn off enable sidebar. (See configuration).

6 Likes

Yeah that’s kinda the issue. Me and the other staff aren’t a fan of the new hamburger menu being required for the sidebar because we want the review button, and the sidebar pop out is too big for the button in general

That’s probably just me though

2 Likes

There’s been some internal debate about this as well. We’ve considered trying that out, but are also considering splitting out a separate menu for notifications under a bell icon in the header… Not sure where we’ll land here and this may go through a few different experiments before we decide.

Out of curiosity, what kinds of things are you going to the user profile / personal menu for with any frequency?

11 Likes

I feel used to that as well, but, considering we are admins of Discourse instances, how representative are we of most users? I would argue that most users access their notifications far more than their preferences, justifying the position at the top.

However, I question the general notificiation bell at the top. As a user I care about these things in the following order:

  1. Replies - I already participate in this content
  2. Likes - I already participate in this content
  3. Mentions - Someone else thinks I should participate(but might be wrong)
  4. Watching - I don’t necessarily want to particpate.

I find the first bell, with all the notifications together a bit superfuous to requirements – the whole bar already has this content, and even better categorises the content.

I would love the first option I see to be my replies.

:point_up: :heart:

12 Likes

I suggest hanging tight for a bit on this one. We’ve been through a few rounds of making changes and reverting them in this area due to conflicts with existing themes.

5 Likes

I am interested in revisiting how we order the various submenus soon as well. :heart: for sharing the “why” here for what may be most important to you.

Hmm… are you saying you don’t want a way to see them all together unfiltered? If you do still want that, but then clicked on a submenu, how would you expect to get back to “all” notifications? Just close the menu and re-open it?

4 Likes

Profile and personal messages.
Also, I always found that a there was a lack of a quick access to the direct messages page (you need to click twice on the letter icon in your avatar menu, that’s not very intuitive). It’s very welcome in the sidebar, though I’d prefer to have a more obvious button somewhere else close to or inside the avatar menu.

I personally don’t use bookmarks and I don’t care about more than the 5, maybe 10 last notifications.
having the notification list going almost to the bottom of the screen is maybe a bit overkill.

(psst! :wink:)


Very fair point :+1:

8 Likes

Oh good point.

Originally we didn’t have this “everything else” item at the bottom (boxes icon):

Screen Shot 2022-09-20 at 10.55.21 AM

Without an “everything else” we need the bell… because we don’t have a filter for every notification type in this menu. But now we have a “everything combined” (bell icon) and “everything not already represented by a filter” (boxes icon). There’s a difference there, but it does seem obscure and superfluous.

5 Likes

I can’t seem to find the Reviews link, important for admins and mods that need to review posts.

4 Likes

We’re planning to add a Review link in the sidebar itself. In the meantime, you can get there via the Flag icon in the user menu (click it twice).

4 Likes

3 posts were split to a new topic: Add an Admin section to the sidebar

Anything making it easier to understand common tags, plus helping users / anonymous understand them is much appreciated!

1 Like

Thanks Dave - my bad!

2 Likes