UserVoice vs Discourse

Hi Guys,

We currently make user of UserVoice as our primary tool for gathering feedback and ideas directly from our customer in order to better understand how to develop our software forward for ours users.

I am trying to build a case for making the move from UserVoice over to discourse for our board of directors and of course there are some obvious reasons why we should make the switch.

I am wondering if there is anyone here who has first hand experience in this process and to understand why some of you may have decided on discourse over uservoice.

Many thanks


@erlend_sh may have thoughts on this.

I dare say the majority of public Discourse forums deal in some kind of open product development. While we do support up-voting functionality similar to UserVoice with our Voting plugin, most communities don’t need it. Any product community that solicits feedback from users will commonly be practicing some form of complaint-driven development.

Discourse’s edge over UserVoice is that it’s a more holistic approach. In our model you don’t just put a spotlight on the “most wanted”, you also discuss anything that could work slightly better, is hard to understand or is straight up broken. And unlike vote-focused idea blurbs with drive-by comments, Discourse’s sustained discussions enable users & staffers to continuously hack away together at a crudely formed idea until they’re left with an informal specification.

You’ll see this pattern repeating itself in many of our feature discussions here on Meta.

Other notable communities excelling at open product development include:

Eve Tech

A device shop whose main selling point is that their products are designed by their community. They do employ Voting to a small extent, but the bigger story is that their entire forum is one giant roadmap discussion.

Soylent and Huel

Two similar product lines with a similar product strategy: Let users talk about any experience, good and bad, and embrace the bad (not every body takes in a liquid meal with ease) with honest discussion rather than silencing it. Show me a focus group that would provide these companies with anywhere near the same amount of data and I’ll eat my :tophat:

EVE Online

It’s hard to make a pick among game forums as game makers are one of our biggest customer segments and they’ve been at the forefront of community-informed design for decades. Games lend themselves incredibly well to discussion about their rules, characters, aesthetic, balance, story, etcetera. A very common way of soliciting feedback from game testers is to silently watch the tester play your game and take notes. Afterwards you have a discussion about the play experience. An open forum is like that second part but scaled up 1000x.

In conclusion

You’ve probably heard this quote before:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

~ Henry Ford
(according to legend, and that’s good enough)

This anecdote neatly encapsulates Discourse’s approach to open product development. You don’t arrive at a better design by pitting hundreds of features against each other in a vote-war. All of those features are parts of a greater whole. There’s only so much to be gained by having people shout their ideas at you. What you really want is meticulous discussions with a beginning, a middle and an end. You’re not always gonna get a happy ending, but if the story is good enough someone else will eventually tell it again, this time with a twist.


@Kyle_Risi I think I’ll turn the above into a blog post but I’d like to see where else we can take this discussion first. Is there anything else you could tell us about the particular type of community you’re considering using Discourse for? The more we know about your particular use case the more specific advice we can give.


I agree 100% with everything @erlend_sh said :man_factory_worker:t3:

I think one incredibly misguided thing many companies find appealing with uservoice, getsatisfaction and the whole “ideation” line item is that suddenly this means that they need less product managers cause the customers are product managers. The signal is better. Often this is solving the wrong problem.

The reality is that there is no fancy voting thing that would make this list look much different:

Just because 1000 customers think your car factory should start producing chocolate does not make them right nor does it make chocolate less awesome. Regardless, Discourse is fine, as is, capturing this data point.

Where Discourse shines is that it makes it far more convenient for your product managers and stakeholders to be around. It makes it far more convenient to discuss features and bugs with customers. This means your product is far more alive.

The actual problem that really needs solving for businesses is having someone around to discuss issues and solve problems. Discourse solves this need spectacularly well. It empowers the community to help out and makes it ultra convenient for staff to participate.


Just to pile on here a bit, I think another important thing to note about allowing discussions to ebb and flow naturally between problems and potential solutions is that the relationships among problems and solutions are not 1:1 or even clean or atomic.

Connections between different problems that seem unrelated at first can be made in a more fluid manner, and solutions that solve some set of problems in a way that fits with the product’s visions or goals can then be designed separately, but still with reference back to the problems they are aiming to solve.

And some problems don’t need to be solved with more software, but just by getting the right support from the community in discovering new ways of using it, which has distinct value in of itself.


Our replies here have been turned into a blog post: