Appearance and descriptions of categories at a Discourse site: thoughts please

(Graham Perrin) #1

Before a fix (the special purpose Uncategorised category had disappeared):

Fixed, and reordered by me (meta discussions no longer prominent, as a category):

In a narrower window:

Latest, instead of categories

Shrunken a little, for a near-complete overview in a single shot:

Your thoughts please.

My thoughts, in a nutshell:

  • categorisation by default, at the home page of the forum, might become useful later (when there’s more substantial content) but now, the default is somewhat obtrusive
  • on one hand, I’d like some of the category descriptions to be terser; on the other hand, I’d like to not lose the essence of what was written by the original author
  • I’d love to reduce repetition, make better use of space – phrases such as “This is the place to discuss topics relating to …” are quite redundant.

From the first two screenshots – before and after – you might see that some of the redundancy has already been addressed, but I think that we might do better.

Minor issues

Apparent grammatical errors – two spaces in lieu of one – related to use of emoticons in descriptions of categories. Where those descriptions are represented without the emoticons, white space creeps in.


I have not tried that, I might do so after some feedback.

– plus many other good points in that topic, I’ll not reproduce them here.

Side note: quantity

… near-complete overview in a single shot …

If we subtract the meta discussions, including forum feedback, I reckon that there are not yet enough substantial topics – not enough for the forum to be attractive to newcomers. I’ll tackle this in a separate topic.

(remah) #2

I like what you are doing but further development would probably be of little or no benefit for me. defaults to Latest and that’s what I prefer to use as the gateway to everything else.

I’ve never really used the full page category view as I just use the drop downs, e.g. when I created a topic. Actually the first time I’ve seriously used the category view was yesterday when I was trying to locate generic Discourse help topics on various sites.

The category names are fine for me.

They weren’t redundant for me when I needed them which was when I first started. Now that I don’t need them, I don’t even notice them. I get so much from the content that the perfection of the user interface is not an issue.

I’m comfortable with the trade-off. In real world example, I run a group which can be attended by people of any age. We meet in part of a large building where every key moment is telegraphed by a sign on a door or wall. Visitors don’t have to ask for that key information and everyone has equal access the information they need. The average person only has to come once or twice to be familiar with our physical arrangements and the timing of our sessions. The only difference the signs make to other users, is to make it easy to point to needed information.

(Graham Perrin) #3

Thanks. By redundancy I mean, for example:

  • “This is the place to discuss topics relating to …” as a repeated prefix.

A forum (e.g. a Discourse site) is, if you like, a place to discuss topics.

After you enter a forum: I see no need to label a place therein with “This is a place to discuss.”. Walk to the next place: “This is a place to discuss.”. And on, to the next place: “This is a place to discuss.”.

… real world … We meet in part of a large building … a sign on a door or wall. …


I’d think it peculiar if each those signs bore a prefix "This is a room ","This is a wall ", "This is a door " or :slight_smile: "This is a sign ".

(Sarah Hawk) #4

I think a lot of this will depend on the nature of your audience and what they come to the site for.

I’m making an assumption from your screenshots that your audience are very similar to those that I’ve dealt with at SitePoint and still do at UXMastery. Those people are familiar with the web – many also with Discourse – and will have no issue finding what they need. That probably makes the categories (and the descriptions) fairly redundant.

If we were talking about a product forum where people only spent time in one or two areas and had no interest in the rest, I’d stick with Categories. Otherwise I’d go with content.

The first thing that I noticed was how long your category descriptions are. How much of that info is necessary?
e.g. Usability reviews and research is fairly self explanatory. People already know the purpose of the category and that they can go there to ask questions.

(remah) #5

I still think that I understood what you meant. I’m not saying that you are wrong. I’m trying to say that there can be very good reasons for retaining or increasing redundancy.

I believe the crux of the issue is whether everyone does understand what the forum is or is for. I’m doubtful because I meet a lot of Facebook users who have no idea what a different forum is like, more so when it is a forum based on the Discourse principles.

People have quite a high tolerance for redundancy. Just as many of us can filter out online ads - I don’t usually “see” them or notice them. Or, like when we read out loud a written sentence that has a repeated word, we can automatically filter out the repeated word and correct the spoken version.

My real world example doesn’t go to quite the extremes you suggested but our signs are as basic as “Tea room: We have morning tea in here from 10.20-10.30am”. Most of this information is contained in a brochure that contains the registration form, yet we still repeat this for everyone to see and don’t assume that everyone gets it the first time.

In my real world example, we find that people often turn up at our sessions without any understanding of what the groups does and even less idea of how it does it. They usually come because a friend recommends us. We say what we do, how we do it and when will do it. But we don’t use the signs to explain why. That is done in our brochure, face-to-face discussions, and announcements to the group.

(Robert McIntosh) #6

I’ve not gone through it in detail, but if you really want to cut down the text in the descriptions and you want to “maintain the essence of what was written originally” then I assume you know that the category description text on these pages only shows the first line. If you want to keep a longer more detailed description you can, but you can edit the first line down to the bare essentials and allow new users to read the rest of the post for great detail.

However, for a young or still growing community, it is probably best, as others have said, to stick with Latest instead, in which case only the really committed will bother to read the descriptions before using them (or not)

(Graham Perrin) #7

Thanks everyone, I might follow up tomorrow. (Busy at work at the moment, with an open call about the forum less than two hours from now.)

Understood :thumbsup: – the smile in the midst was to show that I was being comically extreme. Thought provoking, hopefully in a nice way :slight_smile:

(Graham Perrin) #8



Discourse: Latest by default under What’s on your home page?

(remah) #9

@graham_perrin, too brief for me.

I had to read all the links to understand that you are talking about addressing an issue raised in another forum. A quick summary of that point would have given me the correct context.

If I understand correctly, this broader view on latest, maybe, requires a poll and should be in it’s own topic. It seems, at best, tangential to this topic which is about categories. :confused:

(Edited to correct spelling and grammar)

(Graham Perrin) #10

You’re absolutely right, there’s that impression, I should have taken more care with the subject line and with the presentation of things in the opening post. Sorry.

Under the heading ‘Latest, instead of categories’ I posted the screenshot of Latest and wrote:

categorisation by default, at the home page of the forum, might become useful later (when there’s more substantial content) but now, the default is somewhat obtrusive

That was sort of a key point – I don’t like categorisation by default – but I sort of lost the point by making it a bullet after the large images. And the heading might be overlooked in the midst of large images and so on.

Changing the subject line to reflect the interest in Latest probably won’t change the perceptions of readers, so (yes) let’s treat this topic as primarily about Categories. Thanks.