Mobile UX for Forums is broken
And I believe we can fix it
Forums have been in existence since the dawn of the internet era. People have always loved engaging in intellectual (or mostly non intellectual) banter on forums for decades. They’ve served us well all these years as simple websites with messages chronologically piled one below the other endlessly. But the reach of mobiles broke this fundamental user experience of browsing Forums.
Mobile Forums currently thrive on a UX which I like to term “Design Legacy from the Web”. Conversations are still ordered chronologically or by popularity in an endless paginated scroll. Comments are horizontally indented to indicate replies. On bigger screens these strategies have typically worked for one simple reason —
The Cntrl (⌘) + F : It’s so quick and easy scan to through troves of messages with this shortcut. Otherwise, It would have really been painful to reach the messages that you actually care about.
Sadly, Mobile browsers lack the ⌘ + F.
Here’s what a typical popular Reddit feeds look like on Mobile web.
Essentially, the UX involves the user to read and scroll endlessly through this page on her phone in order to reach an interesting part of the thread she might wanna explore. And I believe this problem is true for mobile apps of these forums too.
We seriously need a better designed solution for such core experiences on forums.
Dawn of a new Mobile Forum?
At Bolt (our Design Hack-day @Housing), my team set out to reimagine what a discussion platform would be like if designed Mobile-first. And stumbled across this problem. Here’s what came up.
Since, showing is easier than telling here’s a prototype we did to explain our solution better.
So the idea is to figure our keywords in every comment and highlight them when the user scrolls.
This helps users stay on top of the content even when they are scrolling through the thread quickly.
We believe, This strategy would tremendously cut down the time anyone would require to reach content they are actually interested in.
I’m pretty confident that this design can be easily scaled up to various kinds of comment threads across the web which face similar problems. I’m really excited to learn how designers employ this technique in their applications. If you do deploy it, just tweet to me.
Thanks for reading. Hit me up on Twitter or add notes here to discuss this solution more deeply.
PS: Here’s the team behind our little experiment to reimagine mobile forums. Thanks Kanupriya, Abheyraj, Neelam and Shaivya. More experiments coming soon.