Alternative to Discourse

Hall is the easy to set up alternative, with an intuitive user interface that drives engagement.

Discourse logo

Howdy! Thinking about moving over to Hall? Or trying to decide which platform to use for the first time?

If you’re wondering what the differences are between Hall and Discourse for companies looking to create a customer community, we put together this simple and straightforward overview.

When you need more than just a forum

Discourse is first-and-foremost a forum platform. The first version of Discourse was released in 2014 under the mission of democratizing online community by raising the standard of civilized discourse on the Internet1. Since then, their platform has grown to comprise a robust set of forum features and customization options.

It’s these roots and mission-driven orientation that mean that Discourse is largely unopinionated about the customers they build for, uses of Discourse could include everything from bodybuilding fitness communities through to developer forums for programming languages. This has led Discourse to focus on building features over solving problems for a specific type of customer.

FeverBee’s independent review of Discourse2 highlights that while Discourse does boast advanced forum capabilities, it lacks in features specifically desired by enterprises and companies.

Hall on the other hand is focused exclusively on building the best product for companies looking to create a customer community around their product or service. In addition to discussion forums, Hall has features for specific use cases such as for product ideation, feature requests, and user feedback, as well functionality for peer-to-peer community support with questions and answers. All of this is backed by a powerful admin dashboard that surfaces detailed analytics about your community, as well as robust management and community CRM features that enable you to measure the impact of your customer community on revenue and retention metrics.

Affordable pricing

Do they cater to companies of different sizes and budgets? Are they going to keep pricing consistent?


Modern product and user experience

Is the platform simple, easy, intuitive, and enjoyable to use by members? Does the platform designed to drive engagement?


Easy to set up and manage

Is it easy to get started with? Are there ongoing costs to maintain?


Easy to configure and customize

Is it easy to configure settings? How accessible and simple is customization?


Community without the set up complexity

Discourse’s focus over the last decade to be a flexible forum product instead of a dedicated customer community platform has meant their product has accumulated numerous features and functionality, each with their own setting and customization options3. Exploring Discourse’s settings screens reveal settings for almost every feature they’ve released. While powerful, this can make Discourse incredibly complicated and challenging to configure as a best-in-class customer community platform as Discourse does not come with defaults or configurations for a customer community out-of-the-box.

FeverBee’s independent review of Discourse1 calls attention to the complexity of Discourse and poor documentation will likely mean that admins will have to seek out support on Discourse’s own community.

Hall is made for customer communities. We’re exclusively focused on building the best possible product for building a customer community. Because of this relentless focus, Hall is simple to set up, maintain, and use – both for admins and for community members. We are opinionated and prioritize what is important for customer communities, and nothing more. Our focus means that all of the investments we make improving our product go towards making customer communities better for our customers.

A modern user experience

Hall is a modern customer community platform designed to be simple, highly intuitive, and eliminate any friction for community members to sign up, engage, and participate. We have built our platform to be fast and highly usable, and Hall’s simplicity is one of the many reasons why customers choose us. We’ve conducted hours of user experience research and usability testing to ensure that the design of our platform is intuitive and frictionless for community members.

Discourse has been described as overwhelming, and an examination of Discourse’s user interface often surfaces many features, sections, callouts, and options that make it difficult for users to orient themselves and follow along with the conversation. The amount of user interface customization that Discourse offers means that it is easy to deviate from accepted best practices and user experiences which can affect adoption and hinder engagement by community members.

FeverBee’s independent review of Discourse2 calls attention to the frequent complaint of the platform feeling overwhelming.

Ease of set up and maintenance

Another thing to consider with Discourse is that it is open-source. This means that the source code is made available entirely for free to host yourself, and anyone to maintain and make contributions to. This may be an advantage if you have a highly technical team, who has the resources, willingness, and capacity to maintain, manage, and customize your own installation of Discourse4. This approach can introduce significant complexity with set up, delaying the launch of your community. Similarly, there may be ongoing costs and time spent maintaining and installing critical updates and bug fixes to the Discourse software.

With this said, Discourse does offer a cloud solution where it can be hosted and managed on their own infrastructure, with prices starting from $50 USD / month all the way through to an enterprise offering with pricing in the five figures5. However, this offering does come with more feature restrictions and customization limitations than the open-source deployment option.

Hall is an entirely managed, modern, cloud-based customer community platform. New features, updates and improvements, and bug fixes are continuously released to the platform daily. This means you never have to worry about maintaining your community platform and can instead focus on building your community and engaging your customers. Our affordable subscription-based pricing also means that we have the stability and incentive to reinvest in improving our services based on the ongoing needs and requirements of our customers. Our focus is on building the best customer community platform without the distractions and complexity of managing an open source project.

Don’t just take our word for it

Before selecting a vendor, consider researching verified reviews from independent review platforms like G2.

Many people didn’t like the layout and organization of the website

It’s not the most intuitive tool to use. While tagging and searching usually get me to where I want to go, there seems to always be duplicate information and no way to determine which is the “newest” or “validated” answers.

The way the replies system is set up, the conversation can get convoluted easily, and can lead to quickly derailing conversations. Also, to add features like a [solved] button to threads that ask for help with something, has to be a external integration. The search function is highly indexed, and unless you have a keyword or know exactly what you are searching the forum for, you might get lost in the forum queue.

Sometimes the discussion can get easily disorganized because replies to conversation build up. So it can be hard to separate the topic of discussion and tangents. The application also takes used to navigating.

The interface of the older versions was not as neat as it is today. Our self-hosted version was an old version. Other than that, it's great.

Not worth it. Very old, hard to setup, and requires strong servers to run properly.

The verdict

When it comes down to it, Hall is the clear choice for companies looking to build an engaged customer community. While Discourse may work well as a flexible forum platform, Hall is purpose-built for customer communities and comes with the features you need to build an engaged customer community without the complexity.

Discourse’s vast customization options may seem powerful, but they can also make the platform challenging to configure optimally. Hall, on the other hand, provides a thoughtfully designed, opinionated platform that puts the customer community experience first. It’s modern, intuitive interface makes it effortless for your customers to participate and engage.

And while Discourse’s open-source nature may appeal to highly technical teams, Hall’s fully managed platform means you can focus on building your community, not maintaining software. With continuous updates and improvements, you won’t have to worry about bothering your engineers when things go wrong.

So if you want to create a thriving customer community without the headaches, Hall is a compelling alternative to consider if you want to create a community that is more than just a forum.

Common questions about Discourse

We’ve collated all the frequently asked questions to help answer your questions quickly.


1Blog: Introducting Discourse 1.0, https://blog.discourse.org/2014/08/introducing-discourse-1-0/.2Should You Build Your Community On Discourse? (FeverBee Review).3Documentation: Discourse Site Management, https://meta.discourse.org/c/documentation/site-management/534Discourse installation docs on GitHub.5Website: Discourse Pricing, https://discourse.org/pricing.

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