As of right now, the existence of all these places can be confusing. Especially with all the third party run communities that offer different types of support. So I do agree with the idea of unifying the experience provided by Epic. It feels very split and separate even though provided through the same login / framework. Visible through duplicate submissions.
But I’m not sure if forums are the right way to go. Forums have a very specific user experience and appeal to a very specific kind of user. From the user perspective they are rather high maintenance. Something that’s been bothering me with the Answerhub as well. Either I accept basically spam emails or have to go out of my way to visit the page and dedicate time exclusively to support others.
The forums are slightly different as there is a proper community that exists and that one can become a part of which can be a secondary motivation to visit and participate… however, it poses a similarly high barrier of entry and really requires high activity to really get something out of.
Just as food for thought, not that this would solve the actual problem.
To answer the actual questions:
Which of these options sounds most appealing to you?
As a gut feeling option B.
Do you like the idea of the discussion and Q&A spaces being combined or would you prefer they were separate, and why?
Separate. I believe the clarity in purpose would help both the forum and the QA space. Assuming both spaces are properly moderated. Taking QA out of the forums and discussions out of the QA area. A strong separation in some way, especially for searching, would be important either way though. To not find open ended discussions when searching for solutions.
Do you feel like if we combined them it would be too noisy? Would that be okay as long as we have strong filtering options between discussions and questions?
I believe more people would be stepping by a single or a handful of times. This would definitely impact the existence and development of the forum community. This could be a boost to activity or a deterrent for people expecting a more traditional forum community. So, more noisy yes. Whether that’s too noisy is a hard judgement call.
What features do you feel are essential for a Q&A experience? (Tags, filters, voting, threading, etc.)
Comment threads are important. It should really be possible to have two ongoing conversations without introducing a lot of noise. Which is helpful for both receiving help as well as the usability when searching for solutions online. These may also go in significantly different directions which is heavily disincentivized in single thread environments.
Voting is similarly important. Up and down. Misunderstandings and poor advice should be moved down whereas the most helpful should move up. Especially disregarding the date of submission.
Tagging and filtering is generally a challenge. It’s a lot of effort to keep tags accurate and searchable. As far as it might help with online searches it can be very useful. But for the actual, in the moment user experience it doesn’t sound terribly important.
Which really is the most important property. How searchable the section is. Accurately searchable. That is what makes reddit or discord poor resources. You can not properly search them. At best you randomly stumble over a reddit thread. And you probably don’t even think about searching a discord history. Which means a lot of knowledge and information is lost and buried over time. Whatever the solution, exactly that property should be in the front and center. Even with just the answerhub I’ve had a few occasions where “past me” helped me out with something I forgot. Discoverability is the vital thing.
Do you feel that Discourse’s Solved Plugin would meet your needs?
As far as I’m aware it lacks threads, which makes it a suboptimal replacement to stack exchange as mentioned above. I’m also not sure how much it would help with discoverability. Stumbling over forum threads has not been very common and has been more miss than hit. Whether that is because it’s not as commonly used to ask questions with the answerhub existing or inherent to the format is hard to tell though.
Edit 1&2. Clarified two points.