New students become confused when they see the red warning "You must post to this topic before you can view any messages" when a professor has enabled the "Require users to post before reading" option.
Since the "Start a New Conversation" button that they need to use is at the top of the tool (and not near the topic or the error message), they often don't know how to resolve the problem. They also see the "red" box, interpret the issue as a system problem and ask the professor for help.
If the activity was accessed through a link from the Lessons tool, the embedded Forum view within Lessons is very cluttered. This makes the "Start a New Conversation" button even more difficult to locate.
Modify the message. Change the format from red to blue or yellow as an informational item rather than an error message. Also, provide the specific action that the student needs to take in the warning message.
"This topic requires that you post a message before you can see other posts. Click the 'Start a New Conversation' button to respond to this topic."
The optimal solution would be to provide the "Start a New Conversation" button near the warning to make it more intuitive. This would be similar to the changes in the Gradebook when there are no gradebook items and the empty state offers the "Add Gradebook Item."
Thank you for considering this user experience item.