[META] Is the UI Difficult To Navigate

Based on a very high frequency of questioners that either can't find, don't understand, or don't have access to the "Add Comment" button, I have to ask, is the UI on this overly complicated? It seems fairly obvious to me that there are comments and answers, and that each has seperate meaning and function, but it seems to be very difficult for a lot of people to grasp. Even after it's pointed out to people, multiple times, they seem to have difficulty with the concepts. So my question is, is the UI overly complicated. Could there be some method of making the "Add Comment" more prominent and understandable as the mechanism for response.

Personally, I think it's because the "Answer" text box is so very prominent and inviting. It's just easier to drop into it and start typing. Maybe we need to make that require a button press as well?

I'm not sure, but the conversations lately have been very difficult to follow, especially since, as Answers acquire votes, their position within the stack changes, which completely breaks down the flow of information. Frankly it's making the site frustrating to use.

There's a lot of brain power here, what should we do?

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asked Jul 22, 2010 at 04:21 AM in Default

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Grant Fritchey ♦♦
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5 answers: sort voted first

Grant, I don't remember exactly, but as I remember, if you are a new user, you cannot post a comment unless you have earned some reputation (I think it is 10 points).

So one problem is for new users to put comments even they want. They have no other possibility than posting new answer.

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answered Jul 22, 2010 at 04:32 AM

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Pavel Pawlowski
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There you go. Maybe that needs to change, because having a stack of "answers" that are just a disjointed conversation is an utter waste of screen real estate, let alone time & effort.

Jul 22, 2010 at 04:33 AM Grant Fritchey ♦♦

Perhaps allow new (<50 rep) user to comment his own question(s) only.

(50 as that's the limit for adding comments, according to the FAQ.)

Jul 22, 2010 at 04:34 AM ThomasRushton ♦♦

Definitely I agree to allow new users to post comments in some way.

Jul 22, 2010 at 04:36 AM Pavel Pawlowski

I like the idea of somehow enabling comments on your own question. That way people still have to earn rep to do things elsewhere. Some of the questions now... Yeah, I could untangle the mess, but I don't want to.

Jul 22, 2010 at 04:42 AM Grant Fritchey ♦♦

Agree with Thomas - should be no reason to prevent new users commenting on their own questions/answers

Jul 22, 2010 at 04:43 AM Kev Riley ♦♦
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I would suggest making the answer box a bit smaller, and reduce the size of the font where it says "Be the first one to answer this question!" - it's just a bit too inviting. Also, maybe hide the preview by default.

Also make the "add new comment" button bigger and brighter. It seems to me that it's all too easy to skip over it when doing a quick scan of the page. I've caught myself several times typing an answer when I meant to be typing a comment!

Are there any UI experts in the house?


The "add comment" button is also poorly positioned - because it's right at the bottom of an answer block, below the author's gravatar & stats, it can very easily look as though it's relating to the information that's below, rather than above...

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answered Jul 22, 2010 at 04:33 AM

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ThomasRushton ♦♦
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The OSQA guys have readily admitted to NEEDING a designer!

Jul 22, 2010 at 04:42 AM Kev Riley ♦♦

I agree with these as well. Although I'm still leaning towards hiding the Answer box until you click a button.

Jul 22, 2010 at 04:42 AM Grant Fritchey ♦♦

I agree that the 'Your Answer' box is too prominent and the 'comment' too inconspicuous.

Fold both, move comment to the top of the comment stack on each answer.

Make the line between answers bolder and wider spaced to delimit each answer more clearly.

Make the sorting option for the answers more prominent too. Most voted is the standard sorting, but I guess that this could also be overlooked and cause the disjointedness of an answer chain.

Jul 22, 2010 at 04:57 AM WilliamD

No, I do prefer most voted to bubble up. That's how this site is supposed to work. All the rest are great suggestions. We clearly need to do something.

Jul 22, 2010 at 05:01 AM Grant Fritchey ♦♦

@Grant: I agree, most voted should be at the top. What I mean is that the three options: oldest, newest, most voted should be made more prominent (different colour or bigger font). So if someone wants to see the 'real' order of the conversation they can do so without having to find the option.

Jul 22, 2010 at 05:04 AM WilliamD
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A thought - we more experienced users can't really test this site for usability issues, because we know our way around it. What it needs is someone with a vaguely forum-experienced friend / SO / colleague to look at the site and see how they interact with it. (I would get my wife to have a go, but she's on holiday...)

I've not actually tried yet, but, when you ask a question, is there a message at the end of that process telling you (if it's your first question, or if your rep/karma is below a threshold, or you're a n00b) how to deal with answers / comments / upvotes / ticking the right answer / how answers are sorted? If not, why not?

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answered Jul 22, 2010 at 12:54 PM

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ThomasRushton ♦♦
42.4k 20 60 54

When an answer is posted, I think the email ask the poster to add comments or "thumbs up" the response.

Jul 22, 2010 at 01:08 PM sp_lock

@Jonlee, right, and so people who won't or can't read Books Online are going to read an email?

Jul 23, 2010 at 03:15 AM Grant Fritchey ♦♦

We'll send it with nudey pictures in... Then they'll read it!!

Jul 23, 2010 at 04:32 AM Matt Whitfield ♦♦

Damn. Why can I only put one thumbs up on a comment? @Matt's remark deserves more than that!

Jul 23, 2010 at 04:41 AM ThomasRushton ♦♦

@Grant, too true. @Matt, but you would also have to ask the sexual orientation when setting up their profile... So you know which nude pics to send ;-)

Jul 23, 2010 at 07:30 AM sp_lock
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Actually, the way StackExchange handles it is that when you click the 'post your answer' button, it says 'are you sure you want to answer your own question?' - which in itself is poor UI design, because people have already expended the effort in typing the answer.

I think a good way to handle it would be for the 'Your answer' panel to be folded (much like the new comment panels are folded) if you either:

  • asked the question in the first place

  • have already provided an answer

That way, when they clicked on the 'Add answer' button, it could alert them to the fact that it probably wasn't the right thing to do before they go and type in everything they want to say.

However, I am sure that people will continue to answer, whatever we do. And anyway, 32K of unformatted stack trace doesn't fit in a comment!

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answered Jul 22, 2010 at 04:45 AM

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Matt Whitfield ♦♦
29.5k 62 66 88

Why... whatever are you referring to?

I agree. People are going to do whatever they want and you can only limit that so much. But, that said, I'm still inclined to believe that we're looking at a UI issue.

It would be easy to say it's a training issue, but you want people to use the site with ZERO training. Therefore the layout has to be completely conducive to the type of use you expect to get. I'm not a UI expert, but I think many of the ideas proposed are worth considering. Maybe a post over OSQA is in order, but I think it ought to come from the admins.

Jul 22, 2010 at 05:04 AM Grant Fritchey ♦♦

@Grant - agreed. Jeff Atwood posted a diatribe about people not formatting their posts properly, and he got pretty well slated for not accepting the fact that people come to a Q&A site to get an answer to their question. I would say that 98% of people who come here aren't worried about karma, how their posts look, etc - they are just interested in getting help with the issue that they have.

It's possible that you could 'help' a bit by examining post content, deciding if it's formatted, and then applying the double space to every line break if not - that would go a long way to helping IMHO.

Jul 22, 2010 at 05:09 AM Matt Whitfield ♦♦

Probably more like 99%. And I completely agree with the rest. It's about making it easier for people walking in off the street.

Jul 22, 2010 at 05:14 AM Grant Fritchey ♦♦
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I agree with a lot of the sentiments on here.

Fold the answers preview and add an Answer This Question button.

Change the add new comment text to Comment On This Answer and maybe slide it over to the left-hand side.

Additionally, use the same size and bordering as the Post Your Answer button for both.

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answered Jul 22, 2010 at 05:14 AM

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asked: Jul 22, 2010 at 04:21 AM

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Last Updated: Sep 20, 2012 at 01:21 PM

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