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April 10, 2007 10:26 AM   Subscribe

A Short Post In Which I Suggest: 1. Good Design Doesn’t Need Explanatory Diagrams, and 2. A Thorough and Simple Search Mechanism Would Prevent Many Double Posts.
posted by Milkman Dan to Feature Requests at 10:26 AM (73 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Dear Mathowie and Associates,

Metafilter is nice and you did a great job making it, but the screens for adding new stories to Metafilter and AskMetafilter are incredibly non-intuitive and make me sweat while I’m using them. I’d like to suggest a few changes:

  • 1. Introduce an automatic double-post checker that prevents users from submitting stories that are duplicates, before they spend ten minutes preparing their post. (See 1a for further explanation.)
  • 2. Stretch the text boxes to become as wide as the screen, giving users room to write without awkward scrolling.
  • 3. Re-write text field titles so they are easy to understand, and move the text field titles so they are above the text fields. This would allow room for a short explanation in parentheses, and might eliminate the need for the awkward info-graphic below. (See 3a for further explanation.)
  • 4. Where possible, boil down the guidelines to the five most important decrees. Lay them out nicely so they’re easy to read. Stay away from paragraph-format explanations that require clicking for new pages. Like the guidelines for posting to MetaTalk, but even shorter.


  • Further explanations:
  • 1a. Currently, users must employ Metafilter’s awkward four-option search screen to see if their post is a double. Can we consider implementing an automatic double-post checker? We could split the posting screen into two steps. In the first screen, users can read very concise guidelines, then type in the URL and some related tags for the link (or question) they are intending to post. A brand new, smart search engine retrieves any previous posts that appear similar. If a URL is identical, the user cannot post. If tags are similar, the user is advised to see if one of these posts are the same as his/hers.


  • 3a. Currently, it’s hard to tell that “Headline/Title” actually means “These words will form your post’s permalink” and “This is the page title that appears your browser’s title bar while viewing inside of post.” The explanatory graphic below is not immediately helpful, and requires concentrated study. Informative, practical design might eliminate the need for such a graphic.


  • Further reading:
  • This recent post reveals that a link-checker currently exists, but comments suggest that it is not as effective as it could be.

  • A Metafilter redesign contest was held three years ago. Some interesting ideas came out of it. What if we held a similar one again, that paid as much attention to new infrastructure and functionality as it did to design?

  • posted by Milkman Dan at 10:26 AM on April 10, 2007


    And may I suggest a floral pattern? It's soothing.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 10:31 AM on April 10, 2007


    It's soothing.

    White is more professional.
    posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


    Floral patterns, sure, but maybe argyle or houndstooth would be better.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


    Also, STRIPES MOTHRAFUCKER!
    posted by Mister_A at 10:38 AM on April 10, 2007


    First of all, they can check for dupes by subject before they compose anything, and secondly they should compose in another text editor and paste into metafilter. Otherwise, they could lose their work if the server goes down.
    posted by delmoi at 10:47 AM on April 10, 2007


    Mothra fucker? That sounds awful!
    posted by hincandenza at 10:49 AM on April 10, 2007


    A brand new, smart search engine retrieves any previous posts that appear similar.

    IANAProgrammer, but I suspect that a "brand new, smart search engine" is not a trivial undertaking.
    posted by dersins at 10:51 AM on April 10, 2007


    Idiocy aside, I think milkman dan's got some good points there.
    posted by boo_radley at 10:53 AM on April 10, 2007


    1. In some ways this won't work -- witness the recent supermegadouble, it wouldn't have been found with a link checker, many double posts won't. I'm not saying this isn't a good idea, just trying to be realistic. Sometimes your post will be a double. It happens. If you care enough to not make it be a double there are existing ways to search via tags &c.
    2. Encourging brevity isn't a bad idea.
    3. This is a good idea
    4. Unlikely to happen in total. For most people who have been here a while, they skip these, but having things that require any clicking at all [i.e. pithy points with a link to more in the faq] won't be read and cause additional troubles. People who know these rules can skip them, but we've already tried to tighten them considerably. If you have specific suggestions, please include them.

    1. a. brand new search engine. This is clearly an area that needs improvements, but search engines aren't easy. Add to that the number of easily-googleable askme posts we see and we conclude that even if they were available, a lot of people wouldn't use them.

    3. a. that could definitely be in better english

    Design contest: unlikely.

    Please don't assume that many elements of the design aren't practical, since many were designed with practicality in mind, perhaps "outdated" would be a kinder word. Most people use the site without incident every day. The posting graphic has clearly outlived its usefulness but at the time it was really helpful for a lot of folks. If you're saying that you think the usability of the site is low, that's something that can be dealt with.

    Generally one size fits all usabiliy improvement improve the user experience for one subset of users and decrease it for another. For everyone who wants more ajax-y/greasemonkey type features, we still have people who don't know how to make a link, lots of them. Changes to the site need to make sense for everyone, otherwise they just cause more headaches than they decrease. I know it seems unlikely but very few people have trouble using any of the current tools. I'm sure we could make them better to use, but I think it's a leap to suggest they are hard to use as is.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2007


    I hear lots of flash is good.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2007


    The '90s were cool!
    posted by The Behatted Wild Man of Greenfield at 11:07 AM on April 10, 2007


    I agree that the design of the "post a new link" and "post a new question" screens could stand to be improved and simplified. This goes for the wording of some of the explanations too.

    I don't think a new dupe-checker or new search engine (!) for the site is needed. I don't think it would be good to automatically bar someone from posting a link that's been posted - what if there's something new at the link, and it was last posted 2 years ago? I think with better design of the posting page, some of the dupe problems can be solved.

    A "design the posting page" contest might work to produce some new good ideas.
    posted by LobsterMitten at 11:07 AM on April 10, 2007


    I actually think having the info graphic (the diagram of what ends up where on the finished page) is very useful for first time posters.
    posted by LobsterMitten at 11:10 AM on April 10, 2007


    The posting page needs more:

    "you will be stabbed through the eye socket with a ski pole if you even think about doing that motherfucker".

    Otherwise it seems fine.
    posted by peacay at 11:16 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


    searching is not simple. if you think it is, you haven't thought about it. coding searches is orders of magnitude more difficult than searching itself.

    swish-e is a drop-in search engine that works incredibly well, and it runs on windows. someday perhaps i'll mention it to matt.
    posted by quonsar at 11:19 AM on April 10, 2007


    Yes, the infographic is really good.
    posted by Mister_A at 11:22 AM on April 10, 2007


    Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough response, Jessamyn. I appreciate you taking the time to go over all my ideas. Here are some responses to your responses:

    1. It’s true, if people care enough to not to make it a double, they can search. But imagine if there was a friendlier, easier way to do it, rather than saying “You figure it out.” Metafilter’s retarded-but-more-popular younger brother Digg does a very good job with link checking while submitting stories. Not saying that we want Metafilter to get all Diggly on us, but their posting interface is indeed very smooth.

    2. You’re right, encouraging brevity is great. But the small text boxes kind of cramp one’s style. A text box that was about 3/4 screen width and four lines high would still encourage brevity, but wouldn’t be so tight.

    3. Thanks!

    4. Point taken. I might try drafting up some concis-ified rules some time to explain myself better.

    1a. I know, search engines are enormously difficult and messy, and a new search engine is no light suggestion. It’s just that Google doesn’t think like Metafilter, and a custom search engine (if the cost and difficulty could ever be overcome), would be insanely helpful.

    3a. Yuck, you’re right. A few blatantly missing words there.

    Apologies for suggesting the design was impractical. My intent is not to amp up the page with needless AJAX silliness. I do agree that Metafilter is definitely NOT bad design, just that the posting infrastructure could be nicer and smoother.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 11:22 AM on April 10, 2007


    All the most successful websites contain a members' area where the pornography is more revealing.
    posted by breezeway at 11:23 AM on April 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


    I like LobsterMitten's idea is great: A "design the posting page" contest might work to produce some new good ideas.

    I also agree with Mister_A and LobsterMitten that the info-graphic is useful. A little outdated and incomplete since the permalinks have been revamped, though.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 11:25 AM on April 10, 2007


    I like my careful writing is great.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 11:26 AM on April 10, 2007


    Please please please re-write the MeTa "New Post" page. I'll even help -- I would be happy to draft new instructions or review another's draft.
    posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:37 AM on April 10, 2007


    Metafilter: Don't get all Diggly on us.
    posted by terrapin at 12:02 PM on April 10, 2007


    I know of a Unitarian Church which, in the interests of "niceness", mandated that people no longer clap in church. Instead, they had to rub their hands together, making a sound like this: "swish, swish, swish" -- it was less "disturbing", they said (except to me. I stopped attending)
    posted by Burhanistan at 12:20 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


    Burhanistan, you're the one who left? The swishing noises sounded so hollow without you. We ended up moving away from swishing and doing that bub-bbrb-bbub-brb thing that happens when you run your fingers over your pursed lips instead. Sounds great, especially during songs about rivers and water and fountains.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 12:23 PM on April 10, 2007


    1. Introduce an automatic double-post checker

    We have this now, and have had it for a few years, but it's not intuitive. Whatever you put in the link field will get checked by a search engine and the results are shown on the preview page that follows. You don't have to put your links in there though, so if your description area contains all the links, those will not be checked. I will remedy this by checking for any and all http:// mentions against the search engine.

    The search engine can only find exact perfect duplicates though, not general subject matter or even variations on the URL of the page you are posting about.


    Stretch the text boxes to become as wide as the screen, giving users room to write without awkward scrolling.

    This is a personal preference but MeFi at the start had large textareas compared to everything else, but as blogging as matured, the tools have as well and now these textareas do look a little small. I've long been searching for a javascript "handle" textarea resizer that works across browsers and platforms, so you could stretch a textarea as big as you want and it'd stick via cookie (kinda how the wordpress admin one works, but also for width). If anyone has a clue where a good working one could be found, I'm all ears.

    Re-write text field titles so they are easy to understand, and move the text field titles so they are above the text fields.

    We're not consistent in how we describe fields or show examples and we can always improve the language. The graphic representing a post is from 8 years ago and we've added quite a few features since then and that needs to be updated as well.

    Where possible, boil down the guidelines to the five most important decrees. Lay them out nicely so they’re easy to read.

    I think the problem here is the guidelines page is a general one for both posts and comments, and general guidelines for how you should act on mefi. It's too general and yeah, we could boil down a whole page of "respect one another, don't be an asshole" down to five bullet points that are specific to the posting page itself.

    Overall, we can always improve on the language used, but it's really difficult to improve on what we've already done. People typically don't read much and you can only catch some people with warnings and examples. We've made a lot of changes over the years to the posting pages and sometimes we've gotten no change in behavior even with giant bold warnings (like no mefi-related questions in ask mefi, I don't know how much more obvious we could make it).

    I need to improve the search engine that is already there and provide a short guide to avoiding double posts that I've written dozens of times as a metatalk comment but should put on the posting page itself.
    posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:34 PM on April 10, 2007


    I hear lots of flash is good.

    Yeah bay-BEE! I mean what's NOT to love about an entire web board that runs in Flash?! I say... NOTHING IS WHAT NOT TO LOVE! I mean, wow, look at teh sex that site puts out. Ker-zing-oid and ker-flahw-wee kids! Sliced bread went out in the 1900s or there abouts! It's all about the interflashctive ain't it?

    2. Encourging brevity isn't a bad idea.
    True enough, but I find the text entry box to be damn near unusably small. Not because I want to type a lot and be wordy, but because once you post a URL in there, BAM! it's impossible to do anything without a lot of scrolling around after the URL is in there. Add another URL, the problem is practically exponential.
    posted by smallerdemon at 1:49 PM on April 10, 2007


    Matt, I'm super happy to hear your response. Thanks for taking the time to reply. It sounds like plans are already in the works for many of these changes.

    If there's anything I can do - like, design mock-ups or whatever - let me know. I've been working on a visual mock-up of the posting screen this afternoon, but your reply kind of renders it useless. I'll finish it up and post it anyway, if you'd like.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 1:59 PM on April 10, 2007


    Naw, Milkman Dan, I love seeing new ideas, feel free to share the mockup, even as-is. I'd be happy to take a look and use any good ideas you've come up with.
    posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:20 PM on April 10, 2007


    I'd go to a church where everyone made that noise when you run your fingers over your pursed lips. Like angels, kinda.
    posted by Burhanistan at 2:28 PM on April 10, 2007


    Okay, here's what I've got so far.

    Step 1: Check for Duplicates
    This screen would be the first one you see when you click "New Post." It runs your URL and tags through the search system, and brings up the ones that appear similar/identical. "Clear" lets you start again. "Proceed" takes you to Step 2 (below), and brings along your URL and tags with you.

    Step 2: Compose Your Post
    A new screen for composing your post. Features longer text fields, condensed posting guidelines, some layout switches, live preview, and text field descriptions.

    Thoughts?
    posted by Milkman Dan at 2:46 PM on April 10, 2007


    There is no better dupe-checker than 20k MeFi users.

    I don't get why people get so concerned about this. You post a dupe, it's reported, and it's deleted swiftly with no fuss. What's so bad about that?
    posted by smackfu at 2:47 PM on April 10, 2007


    Smackfu, it’s just that posting a dupe turns out to be a waste of the poster’s time. Since people always raise a ruckus when they notice a double post, it would be great if there were a quick, technologically smart way to check for duplicates, rather than relying on people’s memories and awkward searches to notice them.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 2:53 PM on April 10, 2007


    mathowie writes "I don't know how much more obvious we could make it"

    If anything seems particularly sticky and problematic, you could always put in a kinda captcha.

    For example, let's say you've made a decree "no more posts about Michael Jackson". When someone clicks "post", send them to a page (doublecheck.cfm or whatever) with a question: "Is your post about Michael Jackson?" If they click "no", it sends them to post.cfm. If they click "yes", it sends them to a page saying "I said no more posts about Michael Jackson".

    That's horribly annoying, of course, but it would be kinda nice for those occasional (3 or 4 times a year, as far as I know) times when a blanket ban is made. Then, when the ban is gone, you just change the target of the link on the front page from "doublecheck.cfm" to "post.cfm". No need to delete the doublecheck.cfm file itself, as it's now orphaned, and you can just rewrite the question later to the new prohibited topic.
    posted by Bugbread at 2:54 PM on April 10, 2007


    Those are great mockups. Unfortunately, a post can contain many links, so we can't do the digg-style checker thing. Also, the URL/URL Title fields are optional, making it more complicated.

    These look good and I think I'll incorporate that short guidelines blurb before the post, then let people write a post and do all the double-post search stuff on the following preview page.
    posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:04 PM on April 10, 2007


    Awesomeness!
    posted by Milkman Dan at 3:08 PM on April 10, 2007


    Y'know, I think the AskMetafilter posting page is in worse shape. Do you think there any principles, either from my mock-ups or from the discussion, that could be implemented over there? A two-step system + some cleaned up guidelines would help a bunch, I think.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 3:11 PM on April 10, 2007


    (Another note: I had no idea that the URL & URL title fields were optional! That should totally be mentioned somewhere...unless it is, and I just didn't notice it.)
    posted by Milkman Dan at 3:12 PM on April 10, 2007


    It'd be cool if we would click "New Post" and EVERYTHING WOULD ALREADY BE FILLED OUT!
    posted by geoff. at 3:44 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


    Milkman Dan, those are very nice!
    mathowie, I think the main problem with the posting pages -- esp Ask's -- is that there are a hodgepodge of instructions at the start, some in colored boxes, some not, some temporary, some not, etc. It makes it hard to see what's essential. MD's example layouts do a nice job of streamlining the guidelines and putting them in a uniform layout so there are no distracting typographical features.

    I was thinking it makes sense to have a single page, with clear instructions up front and then the posting form (w- example) at the bottom.

    Here's a bit of instruction text that I just put together; just throwing it out as an option. It's a bit wordier than Milkman Dan's, which I'm not sure is a good thing.



    Making a post to Metafilter
    If you are new, here are a few examples of good Metafilter posts: 1, 2, 3.
    If you would like to read the FAQ, [click here].

    STEP ONE: To avoid having your post deleted, follow these guidelines.
    If your post is deleted, you won't be able to post again for another [time period].

    1. Post to the correct area of the site.
    If you post in the wrong area, your post will be deleted.
    You can navigate between sections of the site using the links in the top right corner.
    Areas of Metafilter:
    - Metafilter (pale blue background): links to interesting websites. No self-links allowed.
    - AskMetafilter (pale green background): answerable questions. No "chatty" questions, and no questions about Metafilter itself.
    - Projects (dark blue-green background): links to web-based projects that you are involved with. Self-links go here.
    - Music (black background): links to music that you have made. Self-links ok.
    - Jobs (white background with map): jobs that you are offering. Self-links ok.
    - MetaTalk: (gray background): questions about Metafilter itself.

    2. No self-links.
    Self-linking on Metafilter can result in being PERMANENTLY BANNED from the site.
    Self-links are links to projects that you made, or funded, or benefit from in some way, including articles you wrote, music you made, a product your company sells, an event you are organizing, etc. This is the most important rule of the community. To read more about this, click [here - link to FAQ].
    Most self-links go in Projects.

    3. No rants or flame-bait.

    4. No duplicate postings.


    STEP TWO: Check to be sure that your posting is not a duplicate.
    If you "double post" (post a link that has been posted before), it will be deleted and you will lose your hard work.
    To check for doubles here's what to do:
    a. Search this site using Yahoo.
    Look for the specific links you want to post first.
    Then check other keywords.
    b. [other search strategies, eg how to search by tag]


    STEP THREE: Fill in the posting form below.
    posted by LobsterMitten at 3:59 PM on April 10, 2007


    I thought I'd chime in to say how much I like Milkman Dan's mockup of the link-posting page. Mathowie, if you have a chance to implement that I think it'd be a huge improvement.

    Since you can't auto-resize the width of the posting form easily at present, I'd suggest specifying 770px or so as the width of the form fields to start with, so as to accommodate even those people with antediluvian screen resolutions.
    posted by killdevil at 4:06 PM on April 10, 2007


    killdevil, like I said, yeah it looks nice, but MetaFilter doesn't operate in that manner. We allow more than one link, etc, so the implementation shown in the mockups can't be done as-is.
    posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:10 PM on April 10, 2007


    Similar one for Ask would be the same intro, same #1, then

    2. No chatty hypothetical questions; no rants disguised as questions.
    No questions like "If Hitler had lived, how would the world be different?" or "X sucks/rules - am I right?" etc. See the [FAQ] for more examples and explanation. Questions like these go better at [MetaChat]. Ask Metafilter is not for open-ended discussion. It is for questions with a definite answers.

    3. No very-easy-to-answer questions.
    For example, "How many people live in the USA?". Such questions are a waste of the community's time. This means you must do your own obvious Google searches, and also search the AskMetafilter archives to see if someone else has asked your question before.

    4. No questions about Metafilter or Metafilter-related matters.
    There is separate section of the site for such questions, MetaTalk.
    posted by LobsterMitten at 4:21 PM on April 10, 2007


    mathowie, could the system have a posting page like Milkman Dan's, but with several open spaces for URLs, which would then be checked for duplication? Then it would jump to a next screen where they would compose their entry, re-entering URLs as needed.
    posted by LobsterMitten at 4:25 PM on April 10, 2007


    I redid the first MeFi posting page. I'll work on the rest of it (carry it through the preview pages and a guidelines blurb at the top) tomorrow and add a full link search on Thursday. I'll take a crack at Ask MeFi next.

    LobsterMitten, I won't do it with several link checkers because that'll be confusing (how many to add? what happens after they are done? etc). Don't worry, I'll make the existing interface work with multiple link search.
    posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:40 PM on April 10, 2007


    Nice work, Mr Dan, and good on mathowie for gettin' cracking on it right quicklike.
    posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:02 PM on April 10, 2007


    Oh, if only I could see your changes, Matt. Unfortunately I posted to the blue today, so I'm locked out. I'm looking forward to seeing it, though.

    Thanks for your comments, LobsterMitten! I like your new guidelines, but like you said, they're a little lengthy to be serving as a brief warning in the header...
    posted by Milkman Dan at 5:06 PM on April 10, 2007


    Here's what the new post page looks like so far. I'll keep working on this over the next couple days. It's just a first crack at reorganizing, but thanks to Milkman Dan for all the great suggestions.
    posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:09 PM on April 10, 2007


    The sample post is a little confusing with the lines running around pointing to things. Could you just show an actual example?
    posted by team lowkey at 5:11 PM on April 10, 2007


    2 cents from another designer: The wide text entry field is... uh, too wide. Bodies of text become harder to read but also harder to edit when line lengths get excessive. Can we go with a middle ground?
    posted by edlundart at 5:23 PM on April 10, 2007


    One thought I have about the new posting page is that the difference between Link Title and Post Title is still not entirely clear. Something in the Post Title description that clarifies that the Post Title will *not* appear with the text of your post on the front page of the site would really help.
    posted by jacquilynne at 6:04 PM on April 10, 2007


    mathowie, I like it. Maybe put a link to an example page that has three elements:
    1. the posting page, filled in
    2. what the link will look like on the front page of the blue
    3. what the post's page will look like
    posted by LobsterMitten at 6:09 PM on April 10, 2007


    Oh wow, that is nice looking. Good job guys.
    posted by geoff. at 7:19 PM on April 10, 2007


    At the risk of having my entire "my comments" page be MeTa— Sweet job, guys.
    posted by klangklangston at 8:08 PM on April 10, 2007


    A div in every pot by 2007.
    posted by oxford blue at 8:13 PM on April 10, 2007


    We messed with the wording a little and made the post box a bit smaller. Those of you who haven't posted to MeFi in the last day can go check it out and see if it clears up a few niggling details.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:32 PM on April 10, 2007


    Post Title
    Keep it short and descriptive. Required. These words will form your post's URL and its title in RSS. It will be displayed on comment pages, not the main page of MeFi.


    I like the improved description, but shouldn't it be a field that appears later on the posting page? -- I mean, it's the part that appears "later," on the comments page. I still have a disconnect with the "first" line appearing not on the front page but on the inside.

    Web address of the site you're posting about (optional, if building links in the Description)

    and
    Text that will appear with your Link URL (optional, if building links in the Description)

    There's already a problem with posts appearing on the front page without a title or explanation (because people believe that they've given a title but it's the title that appears on the comments page). So I think these explanations are a bit off the mark still.

    Wouldn't you want to reverse the order (first text, then web address). First have a field that says "Text describing the site you're posting about," or words to that effect. Sort of like a title field for the front page. Then have the web address for linking to the text. Then have the description box.

    OR -- simply get rid of the two one-line boxes and keep only the description box, but remind people to include some kind of title/intro in that box (because the post title doesn't appear on the front page).
    posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:13 PM on April 10, 2007


    This is great and good. Props to Milkman Dan for the suggestion, and props to the mods for being responsive and cool.
    posted by Rock Steady at 10:13 PM on April 10, 2007


    ClaudiaCenter, the title is first because it's first in every other blogging application and it's usually easy to start off by making up a title.

    The URL goes before the description because mefi is pretty much about links, and we have a URL/text area for the majority of people that don't know how to write HTML or use the HTML shortcut tools themselves.
    posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:08 PM on April 10, 2007


    Sweet! I like the redesigned post page - especially the helpful hints about post title and Link URL - I still remember how I managed to bork my first FPP =(. Also, post_good.mefi makes me smile :)

    The ban-hammer warning about self-links continues to appear in a blue background even though I am using the "white" theme. I do understand you would want to highlight the warning, but is there any chance we could use a colour scheme that blended better? That was not a "Will it blend" joke
    /nit

    Milkman Dan - nicely done mate! :)
    posted by your mildly obsessive average geek at 11:46 PM on April 10, 2007


    nice work all around. One feature of Milkman Dan's mockup that I thought was particularly swell was the live preview on the initial posting page. No doubt there should be a final draft/preview page as well, but I find live preview to be very intuitive. Caveat: the live preview in the mefi comments box taught me all the html I know, so I'm probably biased.
    posted by anotherpanacea at 6:53 AM on April 11, 2007


    Hey, so I realize I'm late to this party, but:

    I found the new post page to be awfully confusing at first, mainly because I didn't realize that the "Link URL" and "Link Title" boxes were just there to help people who didn't know HTML. So while I would have been perfectly happy to just type some HTML into a box, instead I first had to figure out which of four different boxes were required and what would end up where. So, how would people feel about splitting the current page into "basic" and "advanced" modes?

    The "New Post" link could go to a page with some (brief!) post guidelines (no self-linking, etc), and then something like the following:

    You can create a Metafilter post using Basic or Advanced mode.

    Use Basic mode if you would like Metafilter to ask you a few questions and create your post for you. You won't have to know any HTML.

    Use Advanced mode if you would like to compose your post yourself using HTML. You will need to know how to make links in HTML to use Advanced mode.


    Advanced mode would just give you a textbox like the current "Description" box, as well as a place to enter the title.

    Basic mode would look more like the current post page, with the following series of prompts:

    Link: What is the web address of the site or webpage you're posting about?

    Description: Write a few words describing your link. These will be the first words of your post, and will be a clickable link to the web address you entered above.

    Long Description (optional): Anything else you want to say about your link. This text will be added to your post following your link.

    Title for your post's Comments page: Every post on Metafilter gets its own page, where other users can leave comments. What should the title for this page be? This title will NOT be shown on the Metafilter front page, just on your post's own page.

    I just thought of this on the way to coffee this morning, and maybe there's some reason that it totally won't work...but I thought I'd throw it out there.
    posted by myeviltwin at 7:33 AM on April 11, 2007


    myeviltwin, I think that's a really good idea. It may not need the wordy intro you suggested, but maybe a simple tab format that lets user choose BASIC or ADVANCED. Basic, of course, would be the default view.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 7:58 AM on April 11, 2007


    I think we should still have a graphic outlining things, even if it's on a seperate page or way down at the bottom.

    Milkman Dan writes "I had no idea that the URL & URL title fields were optional! That should totally be mentioned somewhere...unless it is, and I just didn't notice it."

    You just didn't notice that not all posts have the first bits of text as a link.

    killdevil writes "I'd suggest specifying 770px or so as the width of the form fields to start with, so as to accommodate even those people with antediluvian screen resolutions."

    Great if you run it maximized; not so great if you actually use several windows. The header already gets munged for me sometimes because I've got FireFox narrowed down, let's not inflict that on the input boxes.
    posted by Mitheral at 8:30 AM on April 11, 2007


    myeviltwin writes "These will be the first words of your post, and will be a clickable link to the web address you entered above."

    I think this phrasing is WAY clearer than the current mockup phrasing of "text that will be highlighted for your link URL".
    posted by Bugbread at 8:46 AM on April 11, 2007


    I agree with bugbread. I wasn't really sure what the link title was until I saw team lowkey's example.
    posted by Penks at 8:57 AM on April 11, 2007


    At the very least it should be:

    Link TEXT
    Text that will appear AS your Link URL (optional, if building links in the Description)

    Here 'title' and 'with' have been replaced with "TEXT" and "AS."

    Also: a live preview would remove the need for a mockup graphic.
    posted by anotherpanacea at 9:04 AM on April 11, 2007


    I just passed this onto mathowie directly, but for everyone else's reference, I've found this textarea resizer (well, it's a resizer for any block-level element in the DOM, including textareas) to be purely awesome. It's part of the YUI-ext stuff -- an extension to the Yahoo UI library -- and it does pretty much anything you'd want when it comes to allowing users to set the sizes of UI elements on their own.
    posted by delfuego at 9:54 AM on April 11, 2007


    I love love love these descriptions/instructions from myeviltwin:

    Link: What is the web address of the site or webpage you're posting about?

    Good, simple.

    Description: Write a few words describing your link. These will be the first words of your post, and will be a clickable link to the web address you entered above.

    I love love love the second sentence explaining where the description will appear ("These will be the first words of your post") and describing how the description will appear ("will be a clickable link").

    Long Description (optional): Anything else you want to say about your link. This text will be added to your post following your link.

    Again, I love the second sentence, explaining where the description part appears ("following your link").

    Title for your post's Comments page: Every post on Metafilter gets its own page, where other users can leave comments. What should the title for this page be? This title will NOT be shown on the Metafilter front page, just on your post's own page.

    This is perfect, especially the all caps on NOT.
    posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:12 PM on April 11, 2007


    I totally agree with Claudia's assement of myeviltwin's wording suggestions: love love love them.

    I also love how responsive and helpful everybody has been. Mathowie, thanks so much for implementing the suggestions here. I really appreciate and respect the willingness to listen to the community idea's. You rock.
    posted by Milkman Dan at 1:26 PM on April 11, 2007


    "clickable link" is annoying.
    posted by and hosted from Uranus at 1:33 PM on April 11, 2007


    agreed - myeviltwin's phrasing is great. Uranus, it's annoying if you know what you're doing. It's redundant. But that's what makes it good as an explanation for people for whom posting is not intuitive.
    posted by LobsterMitten at 2:13 PM on April 11, 2007


    I just passed this onto mathowie directly, but for everyone else's reference, I've found this textarea resizer

    Thanks for the link, delfuego. I remember stumbling on to his site last year sometime and being beanie-propellor thrilled by some of the snazzy stuff he's doing with js, then promptly forgetting the URL.
    posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:30 AM on April 12, 2007


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