A Pony with a Green Check Cutie Mark June 17, 2013 5:14 AM   Subscribe

So if you look at an Ask thread on its own, best answers are marked with a distinct background. However, in Recent Activity, best answers are marked with a green check. That's because "my answers" are marked with a distinct background. I find this unnecessarily confusing and would appreciate some consistency. Ideas from the floor on the best solution are welcome!
posted by seanmpuckett to Feature Requests at 5:14 AM (41 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

For example, one could consistently mark best answers with the distinctive background (green check optional), and consistently highlight "my answers" with a thick border on the right side, to contrast with OP responses being marked with a thick border on the left.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:34 AM on June 17, 2013


Actually if someone could greasemonkey up something to make a little tiny pony and rainbow and hearts border around my answers, similar to the narwhal and unicorn buttons, that would be awesome. Maybe something like this? Just a thought.

And just so we're clear, this border is for all answers from me. Not just "my answers" but, like, y'all get to see my brilliance highlighted by tiny ponies too. You're welcome.
posted by phunniemee at 6:29 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hear what you're saying. You visit Recent Activity, see that your contribution has a highlighted background, and think for a moment that your answer has been marked as a Best Answer. If you're using the plain theme the effect is even greater because the background highlight color is the same at Ask and Recent Activity.

I can understand the confusion, but I think the difference between the two spaces works because the goals of the two spaces are very different. Ask thread pages are a public space where the goal is to highlight the best answers for everyone. Recent Activity is a private space unique to the viewer where the goal is to highlight their contributions in the context of new activity.

Recent Activity includes content from all of the MetaFilter subsites, not Ask MetaFilter alone. So you're out of "Ask MetaFilter" mode when you're viewing RA. The subtle differences between all of the subsites need to come together into one place. I understand the initial confusion, there's a bit of a learning curve with RA and if we can make the curve less steep that'd be good.

Consistency everywhere is good to keep in mind but can limit utility when there are different goals involved. We'll discuss it and give it some thought.
posted by pb (staff) at 6:33 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


the goals of the two spaces are very different.

I know that, but I do get confused. Please count me as one who finds the current setup suboptimal.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:46 AM on June 17, 2013


I hear what you are saying about different uses / different spaces, but without a very, very strong use-case otherwise, consistency should be the watchword in sitewide UX design.

Using the same visual indicator to denote two different concepts in two different modalities when there is no imperative to do so is a counter-intuitive design choice.

There are many ways of highlighting a block of text, not just a distinctive background or a green checkmark.

I am hoping we can add another one to the mix so that "best answer" and "my answer" can always be represented consistently no matter what page the user is viewing.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:47 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Highlighting the entire background of a comment is perhaps the strongest way to highlight a comment. There is no other design choice that will make that highlighting as clear. A bar to the left or right is a weaker highlight. So the imperative is to use the most clear highlighting available.

We don't want to diminish the utility of RA solely so we can have consistency everywhere. Any other type of highlighting will diminish the utility in some way. It might be worth making that trade-off, but it's something we need to consider carefully. I don't think changing RA is a slam dunk.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:14 AM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Data point: I'm a heavy RA user (it's my first point of interaction with the site) and I don't find the current method of highlighting differently confusing. This may be because I'm both more heavily active on the blue and more used to RA than the green.
posted by immlass at 7:58 AM on June 17, 2013


FWIW I'm also a very heavy RA user and would find any change more confusing than whatever value it would add. But I'm sure I'd adjust too; I could figure out how to distinguish between my posts and everyone else's without the aid of the highlighting.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:06 AM on June 17, 2013


Also a heavy RA user (my profile is bookmarked and I almost always hit RA right after I preen over my Favorites count), and I don't see as much value in having my answer highlighted on the RA page anyway. That is, I'll only ever see one of my answers on RA, and it will always be the first one if it's there.
posted by Etrigan at 8:26 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etrigan raises a good design point: Unless I'm missing something, the only time any of us see our own comments in Recent Activity (i.e., when there are less than 10 comments in the thread after our last one) our comment will always be at the top of Recent Activity for that thread. So why the need for the highlight at all?
posted by mediareport at 8:35 AM on June 17, 2013


So why the need for the highlight at all?

RA is a snapshot of the thread so there's no way to know where that snapshot is within the thread. By highlighting your comment, you know at glance if you're reading something right after you commented or something that could be 100 comments later. It helps make the section you're reading relevant to you.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:43 AM on June 17, 2013


By highlighting your comment, you know at glance if you're reading something right after you commented or something that could be 100 comments later.

I feel like that confusion is taken care of by "XX total comments. X since your most recent comment..." or could be taken care of by a sidebar highlight rather than something that looks a lot like the Best Answer highlight.

I'm not personally confused by the difference, but I see where seanmpuckett is coming from.
posted by Etrigan at 8:49 AM on June 17, 2013


A related problem I've noticed is that there's no way to tell in RA if a best answer has been marked if it's before your last comment/the last 10 comments. One of the ways i like RA is it helps me keep track if threads where i might want to look back and see what was makes as best answer. Would it be possible to add a checkmark or something under the question excerpt on the left?
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:51 AM on June 17, 2013


By highlighting your comment, you know at glance if you're reading something right after you commented or something that could be 100 comments later

Maybe/probably I'm just being stupid here, but I don't understand your point, pb. It looks to me like the *only* reason you'd ever see the "distinct background" highlighting on one of your own comments on your Recent Activity page is when your comment/answer is already at the top of that thread's Recent Activity - i.e., when there are less than 10 answers after yours.

Is that incorrect?
posted by mediareport at 9:13 AM on June 17, 2013


Is that incorrect?

That's correct. I'm not sure how that's at odds with my description. If the top comment is highlighted, you know the section you're reading in RA is directly after you commented. If the top comment is not highlighted, you know you're reading at least 10 comments beyond your last comment, maybe more.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:17 AM on June 17, 2013


Ok, got it. That seems a fairly minor feature, especially compared to making the site internally consistent in the way it highlights things.
posted by mediareport at 9:18 AM on June 17, 2013


To clarify, it seems a fairly minor *and redundant* feature, since "you know you're reading at least 10 comments beyond your last comment" by simply reading the first line of every Recent Activity notice.
posted by mediareport at 9:27 AM on June 17, 2013


What if the background of the comment were a different color?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2013


Different from Best Answer Grey, I mean.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2013


I don't find the current setup confusing, but I'm sympathetic to those who do. pb, would you be opposed to switching from highlighting an answer in RA to having the little yellow triangle appear on its left side (that is, the same triangle you see next to your comment when you click into a thread from RA)? That'd be consistent with how the comment is highlighted within the post itself.
posted by librarylis at 10:44 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Highlighting in recent activity is totally not redundant! It's pretty hard to read the number of comments notice when you're scrolling through it quickly.
posted by invitapriore at 10:47 AM on June 17, 2013


pb, would you be opposed to ...

The existing Recent Activity layout doesn't make the yellow triangle possible there. The yellow triangle means that particular comment is targeted within a thread, it's not necessarily your comment.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:47 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been confused by this before.

I like the look of a black line around my own answer in RA, and the same treatment for best answers as in Ask. Here's a mockup with the professional white background. This also has the advantage of stacking well -- here's what it would look like if my answer was marked as best.
posted by jhc at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Felt compelled to make this.
posted by royalsong at 11:14 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also get confused, but I see how it would just create confusion or be annoying for another group of users. I think the same thing could be accomplished if "Best Answer" was added to the profile page along with favorites. I'd love to know if any of my answers have been helpful and even if there are areas where I never give good advice. It would also be neat to click on someone's profile and see their best answers, too.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:05 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been confused by this before.

As have I. I once boasted to a friend about a best answer I got in a thread I'd been following in RA, and then that friend gently explained to me that the highlighting in RA didn't mean it was a best answer. I have no idea how many others I'd misidentified before that.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:09 PM on June 17, 2013


FTR I'm perfectly happy with everything just the way it is.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 4:24 PM on June 17, 2013


I get confused by this too.
posted by salvia at 10:00 PM on June 17, 2013


I find this incredibly confusing also.
posted by Joh at 11:38 AM on June 18, 2013


I'm not a big RA user. I'm mostly a lurker, so I really only use it to see if my (always awesome and correct!) answer was marked as best, so I'm every time confused by the highlighting, and always slightly disappointed.

I understand the distinction between public and private use, but I'm a light enough user that my brain hasn't caught on, because for me they're just different ways to get to the same page.
posted by mgar at 7:52 PM on June 18, 2013


I am a heavy RA user, much more so than askme, but it's not that often that my comments are in the last 10 of a thread. And yeah, seeing the text block background is a little off. I can't think of anywhere else in the site that we use that style to highlight your own comment. Ironically, I think that would be a lot more useful if also applied to all your own comments in the normal view in the blue etc so when you're scrolling through a massive thread you can immediately see where your own comments are, and get a handle on where you were when you last refreshed. As it is, it's a bit of a mismatch of styles.

Alternatively, I do like jhc's approach of a border around your own comments, and a background hilight for best answer that adds to the design with relatively minimal changes for existing users. Now, applying that border to ALL your comments on all subsites, as well as RA, would be awesome. Then you can also add the background highlight to moderator comments everywhere, as they're automatically going to be the best answer.*

* small joke, not a suck up. Well much.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:43 AM on June 19, 2013


Thanks for the feedback everyone. We discussed this and agree that changing Recent Activity to be consistent with Ask MetaFilter is the way to go. What we lose in being able to spot our own comments quickly, we'll make up for in stopping the confusion this is causing.

We're going to continue to highlight the viewer's comments with a border as jhc suggested. A single-pixel border was a little thin to spot during quick scrolling, so we matched the 4-pixel left-border highlighting that we use to show Ask updates from the OP. It will be a full 4-pixel border around the entire comment.

We also added a FAQ to explain the highlighting and linked to it after the page headline in Recent Activity.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:38 PM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Looks good!
posted by carsonb at 3:05 PM on June 19, 2013


Cool! Is it intentional that a user's own comments that are best answers now don't show up as best answers in RA? For example, in this recent thread, my most recent comment is a best answer, but in RA it only has the new frame, whereas subsequent answers which are also best answers do have the best answer highlighting in RA.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:47 PM on June 19, 2013


Is it intentional that a user's own comments that are best answers now don't show up as best answers in RA?

Nope, that's a bug. Thanks for pointing that out, we'll get it fixed.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:49 PM on June 19, 2013


Thanks!
posted by ocherdraco at 3:52 PM on June 19, 2013


ok, should be working.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:58 PM on June 19, 2013


It is! Thanks again, pb.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:06 PM on June 19, 2013


Ah! I read this thread earlier and thought this wasn't going to happen, but it did. Looks nice!
posted by maudlin at 4:25 PM on June 19, 2013


Nice!

Thank you very much.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:44 AM on June 20, 2013


Thanks! I like it :)
posted by Joh at 3:17 PM on June 20, 2013


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