AskMe format and useability June 13, 2006 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Love/Hate: I can't read AskMeFi (CSS help?). Does anyone have an external CSS file or a setting or a magic pixie dust that makes these pages we're on more readable?

I tried posting this question to askmefi, but got prompted with a "prob better on metatalk" denial. There is no Category for help, so I'm putting this under feature requests...

I'm using firefox (which offers more solutions) to read these pages and I find the colors, indentation, lack of structure so hard to follow. I would love something that had alternating row (posts) colors and a way to really tell the difference between a post, a comment, a response, whatever.

Any usability specialists out there with the same beef? I love the content, its just the presentation that drives me batty. (I do use RSS to choose what to read, but once I click in...boomsucka...I feel like I'm in a all green library with green books green carpeting a couple yellow magazines and no cataloging of any sort.

I've got this "developer" extension for firefox installed so I can change/tweak/alter a lot of things including fonts, external css files, whatever. Please send help...I'm sinking.
posted by wogbat to Feature Requests at 1:55 PM (20 comments total)

the site was designed by a usability specialist dude.
posted by quonsar at 2:11 PM on June 13, 2006

Try the plaintext theme, you can find this setting in your user preferences. You could consider this is an approximation of the results (although my rendering looks far less compact) and I'd recommend you try that route first. As far as changing around the CSS, your current extension or GreaseMonkey could help you with that. If you want to filter for specific terms or recurring elements (unlikely, as you're already culling a feed) I'd recommend MondoMeta.
posted by prostyle at 2:19 PM on June 13, 2006

What is confusing you, exactly? You're always looking at either a page of nothing but posts, or a page of nothing but comments related to a single post at the top and indented accordingly. There's no nested comments to get knotted up in, no (real) sidebars or sections. Just one flat thread at one of two levels.

I think some if it is what you're used to - I love MetaFilter's layout, because it feels more like text and offline reading than many webpages do. But if you're used to most webpages, as it sounds like you are, it might be offputting - where's the alternating colors? Where's the dropdowns and popups and expanding hierarchy of comments??

BTW, I ask in good faith, not snarkily. I really *like* the way MeFi looks/works compared to most of the web, and I'm curious about what these differences are and how they work for other people. What would work better for you? What elements do you find yourself confusing?
posted by freebird at 2:31 PM on June 13, 2006

The plain theme is a lot easier on the eyes than the default colours, but it seems pretty odd that you're having trouble telling the difference between a post and a comment, or with the structure of the site (which seems wonderfully well organised to me). As for alternating row colours, I suspect you'd need to make a Greasemonkey script - I don't think CSS alone would cut it (the divs for comments are all the same class as each other). Could be wrong about that, though.

And that's an, er, interesting username you have there, wogbat...
posted by jack_mo at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2006

a way to really tell the difference between a post, a comment, a response

Yeah, you're looking for how other websites structure their discourse and it's different here. There is no difference between a comment and a response to that comment. Rather than a threaded discussion group or a set of email threads, think of it as a table or room full of people talking. There's nothing structural to point out that my reply to something you said was a reply. Other people may have said something in between your comment and mine. It's up to the people talking to keep track and make clear what's what, and there's really only a single thread of discussion in a "physical" sense, though side-conversations and subgroups will emerge.

Actually, you'll do better to imagine it a bar full of drunk college professors and stoned garbagemen/flash animators arguing at full volume about Finnegan's Wake and classic King Crimson songs while they try and get in each others pants and not pay for the drinks. What's to be confused about? :)
posted by freebird at 3:01 PM on June 13, 2006

you're one to talk, jack_mo


posted by cortex at 3:52 PM on June 13, 2006

wogbat, do you have trouble reading other weblogs with lots of comments? It's pretty standard to have a simplified flat layout, with one comment following another. I could add alternating background colors but find the good deal of white space and changing font sizes between a comment and the info about the comment do a pretty good job of separating one comment from another.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:32 PM on June 13, 2006

And animated .gif avatars and sig files to display our unique flair! Yeah, baby! Let's reinvent phpbb and call it web 2.5!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:36 PM on June 13, 2006

I really don't understand your problem. This is the easiest site to figure out ever and that clean design is one of the best things about it.

(on preview, Matt pls don't add colors or any insanity like that)
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:38 PM on June 13, 2006

Yah, please let us keep our flat layout Matt! I'm curious how this person could be helped, and what exactly is confusing them, but it's not worth losing something that I find so core to the place.
posted by freebird at 4:41 PM on June 13, 2006

We could put <HR> after each post to improve seperation of church and state comments and posts. Thanks!
Sincerely, Your Mom.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:50 PM on June 13, 2006

It'd be relatively easy to change the comment DIVs from <div class="comments"> to <div class="comments even"> or <div class="comments odd">. (Which is how DIVs are coded at SportsFilter.)

Then people could use user style sheets to change the look if they wanted.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:53 PM on June 13, 2006

Could each comment DIV have a class corresponding to the commenter's user number?

div class="comments_30058"

That way, in the local CSS, I could define certain users' comments as having a background image of Ceiling Cat or Pissing Elephant or so forth. What a larf!
posted by milquetoast at 5:04 PM on June 13, 2006

Chronological order is so very Web 1.0. Instead, a user should be required to accompany each comment with a short program in some sort of pseudocode, to be run in a thread-specific virtual machine Core Wars-style, and the posts sorted according to the longevity of each commenter's process.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:12 PM on June 13, 2006

It seems that most people fear that I am voicing my opinion to change the status quo...for everyone. And that perhaps I'm slightly stupid for not viewing things the same as everyone else. But the solution I'm looking for is much like kirkaracha mentions above that is used for SportsFilter. (I like what I see in the idea presented in his or her comment and the reality presented in the link. I am just looking for a way for ME to change MY way of viewing. And alternating colors or an HR or a picture of a fuzzy koala bear are all things that would help my eye distinguish between the beginning of one and statement and the end of another--rather than simply looking for a small "posted by" as a delimiter. That's what I was looking for.
posted by wogbat at 7:49 PM on June 13, 2006

I could add alternating background colors but ...
... we tried it once and everyone hated it.
posted by dg at 7:56 PM on June 13, 2006

wogbat, have you tried changing the font or font size in your Preferences? Make the "body text size" bigger, and the "smaller text size" smaller, and you'll have a greater visual distinction between the comment and the info line. Or simply adjust until it looks better to your eyes.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:40 PM on June 13, 2006

Metafilter: A bar full of drunk college professors and stoned garbagemen/flash animators arguing at full volume about Finnegan's Wake and classic King Crimson songs while they try and get in each others pants and not pay for the drinks

posted by inigo2 at 11:09 AM on June 14, 2006

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by dg at 4:12 PM on June 14, 2006

I was actually going to post about the alternating colors because I run 1600x1200 and the line lengths are long when i have FF maximized (which is always). So it's kind of difficult because the space between paragraphs is the same as the space between comments.

But I'd be all for a "just me" fix, like user style sheets, etc.
posted by Brainy at 11:26 AM on June 15, 2006

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