Could the Layout of Favorites Be More Unified and Clearer? June 18, 2009 7:14 PM   Subscribe

There are about six different places where favorites live, and I often find myself confused as hell as to the differences between the various tabs and links.

There are about six different places where favorites live: the Popular item on the first line of menu items, the Favorites on the second line of menu items, two of the five tabs on the right on the main page, and two of the five tabs on the left on the Recent Activity tab.

We have Popular Favorites, but we also have a different Popular Favorites.

We have a tab named "My Favorites" which is entitled "Favorites from WCityMike," which to me implies authorship (e.g., if an ad says a film is from writer J.J. Abrams, he wrote it), but they're things that I've favorited.

We have Recent Comments, whose displayed content inside the tab isn't comments – and which almost looks identical to (but admittedly isn't) Recent Posts.

Similarly, the displayed content inside the My Comments tab isn't comments either, but posts – presumably posts in which you've commented, but I'm not exactly clear on what criteria posts posted there have been chosen.

It's polite when you bitch to have a solution at hand, and I'd like to have one so as to be constructive, but I really don't. I just feel that the current situation is all over the site's layout and really confusing to boot.

Does anyone else find it confusing, and if so, does anyone have any ideas for how things might be altered to be clearer?

By the way, I'm grateful to everyone who works to keep the site up and functioning in all its capacities. I don't mean this question to imply otherwise.
posted by WCityMike to MetaFilter-Related at 7:14 PM (58 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I guess I pretty much only go to my own page to look at my favorites (given and received) and to the Popular page to look at what's Popular. And aren't My Favorits and Popular Favorites just going to basically a subset of your favorites for each individual page [as in "My Favorites for MeFi" and "My favorites for AskMe"]?

I guess my question is... what are you trying to do with favorites that you can't do with what we have now? Or do you just not like the way it looks because you think it looks confusing but you are not personally confused?

I mean I guess the thing is that favorites don't "live" anywhere. We display them in a bunch of different ways so that people who have a preference -- as I like to go to my own profile page to see them -- can view them the way they want to.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:30 PM on June 18, 2009


Sounds like the titles may be the confusing thing?
posted by zennie at 7:32 PM on June 18, 2009


I mean, basically, I'm confused as to what they all are, and what the differences between all of them are. I recognize that I'm seeing different subsets of the same data, but I really don't have a clear idea as to what each view is supposed to be, what makes them different from another, and how they are related to each other – and I am wondering if that confusion is just my own, or, as I suspect, others might have similar problems.
posted by WCityMike at 7:35 PM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah possibly. What WCityMike calls Popular Favorites is actually indicated on the front page as Popular [though it says popular favorites on the page once you get to it]. The other one is tab specific, meaning it goes to different stuff based on the page you're on.

Basically we slice up favorites in a lot of different ways and use shorthand so you'll have an idea of what will be behind a specific tab -- and I disagree about the "favorites from" thing, I think that's fairly clear that it's favorites you've given as opposed to be received but perhaps others can share their feelings -- but a lot of it is also page specifics, so if you're on your recent activity page, that contextualized what view of favorites you're likely to see behind those tabs. We have put a fair amount of thought into what to call most of these, which I guess is why I'm trying to pinpoint of any of them are specifically misleading because replacing one shorthand with another is going to break things for a lot of people unless there's some super perfect wording we're missing. We also try to put some text on the top of the page to give you an idea of what you're looking at.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:41 PM on June 18, 2009


It's kind of confusing, I agree, but as you've probably seen over the past few years in MetaTalk, everyone wants one more view of the available data in a different way, and removing features is problematic.

I guess what I'm asking for is some ideas or solutions. Should everything be tabs on a single favorites page? Organize them in a different way? Just explain each one better? Change the names of any/all?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:45 PM on June 18, 2009


If I’m understanding what the purpose of some of these are, then maybe these specific points of confusion off the top of my head?

I think “Favorited by [Username]” would have a clearer meaning for http://www.metafilter.com/favorites/[user number]/posts/ and http://www.metafilter.com/home/myfavorites. I suppose I understand now and for the moment, I'll remember that “Favorites from” is meant to represent "Favorited by", but next time after 40 or so other issues have gone through my head in the interim and I'm navigating through the pages again, I'm sure I'll be re-confused.

I think the lack of a clear noun difference in the UI for "favorites of others which you have bookmarked" and "others' favorites of posts or comments you authored" is probably a significant part of the problem.

It appears that http://www.metafilter.com/home/popularfavorites and http://www.metafilter.com/favorites/all serve the same purpose, with the former allowing you a time filter but only giving you the popular posts.

I fail to understand why the last two tabs on the front page are “My Comments” and “Recent Comments”. They contain listings of posts. And by what criteria are they sorted/displayed? I mean, there are threads I’ve commented today which I don’t believe I’m seeing on that page.

And I remember there somewhere being somewhere where I can sort the posts and comments that I’ve written by number of favorites they received and by “fuzzy”, “popular” and one other criteria but I’ll be darned if I know where that feature is.

And those are just sort of “well, these current points of the current system confuse me”. I suppose I’m kind of thinking of this beta mailing list I belonged to for NetNewsWire (a Mac RSS reader). Basically, the guy would run things by the group, and they’d share how his latest UI version made this-and-this point of usability confusing, and he’d go back and try to make it clearer.

Now, if I was the only guy who found something confusing, well, it more often than not was not a big deal ... which is why part of this question was that I was wondering if others found the current presentation of how the data is sliced-and-diced confusing.
posted by WCityMike at 7:53 PM on June 18, 2009


I looked back at what I wrote and asked, "Um, what's this paragraph about NNW?" I think I was just trying to convey that I don't mean this to be a bitch-bitch-bitch-bitch thing, it's more like trying to be helpful by saying, "Um, this confuses me, anyone else on the same level?" With the NNW thing, I think that was kind of like a shorthand for me saying the end goal with the NNW UI stuff was making the UI a bit more instanteously grokkable, which is in the end a goal of the product, and that was kind of what this post was going for.
posted by WCityMike at 7:59 PM on June 18, 2009


Seems to me the problem is mostly that some things look too similar or may need clearer titles and descriptions.

FWIW, everything's clear to me (insofar as I pay attention to these things), but I can see how it might confuse people.
posted by zennie at 7:59 PM on June 18, 2009


Yes, this is confusing and is why I don't use some of these tabs, they make no fricking sense.

I'm not sure Matt could changes things without a lot of howls though. I tend to hate Recent Activity but most people swear by it, so hey, who's right?

If I find time in between spouses, I'll mock something up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:02 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


All these favorites are yours, except loquacious'. Attempt no landings there.
posted by loquacious at 9:20 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Personally, I think the "My Posts" and "My Comments" tabs in "Recent Activity" could stand to be consolidated. But then, I'm not not exactly a prolific poster, so I suppose the separation might be useful to others who are.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:41 PM on June 18, 2009


You get to the fuzzy/precise/popular bit via the favorites link on your profile page.

The two tabs that say "comments" but are "posts" are showing you places you have commented recently and places people in general have commented recently.

It's an easier system to understand if you first grasp that no one is meant to use all the links and tabs. There are multiple presentations to fit a variety of styles of consuming the site. I like "popular favorites" to see the great posts I've missed, but I use the favorites links on my profile page to find things I've favorited and see what of my own stuff has been favorited by someone else. It's highly likely that this way of doing things is alien to someone. All you have to do is find the places where the data is presented in a way that makes sense to you and bookmark them or just keep going there until it's intuitive and the rest of the site fades away.

Anything that's taken away/consolidated likely ruins some poor person's favorite way of seeing Metafilter.
posted by donnagirl at 9:44 PM on June 18, 2009


donnagirl: "Anything that's taken away/consolidated likely ruins some poor person's favorite way of seeing Metafilter."

I'm not really looking to take anything away. But right now it's a pretty damn confusing and challenging path for someone to discover their "favorite way of seeing Metafilter". A crowded UI with repeated data that oft have just a hair's breadth of difference makes it more difficult, not less, for someone to navigate.
posted by WCityMike at 9:53 PM on June 18, 2009


Oh, I didn't mean to suggest that you were saying "take this mess away!" I was just saying generally that any changes to the UI that might make things more clear for you or me or whomever will likely make someone else cry.

I like usability stuff as a general topic; it's not that I don't think the site UI could be better, it's just that hashing out the opinions of a very small minority of users here isn't likely to make a better site. Now, if you want to run some actual usability studies on the UI, I'm all the heck over that.
posted by donnagirl at 10:05 PM on June 18, 2009


Ok, I did several mockups, based on the idea the site is organized via subsite>post>comments, with the ability to display information on the post and comment level by time (Recent), user (My) and/or Popularity/Favorites. So I reorganized the tabs bar for the main site in this order: Time, user and popularity, like so: Recent Posts, Recent Comments, My Favorites, My Comments and Popular. I think doing it this way enables the Popular and Favorites option to disappear from the sub bar menu (the one that has the FAQ, Tags etc).

Recent Posts stays exactly as it is, showing the most recent posts as the home page.

Recent Comments would display the comments most recently made, with the ability to see comments from the entire site or just sub sites.

My Favorites would display posts and comments that a user has favorited, exactly like the format found at http://www.metafilter.com/favorites/usernumber

My Comments would show just the user's actual comments, in reverse chronological order, with the ability to see all comments from the site or just comments from a specific subshite

Finally, the Popular tab would consolidate several different screens in one. It show popular posts and comments on one page, with links to the individual posts or comments and links to different time frames for popularity.

This hasn't been extensively thought out, so if people want to play with the raw bits, they can download the layered Photoshop file.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:38 PM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


It ain't broke. These are solutions in search of a problem.
posted by grouse at 10:51 PM on June 18, 2009


I think it's cool that Brandon did some mockups of alternate arrangements, but he's inadvertently proving the point I was trying to make earlier - it makes more sense to him, but less sense to me and breaks one of the ways I use the site. I look at Recent Comments to get a sense of what threads are "hot", discussion-wise, not to see a series of individual comments that are likely meaningless out of context. I like the way it works now better.

(And really, I do think it's cool that Brandon created mockups, I'm not picking on him or thinking he is stupid, for god's sake, he's my SPOUSE, and that has to count for something, right?)
posted by donnagirl at 11:10 PM on June 18, 2009


I'd give my left nut for a page that shows the last X messages in threads I've commented in, where the link takes me to the last message I viewed, instead of the post I made. That would make it ever so much easier to continue reading a thread!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:55 PM on June 18, 2009


FFF, have you tried the MetaFilter Scroll Tag Greasemonkey script?
posted by scrump at 12:18 AM on June 19, 2009


Nope. Never even heard of it before. Thx.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:30 AM on June 19, 2009


I browse using Recent Activity and would welcome the addition of a new 'Posts + Comments' tab which would be the default landing spot after clicking on 'Recent Activity', because I don't make posts very frequently and whenever I do I always forget and then have a brief period of "Aw, man! Zero responses? What did I do wrong?" until I remember that it's off in a separate tab and see that the discussion's been happily taking place without me.

I also sometimes forget whether the 'My Favorites' tab in Recent Activity refers to favorites I have received or favorites I have given.

So I am definitely in need of something, but I'm not sure whether that thing is a pony or just a book on how to improve my memory...
posted by the latin mouse at 1:14 AM on June 19, 2009


I find it totally confusing, so, in the end, I don't use almost any of it. I just never said anything because when people discussed UI changes, I never understood their actual suggestions, which indicated that my lack of understanding was far from the norm. I thought I was one of the only people who didn't get it.
posted by Bugbread at 2:19 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like to know why the 'My Comments' tab isn't available for MetaTalk. I asked pb about this last week and after a few back and forths, he pointed me to the 'Recent Activity' link - which: a) I don't like the look of, and b) doesn't do the same thing. Is there a link which shows me which threads I'VE commented in - that now have new comments.
posted by gman at 4:02 AM on June 19, 2009


Is there a link which shows me which threads I'VE commented in - that now have new comments. (gman)

How is that different from Recent Activity? Isn't that exactly what Recent Activity does?
posted by ocherdraco at 4:51 AM on June 19, 2009


Don't worry, bugbread, I don't get it either. And it doesn't keep me up at night, but I'm still not sure how the fuzzy/precise/popular designations are given. (FWIW I really like what Brandon Blatcher has shown us, but I'm new around here.)
posted by Mouse Army at 5:16 AM on June 19, 2009


How is that different from Recent Activity? Isn't that exactly what Recent Activity does?

Kinda. As I said, I don't enjoy the layout - like why's everything so big and spaced the way it is?, and if I'm on the grey, I want to see a list of only MetaTalk threads 'I'VE commented in - that now have new comments' - same as the 'My Comments' tab.
posted by gman at 6:07 AM on June 19, 2009


....I'm still not sure how the fuzzy/precise/popular designations are given.

Hmm. The way I read it was:

* "Fuzzy" is just a "list of comments you've made recently that other people have favorited."

* "Precise" is "every time someone marks one of your comments as a favorite we record that single instance and add it to this list."

* "Popular" is "here's a list of all the comments and/or posts you've ever made that people have favorited, listed in order from most favorited to least."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 AM on June 19, 2009


I find this to be a usability nightmare too, but have evolved my own way of viewing and using favorites. With that, I think jessamyn was onto something when she mentioned that favorites don't really live anywhere. Maybe giving them a centralized page with toggled viewing options could be a solution.

I don't know, I haven't thought this out, I'm way too tired, and I have too much real work to do. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll check back in a bit for updates on your progress.

Carry on.
posted by slogger at 6:59 AM on June 19, 2009


> I like the way it works now better.

Same here.
posted by languagehat at 7:23 AM on June 19, 2009


Same here.

GET OFF MY UI.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:29 AM on June 19, 2009


Ahhh, now that I look again I see how it works. Thank you for explaining, Empress! I think I was imagining that somehow they were being tagged with one of those terms a la Slashdot (which uses insightful, funny, interesting, etc) but I couldn't figure out who would be doing it or why. This makes much more sense.
posted by Mouse Army at 7:37 AM on June 19, 2009


* "Fuzzy" is just a "list of comments you've made recently that other people have favorited."

I think this could more accurately be described as "Your most recently favorited comments by others" regardless of when you wrote them. Which is to say, if I have it on Fuzzy, and someone favorites something of mine from a year ago, it will be on the top of the list.

This is fun because every once is a great while, you'll see an old comment suddenly start getting all sorts of attention, then you get to track down where and why people are suddenly checking out the old thread.

And that kind of makes me feel smart, like I'm part of the detective squad.
posted by quin at 7:51 AM on June 19, 2009


Scrump, that script you pointed to just made Metafilter 500% better for me. And that's pretty damn good.

And for the rest of you, the problem is that you don't understand that favorites live in your heart.
posted by cimbrog at 8:57 AM on June 19, 2009


I wasn't confused about any of this until I read this post. :/
posted by elizardbits at 8:57 AM on June 19, 2009


honestly, I'm occasionally tempted to post this exact same thing every couple of months or so, when I realize that I don't use half of the tabs and links on the site specifically because their titles don't make sense and the general feeling I get is that favorites are just all over the place and there is no intuitive structure to them.

So in the end, not counting post links and subsite links (like the metatalk and askmetafilter links at the top right), I only click two links ever: Recent Activity and My Profile. In My Profile, I then click "Favorites" and "Favorited By Others." to recap what I've been reading and what I've said that other people found to be less offensive than my usual awful crap.

This is not because I'm not interested in seeing the other site functionality, or in seeing favorites in other aggregations. It's just because these are the links that make sense to me, and which (when I click them) go exactly where you'd think they should go.

So here's my solution, for what it's worth:

When I want to see stuff relating to Favorites, I should have one clearly marked place that goes to a whole section of favorites and related activity data. Right now, that place only goes to a listing of things I've favorited, which makes a certain sense, but leaves me with no idea where else to go if I want to see what other people are favoriting or what favorites I've gotten. So why not have all three there? There are two tabs on that page as it is, and there for Posts or Comments. Let's instead make it have tabs for Popular Favorites, Favorited By You, and You Favorited By Others (admittedly a clunky title). Within there, we can Aggregate by Posts, Comments, or Both. They can be sorted by Date (Fuzzy, Precise), or Popularity. This page should be subsite specific, with clearly marked links to other subsite favorites pages with an option for all subsites total.

Then here's the best part: You take out those favorite tabs on the front page. Those "My Favorites" and "Popular Favorites" ones. Because they're confusing and having 3 seperate places to look for favorites, one of which is in a separate area of the page for no discernable reason, completely obliterates the intuitiveness of the arriving at the page and wanting to go look for some kind of favorite. further, those titles don't tell clearly tell you what you're clicking on because something like "Popular Favorites" (things others have favorited? my most popular posts others have favorited?) are only clear when you see them alongside the other aggregation options. In other words: You know that Popular Favorites is a list of things from the community at large that have received many favorites (as opposed to thing you've created) only when you can see that there's a link to things you wrote that have been favorited right next to it. That context informs the link title, and that context is what's missing because favorites are all over the place.

Then, when people come crying to memail or metatalk, being all like "where's mah favorites tab?" you tell them "Just shut your mouth, you. Just shut it. Shut your filthy fucking mouth before I shut it for you."
posted by shmegegge at 9:01 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


you know what are awesome? typos. typos are awesome. that's why I use so many of them. because they're awesome.
posted by shmegegge at 9:05 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I make typos so as not to blind teh Interwebs with the luminescence of my glory.
posted by zennie at 9:12 AM on June 19, 2009


I think what we really need is a better way to keep track of our many and prolferating spouses, and mark one or more as "favorites".
posted by yhbc at 9:30 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


shmegegge: "I only click two links ever: Recent Activity and My Profile. In My Profile, I then click "Favorites" and "Favorited By Others.""

Probably proving your point, but you can save a click or two. There is a "Recent Favorites" tab on the "Recent Activity" page which shows the same info as the My Profile -> Favorites -> Favorited By Others page.
posted by team lowkey at 9:40 AM on June 19, 2009


Speaking of wanting ways to view favorites, is there a way to view comments I've favorited that's faster than going to my profile, clicking on "Favorited," then clicking on the comments tab?

Not the end of the world if there isn't, but it'd be nice.
posted by ignignokt at 10:09 AM on June 19, 2009


is there a way to view comments I've favorited that's faster than going to my profile, clicking on "Favorited," then clicking on the comments tab?

Click Favorities, then Comments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:29 AM on June 19, 2009


There's a My Favorites tab, but no Comments link under that.
posted by ignignokt at 10:48 AM on June 19, 2009


Oh, never mind. The Favorites link is above the tabs. I've never looked beyond the tabs. Thanks.
posted by ignignokt at 10:50 AM on June 19, 2009


I disagree about the "favorites from" thing, I think that's fairly clear that it's favorites you've given as opposed to be received but perhaps others can share their feelings

I think "favorites from Jaltcoh" sounds like comments/posts by ("from") me.

I mean, I know that it means "Jaltcoh's favorites," since I've been using Metafilter for a long time. But I'd imagine a new user would be confused. Of course, they can figure it out eventually by looking around and noticing that the comments/posts in that section are by other people. But I think it's preferable to make things as clear as possible upfront. Also, people bounce around from one thing to another on the internet and don't always read every word, so they might not notice the username signatures.

Why not just change it to "____'s favorites" to clear up the ambiguity?
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:34 AM on June 19, 2009


because then that sounds like it's a list of the users favorite comments, or the comments he or she has favorited. it's a really tricky thing to give a proper title to.
posted by shmegegge at 12:06 PM on June 19, 2009


Me too. Everything related to favorites is rote-learned. Fix the root problem: your puny language hasn't enough cases to express unambiguously who has done favoriting to whom in which link.

suosimani, suosituimpani, suosituimmat
posted by Free word order! at 12:33 PM on June 19, 2009


because then that sounds like it's a list of the users favorite comments, or the comments he or she has favorited.

Isn't that what it is?
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:14 PM on June 19, 2009


sorry, I was referring to whatever section you were talking about when you said this.

Of course, they can figure it out eventually by looking around and noticing that the comments/posts in that section are by other people.

sorry about the confusion.

what I mean is that "Jaltcoh's favorites" can mean either comments of yours favorited by other people or comments made by other people that you have favorited.
posted by shmegegge at 1:27 PM on June 19, 2009


Oh, I see
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:52 PM on June 19, 2009


It's fine. It's just fine. The rococco intricacies are part of the charm.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:22 PM on June 19, 2009


Proposal:
"My Favorite Comments" / "My Favorite Posts"
"My Popular Comments" / "My Popular Posts"
"My Recent Comments" / "My Recent Posts"
posted by Sys Rq at 4:46 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


And then, for the weirdos that use it:
"My Contacts' Comments" / "My Contacts' Posts"
posted by Sys Rq at 4:53 PM on June 19, 2009


Brandon Blatcher, those mockups are great. I love the revised popular page and we just might do that in a future retooling of it.

The other ones, I'm not so sure about -- it starts to get confusing when you turn the tabs on the front page which are supposed to be slices of the MeFi links view into site-wide features.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:08 PM on June 19, 2009


mathowie: "Brandon Blatcher, those mockups are great. I love the revised popular page and we just might do that in a future retooling of it."

I literally don't see the difference between Brandon's Popular mockup and what is seen by clicking on the word "Popular" in the first-line menu.
posted by WCityMike at 7:46 PM on June 19, 2009


I think "favorites from Jaltcoh" sounds like comments/posts by ("from") me.

I always think this too, even though I know that's not what is meant.

I think pithiness would need to be discarded for clarity:

favorites marked by oneirodynia/ favorites given to oneirodynia
posted by oneirodynia at 8:28 PM on June 19, 2009


That's cool Matt, whatever works for ya'll!

I literally don't see the difference between Brandon's Popular mockup and what is seen by clicking on the word "Popular" in the first-line menu.

Mine has the links for selecting time ranges at the top and it marks which column is Posts and which is Comments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:15 AM on June 20, 2009


I also don't use most of the tabs because I don't understand the difference between them all.
posted by CwgrlUp at 9:46 AM on June 20, 2009


I'm just chiming in late to say that I too find the system as it stands confusing. On the somewhat rare occasions when I want to find something I think I've favorited or see if I've got any I'm not popular I usually hunt around and guess wrong a couple of times before I find the right tab / link.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:46 AM on June 22, 2009


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