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Replying to threads - a usability concern

     
5:15 pm on Jul 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've failed to reply to a thread twice this afternoon. I have given up and the world will not benefit from my wisdom;.

The first time was my fault. I typed a detailed and informative reply in the quick reply box then clicked the post thread button which opened up a new page with a blank box.

Second time I was more careful. I worded a slightly shorter reply and pressed the reply button. Took me to a new page with a blank box.

I'm guessing in hindsight I ought to have pressed one of the white buttons instead?

Usability is all about just making things work. If you read this I got lucky. Perhaps moving the buttons around and altering colours might make things more obvious.
5:24 pm on July 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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vordmeister, sorry you had that problem. Usability is always an issue for every site, and with all the changes we've been making here we realise it's moved things about, and changed colours, etc.
7:51 pm on July 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The "Post Reply" button is definitely a problem. Maybe it needs to be renamed, so it's clear that it doesn't mean "post the stuff you've just spent 15 minutes typing into the Quick Reply box". Even knowing the difference, it's awfully easy to click the wrong button by mistake. (Been there. Done that.) Maybe the brain gets tired after a lot of typing, so the longer your intended post, the more likely you are to click the button that causes it to vanish into the ether?
1:23 am on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The blue Post Reply should be Create New, or simply New Reply

I'd suggest that the SUBMIT button is RED and PREVIEW is PINK
1:46 am on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Let's KISS: leave the Preview and Submit only. Submit on left, Preview on right.
4:01 am on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Have the 'Post Reply' button test for any text in the 'Quick Reply' box and if so scoop it up and add it to the 'Post Reply' screen input box.
10:44 am on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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this is a unability issue that people have mentioned before, personally i think moving the email notification/preview/submit block to the right hand side, to sit above the blue buttons would be a good idea
2:03 pm on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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There are a few usability issues to consider.

1. Button placement: The thread & forum buttons ("Follow Thread", "Post Reply", "Post New Topic", and "Forum Options") appear along the right edge of the thread content area, both above and below the thread. However, quick reply buttons appear along the left edge. The user is forced to look both left and right to find which button represents the action they want to take. Having a consistent pattern for button placement (either all on the left, or all on the right) might improve usability.

2. Button color: The thread & forum buttons have a high contrast color, so they really stand out on the page. However, the quick reply buttons have a much lower contrast, and are easier to overlook. Using more contrast on the quick reply buttons might improve user recognition of the buttons. Another option might be that once the Quick Reply textarea becomes dirty (ie - once the user enters a value), perhaps highlighting the quick reply buttons in some way might help as well.

3. Spacial distribution: The Quick Reply area is immediately followed by the forum & thread buttons. Perhaps adding some distance with whitespace between the Quick Reply area and the buttons might improve user recognition that these buttons don't apply. Alternatively, moving the forum & thread buttons so they appear ABOVE the Quick Reply area might work as well.

In addition, the spacing between the Preview and Submit buttons is different from the spacing between the other buttons (and the spacing between "Post New Topic" and "Forum Options" is slightly off as well). Try to keep the spacing uniform.
2:13 pm on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Additionally, adding a onbeforeunload event handler that checks if the Quick Reply is dirty might and whether Preview or Submit buttons were pressed would probably be helpful to prevent accidental loss of data.
4:50 pm on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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IN best of all worlds the quick reply and the post new reply would be the same text editor, with all the formatting gadgets ready to go.

OR

There was no quick reply text box, just the four Blue buttons at Thread's end. Post New Reply would go straight to the editor before any text had been typed, and thus could be lost.
5:08 pm on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I noticed that some other forum software which includes a quick reply box has a button at the bottom in orange (their 'call to action' colour happens to be orange but it could be any other colour apart from red). Personally I use green for it's go ahead values.

This other software also has other buttons nearby in grey which allow for a reply with more formatting or the addition of photographs, but clicking on either will still preserve the post.and you can hit the orange call to action button at the bottom to post. There are no buttons nearby with bold colours and an inviting name that would lose the post.

I doubt they would sue if you did something very similar but with better wording.

[edited by: vordmeister at 5:32 pm (utc) on Jul 28, 2015]

5:13 pm on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've also almost hit the "Post Reply" button by mistake a few times.

Perhaps add some white space between the Quick Reply box and the 4 buttons? Or adding a border to the Quick Reply box? Or moving the 4 buttons to the left (and still adding some white space above them)?
7:02 pm on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Moving the buttons might work for those who do not change/zoom the site. At the zoom level I use, the four blue buttons are right margin, two rows. :)

I like a previous suggestion that Post Reply take whatever is in the Quick Reply textbox, and if null, then it's blank.
7:09 pm on July 28, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Once you've hit Preview the first time, the problem can no longer occur, because then the Post Reply group disappears. Slim comfort.

I think one complication is that although "Preview/Submit" and "Post New Reply" look identical-- that is, they're different colors and shapes but they all look like buttoms onscreen-- they lead to entirely different code. A quick look at the page source suggests that one set goes to scripts while the other goes to HTML (that is, to php/cgi/whatever). So if you've got scripting turned off, some options may not work as intended.
7:16 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've also almost hit the "Post Reply" button by mistake a few times.

Try it. I dare you :)
8:00 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Okay. Just did. Got a blank new editor screen.

What next?
8:01 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Oh... and the button that worked for the above from quick edit was SUMBIT
8:03 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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And I'm not all that thrilled that the previous PREVIEW and SUBMIT buttons have morphed to the distracting and not working as we think they should LOOK
8:05 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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using the POST REPLY, is there any real reason for the FOUR buttons below the quick reply?
8:08 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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And final.... using POST REPLY killed (new screen) my ability to see the entire thread, which does not happen with Quick Reply. With Quick Reply I can cut and past from several different messages in the thread... .and Post Reply do not allow that. This is a Quick Reply response.
8:11 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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You missed the context of the discussion and didn't type anything into the editor first or you wouldn't have gotten a blank page!

The button size and color was done on purpose to match the whole group so one bunch wasn't any more distracting than the others, the old diminutive buttons were being overlooked so we made them match so there's no more visual weight based on color and size, all the same thing now with the scripts to stop accidentally losing a post.
8:14 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I guess, what I am suggesting, is get ride of the four buttons below Quick Reply. Put those options in the message header with message id and date and time. But a drop down there if it don't fit., but remove that crazy from the reply function, because it is a bit odd.

And I now need to shut up.
8:18 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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You missed the context of the discussion and didn't type anything into the editor first or you wouldn't have gotten a blank page!


Sorry, did not. I typed in some text hit Post Reply and got a blank screen.

HOWEVER, if it works that way for everyone but me, then that's okay.

I still say the four buttons are unnecessary confusion and if one is going to mark a thread they'd do it WAY before they got to the end, thus put that/those functions in the MESSAGE HEADER instead of the bottom of the thread.
8:58 am on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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THOSE ON THE TEAM...

I am oddly passionate about this. Probably more then needed. I just like KISS. A reply box, a submit button, and off to the next exciting adventure.

I'd rather mark a GREAT REPLY than a thread, as most threads have so much chaff.

And I am,, as has been said before, NOT a JS allower, so some of the functionality that might be there is not there for me.... my bad, not yours. HOWEVER, I am among that bunch that do the web that way, so graceful degradation is something to be considered. It will bee a thing of numbers, of course.

I will be here as long as I am allowed by whatever your decisions of sharing information and forums might be.

And will never click on POST REPLY. :)
4:13 pm on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thanks incrediBILL. I have JavaScript enabled and can no longer lose a reply without an alert asking me if I am sure about what I am doing. The submit button looks more obvious now too which addresses my concern.

I agree with tangor the usability aspect still isn't completely up to scratch with an offer of 6 similar looking buttons to choose from when trying to post a reply.
8:04 pm on Aug 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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This is a test. This is only a test.

:: click button ::

Well, it's about #*$! well time.

:: noting with interest that somebody Up Top is British ::
7:33 pm on Aug 5, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I noticed these issues before the site went live (or shortly after it went live, can't recall anymore). I privately critiqued this problem, I offered solutions on how to style the buttons to solve the problem and all I received was pushback and excuses. It was so frustrating to offer constructive criticism and receive pushback that I stopped offering my advice altogether.

As I recall, I was accused (in private) of being hostile for offering constructive criticism. The redesign is great, but it falls short in the Usability department. So you see, I was right. People are having a poor experience (needlessly) because of the reply button bug I pointed out that needed fixing.

I described solutions for fixing the bug. No need to take constructive criticism as a personal attack. I am not being hostile. I was and am trying to help make this site better. So please fix this issue (and the other outstanding problems).
8:09 pm on Aug 5, 2015 (gmt 0)

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all the same thing now with the scripts to stop accidentally losing a post

That's not actually a solution to the button problem, though, is it? Once you get the alert, you've already messed up, and it will not even be clear why you are getting that alert if you think you've pressed the right button. They're separate issues, is what I'm saying.

[edited by: robzilla at 9:00 pm (utc) on Aug 5, 2015]

8:29 pm on Aug 5, 2015 (gmt 0)

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What's wrong about being British @Lucy24? We might be bad but we drive Jaguar cars which make us feel good. You should test drive one - they are fabulous.

I wouldn't write my own forum software these days but I can see why you did it at the start. It has been much improved recently and I'm sure it will continue to improve.
6:26 am on Aug 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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What's wrong about being British

The reference was to the word censors' activity ;)
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