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I think it would be a good idea to "disable" elements that lead to nowhere. There are a load of examples of links that should not be visible unless you can use them.

  • Chat: Users with less than 20 rep. cannot participate in chat and get a notification about it. Can/will they enter any chat room after seeing that message?
  • Bounty: When a bounty cannot be awarded (yet), show some time indicator and disable the link.
  • Deleted links: Don't render the link to users who don't have the privilege to see them (i.e. <10k). Do render the text.
  • Accept answer: For some reason you cannot accept answers before some time elapses (10minutes?).
  • Comments: After 5 minutes, you cannot edit comments anymore, but the 'edit' link is still available.

I'm not sure I've got them all, but this is not a polling question. Do you agree that links to void should be prevented?

About the importance of clicks. One click has a low cost to the user and to the site, let's calculate that cost.

StackOverflow reaches 13M users per month. Say that 1% of these users click on a dead link. That's 137.000 clicks to void per month.

Say that each click needs 3 seconds to recover. 1 second for the page to be displayed, 1 second for the user to view the page and 1 second to go [back]. (This is a low estimate. I guess I'm as slow as 10 seconds or worse.)

That means 114h of user time are wasted each month (only on StackOverflow). How much do you earn per hour? 10€/h gives 1.140€/month. I have no idea whether this estimate comes even close to the real thing. But who cares about users (frustration) anyway?

Let's talk about the cost of serving 137.000 404 pages to users. A 404 page requires 96,74kb, that's 12,64Mb of bandwidth per month, plus the cost of accepting and serving the request.

To each cost, there's also a benefit. The benefit to the user is unknown to me, and neither do I understand what benefit SE can get from serving 404 pages.

But this is not only about dead links.

Do anonymous users enter chat rooms even when they get a big notification?

What I'd like to know is what's really going on with the click, but only a team member could get to those statistics.

share|improve this question
I agree with some, but disagree with others. It would be best if they were in separate questions – Pëkka Aug 21 '11 at 21:31
@Eat more Twisters, I added the examples for clarification purposes only. Tell me which you disagree with and we can 'discuss' the matter. – GUI Junkie Aug 21 '11 at 21:37
I disagree with the first two items because I think it's important to have them discoverable. The two latter ones I tend to agree with – Pëkka Aug 21 '11 at 21:39
@Eat more Twisters, I can agree on the second, but not on the first. Why let innocent new users click something they will not be able to use? Besides, in only 4 upvoted questions or 2 upvoted answers, they'd be able to chat away. That's not too hard to achieve. – GUI Junkie Aug 21 '11 at 21:42
The question ban could be 'stamped' on top of the 'Ask Question' link. – GUI Junkie Aug 21 '11 at 21:43
still. Chat is a feature worth discovering. It's worth seeing in action even if I can't participate in it yet - just to get an idea of how it works, and what is going on there – Pëkka Aug 21 '11 at 21:43
fair enough re the "stamp", it's not a bad idea, but I assume it's not the team's priority to improve the experience of question-banned users, and I tend to agree – Pëkka Aug 21 '11 at 21:43
@EatmoreTwisters let us continue this discussion in chat – GUI Junkie Aug 21 '11 at 21:44
The links to deleted questions still contain useful information, namely if it was a self-delete or not. – Hendrik Vogt Aug 22 '11 at 8:16
@balpha, I respectfully disagree with Joel. Joel knows a great deal about usability so his opinions are very valuable, but he is talking about the desktop where feedback is immediate and here, on the web, there is always going to be some delay. Also, allowing a user to click only to inform that the action cannot be taken is by no means better than just disabling the action altogether. A middle ground between Joel's opinion and 'mine', could be to have a menu item disabled and show some contextual help when the mouse is over the item. – GUI Junkie Aug 22 '11 at 14:03
@balpha, I just found this. Tooltip is the word. – GUI Junkie Aug 22 '11 at 15:18
@balpha: By this argument we would show "delete" links for every post and every user, even if only certain users can delete certain posts. – Paŭlo Ebermann Aug 22 '11 at 15:26

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