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There's currently an election underway on Stackoverflow, though compared to previous elections the notice about this event is far less visible in my opinion. Instead of the system message banner, elections are now only displayed in the Community Bulletin.

enter image description here

The SE team is categorically and emphatically opposed to using the system banners for elections, so this alternative is out. What I propose is to at least make important events more noticeable by changing their color or distinguish them in any other way from the other events displayed in the bulletin.

Elections are important, more important than nearly everything else that is posted in that bulletin. They should be emphasized on the bulletin in some way.

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Ehm...the system message banner was just added today? i.imgur.com/ZfxmN.png –  Bart Jun 6 '12 at 18:23
    
@Bart It was removed by an SE employee when they noticed it, the banners are not meant to be used for that purpose anymore. –  Mad Scientist Jun 6 '12 at 18:25
    
Ah...then why do I still see it? –  Bart Jun 6 '12 at 18:25
    
@Bart It's not there. Clear your cache. –  Yannis Jun 6 '12 at 18:27
    
@YannisRizos I did. Twice now. Still there. But anyway, I'll assume then that it's a thing on my end. Sorry. –  Bart Jun 6 '12 at 18:29
    
@Bart Nothing to apologise for. But it was removed, that I know for sure, it's weird that you still see it. –  Yannis Jun 6 '12 at 18:31
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Related: meta.stackoverflow.com/q/134789/140951 –  casperOne Jun 6 '12 at 18:40
    
The election is now shown in red in the bulletin. –  Yannis Jun 6 '12 at 19:21
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3 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

It's a bit more noticeable now:

Bulletin board with red event

Also, you'll get a notification when the primary and election phases begin:

Only one though

Note that while the system message certainly was very noticeable, that attribute also made it rather annoying to quite a few people:

To combat this, it was only displayed for two days at a time. That's at most 6 out of the ~15 days in an election cycle. So if you didn't visit the site on one of those days... Well, you probably wouldn't know about it at all, or if you noticed it and then came back later expecting to be able to follow the link, you might think the election had ended:

The usability sucked. And by-design - system messages were built into the design of the sites for urgent notifications; they were intended to be intrusive, annoying, and transient. The bulletin board is, by design, less "in your face" - but it's also consistently available, on every day of the election, on nearly every page. If you miss seeing it the first 50 times, it'll still be there on page load #51.

FWIW: the Stack Overflow election is the fourth election where we've used the Bulletin Board for announcements. So far, the numbers on other sites have been somewhat lower than expected, but not dramatically so. While participation numbers in Stack Overflow elections have been trending down anyway... Face it: a lot of people just don't care.

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I've asked this before, but please tell me that you guys are doing some sort of heat map testing. It would make sense for things like this as it shows what people are doing, not what they're saying. And thank you for taking the time to elaborate, it's appreciated. –  casperOne Jun 7 '12 at 1:31
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LOL. +1000 for that edit. –  jadarnel27 Jun 11 '12 at 20:19
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The problem is that no one cares what's in the sidebar.

This isn't a fault of Stack Exchange, necessarily, but a fault of how most websites with a column layout have utilized the sidebar over the years.

Basically, people train themselves to ignore what's in the sidebar because it's overwhelmingly used for noise on the rest of the Internet (known as "banner blindness").

In buying into the same column layout, the sidebar suffers the same consequences.

Personally, I never look at the sidebar. I populated it with a bunch of tags when I first started but I never look at it now. I also barely notice the Community Bulletin.

I also don't have a problem with using a system message for a notification about the elections, but I know the system message annoys a good number of people, so I won't recommend that here.

However, one of the guiding purposes of Stack Exchange is to make the Internet better. To that end, we shouldn't be ready to adopt common misuses of UX design when it's been shown that they don't work.

The Community Bulletin currently does not do this effectively. Instead, we need to find something better than the Community Bulletin for things too important for it, but not important enough for a system message.

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+1, the only reason I noticed the moderator elections on the sidebar was because you asked people to be nice to people running for election...I thought to myself, "why is he raving about emotions and emoticons and elections," and noticed the blog entry on the sidebar. And I'm not exactly in the demographic who ignores elections! –  user7116 Jun 6 '12 at 18:59
    
@sixlettervariables It was also a call to be nice to others all around, because we are inadvertently not being nice in certain cases. –  casperOne Jun 6 '12 at 19:01
    
I prefer to limit the time I spend arguing hopeless cases. The decision to discontinue the banners seemed final to me, so I proposed a compromise that would increase visibility, even though it's still not as visible as I'd prefer. –  Mad Scientist Jun 6 '12 at 19:22
    
@MadScientist I agree, I'm not promoting the system banner, but I think that we need something in between (if it's not prominent enough in my answer, I can change that). That said, currently the election notification is in red. I think that might be the best we're going to get at this point while they use the elections as their petri dish. –  casperOne Jun 6 '12 at 19:46
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It's because the sidebar has historically contained a lot of uninteresting information. A collection of tags, a list of recent badges and who won them, an ad - the only time I ever looked at it was while viewing a question to see the 'related' links hoping to find the duplicate I remembered seeing a while ago. I'd really like something between bulletin board and system message as well. –  Tim Post Jun 7 '12 at 3:05
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If the community bulletin was on the left hand sidebar it might make it a lot more noticeable.

  1. On SE in general the left hand side bar has been left admirably white. Having something there all of a sudden when something important is going on should jolt a lot of people into noticing it.
  2. The left side of the SE UI is normally used for interesting clicky things, arrows, ticks and the like. On SE I, and maybe others, pay attention to the left more than the right hand side, which doesn't have as many interesting things to play with.

Just a thought.

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P.S. I realise I'm missing freehand red-circles. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jun 6 '12 at 19:45
    
I don't hate this, the only problem with it is that it would then be considered in the "gutter"; all SE sites are fixed-width, and any width that falls outside of that is considered gutter space. It would be swallowed up by changes in browser sizing and a subset of people wouldn't even see it. –  casperOne Jun 6 '12 at 19:48
    
Ah, the "problem" of wide-screen monitors. I never have to deal with missing stuff. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jun 6 '12 at 19:53
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