While fixing a small UI fail on one of the tag info pages recently, the inconsistency in tabs, filtering, and sorting finally got to me.
As I'm sure you are all aware, we use tabs throughout the site as our hammer looking for nails.
- Tabs are used inconsistently: section navigation, filtering, sorting, extra links, etc.
- The accompanying metadata is not displayed consistently (e.g. number of results)
- Using tabs for both filtering and sorting means that you get what you get, and it's not possible to both filter and sort
- The metadata for question lists, like number of results, is currently in the right sidebar, where it is seemingly orphaned from where all the action is happening
So I've spent a few hours trying to figure out if we can simplify the tab area to address these problems and hopefully add more flexibility.
(See wireframe below):
- Tabs will be restricted to navigation or filtering, with the definition of filtering being the number of questions returned would be less than the superset. This means that the tabs in the current questions section would be reduced to "featured, frequent, unanswered", and a new section called "all"
- A new sort drop-down will be added to each page directly underneath the tabs which will be consistent across pages except that items that don't make sense on the current page will be removed.
- Result counts and descriptions (e.g. 0 questions tagged php) will be left justified on the same line as the sort drop-down
- Ideally, we would never need subtabs, but if it's absolutely necessary it would appear above the sort drop-down
- Related information, like the tag information box at the top of the question list would be simplified and move to the right sidebar, where related information should be
If we end up going this direction, the changes would apply to every page with tabs, including search results.
I've attempted to address all of the gripes without losing any features. In fact, each tab would be much more flexible because of multiple sorts available.
The only significant downside that I can think of is that sometimes we might need to fudge a filter into a sort to avoid using sub tabs. For example, clearly "my tags" would be a filter because the number of questions would be reduced from the total number of questions. However, to keep existing functionality, we might have to have a "my tags" sort option on other pages that would push questions in your favorite tags to the top. It makes me feel funny, but I could live with it.
Since this is a fairly big UI change, I'd like to get some preliminary thoughts before I get too far into this.
Proposed tag metadata changes