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I would like to suggest improved behavior for hard-linking comments and answers, in order to improve the flow of UX. The intent of the suggestion is to make the linked content visible while avoiding the sudden page jumps and inconvenient repositioning.

Whenever I click a hard link, I consistently find myself scrolling up to see the question, to read details, or some such. The system as-is can often be (mildly) irritating to use, so I would like to suggest better behavior. I think the brief highlighting alone is enough to get a user's attention, so moving the page up is often not necessary.

  1. If a comment on the main post is linked, the page should not jump down directly to that comment. Instead, the main post should remain at the top of the page, and the comment should be highlighted briefly.

  2. If an answer is linked directly, the answer should be shown along with the question at the top of the entire page. The relevant answer would become first in the list, so the information you want (the question and answer) is immediately visible.

    The linked answer is (pretty much) guaranteed to be the one you want to see. However, you may often wish to reference the question, so placing the two next to each other is a huge assist. Additionally, if you wish to see the other answers, they will be in a very predictable place.

  3. If a comment which is not on the main post is linked, the answer it is associated with should show up at the top of the page, and the comment should be highlighted.

    This is the same rationale as (2): you will pretty much always want to read the comment, so it should be clear which one has been linked (though it should remain chronological). However, since it is a comment on an answer, that answer should be easily visible. Therefore, the answer should be placed at the top of the page.

I by no means intend to say that we should show the answer in place of the comment; that would be incredibly silly. Rather, the answer should be visible in conjunction with the comment.

This isn't really a critical change, but it would make navigating linked and shared answers significantly easier and more convenient.

share|improve this question
Can you visualize what you're thinking for (2)? For the others, I don't really think this is a good idea - some posts are really long and it would thus take a bit of scrolling to get to the applicable comment (and I also hope you were thinking to always show the applicable highlighted comment among those shown, unless you were thinking to show all of them, but some posts have many comments, again leading to a lot of scrolling). – Dukeling Nov 14 '13 at 7:57
This is pretty radical change, it will most likely confuse many long time users, myself included. Just to be sure, what you ask for is similar to this design, where clicking item in the menu to the right brings the topic to the top of the page and highlights it? (e.g. direct link example) – Shadow Wizard Nov 14 '13 at 8:01
@Dukeling The point is that you're primarily interested in the linked comment. For (2), the answer which has been directly linked is moved to the top. For instance, if someone links answer 22, that answer is shown immediately under the question, so the content you're interested in is shown to you at the outset. To address concerns with (1) and (3): if it takes scrolling to get to a comment, some will be hidden anyway. Hide comments that are not in the current conversation so that the relevant information is immediately visible (in this case, the question and comment.) – Emrakul Nov 14 '13 at 8:01
@Sha I'm not sure what about this would be confusing. It seems more intuitive to me, and a relatively simple change. Mind pointing out a case where the behavior wouldn't make sense? And yeah, that's the behavior I don't want to see on questions. – Emrakul Nov 14 '13 at 8:03
Not saying it won't make sense and new users will likely prefer it, but long time users are just really used to the current behavior. Making answers suddenly stick to the top will be pretty confusing. – Shadow Wizard Nov 14 '13 at 8:05
Then I have similar concerns for (2) - the question can be really long. – Dukeling Nov 14 '13 at 8:05
@Sha Longtime users may appreciate not having to scroll up to see the question of a linked answer, or answer of a comment. Who knows. – Emrakul Nov 14 '13 at 8:07
@Dukeling In the event that both can't be shown, which is easy enough to check, then showing the answer is first priority. – Emrakul Nov 14 '13 at 8:07
@Emrakul each and his own... when going directly to an answer I usually don't really want to check the question. – Shadow Wizard Nov 14 '13 at 8:11
@Sha Then we have had very different experiences, and it would be fruitless to argue them :P – Emrakul Nov 14 '13 at 8:12
@Emrakul not trying to argue, just show different view. :) – Shadow Wizard Nov 14 '13 at 8:32
@Sha ah, yeah, wrong word, sorry. Thanks, though! – Emrakul Nov 14 '13 at 8:35

Suggestion 1 and 3 seem to suggest that, instead of showing the comment when clicking a permalink for a comment, it will show the question or answer it is attached to.

Suggestion 2 seems different, as only the order of the answers is swapped, but clicking the permalink for an answer will focus on the answer itself.

I think suggestion 2 can be useful. The exact order of the answers on a page doesn't matter much if you want to read a specific answer on a question. The question where this linked answer was an answer on might indeed be more important than other answers on that question. Such a feature would be more useful on a question with a lot of answers, and would make no difference on a question with 1 answer.

The other two suggestions seem counter-intuitive to me. Why would you show an answer or a question if you want to link to a comment? By showing the answer/question in the top of the page, it feels like that is what is linked. True, the comment will flash orange, but if the answer is long, or there are a lot of comments, this will happen below the bottom of the browser. If the user clicks a permalink to a comment, the comment (or the comment section) should have the focus. If the user wants to read the corresponding answer, 1 fling of the scroll wheel will do that for them. I don't think changing the current behaviour of clicking a permalink in the way you suggest would improve the user experience.

share|improve this answer
Perhaps I miscommunicated. I by no means intend to say that we should show the answer in place of the comment; that would be incredibly silly. Rather, the answer should be visible in conjunction with the comment. – Emrakul Nov 14 '13 at 8:29
This is the current behaviour. How I read it, this is what you are suggesting (focus on answer, comment is flashing orange (or grey on meta)). This is the first problem, where the answer + comment doesn't fit on the screen., hiding part of/all of the comment. This is the second problem where too many comments push the linked comment out of view, because the browser is focussed on the answer. – Sumurai8 Nov 14 '13 at 8:46
As I have said, showing the desired content is the highest priority. Seems to me like the page could just move up in this case. Not sure how to handle an edge case like that. – Emrakul Nov 14 '13 at 14:36

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