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The UI to close a question as an exact duplicate is quite hard to use.

Due to the sheer number of duplicates, closing questions is a common activity. The UI should not impede this unnecessarily (while at the same time encouraging users to really compare the questions, instead just confirming the choice of other users).

Alas, that’s not how it works. As I see it, you’ve got two options at the moment:

  1. Copy/paste the name of the duplicate question into the text field.
  2. Hover over the link of the duplicate question and copy its ID.

What is wrong

The following screen-shots should demonstrate conclusively why both options are equally bothersome.

First, notice how auto-completion fails miserably, even though there’s an exact match with the prefix of the already chosen duplicate questions:

No auto-completion

Even when typing more, auto-completion is wilfully unhelpful:

Bad auto-completion

Not only is every single suggestion wrong, the popup is blocking the question titles, preventing me from copying them.

So I’ve given up trying to copy the title – instead, I hover the mouse over the question link and copy the ID. But again, auto-completion isn’t very helpful because it tries to match the ID as soon as possible, which results in the following situation:

Wrong auto-completion on ID

Notice that the last digit of the “right” ID is missing, which is why I get a wrong match.

How to improve it

Now, what I want is completely straightforward:

  1. Support for drag&drop of the question link:

    Drag & drop

    It should be quite easy to recognize a valid question URL and substitute its ID (regex-fu!), and enable the “Vote to close” button.

    EDIT: It “works” – after I triggered the dropdown by pressing the arrow key, I get the corresponding suggestion in the text box. Way too much work required. Just substitute the ID directly, please.

  2. Make the auto-completion helpful. Again, the solution is simple and straightforward: give weight to exact matches between what the user is typing and the question titles that were already supplied. Matching prefixes should be enough, and trivial to implement. Such exact matches should always be the top items in the dropdown.

  3. Make the auto-completion dropdown smaller or do something else to prevent it from hiding the other proposed question titles. In fact, the dropdown is probably completely redundant – a single (or possibly two) suggestions should be enough, if other questions have already been suggested.

  4. Alternatively, add a radio button to the existing suggested question titles.

  5. Enable copy&paste of a URL. Jeff has commented elsewhere that this in fact works. But it doesn’t for me, and never has. This may be an unrelated bug. See above (at drag&drop): this “works” but requires several redundant user actions.

Possible duplicate: “Close — exact duplicate” process is buggy and annoying

I realize this is more or less a duplicate of the above question by Will, which – as I understand it – was closed because of its irate tone and lack of alternative suggestions. I hope to have amended this. But FWIW, I somewhat understand Will’s indignation. The UI really is that bad. Sorry.

share|improve this question
Very good points, some of this has been annoying me for a long time (but I was too lazy to file a report.) +1 – Pëkka May 16 '10 at 12:12
@Questions: Filing this report took me > 1h. :-( So yes, I understand why you never did it. – Konrad Rudolph May 16 '10 at 12:30
I can imagine, but it was worth it. Good work! – Pëkka May 16 '10 at 12:31
Drag the URL into the box and double click on it. – kennytm May 16 '10 at 12:41
@KennyTM: Why? I don’t want to perform redundant actions. – Konrad Rudolph May 16 '10 at 13:02
up vote 3 down vote accepted

We improved the close duplicate dialog quite a bit.

  1. Shows full preview of proposed duplicate in a scrollable <div>
  2. No longer uses drop-down behavior but simpler "after pause in typing, attempt to load the question URL or ID you just entered in a preview below the input area"
  3. You can click on the previously chosen duplicates below, to get an instant preview of the dupe to judge if it is actually a duplicate or not.
  4. Handy search link in upper right (with improved search help page) to help you find those pesky dupes
share|improve this answer
I wouldn't call it 'handy' since the previous version let you search inline. see:… – George Stocker Jun 9 '10 at 16:33
Wtf is that carebear doing there? – BalusC Jun 9 '10 at 16:52

I disagree with this statement:

Closing a question as an exact duplicate if others have already voted should be a no-brainer: you just confirm their choice.

No, you should be thinking about this. You should visit the page (where you can just copy the post-id out of the address bar) and compare the two questions. There could be subtle differences that the first close-voter didn't pick up on. If four people just confirm their choice then the question will be closed incorrectly.

share|improve this answer
Right, bad choice of words. The interface, however, should not pose unnecessary obstacles. I agree with all your steps before closing the question. But I don’t think the current convoluted UI encourages the users to perform them (like, at all). In order to do that, SOFU would require stateful sites so that when you visit the prior question, it has a button at the bottom saying “close other question now”. Maybe that would be a good idea. And it would still require less steps than the current UI. But it would be much harder to implement. – Konrad Rudolph May 16 '10 at 13:22
@Konrad: That's an interesting idea. The links in the "This question is a duplicate..." dialog could pass parameters that trigger the target page to display the "close other question" button. – Bill the Lizard May 16 '10 at 13:29

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