Maybe just small optional DVD-player like chapter-selection icons directly below the vote buttons, something à la

>>, <<, >|, |<

for next, previous, last and first answer.


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YES, PLEASE ADD –  TheLQ Aug 24 '10 at 11:24
You might have to learn how to grease monkeys to get something like this. –  Andy E Aug 24 '10 at 12:52
@AndyE: Alas, that dreaded day has finally arrived... –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 13:12
Well, for one, the screenshot uses JPEG for a screenshot. Does that give any indication of the idea's merit? –  Hello71 Aug 25 '10 at 14:07
@Hello71: What the...? I had it as png, the new upload-feature seems to silently convert it. –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 26 '10 at 8:12
@Tobias, you did not somehow remove the image, did you? Earlier gave me an image saying this image does no longer exist, and right now I get no response whatsoever. Maybe it's back by the time you read this; if not then I guess I need to file a bug report as missing images on Imgur would be very bad... –  Arjan Jan 15 '11 at 14:41
@Arjan I used the SE integrated uploading mechanism in the hope then I wouldn't have to worry about availability anymore... I'll reupload it later –  Tobias Kienzler Jan 16 '11 at 9:09
(@Tobias, let's hope the image will be restored without any action from you:…) –  Arjan Jan 16 '11 at 12:17
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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

This is a great idea, but the execution doesn't actually help out that much.

Let's consider the use case. Answers are in a ragged array, which means I can't easily (mechanically) "skip one". I need to visually pay attention in order to find the beginning of the next answer. If a very long answer is followed by a short one, I may skip it entirely. Perhaps I want a way to cycle through the answers to find one that I read earlier. These are valid use cases.

So your solution is to put the next/prev controls under the vote button. But do they make sense there?

Visually confusing

You already have an up and down button, why would you want a left and right arrow in order to pan the screen up and down?

Small target

For long questions, I would still have to scroll in order to find the buttons.

Extra navigation options

I would still have to scroll up and down to read long responses, which means that you are adding an additional navigation method but not removing the old. This is confusing.

Moving target

As you scroll the question, the next/prev links will move with it, this is frustrating because you would want your navigation points to be constant. This would imply that the next/prev buttons should be a hovering item. That has a host of it's own problems.

It is an interesting idea, but there are simply too many problems and not enough usefulness to make it worth implementing.

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+1 for many good points you made. I guess an alternative would be a "switch to one-answer-per-site mode"-button... Any improving suggestion is appreciated, you don't seem against in general but just not like my (admittedly) amateurish implementation suggestion –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 12:04
@Tobias, the only problem is that there are two solutions. Put it on the same place per post (your solution) or have it on the same place per screen (floating box) which would be visually distracting and break the site consistency (because it doessn't exist anywhere else). Basically, this would be a create place for a shortcut-key, or a brain-computer-telepathic interface. –  devinb Aug 24 '10 at 12:13
that's why I suggested the static place. But another possibility would be a navigation toolbar - the notification bar is already often enough visible, it could be extended into a one-line navigation + notification bar. I'll try... –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 12:32
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The engine's usability is not optimized for large (more then say 30) numbers of answers.

We intend to keep it this way.

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but even three very long answers involve enough manual scroll-seeking –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 11:52
how common is that? we design for the general case. –  waffles Aug 24 '10 at 12:09
@wafles♦: depends on the site. I'm thinking of Meta's discussions first, but also answers to e.g. [code-golf] in a language I don't want to read the answer in –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 12:12
@Tobias: Vertical scrolling is the easiest, most intuitive, most universal way to handle large amounts of information, as noted in countless usability studies. You haven't even tried to explain why you think your proposed system would be an advantage. –  Aarobot Aug 24 '10 at 13:29
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I don't get it. Therefore I am saying please don't.

You have a question, below it you have a list of answers. If there is more then a certain amount you have page 1 and page 2 etc. The answers are sorted either based on votes, newest or oldest. You scroll down to read them using your mouse wheel and browser scrollbar.

What would these buttons add, in anyway whatsoever?

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Some answers are not exactly short, and (especially when catching up, sorting by newest and not by votes) may cause a spontaneous "too long, maybe later when I have more time" thinking. Yet a good answer may be just one line and deserve an upvote. If only I find it between two 25-liners. –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 11:36
@Tobias. Seriously? Your still going to have to scroll to the end of the answer to get to the button to click? Why the extra step? –  Diago Aug 24 '10 at 11:39
@Diago♦: added pic for clarification, I meant the buttons to be directly below (or maybe above?) the vote buttons, so there'd be no manual scrolling to the end involved –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 11:49
@Tobias, Diago's comment still stands, just replace "end" with "beginning". –  devinb Aug 24 '10 at 11:53
@devinb: the end of one answer will be one line above the beginning of the next anyway, so one can use that one's navigation. This idea is basically to skip over answers longer than one screen –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 12:01
@Tobias: So you're basically asking for a "tl;dr" feature. I think that's very much against the core philosophy of Stack Overflow, especially if the "long" answer has more votes than the "next" answer. It seems that once again, people are trying to apply discussion forum principles to Q&A sites. –  Aarobot Aug 24 '10 at 13:31
@Aarobot: In my book KISS wins VS tl;dr, if basically the same is stated –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 14:24
@Tobias: Then vote accordingly. I think it's very rare to find cases where a quick-and-dirty answer is anywhere near as good as a thorough answer, or where a long answer is upvoted for containing a lot of wordiness and irrelevant information. If you're finding a lot of these, then great, make a statement with your votes, but don't ask for the system to pander to audiences with microsecond attention spans - this is Stack Overflow, not 4chan. –  Aarobot Aug 24 '10 at 14:37
@Aarobot: Agreed. Sorting by votes should indeed prevent this requirement. My basic user case was "catching up" when sorting by newest when there is only time for short answers (at least if voting shall be done responsibly). Especially now with all the betas it's almost impossible to read/vote on everything interesting –  Tobias Kienzler Aug 24 '10 at 14:57
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