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There is a really annoying usability problem with the AJAX loading of duplicate question content that makes user interface elements unnecessarily shift around.

Current behavior

The current user behavior of voting to close a question as duplicate is as follows:

  • Locate the duplicate, copy its link
  • Click "Close" on the question
  • Click "Exact Duplicate"
  • Paste the link
  • Wait for the content to be loaded in the background
  • Click the "Vote to Close" button (or at least try to click it)

The "problem" with it

Sometimes the AJAX load takes a while. After the content is loaded, the box expands and the "Vote to Close" button moves downwards by an indefinite amount of pixels. That's because it depends on the body size of the duplicate question.

In the way I use it, I don't really have to read the body again. I know it is a duplicate because I already got the link to it. I don't need to read the duplicate's body again because in order to get its link I visit the duplicate's site before.

Now I'm just waiting for the button to become active, and when it does, it suddenly moves away. Somewhere. This is a huge usability problem.

To show a practical example, I simulated a slower network connection and made a screencast:


While this may seem like "not a big thing", from a point of user interface design it is unexpected behavior. It obviously would be better to have the button stay in its place, for example here:

This way, I'd know where to click when the button is activated, because it always stays in the same place. Sounds reasonable enough, does it?

If the reason of this inefficiency really is that users should read the dupe's text, introduce a timer or force them to scroll down. Don't make them search the button. Also, if you need five people to vote to close, this minimizes errors. And actually, that's not the point of this feature request.

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well, you can just hit tab after pasting the URL... –  Sathya May 30 '11 at 11:14
@Sathya That's why I wrote about the alternative solution: At least on my system just pressing tab does not work. In Chrome 12 (OS X), the title of the duplicate is highlighted, and in Safari, I don't see the Close button highlighted at all. –  slhck May 30 '11 at 11:19
Hmm, I should add C buttons before my links in the duplicate suggestion boxes script I wrote so that it automatically fills in the above window. It would then be a matter of "locate the duplicate, click the C button which automatically votes to close"... –  Tom Wijsman May 30 '11 at 12:49
+1 I hate when this happens. It's not a big deal in itself but it's like a mosquito buzzing near my ear. Irritating enough! –  JohnP May 30 '11 at 13:03
The trick is that they want you to actually read the duplicate question and make sure that it's a duplicate before you click the "Vote To Close" button. –  Cody Gray May 30 '11 at 14:06
@Cody Gray I'm not too sure if that's the real intention behind it. Also, I said: "I don't really have to read the body again. I know it is a duplicate because I already got the link to it." How else would I know it's a duplicate? I have to visit the duplicate question and grab its link before I can paste it. Also, I would assume users with the right to vote for duplicates know what they are doing. –  slhck May 30 '11 at 14:51
Dangerous assumption... Also consider the case when you choose to vote as a duplicate already proposed by someone else. You didn't have to hunt very hard for the link then. –  Cody Gray May 30 '11 at 14:52
@CodyGray: No, most people don't just copy the link into that box without checking what's behind the link. And in the already proposed case people do read it, as you need to check it. Another position of the button wouldn't make a difference... –  Tom Wijsman May 30 '11 at 14:55
@Cody Gray I understand your point and I can imagine there are many blind followers :) But if it was really important to make people read the duplicate before voting to close, then 1) they should have built in a timer and 2) the "Vote to Close" button should also move around for questions that already have a running vote and a possible duplicate ;) But I don't want to discuss about that, because my problem is not the way duplicates are chosen and voted for, just the minor annoyance of unpredictable user interface behavior. –  slhck May 30 '11 at 14:56
Gotta be honest - I like the button at top more than the fixed-height dialog. But we'll talk to our resident UX guru on Monday & see what we can figure out here; at very least we shouldn't have regressed. –  Shogging through the snow Feb 2 '13 at 16:18
Ok, this is fixed - bit of extra whitespace on the close dialog now... Guess we'll need some new close reasons to pad it out. –  Shogging through the snow Feb 4 '13 at 3:48
@Shog9 I'm sure you guys will figure something out ;) Thanks for fixing this and removing the bounty –  slhck Feb 4 '13 at 6:17

4 Answers 4

I fixed it

  1. We now reserve a constant space for the "post preview" and "suggestions"
  2. I added a reasonable tooltip on the actual suggestions, to help you avoid clicking on them

There is a slight annoyance, loading a post preview pushed the "suggestions" to the bottom, however I do not think this gets in the way of the workflow too much (other option was to hide the suggestions once a post is "previewed" but that would be slightly less usable, as you would need to click "back" to return to the list of suggestions.)

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to be deployed on meta shortly –  waffles Apr 2 '12 at 4:04
if you see a double scrollbar, it is a caching issue, reload your js –  waffles Apr 2 '12 at 4:12
Unfortunately, your fix doesn't work anymore, so we're back at the initial problem of the window changing size. –  slhck Feb 2 '13 at 11:11

You say that "the box expands and the 'Vote to Close' button moves downwards by an indefinite amount of pixels". I suggest another possible solution: shorten the question being displayed on the box if it's too long, or place the question in a scrollable box that doesn't change in size. This may be combined with your proposed solution.

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I vote against. Especially with mods where one vote = instant close you can paste in the wrong link. Happens many times where you think you pressed Ctrl-C but didn't. Even for non-mods it can still be misleading to future closers.

Having the button down at the bottom forces you to at least glance at the question title as a last verification that this is the right question. This way you don't close "How to merge values into an String format" as a duplicate of "Strangest language feature".

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Of course, if a moderator made a mistake in closing a question as a duplicate of the wrong question, they could just re-open it and close it again with the correct duplicate. And no harm done if a regular user votes to close with the wrong link, as it takes 5 votes to close a question. Fairly unlikely that 4 other people will agree. –  Cody Gray Jun 5 '11 at 4:44
I really don't think a mod would close with a completely wrong duplicate -- and as Cody mentioned, it would be an easy task to undo that. Again, I like to think that the behavior is not intended to "make people think about the duplicate", but rather just unfortunate UI design. Also, I have seen many cases where voting would become stuck at 2 votes maximum because the duplicate wasn't a 100% match. The community does a good job here. –  slhck Jun 5 '11 at 9:41
We should optimize for the (common) case of people who are doing things right, not the (rare) case of saving people from themselves when they're doing it wrong. This is especially true for closing, where every user involved already has a non-trivial amount of rep and can be trusted to not be a complete blithering idiot. –  Pops Oct 25 '11 at 21:50
Did I here someone say EULA? :) –  Benjol Oct 26 '11 at 5:44

I have an additional reason to request that the "Close" button be moved: often, after entering the link or clicking the radio button for a previous choice, the dialog resizes so that the button is off the bottom of my screen.

I originally thought this was due to the fact that I run with the browser zoomed a bit to help with aging eyesight, but removing the zoom doesn't solve the problem - there are still some cases where the button expands off the bottom.

I recommend either leaving the button in place, or else adding a copy of the button at the top of the text after the text expands.

share|improve this answer
Let me know if the fix (now on meta) works well for you. –  waffles Apr 2 '12 at 4:14
It works perfectly. All important UI elements remain visible. If I were to make one chnage, though, it would be to ensure that the bottom border is also visible. This would provide a visual cue to indicate that you've seen everything there is to see. –  John Saunders Apr 2 '12 at 15:55

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