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This question was inspired by, and is kind of a corollary to, Could the star on favorited questions change in color?

"Important numbers" are usually displayed prominently on Stack Exchange sites. They include question scores (number of upvotes minus number of downvotes), answer scores, the number of users who have marked a question as a favorite, user reputation and comment scores. Most of those numbers are always displayed in the same color; comment scores are the exception.

Screenshot from Stack Overflow, 2011:
four different colors for comment scores

As illustrated by the screen clip above, the more votes a comment has received, the brighter its score is. (The 1 is gray; the 6 is dark brown; the 23 is light brown; and the higher numbers are orange.)

(Edit: it's now 2014, there are a lot more sites and the score/brightness correlation rule is no longer necessarily true. Screenshot from Meta Stack Exchange, this year:
a mix of "brightnesses" for comment scores)

Why is this system used only for comments? Should color-coding be expanded? Removed?

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This is a feature-request, no? –  BЈовић Jun 30 '11 at 19:30
    
@VJo, no. What feature am I supposedly requesting? –  Pops Jun 30 '11 at 19:32
    
@random, cool, I didn't know it was dynamic! –  Pops Jun 30 '11 at 19:34
    
I thought you requested the same colors for votes, etc –  BЈовић Jun 30 '11 at 19:39
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This is related to an old and still-incomplete request of mine: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/50473/… –  Daniel DiPaolo Jun 30 '11 at 19:44
    
@VJo, nah, I kinda idly threw that idea out there, but I also idly wondered if we should make everything colorless, too. Honestly, it was mostly to make this a more legit discussion question... I really only care about why the system was designed the way it is. –  Pops Jun 30 '11 at 19:44
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If comments didn't go .supernova, where would we get the energy to power the servers? The hamsters have already proven themselves unreliable. –  Tim Stone Jun 30 '11 at 19:52
    
@Popular I thought you knew they were dynamic ... :\ –  jcolebrand Jun 30 '11 at 20:59
    
Terribly sorry to disappoint you, @jcolebrand. No, I always thought it was a hard cutoff. For example (totally making numbers up here), 1-5 = gray, 6-15 = dark brown, 16-30 = light brown, 31+ = orange. I don't know why... maybe because Pundit requires reaching a set score? –  Pops Jun 30 '11 at 21:05
    
@popular ~ Well then, I stand corrected. Intriguing. –  jcolebrand Jun 30 '11 at 21:33

1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

It is based on the number of votes. the darker the shade of orange, the higher the vote count.

This is for you to easily distinguish which comments might be more useful to read.

It doesn't make any sense to do this with answers since they are so far apart, but the comments are in very close proximity to one another so you need an easy way to eyeball them

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I'll give you +1 for stating the obvious, but I think the real question is what's the design decision? We don't understand why it's the only colorized number on the site. –  jcolebrand Jun 30 '11 at 20:52
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@jcolebrand -- as i stated in my answer -- it is because it is the only place on the site where the numbers are in such close proximity. –  amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Jun 30 '11 at 21:11
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Well, that's not quite true. Numbers run down columns on the left side of every question list page, including the main page. –  Pops Jun 30 '11 at 21:13
    
@Popular, are those actually colorized like the comments? I've never noticed that before –  jcolebrand Jun 30 '11 at 21:33
    
@jcolebrand, no, I meant that the columns are another place where numbers are in close proximity. They are not colorized. The exception is for answer counts where the count is zero or an accepted answer exists, but that's not really the same thing. See Daniel's comment under the question, though. –  Pops Jun 30 '11 at 21:49
    
@jcolebrand, in the flagged posts interface there are bright orange notices for users who created their accounts recently but black notices for users who have had their accounts a while. New answers or questions get a grey timestamp, older answers or questions get black timestamps. Deleted posts get the usual deleted-orange-brown background treatment. It's astonishing just how many colorized data bits there are around here. Oh yeah! Don't forget the "N characters left" display on comment input fields. Those change too: grey, black, brown, orange. –  sarnold Jul 1 '11 at 9:34
    
@sarnold good points all. I completely glossed over the comment countdown and as for flag displays, most people can't/don't see those to begin with so I wasn't considering those. FWIW the mod tools dashboard is also colorized (doesn't really apply here tho) –  jcolebrand Jul 1 '11 at 16:34

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