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I had a slightly strange experience voting on an answer the other day. While trying to find something out, I found the answer I needed, and noticed another answer consisting of what I judged to be seriously misleading information. I voted it down, leaving a comment saying what was wrong. The answerer subsequently edited the answer to fix the problem I'd identified, replying to my comment. Seeing this, I wanted to remove my down-vote. Now, every time I've voted, I've noticed the info message when hovering over the arrow, that says "click again to undo" after you've clicked it. So I was at some level aware of that. Nevertheless, presented with a number, and a pair of arrows pointing up and down respectively, I clicked the up arrow, thinking to take the number back up to where it had been prior to my down-vote. And of course it went up by two, since the UI interprets that as both undoing the down-vote and adding an up-vote.

To make the number go up, I should have pressed down.

To me, this is an unnecessary and confusing variation on the common spin-button metaphor, where up is up and down is down. I think we should change the voting arrows to use that metaphor.

EDIT Per the evolving comments below, while I stand by my statement of the problem, I accept that my proposed solution may not be the best implementation to solve it. But it's precisely because the voting buttons are about voting actions, not numbers, that the UI metaphor of a number between up and down arrows is problematic.

EDIT 2 So are there any other suggestions for an alternative metaphor?

15
  • So what is the point? Deactivating down is actually up? That is like subtracting -1. Sounds not a problem to me. Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:04
  • @PatrickHofman, I'd agree with that but for the arrow metaphor.
    – Reg Edit
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:08
  • 5
    If you insist on having all that useless text in your question, you can have my downvote.
    – Stijn
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:21
  • 3
    ("asker" and "answerer")
    – user98085
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:25
  • 3
    I'd rather not have to click twice to turn a downvote into an upvote (or vice versa).
    – JonK
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:28
  • 3
    Your post is really confusing with all those fluff hanging around. Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:30
  • 2
    I disagree. You give or remove a downvote, an upvote or leave the question as it is. You don't give a question a score. When you click the down arrow, you apply a downvote. This is reinforced by the 'active' nature of the arrow (it is coloured, slightly bolder sometimes). I find it illogical to press an up arrow to change the state of the down arrow. If I press the up arrow, I want to apply an upvote, and the only reason the down arrow changes, is because an upvote and a downvote cannot exist on a question from the same user, and it is brought into a stable state.
    – Sumurai8
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:35
  • @JonK, saving clicks is important, but not worth making the UI confusing for, especially just to save a click for such an infrequent action as going all the way from a downvote to an upvote. Is that really something you do often?
    – Reg Edit
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:44
  • @Sumurai8, again I agree completely with the logic; the problem is that the visual metaphor is wrong. The up and down arrows are too strongly tied to making the number go up or down.
    – Reg Edit
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:47
  • @RegEdit Yes, converting a downvote to an upvote happens very often. Any time a post is downvoted it's an encouragement to the poster to make it better. Once the user does so, convert the downvote to an upvote.
    – user98085
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:53
  • 2
    @RegEdit No, they are not linked to the score. The score is (totalUp - totalDown) and there is no guarantee that the score will go down if you press the downvote button. It might as well go up by 7 because 8 other people made an upvote in the meantime. The buttons are tied to an action, not to a score, or a change of a score.
    – Sumurai8
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:56
  • @Sumurai8, once again, yes, which is why we should fix the visual metaphor of a number with arrows either side of it. There may be better suggestions than mine about the implementation, but the current mix of a number and up/down arrows seems problematic.
    – Reg Edit
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 13:02
  • 2
    The UI is only confusing if your expectations don't line up with what the UI actually does. I personally had no trouble at all understanding how the UI worked, and I daresay that most users are the same (otherwise this would have come up years ago). The problem may simply be your expectation...
    – JonK
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 13:11
  • 1
    @RegEdit No, I want to take actions. I don't want to manipulate a score.
    – Sumurai8
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 13:12
  • @FEichinger thanks for the info ("asker" and "answerer"). That makes sense. Probably I'd be aware of the convention if I was a more frequent meta user, as I assume the need for such terms arises far more often on meta sites. With hindsight, asking it at the same time as something else probably wasn't a great idea, although it seemed like it at the time, in a reflective kind of question that tries to build up a picture of why the up/down buttons could take someone by surprise rather than just stating an opinion that a feature could change. I've edited the question to remove it now anyway.
    – Reg Edit
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 6:36

2 Answers 2

8

You have one vote. You can make that vote a downvote (-1), or an upvote (+1). You can also remove the vote entirely.

The up arrow is for making it an upvote. The down arrow is for making it a downvote. The active arrow is for removing the vote.

Clicking the down arrow again after having already cast your downvote would, with your idea, have one of two possible results:

  1. No action. Since you only have one vote, you can't downvote further.
  2. Another downvote. This is nonsense, we only have one vote per post.

Does that now mean we remove the down arrow and replace it by a "undo down" arrow that's pointing upwards just to reflect the direction of the score? Or do we have a UI element that is now pointless to interact with?

No, instead we have a clear system that gives every interactable element its meaning.

2
  • The problem is when an element's meaning changes. I suppose if you think in terms of voting rather than numbers, it's less of a problem, but the UI metaphor strongly ties the arrows to the number. Removing the down arrow after use isn't necessary, just disable it.
    – Reg Edit
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:41
  • The meaning doesn't change. The button means: change the status of this button. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 17:06
6

Removing a downvote is something totally different than upvoting. The current UI makes it possible to do both, in a understandable manner.

Changing the direction of the downvote button doesn't make any sense here. It will only make things more confusing.

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