-20

Hey I'm new to this site.
I really like the concept, but I think that it's kinda unfun to use.

For example, what's up with having to put two spaces at the end of each line to get a line break? I've never seen a site where you have to do this before.
The other formatting options are also kinda unintuitive, though with the editor, that's okay (it ain't there on the mobile version of the site, though).

Then somehow, when I was posting a comment, even with that double space method, it didn't format correctly (could be a bug).
Then, when I wanted to add something to my comment, it said that you can only edit it for 5 minutes after it was posted. The hell?!

Thoughts in my head:

  1. "This website is badly coded!"
  2. "Maybe they're making it a pain to use on purpose, so that only hard-working people will be willing to put up with it and they will get less lazy questions and answers."
  3. "Either way, there is no excuse for a modern website to not be easy and fun to use!"

Tbh, I hate writing such negative posts, but when I see something like this, I cannot hold back.
Just trying to post stuff on this site got me annoyed. What were the people coding this thinking...???

Lol, why did someone add a list...?
Well, have it your way.
Guess one person's posts are everyone's posts over here.

This question is not identical to that other question, as I am asking about the site in general and its usability.
I see, you want me to make a list...

  • double space for line break
  • can only edit a comment for 5 minutes
  • enter sends comments (is that only here in meta?) (guess it can be useful if you KNOW that it will happen, but it always causes me to send the comment by accident)
  • no editor on mobile site (possibly something that can be added as an improvement?)
  • website confusing for newbies (in many ways...)

In short, it doesn't really feel up to snuff to contemporary website design standards. :/
Not sure how to say it any better than that.
Maybe the last point could be fixed by giving new users a comprehensive explanation about how the site works. There was some kind of "website explanation" or something, but it was rather goofy and didn't explain much.

Would be nice to get an answer from the site admins, because they can probably explain best what thoughts and ideas went into the making of their website. But I can understand if they don't have time to answer to some random user feedback. Yet they said: "Feedback is welcome", if I remember correctly.

9
  • 8
    Anything constructive to say? All I see is a rant.
    – Oded
    Jun 21, 2015 at 9:55
  • 8
    Please do not overuse the 2 spaces to create a new line. There is a reason for that - it looks terrible. Most times you need a new line you probably.actually want to start a new paragraph Jun 21, 2015 at 11:06
  • 4
    Absolutely agree with @psubsee2003. The reason I like the two-spaces thing is not because I think it's intuitive -- it definitely isn't -- but because it discourages manual line breaks. Your question is a good example why you shouldn't use manual line breaks (as opposed to manual paragraph breaks -- these are fine, and are also quite intuitive in Markdown), it looks strange and is hard to read. The only situation (at least in English or similar languages) where manual line breaks are good is in poetry/song lyrics/etc.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Jun 21, 2015 at 11:10
  • 1
    Huh? Hm, I haven't heard this opinion before.
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 11:26
  • Ah, now hitting the line break key even posts the comment directly... >___>; This is exactly the kind of unintended site behaviour (feels like a bug, but isn't) that I am complaining about here. Also, the character limit on comments is kinda annoying. I never had anything against double posts, but still...
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 11:45
  • 1
    @Dice there are no line breaks in comments. If you need one, you are probably not using the comment correctly. You (almost) never need a line break in a comment. Jun 21, 2015 at 11:46
  • 1
    Back on topic though, I absolutely hate badly formatted text, because I think that it is hard to read. Line breaks when changing from one sentence or "line of thought" or subject to another, imo make texts easier to read, just like punctuation does. Texts without punctuation are a pain to read... of course, a text with too much punctuation can be bad, too. Guess everyone draws the line differently as to what "enough" or "too little" is. I didn't think there were people who would find the posts harder to read with line breaks than without them. I'll have to do some research, I guess.
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 11:48
  • @Dice Line breaks are inappropriate for changing lines of thought. That's what paragraph breaks are for. English has well-established conventions on this point (and they certainly don't include line breaks after each sentence).
    – cpast
    Jun 25, 2015 at 13:58
  • Yes, the use of significant trailing whitespace (for a linebreak) is a horrible decision by the designers of Markdown. Nov 11, 2020 at 18:02

3 Answers 3

17

Early on when the site started, the decision to use markdown was made. You may be unfamiliar with it and therefore your problems.

However, the editor comes with a preview so you can see what will be rendered.

It has buttons to help with common formatting.

It has a help button with links to extended editing help.

I don't think that's unfriendly.


Now, a lot of our rules exist in order to ensure high quality of posts (or, as you put it "less lazy questions and answers"). That's a major goal of our sites and is what makes them successful.

It appears that some people expect that anything goes when they go to a website and have quite a rude awakening when that's not the case, like on our sites. Call it culture shock or a sense of entitlement if you wish, but the end result is that such people tend to see our sites as unfriendly.

2
  • Ah well, I have been on the internet for 15 years now and I don't remember coming across it before. So I don't think it is very well known to the "standard internet user" (if there is such a thing xD). Of course, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it and with the editor, it's not a big deal. I only switched to the "desktop version" of the site when I made this topic and before that, I was stumped and had to find and read the "Help" page, just to find out how to format.
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 11:55
  • @Dice That's what the help page is there for. Markdown has a number of advantages, including not having to use lots of html tags.
    – Tim
    Jun 21, 2015 at 16:38
7

Maybe the reason something is not intuitive is because you aren't suppose to use it (see balpha's comment - balpha is a SE developer so has a good reason to know why specific design choices were made).

Manual line breaks in questions and answers should (almost) never be used. Just take your own question here. Which version is easier to read?

Your version

Hey I'm new to this site.
I really like the concept, but I think that it's kinda unfun to use.

For example, what's up with having to put two spaces at the end of each line to get a line break? I've never seen a site where you have to do this before.
The other formatting options are also kinda unintuitive, though with the editor, that's okay (it ain't there on the mobile version of the site, though).

Then somehow, when I was posting a comment, even with that double space method, it didn't format correctly (could be a bug).
Then, when I wanted to add something to my comment, it said that you can only edit it for 5 minutes after it was posted. The hell?!

Thoughts in my head:
"This website is badly coded!"
"Maybe they're making it a pain to use on purpose, so that only hard-working people will be willing to put up with it and they will get less lazy questions and answers."
"Either way, there is no excuse for a modern website to not be easy and fun to use!"

Tbh, I hate writing such negative posts, but when I see something like this, I cannot hold back.
Just trying to post stuff on this site got me pissed off. What were the people coding this thinking...???

Paragraphs instead of line breaks

Hey I'm new to this site.

I really like the concept, but I think that it's kinda unfun to use.

For example, what's up with having to put two spaces at the end of each line to get a line break? I've never seen a site where you have to do this before.

The other formatting options are also kinda unintuitive, though with the editor, that's okay (it ain't there on the mobile version of the site, though).

Then somehow, when I was posting a comment, even with that double space method, it didn't format correctly (could be a bug). Then, when I wanted to add something to my comment, it said that you can only edit it for 5 minutes after it was posted. The hell?!

Thoughts in my head

  • "This website is badly coded!"
  • "Maybe they're making it a pain to use on purpose, so that only hard-working people will be willing to put up with it and they will get less lazy questions and answers."
  • "Either way, there is no excuse for a modern website to not be easy and fun to use!"

Tbh, I hate writing such negative posts, but when I see something like this, I cannot hold back. Just trying to post stuff on this site got me pissed off. What were the people coding this thinking...???

See the difference?


As for some of your other concerns, such as line breaks not working in comments. Comments exist for the primary reason to providing and get feedback to help clarify a post. As a result, they support a very limited version of Markdown (read more here). One of the items that is intentionally not supported is line breaks (both paragraph breaks and manual line breaks). If you find yourself needing a line break in a comment, then you probably should examine what you are trying to post.

  • If you are trying to provide clarification to your post, then you should be editing it into the post and not putting it in a comment.
  • If you are trying to provide an answer to a question, then you should be writing an answer

I am sure you could come up with a few use cases where line breaks could be useful, but the reasons not to have line breaks outweigh the reasons to have them.

8
  • Why would you restrict what people can do in a post? Even something like line breaks, it seems completely crazy to me why you would want to control peoples' posts like that. Oo I don't even know what to say to that.
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 11:58
  • 2
    @Dice that's the point - comments are not posts. They are comments to posts. We want to encourage people to not use comments for something other than what they are designed for. Stack Overflow was originally conceived as more like a wiki than a forum. It was expected that posts are formatted well and have as little noise as possible. Unrestricted commenting is very noisy and confusing Jun 21, 2015 at 12:06
  • Ah and to answer your question, I think they are both good... you probably wanted to hear: "Hey, this looks a lot better!", but it's not the feeling I have. Is it really not just personal preference? confused
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 12:11
  • @Dice to each their own. But I find line breaks without paragraph breaks very hard to read. You eye tracks better when it doesn't have to keep jumping around to find the start of the next sentence. Jun 21, 2015 at 12:13
  • Hm... that's true, but the only alternative to posting a comment is posting an answer, so in a discussion like this or when you are discussing with somebody else about a question or answer, you have to use comments for it, right? In the end, it looks to me more like a forum than a wiki, because everything starts with a question. I guess it could be more like a FAQ? It's unusual, but I like unusual things, so I'm not complaining about that. Just saying that comments are more like posts than short interjections in some places (like here).
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 12:19
  • @Dice meta sites are different. They are discussion sites force fit into a Q&A engine. Jun 21, 2015 at 12:20
  • I see! You have a point with the eye tracking. I guess for me it feels uncomfortable to have a sentence split in an awkward place by a forced line break, like at the beginning of a sentence. That's probably the reason why I prefer manual line breaks. So a sentence can easily be read to the end (or the middle at least) in a single line instead of e.g. beginning at the end of a line and you have to go looking for the continuation in the next line. It often happens to me that I continue reading in the wrong line and get gibberish, then I have to find the beginning of the sentence again,
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 12:30
  • which isn't that easy if it was in the middle or at the end of a line. So to avoid that kind of trouble, that's probably why I changed to the formatting I am using.
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 12:31
6

I've provided a bit of feedback which will hopefully help you, and anyone else coming here new and a bit bewildered with the same thoughts you had.

This answer is intended to be helpful and friendly, but primarily about making points and providing info, so please excuse any bluntness and lack of pleasantries :)


Hey I'm new to this site.

Hi :) Welcome to Stack Exchange.

I really like the concept, but I think that it's kinda unfun to use.

The concept is not supposed to be "fun" it's supposed to be "helpful".
There is no place for chit-chat or lengthy discussions, only a strive to achieve the most useful and professional answer to a question.

Fun detracts from answers and help. Like forums can get "chatty" which detracts from everyone just talking about the problem and potential solution.
This is one major part in which Stack differs from what people are used to (me too when I joined).
But the focus being placed only on solid on-topic questions and answers allows really useful and helpful content to come through.

Essentially, one can get a great answer to a question without having to know about what the answerer did at the weekend!

That said, comments can sometimes be "chatty", and can sometimes be a small/mini friendly chat between two people, although more usually that happens on Meta.
And more often than not it's a friendly chin wag about the question or answer.

For example, what's up with having to put two spaces at the end of each line to get a line break?

Computer systems do not read minds, so you have to somehow provide a symbol or identifier to pass through so the system knows what to do.
So adding two spaces at the end of the line tells the system "I want to go to a new line".

This seems logical and without problem to me, as why else would you want to put two spaces in your text? Double spaces don't usually render on most online formats, including forums, Twitter, youtube comments, etc, they get stripped and only one space is shown in the output text.

You can also use some HTML in posts, such as <br/> for line breaks, for those who believe double spaces are the devil's <br>.

I've never seen a site where you have to do this before.

Ok, but does your having never seen it make it... good? Or bad?

You should read about markdown.
Markdown allows you to format layout without the need for tags all over it, such as <br>, <i> etc.
This provides control over layout without making it hard to read your post when writing or editing it.

e.g.

For bold and italic and a new line:

HTML (like forums etc) would look like:
I wanted to say this is <b>important</b>, and this is <i>slightly emphasised</i><br/>

Markdown looks like:
I wanted to say this is **important**, and this is *slightly emphasised*

For one sentence it's not "too bad" but when you have a large post full of text, the Markdown is much easier to read, write, and edit.

You can also use shortcut keys, such as highlighting text and clicking CTRL i makes that text italic, CTRL b bold, etc.
The great thing there is it just wraps the text in the relevant markdown, such as * or **, so you can easily see and alter your formatting as if you'd manually entered them.

If you highlight some text, press CTL l, the link dialogue pops up, you can then click CTRL v to paste your previously copied link, and then click return key.
All the necessary functions are auto highlighted so you can do it without the mouse at all, and then are still on your keyboard to continue typing your post once the link is in place.
For user preference, you can also use the mouse buttons to do the same thing, or a combo of mouse and keyboard shortcuts - your choice :)

I find this all very logical and very intuitive, and once learned it's easy - it just isn't for you because you've never used it before ;)

The other formatting options are also kinda unintuitive, though with the editor, that's okay

So, are they ok.. or not?
Formatting options are always through the editor, so as you said "that's okay" surely then generally speaking, the formatting options are "okay"?

(it ain't there on the mobile version of the site, though).

Feel free to raise a if you see a possible improvement (searching to see if it's been asked first of course ;)).

Then somehow, when I was posting a comment, even with that double space method, it didn't format correctly (could be a bug).

No bug, comments are low class citizens around here, so options for comment formatting is kept to a minimum.

Here is a great answer by Robert Cartaino♦ which outlines the general opinion on how comments are used and why there's limited formatting.

We also have chat rooms on each site specific for that site with seasoned users in there. So you can chat at length and discuss things which might not be suitable in a question on the site itself.

Then, when I wanted to add something to my comment, it said that you can only edit it for 5 minutes after it was posted. The hell?!

Comments are designed to be quick and short "notes" to other users. Like "Can you confirm your XYZ data so I can help you" ... or "This answer is wrong because you haven't set ABC", etc.
You get 5 mins to quickly edit for any typos.

Once you have used the sites more, and are more familiar and comfortable with comments, you'll find that it's very rare you wish those 5 mins was longer.
Usually, within those 5 mins comment edit grace period, you've gone on to various other things and left that comment behind.

If after 3-4 weeks you still curse that 5 min window, you are doing it all wrong and using the comments in a way they are not intended.
Heck, delete your comment and write a new one if it's "that" important ;)


"This website is badly coded!"

If you know coding at all, and were familiar with the sites, then you would not say that.

The sites have a vast array of functionality (and I cannot emphasise that enough!).
There is so much going on with not only the basic questions, answers, and comments, but logging them all, allowing voting on them, edits, suggested edits, reviews, review queues, edits and comments and voting within review queues.
And a whole load more, and many of those things interacting with each other, one thing affecting another.

Such as "vote/flag to close" goes in a review queue, then other users review, their decision can make a question on hold, which means answers cannot be given, etc. Unless there is a bounty, or some other parameters at play, etc.
And that's just one single element among many.

There really is a great deal to the sites, and there is a lot to learn at first, so I suggest just taking a few days to get familiar with the basics, then some weeks and maybe months to understand perhaps 30% of the rest of it.

There are some seasoned users around here with massive time and commitment on the sites, who still learn something new about how they work (etc).

Don't come to something which is big, complex, and new to you such as Stack websites and believe you know all about it, as that's naive ;)

"Maybe they're making it a pain to use on purpose, so that only hard-working people will be willing to put up with it and they will get less lazy questions and answers."

How would a site difficult to use bring about less lazy questions and answers?
You just type your question or answer and click post, no complexities or difficulties at all!

"Either way, there is no excuse for a modern website to not be easy and fun to use!"

As outlined, the Stack sites have a great deal of functionality, and with vast functionality brings the requirement for vast amounts of scripts, code, complexities, database systems, etc, and a large task to manage it all.

The Stack sites, any website or system for that matter, simply cannot be both easy to use "from the start" and complex with a lot of functionality and options.
Once you have learned all the different things the sites have to offer, it is easy to use.
Your problem at the moment, as with nearly all new users, is you just don't know how to use it all :)

As for fun, this is where you come to get information, answers, help others with their questions, etc.
Why should this be fun? Forums can be fun, when people natter, and chat about how they did this and that, but how is that getting an answer to your question?

Would you be glad if your online banking was "fun"? Or do you just log in to do practical and non-fun things?
Of course, the latter.

So if you want fun, go to a forum, or youtube, or wherever and seek your fun. When you need an answer to a question, and you come here and receive a professional and well written answer, you will be glad that the fun is kept out and left to other sites ;)

Tbh, I hate writing such negative posts, but when I see something like this, I cannot hold back.

Look, I'll be blunt here, but I mean this in a friendly way, sincerely.
You have just joined. You know nothing about the sites, how they work - nadda!
Give it 3-4 weeks of using the sites, then come back with your gripes.
The sites are complex beasts, and at first there is a lot to learn even just to use the "basics". But, once learned you will see why they are like this.

That's not to say you won't disagree with some things, or suggest changes still, but at least do it when you understand why they're designed like they are.

All sites have roughly the same functionality, and considering there are millions of users across all the sites, they have to consider so many pros and cons for difference of opinion and different user needs, that scenario never works "perfectly for everyone".

That is simply impossible.
"You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time."

Just trying to post stuff on this site got me pissed off. What were the people coding this thinking...???

Now you are showing ignorance here. It's like jumping in a formula 1 car, and doing terrible around the race track (as you would do) and saying "this car is shi*t, who the hell designed this, what were they thinking...".

If you have no experience or knowledge of something, how can you possibly pass judgement?

There's a fair bit around the Stack sites which are "different" to other sites, especially forums as many users feel they will be "similar", but they are not. Does any of this "difference" make the Stack sites "bad" or "worse", or just simply require a "learning curve" and then potentially "better"?


Some further reading of things good for newcomers:

Why is Stack Overflow - and Stack Exchange in general - so scary?
Why do I need 50 reputation to comment? What can I do instead?

And two important links if you care to learn and get a lot back from the sites:
FAQ for Stack Exchange sites
https://meta.stackexchange.com/help

14
  • Hm, answering to this is really difficult without quoting. I'll try the code formatting then, hope it'll work... Computer systems do not read minds, so you have to somehow provide a symbol or identifier to pass through so the system knows what to do. So adding two spaces at the end of the line tells the system "I want to go to a new line". You know that just about every other website does this for you automatically, right? So it's irritating and confusing when you type as you normally do, but don't get the desired result.
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 20:51
  • So, are they ok.. or not? They are okay with the editor, but not without it. If there's no editor, there should at least be a link to the formatting page, so people can figure out what to do. You get 5 mins to quickly edit for any typos. I've never been good at "quickly" doing anything. I often get ideas about stuff to add or improve later on, so an editing limit is nothing but a pain to me. What use could such a time limit be? I can't come up with one. Hm, if I can delete and repost comments as you said, then it probably doesn't matter. But if that's the case, it's even more useless. ._."
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 21:04
  • The Stack sites, any website or system for that matter, simply cannot be both easy to use "from the start" and complex with a lot of functionality and options. Of course it can. At least, I don't see why "lots of features" and "easy to use" should be mutually exclusive. You don't have to use all of the features, after all. The core functionality is what should be simple, so you can get people to contribute and take interest in the site. Then they can go and learn the advanced features later. ^^
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 21:18
  • As for fun, this is where you come to get information, answers, help others with their questions, etc. Why should this be fun? I think that asking and answering questions is inherently fun, but the user experience on this website is making it unfun, as there are lots of pitfalls in even something as simple as typing and posting a piece of text. It's unnecessarily difficult, which makes me curse and swear and takes the fun right out of an otherwise perfectly fun activity!
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 21:29
  • Would you be glad if your online banking was "fun"? Or do you just log in to do practical and non-fun things? Of course, the latter. Haha, your example made me laugh. ^^ In fact, I sometimes log into my online banking when I'm bored, to check my transfers and balance and look at my money. xD You may not believe me, but I enjoy this activity. I wouldn't want to do it all day long, but for what it's worth, it's quite "fun". It could still be a little easier to use on the phone though. A website being easy to use certainly makes it more fun and it being frustrating to use makes it less so.
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 21:53
  • It's like jumping in a formula 1 car, and doing terrible around the race track (as you would do) and saying "this car is shi*t, who the hell designed this, what were they thinking...". I like the car example. To me, it's like driving a car where I cannot steer left and the gear labeled 'B' takes me forward instead of backwards. XD No matter what its specs are, why would I want to drive such a car? Of course I can get used to it, but you can't tell me this car is user-friendly.
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:07
  • If you have no experience or knowledge of something, how can you possibly pass judgement? It's because I am new that I notice these things that long-term users don't find problematic because they are used to them. It's also a bit weird to assume that any person who uses the website will stick around. Why would I want to learn the ins and outs of a website I only use once or twice? And why would I have to?
    – Dice
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:16
  • 1
    "I don't see why "lots of features" and "easy to use" should be mutually exclusive." I agree. As I stated, "once learned they are easy" but "at first" it's not because you do not know the functionality. So other than your problems with markdown from a lack of experience with it, are there any "logical" gripes or problems you find with the Stack's markdown?
    – James
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:34
  • 1
    "I think that asking and answering questions is inherently fun" I suppose it entirely depends on what you mean by fun. fun = "amusing; enjoyable; entertaining; pleasant". I don't even find it "amusing" or "entertaining" asking about a programming question on a forum where chortles and guffaws are welcome and often aplenty. If I'm in the middle of coding, and am stuck, I want someone to help and answer me, and not digress into various other things, like forums can. Not all forums, but most - as the way they are designed attracts this, whereas Stack and Q&A structure deviates away from it.
    – James
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:41
  • 1
    "lots of pitfalls in something as simple as typing and posting a piece of text. unnecessarily difficult" Again, I believe this is simply your lack of knowledge and experience here, and many, dare I say most, new users have the same problem. The Stack Tour pages even clearly state "We're a bit different to other sites". But it's the same with most things in life which require a learning curve.
    – James
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:46
  • 1
    "To me, it's like driving a car where I cannot steer left and the gear labeled 'B' takes me forward instead of backwards" Your analogy portrays that Stack has functionality issues, which it doesn't. I find no issues whatsoever working my way around the basics, and even the more complex parts of the site (reviewing etc). As do millions of other Stack users. Sure, there's possible improvement, but most likely only a personal preference and not because it could actually "work better".
    – James
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:50
  • 1
    "Of course I can get used to it, but you can't tell me this car is user-friendly" No, it is not. But that is an unfair comparison. My analogy of the race car is to show a lack of experience and knowledge in using something does not make that something broken. Your analogy is a broken something to begin with.
    – James
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:51
  • 1
    "It's because I am new that I notice these things that long-term users don't find problematic because they are used to them" No, it's because you're new you do not know how to use them :) There are some things regulars are "used to" and forget what it was like when new, but there are no real issues with the functionality here.
    – James
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:55
  • 1
    "It's also a bit weird to assume that any person who uses the website will stick around. Why would I want to learn the ins and outs of a website I only use once or twice? And why would I have to?" Then either Stack is not the place for you, or continue to be annoyed with the functionality, or, simply get used to the functionality. The markdown system hardly requires much time to learn, it's pretty simple. The basics - asking questions, answering, and commenting - are also intuitive and easy to learn. In fact, to be fair, you've proven that in this question alone ;)
    – James
    Jun 21, 2015 at 22:56

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