New users seem to take a while to discover the Recent Activity page: How can I view recent answers and comments about my questions / answers?

I think this might be in part because the current envelope icon [that was in 2009, it's now (2017) an in-tray icon] doesn't map well to the concept of activity or notifications. What would be a better icon, or how could that page be made more discoverable by new users?

5 Answers 5


I agree that the icon could perhaps be more.. discoverable, but do remember we have two forms of notification.

  1. the envelope
  2. the topbar

both are in play at all times, so you should get directed to that page with some regularity, via both methods. That is, assuming people are actually responding to you.


Maybe if it were more verbose. Most forums (and yes, I'm aware SO is not a forum) have a private message notification in the form of "No new messages" when there's nothing and "n new messages" when there is something new.

If the icon were replaced with a message along those lines it would be more clear what it's for. Especially if it informed you more about what specifically has changed.

"One new answer to your questions", "One new comment on your post", "Two edits to your question", etc.

Or possibly something more terse: "Answers: 1 | Comments: 1 | Edits: 2"

There should be lots of room in the header section for simple messages like that. As long as the issue with it misfiring is solved, this would be useful and clear, I think.

  • Good point - we don't want to be too cutesy and personal; let's just keep the facts plain and simple ;) That aside, I agree - words are better than icons if the icons don't have a common meaning. Jul 9, 2009 at 18:32

What about something like the iPhone style notifications:


(bad quality concept)


Interesting but almost completely unworkable idea:

Use the Stackoverflow logo as a basis with the inbox and with every piece of new activity it adds another block to the stack. You could then get a quick view of how much junk you have to look at that is new.

  • That could work - the colours of the blocks could change, too, if they wanted to keep the logo consistent... Jul 9, 2009 at 18:30
  • 3
    I just hope people keep checking it, so that we don't end up with a stack overflow. :) Jul 9, 2009 at 21:06

On my notebook's screen the icon is almost invisible - I just didn't notice it until someone pointed me to it, even though I was looking for this functionality. It definitely should be darker.

But I suggest to leave this only as an additional shortcut to the recent activity area. There should be a textual link or a tab in the user profile.

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