I ran into a small usability problem with the StackExchange link on the left side of the header bar. I liked that I could quickly see responses from various SE sites. But it wasn't immediately obvious how to close it. There was no "X" in the upper-right corner and simply clicking on an open space in the window didn't make it go away. I'll be honest, the lower-right corner was the last place I would expect to see a close link. Is this a new trend in web UI that I'm not used to yet?

I'm asking primarily to spark discussion of how it can be improved. If I was confused (and I'm a regular SE user), I'll bet others would be too.

Here is what I (jjnguy) see.

Where Do I click?

  • 29
    I was getting ready to post this same thing but a conference call got in the way. For the record, the proper name is the StackExchange™ MultiCollider SuperDropdown™ – Rebecca Chernoff Sep 27 '10 at 18:53
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    @rchern We need to go on an editing spree and add that to every meta post that mentions it – Michael Mrozek Sep 27 '10 at 18:54
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    Clicking outside to close it is what I keep trying to do, but I know people don't like that. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/32548/… – Rebecca Chernoff Sep 27 '10 at 18:55
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    I hated not having the X in the corner also. – Lance Roberts Sep 27 '10 at 18:55
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    Me three - I used to reload the page to make it go away, it was only here that others have pointed out to me the "close" button in right bottom corner. Definitely didn't notice it there. – Piskvor left the building Sep 27 '10 at 18:57
  • @Michael, I don't have edit privs here. – Rebecca Chernoff Sep 27 '10 at 19:09
  • @Michael, nobody will search for "MultiCollider SuperDropdown" if they don't know the name. That's why I haven't yet edited the title of this question. – Michael Kristofik Sep 27 '10 at 19:22
  • @rchern Done :) – badp Sep 27 '10 at 19:23
  • @Kriso Yeah, I was joking :) – Michael Mrozek Sep 27 '10 at 19:32
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    I wish I could upvote this again given the title change. – Rebecca Chernoff Sep 27 '10 at 19:44
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    <antique_joke> MultiCollider? But I just met her. </antique_joke> – gnostradamus Sep 27 '10 at 19:46
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    header thingy should really be removed from the title though... ;) – Rebecca Chernoff Sep 27 '10 at 19:48
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    Related, or duplicate if this turns into a feature request: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/65669/… – Jon Seigel Sep 27 '10 at 22:06
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    @TheLQ It won't get closed. Trust me. :-) There's at least one precedent and it got 6 up votes. The SO platform often comes up in answers as well. – Patrick McElhaney Sep 28 '10 at 21:09
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    +1 - My wife says you are correct, the close button shouldn't be on the bottom, and a second click on the "Stack Exchange" title should close the popup, not go to another site. – Kobi Oct 19 '10 at 19:38

As well as moving the close button, a click outside of the box should close the window as well. This is to be inline with most other sites (and certain parts of SO) that close popups by just clicking out of the window.

  • Yes, please - I don't know why, but I try clicking outside the box every single time I open it up. I never notice the tiny "close" link, so I guess I try and treat it like one of those lightbox picture popups. – Jared Harley Sep 29 '10 at 9:09
  • Actually, clicking on the page behind seems to work on most of the SE sites... in fact, the only page I can consistently get it to NOT work on is MSO – Jared Harley Sep 30 '10 at 2:53
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    And now it's working on all of the sites. Maybe it's just me. – Jared Harley Sep 30 '10 at 6:17

How about making it a little bit bigger?

alt text

140px should be enough for any one.

A little more seriously though, moving it to the top seems to me like a worse option, since the space up there is incredibly tight. Instead, may I suggest making the entire bottom area (which current doesn't contain anything anyway) the target area for the close link, as well as giving it a different shade of gray to easily distinguish the close link.

alt text

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    +1 because every user can immediately implement this solution himself simply by using this cream. – ЯegDwight Sep 29 '10 at 10:19
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    excellent idea.. for a two letter first name person, anyway :) – Jeff Atwood Oct 19 '10 at 19:10
  • You can click anywhere in the footer to close the widget now (after tonight's push). – Jarrod Dixon Oct 19 '10 at 23:32
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    @Jeff If you make that joke one more time I'll come over to your house and smash your head open with a giant "Yi" – Yi Jiang Oct 20 '10 at 2:35
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    violence is never the answer. but sometimes an additional letter is. – Jeff Atwood Oct 20 '10 at 14:27

My instinct tells me that when I click again in the same place where I clicked to open it, then it should be closed. Taking me to stackexchange.com page really annoys me.

So I sugest moving stackexchange.com link to the bottom, and make top bar a "close link".

alt text

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    This is the one and only correct answer. If you make it look like a pull-down menu, make it behave like one too. The text "click again to close" isn't even necessary: simply changing the downward arrow to an upward one would work just as well. – Thomas Jan 14 '11 at 14:19
  • Dammit - i want to click the questions in that screenshot – russau Dec 5 '13 at 17:25

Actually, the quickest way is to press esc.

But I happen to agree that it isn't hugely obvious at the moment (via either route).

  • 5
    Keyboard shortcut! YES!!! – Rebecca Chernoff Sep 27 '10 at 18:59
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    Oh, I guess that's rather obvious. I can't get in the habit of trying standard desktop keybindings on web apps – Michael Mrozek Sep 27 '10 at 19:06

I think the problem is that it's straying away from the time-tested control it evolved from. People know how to use drop-down/combo-boxes... they've been using them for years. Don't try to invent a brand new control.

How about making it behave more like a real drop-down box, where whatever pops up out of it doesn't obstruct the original control you clicked on. This way you don't need "close this" type links (which aren't very appealing), and the user will automatically know that they can click the drop-down box again to close the list.


Huh. My first impulse was to just click the Stack Exchange logo again, and it worked.

Well, okay, it was only my first impulse because I'd already read this question. But it would have been my second impulse anyway.

EDIT: Proof in pictures:

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    The StackExchange link (with the dropdown open) takes me to stackexchange.com. Do you have an updated UI as a moderator? – Michael Kristofik Sep 27 '10 at 19:35
  • I mean the one that you clicked on to open the dropdown, not the "Stack Exchange is a network..." bit. Does that not work for you? – mmyers Sep 27 '10 at 19:37
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    Knowing that you run IE7, I think this might be browser specific - I used to do this when the dropdown first came out. But at least nowadays when I click it, the dropdown actually obscures the logo, so you can no longer click on it. – Grace Note Sep 27 '10 at 19:39
  • Come to think of it, it seems to me that the dropdown used to appear below the logo, whereas now it's to the side. – mmyers Sep 27 '10 at 19:41
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    @mmyers, with Firefox 3.6.8 I click the little down arrow to bring up the box. The arrow isn't visible after the window is open. Ironically, I was going to make a joke about not including a picture with freehand circles but now it seems I may need one. – Michael Kristofik Sep 27 '10 at 19:41
  • The thing you click to open the dropdown turns into the "Stack Exchange is a network..." With 'Stack Excange' being a link to stackexchange.com. – jjnguy Sep 27 '10 at 19:42
  • OK, pictures added. @Kristo – mmyers Sep 27 '10 at 20:02
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    Woah, that's not what I see. – jjnguy Sep 27 '10 at 20:10
  • Yeah, this looks to be browser specific. In my native IE8, and when running on FF at home, the dropdown will obscure the logo. But if I switch to compatibility mode, it will appear to the side just as you depict in your images. – Grace Note Sep 27 '10 at 20:12
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    @mmy, see the edited question to see what we see. – jjnguy Sep 27 '10 at 20:17

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