Activity column reworked: more visual, more configurable, more info, reads easier, takes less space

(Anton) #1

Just got an idea and would like to discuss it as I feel many people may like it.

The idea is to:

  1. Add Age column to the right where only one date will be displayed, e.g. 1d, 2m, 1y
    This can be either last post date or first post date.

  2. Place Activity column right after the topic name column,
    and use a headmap image like this instead of likes number or posts number:

  3. I think 3 lines is enough as it gives 4 states ans is very easy to distinguish by eyes.
    3.1. The image with all 3 lines on can also highligh a bit, making highest possible activity even more recognizable by eyes.

  4. Display information from the old 2 columns on mouse over the image, e.g:
    First post: ...., Last post: ...

Many advantages

  • it becomes customizable as admins could upload their own images for all 4 states; for example, someone could use speedometer, e.g:
    as the lowest activity and as the highest
    Or dots, e.g:
    (icons taken from

  • We can preload a few popular sets of activity images and let admins choose.

  • We can still have an option in admin panel to keep the old Activity column with 2 sub-columns.

  • Less space is taken

  • Information is easier to read. The same as with watch, there is evidence that electronic ones are harder to read than the standard ones with arrows, that’s why watches for pilots must have arrows, not numbers.

  • Opportunity to combine this image with the New Indicator. In such a case there will be 4 states x 2 states (new/not new) = 8 images, and we get rid of the problem outlined in New vs. Asterisk as new indicators: Fight!. What is more, the new indicator becomes configurable as well. E.g. some people would add a “new” text in these activity icons, while the others will add an asterisk, and someone will just change the color of the activity icons.

  • If combined with new indicator, put the column just between Topic and Category columns. Btw, the new indicator fits well into the Activity column heading.

  • P.S. If needed, we can still have textual (but optional) “Created” column at the end of the columns list.


  • Difficult to get the textual component of activity on mobile phones, i.e.
    First post: ...., Last post: ...

Why this?

Personally, I find the Activity column useless as it is now. I have never read it and it has never affected my decision about what to read and in what order. I suspect many people are of the same opinion.

Activity first/last post isn't intuitive - it made me think
Does anyone actually like the "Likes" column?
Should views column be removed?
Does anyone actually like the "Likes" column?
(Jeff Atwood) #2

So you would have no idea how old the topic was? Could have been posted 10 years ago, could have been posted yesterday?

(Anton) #3

I guess it could be rare enough when I want to know the topic age because we use the home page, New, Unread and Top; and when we search, an old (but popular) topic at the top of the results list can well be the answer to my question and never become out of date (e.g. like on my goat farmers forum - how to freeze milk will be always actual).

Yet when we want to know the age, we can mouse over the image and see its age.
If it’s still not enough, we can add an “Age” column at the very end of the table - opposed to the proposed Activity column positioned between the Title and Category columns (and with the option to turn it off in the admin panel, which I’d do for my forum).

(Bill Ayakatubby) #4

I appreciate the effort you went to, but I disagree with the proposal. I feel like it creates ambiguity and removes useful information. Not to mention that there’s no such thing as mouse-over on mobile.

(Anton) #5

One of the key ideas I’m based on is that it rarely matters when the topic was created - well, this is just in my opinion - I really never look at those 2 columns as they are now.

Still, for such a case I proposed to put an “Age” column at the end of the list, opposed to the Activity coming right after the topic title.

(cpradio) #6

I almost always look at the age and the last activity date. It helps me know if a topic is still being engaged or if it stalled/completed.

I can usually spot if a topic was resurrected too by a newer member. Switching it to an icon is a big step back for me. For one, that is a lot of additional images being loaded for little benefit, and two, it requires up front training to tell people what it means (it isn’t obvious that it reflects activity).

(Anton) #7

Even when under the ‘Activity’ column header?

(cpradio) #8

Yes. Because I’d just be confused. It says activity, but I see a graph or a speedometer? What does that mean…

(Anton) #9

Well, a speedometer clearly shows where is less and where is more, doesn’t it?
UPD. I mean, it’s easier and faster to realize information visually than analyticially by interpreting ‘7d’ vs ‘7m’

(cpradio) #10

When I see a speedometer, I think, “this must be a hot topic (lots of replies/likes)”, I don’t think, “this was recently posted in”.

Maybe that is just me…

(Anton) #11

Aha, now I see what you mean.

The speedometer’s purpose was to replace the Activity column, so that it shows this must be a hot topic (lots of replies/likes). I.e., the idea was to replace first post and last post text. Is not this almost the same? I.e., if people post more often and there are more likes, it’s more hot and moves to the top of the list depending on activity.

This does not cancel Likes column, nor it is supposed to cancel the new indicator. Just trying to make Activity more visual cause it’s harder for cognitive perception to feel the difference between what’s hot and what’s not if you only see 7d, 7m, 5d, 17d and so on. In other words, you have to analyize words, but you don’t have to if you see an image. Makes sense?

P.S. Did you see that comment about watch and pilots?

(cpradio) #12

That makes more sense, but I’d rather it replace the likes/replies counters with it. As that is what it represents. Personally, I still wouldn’t want this change, but it looks interesting.

I personally use the activity data a lot. I also think /top attempts to do what you are seeking.

No, can you point me to it?

(Anton) #13

It is in the very first post:

(cpradio) #14

Ah, okay, so I did read it, just didn’t remember reading it :smile:

(Anton) #15

2 more examples of people wanting to use heat icons instead of numbers:

(probus) #16

I don’t really understand this suggestion or the reasoning behind it. If you really feel passionate about this like you seem to be, you need to come up with better mockups, explanations or user data.

It’s easy to read time from an analog watch, but I don’t have a clue about how to read your proposal. It’s impossible to read dates from a speedometer, right?

(Anton) #17

Here is a quick mockup, hope it will make the idea a bit clearer:

(Kane York) #18

…Noo… no.

That looks like the HOT TOPIC! icons animated gifs from old forums, that tell you nothing other than the fact that the topic has more than 1 page.

(Anton) #19

Could you please explain what you mean?

In the Activity column above there are 4 grades - which is actually a heatmap. How is it related to the old forums? I’m a bit confused.