Should post date/times be moved to remove ambiguity between user join dates or activity?

(Chris Bridgett) #1

Continuing the discussion from Relative time something was posted:

I think we have a separate problem here. How are we going to distinguish any ambiguity arising from having that single post time beneath the user info?

As it stands, the post time does appear more associated with the user - it’s beneath the avatar and username, thus implying it’s more likely to do with the users activity or join date.

Should the time be moved somewhere into the actual post frame? Or some extra formatting added to clarify that it’s the post time?

People aren’t used to seeing relative date/time formats for join dates (‘traditional’ forum software), so it’s not so much a problem for recent posts, but when looking at posts from long enough ago that they’re formatted with the day and month, my (and I’m guessing many others are the same) initial thought is that it’s the join date.

Realistically, the date/time of posts isn’t absolutely integral for successful discourse - the order of posts is, so it doesn’t need to be displayed prominently. I’d probably suggest moving it into the header of a post (with ago :wink:) with similar style formatting (size and colour) as it has currently.

(Jeff Atwood) #2

Why do we need to? If there is one and only one time associated with a post, what time is the most logical? What’s the most essential and often included time element in a user and message combo?

If there were actually multiple times visible on a post, I could see this being an issue for sure. But there aren’t; there is only one time visible.

I would not be a fan of any approach that increases the height of the post, we already dedicate 30+px to the action / replies bar at the bottom.

(Jeff Atwood) #3

Also, I think some of this would be solved by “define your CSS the way you wish on your Discourse forum”.

If you want the date to be displayed elsewhere, that should be possible by editing the templates.

Just like nobody looks at a default WordPress instance and says “oh man I can’t have the date there”, they just grab a template that works, or edit a template to their taste.

(Chris Bridgett) #4

Sounds like a perfect place to put such data. No extra space needed.

(Jeff Atwood) #5

There’s no room – replies plus actions already takes the entire bar.

(Jeff Atwood) #6

I agree that

Some other experiments on positioning of timestamp:

Top and left seem to make the timestamp very prominent, I think too much so.

Timestamp next to reply count implies it relates to replies.

Timestamp next to the action buttons similarly implies the time somehow relates to the actions.

Of those, I think bottom right has the most promise, but that would be suppressing the time of the post quite substantially. Times aren’t urgent but they are not irrelevant either… knowing that the last reply was 30 days ago is significant to the topic.

(Chris Bridgett) #7

I appreciate the brief test of location rather than plain dismissal.

Does anyone else have any other ideas?

(Jeff Atwood) #8

I definitely agree with your central premise that the timestamp isn’t that important, which is also why the specifics of how the date is formatted ultimately just doesn’t matter that much.

Post time should say "1 hour ago", not "1 hour"
(Joseph Thomson) #9

I feel that the time stamp should be at the top of the post, because otherwise it is too far separated from the other bit of metadata – the author’s name. In addition, people start reading posts at the top, and they are likely to want to know the date of the post before they start reading. This would be particularly inconvenient with longer posts, which may even require scrolling to get to the bottom.

Putting it in the action/replies bar seems tempting (ignoring the fact that it’s at the bottom), but the bar is faded until you mouse-over the post, which would further reduce its visibility, only allow one time stamp to be (clearly) displayed at a time, and require user interaction to do so.

You didn’t try it in the top-right hand corner. This mock up moves the body of the message down by 7 pixels, but then wouldn’t that be required in all the other positions too? I’m not sure if the “edited” icon would belong there, but I put it in for good measure.

One thing I like about the top-right is that it matches the traditional format of a letter, which puts the date in the top-right corner.

(Jeff Atwood) #10

Very good idea. I avoided that corner because I felt it already “had something there” in the bookmark / read indicator, but your mockup is promising.

My only hesitation is that it does fight with the body content a little bit, in that it is technically the first “line” of text in the post.

(Sam Saffron) #11

I still see absolutely no point of having that bookmark widget in the top right corner.

To me it is way more annoying than ago, ago, ago.

(Jeff Atwood) #12

That indicator on the right is read state – without a reliable read state indicator you’d have no idea which posts Discourse ‘thought’ you had read. Reliable indication and storage of read state, and always, always returning you to your last read position, is fundamental to the reading experience and thus Discourse.

(You can also click it to bookmark a post, along with the bookmark action button.)

It also gives you a visible sense of progress, watching the posts get marked read as you scroll down, like pouring water into a glass. Which is half full because you read all that stuff, right?

(Sam Saffron) #13

To me it is visual clutter, I don’t care what Discourse thinks, I care about what I read, Discourse should know the same thing as I do. Progress can be communicated in the post progress scroll widget that shows post numbers.

I very rarely use the bookmark function… when I do I never even return to the bookmarked posts.

(Jeff Atwood) #14

But if we don’t show read state on posts, you can only guess what Discourse knows about what you read, instead of seeing it. That’s a huge communication breakdown.

I agree the bookmark function is just a “nice to have”, but the key element here is visually indicating what is read, and the warm fuzzy feeling of progress in reading. Which is fundamental. This topic is not half-unread, it is half-read!

(Sam Saffron) #15

I just think a smart overlay here would do a better job and feels more natural.

(Jeff Atwood) #16

The read indicator has to be on the post itself. Each post has a read state, it can be read or unread. What you show in your picture above is a navigational element for the entire page, not a part of each post.

It is entirely possible to read the bottom of a topic and not the top, leaving top posts unread. (or vice-versa) The bigger the topic the more often this will happen. So showing a progress indicator doesn’t cover that in the slightest, that’s just your current position in the topic, not an indication of complete read state.

(Joseph Thomson) #17

Yeah, I have that concern as well. I did fade the text, but perhaps lowering the contrast would help it not stick out so much. Also, the “edited” definitely draws too much attention. Perhaps it would be better somehow placed in the actions/replies bar, since it probably isn’t sufficiently important for the reader to know if a post was edited (especially since I’d imagine the majority of posts are edited immediately after they are made – correct me if I’m wrong).

Lower contrast version (perhaps too low now):

(Sam Saffron) #18

Let’s have a look at what other sites do:

Facebook (bottom right):

ago was erased as not to offend Jeff

Twitter (top right):

Google plus: (to the right of avatar)

Amazon: (right of title)

New York Times: (bottom)

The Verge: (bottom)

Ars Technica

One thing I notice consistently is that the date is dimmer than the hard grey we are using, none of the sites I saw have the date of the post directly below the gravatar.

I prefer the facebook pattern but its a major change, shift the controls from bottom right to bottom left and then place the time either in the bottom right or directly after the controls.

Having the time on the bottom left looks wrong to me, on the top right it feels cramped. I wonder what @awesomerobot thinks about all of this.

(Chris Bridgett) #19


(Joseph Thomson) #20

Have you considered my point about the bottom of the post being inconveninent for long messages? In general, the examples you chose seem to be for short comments, rather than full-blown discussion forum posts, which means it’s easy to take in all the information with minimal eye/mouse movement.

But I agree with you that a dimmed grey would be preferable.