Home » Why are vote buttons on Stack Exchange shown when they can’t be used?

Why are vote buttons on Stack Exchange shown when they can’t be used?

Solutons:


Have you ever spend 30 minutes searching for a user interface element or menu item that you knew must certainly be there, only to eventually learn that it had disappeared completely because you were in some state where it couldn’t be used?

Imagine that you don’t know that you can’t vote for your own post, and you have decided to upvote your own post. Or imagine that you recently learned about upvoting, and you have decided to upvote all the good posts about pie that you see to help promote their visibility, and now you are looking at a post about pie which you wrote but which you forgot you wrote. In any case, you’re looking for the UP button.

You might spend an inordinate amount of time looking for the upvote/downvote button; you might even go so far as to waste someone else’s time by asking a technical support person (or posting in meta) saying “Where is the upvote button?”

It is in my opinion a good heuristic not to make things disappear completely simply because the current state of the world is such that that thing cannot be used right now. It is usually better to leave the button there, possibly in a visually different state, and allow the user to try to click it and then have an opportunity to teach them why it can’t be used.

I had answered this question before but unfortunately the person who asked the question got banned for some reason 🙂

The reason is twofold:

  • For design consistency: The placement of the two voting options is there for every question and answer and the design is maintained even for the questionsanswers which you have written to ensure there is design consistency so that users are not confused by its sudden disappearance. You also need to note that you can favorite your own question and if the voting buttons were hidden suddenly, the user who would have used the voting buttons as the relational positioning to to find the favorite option might be confused. Here is an example of me favoriting my own question:

enter image description here

  • To inform users about the number of up-votes a questionanswer has got : While the system doesn’t allow you to vote up your own question or answer, the presence of the voting buttons keeps you informed about how your question is faring and the number of up-votes you have got (and in some cases how many down-votes you have got too).

enter image description here

Now the question that arises is if it won’t irk the user to find out he cannot up-vote or down-vote his questionanswer. I think what Stack Exchange here is relying on is the concept of accidental discovery so that users discover the functionality by accident.

I believe another reason accidental discovery also works is because it saves the design effort of making a specific set of buttons or indicators for the self questions and answers of the user. Even if Stack Exchange did find a suitable alternative, you will need find a way to communicating why the voting indicators look different for the questionanswer the person has posted – which would lead to more confusion)

I don’t have a study for this, but in my script of HCI (Einführung in die Mensch Computer Interaktion, Universität Hagen/Introduction to Human-Computer-Interaction University of Hagen) I read, that the brain can memorize the place of static interface elements better than dynamic ones.

If the buttons are always there and don’t change much (like the content does) it will result in less cognitive demand, over time, to look at the interface.

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