Saturday, November 17, 2007

Helping dzone: a usability problem ?

If you're a developer and like to keep up-to-date with the trends in IT, and maybe learn a useful extra, you probably also read Community based, users post links that must get 4 votes to be promoted to the first page. The natural consequence is that the quality of the links depends solely on the number of active, voting users (since the "providers" and the "consumers" are the same group in this model).

Recently I noticed the announcement posted above the links list:

Well, I'm not a usability expert, but I think there is an elementary problem with the design of the dzone site that keeps users from voting. At least, it's keeping me from voting for links, new or front page.

I'm a mass surfer (and prolly most dzone readers are too). I use the middle mouse button to open tabs in the background (Firefox), and when I finish with one page, I close it and move to the next.

With dzone, this led to a problem. Once, I middle click on all the links that seem interesting from the main page, I get a bunch of opened tab that don't give me any additional information (except from the comments, maybe). So I use the middle mouse button again to open the links to the original pages, to see what they're really about. And I get something like this (but usually with more tabs :D):

So, in order to get to vote, I have to keep all the dzone tabs opened (or at least the links list), read through all the original pages, and then come back to the dzone site and actually rate the sites from what I remember. Or, keep on switching from each site to dzone to cast my vote. And that just ain't my style :)

I'm sure there are solutions. One I can think about right away would be to open the full original pages in a iframe and keep the dzone summary with the vote-up and vote-down buttons in a top iframe, similar to the way google opens images in the image search. Even better, mess with the original page a little and add the vote-up, vote-down button fixed in the upper right corner (this would be really cool, since when you go to the close tab button - if you use it - it is very easy for you to cast your vote).

There might be better ways to solve this. But if I'd have an option to cast my vote in the same place where the content that is producing it is located, I wouldn't miss rating one link.


Anonymous said...

I 100% agree with you!

I use dzone daily and I cannot STAND the fact that i have to click twice for no reason! Take me to the freaking site already!

Another one that pisses me off and makes me simply not use the feature is voting. If you aren't going to remember my login and pass, i wont vote. I dont want to type that crap in every day.

nikhil said...

Actually if you (middle)click on the thumbnail it will go directly to the link and not the intermediate dzone page.

Edd said...

While it is definitely worthy of a multi-daily visit from me, DZone is one of the least usable sites I have ever come across; breaking so many fundamental rules from the get-go. It makes you wonder how much of an impact it would make on the developer scene if it just went through a redesign.

satov said...

@nikhil: you're right, I realized this while I was writing the post, but the main problem that remains is the impossibility to "cast my vote in the same place where the content that is producing it is located"

yalestar said...

I'm glad someone brought this up! DZone is my most-visited site by far, but there is something about it that makes voting for links kind of an afterthought. As other posters have noted, that intermediate page is a dumb idea, but you can circumvent it with this Greasemonkey script: ( Still, those hover-screenshot things are really irritating.

I sure hope they consider reworking the site; it's otherwise very useful.

Ayodeji said...

maybe a little ajax in the entire process will go a long way. I am one of those web users that hate having to move thru multiple pages to get simple things done. Essentially, a typical user is on Dzone to read articles and not to VOTE which means in usability perspective, voting should be less a burden than reading your desired article.

If dzone can adopt this, i believe it will get more voters.

my 2 cents

Tech Per said...

Yes, I have felt this problem myself. As a blogger, you can do somehing yourself. You can include the dzone vote button ( on each post.

I recently did this on my blog, which makes it possible for readers to vote directly on the blog post itself.

I am not keen on the idea of dzone including blog content in an iframe or messing with the blog content to put something in it.

LudoA said...

Top three annoying dzone things:

1) Automatically logged out after an hour or so (yes, with persistent cookies & "remember me", on many different OS's & different browsers & different accounts)

2) There's no "bar" at the top of the linked page which allows me to up & down vote + go back to comments, like reddit does.

3) Voting is slow. It's immediate on reddit, which is great. Dzone is even slower than digg's voting.

Sergiu Tauciuc said...

..I don't use this website my self, so let's say I'm a bit of an outsider when it comes to using it. Anyway:
1. I do agree that one should be able to rate content after reading it, rather than before. From this perspective, the dzone vote button included just after the end of the article seems like the ideal type of solution to me. Ofcourse, the problem with that is consistency and required effort: how can you make all bloggers use it and how difficult is it for them to include the button in each post? (I remember it was very tedious to use that kind of thing with blogoree, so I finally gave up).
A Firefox plugin that includes voting capabilities where needed could also be a solution (provided it can be done), but then you need an IE plugin for consistency..and how do you make that? :)
IFrame also seems like a good idea, although accesibility and possibly other issues must be considered.
2. You have to consider you are not the only user of the website (although you may be the main type :), I don't know ), and the way you use it is not the way everyone uses it. If you consider just one tab and using the 'Back' button, the voting feature is available just as you are ready to view the next location (in the main page), which is exactly after you have finished visiting the previous one - and this follows the right model.
3. One usability problem I suspect is that it's not clear enough which is the link to the summary page and which is the link to the actual content. The image of the content maps correctly as a link to the content itself. But why should the title map to anything else?
This needs some user testing, I think...
4.anonymous: good point about the login and pass. Haven't tested myself, but it seems like a reasonable expectation.
What's more, the use of Javascript for the login screen when trying to vote breaks the 'Back' button functionality. A Cancel button *is* made available, but still...the 'No, take me the hell out of here' button is the 'Back' browser button, not some Cancel button somewhere in the page.
5. ayodeji said:"Essentially, a typical user is on Dzone to read articles and not to VOTE which means in usability perspective, voting should be less a burden than reading your desired article."
I disagree. In general the typical user's needs should be served first, and the not so typical user's needs should be served second. Same goes for tasks: common tasks, performed more often, should be the least of a burden, while not so common tasks can be a bit more difficult, provided that the rewards pays off. For our case: if we were to say the most important task is reading, then that should be served first. Ofcourse, I don't know what the designer's judgment was here. It would seem that voting is also pretty important, so it should be treated accordingly.
6. Iudoa: I tried reddit, I couldn't find any voting functionality. Maybe I got to the wrong website?
7. Very nice discussion. Thanks Mihai for pointing it out :)

Sergiu Tauciuc said...

Oh, and another usability problem, this time on my part:
My comment is huge. I could have broken it in smaller comments - it would have been much more readable :D

satov said...

"Oh, and another usability problem, this time on my part:
My comment is huge."

True .. I didn't even got to read it all :P

Thx for dropping by.

Anonymous said...

Adding OpenID support to DZone would help a lot.

Vamsi said...

Most annoying to me is the ajax pagination. I wish they fix it.

Java Interview question said...

Another issue is slowness.