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On the project I'm working on (Q&A platform), we're trying to get users to spend more time on their answers. We want to encourage longer form helpful replies, rather then spur of the moment short replies. I've seen a lot of examples of how UI can drive shorter input, for example...

  • Twitter clients have a small overlay box pop-up when composing a tweet. I feel this encourages the user to tweet more often as they're still in the app and the UI is micro so funnels the user to create short, snappy (mostly inane) tweets. Obviously the character limit is a physical barrier when actually composing, but the UI is very much focused on short, rapid content.

  • After the launch of gmails new compose view a few weeks ago I feel my emails have become much shorter and I tend to send more. This simple change from composing an email in a new page to composing one in the same window seems to have had a significant change in my behaviour. I also feel the editing options being stripped away from the UI now creates less friction in sending email. I'm unsure if this is a negative or not yet.

...but not many examples of the opposite. The ultimate long form content creation seems to be pen and paper; a whole A4 page to use and each word took time to curate.

Is there any research surrounding this subject and how can you encourage longer, more thoughtful replies?

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2 Answers 2

To make users apply themselves you need to form some sort of enticement. Make the users feel like it's worth the while to be more thorough in their posts.

Stack Exchange does this by introducing gamification in their Q&A service. Users are generally enticed to provide good informative feedback because it increases the chance of raising their reputation, something that they value.

Twitter, as you mentioned, form enticement in their users by providing feedback on how "popular" a user is, by displaying to everyone how many followers a user has. People, usually, want other people to listen to what they have to say. Having a big twitter following means that more people will listen to what you have to say. The formula for getting a big twitter following (I'm talking about the average Joe here and not about Lady Gaga etc..) is to be witty/funny/philosophical in your tweets in a way that appeals to people. And thereby you can raise the bar on tweet quality over all. This can be compared to the average quality of what is usually written in public bathroom stalls, although I do admit that these "posts" sometimes can be very amusing.

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As your examples show, quick-reply boxes for either email and twitter can shorten the amount of content.

So I could go the other way around. Have it in a separated window/page, show a preview of the typed text, include formatting options (markdown), and perhaps have a last step where the user press the Send button and is redirected to a Review page.

If the user is supposed to work on this form in multiple sittings, make it feel like it's a document in Word, have a tab to access all it's ongoing posts, save/leave prompt when exiting the page.

Perhaps some wording may be good, like Compose an Answer, instead of Reply. Anything that nudges the user into thinking 'I should put more effort in this".

Instead of Like or +1 have some "This post is well-written" button (when more people click it show like: 10 people find this post to be well-written

If you can have peer-review of content.

StackExchange does all this so nicely.

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