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Quora has been gaining momentum. They actually have decent traffic for user experience topics. The UI is eerily similar to Stack Exchange's, but not exactly the same. No reputation points that I can see, for example.

What UX elements will give Quora an advantage or disadvantage as they compete for our eyeballs and loyalty? What are the key UX aspects?

There is no research obviously on this subject, so the answer must come from experience, intuition and insight.

Helpful reading:

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I go to quora, and the first thing it asks me is the login or register. I don't even know exacly what I'm registering for... IMO that's a very poor design decision. –  ammoQ Dec 29 '10 at 15:21
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My first introduction to Quora was receiving 'hey, we're going to spam your friends' emails from friends. I finally caved in and logged in and decided it was just poor clone of StackOverflow –  DA01 Jan 13 '11 at 20:55
    
@DA01 No matter the opinion on Quora's quality, it's pretty false to claim it as "just a StackOverflow clone". It clearly has significant differences. –  Ilari Kajaste Jan 18 '11 at 9:03
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My opinion isn't false. It's my opinion. –  DA01 Jan 18 '11 at 14:00

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The biggest thing is going to have to be the people on each site, and in each community. Stack Exchange would be wildly different if there were a totally different type of community in place, despite all the infrastructure the site creators offer. In terms of user interface, though:

Something I find profoundly unpleasant, although probably not what you're looking for. If I'm not logged in, Quora's homepage tells me one short sentence about what it is, and then tells me to make an account or log in. It doesn't give me any sort of preview or hint at how the system works, or anything. StackExchange.com, if you're not logged in, kind of gives you a list of topics you can check out.

Furthermore, Quora seems to focus on just the two colors: blue and grey. Stack Exchange has blue, grey, hits of orange, and other colors that pop up and do exciting stuff when you mouse over this or when there's something to notify you of.

Quora's interface seems very clean, polished, and calculated. Stack Exchange has some of that, but it offers a little more... Character, in part with the color I described above, and in part with things like the sketched-on up and down vote buttons, and stuff like that.

Stack Exchange puts a lot more stuff around each post. User information is a whole badge thing, and the vote score is much larger. There's a whole lot going on around the first post (the one that starts the topic) in Stack Exchange. Furthermore, it seems that in Quora, the original poster is not expected to elaborate on the question at all, if he doesn't feel like it -- I don't think I like that, but whatever. Finally, Stack Exchange allows comments on posts -- but only that one extra level. I find the comments to be handy, but there's a degree to which they restrict you -- they cause each "answer" post to carry much more significance, and you can't really just contribute to a conversation very easily, unless in reference to one particular post. Stack Exchange, in this way, is not about conversation as much as it is about finding the answer -- relative to Quora, that is. In this vein, I'd point out that Stack Exchange allows you to pick an answer as the one that answers the question (a la Yahoo Answers), whereas Quora does not seem to be interested in closing a question thusly.

They're both very nicely designed web interfaces, and they both use a lot of similar design elements. I prefer Stack Exchange, but maybe because I'm used to it. Oh well.

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Nice analysis. :) –  Glen Lipka Jan 3 '11 at 4:42

From a pure usability standpoint, I dislike Quora forcing text into a very narrow column.

Also just from reading down the list of main topics, the whole site seems very differently focused, Quora seems to have much more abstract questions that are mostly pure discussion, while this site seems much more practically focused.

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They seem interestingly different to me.

Quora seems to have a lot of focus around building communities out of the membership. Witness the following of individuals and the way that groups of users build around topics over time.

Stackexchange really only has communities built around it at the site level, and the building over time is all around individual efforts (reputation number + badges).

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Differences: Quora is one unified site. vs. SO/SE "siloed" topic focused sites (obviously).

Quora merges "following" the questions and topics interesting to people you know with self-selecting subject matter of interest.

I think the Quora system leads to more discovery of new topics and knowledge--especially around the cares of your connections.

However, when you seek to learn or share about something specific, this can be distracting.

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