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I am about to redesign an app w/ internal messaging (ala Facebook) and just curious to get some input from the UI community on the concept of 'Preview Panes'.

It seems that the majority of the super-popular web applications elect NOT to use a preview pane. LinkedIn and Facebook don't have it. Gmail I believe has it but defaults the user to a non-preview-pane view. Twitter seems to have headed back towards a preview pane with the implementation of New Twitter.

Has anyone run accross any articles/papers/research about this topic. I would be curious to see why some of these decisions are being made from a UX/UI point of few.

I would also love to hear any opinion you all have.

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FWIW, I really like preview panes, for two reasons:

  • With the current state of the web, it's surprising how often what you get isn't quite really what you expected. One day, perhaps we will have true, honest to goodness WYSIWUG within web browsers, but we're not there yet.

  • When proofreading something that I wrote, I now always do so with the preview instead of the edit field. Before I started doing so, I would often find a typo or missing word after I have submitted an article or a post. After I started using the preview for proofreading, typos went down considerably.

My favorite implementation of preview is right here on Stack Exchange. I realize that it's not a separate pane or popup window, but it's very functional given the average length of posts.

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I was talking more about the preview pane that is used in email messaging. Think outlook. Outlook allows you to click a message and view it in the preview pane while Facebook doe not. I agree w/ your point though. – bgadoci Feb 10 '11 at 18:22

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