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The Stackexchange network arranges replies according to votes (rating). Facebook doesn't care how many likes a comment has. Youtube picks the 2 highest rated comments and place them on the top.

Which system will be more pleasant for users in a forum-like websites, were there are replies and they are rated but there are not best answers?

What kind of replies would the user be interested to see first?

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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It depends.

If you have a conversation you have to use chronological order - otherwise people won't be able to read it with highly rated replies appearing before the text they are replying to.

If every comment is standalone it's probably better to sort by rating so your reader don't have to read all the boring junk to get to the good comments.

If you take stack exchange as an example - the answers are sorted by rating - the entire concept wouldn't work if they were sorted chronologically, yet comments are sorted chronologically because they wouldn't be understandable if they were sorted by rating.

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I'd say StackExchange comments are chronological and sorted by ratings, which works really nicely because there's conversational comments as well as single ones that just refer to the question/answer. –  Carson Myers Feb 24 '11 at 6:01
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Your analysis of the StackExchange arrangement is not quite complete.

Arrangement according to voting only happens when there are more comments than will be displayed initially, in other words when there is a "show more comments" link.

When all comments are shown initially, they are always arranged in chronological order. When you click a "show more comments" link, the list is then also rearranged in chronological order.

So I would say that chronological order is the preferred method on StackExchange. It is also the most logical way as many comments are response to earlier comments and would not make sense if you (have to) read them in a non-chronological order.

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Damn, I made a mistake I meant answers no comments. –  janoChen Feb 21 '11 at 10:04
    
In that case: I'd go for votes as I think that answers with the most votes are generally the most interesting. Please note though that StackExchange does offer two other options to arrange answers: by activity level ("active") and in chronological order ("oldest"). Both are useful depending on what a user's current goal is. Just find the best answer -> votes; find where you need to respons / can contribute -> active; see how one answer relates to another (as they sometimes refer to each other) or just out of curiosity who answered quickest -> oldest –  Marjan Venema Feb 21 '11 at 13:30
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What StackExchange shows is that users expect chronological order, yet can be trained to accept otherwise.

Besides SO heavily promoting non-chronological order as key selling point, it took not just me a while to get acquainted to, and still newcomers will reply as if order were chronological.

Changing expectations and behavior worked well for SO, because it was built around the idea of a strong, active group of regulars.

For a site that expects more "drive-by traffic", i.e. infrequent users, users working with different alternatives, etc. this might be a more permanent problem.

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Don't you mean that users expect chronological order yet can be trained to expect non-chronological order? –  Charles Boyung Feb 21 '11 at 17:31
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ack, of course. fixed. –  peterchen Feb 21 '11 at 17:57
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You might consider using tabs so by default order your posts are oredered by rating, then allow users to switch to chronological order by clicking on the 'order by date' tab

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